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Where Would You Not Go To Watch Your Favorite Team Play?

Recently the NFL added a third London game to the regular season schedule. The three teams that will host home games at Wembley Stadium in London next year are the Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons and Oakland Raiders. Some experts have pointed out that all three of these organizations are not happy with their current stadium situations. This may or may not be the reason they will be playing games across the pond. It is interesting to note that most season ticket holders are not going to be able to attend a “home” game in another country. Personal seat license (PSL) ticket holders are not going to be happy as this is one of the games of the eight regular season home games in which they will be unable to attend. After shelling over tens of thousands of dollars over the course of a few years it is not a good thing to find out that a home game is going to be played thousands of miles away.

Will Fans Travel?

NFL fans are an interesting bunch. Some teams that have decades of tradition (Steelers, Packers and Bears) have fans that are willing to travel all over the United States to watch their team play. The last time I went to a San Diego Chargers game they played the Green Bay Packers. This was coming off the Super Bowl year so Packers fans were willing to do anything to watch their team play. When we got to the Chargers stadium over 70% of the crowd was pulling for the Packers. This was the first time I attended a professional football game that was so lopsided as it related to the opposing team’s fans. Green Bay fans were willing to fly from Wisconsin to San Diego but I can assure you that San Diego fans would not be willing to fly to Wisconsin.

The Jaguars and Falcons do not have a history of traveling well. Raiders fans are willing to travel but they are on the west coast so their flight to London will be even longer. I think it is safe to say that most season ticket holders are not going to be willing to take a weekend to fly overseas to watch their “home” team play. Even if this was a playoff game, or a very important game, I still do not think fans would make the trip. The economy has improved and attendance has increased in many sports but this does not mean fans are going to shell out $5,000 to make a trip to London to see the boys play.

The only way Americans will be willing to travel overseas for a game is to go to a better climate. If the NFL held games in the Caribbean or a beach tourist destination it would give fans a reason to take a fall or winter vacation. There is a reason the NFL Pro Bowl has been in Hawaii for so many years. That said, London is not going to have moderate temperatures during the fall and winter months. In fact, the temperatures in and around London could be worse than the Northeast. This is something fans will strongly consider before booking their plane tickets and making the game ticket purchases for Wembley Stadium.

How Will PSL Ticket Holders Feel?

A personal seat license ticket holder has worked very hard to get seats in their home stadium. Some of these individuals have spent over $100,000 during the course of the last few decades trying to improve their seats for home games. Having spent a significant amount of time and money to get the ideal seats these fans cannot be happy that they are going to lose one of eight home games. If I were a PSL ticket holder at the home of my favorite stadium and I missed out on a Sunday of fun I would be livid. When I was in college we worked our tails off to make certain we had the seats we wanted on Saturday afternoon. If I worked all offseason to obtain these seats and I lost one of my games that year it would not sit easy with me.

NFL fans continue to come back no matter what. It is interesting to see just how popular the NFL has remained over the last several decades. I am of the age that it is hard to remember a time when the NFL did not own the sports industry. The NFL is so popular that the draft is the biggest event of the spring besides March Madness. Some would argue that major cities that have NFL teams actually gear up for the NFL Draft more than they get ready for March Madness. When looking at the number of searches for NFL related topics it is very obvious that the NFL is the biggest player in town when it comes to professional and semi professional sports.

Although I am an avid college football fan I fully recognize that the NFL is where the big money is. There is a darn good reason companies will pay $3 to $5 million for a 30 second TV commercial during the Super Bowl. Every single year the Super Bowl is the most watched event on TV. On any given Sunday the TV ratings for the best NFL game are through the roof. This means there are huge advertising dollars that go into the TV broadcast and at the stadiums. This brings up another very important point when it comes to teams playing in London. The home stadium will lose a large amount of advertising impressions by not hosting that game. Also, the TV ratings will likely drop because the time difference is so drastic.

The Time Difference for NFL Games

Last week the San Diego Chargers played the Oakland Raiders in a game that started at 11:30 pm est. This was 8:30 on the west coast but I do not live on the west coast. I am a Chargers fan so I stayed up for the first half, which was quite disappointing. I would imagine the ratings for this game were terrible. First of all, it was way too late for anyone that had to work on Monday morning. It was also available only on the NFL Network. To compound the problems the game was terrible from the very beginning. Before I knew it the score was 17-0 Raiders and I had no desire to watch. If this game started at 1:00 or 4:00 my time there is a good chance I would have left it on in the background while I did some work. By the time it was 17-0 it was close to 1:00 am and I had to get to bed to get up Monday morning.

As if this time difference isn’t bad enough, the time difference in London is even worse. The NFL tries to time it out where the game isn’t in the middle of the night but it is very difficult from a logistical standpoint. The NFL wants fans in Wembley Stadium so they cannot make this game kick off in the middle of the night or early in the morning. That would be the prime time in the United States. In all reality, the NFL has to walk a tight rope to figure out when they can air these games to please fans in London and please the TV companies that are making money on ad dollars.

I have always said I would love to live in Hawaii because of the time difference. The great thing about Hawaii is you can wake up on a Saturday or Sunday at 10 and it is around dinner time on the east coast. If you an early riser you can watch all of the college football and still be able to go out to dinner and a movie and not miss anything when it comes to the games. That said, Hawaiians struggle to enjoy lots of football because the best games are on very early in the morning and they are either just rising or still sleeping. This is what is going to happen to fans living in the eastern time zone if the NFL continues to play more games in London. Fans will either have to get up very early to watch the game live or attempt to avoid all score updates because they DVR’d the game while sleeping. This is not an easy thing to do in the age of smartphones and updates all the time. Definitely avoid Twitter if you are looking to avoid finding out the score before you watch the taped version of the game.

Ultimately, most fans are not going to travel to London to watch their team play. I would also imagine diehard fans are not going to be excited to lose one of their eight home games in the fall. These eight weekends are some of the most important weekends of the year for many sports fans so they will be brokenhearted when they know they will have to watch a home game on TV even though they have PSLs.

By Jesse Wojdylo

Do Sports Fans Watch Golf in the Fall and Winter?

I am an admitted golf fan during certain months of the year. In the spring, usually just after Easter, the true golf season gets going with The Masters in Augusta, Georgia. Prior to that there are a few tournaments in Hawaii and on the west coast but nothing that is all that interesting. From The Masters all the way through the FedEx Cup (August and September) the golf season is interesting to me. Unfortunately, after the final FedEx Cup stop in Atlanta there is very little reason to watch the PGA Tour. This has become apparent as the PGA Tour has changed the points system for the FedEx Cup. It is now the case that PGA Tour players can earn FedEx Cup points for the next season after the final round in August. This means some of those tournaments in October, November and early December will be a little more interesting. The question is, “will sports fans watch golf in the fall and winter?”

Football Trumps Golf

During the FedEx Cup Playoffs most sports fans are enamored with the NFL and College Football on the weekends. I am one of the biggest golf fans there is and I still have no desire to watch the FedEx Cup Playoffs unless Tiger Woods is making a run or one of my favorite golfers is on the leaderboard. In 2013 that was not the case. During the month of September I might have watched a total of two hours of golf. When a major tournament is being played I will watch about 25 hours over the course of four days. Most sports experts have accepted that Tiger Woods moves the meter but it is even more important during the fall and winter months.

As the football season starts to get into the heart of the action in November and December it will be the case that golf goes to the back burner. Tiger Woods hosts a tournament in early December every year but other than that particular tournament most golf events have very low ratings. Tiger tends to take a few weeks off and he will play some golf overseas. The problem with Tiger playing golf on the other side of the world is the time difference. When I was a diehard golf fan I would DVR some of Tiger’s golf rounds in Malaysia and Australia but now that he is back to normal I don’t watch them as much. One of the most unique viewing experiences for golf fans was watching Tiger Woods play like a human being. He would shoot rounds in the high 70s and he would even miss cuts. His temper got the best of him at times. This is something most people that play golf know all about.

When Tiger was going through his ups and downs of putting his game back together golf got some huge ratings just because fans wanted to see what was going to happen next. Now, if Tiger is not in the final pairing or on the leaderboard most people just tune in to football or another sport. It will be interesting to see how the PGA Tour fights this battle in the fall and winter months. Even though Tiger is back to his old self he still has not won a major tournament. It will be five years next year. While some feel as if it is good to see other names win big tournaments the ratings prove this is not the best for viewership.

The best thing for viewership is Tiger Woods vs Phil Mickelson. While Phil won the Open Championship in 2013 Tiger was unable to get that next major. If several more majors go by and Tiger is not in the final pairing the PGA Tour is going to see a drop in ratings. Some have made the argument that the younger golfers will bring more fans but this simply has not happened. Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy are popular but they don’t hold a candle to Tiger Woods. Rory went to Nike in 2013 and, unfortunately, had a very bad year. Even when he was winning major tournaments we did not see huge ratings during those tournaments. When Tiger is winning tournaments we always see very large numbers.

The Ryder Cup last year was one of the best in recent memory and helped golf get some great ratings during the fall months. The President’s Cup this year may help a little bit but it is a competition that is often dominated by the United States. If the US gets out to a big lead in the first few days fans will go back to watching College Football and the NFL. This has been true in the past as golf is not as interesting when there is not a major tournament on the line. It is very similar to tennis in that most passive fans do not want to watch if it is not a major tournament.

Golf is a Summer Activity

Part of the reason golf is so popular to watch during the spring and summer months is people are actually playing golf at those times. I can remember picking up golf several years ago and finding out quickly that people would start playing golf just after Easter. They would get five or six rounds in during the summer and they would be done. Every now and again they would play a round in the fall but this was only if some of their buddies were hitting the links. In the golf states of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia golfers have to worry about leaves. If you have every played a golf course that is lined with trees you know leaves can become a huge issue. Unless you are a scratch golfer you are probably going to hit some wayward shots. There is nothing more demoralizing than hitting a shot just off the fairway and not being able to find it because there are so many leaves on the ground. This caused me to stop playing in the fall altogether. That has since changed but when I was not a good ball striker I had no desire to fight a losing battle.

With fewer people playing golf in the fall and winter they have little desire to turn it on the television. We love to watch things that we can relate to. It we haven’t swung a club in two months there is a high likelihood that we are not going to be excited to watch professionals shoot rounds under par. Unless Tiger is in a tournament in the late part of the year the ratings are almost zero. The Golf Channel does everything in their power to keep people interested with shows like the Big Break but oftentimes that doesn’t help. The only way to keep golf fans interested is to engage them in a way that makes them want to watch golf. Unfortunately, that is not very easy during the off season because most professional golfers have no desire to play in the cold weather.

What Can the PGA Tour Do?

I think it was smart for the PGA Tour to award FedEx Cup points for next season during the fall and winter months. This will entice many professionals to play rounds in which they would not have in the past. It may even encourage Tiger Woods to play on some courses in which people normally do not see him. This is one of the biggest issues when it comes to the PGA Tour. Golfers fall in love with specific courses. They end up playing 18 to 22 tournaments a year but they rarely visit courses where they are not comfortable. If you live in Wisconsin you will get to see Steve Stricker play but you won’t get to see Tiger Woods until there is a major tournament in your state. This might be once every decade.

From a personal perspective, I completely understand why golfers do not want to use certain courses. There are many courses in my local area that I have played once and I will never play again. All golfers have a particular shot shape that fits their eye. If you hit a power fade and you are play a course that requires a draw it can ruin your entire round. Tiger Woods hits a power fade off the tee but if you ask him to hit a draw with the driver it can cause huge problems. This is why Tiger has won some tournaments eight or nine times and he has never played other tournaments.

The PGA Tour will never force golfers to play a specific course but it might be a good idea to switch things up during the fall and winter months. Maybe try to get Phil or Rickie to play some of the courses in which they do not normally play. This could increase ratings and it could end up helping the PGA Tour in the long run.

2012 NFL Top 5 MVP Candidates

There are no clear candidates for this year’s NFL MVP award which should make for an intense and close race toward the end of the season. Listed below are the top five candidates to win the award and the reason why they should win the award.

ADRIAN PETERSON
Everyone who knows the NFL knows that Adrian Peterson had serious knee surgery less than a year before the season started, rehabbed his way back from his torn MCL and ACL injury, started Week 1 and is having one of his best seasons as a professional. He currently leads the league in rushing with 1,128 rushing yards and he is doing it virtually by himself without much help on offense being on the Minnesota Vikings. We don’t know what lies ahead for the Vikings but they are currently sitting on a record of 6-4 with the Bears and Green Bay Packers to deal with in their division, which may decrease Peterson’s chances of winning the award. Also, the award gives higher priority to the elite quarterbacks of the league but Peterson should be in a two man race for the Comeback Player of the Year award with Peyton Manning.

MATT RYAN
Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons came out of the gate full force making cases for all the awards and the Super Bowl. Recently however, they have looked mortal with Ryan throwing for 5 interceptions in Week 11 against the Cardinals and barely squeezing out victories. Ryan put up MVP like numbers early on in the season with above 70% accuracy and a high yards per game average however those numbers have fallen but the Falcons continue to win and stay on top of the football league which has a bunch of weight when it comes to MVP voting.

AARON RODGERS
He is the reigning MVP and has statistics to back up his argument for winning the award again this year however Rodgers had such an unbelievable 2011 season that many voters will see a decrease in numbers. Not only has Rodgers been “un-Rodgers-like”, but Rodgers’ Packers started the season with a sub .500 record early on in the season. He has been able to steer the ship in the right direction despite numerous injuries to his wide receivers and offensive line. If the Packers can continue its winning streak and notch the top spot in their division, Rodgers could make a strong case for a repeat award.

TOM BRADY
It seems like Brady could win this award every year with different rosters and players surrounding him. This season has been no exception as Brady has been playing at an elite level yet again. He is currently third in total passing yards with 3,299 yards and leads the highest scoring offense in the league. Let’s not forget that Brady also threw for over 5,000 yards last season, a feat that would have been commended if it weren’t for Drew Brees. He is also leading his team toward yet another AFC playoff appearance and possibly another first round bye week in the playoffs. The fact that he keeps leading his team year after year and puts up elite numbers year after year, voters may become “numb” to Brady’s consistency and neglect what he has actually been able to accomplish year after year. He should still get a lot of attention come award time.

PEYTON MANNING
When teams are essentially being interviewed by a “player” during the offseason means the player is a sure fire Hall of Fame player which was most definitely the case when Manning “chose” the Denver Broncos as his new home and team. Manning has not disappointed either despite not playing in a regular season in almost two calendar years prior to the start of this season. Manning has everything going for him this season to claim his fifth MVP trophy. He has led his team to a 7-3 record among the AFC, thrown for 2,975 yards, 24 touchdowns, and only 7 interceptions with a 68.5% completion percentage. He has been able to turn around a franchise that cringed every time a pass was thrown to elite playoff contenders. Manning could be collecting his record fifth MVP award along with a Comeback Player of the Year award if he continues on this same path by the end of the season.

Week 5 for the San Diego Chargers

Norv Turner and the San Diego Chargers head in to week 5 sitting atop the AFC West with a three and one record. The Chargers head to New Orleans to take on the Saints in a game that has a lot more on the line for the Saints then the Chargers. So the Chargers will need to play a balanced game while looking for a big game out of Philip Rivers.

The Chargers have gotten off to a great start with two of the three wins coming against division rivals the Oakland Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs. In order for a team to win the division they have to take care of the teams in that division. That is exactly what the Chargers has done this season. In week 1 Philip Rivers threw for 231and 1 touchdown while Nate Kaeding added 5 field goals to beat the Raiders 22-14. After taking care of the Tennessee Titans in week 2 38-10 the Chargers would find themselves in a tough match-up against the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons would be to much and the Chargers would fall 27-3. The team would rebound in week 4 defeating the Chiefs as Rivers threw for 209 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception while the running game added 104 yards and a touchdown. The Chargers would benefit from 3 interceptions from Matt Cassel and 3 loss fumbles in the running game. The Chargers beat the Chiefs 37-20 to move to 3-1 on the season.

Now next up is the Saints where Drew Brees has a chance to pass Johnny Unitas in the all-time consecutive games throwing a touchdown record and they also look for the first win of the season. This match-up will be difficult as the NFL has allowed suspended head coach Sean Payton the chance to attend the game due to the record. This will give the Saints some inspiration and will come out ready to play.

In week 6 Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos will come to town in a divisional match-up. This game will be an intense game as both teams have goals on winning the division. This is only the first of two between the two teams as they also square off in week 11 as well. The Chargers will need to find a running game down the stretch if they want to win the division while the Broncos look for Peyton to lead them to the post-season.

After week 6 the Chargers get a bye before getting three games against teams they should beat the Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. These three games will be key as the next four games comes against the Broncos, Ravens, Bengals and Steelers. All four should be tough down to the wire games with the Chargers needing at least 2 wins in those 4. The match-ups against all four of the AFC North teams will be defensive battles with the team winning making the fewer mistakes. The Chargers finish up taking on the Carolina Panthers, New York Jets and the Raiders. This gives them a chance to win the last three games and lock up the division.

The Chargers will need to continue to stop the run and play good defense while Rivers needs to throw touchdowns and not turn the ball over. This is a big season for the Chargers and Turner with high expectations on the line.

Steelers look to avenge last season

Steelers to avenge last season

Steelers to avenge last season

The ending to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2011 season was tragic at best. The Steelers were one of the three favorites to win the AFC title going into the 2011 season having come off a defeat by the Packers in Super Bowl XLV. The team played well throughout the season battling the Baltimore Ravens for the AFC North’s top spot. However, Week 14 was the beginning of the end for the Steelers’ season. While playing the Cleveland Browns, Ben Roethlisberger suffered a high ankle injury while scrambling out of the pocket. Instead of deciding to heal the ankle Big Ben decided to start the next game against the San Francisco 49ers in order to clinch a playoff birth in Week 15. Roethlisberger was noticeably limping during the game and ultimately had to sit out. Charlie Batch started the next two games for the Steelers, eventually clinching a Wild Card playoff spot. The Steelers were heavily favored in the Wild Card game against the miracle Denver Broncos and Tim Tebow. In shock and amazement to everyone in the world, the Broncos were successful in passing the football against the top defense in football. With a single overtime play of 80 yards, the Steelers were sent packing home and left scratching their head. With the collapse of the 2011 season behind them, what will the 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers bring to the table?

The 2012 Steelers will be quite a bit different from the Steelers of the past five years. Due to the new collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and its players, the Pittsburgh Steelers found themselves with salary cap problems during the 2012 offseason. Player casualties from front office decisions were the releasing of veteran Steelers players such as Hines Ward, James Farrior, Aaron Smith, and Max Starks. An analyst once said that the Pittsburgh Steelers don’t have backup players but “starters in waiting” and there has been no other time more important for those “starters in waiting” to play at the same level of standard that the Steelers fans are accustomed to than during the 2012 season. Other veteran Steelers players have restructured their contracts to also help the organization in its salary cap problems.

The historic franchise has done its best in trying to replace its cap casualties by signing back Max Starks, resigning Jerricho Cotchery, and signing Leonard Pope. The Steelers also addressed its offensive line disasters through the draft, using its first two picks in selecting two offensive linemen, David DeCastro and Mike Adams. The Steelers have also drafted several other weapons to develop as “starters in waiting” as is the Steelers way. Electric running back Chris Rainey looks to be a change of pace back on third down situations and the primary kick and punt returner, Sean Spence will be developed into a Steelers future middle linebacker, and Alameda Ta’amu looks to replace nose tackle Casey Hampton in the future.

The Steelers have also dealt with disgruntled wide out Mike Wallace. Mike Wallace has demanded a long term contract with money equivalent to one of the top players in the league. Not giving into the demands of Wallace, the Steelers prepared to play the season without him and rewarded second year standout wide receiver Antonio Brown with a five year contract extension. Wallace and company finally decided to sign the restricted free agent tender offered to him by the Steelers and report to the team with only two weeks away from the start of the 2012 season.

The Steelers have always had one of the best defenses year in and year out. With Dick LeBeau still in command of the defense and some younger players being inserted into the starting roster, it looks like the Steelers will continue its dominant defensive tradition. The offense on the other hand might need some time to adjust to new offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s offensive system. It’s no secret that Ben Roethlisberger loved Bruce Arians’ offense the past couple of seasons but with a changing of the guard and Pittsburgh native Haley in command of the offense, the Steelers may struggle early on in the season.
All in all, the Steelers have an elite defense and playmakers on offense. They may struggle for the first month, trying to learn the new personnel changes but they will once again be a heavy favorite in the AFC rivaling the Patriots, Ravens, and Texans for top honors. The first test will be against the same team that sent them home last season, in the same building, however Tim Tebow is no longer running the team, that job now belongs to Peyton Manning. We will see how prepared the Steelers are to redeem its 2011 season right from Week 1.

dallas cowboys

Can Dez Bryant & Tony Romo help the Cowboys win the NFC East?

Tony Romo Dallas Cowboys

Tony Romo Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys are coming into a season in which the hopes are high for every other season. The team will look to veteran quarterback Tony Romo to lead the Cowboys to the postseason for the first time since 2009. While the Keep on reading!

Atlanta Falcons: Finally the year for Matt Ryan

Atlanta Falcons: Finally the year for Matt Ryan

Atlanta Falcons: Finally the year for Matt Ryan

The Atlanta Falcons led by Matt Ryan have been a pretty impressive team during the regular season but come playoffs he disappears. The team has made the playoffs 3 out of the 4 years since Ryan was drafted. The downside is they have loss all 3 games with Matt Ryan not putting up good enough numbers to lead the Falcons to a win.

This season looks to be different as the team looked to add playmakers on the defensive side of the ball this off-season by acquiring Asante Samuel from the Philadelphia Eagles while bringing in Mike Nolan to be the new defensive coordinator. Both of these acquisitions should help the defense improve as they were in the bottom 15 in points allowed in 2011.

Ryan along with the wide receiver pair of Julio Jones and Roddy White look to lead the Atlanta Falcons to the playoffs in 2012 including picking up a few wins along the road to the Super Bowl. Jones coming in to his second season in the NFL after grabbing 54 catches for 959 yards and 8 touchdown looks to improve in year 2. While Michael Turner looks to continue to up big numbers on the ground to help make the Falcons a difficult team to defend through the air or on the ground.

While Julio Jones is collecting a lot of attention on the offense his receiving partner Roddy White looks to continue his dominance coming off 5 straight seasons of 1000 plus yards while also reeling in 100 or more catches the past 2 seasons. These types of numbers should go up in 2012 with teams having trouble deciding on who to double cover him or Julio Jones.

Look for Matt Ryan to have his best season in the NFL in 2012 while throwing for over 4500 yards and 35 plus touchdowns in the air to help lead this team to the NFC South Crown along with leading the Falcons to his first Super Bowl as quarterback in 2012.

2012-2013 preview for Oakland Raiders

Oakland Raiders

Oakland Raiders 2012-2013 Preview

The Oakland Raiders will be a different organization beginning with the 2012 NFL season. With the passing of legendary Raider icon Al Davis, the unwavering face of the Oakland franchise since 1963, the 2012 Raiders must now fashion a new identity beyond what Al Davis had formed. The first step of that new identity began when the Raiders traded for quarterback Carson Palmer from the Cincinnati Bengals during the middle of the season last year. The Raiders ended up with a record of 8-8, resulting in a three way tie for first place among the Denver Broncos and the San Diego Chargers, barely missing the playoffs due to tie breakers. With a tragic and tumultuous season behind them, what will the brand new Raiders look like in 2012 and beyond?

With a new beginning supporting them, the Oakland Raiders hired new general manager Reggie McKenzie during this past offseason and in return, McKenzie hired on Dennis Allen to fill the head coaching void left over by Hue Jackson. Also, new offensive coordinator Gregg Knapp has begun to implement a new offense to help supplement both Carson Palmer and Darren McFadden.

Carson Palmer was in an intense deadlock between himself and the Cincinnati Bengals around this same time last year with Palmer demanding to be traded or else he was going to “retire” from football. About half way through the season, Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell went down with a season ending injury and the Raiders made the trade for Palmer. With an entire offseason and a new offensive coordinator, Palmer looks to regain his prolific passing and playmaking ability. Palmer will have some promising young wide outs in Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford. Both these wide receivers will look to take over the passing game in the wake of departed Louis Murphy and Kevin Boss. Darren McFadden was on pace to lead the league in rushing until he was injured and sidelined for the remainder of the season. Both McFadden and Palmer essentially have not played a regular NFL game together. With the mix of both McFadden and Palmer healthy and on the same page, the 2012 Raiders offense should be leaps and bounds better than last year.

Oakland’s defense on the other hand is something that needs to be improved. The Raiders lost defensive players Kamerion Wimbley, Lito Sheppard, Stanford Routt, Jarvis Moss, Trevor Scott, John Henderson, Quentin Groves, and Darryl Blackstock this offseason. In response to this mass exodus of defensive players, the Raiders used four of its six draft picks selecting defensive players, none of them looking like an immediate impact player. Oakland did lock up All Pro safety Tyvon Branch to a multi-year deal securing the safety position for awhile. However, the remaining secondary looks to be a prime target for opposing offensive air attacks. Linebacker, Rolando McClain looks to take over the defense but off the field issues could ruin that notion. The one bright spot on the Raiders defense is its defensive line, anchored by defensive tackles Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly.

The Raiders have gone through a transformation moving from a solid organization knowing exactly who they are and where they come from however a new chapter has begun with the passing of legendary icon Al Davis. With so many changes to the franchise and roster, it is hard to tell where the Raiders will end up when the 2012 season concludes. They play in the AFC’s weakest division but the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos have also made significant improvements this offseason however they have done it with fewer turnovers within their respective organizations. The Kansas City Chiefs have a solid team but were plagued with injuries last season. With so many variables and changes to the Raiders, the outlook for this season may not be as bright as the other three teams in its division when all is said and done.

Never Give Up On The Dream

Never Give Up

Never Give Up

It was a 29-yard touchdown pass in Super Bowl XLV to open the scoring on what would be another Lombardi Trophy for the Green Bay Packers. But it’s not the touchdown or the Super Bowl win….it’s the men that made it happen.

Aaron Rodgers grew up in a hotbed of high school football talent in California. From his high school alone, three players received scholarships to play college football. He and two of his teammates were given the opportunity to play for…the local community college.

That’s right. Rodgers, like several other NFL stars, did not receive one Division I offer coming out of high school. But, he did not give up on the dream. Instead, after considering giving up football, he enrolled at Butte Community College where he was discovered by California coach Jeff Tedford, who immediately signed the future Packers QB.

Rodgers had a solid career as a Golden Bear leading Cal to a 10-1 record and a top-five ranking in 2004. He decided to forego his senior season at Cal, entered the NFL Draft, and was expected to be the first pick. Didn’t happen. But he was picked by the Packers in Round 1, spent a few years as Brett Favre’s backup, and now has a Super Bowl ring…and a Super Bowl MVP.

The receiver on the other end of that Super Bowl touchdown? Jordy Nelson. Not a household name, but he never was. Like Rodgers, Nelson had no Division I offers coming out of Riley County HS in western Kansas. Nelson was a tremendous athlete–he won the 100, 200, 400, and long jump at the Kansas state track meet his senior year–but could only muster a walk-on opportunity at Kansas State. He took it.

Nelson was a free safety his freshman year before head coach Bill Snyder asked him to move to wide receiver. The move paid off. By the time Nelson was a senior, he was a Biletnikoff Award finalist and an All-American. He was a second-round draft pick of the Packers and wound up on the receiving end of that first-quarter touchdown in Super Bowl XLV.

And so the story goes…young talented athlete. Can’t get a look anywhere. But he doesn’t quit. He perseveres. And he makes it. Clay Matthews, Tony Romo, Michael Strahan, and Terrell Owens. None of them had a legitimate Division I football scholarship offer coming out of high school. But every single one of them ended up in the NFL.

Dream of Playing in the NFL Not For Everyone

Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin, and the rest of the 2012 NFL Draft Class now have the opportunity that many of them dreamed about their entire lives–fame and fortune. Griffin even had another year of collegiate eligibility, but passed it up for the chance to earn millions and, who knows, maybe even win a Super Bowl someday.

Believe it or not, there are some college football players who have said, “No,” to the NFL dream. Players who had passed all the tests and had the talent to compete at the next level chose to do something else. Hard for layperson to swallow, but for Andrew Sweat, Jeff Demps, Albert Rocker, and Jacob Hickman, their choices were easy.

Hickman started 36 straight games at center for the University of Nebraska, a school notorious for developing the nation’s best offensive linemen. After his senior season in 2009, Hickman was invited to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis where the top prospects in the country are put through a battery of tests to determine their draft status. Hickman declined the invitation.

“I had a great experience,” Hickman said. “I didn’t feel the need to continue playing. It just didn’t feel like it’s what I wanted to do with my life.”

Injuries played a part in Hickman’s decision. The 6-foot-4, 290-pounder has 14 screws and two metal plates piecing together his body as well some early arthritis. He was projected to be No. 10 center taken in the draft in 2010. Instead he chose to use his degree in construction management and the opportunity to chase his future kids around when the time comes.

College football fans will remember Jeff Demps and how dangerous he was for opposing defenses every time he stepped on the field for the University of Florida Gators. Demps was a running back and kick returner for the Gators whose speed led him to choose the track over the fortunes of the NFL.

Demps is on a quest to make the U.S. Olympic track team. After rushing for 2,470 yards and 23 touchdowns in his four-year career on the football field, Demps passed on the college all-star games and the NFL draft workouts in order to compete on the Florida track team. Demps is a four-time national champion on the track and holds the junior world record in the 100 meters (10.01) which he ran at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials.

The Gator star could still return to football at some point, but even if he fails to make the US Olympic team this year, there is still a lucrative career ahead of him on the world track & field circuit.

Albert Rocker is not very well-known across the college football land. But, at Microsoft…well, that’s a different story.

Rocker was an outside linebacker for Georgia Tech, playing in a total of 38 games, all 13 games during his junior year in 2010, and was set to be the starter for the upcoming 2011 season, his senior campaign.

Rocker had decided that he was going to be a success; he was going to be successful in business or he was going to the NFL for a successful career. He approached both with tenacity. His days often started at 4:30 AM and ended well after 11:00 PM. There were football workouts and there were long hours spent hitting the books.

His drive paid off. Rocker attended a career fair where a former Georgia Tech alum passed on Rocker’s resume to a Microsoft recruiter. Ultimately, Rocker skipped his senior season to accept a job as a technical account manager with Microsoft in Irvine, CA.

“Your future’s not really secure in anything, but it’s a gamble as far as the NFL goes,” said Rocker. “I felt like I had to do what would be better for me in the long run.”

Andrew Sweat had to make the choice that would benefit him the most in the long run also. It was much easier after he slipped in the shower and hit his head.

Sweat started his junior and senior seasons at LB for Ohio State earning Academic All-Big Ten honors three times and was a four-time OSU Scholar-Athlete award winner. He was hoping the phone might ring during April’s NFL Draft, but that didn’t happen. But, when the Cleveland Browns called and offered a free-agent contract, Sweat had realized his dream.

After reporting the Browns, Sweat was staying at the team hotel and just hours before his first official workout with the team, slipped, fell, and hit his head in the shower. Sweat had suffered three concussions while playing for the Buckeyes the most recent midway through his senior year.

When the concussion symptoms returned after the shower mishap, Sweat made a decision. He is going to law school. Sweat graduated from OSU with a degree in finance and was accepted into five different law schools. Instead of choosing his Cleveland Browns uniform number, Sweat will be deciding on which law school to attend.

While the fame and fortune of the NFL is enticing, most will never have the opportunity. And for some that do get that opportunity, the fame and fortune just isn’t enough. For some, the choice is something other that football.