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Archive for the month “January, 2016”

The 2015 NFL All Ski-Mask Way Defense

(photo courtesy of www.imgarcarde.com)

(photo courtesy of http://www.imgarcarde.com)

They say defense win championships. Well, this defense has given a new definition to the term “winning in different ways”. All the guys on the All Ski-Mask way defensive team have earned their way there by either lagging in effort or not living up the expectations the money they made would have them to. The committee has gathered and here is what we came up with. Without further ado, here is the 2015 NFL All Ski-Mask Way defense.

(photo courtesy of Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

(photo courtesy of Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

Safety-Eric Weddle, San Diego Chargers ($10 million)

“Great numbers at 2 million dollars a year. 79 tackles and half a sack. Then you realize he made 10 million this year and you think again. There’s been degeneration in his play for a while but he’s gone from Eric Weddle to Eric Waddle. He strikes fear in cartoon characters but not receivers running a skinny post past him. He was paid 8 million too much in my opinion. You know what is worse?? Someone else is gonna give son Beaucoup dollars. His robbing spree isn’t done yet.”- Khalid Boyd

(photo courtesy www.zimbio.com)

(photo courtesy http://www.zimbio.com)

Safety-Da’Norris Searcy, Tennessee Titans ($3.625 million)

“He was signed by the Titans this past offseason to be a difference-maker. But unfortunately, the only difference that was made was his bank account and the Titans’ salary cap number. He was rarely noticed on the field and did not have that much of an effect on the Titans’ defense. Once they find him, hopefully he will give them something. But as of right now, there is an APB out there for him.” –Mike Patton

(photo courtesy Scott Threlkeld/The Advocate)

(photo courtesy Scott Threlkeld/The Advocate)

Cornerback-Brandon Browner, New Orleans Saints ($2.4 million)

“The Saints CB as held more receivers that James Bond has women in his movies.  He may have been a member of the Legion of Boom, but Brown has proven why that is in the past tense. At the bargain price of $2.4 million and $7.5  mil guaranteed, he one of the leagues most penalized cover men.”- Kyle Nash

(photo courtesy of www.fansided.com)

(photo courtesy of http://www.fansided.com)

Cornerback-Brandon Carr, Dallas Cowboys ($12.7 million)

“Seventy-six tackles on a 4-12 team and getting 12.7 million this year??? You wanna talk about sticking cats up with no gun?? This dude did it. He got burned so much this season, if you look closely next to the star on his helmet, there’s tread marks. If he did any less, he’d be flipping french fries at Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr.  This dude is a burger of the plainest proportions. He was beat like a scalded dog, repeatedly. The local Dallas radio team broadcasters uttered his name with such disgust, you’d have though he slapped their mama.”-Khalid Boyd

Cornerback- Byron Maxwell, Philadelphia Eagles ($8.7 million)

“Burnt Maxwell was made toast in one too many games this season. He did have two interceptions (slightly under $4.4 million per interception). But those don’t add up to the amount of SportsCenter highlights of him getting torched this season. I think opponents’ stadiums should have the “Toasty’ sound effect from Mortal Kombat on deck anytime he is on the field.”- Dan Dinkins

(photo courtesy of www.bleacherreport.com)

(photo courtesy of http://www.bleacherreport.com)

Linebacker-Brandon Graham, Philadelphia Eagles ($6million)

“When people speak of the debacle that was Chip Kelly as a GM in Philadelphia in 2015, many people associate it with a disappointing offense. But said offense also made it difficult to exist as an NFL defensive player having to stay on the field so much, especially if you are one who is overrated. And there is no better indicator of overrated than Brandon Graham’s $6 million 2015 cap hit and $13.5 million guaranteed by the end of 2016.  What miniscule sack numbers he amassed (6.5) and forced fumbles (3) he accrued when you think he got two of those sacks and two of those forced fumbles against an awful Cowboys offense on November 8th. With Graham as a lesser known name, he is the antithesis of an anonymous charitable donor.  He is an anonymous recipient and the burdened donor is the Eagles front office.”-Kyle Nash

(photo courtesy of www.fansided.com)

(photo courtesy of http://www.fansided.com)

Linebacker-Brian Orapko, Tennessee Titans ($4.47 million)

“With Brian Orakpo leaving the Redskins, the only starring role he can be associated with is the old Geico car insurance commercials saying their service as “so easy a caveman can do it”.  Hoping for an upgrade bringing in Orakpo, Tennessee instead still had a defense so bad, even an AFC South team can score on it. While the 3rd highest player on the Titan Roster did record 7 sacks, $4,468,750 in 2015 warrants more performance.  With his 2016 salary due to almost double up to $8.25 million, this is the deal that keeps on stealing so bad it sends the Titans cap room situation back into the Stone Age.” – Kyle Nash

(photo courtesy of www.bleacherreport.com)

(photo courtesy of http://www.bleacherreport.com)

Linebacker-Dan Skuta, Jacksonville Jaguars ($4.6 million)

“Skuta was an overachiever when he played for the 49ers in 2014. Well, that all changed once he decided to go play for the Jacksonville Jaguars. At $4.6 million, he was expected to add to this team. He added alright…to the salary cap. Thirty-two tackles and 1.5 sacks just won’t cut it for the amount he was getting paid. And for a team that’s defense was subpar, he did little to help them get better. Such is life when expectations arise and the bank accounts gets a little bigger.” –Mike Patton

(photo courtesy of Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports)

(photo courtesy of Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports)

Defensive end- Greg Hardy, Dallas Cowboys ($11.3 million)

“HOW BOUT THIS COWBOY! At 1.88 million per sack, I would say this has been a lucrative season for him money-wise. But production-wise, he did more fighting on the sidelines than tackling (only 35 tackles). He was on a one-year deal with Dallas, so there is no telling whether he will return.”-Dan Dinkins

(photo courtesy of Bill Wippert/Associated Press)

(photo courtesy of Bill Wippert/Associated Press)

Defensive End- Jerry Hughes, Buffalo Bills ($6.175 million)

“Well, Jerry knew that 2014 was the biggest year of his career. He was looking to get a payday and he finally earned one from a team. But this season, he was definitely not earning his keep. He teamed up with Mario Williams to make the most disappointing defensive end duo in the NFL. He may be getting paid, but he surely has gone back to the same guy that disappeared after he was made a 1st round pick in Indianapolis.”-Mike Patton

(photo courtesy of Bob Leverone/Associated Press)

(photo courtesy of Bob Leverone/Associated Press)

Defensive Tackle- Ndamukong Suh, Miami Dolphins ($6.1 million)

“Being a dominant defensive lineman for 5 years got parlayed into a lucrative deal for Suh. So what did he do this season besides look lost and frightened???  58 tackles and 6 sacks. For 6.1 million dollars???  Nah bruh. You went from Suh to Stew. This is robbery but you know what?? Homey is warming up for next year. He’s a massive man and has a cap number next year of over 29 million. He went from N-Dominant to N-Donkey Kong. You have got to be bananas to be paying that bread, and he’s definitely not bananas enough to say no. I was at Dolphin Stadium in October and drinks at the stadium are $17. A couple dozen rounds on you, fella?? You owe me!” –Khalid Boyd

(photo courtesy of Billy Hurst/USA TODAY Sports)

(photo courtesy of Billy Hurst/USA TODAY Sports)

Defensive Tackle- Nick Fairley, St. Louis Rams ($4.75 million)

“Yes folks. He is still in the NFL. Someone gave Fairley the bright idea of having him sign a one-year deal to prove himself with the St. Louis Rams. Maybe that same person should have let him know the Rams’ defensive line was stacked. Or maybe he just wanted to find somewhere he could get the biggest payday for the least amount of work. Well, whatever the case, he surely got the best tickets anyone could have gotten. He even got to dress in a uniform and walk the sidelines for home and away games. And just to show them he had somewhat a pulse, he gave them a half a sack.”-Mike Patton

(photo courtesy of Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire)

(photo courtesy of Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire)

Kenneth Lay Award (Defensive MVP)- Mario Williams, Buffalo Bills ($19.4 million)

“Super Mario decided to play more like Luigi or even the Princess this past year. With only 19 combined tackles and five sacks (that’s one million per tackle or $3.88 million per sack), Williams made what may be his final season in Buffalo a bad one!!!! In a Rex Ryan defense, there is no reason why he should not be producing like one of the best pass rushers in the league. A huge letdown for a former #1 overall pick.”-Dan Dinkins

Enron still lives on with the naming of the Kenneth Lay award and none other than Mario Williams receives the inaugural one. There were many that got it done by making to their big contract and deciding they were done playing. And there were others that decided that somewhere along the life of their contract, they were going to call it quits while still in uniform. The committee has spoken and the All Ski-Mask Way defense has been named.

In you missed the All Ski-Mask Way offense, click here.

The 2015 NFL All Ski-Mask Way Offense

(photo courtesy of www.imgarcarde.com)

(photo courtesy of http://www.imgarcarde.com)

After much deliberation by the All Ski-Mask Way Committee, the 2015 NFL All Ski-Mask Way Offense has been set. These are the cream of the crop in guys who had a stronghold on their team’s salary cap. And even though some of them did not accrue as much as others, they surely made the fans of their teams cringe with some of the things they did. Without any further ado, here is the 2015 NFL All Ski-Mask Way offense.

(photo courtesy of Dale Zanine/USA Today Sports)

(photo courtesy of Dale Zanine/USA Today Sports)

Quarterback-Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons ($19.5 million)

“Matt Ryan started the season like a house of fire. But as the season went on, he got worse and worse and worse. He threw some incredibly inexplicable interceptions on his way to 21 interceptions and 16 interceptions. And for the icing on the cake, he managed to take one of the franchise’s best wide receivers, Roddy White, and render him useless. No wonder Roddy was so grumpy this year. Matty Ice was Ice Cold and not in a good way.” –Mike Patton

(photo courtesy of www.philly.com)

(photo courtesy of http://www.philly.com)

Running back-DeMarco Murray, Philadelphia Eagles ($5 million)

“The Eagles had a 7-9 record. Murray averaged 3.6 yards per rush and that is why he makes the list. I blame bad play calling because he still ran for 702 yards on 193 carries. But that just was not good enough, especially following the season he had in 2014. You are a professional and you still need to play like one regardless of what plays are called for you!” –Dan Dinkins

 (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

(AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

Running back-Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins ($1.7 million)

“Lamar, 872 yards and a home run threat? You run like an easy out in baseball. You had 175 of your yards in one game. You had eight touchdowns but six were in losing efforts. You’re from The U (my favorite college football team) but run more like Trent Richardson, who is currently jobless after missing wide open holes his whole NFL career.“ –Khalid Boyd

(photo courtesy of David Zalubowski/AP)

(photo courtesy of David Zalubowski/AP)

Tight End-Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers/Denver Broncos ($2.2 million)

“At almost 64k per catch, Vernon Davis offered up just the stats you would figure for a second year tight end. At a mere 2.2 million dollars, it’s a steal. Right?? Or is it that HE’S STEALING??   Ol Vern abdicated his throne in San Francisco for a more lucrative one in Chilly Denver. Essentially being paid him to be a human popsicle on the sideline, Vernon played five snaps in week 16. Thirty-eight catches for 394 and barely sniffing the end zone, with an astonishing one touchdown makes Vern the Prince of Thievery this season. Robin Hood should bankroll the Super Bowl party if the Broncos win.” –Khalid Boyd

(photo courtesy the Indy Star)

(photo courtesy the Indy Star)

Wide Receiver- Andre Johnson, Indianapolis Colts ($7.5 million)

“Everyone knew that Andre Johnson was all but finished as a top level receiver. Sure, it’s sad that the best QB he got to play with in 12 seasons for Houston is arguably Matt Schaub. But does that excuse him getting $7.5 million from Indianapolis in 2015? He scored two touchdowns in his first return to Houston against his old Texan team. At the time it was seen as sweet revenge. But when laid out over the course of the season, it looks more like a mild temper tantrum. Recording 41 receptions and 501 yards is something he can put on a resume’ in a future career at the Center for Disease Control. It’s proof that he can walk around the most contagious biohazards of viruses, bacteria, and microorganisms without a hazmat suit and still not catch a single thing.” –Kyle Nash

(photo courtesy Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports)

(photo courtesy Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports)

Wide Receiver- Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys ($7 million)

“A 4-12 record and Bryant only produced 401 yards on 31 receptions along with three touchdowns. He only played in nine games for ‘America’s Team’ and is their number one receiver. But even after injury, he had way too many drops and they contributed to them losing games they could have won! “ –Dan Dinkins

(photo courtesy of Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)

(photo courtesy of Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)

Wide Receiver- Mike Wallace, Minnesota Vikings ($9.9 million)

“Mike Wallace becomes the first two-time All Ski-Mask Way team member. Funny thing about him is he changed area codes but still was the same Wallace we knew and love, dropping passes and running back routes. For a guy who made $9.9 million this past season, he should be producing more than 39 receptions for only 473 yards and two touchdowns. He was a bold one to go into every week taking that check and robbing the Vikings blind.” –Mike Patton

(photo courtesy of www.jacksonville.com)

(photo courtesy of http://www.jacksonville.com)

Offensive Tackle- Jermey Parnell, Jacksonville Jaguars ($8 million)

“It is often said that a quarterback’s mouth writes checks that an offensive lineman’s body has to cash. With that in mind, I have no idea what Blake Bortles could have said that deserves Jacksonville’s offensive line giving up 51 sacks in 2015 (the 29th ranked performance among offensive lines in pass protection for the season). But as checks go, Jeremy Parnell has $8 million worth of them hitting that franchise’s salary cap with another $6.5 million coming his way the following year. Arriving as a former member of the distinguished Dallas Cowboy O-Line, I would have expected more and even been inclined to offer some slack having to face the incomparable JJ Watt twice a year. But when a franchise commits $14.5 million guaranteed of a 5 year $32 million deal to a tackle and popular wisdom is that the offensive line is still the weakest component of the team, one must suspect larceny of some kind is afoot.” –Kyle Nash

(photo courtesy of Al Golub/ Record Photo)

(photo courtesy of Al Golub/ Record Photo)

Offensive Tackle-Erik Pears, San Francisco 49ers ($3.35 million)

“A talented O-line is often said to be a wall, but Eric Pears is handed his ski mask because he appears to be more like a perp at a bank heist trying to blow open the wall of the bank vault. Instead of cash, pass rushers stole the currency of sacks to the point where San Francisco was the second worst team in sacks allowed with one of the league’s most mobile starting QBs opening the season. Considering how low the bar was set by 2014 predecessors like Anthony Davis and Jonathan Martin, the performance delivered was a definite theft despite a comparatively modest $3.35 million 2015 cap hit.” –Kyle Nash

(photo courtesy of Jake Roth/USA Today Sports)

(photo courtesy of Jake Roth/USA Today Sports)

Guard- Orlando Franklin, San Diego Chargers ($4.6 million)

“Orlando Franklin, the monstrous left tackle from the San Diego Chargers, makes this list. Playing in only 10 games this season due to injury, knee, concussion, and mental incompetence when healthy, Franklin didn’t stop much this season. And yet and still, for the merest of pricetags of only $4.6 million against the cap in 2015, this return on investment was paltry at best. With the excitement of working the kiddie pool in an amusement park, Franklin provided many times for Philip Rivers to count the lights at Qualcomm.” –Khalid Boyd

(photo courtesy of Jim Brown/ USA Today Sports)

(photo courtesy of Jim Brown/ USA Today Sports)

Guard-Chance Warmack, Tennessee Titans ($3.3 million)

“The Tennessee Titans offensive line was not exactly the greatest line out there. They tried, but their effort was not enough to keep Marcus Mariota upright. Mariota was running for his life and Warmack was the ringleader of this Whiff crew. The former 1st round pick hasn’t played like one as of yet and he could eventually be walking in the locker room to see a pink slip.” –Mike Patton

(photo courtesy of www.clevelandbrowns.com)

(photo courtesy of http://www.clevelandbrowns.com)

Center-Alex Mack, Cleveland Browns ($8 million)

“While Cleveland may have wavered between riding the Josh McCown bandwagon or the Johnny Football train at the quarterback spot, one can definitely mark center Alex Mack a constant as a turn style into the station known as the Browns back field. Ranking 30th in sacks allowed and 22nd in rushing yards per game is bad enough. Doing it in an AFC North division who defense has seen many greats removed from the Dawg’s path in 2015 due to injury or relocation out of said group is even worse. Should the city of Cleveland build a brand new Las Vegas style casino, I expect Mack to be recruited into Ocean’s 14. Goodness knows that his $8 million 2015 cap hit is the spoils of a professional caliber robbery.” –Kyle Nash

(photo courtesy of www.clevelandbrowns.com)

(photo courtesy of http://www.clevelandbrowns.com)

Bernie Madoff Award (Offensive MVP) – Dwayne Bowe, Cleveland Browns ($4.5 million)

“Who better to get this award than Dwayne Bowe? I bet when his name was mentioned, people forgot he was even on their roster. Well, I’m sure Cleveland wishes they saved their money. He truly was pulling a Ponzi scheme on this organization because they surely paid him for failed expectations. Bowe averaged $900,000 per catch. Now that is some high-grade thievery at the wide receiver position.” –Mike Patton

(photo courtesy Associated Press)

(photo courtesy Associated Press)

Head coach- Mike Pettine, Cleveland Browns (Khalid/Dan Dinkins)

“Pettine was overmatched every week. It’s like you fight dudes with slingshots in a shootout. I’m glad you’re gone.” –Khalid Boyd

“Even though I do believe Cleveland is a losing situation no matter who is there, he proved that even as the coach he could not be a “game manager”. 3-13 for a team that many had high hopes for is just despicable! What was even more a tragedy is how he managed his quarterbacks. McCoy was just booty juice and Manziel couldn’t stay off the bottle. Maybe he needs to fall back as a coordinator somewhere or go to college and grab a head coaching job there.” -Dan Dinkins

Stay tuned for the All Ski-Mask Way defense!

Blake Griffin Makes A Huge Mistake

(photo courtesy of Gary A Vasquez/USA Today Sports)

(photo courtesy of Gary A Vasquez/USA Today Sports)

The Los Angeles Clippers have been playing well without forward Blake Griffin, going 12-3. The talented forward had been missing in action due to a partially torn quadriceps tendon. It was expected that he would be coming back on this current five-game roadtrip that he would be back with his team. But that all took a strange turn following the events of a dinner Saturday night in Toronto. Griffin reportedly got into an argument with Blake’s friend and the team equipment manager Matias Testi. The conversation got heated apparently and Griffin got into a physical altercation with Testi inside the restaurant. The issue ended up going outside the restaurant and Griffin exchanged some more blows with the equipment manager. The result of the fight was both Testi and Griffin sent home. On Tuesday, Griffin had an X-rays taken that revealed a fracture to his right hand. The initial diagnosis is that Griffin will miss four to six weeks. And with that, the Clippers will continue playing without him. But how does this affect Blake and the team?

If Blake is to miss the whole six weeks, he would be back around March 6th. Of course that would give him almost six weeks to get ready for the playoffs. Last season, he was their best player in the playoffs and was a playmaker. But if he misses the full length of recovery, he will have missed almost 12 weeks of playing time. That time will be used to try and implement him back to the offense. And at that point, it will disrupt the rhythm this team has been playing with. To create that rhythm again, it will take time. And with Blake missing as much time as he has, that could cause him to not be the same guy once he comes back. For a team that had personal aspirations of going deep in the playoffs, they would have plenty of work to do to keep the ship afloat. All because of Blake’s one moment of lost self-control, the Clippers just had their outside chances of winning the Western Conference dashed. The Clippers needed to be healthy and as connected as possible if they wanted to win the Western Conference. With Blake missing more time, it will be interesting to see if they are able to capture the magic that had them on the brink of the Western Conference Finals.

The action he will miss from the team is just the tip of the iceberg. There has not been any specifics in regards to the injuries of Testi, but he has more than likely been looked at by medical professionals. But with all that happened, Griffin opened himself up to be sued by Testi. If Testi sues, then he would more than likely win the case. After all, he was the one that took the blows and wasn’t giving out any per the reports. This undoubtedly will be the test of Testi and Griffin’s friendship as well. But along with a test of a relationship, this will also be a test for the NBA. Griffin has now put himself at the front of an investigation that the NBA is cooperating with. Per Toronto Police Department, they have no information from anyone reporting the incident. But the procedure and investigation of the NBA in this one will be interesting to watch. Apparently, no charges have to be filed for the NBA to suspend Griffin. The NBA has their investigation team look into any instance where a player or team makes the league look bad on or off the basketball court. And in this one (where there were surely onlookers), the NBA Investigative team already made it known that they will be collecting data. Depending on the things they find out, Blake could be losing money and losing games with his team along with being out with a hand injury.

There can always be heated conversations, whether people be with family or friends. But this one should not have ever gotten to this level. Blake lost control of his emotions and hit Testi. And based on those facts, there could be more than missed games in his future. We shall see what happens. It’s ironic that the guy that takes the path of least resistance in regards to confrontations to fight on the court is now potentially in trouble for losing his cool off it and punching the equipment manager. And to top it all off, he breaks his hand hitting the guy. For some people, this further adds to the reasons the Clippers are not to be taken serious.

For more sports talk, feel free to follow me on Twitter or check me out on Facebook.

Meet The NFL All Ski-Mask Way Committee

The end of the season is almost here and there is one real game left: the Super Bowl. But before that game, there is the Pro Bowl. For those that don’t know, that team is selected by votes from fans across the league and picks the best of the best. Well, there is another team that requires votes to get on and it is called the All Ski-Mask Way team. If you are not aware of what that team entails, it is a group of players who essentially were getting paid but were robbing the team of valuable salary cap space that they could have used on someone more productive. Last year was the first year it was done and this year, I have taken the time to create a committee to help put together an All Ski-Mask Way defense and offense along with an offensive and defensive MVP. Let me introduce you to the All Ski-Mask Way committee that will be joining me to create this team.

Dan Dinkins 

Dan Dinkins

Dan aka The Mayor is a married father of three girls who is a former semi pro football player for the DYSL Strongest and is currently the girls shot put coach at Port Richmond high school in Staten Island, New York. Dan is very knowledgeable in a vast amount of sports and he displays that knowledge as a host on The Starting Five and The 4th Quarter podcasts on the Talking My Team Sports Network, which he is a co-owner of. In addition to his sports exploits, you can also catch Dan as a photographer and as a cameraman for Rare Breed Entertainment, which is a battle rap league. You can find him rarely on Twitter , Instagram  and on Soundcloud , where you can find some of his mixes (yup he can DJ also)!

Khalil Boyd

Khalid Boyd

Khalid is a sports enthusiast that comes to us from New Mexico. He is a huge Fantasy football junkie that has been playing since 2000. He is a member of the Ralph McNeill Memorial League and the Action Pack League. In both leagues, he has won one title (current champion in the RMML), had two second-place finishes and is also been a playoff competitor three of the nine years he has been in the Ralph McNeill Memorial League. Along with being a fantasy football player, Khalid is also an active flag football player as well. Little known fact about Khalid: he once tried out for the now defunct arena league team, the New Mexico Stars. You can find him on Twitter.

Kyle Nash

Kyle Nash

As a Student Of The Game, Kyle Nash has his weekly Student of the Game Podcast he does once a week. Kyle also does a weekly piece during the NFL season for NGSC Sports  along with producing a web video series known as the Sports Symposium . In addition to all the things he has done, he has also had the pleasure of interviewing Seattle Seahawks defensive back Richard Sherman and Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten for Pro Players Insiders along with being able to cover the NFL Hall Of Fame Induction in 2013 for NGSC Sports. You can find him on Twitter.

Stay tuned for the great squad we are able to join forces and put together! And give them a follow on their various platforms!

Carolina Dominates The Cardinals On The Way To The Super Bowl

(photo courtesy of Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

(photo courtesy of Jason Getz/USA Today Sports)

And then there were two in the NFC. The two best teams all year in the conference, the Arizona Cardinals and the Carolina Panthers, passed their first test in the Divisional Rounds, beating the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks respectively. And on Sunday night, both teams were trying to get back to the Super Bowl. The Cardinals last went back in the 2008 season, when they lost to Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-23 in Tampa, Florida. The Panthers drought has been a little longer, last visiting the Super Bowl in the 2003 season, when they lost to the New England Patriots 32-29. Both teams came out with much to prove in this game. The Cardinals wanted to prove that last week was just an aberration. And for the Panthers, they wanted to prove that they were worthy of being the NFC champions. From the jump, the Panthers let the Cardinals know they meant business. Carolina jumped out to a 24-7 halftime lead, jumping all over the Cardinals. And in the second half, they would continue to jump all over the Cardinals, punching their Super Bowl ticket with a dominating 49-15 win. With that, the Panthers are on to match up against the Denver Broncos.

Offensively, the Panthers were clicking and that all started with the play of their offensive line. Going into the season, the Panthers were a team that was looked at as having a line that was not good enough. But as the season as grown, they have gotten better and better. And now they are the backbone of one of the best offenses in the NFL. In today’s game, they allowed Panthers quarterback Cam Newton to step up in the pocket and complete passes to the tune of 19/28 for 335 yards and two touchdowns. But the offensive line was not only effective in the passing game. They were able to open holes for Newton and running back Jonathan Stewart. Both averaged over four yards per carry in this one. And the offensive line was able to get Cam in the endzone twice on the ground, with the biggest one being a Newton 12 yard run for a touchdown. That run put the Panthers up 34-7 and gave them an insurmountable lead against Arizona. Even though Cam Newton will more than likely be the MVP of the NFL, his offensive line was the MVP of this game.

The Panthers have been a nasty defense all year long. Much has been made of their pieces in the back seven, particularly defensive back Josh Norman and linebackers Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly. But the key players in this game had to be the Panthers defensive line. They harassed the Palmer all game long and were relentless. And as a byproduct of their pressure, they forced Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer into four interceptions, with one going back for a touchdown. It seemed that Palmer could never get comfortable in the pocket all game long. Some of that was on Carson because he just was out of sorts. But most of that had to be credited to the Panthers front seven. And along with the pressure they were bringing, they were also steady in the running game. They allowed David Johnson to get 60 yards on 15 carries, but they did not allow him to get in a rhythm for much of the game. And by making some stops on first down, Arizona fell behind the sticks and that put additional pressure on the Cardinals offense. Last week, the Packers were not able to catch Larry Fitzgerald, as he torched them in overtime for the win. But the Panthers were on him all game long, only giving up four receptions for 30 yards. Larry was a non-factor along with his fellow wide receiver Michael Floyd. Their offense was rendered helpless by a defense that was flying all over the field.

The Panthers did what many felt they could not do. At the beginning of the season, many wondered if they would even win five or six games. They had lost their best wide receiver before the season started and many felt Cam did not have enough to win ballgames offensively. But little did we know that the combination of the skill people they had along with Cam’s excellent performance this year would carry them to being one of the best offenses in the NFL. Couple their offense with their stingy defense and the Panthers had a well-oiled machine. And as the season went on, they got better and better despite those that thought they would falter. Fast forward to now and the Panthers are now on their way to the Super Bowl. And with a win, they would have made some unexpected history for their organization. We will see what happens under the bright lights in Santa Clara, California on February 7th.

For more sports talk, feel free to follow me on Twitter or check me out on Facebook.

Denver Outlasts New England To Make The Super Bowl

(photo courtesy of Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

(photo courtesy of Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

Denver was considered the underdog going into the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots. People were expecting the Patriots offense to come in and put the Broncos defense on their heels a little bit behind the strength of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. And as for the offense of the Broncos, everyone thought that this could be Peyton’s last game. But little did we know the Broncos would have something for the Patriots in Denver today. The Broncos held Tom Brady in check for most of the game and the offense was just effective enough as the Broncos won the game 20-18 and punched their ticket to the Super Bowl. And just like that, Manning plays on. For the Patriots, a season that started so well ends in the bitter taste of defeat. The Brady versus Manning battle actually proved to be much more than these two Hall of Fame quarterbacks.

The big question all week for the Denver defense was how they would cover the Patriots in the passing game. The Patriots have one weapon that many have trouble covering in the NFL: Rob Gronkowski. The big tight end out of Arizona is a matchup nightmare with his size, speed and soft hands. Coming into this one, the Broncos were aware that he would probably get his. And pairing him with shifty wide receiver Julian Edelman could cause big problems for the Broncos because of all the rub routes and things the Patriots run. But the Broncos counteracted all the things the Patriots do in the passing game with their front four. Brady was constantly under pressure all game long and that was enough to force two interceptions and also 3.5 sacks in this game. It seemed like the Patriots offensive line had no answer for Von Miller, Derek Wolfe and the Broncos front line. And because of that, the timing was off in the passing game for the Patriots. Brady was not able to set his feet in the pocket a lot and was often running for his life. And that resulted in some inaccurate passes along with plenty of passes thrown away to the sidelines. The final drive was something that could have come back to get them, as they let up just a little and let the Patriots have a chance. But in the end, they turned it up one more time and forced Brady into a mistake on the two-point conversion, missing the opportunity to tie the game.

Offensively, the Broncos were not exactly the greatest all season. The running game was inconsistent and the passing game was not very dependable either. Despite people wanting to see Brock Osweiler and thinking Peyton Manning was done, Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak went with the veteran Manning when it mattered the most. And so far, Manning has not disappointed him or the fans of the Broncos. Last week his wide receiver corps had a ton of drops and that almost cost them the game. Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas was a disappearing act in this game. And so far for the playoffs, he has only caught six passes for 52 yards and has scored no touchdowns. But when he did not show up, the passing game did not stall. Tight end Owen Daniels may not have put up big numbers, but he was big in the redzone for Manning. He caught two passes all game and both of them were for touchdowns. Manning hit Daniels across the middle off a blown coverage from the Patriots for the first touchdown of the game. And for Daniels second touchdown, Manning hit Daniels in the corner of the endzone, beating Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins. The usage of Daniels was good early in the game and allowed the Broncos to open things up just a little offensively. The Patriots defense would only allow six more points the rest of the gsme. But with how well the Broncos defense was playing along with the running game getting going down the stretch of the game, Denver was able to hold the Patriots off.

The Broncos now go to where some had them at in the beginning of the season: the Super Bowl. And along with that, Peyton has a chance to cap off this season with a championship. If you take a look at the Broncos six weeks ago, no one would have saw this coming. Manning was out injured and Brock Osweiler was starting. And along with that, no one knew what to expect from this team as they tried to hang on and make the playoffs. Amazing how much things can change over a small amount of time. And now the Broncos will move on to the Super Bowl in what could be Manning’s swan song in the NFL. It will be interesting to see what they do on the big stage.

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The General’s NFL Proclamations-Conference Championship Weekend

(photo courtesy of Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports)

(photo courtesy of Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports)

It has now come down to Conference Championship Weekend. Four teams with dreams and aspirations still alive to win the title. In these big games, the pressure will be heavy. The plays that are or are not made could go a long way in determining this one. And this is also one of the games where special players play their best or miss their opportunity. For these four teams, the time is now. There is no tomorrow. Without further ado, here is the General’s Proclamation for Conference Championship Weekend!

New England Patriots at Denver Broncos

  1. The Broncos’ defense was good enough to get it done last week versus a depleted and injured Pittsburgh offense. And good thing they were playing well because the Denver offense was decent at best. They were dropping passes right and left and the running game was inconsistent as it has been. In this one, the offense needs to be better. And with that being said, look for them to at least drop less passes in this game, led by wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who will catch at least five passes for 80 yards and a touchdown, as he shakes off his big-game struggles.
  2. The Patriots looked like themselves offensively because of the return of wide receiver Julian Edelman. The veteran wide receiver can be seen regularly running patterns across the field, constantly getting open. In this game, look for him to have some fun. The Broncos are a team that plays a lot of man-to-man defense and crossing patterns are great for beating that coverage. Look for Edelman to get at least nine receptions for at least 120 yards and one touchdown.
  3. To counteract Tom Brady and his offense, the Broncos will need to mix things up. We all know that Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips does not like to mix up his coverages, but he may be forced to in this one. But no matter what defensive coverage he switches to on the backend, he must get pressure from his front seven. And with that being said, look for the Broncos to get home at least four times, with pass rush specialist DeMarcus Ware getting one that forces a turnover.
  4. Defensively for the Patriots, they will need their linebackers to be good in disguising coverages. If they are not, then that makes it easy for Peyton to figure out what is going on and then attack it (there will probably be tons of “Omaha” calls made). With that being said, look for the Patriots to get Peyton Manning at least once. And by getting him, I mean tricking him into an interception.
  5. Many have talked about this being a Manning vs Brady battle again. But this game is more than that and it speaks to the regression of Peyton Manning. The Broncos ran the ball almost 50% of the time with Peyton on the field and that is unheard of. In this one, they get the lead and force Peyton to have to throw to catch up. And in that situation, that is advantage Patriots. The Patriots win this game 27-17 and we will more than likely be saying goodbye to the Manning vs Brady matchups forever. The Pat

Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers

  1. The Panthers started out strong last week against the Seattle Seahawks. They got out to a 31-0 lead and hung on for the win. A big part of that win was them running the football. It is the thing that gets their offense going. Arizona isn’t exactly the easiest team to run against, so this will be a challenge for them. A challenge that has to be answered first by running back Jonathan Stewart. Look for him to have at least 20 carries in this game and around 80 yards rushing with a touchdown.
  2. The Cardinals did not play their best game, but they were able to fight off a feisty Green Bay team in overtime. Carson Palmer did not play like the guy many thought was in the MVP race this year. And in this game against the Panthers, the Cardinals better hope he plays better than last game. In this game, look for him to be more responsible with the football. He will have only one interception in this game.
  3. The matchup of Panthers cornerback Josh Norman versus Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald will be fun to watch. Both play with an electricity and a passion for the game. And although one is more talkative than the other, they both get the job done. I expect Norman will not be on Fitzgerald all game due to the defensive alignment of the Panthers. But when both are matched up on each other, look for Larry to have only one or two receptions on him. Norman got victimized last week and I expect him to come out ready to go in this one. It’s the most important game he has played in.
  4. The one guy that makes a huge difference for this Cardinals defense is linebacker Deone Bucannon. He is an undersized linebacker, being that he was a safety to start the season. But he has played well and helped the Cardinals defense be solid if not spectacular this season. Look for him to get at least 8 tackles in this game as he flies all over the field. But the key thing to watch in this game is how he gets off blocks in the run game, which is huge for the Panthers.
  5. Both teams have running games and both offenses can be explosive in their own way. But the difference in this one will be the quarterback play. Both defenses will be stingy against the run sans a few good runs to make numbers look better. But for Carolina, having Cam Newton at quarterback will eliminate the bad plays and turn them into good gains on the ground and thru the air. The Panthers head to the Super Bowl on the strength of a 30-20 win. The Cardinals had a great run, but this is the end of it in Charlotte.

Both of these games will have some drama in them. And there will be some moments of doubt for both teams. But it’s about which team can overcome the bad plays and make the least mistakes. And with that being said, look for a Panthers/Patriots Super Bowl. The best two teams will be left standing.

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Tyronn Lue Takes Over For David Blatt In Cleveland

(photo courtesy of David Richard-USA TODAY Sports)

(photo courtesy of David Richard-USA TODAY Sports)

The Cleveland Cavaliers were cruising along up until their Martin Luther King Jr. game against the Warriors. At that point, they were, 28-10 and leading the NBA’s Eastern Conference. Many expected them to challenge if not beat the Warriors in this game to make a statement. But what we got was a beatdown of epic proportions. The Cavs were down by over 40 points at one time as the Warriors were getting any and everything they wanted. Cleveland looked totally overmatched and underprepared for the game. And their star, LeBron James, did not look like he was into the game as well. After the game, there was not the warmest feelings about the team’s performance. It seemed like the indictment was made on this team at that point that they could not beat the Warriors or Spurs as they currently were constructed and how they were playing at that time. The Cavs won two games after that embarrassing game on national television and it seemed like maybe there was some good feelings starting to return for that team. Well, the good feelings were good for the team, but not for head coach David Blatt. The veteran European head coach who came to coach the Cavs last season was fired today by the team. And immediately after his firing, lead assistant Tyronn Lue was named head coach of the team and given a three-year deal. The shock was not that it happened for many but when it happened. So what went wrong for Blatt?

When Blatt was brought in to be the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, he was thought to be inheriting a rebuilding team that was going to build around point guard Kyrie Irving. There was no thought that LeBron James would be coming back in the summer of 2015. So when LeBron James signed on to come back home, the fit immediately changed. Blatt was not prepared to be the coach of this team with a superstar with as much clout as James. Sports Center had former Cleveland Cavaliers center Brendan Haywood on today and he said something that was really telling. He said that Blatt was “highly hesitant in correcting people in team meetings”. To get a team to where they need to be, Blatt had to be able to take control and correct any and all players. It seemed to all that he was never strong enough to correct LeBron or scared of him, and that lost the respect of the vets on the team. Another thing that may have cost him is his demeanor on the sideline. It seemed like he was not as active in coaching his team on the sidelines. Of course there have been other coaches that are calm and don’t say much there (Phil Jackson comes to mind), but when your assistant is speaking up more than you are and players are differing to him, then that says a lot. It says that the players do not have your trust to make the right calls. And because of that, he is out of there. He more than likely will catch on again somewhere. He could go back overseas to where he came from (and where his family is) or he could go to another team and be an assistant coach. Blatt is a solid coach but he just landed in a situation that he was not prepared to handle. And he paid the price for it.

The new head coach, Tyronn Lue, is sliding over to the big seat after being the lead assistant for Blatt. But in doing so, his role really does not change as much. He was always the guy that players consulted with in regards to things going on within the game. Along with that, Lue was very much respected by the team. He pulled no punches when in the Cavs’ meeting rooms and that even meant with LeBron James. His ability to hold everyone accountable when going through things was loved by the players and also respected by LeBron James. He can always be seen discussing things on the bench with LeBron during timeouts. But Lue did not want to overstep his bounds, knowing that he was the assistant coach of this team and not the head coach. He played his role perfectly next to Blatt and did all he could not to get in the way of him coaching the team. With Lue now in charge of the whole show, he can now exert himself fully on the team. Gone are the days of a passive head coach that would let players slide. Lue will demand more out of the team. Lue will also more than likely use all the weapons. Mo Williams was great when used off the bench or starting when Kyrie Irving was out. Anderson Varejao brings an energy on the defensive and offensive end. But over the course of the season, both of these guys seemingly fell out of favor with Blatt. Look for both of them to be used more with Lue in charge of the team. Another thing that Lue can do is find a way to get Love more engaged on both ends. If the team is committed to how they are constructed, they have to get more out of Kevin Love on both ends. He is far too talented to be forgotten as much as he is on that team. Defensively, we know the issues he has. But there have been many that have struggled defensively and still won games. The best thing Lue can do there is find a way to cover for him defensively. Whether it be by design of a quicker rotation or not, there has to be some way to do so.

The changing of the guard has only increased the pressure and scrutiny on this team. Many keep believe it was LeBron who pulled the strings on this one while others believe it is not him. Whether it was him or not is beside the point at this time because the decision has been made and Lue is now running the show. It should be interesting to see how he takes to the job and how the players take to him. Does the team finally get on the same page this season or do they continue to play in spurts? Only time will tell.

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Josh Gordon’s Potential Return To The NFL

(photo courtesy of David Welker/Getty Images)

(photo courtesy of David Welker/Getty Images)

Josh Gordon had an excellent season in 2013. In his second season, the exciting wide receiver had 87 receptions for 1,646 yards and 9 touchdowns in 14 games. It seemed like he was on his way. But then the 2014 season happened. Gordon was originally suspended for the entire 2014 season for violating the NFL’s drug policy again. But as a result of a revised drug testing and punishment policy between the NFL and the NFL Players’ Association, his suspension was reduced to ten games. He only played in five games (suspended for the last game by the team that season) and had 24 receptions for 303 yards and no touchdowns. Gordon was lucky to not be suspended for the entire season that year and it was apparent he had a drug issue. His margin for error was getting smaller and smaller as he would more than likely not get a reprieve from a one-year suspension the next time he got in trouble. Well, he reportedly misunderstood the policy on drugs and alcohol and failed another test. His misunderstanding landed him at least a one year suspension. That year is just about up and Gordon has recently applied for reinstatement. Assuming he has met all the criteria, he could be back in the NFL next season. Whether he is with the Browns or not is not known, but the idea of him being back in the NFL is something that many would not have seen coming.

The talented wide receiver was coming on strong in the time he was on the field. And with him on the team, he gave the Cleveland Browns some excitement at the wide receiver position. But along with the excitement, he also was someone that grew into an undependable person. Gordon knew the drug policy was there. And when he stepped into the NFL, he knew that he would probably be in it. But instead of trying to take it seriously, it seemed like he thought it was a game. And because of that, he missed 28 of potentially 64 games due to suspensions. Sometimes when you saw his words in regards to the incidents, you thought he had learned his lesson and realized the opportunity he had. But instead of that, he reverted right back to the guy that just did not get it. And because of that, he is someone that is hard to trust off the field. For as much as he does on the field, he can negate it all by not making smart decisions. With him looking to be reinstated, the Browns will have to make the decision whether he will be in their plans or not. But more importantly, they have to figure out if they are willing to give him another opportunity. In addition to building a team up and the fate of Johnny Manziel, new Cleveland head coach Hue Jackson has the issue of Gordon to potentially deal with should he be reinstated. And that will definitely be something he will have to think long and hard about because Cleveland needs receivers bad but the risk factor is high for Gordon.

If Gordon is in the right frame of mind and ready to go to work, then he can be a force on the field. The things he can do with his 6’3”, 225 pound frame are great to watch on the field. It will be interesting to see if someone is willing to make a trade for him to add him to their team. After all, Gordon is still on his rookie deal and would not cost much money at all to anyone that wants him. The risk is high in terms of him being able to stay clean and be on the field. But the reward is something that could be great for him. There are a few teams that should potentially take a look at him should he become reinstated. One team that usually takes risks on players is the Cincinnati Bengals. Of course this past season they lost control at the wrong time, but Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has taken player after player that had trouble in the past and made them a contributing member of their team. With Gordon there, that would give the Bengals another weapon and probably the most skilled wide receiver AJ Green has played with in the NFL. Of course that is assuming that Cleveland wants to get rid of him that bad. After all, Gordon is in the same division as the Bengals and he would more than likely have to be released for that to happen. Another team that could take a crack at him would be the Chicago Bears. They could potentially lose Alshon Jeffrey this offseason if someone wants to pay him more than the Bears want to offer. And with that need potentially being there, the Bears may be willing to take a risk on bringing him in and pairing him with young wide receiver Kevin White. There are some other options out there (Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys come to mind) that could potentially take a look at Gordon. It all depends on who wants to take the risk.

Gordon is seeking another opportunity in the NFL and that could potentially come pretty soon. If it does, there the ball will clearly be in Cleveland’s court. If they want him and want to try to make it work, then he will be in Cleveland. If they want to trade him, then that will be difficult to do, but not the hardest thing to do. But in the end, this all depends on Gordon and if he is willing to do what it takes to get back on the field and play again. He is still young and has plenty of years to play in the NFL. He just has to decide how bad he wants to get back on the field or if he even wants to get back on the field. We shall see how this reinstatement process goes with him and what further developments happen.

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This Isn’t John Calipari’s Wildcats

(photo courtesy of the Associated Press)

(photo courtesy of the Associated Press)

The Kentucky Wildcats came into this season having to replace a lot of talent. Seven players chose to leave school early and enter the NBA Draft, including #1 overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns. And with those seven leaving, there were plenty of spaces available. With that being said, Kentucky again had the #1 recruiting class in the nation and they were expected to roll again this year. The season started with being led by point guard Tyler Ulis and guard Jamal Murray, as they went 7-0 out of the gate. But when the Wildcats lost to the UCLA Bruins, the chinks in the armor started to show. The Wildcats would go on to lose three more times in the last nine games and there has to be some concern there. As time goes by, if they don’t get it together, they could be following the steps of the Kentucky team led by Archie Goodwin back and Nerlens Noel back in the 2012-2013 season. That team had a bunch of hype behind them and then ended up floundering in the first round of the NIT. And to boot, Noel tore his ACL chasing down a Florida player and trying to block his shot. This team was not as disjointed as that team was, but it seems they have not got it going and on the same page as of yet. So what needs to happen for this team to get it together?

Under Calipari, Kentucky has always had that one big man that could put the ball in the basket. His first one he got at Kentucky was DeMarcus Cousins. And after that there have been guys like Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones, Julius Randle and Karl-Anthony Towns. Along with the guard play that we have come to expect, we always look for the next big man Kentucky would produce that would get it done in the paint. Coming into this season, that guy was supposed to be freshman Skal Labissiere. He was the #1 big man in the 2015 recruiting class and he was multitalented. He was a 6’10” big man with a skill set that was more of a faceup post guy. His style, unfortunately, has not translated to the college level. He has not been as strong as many thought he was going to be and is only averaging 7.7 points while losing his starting job to senior Alex Poythress. Speaking of Poythress, he is a 6’8” small forward with incredible explosion to the rim. But he has been very inconsistent, just like his career has been to date. And if you take a look at Kentucky’s other big man, Marcus Lee, he is a guy that can finish at the rim but cannot create his own offense. For the Wildcats to go any further, they will need one of these three to step up and step up consistently. One other option to bring in up front is Derek Willis. The 6’9” junior from Kentucky can shoot the basketball, but he is not a guy that can give them much in the post. But even with that, his shooting touch would help spread the floor for the guards of Kentucky to attack.

Defensively, the Wildcats have been solid at times on the perimeter. The defense has caused havoc, led by guard Tyler Ulis. But when the shot goes up, that is when the adventure begins. Kentucky has usually been a team that boxes out and outrebounds teams. And at the beginning of the year, Coach Calipari alluded to this team needing to get better in that area. Well, it seems like they have not been getting the message. Even with the veteran players in Poythress and Lee, the Wildcats are giving up second-chance points. And when that happens, Kentucky is giving up an offensive rebound and more than likely two points. Those extra points have not hurt them a lot this season, but those extra points could hurt them at the wrong time. The one thing the Wildcats could do to alleviate some of the rebounding issues is team rebounding. What that means is instead of guards sitting around watching the big men rebound, they need to help them out and get down there to fight with them. If they are able to do that, there is some stress taken off the big men of Kentucky. It may take them out of the fastbreak a little bit, but it will be worth it if they are not giving up second and third shots.

Rebounding and scoring from their big men is a huge thing, but what is even bigger is leadership. Who was the voice of the team was never a question for the Wildcats in 2014-2015. Last year, there was leadership and focus for numerous people. And because of that leadership, it helped Kentucky have the type of season they had. With this year’s team, the leader is unquestionably point guard Tyler Ulis. He is definitely the one barking out the signals and making sure things run smoothly. He also is the guy that takes some of the big shots along with guard Jamal Murray. Both he and Murray are also carrying the team offensively, combining for 32 points per game. But for this team to take the next step, he has to ride some of his teammates. A leader is someone that is not always liked by his teammates and Ulis has to learn that. He has to push them to be better and do better. If he is able to strike that chord with them, then that means he is taking ownership of that team. Many teams have a player that steps up and does the things that a coach would do in terms of getting on guys and leading them. Ulis has all the capabilities and has shown he is capable of it, but he has to do it all the time. That is what leaders do.

The Wildcats are not doing terrible, but they are not doing as well as Calipari teams usually do. For them to take that step forward and be considered a serious National Title contender, they will need to get better play out of their big men. The Wildcats also have to have leadership take over this team along with the improved post play. Only time will tell what happens, but the Wildcats’ problems will only get worse if they lose Thursday night against Arkansas. Time is of the essence.

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