The Patriots are back in the Super Bowl for the fourth time in the last five years, and for the ninth time in the Brady-Belichick era. Many thought the Patriots wouldn’t get there this year, but their 37-31 overtime win over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship clinched the spot. If you ever doubted Brady and Belichick, then you were wrong. Since 2001, this has been the most dominant dynasty in sports history. Nine trips to the Super Bowl, five wins, and now a chance for their sixth Lombardi Trophy, which would tie the Pittsburgh Steelers as the winningest franchise in the NFL. No sports team in the salary cap era will ever be able to replicate this. The way the Patriots have been able to compete for the Super Bowl year in and year out is unlike anything ever seen before. Belichick is arguably the greatest coach in the NFL, and Brady is the best player in league history.
In Super Bowl LIII next Sunday, the Pats will face the Los Angeles Rams, who defeated the New Orleans Saints in overtime for the NFC Championship. The Rams are led by a 33-year old head coach Sean McVay, fourth-year quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley (an MVP candidate), and Aaron Donald, one of the best defensive players in the league. No strangers to the game, I believe the Patriots will not be impacted by all the “Super Bowl distractions” this week. But the Rams, on the other hand, will be dealing with media day, an extra week of practice, and an extended halftime — all of which could all be a factor in the game. In an early prediction, I am going with the Patriots because of their outstanding play of late. But the Rams, who definitely have the firepower to shut down the Patriots, should not be counted out.
Side Note: The Patriots defeated the St. Louis Rams in the 2002 Super Bowl, 20-17, which started this unbelievable run.
The year of 2018 left us with a lot of memorable sports moments that one can only hope 2019 can live up to. The Philadelphia Eagles won their first ever Super Bowl, the Boston Red Sox took the World Series after an 108-win season, and breakout superstar Kylian Mbappe led France to the the World Cup crown. Add in championships by the Washington Capitols, Golden State Warriors, Alabama, and Villanova, and 2018 was a tough year to beat. Will 2019 measure up? Here are my predictions for the new year starting off with a few sports that are already in season.
Already in the divisional round of playoffs, there is less for me to predict here. But I think the Super Bowl this year will be a contest between the New England Patriots and the New Orleans Saints. It was very hard to resist throwing the Eagles in that mix, as they seem to have that “it” factor to make it through the playoffs as an underdog. But I think that the Saints will top the Patriots, 35-28. The dominant offense of Brees, Thomas, Ingram, and Kamara will be too much for the Patriots defense to handle when it comes to crunch time.
The question everyone asks is whether there will be a team capable of competing with the Golden State Warriors. Although their 27-14 record so far this season is a rough start by their standards, I still believe there is no one who will be able to top them when it comes to June. My Eastern Conference Championship will be the Boston Celtics over the Toronto Raptors in seven games. The Celtics, of course, have had their issues early on but all that talent and strong coaching will come through during the playoffs. I see the Warriors from the West topping the Houston Rockets in six games and then ultimately winning the NBA Finals in six games as well.
This is always a hard prediction as there are just so many teams out there and so much that can change in the season. I’m going to start off with predicting my Final Four with Duke, Michigan, Gonzaga, and Texas Tech. Teams to still watch closely include Virginia, Tennessee, Michigan State, and Kansas, all currently ranked higher than Texas Tech. I think the defense of Texas Tech will set them apart from the others during the tournament. My championship game will be Michigan beating Duke, 75-70, behind a 25-point outing from Ignas Brazdeikis.
I don’t know much about hockey so I just took a peek at the standings and saw the Bruins in third place in their division. This is good enough for me to believe they’ll make a run in the playoffs and find their way into the Stanley Cup again. I predict they’ll face off against the Calgary Flames. And sure, why not? I predict they’ll win the whole thing this year simply because I don’t know enough to say anyone else.
With Opening Day still far off, this discussion really is up in the air. So my ALCS will be a rematch of last year, the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros. The Yankees will fall short simply because the American League will be such a powerhouse next year. Unfortunately, I do not see the Red Sox returning to the World Series, and predict a matchup between the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers. For the Dodgers, it would be their third trip in a row to the title game.
In a year that featured plenty of draft day studs like Todd Gurley and waiver wire gods like Phillip Lindsay, it’s safe to say that the 2018 fantasy football season was like no other. The one interesting element about fantasy football is that you really only gain confidence from your weekly projections, which often don’t mean a lot. What it really comes down to is an owner’s ability to use their gut and make the right call. This past season left many owners forced to take gambles due to the shortage of reliable tight ends in the league. With the injury plague early on with players like Delanie Walker and Greg Olsen, and bust draft picks like Jimmy Graham, many were left scavenging the waiver wire. On the other hand, those who took a gamble on George Kittle (led TE in receiving yards) or Eric Ebron met with a pleasant surprise as they both enjoyed breakout campaigns this year.
Another interesting element this season was the holdout of Le’veon Bell. Many owners, myself included, were left without our first round pick for the entire season. While some see this as the fall of Bell, others see it as the rise of James Conner. This past season featured other running backs breaking out such as favored rookie of the year candidate Saquon Barkley, Nick Chubb, Phillip Lindsay, Sony Michel, and Gus Johnson. While these young players made a big splash in the league, some veterans continued their dominance. Gurley had an immaculate campaign, as did Alvin Kamara, Melvin Gordon, Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliott, and even Super Bowl LI hero James White. It was also interesting to see backs like Adrian Peterson turn back Father Time to have a 1,000-yard campaign even at age 33. One of the most frustrating players to watch this year was Derrick Henry, who was just horrid for the the first 13 weeks of the season, only to average 33.6 points per game in the fantasy football playoffs.
As we make our way over to the wide receiver category, it would be a sin not to mention the greatness of Tyreek Hill this season. The speedy receiver led all wideouts in fantasy points this season, finishing with 346.26 points. When it comes to receivers in the NFL, there is always a strong consistency among the top dogs. That was no different this year, as Deandre Hopkins, Antonio Brown, Davante Adams, Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, Adam Thielen, and JuJu Smith-Schuster all had dominant seasons at the position. As far as breakouts go, Tyler Boyd, rookie receiver Calvin Ridley, and Mike Williams all played huge roles for fantasy teams down the stretch. It was also nice to see Larry Fitzgerald turn his season around after a tough start in what may have been his last season in the NFL.
Moving on to the quarterbacks, there is simply one name that needs to be said: Patrick Mahomes. The stud player, in just his second year, led all of fantasy football in scoring with an absurd 434.08 points. To put that into perspective, the next highest point total of the season was 390.8 points scored by Saquon Barkley. While it’s obvious that Mahomes has locked up MVP this season, other play callers that really thrived this year in fantasy included Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck, Jared Goff, Drew Brees, and Deshaun Watson. I know most of the readers must be wondering “where’s Tom Brady?” but in reality he did not have an outstanding fantasy football season. We still love you, Tom! This season featured several breakout rookies playing at an elite level, including Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, and Josh Allen. As some players soared this season, we also saw some who bombed, with Ryan Fitzpatrick as a prime example. “Fitzmagic” was the leading scorer in fantasy points for the first three weeks of the season, only to get benched for Jameis Winston and virtually lose all value. Another quarterback who suffered from a benching this year was Joe Flacco, a stable QB2 for most of the season before Lamar Jackson was handed the reigns. The quarterbacks certainly did their part for owners this year, with 28 finishing inside the top 100 in season point totals.
As far as next year goes, my advice to owners is to go after running backs early and often in your fantasy drafts. Running backs have become a huge part of the passing offense in the NFL in recent years. I also recommend owners draft a TE early on because, in today’s NFL, there is the elite tight ends, then 80 feet of pure mediocrity at best, followed by inconsistency at its finest. Overall, if your fantasy season didn’t go your way, don’t get down on yourself, get smarter. While injuries are unpredictable, you still should be able to get a general feel for what a solid playoff contender team should look like. Just always remember, you’re only as good as your next team, not your last.
The field for Super Bowl LIII has been narrowed down to just four teams. In both the AFC and the NFC, the top two teams will battle for the coveted trip to the title game, set to take place Feb. 3 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
In the AFC, the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Indianapolis Colts, 31-13, in the Divisional round and the Patriots took down the Los Angeles Chargers, 41-28. The victors will meet again at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City for the AFC championship. This matchup is highly anticipated because, while the Chiefs are often able to score points in bunches, the Patriots will try and slow them down with their run attack. At a meeting back in October in Foxboro, Tom Brady and the Patriots outdueled the Chiefs, 43-40. But this game will be different, and with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, I believe the Patriots will shut down the Chiefs’ high-powered offense. Yes, Kansas City has Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill and a great tight end in Travis Kelce. But New England has established a run game this season and they are continuing to dominate opposing defensive lines. Brady and Belichick have reached eight straight AFC championship games, a feat that’s practically absurd in the NFL. That’s why I am picking the Patriots to win the AFC title and head to Atlanta for their third straight Super Bowl appearance.
In the NFC, the Los Angeles Rams will travel to New Orleans to play the Saints. This will be the second time these two teams will play each other, with the Saints winning a November matchup, 45-35, in a shootout. This game will be highlighted by the play of the two quarterbacks, Jared Goff of the Rams and Drew Brees of the Saints. The Saints will have home field advantage, but ff the Rams can control the game with Todd Gurley running the ball, they will have a chance. Their secondary will have to contain Michel Thomas of the Saints in the passing game. If Drew Brees has time in the pocket, I believe he will eat up this defense like he did in November and the Saints will defeat the Rams in another shootout.
While many believe that the fall sports season starts in late August, many teams’ quest for rings begins in late June at captains’ practice. For HHS boys soccer, captains’ practice is the ultimate tool not only for readying our skills for the season, but in getting the team chemistry right. It is during these practices when the team bonding really kicks in, from getting to know the new freshmen to finding nicknames for the many players in the program. Nicknames have become a mainstay in the HHS boys soccer culture. Some of the most famous from this past year have been Wes “Willy Ripski” Notarangelo, Patrick “Stew” Walsh, Cole “Sweener” Sweeney, Sam “Deener” Bristol, Joe “Hillary” Clinton and Andrew “Hoodie Fe” Ferreira, just to name a few. Throughout the summer, day in and day out, we left it all on the turf. From the grueling workouts with Coach Kaufman to the team runs followed by swims, we all had our eyes on one thing: winning.
The interesting thing about this team was the fact that some coaches around the league counted us out before the season even began. While some teams would use this as an excuse, we used it as fuel, picking up a big win over Rockland in the season opener and an impressive draw against Duxbury two games later. The beauty of this team was the fact that everyone knew – and embraced – their roles from the start. While some athletes may not be thrilled with sitting on the bench, the players on the sidelines for boys soccer pumped up the team and stayed ready to have their number called at any given moment (quick shout out to Sweener and Deener #benchgang).
As the season progressed, the team picked up key wins against Pembroke, Quincy, and Plymouth South. While every win was a team effort, the defense shined for the Indians. The dynamic duo of junior Jake Heyl and Walsh, a sophomore, had opponents feeling helpless. On top of that, senior captain Sam Perkins had a great season along with fellow fullback Brendan Quinn. In the wise words of Paul “Bear” Bryant, “defense wins championships.” Another key to our success this year was the pair of senior strikers in Ferreira and Notarangelo, who played gritty and found the back of the net when we needed it most. An example of this was during the Indians first playoff game against Joseph Case High School, when Notorangelo got the home crowd pumped after scoring the game-deciding goal in a 1-0 win. In the midfield, senior captain James Clarkson was a magnet, winning all 50/50 balls within 10 feet of him all year long. To go along with that, senior Alec McArthur and junior Caleb Pongratz both enjoyed breakout campaigns. The true unsung hero of the team was junior Joe Clinton, who had never played goalie prior to the season and was a brick wall at all times. Key contributions also came from the bench.
Unfortunately, the one factor throughout the season that the team could not control was injuries. For whatever reason, the team was cursed with injuries, with up to seven players sidelined throughout the season. Sophomore Danny McDonald tried to fight through his foot injury, but was forced to miss most of the year. Rising star Conor McCann, a junior, endured a nagging back injury that forced him to miss a number of games as well. Yours truly was also stuck sidelined eight games with a concussion, as was Joe Clinton for a few games. It should be noted though that without the excellent care of Hanover’s trainer Amy Tessitore, the team would have had even more players out. Despite the injuries, the team found a way to rise above and gut out wins. The main philosophy of the team was not to try and win the game all at once, but take it in 5-minute increments winning each five until we hit the 80-minute mark. The Indians would go on to lose to Norwell in the playoffs, ending their season with a strong 9-7-4 record.
As a team, the one thing we managed to do day in and day out was to leave everything we had out on that field. That quite simply would not have been possible without the guidance of our captains Perkins and Clarkson, dedicated players throughout their years with the program. The seniors in general were great at showing the underclassmen a strong example for years to come in the program. Our success also would not have been possible without the time put in by Coach Rodday and other coaches and volunteers who prepared us for anything in game scenarios as well as looked after us off of the soccer field. Most importantly, it was the fans that the team had to thank the most. From the hardcore parents going to every game no matter the weather, to the students showing up and getting loud during home games, the season quite simply would not have been the same without you.
While this may be the end for graduating seniors, the Indians soccer team looks to keep this intensity going for years to come. With all of the up-and-coming talent this program has to offer, it’s no wonder they have been deemed the “young core.” As far as soccer goes, the boys will look to continue their dominant defensive unit next year and will continue to work toward a deep postseason run next season.
With a 24-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, the New England Patriots improved to 9-3 and remain at the top of the AFC. Meanwhile, the Vikings fell to 6-5-1 and into a tie for the wild card spot with the Washington Redskins.
The Patriots offense was firing on all cylinders Sunday. On the first drive, Brady led the team 81 yards on eight plays, capped off by a one-yard touchdown run from full back James Devlin. The Patriots virtually shut down the Vikings in the first half, until star receiver Adam Thielen managed a touchdown late in the second quarter. The Patriots went into halftime with a 10-7 lead, but that lead didn’t last long. After the Patriots went three and out on their first drive, Minnesota drove down and kicked a field goal to tie it up at 10. On the ensuing possession for the Pats, Brady looked to wide receiver Josh Gordon and he produced. Hauling in a 24-yard catch to start the drive, Gordon finished off the series with a 24-yard touchdown reception. After that it was all smooth sailing for the Patriots and rough waters for the Vikings. After a punt from Minnesota, the Pats drove down and fed Devlin for his second touchdown of the game. The Vikings made a late push in the fourth quarter but Duron Harmon picked off Kirk Cousins in the end zone, basically capping the win for the Patriots.
The Pats played tough defense all day and were able to execute on offense. Brady was 24/32 for 311 yards and a touchdown, while James White had 9 catches for 92 yards. Brady rushed for his 1000th career rushing yard, a milestone many thought he wouldn’t care about, but TB1K is a new trend. Also adding to his resume, Brady threw his 579th touchdown pass, tying him for the all-time lead with Peyton Manning. Next week, Brady will likely own this record, becoming the all-time leader in touchdowns and yards.
This win was a big one and now the Patriots travel to Miami, where they always seem to have trouble winning. If the Patriots play like this again next week they are virtually unbeatable.
College basketball has proven to be the sport to watch so far this winter. Whether it’s due to the crazy hype surrounding the new top recruits or the high-paced and high-scoring style of play, the NCAA has granted us the privilege of watching what amounts to a prime time game every night.
The talk of the season has been the phenom freshmen at Duke – Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish – who are projected to be the top picks in the next NBA draft. Duke has generated an enormous amount of hype, with Barrett averaging 22.7 PPG, Williamson with 21.3 PPG and 9 RPG, and Reddish with 15.3 PPG. This team seemed unstoppable, until they lost to Gonzaga 89-87.
What I think has made this season so fun to watch is that every night there seem to be at least two or three top-25 ranked matchups going on. We already have had a 1 vs 3 matchup in Gonzaga vs Duke, a 2 vs 4 contest when Duke destroyed Kentucky on opening night, and a 2 vs 5 pairing as Kansas topped Tennessee in overtime. Plenty of other must watch-games have been decided in the final seconds.
I was sitting on my couch on Wednesday night and just clicked on the TV to see what was on and there they were: four must-watch games . . . on a random Wednesday night. There is no other sport like this that gives the fans these kind of games on an everyday basis. The early games featured an unranked but very strong Syracuse team defeating 16th-ranked Ohio State, 72-62, and a no. 4 Virginia team who withstood 24th-ranked Maryland in a back and forth game that ended 76-71. During the late games, no. 15 Florida State beat 19th-ranked Purdue, 73-72, on a final second shot, and 7th-ranked Michigan completely stomped over no. 11 UNC, 84-67. All of these games occurred on just your typical Wednesday night and this continues to happen every night. The competition amongst college teams every night is what makes this sport so special, and why everyone should look forward to the rest of the season.