Five Players To Watch In Bears-Ravens Hall Of Fame Game

(Mandatory Photo Credit: Evan Habeeb, USA Today Sports)

FOOTBALL IS BACK.

I know many fans won’t completely agree, since this is the first in a long line of preseason games before the real games begin in September. But, for those of us that hunger for football to be back once the draft concludes, this is still a form of Christmas. Seeing players back in pads again putting in meaningful snaps to make a team provides plenty of intrigue to analysts and fans alike.

Tonight, the Bears face off against the Ravens in the Hall of Fame Game, a game that celebrates the new inductees to the NFL Hall of Fame. This will be a very intriguing game, with hype surrounding the Bears and new Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. Let’s take a look at five guys to watch heading into tonight’s game.

1. Lamar Jackson

This is the most obvious selection here. Lamar Jackson dazzled us all in college with his electric playmaking ability. Now, he will get his first game action against NFL players tonight. Everyone wants to see if Jackson has what it takes to improve as a pocket passer, while another group of people are waiting to make remarks for him to move to wide receiver. He’s a quarterback people, so get used to it. We might even get to see meaningful game snaps this year from him. Get ready for fireworks from Jackson.

2. Anthony Miller

Miller has claim as the best route runner to come out in the 2018 draft class. Now, he gets to show the world what they missed when he takes the field. As high as Miller went in the draft, it’s likely we will see him early on in 2018 as the third receiver behind Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel. If he shows out big in the preseason, the Bears might get him on the field for more snaps.

3. Kylie Fitts

This name is a little more off the beaten path for fans and growing analysts, but Kylie Fitts has some traits that make him a potential steal. Fitts should get plenty of snaps in the preseason, and we could see some of his promise tonight. With guys like Leonard Floyd still looking to breakout, Fitts has a chance to make some headway in August and get himself in the rotation on the edge in 2018.

4. Anthony Averett

Averett landed in Baltimore in the draft back in April, and he has a chance to show he can get significant slot snaps in 2018. He has the speed and discipline to play corner, as his tape at Alabama showed. He just needs to improve his route recognition and footwork, and an extra preseason game gives him a chance at more reps.

5. Adam Shaheen

The second year tight end in Chicago is ready to show he can breakout and be a big part of the Bears offense. He has some competition this season with the Bears adding Trey Burton. However, Shaheen has that Travis-Kelce-type of potential, so seeing some promise in the preseason can go a long way. He is a big body who, if he develops, can be a problem for defenses in the future.

BONUS: Tyus Bowser

A little bonus for you guys here. Bowser was drafted by Baltimore in 2017, and he’s looking to get on the field more. The Ravens have him listed as a SAM backer on their depth chart, but he did a great job in college rushing the passer. He needs to find his niche on that defense to get on the field more this season.

Enjoy the game tonight football fans! No more weeks without football until February!!

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Things to watch: Illinois vs Wake Forest

The Illinois Men’s Basketball team is off to a hot 6-0 start to the season coming into their first road game, and arguably first true test, with a game tonight against Wake Forest (2-4).

Illini fans will, of course, recognize Wake Forest from the classic match-up against them (when Wake was #1 ranked nationally) when the likes of Dee Brown and Deron Williams wore the Orange and Blue, squaring up against Chris Paul and co. in the 2004-2005 season.

The Demon Deacons were selected to play in the first four as an eleventh seed in last seasons’ NCAA Tournament, and were eliminated in a play-in game against Bruce Weber’s Kansas State team.

This year’s Wake Forest team features a solid group of players, each having the potential ability to challenge the Illini in different ways.

Below, I give what I think will be the key things to watch for in tonight’s game, and my predictions on how I think the Illini will fare in their first regular season road game.

 

What to Watch: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

– The Wake Forest team has lost a few games to smaller schools early on in the season, including the likes of Drake, Liberty and Houston, and will be on the hunt to show their home crowd that they remain a contender after last season’s NCAA Tournament appearance.  They’re coming off of a home win against UNC Greensboro.

– The Demon Deacons (did you know that name came from a win over their rival, Trinity, which later went on to become Duke?) have a big post presence in their 7’1 280-pound Center Doral Moore. He’s averaging 10.3 points per game, and 7.8 rebounds a game. The Illinois lack height around the rim when compared to Moore, and he is likely the most skilled big-man the Illini have faced to date. Moore will have a large impact on the game.

– The Demon Deacons also boast the best guard combo Illinois has seen yet, with Bryant Crawford (15.8 ppg., 4.0 apg., 3.5 rpg.) and Keshawn Woods (17 ppg.). Crawford is the best multi-tool guard that the Illini will have seen. Look for Illinois’ Mark Alstork or Mark Smith to be on him most of the game. Woods adds a complimentary shooter for Wake Forest, and leads the team in steals per game (1.6).

 

Key to the Game, Wake Forest: My biggest key for this Wake Forest team is to slow down the high-paced Illinois offense, utilizing their height inside. Doral Moore’s endurance will be tested against Underwood’s offense, but should he stay out of foul trouble, he will have a huge opportunity for points in the paint against this smaller Illini team.

 

What to Watch: Illinois Fighting Illini

– The Brad Underwood era has started off quickly, and the team has done well thus far. The Illini have (for the most part) competently handled all of their smaller-school opponents, and now sit at 6-0. Playing on the road changes the story. For a team mostly made up of freshmen, and only boasting one senior in Graduate Transfer Mark Alstork, handling the pressure of a good team on the road will be key for them to leave 7-0. It will be interesting to see how the young team handles the road pressure, in arguably their first real test of the year.

– The Illini will rely heavily on their guards to play well on defense to stop the high scoring Wake Forest duo mentioned above. The Fighting Illini will need a big defensive game from Mark Smith and Mark Alstork. That being said, it wouldn’t be unexpected to see Damonte Williams (arguably the best defensive player on the team, currently) showcase more in this game. His decision making, as well as ability to avoid foul trouble, could have a big impact on this game. It’s not a definite, but he has made good use of his minutes early on in the season on the defensive side of the court.

– Another key to this game for the Illini will be their perimeter shooting. The shooting started off slow for the Illinois team, but has improved in recent games. The main standout shooter for Illinois from the perimeter is Aaron Jordan. Jordan is currently shooting 65% from 3PT, one of the best shooting clips in the nation. He’ll have to get hot tonight if the Illini can’t find a way to get Doral Moore into foul trouble early on. Perimeter shooting will be huge will Moore is in the game, with a noticeably smaller Illinois team as stated above.

Key to the Game, Illinois: The Illini will need to be able to find a way to play around Doral Moore. Moore’s tall and big stature will prove an interesting challenge for an Illinois team without a big man of that size. Illinois’ fast paced offense will be key, testing Moore’s speed and stamina. Look for the Illini not to be afraid to have some shots blocked, and continue to attack the basket, looking to get Moore into foul trouble. If they can do this, they’ll have a much bigger shot at winning this game.

 

Prediction: The game will be close going into halftime, with Illinois hanging in against Wake Forest’s size and guard play, but the Illini offense will be fast paced enough to either beat Moore down-court, or to get him in trouble, letting their scorers go to work. The Illini should be able to contain the Demon Deacon’s guard-play, and Illinois moves on to 7-0.

 

You can watch the game on ESPNU at 8 p.m. Central Time.

 

Nate Williamson is a Journalism student at the University of Illinois, and is a writer, co-founder and editor for The Sports Guys Blog. You can find him for more coverage focusing on Illinois, NBA, US Men’s National Soccer Team, and others at @ThatNateWGuy or here on site.

NFL Week 2 predictions

Titans 20, Jaguars 17

 

This will be a big time defensive struggle.  Mariota makes a few more plays than Bortles.   Big ground games for Fournette and Murray.

 

Ravens 23, Browns 17

 

This is another closely played divisional game.  I want to pick the Browns to win this but again I will take the team with the better (at the moment) quarterback.   I like the Browns +7.5 on the Vegas line as well.

 

Panthers 17, Bills 12

 

I love the under 43 for this game.  The Bills keep it close but settle for too many field goals.

 

Patriots 34, Saints 23

 

Brady and Brees both pick the opposing defense apart.   Big games for Alvin Kamara and James Whites on the ground and as a receiver.

 

Cardinals 24, Colts 13

 

This game is not as close as the score indicates as the Colts get a couple of late scores.  Cardinals dominate the game from start to finish.  It is going to be a long year in Indy is Luck doesn’t return soon.

 

Chiefs 27, Eagles 24

 

This one goes down to the wire and the Chiefs hang on.  They really miss Eric Berry and Carson Wentz exploits the middle of the field against the Chiefs all day long.

 

Steelers 20, Vikings 13

 

Defense continues to be the name of the game for week 2 of the 2017 NFL season.  The Vikings defense is one of the best but Big Ben makes enough plays to get the win at home but it is very close even with Bradford out.

 

Bucs 31, Bears 20

 

The Tampa Bay offense comes alive as predicted in the preseason.  The Bears offense does not have weapons to keep up.

 

Chargers 24, Dolphins 17

 

Jay Culter plays pretty well against an underrated Chargers defense.  Rivers and Keenan Allen hook up a ton and the Chargers prevail.

 

Raiders 28, Jets 6

 

No contest from the beginning.  Lynch and Cooper both have huge games and the Jets offensive continues to go nowhere.  Even though I don’t like to give that many points I will take the Raiders -14.

 

Redskins 27, Rams 24

 

A really entertaining game sees the Redskins win on a field goal as time expires.  Jared Goff continues his improvement and the Rams lose a heartbreaker.

 

Broncos 23, Cowboys 19

 

The Denver defense puts the clamps on Elliott and Prescott.   Cowboys continue to kick too many field goals and it cost them.  Take the Broncos +2.5 on the Vegas line.

 

Seahawks 27, 49ers 10

 

Seattle controls the time of possession and does enough on offence and get a defensive score as well.   The 49ers will get better as the year goes on but today they are over matched.

 

Packers 34, Falcons 27

 

Tons of offense on the Sunday night game.   Packers take a lead early and hang on a late rally by Falcons.

 

Giants 27, Lions 17

 

Both teams move the ball on the ground and the Giants defense has Stafford running for life all night.  Odell Beckham’s return sparks the offense enough to open the running game.

 

 

Illini 2017 Class Close-Up: Gregory Eboigbodin

Illinois fans were a bit unsure what to think when Gregory Eboigbodin, formerly a commit to the University of Illinois-Chicago, committed to become an Illini in the 2017 class. Eboigbodin wasn’t a heavily followed recruit by the casual Illinois fan, but to me, Eboigboidin could turn out to be exactly what the Illinois basketball’s class of 2017 needs.

Though Illini fans may have been sure what to think when highly-coveted recruit Jeremiah Tilmon decommitted from the University of Illinois earlier this year (hint: they were maybe a tad more than a little angry), they could be shrugging it off, should the addition of Eboigbodin pay off.

About Greg:

At U of D Jesuit, Greg played alongside Michigan State guard Cassius Winston. The dynamic duo took the Michigan High School basketball scene by storm, and led U of D to the program’s first ever state championship, and the duo also teamed up with MSU star Miles Bridges to play their AAU ball. Gregory was born in Nigeria, and, much to the surprise of many who have watched him play, he has only played competitive basketball for three years.

His statistics as a senior marked him as averaging a double-double, with 14 points, and 14 rebounds, as well as around 2 blocks per game. Solid marks for the 6’9 Power Forward

Skillset:

My favorite thing about Eboigbodin is his high motor and versatility on the court. Brad Underwood has made a career out of creating solid role players out of players who want to work, and who understand their role in making sure a team scores, and ultimately wins. Eboigbodin’s height as well as his large wingspan (over seven feet) will prove handy to an Illinois team that lacks in height.

Eboigbodin proved in high school that he is willing to hustle and fight for rebounds, as well as second chance opportunities. Underwood is great at taking players who may not be the most spectacular coming into college, and turning them into work-horses who provide much needed hustle, and intensity on the court. Illinois fans will find this a refreshing change to teams in the past, who have looked to not even want to win. According to most reports coming out of Champaign-Urbana this summer, Underwood’s playstyle is being taken up well by the Illinois team, players both new and old to the Illini. This should serve as an encouraging thing to anyone who expects progression from the Illini this year.

Eboigbodin has a way to go before he will be considered a physical threat on the offensive side of the floor. He has a good jump shot for someone with only a three-year level of experience in competitive basketball, and definitely has a high upside in that category, which is why I’ve listed his position as a stretch Power Forward.

With a quick search of his highlights on YouTube, you can see that what Eboigbodin lacks in well-tempered skill, he makes up for in hustle, and ability to help his teammates find their shots.

Arguably one of his most important skillsets will be as a body, allowing teammates like Leron Black, Michael Finke, to get rest, and time on the bench, in an Illinois team that lacks a lot of size.

Overview:

Greg Eboigbodin will provide a useful motor and high intensity defensive presence for an Illini team that could end up lacking in that category. Eboigbodin’s hustle, and versatility will be useful for Brad Underwood’s fast paced and guard-centered offense. Eboigbodin probably won’t see the minutes of the likes of Michael Finke, but will have a similar effect on the Illinois game plan, being that he is a tall, mobile forward who has plenty of jump shot potential, as well as an ability to run the court well.

 

Check back for the next breakdown of the Illinois recruiting class coming in a few days, and check the Sports Guys twitter for an update on who the next breakdown will cover!   

2017 Stanley Cup Finals: Game 1

Introduction

Well, the time is here.  The Stanley Cup Finals are upon us.  Since October, 32 teams have made their way along the long journey that is the regular season.  16 teams began the playoffs in March, and now it is down to two final teams: the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Nashville Predators.  This series of 7 has the potential to be the best and most exciting hockey of the year.

The goal of the next few posts is to provide a recap of each game as soon as possible, as well as give some analysis for next steps for each team.  I am going to try to be as unbiased as I can in an effort to merely keep you informed.  So with that, here we go.

(All times shown is time remaining in the period)

1st Period

12:47 – Nashville goal by P.K. Subban ruled offside following an excellent possession play on the  fore check with multiple scoring chances by the Predators.  During the play, 2 shots were viable scoring chances concluding with the goal.  However, the game remains 0-0.

9:47 – After a collision in the goal-crease, Penguin’s goalie Matt Murray stays down for 30+ seconds before returning to his feet.  It appears his right leg was hit by a skate and then he hit his left leg on the goalpost.

6:10 – Penguins Power Play – James Neal and Calle Jarnkrok sent off for interference.  Penguins have a 2 minute 5-on-3.

4:28 – Pittsburgh goal. Evgeni Malkin scores the first official goal of the series on the power play from a pass on the point.  Malkin’s shot sailed just above the left pad of Rinne and slightly below the glove.

3:23 – Pittsburgh goal by Conor Sheary.  After Pekka Rinne made some incredible saves, a great pass by Chris Kunitz gave Sheary a near empty net one-timer from mere feet away on the right side.

0:16.1 – Pittsburgh goal by Nick Bonino.  Bonino slid the puck toward Rinne with a one-handed shot which simply bounces off but then ricochets into the net off of a Nashville defenseman.  Pittsburgh leads 3-0

 

Nashville came out strong with crisp passing plays and good scoring chances produced by a variety of players.  However, the momentum changed after the recalled goal leading into the 5-on-3 power play.  At this point the Penguins simply dominated the rink for the remainder of the period including scoring 3 goals on 7 total shots in the period.  If the Predators want to rebound they need to settle down and not take careless interference penalties.  If they play as they did in the first 6 or 7 minutes, Nashville has skill to perform well in this series.

 

2nd Period

16:17 – Nashville Power Play – Olli Maatta is sent off for interference on Filip Forsberg.

14:17 – Although the Predators are able to distribute from the point, Nashville is unable to break the perimeter or convert.

13:21 – Nashville Power Play – Ian Cole sent off for roughing.

12:21 – Roman Josi has two one-time shots on the power play from the right faceoff dot that barely miss the mark.

11:39 – Nashville goal by Ryan Ellis on the power play.  Viktor Arvidsson had the screen in front of Murray while Ellis shot from the left faceoff dot.  Predators trail 3-1.

 

The Predators looked much better in the second period, similar to how they were playing at the start of the first.  They ended up with 9 shots on goal while not allowing any shots from the opposition.  The play style that was shown in the second from the Predators is a foundation for them to build upon for the remainder of the series.  On the other hand, the only thing that needs to change for the Penguins is simply to get shots on goal.  They were out-shot in the first 11-7 and they did not have any shots in the second.  While they are ahead in the goal column at this point, a team simply cannot win if they don’t put the puck on net.

 

3rd Period

10:24 Nashville Power Play – Evgeni Malkin sent off for slashing P.K. Subban.

9:54 – Nashville goal on the power play – Roman Josi fires toward the net on a cross ice pass that bounces off of Colton Sissons’ knee into the back of the net.  Nashville trails 3-2

8:36 – Pittsburgh Power Play – P.K. Subban sent off for delay of game.

6:31 – Nashville goal – Frederick Gaudreau ties the game on a feed from Austin Watson.  Watson beats 2 Penguin players behind the net shortly after the power play ended, wrapping around the back of the net and tossing it to the crashing Gaudreau who fires right to beat the goaltender.

3:17 – Pittsburgh goal scored by Jake Guentzel.  After the puck is sent forward to him by Matt Cullen, Guentzel takes it up the right wing past Ryan Ellis and then rips the puck past Rinne in the high near side.  Pittsburgh leads 4-3.

1:30 – Nashville pulls Pekka Rinne for the extra attacker.

1:02 – Pittsburgh goal – Clear by Nick Bonino finds the empty net.

 

If the Predators are able to play as they did in the second period then they will have a hard time being beaten in this series.  The Predators were able to prevent the Penguins from taking any shots on goal in 37 minutes and limiting them to a grand total of 12 shots.  However, these statistics also speak to the skill of the Pittsburgh players as they now have a 42% shooting accuracy compared to Nashville’s 12%.  I noticed some impressive passing plays from the Predators that left huge areas of ice open for exploitation.  If they can keep up that kind of pressure and play, they will continue to find the back of the net.  The main reason why Pittsburgh was able to win tonight was their increased pressure at the end of the first.  Without those 3 goals in 4 minutes, Pittsburgh loses the game.  Pittsburgh’s goal for game 2 should be to focus of offense and getting more scoring opportunities.

Pittsburgh leads the series 1-0 with their 5-3 win.