Sunday, January 22, 2017

Atlanta Falcons beat Green Bay to Advance to Super Bowl LI

What a win for the Atlanta Falcons.  That game was a drubbing from the start and as a Falcons fan I was OK with that.  Atlanta's offense is historically good and it didn't disappoint.  Well the running game wasn't up to par but overall they still dominated.  Their defense is what was surprising.  They were able to put pressure on Rogers and hold at key moments or get a needed turnover until the game was essentially over early in the second half.  It was odd to see Green Bay so off.  Credit goes to the Atlanta defense though injuries also played some part in their issues.  Still the defense did a great job for the second week in a row.  Coupled with their outstanding offense any type of good outing by the defense will give them a shot at winning games.  Is Matt Ryan a stud this year or what?  Wow. 

As a fan I'm beside myself.  This is such a rush.  Been some 19 years since the last time.  Hopefully Atlanta can win it in this, their second Super Bowl appearance.  I really think they can.  That offense can definitely put up points.  If it continues to do so there is no reason the Falcons can't bring home their first NFL championship to Atlanta.  Waiting two weeks for the Super Bowl won't be easy but it will be well worth it.         

Monday, January 16, 2017

Star Wars Battlefront: Twilight Company Book

Star Wars Battlefront: Twilight Company is a 2015 release I finally got around to finishing.  I wish I was better at reviewing books so please bear with me.  This book follows rebel soldiers during their battle with the Galactic Empire.  These are the boots on the ground  who don't get the glory but fight for the tough ground inch by inch.  This looks at their fights, their questions about leadership, questions about the rebellion and why they do what they do.  Along the way you are introduced to a core group who have been there, done that.  They fought all over the galaxy while never knowing how much, if any, difference they are making.  This is not that different from some modern day movies or novels based around the military.  While it isn't a movie it has a Rouge One feel to it.  Not everyone survives nor does every battle go their way.  I liked this book.  It is different than most Star Wars books in how it introduces completely new characters, the likes of which we haven't been introduced to before, and shows us what it looks like in the trenches.  Again it could look like many other military novels but they did a good job here.  Not all 496 pages will knock your socks off but I think it is worth the read. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The San Diego Chargers have announced they'll be leaving San Diego for Los Angeles.  I'm very sad for the fans and the Charger's owners.  Ownership tried to keep the team there and have worked to get a new stadium deal done for over 10 years.  I also understand why it is so tough to get public money to make things happen.  We are talking hundreds of millions of dollars and for any city that is a huge bill to swallow  With all sides - fans, ownership, and the city of San Diego - wanting this to work it is a shame.  This isn't the same as when Stan Kroenke screwed over the city of St. Louis.   

That said the NFL is using an old business model in getting new stadiums built.  The NFL is bigger than ever and while I'm not saying they have a billion dollars to throw away I do think they can assist enough to make these deals happen.  As is, the Chargers will pay $500M to relocate.  The NFL was up for loaning $300M for a new stadium. There is $800M right there.  Something doesn't add up.  Heck the NFL probably has enough money to loan a team all the money and let them pay it back.  I know owners aren't always keen to own and run stadiums but the NFL has to know this would be better than a team moving. 

Now San Diego's owner has to sell his team to Los Angeles when he's been saying for some time he
doesn't want to go there.  The San Diego fan base who has been there since beginning is without a team.  And Los Angeles is supposed to support two teams?  They haven't proven they can support one yet.  Both the Rams and Raiders have left L.A. in the past.  The Rams attendance was good last year but they are still in the honeymoon phase and the Rams have history there.  This in no way sounds like a good thing.  The Raiders seem to be on their way out of Oakland as well.  This is the NFL's fault.  While the NFL isn't going to go out of business this disloyalty to the fans can't be good long term.  This truly is sad to see and the NFL is again failing it's fans and now even it's owners.    

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Atlatna Falcons Beat Seattle Seahawks

Wow what a huge win as Atlanta defeats Seattle 36-20 in the Divisional round of the NFL Playoffs.  The big news is how well their defense played.  You new the offense could score but what you didn't know is what Seattle would do when they had the ball.  After an inconsistent start to the season they had regained their running game and had a good balance coming into this game.  Luckily Atlanta was able to keep the running game in check and Russell Wilson never got in rhythm after some early success.  Matty Ice on the other hand was once again phenomenal.  He and the outstanding running game did what they have all year - score. 

So who do we want next week?  That is a tough question.  Cowboys in Dallas or Green Bay in Atlanta?  To be honest I'd rather travel.  Green Bay, especially if Jordy Nelson is back, is one of the teams who can keep up with Atlanta in a shootout.  And it might be too much to ask the defense to play so well two games in a row.  Dallas on the other hand has a rookie quarterback and a shootout may not be something he is ready for in the playoffs.  No matter what, just being in the NFC Championship game is a huge deal for the Falcons and no matter the opponent I think they have a shot to win it.  I'm not saying they'd be favored but they'd have to be right there.  Great win this week and I can't wait for next weekend. 

2016 Topps Star Wars Rogue One Series 1 Trading Cards

1/1 Magenta Printing Plate Autograph (Paul Kasey)
2016 Topps Star Wars Rogue One Series 1 Trading Cards:  This may be my biggest blog entry as far as total photos go.  I love this set.  Santa Claus was generous and I was able to pick up a hobby box of these cards and I'm so glad I did. 
Top card is a promo card from Star Wars Insider magazine, others are base cards.
The base card design is great to me.  I won't sit here and say it is groundbreaking but personally I love it.  It deviates from the other Star Wars cards we've seen of late but in a good way. 
Base cards.
Base cards have great screen shots from the movie itself as well as promotional stills.  Both are very nice.  The Empire or Rebel Alliance symbols are on the front of each card depending on what we are seeing and a brief description or character name is at the bottom.  Pretty simple but very nice looking.
Blueprint and two Darth Vader continuity cards
Each hobby box is guaranteed two hits.  I pulled a medallion card but the prize really was the 1/1 Magenta Printing Plate Autograph of  Paul Kasey who played Admiral Raddus in the movie.  I've rarely pulled significant autographs and never anything like this.  It was in the first pack I opened and really set the tone for the box.
Character Icons
I also enjoyed the insert cards especially the Montage, Character Icons and Gallery cards.  The art on these inserts was great.  All three were a huge hit for me and would love to collect the full sets of these inserts. 
Heroes of the Rebel Alliance, Villains of the Galactic Empire, Stickers
The Heroes and Villains cards are pretty much the same as we've seen in previous sets which is fine if not that exciting.  The stickers are pretty nice though I only pulled two.
Parallel cards don't do anything for me other than take away from my collecting of the base set.  I get their draw and in some of the sets I have preferred the parallel colors to the base set colors but again I'd rather have a better chance at filling out my set.  I did get a Gray Squad parallel numbered 008/100. 
More Montage cards
Medallion cards take up a lot of space and take away from cards you could pull and I would be alright with more base cards as a whole. I know some folks love them but they just don't do it for me.  You'll also see them in some of the Star Wars card blaster boxes.

Really no negatives here for me.  Anything I've brought up is just nit picking.  I love the design and the cards I pulled and would have even without the 1/1 hit.  This really has me excited for the 40th Anniversary Star Wars cards coming out this Spring and I'm seriously considering grabbing a box of those cards as well.  Series 2 of the Rogue One trading cards also come out in March.  I'll be on the look out for those too.  This was so much fun, I can't wait until I get the chance to break another box of Star Wars cards.

185 - Total Cards
112 - Base Cards
12 - Death Star (Parallel)
12 - Character Icon Cards
8 - Green Squad (Parallel)
8 - Blueprint Cards
6 - Gallery Cards
6 - Montage Cards
4 - Blue Squad (Parallel)
4 - Heroes of the Rebel Alliance
4 - Villains of the Empire
4 - Darth Vader Continuity Cards
2 - Sticker Cards
1 - Gray Squad (008/100) ) (Parallel)
1 - Magenta Printing Plate Autograph (1/1)
1 - Medallion

Friday, January 13, 2017

Card Show Find #2: 1994 Upper Deck Collector's Choice Series 2

Another box I picked up was the 1994 Upper Deck Collector's Choice Series II baseball cards.  I've always liked Upper Deck cards though the Collector's Choice brand of cards weren't always my favorite.  This box was $10 so I had to pick it up just for the fun of it.
I wasn't disappointed.  I loved the cards.  The photography was great, the design good, and my pull was good.  My favorites were those at the top - Bonds, Puckett and Jackson.  Great photos. 
The backs have nice big color photos different from the front and while they don't have a player's full career in stats they do have the last five season's worth.  The back of the Bonds card may take the cake.  That look is priceless.   
Harold Reynolds prepping for his GQ photo shoot.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Card Show Find #1: Two 1984 Donruss Rack Packs

I went to a card show last fall but life and the lack of access to a scanner has held me back from posting my finds.  My favorite find was two 1984 Donruss rack packs.  Each held 45 cards and 9 Duke Snyder puzzle cards. 
My favorite pulls involved three of my all-time favorites.  Harold Baines, Bob Horner and Jerry Royster.  Baines is a great hitter from his time but not quite Hall of Fame worthy.  Horner was a typical power hitting third baseman, while Jerry Royster won't be known much outside of Atlanta Braves circles.
If it was up to me I'd buy an old box of this set but the price is prohibitive for me.  So when I was able to snag these I was very happy.  These were a favorite in the eighties and still seem to hold favor with collectors.
 I didn't get the fabled Don Mattingly rookie but I was very happy with the stars I did pull. 
Maybe someday I'll be able to grab the entire box of cards.  That would definitely be fun.  I did pick up a couple of boxes of cards while at the show and I'll be putting up the fun from those soon. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

2016 Panini Contenders Football Cards

Grabbed a pack of the 2016 Panini Contenders football cards.  I thought I had reviewed these in passed years but it doesn't look like I have.  I normally prefer cards with full photographs including the background but these aren't bad.  The fronts have a photo of the player and include three pertinent stats for the player.  The stats "SEC", "ROW" and "SEAT" instead of what the actual stat is so it wasn't apparent at first what the stats actually are weight, height and jersey number.
I pulled a pertinent number card (5) but had no idea why that number is important to the two players shown on the card (Jordan Howard - Bears and Paul Perkins - Giants).  It says ROUND 5 on the back so I'll assume that means the round they were drafted.  As to the random numbers they decided to display on the front of the cards - I don't get it.  Of all the stats they decided to go with they went with those?  Kind of a letdown.  So I'm ok with the layout and look of the card but overall I'm not that excited about these cards. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

2016-17 Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey Cards

While I'm a casual hockey fan at best I always enjoy picking up hockey cards.  Last year I grabbed a rack pack of the 2016-2017 Upper Deck Series 1 cards that contain 32 cards.  I've always been a huge Upper Deck fan and they do a great job each year.  This year is no different though I wont' say it is my favorite from their recent entries.  The fronts are nice and clean with plenty of room for the photos.  The Upper Deck and team logos as well as the player's name and position are on the front in silver foil. I'm not a foil guy and  I think it would work if it was just the Upper Deck logo but with the name against a solid background here they've helped make it easy to read.  The photos as always stick out to me.  Upper Deck, like Topps, excels in this area.   
The backs are colorful with a cropped version of the front photo and include the player's career stats. I love that.  The Ovechkin card is my favorite and I'd like to think he just scored a goal prior to this picture being taken with the way he looks and the fans cheering in the background.  I like that the cards I received are base card centric.  While subsets are nice (I received one Young Guns card), I'm usually left wanting more of the base cards.  I've also wondered if Upper Deck will one day be able to add retired players to their repertoire.  The price tag to doing something like that may be prohibitive but it is nice how it is just standard with the Topps and Panini offerings nowadays.  Again a nice set.  Good job Upper Deck.   

Monday, January 9, 2017

2016 Topps WWE Heritage Wrestling Cards

Second year in a row I picked up a pack of the Topps WWE Heritage cards.  I liked the 2015 Heritage cards and like these as well.  And that is saying something as these cards are modeled after the 1986 Topps baseball cards which are largely forgettable.  It just works for me.  I liked my pull as well with the blend of retired and current wrestlers.  There were 16 cards in the pack to include The Rock and Brock Lesnar tribute cards.  I really enjoyed the Record Breaker, Turn Back the Clock and All-Star cards all in keeping with the 1986 vibe.  The base cards were broken into Superstar and Legend cards.  Definitely a case where Topps took something old, updated it with a different sport and take, and it came out pretty good.  Good on them.  While I don't get to pay as much attention to wrestling as I would like to I do think wrestling fans would enjoy these cards.  I've missed out on the WWE Divas cards a couple of times at my local Wal-Mart but I'm really hoping to snag a box soon and I'll post that as thenn.    

Sunday, January 8, 2017

2016 Topps Star Wars Card Trader Physical Trading Cards

I didn't know anything about the 2016 Topps Star Wars Card Trader Physical Trading Cards until I opened a couple of packs.  They're cheap at $1.99 a pack but you'll only get six cards per pack.  The big surprise is how big a dud these cards.  These are physical cards of the cards found on the Star Wars trading card app but the pictures seem very plain and unappealing.  The photos are character shots from all the movies but not photos from the  movies.  Just pictures of the character.  I did like the Industrial Light and Magic card but that was it. 
I've seen someone describe these as a money grab by Topps.  I can't really argue.  There is no quality to speak of and getting only six cards per pack is a rip off.  And that is a shame.  Topps has put out some really good Star Wars products but this isn't one of them. I really wish I had something good to say about these cards but I can't think of anything.  I'd love to hear from someone who thinks differently.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

2016 Topps Archives 65th Anniversary Edition Baseball Cards

2016 Topps Archives 65th Anniversary Edition Baseball Cards:  After seeing reviews of these cards I was looking forward to their release.  I grabbed a box, with the help of Santa, which was $24.  There are a total of 16 cards per box with one autograph.  There are 65 total base cards in the set, one for each year of Topps baseball.
My pull:  Tony Fernandez, Omar Vizquel, Billy Williams, Bill Mazeroski, Carl Yastrzemski, Andy Benes, Masahiro Tanaka, Ryan Klesko, Curt Simmons, Willie Mays, Frank Howard, Sandy Alomar, Sandy Alomar Jr., Johnny Bench, Jeff Burroughs, Don Mattingly 
The autograph I received was the Tony Fernandez card.  Not that exciting but an autograph none the less.  The only other special card would be the green back Curt Simmons card numbered 84/150.  My favorite was Yaz but also really liked the Bench, Burroughs, and Alomar cards.
The card stock seems a bit thicker than normal but don't take that for fact.  I really like these cards.  It is nice to see the designs from each year and the retired players.  And it isn't just the design of one year which can be a downer if you didn't like that particular year's design.  I do question some of the players chosen - Ryan Klesko, Andy Benes, Mashiro Tanaka.  There are others that will make you wonder when you look at the set checklist.  Not a huge gripe but it makes you shake your head when I'd have to assume there are bigger names they could have included.  Still I like the cards and while I doubt I'll pick up another box I definitely enjoyed these cards.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Atlanta Falcons Secure #2 Seed and the NFL Playoffs

The Atlanta Falcons capped off an outstanding regular season by beating the New Orleans Saints.  Their 11th win of the season secured the Falcons the #2 seed in the NFC for the playoffs that includes a first round bye for Atlanta.  At or near the top of the NFL in most offensive categories, this year’s offense was something to be scared of.  Much of the credit has to go to quarterback Matt Ryan and his career year/MVP caliber year.  Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman led a dynamic running game that was 5th in the league in total yards and yards per rush.  Mahamed Sanu turned out to be a great compliment to Julio Jones who battled injuries but still almost led the league in receiving yards.  The offensive line stepped up this year as it was much better than last year and the key to that was the addition of center Alex Mack.  He really made the difference to an offensive line that struggled in the past. 

The defense, outside of the 2016 NFL sacks leader Vic Beasley, was a disappointment once again though it did keep opponents under 15 points in three  of their last four games.  27th in points allowed, 25th in yards, 29th in first down and it goes on from there.  This doesn’t seem like a great fit to make a deep run in the playoffs but with their offense I think Atlanta can definitely compete with any team in the NFC.  Having their first playoff game at home and a bye week before that to rest and heal will help their chances quite a bit. 

I like New England to represent the AFC but how do you not?  That said, I definitely think Kansas City and Pittsburgh can beat them on a good day.  New England will only have to worry about Houston or Oakland in the Division Playoff round which makes their path to the AFC Championship an easy one.  Winning it is another thing.  KC is hot but outscoring the Pats could be tough.  Pittsburgh has a good all-around team who should definitely give New England fits.  Again I’ll take the Pats with my eye on the Steelers and Chiefs. 

The NFC is a little more wide open to me.  I love Atlanta’s chances especially if the Cowboys can get knocked off in the division playoff round.  Don’t discount that idea as Green Bay could be their opponent and Green Bay is definitely capable of beating anyone.  The Giants could also play spoiler as they’ve proven they are tough if not exciting.  Seattle is as good as anyone when playing their best but were inconsistent during the regular season.  Who will they be in the playoffs and can they do it week after week?  Dallas is good across the board.  Can their young talent bring it in the playoffs?  That is probably the only thing that would keep them out of the NFC title game and maybe Super Bowl.  If a defense can rattle them or they get into a shootout you never know what you might get out of a young team.  If I was putting money down, I’d put it on Green Bay to represent the NFC.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Atlanta Braves Sign Ender Inciarte to 5 yr Extension

The Atlanta Braves signed outfielder Ender Inciarte to a five-year $30 million dollar contract extension through 2021.  Inciarte was a part of the Shelby Miller deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks which also brought them Dansby Swanson.  I think this is a great deal for Atlanta.  Inciarte can play centerfield very well, has above average speed and showed he can hit last year -   .291/.351/.381 with 16 stolen bases.  He doesn’t come with much power but his value will come at the top of the order and with his defense.  What I like best is this could solidify the leadoff spot which is critical in any lineup.  You want that guy that can get on for the big guns behind him in the lineup like Freddie Freeman and hopefully Swanson.   

The Braves have overhauled their pitching staff this offseason picking up R.A Dickey, Bartolo Colon and Jaime Garcia to go along with Julio Teheran.  These are all short term pickups but who knows.  One or two of them have above average years and things are looking up as Atlanta debuts in their new stadium.  They finished 2016 on high note winning 12 out of their last 14.  Hopefully the offense can improve and we’ll have a much improved team this upcoming season.