Talking Points: 5 Takeaways from last weekend’s Premier League fixtures! #EPL

Week six of the Premier League is almost in the books and this week saw Man City and Tottenham maintain their unbeaten runs, wins for Liverpool, Bournemouth and Arsenal as well as crushing defeats for Sunderland and West Ham. But what are the story-lines that may carry forward into future game-weeks? We had a look..

 

  1. What now for Wayne Rooney?

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José Mourinho made a big call when he benched England’s all-time leading goalscorer in favour of Marcus Rashford for Manchester United’s weekend victory over Leicester.

While many will see this as the beginning of the end for Rooney, United still scored three goals from set pieces and even though the first half performance was filled with pace and vigor, the second half was gravely ponderous in comparison.

The Portuguese tactician will likely try to work the floundering forward back into his starting XI as he is not ready to put complete faith in his young Mancunian replacement. This might cause the ire of many a “Red Devil” fan however as indicated above, the scoreline slightly flattered the home side as for all their good play in the opening period, clear cut chances created were few and far between and were in not for Leicester’s weakness from the dead-ball this match would have been much closer.

2.   Defensive Problems for Chelsea

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For years under successive managers Chelsea were seen as the defensive benchmark of the Premier League, structurally sound and well drilled, they were always hard to break down and even harder to defeat from set pieces.

That is why their newfound frailties under Antonio Conte are all the more shocking. Branislav Ivanovic looks a pale shadow of his former self, Gary Cahill looks like a ticking time-bomb without John Terry and even the reliable Cesar Azpilicueta looks out of sorts.

The re-addition of David Luiz hasn’t helped and the shielding of N’Golo Kante has been ineffectual especially last Saturday evening against a rampant Arsenal. The Gunners pace and direct style caused Chelsea a world of problems and it looks as if Conte will have to go back to the drawing board to shore things up until January if he is to keep their Champions League ambitions intact.

3. Fortress Anfield once again

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Since taking over the Liverpool hot-seat Jurgen Klopp has continually spoken about making Anfield the hardest place in the league for teams to visit. It finally looks like beneath that newly developed main stand with the funny camera angle, he is achieving this target.

Two games, nine goals scored and only two conceded point to a changing mentality on Merseyside and have established them at the forefront of the Champions League contenders. In Saido Mané they look to have found the perfect foil to go alongside Coutinho, Firmino and Lallana in a formidable attacking quartet.

Their defence seems to have solidified for the time being and as the new signings adjust to Klopp’s “gengenpressing” style of play, this will only lead to further improvements in their rearguard. What will be very pleasing to the German is that this style seems to be at its best against the top 4 sides, against whom he has a very formidable record.

4. West Ham’s woes continue

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This was supposed to be the season of the happy hammer. New Stadium, new signings, new sponsors, new money, new start.

This couldn’t be further from reality however as Slaven Bilic’s side have collected just one win from six games, conceding a massive sixteen goals. The unrest from the stands has been quite vocal and the Croat has been slashed in the betting for the “sack race” in all major betting outlets.

There is no obvious answer to their issues, especially those at the Olympic Stadium. These are the same players who led the Irons to a successful finish last year and caused a stir of optimism for this season’s campaign. What is obvious is that Bilic has no idea of his best starting XI as he continues to chop and change looking for the best set of players to implement his attacking philosophy. He has received the dreading vote of confidence from the co-chairmen so it is imperative that he turns it around soon.

5. This could be Sunderland’s year

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After all the near escapes under Poyet, Di Canio and Allardyce, this could finally be the year where the north east club succumb to the Championship trap door.

Saturday’s defeat to Crystal Palace was symptomatic of a team who just do not believe they are good enough even with a two goal lead. This is compounded by a manager in Moyes who showed a complete lack of ambition away at Tottenham last week and although excuses can be made regarding the lateness of his appointment and lack of recruitment, the team appear to have regressed since a battling defeat to Manchester City on the opening day.

Something is going to have to change and fast because Jermain Defoe’s goals alone will not keep them afloat. They need to find a spine of a team that will allow them to be consistent and get the best from creative players, Januzaj, Khadri and Ndong. Lee Cattermole and Jan Kirchoff continue on their battle to gain full fitness but it is Moyes’ approach to getting points which will need to change before their fortunes can be altered.

 

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Joey Barton: The last of a dying breed in football!

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The most polarizing player of his generation. It seems inevitable that when he retires he will be remembered more for his incidents off the pitch, than what he has achived on it. (He’s only picked up two Championship medals to date).

Yet given his history, when Barton speaks people are oft surprised to find an articulate man of intelligible opinions and coherent arguments which leads to the next question of how can he continue to make similar mistakes club after club.

The answer to that is simply that he clashes with everything it means to be a professional footballer in today’s climate.

Barton broke into the Manchester City set up in 2002 just as English football was beginning its transition from a hard-nosed, Vinnie Jones loving, team drinking sessions on a Saturday night lifestyle to the incarnation we watch today with the influx of foreign talent, ideas and professionalism causing inevitable changes to the structures of clubs.

How players were trained, educated and asked to represent themselves have altered significantly and this has not always sat well with the Liverpudlian. Not in an unprofessional manner but rather lamenting the turn the game has taken.

For the most part modern players are PR robots. Brought up in sheltered academies where they are told how to manage themselves, their diets and their social media accounts.

They know that a bad result can be offset by a ruefull Instagram post or an apologetic tweet to give the fans the false sentiment of truly caring. But  they don’t want to know about the harsh truths on the training ground that Barton would have been acustomed to in his youth and this appears to be the issue in his latest incident north of the border.

“My biggest curse is that I care too much”. This sentiment will do little to explain the training ground incident with Ousmane Dabo, the 5:30am assault in Liverpool, his meltdown and subsequent 12 game ban which handed Manchester City a Premier League title or my personal favourite…referring to PSG captain Thiago Silva as an “overweight ladyboy” on Twitter.

While these are all instances where Barton has hugely overstepped the mark and should not be condoned in any sense, they all point to a man who was disillusioned with the changing environment he was working in. It is no surprise that arguably his best season (and least incident packed) came last year with Burnley. A team managed in an old school fashion, with mostly old school types of professionals in the squad within a league renouned for its physicality.

I hazard to say that if he came through the system ten years previously we could be talking about a completely different career path for the confrontational midfielder.

It is unlikely that anyone will get the 34 year-old to change his outspoken ways this late in his career but when he does hang up his boots it is likely we are witnessing an end to the last tenuous link to a time when football was not necessarily better in terms of skill and professionalism but where players were allowed to be men, not robots.

A time where they could express opinions openly to one another and to the media without being banished from the club and when players were allowed to have a personality and social life without being condemned and ridiculed.

Joey Barton will never be remembered as the best player you’ve ever seen grace a pitch but if this turns out to be his last shot in the game, it will be less entertaining without him being a part of it, this no one can deny.

Written by: @RFahy00

ANALYSIS: Does the transfer system in football need a complete overhaul?

UEFA-logo

In 1984 one of the greatest players to have played the game, Diego Maradona moved from Barcelona to Napoli for a then world record transfer fee of £6.9m and the world pondered how even he could be worth so much money to a football club.

Today that figure would not even buy you Lionel Messi’s baby toe, with a release clause of a quarter of a billion euros built into his contract it is unlikely that he will ever change clubs.

Some of the more recent fee’s paid for the likes of Gareth Bale,(€100m) Neymar (€90m), Raheem Sterling (€68m) and now Paul Pogba (€89m) have got me wondering if UEFA and other governing bodies come together and like the concept of a salary cap, introduce a Transfer Cap, where the ceiling valuation of a player is €100m for example, to try and curb the excessive costs which clubs are being forced to spend on players.

Let’s face it anyone will tell you that no footballer is worth €100m simply for playing purposes. I understand there is an economic and global side to the modern game and that players are worth as much off the pitch as they are on it but something has to be done to bring about a sensible valuation of the modern player.

Image result for jordon ibe bournemouth

Jordan Ibe is a decent player but not worth £15m

These outrageous valuations force smaller clubs like Bournemouth etc to stump up £15m for Jordan Ibe who is completely untested at the highest level. This in turn forces them to live above their means which is killing football clubs in the long term. You only have to look at the likes of Leeds United, Portsmouth, Blackpool, Rangers and Parma for clubs who have nearly gone and have gone to the wall for this reason.

A CDES study shows us a developing trend in the transfer market as illustrated in the following table of transfers taken over a period of 15 years in the top 53 leagues in UEFA:

YEARS NUMBER OF TRANSFERS VALUE
1994-95 5,735 €402,869,000
1999-00 8,531 €1,704,603,000
2005-06 15,952 €1,952,066,000
2010-11 18,307 €3,002,198,000

2011 saw over €3bn spent on player transfers. That’s more than double the payment that the entire nation of Greece couldn’t pay to the IMF last week and has caused serious market instability across the globe, just to put the figures were talking about into some perspective.

CHANGES?

How would a redeveloped transfer market work? of course it would take some time to adjust and the figures would have to be decided upon but here is a basic template of how such a structure might work:

  • Lionel Messi is the benchmark valuation which is reassessed each summer and no player can be transferred for more than the top players valuation.
  • Following this you then have transfer bands, done by age group where by there is a maximum payment set for each band. ie -> 35+ = £5m, 30-35 = £10m etc this would give clubs a benchmark for negotiations and would make it easier to negotiate a deal based on precedent and in turn make better players more realistic targets for smaller clubs.
  • All negotiations of transfers of players under the age of 19 are to be done by appointed officials to ensure the selling club gets a fair deal for their player.
  • There is a mandatory 20% sell on fee clause inserted in the transfer of any player in this age bracket who has been at that club for more than 2 years.
  • No player can have an agent until they enter the first transfer band at 20.

The final point illustrates the other major problem with the modern transfer market is that the players along with the larger clubs hold too much power, which allows them to bully smaller clubs into selling for paltry fees because the player says he will not turn out for the club again if they don’t grant his request to leave.

This puts smaller clubs in a desperately weak negotiating position and allows the larger club to grab a player for next to nothing who could turn out to be a superstar in 3 or 4 years time.

Seamus Coleman’s transfer to Everton is an example of where a club has clearly underpaid for a player. Everton paid Sligo Rovers €60,000 for him in 2009 in a deal which included no add ons or sell on fee. Some may just call this bad dealing on the part of the Irish club but in truth it is down to the way the market has adapted over the years to the point where the bigger club has an extreme advantage in the negotiations.

Seamus Coleman in action for Sligo Rovers...

Seamus Coleman in action for Sligo Rovers…

In contrast QPR took a cool £8m from the sale of Sterling because they did have a 20% sell on clause inserted in his deal.

This has to change so that the clubs who originally took a chance on a player or developed them through their early career are compensated sufficiently for their efforts.

This is playing devil’s advocate and figures would have to be adjusted but it is a simple way in how we can both curb both the ridiculous spending of the bigger clubs in today’s climate, help smaller clubs become more competitive by allowing them to be able to buy better players and also sell their own for a more realistic fee and finally help cut the mountainous debt which a lot of community clubs are piling upon themselves in order to stay or improve on their place in the footballing pyramid.

The way football is going at the minute we are seeing a lot of very ordinary players move for very extra ordinary sums of money and where do clubs try and make some of this back? With ticket price increases and through targeted merchandise at kids and adults turning the financial strain back on their fans.

It is about time that clubs and the governing bodies woke up to the fact that the current transfer model is unsustainable for clubs in the current market and took steps to try and ease the burden and change the culture of it. Otherwise it is only a matter of time before one of Europe’s major European clubs become extinct once again.

ANALYSIS: The common misconception of the holding midfielder role.

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The decline of the 4-4-2 formation has coincided with the decline of the old fashioned box to box midfielder. While a few examples of this type of player still exist today, modern football has become a game of small roles, that when completed cohesively by each player lead to collective greatness.

One of these roles is that of the “holding midfielder”. The player who patrols the space in front of the defence plugging the space between the lines, covering for marauding full-backs and allowing the creative central players to expend their energy going forward rather than filtering back. It is a role of simplicity but one that is fraught with misconceptions regarding the players who fill the role.

First we shall deal with the simplicity. Yes, it is true that the majority of coaches see certain traits in a player who will fill this position.

  • Athleticism
  • Dynamism
  • Physicality
  • Grit

And for the most part it is exactly these qualities that are required. Yet those who are at the top of the game at the position possess a great deal more than just physical strength and a penchant for a tackle or two and this can get lost on many people.

When we think of recent enforcers of this position in the Premier League, people think of Cheik Tiote, Alex Song, Lee Cattermole, Mikel, all gritty players who aren’t afraid to put the boot in, have a bit of a fiery temperment and all have one other thing in common, they fulfill the stereotype that all holding midfielders lack technical ability.

People watch them make countless challenges throughout the contest and believe that because they tend to give the simple ball when in possession they lack the ability to do anything else. When in reality, the true exponents of this position also have the ability to dictate and spread the play, drive throught the middle of the pitch and expose weaknesses in the opposition defences, they are just required to pick and choose their moments to do so. They are the ultimate team players. Sacrificing their own instinctual play in some cases to fulfill this crucial role for the team as the manager requires.

As I have said previously the game has descended into an almost paint by numbers scenario. Players are drilled about the strengths and weaknesses of upcoming opponents. They are given hours of video analysis on every detail of what is expected of them in their position and what is needed from them by their manager and they are assured relentlessly that if everyone follows their instructions, the team will prosper and any competitive sportsman will tell you that at the end of the day, winning is the name of the game. You can speak all you want about inflated saleries in football but for those 90 minutes on the field every week, all they are thinking about is executing the game plan and winning.

Fernandinho of Manchester City is a prime example of this. Clearly talented enough on the ball to be employed in various different central roles he is predominantely used defensively by countless managers and it has become the misconception by generalization that he is limited technically. His display last weekend in the Manchester Derby should have awakened plenty of casual fans to his abilities aside from the dirty side of the game. He has scored 13 goals and contributed 11 assists in his Manchester City career. Compare that to Claude Makelele, who many associate as the first true “defensive midfielder”. In his 11 years from his move to Real Madrid to his retirement with PSG, Makelele scored 3 goals, two of which were from the penalty spot.

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Fernandino’s technical ability is under-rated by many across Europe

The evolution of the role has led away from the Makelele stereotype and now a more skillful player operates in this area to fulfill other roles in the system. This has gone un-noticed by casual fans worldwide and they continue to under-estimate many players as a result. Players like Victor Wanyama, Granit Xhaka, Etienne Capoue all play this role excellently for their respective sides yet they have contributed both goals and assists themselves so far this season.

The “holding midfielder” as a concept was initially brought in as a tough tackling defensive barrier like we all picture mentally, yet at the top level this role has evolved into so much more than that and the players are not being given the credit they deserve for fulfilling such a demanding position. It is about time we wiped clean these misconceptions and appreciate the technical requirements these athlete’s display week in and week out. They say football is the beautiful game and beauty comes in many forms, well this is just one of those forms and it is not being enjoyed as it should be.

Written by: @RFahy00

Bravo Claudio: Was his debut as suspect as it first seemed? #mcfc 


If I could sum up my message to Claudio Bravo after his debut at the weekend, it would rather aptly be ‘Bravo’. Despite the entire focus on his supposed gaffe and apparent inability to use his hands, he was actually key to City’s success.Baptised in the fire of the highly anticipated Manchester derby, the Chilean was actually a subtle success story.

Robbie Savage rather ridiculously claimed after the game that Guardiola ought to rethink his tactics and alter his approach in terms of the role of his goalkeeper. Imagine telling the best coach in world football that he needs to change his expectations.

Pep wants his goalkeeper to be an option for his teammates, to be comfortable on the ball and to be able to distribute effectively; the man between the posts should actually spend less time between the posts, actively influencing the rhythm of play and dictating the tempo as opposed to passively observing it.

This was clearly demonstrated by Bravo, who completed 28 of the 30 passes (93%) he attempted against United; this comes in comparison to Willy Caballero, who featured in the Blues’ opening three league fixtures. The Argentine stopper attempted less passes on average per game at 22.3 and still completed a lower percentage (75%) with an average of 16.7.

Bravo also seemed much more comfortable and confident at performing the much-discussed ‘sweeper keeper’ role in that he was often seen rushing out of his goal to retrieve lose balls and challenge opponents, something which would previously have seen City fans with their heart (or Hart) in their mouths.

Most impressive of all, though, was the fact that having conceded due to ‘his’ ‘mistake’, he continued to fulfil his coach’s expectations. He didn’t revert to the traditional role of a goalkeeper. He didn’t shy away from the ball. He didn’t drop his head. He didn’t care, in the utmost positive sense.

Yet Bravo was still subjected to the jeers and sneers of rival fans in the aftermath of Manchester United’s only goal, with the Chilean knocking the ball down from a Wayne Rooney free kick into the path of Zlatan Ibrahimović, who volleyed into the back of the net.

But the error was one of communication – or rather miscommunication – not technical ability or confidence. Bravo simply collided with John Stones and was unable to sufficiently clear the danger from his penalty area.

Exaggerations and overreactions were uncalled for and questions over Guardiola’s tactics unnecessary; City have won four out of four

Meanwhile, Joe Hart, on loan from the Blues at Serie A outfit Torino shipped two goals on Sunday to Atalanta. The second was an absolute howler, tipping the ball straight into the path of an opposition player from a corner kick.

Whilst it may be a bitter pill to swallow for some City fans, it certainly goes to show that the England international is just as culpable to poor play from set pieces, with Hart’s admirers in Manchester quick to complain about Bravo’s error on Saturday. The blatant hypocrisy of some is obnoxious.

In my opinion, though, Bravo fared well under the circumstances. Having only participated in two training sessions with his new teammates since his arrival, there could have been the potential for a mismatch in communication due to the language barrier.

Not to mention the fact that the new City number 1 was dealing with pressure from multiple fronts; the pressure of the best manager in world football placing his trust in him to make an immediate impact in one of the biggest showdowns of the season; the pressure of the English media who continue to insist that Guardiola is expecting too much of his keeper; the pressure of the City fans who adore Hart and of whom Bravo will be all too aware; the pressure of making his debut and having to impress all of those named above; and finally, to top it all off, the huge pressure of the occasion, arguably the biggest local derby in world football.

Rewind to the beginning of the 2011/12 season in which City faced United at Wembley in the Community Shield. Although they went on to win the game 3-2, United found themselves 2-0 down at one point.

New 18 million goalkeeper David De Gea was left stranded for the first, a Joleon Lescott header, and was beaten too easily at his near post when Edin Dzeko tried his luck from some distance. It was a game which would reflect his first season as a whole – underwhelming but demonstrating signs of promise.

Now, the Spaniard is widely recognised as being the best goalkeeper in England and one of the best in the world. Of course, De Gea was just a 20-year-old then – a rather unknown quantity – whilst Bravo is a fully-established, 33-year-old international who has won the La Liga and Copa America twice, as well as the Champions League.

Fast forward to the beginning of last season for a perhaps more suitable comparison, where Arsenal secured the signature of another 33-year-old goalkeeper in the form of Petr Cech. A long-established Premier League goalkeeper, the Czech international initially suffered from a string of errors leading to goals conceded.

But there was never any doubt that he would soon return to his illustrious heights, which he has since done, and that is exactly why rival fans and City supporters alike shouldn’t be so quick to judge their latest recruit; Bravo has the experience and quality which I am sure will make him pivotal to Pep’s plans.

 

 

Ahead of the #NFL season, we’ve simulated the season and here’s who is going to win the Superbowl!

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That’s right the road to NRG Stadium in Heuston next February begins this weekend and with that in mind we decided to pick each and every game that will take place this season and see who will come out on top and save everyone watching the next 21 weeks of action.

In the AFC we have few surprises as the Patriots overcome a 2-2 start to rally to 13-3 and take the no.1 seed with the returning Tom Brady and an easier schedule proving key. A notable improvement and weak schedule outside the division has the Heuston Texans coming in at no.2 with the best defence in the NFL playing a key role in their success.

Elsewhere we have the Bengals just taking the tough AFC North by a game over the Steelers who earn a wildcard spot. The Broncos are unlikely to suffer to much of a Superbowl slump even with questionmarks at the QB position. That defence is just too good to allow that many points against them and they will take the AFC West with the final wildcard spot going to, whisper it quietly…The Oakland Raiders with a 9-7 season under Jack Del Rio. Oakland may surprise many this year with their hard nosed style of play and developing QB play.

# WLT Div
3

Bengals

12-4 4-2
5

Steelers

11-5 4-2
10

Ravens

7-9 4-2
14

Browns

4-12 0-6
# WLT Div
2

Texans

12-4 4-2
7

Colts

9-7 4-2
9

Jaguars

8-8 4-2
16

Titans

3-13 0-6
# WLT Div
1

Patriots

13-3 6-0
8

Bills

8-8 3-3
12

Jets

5-11 2-4
15

Dolphins

4-12 1-5
# WLT Div
4

Broncos

12-4 5-1
6

Raiders

9-7 3-3
11

Chiefs

6-10 3-3
13

Chargers

5-11 1-5

Now we turn our attention to the NFC and see the Arizona Cardinals having another stellar season to go 14-2 and take the no.1 seed. They might just be the most complete team in football and their regualr season will show that in a tough division with Seattle. Carloina, bouncing back from defeat in last years showpiece, figure to have a strong season at 13-3 taking the NFC South and the no.2 seed with only their depth at receiver being a question mark.

Elsewhere the Redskins (8-8) will come out on top in a poor NFC East with them being the only team making .500 in what used to be one of the strongest divisions in the entire NFL. Finally a tight NFC North sees a rejuvinated Packers (11-5) under Aaron Rodgers just overcoming the Sam Bradford led Minnesota Vikings who still figure to have a strong season. We just feel that the acclimitisation period at the start of the season could end up being their undoing.

The wildcard spots going to the Seahawks (13-3) and surprisingly Atlanta with a strong showing in the division to take them to (9-7) and the final spot in the Playoffs.

# WLT Div
3

Packers

11-5 4-2
7

Vikings

9-7 4-2
8

Lions

9-7 2-4
15

Bears

3-13 2-4
# WLT Div
2

Panthers

13-3 5-1
6

Falcons

9-7 4-2
10

Buccaneers

7-9 2-4
16

Saints

3-13 1-5
# WLT Div
4

Redskins

8-8 3-3
9

Cowboys

7-9 2-4
12

Giants

6-10 3-3
13

Eagles

5-11 4-2
# WLT Div
1

Cardinals

14-2 6-0
5

Seahawks

13-3 4-2
11

Rams

6-10 1-5
14

49ers

5-11 1-5

So we move on now to the Wildcard Round of the playoffs and this features some interesting match ups on both sides of the bracket.

AFC

Steelers @ Broncos

Raiders @ Bengals

Here we have a rugged Pittsburgh going into Mile High stadium and their defence just doing enough to overcome the Broncos ineffectiveness at the qurterback position. In the other matchup, Marvin Lewis finally gets Cincinnatti that playoff with against Jack Del Rio’s surprise package Oakland Raiders. The Bengals are very strong at home and that should see them through against the second weakest team in the playoffs.

NFC

Seahawks @ Redskins

Falcons @ Packers

The NFC sees an altogether more straight forward scenario as both the Redskins and Falcons have almost made the playoffs by default and it should see both the Seahawks and Packers cruise through to the divisional round. They have bigger fish to fry in reality.

Onto the Divisional Round now and this is where this started to get decidedly more tricky. Each game was quite evenly matched with very small margins deciding each encounter in the end.

AFC

Steelers @ Texans

Bengals @ Patriots

Both games here were very tough to pick a winner in. Pittsburgh have the experience on offense with Big Ben steering the ship while Heuston have the edge on defence and a young quarterback at the helm. In the end it is said and proven that defense wins championships and playing with that defense at NRG Stadium looking to make the Superbowl in your home town. Heuston will just come out on top.

In the other game the Bengals, on a high after their first playoff win since 1990 travel to Foxboro to take on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Again this was very difficult to call as Cincinnatti figure to have the better more experienced defense while any offense with Tom Brady leading it is generally superior to the opposition and while the Bengals probably have the better tools in AJ Green and Jeremy Hill, New England definitely have the better conductor in Brady and on what is sure to be a freezing January evening in Boston, it is this experience under center that we think will win the day.

NFC 

Seahawks @ Panthers

Packers @ Cardinals

In what is traditionally a weekend where home field advantage counts most in a season, the only road team who are going to pick up a win are the Seattle Seahawks. Why? Because the Panthers are going to be just too one dementional for that vaunted Seahawk defense not to get the better of. They will play contain on Cam, place 8 in the box and make him air it out to his no-name core of recievers and unless a star is born during the regular season, this figures to be a bad situation for the Panthers who will need to address this issue if they are to take the next step.

As we have stated previously if all thier players play to any kind of level they have shown, Arizona have the best strength in depth around the field as any team in the NFL. It all comes down to whether Carson Palmer can continue his siesta of consistent play at the end of his career and in this case we think the load will be taken off him and his offensive line will be asked to dominate a weakish Packers D-Line and pound the ball up and down the field. This will take time off the clock, keeping the ball out of Aaron Rodgers hands and ultimately that is the best way to beat the Pack. Do not let #12 on the field.

Time for the Championship games!

AFC

Texans @ Patriots 

If everything magically alligns how we have predicted so far this will be the only time Heuston has to leave Texas for the entirity of the playoffs. This will be the key to their undoing. You’re asking a quarterback with no playoff experience to go up against the master tactician in Bill Belechik at the end of January in incliment weather. That is a recipe for disaster and disaster it shall be. How many times in recent years have we seen New England in this position and just suck the life out of the opposing team.

Belechik is a past master of outwitting his counter part with specific new schemes and formations for the big occasion that nobody can plan for, not even JJ Watt and that Texan defense. While it might be a close game it will not be scoring that will be keeping Heuston in the game. There will have to be a few miscues from Brady and the New England offense and as we have stated already, at this stage of the season, home field is key and we take the Patriots to reach yet another SuperBowl.

NFC

Seahawks @ Cardinals

Divisional rivals, they split the series 1-1 in the regular season and now they meet with a place at the biggest show in American sports on the line….and its not even going to be close. The Cardinals, bouyed by a home crowd willing a victory for hero Larry Fitzgerald are going to storm out of the blocks and leave Seattle trying to pall catch up all game which they are not built to do.

That Arizona pass rush would be all over a mediocre Seahawks line and have Russel Wilson scrambling for his very existence. Combine that with the most balanced offense in football and Carson Palmer finally stepping up on the big occasion and there is only one winner of this battle of the birds.

There is an oasis coming to the desert, you read it here first!

And Finally we get to it, the 2017 SuperBowl from NRG Stadium.

SuperBowl

Cardinals @ Patriots

So here we have it, the two best teams in the NFL set to face off and on paper it very much looks like an offensive vs. defensive struggle. Can Bruce Arians outside the box thinking out gun the wily veteren Belechik or will the occasion just be all too much for the NFC West team?

The Key componants here will be which defensive line can get the most pressure on the opposition quaterback, which secondary can come out on top and in what is sure to be a tight game, special teams. Both coaches are innovators and they would be sure to come up with plenty of imagiative plays for the occasion but on those key areas we have listed there, we would have to say that the Arizona Cardinals will be your SuperBowl champions in 2017 and delivier their first Lombardi trophy since 1947.

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Polish discus thrower auctions Olympic medal to pay child’s cancer treatment..

A Polish discus thrower who put the silver medal he recently won at the Rio Games on auction to pay for the treatment of a 3-year-old boy with eye cancer ended the auction three days early, after the richest couple in Poland bought it.

Piotr Malachowski wrote on his Facebook page on Tuesday that he prematurely closed the auction because Dominika and Sebastian Kulczyk “declared their willingness to buy my silver medal for an amount which enables us to meet the goal set.”

The auction for the medal was at roughly $19,000 on Tuesday when it was pulled down.

Malachowski was looking for about $84,000 so that a boy named Olek Szymanski could get surgery for his retinoblastoma in New York to try to save the child’s eyesight. The total cost of the surgery is $126,000, but one-third of it was already raised by the Polish foundation Siepomaga.

“We were able to show that together we can do wonders,” Malachowski wrote. “My silver medal today is worth a lot more than a week ago. It is worth the life and health of a small Olek. It is our great shared success.”

The Kulczyks, who are brother and sister, inherited their fortune from their father, Jan, who passed away in July 2015. The two are worth $3.4 billion combined, according to Forbes Magazine.

Poland won 11 medals in the Rio Games, including two golds, three silvers and six bronzes.