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The Five Biggest Takeaways From Opening Week of NFL Training Camps

Football fans celebrate this time of year as NFL training camps are in full swing after its opening week. With all 32 teams taking their last step in preparing for the upcoming 2022 campaign, this stage of the NFL’s calendar year garners a ton of attention, and so far, we’re reminded of why.

The Los Angeles Rams are rallying their troops for a repeat as Super Bowl champion. The Miami Dolphins and Las Vegas Raiders are “all in” following their massive offseasons. Tom Brady pulled a Michael Jordan once he realized retirement wasn’t for him. And lastly, some teams want to prove they can win after spending an insane amount of money, despite their critics (and fans) saying otherwise.

With the first week of NFL training camps concluded, here are our five biggest takeaways.

All Eyez On Tua and Tyreek

It’s honestly not egregious to say the quarterback and wide receiver duo of Tua Tagovailoa and Tyreek Hill is already one of the most watched and scrutinized across the league. But with every play between them comes greater chemistry, as witnessed by their huge touchdown that sparked reactions from social media up last weekend.

Deebo and DK got what they (rightfully) deserved

Even with many teams, fans, and media downplaying the contributions of skill players, the money still proves otherwise. Within five days, both NFC West star receivers signed new extensions with their teams that rewarded them with bonuses of $33.2 million (Samuel) and $30 million (Metcalf).

A slew of unproven players are already showing out!

As training camp rolls out, we begin hearing reports about which players are “standing out.” In some instances, it can be someone like Indianapolis Colts cornerback Isaiah Rodgers and in others, Chicago Bears wideout Velus Jones Jr.

Either way, this is when starting roles are earned, and roster spots are secured, so you have to expect these kinds of developments along the way.

Your daily reminder that injuries are terrible

While injuries are a grudgingly accepted part of football, it’s still unfortunate, especially during training camp. Alongside having a player on the sideline and undoing months of their hard work, it’s generally a setback to their teams– specifically those who heavily rely on them.

Look out for “insiders!”

With all due respect to the aspiring insiders who may or may not be legitimate at what they do, we have to warn NFL fans to watch out for you all. It’s extremely easy for most “insiders” to report these days, given how simple it is to make a connection between players and teams, and more times than not, their report is a Hail Mary at gaining clout online.

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Sports

Sandra Douglass Morgan Is The First Black Woman To Become An NFL Team President

History and sports are synonymous with one another, and it’s a daily occurrence when the two sides come together. On Thursday (July 7th), history was made when the Las Vegas Raiders hired Sandra Douglass Morgan to become their new team president– marking the first time a Black woman has held that position in the NFL.

The proud Las Vegas, NV native, joins the Raiders as an accomplished and already-historic executive and attorney– she worked alongside the Nevada Gaming Board and was also the state’s first African American city attorney. With such expertise in community-building, hospitality, and law, Morgan was the right choice for the AFC West competitor.

“The fact is I have accepted this role because I believe in the promise of the Raiders,” Morgan said at her introductory press conference at Allegiant Stadium. “I believe in the future of the Raiders, and I believe in this organization’s tenets of community, integrity and, most of all, commitment to excellence.”

As the Raiders aim to build upon last season’s playoff appearance and their mega-trade for All-Pro wideout Davante Adams this past March, Morgan will have to stabilize the team’s front office movement. Over the past year, the Raiders have witnessed two other team presidents and several executives leave the organization for many reasons.

“She’s honestly the best for the job and it’s going to be awesome, we’re excited for the future,” Raiders star and All-Pro defensive end, Maxx Crosby said about Morgan.

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The Football World Reacts to Baker Mayfield Being Traded

Just when you thought the NFL would remain quiet before the start of training camp in two weeks, it immediately makes noise. Early Wednesday afternoon (July 6th), the Cleveland Browns finally traded their former franchise quarterback, Baker Mayfield, to the Carolina Panthers. Upon Mayfield passing a physical, the Browns will receive a 2024 conditional fifth-round pick that could turn into a fourth-rounder.

Reactions to this months-long trade saga have come swiftly, regardless of your stance as a supporter or critic of the former No. 1 overall pick. But what indeed makes this entertaining moving forward is the fact Mayfield could have his chance at a “revenge game” as the Panthers face the Browns in Week One of the 2022 NFL season.

Take a look at some of the reactions to Wednesday’s big trade.

Who’s winning the QB battle between Mayfield and Sam Darnold?

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Rashod Bateman Reflects On Rookie Season And Explains What’s Next For The Ravens

For any former rookie in the NFL, their second offseason is night and day from their first one. In exchange for times when they were unsettled and readjusting to the evolving speed of the pro level, they’ve gained a calmer sense of who they are, what to expect, and why it’s happening. It’s a reality most commonly seen by wide receivers, and Rashod Bateman is a prime example.

The 2021 first-round pick out of the University of Minnesota joined the Baltimore Ravens with clear expectations— to become a very reliable target for former MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson. Standing at 6-foot-1 with sure hands and capable of running a 4.43 40-yard dash, Bateman immediately boosted the AFC North competitor’s offense. But it was towards the end of last season that the NFL understood why.

Despite missing his first five games, the Tifton, GA native finished with 46 catches, 515 receiving yards, and his first NFL touchdown— scored in Week 16 against the eventual AFC Champion, Cincinnati Bengals. “Throughout everything I experienced last year, I learned what it meant to be patient,” Bateman told me. “Letting everything play out was the best thing.”

Coming off of a rookie campaign where both his catches and receiving yards were top-ten across a stellar wide receiver draft class, Bateman’s expectations have only increased again. After wide receiver Marquise Brown was traded to the Arizona Cardinals on draft night, all eyes are on the Minnesota product to step up and show out. But don’t expect Bateman to take that for granted.

“If it’s God’s will and we’re healthy, we can do some special things,” Bateman told me. “Our entire organization is good from top to bottom; we’ve been through a lot, and most importantly, we’re hungry.” As the NFL off-season continues, Bateman and the Ravens will continue to build towards what could be another competitive season in the DMV.

To follow Rashod, click here!

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Sports Strength

Examining The Biggest NFL Playoff Clinching Scenarios In Week 18

With the eighteenth and final week of the 2021 NFL regular season on tap weekend, there are three playoff spots, two division titles (AFC East and NFC West), and one conference’s No. 1 seed (AFC) still in flux. And while some teams have a simple path to making the playoffs, others are going to need a lot of help. Below are five of the most prominent playoff-clinching scenarios to watch in Week 18.

Los Angeles Rams or Arizona Cardinals can clinch the NFC West

The Rams and Cardinals have jockeyed for the division crown all season, but the 12-4 Rams enter Week 18 with a one-game advantage in the standings. The Rams can clinch the division with either a win against the San Francisco 49ers OR a Cardinals’ loss to the Seattle Seahawks; conversely, the Cardinals need to win their own game AND for the Rams to lose.

The Tennessee Titans could clinch the AFC’s No. 1 seed

Although the Tennessee Titans and Kansas Chiefs are both 11-5, the Titans hold the tiebreaker because of their head-to-head win against the Chiefs in October. This Sunday, the Titans can lock up AFC’s No. 1 seed by defeating the Houston Texans. If the AFC champ loses, it would allow for the Chiefs (and, to a lesser extent, the Cincinnati Bengals and New England Patriots) to seize a first-round bye.

The Chargers, Raiders, and Colts battle for the AFC’s final two spots

Although there are playoff races throughout the league, the battle for the AFC’s last two Wild Card spots has been the most unpredictable and intense. Given that the Indianapolis Colts lock up a playoff berth by dispatching the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars, the Los Angeles Chargers and Oakland Raiders will face off in a de facto play-in game for the last spot. If the Colts lose, the situation becomes considerably more muddled, as it opens the door for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens to sneak into the postseason.

Roethlisberger and the Steelers could extend his career one more week

While the Pittsburgh Steelers are making preparations for life without long-time quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who is expected to retire after this season, it might not quite be time for goodbye. If the Steelers beat the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, they could make the playoffs as long as the Colts lose and the Raiders-Chargers game doesn’t end in a tie.

The 49ers and Saints compete for the NFC’s lone remaining Wild Card spot

In recent weeks, the NFC playoff picture quickly came into focus as six of the seven spots have been clinched; the only uncertainty is whether the San Francisco 49ers or New Orleans Saints will be the conference’s final Wild Card. The Niners control their own destiny, clinching a playoff berth with a win against the LA Rams OR a New Orleans loss to the Atlanta Falcons; the Saints only hope would be if they win their own game AND the Niners lose.

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Sports Strength

The Bengals Climb In Final NFL Power Rankings

By this time next week, the 102nd NFL regular season will have already come to a close. Beyond the novelty of being the first Week 18 in NFL history, this final slate of regular season games will be the final chapter of what’s been the most exciting playoff race the NFL has had in a long time. Below are our latest power rankings before we enter the last week of this NFL season.

1. Green Bay Packers (13-3)

Another Sunday means another win for the Packers. Because of their 37-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, they’ve officially clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC, giving them bye week during the Wild Card Round and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

2. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5)

In order to regain the AFC’s No. 1 seed that they lost Sunday, the Chiefs’ defense has to rediscover its previous success after consecutive shaky outings against the Los Angeles Chargers and Cincinnati Bengals.

3. Los Angeles Rams (12-4)

At this point, the Rams have proven both their toughness and their talent. Riding a five-game winning streak, the Rams are fresh off a road win against a hungry Baltimore Ravens team that’s fighting for a playoff spot.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4)

Despite the bizarre mid-game departure of wide receiver Antonio Brown, during an unexpectedly close game against New York Jets, Tom Brady and Co. avoided all distractions by producing a last-minute game-winning drive.

5. Dallas Cowboys (11-5)

While it’s tempting to say “same old Cowboys” immediately after their 25-22 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, that response would be a mistake. The newly-crowned NFC East champion is closer to being the team we watched win their previous four games than the lackluster unit that took the field on Sunday .

6. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)

Every year, a dark horse makes a deep playoff run and emerges as a serious Super Bowl contender. This year, the Bengals seem poised to become that team. The young AFC North upstart just won their first division title in seven years and Joe Burrow and JaMarr Chase are already arguably the league’s most dynamic quarterback-wide receiver duo.

7. Buffalo Bills (10-6)

The Bills deserve a lot of credit for taking care of business during a snowstorm and defeating the pesky Atlanta Falcons. With a win this week, the Bills would clinch their second consecutive division title, which is essential for a chance at an extended postseason run.

8. Tennessee Titans (11-5)

For the first time in franchise history, the Titans have won the AFC South in consecutive seasons. Even better news: superstar running back Derrick Henry could be returning sooner rather than later.

9. New England Patriots (10-6)

Yes, the Jacksonville Jaguars aren’t the most imposing opponent, but the Patriots deserve some style points for beating them so thoroughly. Over the course of their 50-10 romp, the Pats offered a reminder that they’re still a dangerous squad, especially in the cold, hostile Gillette Stadium.

10. Indianapolis Colts (9-7)

The Colts may have blown their first chance to punch their ticket to the postseason, but they’re still in a good spot, having won six of their last eight games. One minor hurdles remains between them and the playoffs: a road date in Jacksonville, a place the Colts haven’t won a game since 2014.

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Which NFL Head Coaches Are On The Hot Seat?

Even though the future of NFL head coaches is always speculated, it tends to reach another level when the regular season is approaching its final weeks. From first-timers to established veterans, coaches can be relieved of their duties if their franchise believes a change is needed. With two weeks remaining in this NFL season, let’s look at the head coaches who are in danger of losing their job and are officially on the hot seat.

Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears (5-10 and eliminated from playoff contention)

It’s been three years since Nagy’s successful first season as the Bears head coach, in which he won 12 games and was named the NFL’s Coach of the Year. Since then, Nagy hasn’t produced another season with either double-digit wins or a playoff appearance, and there’s uncertainty around his ability to develop rookie quarterback Justin Fields.

Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks (5-10 and eliminated from playoff contention)

While it wouldn’t be a surprise if Carroll and the Seahawks remain together next season, given the number of injuries and changes that transpired, all signs still point to a break-up within a few weeks. Along with the team being 5-10, their worst record ever in Carroll’s tenure as head coach, the Seahawks haven’t made the NFC Championship in eight years.

Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings (7-8 and one game out of the Wild Card race)

A season without a playoff appearance hasn’t been uncommon in the Mike Zimmer era in Minnesota (It has happened four times). But if the Vikings miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season, things can go left. Like Carroll, Zimmer and the Vikings have been together for nearly ten years, and you have to wonder if there’s any room for growth and success.

Vic Fangio, Denver Broncos (Currently 7-8 and one game out of the Wild Card race)

To say the Broncos’ 3-0 start earlier this season feels like a distant memory is an understatement. Minus getting a pair of late-season wins and a lot of help from opposing teams, Fangio will miss the playoffs for the third consecutive season, and the Broncos are in the worst position possible: A team that’s stuck in the middle.

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The Cowboys Are In The Top Three of Week 17 NFL Power Rankings

With two weeks remaining in the regular season, nearly every team’s future is now clear as day, with the only question being how will their season conclude? With several teams amid their final push towards the postseason or a high first-round pick in next year’s Draft, chaos is the only thing guaranteed at this time of the year. Below are our latest power rankings before entering Week 17 of this NFL season.

1. Green Bay Packers (12-3)

The Packers’ defense produced another stellar performance on Christmas as they forced Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield into four interceptions while also sacking him five times. Another highlight from their 24-22 victory was Aaron Rodgers finally becoming the franchise’s all-time leader in passing touchdowns (45).

2. Kansas City Chiefs (11-4)

Not only are the Chiefs maintaining their newfound success on defense, but they’re back to clicking on all cylinders on offense via with their 39 points per game average over their last three games.

3. Dallas Cowboys (11-4)

Fewer wins are more important and impressive than a pair of dominant wins over your most competitive divisional rival. The Cowboys had led by double-digits against the Washington Football Team in seven out of eight quarters, with that lone quarter happening in their first matchup in Week 14.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-4)

As expected, the reigning Super Bowl champion let the next man step up, and they continued their path towards a championship repeat by handling the Carolina Panthers, 32-6.

5. Los Angeles Rams (11-4)

By winning their fourth consecutive game last Sunday, the Rams are now the leader in the NFC West and occupy the third seed in their conference. If anything, don’t rule them out of the race for the No. 1 seed!

6. Indianapolis Colts (9-6)

The surging AFC South competitor (winners of six out of their seven past games) continues to control their postseason destiny by winning a huge primetime game on the road against the Arizona Cardinals. To punch a ticket to the playoffs, the Colts will likely have to win out and eliminate the need for help from any teams.

7. Buffalo Bills (9-6)

The Bills are back in the position many expected them to be, and that’s leading the AFC East. At this point, the Bills have to maintain their lead in their division and aim to grab the AFC’s third seed when the playoffs arrive.

8. New England Patriots (9-6)

While their recent seven-game winning streak, and being the AFC’s No. 1 seed, might feel like a distant memory, the Patriots have the same record as their divisional rival, the Bills, who are the AFC’s fourth seed. If you were to ask anyone from the Patriots what they care about most right now, it’s making the playoffs by any means necessary.

9. Tennessee Titans (10-5)

The Titans showed a lot of resilience during their 20-17 comeback victory against the San Francisco 49ers last Thursday. Despite their season-long inconsistencies and injury problems, the Titans are now in contention for the first seed in the AFC as they’re currently second.

10. Arizona Cardinals (10-5)

As previously mentioned in last week’s rankings, the Cardinals have to figure out how quickly they can solve their recent struggles. Even with a playoff spot officially clinched, the former NFC West leader needs to right their ship before the playoffs arrive.

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The Packers Regain The Top Spot In Week 16 NFL Power Rankings

It may have taken longer than expected, but a team finally clinched a playoff spot! The Green Bay Packers, the NFC’s No. 1 seed and repeating NFC North champions, punched their ticket to the postseason last Sunday and the stage is set for more teams to join them this coming weekend. Down below are our latest power rankings before we enter Week 16 of this NFL season.

1. Green Bay Packers (11-3)

Although they’ve relatively flown under the radar, the Green Bay Packers have emerged as the best team in the league. In Week 15, Aaron Rodgers tied Brett Favre for most passing touchdowns in franchise history and helped his team seal up a NFC North division title.

2. Kansas City Chiefs (10-4)

For the third time in the last four seasons, the Chiefs are once again the AFC’s No. 1 seed. Interestingly, the Chiefs are fueled by a stingy defense while their usually high-octane offense has sputtered at times. At this rate, if the current AFC West leader remains at No. 1, they’ll be the favorite to make a Super Bowl appearance for the third consecutive season.

3. New England Patriots (9-5)

While all NFL fans outside of New England are happy about the team’s seven-game winning stream coming to an end last Saturday, the Patriots’ second-half performance was noteworthy. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones is as good as advertised, and the Patriots are still a threat in the AFC’s playoff picture.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-4)

The Buccaneers’ stunning 9-0 home loss against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night capped off a hectic Week 15, but there’s little need for them to panic. Despite losing star receiver Chris Godwin to a torn ACL, the Buccaneers will likely find a way to readjust and be fine come playoff time.

5. Dallas Cowboys (10-4)

Even with the looming cloud of the franchise’s recent postseason failures, the Cowboys are deservedly happy right now. They’ll clinch the NFC East with one more win and are currently the second seed in the NFC, riding an ongoing three-game win streak.

6. Los Angeles Rams (10-4)

The Rams are a living example of how fast things can change in the NFL. After going winless in November, they are back to playing winning football and could take the lead in the NFC West if they defeat the Seattle Seahawks on Tuesday night.

7. Arizona Cardinals (10-4)

Over the course of a long season, every team—no matter how good—endures a tough stretch, as the injury-plagued Cardinals are quickly discovering. Arizona is undeniably a talented team, but now it’s a matter of whether they can right the ship with just three weeks remaining in the season—especially with a division title and higher playoff seeding on the line.

8. Indianapolis Colts (8-6)

Led by MVP contender running back Jonathan Taylor, the Colts are beginning to look dangerous, as evidenced by their 27-17 win against the Patriots. Although they’re in the driver’s seat to lock up a Wild Card berth, the Colts face a difficult end to the season, with games against Cardinals and Las Vegas Raiders in Weeks 16 and 17.

9. Los Angeles Chargers (8-6)

While the Chargers lost a heart-breaker to the Chiefs on Thursday night, they can at least take solace in the fact that their playoff positioning didn’t change at all. The AFC West competitor still holds one of their conference’s three wild-card spots along with tiebreaker advantages over other teams in that race.

10. Tennessee Titans (9-5)

At this point of the season, the Titans are looking at a half-full glass. On the positive side, they’re still in position to win the AFC South title. On the down side, though, they’re likely to be the third or fourth seed, which likely creates a matchup against the Colts, Chargers or Bills, three teams whose records belie their respective goodness.

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Ranking The Ten Best NFL-Inspired Hip Hop Lyrics

If you were to ask any rapper which sport they could play best, the answer is likely basketball or football. With the NBA and NFL being influential in hip-hop culture, it’s not a surprise that rappers commonly shout-out some of their favorite (or sometimes least favorite) athletes. Accordingly, football’s relationship with hip-hop is fueled by rappers who are die-hard fans of the game; for proof, just look back to the early 2000s when NFL jerseys were hip hop’s jersey of choice.

Down below are the ten best NFL-inspired lyrics from hip-hop.

1. Kanye West on Tyler The Creator’s “SMUCKERS,” 2015

“They say I’m crazy, but that’s the best thing goin’ for me.

You can’t lynch Marshawn if Tom Brady throwin’ to me.

2. Drake on “Paris Morton 2/Pound Cake,” 2013

“Yeah, after hours of Il Mulino.

Or Sotto Sotto, just talkin’ women, and vino.

The contract like ’91 Dan Marino.

I swear this guy Michael Rapino’s boosting my ego.”

3. Max B on “Blow Me A Dub,” 2009

“I’m Tom Brady, you a Testaverde.

Yeah, old, washed-up with no arm strength.

He don’t show no remorse, he ain’t got a conscience”

4. Lil Wayne on “Green And Yellow,” 2011

“Money green, yellow broad.

Aaron Rodgers: MVP award.

This is Green Bay, b—- we go hard.

This is Packer country, where’s your Green card?”

5. Mobb Deep on “Get Dealt With,” 1996

“We got to take position, ready for face-off.

We blitz like Dallas in the Super Bowl face-off.

We form like n—– in the yard up North.”

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6. Nas on “Blaze a 50,” 2002

“Met her in San Diego at the Super Bowl party.

Had the Henny, sipped it up with Terrell Davis.

MVP, we flicked it up from Sports Illustrated.

I was silked out, flossing with Stoute, he had the gators.

When she walked in, she lit up the room like Las Vegas.

Terrell said her man’s a fullback for the Raiders.

A drunk who’d f— cheerleaders and wind up in the papers.”

7. The Diplomats on “Dipset Anthem,” 2003

“I’m on the Westside of Chicago, lookin’ for a bust down.

And make me put my two arms up, touchdown.

8. Inspectah Deck on “Wu Tang Ain’t Nuthing ta F— It,” 1993

“Put the needle to the groove I gets rude and I’m forced.

To f— it up, my style carries like a pick-up truck.

Cross the clear blue yonder, sea to shining sea.

I slam tracks like quarterback sacks from L.T.”

9. Andre 3000 on “Da Art of Storytellin (Part 4),” 2007

“I started off starvin.

Now they got me out here Brett Favre’n.

Tryna see if I still got it (got it).

I guess it’s like a bike, think about it.

10. Jeezy on “Gangsta Music,” 2005

“We don’t talk on the phone ’cause it might stick.

Gotta play for the seven, call it Mike Vick.

Dirty birds, n—-, we play wit’ dem Falcons.

Know some n—– in the Decatur that pay for dem falcons.”