Monday, August 31, 2015

2015 Panini Prestige Football Cards Review

Picked up the Panini Prestige 2015 football cards a few weeks back and want to share my thoughts.  I like the fronts except for the halo effect.  I think the nice photos are tarnished somewhat by this.  At the bottom of the front of the card is the player's name with his position below that and the team logo in the bottom left.  The Prestige logo and 2015 round out the front and the bottom right. The rookie cards have the word "ROOKIE" behind the player's photo in white near the top.  The rookie fronts also have an RC logo at the top as well as the player's draft position below his name. 

The backs are pretty busy.  A gray photo is to the left of the back, with a stat ranking in the middle of it.  The player's number is in large letters to the bottom of the photo with the team logo.  After that, things are pretty helter skelter to the right.  The player's info and stats are to the right listed in a vertical fashion.  As busy as it is I'm good with what is presented and how it looks.  Fairly colorful back that stands out from the norm. 

Nice looking cards but I'll admit the halo effect has me wondering whether or not I'll go back for more.  That is being picky but anyone who collects knows it can be the slightest of details that cause us to want more of a product.  I waffle from day to day so we'll see.  No matter because this is a nice set that I think everyone should take a look at.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Buffalo Bills 2015 Season Preview

The Buffalo Bills won nine games last season and just when you thought things might be on the upswing, head coach Doug Marrone quit over the winter.  These are Bills...  That could have been a huge hit to the team but I think the Bills turned that around with the hiring of former Jets head coach Rex Ryan.  I like him on many fronts.  While his 46-50 head coaching record isn't great, and it is what it is, he brings something to this team.  First he did take the New York Jets to the AFC Championship two years in a row after taking over as coach.  Yes those were his best two seasons.  Still he brings a big personality to the team.  This is something the team has lacked forever.  Will it win them any games?  Probably not but it is still a positive.  This is a guy who can have some fun while still understanding the pressures of running an NFL team. 

The offense should be better than last year.  It has to be, right?  It was pretty bad as EJ Manuel still hasn't developed into an NFL starting quarterback and the Bills had to go with veteran Kyle Orton in 2014 but has since retired.  Buffalo did pick up Matt Cassel to compete for the job.  It still doesn't look like Ryan knows who his starter will be but I'm betting he'll go with Cassel if Manuel hasn't clearly shown he is the guy.  Running back sees a huge upgrade with the trade for LeSean McCoy.  He is a durable stud who should produce in both the rushing and receiving games.  If healthy, Fred Jackson will be the more than capable backup.  Receivers Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and new tight end Charles Clay anchor the receiving corps.  The biggest questions will be on the offensive line.  Hopefully it can be better than last year.  This will be key to what was a horrible rushing attack and whoever the quarterback will be.  The good news is the offense was so bad you'd think it would have to improve this year.  I think the additions of McCoy and Clay will help.  I just don't know what the quarterback position will bring.  If nothing else Cassel is a capable quarterback with a 96-70 TD to interception rate and has won 10 games with two different teams.  I'm definitely in a wait and see mode when it comes to the QB.  It has been way too long since we've had a capable signal caller.

The defense was really good last year.  Fourth in the NFL in scoring allowed, third in passing yards allowed, sixth in interceptions and first in sacks.  This defense is the real deal with the defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs all playing well.  They are anchored by defensive end Mario Williams, tacles Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams, and cornerback Leodis McKelvin.  I don't know if they can be better than last year but there is no reason to think they can't be just as good.

Overall there is no reason to think this team can't be better than last year's.  The defense is excellent and the additions on offense should make a difference.  Unfortunately the unsettled quarterback position is probably the key to how the season plays out.  The schedule isn't an easy one but again their top notch defense should keep them in games.  Hopefully Rex Ryan won't disappoint and can get something out of Cassel or Manuel.  I'm thinking 9 wins is doable.  With good quarterback play they can get to 10 wins and compete for a playoff spot.  That may sound like I'm being overly optimistic but I am a Bills fan...

Monday, August 24, 2015

2015 Topps Stadium Club Baseball Card Review

Picked up a pack of the 2015 Topps Stadium Club baseball cards.  Five cards came in the pack.  Typical Topps photography on these cards which as always is very good.  The Billy Hamilton and Jason Giambi (yep he was still playing last year) cards stood out to me.  the big haul was a Tom Glavine card who is one of my all-time favorites.  The cards themselves are pretty simple with the players name, team and position at the bottom left of the card front in silver with the Stadium Club logo to the bottom right.  The backs are colorful with much of the standard info we have come to expect - name, team, player info, a small write-up, and the player's 2014 stats and career totals.  There is also a head and shoulders pic which is different from the front picture. 

I have to say these really remind me of the Stadium Club cards of years past (nice photos, glossy stock and colorful backs).  At first I didn't really like these cards.  But they have grown on me and now I've swung the other direction and will say without hesitation I like them.  Again the photography is first rate and that, combined with the simple front and nice back make these a winner for me.  I am thinking I'll pick up a larger pack of these to see what else I can pull.  Looking at the checklist there is definitely plenty to enjoy. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

2015 Atlanta Falcons Preview

The Atlanta Falcons have a long ways to go.  While they were close to making the playoffs last year it would have been with a losing record which isn't anything to brag about.  This team was within a drive in 2012 of going to the Super Bowl.  Since then it has gone down hill.  Their defense is horrible, the offensive line is not good, and the running game is pretty sad.  It doesn't mean there aren't good things the team can build on but it may take a while to be competitive again.

On offense Atlanta has a franchise quarterback in Matt Ryan, a stud receiver in Julio Jones and an excellent compliment on the other side in receiver Roddy White.  That is where the good news ends.  The success of the running game will rest on second year back Devonta Freeman and rookie Tevin Coleman.  Their youth doesn't mean they can't succeed but with an offensive line that was average on it's best days it is hard to say what the Falcons will get.  The offensive line didn't get better through the draft so hopefully the personnel changes that have occurred combined with new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and his zone-blocking scheme will mean we'll see some improved play.  This team needs to be able to run to help open up things for what has been in the past, and can be again, a top passing offense.  But it will all begin and end with the line.  Ryan has been sacked a total of 75 times the past two seasons.  That can't continue if this offense is to succeed. 

The defense was terrible last year by almost any measure which is why owner Arthur Blank chose defensive coordinator Dan Quinn of the Seattle Seahawks to be the new Atlanta coach.  I'm not sure there is any group on defense that is settled.  The defensive backs have some decent parts in Desmond Trufant and William Moore but that isn't enough to carry the defense.  Number one draft pick Vic Beasley will be expected to produce a pass rush, something the Falcons haven't had consistently in years.  A lot to ask of a rookie.  The coaching staff have a huge project ahead of them in fixing all the issues on defense.

For me this is all about the offensive line and the defense.  There have to be major gains in each group for Atlanta to make the turn.  The Falcons issues will take another year or two see major improvements.  That said their division is not a strong one and their schedule is not a hard one.  What does that mean?  Maybe Atlanta does surprise everyone makes some big strides.  I do think they can win eight games and with some luck even win 9.  In the NFC South that might win the division.  I don't say that with pride but it may be a reality.  I like the Quinn hiring and with some luck he'll get Atlanta back on track.  I, like most fans, have hope and I think we'll see some better play from the Falcons this year.   

2015 Topps Allen & Ginter Baseball Card Review

I opened a jumbo pack of the 2015 Topps Allen & Ginter baseball cards.  The cost for the pack was just under ten dollars.  The 14 cards broke down as follows - 10 base cards (4 of which were rookies), a Great Scott artificial heart card, a Starting Points card of Jacob DeGrom, and 2 minis (Addison Reed and Jacqueline Kennedy).  I enjoy the Topps Gypsy Queen offering better than the Allen & Ginter but they are distinctly different so I think folks can like one over the other or both.  These cards for the most part stick to a shot of the player's upper body.  The fronts have a nice decorative border in what I'll call a classic design that harkens back to years past.  It is in different colors that seem random in as much as they don't match the team colors.  No issues with that and I like the border.  The player's last name is at the bottom left with the Allen & Ginter and Topps logos at the bottom right.  Rookie cards had a "RC" and player logo just above the player's name.  Simple front and the photos stand out. 

The backs stick to the classic design.  "The World's Champions" is at the top followed by the player's team, card number, player name and then their statistics.  Stats are career numbers that are written out.  More player information is at the bottom including height/weight, bats/throws, acquired and born/home.  A decent back with the writing out of stats being different while not too distracting.  I would like the stats from the previous year but with this product I think it is another way of making them stand apart. 

Overall these are nice cards.  I'm not a head and shoulders guy so many times these might not appeal to me but again I like them.  I probably will only get singles from here on out but I'm glad I grabbed these cards.  This is the 10th Anniversary edition for Allen & Ginter and there are tons of inserts.  Would have loved to grab some of the autographs but as always that wasn't the case.  I don't care for the minis but that is a personal preference.  I just don't know what to do with them.  Of the two products Topps puts out in this style I definitely prefer the Gypsy Queen cards.  My review of this year's Gypsy Queen cards can be seen here.  But I do like these and others should pick them up.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

2015 Topps Heritage

I purchased a pack of the 2015 Topps Heritage baseball cards.  And I'm glad I only picked up one pack.  Don't get me wrong.  I knew what I was getting going in.  This set uses the 1966 Topps baseball set as it's base design.  If you you don't mind head shots you won't mind this set.  That just isn't something I care for.  I did enjoy the Angels' first place division card, the retro cards, and the backs so it isn't a total loss.  If there were more cards like those I'd be more into this set.  I appreciate more the Topps Archives set which I'll look at next.  I don't mean to scare anyone off this set and I am curious how others like this set.  I just won't be buying any more.  

2015 Michigan Wolverines Football Preview

If nothing else this year should be fun for Michigan Wolverines' football.  It may not be fun for the football team or new coach Jim Harbaugh but it should be for everyone else.  While expectations are not too high this year, Michigan fans and the media will always expect more and everyone is excited for this year as Jim Harbaugh helms the team for the first time at his alma mater.  First the hiring of Harbaugh is a win.  He was immensely successful at Stanford and with the San Francisco 49ers.  While this may not equate to many wins in the immediate future it should help the Wolverines compete as well as bode well for the future.  I'm excited just for the excitement factor he brings.  Hopefully it will translate into a few wins. 

Quarterback will be Harbaugh's biggest task as Shane Morris battles Jake Rudock, a trasfer from Iowa, and a highly touted true freshmen.  Whoever wins the quarterback battle, they aren't expected to put up huge numbers which could hurt the team's progress this year.  The running game should be ok while the line does have issues.  So while the 112th ranked offense should be better this year it is hard to say how much better.  Each position will have to get better as there is not once group that can carry the others. 

The defense was very good last year.  Twenty-four of twenty-nine defensive players return this year which can only be a good thing.  The defense also adds freshman safety Jabrill Peppers who should be able to make an impact this year.  They will run both 4-3 and 3-4 sets this year.  I like teams that can do that successfully.  Hopefully this team can build on last year's success with the new schemes.  With the offense still an enigma the defense will have to be good keep the team in games. 

Overall I think this team should be happy with eight wins if they can get there.  Harbaugh won't be happy with that but he never is.  Hopefully his intensity and excitement rubs off on the players.  If so they could definitely get to a .500 record.  Their schedule is not that tough so there is hope.  I won't be too disappointed if they don't get to eight wins.  This about the future and hoping Harbaugh can return the Wolverines to national prominence. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Buffalo Bills Pick Up Linebacker IK Enemkpali

I like what new coach Rex Ryan brings to the Buffalo Bills but I'm not sure this is a good move.  Ryan is familiar with linebacker IK Enemkpali from his days with the New York Jets and must think he can help the defense.  Still this moves comes one day after Enemkpali was released from the Jets for breaking the jaw of projected starting quarterback Geno Smith.  I'm all for sticking it to your opponents and I'm also good with giving players a second chance.  But this doesn't feel right.  Nothing against Enemkpali but he just broke his starting quarterback's jaw.  I may be talking out the other side of my mouth, but I understand there will be some scuffling on the field but to cold cock someone in the locker room means there is a problem there.  Why do I want that guy on my team?  There doesn't seem to be much uproar with this signing so maybe I'm in the minority.  We'll see how this all plays out and hopefully IK Enemkpali will show people that isn't really who he is.  

Thursday, August 13, 2015

2015 Score NFL Trading Cards Review

I picked up two packs of the 2015 Score NFL cards for a total of 24 cards.  This is a nice looking set and definitely a step up from the 2014 Score NFL offering.  The front has a white border, with the player's position written out going down the left of the card while the player's team goes down the right of the card.  Each is within the white border as it expands inward towards the middle.  The photo is centered with the team logo in the upper left, the player's name at the very bottom in team colored foil, with the Score logo just above his name.  At the bottom of the card on each side is are diagonal stripes also in team colors.  I like the photographs, how they take up more of the front than last year, and the team logo.  Like last year the Score logo is too large. A logo can be prominent while not taking up so much of a card.  The team name and position seem somewhat awkward while also making the border look too large.  Seems like they could have figured out something better.  Overall it is a good front.  Props for the logo and photography.
The backs have a portion of the front picture (head shot) in the upper left, The player's position, team logo, key stats, and the player's birthday are to the right of the photo.  It is an odd grouping.  Below all that is the player's height, name, team, and weight.  Below that is a quick write-up followed by the player's stats from last year and his career totals (cmp, att, cmp%, yds, td, int, rate, att, yds, td).  Those last three stats are rushing though it isn't spelled out.  The very bottom has the NFL, Panini, and NFLPA logos.  Not a bad back.  It is busier than most but that isn't a bad thing.  It catches the attention and makes you pay attention.  Many backs are very forgettable.
I pulled the following - 11 base cards, 6 rookie cards ("RC" on the front instead of team logo), 2 team leaders, 1 sophomore selection, 1 franchise, 1 the great outdoors and 2 gridiron heritage cards.  The Great Outdoors Calvin Johnson is a great looking card.  I love me some retro so the Gridiron Heritage Len Dawson and Bret Farvre cards were great pulls.  There are other subsets I didn't pull and am hoping to maybe grab some in the future.  Overall these are nice cards.   I'll definitely pick up some more as the NFL season ramps up and there is no reason for everyone not to give this set a shot.   

Sunday, August 2, 2015

2015 Topps Baseball Series 2

Had these for some time but wanted to touch on them quickly.  The 2015 Topps Series 2 baseball cards are on shelves now.  As is usually the case there are great photos to be had in this set.  The Alex Gordon photo to the left is just one of the many examples as are the Jay Bruce and Kolten Wong cards below.  As I stated in my review of Series 1, I really like this set.  Not much has changed except for some of the inserts.  I won't add much about this one but will share some of the photos of my pulls.  Again I think everyone should be picking up these cards.  There is much to like about them.   

Vacation the Movie Review

While celebrating a youngin's birthday yesterday we saw the movie Vacation.  It was a funny movie but of course will never live up to the original.  I liked the actors which included Ed Helms and Christina Applegate who did a good job portraying a couple in need of a much needed vacation with their two sons.  Ed Helms plays Rusty Griswold, son of Chevy Chase's Clark Griswold from the original movie.  He of course decides the family needs to go on a cross country trip to visit Walley World.  I did think the movie was funny and our kids, ranging 15-23, really liked the movie and were laughing out loud throughout.  My only concern with the movie was the language.  This is an R rated movie but it still seemed excessive for what they were doing.  This was especially the case with the youngest son in the movie who is probably 12 or 13.  He cussed like a sailor and was way too free with the sexual innuendo.  I'm probably showing my age some but the original didn't need all the language to be successful and for that matter neither did this one.  But that aside the movie was funny and I think that it will do well with the younger crowd.  I'm not sure if the older viewers will appreciate it as much but they will definitely find themselves laughing as well.