"The Stack" 1-23-17

The Atlanta Falcons are dancing (do that Dirty Bird) and they have every right to do so advancing to just their second Super Bowl in franchise history following a 44-21 romp of the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game. Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
The Atlanta Falcons are dancing (do that Dirty Bird) and they have every right to do so advancing to just their second Super Bowl in franchise history following a 44-21 romp of the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game.
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
The New England Patriots are headed to their seventh Super Bowl in the Brady-Belichick era. They stomped the Steelers 36-17 Sunday night in the AFC Championship game.
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

This isn’t your normal Monday here in “the stack.”  We will react to the two NFL conference championship games but there are also a few other headlines that we need to get to as well so let’s get right to it and see what is in “the stack” for today, Monday, January 23rd:


Falcons 44 Packers 21


The Atlanta Falcons are headed to the Super Bowl following their romp of the Green Bay Packers.  The Falcons offense could not be stopped.  Matt Ryan was sharp all game long and the Falcons scored a touchdown on the first drive of the game.  It is the eighth straight game that the Falcons have scored a touchdown on the opening drive.  The Packers moved the ball on each of their first two drives, but the drives resulted in a missed Mason Crosby field goal and an Aaron Ripkowski fumble ended both drives.  The banged up Packers defense couldn’t come up with any stops and when Julio Jones caught a touchdown with three seconds left in the first half to put the Falcons up 24-0 you thought this game was just about.  Any chance the Packers had of coming back ended a minute and change into the third quarter when the Packers went three-and-out on their first possession and Julio Jones ran through a couple of defenders and scored a touchdown to put the Falcons up 31-0.  Game over folks.  The Packers couldn’t get the Falcons off the field on third down.  The Falcons were 10 for 13 on third down.  That was the real key in this one.  That and Aaron Rodgers was off of his game until it was too late.  Not a good loss for the Packers.  The Falcons are advancing to their first Super Bowl since 1998 and second Super Bowl ever.  Very dangerous team.


Patriots 36 Steelers 17


A few things in life feel certain.  Death, taxes and Tom Brady and the New England Patriots beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs at home.  The Steelers just can’t beat New England in Foxboro.  They were doomed by a couple of factors in this one.  One was running back Le’Veon Bell suffering a groin injury in the first quarter and missing the rest of the game.  The other was their inability to cover Chris Hogan.  You may have heard once or twice throughout the day that Hogan used to play lacrosse at Penn State before making it to the NFL.  He was monstrous in this game with nine receptions for 180 yards and two touchdowns.  The Steelers either didn’t think he would do hurt them or they simply lost him on the field time and time again, because Hogan absolutely burned them.  Brady was his normal fantastic self and the Patriots left very little doubt that this game was over and that they are the best team in the AFC.  This will be the seventh Super Bowl appearance for the Brady-Bill Belichick combo.  Brady now has 24 playoff victories.  That is the definition of success and the all-time best combo of player-coach we’ve ever seen.  They are going to have a tough time slowing down the red hot Falcons, but with two weeks to prepare I’m sure Belichick and company will be able to come up with a game plan.


The Falcons and Patriots meet in Super Bowl LI (51) in Houston in less than two weeks, Sunday, February 4th. 



Russell Westbrook not voted starter in All-Star game


After further thought, I thought it would be best to discuss this whole Russell Westbrook deal today rather than hold off until Tuesday or another day this week.  When the starting lineups were announced for the NBA All-Star game Thursday night on TNT, Westbrook was not named a starter for the western conference.  This, despite the fact that Westbrook is averaging a triple-double.  James Harden and Steph Curry are the starters.  They are both great players.  Harden is having a terrific season.  Curry is doing good things too, but they aren’t doing nearly the things that Westbrook is doing.  Granted, Westbrook’s shooting percentage is pretty bad, but still 30 plus points and a 10 plus rebound and assist average is tough to argue.  Steph Curry is averaging six less points four less assists and six less rebounds a game.  Yes, Curry is playing alongside Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant so his numbers naturally may not be as good, but that is what makes Westbrook’s stats all that more impressive.  He is the only real offensive weapon that the Thunder have.  Opponents know that and still Westbrook is putting up these numbers.  Yes, the shooting percentage is not good, but if this really came down to the fans not putting Westbrook in, then shame on them.    The All-Star game is about seeing the stars yet somehow Westbrook is not getting his due.  He will be a reserve, but that isn’t good enough.  This is why the NBA is a bit of a joke to me and why I don’t have time for it.  Shame on you NBA.  Shame on you and your joke of an all-star game.


Adrian Peterson done in Minny?


Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson appeared on ESPN’s First Take  and said he sees himself having five more good years left in the NFL.  He also said that while he wants to remain with the Vikings for his entire career, the New York Giants, Houston Texans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be on his list of teams to play for.  If Peterson wants to remain with the Vikings, then he needs to take a massive pay cut and restructure his deal so that it is an incentive laden deal.  Peterson is not getting the $18 million he is due early in March.  He just isn’t.  He didn’t do anything last year to deserve getting paid that much.  Injury or no injury, Peterson needs to prove to the Vikings, Vikings fans and everyone else that he is still a force to be reckoned with and one of the top backs in the NFL.  I don’t know what the Vikings will do, but if Peterson is not willing to restructure his deal and take a pay cut, his days in a Vikings uniform are as good as done.  The Vikings need to worry about their offensive line and focus on that, not an aging running back.  We’ll see what gets done.


Young Royals pitcher dies


Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura died in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic on Sunday.  He was 25.  Ventura was a fan favorite and his arm was one of the most electric in the baseball.  It’s a devastating loss for the Royals not just because of how good of pitcher Ventura was, but also because Ventura was a pretty good person.  He was well-liked in the clubhouse.  Yet another pitcher dies far too young.  Remember last September when Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez died in a boating accident?  It’s a real shame for Major League Baseball.  Thoughts and prayers are with Ventura’s family, friends and teammates.  Yordano Ventura, dead at the age of 25.


Coming up later this week: Reaction to top headlines in sports

"The Stack" 1-20-17

Matt Ryan and Julio Jones have been a lethal combination all season long. Can Julio stay healthy and can Ryan outduel Aaron Rodgers in what should be a shootout in the final game at the Georgia Dome? Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Ryan and Julio Jones have been a lethal combination all season long. Can Julio stay healthy and can Ryan outduel Aaron Rodgers in what should be a shootout in the final game at the Georgia Dome?
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Can Tom Brady, LaGarrette Blount and the Patriots play better against the potent Steelers and make it back to yet another Super Bowl?
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Championship week in the NFL(not Super Bowl championship week, but the championship week to get you to the Super Bowl) and The Stack is here on this Football Friday with a preview of both championship games so let’s get right to it and check out “the stack” for today, Friday, January 20th:


NFC Championship game


Green Bay Packers @ Atlanta Falcons 3:05 PM ET FOX


Last week we said it was possibly the last ever game at the Georgia Dome.  Well this week we can say definitively that it is the last game ever at the Georgia Dome before the Falcons move into the brand new (and expensive) Mercedes Benz Stadium.  It is going to be a shootout between two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.  Matt Ryan is the favorite to win MVP, but no one is playing better football in the NFL right now, maybe ever, than Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is right now.  He is playing unbelievable right now.  The Falcons defense is better than the Cowboys, but not by that much.  The Packers though may be without wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Devante Adams.  Nelson has practiced the past couple of days, but not in pads or anything.  Even if he does play, there is no way he is going to be at full strength.   Adams isn’t going to be at full strength.  He and Geronimo Allison haven’t practiced yet this week.  The Falcons offense is better than the Packers offense.  They have a more balanced attack.   They are explosive.  Yet no one is playing better than Rodgers (have I said that at all?).  I just feel like he is going to make a play or two late and the Falcons are going to end their final home game at the Georgia Dome with a loss.  Remember they did lose to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game a few years ago in heartbreaking fashion.  I fear it may happen again.  Prove me wrong Atlanta!


Prediction: Packers 38 Falcons 34


AFC Championship game


Pittsburgh Steelers @ New England Patriots 6:40 PM ET CBS


Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin stirred the pot late Sunday night by calling the Patriots assholes in an attempt to fire up his team.  It’s completely understandable.  He feels like they are at a competitive disadvantage since they had a day-and-a-half more to prepare for the Steelers.  It’s more of an issue that Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown put the whole things on Facebook Live.  What an idiot.  The Patriots won’t be able to stop him and Le’Veon Bell, but they will take out one of them.  The Patriots didn’t play well last week.  They will be extra focused for this week’s game against the explosive Steelers.  They’ll execute their game plan to a “t”.  I picked the Steelers at the beginning of the season to make it to the Super Bowl and I don’t know why I don’t feel nearly as confident in them, but something tells me that Tom Brady and the Patriots put together their best effort and hold off the Steelers.  Prove me wrong Pittsburgh.


Prediction: Patriots 24 Steelers 20


Picks have been 8-0 so far in the playoffs.  I’m feeling a possible 0-2 weekend.  We’ll see.  Enjoy the championship games everyone.


Coming up Monday: AFC & NFC Championship game reaction and maybe some Russell Westbrook and Adrian Peterson thoughts, but probably not.

"The Stack" 1-19-17

The Stack is back on this Thursday with a very short blog today.  It’s so short, I’m wondering why I’m even doing it, but I am so let’s get right to it and see what is in “the stack” for today, Thursday, January 19th:


Bagwell, Raines, Rodriguez headed to Cooperstown


Football is our nation’s current pastime, but our old pastime made headlines last night electing three new members into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.  That’s right, baseball.  Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez are the three new members after being voted in yesterday.  Bagwell and Raines were one vote away from one another (381 for Bagwell and 380 for Raines), good for 86.2% and 86% respectively while Pudge received 76% of the vote.  Remember you have to receive at least 75% of the vote to get in.  Those three are all well-deserving candidates.  Bagwell won Rookie of the Year and was an MVP with the Houston Astros from 1991-2005.  He was a four-time all-star and won three Silver Slugger awards.  Raines was a seven-time all-star outfielder for the Montreal Expos in the 1980s.  A lot of people put him behind Rickey Henderson for greatest lead-off hitter of all-time.  And what didn’t Pudge do?  He was a great defensive catcher and was a beast at the plate.  In all he won 13 Gold Gloves and was an all-star player 14 times.  He was the only first-ballot player to get in.


Notable names we didn’t see get elected included Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.  They are gaining votes.  It will still be a few years, but one day they’ll get in.  They have to.  The Steroid Era wasn’t just about them.  San Diego Padres closer Trevor Hoffman was also very close to getting in as was Vladimir Guerrero.  Each of them had over 70 percent of the vote so they figure to get in next year.  All I know is that I would like to see guys like Bonds get in.  They weren’t the only ones using during the “Steroid Era.”  They had a lot of God-given talent.  They deserve to get in.


Australian Open


I didn’t realize this until yesterday, but I had completely forgotten to give my picks for tennis’ first grand slam event of the season, the Australian Open.  As they play down under, I like Novak Djokovic (surprise, surprise) and Serena Williams (surprise, surprise).  If Serena falls, this may very well be the end of her.  I’m giving her one final chance.


College basketball headlines


Notre Dame and Florida State played in a very entertaining and highly contested game Wednesday night.  Florida State trailed 64-62 before going on an 11-1 run and holding on to beat Notre Dame 83-80.  People need to take this Florida State team seriously.  They are the real deal.  Notre Dame is good too, but Florida State I think is just a little better.


In Morgantown, West Virginia, a week and change after taking down the number one team in the land (Baylor in case you didn’t remember), #7 West Virginia lost at home to Oklahoma 89-87 in overtime.  This Oklahoma team is not that good this year, but that will happen when you lose a player like Buddy Hield.  This is a good win for them.  It’s a loss that shouldn’t happen, especially on their home floor for West Virginia.


Indiana won at the buzzer, there were a lot of close games in the A-10 last night, some teams in the tournament right now lost while some bubble teams won and put themselves in.  ESPN’s Joe Lunardi should have another bracketology unveiled later today or possibly tomorrow.  It should be interesting.  Love college basketball.


Coming up Friday: NFL Championship game previews