SHAQ ON SPORTS: Is Patriots’ dynasty over?

The NFL season ended when the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New England Patriots to win Super Bowl LII, 41-33.

Though Tom Brady was at his legendary best, the Patriots could not pull out a win against the tough Eagles. The Eagles emerged as champions in a wildly entertaining game, riding the coat tails of fill-in quarterback Nick Foles. Foles played like a Hall of Famer.

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson managed to out-coach arguably the best head coach of all time, Bill Belichick.

Pederson somehow made everything work and managed to put a major Super Bowl-sized dent into the greatest dynasty in the history of the NFL.

“A lot of people counted us out,” Pederson said of a season in which Foles took over for injured standout star quarterback, Carson Wentz, in December.

Brady did his part to try to win his sixth Super Bowl by throwing for a Super Bowl record 505 yards and a trio of second-half touchdowns.

It was a frantic game in which the two teams combined for 1,151 yards of total offense, breaking the Super Bowl mark in that category by the end of the third quarter.

Now the Patriots will try to regroup after this tough Super Bowl loss and the loss of their defensive coordinator, Matt Patricia, who has officially become the head coach for the Detroit Lions.

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has decided not to take the head coaching position for the Indianapolis Colts. That is shocking news being that everyone was thinking the Patriots would lose both of their coordinators to head coaching positions.

While Brady has declared that he wants to play football until he is 44 or 45 years old, the Patriots starting tight end, Rob Gronkowski, was asked after the game if he was coming back to play next season and his reply left the door wide open for us to speculate the possibility of him retiring.

While the Patriots have a number of things to think about, the Eagles have a major issue on their hands. What will they do with Foles, the guy who stepped in and won the Super Bowl for the city of Philadelphia?

Will they keep him as their back-up quarterback, being secure in the fact that they have a reliable backup in case something should happen again to Wentz or will they shop him to another team while his stock is extremely high to receive some assets for the team?

This will definitely be interesting to watch in the future.

 

Shaquita Newton is a sports blogger. She can be reached at superstarproductions622@gmail.com.

 

THE SPORTS SHAQ: Who scares who in race to the Super Bowl?

With so many good NFL teams in the league right now, what teams really scare others?

We would like to say that the New England Patriots still scare quite a few teams but after being exposed Dec. 11 and losing to the Miami Dolphins for the third time in the last four games, I’d say they aren’t looking too scary right now.

With the win over the Patriots, the Dolphins have beaten both teams that played in Super Bowl 51. With the Patriots loss, there is no one dominant team and with three games left to play, there still could be some shakeups at the top of the playoff picture.

I don’t know if I should give all the credit to the Dolphins or if the Patriots just underestimated Miami but its clear the Dolphins punched the Patriots in the mouth from the start and they never recovered.

Miami held New England to 20 points and held them to zero third down conversions in the game. New England quarterback Tom Brady was intercepted twice by Dolphins cornerback Xavier Howard. The Dolphins also snapped the Patriots eight-game winning streak with the surprising victory.

Miami looked like the team we thought they would be at the beginning of the season and for this one game they showed they can be that team. The Dolphins were an 11-point underdog at home, but they kept the Patriots from clinching their ninth consecutive AFC East title, even if it’s just for one week.

Brady went 24 for 43 for 233 yards and one touchdown. The Dolphins sacked him twice, hit him five times, and held the Patriots to only 25 yards rushing. New England was 0 for 11 on third downs and Tom Brady was 14 years old the last time that happened.

New England takes on rival Pittsburgh Steelers Dec. 17 and this will be the game that decides who will have home field advantage throughout the entire playoffs. I’m sure the Patriots will come ready to play for this one.

Wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell are looking like the superstars they are in Pittsburgh. The Steelers now have the AFC’s best record at 11-2. Though they have not looked great getting to this record, all that matters is they have the wins.

With the Patriots loss to a lesser Miami team, the Steelers will still have to play a lot better if they want to beat New England. Not just next Sunday in the regular season but also when they most likely face each other in the AFC Championship game.

In the NFC, the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Los Angeles Rams and are now the first seed after the Minnesota Vikings lost to the Carolina Panthers, but the injury bug bit the Eagles hard when their starting quarterback and MVP candidate Carson Wentz went down with a torn ACL.

With backup quarterback Nick Foles, the question is will he be able to take the Eagles deep into the playoffs and ultimately the Super Bowl? Foles has enough experience as an NFL starter and in Doug Pederson’s system to offer at least some hope that he can pull a Kurt Warner or if not, at least a Jeff Hostetler.

Wentz’s injury is surely the latest gut punch in a season that has seen way too many fun and exciting stars suffer season-ending injuries: Deshaun Watson, J.J. Watt, Richard Sherman and Odell Beckham Jr., just to name a few.

But Pederson and offensive coordinator Frank Reich have shown enough to make you think they can scheme ways to put Foles in the best possible position to succeed. They have enough pass rush on the defense to control the game and they have enough running backs to control the ball when they have it on offense. That sounds like a good recipe to me.

The Seattle Seahawks loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars allowed the Atlanta Falcons to creep back into the sixth playoff spot after their nail biter against the division-leading New Orleans Saints. This season, the Eagles beat the Rams, who beat the Saints, who beat the Lions, who beat the Vikings, who beat the Falcons, who beat the Lions, Saints and Seahawks, who beat the Eagles.

There are no teams that should completely scare another so the NFC wins and losses come full circle making all teams pretty equal.

Shaquita Newton is a sports blogger. She can be reached at superstarproductions622@gmail.com.

SPORTS DIGEST: College football needs to expand its playoff system

I was never a fan of the Bowl Championship Series, the system college football used to select a champion from 1998 to 2014.

The system used various football polls and computer rankings to match the top two teams in the country in a national championship game after the bowl season was over.

It produced more controversies than clear-cut champions in the 17 years it was used and I was happy in 2015 when the College Football Playoff, a four-team tournament, replaced the BCS championship game, even though the powers-that-be in college football should have made it an eight-team (or a 16-team) tournament.

We found out why more teams are needed Dec. 3, when this year’s participants in the CFP tournament were announced.

Clemson, Oklahoma and Georgia all belong in the tournament. They went through their seasons defeating just about every team in their path, won their conference championships and thus deserved a chance to advance to the tournament.

But with only four available spots in the tournament, the fourth team — Alabama — did not belong in the tournament. Not when conference champions like Ohio State and USC were left on the outside looking in.

Granted, Alabama only lost one game all season. That was against Auburn in the next to last week of the season.

Auburn was a highly ranked team most of the season, and if Auburn had defeated Georgia in the Dec. 2 Southeast Conference championship I might not be making this argument.

But win Auburn beat Alabama Nov. 25, it prevented the Crimson Tide from playing for a conference championship and to me, that should be the most important criteria for making the tournament: winning your conference title.

Alabama didn’t, therefore Alabama shouldn’t be in the tournament.

Alabama supporters point out that Alabama only lost one game all season while Ohio State and USC both lost twice. Point taken, but USC and Ohio State both played a much tougher schedule than Alabama.

Ohio State played (and lost to) Oklahoma early in the season in a major matchup between two national powers.

USC played (and lost to) Notre Dame, another matchup between national powers.

Alabama played Florida State in the opening week of the season when the Seminoles were ranked number three in the nation. But quarterback Deondre Francois suffered a season-ending injury and the Seminoles had to win their last three games to finish 6-6 and qualify for a bowl.

Alabama’s other non-conference foes were Fresno State, Colorado State and Mercer, which isn’t even an FCB school. That’s called soft scheduling, something SEC teams are noted for.

If the FCB is not going to expand the playoffs to eight or 16 teams, it needs to make sure that all the teams from the five major conferences are playing similar schedules. Right now, the Pac 12, Big 10 and Big 12 conferences play nine-game conference schedules with three non-conference games each season.

The SEC and Atlantic Coast Conference play eight-game conference schedules and four non-conference games.

Most SEC teams schedule the weakest non-conference opponent the week prior to their rivalry game, giving them a chance to heal injured players in time for the season’s final week.

That’s when Alabama played Mercer this season.

If the 2017 bowl season included an eight-team playoff instead of a four-team bracket, there would be four outstanding games. Just based on the final rankings, you would have USC versus Clemson, Oklahoma versus Auburn, Georgia versus Wisconsin and Ohio State versus Alabama.

Instead, we have Georgia versus Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl and Clemson versus Alabama for the third year in a row.

The best thing to happen to the bowl season is that with Ohio State getting shafted by the tournament committee, we get a USC-Ohio State matchup in the Cotton Bowl Dec. 29. That is definitely my favorite matchup of the 39 bowl game schedule.

In a four-team tournament, at least one major conference champion is going to be left on the outside looking in. This year there are two.

Expand the tournament to eight teams. Select all five of the major conference champions, two at large teams and the best team from the remaining conferences — this year it would be Central Florida, last year it would have been Western Michigan — as the eighth team.

That would give us one more week of college football (always a good thing) and some compelling post-season games.

But it will take a couple of more years of controversy before the powers-that-be get the message and expand the tournament.

Running back Todd Gurley has been one of the key performers for the Los Angeles Rams this season who could be headed to the playoffs after winning only four games last season in their first season back in Los Angeles. The Chargers also are contending for a playoff berth. (Photo by Mario Villegas)

TWO PLAYOFF TEAMS? If you had told me in September that both the Rams and Chargers were going to make the playoffs this season, I would have laughed and made fun of you. But with four weeks to go, guess what: the Rams lead the NFC West by one game and the Chargers are tied for the AFC West lead with the Oakland Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Of course anything can happen in the next four weeks, but we could have both local teams playing on the second weekend of January.

After a 0-4 start, the Chargers are 6-2. They host the Washington Redskins this week, then face the Chiefs and New York Jets on the road before ending the season on New Year’s Eve at StubHub Center against the Raiders. The Chargers could win three of the four. Or they could lose three of four. If they go 3-1, that should be good enough for the playoffs.

The Rams have a tougher schedule. They host the Philadelphia Eagles this week at the Coliseum, who are tied for the best record in football. After that they travel to Seattle for a key division game against the Seahawks before ending the season on the road against the Tennessee Titans, who are still in the playoff hunt, and at home against the San Francisco 49ers.

The Rams could easily lose three of those games, which would leave them hoping for a wild card slot. But, the Rams have been the biggest surprise in the NFL this year.

It will be fun to see quarterback Jared Goff going against Carson Wentz, the person drafted just after him in the 2016 draft, when the Eagles and Rams play Dec. 10. The young quarterback who plays best probably wins that game. And the Rams need that kind of momentum going into the last three weeks of the schedule.

SO LONG, LAVAR: That sigh of relief you heard on the westside of Los Angeles earlier this week probably came from UCLA basketball coach Steve Alford after it was announced that LiAngelo Ball would no longer play for the UCLA basketball team

Ball has been suspended since he was arrested with two other teammates for shoplifting during a trip to China. His father, Lavar, apparently didn’t think the indefinite suspension was fair to his son and decided to pull him out of school, saying he would prepare LiAngelo for the 2018 NBA draft himself.

The only thing wrong with that statement is that Lavar is the only person on the planet who thinks LiAngelo will get drafted by an NBA team next June.

LiAngelo doesn’t have the talent big brother Lonzo or little brother LaMelo have. Most scouts say he wouldn’t have played much for UCLA this year anyway, so Alford won’t have to put up with Lavar’s comments in the media all season.

Lavar had already pulled LaMelo out of his last two years of high school, saying he would be home-schooled and prepared for an NBA career through travel ball. Good luck with that.

Meanwhile, Lonzo still struggles with his shooting and adjusting to life in the NBA.

Narbonne running back Jemar Jefferson (1) rushed for 187 yards to lead Narbonne to a 48-7 victory against Crenshaw in the CIF Los Angeles City Section Open Division championship game played Dec. 1 at El Camino College. Narbonne was undefeated in Marine League play this year and finished the season with a 10-3 overall record. Narbonne plays Paraclete in the 1-A Southern California Regional Championship Bowl Game Dec. 9. (Photo by Dennis J. Freeman)

PREP FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS: Three L.A. City Section teams will continue in the state regional football playoffs this week.

Narbonne will host Paraclete at 6 p.m. Dec. 9 in Division 1A after defeating Crenshaw for the L.A. City Open Division title Dec. 2.

Despite the loss, Crenshaw will play Oceanside El Camino at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8 in Division 4AA and Huntington Park will play Vincent Memorial at Calexico High School at 6 p.m. Dec. 9 in Division 6A.

The winners will play the Northern Regional winners for state championships Dec. 15-16.

The open division state championship battle is already set between Mater Dei and Concord De La Salle.