2022-23 NHL Western Conference Playoff Picks

What a turn of events compared to last season’s start. No team in the western conference went to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2021. This year fans and analysts are wondering if the reigning champion Colorado Avalanche can become the third team to win back-to-back titles in the last ten years. Colorado won’t have it easy in their conference even if they make the playoffs. Minnesota, Vancouver and St. Louis will be their top competition. The Edmonton Oilers and Dallas Stars should make better pushes for playoff seeding. Outside of those five teams, it’s a race to clinch the bottom two seeds in the conference. A team such as Anaheim could break out and do damage to whoever clinches the first or second seed, possibly throwing the playoffs into doubt. It’s time to break down which four in each division can make the push to the postseason for 2022-23.

Pacific

Edmonton Oilers

Edmonton’s signing of goalie Jack Campbell boosts a defense that’s gradually improved the past two seasons.

Despite being swept by the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Oilers kept most of last year’s roster. They finally addressed the goaltender situation by signing free agent Jack Campbell. Campbell’s got a better defense in front of him that’s shown improvement the past two seasons.

Edmonton’s offense should be top five in the league with stars Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Warren Foegele and Zach Hyman and Evander Kane. Injuries would be the only reasonable explanation for the Oilers not clinching a top three seed.

Vancouver Canucks

Bruce, There It Is: Despite an opening season choke in Edmonton, Canucks coach Bruce Boudreau is back and should be the stabilizing presence stars like Elias Pettersson need to return to the playoffs.

If they replaced coaches before the 2021 season, it’s possible Vancouver would’ve made the playoffs. Coach Bruce Boudreau was refreshing for the players and the Canucks played well returning to some of their basics. All three sides of the puck improved and made the team a formidable force after the firing of Travis Green.

Despite some depth leaving in the offseason, Vancouver’s core players return. Thatcher Demko should take the next step in being a star franchise goalie and Elias Pettersson should have a fantastic season. The Canucks are fortunate they won’t have too much competition in a weak Pacific.

Calgary Flames

Regardless of how people think of him, no one can deny Nazem Kadri is a pivotal player for any team vying for a Stanley Cup bid. The Flames signed him at the perfect time.

The losses of two 40 plus goal scorers lowers Calgary’s playoff chances but coaching, defense and some additions should soften the fall. The Flames traded Matthew Tkachuk for Mackenzie Weegar and Jonathan Huberdeau. Both are talented scorers who can make up some of the difference. They’re also veteran starters on offense and defense and should elevate Calgary’s power-play when chemistry improves.

The Flames made a steal signing Stanley Cup Champion Nazem Kadri late in free agency. Kadri is needed center depth and brings an edge especially in divisional games. Last but not least, the goalie tandem of Jacob Markstrom and Dan Vladar anchors a defense that was third in goals against last year. Calgary will be hard to knock out in both the regular and postseason.

Anaheim Ducks

Ducks star Troy Terry netted the overtime winning goal in a thrilling home opener against the Kraken. Regardless of where Anaheim places in the Pacific, their young, core players will be fun to watch.

Like the Metropolitan, the Pacific could have three teams make the postseason. Seattle is still building a team that hopes to compete. San Jose and Las Vegas are declining and want a full re-build. Los Angeles is shaky despite last year’s playoff appearance. It’s possible things don’t progress this year after the sweep against Edmonton. Anaheim however could be the western conference’s version of the Ottawa Senators.

I’d like to be consistent on a pick that many would question. There’s a lot of young talent that’s shown potential to disrupt teams, standings and the playoff picture. The Ducks probably won’t go far in the postseason, but the defense in front of star goalie John Gibson is bolstered with additions of Dmitry Kulikov and John Klingberg. Anaheim retained Frank Vatrano and signed Ryan Strome and Rocco Grimaldi.

The needed scoring depth and physical players can help the Ducks maintain their fast season starts and stay relevant all season.

Have you ever watched a movie inspired by real events and wonder where the people are now? Or about how much of what was shown really happened? Before the Script is your podcast that has the answers. Check them out wherever you get your podcast fix. New episodes drop on Sunday night, so take a listen to Jazzy’s educational and fun podcasts.

Central

Minnesota Wild

That smile when you get traded from a re-building Chicago team to a Stanley Cup caliber roster in Minnesota.

I personally thought the Wild would go through more turbulence after a fantastic first round series versus Las Vegas in 2021. Turns out the team did much better under coach Dean Evason and put the league on notice.

Last year’s Minnesota roster ranked fifth in goals scored and rocketed up to 18th on the power-play. In less than one year, the Wild traded for goalies Marc-Andre Fleury and Filip Gustavsson. They retained most of last year’s roster. Minnesota now has to find ways to beat both St. Louis and Colorado in divisional matchups to gain a higher seed.

Colorado Avalanche

The Stanley Cup champions let starting goaltender Darcy Kuemper leave and brought in Alexandar Georgiev. The tandem of Georgiev and Pavel Francouz will be watched by many as Colorado competes for a second straight title. Fans and analysts know coach Jared Bednar will lead this team to the playoffs.

St. Louis Blues

Coach Craig Berube was one of many angry people in St. Louis after the Avalanche knocked out goaltender Jordan Binnington in the postseason. The injury ignited intense physical play and will spill over into their season matchups.

The Central division has three teams that could go through the western conference and win the championship. St. Louis is the third team. On offense, the top five goal scoring teams in 2021 to 2022 were the Blues at third, Avalanche at fourth, and the Wild fifth. Somehow coach Craig Berube pushed St. Louis’ offense to be better than their division rivals and they excelled.

While the Blues may not be third in goals scored and penalty minutes, second in power-play and fifth in penalty kill this season, it’s more important starting goaltender Jordan Binnington continues his resurgence from late last season in what would’ve been a highlight playoff performance. While his backup Ville Husso went to Detroit and St. Louis signed Thomas Greiss in return, the defense re-signed Nick Leddy and found another way to keep sharp-shooter Vladimir Tarasenko happy.

Expect a grittier, angrier Blues team that will take aim at the defending Stanley Cup champions all season. This will be a fun team to watch.

Dallas Stars

General manager Jim Nill is adamant on the Stars returning to the Stanley Cup. His hiring of coach Peter DeBoer is a gamble.

There’s no way Arizona or Chicago make the postseason with their abysmal rosters. Winnipeg is ready to re-build and could trade their best players before the All-Star break. Nashville had a phenomenal season with just a low playoff seed in the end. The last spot is Dallas’ for the taking.

The Stars showed anyone who watched their playoff series against Calgary that the offense needs a spark, a re-vamp or both. General manager Jim Nill hired a new coach in Peter DeBoer and signed Mason Marchment while extending the contracts of both Jason Robertson and Denis Gurianov.

DeBoer is the right coach for an offensive turnaround. Dallas has a great goalie tandem in Jake Oettinger and Scott Wedgewood. They won’t be as good as the top three teams in the division, but they’ll push boundaries and make them uncomfortable.

2021-22 Western conference picks: 3-5

2022-23 NHL Eastern Conference Playoff Picks

What a fun offseason. The Atlantic and Metropolitan divisions are back after another summer of free agency. While the eastern conference’s two year streak of winning the Stanley Cup snapped, the conference is deeper and more uncertain compared to the last five years. Teams like the New York Rangers and Florida Panthers made trades to bolster their rosters and re-signed important depth players. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes should be more dangerous in the postseason. Like last year, it’s apparent the Boston Bruins and the Washington Capitals, two teams known for consistency, are fading and closer to a re-build if neither make the second round.

It’s time to break down which four teams in each division can make the push back or surprise a lot of people in making the 2022-23 playoffs.

Atlantic

Florida Panthers

Florida needed a head coach who pushes players to be their best while staying honest. Paul Maurice is the right fit.

The Panthers are one of four teams in the eastern conference both fans and analysts feel will take the next step and make the Stanley Cup finals this season. They traded Jonathan Huberdeau to Calgary for Matthew Tkachuk, a fantastic player who scores a lot and pesters goalies in front of the net. They acquired veterans Eric and Marc Staal and signed Colin White away from Ottawa. The defensive core led by Aaron Ekblad should grow more this season.

Last but not least, the reigning President’s Trophy winners hired a head coach to turn the page on the Joel Quenneville saga. Enter Paul Maurice, the winningest head coach in NHL history who’s yet to win a championship. He knows how to bring the best out of a roster while being honest about long-term improvement. His early resignation last year is a reason he was one of the best candidates available in the offseason. Don’t be surprised if Florida is one of the most complete teams in professional hockey this year.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Ilya Samsonov finally gets to be an undisputed starting goaltender on an NHL team. The Leafs will go as far as he takes them.

The Leafs are lights out in the regular season. Franchise star Auston Matthews should have another 50 plus goal season. The defensive quartet of Morgan Reilly, T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano and Victor Mete solidify the weakest section on the team. The signings of forwards Zach Aston-Reese and Calle Jarnkrok establish a physical fourth line.

The problem come playoffs could be the dropoff of talent in net with Ilya Samsonov as the undisputed starter since Jack Campbell left in free agency. Matt Murray is a good backup choice in case Samsonov becomes a nuisance. Toronto’s regular season should be fine since they have a plethora of goal-scorers to snuff out defensive mistakes.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Despite the injuries the Lightning suffered in the Stanley Cup playoffs last season, anyone who’s watched this team knows if coach Jon Cooper is on the bench and Andrei Vasilevskiy is in net, Tampa Bay is a lock to make the playoffs.

Ottawa Senators

While he won’t be a captain in Ottawa, Claude Giroux returns to his home city to play for a rising Senators squad that has the best chance of returning to the playoffs this decade.

The Atlantic might have five teams make the playoffs due to a weaker Metropolitan division. If that happens, Detroit or Boston could clinch one of those spots. Ottawa however is the pick if that doesn’t work.

The key for the Senators is to have a better start than the last two seasons. It’s realistic with the skill players and depth added this offseason. General manager Pierre Dorian traded for forward Alex DeBrincat, goalie Cam Talbot and signed former Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux. Dorian also added Travis Hamonic and extended Mathieu Joseph after his trade to Ottawa last season from Tampa Bay.

This is coach D.J. Smith’s most important season. Ottawa’s never started fast under his tenure and has been lackluster on special teams and defense. 2022 is the year they clean up both if he wants to keep his job.

Smith is the most tenured coach with one team between the Ottawa-Boston-Detroit trio. While Detroit added a lot of players in free agency, the roster and coaching have to work well together in a continuing re-build. Boston has a great coach in Jim Montgomery, but the depth past the second line and lack of quality defensemen makes it hard to pick them as a good fourth team in the Atlantic.

Despite an upper body injury to Talbot pushing his debut to November, Anton Forsberg was a pleasant surprise last year and a reason the Senators played close games. The young core Dorian drafted are complimented with quality veterans, scorers and role players. They just need a faster start to the season.

Have you ever watched a movie inspired by real events and wonder where the people are now? Or about how much of what was shown really happened? Before the Script is your podcast that has the answers. Check them out wherever you get your podcast fix. New episodes drop on Sunday night, so take a listen to Jazzy’s educational and fun podcasts.

Metropolitan

Carolina Hurricanes

Max Pacioretty had a disappointing 2021 due to wrist injuries and surgeries. He should have a better year in Carolina where he’ll have more one-on-one scoring chances.

The Hurricanes bowed out round two of the playoffs without starting goaltender Frederik Anderson. They lost every road game before being knocked out in their only home loss. Every viewer should expect an angrier and more prepared Carolina team to take the ice and dish out payback this season.

The Hurricanes are the favorite to reach and possibly win the championship this season. General manager Don Waddell signed Calvin de Haan, Brent Burns, Paul Stastny, Ondrej Kase and Ryan Dzingel. He also traded for Vegas’ top scorer Max Pacioretty with little lost.

The top seeds in the eastern conference will be a race between Carolina and Florida most of this season unless either have a rash of injuries they can’t overcome. It’ll be hard for either to hit a slump.

New York Rangers

Igor Shesterkin’s Vezina season brought the New York Rangers to the conference finals. It’ll be hard to slow down and score on one of the east’s best teams this year.

New York was two games away from representing the eastern conference in the Stanley Cup finals. They lost to one of the best teams the league’s ever seen despite an impressive postseason. General manager Chris Drury added to the standout roster by signing Jaroslav Halak to backup last year’s Vezina winning goaltender Igor Shesterkin. Then came the signing of former Carolina Hurricane center Vincent Trocheck.

The Rangers have one of the best fourth lines in hockey with Barclay Goodrow, Sammy Blais and Ryan Reeves. It’s possible we see New York have a playoff run similar to last season’s once they punch their postseason ticket.

Pittsburgh Penguins

This is the 17th season the trio of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang take the ice together. They have a good chance of surpassing the 400 win mark and to make the postseason.

The Penguins bring back their trio of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang for another season. Pittsburgh will face a lot of pressure not just to return to the playoffs but to win a first round series, something they haven’t done since winning their last championship.

For now, it’s safe to say the first part of their mission should be fine. The Penguins added Brock McGinn and Josh Archibald for forward depth and signed Jeff Petry and Jan Rutta on defense to help Tristan Jarry’s ascent.

Mike Sullivan is still one of the league’s best coaches. Plus the team shouldn’t have as many injuries this season. Like Toronto, this will only be a talking point when the playoffs begin.

Washington Capitals

While Alex Ovechkin’s race to pass Wayne Gretzky’s goals record is the big topic, a major concern for the Capitals is the lack of quality defensemen besides John Carlson (red).

It’s hard to decide who in this division makes the playoffs after the top three teams. The signing of Stanley Cup winning goaltender Darcy Kuemper helps Washington. The problem is Kuemper’s never played a full season healthy. Backup Charlie Lindgren might see more action than expected and nobody knows how good the defense will be outside of John Carlson.

That leaves the offense to do most of the work. Alex Ovechkin will probably score 40-50 goals this season and Anthony Mantha, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie are offensive playmakers. Yet there’s a lot of pressure on the centers and forwards to step up.

Regardless of their finish, it’s difficult to believe Columbus, Philadelphia, the New York Islanders and especially New Jersey place better than the Capitals when the regular season ends.

Last year’s eastern conference playoff picks: 8-2

Week Four Winners and Losers

What an exciting week four. A narrow field goal miss in London, another win for Cooper Rush’s Cowboys and an eye-opening performance from the Kansas City Chiefs will be talked about much of the week. The first Sunday of October delivered with a bang much like the first weekend in September. A lot of good and bad stood out in the afternoon games. It’s time to break down who or what won/lost Sunday.

Winners: Austin Ekeler

The injuries at wide receiver for the Los Angeles Chargers’ offense narrows down the number of dependable players to trust any given week. The fragile ribs in quarterback Justin Herbert mean starting runningback Austin Ekeler should be the main playmaker and focus. In typical Chargers fashion, the team led by double-digits until the opposition made a comeback. This time the Chargers won and it’s because Ekeler stepped up and guided the offense.

Ekeler started hot and ran for two touchdowns in the second quarter. That gave Los Angeles a 21 point lead before the Houston Texans could score. When Houston chipped the deficit to three points, he stepped up when needed and caught a second down pass from Herbert at the Texan 14 yard-line, running to and diving in the endzone.

One of the coveted parts of Ekeler’s game is his ability to run well and catch passes. He was the Chargers’ second leading receiver with 49 yards on six catches. His 13 runs for 60 yards (4.2 yards a carry) makes him hard to tackle and creates problems for opposing defenses. The more he’s relied on, the better position Los Angeles has within their division and conference for at least a wild-card spot.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans looked mediocre at best heading into October. After Sunday it appears head coach Mike Vrabel and the team turned 180 degrees after a winless two game start.

Tennessee’s victory against Las Vegas was questioned due to the Raiders’ poor coaching. Beating an Indianapolis Colts team soundly on the road shows progress. On offense star runningback Derrick Henry ran for 114 yards on 22 carries (5.2 yards per carry) and quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw two touchdowns and completed all but four passes.

The defense played well too. Defensive lineman Teair Tart intercepted Colts quarterback Matt Ryan on a tipped pass. While Ryan was sacked three times, starting runningback Jonathan Taylor left the game with a leg injury. That left Indianapolis one dimensional on offense and the Titans defense exposed a lot of weaknesses despite the Colts scoring the lone touchdown in the second half.

This helped Tennessee in their division. Houston is still winless and the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles handed the Jacksonville Jaguars their second loss of the season. While it’s a two-way tie for first place, the Titans are the more experienced team and have beaten the Jaguars all but once since 2017. The AFC South is Tennessee’s for the taking if they continue to play like they did Sunday.

Geno Smith, Rashaad Penny and the Seattle Seahawks offensive line

It’s hilarious how many people expected the Seattle Seahawks to have one of the worst offenses in the 2022 NFL season. It couldn’t be further from the truth after one month.

The Seahawks offense scored 42 points in the most exciting Sunday game. New starting quarterback Geno Smith completed all but seven passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns for a 132.6 rating. He also ran seven times for 49 yards and a touchdown. All three were in the first two quarters and were the reason Seattle led by nine at intermission.

Former first round pick Rashaad Penny had his best game of the season and is picking up where he left off last year. The runningback had 17 carries for 159 yards (just under nine yards a carry) but his two touchdowns in the second half cemented a Seahawk win. The Detroit defense couldn’t stop him when it mattered most and Penny’s runs on third down led to massive gains.

The best performance for Seattle’s offense wasn’t on the scoreboard. For years the fans, analysts and even captains on offense complained the offensive line was one of the top weaknesses on the team. The Lions’ pass rush is pretty good despite how they can’t stop runningbacks. The Seahawks offensive line gave up zero sacks and dominated the line of scrimmage. The interior of Damien Lewis, Austin Blythe and Gabe Jackson are core reasons why they’ve succeeded so far, but the surprising play of rookies Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas at both tackle positions propel Smith and the passing game to another level.

Seattle’s offensive stats after four weeks vaults them to the top half of all teams in passing, running, scoring and total yards despite being bottom five in time of possession. Geno Smith is the only quarterback in the NFL who’s completed 75 percent of his passes and has 1000 yards passing with five touchdowns or more. It’s a bit early to hype up Seattle’s season and their playoff chances, but it’s safe to say neither the offense is the problem on coach Pete Carroll’s team, nor was their trade of franchise quarterback Russell Wilson detrimental as many thought.

J.K. Dobbins

There was disappointment when Dobbins missed all of last season due to injuries. He played his second game of 2022 Sunday and the impact was felt early.

The Baltimore Ravens quickly scored against the Buffalo Bills and led 14-3 by the end of the first quarter. Both touchdowns were from J.K. Dobbins. He caught a one yard pass to give the Ravens their first lead of the game and then scored on a four yard run.

He also had the most carries for any runner in the game. While Dobbins ran for 41 yards, he’s someone quarterback Lamar Jackson can rely on to improvise or score near the goalline. Unfortunately, Dobbins’ touchdowns were in vain because…

Losers: John Harbaugh…again

…his head coach cost the team another home win by gambling with analytics. This is the first time in franchise history Baltimore’s lost five straight homes games. On ESPN’s flagship show Sportscenter with Scott Van Pelt, the eye opening stat was examined deeper. All five losses for the Ravens have been by three points or less. In all five Harbaugh has gambled and gone with the analytical decision to try and score touchdowns on fourth-and-goal decisions against (in recent order) the Bills, Dolphins, Steelers, Rams and Packers.

It didn’t matter whether quarterback Lamar Jackson was intercepted, there was a different quarterback or if receivers dropped passes. All five decisions have one thing in common: coach John Harbaugh is obsessed with the probability chances of scoring six or seven points instead of taking an easy three and giving the opposition a harder time to drive down the field with seconds or a minute remaining in gameplay.

The audience then might question does Harbaugh not trust his defense enough to take a chance. If that’s the case, he needs to fix it and develop better players, especially in the secondary. Lamar Jackson can’t fix everything on the team but the Ravens should be undefeated instead of blowing two double digit leads.

Have you ever watched a movie inspired by real events and wonder where the people are now? Or about how much of what was shown really happened? Before the Script is your podcast that has the answers. Check them out wherever you get your podcast fix. New episodes drop on Sunday night, so take a listen to Jazzy’s educational and fun podcasts.

Chicago Bears

The Bears might be the most unwatchable team in the NFL. Before Sunday there were jokes that yet again Chicago’s offense needs to step into the new century and learn about the forward pass. Sunday’s game against the New York Giants wasn’t just about the offense. The defense gave up two running touchdowns to quarterback Daniel Jones on a play the Giants ran six times minimum.

The defense did knock out both Jones and backup Tyrod Taylor at one point but the offense mustered 12 points total. Special teams had its moment to shine but then fumbled the return on what would’ve been the the Bears’ last possession. New York mercifully ran out the clock after recovering the ball.

It’s hard to tell if franchise quarterback and former Heisman nominee Justin Fields is any good not even one season of games into his career, but that’s the beginning of concerns. The Bears’ secondary is non-existent and their returners on special teams don’t help. This will be a long season and the fans might be more excited the team moves to Arlington Heights, IL. when it ends.

Mitchell Trubisky

Speaking of former Bears quarterbacks, let’s keep this section going with Fields’ predecessor. While former head coach Matt Nagy didn’t fully hinder the sophomore’s progress last season, he did a number on Mitchell Trubisky.

Trubisky’s struggled not even four full games as the Steelers’ starting quarterback. In the first half against the New York Jets Sunday, he ran for one yard and was seven of 13 with 84 yards and an interception. He was benched in the second half and cameras caught head coach Mike Tomlin telling his replacement Kenny Pickett, “I’m tired of him Mitching it up” in regards to the offense.

In Mitch’s defense, offensive coordinator Matt Canada is dreadful and both former players and fans are calling for and have wanted him to be fired. Many want Pickett to lead the team into the wood-chipper that is the Buffalo Bills this upcoming Sunday but he threw three interceptions against a Jets defense that’s bottom ten in points per game. His rushing touchdowns were nice but he has to do better than goalline runs.

Unfortunately, when you’re a former second overall pick a team traded up to draft, excuses are slim. It’s possible Trubisky played his last game as a starter.

Carolina Panthers

If anyone was in the mood for bad football Sunday, the Arizona Cardinals versus Carolina Panthers game was available. The only thing disappointing were the number of fans who went to the game.

The Panthers offense is on par with the Bears and Denver Broncos. They’re last in time of possession and points scored. Six of their 16 points were scored by the defense. That broke a scoreless tie and Carolina still found a way to lose.

It’s not just the offense. Their best player (who also had the defensive touchdown) in the game was almost kicked out for fighting and unnecessary roughness after a play finished. The fans boo’d new quarterback Baker Mayfield most of the second half due to his inability to read a field and throwing the ball everywhere but to his receivers.

It was leaked earlier in the week number one receiver D.J. Moore would like a trade out of Carolina. You can’t blame him for wanting to go to another team. Coach Matt Rhule’s team is undisciplined, unorganized and terrible to watch. Last but not least week four is almost over. It could get uglier by the start of November if Rhule isn’t fired by then.

Note: NFL’s Winners and Losers will not be published next Monday due to the writer, editor and publisher having the weekend off for personal reasons.

Week Three Winners and Losers

The last Sunday of September featured a number of pivotal games. Each division is slowly showing which teams will stand out as playoff favorites before Halloween. While a lot of wins and plays stood out, some were more eye-opening than others. Here are this weeks winners and losers.

Winners: Khalil Herbert

Chicago Bears runningback Khalil Herbert posted the best numbers for any runner week three. Herbert ran 20 times for 157 yards (just under eight yards a carry). He’s a big play-maker in an anemic Bears offense.

Herbert’s statistics are fabulous, but his two touchdowns gave Chicago seven of their 13 first half points and sparked a comeback in the second half.

In his sophomore year Herbert has surpassed his touchdown total after one month, averaging seven yards a carry and 80 yards per game. While quarterback Justin Fields struggles to find footing and chemistry with wide receivers, Herbert’s a cushion who can take pressure off and extend plays when needed. Chicago has a winning record after September because he’s making the most of his on-field minutes.

Jalen Hurts

Remember in last week’s Winners and Losers when it was mentioned that people ridicule quarterback Jalen Hurts? Those people are more concerned with Fantasy Football than game-tape.

A lot of analysts and fans are giving a lot of praise to the Philadelphia Eagles defense and deservedly so. The Washington Commanders offense will struggle most of this season (more on them later) and the defense feasted on that matchup, but Hurts and the offense made the game one-sided by half-time.

After demolishing the Minnesota Vikings last Monday Hurts threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns, posting a quarterback rating of 123.5. He’s also running the ball less (he ran it nine times for 20 yards). He’s progressing as a passer, reading options better and the offensive line is protecting him longer.

It’s way too early for MVP votes and guesses but don’t be surprised if Jalen Hurts is an MVP candidate for the next few months. He’s the first quarterback in NFL history with more than 900 passing yards and 150 rushing yards in the first three games of a season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Why would anyone have a team that lost 14-12 in the Winners section? Let’s be realistic on yesterday’s loss for Tampa Bay: it doesn’t matter in the long-term because the Buccaneers will do well regardless.

Despite the win, Green Bay is second in the NFC North because of a week one loss to Minnesota. The Packers are figuring out who will be the standout receivers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will rely on the upcoming months. Tampa’s facing different problems on offense. Receiver Mike Evans will return after a one game suspension, runningback Leonard Fournette is a much better player closer to and in the postseason and injured receivers Chris Godwin and Julio Jones will return from injuries.

Then there’s the NFC South as a whole. Outside of one quarter, the New Orleans Saints are a terrible team. Carolina and Atlanta are two of the worst teams in the NFL. No one will challenge the Buccaneers unless it’s an AFC opponent the remainder of the season.

Last but not least Tampa almost tied the game after Russell Gage’s touchdown catch. The game would’ve gone to overtime were it not for a delay of game penalty on a two-point conversion. Don’t be surprised if they play sharper next Sunday night.

Cordarelle Patterson

It’s almost a joke how NFL teams had no idea how to utilize Patterson until he played with the Chicago Bears. The Bears don’t like offensive playmakers so he signed with Atlanta last year. Despite being one of the worst teams in the league, he is the team’s most valuable asset.

Cordarelle Patterson was the second leading rusher on Sunday (behind only Khalil Herbert) averaging eight yards a carry. Whether he tied the game at ten in Seattle or hurdled over defenders, Patterson did everything asked of him and more on offense.

Very few first round picks get better once they’ve been in the NFL for ten years. If there’s any reason to watch an Atlanta Falcons game this season, it’s because he’s either running, catching or throwing on offense.

Before the losers are discussed, I’d like to take the time to plug and promote some quality content.

Have you ever watched a movie inspired by real events and wonder where the people are now? Or about how much of what was shown really happened? Before the Script is your podcast that has the answers. Check them out wherever you get your podcast fix. New episodes drop on Sunday night, so take a listen to Jazzy’s educational and fun podcasts.

Losers: Washington Commanders offensive coordinator Scott Turner

The Eagles offense is red-hot. The Commanders offense might be one of the worst in the NFL.

At one point in the game, a graphic showed how lopsided the passing stats were for both teams. Philadelphia had 323 while Washington posted a -1. This was shown in the third quarter.

It was worse for anyone who watched the game. The Eagles defense had six sacks and two forced fumbles on Commanders starting quarterback Carson Wentz in the first half. Washington had 50 yards heading into half-time. Wentz was sacked a total of nine times and somehow complete 25 passes.

Many know the Commanders will go as far as the offense carries them. This was the second straight week Washington’s offense played abysmal. While many blame Wentz for both losses the offensive line cratered against defensive fronts, causing Wentz to make erratic decisions. They have one win because the defense forced turnovers and they ran the ball well. It’s been double-digit blowouts after week one.

Scott Turner runs the offense and was criticized by FOX’s color commentator Mark Schlereth, who’s as just as fun to listen to as watching paint dry on a wall. While Carson Wentz can be at the center of conversation as to why the Commanders aren’t good on offense, Schlereth made the point of saying, “Why does this offense make so many adjustments late in games? Usually they’re made after possessions or failed drives.” That’s on the offensive coordinator for not just failing to adjust but having the same garbage gameplan two straight weeks.

The AFC West

Remember when analysts and fans knew without doubt the AFC West was the most competitive division in professional football? September made that the biggest upset to start the season.

As September ends, only one team is winless: the Las Vegas Raiders. After Sunday’s loss to the Tennessee Titans, owner Mark Davis had a closed door meeting with new coach Josh McDaniels. Rumors are flying that the Raiders could fire McDaniels before Halloween. It’s insane to think a team that fired their coach around October last year would do it two straight seasons. The team regressed quickly and we’re not even four weeks into the season.

The Los Angeles Chargers are fighting through injuries. While quarterback and franchise star Justin Herbert is battling rib fractures, linebacker Joey Bosa may be out a few games and left tackle Rashawn Slater tore his pectoral muscle. He’s out the rest of the season. Center Corey Linsley was already on the injury list before Slater went down. Receiver Jalen Guyton joins Keenan Allen on the injured list. That’s another target taken away from Herbert. It also doesn’t help sophomore coach Brandon Staley isn’t adjusting gameplans and the offense is turning the ball over more.

Many people know after Sunday night the Denver Broncos play like one of the worst teams in the NFL. Despite two wins in three games, the offense is bottom three in the league and the fans were again vocal on the team’s underwhelming performance. While injuries to receivers are part of the problem, coaching and terrible communication looms large. This team wasn’t expected to look like the 2010 Tim Tebow-led Broncos.

Last but not least, Kansas City’s offense looks like it misses receiver Tyreek Hill. Even though Mecole Hardman left yesterday’s game in Indianapolis, it wouldn’t have mattered. Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and quarterback Patrick Mahomes II got into a heated argument at the end of the first half. The Chiefs scored three points after that exchange. While the special teams had one of the worst performances in Andy Reid’s tenure (and could’ve won the game despite some of the turnovers), the offense is underwhelming especially running the ball. Clyde Edwards-Helaire might be the worst draft pick of the Mahomes era and free agent addition JuJu Smith-Schuster has yet to have a 100 yard game.

While it’s only three weeks into the season, there’s a lot to be concerned with in the AFC West. One has to think there will be improvement in October but all four teams have to fix their problems especially with the number of quality of teams on their schedules.

Kliff Kingsbury

When Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim extended head coach Kliff Kingsbury five years, you’d think the team would show improvement after last season’s implosion. However, Kingsbury is in the losers section so you know how this works out.

Arizona’s first three games of the season are a warning of what’s to come. Franchise quarterback and star Kyler Murray does scramble before throws but he’s not running or becoming the playmaker the team needs when tough situations or games arise. It’s understandable with no De’Andre Hopkins due to suspension, but Murray still has tightend Zach Ertz and receivers Andy Isabella and A.J. Green as solid options.

The Cardinals’ lone win was an overtime comeback against the Las Vegas Raiders. Outside of that second half performance, they’ve been blown out by a Chiefs offense struggling to score and lost a winnable game against the Los Angeles Rams. Keep in mind that the past two seasons Arizona plays their best football the first half of their regular season schedules.

It appears Kingsbury was figured out last season by a lot of teams and he can’t adjust. It’s shown how the team can neither defend well nor utilize assets on offense. Unfortunately, you can’t fire a coach with four years left on his contract. They better improve before more NFC teams step up and get into wildcard positions.

Jimmy Garappolo’s Voluntary Safety on Sunday Night Football

Any casual fans who read the football articles on here might have asked themselves at one point how bad can one play get for any team. Well, here’s a great candidate for worst play of all time. You don’t see a quarterback step into his own endzone by accident, throw what could be an interception returned for a touchdown, and the offensive captain suffer an injury on one play, but anything can happen any given Sunday.

In the video, commentator Cris Collinsworth says the safety might’ve been a good thing (we’ve hit a new bottom), and broadcaster Mike Tirico mentions former quarterback Dan Orlovsky. Orlovsky was overjoyed that he will no longer be the quarterback associated with the voluntary safety play, and tweeted how he has freedom.

At least September ended with a bang.

NFL Week Two Winners and Losers

It’s hard to have a spectacular follow-up week of games after the NFL’s regular season premiere, but week two didn’t disappoint. While there were no ties, there were comebacks and interesting storylines to keep in mind that will play out and progress the following months.

A lot stood out after the second week of the season, so here are week two’s noticeable winners and losers.

Winners: Tua Tagovailoa

Most quarterbacks won’t outperform Baltimore Ravens star Lamar Jackson but Sunday was the exception. Tagovailoa had the best and biggest game of his short career and should silence critics for the rest of the month.

Tagovailoa threw all six Miami Dolphins touchdowns. Those who watched him play since his college days know Tua is an accurate passer. Sunday showed he’s starting to expand his play past accuracy.

Miami’s trade for receiver Tyreek Hill and drafting of Jaylen Waddle is part of the change (they each caught two touchdowns and had over 150 yards receiving on eleven catches), but Tagovailoa’s throwing deeper passes, reading defenses better and having time to find the best options available without forcing throws.

The Dolphins are undefeated two games in due to playing great on all three sides of the football. However the offense is having the biggest improvement with a new head coach who’s understanding how to develop a franchise quarterback.

Doug Pederson and the Jacksonville Jaguars

The amount of talent the Jaguars have should propel the team to at least six wins…in theory. Achieving those victories as most fans and analysts know takes full focus each quarter. Jacksonville played their second best game in the Trevor Lawrence era Sunday.

The Jaguars led by coach Pederson recorded the first shutout of the season blanking the Indianapolis Colts 24-0. They took an early lead and scored all 24 points in the first three quarters (17 of which were in the first half). Jacksonville’s offensive line dominated the Colts defense. Lawrence wasn’t sacked and completed all but five passes. He threw two touchdowns and posted a 121.5 quarterback rating.

On defense the Jaguars manhandled Indianapolis’ offensive line, sacking veteran quarterback Matt Ryan five times while the secondary intercepted him three times. Ryan threw for under 200 yards and posted a 34 quarterback rating in one of his career worst games. Runningback Jonathan Taylor wasn’t comfortable carrying the ball and the Colts offense was out a key receiver in Michael Pittman Jr.

Jacksonville’s hiring of Doug Pederson wasn’t taken seriously this past offseason. Teams might want to re-think that approach. He almost led the team to a comeback win on the road against Washington week one. The Jaguars are the first team in the AFC South to win a game this season and could do a lot more damage if the offense is more consistent and defense plays sharper. Coaching’s finally molding a talented roster the right way and it will show later in the season. Both Indianapolis and Tennessee need some wins before a division both were favored in starts slipping away.

Cooper Rush

When starting quarterback and face of the franchise Dak Prescott injured his throwing hand week one, many wrote the Dallas Cowboys’ season off due to their schedule and how long the signal caller would be out. Cowboys fans can feel some relief even if it’s one week.

Backup Cooper Rush wasn’t expected to lead Dallas to many wins, much less a win over the current AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals. Not only did Rush win a critical game, he outperformed Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow.

Rush found a good receiving option in Noah Brown early and often, throwing his lone touchdown to Brown on Dallas’ first possession. The Cowboys kept the game tied at worst. Cooper Rush’s best possession may have been the last of the game. Dallas’ defense forced a three (plays)-and-out possession for Cincinnati, leaving 57 seconds on the clock before the fourth quarter ended. Starting at their 35 yard line, Rush led a drive with a three yard run from Tony Pollard and completed passes to CeeDee Lamb and Noah Brown. His clock management was almost perfect, using the final team timeout and spiking the ball (intentionally to stop the clock from winding down) to give kicker Brett Maher a good chance at making a 50 yard field goal.

Dallas’ schedule is still bumpy despite the quality win. It’s not just because the Los Angeles Rams or Detroit Lions are on the schedule, it’s also because…

The NFC East divisional race

…the NFC East has looked impressive the first two weeks of the season. Dallas’ win keeps them in a race that could have two undefeated teams after Monday night.

The Cowboys play all three of their division rivals once before November. It’s critical they stay relevant by the time Dak Prescott returns. Their next opponent is an undefeated New York Giants team that’s starting to look competent on offense thanks to new head coach Brian Daboll.

The other two teams are going to give both the league and each other problems. Despite a blowout loss in Detroit, Washington has a solid defense and a mediocre offense led by one of the best head coaches in the league. The Commanders almost completed a comeback before the Lions unleashed runningback D’Andre Swift to seal a win. Then there’s Philadelphia, which is still the favorite by many to win the division due to roster depth and improved coaching.

Many viewers will groan knowing there will be a lot of NFC East games televised nationally but none of the four will be eliminated without a long and determined fight.

Losers: John Harbaugh

Last season I made it a point to highlight why despite the many injuries to the Baltimore Ravens, John Harbaugh’s coaching cost the team a number of games and opportunities to get closer to and clinch a playoff spot. Sunday is another example of Harbaugh’s tenure being too long.

Despite the impressive stats from Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, at half-time the Ravens led 28-7. The game was an afterthought by many viewers. Miami’s offense was expected to start the second half throwing the ball nonstop to try and tie the score. Harbaugh apparently didn’t understand that part of their gameplan.

After both teams traded touchdowns in the third quarter, Miami scored a whopping 28 points in the fourth and held their first lead of the game with 14 seconds left. Despite Lamar Jackson’s highlight reel day, Tagovailoa somehow outplayed him in almost every category.

It’s one thing if the Ravens secondary couldn’t make tackles at times. However the coaches had no answer, no adjustments and no reasons why there should’ve been a home loss early in the season where it could affect the playoff picture.

Trey Lance

NFL casual fans and media are absolutely ruthless to quarterbacks. The narrative that Lamar Jackson and Jalen Hurts are runningbacks, Tua Tagovailoa can’t throw deep passes and Mitchell Trubisky is a bust are some of the dumbest trends and storylines to discuss. Another example is how bad quarterback Trey Lance is that he hasn’t been/wasn’t ready to start for the 49ers.

Lance was named the starter after a bitter preseason and nasty discussions among both fans and media. San Francisco’s loss to Chicago in week one was due to many factors, but you wouldn’t know due to the rabid talk of his performance.

The 49ers’ win at home against Seattle should be the main talking point. Unfortunately Trey Lance suffered a season ending ankle injury early in the first quarter of the game. He looked ok the first two possessions and yes he could’ve made some better decisions (especially on the play where he fractured his right ankle).

There’s valid frustration due to him not starting many games going back to last season. The truth is nobody knows how he’ll progress because we don’t see him start every Sunday. Now that he’s out the rest of the season, we (including Lance) are all left guessing what happens next. Just know he’s not a bust…yet.

Denver Broncos

When the 2022 schedules were released many believed the Broncos would win at least one of their first two games. However, viewers expected Denver to look much better than how they’ve started the season.

The loss week one on Monday night to Seattle isn’t too bad due to new quarterback Russell Wilson’s ties to the Pacific Northwest. The Seahawks wanted to win that game more than Denver and played like it. Almost everyone following the NFL expected the Broncos to easily beat Houston the Sunday after.

Both head coach Nathaniel Hackett and quarterback Russell Wilson’s home debut in Denver was a nightmare. Fans boo’d both early in the second quarter and didn’t let up until the Broncos scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Timeout management was atrocious. At one point in the second half a timeout was called because the special teams coach forgot to send a returner on the field to receive Houston’s punt. Both receiver Jerry Jeudy and cornerback Pat Surtain II left the game with injuries. The most embarrassing part was the offense forgetting the play clock ran and took multiple delay of game or false start penalties, prompting the crowd to do a loud countdown so Wilson would snap the ball.

The Denver Broncos have a lot of pressure not only because of the Russell Wilson trade and hiring a rookie coach but because the team hasn’t made the playoffs since the franchise’s last Super Bowl win. The AFC West is the most difficult and competitive division in the 2022 NFL season. Kansas City looks fine and Los Angeles is close behind. Nathaniel Hackett better find answers and fix things before they get uglier.

The New Orleans Saints’ twelve men fourth-and-one penalty to start the fourth quarter

If you ever want to know how slim a margin of victory in the NFL is, this penalty gives a good idea. Viewers of Sunday’s Tampa Bay-New Orleans game will say Saints quarterback Jameis Winston and the turnovers on offense cost New Orleans a win. It was more than just Jameis’ bad fourth quarter.

Tampa Bay and New Orleans started the quarter tied at three. The Saints forced a critical fourth and one for the Buccaneers. Earlier in the game, Tampa went for a fourth down conversion and failed. They weren’t going to take another chance especially in their own territory. They opted to punt.

New Orleans opted to put too many men on the field (you can only have eleven per side). Tampa’s offensive possession extended a few more minutes. When the Buccaneers did punt, it was deeper in Saints territory. New Orleans never recovered from the gaffe. Winston threw all three of his interceptions (one was returned for a touchdown by Mike Edwards) after Tampa’s elongated possession.

New Orleans’ defense played its best game against the Buccaneers knowing the offense was missing a star player. One penalty didn’t just turn the score around. It led to a massive fight and a breakdown for one team’s offense. There’s a massive what-if for the Saints if they don’t take that bad penalty.

Shaun Alexander to be inducted in Seahawks Ring of Honor — Seahawks Wire

The Seattle Seahawks will be taking time to honor another one of their legendary players during the 2022 season. On Thursday it was announced that running back Shaun Alexander would become the newest member inducted to the Seahawks Ring of Honor. Alexander will officially be honored during Seattle’s home game against the Arizona Cardinals on…

Shaun Alexander to be inducted in Seahawks Ring of Honor — Seahawks Wire

NFL Week One Winners and Losers

Usually the first week of the NFL regular season is mild. It was anything but mild on Sunday. Week one is seen by some as a fluke week, while some see it as prelude on what’s to come when teams settle in. Here are the winners and losers from Sunday’s games.

Winners: The Detroit Lions for trading Matthew Stafford and re-building the offense

It was one rough year for Detroit sports fans in 2021, and the Lions highlighted the struggle. Week one last season against San Francisco, Detroit was down double-digits before a rapid comeback. Sunday they almost beat a superior Philadelphia Eagles team in a back-and-forth scoring game.

Lions quarterback Jared Goff threw for two touchdowns while runningbacks Jamaal Williams and D’Andre Swift ran for three scores. Swift’s touchdown gave Detroit their first lead of the season and the offense dictated pace in the first quarter.

This is a big contrast from how the Los Angeles Rams started last Thursday night. Former Lion quarterback Matthew Stafford is battling a hand injury and the Rams scored ten points in a game Buffalo dominated. It’s valid to say anyone behind Los Angeles’ offensive line would’ve put up similar numbers. If Stafford somehow plays this season hurt, then Detroit traded their hot-and-cold quarterback at the right time. Draft picks such as Amon-Ra St. Brown (who had eight catches for 64 yards and a touchdown) have been worth it.

O.J. Howard

Howard has been under scrutiny since his tenure in Tampa Bay. His injuries and struggle to not just catch passes but remain as a top two tight-end option made an easy removal off the Buccaneers roster. Houston signed him in the offseason and both may benefit moving forward.

Despite tying a superior Indianapolis Colts team at home, O.J. Howard scored both touchdowns for the Texans. His second from 22 yards gave Houston a 17 point lead, their largest of the afternoon.

There aren’t too many fans or analysts that could name a receiver on the Texans roster outside of Howard. Don’t be surprised if he becomes a bigger part of the offense the next few weeks and quarterback Davis Mills’ favorite target.

Kansas City Chiefs

There was a lot of talk and debate on how good the Chiefs would be in a loaded AFC West. While week one can have fluke teams tricking people early, Kansas City played a complete game against a shaky Arizona Cardinals team.

Patrick Mahomes II and the Chiefs offense overwhelmed Arizona early, scoring 14 points in the first quarter. When the fourth quarter started, Kansas City led by 30 and Mahomes had thrown five touchdowns. Tight-end Travis Kelce caught eight passes for 121 yards and a score. Even rookie seventh round draft pick Isiah Pacheco ran for over five yards a carry and scored.

The Chiefs defense did a good job too. 14 of Arizona’s 21 points came when the game was out of reach. Greg Dortch was the Cardinals’ leading receiver and the running game was all but irrelevant due to Kansas City’s offense scoring at will.

Plus, the win helps the Chiefs stay at .500 in case they lose Thursday night against Los Angeles, a team they’ve struggled against the past two seasons.

Week one action

One usually doesn’t put a whole week into the win or loss column, but this is an exception. Week one was wildly fun and had everything a fan and analyst could want.

Here’s a fun breakdown of what happened: the two teams in last year’s super bowl lost. One was a blowout, the other in a dramatic overtime performance where kickers couldn’t make field goals. The first tie of the season occurred. Cleveland won their first opening day game since 2004 (with a new kicker too). Comeback wins, a high-scoring back-and-forth game in Detroit, four rookie head coaches won their debuts and the league MVP had his worst performance since last season’s week one.

Last but not least, week one ends with the highly anticipated Denver versus Seattle matchup featuring the return of Russell Wilson in the Pacific Northwest. It will be one of the most talked about weekends throughout the whole season.

Losers: San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco had many things in their favor Sunday. The Chicago Bears’ stadium was again a cesspool of mistakes and the 49ers were favored to win by 95% of people who picked the game (via ESPN). Coach Kyle Shanahan’s team played well for three quarters, leading by seven when the fourth started.

As you might guess, the lead didn’t last long.

Chicago stormed back and scored 12 of their 19 points in the first seven minutes of the quarter. Sophomore quarterback Justin Fields played better than 49ers starter Trey Lance. Fields has less to work with than Lance, and he looked better on finding his receivers and scoring.

Offense wasn’t the deciding factor in the loss. The defense committed 12 penalties for 99 yards, equivalent to a whole football field. Usually teams giving up that many yards lose the game.

There’s also criticism on coach Shanahan for running the same predictable plays he used in both the conference championship game last year and the 2021 regular season. Many teams expect 49ers receiver Deebo Samuel to run the ball on trick plays. The Bears knew it when the second half started, and little changed to help new starter Trey Lance make the most in a winnable game.

It also doesn’t help San Francisco might be without their starting runningback Elijah Mitchell for a few weeks. Week two against Seattle will say a lot about what the 49ers can do for this season.

General manager and head coach Bill Belichick

If Belichick was just a GM and not a coach, he would’ve been fired after two years. His drafting and building of the Patriots since 2020 might be the downfall of the franchise.

You’d think with how the Miami Dolphins made easy work of New England on Sunday that the rookie head coach would be on the losing team and not the winning one. The Patriots were one of two teams in the early afternoon games to be shutout at half-time (the other being the Chicago Bears). Unlike the Bears, New England didn’t win their game.

The Patriots acquired a lot of skill players to help sophomore quarterback Mac Jones not do everything himself. Kendrick Bourne was missing in action after a 41 yard catch. Five players ran for a total of 78 yards in a 13 point loss, and two of those players ran for zero yards or worse. Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry are paid millions of dollars to average two receptions for 25 yards. Then there’s Nelson Agholor who’s doing…I don’t know what.

It doesn’t help when the play-calling goes pass option first. Jones shouldn’t attempt 30 passes in a game where the score is close. After the loss it was announced Jones suffered a back injury. While it’s only week one of the regular season, it’s hard to see how New England wins their next four games without adjusting to better offensive planning and schemes.

Tennessee Titans and their offensive coordinator Todd Downing

The Tennessee Titans were in a great position to have an early first place grab in the AFC South after the Indianapolis Colts tied in Houston. The New York Giants were horrendous last season and rookie head coach Brian Daboll was aggressive early in situations that didn’t call for it. Yet the Titans found ways to lose.

Derrick Henry, who’s the most valuable player on the team and the best runningback in the league, ran 21 times for 82 yards. Tennessee misses receiver A.J. Brown already because the best pass catcher of the late afternoon was Kyle Philips. Philips had six catches for 66 yards, and Dontrell Hilliard had 61 yards on three catches and both Titans touchdowns.

Tennessee has to involve receivers like Austin Hooper and Robert Woods more while easing Treylon Burks into the starting role. It would also help if the offensive line learned to block better and not play like they want quarterback Ryan Tannehill dead every other possession.

If the Titans are going to be a playoff team, they have to fix the simple things early and use their offense the right way. It could take a while.

Cornerback CJ Henderson

The Cleveland Browns won their first opening day game in almost 20 years when rookie kicker Cade York kicked the game winning field goal. Cleveland won a game by two points they shouldn’t have. Earlier in the game there was a play that set up quarterback Jacoby Brissett’s one yard touchdown pass to Kareem Hunt.

One of the worst mistakes a defensive player can make is committing a terrible penalty during a turnover changing play. It can negate the turnover and not just give the offense the ball back, but additional yardage.

Cleveland’s second possession of the game started in the second quarter and on a third and three at the Carolina 35, Brissett took a risk and threw deep to Amari Cooper in Carolina’s endzone. The pass was under-thrown and Panthers cornerback Xavier Woods intercepted the pass.

Unfortunately for Woods and the Panthers defense, cornerback C.J. Henderson wrapped Cooper up in his arms and threw him onto the ground before the pass landed in Wood’s hands. Color commentator Jay Feely said, “there’s no reason to throw a player down when the pass would have been intercepted anyway”.

While a 58 yard field goal is a bad way to lose a game, it’s better than throwing a defenseless receiver onto the ground and giving up seven points after.

2022 NFC Playoff Picks

The NFC has won the last two Super Bowls in opposite ways. Tampa Bay’s annihilation of Kansas City revealed how the Chiefs relied on certain offensive schemes, something that carried into last season. Los Angeles won a contested although controversial title game that will be a topic of conversation for years. This season Arizona’s State Farm Stadium hosts the Super Bowl. The Cardinals were the only undefeated team before losing to Green Bay October 28th, 2021. They finished in second place at 11-6 and suffered a blowout loss to the Rams. Arizona can continue the Super Bowl home field advantage streak but will have to get past the other 15 conference teams (notably Tampa and Los Angeles).

It’s time to break down which seven teams in the NFC have the best chance to reach the playoffs this season. There aren’t many quality teams in the NFC this year, so expect at least two teams with ugly records to clinch a spot and maybe win a playoff game.

NFC North: Green Bay Packers

Fun fact: Matt LaFleur has led the Packers to 13 straight wins in three straight seasons, a first in NFL history.

Let’s be honest, no one in the NFC North will come close to challenging Green Bay for the division. Chicago’s roster is bottom five in the league, Minnesota has an inexperienced head coach that’s dealing with a defense that’s either too young or too old, and Detroit is still re-building on offense and defense. The Lions could clinch a wild-card spot, but they must learn to play with leads early, something they didn’t do much last season.

This leaves the Packers as the easiest team in the NFC to win a division title. They still have the current league MVP who’s guided the team to three straight 13 win seasons since new coach Matt LaFleur expanded the playbook. Even better, Green Bay’s schedule faces two playoff caliber teams before Halloween arrives. At worst, they’ll be 6-2 before November.

NFC South: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints

Todd Bowles replaces Bruce Arians as head coach in Tampa Bay. Bowles was known in New York to get the best out of his players, regardless of talent on the roster

The Buccaneers are a favorite to win both their division and the Super Bowl. If a serious NFL fan or analyst looks at their schedule however, they’ll know a hard year is in store from start to finish. Tampa opens against Dallas, New Orleans, Green Bay and Kansas City. All four teams are expected to make the playoffs this year by a good amount of both analysts and fans, and some even the championship. While the Buccaneers’ schedule gets easier by Thanksgiving, the early tests and division games against New Orleans will show early how the chemistry is for both league icon quarterback Tom Brady and new coach Todd Bowles.

The Saints are needed relief for NFC wildcard depth. They also have a coaching change with the promotion of defensive coordinator Dennis Allen after Sean Payton resigned. New Orleans added veteran quarterback Andy Dalton to backup the inconsistent Jameis Winston. Even if Winston goes down with another injury similar to last year’s, Dalton can do enough to help the Saints win games. The return of star receiver Michael Thomas and the drafting of Ohio State receiver Chris Olave gives a boost to an offense that relies on runningback Alvin Kamara and receiver Tre’Quan Smith.

Despite missing last year’s playoffs, New Orleans swept division champions Tampa Bay, including an impressive 9-0 shutout in their December 19th meeting.

If the Saints make the playoffs, it’s because the defense is top five in the league. The unit also added quality players in safety Tyrann Mathieu and defensive end Taco Charlton. New Orleans will be a hard team to score against, but they must score more than 17 points a game to be a serious playoff contender.

NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles

Coach Nick Sirianni had an educational first year in Philadelphia. Unlike many coaches, he adapted on the fly by Halloween and the result landed the Eagles into the playoffs. Sirianni leaned on the running game, let quarterback Jalen Hurts play a more liberal style under center, and the defense improved due to better time of possession from the offense. Philadelphia went one and done in the playoffs because they were overmatched by a Tom Brady-led Buccaneers team.

The Eagles trading for A.J. Brown, dumping Jalen Reagor and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and signing Zach Pascal upgrades the receiving core.

This year general manager Howie Roseman made the moves to improve the offense to benefit and amplify Hurts’ progression. The offensive line is rated by Pro Football Focus as one of the best in the NFL, a reversal from three seasons ago. Roseman’s biggest offseason move was trading for Tennessee Titans star receiver A.J. Brown. Brown impacts the team and division early, demanding opponents cover two talented receivers instead of playing against the run. Alongside DeVonta Smith, Brown will stretch the field and make sure Hurts can pass the ball faster and sooner rather than scrambling every other play. The addition of Zach Pascal helps take pressure off Dallas Goedert on inside routes. Plus the team dumped two busts in Jalen Reagor and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside.

On defense Haason Reddick is a jolt to a front seven anchored by defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. The trade for Chauncey Gardner-Johnson from New Orleans adds depth to the secondary and an inflammatory player who’s drawn multiple ejections from offensive players, usually receivers.

The NFC East might have another team make it to the playoffs if neither the NFC South nor West can produce a third team. Dallas doesn’t have enough receiving options, and that’s before potential injuries to receivers becomes an issue. The Commanders are hit-or-miss with Carson Wentz starting at quarterback with a shaky offensive line and the New York Giants are favorites to be top five in next year’s draft.

NFC West: Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks

After an abrupt release from Seattle, the Los Angeles Rams signed Bobby Wagner (45) to a five year, $50 million deal. Besides quality sideline-to-sideline play, his mentoring of linebackers such as rookie Ernest Jones (53) for the defense should make the Rams a harder defense to score on this season.

The Rams didn’t lose too much talent this offseason. In fact, they addressed a weak spot on defense signing All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner to a five year deal after Seattle released him. Wagner isn’t just a tackling extraordinaire, he guides defenses to cover holes especially near the sidelines. Los Angeles will win their division due to a better and upgraded defense.

One issue that could linger is the re-building of the offensive line. Austin Blythe was signed by Seattle in free agency while offensive captain left tackle Andrew Whitworth retired. Quarterback Matthew Stafford faces injuries almost every season, so it will be interesting how Los Angeles looks health-wise when they host a playoff game.

Trey Lance now starts at quarterback in San Francisco after head coach Kyle Shanahan decided he’d seen enough of predecessor Jimmy Garappolo

San Francisco has a high chance of making the playoffs in a weak NFC. The only realistic situation if they don’t make a wild-card spot could be a large amount of injuries, something fans and analysts know has happened multiple times in the Kyle Shanahan era.

There are issues the 49ers have to address throughout the season. The interior offensive line is in bad shape, partially due to the departure of Laken Tomlinson to the New York Jets. The running game will feature more from Jeff Wilson Jr., Elijah Mitchell and Jamycal Hasty. Trey Sermon was cut and Jaquiski Tartt was traded to Philadelphia. Then the questions of Trey Lance being the starting quarterback to guide San Francisco back to a Super Bowl pile on.

Last but not least, the 49ers have an up-and-down schedule where they play easier teams such as Chicago and Atlanta to Kansas City and Denver. If San Francisco is at .500 when they hit the bye week, they could start playing their best football.

Lost in the talk of the Russell Wilson trade is how Seattle has three quality tightends in Noah Fant (above), Will Dissly and Colby Parkinson.

This is going to draw a lot of laughs and criticism, but this is of course the dark horse pick for the NFC. The Seahawks have a better shot to make the playoffs than most fans and analysts think.

Let’s start with offense. Geno Smith was named the starting quarterback. Despite barely winning the job in an awful preseason, Smith is familiar with the offense. The Seahawks have one of the top receiving duos with D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. They also have a top tightend duo in Will Dissly and the newly acquired Noah Fant. Then there’s the offensive line which should be better in the interior. Austin Blythe being the starting center and a current champion shores up the middle, and Gabe Jackson and Damien Lewis are solid offensive guards. The position with the most question marks could be the first year tackles.

The defense is in an interesting position. This would be a problem if Seattle played four defensive linemen and three linebackers (thus the term 4-3 defense), amplified by the departure of top pass rusher Carlos Dunlap. Except head coach Pete Carroll fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., a coach many people wanted to see let go for defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt. Carroll also hired Sean Desai from Chicago to oversee changes. This will give former second round pick Darrell Taylor the switch to outside linebacker in the new three defensive linemen and four linebacker set (and this term is 3-4) in a hit-or-miss season.

Seattle’s secondary needs star safety Jamal Adams to step up and play better in pass coverage. While he does well in pass-rush situations, Adams struggled last season when receivers went one-on-one downfield against him. Outside of Adams, the Seahawks have one of the best safeties in Quandre Diggs to intercept opposing quarterbacks and finish tackles. Sidney Jones IV is back at his starting cornerback position and Coby Bryant has impressed a lot of analysts and coaches.

Seattle has a better chance of making the playoffs over Arizona for a number of reasons. The biggest one is the Seahawks’ stability in upper management compared to the Cardinals. Remember Arizona started hot the past two seasons but made the playoffs once (that one game was a beatdown loss against a division rival). Star receiver DeAndre Hopkins will be out at least a month due to drug suspensions and Kyler Murray’s lack of development plus a rift with management doesn’t bode well for the future.

Another big reason is strength of schedule. Arizona has a bye week the first week of December. Taking both matchups against Seattle (in a four week span) out of the picture, nine of the ten games feature an opponent many expect to reach the playoffs. After their bye week, the Cardinals play Denver, New England and Tampa Bay late in the season. Ouch.

Seattle by contrast gets lucky in their schedule early, drawing Russell Wilson and the Broncos week one. Wilson didn’t play in the pre-season and Denver has a new head coach figuring out what to do. Seattle also plays San Francisco, Atlanta and Detroit three weeks after. Even before their mid-November week off, the Seahawks play the New York Giants and might split with a tired Cardinals team.

Arizona’s defense doesn’t have the same counters to Seattle’s offensive weapons even when healthy. Last but not least there’s the coaching factor where Pete Carroll has lead the Seahawks with no elite quarterback play. We’ll find out by week seven whether Seattle can win the easy games and hang in the playoff race or if they’ll have multiple first round picks. Regardless, it’s possible we could see a team under .500 clinch a wild card spot to close out the NFC.

Last year’s NFC predictions: 4.5-2.5

2022 AFC Playoff Picks

The 2021 season was almost a total success for the American Football Conference. From the AFC South division race between Indianapolis and Tennessee to the Cinderella season for the Cincinnati Bengals, the biggest takeaway was the conference depth of playoff contenders in each division. The AFC West is now the toughest in division in the NFL. All four teams could make the postseason this year. There are three solid contenders in both the east and north. Last but not least, expect the same kind of playoff race both the Colts and Titans had in the south to heat up once again, this time with a more balanced roster in Indianapolis and a more desperate team in Tennessee.

It’s time to break down which seven teams in the AFC have the best chance of reaching the playoffs for 2023. By far the hardest conference to choose seven teams, not every pick will make the postseason listed, but there are some sure bets and teams that might surprise.

AFC North: Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers

The two most dominant teams in the AFC North led by T.J. Watt (90) and Lamar Jackson (8) will determine who takes the division in their two rivalry games.

A lot of people are high on both Cleveland and Cincinnati mainly because of acrobatic quarterback play and offensive stats. The Browns won’t have their franchise star acquisition DeShaun Watson for eleven games. The Bengals will be targeted just as much as the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams. Both Ohio teams are shaky on defense especially in the secondary, something Baltimore and Pittsburgh took measures to build up in both free agency and the draft years ago.

The most important aspect early in the 2022 season are divisional games before November. Both Pittsburgh and Baltimore play both Ohio teams some time before that deadline. Their games against each other are late in the season, and will be watched by fans and analysts carefully throughout the country.

The good news for the Ravens and biggest difference this season is Baltimore isn’t injury plagued before week one. Last year the top two runningbacks and key starters of coach John Harbaugh’s defense suffered season ending injuries before playing a regular season game. Outside of an injury to runningback Gus Edwards, the Ravens look better and are on pace to finish better than last. Plus, Lamar Jackson is still the top quarterback in the division who can light up any defense at any given time.

The Steelers have named former number two overall pick Mitchell Trubisky their starter under center. Trubisky might be the answer Pittsburgh needs with his accuracy on the run and his knowledge learned under coach Brian Daboll in Buffalo.

Pittsburgh had everything except a quarterback who could throw past 15 yards in 2021. The Steelers were predictably spanked in their only postseason game and had to evaluate who should replace Ben Roethlisberger. The cheap signing of former Bears starter Mitchell Trubisky is an underrated move. Many forget Trubisky throws accurately when he scrambles and runs outside the tackles. Despite being a dual option threat, Pittsburgh prefers he runs when necessary and find ways to get sophomore runningback Najee Harris more carries.

The Steelers have a top ten defense, and special teams helps ease Trubisky into a better offensive system. Pittsburgh will be challenged early with playoff quality opponents. Coach Mike Tomlin must have his team ready against an upset Cincinnati team that swept them last year for week one.

AFC South: Indianapolis Colts

Jonathan Taylor led the 2021 NFL season in total yards with 2,171. His 18 rushing touchdowns and 5.5 yards per carry kept the Colts in the playoff race until their loss in Jacksonville week 18.

Regardless on whether you think Tennessee or Indianapolis wins the AFC South two things are clear: both teams will go all-out against the other and when healthy, the Colts have a championship caliber roster.

The Titans may have a quarterback and coaching problem on their hands. Their unexpected one-and-done playoff appearance after winning the AFC South last year led them to draft Malik Willis and trade A.J. Brown. Their offensive line is still a mess and while both teams will be tested early and face each other before November (twice), Indianapolis is easily the calmer of the two teams and the better coaching.

Many who have kept up with Indianapolis know the defense is a top five unit in the league. DeForest Buckner and Darius Leonard ravage offensive lines. The additions of defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, cornerback Stephon Gilmore and safety Rodney McLeod cements the Colts defense as one of the hardest to score on.

AFC East: Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins

Stefon Diggs (14) is still one of the top receivers in the league. He’s a dependable target for quarterback Josh Allen and another player who can lead Buffalo deep in the playoffs.

In the playoffs, the Bills are a punchline and synonymous with failure or choking. In the regular season, they’re one of the best teams. Despite the departure of offensive coordinator Brian Daboll to the New York Giants, Buffalo’s offense is in a good spot to dominate the conference and possibly the league.

The Bills added players in runningback and outside linebacker, positions they’ll perform better in this season. Two time Super Bowl champion Von Miller wants a challenge and runningback Duke Johnson should be a boost when Devin Singletary isn’t playing every down. Receiver Jamison Crowder makes up for the loss of Cole Beasley.

Buffalo has a tough schedule to start the season. Last year they had one hiccup loss until that last loss before the bye week. They start with Los Angeles, Tennessee (the team they lost to before that bye) and Miami. We’ll see how good they are early.

Tyreek Hill’s trade to Miami will cause ripples in both the AFC West and AFC East this season.

Speaking of Miami, this is the surprise pick of the conference. The Dolphins had a controversial offseason firing Brian Flores, a respected and honest head coach and hired Mike McDaniel from San Francisco. The questions on the organization’s credibility and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will be answered this season. Miami added phenom receiver Tyreek Hill and Terron Armstead at tackle, cementing a deep and talented offense. The defense is still one of the best in the league with the best cornerback in Xavien Howard.

This is the year the Dolphins have to show that the “Tanking for Tua” narrative has paid off. The New York Jets aren’t going to make the playoffs with the amount of competition in the east, and there could be more regression in New England. It’s why the hiring of Mike McDaniel and the third year of Tagovailoa under center couldn’t be more important.

AFC West: Los Angeles Chargers, Denver Broncos

Third year quarterback Justin Herbert is a favorite to win the MVP award this season.

Like the Buffalo Bills, the Chargers are pretty good in the regular season (no postseason thoughts yet thankfully). Despite their comical decisions to not clinch a playoff spot last season, the roster received many upgrades on offense and defense. Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa will terrorize offensive lines if they stay healthy for even half the season. Middle linebacker brings more veteran leadership with Kyle Van Noy. On offense, Gerald Everett is another multi-faceted weapon for quarterback Justin Herbert to throw to on inside routes, and then the team picked up Sony Michel for runningback depth behind Austin Ekeler.

Coach Brandon Staley’s second season should elevate the team and make the leap to being a playoff contender. The Chargers do a great job bottling division rivals Kansas City and Las Vegas, who they play the first two weeks of the season. It’s not until a Monday night game against Denver that Los Angeles will face their first test in late 2022.

New coach Nathaniel Hackett will have an easier time to settle in since Denver traded for a top five quarterback in the league. His offensive line schemes will be one of the more under-talked about parts before Week One.

It’s another perfect time to bring in a wildcard contender. Denver’s injuries, just like Baltimore’s, won’t be as common place this season. Denver did lose more talented players this offseason than they gained, but they acquired the quarterback the franchise desperately needed to elevate team play in Russell Wilson. Wilson will face a rash of challenges, amplified by not playing in the preseason and an expanded contract. The Broncos have a steady and solid defense that former coach Vic Fangio tooled and tweaked, they just need to score more than 13 points a game.

Both teams give Kansas City and Las Vegas problems. The Broncos’ quarterback choice, as well as reinforcing both offensive tackles, finally poses a significant problem to both the Chiefs and Raiders. Regardless, the AFC West will be the funnest division to watch in 2022.

Last year’s AFC predictions: 1.5-5.5

A Look Back at The Most Memorable Gold Medal Winners from the 2021 Tokyo Olympics

For those who keep up with not just this blog but the Pro Talk sports page on Facebook, you’d know a poll was conducted on who had the most memorable and possibly gold medal performances on the rescheduled summer olympics in 2021. Each voter was given the option to pick the three headlined events they remembered and liked most. There were many choices to vote for and some surprised Wesley and I.

A year later, Wesley and I reminisced on what stood out in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and what we are still talking about after memories were refreshed previously in Eugene, Oregon the past few weeks.

Who the voters chose

The Men and Women’s basketball teams dominating play for gold medals each

The first choice makes a lot of sense. Both the U.S. women’s and men’s basketball teams dominate Olympic play/conversation regardless of the year. 2021 was no different. The women again went undefeated and tore through Japan and Australia to win gold. Looking back at the game, it’s fitting Brittney Griner got the start at center in the championship round in what might be her last internationally televised game and Sylvia Fowles played the last minute of the round to conclude her Olympic career.

The men had a different yet exciting series of events. They lost to France in the preliminary round, sparking conversations about team chemistry, coaching and who should or should not be starting. It was all word salad as they won the next two rounds by 20 or more points. In the championship round versus France, the U.S. pulled away in the second half securing a well earned and hard fought gold medal. Despite more competition from several European teams and Australia, there was no doubt who would win the number one spot when talent depth and determination came into focus.

Elaine Thompson-Herah’s Dominant Double-Double Gold Medal Performances

There aren’t too many track and field athletes who not just dominate, but have incredible headlining Olympic events cycle after cycle, year after year. Jamaica’s been blessed with runners that defy this narrative going back decades with Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. It’s why the eruption of Elaine Thompson-Herah to start the 2020s is just as if not more impressive.

Thompson-Herah won gold in the 100M, a feat that’s impressive considering the depth of quality sprinters in different countries. She cruised to an easy victory. She then dominated the 200M for another gold (more on her other gold medal later). That’s not something you hear every four years.

Even rarer, she did it back-to-back, becoming the first woman sprinter to win a double-double at consecutive Olympics.

Elaine Thompson-Herah is featured and was chosen by both Wesley and Justin. Neither have enough praise for how phenomenal her performances are, despite a nagging leg injury that plagued her Eugene races.

Jamaica’s Women’s 4x100M relay on Independence Day

(From left to right) Elaine Thompson-Herah, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Shericka Jackson and Briana Williams celebrate an iconic gold medal on Jamaica’s Independence Day in 2021.

The third gold medal for Elaine Thompson-Herah might be one of her most treasured. Along with revered female sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Shericka Jackson and Briana Williams made up a dangerous 4x100M relay team that dusted the competition. Re-watching the race, it’s safe to say that event was unfair to the other women who worked to get to the final round.

Even sweeter for all four ladies was the win coming on the 59th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence. Combined with the sprinting performances from one Elaine Thompson-Herah mentioned above, you could say the island still relishes a golden year topped with record-setting races.

Wesley’s Choices: Sydney McLaughlin Breaks her own record to win Gold in 400m Hurdles.


Sydney McLaughlin has been the big name in women’s track and field since her dominant Olympic gold medal events.

Sydney McLaughlin was on a roll coming into the 400m finals, already making history in previous events alongside 400m counterpart Dalilah Muhammad.  The two traded victories in a series of races, each capturing records respectively against one another.  The Olympic stage was set for both women to officially break the tie.  It seemed inevitable that another record-breaking performance would be needed for victory with these two titans clashing with all the marbles on the line.  A record-breaking performance was exactly what McLaughlin delivered. She surpassed her previous time of 51.90 by finishing with a whopping 51.46 to take the crown of queen of the 400m hurdles.

Allyson Felix and all her medals

Another track athlete I could not go without mentioning was all-time great Olympic Champion Allyson Felix.  In her fifth and final Olympic appearance Felix put a stamp on her track and field legacy capturing her 11th medal in her illustrious career.  This mark put her ahead of Carl Lewis making her the most decorated athlete in track and field U.S. history.  After starting a family, Felix came into the Tokyo Olympic trials and added onto an already impressive resume to earn her a top 3 spot in my mention for this year’s best Olympic performances.

Before I go with my final pick for who I think had the greatest performance in this years Olympics I will make a few honorable mentions.

         Athing Mu/800m Gold

         Yuto Horigome/Mens Street Skateboarding Gold

         Momiji Nishiya/Womens Street Skateboarding Gold

         Sakura Yosozumi/ Women’s Park Skateboarding Gold

         Karston Warholm/Mens 400m Gold (WR 45.94)

Elaine Thompson-Herah’s Dominant Double-Double Gold Medal Performances

Finally, there’s the best and the one that stood out most. It has to be for Elaine Thompson-Herah.  They called it a double-double due to the fact Elaine won gold in both 100m and 200m in consecutive Olympic events against some of the toughest competition of all time. There was no doubt who was the dominant runner of 2021s track and field events despite the many great runners (sprinting and distance running included) involved. Thompson-Herah stood out roaring her way to Olympic record books with a 10.61 in the 100m sprint. 

Justin’s Choices: Rebeca Andrade’s Captivating Gymnastics Performances

This was one of the few performances that doesn’t just stand out to me when first seen, but still is something I go back and watch a year later. Rebeca Andrade’s performances in the all-arounds, floor routine and vault were some of the most special events to watch this lifetime. The only reason she didn’t win gold in both floor routine and all-around performances was because she used too much power in her legs to land, adding deductions when her feet went out of bounds.

Regardless, Andrade’s performances were some, if not the most popular interactions on Twitter AND Facebook. Astonishing compared to how Jamaica fared in track, the U.S. dominated in basketball and volleyball, and how the Russians became a major storyline.

The most important part of her performance wasn’t just the attention, it’s what may happen to Brazil’s national gymnastics team in the future. After having both legs operated and worked on after muscle tears, Andrade is still a talking point for her performances in Brazil alone. Look for more black Brazilians especially to take part in gymnastics when the 2028 Los Angeles Olympic games roll around.

Elaine Thompson-Herah’s Dominant Double-Double Gold Medal Performances

Wow. Both the voters and Wesley were on the same page. This year in Eugene, Jamaican sprinter Shericka Jackson dominated in both the 100M and 200M. One might say Shericka knew she had to step her game up with how Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson-Herah have made their names in the sprinting field. Elaine’s 2021 performances were that special.

Thompson-Herah said in interviews after there were still things she had to fix and improve on. That’s scary considering how she made easy work against all of her opponents. Despite leg injuries this year, Thompson-Herah was considered dangerous and someone to watch.

Last but not least, Elaine Thompson-Herah won a third gold in a stacked 4x100M relay race. She was track and field’s 2021 most valuable runner.

The U.S. Women’s 4x400M relay where Allyson Felix surpassed Carl Lewis for most medals for a U.S. track athlete

There was no doubt in my mind what the first two choices would be. The third was tricky because of all the history being made with Suni Lee and Jade Carey, Cuba and Japan taking home their highest number of medals, and how dominant the U.S. men’s and women’s basketball teams were. This choice came down to what would be the most memorable not just one year from now, but five to ten years later. That easily came down to the U.S. women’s 4x400M relay team, which featured the top four U.S. runners closing out the relay races.

It was documented this would be Allyson’s last race in the international Olympic events. For fans and analysts like me, she’s been running since our teenage days at minimum, so it was a big deal for all of us watch her close out her career with not just a gold medal, but breaking Carl Lewis’ record for most medals of ANY U.S. Track and Field athlete all-time.

This year she retired after her last round of events in Eugene. While she performed well, no one’s forgetting how good that relay race to close out in Tokyo was and how high expectations will be the next few games for women’s track in the U.S.