What the NFL can learn from the UFC:

Photo credit: Gary Milller / Getty Images Entertainment

Author: Jon Kuzma

With UFC 205 less than 24 hours away it’s time to assess the soaring Ultimate Fighting Championship to the peaked National Football League. If you’re not aware the UFC is currently valued at $4 billion dollars compared to the NFL which is valued at north of $60 billion dollars. The NFL has broadcasting contracts with CBS, ESPN, FOX, and NBC (NFL Network as well). Due to those contractual obligations the NFL has to be extremely politically correct and it’s really sapped the life out of their brand. That’s in contrast to the UFC which has a deal with Fox, and BT Sports but also does their marketing through other means such as social media and Youtube. The fact that the UFC hasn’t had to play by all these major networks’ rules has allowed Dana White and all of the UFC’s fighters to be very transparent in their marketing approach and they don’t have to dull themselves down like the NFL does. Instead in the UFC you’ll see Dana White dropping F-bombs all over Twitter. You’ll see UFC fighters cussing other fighters out during promo events and while that might not be great for the younger demographic, it has been golden in terms of building an audience for the UFC. Vince McMahon built a multi-billion dollar business (WWE) with this type of approach and people are attracted to what the UFC is doing because it has so much character and bravado built into it. The NFL on the other hand feels stale lately because they are doing everything they can to make the players of this league look completely innocent and they are failing to let their players be true to their nature. Everyone in world knows football players aren’t saints and to try to push them off on fans as outstanding individuals 24 hours a day 365 days a year feels beyond a little bit sugarcoated. There is a reason Richard Sherman has spoke out recently against the shield stating “the league doesn’t let players build their personal brand.” Sherman was absolutely right when he made that comment and the NFL has to get hip again if they want to prevent their ratings from continuing to drop. They could start by looking at what the UFC is doing and by incorporating some of the UFC’s philosophies into their own game plan.

Charity of the day: Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

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Casey Hayward is playing at a very high level for the San Diego Chargers right now:

Photo credit: Joe Amon / Denver Post

Author: Jon Kuzma

5th year Defensive Back Casey Hayward is currently tied with Marcus Peters for the most interceptions in the NFL with 5. The Chargers signed Hayward away from the Green Bay Packers this off-season and so far it’s been a huge acquisition for the Chargers defense. Hayward who was drafted in the 2nd round by Green Bay has developed into a takeaway machine. His career high for interceptions in a season is 6 back in 2012 with the Packers. However with 7 games left Hayward should be able to top that total and have his best year ever as a pro. One other notable stat that is worth mentioning is Hayward also has a defensive touchdown this year as well. When you have a player on your defense that can take the ball away from the offense and turn those takeaways into touchdowns, you have a very special player and the Chargers certainly have that in Casey Hayward. The Chargers are trending in the right direction and it’s because they added players like Joey Bosa, Casey Hayward, and Brandon Mebane to this defense. That has raised the overall talent level on this roster and the Chargers could be an off-season away from really being competitive in the AFC West. The Chargers will take on the Dolphins this Sunday in a competition that involves 2 4 win football teams. The Chargers need this win to get back to a .500 record and Hayward will have an opportunity to get his 6th interception of the season. Ryan Tannehill has only thrown 8 touchdowns passes and 7 interceptions this season. So he isn’t an elite level quarterback and that tilts the odds in Hayward and the Chargers defense’s favor. The other key to that game for the Chargers D will be stopping Jay Ajayi the Dolphins emerging running back. If San Diego can minimize Tannehill and Ajayi’s production they will have a great shot at winning that match up.

Charity of the day: Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

Go donate! www.drugfree.org

Joe Flacco throws for 3 touchdowns passes as Ravens top Browns 28-7:

Photo credit: Rob Carr / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Baltimore Ravens handed the Cleveland Browns their 10th loss of the season with a 28-7 rout on Thursday Night Football. In this contest Joe Flacco would significantly outplay Cleveland’s Quarterback Cody Kessler and Flacco finished the night with 3 touchdown passes and 296 yards. Those 3 touchdown passes went to Breshad Perriman, Steve Smith, and Darren Waller for 18 big points for Ravens’ offense. It was clear it was the passing game that helped Baltimore get past Cleveland and you have to give credit to Joe Flacco and the other playmakers on the Ravens offense for getting the job done. Terrance West was the Ravens leading rusher he finished the night with 21 attempts for 65 yards. While the Baltimore defense had a productive night recording 4 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 2 forced fumbles. Eric Weddle contributed 4 tackles and an interception to those defensive efforts. Za’Darius Smith also added 3 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 forced fumble. The Browns were led by Kessler who finished the game with 11 completions out of 18 attempts for 91 yards and 1 touchdown. It’s tough to win football games when you quarterback doesn’t throw for at least 100 yards but then again the Browns haven’t won any games this season. Isaiah Crowell couldn’t get anything going on the ground either, Cleveland’s best player finished this match up with only 23 rushing yards on 9 attempts. So offensively the Browns had big time issues in this game and they couldn’t achieve 100 yards passing, rushing, or receiving from 1 offensive player. Defensively though newly acquired Brown Jamie Collins did have a good game, he finished the night with 9 tackles and a sack. The Ravens are a winning football team with a 5-4 record, on the other hand the Browns take another step towards 0-16 sitting with an 0-10 record on the year.

Charity of the day: Environmental Defense Action Fund

Go donate! www.edf.org

The Vikings need to stop their 3 game slide this weekend against the Redskins:

Photo credit: Rich Schultz / Getty images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Minnesota Vikings enter Sunday’s match up with the Washington Redskins riding a 3 game losing streak. Suddenly this team has lost all the positive momentum they had after winning 5 straight games and now the Vikings have to reel it in fast or they could wind up losing this division. The Detroit Lions currently have a 5-4 record and are hot on Minnesota’s trail. A loss this weekend against the Redskins would open the door for the Lions and it would be much better for Minnesota to get a big win over Washington and stay out in front of Detroit. This is why pro athletes get paid the money they do, to deal with this type of pressure and still be able to perform. If Mike Zimmer’s Vikings want to prove that they are still the team to beat in the NFC North they need to come out Sunday and fire on all cylinders against Washington. That means the defense needs to be playing at the level they were in the first half of the season and Sam Bradford has to throw for more than 1 touchdown pass. Bradford has only thrown 3 touchdowns passes in his last 3 games so he needs to be elite for the Vikings as a whole to be elite. If those 2 factors can pan out for Minnesota this team should be able to beat the Redskins a team who record wise is slightly worse than the Vikings. Really the Vikings are playing for their livelihood, if they spiral out of control this year things could implode and the Vikings could regress into nothing. So expect Coach Zimmer to have the Vikings dialed in and playing football at an optimal level. Minnesota doesn’t want their run to end just 1 season after going to the playoffs.

Charity of the day: Environmental Defense Action Fund

Go donate! www.edf.org

Don’t look now but the Miami Dolphins are a .500 football team:

Photo credit: Ronald C. Modra / Sports Imagery

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Miami Dolphins finished the 2015 season with a 6-10 record but now in 2016 they are currently sitting with a 4-4 record. That improvement has come from the team’s growth under first year Head Coach Adam Gase and if you’re a Dolphins fan you have to be excited about the direction this team is heading in. One player who has emerged as a star in Gase’s new offense is Running Back Jay Ajayi. Ajayi has ran for 646 yards and 6 touchdowns this season. Making Ajayi one of the top young backs in the league right now. Ajayi is only 23 years old so Gase should have him in the mix for a number of years to come. The other surprise player for this offense has been Wide Receiver Kenny Stills. Stills has 328 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns for this offense and really has been Miami’s most notable offensive performer outside of Ajayi. Those 2 players have made some plays for the Dolphins and it’s hard to imagine this team would have 4 wins without those 2 guys willing this team to victory. On defense Kiko Alonzo leads this team with 67 total tackles. Alonzo has been a great leader for this defensive unit and the Dolphins got their money’s worth when they traded a draft pick to acquire Byron Maxwell and Alonzo from the Eagles. Since then Alonzo has done nothing but impress and he blends well with the other talent Miami has on the defensive side of the ball. Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake also have been stellar for the Dolphins D, both players have combined for 9.5 sacks (Suh 4.5, Wake 5). Those 2 players are doing a great job of rushing the opposing team’s quarterback and anytime you have a marquee defensive line you’re going to win some football games. Look out for how this team finishes the year, they have a great opportunity to lie a solid foundation for the future. If Gase can get more people to buy into what he is selling heading to this off-season, Miami might be able to load up on talent in free agency and be a serious contender during the 2017 season. It all starts with proving they are an emerging football team the rest of this season.

Charity of the day: National Breast Cancer Coalition Fund

Go donate! www.breastcancerdeadline2020.org

The Indianapolis Colts are nipping at the Houston Texans’ heels thanks to Andrew Luck’s outstanding play:

Photo credit: Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Indianapolis Colts are currently sitting in 2nd place in the AFC South just a few games behind the Houston Texans. One notable reason that the Colts are in contention in that division is the outstanding play Andrew Luck has brought to this football team. Luck currently has 2,565 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, and only 7 interceptions for the season. Those stats are helping keep the Colts afloat and you have to remember Indianapolis flat out struggled just a season ago. Luck was out for most of last season so clearly their star quarterback is their difference maker between failure and success. The Colts need Luck to be at his best if they want to have a shot at stealing this division during the 2nd half of the season. Doing so would give the Colts a playoff birth and essentially push this team back in the right direction. The Texans ran the table last season and are in the driver seat this year as well. So it will be up to Luck and company to play mistake free football and do their best to close the gap between Houston and them. The other key factor for this team will be T.Y Hilton. Hilton started the season extremely strong before eventually fading the last couple of weeks. If the Colts offense is to operate at an optimal level they will need Hilton to be at his very best and provide a lot of production offensively. Hilton has recorded at least 1,000 yards receiving the last 3 consecutive seasons. So you know Hilton wants to get it going and expect Luck to do his part to get number 13 involved. If that happens this team will have a great shot of winning some games down the stretch and maybe a chance of making a little bit of magic happen. The Colts have the Titans, Steelers, Jets, Texans, Vikings, Raiders, and Jaguars remaining on their schedule. So they have to win all their in-division contests and steal a few others as well. At the same time Houston has to stumble finishing up their season but we’ve definitely seen crazier things happen. Keep an eye on if the Colts can make it happen or not, and if they do expect Andrew Luck to be main reason why.

Charity of the day: Save the Children

Go donate! www.savethechildren.org

The Cleveland Browns could be the next 2008 Detroit Lions if they aren’t careful:

Photo credit: Jason Miller / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Cleveland Browns made some good moves this off-season but those moves haven’t panned out on the football field. The Browns enter week 10 with an 0-9 record and the hard work Hue Jackson and the Browns front office have put in hasn’t translated into wins for this team. To be fair we all knew Jackson needed a long term plan to fix Cleveland. The Browns finished with only 3 wins all of last season and they needed a lot of work when Jackson took over the reins. Jackson then opted to go with a youth movement in Cleveland by loading up on as many draft picks as he could. While those young players like Corey Coleman and Carl Nassib haven’t been able to put any w’s in the win column, Cleveland still got some talented young pieces that could eventually pay dividends for this team in the future. Still though, the NFL is a win now football league and if Jackson doesn’t show some improvement shortly he could find himself on the hot seat by the end of the season. Browns Owner Jimmy Haslam desperately wants to put a winning product on the field and an 0-16 season could signal the end for Jackson’s time in Cleveland. If you remember back in 2008 the Detroit Lions finished 0-16, the only team to ever do so. Immediately after that season the Lions fired Head Coach Rod Marinelli, so that isn’t a good precedent for Hue Jackson if he does indeed finish this season with a winless record. Ultimately though Jackson needs more time regardless of how Cleveland finishes the year. Sometimes things get worse before they get better and one thing that is for certain is Hue Jackson knows and understands the game of football. Sometimes the talent on a team’s roster is just too little and that seems to be the case this season with Cleveland Browns. If Jackson can have a couple more seasons to mold this team to his vision Cleveland could turn things. We will see if Jackson gets more time though when things are all said and done.

Charity of the day: Save the Children

Go donate! www.savethechildren.org

Seattle Seahawks get a huge 31-25 Monday Night Football victory over the Buffalo Bills:

Photo credit: Otto Greule Jr. / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The Seattle Seahawks were able to hold off the Buffalo Bills to earn their 5th win of the season and you have to give credit to Seattle’s defense. The Seahawks defenders were able to come up with 5 sacks in this contest and 1 interception. Those were game changing plays and you have to admire Seattle’s ability to get the job done with grit and a pass rush. Seattle’s defense clearly outplayed Buffalo’s defense and that was a huge underlining factor coming down the stretch in this game. Cliff Avril had another great game recording 1.5 sacks and 3 combined tackles. While Bobby Wagner notched 16 tackles and half of a sack. Russell Wilson had a great game for Seattle’s offense, the Seahawks quarterback threw for 2 touchdowns and also ran for 1. Both of those Wilson touchdowns passes went to Tight End Jimmy Graham. Graham also hauled in 103 yards receiving looking like the player the Seahawks hoped they would get when they traded away Max Unger. Tyrod Taylor was the top player for the Buffalo Bills, Taylor threw for 1 touchdown and ran for 1 touchdown. Operating Rex Ryan’s offense with ease and doing everything he could to lead Buffalo to a victory. While Taylor came up short in the end you have to admire his efforts and the Bills have a quarterback they can compete with in number 5. Outside of Taylor, Robert Woods had the big day for the Bills. Woods hauled in 10 receptions for 162 yards for Buffalo’s offense. The most notable defender for the Bills was Kyle Williams. Williams finished the game with 4 tackles and 1 sack. Jerry Hughes also contributed 3 tackles and 1 sack to Buffalo’s defensive efforts. In the end Seattle was too much for the Bills to handle and they look like a serious playoff contender heading into week 10 of the season. The Seahawks have extensive playoff experience so that should help this team when the postseason rolls around at the end of the season. Keep an eye whether or not that can help this team make a deep playoff run when the time comes.

Charity of the day: Yosemite Conservancy

Go donate! www.yosemiteconservancy.org

 

The Raiders look the best they’ve looked since 2002:

Photo credit: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The last time the Oakland Raiders looked as good as they do right now it was just passed the turn of the millennium. During those days Rich Gannon was the top passer, Charlie Garner was the top running back, and Jerry Rice was the Raiders leading receiver. Now in today’s era though Oakland is led by a bunch of emerging superstars like Derek Carr, Michael Crabtree, and Latavius Murray. Maybe the most impressive out of all those stars has been Carr and how quickly he has become an effective quarterback in the National Football League. It only took Derek Carr 3 seasons to become an elite level quarterback and he has elevated the Raiders to a playoff contender once again. Only the quarterback position can have an impact that lifts an organization out of more than a decade of struggle and the Raiders always have a chance as long as number 4 is on the field. Just yesterday Carr led the Raiders to a win over the Denver Broncos which gave Oakland sole possession of the AFC West and Oakland would have had a tough time winning that game without Carr stretching the field. The other notable performance in that game for the Raiders came from Latavius Murray. Murray was in top form against a tough Broncos defense and Murray managed to score 3 rushing touchdowns. When your running back takes that big of a load on his shoulders and scores 3 touchdowns it gives your team a great chance for success. That’s because you’re getting so much offensive productive from just 1 player on your team. Murray could end up being the key for the Raiders down the stretch because if you have your quarterback and your starting running back both clicking at the same time, you’re nearly unbeatable. So keep an eye on those 2 players as the season moves forward, they will have a tremendous impact on the outcome of the Raiders season. Oakland heads into their bye week with a 7-2 record and a whole lot of momentum on their side thanks to player like Carr and Murray.

Charity of the day: Yosemite Conservancy

Go donate! www.yosemiteconservancy.org

 

Giants humble the Eagles 28-23 to earn their 5th win of the season:

Photo credit: Al Bello / Getty Images Sport

Author: Jon Kuzma

The New York Giants got a huge win today over the Philadelphia Eagles and improved to 5-3 on the season. Eli Manning led the way for New York throwing for 4 touchdowns passes and 257 yards. 2 of those passes went to Odell Beckham Jr. and that really paved the way for the Giants in this contest. Rookie Receiver Sterling Shepard also found the end zone thanks to Manning. Shepard ended up finishing the game with 3 receptions for 50 yards as well. The other Giant that found pay dirt was Roger Lewis. Lewis hauled in a 30 yard pass from Manning in the 1st quarter, so it’s clear that the Giants beat the Eagles with an all out aerial assault. Carson Wentz had a decent day yardage wise for Philadelphia but the rookie quarterback threw 0 touchdown passes and 2 interceptions. Those turnovers really set the Eagles back and there just wasn’t enough offensive production from the Eagles to win this game. Ryan Mathews and Wendell Smallwood did both score a rushing touchdown each for the Eagles offense, but in the end the Eagles passed the ball more than they ran it (27 passes, 25 runs). That put a lot of pressure on Carson Wentz and the rookie couldn’t live up to expectations today. Defensively Andrew Adams had the big day for Giants defense. He had 9 tackles and an interception. Landon Collins also continued his outstanding season by recording 12 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 interception for New York. Nigel Bradham was the Eagles top defender, he record 10 tackles total. Jordan Hicks also had another big game for Philly, the middle linebacker had 7 tackles and 1 interception. The Giants are currently sitting in 2nd place in the NFC East after this weekend. The Eagles on the other hand have fallen to 4th place after leading the division for most of the year.

Charity of the day: ChildFund International

Go donate! www.childfund.org

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