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Super Bowl 50: a tale of two quarterbacks

Well, football fans, the matchup for this year’s landmark 50th Super Bowl is set–and it’s a classic matchup of youth versus experience. The Carolina Panthers have five players on the roster who have previously played on Super Sunday; the Denver Broncos have a whopping 16. And then there’s the most obvious experience differential: the one between the two opposing quarterbacks, Peyton Manning and Cam Newton. It’s the first time ever, if you can believe it, that a Super Bowl will have two number one draft picks facing each other; but Manning and Newton were drafted in decidedly different eras and have made their marks in different ways.

Cam Newton is looking to make history in Super Bowl 50.

Manning reinvented the pocket passer, bringing in an audible-driven style that made him essentially an on-field offensive coordinator. He heralded a new age, in which pre-snap reads would come to be an essential part of the position. He’s quite possibly about to go under center for the last time in the NFL, and he’s obliterated records while establishing himself as arguably the best quarterback of all time. He’s almost certainly the best regular season quarterback of all time, and another Super Bowl could send him off to the Hall of Fame as possibly the best of all time, period. He’s already the first quarterback to take multiple teams–the Broncos and the Indianapolis Colts–to the Super Bowl multiple times. He’s also tied with Brett Favre for the all-time lead in victories, with 199, and a win next sunday would be number 200. There’s also a middling chance that, win or lose, this is his “last rodeo,” as he suggested was a possibility in a brief postgame chat last week with Bill Belichick.

Newton, along with Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson, headlines a new wave of dual-threat quarterbacks who are both legitimate pocket-passers and game-changing run threats. Until this season, Luck and especially Wilson were considered the cream of this new crop of signal-callers; but this year, Cam has taken the football world by storm. Though he set the NFL record for rookie passing yards, there were many lingering questions about his overall game–until this season. This season, Cam ran threw for 3,837 yards and 35 touchdowns with only 10 interceptions; he also ran for 636 yards and a whopping 10 touchdowns. He’s on everyone’s short list for MVP, and he’s consistently shown his growth as a pocket passer–as evidenced by his spectacular hot-read touchdown during last weekend’s beatdown of the formidable Arizona Cardinals. If Cam wins Super Bowl 50, he’ll be the third quarterback (along with Joe Montana and Joe Namath) to win the NCAA National Championship and the Super Bowl as a starter. He’ll also be the first ever to win the National Championship, the Super Bowl and the Heisman Trophy.

Peyton Manning is looking to add to his legacy.

There are other storylines in the big game, for sure, but the primary one will be the tale of two quarterbacks. The Panthers and Broncos have two of the toughest defenses in all of football this year, with line-crumbling pass rushes and elite crews of linebackers; both quarterbacks will have their work cut out for them. Will Peyton ride off into a Hall of Fame-bound sunset with a Super Bowl win and victory number 200? Or will Cam become the first to win the Triple Crown of quarterbacking, and answer his critics once and for all? Hit us up @Brackethead on Twitter and tell us what you think. You can also sound off on our Facebook page, make predictions and show the world how you’re planning to celebrate Super Sunday. Oh yeah–if you want to win prizes while you root for your team, head to gofancheer.com and download the FanCheer app so you can Play, Shout and Win!

May the brackets always bust in your favor!

The folks at FanCheer

The 2016 BCS National Championship was a classic!

Well, college football fans, you couldn’t have hoped for much more excitement from this year’s BCS National Championship. The undefeated Clemson Tigers took on the Alabama Crimson Tide out in Arizona, and what a game it turned out to be!

The Crimson Tide won an instant classic of a title game.
Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry kicked off the scoring with a 50-yard touchdown run about halfway through the first quarter. Superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson responded with a 31-yard wheel route touchdown to Hunter Renfrow, tying the game at 7. The two connected for another score at the end of the first quarter, with Watson hitting Renfrew in the back of the end zone and Renfrew going to the turf to make a nice grab.
In the second quarter, the Crimson Tide defense picked off Watson and Henry scored again, this time on a one-yard plunge. The game was tied once again, and the show was just getting started! Henry was already over 100 yards rushing as of the second quarter, but he wouldn’t be the only star of the game. Alabama’s senior quarterback Jake Coker struggled early, taking sacks and not finding open receivers; they went three-and-out with under a minute left in the half, and Watson drove his team into field goal range with seconds to go. There was some controversy, as the clock appeared to continue running after Clemson got a first down in the red zone, and Alabama blocked a field goal attempt. The game went to halftime, with the score tied at 14.
Coker picked his game up in the second half, and so did Alabama’s tight end O.J. Howard. Howard leaked up the sideline for his first touchdown since 2013–a 53-yarder–and the score was 21-14. Howard was far from done, but we’ll get to that. Greg Huegel kicked a field goal to close the gap, then Wayne Gallman caught a pass to get Clemson into the red zone. He came up limping, and would go in and out of the trainer’s room for much of the rest of the game; but he came back in to run it in from a yard out, and give Clemson a 24-21 lead they would take into the fourth quarter. Going into the game, Clemson had won the last 51 games in which they had started the fourth quarter with a lead!

Renfrew had a great night, with Clemson’s first two scores.
Adam Griffith tied the game with a field goal early in the fourth quarter. And then Alabama recovered an onside kick with 10:34 to go! And then Howard got into the act again, this time with a 51-yard bomb up the seam on a blown coverage! Huegel closed it to 31-27 with another field goal…and Alabama answered in striking fashion. Kenyan Drake took the ensuing kickoff, and ran it all the way to the house, 95 yards to put the Tide up 38-27 with seven and a half to go. If you thought that was that, it was time to think again. Gallman started catching passes from the backfield and making something from nothing, fueling an impressive drive back to the red zone. Artavis Scott got into the act, with a 15-yard touchdown pass with 4:40 to go. The two-point conversion was unsuccessful, and this thriller of a title game stood at 38-33. The Alabama offense struggled to open their next drive–until Howard caught an innocuous looking pass headed toward the sideline. He turned the corner and took it all the way to the red zone! This reception put him at a whopping 208 receiving yards for the night, and Alabama was poised to try and put the game away. On third and goal, Henry used a third-effort spin move to punch it in from a yard out–and with 1:07 to go, it was 45-33. Alabama fans thought they could relax–but alas, Watson led an electrifying march down the field. He hit tight end Jordan Leggett from 24 yards out, on a perfectly thrown bullet past outstretched arms…and with 12 seconds left, the game was 45-40.  Clemson refused to go away easily! They tried an onside kick to no avail, and after an instant classic, it was time for Coker and Henry and company to celebrate. Howard was rewarded for his breakout performance by winning the Offensive MVP of the game.

Tight end OJ Howard was the game’s offensive MVP.

Where does this game rank on your list of all-time great national championships? Who was the player of the game? Hit us up @Brackethead on Twitter and tell us what you think. If you really want to show your stuff and win stuff while you support your favorite teams, head to www.gofancheer.com and download the app to Play, Shout and Win!

May the brackets always bust in your favor,

Brackethead & the folks at FanCheer

The NFL playoff field is set!

NFL football fans were on the edges of their seats this Sunday, as the playoff scenario came into focus one game at a time. There were some exciting performances, and the day was capped off by one heck of a showdown in the original home of the Lombardi Trophy itself!

Big Ben and the Steelers are back in another postseason.

In the AFC, the New England Patriots were hoping to secure home field advantage when they went into Miami to take on Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins. it didn’t go as planned as Tom Brady and the Patriots struggled all game and lost 20-10 to the fins. This left them watching the scoreboard, as the Denver Broncos sought to secure the top AFC seed against the San Diego Chargers. Brock Osweiler had done a nice job of holding down the fort, including leading an exciting overtime win against Brady’s crew earlier in the season, and he threw for 262 yards and a score on Sunday–but it was the third quarter return of Peyton Manning that stole the show, as he came in to lead his team to victory as the home crowd cheered. Things just felt different with Manning back under center and healthy again, and the Broncos went into the postseason looking fully intact and like a real threat to go all the way. JJ Watt and the Houston Texans pounded the Jacksonville Jaguars 30-6 to finish 9-7 and win their division, but the Cincinnati Bengals hung on at home against the Baltimore Ravens, winning 24-16 and taking the third seed at 12-4. The 11-5 Kansas City Chiefs took care of the Oakland Raiders in the final NFL  game of the legendary Raiders defensive back Charles Woodson, and the Chiefs will go into the playoffs as the 5th seeded wild card. And the second wild card game was decided in two thrilling games, as the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers both looked to make the second season.

In Buffalo, Rex Ryan was eager to knock his old team out of the playoffs as the Buffalo Bills tried to beat the Jets for the second time this season. And to start things off, the Bills had the Jets of balance. Ryan Fitzpatrick missed open throws, and the Jets’ offense clearly missed the presence of dual-threat running back Bilal Powell, who was absent due to injury. The Jets righted the ship somewhat, closing to 22-17 in the fourth quarter; they drove all the way down into field goal range, when Fitzpatrick threw a terrible-looking pick in the Bills’ end zone to kill their drive. By the time the Jets got the ball back, it was for a last-second desperation push that came close to working out as Kenbrell Thompkins somehow found a gap up the right sideline and had the ball in his hands! Had he caught it, he might have dodged the final defender and coasted into the end zone. Alas, the ball was jarred from his hands at the last second, and the Jets wound up losing 22-17–the same score by which they had lost to the Bills earlier in the season. Meanwhile, in Cleveland, the Browns tried to play spoiler against Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers. It looked close for a while, especially when the Steelers turned it over with the game still close–but then, as Browns fans have unfortunately come to expect, they turned it right back over and the Steelers took over. They won 28-12, and their sideline was all smiles when the final score of the Jets game was announced, Meanwhile, the rest of the AFC sighed, as a dangerous and experienced playoff team was able to squeeze into the tournament.

Russell Wilson finished another great season in Seattle.

In the NFC, Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers made easy work of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to go 15-1. Unfortunately, they lost cornerback Charles Tillman for the rest of the year to a torn ACL. Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks destroyed the Arizona Cardinals 36-6, roaring into the playoffs on a mission to get back to the big game. And in the Sunday night game, the NFC North was decided in a game that started out slowly but ended in #FanCrazy fashion. The Minnesota Vikings went into Lambeau Field, trying to beat the Green Bay Packers and win the division in the final game of the year. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers struggled to move the ball early on, and uncharacteristically, the home crowd even booed a bit. The Vikings’ defense even ran back a Rodgers fumble the second half that put the home team in real trouble. But then the Packers seemed to remember their old ways, moving the ball up the field and coming to within 20-13 with a few minutes to go. When Adrian Peterson exited briefly due to injury, it looked like the Packers might be set up for another miraculous home win. Then when Cordarrelle Patterson ran a kick back 71 yards only to have a fumble forced by kicker Mason Crosby, it really looked like Lambeau magic was in effect! But then Rodgers threw an interception in the Vikings end zone with just over two minutes to go. But then–on the very next play, the Vikings fumbled a handoff to Peterson and the Packers almost had the ball back in the red zone. AP fought to recover the ball, but in case you thought this one would end without some more drama, the Packers’ defense forced a punt. It came down to a long throw as time expired, and for a second it looked like Rodgers might complete yet another home field Hail Mary…but it was knocked down, and the Vikings secured the North and will go on to host the Seahawks next week.

Next Saturday, the wild card round kicks off with the Texans hosting the Kansas City Chiefs and the led Cincinnati Bengals hosting the Steelers. On Sunday, the Seahawks go to Minnesota and Kirk Cousins and Washington will host the Packers. Who will advance in the first round? Will Brady and Manning face off in the postseason yet again? Will Cam and the Panthers go all the way? Hit us up @Brackethead on Twitter and tell us what you think. If you really want to show your stuff and win stuff while you support your team, head to www.gofancheer.com and download the app to Play, Shout and Win!

May the brackets always bust in your favor,

Brackethead & the folks at FanCheer

The New York Giants rise to the occasion to open December!

Well, football fans, it’s nearing the end of the season and the New York Giants have dug themselves a hole again. Must be time for them to start playing at the top of their game, and that’s just what they did this week.

The Dolphins had no answer for Odell Beckham.

In a Monday Night Football showdown against the Miami Dolphins, the gmen showed the kind of offensive firepower many have waited for them to display all season. Lamar Miller and the fins put up a good fight in their own stadium, with Miller rushing for 89 yards and two scores, but they couldn’t keep up with the passing attack led by Eli Manning, Odell Beckham and the Giants’ passing attack. Manning had one of his best games as a pro, throwing as many touchdown passes as he had incompletions. He went 27 for 31, for 337 yards and no interceptions as he spread the ball around high and low. New starting tight end Will Tye, a local kid drafted from Stonybrook, caught a touchdown pass and is continuing to blend well into the offense. Ruben Randle had a solid game, as did running back Rashad Jennings, who’s been quiet since early in the season.

But the real star of the game, aside from Eli, was Mr. Beckham. The Dolphins just didn’t have an answer for him. He caught seven passes for 166 yards and two scores, and both of his touchdowns were beauties. One was an 84-yarder, on which he dropped a double move and sprung wide open between the hashmarks where Eli hit him right in stride. The other was a highlight-reel hands grab outside the corner of the end zone, where he came out of the break and the ball was right there. There were a few moments where it looked like the touchdown might not stand, but replay upheld the call and Beckham had his first touchdown catch of the day.

Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins attempted a late comeback, and actually made things seem close for a bit. But needing a first down to seal the deal by running out the clock, Eli went to–you guessed it–Odell, who made a diving catch for a first down. This catch was reviewed, as well…but the call was once again upheld, and the Giants engaged the victory formation and ended the night tied for first in the NFC East.

Next week, the Giants face the NFL’s last undefeated team, Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. It looks like a tough task on paper, but Eli and company have some experience pulling off upsets against undefeated teams…I’ll leave it at that. You could make a serious case that if the Giants work their way into the postseason, they’d be a serious threat…but first they have to go through the team that right now looks like the favorite to win the NFC. The Giants will be at home…can they pull it off? Hit us up @Brackethead on Twitter and tell us what you think. If you really want to show your stuff and win stuff while you support your team, head to www.gofancheer.com and download the app to Play, Shout and Win!

May the brackets always bust in your favor,

Brackethead & the folks at FanCheer

Brady vs. Osweiler, vol. 1?

Ladies and and gentlemen, the NFL might have a new budding rivalry on its hands. On a cold, snowy Sunday night in Denver, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots‘ depleted receiving corps took on Brock Osweiler and the Denver Broncos. The Pats were looking to keep pace with the undefeated Carolina Panthers, and the Broncos were looking to stay on course atop the AFC East despite having lost legendary QB Peyton Manning.

Brock Osweiler looked clutch in his first start.

At first it looked like the Patriots would have an easy night, as they took a 14-0 lead on touchdowns to Rob Gronkowski and underrated tight end Scott Chandler. But the Broncos got the running game going, and things changed from there. No points were scored in the third, and the game remained 14-7 going into the last period of regulation. Then both offenses went to work! Brandon Bolden caught a touchdown to jump it off in the fourth, expanding the lead to 21-7 and seemingly putting the Pats in the driver’s seat. But Osweiler brought his team down the field, and CJ Anderson ran one in with lots of time on the clock. Osweiler continued to show poise, leading his team on yet another clutch drive that ended in a Brandon McManus field goal with six minutes to go.

With 2:49 to go, the injury bug bit the Pats once again. On a midrange incompletion, Gronkowski’s knee was struck at a bad angle by a diving defender. He fell to the ground, writhing in pain, and needed to be held down by staff as the trainers examined him. He left the field and was done for the game, and the look on Brady’s face said it all: the Patriots were in trouble. Still, Osweiler was down four points and had to get the ball back and lead one more drive. And that’s exactly what happened! The Pats were forced to punt, and Osweiler led a last-minute march all the way to the red zone. It almost looked like they might not punch it in, but Demaryius Thomas had his shoulder pads grabbed in the end zone and the Broncos had first and goal. Then, on a play that Osweiler reportedly changed at the line, Andre Caldwell caught a beautifully thrown pass in the back corner of the end zone with 1:15 left! 24-21 Broncos…but alas, too much time for Brady. Depleted resources and all, the Patriots’ clutch QB led a drive into Stephen Gostkowski‘s range, and a 47-yarder sent the game to overtime!

The Patriots got the ball first in OT, but Denver’s D held strong. The Broncos it and moved it close to field goal range. On 3rd and 1, CJ Anderson ran to the left side on what looked like a simple play. Then he caught a block and shot a gap, and 48 yards later the fans in Denver were celebrating a huge win! The race for home field advantage is tight once again, as the Pats fell to 10-1 and the Broncos went to 9-2.

What did you think of the Broncos’ new young quarterback? How will the Patriots bounce back from their latest injury? Hit us up @Brackethead on Twitter and tell us what you think. If you really want to show your stuff and win stuff while you support your team, head to www.gofancheer.com and download the app to Play, Shout and Win!

May the brackets always bust in your favor,

Brackethead & the folks at FanCheer