Happy New Year everyone!
Remember this time last year? The Minnesota Vikings were in the cellar of the NFC North and Adrian Peterson had just gone through surgery to repair his torn ACL and MCL. Peterson's status for the 2012 season was a major question mark as everyone pegged the Vikings as the punching bag of the Division once again. Surprisingly, just nine months after his surgery AP was back on the field and started his season off with a bang by rushing for two touchdowns and 84 yards. Any and all insecurities fans may have had about him returning so quickly after such a devastating injury were put to rest as he went on to put together one of the greatest seasons in the history of the NFL for a running back. Last week, I praised Calvin Johnson and his record breaking season - and deservedly so - but Peterson's has been far superior and more impressive. He may have finished a mere nine yards short of Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards but it was still awe inspiring.
Without Peterson, the Minnesota Vikings would have competed with the Kansas City Chiefs for the number one pick in the Draft. With AP on the field, however, they managed to clinch a playoff berth on the final game of the season by defeating the favored Green Bay Packers 37-34. It was Adrian's 26 yard run late in the fourth quarter that led to K Blair Walsh's game-winning field goal as time expired. So, while he finished just short of immortality, he gets to make up for it next week when his Vikings face off against the Packers once again - this time in the playoffs. To me, there's only two guys left in the debate for NFL MVP and that is Peterson and QB Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos. Both guys are impeccable physical specimens who managed to prove the naysayers wrong, but it was Peterson who captured the Nation's attention this final month as he took the NFL world by storm. Adrian Peterson - who ultimately finished with 2,097 yards rushing - is the MVP, all that's left is the voters to confirm it.
• The Los Angeles Clippers have finished the month of December undefeated. Currently engulfed in a 17 game winning streak, Lob City clinched a perfect month by defeating the Utah Jazz last night 107-96. They're easily the most entertaining team in the NBA and have become a new generation's version of the Showtime Lakers. Don't believe me? Ask Magic Johnson. "I thought I would never ever see Showtime again and I was the architect of Showtime. The Clippers? That's Showtime." Those words were uttered by the former Laker and Hall of Fame legend on ESPN last week. It's beautiful to watch Chris Paul orchestrate this superb offense with Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford helping to lead the way. It has really stopped becoming a question of whether or not the Western Conference leading Clippers can keep it up, but rather if anyone can stop them.
• Robert Griffin III joined fellow rookie quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck in the NFL playoffs this season as he led his Washington Redskins over the Dallas Cowboys in last night's winner-take-all showdown clinching their first NFC East championship since 1999. The Redskins beat the Cowboys 28-18 with the help of an unstoppable running game. The Cowboys' mangled defense was no match for the rushing attack of Washington's rookie duo of RGIII and Alfred Morris as the two combined for 263 yards (200 from Morris) and four TD (three from Morris). Tony Romo continued to add fuel to the fires fanned by his doubters by throwing three interceptions in the loss as Dallas goes home and Washington prepares to take on the Seattle Seahawks at home next week. RGIII vs. Russell Wilson, how can you not get excited about that?
• The New Orleans Saints haven't had much to celebrate this season as they gave up a record-breaking 7,042 yards on the season - missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Some potential good news did come across the wire for the Saints as it was reported that suspended head coach Sean Payton has agreed to return next season for the Saints, signing a five-year extension worth $38 million - making him the highest paid coach in the NFL. Not bad for a guy who spent the entire year exiled from the league due to a highly publicized bounty scandal. Drew Brees threw for another 5,000+ yards this season but it's clear this team needs a level-headed leader like Payton back at the helm to try and get them back on track. A less turbulent season next year will do them some good.
• The Boston Red Sox have a new closer as they traded for two time All-Star Joel Hanrahan in a deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Yes, the Pittsburgh Pirates had All-Stars other than Andrew McCutchen. Boston, who also received 2B prospect Brock Holt, completed the deal last week as they gave up RP Mark Melancon and prospects P Stolmy Pimentel, INF Ivan DeJesus Jr. and OF Jerry Sands. Hanrahan joins a host of new faces in Boston this year as he, SS Stephen Drew, SP Ryan Dempster, RP Koji Uehara and OF Shane Victorino try to get the Red Sox back into the playoff picture. Boston's closer situation was a mess with Alfredo Aceves and Andrew Bailey set as the guys to man the role before this trade was completed after both struggled all of last season. Hanrahan and his 76 saves the past two years will be going into Spring Training as the team's undisputed closer.
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