Thursday, November 27, 2014

Will Aaron Rodgers Win the 2014 NFL MVP Award?

There are a lot of factors that go into determining the MVP of the National Football League.  Yards, touchdowns, ratings, wins, and sometimes even popularity figure in to the award.  And while the MVP title is rather pointless in such a team sport as football, it does still carry a lot of merit and often helps label who the most impressive player has been in the league.  And while we still have a ways to go before anointing a true NFL MVP, my early vote (as well as my long term assumption) is for Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers to claim the award.

Rodgers has long been among the elite players and quarterbacks in professional football, and has already won the award in 2011.  That season he threw 45 touchdown passes and led the Packers to a 14-1 record before sitting out the finale.  This year he is playing at that same level.

His current QB rating of 119.3 is tops in the NFL, and so is his yards per attempt statistic at 8.65.  That value is often a reflection of just how potent a passer is.  His 30 touchdown passes are second in the league behind Peyton Manning.  The only areas of concern would be his 7th ranked completion percentage and total yards ranking.  Some would argue that makes him the 7th best quarterback in the NFL, hardly worthy of the MVP.

But such insight is terribly misguided.  Rodgers ranks just 16th in the league in passing attempts!  Again looking at his remarkable touchdown and yards/attempt figures paints the more accurate picture.  He is doing more with fewer throws.  In fact, his 342 pass attempts is exactly 100 fewer than Manning.  The reason for this anomaly has been that the Packers have been winning a lot of their games early, and with blowouts.  Against the Carolina PanthersMinnesota Vikings (first game), Chicago Bears, and Philadelphia Eagles, Rodgers tore apart defenses and had the win wrapped up by halftime.  By the 3rd quarter he’d largely be handing the ball off to Eddie Lacy and by the 4th quarter backup Matt Flynn would be in.  His incredible play has actually put the Packers so far ahead that Rodgers hardly has to play.

Additionally, in tighter games Aaron Rodgers has been exceptional as well.  His memorable drive to win late in the game against the Miami Dolphins was exactly the type of stuff that MVP’s produce.  There is really no stopping this guy.  And while he has benefitted from an improved run game and a stronger defense in recent weeks, it just goes to show how strong a player Rodgers is when his team is clicking.

Lastly, I feel that the statistic that ends all the MVP discussion is his 3 interceptions.  This is by far the lowest of any starting QB and is the main reason his rating is so high.  To get a clear picture of the significance of this mark, Tom Brady has 6 and Peyton Manning has 9.  The only player who manages games close to Rodgers’ level is Alex Smith, who has just 4 interceptions.  But while that number is very solid, his 13 TD’s pale in comparison to the 30 thrown by Rodgers.

And so if the season ended today, I would fully expect the MVP to be awarded to Aaron Rodgers.  And based on how he and the Packers typically finish seasons, I would anticipate those great numbers to continue.  The only player who really has a good shot of beating him would be DeMarco Murray of the Dallas Cowboys, a running back.  But this is where the name factor comes into play and would largely lean in Rodgers’ favor.  It’s also worth noting that 6 of the last 7 MVP awards have been handed to quarterbacks.  But if Murray breaks 2,000 rushing yards he may take the award.  However, I think that Rodgers’ season has been more impressive and is likely to capture the 2014 NFL MVP!

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ranking the Top 10 NFL Teams Right Now

Though the Super Bowl is still months away, the NFL playoffs are fast approaching, and we continue to get a clearer grasp of which teams are set to reach those playoffs and contend for the ultimate title in football.  Here is a ranking of the top 10 NFL teams likely to withstand the late season tests and truly make a run at this year’s championship:

10.)  Detroit Lions - Though they sit well perched atop the NFC North, there’s a general feeling that the Lions will stutter down the stretch and collapse based on their pathetic history of doing just that.  While I generally agree with that assessment, the Lions are a bit different this year in that they house a terrific defense.  If defense truly “wins championships”, Detroit could be ripe for a tremendous and surprising playoff run.

9.)   Philadelphia Eagles – Chip Kelly’s offense is great when it works, but tragic when it doesn’t. While they usually look good and win the games they should, they usually struggle against the league’s best.  I think an early exit to the playoffs will end their season again, especially since the questionable Mark Sanchez is now the starting quarterback.

8.)   Pittsburgh Steelers – Despite having a tough schedule ahead, the Steelers are usually late-season bloomers and their history of recent titles suggests they are certainly capable. If Troy Polamalu gets healthy and Ben Roethlisberger keeps doing his thing, the Steelers could make a daring run at the Super Bowl.

7.)   Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck is a megastar and that is essential to title contenders. The Colts’ passing attack is tops in the league, but until the defense gets fixed Indianapolis won’t win.  Nevertheless, anything is possible with a top QB and the Colts could just win it all if things go their way.

6.)   Seattle Seahawks – Struggling at 6-4, it’s easy to overlook how dominant the Seahawks were at the end of last year. All the championship pieces are in place but the team needs to step up their game a notch in order to repeat.  I doubt they will, but considering their success last year, who can really doubt Seattle?

5.)  Denver Broncos – Peyton Manning is very good, and the Broncos’ defense is good too. The team certainly has a point to prove following their depressing Super Bowl loss last year, and they could win it this time around.  But after a woeful loss to the St. Louis Rams this week and suffering a couple key injuries, who knows if there’ll be enough in the tank to repeat as AFC Champions.

4.)  Kansas City Chiefs – Andy Reid’s team is on fire, and their defense is great. They’ve beaten the Patriots and the Seahawks this season, showing up in big games.  Knile Davis and Jamaal Charles are a strong running back duo, and Alex Smith is playing smart and avoiding mistakes.  With the team starting to come together, the Chiefs might just get Reid his first title!
3.)  Arizona Cardinals – While they have the league’s best record (9-1) and a tremendous defense, their starting quarterback Carson Palmer went down for the season. Palmer was never elite and backup Drew Stanton is playing well.  However, their defense will dictate how far they go in the playoffs.  They have a tough schedule coming up and if they can come through as NFC West champs, they’ll have earned their chance to make a run.

2.)  Green Bay Packers – No one is playing as good as Aaron Rodgers these days, and with Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers making plays on defense, the spirit of the 2010 Super Bowl is alive and well in Wisconsin. But as we saw in a bad loss to the New Orleans Saints just a month ago, when the offense is slowed the Packers can be beat.  However, any team in this league is beatable, and the way Green Bay is playing right now bodes well for a championship.

1.)  New England Patriots – Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are the NFL’s strongest head coach/quarterback duo and they’ve routinely dominated the league for a decade. However, now 10 years removed from their last of 3 titles, time is running out and there’s an element of desperation in their play.  This could help the team rise up and claim a final Super Bowl title of this incredible dynasty!  They are the team to beat right now.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Can LeBron James and the Cavs Get it Right in Time for the NBA Finals?

At 3-3, the newly superstar-clad Cleveland Cavaliers have hardly been the inspiring force that fans expected upon LeBron James’ arrival.  Not entirely surprising, the trio of James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving haven’t quite clicked so far this season; something quite common for a team just getting used to playing with one another.  With a record at .500, they’ve been considerably average.  While there is certainly a great deal of time to go before the NBA Playoffs for them to get this right, if the team continues to struggle they may miss out on the postseason entirely, let alone contend for the NBA title.

Further adding to the problems have been the rumblings bubbling under the surface.  Rumor has it that Love may opt out of his contract at the end of the season and push a move to the Los Angeles Lakers.  While it seems strange that he would want to leave so soon, based on the lackluster start to the season there certainly could be a disharmony amongst the key new arrivals.  Especially given his former star status with the Minnesota Timberwolves, he may struggle in the shadows of the team’s favored child, LeBron.
Meanwhile, an apparent heated chat between James and Irving could have led to a further trouble within the locker room.  Following a loss in which Irving failed to notch a single assist, the episode raised skepticism about whether the team will ever truly click like the championship-winning Miami Heat did for James.

As far as I can tell, this is far too early to tell if the Cavs will be contending for the title.  Possibly more than any other sport, basketball players must truly play with one another for an extended period of time before they reach their full potential as a team.  Given the talent alone of these three star players, a failure to start winning games with consistency would be a complete failure.  Also, one must understand that these guys are professionals.  They’ve played basketball for their whole lives and certainly know how to work well with others.  Constructing a championship caliber team simply takes time.

But what about the Cavs’ title hopes this season?  LeBron James certainly is capable of taking any team far, but a complete team cohesiveness is needed to win titles.  Evidence of the fact can be shown in the Heat’s Finals loss in James’ first season in Miami, as well as the San Antonio Spurs’ team effort to win the championship this past season.

The big question will be as to whether the stars of the Cavaliers can grow together in this year and compete for the title.  Fortunately, the generally weakened Eastern Conference should provide an easy route to the NBA Finals for them, but the Western Conference champion will likely prove to be very competitive amongst the likes of the Spurs, Golden State WarriorsOklahoma City ThunderDallas Mavericks, and Houston Rockets.  It’s never easy to win in the NBA, even with LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving!  Chances are that the early struggles will continue for the better part of the season and that the Cavs will probably not win a title this year.  However, as the players grow (considering Irving and Love stick around!), Cleveland should expect to earn an NBA title in the coming years ahead!

AAA Sports Memorabilia has a great selection of Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James sports collectibles.  Our autographed memorabilia is obtained through paid private signings with the athletes, include life-time authenticity guarantees, and are backed by the most trusted companies in the industry.  All of our non-autographed sports collectibles are officially licensed by the respective league.  We add new products all the time so visit us often to find out what is new.

Friday, November 7, 2014

How Long Can the San Francisco Giants’ Dynasty Last?

With their 3rd World Series title secured in 5 years, there’s no doubt that the San Francisco Giants have established a dynasty.  Their run of success, particularly in the postseason, has been unparalleled in recent years and they’ve become the best team in baseball.  But how long can this period last for?  Will there be more titles on the horizon or will the Giants eventually fade in the coming seasons ahead?

The reason that the Giants continue to contend is simple enough: they have one of baseball’s highest payrolls.  Paying their players the 7th highest total in the league, the Giants’ spending is on par with the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels, two teams known for their prosperous budget.  And given the divisional matchup against the free-spending Los Angeles Dodgers (who have by far the largest MLB payroll), the Giants certainly need to dish out the dollars in order to compete.  It’s also easy to forget that the Dodgers won the NL West by 6 games, meaning that the Giants had to play in the single game wildcard match.  This remarkable run could have been nipped in the bud over a month ago!

But San Francisco won that game and that speaks to the merits of this dynasty.  What the Giants are best at is winning in the postseason.  Their players seem to always rise to the occasion and their statistics back it up.  For example, Pablo Sandoval is one of the fan favorites at the club.  During the season he had a respectable .279 average.  However, in the postseason he cranked it up to .366.  Though he failed to get a home run in the 2014 MLB playoffs, he has been capable of that in past World Series runs.

Likewise, Madison Bumgarner had a solid season going 18-10 with a 2.98 ERA.  That’s good, but what he accomplished in the postseason was legendary.  He went 4-1 with an ERA of just 1.03!  His 5 innings of scoreless pitching in Game 7 was on two days’ rest!  Such a performance is nothing short of astounding.  As long as these players can crank their games up in the playoffs, I can’t see anyone stopping them.  The only trick for San Francisco seems to be just reaching those playoffs, which is how they were denied on the two occasions in the past 5 years in which they didn’t win the World Series.

But with baseball being such a sport of turnover, couldn’t roster changes threaten the longevity of their dynasty?  Perhaps, but the Giant’s front office has to be commended on how well they have managed their team.  Bumgarner, Hunter Pence, Tim Lincecum, and several other key players are tied up for a few years.  Meanwhile, many of their impending free agents like Sandoval, Michael Morse, Ryan Vogelsong, and Jake Peavy are certainly re-signable, though they will certainly command a large fee.

An interesting issue that the Giants overcame this year was injuries to their highest paid players like Matt Cain, Marco Scutaro and Angel Pagan.  Considering that they are likely to return next spring, San Francisco will have one of the deepest rosters around.  They just need to focus on keeping their big budget rolling and the good times will continue.  However, players will come and go, the Giants just need to keep their core star players in tact (specifically Sandoval), and their postseason dynasty should continue for some time.  At this moment I certainly expect the Giants to win another World Series in the next few years and have their incredible dynasty continue.  Their late-season prowess is every fan’s dream, and it looks set to keep rolling along!

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Which Surprising NFL Leaders Could Actually Contend for the Super Bowl?

With the 2014 NFL season reaching its halfway point this week, we’ve got a good sense of which teams are contending vs. which teams are already eyeing top draft picks next spring.  However, as is usually the case in these parity-driven league, several teams have come out and surprised us with brilliant starts to the year.  Sure, we expected the Green Bay Packers and the New England Patriots to be pretty good (as they are nearly every year), but who would have predicted hot starts for the Arizona CardinalsDetroit LionsDallas Cowboys, and Buffalo Bills?  With solid winning records and with fans’ hopes building, can one of these teams continue their hot streak on to wining the Super Bowl?

The short answer is no, and there’s countless reasons why.  Each of these teams have marginal quarterbacks at the helm.  One could try and argue that Tony Romo and Carson Palmer are elite given their statistics or that Matthew Stafford remains one of the game’s best young quarterback prospects, but none of these guys have had any real success in the playoffs.  And while Kyle Orton has played exceptional in several games for the Bills, we should know by now that he is little more than a serviceable backup.  Let’s see how his numbers last over the course of the year.

The one player truly capable of becoming elite is Stafford with the Lions.  Featuring Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush on offense, you’d think he’d be able to do it and at age 26 he still has room to grow and develop, but the Lions unfortunately have a knack for losing that is seemingly running rampant throughout the entire city of Detroit.  While they managed a playoff appearance in 2010 (which ended in the first round), they have become perennial late-season swooners.  Last season the Lions were 6-3 before stuttering to a 7-9 record.  In 2012 they were a respectable 4-4 before losing 8 straight and finishing 4-12.  This is a team that tends to run out of steam when the games begin to matter most! 

Meanwhile the Bills have also grown notorious for poor play, having not reached the NFL playoffs since 1999 (due in large part to the Patriots’ success).  They last teased their fans in 2011 by starting off 5-2 before succumbing to a 6-10 finish.  And then there’s the Cowboys, whose 8-8 record for 3 years running has been maddening to fans.  They seem to live for getting hopes up only to crush them with a late-season falter.  Romo seems to have all the skills but he folds under pressure.  At 34, the chance of him finally getting it right is fleeting at best.
Similarly, the Cardinals’ 34 year-old Carson Palmer has also been just a better-than average QB during his career, putting up solid numbers for the Cincinnati Bengals but never quite achieving greatness.  However, this is the team I see most likely to actually contend for the Super Bowl should the stars align.  The Cardinals got the short end of the stick last season and missed out on the playoffs despite a 10-6 record.  They are hungry and have proven that in the young season, claiming victories against the San Diego Chargers, the San Francisco 49ers, and the Philadelphia Eagles.  They will have a tough end to the year facing the 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks in successive weeks, though if they come through that test, look out!

For me, the challenge about a surprise team winning the Super Bowl is that they lack playoff experience.  Recent Super Bowl champs have all had unsuccessful playoff runs in previous years, but that experience helped them later on.  For example, the Seahawks won a wildcard game in 2012 before losing in the divisional round.  The next season they built off of that success and won the Super Bowl.  For teams like the Lions, Bills, Cardinals, and Cowboys, their last trips to the playoffs were so long ago that many of the core players really can’t understand the magnitude of such games.  As a result, should any of these teams reach the postseason, they’ll probably fall short and lose.  The best bet would be a solid, winning year to build up for a serious run at the Super Bowl in 2015.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

2014 World Series Preview: Momentum versus Experience

In stunning fashion, two wildcard teams have now reached the 2014 World Series.  The surprising Kansas City Royals and the budding dynasty of the San Francisco Giants will meet for the Fall Classic, and it has all the makings of an enticing competition to determine baseball’s world champion!  Neither team has exceptional superstars, and yet here we are in late October with these bunches of over-performing players ready to embrace immortality and a World Series title.

For the Royals, the team is built around a tremendous bullpen and a bunch of speedy runners capable of stealing bases in the blink of an eye.  Meanwhile the Giants have a more balanced squad and the experience of winning two World Series in the last several years.

For me the key will be Kansas City’s questionable starting pitching.  Both James Shields and Yordano Ventura haven’t quite played to their best while only Jason Vargas has been impressive.  If the Giants can get up early in games, they may be able to win this series.  However, if Shields finally plays to his true value, the Royals may just claim a title in their first postseason trip since 1985.

In many ways, most casual baseball fans will be hoping for the Royals to win this Series.  They’ve endured so many disappointing seasons and there really is the feeling that this will be their only chance for many years.  They’ve earned their place here with a late-season surge and have gone undefeated in these playoffs.  If momentum is any guide, the Royals should be well on their way.

But if anyone can overcome a hot team it’s the Giants.  They’ve won 9 straight postseason series and have won the World Series twice in the last four years!  Starters Madison Bumgarner, Tim Hudson, and Jake Peavy have pitched marvelously while their bullpen is no slouch either.

Hitting wise the teams are quite evenly matched.  While the Royals lacked power in the regular season, their big bats have come alive in the playoffs, especially that of Mike Moustakas, who has 4 postseason home runs.  The Giants have good hitters too, and anyone with a decent memory can recall the glorious blasts by Pablo Sandoval in the team’s recent championships.

All in all, this is a tremendously matched World Series and could very well go either way.  While my heart wants to see the Kansas City Royals win an unexpected title, I think the current dynasty of the San Francisco Giants will continue, largely due to their remarkable starting pitchers.  Everyone knows that pitching wins titles, not stolen bases.  It has been a remarkable run by the Royals, and their momentum could definitely push them ahead, perhaps even leading them to a sweep, but I think that the Giants are simply the better team.  Remember that they have only lost two games in these playoffs and are on quite a hot streak as well.  The 2014 MLB season certainly has been a special one and it’s coming to a tremendous close.  I think the Giants will get to have the last laugh though, and they will win it all in 7 games!

Doesn't matter which team you are rooting for to win the World Series, we have collectibles for both the Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants.  Our autographed memorabilia is guaranteed for life to be authentic as they are obtained from the most trusted sports companies in the industry and our autographs are done during paid private signings with the athletes.  We also carry officially licensed sports collectibles and display cases for all MLB teams.  New products are added regularly so visit us often to see what is new.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Are the Dallas Cowboys Really Ready to Contend for a Super Bowl?

The Dallas Cowboys are one of the great enigmas of professional football.  The type of team that often wows fans before its annual late-season collapse, folks in Dallas are collectively holding their breath, cautiously optimistic in order to avoid a massive embarrassment should the currently 5-1 Cowboys fail to capitalize on their bright start to the NFL season.  But, with the league so wide open and with Tony Romo’s maturity beginning to flourish, could the team stun the NFL and actually win the Super Bowl?

The championship hopes for Dallas rest largely on the shoulders of Tony Romo, which is normal for any football team as the quarterback position is by far the most important.  While fans and media were largely critical of the massive $100 million contract given to Romo last year, he has responded with great play.  Right now his quarterback rating is a solid 100.5, which is only bettered by guys like Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, and Philip Rivers.  It’s also worth noting that such a rating is currently higher than Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady.  If he continues at this pace, the Cowboys will certainly contend.
However, the big issue with Romo is his tendency to collapse in high-pressure situations.  The shining moment of Romo’s career is still his botched field goal hold in the playoffs of 2007, when the Cowboys lost to the Seattle Seahawks.

He did largely rectify the situation with a big win in Seattle this past weekend, defeating the reigning Super Bowl champions on their home turf and playing exceptionally well in the process however.
But a big part of this team’s success falls on their offensive line and their star running back DeMarco Murray, whose 785 yards leads the league by over 200 yards.  We will have to wait and see how he holds up over the full season as he is getting far more carries than any other back, but considering his success it appears to be well worth it.

With this potent and generally safe attack, the average defense currently employed by the Cowboys needs to merely slow opponents down and avoid major errors.  They are ranked pretty middle of the road, but with this impressive offense a title is certainly a possibility in Big D.

The issue falls back to Tony Romo and what might happen in the playoffs.  He’s only played in 4 such games and owns a 1-3 record.  His last playoff appearance was over 5 years ago, and the reason he hasn’t been back is because he stutters when games seem to matter most.  Performing in the clutch is what often separates the greats from the almosts, and until Tony Romo proves himself, those questions about his massive contract will linger.
The other problem for the Cowboys is that their division harbors another 5-1 team, the Philadelphia Eagles.  While such a matchup is going to set up an exciting NFC East race, it does lead to a strong potential for the Cowboys to end up with just a wildcard spot and a tricky road to the Super Bowl.

The fate of the 2014 Dallas Cowboys seems to be bright, but it’s going to be determined late in the season.  Once again, hopes are growing (as they should for any 5-1 team), but we will have to wait and see whether Dallas will get over the hump and win the big games.

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