NFL Preseason Week 3: Browns @ Eagles

Cleveland Browns @ Philadelphia Eagles Thurs. Aug. 25, 2011 7:30 p.m. EST

As perhaps two of the most talked about teams during the NFL preseason, the Cleveland Browns and the Philadelphia Eagles are set to go head-to-head on Thursday night in Philly with superstar quarterback Michael Vick looking to redeem himself for his awful performance last week (three interceptions) and up-and-coming quarterback Colt McCoy trying to continue to improve under center for Cleveland.

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The Philadelphia Eagles may have made all sorts of moves in the offseason in order to improve their franchise with additions like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Vince Young, Nnamdi Asomugha, Ronnie Brown and Steve Smith, but they haven’t looked that great on either side of the football in their first two preseason games. This is just the preseason and none of these games count once the regular season gets underway, but with some many new faces in Philly this team wants to fire on all cylinders before Week 1.

With that being said, Michael Vick and company will want to get back on track this Thursday night defending their home field in Philly. Michael Vick is most likely the one player on the Philadelphia Eagles that would like to turn things around immediately after struggling against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week which means the Cleveland Browns defense could have their hands full in the first few series of this preseason showdown.

As for the Cleveland Browns, the struggling NFL franchise has finally seen some light at the end of the

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tunnel with quarterback Colt McCoy coming into his own as the leader of this team and running back Peyton H

illis quickly turning into one of the best players at his position in the NFL. McCoy didn’t really impressive anyone in his rookie season in Cleveland, but Browns president Mike Holmgren didn’t lose faith in the former Texas Longhorn as he saw a lot of potential in the young gunslinger.

In the first two preseason games against the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions, Colt McCoy has thrown for 235 yards and four touchdowns. These might not be eye-popping numbers for superstar quarterbacks like Michael Vick and Aaron Rodgers, but for second-year quarterback Colt McCoy that is extremely impressive and a good sign of things to come in Cleveland.

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On Thursday night, Colt McCoy will try to keep his foot on the gas pedal when going up against the new-look defense of the Philadelphia Eagles. It might be tough for the promising young quarterback to have a repeat performance this week as he will have Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie staring him down in the Philly secondary.

Colt McCoy and the revamped offense and defense of the Philadelphia Eagles will be what to watch in Thursday night’s showdown between two teams that could very possibly be playoff bound this season. Michael Vick will also be looking to turn some heads in this game which makes this preseason matchup a must see for avid football fans.

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Denver Broncos name Kyle Orton as starting quarterback for Week 1

Last season the Denver Broncos made a bold move by selecting two-time BCS champion and Heisman trophy winning quarterback Tim Tebow in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft. This move by former head coach Josh McDaniels was heavily criticized by NFL analysts and Broncos fans around the country due to the fact that the consensus was that Tim Tebow was not a quarterback that would be able to transcend his talent on the NFL level.

Despite all the criticized and extra media attention geared towards the Denver Broncos for making the decision to draft the young quarterback with a high draft pick, Tim Tebow embraced the challenge of proving everyone wrong and becoming the starting quarterback of the storied NFL franchise.

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Ever since the retirement of two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback John Elway, the Denver Broncos have been desperately looking for a promising young quarterback to come in and fill Elway’s shoes. The Broncos thought they had found that quarterback in Jay Cutler a few years ago, but the Cutler era in the Mile High City ended when McDaniels came to town and fell out of favor with his quarterback.

After the Denver Broncos traded Jay Cutler to the Chicago Bears for Kyle Orton and superstar wide receiver Brandon Marshall to the Miami Dolphins, the team basically had to start over with Orton under center. Even though there were a lot of doubts that Orton could replace Cutler under center, the veteran quarterback played pretty well and is still considered the best quarterback in Denver.

Once the NFL lockout ended, the quarterback controversy began in the Mile High City with everyone talking about second-year quarterback Tim Tebow becoming the starter and Kyle Orton potentially being traded to the Miami Dolphins.

The trade involving Kyle Orton going to Miami seemed to be set in stone with Dolphins fans getting extremely excited about a proven starter coming to South Beach. Despite most people believing that it was a matter of time before Orton was sent packing, the trade fell apart and the veteran quarterback was right back in the middle of a quarterback controversy in Denver once again.

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With the talk of Tim Tebow becoming the starter and the future face of the franchise, the consensus was that it wouldn’t be long before Tebow was bumped up to the number one spot on the depth chart by new head coach John Fox. Even though it seemed like a forgone conclusion, the fact remained that Kyle Orton was the best option and now has officially been named the Denver Broncos starting quarterback.

Not only is the quarterback controversy in the Mile High City finally over with Kyle Orton winning the starter role once again, but now Tim Tebow has become the third quarterback on the depth chart behind Brady Quinn. This came as more of a surprise that Orton getting the starting job as Tebow was thought to have made some strides during the preseason, but it appears he has only made matters worse with poor play in practice and two better quarterbacks ahead of him.

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NFL Preseason Week 1: Jets @ Texans

Monday Night Football: New York Jets at Houston Texans Mon. Aug. 15, 2011 8 p.m. EST

One of the best all-around teams in the NFL over the past two seasons has been without doubt the New York Jets. With flamboyant and outspoken head coach Rex Ryan calling the shots from the sidelines, quarterback Mark Sanchez improving with every game under center and the defense being amongst the league’s elite, the New York Jets are a legitimate Super Bowl title contender every single season.

Obviously, the New York Jets have their eyes on the prize once again heading into this upcoming NFL regular season with a Super Bowl title in their crosshairs. Even though the New York Jets didn’t make blockbuster trades or free agent signings like the Philadelphia Eagles did during the offseason, Rex Ryan and company did bring in some players that will definitely help this team moving forward.

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Perhaps the best move the Jets made in free agency was re-signing former Super Bowl MVP wide receiver Santonio Holmes. With Holmes back for at least the next five years, Sanchez will have that go-to guy in the passing game, but he will also have some veterans to throw to in Derrick Mason and Plaxico Burress.

The New York Jets neglected to bring back free agent wide receiver Braylon Edwards (San Francisco 49ers) and chose to go with Derrick Mason formerly of the Baltimore Ravens and Plaxico Burress formerly of the New York Giants. Burress may be a gamble since he hasn’t played in two years, but still a solid athlete in the passing game at the second or third option. Mason is an aging wideout past his prime, but also a solid option for Mark Sanchez in the offense.

All these new faces for the New York Jets will come together to start the preseason on the first Monday Night Football game of the year against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas.

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Last season was a promising look at things to come for the Houston Texans as they quickly became a legitimate threat to dethrone the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South division. With running back Arian Foster coming to life in the Texans’ backfield, the Houston offense was near unstoppable with the passing game amongst the best in the league led by quarterback Matt Schaub and perennial Pro Bowl wide receiver Andre Johnson and the running game turning into one of the league’s elite led by Foster.

Whether or not the Houston Texans can keep their foot on the gas pedal this season and finally make it into the playoffs remains to be seen, but things are definitely looking up in Houston and as long as they can stay healthy they will be a threat to win the AFC South division title.

Unfortunately, Arian Foster will not be playing on Monday night against the New York Jets as he has gone down with a hamstring injury. This injury could keep him out of the preseason, but he should be ready for the regular season next month.

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Philadelphia Eagles sign Pro Bowl wide receiver Steve Smith

Heading into NFL free agency, the New York Giants had two big decisions to make at the wide receiver position. The first decision they had to make was whether or not to bring back veteran wideout Plaxico Burress who was recently released from prison and had missed the last two seasons as a result. Even though Burress had gotten a lot of buzz around the NFL in terms of teams interested in signing the veteran, the Giants weren’t sold on the fact that they should bring him back as he did cause some problems in New York before being sent to prison.

Despite head coach Tom Coughlin meeting with Plaxico Burress to see where his head is at and reportedly offering him a new contract to come back to New York, the one-time Super Bowl champion decided to sign with the New York Jets.

Once the New York Giants missed out or declined to re-sign Plaxico Burress, the boys from the Big Apple were thought to make a move to re-sign Pro Bowl wide

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receiver Steve Smith. With Smith being the favorite target quarterback Eli Manning in the passing game, many people believed that there was no way they would let the star wideout go anywhere else.

Unfortunately, despite the New York Giants being interested in re-signing Steve Smith, the team really didn’t have much of a chance to do so. The Philadelphia Eagles on the other hand were able to swoop in and add yet another Pro Bowler to their roster by signing Steve Smith to a one-year deal.

This move to sign Smith was a surprise to say the least for the Eagles as it appeared that Andy Reid and company were content with their new roster. Apparently, that wasn’t the case as they were able to give superstar quarterback one more weapon in the passing game.

It would be hard to argue at this point in time that the Philadelphia Eagles aren’t the big winners of the NFL free agency. The one move everyone anticipated the Eagles making was trading backup quarterback Kevin Kolb to a team in desperate need of a starting quarterback. Shortly after teams were allowed to trade players, the Arizona Cardinals acquired Kevin Kolb and sent corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to the Philadelphia Eagles.

This move alone was a giant step in the right direction as the Eagles had upgraded their defense, but they weren’t done there as they signed arguably the most sought after free agent available in superstar corner Nnamdi Asomugha formerly of the Oakland Raiders. As if that weren’t enough, the Eagles went out and made some considerable upgrades to their offense as well by signing quarterback Vince Young, running back Ronnie Brown and now adding wide receiver Steve Smith.

Needless to say, the Philadelphia Eagles are ready to contend for a Super Bowl title this season and have arguably the most talented team in the NFL on both sides of the football. It will be interesting to see if these moves work out or end up blowing up in Andy Reid’s face.

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2011-2012 NFL Regular Season Preview NFC North

Minnesota Vikings (6-10)

The Brett Favre era in Minnesota is officially over, but now the franchise will be handed over to another veteran quarterback in Donovan McNabb. Even though McNabb will bring experience and leadership at the quarterback position this season, the Vikings will be without their best wide receiver in the passing game in Sidney Rice.

With Sidney Rice signing free agent deal with the Seattle Seahawks, Percy Harvin will be the number one option in the passing game and potentially Donovan McNabb’s new favorite target. Along with McNabb and Harvin, the Vikings still have arguably the best running back in the game in Adrian Peterson coming out of the back which could make this a scary offense for any team to face.

Despite the addition of Donovan McNabb which is a step up at the quarterback position, I believe the Minnesota Vikings will struggle and fail to make the playoffs for the second straight season.

Green Bay Packers (10-6, Super Bowl title)

Coming into this NFL regular season, the Green Bay Packers will be the team to beat in the NFL and will be much healthier than they were at the end of last season. With important offensive players like tight end Jermichael Finley and running back Ryan Grant getting back on the field, the Packers will be even better on offense this season as quarterback Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have to put the team on his back to score points every single week.

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Along with a potent offense, the Packers will still have one of the best defenses in the league with long-haired Clay Matthews leading the way. If Matthews can have even half the season he had last year, the Cheese Heads will be having another successful season defensively and might be on their way to a Super Bowl repeat.

Chicago Bears (11-5, Division title)

Last season the Chicago Bears were the best team in the NFC North division during the regular season. Quarterback Jay Cutler seemed to come into his own under center in the Windy City and the Bears continued the tradition of having a lockdown defense with perennial Pro Bowler Brian Urlacher and new addition Julius Peppers leading the way.

This year it should be more of the same for the Bears as they could very well be playoff bound once again, but I am not convinced they can compete with the division rival Packers in the division or in the playoffs.

Detroit Lions (6-10)

As arguably the most talented young team in the NFL today, the Detroit Lions are a team on the rise and could be headed towards their first successful season since the Barry Sanders era in the Motor City.

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With quarterback Matthew Stafford back healthy and surrounded by extremely talented players on both sides of the football, this team is primed for greatness. Whether or not this season is the year the Lions breakout of their funk remains to be seen, but they could surprise some people this season by being the Packers best competition in the NFC North division.

Division Winner Prediction: Green Bay Packers

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NFL Preseason Week 1: Packers @ Browns

Green Bay Packers at Cleveland Browns Sat. Aug. 13, 2011 7:30 p.m. EST

The defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers are still on cloud nine after winning a title last February, but now it is time to get back to business as they will open their preseason against the Cleveland Browns on Saturday night.

Unlike many other teams in the NFC Conference, the Green Bay Packers kept their team relatively intact as their number one goal was to get their injured players healthy and ready to go for the NFL regular season. So even though the competition in the NFC Conference like the Philadelphia Eagles and the division rival Chicago B

Jermichael Finley

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ears made move to improve their rosters moving forward, the Green Bay Packers were content and are more than ready to defend their Super Bowl title this season.

It is uncertain at this point in time just how long the Packers’ starters will be playing against the Browns in Cleveland this Saturday, but there will definitely be some faces on the field in green and yellow that haven’t been on the gridiron in quite some time. The two players that should impact the Packers more than any others that didn’t get much time on the field last season due to injury are running back Ryan Grant and tight end Jermichael Finley.

It is pretty remarkable that the Green Bay Packers were able to defy the odds and win a Super Bowl title last season without Pro Bowl caliber players like Jermichael Finley and Ryan Grant, but coming into this season the Cheese Heads are a scary sight with these two offensive beasts coming back healthy and ready to go. The one player that will benefit most from the return of the starting running back and tight end is reigning Super Bowl MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Not only will Aaron Rodgers no longer have to do everything on offense with his arm due to the return of running back Ryan Grant to get the ground game going, but it

will take the pressure off Rodgers in the passing game as well with arguably his best redzone target back in the mix in Finley.

Whether or not Grant and Finley are a 100% healthy and still the Pro Bowl caliber players they were before they went down last season remains to be seen, but the Packers will be happy to get them back in order to defend the Super Bowl title.

As for the Cleveland Browns, the playoffs might still be way down the road, but they will look to develop quarterback Colt McCoy and get another Pro Bowl season out of running back Peyton Hillis. The offense will almost certainly be dominated by the running game with Hillis get a lot of carries this season, but McCoy might be able to surprise some people if he can strike up some chemistry with his receivers.

So keep your eye on Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley from Green Bay and Colt McCoy and Peyton Hillis of the Browns in this preseason game. All these players will be looking to make an impression.

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NFL Preseason Week 1: 49ers @ Saints

San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints Fri. Aug. 12, 2011 8 p.m. EST

The San Francisco 49ers and the New Orleans Saints are two teams in the NFL that have made some considerable moves in the offseason in order to improve their rosters moving forward. There is no telling whether or not either one of these two football teams will be a playoff bound as of right now, but on Friday night in the Big Easy we will get a taste of the new-look 49ers and the revamped Saints.

The 49ers probably made the most drastic moves in comparison to the Saints as they have brought in new head coach Jim Harbaugh and free agent Pro Bowl caliber wide receiver Braylon Edwards. These two moves were high on the priority list for San Francisco as this team is way too talented to miss the playoffs every single season.

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Hiring head coach Jim Harbaugh was without a doubt a step in the right d

irection for this struggling storied NFL franchise, but the former Stanford head coach will have his work cut out for him in his first season in the Bay Area. Not only is this team extremely talented on both sides of the football, but they are equipped to win now which puts a lot of pressure on the new head coach that is used to winning football games with quarterback Andrew Luck at Stanford.

Sometimes all a football team in the NFL needs a new head coach to bring in fresh blood to a struggling franchise in order to get back on track. The perfect example is head coach Rex Ryan who breathed new life into the New York Jets and now that team is a perennial Super Bowl title contender. Jim Harbaugh coming into San Francisco and having the same effect on the 49ers is somewhat of a stretch, but possible as he does have the talent at his disposal to make it happen in the near future.

The first test for Jim Harbaugh will be tough one as the San Francisco 49ers will go to the Big Easy to take on the New Orleans Saints in their first preseason game of the year. The New Orleans Saints are a team looking for some redemption as they are coming off an extremely disappointing playoff loss to the lowly Seattle Seahawks that was embarrassing to say the least.

With the Saints getting dominated by one of the worst teams in the league in the playoffs, Sean Payton and company had to go back to the drawing board and as a result they have traded Reggie Bush to the Miami Dolphins and drafted Heisman trophy winner Mark Ingram.

There is no telling whether or not Mark Ingram will be the answer to this team’s struggles in the ground game, but he definitely has the potential to be star behind superstar quarterback Drew Brees in the Saints’ backfield.

It will be interesting to see what Jim Harbaugh and Mark Ingram can do in their NFL debut this Saturday night in the Big Easy.

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Could Dwight Howard be a good fit with the Dallas Mavericks?

The Dallas Mavericks are coming off their most successful season in franchise history as they were finally able to win an NBA title and prove to the rest of the league that they are a force to be reckoned with from here on out. Even though the Mavs are built to win for at least one or two more years, the consensus is that they could use some younger talent moving forward in order to keep up with teams like the Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat.

Heading into the upcoming NBA regular season, the Dallas Mavericks have some big decisions to make as they have three free agents to either re-sign or let move on to another team. The biggest priority for the Mavs at this point in time in terms of free agency is re-signing backup point guard J.J. Barea. With Barea coming into his own during the playoffs last season, the Mavs know that value of their backup and will hope that he will return.

Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic, 2008–09

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After re-signing J.J. Barea, the Dallas Mavericks will put all their energy into re-signing forward Caron Butler and center Tyson Chandler. These two free agents are also pivotal to the success of the team moving forward, but they might be used in a different way as they could be involved in a sign-and-trade deal for superstar center Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic.

Last season the Orlando Magic did everything they could to convince their face of the franchise in Dwight Howard to stay with the team. With Howard becoming a free agent after next season, the pressure is on the Magic to get him to re-sign a contract extension as soon as possible. The only problem the team faces right now is that Dwight Howard has made it known that he intends to become a free agent after next season which might force the Orlando Magic to trade him before next season or before the NBA trade deadline which usually is in February.

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This situation is very similar to the one in the Mile High City last year when the Denver Nuggets were forced to trade superstar forward Carmelo Anthony because the perennial All-Star refused to sign a three-year contract extension. So just before the NBA trade deadline, the Denver Nuggets traded Melo to the New York Knicks.

Next season, the Orlando Magic will most likely have to do the same thing and one potential suitor for Dwight Howard is with the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs would like to keep the same championship team intact, but knowing Mavs’ owner Mark Cuban if he had the chance to get another superstar like Dwight Howard to play alongside Dirk Nowitzki he would jump at the opportunity.

In my opinion, the Dallas Mavericks best option would be to sign-and-trade both Caron Butler and Tyson Chandler to the Orlando Magic for Dwight Howard. If Mark Cuban can make this deal happen, the Mavs will almost certainly be favorites to repeat next season.

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NBA Matchup: San Antonio Spurs @ Portland Trail Blazers

San Antonio Spurs at Portland Trail Blazers Fri. March 25, 2011 10 p.m. EST

There is no question that the San Antonio Spurs have been the most successful team in the NBA this season as they have defied the odds all season long and remained  relatively healthy throughout the majority of the NBA regular season. With just 14 losses on the season, the Spurs have been incredibly tough to beat at home and away, but they have struggled as of late with two devastating losses to the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers and the revamped Miami Heat.

Along with losing to the defending champs and LeBron James’ squad, the NBA leading Spurs also recently fell to the Denver Nuggets (115-112) in the Mile High City. This was obviously a very close game as the Spurs were almost able to come away with the win, but without their All-Star big man and face of the franchise in Tim Duncan (ankle) this team has become vulnerable inside the paint.

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On Friday night, the San Antonio Spurs will try to get back on track with a win over the Portland Trail Blazers at the Rose Garden. This will be no easy task as the Blazers are fighting for playoff position right now in the Western Conference and the Spurs will be without Duncan once again as he will miss this three-game road trip (Denver Nuggets, Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies).

As for the playoff seeding for the Spurs, San Antonio is sitting pretty at the time being as they are six games ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers and seven ½ games ahead of the Dallas Mavericks. With just 11 games left in the NBA regular season, the San Antonio Spurs will almost certainly clinch the top seed in the Western Conference; unless they have a complete meltdown in this few games of the season and the Los Angeles Lakers stay hot before the playoffs.

Coming into this matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers, LaMarcus Aldridge and company have won seven out of their last ten games and will be looking to get closer to clinching the five seed in the West as they are battling the Denver Nuggets who are a game and a half ahead of them.

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 Portland Trail Blazers, LaMarcus Aldridge and company

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The biggest concern for the league-leading Spurs in this game with the Blazers at the Rose Garden is how they will guard All-S

tar snub forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Without Tim Duncan in the paint, the Spurs will be seriously exposed in this game and could be headed for a second consecutive loss if they can’t find a way to contain Aldridge on the block.

Without Duncan, these two teams matchup fairly well, but there is one mismatch that might ultimately tilt the scales in the Spurs favor as the Blazers will have trouble guarding Manu Ginobili. In the end though, I see the Blazers coming out on top in this one as the Spurs will struggle against Portland on their home floor at the Rose Garden.

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Is the Chicago Bulls Derrick Rose this season’s NBA MVP?

At the beginning of this NBA regular season, the Chicago Bulls had made some key additions to their basketball team in order to take into the next level and be able to compete with the best of the best in the Eastern Conference. After signing former All-Star forward Carlos Boozer to play alongside center Joakim Noah and superstar point guard Derrick Rose, this squad was considered to be much improved, but whether or not they could contend in the East was debatable.

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Fortunately, with everyone paying attention to what the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat were doing this season, the Chicago Bulls have been able to fly relatively under the radar all season long and has results of reach the top of the Eastern Conference. Not only was this a surprise to say the least has no one expected the Bulls be this good as fast as they have over the course of the season, but they have seen All-Star point guard Derrick Rose turn into arguably one of the best players in this league.

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Along with improving its shooting all around inside and out, Rose has become a triple threat with the ability to score, pass and p

lay lockdown defense at the point guard position for the Chicago Bulls. This has been a huge blessing in disguise as no one really expected this kid to be as good as he is now, but the one way he will get rewarded is through solid play during the playoffs and a possible run at an NBA title.

Even though most people believe that seems like the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat could be facing off against either the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers or the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals this season, but doesn’t seem to be the case anymore as the consensus is that the Chicago Bulls might be ready to take the next step and go all the way this year.

Obviously, there is still a long way to go, but the Bulls have definitely showed that they can contend the best the best as they have beaten teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat this year.

Along with possibly being NBA Finals bound, the Chicago Bulls might also see the MVP award come back to the Windy City. Not since Michael Jordan got his five MVPs during his time in Chicago back in the 90s have the Bulls even had a contender to win the award,

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but most people around the league along with NBA analysts believe that Derrick Rose should win the NBA MVP hands down.

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Many people are still making the case for Lebron James (Miami Heat), Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat) and Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic) for the NBA MVP award, but the consensus is that Derrick Rose should win the unanimous vote and be this season’s NBA MVP.

Whether or not this actually happens remains to be seen, but if the voting was done today, Derrick Rose would almost certainly be the frontrunner.

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