Super Bowl LIII: What to Expect, and Who Wins

17 years ago, Super Bowl XXXVI was played between the then-St. Louis Rams and the New England Patriots. The quarterbacks were Kurt Warner and Tom Brady. Back then, Tom Brady was just 24 years old and a second-year quarterback, and Bill Belichick was in his second season coaching the Patriots. Now players WR Julian Edelman and TE Rob Gronkowski of the Pats were 15 and 12 years old, respectively, Rams coach Sean McVay was 16, and Rams quarterback Jared Goff was 8. On Sunday, Super Bowl LIII will be played between the now-Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots, with players such as Edelman, Gronkowski, and Goff playing, and McVay coaching. Oh, how time flies. But the guys that are still there are Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, and they are not showing many signs of not showing up to Super Bowls anytime soon. The Patriots are an older, more experienced team, going against a team of young guys who are new to the Super Bowl party, yet the two teams have very similar playing styles, with prolific passing games on offense, bend-but-don’t-break defenses, and big-play special teams units. Here are how the teams compare, and who will lift the Lombardi Trophy.

The Game, The Teams, The Storylines, and The Prediction

The LA Rams started the season 8-0 and looked like the hottest team in the league until they went into the Superdome and got humbled by the Saints. As the season went on, the offense was questioned, as they began to have a dropoff, as shown in games against Chicago and Philly. They finally showed they belonged in the playoffs with wins against Dallas and New Orleans (which yes, they didn’t deserve to win because of the referees, but we can’t do anything about that anymore). Anyways, everyone knows that Todd Gurley is the best player for the Rams by far, but with him not having been 100% the past few weeks, CJ Anderson has stepped in and been their best player ever since. Bill Belichick is known for taking away the best player(s) from the opposing team, so do not expect Gurley and/or Anderson to have the same type of numbers that they have been the past few weeks. Belichick will force Goff to beat them, and with Goff being a young, yet good quarterback, you can bet Goff will get a bit frazzled at times. Sean McVay, on the other hand, will have to take away Julian Edelman, which if you watch the Patriots play in Super Bowls, you know how hard that is to do. Edelman is always the one who comes up clutch in Super Bowls and always delivers for Brady. As far as matchups go, Patriots have the advantage. As far as experience goes, Patriots have the advantage. As far as the stats and on-paper comparison goes, Rams have the advantage. But what is really going to be the determining factor for this game? Which quarterback has the ball last. This Super Bowl will be quite similar to the past two, where offenses fly around the field, but the offense that blinks first is the one that loses. If I had to guess which offense blinks first, I would go with the Rams. I just do not trust the fact that the Rams secondary can do enough to stop Brady from getting the ball to guys like Edelman (who leads the team in receiving yards this postseason with 247), Gronkowski (who had two touchdowns in Super Bowl LII), and James White (leading the team in receptions, and also holds the NFL record for most receptions in a Super Bowl game with 14 in Super Bowl LI). The Rams pass rush simply is not enough to disrupt the Pats offense, and as far as the Patriots defense goes, while they may not be great, they have all been here before, and they have stepped up to the challenge this postseason. I simply do not see a way that the Patriots lose back-to-back Super Bowls as long as Brady and Belichick are present. Another fun fact, Brady is undefeated against non-NFC East teams in the Super Bowl (two losses to NY Giants, one to Philadelphia Eagles). To all the Rams fans and Patriots haters out there, don’t get too excited. Pats win, 38-34.

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Conference Championship Weekend: Who’s Going to Atlanta?

The time of year is quickly approaching. The cold nights of January are perfect for playoff football, so we have to preview the games coming up this Sunday and see who is packing their bags to stay home, and who will live another few weeks and go to Atlanta.

AFC Championship Game: Kansas City Chiefs vs. New England Patriots

So, per usual, the AFC Championship Game runs through the Patriots, as it has for the past 8 years. This time, however, we go from cold Foxborough to cold and possibly snowy Kansas City. With the kickoff temperature expected to be in the 20s now rather than in the single digits, fans going to the game can be a bit more excited about the fact that their chances of getting hypothermia and frostbite went down a bit, but this may be just another thing that plays into New England’s advantage. The Patriots play in these temperatures in January all the time, whether they practice in it, or play in it. Kansas City doesn’t know what an AFC Championship Game is like, it has been over 40 years since that last happened. That being said, soon-to-be NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes will lead his Chiefs in a rematch against the GOAT Tom Brady. The last time these teams played was a Sunday night in October, where the offenses were nonstop, defenses non-existent, and Pats Kicker Stephen Gostkowski was money. The game once again will come down to who has the ball last, and who can make the biggest plays at the right moment. The last time they played, Patrick Mahomes found Tyreek Hill on a huge touchdown play late in the 4thbut left over 3 minutes for Brady to work with to get into field goal range. Mahomes better make sure that if he wants to score a touchdown, that he doesn’t leave too much time on the clock, because Brady will find a way. 3 minutes is an eternity for Brady. Despite Brady being 1-4 lifetime on the road in AFC Championship Games, and his best target Rob Gronkowski being AWOL for most of the season, Brady always finds a way, and against a defense as terrible as the Chiefs, he won’t lose. Oh, and not to mention, the biggest choker in NFL history, Chiefs coach Andy Reid, is coaching the Chiefs still (despite all the leads he’s blown, and the lack of playoff wins before this year), so it is safe to say the Chiefs will find a way to lose this game. No betting against Brady here, Pats win.

NFC Championship Game: New Orleans Saints vs. Los Angeles Rams

Another rematch of a game that ended up being an absolute thriller, with the Rams being undefeated at 8-0 at the time, and the Saints being the only team that could seemingly stop them. Surely enough, the Saints were able to end the dominance of LA, and neither team has really slowed down since. The two most complete teams in the NFC will meet again in New Orleans on Sunday, yet this time with some more questions to answer. Will Jared Goff play like he did in November when they played New Orleans (he had 391 yards passing and 3 TDs), or will he play like he did last year in the Rams NFC Wild Card Game against Atlanta? Will Sean McVay prove to be the prodigy the world is amazed by? Will Drew Brees cement his place as potentially the Greatest of All Time? Since the last rematch, Goff has been off-and-on, McVay has proven his prodigy-like skills, and Brees has broken records and put up an MVP-caliber season. Since then, the Saints have also been the #1 scoring defense, which will prove to be the difference on Sunday. The Saints defense’s ability to slow down the Rams potent offense will be what wins them this game. Last week, when they played the Eagles, they were down 14-0 after the Eagles’ first 2 possessions, but the defense didn’t allow any points the rest of the game and came up with the game-winning stop on a Marshon Lattimore interception, all thanks to Alshon Jeffery’s ‘best hands in the NFL’. There will be a ton of points scored for sure, but it will come down to if Jared Goff can outplay Brees and if the Saints defense fails to stop Goff and the Rams. I do not see that happening, so Saints win.

Why the College Football Playoff Selection Committee Got It Wrong… And Bama-Clemson Part IV Prediction

 

So, yeah, my predictions for the playoff games were bad. Everyone makes mistakes and misjudgments though. I mean, at least I am not Stephen A. Smith where I predict 7 straight NBA Finals wrong, or I am Skip Bayless and never know what sport I am talking about. Anyway, the playoff games gave the College Football Playoff Selection Committee nightmares over how they picked the teams, so here is my take on why they were wrong, and how to solve these problems.

Why They Were Wrong

They didn’t pick Georgia. That’s why there were wrong. Georgia was the 2nd-best team in the SEC, and sure they couldn’t beat Alabama, but given another chance, they probably could. They are the only team in the country who prior to the National Championship could beat Alabama (Clemson being the #2 would play them in the Championship). Now, yes, last night made a bad reflection on that, but Georgia simply didn’t care about the fact that they were playing in the Sugar Bowl. Kinda like how in 2013, when Oklahoma played Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, and Alabama got smoked. It was because they simply didn’t care. They felt like they should’ve been in the National Championship, despite the memorable ‘Kick 6’ loss to Auburn in the Iron Bowl. Or even last year, when USC played Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl. USC felt that even with an 11-2 record, that their losses coming from strongly ranked teams would not be a huge deal, as they ended up winning the Pac-12. However, since they didn’t make the Playoff, they simply showed no desire to win against Ohio State. Should Georgia, like Alabama in 2013, or even USC last year, been in the Playoff? Well, I think yes, but then again, what do I know about how the College Football Playoff works?

Now look, let us be honest here, I should never have picked Notre Dame to beat Clemson. Notre Dame is an Independent, no conference whatsoever, so they do not have to play in a conference title game. I mean, Notre Dame was 12-0 going into last night, whereas every other team going into the playoff played 13. Why is this a big deal? Well, you could say that Notre Dame should’ve had all that extra time to prepare, but then again, they hadn’t played since the week before Conference Championship Weekend, which was November 24thagainst an unranked USC (Southern California, the real USC). Not having played for over a month really took a toll on the team. Ian Book and the offense looked sluggish, and the defense seemed scared of the moment. To me, Notre Dame’s best chance to be prepared for these moments is to join a conference. They should at least try to get more games against Big Ten opponents to get themselves more experience if they can’t agree to join a conference. Them being Independent for all sports except football is concerning to me considering that the hardest sport to get into a playoff in is football, with it only being 4 teams. Speaking of which…

The Playoff Should Be 8 Teams

There is no reason for just 4 teams. I mean seriously? A playoff of just 3 games? Not only were teams like Georgia deserving of making it this year but also teams such as Ohio State had a case to make the playoff. Teams like Michigan and UCF maybe aren’t as deserving, but hey, why not put them in the playoff and see what happens. Here is what the bracket would look like with 8 teams:

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We can speculate on what the outcomes of these could be, but think about how exciting this would be? UCF finally gets Bama (as the self-proclaimed ‘National Champions’ have always wanted), OU and Georgia have a rematch from last year’s classic Playoff game, and Ohio State and Michigan can have the chance to prove to the world that the Big Ten is worthy of a playoff spot. All in all, it would just create a more exciting atmosphere and weeks of anticipation and gameplay.

Clemson vs. Alabama Part IV: Good for College Football? Who Wins?

Clemson and Alabama play for the 4thconsecutive Playoff, and 3 of the past 4 National Championship Games have had this matchup. Right now, the series is 3-1 in favor of Alabama, yet this Clemson team is showing flashes of that 2017 National Championship team that beat Alabama on the last play of the game. The offense, much like this year, is very balanced with Etienne and Lawrence, as they did with Wayne Gallman and Deshaun Watson in the 2017 run. The defense is probably better than it was in 2017, and the receiving core is also very similar. That being said, Alabama’s offense is much better through the air than it was last time, with Tua’s ability to read defenses and extend plays being much better than that of Jalen Hurts, then and now.

I would put my money on Clemson. Trevor Lawrence’s deep ball ability, coupled with his ability to extend plays with his feet and accuracy, he could cause them problems, probably more than even Kyler Murray did. Murray is the type of QB that Alabama can live with because they are more than willing to let a QB of his size, speed, and skillset, beat them with his legs. Sure, he had 309 yards passing, but he also had 108 rushing. Lawrence could get between 350 and 400, and he has a much better receiving core than Murray does with Oklahoma. The deep-ball passing game has hurt Alabama against top teams, most notably against Georgia, when Jake Fromm let it fly all night and burned the Crimson Tide secondary for most of the night. Also unlike Oklahoma, Clemson has a very strong defense, starting with the front seven, led by Kendall Joseph and Christian Wilkins, who should be able to get to Tua with questions of his health, as well as the pass protection of Tua over the past few weeks. It’ll be a much more defensive game and will have a Georgia-Alabama SEC Championship feel to it, but at the end of the day, it is what college football wants, the two best teams going at it on the gridiron. Last year, Clemson got swamped, 24-7, by an Alabama team that was the 4thseed and had no business being in the Playoff, considering they didn’t even win the SEC. However, history has shown that the lower seeded team has won every time. Oh, and Drake repped Alabama, and no team has ever won when Drake reps them. I got Clemson with the upset victory.

Final Result: Clemson for the win.

2018 College Football Playoff: Can the CFP Dominance of Alabama and Clemson Be Stopped?

Over the past few years, it seems like it’s the same-old same-old, Clemson and Alabama making the College Football Playoff, and have played each other the past 3 years, including 2 of the past 3 National Championships. This year, however, features some new headlines. Alabama QB sensation Tua Tagovailoa has an injury to both of his ankles, and Clemson DL Dexter Lawrence, who is probably the best defensive lineman in the country, failed a drug test which will force him to be out vs. Notre Dame. Could this be the year that Oklahoma and Notre Dame take down the dynasties?

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: #2 Clemson vs. #3 Notre Dame, 4PM EST, ESPN

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney benched QB Kelly Bryant in favor of freshman QB Trevor Lawrence, people wondered if this was the beginning of the end for Clemson’s playoff chances. Bryant had been such a valuable piece to the team, going 16-2 in his 18 starts, and taking them to the College Football Playoff the season before. Lawrence, on the other hand, was the #2 recruit according to the ESPN 300, and while he had tons of potential and talent, he was only a freshman. Lawrence, however, took what was a stagnant offense (well, for Clemson, at least), and turned it into an undefeated season, and Clemson scored its most touchdowns ever in Clemson history. To help ease the pressure off of Lawrence, Clemson’s defense was 2ndin scoring, allowing just 13.7 points per game to opponents.

Notre Dame had the same issues with quarterback as well yet did not have the same expectations on them as Clemson did. Senior Brandon Wimbush started off the first 3 games, yet after having a 1:4 TD-to-INT ratio over 3 games, it was time for junior QB Ian Book to come in. Much like with Lawrence for Clemson, Book gave the spark the team needed offensively to compete with the best-of-the-best and give Notre Dame their first College Football Playoff berth.

Notre Dame in their last 5 Bowl Games are 0-5, having lost all by double-digits, but the fact that according to Vegas, Clemson is a 13-point favorite over Notre Dame is beyond me. The game will come down to the run game of both teams against the defensive lines. Can Clemson’s D-Line hold up without Dexter Lawrence against Ian Book and Dexter Williams in the Read Option game, or will Travis Etienne and Co. manhandle Notre Dame. Book and Lawrence will do their things, but Williams vs. Etienne will be the difference. As well as Clemson has run the ball all season, averaging 259 yards per game on the ground, Dexter Lawrence not being out there has resulted in almost double the yards per carry for opposing teams (1.7 yards per carry with Lawrence, 3.0 yards per carry without). He is easily the best defensive lineman in the country, and his absence will be felt. Williams should take advantage of that, and then set up the play-action game for Book to utilize. Notre Dame gets the upset.

Capital One Orange Bowl: #1 Alabama vs. #4 Oklahoma, 8PM EST, ESPN

Much like Clemson and Notre Dame, Alabama switched quarterbacks, this time from Jalen Hurts to Tua Tagovailoa. Hurts had taken the team to back-to-back championships and won both, except in the 2ndone (last year vs. Georgia), he exited the game with an injury, and in came Tua, a Hawaiian kid whom no one had heard about who somehow managed to lead the miracle comeback from 20-7 down in the 4thto win 26-23 in OT. Had the injury not happened, Tua would not be a started, Hurts and Alabama’s dynasty would be over, and we would probably be discussing a Georgia-Oklahoma playoff game, yet instead, Tua’s heroics have us here. Tua, for much of the season, was the Heisman front-runner. Then he injured his ankle, and Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray took the trophy home. Tua then injured his other ankle against Georgia this year in the SEC Championship game, again vs. Georgia, Hurts stepped in, and Hurts led a miracle comeback victory. So, the question becomes yet again, will Tua be healthy, and even if he is, is he better than Hurts?

On the other side, Heisman winner Kyler Murray has his sights set on the National Championship trophy now. He represents Oklahoma as a school that has had back-to-back Heisman winners now (Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield having won last year), and now leads Oklahoma to back-to-back playoff berths. Oklahoma’s one-loss season was criticized by many as a season which wasn’t playoff-worthy, having lost to a Texas team that wasn’t very good at the time. That being said, Oklahoma still has the tools to be able to beat a high-powered team like Alabama.

Much like last year, Oklahoma’s high-flying offense against a top defense in the country looms large. Alabama will come in with their usual gameplan if Tua plays, which is to let Tua be Tua. Alabama coach Nick Saban will be more than happy to see him throw the ball deep against this suspect secondary of Oklahoma. That being said, Oklahoma’s defense has stepped up quite a bit as of late, and if Tua isn’t 100% and still plays, Oklahoma can send pressure and force turnovers. The more turnovers they force, the more Kyler Murray can lead the charge. Time of possession will be the story of the game, but against Alabama, Oklahoma’s defense has to be the best it has ever been and force takeaways. With Tua’s status unknown and Kyler’s Heisman ability, I don’t see a way that Alabama’s offense will be able to match Oklahoma’s scoring ability. 

2019 National Championship: #3 Notre Dame vs. #4 Oklahoma

Assuming this is the National Championship, this would be one of the most entertaining National Championships we have seen in years. Notre Dame would have a chance to continue its glorified history, and Oklahoma could turn themselves into one of the most prestigious college football programs in the country. Notre Dame’s season simply has just been the type that many programs dream of, but I do not believe it will end as a perfect season. Oklahoma’s pro-ready offense is going to be too much for Notre Dame to overcome, but it will surely be one of the best National Championships yet if it happens.

 

Why NBA Fans Should Chill Out… And Why They Should Not

The Golden State Warriors seemed to have ruined the season for many NBA fans on July 2nd, when they had signed Demarcus Cousins, the league’s best center, to a 1-year, $5.3 million deal. Now, many people, including myself, originally thought that this was terrible for the NBA, yet after thinking over it for the past few days, I have some words to say to all worrying NBA fans out there, as well as Demarcus Cousins:

Why Everyone Should Chill Out

Seriously, everyone should chill. Yes, they got Boogie Cousins, which makes the Warriors look almost unbeatable on paper, but then again, he is coming off of an Achilles injury which kept him out for the last 34 games of the regular season and the playoffs, yet they went to the 2nd round, including sweeping the 3-seed Portland Trail Blazers, exceeding expectations. The biggest reason for this was because the Pelicans could finally play high-tempo basketball, something that Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry has been a master at his whole coaching career. Rajon Rondo and Solomon Hill were inserted into the starting lineup, Jrue Holiday was moved to Shooting Guard, Nikola Mirotic played at Power Forward, and of course Anthony Davis played Center. The offense gained fluidity through going up-tempo. What am I trying to say here? Cousins is going to slow down Golden State. He is a slow player, he cannot shoot, he doesn’t spread the floor, he’s a post player who can rebound, as shown by his 25 points and 12 rebounds per game last season. This isn’t Joel Embiid or Nikola Jokic, a Center that can shoot the 3, this is Demarcus Cousins, and this is the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors live and die by the 3. We have seen this since the start of the Cavs-Warriors rivalry, that is how they play, that simple. The deadlier part about that is that they play fast, up-tempo basketball, so while they seem like simply a 3-point shooting team, the fastbreaks they are able to create make things more and more un-guardable. Now, tell me, do you think that Steve Kerr and the Warriors would want to see Boogie not be able to run halfway up the court after grabbing a rebound, while Draymond Green, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, and Klay Thompson are all the way at the 3-point line? By the time Boogie gets back in transition, the flow of the offense is disrupted, the fastbreak is stopped, and the Warriors are about 7-8 seconds into the shot clock. Now, think about this for a second. The Warriors do this for a few possessions, they let up points on the other end, Steve Kerr calls timeout, and lets Demarcus hear it. How would Demarcus, the league’s biggest crybaby (besides Draymond Green, who is his new teammate), feel about that? Well, the same thing that has happened to Demarcus the past few years. He cries. He leaves next season once his one year deal is over. Oh, and another thing, he gets injured a lot, so maybe he won’t be so happy if he misses some time and doesn’t get his money’s worth. Oh wait, he didn’t get his money’s worth. He denied $40 million over 2 years from the Pelicans just so he could not have to do anything and still win a ring, because they will most likely still win this year. Now, regardless of if they win it all or not, it could still be a failed experiment because Demarcus didn’t like being under the scrutiny of slowing down the fast-paced offense of the team. He has the option to leave, but after seeing him make a move like this, no team in the NBA would want him, unless they’re desperate, which Demarcus would not want to be a part of. Also, Kevin Durant is a free agent next summer, and the New York Knicks are already planning to target him in free agency, and with Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler planning to team up in the East (Kyrie wants to play for the Knicks, and Jimmy wants to be wherever Kyrie is), and Kristaps Porzingis and Kevin Knox already with the Knicks, Durant would definitely consider it, and he would earn the respect of so many back, as he is essentially taking the path of earning his right to win a ring instead of it being given. Durant signing the 2-year extension this year proves he wants to prove himself as a team leader elsewhere, and he knows that the Warriors will always be Steph Curry’s team, even though KD is better. Klay Thompson could also leave for the Los Angeles Lakers, where his father Mychal played and won many championships in his career. Klay could certainly decide to continue his legacy there. There is a legit chance that KD and Boogie at least could leave the Warriors next season (Klay has voiced his love for the Warriors throughout his career, so leaving would be a 50-50 chance for him), and that the dynasty could be over, and teams like the Lakers, Celtics, 76ers, and Knicks, are all ready to take over the NBA.

Demarcus, How Can You Be So Ignorant?

Demarcus, how can you be so ignorant that you leave a team that was good enough without you to sweep the Blazers, get a win against the Warriors in the 2nd round, something the Cleveland Cavaliers couldn’t do in the NBA Finals, and still leave them for a team that swept the NBA Finals? How can you be so ignorant that you leave a top-5 player in the NBA (Anthony Davis), the man that hyped you up all season and all offseason, the man that literally wore your jersey for the All-Star Game because he was so sorry for you and that you weren’t there? How can you be so ignorant that you simply don’t want to be the best, and that you just want to be part of the best (Golden State)? How can you be so ignorant that Pelicans fans looked up to you, admired you, bought their jerseys, got hyped up, went to games for you, and had hope for the team, and you still left them? How can you be so ignorant that even if you didn’t want to stay in New Orleans, that you couldn’t just go to a team where you could put yourself in position to beat Golden State? How can you be so ignorant that you take your talents to a team that doesn’t need or care about you at all? How can you be so ignorant that you said you wanted to win yourself when you left the Sacramento Kings, and yet you go to the team where you need to do no work to win a ring? How can you be so ignorant that you force a team to trade valuable assets for you so you can just be injured and not play, and then you leave them thinking they aren’t good enough because you cannot stay healthy? Demarcus Cousins, you do not deserve to ever get more than the $5.3 million that you will get this year, you do not deserve to be worth more than that money, and you do not deserve to go to the playoffs and win rings. Everything you do from this point forward is not deserved or earned, it is given to your pathetic, narcissistic self for thinking that leaving a team where you put up max-contract-worthy stats, and you had a great team and players, and you left them for what potentially already was the greatest team ever assembled. Kevin Durant went from OKC to Golden State to try to win, and yes, it was messed up, because he was on a team that was so talented that they could’ve beaten that Golden State team, and he could’ve won the Finals, and even if he lost he could’ve stayed and proved himself, yet he was a backstabber who decided to take an easy way out. The difference between you and Kevin Durant is that Durant had proven himself as the 2nd best player in the NBA, and Durant, while he may not have earned his rings, earned respect across the league, and elevated the Warriors to be one of the greatest teams ever, yet you have done nothing. Being the best Center in the league means nothing if you cannot even make the playoffs yourself, and if you cannot stay healthy and get your attitude right to be part of a team like that. You are officially the most ignorant and least likeable player in any sport, and you didn’t take PEDs to break the record book, you didn’t commit any crazy crimes, no, none of that. You simply just are too weak to do anything by yourself. Period.

Why We Shouldn’t Chill Out

They will win the Finals regardless and he did absolutely nothing to deserve it, and the entire Golden State Warriors starting lineup has 5 All-Stars, that’s why. They can win this year, but this is the beginning of the end one way or another.

Did Cristiano Ronaldo Close The Door On Lionel Messi For The Soccer GOAT?

On June 15th, 2018, Portugal and Spain, two European heavyweights went to battle in their Group B opener of their 2018 World Cup campaigns. Portugal superstar striker Cristiano Ronaldo had a huge test ahead in that Spain defense and goalkeeper David de Gea, the best in the world at his position. Ronaldo recently made claims that he is the GOAT, and that the gap between him and Lionel Messi of Argentina is the largest it has been in a while. This match gave him a great opportunity to prove himself, and he did more than just that. drew a penalty in the 3rd minute of the match and converted from the penalty spot a minute later to give Portugal a quick 1-0 lead. Spain, however, did not back down, as striker Diego Costa brought them level with a series of beautiful moves between a crowd of 4 Portuguese defenders. Portugal, or should I say, Ronaldo, was not fazed. In the 44th minute, Ronaldo got to the edge of the box and fired at the knee of David de Gea, who could not hang on to the ball, allowing the ball to deflect off his knee and in for his second goal. Portugal goes into half up 2-1. Spain, however, ended up taking a 3-2 lead by the 58th minute, with Costa scoring again, and Ronaldo’s Real Madrid teammate Nacho scoring an amazing golazo. Down 3-2, Portugal was unable to create any real chances until the 88th minute, when Ronaldo was fouled in his ‘free-kick territory’, and man did he deliver. Ronaldo, before he kicked it, stepped back, rolled his shorts up, took a few deep breaths, and kicked it straight into the back of the net. The Ronaldo GOAT talks seemed to be happening at an all-time high, and it seems as though we can expect to see more of this throughout his 2018 World Cup campaign.

On June 16th, 2018, Argentina played their Group D World Cup opener against Iceland, a team that had never scored a goal in its World Cup history. Argentina, full of world-class goal scorers led by Lionel Messi, seemed primed to take an easy win, but Iceland had other ideas. In a rather boring game, Argentinian striker Sergio Agüero got things started with an early goal in the 19th minute, which was followed up by Alfred Finbogasson’s goal, as those 2 goals would be the only goals of the entire match, but there were many chances from Argentina, specifically Messi, to win the match. Messi received a penalty kick which, unlike Ronaldo, he failed to convert on, and a free kick, which he also failed to convert on, again unlike Ronaldo. Messi had the pressure put on him by Ronaldo’s performance and did not deliver, that too against a much weaker team in Iceland. Considering the circumstances, Iceland celebrated as if it was a win, which despite the score line, it was a win for the Icelandic.

On June 20th, 2018, Ronaldo and Portugal played Morocco, in a rather sloppy 1-0 win, and Ronaldo scored off of a header in the 4th minute, yet he, and his GOATee shined throughout the match.

On June 21st, 2018, Messi and Argentina played Croatia. Croatia destroyed Messi and Co. 3-0, and Messi had 20 touches, not shots, TOUCHES, in the first half, and went the last 21 minutes and 11 seconds without a single touch. Croatian players like Ante Rebić, Mario Mandzukić, Ivan Rakitić, and Luka Modrić made Messi look like a player who shouldn’t have even gone to the World Cup.

Is Ronaldo The GOAT Over Messi?

Well, let us take a look at the stats. First, look at the Ballon D’Or’s, the award given to the best player in the world every year. Both of them have 5 each, with Ronaldo having won 4 of the last 5 Ballon D’Or’s. As far as Champions League’s go, it is in favor of Ronaldo, 5-4 (Ronaldo won his first in 2008 with Manchester United). So, now to the goals. Ronaldo in his career has 658 goals in 913 appearances (573 goals in 761 appearances club-wise), whereas Messi has 616 goals in 763 appearances (552 goals in 637 appearances club-wise). So, Ronaldo holds the crown in goals overall. Messi has 250 assists to Ronaldo’s 208, yet that it expected, since Messi plays on the wings, and has never played striker, whereas Ronaldo is often asked to play striker, as he does in international play for Portugal. Last, look at the trophies. Ronaldo has 3 Premier League Titles, 1 FA Cup, 2 EFL Cups, La Liga, Copa del Rey, Spanish Cup, and UEFA Super Cups each, along with the 5 Champions Leagues, and 4 Club World Cups. Ronaldo also won the UEFA Euro’s in 2016, giving him a career total of 23 trophies. Messi has 8 La Ligas, 6 Copa del Rey and Spanish Supercups each, 4 Champions Leagues, and 3 UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cups each, and he has a FIFA U-20 World Cup win, and a Gold Medal (2008), giving him a grand total of 32 trophies. Now, many of these trophies came before Real Madrid received Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United in 2008. Messi also has had guys like Ronaldinho, Carlos Puyol, Xavi, Xavi Alonso, David Villa, Andres Iniesta, Alexis Sanchez, Neymar, and Luis Suarez, all of these players being some of the greatest players at the sport. Ronaldo has had Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney, Garry Neville, Patrice Evra, Ryan Giggs, Edwin van der Sar, Gerard Pique, and Gareth Bale, also some of the greatest players to play the sports. Messi, however, much like in the Michael Jordan-LeBron conversation, has always had the more superior teams, unlike Ronaldo, who played in England, where the competition is always more tough.

As players, regardless of statistics, Ronaldo is more of a ‘move without the ball to get position, get into the box with the ball, and shoot or draw fouls kind of player’, as he creates many more chances. Messi, on the other hand, goes all over the field, yet is more of a player who stays on the wings and does his movement with the ball at his feet. When it comes to shooting, no one is as good as Ronaldo, especially with the technique that Ronaldo uses when shooting, such as the bend and finesse that he puts on every shot, you never see the same kind of bend and finesse twice. Messi is more of a power kind of kicker, yet less finesse-oriented. Ronaldo also, unlike Messi, is very good at conserving energy when on the field, as he really only moves around the pitch when his team is in possession.

Now, when leading a team, if Messi always has the better team, then why doesn’t he have a World Cup yet? Well, that’s where the composure part comes in. Messi, unlike Ronaldo, let’s the talk and pressure get to him, and he lets it affect his overall play on the pitch. Take yesterday for example, how Messi tried so hard to shoot and score, as Ronaldo calmly put away penalties and free kicks. Ronaldo also needs less shots and on-the-ball touches to be effective. Ronaldo took 4 shots and had 3 shots on target against Spain (he scored all 3), whereas Messi had 3 shots on 11 targets. Against Iceland. Messi had 0 shots against Croatia. ZERO! Even for club, Messi disappears in big moments, such as the Champions League. This year, in the quarterfinal against Roma, when his team was down 3-0 and tied 4-4 on aggregate, Messi took shameless shots on goal to no avail, and almost seemed to have given up on himself and the team as a whole, always with his head down, and not playing with the heart and will. Ronaldo, on the other hand, was in the same situation, this time in the Champions League semifinal against Juventus, tied at 3-3, and he drew the penalty which ended up being the final kick of the game, as he scored the penalty, giving Real Madrid a 4-3 win on aggregate. Going back to the World Cup conversation, Ronaldo plays for Portugal. Yes, Portugal is a good team, but not better than the top teams in the world like Germany, Brazil, France, Spain, or even Argentina. Argentina has guys like Paulo Dybala, Sergio Agüero, Lucas Biglia, Ever Banega, Angel di Maria, and many more, all of which are better than Ronaldo’s best world-class players, who would be André Silva, Bernando Silva, Joao Mario, and Joao Moutinho. Messi also plays for Argentina, a country with a long history, with Diego Maradona, one of the greatest midfielders ever to play the game, always watching him. Maradona has always called out Messi for his lack of leadership of such an uber-talented team like Argentina, yet Messi never answers. Expect Ronaldo to have a better World Cup, and Portugal to go to at least the semifinal of the tournament, beating Argentina in the quarterfinals (I am assuming both Portugal and Argentina win their groups). Ronaldo has almost closed the door on Messi for GOAT status during this World Cup, and expect him to finish the job this year. I am also predicting that Nigeria will pull off the upset vs. Argentina, and will not make it out of the group stage.

Can Any Player Catch Up To Messi and Ronaldo?

Neymar, the Brazilian great, of course, if he can bring Brazil to World Cup glory, and if he can find a club he can stay with for more than one year and win with (unlike PSG this year).

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LeBron’s GOAT Status Currently, and Free Agency Predictions

James is coming off an NBA Finals loss which, let’s face it, no one really cares about that much. Essentially, LeBron played what Fortnite gamers call ‘Solo Squads’, and the Warriors had a bit too overpowering of a squad. LeBron James, despite being 3-6 in the NBA Finals, is still the Greatest Player of All-Time, and he will most likely be a free agent. LeBron is going to be the talk of the summer once again, as he is approaching ‘The Decision 3.0’ in this year’s free agency. Here is my stance on where he lies as the GOAT, and where he could go in free agency this summer:

LeBron’s GOAT Status

LeBron James is really the only person besides Michael Jordan who is in the GOAT conversation, and deservedly so. Why wouldn’t the most complete NBA player to ever play the game not be in the GOAT conversation? Now, that being said, many critics are rather dogmatic and harsh in their judgement of LeBron James, but there are many things those people are missing out. First off, Michael Jordan is 1-9 in all playoff series when he did not have another superstar on his team. LeBron James has been to 2 NBA Finals with no superstars (2007 and this year, and no, Kevin Love is not a superstar). Second, Michael Jordan is 6-0 in Finals, yet he always had the NBA’s best team. LeBron, however, has only been the favorite in 2 Finals (2011 vs. Dallas Mavericks, and 2013 vs. San Antonio Spurs, according to FiveThirtyEight. He went 1-1 in those Finals). So, to say that Jordan is better because he is 6-0 is a bad argument to make, because LeBron has rarely been the favorite. On top of that, Jordan has been swept out of the playoffs twice, and unlike LeBron, has lost in the first round of the playoffs, so saying that LeBron has ‘easier competition’ is also a faulty statement. Third, LeBron is the much more complete player, as he isn’t simply ‘just a scorer’, or ‘just a perimeter defender’ as Michael Jordan was. LeBron can do much more to rebound, pass, play inside on both ends, and guard and play all positions on either side of the ball. Lastly, LeBron has never had the amount of talent that Jordan has had, as Jordan could afford to take a 2-year ‘retirement’ and still see his Chicago Bulls make the playoffs both years. Only LeBron’s Miami Heat teams could’ve made the playoffs without him. Sure, they both had superteams, but Jordan always had the more deep and dependable superteams as opposed to LeBron. All in all, the arguments for LeBron as the GOAT trump that of Jordan, and show that his ability to often just take terribly assembled teams to the Finals is remarkable, and the fact that Jordan always had a well assembled team to work with speaks volumes to the differences in their Finals records, yet also their individual talents and efforts. The only thing that could really take LeBron out of the GOAT conversation is if he were to go to the Golden State Warriors in free agency, which, considering the current Warriors position, they may have to trade all their superstars except for KD and maybe Steph Curry to get him, and even then, they will be guaranteed many Finals victories due to the presence of LeBron.

LeBron’s Free Agency Options

LeBron James has a lot of leverage as far as where he can go once he opts out, due to the how much money he can get per year, and the sign-and-trade ability that he possesses, as exemplified by the way Chris Paul used it last season to get to the Houston Rockets. The teams that are in the running for LeBron are: LA Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, and Golden State Warriors. Here is how I see each team in terms of those most likely to get him, sleeper teams, the best fit for LeBron, and who LeBron will eventually go play for:

The Teams Most Likely To Land LeBron

Los Angeles Lakers

Now, this seems to be the favorite to land LeBron by seemingly everyone, not just the Vegas odds-makers, or the fact that LeBron has two homes in LA. However, the Lakers need to do a few things to convince LeBron first. They must trade their big cap-space clingers, like Luol Deng and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, so that LeBron can have the ability to tell Magic Johnson how he wants the roster to be tinkered. The last thing he would want is to run into a situation that he did in the 2010-11 season, when the ‘Big 3’ had really no one else on the team, which resulted in their shock NBA Finals loss to the Dallas Mavericks in 6 games. LeBron wants to be able to get the roster up-and-running immediately, which he has improved upon doing since that season. LeBron also will want Paul George. The Lakers are the only team in the NBA that has enough cap for TWO max-contract players, and Paul George can be the second guy. While many say George is a lock to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder for his hometown of SoCal, George has talked many times about the fact that he may want to stay in OKC, citing that playing with Russell Westbrook has made him a better player and person. Even if PG stays with OKC, Kawhi Leonard, the superstar Small Forward of the San Antonio Spurs, has asked for a trade to the Lakers, and will be granted the trade soon. The trade will probably end up being Brandon Ingram and Luol Deng for Kawhi. Now, assuming that PG’s heart is set on going back home, LeBron to LA would be a virtual guarantee. LeBron, along with PG, and Kawhi, and the young pieces that LA already has, they will bring themselves back to NBA Finals contenders, as it would put them on a level to beat the Golden State Warriors, and win the Finals many times over.

Philadelphia 76ers

Philadelphia is enticing to LeBron James because of the heights that they reached this season. They went to the Eastern Conference Semifinals with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons leading the way. With LeBron’s presence, he can elevate the level of play from Embiid and Simmons, along with other role players like JJ Redick, Robert Covington, and Dario Saric, and make this team NBA Finals contenders. This roster already has pieces that LeBron would love to play with, as it has a scoring and shot-blocking center (Embiid), a creator (Simmons), and many spot-up shooters (Redick, Covington, Saric). LeBron probably fits best with the Sixers compared to any of his other suitors. The only piece LeBron may look to trade or replace is Markelle Fultz. The 76ers also have the 10th pick in the NBA Draft which is a week from today. Don’t be surprised if LeBron has Philly take a guy like Mikal Bridges or Colin Sexton, scorers who can either start or come off the bench. LeBron can easily take this team to the Finals, and they could knock off Golden State.

San Antonio Spurs

Kawhi Leonard wants to be traded to the Lakers, so no chance LeBron goes there.

Houston Rockets

Roster-wise, why wouldn’t LeBron want to go here? James Harden, Chris Paul, and Clint Capela are three of the best players at their positions, and the Rockets role players are some of the best in the business. So, why can’t LeBron just go there? Cap space. Houston backup Power Forward Ryan Anderson was signed in 2016 to a 4-year, $80 million contract in 2016, and if he isn’t traded, the Rockets should say goodbye to their chances at getting LeBron. LeBron would probably have to do a sign-and-trade deal like Chris Paul did, but it all comes down to whether or not the Cavs, or possibly any other team, would want Anderson. If Anderson is traded before LeBron makes ‘The Decision’, LeBron could go there and not have to go through the mess of a sign-and-trade deal, but considering Anderson is 30 years old, and really not bringing value to many teams anymore, the Rockets window to get LeBron is closing faster than ever.

Boston Celtics

I’m convinced that Celtics GM Danny Ainge wants to trade Gordon Hayward for LeBron in a sign-and-trade, but would Cleveland be willing to get ‘just Hayward’ for him? It seems as though Ainge will not want to trade Kyrie Irving and instead convince him to stay in 2019, when he can make $80 million more than what he would make this year if he extends his contract, which he declined to do. Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert wants to build a ‘championship roster’ without LeBron, so he may get greedy in the sign-and-trade, even if he does get Hayward. Plus, Kyrie ran away from Cleveland and their management to lead a team, so he may not want LeBron to come to Boston. I would, however, give Boston a higher chance to get LeBron than Houston.

Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron does not want to stay with this embarrassment of an organization. Unless he gets 1-2 superstars, such as Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins through sign-and-trade deals. I doubt that even then, LeBron would be convinced to stay, though, especially after how he took this terrible team to the Finals. Yes, this would make them miles better, but would they beat Golden State? Still not very likely.

Miami Heat

LeBron could get a reunion back with the Heat and his BFF Dwyane Wade, but it would take a trade. Center Hassan Whiteside, and possibly Small Forward Justise Winslow, would have to be traded for Cousins, Kawhi, or Demar Derozan, which all seem unlikely, but Heat Team President Pat Riley, who may be the best in the business, could make it work. The Heat have great pieces, like Philly and Boston do, to be NBA Finals contenders if LeBron goes there. They could be the sleeper team in the LeBron sweepstakes for sure.

Golden State Warriors

No. Just no. Kevin Durant said no. GM Bob Myers wants Anthony Davis from the Pelicans instead. They don’t need LeBron, and they would have to trade too much to get LeBron, so why would they even bother? Also, why would LeBron want to ruin his legacy by going to a team that doesn’t need him to earn their rings? So, the answer is no.

Where Will LeBron Ultimately Go?

LeBron to LA will become a reality. With PG, Kawhi, and young stars like Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma, how can LeBron turn down the opportunity to play with this team. The roster also is very flexible, meaning that LeBron can make many trades to better the roster, and give himself valuable bench players. He had the luxury of doing this with the Miami Heat by getting himself Birdman (Chris Andersen), Ray Allen, Mike Miller, and Shane Battier. In Cleveland, he got himself Kevin Love, JR Smith, and Kyle Korver. Expect LeBron to get more role players like this. The Lakers also have the 25th pick which they could utilize in a trade to get a role player of LeBron’s liking, if he wishes to have the Lakers trade it. On top of the basketball reasons, if the whole ‘family could determine his decision’ rumor is indeed true, then LeBron to LA makes sense, especially since LeBron wants to get more well-known in Hollywood, so, why not LA?