NFL Tax Write-offs: Tebow, Decker and Leaf

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Associated Press

“You don’t even know what a write-off is.” – Jerry

 “Do you?” – Kramer

“No, I don’t.” – Jerry

This is why I always think of Seinfeld when it comes to write-offs. But Kramer was on to something when he said you should just write it off. With this being tax day in the United States, the cheaters in all of us are trying to find any sort of loopholes to “write it off.” This country was founded by a bunch of dudes who hated paying taxes.

And seriously, if anybody out there knows exactly what a write-off is, please send me a line.

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Buffalo Bills:

Buffalo wings and (local beers) are not a write-off, yet. But put any petition in front of me and I’ll sign it.

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Miami Dolphins:

People have been able to write off their pets for years. So the Miami Dolphins are implored to bring back Flipper and put him in the end zone.

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New York Jets:

Did you know you can write off babysitting as long as you are doing charitable work? However, New York Jets, you cannot write off your babysitting of Tim Tebow, no matter how much charity work he does.

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New England Patriots:

If you turn in your Patriots sweatshirt to the Salvation Army, Goodwill or any other charitable organization, your value is $5. However, there is no value to sweatshirts with the sleeves cut off. Nice try, Mr. Belichick.

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Baltimore Ravens:

Non-monetary charitable goods are always deductible. So the Ravens should be able to write off all of those free agents they lost this year. Wow, that Paul Kruger deal should be really valuable.

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Cincinnati Bengals:

Sorry, you can no longer count Chad Johnson as a dependent any more.

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Cleveland Browns:

And like the Dolphins, the Dog Pound is a tax deduction. You can even write off the dog biscuits.

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Pittsburgh Steeler:

You cannot deduct the cost of cleaning your work clothes as long as you can still use the garments for everyday wear. That means most football jerseys could fall into this category. They are a fashion statement and many people wear them off the football field. However, the Steelers’ bumble bee jerseys are not suitable for wear anywhere, so the cost to clean those uniforms is acceptable. And if you burned those unis? Well, that would probably count as a charitable deduction as well.

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Houston Texans:

Whatever cost incurred for this:  you can write it off.

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Indianapolis Colts:

No, you can’t write off trips to Steak-n-Shake. Rex Ryan tried this after the NFL Scouting Combine.

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Jacksonville Jaguars:

The tarps around the upper decks are actually a write-off for home improvements. Go ahead and deduct the costs.

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Tennessee Titans:

There are casualty loss deductions, but we’re not sure if Chris Johnson’s statistical output since he redid his contract counts.

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Denver Broncos:

Hey Eric Decker, you can’t write off your expenses at the Manning Passing Academy, even if you do have a receipt.

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Kansas City Chiefs:

All tailgating equipment is not considered a write-off, but it is still appreciated by those who enjoy a good pre-party for the game.

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Oakland Raiders:

Raiders fans cannot write off their Halloween costumes as a business expense. But you could reason that any money paid for season tickets would count as a charitable donation.

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San Diego Chargers:

If you’re still taking Xanax because of the Ryan Leaf era, good news, you can totally write that off.

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Dallas Cowboys:

If you make your home energy efficient, you can totally write that off. So I guess if the Cowboys open the roof that has to count, right?

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New York Giants:

Good news, because you and the Jets split the cost for MetLife Stadium, only one of you can claim the mortgage as a write-off.

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Philadelphia Eagles:

You can write off investments, even the highly risky ones. So that’s good news for Chip Kelly’s salary, right? Because that’s a risky investment.

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Washington Redskins:

I’m not sure the Redskins will be able to write off an upgrade to the FedEx Field turf. But they should just eat the expense and do it anyway.

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Chicago Bears:

The retirement tax credit provided incentives for people to save for life after their careers. Let’s hope Brian Urlacher took advantage of this because retirement could be upon him before he would have thought.

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Detroit Lions:

You can write off deductions for refinancing. Good news since it’s time to rework (or refinance) Matthew Stafford’s deal.

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Green Bay Packers:

A lot of Packers photographers have tried to pick up “photo bomb insurance.” But don’t you dare try to deduct it from your taxes.

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Minnesota Vikings:

Good news, your deductible for surgery is completely deductible. So that’s good news for Adrian Peterson. However, if Ragnar has ever considered hair transplants, that is clearly not deductible. (Don’t ask me how I know this, just trust me.)

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Atlanta Falcons:

Home improvements, like a new stadium in Atlanta, is considered a write-off. And if you get the supplies at Home Depot, well, that should keep the boss happy.

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Carolina Panthers:

The kid from the Play 60 commercial warming up his arm to take over for Cam Newton, he’s not a dependent.

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New Orleans Saints:

Wait, does Sean Payton even need to fill up a W2 for being suspended without pay last season? How does that work?

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

All of the booty confiscated in that pirate ship had better be accounted for as capital gains, guys!

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Arizona Cardinals:

Did you know you can write off security as a business expense? So you could probably reason that your offensive line can be a security expense. Well, not you, Arizona. You nearly got your quarterbacks destroyed last year.

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St. Louis Rams:

Your moving expenses to Los Angeles? Covered.

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San Francisco 49ers:

You can’t deduct the costs of looking for a new job. But costs associated with looking for a new position in your present occupation, including fees for resume preparation and employment of outplacement agencies, are deductible as long as you itemize. That means Nnamdi Asomugha can write-off these costs.

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Seattle Seahawks:

Over-the-counter cold medicines and other remedies are not deductible. But some prescription medications are. So that should be good for half of the league, right?

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Follow Adam Rank on Twitter @adamrank.

Torrey Smith’s WrestleMania XXIX predictions

World champion Torrey Smith of the Baltimore Ravens stopped by Studio 66 this week to talk a little football but the conversation quickly turned to WrestleMania XXIX where he and I broke down the card. The following are Smith’s picks, along with my analysis.

WWE Diva’s title: A.J. Lee vs Kaitlyn

Smith’s pick: Kailtlyn
Rank’s pick: Kaitlyn

Analysis: Kaitlyn has developed some nice offense and has become a pretty good force in the division. She’s going to hold the belt for some time.

WWE Tag Team titles: Dolph Ziggler and Big E. Langston vs. Team Hell No

Smith’s pick: Ziggler and Langston
Rank’s pick: ditto

Analysis: The Rhodes Scholars deserve to have the belts, but they will be given away here. Bryan has to turn heel at some point. He would be a good villain to go after Ziggler if he cashes in his “Money in the Bank” briefcase.

Intercontinental title: The Miz vs. Wade Barrett

Smith’s pick: The Miz
Rank’s pick: ditto

Analysis: It’s a surprise Barrett has kept the belt this long after he’s lost on RAW week-in, week-out. A beatdown of Zack Ryder notwithstanding. The Miz is on his way back up the card.

Chris Jericho vs. Fandango

Smith’s pick: Jericho
Rank’s pick: Fandango

Analysis: It would be the WWE’s style to bury a new guy, but Jericho has now become jobber to the up-and-comers. Remember when Jericho couldn’t get through the glass ceiling?

The Shield vs. Randy Orton, Sheamus, Big Show

Smith’s pick: Orton, Sheamus, Show
Rank’s pick: The Shield

Analysis: I want to be wrong if a win by The Shield means an Orton heel-turn and joining The Shield. Have The Shield go over clean.

Retirement match: Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar

Smiths’ pick: Triple H
Rank’s pick: Brock Lesnar

Analysis: Triple H wanted to proper sendoff at Summer Slam, but us fans at Staples Center relished in him losing. So now he wants a heroic good-bye.

CM Punk vs. The Undertaker

Smith’s pick: CM Punk
Rank’s pick: The Undertaker

Analysis: The streak will go on.

World Heavyweight championship: Jack Swagger vs. Alberto Del Rio

Smith’s pick: Alberto Del Rio
Rank’s pick: Jack Swagger

Analysis: Well, if a heel Swagger is holding the belt, they can turn Ziggler face.

WWE championship: John Cena vs. The Rock

Smith’s pick: The Rock
Rank’s pick: John Cena

Analysis: I would love to see something where The Shield comes in to help Cena win and starts his heel turn (it would be so nWo). But what we’ll likely get is Cena going over clean. And then Monday night, he gives a rambling promo about how he’s overcome the odds (for the eleventh time).

Adam Rank has never won an award. For anything. We don’t mean to be harsh, but it’s true. You can follow him on Twitter @adamrank. Oh, and if you liked this (right!), check him out on the latest “Dave Dameshek Football Program“. Which, come to think of it won an award. So Rank has won something meaningful. Yes, meaningful unlike this latest post. Am I right? But follow him on Twitter, please. He’s taking us to lunch if he gets 25 more Twitter followers today.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation – Drew Brees and Ray Rice attend screening

The NFL and Hollywood collided this week when NFL superstars Drew Brees and Ray Rice attended a private advanced screening of Paramount Pictures’ “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”, hitting theaters Thursday. The movie stars Dwayne Johnson, Channing Tatum, Adrianne Palicki and Bruce Willis, and has the look of an action-packed thrill ride. Check out a few photos of Brees and Rice at the screening below.

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The Real World’s missing season: Real World NFL

(Associated Press)

(Associated Press)

“The Real World” will commence its 28th season on Wednesday. The king of all reality shows started out as social experiment to bring together seven motivated strangers to see what would happen when people stopped being polite, and started getting real. Now it’s devolved into seven strangers on a summer vacation seeing how much alcohol they can consume in a hot tub.

And while the NFL has had great success with shows such as “Hard Knocks”, we’re still missing a great NFL-version of “The Real World”.

Or are we?

Did you know the actual 28th season of “The Real World” was filmed with seven NFL stars? But unfortunately, it will never air. Here is the official cast listing and episode guide for the lost season of “The Real World: NFL.”

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Randall Cunningham’s defining moments

In 1985, the Philadelphia Eagles used a second-round pick on UNLV’s Randall Cunningham. Despite signing with the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits that spring, Cunningham eventually landed in Philadelphia and embarked on a 16-year NFL career. With the former signal-caller turning 50 on Wednesday, we take a look at the defining moments of one of the most exciting players in NFL history.

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Ready for Primetime

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On Oct. 10, 1988, the Eagles were on “Monday Night Football” for the first time in seven years. Their opponent that night at the Vet were the division-rival New York Giants, a team that had won the last six meetings with Philadelphia. With the Eagles trailing by three in the second quarter, Cunningham rolled right on third and goal from the five. Linebacker Carl Banks dove low at the athletic quarterback who went down and landed on his left hand before popping up to toss a strike to tight end Jimmie Giles in the end zone.

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The Ultimate Weapon

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The Ultimate Weapon SI cover

Entering the 1989 season, Sports Illustrated featured Cunningham on its NFL preview issue under the headline “The Ultimate Weapon. Philadelphia’s Randall Cunningham: The Quarterback for the ’90s”. In his third full season as an NFL starter, Cunningham led the Eagles to an 11-5 record and a trip to the playoffs.

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Career day in DC

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On the morning of a 1989 Week 2 matchup with the Washington Redskins, Cunningham signed a then-record five-year, $14-million contract. To celebrate the occasion, Cunningham rallied the Eagles back from a 27-7 second-quarter deficit, throwing for a career-high 447 yards and five touchdowns for a stunning 42-37 victory at RFK Stadium.

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91-yard punt (video)

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Cunningham was an All-American punter at UNLV and in a 1989 game at the Meadowlands against the Giants, the Eagles decided to utilize those talents. With the score tied and the Eagles set to punt from deep in their territory, Buddy Ryan decided to use Cunningham over punter Max Runager. The QB received the snap with his heels in the back of the end zone and launched a kick that landed nearly 70 yards away at the Giants’ 39-yard line. It skipped past return man Dave Meggett and all the way to the seven, good for the third longest punt in NFL history. To put the kick in context, Runager had three punts that day for a TOTAL of 83 yards. Cunningham punted 20 times during his career with an average of 44.7 yards.

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1990 season

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Randall flying high like an eagle.

Cunningham opened the decade of the ‘90s with the best statistical season of his career to date, completing more than 58 percent of his passes and throwing 30 touchdown passes with only 13 interceptions. On the ground, he amassed 942 yards, at the time the second most ever by a quarterback. He lead the league with 8.0 yards per carry and scored five touchdowns of his own. As a team, the Eagles ran for 2,556 yards, the most of any team in the 1990s. Philadelphia would win eight of its final 10 regular-season games to qualify for the postseason for the third consecutive year. Cunningham would finish second to Joe Montana in the AP NFL MVP Award voting.

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How’d he do that? (video)

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On Dec. 2, 1990 in Buffalo, the Eagles faced 3rd and 14 from their own 5-yard line. Cunningham dropped back to pass and somehow eluded the NFL’s all-time sack leader Bruce Smith before rolling left and launching a moon shot 60 yards in the air to Fred Barnett. The rookie wide out made the catch over Bills DB James Williams and scampered to the end zone for a 95-yard TD, the second-longest pass play in Eagles history. As CBS analyst Dan Fouts noted on the game broadcast, “This type of play just defies description … (Cunningham) just makes a play that only he can make.”

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Buddy Ball

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(Gillian Allen/Associated Press)

(Gillian Allen/Associated Press)

Cunningham credits Ryan for turning him from a scrambling QB to a running quarterback. Ryan was so disinterested in offense that he used to tell Cunningham to just go make three or four plays a game and the defense will win it. In each of Ryan’s last two years in Philadelphia, Cunningham led the NFL in yards per carry. When he first took over as coach in Philly, Ryan would even put Cunningham in the game on third-and-long situations, replacing Ron Jaworski.

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Playoff failures

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(Rob Kozloff/Associated Press)

(Rob Kozloff/Associated Press)

Under Ryan, the Eagles qualified for the postseason in three consecutive years from 1988 to 1990. In 1988, Philadelphia lost the Fog Bowl in Chicago and the following year at home to the Los Angeles Rams. Cunningham had a dominant statistical season in 1990, but was then benched in a wild-card loss to the Redskins. In the three games, Cunningham had no touchdown passes and five interceptions with a 58.7 passer rating while leading the team to only one touchdown. He would finish his NFL career 3-6 as a playoff starter with 12 TDs and 8 INTs.

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Pauped

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Expectations were sky high for the 1991 Eagles, but a hit on Cunningham from Packers LB Bryce Paup in the season opener at Lambeau Field ended the year for Cunningham as well as Philly’s Super Bowl hopes.  The QB suffered a torn MCL and PCL in his left knee, forcing Philadelphia to use four different starters the rest of the season. Despite a defense that finished No. 1 against the run, pass and overall, the Eagles finished out of the playoffs with a 10-6 record. Cunningham’s slogan during his rehab became “I’ll be back scramblin’.”

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Let Me Be Me 

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(Donna Bagby/Associated Press)

(Donna Bagby/Associated Press)

Rich Kotite took over as Eagles head coach in 1991, replacing Ryan. After Cunningham was lost for the season in the opener, Kotite wanted to keep the quarterback in the pocket and healthy the following year.  Cunningham was none too pleased with the new style and even went as far as to wear a “Let Me Be Me” hat during the season. In 1993, Kotite turned the offense over to quarterbacks coach Zeke Bratkowski, who allowed Cunningham to return to his free-wheeling style. Alas, Cunningham suffered a broken left fibula in Week 4 against the New York Jets.

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Sacked

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(Amy Sancetta/Associated Press)

(Amy Sancetta/Associated Press)

Despite his elusiveness, Cunningham was the fourth-most sacked quarterback of all time, including a then-record 72 times in 1986. What’s even more amazing about that total is the fact that despite appearing in 15 games, Cunningham had only five starts that season. In the six full seasons he played from 1986-92, Cunningham was the league’s most-sacked quarterback five times.

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Retirement

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Randall was benched in favor of Rodney Peete after four starts in 1995. After the season, he retired and returned home to Las Vegas at age 32 to start a marble business.

The 1995 season was a struggle for Cunningham. With new coach Ray Rhodes and offensive coordinator Jon Gruden implementing the West Coast offense, Cunningham was benched in favor of journeyman Rodney Peete after four starts. In the divisional playoffs against the Dallas Cowboys, Peete suffered a concussion and Cunningham was forced to play after spending most of the week with his wife, who was expecting their first child. Cunningham was ineffective in relief, the Eagles lost, and his days in Philly were over.

Cunningham retired, returned home to Las Vegas at age 32 to begin working in the marble and granite business. In 1997, he returned to football with the Minnesota Vikings.

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 Return to Prominence

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Associated Press

After appearing in six games as a backup to Brad Johnson in 1997, Cunningham took over the starting role in Minnesota in 1998. Teaming with rookie Randy Moss and ex-Eagles teammate Cris Carter, Cunningham tossed a career-high 34 touchdowns and led the Vikings to a 15-1 record. The offense racked up a then-record 556 points and the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

The lasting image of the Vikings’ regular season run might well have been the Thanksgiving Day game in Dallas. Minnesota entered at 10-1 while Dallas was 8-3. Riding Cunningham’s 359 yards and four touchdowns, the Vikings emerged with a 46-36 victory. Three of Cunningham’s TD strikes went to Moss, who finished with three catches for 163 yards (54.3 avg) and three scores.

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1998 NFC Championship Game

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Cunningham fell short of a Super Bowl berth as a member of the Vikings.

Cunningham seemed destined to reach his first career Super Bowl as Minnesota entered the NFC title game against the Atlanta Falcons as heavy favorites. Randall had a strong game with 266 pass yards and three total touchdowns, but the game will forever be remembered for Gary Anderson’s missed 38-yard field goal attempt. Cunningham had driven the Vikings 54 yards on 11 plays to set up the fateful try, only to see his best shot at a Super Bowl dashed. Ironically, the veteran kicker had made all 39 of his previous attempts that season, and this shot would have put Minnesota up by 10 with just over two minutes to play. The Falcons took the ensuing possession and tied the game with 49 seconds remaining. Eventually, the Vikings fell short in overtime of the last playoff game Cunningham would ever start.

-Bill Sudell @sudsysudell

Tuck Rule obituary: We come to bury it, not praise it.

BRADY WOODSON BIEKERT

Credit: NFL.com Illustration

It’s official. The tuck rule is no more. After 11 proud years of living in infamy, and suffering the ire of the Raider nation on a daily basis, the Tuck Rule passed away Wednesday morning at the NFL Annual Meeting in Phoenix. Suffering from numerous complications, the Tuck Rule was finally laid to rest when 29 owners decided it was time, and the rule had lived a long, healthy, but troubled life. Not surprisingly, the New England Patriots abstained from voting to bring down the iconic rule, as they had grown “too close over the years” and “couldn’t bear to watch it pass away.”

In case you have somehow forgotten, or you were too young to remember, the Tuck Rule gained notoriety in the 2002 AFC divisional playoff game between the New England Patriots and the Oakland Raiders. The rule had been in effect since 1999, but had never been under the spotlight more than it was that snowy night in Foxborough.

It was the tail end of the fourth quarter, and Tom Brady was trying to engineer a game-tying (or game-winning) drive as the Raiders were holding on to a three point lead. Charles Woodson (remember when he was a Raider?) came off the line on a corner blitz and stripped Brady of the ball, which was then recovered by Raiders linebacker Greg Biekert. Raiders fans rejoiced! Until…

The rest, as they say, is history. Adam Vinatieri kicked a game-tying field goal, and the Patriots rode that momentum to an overtime win and an eventual upset of the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.

Now, Raiders fans, players and front office officials can sleep easier at night knowing this rule will never again dash the championship hopes of another NFL franchise. And fans of other franchises now know they’ll never have to suffer as the Raiders have from this rule. Yet, we should all look back fondly on the memories the Tuck Rule gave us. It helped the Patriots reach their first of three championships in four years, and made Tom Brady into Tom Brady. Without that play, the mere phrase “Tuck Rule” would be meaningless to football fans, and instead of having one of the most iconic plays in NFL history, we’d likely just have Raiders fans bitter over losing the Super Bowl to Kurt Warner and the Rams.

So, let us not dance on the grave of the Tuck Rule, but instead, remember it for what it was. A misguided, slightly ridiculous rule that bestowed upon us some incredible moments in NFL history. It may not be missed, but it certainly will never be forgotten.

Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar

Unexpected (and expected) for Free Agency: Attack of the fax!

Well, well, well. We’ve now endured an entire week of the free agency frenzy and thankfully, we’re no worse for the wear at the NFL.com offices. The same cannot be said for several teams, however, as the frenzy struck hard and fast. Mike Wallace got how much? Where have all the punters gone? Wes Welker is a Bronco? The answer to some of these questions (but really, only one) and more in the Free Agency edition of the Unexpected (and expected). Let’s get to it!

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Lack of Jets action

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Aside from cleaning house on a number of old-ish players, there has been a surprising amount of inactivity, or rather, a surprising amount of smoke screens thrown up by the New York Jets regarding the two players who can never escape the spotlight (or over-attention from ESPN): Tim Tebow and Darrelle Revis. Are they being traded or released or retained? Who knows! It’s reached the point where I don’t think anyone in the Jets organization knows either.

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Fax-fiasco

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By now, you’ve been beaten to death, well, hopefully not death, but you have been beaten senseless by endless amounts of fax jokes. And if for some reason you haven’t had your fill, scroll back through our own Jeff Darlington’s Twitter feed to find some gems. But the fact that a deal for a Pro Bowl player was ultimately voided because of a malfunctioning fax machine in 2013 is absolutely ridiculous. And, unexpected! Hopefully the Broncos have learned now that there is this thing called the Internet (it’s basically just a series of tubes) that can transmit messages (or contracts, or pictures, or pick up attempts) in the blink of an eye.

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NFL stands for No Familiar Love

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With many teams in dire salary cap situations, a number of players saw the door instead of new deal or restructured contract. This isn’t exactly new in the NFL, but it was surprising to see the number of big name players released such as James Harrison, Charles Woodson, Antoine Winfield, Bart Scott, Brandon Lloyd and  Michael Turner.  Other players were also released, often times by a new front office regime coming to town or performance issues. In the case of Kevin Kolb and Ryan Fitzpatrick, it was both.

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The NFC West loads up on talent

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Remember a few years ago when having your team scheduled against the NFC West was a blessing from the football gods, as it almost assured your team three-four wins in interconference play? Well, those days are long gone as the NFL continues to be the league of parity. The Seahawks and 49ers have a wealth of fancy new acquisitions or draft picks, and the Rams added Jake Long to prevent Sam Bradford from becoming an official part of the field turf in St. Louis. Meanwhile, Arizona reeled in reigning Coach of the Year Bruce Arians to turn around their franchise. In no time you’ll hear media pundits discussing the NFC West as the league’s premiere division, as past powerhouses like the AFC North slowly erode. But the Ravens just won the Super Bowl you’re yelling from your computer chair? Yes they did, and it was truly generous of them to celebrate that win by bestowing some of their best players to virtually every other team in the NFL. Not saying they’ll miss the playoffs or anything, but the Ravens and Steelers won’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of opposing teams as much as the Seahawks or 49ers will next year.

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Signing with the enemy

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It wasn’t a very common trend in free agency this year, but there were two notable instances where marquee players crossed the border to rival teams. Greg Jennings jumped ship for Minnesota, trading in Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback for Christian Ponder, which was instantly a hot internet meme. Meanwhile, Welker traded in one sure-bet hall of fame quarterback for another, joining up with Peyton Manning in Denver as he didn’t so much cross a physical border, but the borderline in the Manning-Brady rivalry. Both players play their former teams next season, so it will be even more enjoyable for us to watch these storylines play out.

Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar

Madden curse watch: A Calvin Johnson retrospective

Thanks to the fine folks at TMZ, we now have video proof that the great John Madden himself believes the Madden curse has finally been broken. All it took was a herculean-effort from Calvin Johnson in 2012 to disrupt the long-running NFL hex. In honor of Madden’s proclamation, let’s take a trip down memory lane and look at five of Megatron’s biggest moments on his curse (and record) breaking campaign.

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Week 3 at Tennessee Titans

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Johnson erupted for a 10 catch, 164 yard, one touchdown performance in a wild loss to the Titans. It was here that he first served notice to the league that he had no intention of letting the curse derail his season.

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Week 9 at Jacksonville Jaguars

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Even though he was touchdown-less, Johnson was instrumental in moving the Lions down the field as he hauled in five catches for 99 yards before the Jaguars even recorded a first down.

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Week 10 at Minnesota Vikings

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Megatron followed up his big  game against the Jaguars with a 207 yard outburst against the division rival Vikings. Despite his effort, however, the Lions fell to the Vikings 34-24.

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Week 13 vs. Indianapolis Colts

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Johnson was a human highlight reel during his 13 catch, 171 yard performance against the Colts. He hauled in an impressive one-handed catch down the sideline, as well as a third quarter touchdown that gave the Lions the lead. Unfortunately, Andrew Luck led a miraculous comeback to spoil another monster day for Megatron.

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Week 16 vs.  Atlanta Falcons

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On a Saturday night in Detroit, it finally happened. Calvin Johnson broke Jerry Rice’s long-standing record for receiving yards in a single season, and for all intents and purposes the Madden curse as well. The craziest part was, he still have a game to play. Johnson crossed 200 yards for the second time in the season, but as was the case too many times victory still managed to escape the Lions’ clutches.

Calvin Johnson 2012 stats: 122 catches/1,964 yards/5 touchdowns

Madden curse stats: BROKEN

Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar

March Madness: Surviving the lonely months without the NFL

(AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

(AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

To start things off, let’s be completely honest with ourselves. The NFL never really stops. From the combine to free agency to the draft and so on, we’re always hungry for consuming content about our favorite sport. But, there are points where those glorious Sundays in September seem painfully far away. Like right now.

We’re currently adrift in this sea of nothingness that is pre-free agency. Sure, there are rumors stirring about. After free agency opens next Tuesday there should be a flurry of news to get us excited about football again. Yet, March is one of the longest months without football. First off, there are 31 days. And for the teams not making splashes in free agency, there is not much to get excited about during any of those days. Aside from the over-abundance of “NEW” mock drafts and Tim Tebow trade rumors, it’s a dire time for football fans. So, in honor of the NCAA tournament (and my own state of mind during this time of year) I wanted to devote some cyber ink on ways to pass the time during this period of March Madness. And before I waste anyone’s valuable time rambling any longer, let’s get to it:

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31 Reasons why NFL teams hate the Patriots

Suggs-Brady-130228

NFL.com Illustration

If you didn’t know any better, you’d believe Terrell Suggs doesn’t care for the Patriots. Suggs has called the Patriots “arrogant pricks” in the past and on Thursday, he told Boston radio station WEEI the Patriots don’t “respect anybody,” and he “guarantees the other 31 teams hate the New England Patriots.”

All 31 teams Terrell? Hyperbole much? But when you think about it, Suggs does have a point.

So with the help of the intrepid Alex Gelhar and Adam Rank, we look for 31 reasons why every team hates the New England Patriots.

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AFC:

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1. Buffalo Bills

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The Patriots had a surplus of quarterbacks after the 2001 season, so, of course, the Bills ended up with Drew Bledsoe and not Tom Brady.

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2. Miami Dolphins

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The obvious rivalry aside, to find the true root of the Dolphins’ fans hatred, you have to go back to the 1985 AFC Championship Game. The Patriots took apart the Dolphins in Miami, 31-14. The Patriots would go on to lose in Super Bowl XX to the Chicago Bears. You know, the team the Dolphins beat in the regular season and would have had a good chance of beating again in the rematch.

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3. New York Jets

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Outside of the recent beatings, Bill Belichick was the coach of the Jets, for like a day. And then he ended up with the New England Patriots. I’m not saying the Jets would have ended up with Tom Brady and three Super Bowls but, oh wait, that’s exactly what I’m saying.

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4. Baltimore Ravens

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You know, for a team that just won the Super Bowl, guys like Terrell Suggs sure are talking a lot about a team they beat in the playoffs. Apparently Brady and Co. still has space rented out between Suggs’ ears.

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5. Cincinnati Bengals

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The Bengals have no real reason to hate the Patriots, but much like how your younger siblings like the things you like and hate the things you hate, the Bengals likely hate the Patriots because the big brothers of the AFC North do. If anything, the Bengals might actually like the Patriots. If not for the Patriots, the Bengals would have the universally recognized worst uniform in the NFL. So they have that going for them.

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6. Cleveland Browns

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Belichick coached the Browns and was poised for a big 1995 season (the team started 3-1) until rumors of an impending move surfaced to ruin the team. Now, I’m not trying to say the Browns would have ended up with Tom Brady and three Super Bowl titles, but wait, that’s exactly what I’m saying.

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7. Pittsburgh Steelers

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The Patriots won two AFC Championship Games in Pittsburgh during the Brady-Belichick era. Bledsoe came off the bench to lead the Patriots over the Steelers in the 2001 AFC Championship Game (please don’t bring up the spot, Steelers fan). Brady engineered a blowout in the 2004 AFC Championship Game, with a 41-27 romp at Heinz Field.

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8. Houston Texans

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Somebody convinced the Texans it would be a cool idea to wear letterman’s jackets for a huge showdown in New England on Monday night football in Week 14. And then the Patriots made them look like a freshman squad in a 42-14 beat down. Now those jackets live in infamy in the dark closets of those Texans players or on the shelves of the Sugar Land, Texas Goodwill center.

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9. Indianapolis Colts

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Whenever the debate for best quarterback of the era heats up, Patriots fans will point out Brady has three rings to Manning’s single Super Bowl win. The Colts did exercise a matter of revenge in the 2006 AFC Championship Game, but you still get the sense Indy fans are still smarting from the dismissiveness of the Patriots fans. And judging by the number of Manning jerseys still in Indianapolis, this one isn’t going away any time soon.

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10. Jacksonville Jaguars

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The Jaguars have made the playoffs just twice since the year 2000, and both times they were eliminated by the Patriots. New England got Jacksonville, 28-3, in the 2005 wild card playoffs. The Jags were a little more competitive in the 2007 divisional round, but still lost, 31-20.

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11. Tennessee Titans

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The Titans had a pretty good squad in 2003 but traveled to New England for the playoffs. The Titans hung tough and were tied late into the fourth quarter. But then the Brady magic led the Patriots to a field goal with just over four minutes remaining to give New England a 17-14 lead.

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12. Denver Broncos

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Now the Broncos fans have jumped into the great debate about who is better, Brady or Manning. And while a lot of the Patriots fans will laugh at Manning’s playoff failures, well, the Broncos loss to the Ravens won’t help that argument for Manning. Even though the Broncos lost to the Ravens, the Broncos fans are even more upset with the Patriots and their snickering.

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13. Kansas City Chiefs

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The Patriots sent Scott Pioli, Romeo Crennel and Matt Cassel to the Chiefs. Geeze Patriots, what did the Chiefs ever do to you?  Oh, right. Moving on.

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14. Oakland Raiders

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Really? Do we have to talk about this one? I’ve got one word for you: Tuck Rule. Even more than a decade removed from the infamous “tuck rule” game, the Raiders and their fans are still bitter over it. Which seems totally weird because the Raiders fans are the kind of people who seem to be able to seamlessly let go of the past.

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15. San Diego Chargers

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The Patriots mimicked Shawne Merriman’s dance during the 2006 AFC Divisional Playoffs at the Q. Of course, all Chargers fans remember Marlon McCree fumbling after he intercepted Tom Brady’s pass late in the game which would have sealed the win.

-Adam Rank @adamrank

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NFC

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16. Dallas Cowboys

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Cowboys fans boil with rage every time the Patriots are referred to as a “dynasty,” and they’ll be quick to argue that their iconic 90s team was more of a true dynasty, since their 1994 season ended in the NFC Championship game, while the Patriots failed to even make the playoffs in 2002 after their first Super Bowl victory. And the Cowboys themselves should hate the Patriots for a) beating them three straight times in the Brady era, and b) having a savvier owner in Robert Kraft.

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17. New York Giants

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The Giants really have no reason to hate Tom Brady’s Patriots since they have the distinction of being the only team to beat him in the Super Bowl. And they did it twice. However, legendary Giants head coach Bill Parcells retired from coaching after winning his second Super Bowl with the Giants in 1991. His retirement was short, however, as just two years later he returned to coach the New England Patriots, leading them to a Super Bowl in just three years, while the Giants stumbled through the 90s.

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18. Philadelphia Eagles

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Tom Brady Super Bowl victim #3. Super Bowl XXXIX was the Eagles first Super Bowl appearance in almost a quarter-century, and came after three straight losses in NFC championship games, so expectations were high. Unfortunately, those expectations came crashing down when Tom Brady and the Patriots handed the Eagles their second Super Bowl loss in as many appearances.

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19. Washington Redskins

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The Redskins were on the receiving end of one of Bill Belichick’s classic “I don’t care that we’re up by 80 points, let’s go for it on fourth down” games during the Patriots run to perfection in 2007. With the Patriots already leading 38-0 in the third quarter, on a fourth-and-1 at the Redskins 7-yard line, Belichick opted to have Brady run for the first instead of mercy-kicking a field goal. The Patriots continued to run up the score en route to a 52-7 stomping, the Redskins worst loss since 1961.

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20. New Orleans Saints

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Probably the lone sore spot in the weak Saints-Patriots rivalry is when the Saints traded away a second round pick in 2011 and a first round pick in 2012 to move up and draft Mark Ingram, who has had a lackluster first two seasons in the NFL. Meanwhile, the Patriots picked up Shane Vereen (who scored three touchdowns in the AFC divisional game last season), and the talented pass rusher Chandler Jones. The jury is out for the time being, but the Saints arguably could have used some defensive talent like Jones or Don’t’a Hightower (who the Pats also selected in the first round) from the 2012 draft class instead of the backfield crowding Ingram.

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21. Carolina Panthers

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Tom Brady Super Bowl victim #2. It was Carolina’s first and only Super Bowl appearance. They seemed destined for a shot to win football’s greatest prize in overtime… until John Kasay’s kickoff rolled out of bounds with just over one minute left. That was too much time and too short of a field for Tom Brady, who promptly marched the Patriots down the field so Adam Vinatieri could kick the game winning field goal, effectively ending the Jake Delhomme’s run as a successful quarterback.

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22. Atlanta Falcons

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Back in 1991, the Patriots held the #1 overall pick in the draft, which the Falcons coveted because they wanted to draft then No. 1 prospect Raghib Ismail. The Patriots instead traded it to the Cowboys who failed to stop Ismail from signing with the Toronto Argonauts. Unable to make a deal with Dallas, Atlanta’s dreams of pairing Ismail with Andre Rison to give quarterback Crhsi Miller two top targets was dashed by the stingy Patriots.  Atlanta instead drafted Bruce Pickens and Mike Pritchard in the first round, both of whom were off the team by 1994, while Dallas took future Pro Bowl defensive tackle Russell Maryland number one overall, who helped anchor their defense en route to three Super Bowls in the next four years. The fact that Ismail was never elite in the NFL is irrelevant, Atlanta wanted that pick!

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23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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In the Buccaneers first season as an NFL franchise, they became the first team to go 0-14 in an NFL season. The Patriots were the Buccaneers’ last shot at a victory in week 14, but the Buccaneers were trounced 31-14 on their home turf. Ouch.

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24. Green Bay Packers

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Even though the Packers bested the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI to return the Lombardi trophy to Titletown, when Tom Brady came to Lambeau Field for the first time he had different plans. Brady and the Patriots wiped the floor with the Brett Favre led Packers in Lambeau in 2006, something that was impossible during Favre’s early years in Green Bay. Brady and the Patriots laughed in the face of the “Frozen Tundra,” and left with a resounding 35-0 victory.

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25. Minnesota Vikings

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Call it the Troy Williamson effect. The Vikings traded Randy Moss to the Oakland Raiders for a player (I dare you to tell me who without using Google) and a few picks, which they turned into Troy Williamson in the 2005 draft. Williamson was supposed to be the heir apparent for Moss but washed out of the NFL a few years later. Meanwhile, after suffering through the Oakland Raiders, Moss reemerged as his old dominant self in 2007 when he set the record for receiving touchdowns in a season… with the Patriots. The Vikings reacquired Moss from the Patriots during the 2010 season by trading away a third round pick, but he was never the same and the Vikings were burned, again.

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26. Chicago Bears

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The Bears hatred for the Patriots stems back to the 1985 season, when the Bears handled the Patriots 46-10 in Super Bowl XX. Super Bowl shuffles aside, the Bears victory will forever be diminished by the inferiority of their opponent. New England’s “Cinderella” status is a blemish on the Bears one and only Super Bowl win and for that the Bears hate the Patriots. As Adam pointed out above, a rematch with the Dolphins would have been preferable, but the Patriots went and screwed it up.

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27. Detroit Lions

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The Lions always play their hearts out on their traditional Thanksgiving Day game. Despite their pride in representing this time honored tradition, they only own a 33-36-2 record all-time on turkey day, and two of their recent defeats have come at the hands of the Patriots.

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28. San Francisco 49ers

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San Francisco owns an 8-4 record all-time over the Patriots, but their real beef should be with the Patriots for dropping the 2012 AFC Championship Game to the Baltimore Ravens, who eventually beat the 49ers in the Super Bowl. The 49ers were likely hoping for a rematch against the Patriots, whom they’d ran up 41 points against in Foxboro just a few weeks prior behind the legs and arm of Colin Kaepernick.

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29. Arizona Cardinals

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The Cardinals upset the Patriots in week 2 last season, and that was with Kevin Kolb at the helm, so why should they hate the Patriots? They followed that up by losing nine of their next 11 games, and are still currently in the market for a franchise quarterback. The Patriots on the other hand, have that guy named Brady and now it’s rumored the Cardinals could be in line for former Patriots and soon-to-be Chiefs cast off Matt Cassel.  The Cardinals (and Cardinals fans) would probably prefer Brady’s backup Ryan mallet, but the odds of pulling him out from the Pats organization cheaply are less likely than the Cardinals winning the Super Bowl next season. And those odds aren’t good at all.

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30. Seattle Seahawks

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The Seahawks were also a team that upset the Patriots last season, giving us Richard Sherman’s now legendary tweet “U MAD BRO? in the process. The Seahawks, like several other teams, don’t have much reason to hate the Patriots, but they could very soon. Statistician Nate Silver recently predicted a Seahawks-Patriots matchup for Super Bowl XLVIII. Tom Brady’s not mad now, but he probably will be if these teams meet in Brady’s sixth Super Bowl, which could spell disaster for the young, fiery Seahawks defense.

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31. St. Louis Rams

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Tom Brady Super Bowl victim #1. Brady squashed the Rams hopes of becoming a dynasty, and instead, started one of his own. Had Warner beat Tom Brady for his second Super Bowl win in three years, we could be discussing Warner as the one chasing Montana’s Super Bowl win record, and not Brady.

-Alex Gelhar @alexgelhar

NFL combine recap: Manti Te’o, Leon Sandcastle and a Jennifer Lawrence-worthy tumble

The 2013 NFL Scouting Combine (or underwear Olympics as it’s also commonly known) has come to a close. Hundreds of NFL hopefuls descended on Lucas Oil Stadium over the last several days to try to run, jump and lift their way into the hearts of NFL coaches and scouts across the land. But what were the most entertaining stories circling the combine that deserve revisiting? That’s what we’re here for. So sit back, put your feet up, and relive the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine through a more comedic lens.

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Dancing with the Stars: Ranking the NFL contestants

Yes, it’s official. We’ve reached that point in the offseason where this constitutes a blog post. With the free agency frenzy simmering down, and the season premiere of Dancing with the Stars hitting ABC last night, we’re using our unlimited amount of cyber-ink to discuss the wildly popular dance show instead of pure football.

Last night, Baltimore Ravens star and Super Bowl XLVII hero Jacoby Jones became the eleventh NFL player to appear on the show. He danced the Cha Cha Cha with his partner Karina Smirnoff and earned a respectable score 20 out of 30 from the judges. We’ll have to stay tuned throughout the season to see how Jacoby fairs compared to the NFL pros that have danced before him.

NFL players have thrice taken the DWTS crown, with former Green Bay Packer Donald Driver winning last season.  In honor of their achievements, let’s take a trip down memory lane and recap the best NFL players on DWTS. To see how all ten of them stacked up, I went to the tape (translation: YouTube, as I’ve never seen a full episode of DWTS in my life).

Here’s my unofficial, yet highly scientific breakdown of the NFL players on DWTS… I’m sure you’re brimming with unbridled anticipation!

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10) Michael Irvin

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(ABC/ADAM LARKEY)

(ABC/ADAM LARKEY)

An all-time great wide receiver, Irvin faltered a bit on DWTS. He finished seventh when he appeared on season 9.  If Jones studies the tape, however, he’ll see Irvin did have the right attitude to win, as he was willing to do anything to improve. Seriously, anything.

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Tom Brady Contract Demands

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NFL.com illustration

Tom Brady restructured his deal on Monday in a move that will give the Patriots some much-needed salary cap relief. A ton of fan enthusiasts have lauded Brady for the move, even calling him a football martyr.

But before we get too crazy with all of this talk, understand Brady does get a lot of guaranteed money for the move. Plus, Brady had a lot of extra “perks” and provisions added to his deal which shows he’s not making out too badly.

NFL.com was able to unearth some of these requests:

  • Bill Belichick must wear a tie at least once a year.
  • Team must wear Ugg boots on chartered flights.
  • I will not get on the charter again if “Blue Bloods” is the in-flight entertainment.
  • Fans from Boston are not allowed to make eye contact with me. Just to be on the safe side, nobody named Tommy, Sean or Sully is allowed within 100 feet of my presence.
  • At least once a year, everybody must style their hair like their favorite cartoon character. For me, it’s Tin-Tin.
  • Gisele gets to pick the team’s next wide receiver.
  • Rob Gronkowski must keep his shirt on at all times.
  • No matter what, I must make more money than Mark Sanchez at all times.

Best Picture: Hollywood-worthy NFL stories for 2013

Best-Picture-130221-Wide

NFL.com illustration

With 85th Academy Awards happening this weekend, some of the best “true” and fictional stories told on the silver screen from last year will be honored with miniature gold statues of a naked man. What an honor! And with the NFL offseason just starting to ramp up at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis this weekend, we thought it’d be fun to take advantage of this down time to look into the future and see what remarkable story-lines we could be in line for next season.

Last season featured a number of Hollywood-worthy tales, from the Harbaugh Bowl to the rookie sensations at quarterback to Ray Lewis going out on top and on and on. Below are a few highly speculative storylines for next season that seem utterly ridiculous at first, but are just believable enough where we cannot dismiss them entirely.  Let’s get to it!

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REDemption

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Alex Smith is traded to the Cardinals, who he takes to a sixth seed and a wild card appearance in the NFC. Smith and the Cardinals ride momentum to win three straight road games and reach the Super Bowl. Their most notable victory comes against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game, where Smith receives vindication by beating his former team and the quarterback who literally ran him out of town in the last game to ever be played at Candlestick Park. Now who do the Cardinals face in the Super Bowl? None other than the fiery red headed quarterback Andy Dalton, who finally wins in the playoffs to carry the Bengals to the promised land and earn his own redemption, setting up a classic Super Bowl with two franchises seeking their first victory in the big dance.

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The Second Coming

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Unable to secure a trade for Tim Tebow, the New York Jets release ESPN’s favorite athlete, who clears the waivers and ends up on his couch for the first half of the season. That is until fate strikes across the country in the Bay area, where newly minted starter Tyrelle Pryor for the Oakland Raiders suffers an injury after leading his team to a solid 3-4 start. Having kicked Carson Palmer out the door to clear cap room, the Raiders try to trade for Nick Foles or Kirk Cousins but can’t reach a deal. Desperate for a quarterback, GM Reggie McKenzie calls Tim Tebow, and is able to sign him for next to nothing as Tim just wants a chance. Running the Pistol offense, Tebow and Darren McFadden lead the Raiders to the postseason for the first time in over a decade, where they come face to face with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Tebow has just enough magic left in the tanks to stun Manning and co. with a game-winning fourth quarter drive to upset the Broncos and stoking the fire in the debate of whether the Broncos should have stayed with Tebow over acquiring Manning.

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The Odd Couple

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In a bizarre twist of fate, the Seattle Seahawks trade Matt Flynn for Darelle Revis, forming the deepest (and most unnecessary) trio of cornerbacks the league has ever seen. Revis and Richard Sherman are forced to put their Twitter differences aside as they work with Brandon Browner to shut down every passing attack they face. The Seahawks defense from 2012 becomes even more suffocating, and they set new records for points and yards allowed en route to a Super Bowl victory over Tom Brady and the Patriots. This time, however, Revis joins Sherman in trash-talking Brady after the game, and the two complete the most anticipated bro-hug the world has ever seen after hoisting the Lombardi trophy together, no longer enemies, but friends. Cue the awwws.

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O’ Brother Here Art Thou

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Motivated by yet another disappointing postseason, Peyton Manning earns his unprecedented fifth MVP award while leading the Broncos to a perfect 18-0 record and a Super Bowl appearance against the only quarterback to ever defeat an 18-0 team… Peyton’s younger brother Eli Manning. The Harbowl becomes a distant memory as the mainstream media gives up covering anything other than Manning vs. Manning for the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, and the two months following it.

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Look Who’s Elite Now

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With Joe Flacco winning the Super Bowl the same year he declared himself the best quarterback in the league, everyone heads into the 2013 season following suit. Jay Cutler, Tony Romo, Phillip Rivers, Matthew Stafford, and even Mark Sanchez (but everyone mostly laughs at his proclamation) all declare themselves the greatest quarterback alive during the preseason. All of these quarterbacks further the debate by leading their team to the postseason (minus Sanchez), when an unexpected dark horse emerges to take the Lombardi trophy home and earn Super Bowl MVP honors – Matt Schaub! The debate continues as Schaub now has the hardware to back up his claim at elite status, while the rest of the league scrambles for answers. Meanwhile, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers sit in disbelief that they have as many titles as Matt Schuab and Joe Flacco.

Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar

Trade deadline: NFL fans submit their dream trades

In honor of the NBA trade deadline, we asked you to give us your blockbuster trades if you were the GM of your favorite NFL team for a day by tweeting #ImtheGM to @nfl on Twitter or commenting on Facebook. By the day’s end you gave us some outstanding and interesting responses. To pay tribute to the awesome (and savvy) fans of the NFL, we’ve highlighted some of the best and boldest GM ideas below:

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Twitter

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Giving up one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time for Flacco and Rice? Unless you’re making this deal after a long happy hour, this one doesn’t make too much sense.

Hmmm… not sure the Redskins fans would be too pleased with this deal, considering Romo threw as many interceptions in two games against the Redskins as RG3 threw all year.

This… actually makes a lot of sense. Harvin would love the spotlight of the Big Apple, until he drops a game-winning touchdown and is pummeled by the New York media for weeks after.

A dynamic running back would make Aaron Rodgers even better, a scary thought for the rest of the NFL. But wouldn’t you want to keep the coffers stocked to pay Rodgers instead of inheriting one of these running backs’ salaries?

This #ImtheGM tweet is approved by Sam Bradford!

Well, now let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. Another play-making wide receiver could make DangeRuss even more dangerous on Sundays.

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Facebook

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Timothy Hedrick

Why not a younger deep threat like Bowe or Wallace? But I guess you wanted someone with less emotional baggage and gives it his all every play like Randy Moss.

Joe Colucci

Sandcastle to the 49ers might be more likely than some of the trades suggested here, but kudos for shooting so high!

Jaydan Campbell

Harvin would certainly help the Seahawks offense, as long as the constant rain in Seattle doesn’t give him too many migraines.

Joshua Seitz

Let’s not forget Reed used to play for Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano. He would probably relish the chance to lead Chuck’s defense once more.

Carson Coudriet

Alex Smith and Montee Ball could help energize the Jets offense, but who would Smith throw it to? Cordarrelle Patterson in the first might make more sense than Jordan if you’re focused on retooling the offense.

Keep sharing your suggestions with us on Facebook or by using #ImtheGM on Twitter. 

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