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2023 NFL Conference Championship Round Predictions

By Sam Morris

Sam Morris is from Madison Heights, Michigan, and is an undergraduate student at BGSU majoring in Sports Management. He has a passion for sports writing and journalism. In his free time, he volunteers in the strategic communications department at BGSU at various sporting events and he also performs, writes, and produces his own raps for the music industry club at BGSU.

January 28, 2023

Conference Championship Round Overview

After such a crazy NFL season with so many unique storylines, at the conference championship round, the teams remaining are surprisingly predictable. In fact, three out of the four teams remaining were in the conference championship round last season. In the NFC, the Niners are looking to avenge their disappointing loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Rams last season that was the result of a dropped interception by ex-Niner and current Philadelphia Eagle Jaquiski Tartt. On the other hand, the Eagles are looking for their second Super Bowl win in the last six years and will try to give the other three teams their second straight year of failing to win the Super Bowl after getting to the conference championship round. In the AFC, the Chiefs and Bengals meet in the AFC Championship for the second straight year. This is the Chiefs fifth straight AFC Championship game in a row. In their previous four they are 2-2, losing to the Patriots and Bengals but beating the Bills and Titans. The Bengals are attempting to get to the Super Bowl for the second straight season after upsetting the Bills in Buffalo in the divisional round. Below are my predictions for these conference championship matchups.

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (15-3) VS. 2. San Francisco 49’ers (15-4) (Sunday, January 29th, 3:00)

Breakdown: Last week, I went 3-1 and my undefeated playoff prediction record was broken as the Eagles absolutely destroyed the Giants on Sunday afternoon. The Eagles proved to me and the rest of the NFL that their defense is able to dominate any offense on any given day as they not only got heavy pressure on Daniel Jones but also held Saquon Barkley to just 61 rushing yards and no touchdowns. Statistically, Jalen Hurts also looked back to full form last week despite his shoulder still obviously looking like it is bugging him. As he goes up against a much more formidable defense in San Francisco, as opposed to New York, helping heal his injury will become even more of an interesting focal point for the Eagles to focus on. Although Philadelphia gave up just 7 points last week, San Francisco’s defense was almost as impressive, only giving up 12 points to a more explosive offense in Dallas. Like the Eagles, the Niners’ pass rush got immense pressure on Dak Prescott, and they also got 2 interceptions to win the game. Overall, I think these are the two best overall teams in the NFL this season. They are both extremely talented and have depth in many facets of their respective rosters. On defense, I think they are very similar and equally talented so I will be looking to their offensives to make this prediction.

Jalen Hurts is an MVP candidate and more experienced than Brock Purdy which gives Philadelphia an advantage at the Quarterback position. Despite this, I think San Francisco has a better running back group because McCaffrey has clearly been a top-3 back since being traded midseason. Although the Eagles have a very talented group as well with Sanders, Scott, and Kenneth Gainwell, McCaffrey’s star power combined with the depth of Elijah Mitchell and rookie Jordan Mason gives the Niners this advantage. The Niners also have Deebo Samuel who can play both wide receiver and running back which gives San Francisco another unique advantage. As for the receiver group, A.J. Brown is the best pure pass catcher out of all the players on each team, but I think San Francisco’s group of Deebo, Aiyuk, Jennings, and Kittle is overall more talented and has more depth than Brown, DeVonta Smith, Watkins, and Goedert. I mainly think this because of Deebo’s unique skillset and Kittle who gives the Niners another level to their offense in the passing and blocking game that Goedert doesn’t give the Eagles. Kittle has 60 receptions, 765 yards, and 11 touchdowns whereas Goedert has 55 receptions, 702 yards, and only 3 touchdowns. With a skill group of McCaffrey, Deebo, and Kittle, the Niners don’t need an MVP level quarterback like the Eagles have in Hurts. It became clear when the Eagles lost Hurts for two games that they needed him to give them their offensive firepower. For these reasons, I think the Niners have a slightly more talented offense and will win this game based on their skill group and by exposing some of the weaknesses in the Eagles’ offense with their elite pass rush defense.    

Prediction: Eagles (21)   49’ers (24)

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (15-3)  VS. 3. Cincinnati Bengals (14-4)  (Sunday, January 29th, 6:30)

Breakdown: While I incorrectly guessed the Giants-Eagles game, I correctly predicted that this would be the AFC championship. One of the most interesting things when looking at this matchup is that the Bengals-Chiefs will be meeting in the AFC Championship for the second straight year. Joe Burrow and the Bengals have beaten Mahomes and the Chiefs by exactly three points three times in a row, 27-24 in this year’s regular season, 27-24 in last year’s AFC Championship, and 34-31 in last year’s regular season. Mahomes and the Chiefs will look to get revenge on Sunday Night Football, but to do so they will have to go through the hottest offense in the NFL. Although the Chiefs have a dominant passing attack, the Bengals pass defense should be able to at least contain them. The Bengals have one of the best secondaries in the NFL, ranking third in passing touchdowns allowed. While the Chiefs barely beat Jacksonville 27-20 last week, the Bengals beat the Bills 27-10 in Orchard Park, mostly because their pass defense held Josh Allen to a mediocre game. With this being said, Mahomes is not on Allen’s level right now as he is still recovering from his mid-game injury against Jacksonville.

On the other hand, the Bengals’ already weak offensive line has lost left tackle Jonah Williams and right tackle La’el Collins. This is not good news for Cincinnati as they go up against the Chiefs pass rush that has 55 sacks, which is second in the NFL behind the Eagles. Although the Chiefs definitely have this advantage on the line of scrimmage, the Bengals have the advantage in the rushing game with Joe Mixon, an advantage at quarterback with Mahomes being injured, and the advantage in the secondary. Because of these advantages, and the fact that the Bengals seem to have Mahomes’ number with 3 victories in a row, I think the Bengals will barely pull off the victory over the Chiefs and will face the Niners in what would be a very exciting Super Bowl.

Prediction:  Chiefs (28)   Bengals (31)



Reach for the Sky Boy!

Caption: Mark (L) and Jay (R) Briscoe

By Ryan Harless

January 29, 2023

On Saturday, June, 30, 2012, I sat in my living room with my dad as we scrolled through the TV looking for sports to watch. At the time, I was mainly into baseball and football with little knowledge of other sport options. We stumbled on “Ring of Honor Wrestling” (ROH) on the CW channel.

I was only vaguely familiar with the concept of pro wrestling. I knew it looked cool, but never sought it out prior to this. “That’s Matt Hardy,” my dad said, telling me about the person in the ring cutting a promo. I was a little confused by the lack of action that was happening while this man was talking into a microphone.

After he left the ring, I heard “Reach for the sky boy!” ring out through the speakers as I watched a set of twins in camo-cut off pants with more camo bandanas and massive beards step out on the ramp. They were introduced as Jay and Mark Briscoe, “The Briscoe Brothers,” and I was instantly captivated.

They were set to square off against The Guardians of Truth (The Headbangers in their WWE run). The Briscoe Brothers moved with such purpose, everything they did was so crisp it looked like they were straight out of a comic book. Jay, the leader of the team and Mark with his unorthodox method of strikes that he deemed “Redneck Kung-Fu” immediately had me hooked.

From that night on, I was a pro wrestling fan through and through. In the coming years, I watched more mainstream pro wrestling such as WWE and TNA/Impact, but I always found myself following ROH. As the years went on and names came and went in the pro wrestling industry, two names remained synonymous with ROH, Jay and Mark Briscoe.

The Briscoes have held the ROH Tag Team Titles a record 13 times, and Jay himself won the ROH World Heavyweight Title twice on his own. Inseparable as a team, the Briscoes continued doing what they always did, carrying the ROH company name on their backs week after week.

But in early 2020, COVID-19 became a very real problem for pro wrestlers. How do you continue to wrestle when there are no crowds to wrestle for? The company pushed through fulfilling their dates with limited to no crowds until the end of 2021 where it was announced that ROH was no more.

This left a massive void in the pro wrestling world as ROH had made a name as the premier destination for the best independent pro wrestlers around the world. Luckily, for fans like myself, the Jacksonville Jaguars’ owner had a son who LOVES pro wrestling and happened to already own his own company named All Elite Wrestling (AEW).

Khan himself announced that he had purchased the rights to ROH and its library on March 2, 2022. With this purchase, came a rush of talent that had previously worked for ROH, including Jonathan Gresham and Dalton Castle. But noticeably absent were Jay and Mark Briscoe.

They still got a lot of amazing air time through their all-time great trilogy of matches with FTR (The Revival in WWE) over the course of 2022, which saw the Briscoe Brothers lose their titles in the first match, fail to regain them in the second, and finally reclaim the belts in the final match of the series. This was hands down one of the best rivalries in pro wrestling in 2022.

The Briscoes always had an element of “southern pride” to their gimmick in past years. Jay even went so far as having a confederate flag backplate on his ROH World Heavyweight title after he won it over Kevin Steen (Kevin Owens in WWE). But all the controversy stemming from the Briscoes took place over a decade ago.

There was also major controversy stemming from a Tweet Jay sent out regarding same sex marriage, which he later profusely apologized for and took steps to learn.

Both Briscoes had long since been through sensitivity training and learned about the harmful imagery they portrayed as well as about other minority groups and how they had impacted them. However, even after all of this, Warner Brothers Media (the company who owns the broadcasting rights of AEW) was adamant about their refusal to have either of the Briscoe Brothers on their programming.

Tony Khan fought to get them on tv for weeks on end to no avail and unfortunately, that is where a lot of closure happened.

On January 17, 2023, Jay was taking his two daughters to cheer practice in his truck when another truck veered over the center line and struck Jay’s vehicle head on. Both Jay and the driver of the other truck were reported dead at the scene while both of his daughters remained in the hospital in critical condition.

Jay Briscoe, known by his family as Jamin Pugh, was killed at the age of 38, just eight days before his 39th birthday. He was still ROH Tag Team Champion with his brother at the time of his death. We never got to see Jay Briscoe make an appearance on AEW programming.

The silver lining to this story would come just over a week later on the January 25th edition of AEW Dynamite as Warner Brothers finally allowed Mark to be on TV. He was put in the main event of the evening against longtime rival and friend Jay Lethal. Lethal was another one of the long-time ROH mainstays who eventually made his way to regular AEW programming.

What was already an emotional night got even more emotional as Lethal made his entrance to the ring, visibly distraught with tears in his eyes. Once Lethal got into the ring, he looked to the entrance ramp as everyone in the Lexington arena and viewers at home heard the classic “Reach for the sky boy” intro to the Briscoe’s theme music.

Mark then received an amazing ovation from everyone watching as he carried both his and his brother’s tag team titles into the ring. Mark and Lethal proceeded to put on a clinic in chain wrestling and chemistry. For 12 minutes and 26 seconds, these two held every wrestling fan’s attention and ensured there were no dry eyes.

Mark hit a beautiful flying elbow drop off the top rope onto Lethal through a table early in the match, while they played at the storyline of Mark struggling to use Jay’s finishing move, “The Jay-driller.”

Mark was finally able to get Lethal into the air for the Jay-driller and pinned him for the three count and the win. When Mark spoke into the camera after the match, he told Jay’s children to keep their heads up and told them he loved them.

When Mark exited the ring, all the stars from the AEW locker room stepped out onto the ramp to give him another standing ovation. Mark hugged Lethal and carried both titles back to the locker room but not before turning to the fans and celebrating Jay one last time.

You can say what you want about pro wrestling being fake or scripted or whatever you feel. But there is no denying how powerful that moment was to everyone like me who followed wrestling for any length of time.

Pro wrestling will continue to move on and evolve, but the contributions of legends past are always present.

Money: The Most Extreme Goal

Caption: New York Yankees Executive Brian Cashman

By Ryan Harless

Ryan Harless is a third-year undergraduate at BGSU from Hillsboro, Ohio. He is majoring in Sport Management with a Journalism Minor. Baseball and golf at all levels are his primary interests but he is also interested in combat sports, hockey, basketball, and football.

January 25, 2023

Earlier this month, I wrote an article discussing how different teams in Major League Baseball (MLB) choose to spend their money. As most team sport leagues go, not every team in the league is built the same. Environmental factors are relatively out of the hands of the team owners. The city the team plays in and its economy can all impact a team’s ability to spend money.

We often categorize teams into two categories: large-market and small-market. It’s a pretty cut and dry concept, teams in New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago have larger shares of the market and are more likely to spend more money on their teams. Smaller cities like Cincinnati, Denver, and St. Louis will be more likely to have teams that spend less.

In an article written in 2012, teams were relegated to high, middle, and low markets. Teams were put into those categories based on the population of their city, their payroll per year, and their average cost per win. Through these different measurements, they were able to get a good breakdown of just where teams lie. Even just 10 years ago most of the teams are in the same place they were then.

There are some areas where you might think a team would be in a large market, yet they rarely spend money like others do. Examples of this would be the Miami Marlins and the Tampa Bay Rays. They are both based in relatively large markets in Florida, but both teams ranked among the bottom 10 teams in the league for payroll in 2022.

It is staggering to see the variances in payroll across the league, with the New York Mets ranking number one in payroll at $235.6 million for just one year, whereas the Cleveland Guardians who ranked last only paid their players a total of $29.1 million.

Here’s where one of my favorite parts of baseball comes into play, however. Both of these teams made the playoffs. Not only that, but the Guardians survived longer than the Mets who lost to the Padres (2022 payroll of $184.5 million) in the Wild Card round. Cleveland was eliminated in the next round by the Yankees ($249 million payroll) but it just goes to show that spending more money doesn’t always produce a winning team.

Now, while spending money guarantees nothing for your team, spending little to no money does guarantee you something as a team. Concern from your fans.

As I talked about in my previous article, every team in MLB is largely profitable on a year-to-year basis. There is only one current team that Forbes had sitting below $1 billion dollars in value, that being the Miami Marlins which was valued at $990 million.

The fact that so many of these low-ranking teams (based on payroll) could still afford to spend more makes little sense to me. Oftentimes, owners will excuse their spending habits by saying that they are in a small-market and players are going to chase the larger sums of money elsewhere. But if you look at how much the team could be spending on players to improve the team, that statement doesn’t make a lot of sense.

I just cannot see a reason as to why the owner of a team would intentionally not spend money towards improving their team if they are underperforming. Of course, there are situations where it makes sense not to spend money, such as when a team is undergoing a rebuild.

A rebuild is just what it sounds like. More than likely, the team has struggled for a few years and has built up a good farm system of prospects. So, the team will save money for when the prospects make it to the majors and perform well, and then be signed to long term contracts.

But what happens when the team isn’t in a rebuild or has been in a rebuild for years with nothing to show for it? The Oakland Athletics and Cincinnati Reds come to mind when you think of this. Both teams are toward the bottom of the list in team value and yearly payroll and have been stuck there for years.

These teams both have histories of trading away very talented homegrown players for aging veterans. Or they will let players walk in free agency after a year of great numbers because they don’t think they can afford what the player is asking.

The A’s traded away Josh Donaldson just a few seasons before he won the MVP with the Toronto Blue Jays. The A’s more recently traded their talented corner infielders, Matt Olson and Matt Chapman, with little to show in return. The Reds refused to reach out to their star outfielder Nick Castellanos with an offer after he declined his option. They let now infamous Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer go to the Dodgers after winning his award.

The owners of these teams will just continue along the paths that they are currently on unless something is done to prevent it.

This is something very similar to “tanking” in the NFL or the NBA, but with a twist. See, in those leagues, teams will tank to improve their chances of securing better players in the next season’s draft. But with those leagues, the pipeline from the draft to the league is often a lot quicker than in MLB.

Players typically spend 2 or 3 years in the minor leagues working and honing their craft so they can perform at the major league level. There is a lower correlation between a player’s pre-draft numbers and how they actually perform. That is why I see the owners’ action as nothing more than padding their own pockets with the revenue the team brings in.

If they don’t have to spend their money to get large returns on it, and if they have little to no interest in winning, then why wouldn’t they? Until the league is able to force team owners to place a certain portion of their teams’ value and revenue back into it, I’m not sure what is going to change for the teams and fans of the teams who are going through this process.

It is really difficult to continue rooting for your favorite team every year when you have little hope for them and their future. But, as a famed Cincinnati Reds owner Bob Castellini once said, “Well, where are you gonna go?”


Which non-playoff NFL Teams Can Turn it Around, and When? 

Green Bay Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers leaves Lambeau after last loss of the season.

By Kalen Lumpkins

Kalen is a fourth year BGSU student from Toledo, Ohio. He is a sports management major with a minor in journalism. His primary sport interests include football and tennis, but he also has an interest in a wide variety in other sports, from baseball to hockey. His dream job outside of college is to be a sportswriter for an organization like ESPN or Sports Illustrated.

January 21, 2023

The NFL playoffs are upon us! They kicked off on Saturday, January 14th for ‘Super Wild Card’ weekend, and a trip to the Super Bowl has never been more uncertain. 

What is certain, however, is that not everyone will have the opportunity to reach the Super Bowl. 

As the dust settled in the last regular season games, the offseason for teams that missed the postseason began. Some teams ended the year with genuine optimism for the next season, while others ended with major concerns about the future. 

Here is where each of these 18 teams stands: 

COMING FOR THE CROWN

New York Jets 

Jets’ fans had to deal with plenty in their rollercoaster season. New York, led by Zach Wilson at the time, raced out to a 6-3 start, which included home wins against the Bills and Dolphins. 

All good, right? 

Well, yes, until Breece Hall tore his ACL in Denver. When he went down, the offensive flaws that the prolific rookie covered up were revealed, and they were ugly. After a 10-3 loss to the Pats, Jets’ coach Robert Saleh benched Wilson in favor of Mike White. Unfortunately, the points were still absent. The Jets would go without a TD in their last three games and end the season on a six-game losing streak. 

A disappointing end to a promising season, sure, but the Jets’ campaign proved that they are truly just a QB away from being contenders. With the potential offensive AND defensive rookie of the year on the same team, and the pending return of Breece Hall, New York has a plethora of weapons that will keep the QB of this team in a good position. Who that QB will be is the looming question this offseason, but if they get that question right, the Jets will be the last team you want to see on your favorite team’s schedule. 

Detroit Lions 

It is all coming together for Dan Campbell’s team. The start of the season was rough, as the Lions would lose 6 of their first 7 while allowing 31.7 (!!!) PPG. In the next ten games, however, Detroit went 8-2, allowing 20.2 PPG across that stretch while ending the year with the 5th highest-scoring offense. If the Lions did not take a stumble at Carolina, we would have seen Detroit in the playoffs, and they would have arguably been the best wild card team in the field. 

Despite the postseason miss, they jumped over plenty of hurdles like sweeping Green Bay and finishing with a +.500 record, among many others. There is also no need to look for another quarterback as Jared Goff has been ‘lights out.’ 

While this offense is fully capable of outscoring opponents in a shootout, the Lions should focus on their secondary to fully boost their Aidan Hutchinson-led defense. The fans can feel the atmosphere changing for their team, and Detroit is a quality 2023 draft away from being contenders. 

ALMOST THERE

Pittsburgh Steelers 

Just like last season, there was no reason that Pittsburgh should have been over .500 this season, but here we are. The Steelers started 2-6 in their first eight games and finished 7-2 in the final nine. Mike Tomlin and company found ways to win this year and the coach has yet to have a losing season in his 16-year tenure. 

Also, like last season, however, was the presence of the Steelers’ offense, or lack thereof. In Ben Roethlisberger’s last season, the Steelers scored 20.1 PPG. Replacing him with Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett has resulted in an offense that scored 18.1 points a game. It was hard to watch at times when the Steelers had possessions, but Pickett has shown massive improvement to close out the season. Along with Pickett, George Pickens has shown that the Pickett-Pickens connections will be a big part of Pittsburgh’s playbook. 

There is still work that needs to be done on both sides of the ball, but the Steelers are potentially a good draft or two away from returning to the franchise’s winning ways.  

Washington Commanders 

The Commanders sat in the last wild card spot for most of the final part of the season, and it seemed like their spot to lose. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened in Week 16.

If there is one thing that this season told the Washington organization, it is that the franchise QB may not be on their roster currently. Sam Howell showed out in the season finale, but that is a very small sample to go on when you are deciding who to hand the keys of the offense. 

At the same time, though, this may be their best option next season. The defense ranks in the top 10 of many categories while the offense has playmakers like Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson, so Howell will not be thrown to the wolves. The plan in D.C. should be to see if Howell progresses throughout the next season. If he does, great! If not, the 2024 QB class is expected to be stacked with talent. 

Things may look a little grim for the Commanders right now, but there are options in the future.  Choosing the right one will determine whether Washington competes soon or goes into a full rebuild. 

New England Patriots

We need to tell the situation here how it is. Mac Jones needs help. He has put the Pats in positions to win, especially in divisional play, but the receiving core has let him down countless times. 

Yes, Tom Brady was able to go 12-4 in his last year with New England with arguably less, but the Pats still seem to have a hard time realizing that TB12 is not under center anymore. 

Now, let it not be mistaken, the Pats do not have a bad receiver room, they just need an elite weapon. That could potentially be Jordan Addison in the draft, or someone in a trade (Deandre Hopkins?). Whoever it is, that elite receiver will free up the playbook and allow Mac Jones to be stellar. 

50-50

Los Angeles Rams  

Long story short, it was not supposed to go this way. The defending champs started at a decent 3-3 record, but it was pretty evident that this team was not the same as last year’s championship team. Add in Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp’s injuries, and the Rams would finish the season 5-12. 

The Rams still have the pieces that won them a championship, but can they be healthy long enough? Age is starting to play a factor in the roster as well, as retirement rumors have swirled around names like Stafford and Aaron Donald. 

Even if everyone comes back, will they be able to compete at the same level? We have seen how good and how bad this team can be, and it will be interesting to see which team shows up come the 2023-24 season. 

Green Bay Packers 

The Cheeseheads are in the 50-50 category for now because how next season will go depends entirely on Aaron Rodgers. Losing a receiver like Davante Adams would be a blow to any quarterback, even if you are the great Packers’ QB. The remaining receiving core dropped many passes and was not on the same page as #12 to start the year. 

Then came the emergence of Christian Watson, which helped Green Bay go on a four-game win streak to set up a win-and-in game at Lambeau Field. 

Instead of making the playoffs, though, the Detroit Lions would give the Packers a hard slap back to reality. This was just the second time the Lions swept the Pack since 1991, and the season finale was a true testament to where the teams currently stand. 

Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson have shown that they can be legit wideouts, but last year’s draftees could be too little too late to keep #12. If he stays, Green Bay can contend. If he leaves, it could be tough sledding for a few years in Wisconsin.

Cleveland Browns

Yes, the offense did not click in Deshaun Watson’s six games played this season. However, the Browns are in the 50-50 category because a full offseason with the team could build chemistry and help the former Texan to get back to his prime play. Cleveland has all the weapons, including some they do not fully utilize (Nick Chubb, cough, cough) to help with this task. 

However, when you hand someone $230 million guaranteed, you expect results immediately. The AFC North is not going to wait around either, as the Bengals, Ravens, and Steelers are all looking to be legit contenders for the division crown. 

The story in Cleveland next year will be Watson’s progression, and if there is not any, the Browns will have to fix what could be the biggest mistake in the team’s history. 

Tennessee Titans 

The injury bug hit the Titans the hardest this season, but they were still able to fight until the final game of the season for the division crown. This is just a further example that Mike Vrabel continues to find ways to win. 

Of course, Ryan Tannehill should be back next season, but will that make a difference? The Titans’ seven-game losing streak showed that this team has needs in more areas than expected. The Tennessee defense allowed 274.8 passing yards per game, the worst in the league. The Tennessee offense passed for only 171.4 YPG, 31st in the league, and the offense scored 20+ points just six times in the year.

Again, Coach Vrabel does a great job adjusting, but there is only so much he can do. With the Jaguars gaining momentum into next season, it is make or break for the Titans in 2023-24. 

Denver Broncos 

What seemed like a match made in heaven when Russell Wilson signed with the Broncos quickly turned into a nightmare. 

This offense should have been lights out, but instead, they ended up as the lowest-scoring unit in the league. Wilson lacked chemistry with his receivers, but the coaching decisions also played a part in this. Nathaniel Hackett put the Broncos in poor situations during games all year and constantly made questionable decisions.

Management made the right choice in parting ways with Hackett, and a new coach is exactly what this team needs. The next person in line should have an offensive mindset to help Wilson strive and find use in all the weapons he has. There are plenty of options, like Sean Payton or Eric Bieniemy, that should be able to accomplish this feat, and the correct hire will change the atmosphere in Denver. 

PATIENCE, FANS

Carolina Panthers 

The fact that the Panthers were positioned to win the division in Week 17 shows that this team can compete… within the NFC South. The division was a slugfest all season long, and the division winner, the Buccaneers, only managed to win eight games. 

The Christian McCaffrey trade turned out to not be the rebuild call that we expected it to be thanks to D’Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard, but it did show the problems that McCaffrey’s play was able to cover.

Carolina started three quarterbacks this year, and none of them was able to spark the offense. DJ Moore tried his best to help the QBs out, but he cannot do it himself. 

The defense, however, has shown that they can be a legit unit. The play of Jaycee Horn and Brian Burns helped the Panthers stay in most of their games. 

This will be an intriguing unit for whoever takes over as the Panthers’ head coach, but they should be prepared to take a few seasons to rebuild the offensive side of the ball. 

Indianapolis Colts 

If the Colts’ historic collapse against the Vikings told us anything, it is that the veteran QB angle is not working. Philip Rivers had a good run, but the Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan eras have fallen flat. Ranking in the bottom half of the league in most offensive stats, Indy is in desperate need of a new face of the franchise. 

Luckily for them, there should be a quality QB prospect when to Colts come on the clock in April’s draft. The team is young, so a rookie QB to build with the rest of the squad should pay dividends later. 

Let us not sugarcoat it, though, this team needs improvement everywhere. Opposing receivers had career games against this defense, while the offense could not respond to opposing teams’ runs if their lives depended on it. 

This team is a good 3+ good drafts away from relevancy but drafting a QB with the fourth pick this year will be a good start for a rebuild.

Atlanta Falcons 

Marcus Mariota was the guy for the Falcons to start, but Desmond Ridder is the better choice going forward. 

The Falcons were helpless through the air, but they ranked 3rd in the league in rushing yards per game. That does help take some burden off your QB, but it is not a good recipe when you are trying to contend for the playoffs. 

The same goes for the defense that allowed 370.8 YPG and 22.7 PPG.

Ridder should be the future and building around him should be the team’s focus for the next few seasons. 

Chicago Bears 

There are rumors that the Bears may trade their top pick instead of being on the clock first. Neither would be a bad idea, but Chicago may be on the top of the draft board this time next year if the defense is not addressed. The biggest problem is that the Bears’ defensive line failed to pressure the opposing quarterback or stop the run.

Ironically, the Bears ranked last in rushing defense and first in rushing offense. The offense is thanks to Justin Fields, but he is still learning to be a consistent passer. The receiving core is not giving him much help, so there might be a few drafts before the Bears are back. 

Chicago fans, though, should be excited about Fields’ play and should look forward to his next steps. 

New Orleans Saints 

The Saints find themselves in the weirdest spot out of the other non-playoff teams. They have a road win over the #1 seed in the NFC, the Eagles, but also a loss to the 4-13 Cardinals. 

That alone should show the ceiling and the floor of New Orleans right now. 

There is a large question mark at the quarterback position, and some offensive weapons, like Alvin Kamara and Juwan Johnson, have not been able to consistently produce under Dennis Allen’s system. 

One thing that has stayed true is the Marshon Lattimore-led secondary, which only allowed 184 passing yards per game. 

Maybe a quarterback in the upcoming draft will fix the Saints (C.J. Stroud x Chris Olave reunion?), but we will not know the state of NOLA until the draft concludes. 

UH OH….

Las Vegas Raiders 

In a hectic season that saw Las Vegas blow leads, play down to inferior competition, and lose playoff-potential games among other circumstances, one thing remains. 

Raiders’ fans are fed up. 

How does a team have the rushing yards leader, a receiver with 1500+ yards with 14 TDs, AND a defensive end with 12.5 sacks on the year finish 6-11? 

The Raiders organization would point the finger at Derek Carr, hence why he was benched the last two games of the year with the full intention of moving on from the veteran. This move, though, could lead to detrimental consequences for the team. 

Davante Adams stated that Carr was the reason he went to Vegas in free agency, while Josh Jacobs has stated multiple times that he is tired of how the team is run. 

Those are just two of the huge question marks right there, along with some others. Who will be Carr’s replacement? Are the Raiders going to lose their star WR and RB all in the same off-season? How will they be able to afford to have them stay? Will the defense ever be fixed? 

As usual, there are more questions than answers when it comes to the Raiders. If Jacobs, Adams, and Carr all leave, though, the 2023-24 Raiders could be an ugly sight to see.  

Houston Texans 

For a 3-13-1 team, the Texans found themselves tough to beat this season. That is a great sign for a rebuilding team, but Houston still has a long way to go. 

The Texans have the #2 pick in the draft (due to a heavily criticized win over the Colts to close the year) and they will probably use that on a quarterback. Houston needs work almost everywhere, however, and fans should be prepared for a 3+ year process. There were promising signs, though, like the play of rookie RB Dameon Pierce and rookie CB Derek Stingley Jr. 

The most important action the Texans’ front office can take is to be patient with the next coach. The situation here is not ideal and changing head coaches every year is going to keep them at the starting line. Whoever gets the keys to the team next must also be fully willing to coach through slow progress. 

If Houston finds that coach, it will be exciting to see the rookies of this team grow into NFL stars. 

Arizona Cardinals 

Watching Arizona fall into the position they are in now has been disappointing, to say the least. Just last season, the Cardinals were off to a 7-0 start and had plans to win a Super Bowl. Ever since that start, Arizona has gone 8-19. 

This run has resulted in Arizona parting ways with Kliff Kingsbury, and the Cardinals suddenly find themselves in a hole. The health of Kyler Murray also comes into question as the former Heisman winner recovers from an ACL tear. Deandre Hopkins coming back to Arizona is not a lock either, so the Cardinals could be coming into next year with even fewer weapons than what they had last year. 

The Cardinals are slated to pick 3rd in the upcoming draft, and whoever they choose will be coming into a mess. Fans will continue to look at that 7-0 start and wonder what could have been because it is going to be a while before the Cards get to that point again. 

2023 NFL Divisional Round Predictions

By Sam Morris

Sam Morris is from Madison Heights, Michigan, and is an undergraduate student at BGSU majoring in Sports Management. He has a passion for sports writing and journalism. In his free time, he volunteers in the strategic communications department at BGSU at various sporting events and he also performs, writes, and produces his own raps for the music industry club at BGSU.

January 20th, 2023

Divisional Round Overview

The wild card round is over, and what a crazy one it was! The round included the third-largest comeback in NFL postseason history and three backup quarterbacks starting playoff games. Now, there are only 8 teams left in what has been a very interesting season. Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and the defending Super Bowl Champions are all out of contention, leaving the Chiefs, 3 teams from last season’s worst division (the NFC East), a team led by the 2022 ‘Mr. Irrelevant,’ a team that had the worst record in the NFL last season, and two teams who played each other just over 2 weeks ago in one of the scariest games in NFL history. The schedule has been set for the divisional round and just like last week, below I attempt to predict the outcomes of each of the 4 games. Speaking of last week, I went a perfect 6-0 in predictions, and will attempt to carry that undefeated streak into the divisional round.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (14-3)  VS. 4. Jacksonville Jaguars (10-8)  (Saturday, January 21st, 4:30)

Breakdown: The opening divisional round playoff game between the Chiefs and Jaguars should be an exciting way to kick off this weekend of football. The Jaguars beat the Chargers 31-30 in last week’s wild card matchup after coming back from being down 27-0 at halftime. I picked the Jaguars last week and was amazed to see them pull off the comeback after Trevor Lawrence played horribly in the first half by throwing 4 interceptions. As I predicted, the Chargers’ rushing defense imploded last week against the Jaguars offense, but their secondary played so well that they ended up leading for the majority of the game. The Jaguars are dangerous in this game because they are playing with nothing to lose as barely anyone expected them to make it to the playoffs, let alone to the final 8.

However, The top-seeded Chiefs will be a different team than the Chargers as they play with a lot more poise and are much more experienced in the playoffs. Mahomes, despite being just 27 years old, is the oldest and most experienced quarterback left in the AFC and his top-tier talent combined with the rest of their offensive skill players should be a problem for the surging Jaguars. Kelce has statistically been the best receiving tight end in the league this season and the WR core of JuJu Smith-Schuster, MVS (Marquez Valdes-Scantling), Mecole Hardman, and Kadarius Toney has also been one of the best in the league because they can catch deep ball passes and run clean routes. The running back duo of 7th round rookie Isiah Pacheco and Jerick McKinnon is also a dangerous part of the Chiefs offense because their speed, power running ability, and ability to pass catch all complement the receiving offense very well. Because the Chiefs’ offense is so much more experienced and talented than the Chargers, it makes sense that the Jaguars defense won’t be able to stop them since they could only hold the Chargers to 27 points in the first half; because of this, I think the Chiefs will win this game.

Prediction:  Chiefs (34)   Jaguars (24)

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (14-3) VS. 6. New York Giants (10-7-1) (Saturday, January 21st, 8:15)

Breakdown: This Saturday Night game featuring two NFC East rivals will feature two young quarterbacks in Jalen Hurts (one of the most improved and valuable players in the NFC) and Daniel Jones. While Hurts is coming off a much-deserved bye week to rest his injured right shoulder, Jones is coming off an impressive win against the Vikings where he threw for 301 passing yards, had a 68.6% completion percentage, 2 touchdowns, no interceptions, and 78 rushing yards. The Giants victory was the one upset I picked last week, and it proved to be the poor defense of the Vikings that was Minnesota’s downfall. However, against any defense, Saquon Barkley’s performance and Daniel Jones’ performance last week would have been very effective.

Philadelphia’s defense is much better than the Vikings as they led the league in sacks this year. In fact, they had 70 sacks as a defense which was 15 more than the Chiefs, who had the second most, and a whopping 26 more than the number one overall defense, the 49’ers. This will be an obvious problem for the Giants as their relatively weak wide receiver core of Slayton, Hodgins, and James will now have less time to get open for Daniel Jones. However, this could actually be a blessing in disguise for New York as their top 5 rushing offense goes up against the Eagles who blitz so heavily to get sacks that they often leave gaping holes in their secondary and linebacker levels of the defense. Therefore, the Eagles’ rushing defense is ranked 17th in yards per game. The ability to get big gains on the ground with Saquon coupled with the fact that the Eagles don’t overcompensate their blitz packages with secondary help make it so that Barkley has a big day with one or more huge gains down the field. In the regular season, the Eagles trounced the Giants 48-22 in their first matchup but only won 22-16 when they faced them in week 18.

This second matchup concerns me for the Eagles as they played Jalen Hurts and he did not perform well, really for the first time all season, as he threw for 1 interception and had no touchdowns. On the other hand, the Giants rested most of their starters in week 18 as they had already clinched the 6 seed. This meant that backup Davis Webb would play in his first career NFL game, despite it being his 6th season in the league, and he posted a better overall stat line than Hurts, throwing for a touchdown, and having zero turnovers. I think this will be the closest game of the weekend, but for the reasons I have presented I think the Giants once again pull off the upset and Barkley and Jones will have huge games.

Prediction: Eagles (24)   Giants (27)

2. Buffalo Bills (14-3) VS. 3. Cincinnati Bengals (13-4)  (Sunday, January 22nd, 3:00)

Breakdown: This, in my opinion, is the most intriguing game this weekend for a few reasons. First, this is a rematch of the game when Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest and was carted off the field. That game eventually got cancelled, and now that these two teams face each other again there will be much more at stake in terms of how they end their seasons. Because of the Damar Hamlin injury the Bills will be very motivated in this game. Secondly, these two teams have the best combined record out of all the games that are happening this weekend at 27-7. The Bills were many people’s Super Bowl favorites in the preseason after how last season ended so abruptly to the Chiefs in the divisional round. This pick made sense as Josh Allen is incredibly talented and the Bills offense and secondary is loaded with stars such as Stefon Diggs, Tre’Davious White, and Jordan Poyer. As the season has progressed, Allen has improved but the Bills themselves have had to rely on him too much as their defense has struggled in recent weeks, especially last week against Skylar Thompson and the Miami Dolphins. As well as the Dolphins started this season, they have imploded over the last half of the season and the fact that the Bills’ defense could only beat the Dolphins by 3 when the Dolphins had a third string quarterback playing is very concerning. Allen also struggled last week himself as he threw 2 interceptions. Overall, the immense pressure on Allen and Diggs could prove to be a lot for this team to overcome.

As for the Bengals, their defense played very well against the Ravens, holding them to just 17 points and forcing a fumble recovery for a touchdown as well as an interception. What this game will really come down to is the matchup between the Bengals receiving core and the Bills’ secondary, as a great performance by one of these units could prove vital in the game’s outcome. I believe that the Bengals’ receiving core and Joe Burrow will be able to overcome the Bills’ home field advantage and that Josh Allen’s relatively recent struggles won’t get better against a much better overall defense in Cincinnati compared to Miami. While this game will be close, I predict the Bengals will get a hard-fought win.   

Prediction: Bills (28)   Bengals (34)

2. San Francisco 49’ers (14-4) VS. 6. Dallas Cowboys (13-5)   (Sunday, January 22nd, 6:00)

Breakdown: The Sunday Night Football Matchup features a rematch of last season’s wild card game between the Niners and Cowboys. Although I predicted the Cowboys game correctly last week against the Bucs, I stated that I thought it would be the closest game of the weekend because of Dallas’ inconsistent defense. However, this was not the case as Dallas crushed Tampa Bay and sent Tom Brady packing. Dallas was one of the more impressive teams last week as Prescott played about as well as he has all season, and the Parsons-led defense got heavy pressure against Tampa Bay. Dallas will attempt to get revenge against San Francisco as last season the Niners eliminated Dallas in the infamous game that ended with Dak Prescott running the ball for a 20-yard gain despite the Cowboys only having 14 seconds on the clock and no timeouts left. This led to Dallas not being able to snap the ball in time before the play clock expired. This season, Tony Pollard has emerged as a true number one running back and their dominance against Tampa should be concerning for the Niners.  

However, despite Dallas’ great performance last week, it was against a team with a losing record. The Niners will be a much tougher test and if they play like they did in the final quarter against the Seahawks, it will be very tough for Dallas to win. Ultimately, I think San Francisco’s multitude of skill players on offense and amazing defense will be too much for Dak Prescott to handle and the Niners will move on to the NFC Championship game against the Giants for the second straight year.   

Prediction: 49’ers (30)   Cowboys (22)


Robots in the Major Leagues?

Former Oakland manager Bob Melvin argues with Angel Hernandez in a 2021 game

By Ryan Harless

Ryan Harless is a third-year undergraduate at BGSU from Hillsboro, Ohio. He is majoring in Sport Management with a Journalism Minor. Baseball and golf at all levels are his primary interests but he is also interested in combat sports, hockey, basketball, and football.

January 20, 2023

If you are a baseball fan and have been paying attention to things happening in the league, you might be aware of the umpire problem. Umpires have been a part of the game since its inception. They are the enforcers of rules and, although they are human, they are ideally going to be impartial. But at the end of the day, they are in charge of the game and usually, what they say is final.

Recently Major League Baseball (MLB) has started to allow teams to “challenge” out calls on the bases as well as other fielding calls. When this happens, the umpires gather and listen to a crew in New York City break the play down and tell them what the correct call is. It works very similarly to American Football’s challenge rule.

The main instance where the shortcomings of umpires is the most prevalent, however, is with balls and strike calls. Teams are unable to challenge these calls meaning that even in crucial moments, the umpire can dictate that phase of the game.

While MLB has done many things to make the game more appealing to fans, they have also tried to make the game faster. They have already begun using a pitch clock to prevent unnecessary time between pitches in the minor leagues, with the possibility of major leagues usage this coming season.

One of the most divisive of these ideas is the implementation of “Robo” umpires. This would mean that a program reads where the pitch was located when it crossed the plate and spit out its ruling on every pitch.

The use of “Robo” umpires would change a lot of things we know about the game of baseball. While I like that it will likely ensure a definitive strike zone for every game going forward, I cannot help but feel badly for catchers. For their entire careers they have been taught how to receive pitches to give the umpire the best look as well as giving their pitcher the best chance to get a strike. “Catchers would really be required only to block balls in the dirt and throw,” ESPN’s Buster Olney said of the changes.

This would not change anything outside of balls and strikes as there would still be field umpires in charge of making calls at each base, but it would still be a massive change to the game.

Using “robo” umpires has proven to be divisive in baseball. Some personalities are in favor of the idea while others say they would prefer the human element to remain in the game. In mid-2022, Chicago Cubs catcher Yan Gomes said, when asked about the robot strike zone, “The best thing in baseball, and professional sports in general, is the human element of things.”

Jared Sandberg, manager of the El Paso Chihuahuas, said of the change, “I know there’s been some times where there’s been some frustrating calls, a ball clipped the zone or clipped the corner, or is off the plate and clips the line. So there has been some frustration, but it has brought some consistency to the game.”

For me personally, I was apprehensive of the idea of taking human umpires out of the equation. I agree with Gomes on the human element of the game. But the more I have watched and really paid attention to the game, I feel like umpires are able to let their ego take over the things that are happening on the field. Even though the umpire has the final say, there has always been an understanding that players and managers can confront umpires within reason when it comes to calls.

Sometimes, toward the end of games where umpires have been especially inconsistent, players’ tempers boil over when something small doesn’t go their way and they often get ejected from the game. I like that this way there will be a definite call on every ball and strike and there will be no major inconsistencies. On a large scale, I rarely agree with Commissioner Rob Manfred’s ideas on improving the game, but I think that robo-strike zones will be something we grow to appreciate… even if it takes a little while to get used to it.

National Football League Injuries and Damar Hamlin

Caption: Bills fans sign a poster in support of Demar Hamlin’s recovery.

By Ryan Harless

Ryan Harless is a third-year undergraduate at BGSU from Hillsboro, Ohio. He is majoring in Sport Management with a Journalism Minor. Baseball and golf at all levels are his primary interests but he is also interested in combat sports, hockey, basketball, and football.

January 17, 2023

Over recent years, we have watched the National Football League come under scrutiny due to their responses to severe injuries that happen to players. Just this season alone we have seen frightening injuries on live TV. We know football is a potentially dangerous sport for participants and that players are risking their lives when they step on the field. But no one was prepared for what we saw when the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals faced off in the next-to-last regular season game.

On January 2nd of this year, Bills’ safety Demar Hamlin tackled Tee Higgins of the Cincinnati Bengals. Hamlin got up after the tackle, then stiffened and fell backwards. This caused widespread panic not only to the viewers at home and in the stadium but also to the players on the field. Bengals’ running back Joe Mixon immediately started waving for medical personnel after Hamlin collapsed while many of the other players looked on in horror and shock. CPR was performed on Hamlin while he was still on the field which led many to fear the worst.

Hamlin was unresponsive as he was carted off the field and transported to a hospital in Cincinnati. Looking at the hit, we realized that this was not the same sort of injury we are accustomed to seeing as there was no major impact to Hamlin’s head. Rather, the injury was to his heart as he suffered cardiac arrest on the field. At the time, we were unaware of what precisely his injury was.  

After many uncomfortable minutes for fans in the stadium and fans watching at home, it was announced that the game would be suspended. Coaches for both teams agreed that the game should not resume. The NFL agreed with the coaches and suspended the game around 10 p.m.

This decision proved to be divisive among sports writers and fans alike. Some agreed with the decision of the league to not continue play as no one (outside of medical personnel) was aware of the severity of Hamlin’s injury. Some, such as Skip Bayless, tweeted a question of how the NFL would be able to postpone such an important game with post-season implications.

Of course, Bayless was hit with a wave of negative backlash to the extent that his “Skip & Shannon” co-host protested by not showing up for their show the next day. After a day of Skip hosting by himself, Shannon was back on the show and they discussed the Tweet in question.

The silver lining of the Hamlin situation is that he has since been released from a hospital in Buffalo following his transfer from UC Medical Center and was reportedly up and cheering on his team from the former hospital. He was even on a phone call with his team before their game the following week. Hamlin’s playing days are still a point of uncertainly, however.

This instance goes to show that neither the NFL nor fans know what the proper response to injuries should be. The NFL seems to do everything they can to have games move forward. But I think there are times where situations arise that are infinitely bigger than the game. There have been many strides in the past few years towards making the game safer. Things like advanced helmets made to help reduce impact on shots to the head, and just knowing more about concussions as a whole. But it seems clear to me that the NFL is not going to be the one to step in and make a change. I just worry that if things do not improve soon, there might be an even more severe on field injury that changes the current course of action for dealing with injuries.

2023 NFL Wild Card Round Predictions

By Sam Morris

Sam Morris is from Madison Heights, Michigan, and is an undergraduate student at BGSU majoring in Sport Management. He has a passion for sports writing and journalism. In his free time, he volunteers in the strategic communications department at BGSU at various sporting events and he also performs, writes, and produces his own raps for the music industry club at BGSU.

January 14th, 2023

Playoff Overview

As a result of the Damar Hamlin situation that occurred on January 2nd, the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals have each played one fewer game than the rest of the teams in the playoffs. Because of this, the NFL decided that if the Bills and Chiefs make the AFC Championship game, the game will be held at the neutral site of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the Atlanta Falcons. Even with this scheduling change, the complete playoff field seeding is set with 6 games that are rematches of previous games in the regular season. Below are my predictions for each of the games being played this weekend. Next week, I will be posting a playoff prediction for the divisional round as well as responding to my predictions from this week and breaking down why I might have gotten certain predictions right or wrong.

  • 1 seeds, Kansas City Chiefs (AFC)and Philadelphia Eagles (NFC) both have byes in the wild card playoff round

2. San Francisco 49’ers (13-4) VS. 7. Seattle Seahawks (9-8)  (Saturday, January 14th, 4:30)

Breakdown: The opening playoff game features two teams that have taken very different routes to get to the playoffs. The 49’ers started the season 3-4, while the Seahawks started 6-3. The 49’ers have since lost starting quarterback Trey Lance to a season-ending injury and Jimmy Garoppolo to an injury that appears to have cost him the season. They have landed on third-string option Brock Purdy and he has performed exceptionally well, going 6-0 as the primary quarterback for the Niners this year. In total, the Niners have won 10 straight games to end their season and are currently the hottest team in the NFL.

The Seahawks on the other hand have gone just 3-5 since the last time they were leading the West and have barely sneaked into the playoffs because of an overtime victory against the injury-riddled Rams and help from the Lions who beat Green Bay in week 18. Despite Geno Smith’s success story and revenge tour this year, I think the firepower of McCaffery, Kittle, Samuel, Aiyuk, and the number 1 ranked defense in the NFL, will be too much for Smith and Metcalf to handle on their own.

Prediction:  (W) 49’ers: (34)    Seahawks: (14)

4. Jacksonville Jaguars (9-8) VS. 5. LA Chargers (10-7) (Saturday, January 14th, 8:15)

Breakdown: This AFC matchup features two young quarterbacks on the rise in the NFL in Jacksonville’s second-year man, Trevor Lawrence, and LA’s Justin Herbert. The Jaguars are coming off back-to-back seasons of having the worst record in the entire NFL. Because of this, they have added two number one picks to their roster in the last two drafts in Lawrence and linebacker Trayvon Walker. Despite this young talent, their season looked rough early on, going 4-8 in their first 12 games. However, one of these 4 wins was a 38-10 blowout against the Chargers. After this stretch, a 5-game winning streak was fueled by their improving defense and the ability of skill players Christian Kirk and Travis Etienne to make significant plays down the stretch of games. This streak coupled with an absolute collapse by the Tennessee Titans made the Jags only the 4th team in the Super Bowl era to go from having the worst record in the league to winning their division the following season. The Jaguars have been so bad in recent years, clinical psychologist Dr. Justin D’Arienzo said in the beginning of the season fans began seeking therapy for their severe disappointment in their team

I am predicting that Jaguars fans will not have to go back to this disappointment for at least another week as I think they will beat the Chargers at home. Despite Justin Herbert having a career year this season, the Chargers have had an absurd number of injuries this season effecting star players like wide receivers Mike Williams and Keenan Allen as well as defensive end Joey Bosa and left tackle Rashawn Slater. While Allen and Bosa are back, Williams’ absence severely effects the passing game and Slater’s absence has consequently caused increasing pressure on Herbert when he is in the pocket. While the Jags’ offense isn’t as potent as others in the playoffs, the biggest reason I think the Chargers will lose is that their run defense has been awful this season ranking 28th in rushing yards allowed. This will allow Etienne and Lawrence to establish a run game and make their passing attack even more effective as the Chargers will be focused on stopping the run.

Prediction: (W) Jaguars (24)   Chargers (17)

2. Buffalo Bills (13-3) VS. 7. Miami Dolphins (9-8)  (Sunday, January 15th, 1:00)

Breakdown: Like the NFC 2 VS 7 matchup, this is a divisional rivalry game that has happened twice before. Unlike the Seahawks-49’ers where the Niners have blown out the Seahawks twice, both Buffalo-Miami games have been extremely close with the Bills losing the first matchup by 2 and winning the more recent matchup by 3. After Bills’ safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest on a tackle of Bengals’ receiver Tee Higgins in week 16, the Bills’ organization has seen enormous support from other teams in the NFL to help them get through that tragic experience. The game was cancelled, and the Bills slipped to the 2 seed. It looks as if the Bills have been motivated to play for Damar the rest of the season and this motivation showed with Nyhiem Hines getting a 96 yard kickoff return to start off week 18 vs the Patriots. This motivation combined with the Bills’ solid defense and Josh Allen should be more than enough to beat the Dolphins.

Unfortunately for the Dolphins, Tua is yet again injured with a concussion and won’t play causing Skylar Thompson to start. I have previously written an article on how the Dolphins have mishandled Tua’s injuries earlier in the season and how this could come back to haunt them come playoff time. No offense to Thompson, but he is definitely not the answer as he has thrown for one touchdown all season while throwing three interceptions.

Prediction: (W) Bills (27)    Dolphins (10)

3. Minnesota Vikings (13-4) VS. 6. New York Giants (9-7-1)   (Sunday, January 15th, 4:30)

Breakdown: The Minnesota Vikings have been very impressive in their ability to win one-score games this season as they are 11-1 in such contests. Their offense is statistically comparable to the Cowboys, Eagles, and 49ers in the NFC with star receiver Justin Jefferson and Kirk Cousins having one of the best seasons in their careers. However, what is not at all impressive is their defense. The Vikings definitely have the worst defense out of all playoff teams as they rank 20th in rushing yards allowed, 24th in rushing touchdowns allowed, 31st in passing yards allowed, and dead last in number of 1st downs allowed. This has led to the Vikings either winning close shootout games or getting destroyed. For example: they lost 40-3 against the Cowboys, 41-17 against the Packers, and needed the largest comeback in NFL history to beat the Colts who didn’t even have star running back Jonathon Taylor.

The Giants on the other hand, despite only ranking 27th in passing yards and 25th in passing touchdowns, rank 4th in the NFL in total rushing yards 4th in the NFL in total rushing touchdowns. Saquon Barkley and this rushing attack should feast on the Vikings’ defense in what will likely be a high scoring game because of the Vikings’ pass attack. While each team has their own strengths and weaknesses, I am predicting that the Giants win this game, ironically within one score in a slight upset because of how favorable Barkley will be against the Vikings’ rush defense.

Prediction: Vikings (34)   Giants (37)

3. Cincinnati Bengals (12-4) VS. 6. Baltimore Ravens (10-7)   (Sunday, January 15th, 8:15)

Breakdown: The third and final divisional rivalry of the wild card round features the Ravens and Bengals. These teams have split the season series causing the Bengals to have the slight edge in the AFC North. Despite the 0-2 start, the Bengals have proven that last season was not a fluke by any measure. Joe Burrow has somehow managed to improve from his career year last year while JaMarr Chase has continued to be an excellent number 1 receiver. Tee Higgins has also improved this season and has given the Bengals a good second option to Chase. The Bengals are 4-2 against playoff teams this season including a narrow win against the number one seeded Chiefs.

The Ravens on the other hand have had an interesting season to say the least as they have led the AFC North for the majority of the year but are 2-5 against playoff teams this season and have had issues on their offensive line. The Ravens still have one of the best defenses in the AFC but their issue is with Lamar Jackson. It now seems highly doubtful Jackson will play as his knee is still unstable leaving it up to Tyler Huntley who is also dealing with an injury himself. Even if Huntley can play I think there is only a slim chance the Ravens’ defense can lead them to a win. However, if it is third string Anthony Brown making his first career start, I see no shot that the Ravens beat the Bengals and their potent Burrow-led offense.

Prediction: (W) Bengals (28)   Ravens (13)   

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-9) VS. 5. Dallas Cowboys (12-5)  (Monday, January 16th, 8:15)

Breakdown: Monday Night Football will feature a marquee-matchup of Tom Brady VS. America’s team. This is also a matchup of week 1 where the Buccaneers trounced the Cowboys 19-3. If you are looking at this matchup and thinking that I have misprinted the Buccaneers’ record, you are incorrect. The Buccaneers have made the playoffs with an 8-9 record as they have won the dreadful NFC South by one game over the Panthers, Saints, and Falcons who all finished 7-10. The Cowboys for one night were avid Carolina Panthers fans as all they needed was for the Panthers to win but they blew the game in the last quarter giving up 3 touchdowns via Brady-Mike Evans. Because of this, Brady is back in the playoffs at age 45. Despite Brady’s up-and-down season, his leadership has taken a team decimated by injury and poor secondary play to the playoffs by winning just enough crucial games down the stretch. Fournette and White can make up a great running back duo if they are consistent and if Brady-Evans can be as dominant a connection as they were against Carolina, anyone would be scared to play the Bucs.

However, these are big “ifs” and the Buccaneers this season have proven to be one of the most unreliable and inconsistent teams despite their high talent level. Because of this, I think the Dallas Cowboys will pull this game out in what I believe to be the closest game this weekend. I know it isn’t usually wise to pick against Tom Brady, but Dallas’ top tier offense could shred Tampa Bay’s underperforming secondary. Lamb, Gallup, Noah Brown, and even veteran T.Y Hilton, have all played very well this season as wide receivers. The Cowboys also have a great one-two punch at running back with Pollard and Elliott. Micah Parsons’ defense has been inconsistent this season but if they don’t focus too heavily on blitzing, they will be fine against Tampa’s offense.

Prediction: Buccaneers (27)   Cowboys (30)


Unpredictability, Nail-biting Moments amid controversies prove Qatar 2022 is one of the best World Cups ever.

By Sarafina Napoleon

Sarafina Napoleon is from Nigeria and is a first-year graduate student in Sport Administration at BGSU. As a journalist for 9 years, she brings a wealth of experience and insight to the Maxwell Media Watch.

December 4, 2022

When the World Cup took center stage on November 20, 2022, no one predicted the quality of entertainment and outcomes the tournament would produce, especially given FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s hypocritical speech comment on the eve of the tournament. Infantino called out Europeans for their hypocrisy in criticizing Qatar and FIFA’s choice to hold the World Cup there. Infantino remarked that Europeans “should be apologizing for the next 3,000 years for what we Europeans have been doing in the last 3,000 years around the world” before offering moral lessons. The comments were met with various critical responses and persisted even after tournament host Qatar got things rolling.

After 48 group-stage matches, it is evident that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar has proven to be one of the best FIFA World Cups in history against all odds. The group stage produced historical results, intense drama, nail-biting and nerve-racking moments for soccer fans across all continents. Let’s examine some of the most impressive moments from the group stage.

Saudi Arabia stuns title favorites Argentina.

When the draws were made, and Saudi Arabia was grouped alongside Argentina, Poland, and Mexico in Group C, it was inevitable the Asian team would be the group’s whipping boys. On paper, it was glaring that topping the group would be a walk in the park for Argentina, but no one foresaw history being written in favor of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia stunned Argentina 2-1 at the Lusail Stadium, writing themselves into World Cup annals with one of the most significant upset victories in the tournament’s 92-year history.

It was widely anticipated that the third-ranked team from South America, and title contenders, would easily crush its opponent ranked 48 spots lower in the FIFA world rankings. Argentina’s undefeated streak of 36 games ended as a consequence of the outcome, dating back to a loss to Brazil three years ago. This prevented them from reaching the previous international record of 37 games played without registering a loss, which Italy held. The result made Saudi Arabia the first Asian side to defeat Argentina in the history of the World Cup and the first non-European team to do it since Cameroon in 1990.

Teranga Lions and Atlas Lions make history for Africa.

After advancing to the last 16 of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the Teranga Lions of Senegal and champions of Africa have seemingly picked up just where they left off. Having won the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, the 13th-placed ranked team in the World was the only realistic possibility of an African side making it through the group stage in Qatar. In a group including hosts Qatar, Ecuador, and the Netherlands, Senegal narrowly lost their first match to the Netherlands. The African Champions went on to defeat the host nation Qatar. Kalidou Koulibaly, captain of the African champions, scored his first international goal with his right foot in the 70th minute to seal three points against Ecuador.

After the Netherlands, the West Africans finished second and would play the Three Lions of England on Sunday. This was a much-needed triumph for Senegal, considering that they were denied a place in the last 16 four years ago when they were eliminated at the group stage based on a fair play rule because they received two more yellow cards than the Japanese.

Senegal advanced for the second time in history and for the first time since 2002, when the squad competed in the quarterfinals under current coach Aliou Cissé. Given that no African side has ever advanced past the quarterfinals of the FIFA World Cup, the team now has a chance to make history if they do.

The Atlas Lions of Morocco will be in the knockout rounds of the FIFA World Cup 36 years after their first qualification for the last-16. The North African team, ranked 22 in the World, defied all odds to finish first in Group C, ahead of 2018 runners-up Croatia and Belgium, the World’s second-ranked team. In their first encounter, the Atlas Lions drew 0-0 with Croatia before overcoming Belgium’s golden generation with two second-half goals and a clean sheet. The frosting on the cake was a 2-1 victory over Canada, who finished at the bottom of the group with zero points.

Morocco progressed as group leaders, with Croatia coming second, and Belgium and Canada were eliminated after coming third and fourth, respectively. After his team’s awful display, Roberto Martinez, the coach of Belgium, announced his resignation, admitting that his contract would not be renewed.

Japan’s Controversial goal stuns Spain, Germany sent packing.

On the penultimate day of Group F’s final group games, the favorites to finish first and second had to struggle to avoid elimination. Going into the last games of Group F, it was clear that elimination was a real possibility for any of the four clubs. Spain was expected to cruise through the group and finish first, but everything was wide open after drawing with Germany in their second game.

The first half of Spain’s last group game against Japan went according to the script, with the Spanish side dominating possession and scoring a goal. The 48th-minute equalizer marked the beginning of Japan’s comeback. A few minutes later, in the 51st minute, Japan scored a controversial goal that ultimately proved decisive. With this historic victory, Japan topped its group for the first time since 2002 and qualified for the knockout stage of the World Cup for the first time in consecutive tournaments. Spain comes in second with four points, ahead of Germany on goal difference, and will file out against Group F winners Morocco on Tuesday for a place in the quarterfinals.

It was Germany’s second straight World Cup elimination in the group stage, the first time since the tournament’s inception. The German Machines entered their last group game against Costa Rica with just one point from a potential six points after two games and were on the brink of elimination. One thing that was certain for the Germans heading into the game was that their qualification destiny wasn’t in their hands. To progress, they had to win along with either a Spain victory or a tie between Spain and Japan, plus the tiebreaker based on goal differential. Sadly, one controversial goal by Japan proved to be the deciding factor.

The four-time champions dispatched Costa Rica in a thrilling six-goal match with three goals in the game’s closing 17 minutes, but a controversial victory for Japan sealed their elimination. While Germany and Spain finished with the same points, Germany was eliminated due to a lower goal differential.

Stéphanie Frappart becomes first female referee in Men’s World Cup history.

The Qatar 2022 World Cup went into the history books on Thursday when Stéphanie Frappart became the first woman to officiate at the FIFA Men’s World Cup after taking charge of proceedings in the Costa Rica Vs. Germany clash. The European soccer governing organization UEFA and the French government both promoted the 38-year-old to officiate men’s games, and she has since officiated World Cup qualifying and Champions League matches. She also officiated the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final.   

The Frenchwoman was in charge of an all-female on-field crew, including assistants from Brazil’s Neuza Back and Mexico’s Karen Diaz Medina. The 2022 World Cup has featured six women in officiating roles, including referees Frappart, Rwanda’s Salima Mukansanga, and Japan’s Yoshimi Yamashita, as well as assistant referees Back, Diaz, and the United States’ own Kathryn Nesbitt.

Qatar 2022: Where Money Prevailed Over Logic

By Sarafina Napoleon

Sarafina Napoleon is from Nigeria and is a first-year graduate student in Sport Administration at BGSU. As a journalist for 9 years, she brings a wealth of experience and insight to the Maxwell Media Watch.

October 25, 2022

As the 22nd FIFA World Cup tournament approaches, the error made by FIFA under Sepp Blatter in choosing Qatar as the host nation is becoming more apparent. It is a decision that reeks of financial gains without adequate consideration of other factors. So how did we arrive at this point? It is pertinent to note that Qatar won the bid competition over Australia, the United States, Japan, and South Korea. Before Qatar won the bid, the country had never hosted a World Cup, making them the first Middle Eastern state to be awarded World Cup hosting rights. This will be the tournament’s second appearance in an Asian confederation country after Japan, and South Korea co-hosted in 2002. So, if staging the tournament in a new location provided an opportunity to develop the world, why the outrage?

There are several compelling reasons why Qatar shouldn’t be hosting the World Cup. The decision was flawed from the beginning from all angles. One convincing reason is the climate condition in Qatar. The climate in Qatar during the summer is uncongenial due to the scorching desert heat, making it impossible to stage a one-month tournament under such conditions. What was the solution? Your hunch is as good as mine. The only viable option was to relocate the tournament to a less inimical period. The usual schedule of World Cup tournaments’ is during the summer when all European leagues and league play have concluded. It was an aberration of everything the competition stands for to shift the World Cup to a time frame outside the established format. Still, the world football governing body (FIFA) was unperturbed.   The tournament was eventually rescheduled without thoroughly examining how the timing would affect the soccer calendar, making it the first World Cup in the Winter. This is where things get interesting; the typical soccer league season runs from August to May, allowing players at least a three-week rest period before the World Cup. Staging the tournament during the Winter meant the tournament would take place during the regular league season. Because the competition will be in the Winter, it will take place during the regular league season. Many players competing at the World Cup play in Europe. They compete in their respective local leagues, UEFA competitions, and league cup competitions.

So, how about the players’ well-being?

What about LGBTQ peoples’ rights? The decision to award the hosting rights to Qatar, a nation where homosexuality is illegal, has further demonstrated that FIFA’s commitment to inclusivity is little more than a façade. Since Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup in 2010, FIFA has faced backlashed for its laws and views on LGBTQ rights and issues. After Russia hosted in 2018, this is the second World Cup in which LGBTQ soccer fans must decide whether or not to visit a country with a dismal record on gay rights. For instance, the official LGBTQ group of Wales will not attend the World Cup. Members of the group feel it is unsafe to visit the Middle East, given its track record on gay rights. In April, a senior Interior Ministry official in charge of security for the football tournament, Major General Abdulaziz Abdullah Al Ansari, told the Associated Press that rainbow flags might be confiscated from visiting fans to keep them safe from being attacked while advocating for gay rights.

According to a recent survey by a Scandinavian media organization, three of the 69 hotels on FIFA’s official list of recommended accommodations would refuse entry to same-sex couples. Only 33 of those surveyed said they had no objections to same-sex booking relationships. In contrast, 20 others stated they would accommodate same-sex couples as long as the couples hid their sexual orientation from the public. FIFA retaliated by announcing that it would cancel any agreements with lodging establishments that discriminated against same-sex couples.

Considering what the Middle East stands for, many LGBTQ soccer fans will be reluctant to attend this year’s showpiece. Looking at the highlighted reasons why Qatar was the wrong destination which FIFA should have chosen, the bigger question is, on what basis were they awarded the hosting rights?