Super Bowl 53 Should Live Up to the Hype

Looking at the odds for Super Bowl LIII, it appears as though this one may truly be a classic. Initially, the New England Patriots opened as a one-point underdog, but just days later, became a two-point favorite, to prevail over the Los Angeles Rams. One thing is for sure, there are going to be plenty of fireworks when the two teams meet at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta on February 3rd, with the Lombardi Trophy at stake.

At the most important positions, this is a matchup of wily old vet vs. young lion. Legendary Patriots head coach Bill Belichick vs. young upstart head coach Sean McVay (turns 33-years old on January 24th). At Quarterback, five-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady vs. third year QB Jared Goff. At age 41, Brady is older than both the quarterback and head coach of his opponent.

Of course, one of the main keys to victory for New England, will be the ability of the offensive line, to somehow neutralize the devastating pass rush of Rams All-World DL Aaron Donald.

It is important to note, the Belichick/Brady legend began with a 20-17 victory over the heavily favored St Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI on February 3rd, 2002. Fast forward, and exactly 17 years later, to the day, comes the rematch.

Many things have changed since that first meeting – Not only was the Rams franchise still located in the Midwest, but current Rams coach Sean McVay was still in high school, and current Rams quarterback Jared Goff was still in Elementary school.

In the storied Bill Belichick era, the Pats have played in eight Super Bowls. They have represented the AFC in the last three seasons. Most recently, they lost a 41-33 thriller to the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII; a team which they previously defeated 24-21 in Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005. Tom Brady has been the QB through all of it, which easily makes this the most successful coach/quarterback combo in NFL history.

The Rams may very well have all the right stuff to topple the mighty Patriots. At least history may be on the side of the Los Angeles franchise – the Pats have a record of 0-2 in Super Bowl rematches (lost to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII and again in the rematch, four years later).

During the 2018 regular season, the Rams had the league’s second-highest scoring offense, while the Patriots ranked fourth. Both teams won their respective divisions. In the Conference championship games, New England knocked off the Kansas City Chiefs (highest scoring team in the NFL), while the Rams bumped off the New Orleans Saints. Both the Pats and Rams were road teams, and both championship games were decided in overtime.

Both squads appear primed and ready. Only thing left to do, is sit back and count the days until kickoff and then enjoy the drama. The storyline almost writes itself. This should be one for the ages.




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NFL Football Talk – 2019 Championship Weekend Preview

Now Available on Podbean

The New England Patriots have made it to an Eighth straight Conference championship game and will now face KC. In the NFC, the Rams will go to the Big Easy, in hopes of toppling the Saints and advancing to Super Bowl LIII. Game predictions, the latest NFL news and the best NFL gambling advice – we are hitting on 90% of our gambling picks – Click here to listen on Podbean !


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LA Kings Ilya Kovalchuk remains on the shelf

Story contributed by Steven Lieberman

Will Ilya Kovalchuk and the LA Kings get a Hollywood ending ?

On Sunday , Dec 2, Los Angeles Kings forward Ilya Kovalchuk underwent an ankle bursectomy procedure that will sideline him for about four weeks.

The Russian forward spent the previous five seasons with SKA St. Petersburg in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League before the Kings signed him as a free agent on June 23 of this year. The three-year contract is worth $18.75 million.

Kovalchuk has five goals and nine assists in 25 games since returning to the NHL with the Kings, although the 35-year-old was in the midst of an 11-game goalless drought, prior to being placed on injured reserve

The veteran forward’s role on the team has seemed to lessen under interim head coach Willie Desjardins, as he had not been getting much playing time as of late. Desjardins has used Kovalchuk as a bench-warmer for long stretches in recent games and is still processing which line his veteran player would be most effective.

His best NHL season was in 2005-06. As a member of the Atlanta Thrashers, he scored 52 goals and had 46 assists. In all, “Kovy” tallied 417 goals and 399 assists in 816 regular season NHL games played, prior to joining the KHL in 2013.

Hopefully, when Kovalchuk returns to the lineup, Desjardins will be able to solve the puzzle and place him on a line where he can be most productive – The Kings are still searching for consistency as they hover near the bottom of the standings.

* Steven Lieberman is a veteran sports/arts/entertainment journalist. He has covered entertainment and Los Angeles-based pro sports for over 14 years. In addition to covering the NHL, NBA and MLB, he also covers concerts, theatre, opera and other entertainment events.

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Los Angeles Kings Head Coach Willie Desjardins Remains Optimistic

Story contributed by Steven Lieberman –

On the heels of a 5-1 victory at home over the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday, Dec 8,

Big road test coming for Interim head coach Willie Desjardins of the LA Kings

the Los Angeles Kings are about to embark on a four-game East coast road trip which will see them face the Detroit Red Wings, Buffalo Sabres, Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins.

At the helm for the Kings, is interim Head coach Willie Desjardins, who took over on November 4, when former Head coach John Stevens was relieved of his duties. Although the team still sits near the bottom of the standings, the season is young and there is still hope.

When Desjardins took over, he knew it was going to be tough and did not promise any quick solutions, although he has tried to instill a sense of urgency upon the players. He may also feel that urgency, because his contract only lasts until the end of this season.

“You’ve got to find a way to make this season work,” Desjardins said. “What exactly it is, we’ve got to find out.” So far, the Kings are still searching.

He had some success coaching the Vancouver Canucks from 2014-17; his first NHL head coaching gig. Desjardins also took the Canadian national team to an Olympic bronze medal last February, so he has both experience and credibility.

The Kings are a tough assignment for him. They haven’t been able to reach the caliber of play they experienced during their Stanley Cup championship seasons in 2012 and 2014 while being led by head coach Darryl Sutter, who is now retired.

There are some top-notch players that remain on the roster which includes Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Jonathan Quick.

“Coming in here, it’s a great situation,” Desjardins said. “I think there’s lots to work with. Sometimes you have situations where you don’t have much of a chance to be successful. They’ve got a lot of good pieces here. There’s some really quality people within this team, some high-end guys.”

When Desjardins first took over, he didn’t want to immediately alter the Kings’ playing methods, so he’s been leaning on assistant coach Dave Lowry, as he tries to get more productive results while using basically the same schemes used under Stevens. While with the Canucks, Desjardins was known to make unusual lineup decisions. This philosophy seems to have transferred over to the Kings, as most notably, he made a decision to use veteran sniper Ilya Kovalchuk on the fourth line instead of the first two lines where he usually plays.

Desjardins is hoping he can earn the players trust with some of the decisions being made. He hasn’t fixed everything that needs fixing, but he’s got time to work on it. They have yet to reach the halfway point of the season

Some weaknesses that he’s trying to turn into strengths, are the Kings inability to generate goal-scoring, meager shot creation, team defense, and an inconsistent power play.

Time will tell if it is about the new coach or the players are simply not getting the job done. This road swing, against four playoff-caliber teams, should reveal a lot about the coaching of Desjardins and the character of the team.

* Steven Lieberman is a veteran sports/arts/entertainment journalist. He has covered entertainment and Los Angeles-based pro sports for over 14 years. In addition to covering the NHL, NBA and MLB, he also covers concerts, theatre, opera and other entertainment events.

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What Does the Future Hold for LA Kings Goalie Jonathan Quick

Hall of Fame Netminder on the move ?

Story contributed by Steven Lieberman-

Having been activated in late November, Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick is now officially back in the saddle after having been placed on injured reserve in late October, to repair torn meniscus in his knee.

His first start in more than a month was Thursday, Nov. 29 in Edmonton. The result was a loss to the Oilers, after giving up a heartbreaking power play goal late in the game.

Two games later, Quick was back in fine form as he stopped 34 shots on the way to notching his 50th career shutout, in a rare Sunday night home game against the Carolina Hurricanes. It was his first shutout since March 26, 2018 against the Calgary Flames and extended his NHL record for most shutouts all-time by an American-born goaltender.

This season, Quick, wearing number 32 and now 32 years of age, has a record of 1-5-0 with a .889 save percentage and 3.28 goals-against average.

During Quick’s absence, the Kings relied heavily on backup goalie Cal Petersen to keep the team afloat. The 24-year old rookie netminder responded by posting a .927 save percentage and a 4-3-0 record through eight games. So impressive was his play, that it may lead to some tough decisions for the Kings’ front office.

During his tenure with the team, Quick helped lead the Kings to Stanley Cup championships in 2012 and 2014, but his future in Los Angeles now seems to be a bit hazy.

There is speculation that the Kings might be willing to move the future Hall of Fame goaltender, if the season falls apart on them prior to the trading deadline. Quick would be highly attractive trade bait, despite him potentially helping the team turn things around, as he is known to do. He has no problem carrying the team on his back and is one of the fiercest competitors in the league, but of course, he does need some protection in front of the net. As of late, Kings defenders have been somewhat lacking in that aspect of the game.

His performance moving forward is a double-edged sword. If he plays well, that is good for the team but also makes him an attractive chip to trade. It seems highly unlikely the Kings would trade Quick but he will attract much interest and a potentially sweet return considering he lacks no-trade protection on his $5.8-million annual cap hit through 2022-23.

The Kings seem satisfied with the performance of backup goalies Petersen and Jack Campbell so far this season, so as the trade deadline approaches, we shall see where the chips may fall.

* Steven Lieberman is a veteran sports/arts/entertainment journalist. He has covered entertainment and Los Angeles-based pro sports for over 14 years. In addition to covering the NHL, NBA and MLB, he also covers concerts, theatre, opera and other entertainment events.

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Dodgers acquire former World Series MVP

Story contributed by Steven Lieberman –

On August 31, 2018, in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired infielder David Freese and his 2011 MVP Cardinals World Series championship experience.Freese

On Saturday, September 1st, against the National League Western Division rival Diamondbacks, Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts didn’t waste any time, as he inserted Freese into the lineup at first base, batting in the fifth spot for his debut. Freese brought a gift to the party be hitting safely in his first at-bat, a solid single and finished the game going 1-for-2 with a hit by pitch and displaying a stellar performance in the field.

Thanks to Matt Kemp’s clutch come-from-behind three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth, the Dodgers went on to win 3-2 and took over sole possession of first place in the West. This was a great way for Freese to celebrate his debut, as the Dodgers are furiously battling the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies for supremacy in the NL West.

Freese has hit the ball well in his last 24 games since July 26, batting .308 with 10 runs, four doubles, four home runs and 17 RBI while still with the Pirates. This was a timely addition, since Chris Taylor is experiencing a hitting slump this season with the most strikeouts in the majors, a productive bat was needed to fill that void. To that end, Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi decided to add one final addition before the deadline for postseason eligibility (August 31 waiver deadline); trading minor league infielder Jesus Manuel Valdez on Friday night for Freese.

The newly acquired 35-year old will be utilized as a right-handed hitting platoon option at first base and might occasionally play third to give Justin Turner some rest.

“He’s a veteran presence, offensive, great clubhouse guy,” said Roberts, who plans to start Freese exclusively against lefties. “Our guys [GM Zaidi and others in the front office] have done a great job supporting us, and I’m really excited to have him.”

Eight hours before Freese was added to the roster, the Dodgers also acquired veteran reliever Ryan Madson from the Nationals who will be a threat coming out of the bullpen.

Freese, so far this season has blasted nine home runs, 41 RBI, and a .784 OPS. That OPS is his highest since his All-Star season in 2012. Of course, the 35-year-old is best known for his superhuman performance in the postseason for the Cardinals in 2011, especially in the World Series against the Rangers. In Game 6 at Busch Stadium, 11th inning, and with two strikes, Freese hit a game-winning lead-off, walk-off, solo home-run to deep center (420 feet) to send the series to Game 7. It was one of the greatest ‘shots heard around the world.’

“Definitely happy to have him,” Turner said. “An ultimate professional hitter, love watching him take his at-bats, and looking forward to wearing the same jersey as him.”

* Steven Lieberman is a veteran sports/arts/entertainment journalist. He has covered entertainment and Los Angeles-based pro sports for over 14 years. In addition to covering the NHL, NBA and MLB, he also covers concerts, theatre, opera and other entertainment events.

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Mad Props for Dodgers’ Mad Max

Story contributed by Steven Lieberman

Chase Utley greets Dodgers surprise hero Max Muncy

Chase Utley greets Dodgers surprise hero Max Muncy

So far this season, Max “Mad Max” Muncy has been a pleasant surprise for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

On July 1, 2018, in a 6-4 win over the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium, Muncy, getting his fifth start at second base, reached base safely in all four plate appearances, going 2-for-2 with two walks and also scored two runs. He has reached base safely in 30 of his last 32 games since May 23, hitting .297 with 22 runs, three doubles, 12 home runs and 20 RBI. He’s ranked #18 in the majors, along with five other players, with 17 homers, ten of those coming in June.

Muncy is primarily a first and third baseman and started more games in the minors in left and right field than he did at second. At the moment, the Dodgers are willing to let him play second and learn how to defend at that position in order to keep a productive bat in the lineup. The Dodgers don’t mind that he didn’t play any games at second when he was in Triple A.

The 27-year-old Midland, Texas native was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the fifth round of the 2012 MLB draft. After being released before the 2017 season, Muncy signed a minor league contract with the Dodgers on April 27, 2017 and assigned to Triple A Oklahoma City. In 109 games, he hit .309 with 12 homers and 44 RBI and then called up to the Dodgers on April 17, 2018.

The 2018 season found the Dodgers starting off injury-plagued, losing Corey Seager to a season-ending injury, Clayton Kershaw on the DL twice, Hyun-Jin Ryu hurt and slugger Justin Turner also starting the season on the shelf. The Dodgers record was 16-26 on May 16 and it seemed hopeless. Fans were doubting that they could recover.

And then there was Muncy to help save the day. Now, he’s the best power-hitter on a surging Dodgers team.

Muncy’s rise to the top has unfortunately moved veteran second-baseman and fan-favorite Chase Utley to the back burner. Utley recently returned from the DL and remains primarily a pinch-hitter. He’s batting .188 as a starter and .421 as a pinch-hitter.

Manager Dave Roberts has high hopes for Muncy and also wants to keep Utley active.

“Chase is going to go against a right-handed pitcher and trying to get him in on a once-a-week type thing,” Roberts said. “Understanding his value as a pinch-hitter to give us a good at-bat off of the bench, but you still need to get starts to kind of stay somewhat current, but I think that against right-handers, we want to make sure Muncy is up.”

* Steven Lieberman is a veteran sports/arts/entertainment journalist. He has covered entertainment and Los Angeles-based pro sports for over 14 years. In addition to covering the NHL, NBA and MLB, he also covers concerts, theatre, opera and other entertainment events.

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LA Kings continue to overachieve – By Steven Lieberman


  • When Los Angeles Kings’ star forward Jeff Carter suffered a serious leg injury (which required surgery) during the sixth game of the season, most thought it would be a huge

    LA Kings have been a pleasant surprise

    LA Kings have been a pleasant surprise

    setback for the Kings’ offense. He led the team in scoring last season, with 32 goals and 66points in 82 games but is now out long-term with no return in sight, due to a leg injury. This was a huge blow, but all hope is not lost, as the Kings have risen to the occasion.

    They are presently in first place in the Pacific Division (21-10-4), good for third place in the Western Conference, and fourth place in the league overall. The Kings’ recently had an eight-game win streak; the longest by any team in the NHL this season. The streak was snapped when they suffered a 5-1 loss in a road game against the New Jersey Devils on Dec. 12th.
    Looking at the somewhat surprising success of the team thus far, Kudos must go out to head coach John Stevens, who took over the reigns this season after Darryl Sutter was fired in the wake of a disappointing 2016-17 season. So far, it seems as though the fresh voice and perspective have steadied the ship. Also give credit to team captain Anze Kopitar, who has risen from the ashes like a phoenix. He is top ten in the league in scoring, in both both goals and assists. The Slovenian star already has 17 goals 35 games. Last season, he managed just 12 goals in 76 games played.
    General manager Rob Blake, who has taken over for deposed GM Dean Lombardi, is also contributing to keeping the team on course, by making some trades and acquisitions to add to the team’s momentum. Most recently, defenseman Jordan Subban was acquired from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for forward Nic Dowd. Prior to the trade, the latter had registered one assist in 16 games played.
    Subban, who was drafted by Vancouver in 2013, has yet to play in the NHL, but has scored 27 goals in 148 career AHL games – The younger brother of Nashville Predators’ Star defenseman P.K. Subban, Jordan will continue his development, while playing for the Ontario Reign; the Kings’ AHL affiliate.
    Earlier in the season, the Kings acquired veteran forward Jussi Jokinen in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers for Michael Cammalleri. A later deal saw Blake acquire well-traveled forward Torrey Mitchell from the Montreal Canadiens, in exchange for a conditional pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. These two November deals, preceded the team’s eight-game win streak.
    The Kings’ record was a slumping 1-6-1 in November before their winning streak began with a victory against the rival Anaheim Ducks at Staples Center on Nov 25th. “In general, you learn more from losing than you do from winning,” Kings forward Dustin Brown said. “I said that about teams before we won Cups. We had to lose a lot to understand what it took to win. Guys had the right mindset and attitude coming to the rink,”.
    Brown continued on; “It was still exciting to come to the rink, and I think that allowed us to build our momentum, just use that type of energy getting out of slumps.”
    Also said Kings forward Tyler Toffoli: “I think we’ve done a good job staying together, winning and losing, just tightening things up. We’re finding ways.”
    As the year 2017 winds down, there is still a lot of hockey yet to be played in the 2017-18 regular NHL season. With four games left to play until the new year, and 35 of 82 regular season games played, the Kings lead the Pacific division and seem very much playoff-bound.
    * Steven Lieberman is a veteran sports/arts/entertainment journalist. He has covered entertainment and Los Angeles-based pro sports for over 14 years. In addition to covering the NHL, NBA and MLB, he also covers concerts, theatre, opera and other entertainment events.
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NFL Football Talk – Now Available on Podbean

Now Available on Podbean

Now Available on Podbean

The flagship weekly INSIDE SPORTS podcast ‘NFL Football Talk’, is now available on the go. Download the Podbean App on your wireless device and you will be ready to hear all the latest NFL news, prediction, gambling tips and Fantasy Football advice, no matter where you may be (Listed under “The Inside Sports.”)

On your home computer or laptop? Click here to listen to the latest episode !

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NFL Football Talk now on ITunes

Click here for the latest episode of NFL Football Talk. Presented by Humannequinmedia, the INSIDE SPORTS production hosted by Charles E. Smith, Jr and Chris Lardieri (@ChrisLsports), covers all the latest NFL news, along with analysis, predictions, gambling advice and expert fantasy football tips. The ultimate one-stop shop for today’s football fan!

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