Sorry to burst your bubble, Patriots haters – a guy who knows a thing or two about Super Bowls (and great quarterbacks) says there’s no use betting against them.
Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, who has spent his entire career alongside Aaron Rodgers and won a Super Bowl with him in 2011, is picking New England to win Super Bowl LIII.
“The amount of experience they’ve had and how they’ve been able to stay on top is truly remarkable,” he told AOL.com. “Even in the losses they’ve had in the Super Bowl, they haven’t been blowouts.”
As fans of the New Orleans Saints know all too well, one flag – or a flag not thrown – can completely alter the course of a season.
By now everyone has seen or heard about the blown call during the NFC championship game between those Saints and the Super Bowl-bound Los Angeles Rams. The NFL has admitted that the refs made a mistake and subsequently fined Rams defender Nickell Robey-Coleman for targeting on the play.
However, no amount of apologizing can halt what has already begun – a demand for the NFL to change the rules surrounding pass interference. And unfortunately for the league, that wasn’t the only questionable rule or play that the masses took notice of during championship weekend.
During the AFC championship game, Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Chris Jones was penalized for roughing the passer after grazing the face mask of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. The Patriots were able to continue the drive and score a touchdown.
The call looked all too familiar to Clay Matthews of the Green Bay Packers.
Clay Matthews now wears a helmet for a living, but when he was a young boy, not wearing a helmet nearly cost him his life.
When the Green Bay Packers linebacker was a child, an accident while riding his scooter left him unconscious, bloodied and at risk for serious brain swelling.
“I went down a driveway and I must’ve hit a rock,” Matthews told AOL.com. “I went right over the handlebars and unfortunately hit my face and head directly on the asphalt.”
Matthews’ mother had her hands full with him and his four siblings while their father was out of town during his own NFL career. She had told Matthews to wear a helmet, but he didn’t listen. When she rushed to her son’s aid, she found him so severely scraped up that his face looked “like it had gone through a meat grinder.”
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has yet to address the pass interference no-call seen around the world – and players, both active and retired, are taking notice.
Late in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship game between the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints, Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman hit Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis in the helmet without looking for the ball and prior to the ball reaching Lewis. It was a blatant rule violation, but no flag was ever thrown.
Had the penalty been called, the Saints could have continued the drive and scored a touchdown, or let the clock run down further. Instead, they were forced to settle for a fast field goal. The Rams tied the game and went on to win in overtime, which many around New Orleans don’t believe would have happenedhad a flag been thrown against Robey-Coleman.
Multiple members of the Saints, including tight end Ben Watson, team owner Gayle Benson and wide receiver Michael Thomas have commented on the fiasco, with Thomas even calling for a do-over of the game.
NFL legend Terrell Owens was similarly bothered by the blatant missed penalty.
Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love has been an NBA All-Star five times, but his most recent selection to the coveted roster came during what he calls the worst year of his life.
This past winter, Love was struggling. A fractured hand kept him off the court for several weeks as questions abounded regarding his trustworthiness as a teammate and ability to play in the league. He shut out the media and shared very little about himself outside the game of basketball. He hated going out in public.
Despite his injury preventing him from playing, Love still made the trek to Los Angeles for All-Star Weekend festivities in mid-February — and that’s when he heard the news of the deadliest high school shooting in United States history.
On February 14, 2018, Nikolas Cruz, then 19, opened fire inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., killing 17 students and staff members. Two days later, All-Star Weekend began.
“I’m getting put into my clothes for the event that day and Parkland, Florida, was on the TV,” he told AOL.com. “I’m like, ‘Wow, what is that kid going through?'”
It was apparent from the beginning that Cleveland Cavaliers star Kevin Love was something special on the court — but now, his work off the court is garnering just as much attention.
The former UCLA Bruin has racked up numerous accolades over a decade in the NBA, including five All-Star selections and a championship with the Cavaliers in 2016. Still only 30 years old, Love has accomplished feats most people can only dream about.
Many NBA players relish the fame that accompanies such a decorated career in professional sports — but Kevin Love wasn’t always comfortable in the spotlight.
“People look at you like you’re a star or a celebrity or larger than life, but I always just wanted to be a guy,” he told AOL.com. “I didn’t like to go out in public because in some way, I felt like I was under a microscope or doing something wrong.”
That social anxiety turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg. On November 5, 2017, Love was thrust into the national spotlight after abruptly leaving a game against the Atlanta Hawks in the third quarter. Initial reports began to circulate about the “unspecified illness” that briefly landed him in a Cleveland hospital. It wasn’t until four months later that Love revealed the true reason behind his mysterious exit — a panic attack.
“It was like my body was trying to say to me, ‘You’re about to die,'” he explained in an essay for The Players’ Tribune in March. “I ended up on the floor in the training room, lying on my back, trying to get enough air to breathe.”
Unfortunately, that initial diagnosis may have created more questions than it did answers.
In August of 2016, then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a stand by taking a seat.
Kaepernick chose to remain seated on the bench during the playing of the national anthem prior to his team’s final preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. He later explained that his actions were done in protest of police brutality and social injustices people of color face in the United States. It wasn’t the first time Kaepernick had made the move, but this time, people noticed.
Nate Boyer, a U.S. Army veteran and former NFL long snapper, was one of those people.
Boyer, a Green Beret, was moved to write an open letter to Kaepernick about his feelings on the protest. The letter made its way to the quarterback, who then reached out to Boyer to talk. The ensuing discussion between the two prompted Kaepernick to kneel, rather than sit, the next time he protested — and the next time, and the next time.
Since January 2015, more than 100 school districts in the United States have dealt with drinking water contamination issues, including finding lead in their water supply.
Golden State Warriors star guard Stephen Curry, who is the father of two young daughters, takes the issue to heart.
“That’s a tough pill to swallow,” he told AOL.com. “When you think about all the struggles of childhood in general, finding safe drinking options shouldn’t be one of them.
“It’s hard enough for kids to navigate life.”
If you hibernated through the MLB offseason, don’t worry — you didn’t miss much. It was an uneventful winter, at best, but the few roster shake-ups that did occur should add some intrigue to the 2018 season.
Those moves happened largely in the American League, and in the East division especially. The New York Yankees traded for former Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, while the Boston Red Sox landed highly touted outfielder J.D. Martinez in free agency.
New York and Boston are notoriously tough cities to play in, especially for players coming from smaller markets. The change in environment could pose a problem for both Stanton and Martinez, who are also joining one of the most heated and historic rivalries in sports.
Kevin Millar, who was on the Red Sox in 2004 when the team came back from a 3-0 deficit against the Yankees in the ALCS en route to winning the franchise’s first World Series in 86 years, knows the challenges of these cities well.
Major League Baseball is a business. That fact is never made more apparent than during each offseason when free agent players meet with teams to discuss money, contracts and benefits. Millions of dollars are thrown at the league’s best athletes in an attempt to woo them to a new city — or to convince them to stay where they are.
But when notable names like Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera and Jayson Werth remain unsigned into the end of March, it’s cause for alarm.
Free agent signings over the 2017-2018 offseason were startlingly slow. Even J.D. Martinez, the cream of this winter’s crop, didn’t have a finalized contract with the Boston Red Sox until February 26 — a full 12 days after pitchers and catchers reported for Spring Training.
“It was the first time we’ve seen this and I think a lot of players started panicking,” MLB Network analyst and 2004 World Series champion Kevin Millar told AOL.com on behalf of Budweiser. “It was very strange.”