Sports Traditions: Pittsburgh Steelers Terrible Towel

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Timeless Traditions: Terrible Towel

Pittsburgh Steelers fans have a rather unique love affair with towels, and one in particular: the Terrible Towel. How did this yellow cotton bathroom fixture end up elevated from drying duties to team lore? Today we demystify the origins of the Terrible Towel for everyone who is not a member of #SteelersNation.

Sacred Yellow Cotton

Myron Cope, a former Steelers radio announcer, concocted the idea for a way to rally home fans during the team’s playoff run in 1975. The team eventually won Super Bowl X versus the Dallas Cowboys, and since then the towel has served as a secondary banner for the team.

Rooting for you @steelers, with the #TerribleTowel and all! #HereWeGo #herewego

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Since 2010, esteemed guests visiting Heinz Field have had the chance to participate in the “Terrible Towel Twirl,” where they are allowed to lead the crowd in this pre-kickoff tradition. Even one of the first men on the moon, Buzz Aldrin, has had the chance to lead tens of thousands of fans in this timeless tradition.

All Around The World

Given the importance of the Terrible Towel as a symbol for Steelers fans, and its extreme portability, they’ve been spotted all over the world thanks to many members of #SteelersNation.

Look, it made it to the Colosseum!

Where has your #TerribleTowel been? 🤔🌍 #FanFriday

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It’s also been on a cruise (and hopefully made its way to a buffet or two).

#steelernationbahamas #HappilyEverEllex @steelers #bacheloretteparty 🖤💛

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The warm, Indonesian island of Bali looks like the perfect place for a Terrible Towel.

Steelers Nation invades Bali! #steelersnation #travelingtowels #bali #indonesia #pittsburghsteelers #terribletowel #besakih

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And some have even looked to see if it’ll pick up the luck of the Irish. But does your team really need luck when they have Antonio Brown?

Wave Those Towels!

Are you a member of #SteelersNation? Do you wave your Terrible Towel in the air like you just don’t care? Don’t forget to complete the look with the best officially licensed NFL merchandise and apparel at Fanatics.com. Fans of the other 31 NFL teams are welcome too!

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This Day in Sports History: Labor Day Edition

This Day in Sports History: Labor Day Edition

Labor Day was established in the late 1800s to honor the American labor movement, and is dedicated to the economic and social achievements of workers in the U.S. Labor Day falls on the first Monday of September – in 2017, it’ll be on Sept. 4 – which is the day we’ll be using as a reference for this post. This year, you can enjoy the holiday while reflecting back on these three noteworthy sporting events.

The Cleveland Browns Score the First Two-Point Conversion Ever

This Day In Sports History: Cleveland Browns First Successful Two-Point Conversion in NFL History

NFL rules are always under scrutiny, and every season brings changes to them. The two-point conversion attempt that we know today wasn’t instituted until 1994 when owners agreed to allow teams to “go for two” instead of kicking an extra point.

The first team to do so? The Cleveland Browns. That same year, their season opener pitted them against their division rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals, at Riverfront Stadium. While the Browns may suffer from lack of success in recent years, that specific game drew a large crowd of over 50,000 attendees – who got to see NFL history in the making as punter and holder Tom Tupa took the snap and crashed into the end zone. The Browns left the Bengals stadium that day with a win of 28-20.

The Cardinals Land in Arizona

On this day in sports history: Phoenix Cardinals First Game

The Arizona Cardinals didn’t always bear that name, and in fact, they were originally founded halfway across the country – in Illinois. Dating back to 1898, the Cardinals are the longest continuously running professional football franchise in the U.S. They started out in the Chicago area, then operated in St. Louis for 28 years, and finally relocated to the Sun Devil Stadium on the Arizona State University campus in 1988.

The Phoenix Cardinals (their former name) took to the field for their first game on Sept. 4, 1988. Interestingly, they also faced the Cincinnati Bengals at the Bengals’ home field. This first Cardinals game after their relocation to the southwest didn’t go well, as they ultimately lost to the Bengals with a score of 14-21.

#AZvsLA

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Two-Day Home Run Record

This Day in Sports History: Gary Carter Hits 5 Homeruns in Consecutive Days

Gary Carter played catcher for the New York Mets for five seasons and helped them toward their 1986 World Series win. On Sept. 4, 1985, he tied the record for the most home runs in two consecutive games, slamming five homers against the Padres in San Diego.

Happily, for Mets fans, they won both contests: 8-2 on Sept. 3, 1985 and 9-2 on Sept. 4, 1985.

Over his 19-year Hall-of-Fame career, Carter launched 324 homers and batted in 1,225 runs.   

Now that Sept. 4 is here, what sports history will be made this year? Will our favorite teams labor on Labor Day?

Whether you’re a Browns fan, a Cardinals fan, or a Mets fan, Fanatics.com has got you covered for any season of sports. So what are you waiting for? Visit us online, and show some love for your favorite teams.

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Oldest Players in the NFL

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The NFL is the top-level pro football league in the U.S., and as a full-contact sport, it has the tendency to be a short-lived career – at least when compared to a “regular” job where you can work well into your older years. However, there are plenty of older guys suiting up for an NFL team, and some are still leading their teams to Super Bowl wins.

Let’s take a look at the oldest active NFL players. While many aren’t in positions that see a ton of contact, some are – but no matter what place they take on the field, staying in the game is an impressive feat nonetheless.

The Father Times of the NFL

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The oldest active player in the NFL right now is none other than Adam Vinatieri, placekicker for the Indianapolis Colts. The 44-year-old has won four Super Bowls since he entered the league in 1996 as an undrafted free agent. He has also been selected to three Pro Bowls, three All-Pro teams, and while he’s getting ready to kick for the Colts for a 12th season (he was with the Pats for a decade), he’s not letting his age slow him down.

The second oldest NFL player is another kicker – Phil Dawson. Now 42 years old, Dawson was also an undrafted free agent who made the Cleveland Browns squad in 1999 at 24. Currently signed with the Arizona Cardinals, Dawson’s longest stint with a team was with Cleveland, where he kicked for 14 strong seasons. He was selected to the 2012 Pro Bowl and holds the Browns record for consecutive field goals made (29) and most in a game (6). After four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, he was signed by the Cards this past offseason.

Matt Bryant is a 42-year-old placekicker who comes in third on our list. Bryant entered the league at 27 with the New York Giants and has kicked for a few teams since, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and his current team, the Atlanta Falcons. This one-time Pro Bowler will kick again for the defending NFC champs this fall.

Our fourth oldest NFL player is a longtime punter – Shane Lechler, age 41. Lechler was drafted in the 2000 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders, where he worked for 13 strong seasons and was selected to seven Pro Bowl rosters. Today, he’s playing in his fifth season for the Houston Texans.

No. 5 on this list is not a kicker nor a punter – it’s New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, winner of the last Super Bowl and considered by many to be the greatest quarterback of all time. Brady turned 40 in August led the greatest comeback win in Super Bowl history in early 2017. In addition to five Super Bowl rings, Brady has a number of accolades to his name, including 12 Pro Bowl selections, two MVP awards, and two All-Pro selections. This will be his 18th NFL season, and he’s played them all for New England.

No. 6 is Sebastian Janikowski, the long-time kicker for the Oakland Raiders. Born in Poland, “Seabass” (age 39) was drafted 17th overall by the Raiders in 2000. James Harrison, linebacker for the Steelers, is also 39, and Drew Brees, a veteran quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, is 38.

John Denney, age 38, is No. 8, and he’s also not a kicker nor a punter, although he does work on special teams – Denney is a long snapper for the Miami Dolphins, where he’s spent his entire professional career.

Terence Newman, age 38, appears on our list at No. 9. Newman is the only defensive player to appear on this list, as he’s a current cornerback for the Minnesota Vikings.

Older Pro Bowlers

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The Pro Bowl is an annual event where the best and brightest NFL players are selected to play in a scrimmage, usually taking place either before or after the Super Bowl. Players are selected by NFL coaches, the players themselves, and fans, and aside from a few recent years when the teams were unconferenced, it’s an AFC vs. NFC format. In 2017, the oldest two ballers to play on their respective Pro Bowl teams were Drew Brees (age 38) and Philip Rivers (age 35).

Drew Brees has been selected to the Pro Bowl 10 times over his stellar career. In addition to making the Pro Bowl team, “Breesus” was also the king of passing yards – gaining 5,208 yards during the 2016 season. As Brees shows zero signs of slowing down, it’s not too big of a stretch to imagine a few more Pro Bowl selections in his future.

Philip Rivers has a similar story – the stalwart quarterback has had a solid career that has led to six Pro Bowl selections. If he finds his rhythm with the Los Angeles Chargers again in the 2017 season, who’s to say he won’t be selected to a Pro Bowl again?

Sweatin’ With the Goldies

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We looked at all 32 NFL teams and highlighted the oldest player on each team, and while some of these guys are well into their 40s, others are only 32 years old. James Harrison, as mentioned above, is still going strong as a linebacker at age 39. Who else is still going strong past age 35?

One of the younger “old” guys is Niners kicker Robbie Gould (age 35), who has also kicked for the Bears (11 seasons) and Giants (one season). Punter Dustin Colquitt, of the Kansas City Chiefs, is a two-time Pro Bowler and is also 35 years old.

Jets journeyman Josh McCown is also up there in years (for a football player, at least). At 38, the quarterback has previously played for seven NFL teams, which makes the Jets his eighth team. He’s had a few starter stints but has mostly played in a backup role. Despite the long years, he’s not ready to hang up his cleats just yet.

Eli Manning is another standout player who is getting up there in years. He’s 36 years old but doesn’t seem to be edging toward retirement anytime soon. It helps that he has racked up over 48,000 career yards, has four Pro Bowl selections, and two Super Bowl championships under his belt.

And 37-year-old Antonio Gates of the Los Angeles Chargers is still going strong. While his yards per season have been trending downward, he’s still a valuable member of the team.

Get Your Gear On

No matter which NFL team you root for, or which player you’re hoping makes it another few years, Fanatics.com has loads of officially licensed fan gear from every team.

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Coaching Arcs: Jason Garrett

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Nabbing a football coaching job is the goal of many sports-minded folks, but becoming one of the 32 NFL head coaches is a whole other story. Those who attain one of the highest football coaching positions in the world have to work very hard to climb the ladder and often start out as football players.

Jason Garrett, head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, knows this tale all too well. He played his way through college up to the pros before his coaching career took off. Let’s trace the path to his head coaching job in the NFL.

Early Days

Jason Garrett was born in Pennsylvania, and entered high school with football in his blood. His father, Jim, was a seasoned NFL coach and scout. Jason played college ball at Princeton and majored in history. He was then named Ivy League’s Player of the Year his senior year. After college, Garrett joined the developmental squad for the Saints as an undrafted rookie.

Garrett eventually found his way to the Dallas Cowboys, where he played for seven seasons, primarily in a backup role behind Hall of Famer Troy Aikman. His final year in the pros took place in New York, where he backed up Kerry Collins during the Giants’ Super Bowl run in the  2000 season.

Beginning of Coaching Career

Timeline of Jason Garrett's coaching career.

 

Garrett’s coaching career got its start in 2005 when he joined the Miami Dolphins as the quarterbacks coach. He spent two years in this role before the Dallas Cowboys hired him as their offensive coordinator in 2007 and remained in that role (in addition to being the assistant head coach) until midway through the 2010 season. That’s when head coach Wade Phillips was fired, and Garrett was named interim in his stead.

Cowboys

The Cowboys got off to a miserable start in 2010, clocking only one win over eight games, but Garrett showed massive promise when his first half-season of effort netted a respectable 5-3 record. Before the 2011 season, Garrett retained his job as the Cowboys head coach. While the next three seasons ended with a tie record (8-8), Garrett led the team to the postseason in 2014.

Jason Garrett is manning the helm of a resurgent Dallas Cowboys team that has dominated opponents nearly all season long and has clinched a playoff berth behind rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. What will the postseason bring? It will be a wild ride as we find out.

While you’re following the rest of the Cowboys’ journey into the postseason and beyond, make sure you’re decked out in awesome swag from Fanatics.com.

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Philadelphia Eagles Jersey Evolution

The Philadelphia Eagles sprang into action in 1933 when original team owner Bert Bell and first head coach Lud Wray purchased the former Frankford Yellow Jackets – an American football team part of the NFL. The Bell-Wray group paid an entry fee of $2,500 to acquire the assets of the failed Yellow Jackets franchise.

Eagles Origins

After establishing their new expansion team in Philadelphia, Bert Bell and Lud Wray decided on Eagles as the new moniker – a more fitting name for the City of Brotherly Love. Bell detailed that the name was a nod to the National Recovery Act emblem, which just so happened to be an eagle. The symbol was created to recognize the accomplishment of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal National Recovery Act.

Over time, the Birds have remained loyal to a color palette consisting of various green, white, black, and gray hues for their jersey designs. During the late ’90s, the uniform changed from traditional green to a midnight green tone to differentiate the Birds from their AFC East opponents, the New York Jets. Present-day Eagles currently take the field in fashion by rockin’ a midnight green, black, charcoal, and silver color scheme.

In 1948, the Philadelphia-based squad debuted their primary logo of a flying eagle holding a football, shaded in green. Different variations of this logo would reign as the team’s main emblem until the introduction of their iconic eagle head logo in 1996. The current logo is a bald eagle head with a silver beak, outlined by black and green trim.

Fly, Eagles Fly

If you take a walk down toward South Philadelphia, you’ll find yourself passing Lincoln Financial Field as you stuff your face with a classic Philly cheesesteak. It has served as the home nest for the Eagles since opening its doors in 2003. Currently, the venue holds a seating capacity of just over 69,000 fans – providing the Birds a flock of excitement during gridiron showdowns.

The Philadelphia Eagles are currently members of the NFC East division in the NFL along with the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, and Washington Redskins. Although the Eagles have yet to birth a Super Bowl victory, they have made an appearance two times – once during the 1980-81 season against the Oakland Raiders and again in 2004-05, when they fell to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

The Eagles have also had their fair share of exceptional players over the years. Legendary players to take the field decked in green and white consist of franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb and speedster LeSean McCoy. Both athletes have made a name for themselves within the organization as the all-time passing and rushing leaders, respectively.

Fly like an eagle with us as we soar through the evolution of the Philadelphia Eagles jersey throughout their seasoned career in the NFL.

Notable Jersey Changes

1941: During the 1941 season, a unique series of events unfolds for the Eagles as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh trade home cities. The jersey makes use of a black and gray color scheme – and features a contrast between the side and sleeve panels.  

1943: There is a shortage of players during the 1943 season because of World War II. This gives birth to the “Steagles” – a merger between the state-sharing cities of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. The Phil-Pitt squad takes a different approach to their jersey by changing the colors to green and white. Player numbers experience an increase in font size, and stripes remain and run down the shoulders and sleeves.

1944: The team now utilizes white as the primary jersey color with green horizontal stripes strapped across both sleeves.

1958: Green reverts to the primary jersey color with white player numbers. The helmet features silver eagle wings, which were originally added in 1955.

1975: The Birds showcase more stripes to their jersey, which were added in 1974, with each sleeve bearing a combination of white, gray, and green stripes. Player numbers now adorn the top of the shoulder pads, and a white outline borders the helmet’s wings.

1986: The Eagles ditch the stripes and decide to rock the short-sleeved look. A black outline is added to the player numbers, which still reside on the shoulder pads. Upon careful inspection, a new Eagle’s logo can be found on the arm of the jersey.

1998: A major change occurs during the 1998 season, with an emphasis placed on the team’s iconic green color. Jeffrey Lurie, the team owner, explains their fans wanted them “to look less like the Jets.” In addition to the green color change, the helmets include the more detailed wings which were adopted in previous years.

2005: This 2005 jersey showcases minor adjustments which were made over the course of previous seasons, including the primary color switching back to green with white player numbers outlined in black trim.

2009: Another color swap takes places between the team’s green and white colorway. The winged helmet remains green, and a stripe runs down the sides of players’ pants. This color swap originally occurred in 2007.

2014: A slight change is made to the shade of green, which is now featured as the jersey’s primary color. The stripes remain on the pants, and white socks are worn matching player pants and numbers.

Making your way over to Lincoln Financial Field? Before satisfying your hunger with a legendary Philly cheesesteak, fill your wardrobe with the latest green and white essentials! Take a pit stop at www.Fanatics.com – the one-stop shop for all of your Eagles wants and needs.

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Celebrating NFL Player Celebrations Rule Change

Relaxed Rules Bring the Fun Back

This offseason, NFL owners voted to relax the touchdown celebration rules that many NFL fans and players felt took some of the fun out of the game. No longer are TD celebrations tightly regulated – in fact, players can now use the football as a prop, celebrate on the ground, or even celebrate with a group of their teammates.

While there will still be some restrictions in place (offensive demonstrations, prolonged celebrations, and celebrations directed at an opponent will continue to fall outside of the rules), fans will certainly enjoy more creative celebrations and fewer flags flying out of the hands of the refs.

As we look forward to next fall, let’s take a look at some recent touchdown celebrations as well as iconic celebrations from the past.

TD Celebrations in Recent Years

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GgNph2T740v

Cam Newton, the Carolina Panthers athletic quarterback known for his propensity for scoring running touchdowns (he has 48 rushing touchdowns over his first six NFL seasons), has a few touchdown celebrations under his belt. In addition to the Superman celebration of years past, he unveiled a new short dance last season. Though not as popular as his famous “dab” gesture, it still showed the nature of the playful player.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThuXW0rsYI0

In 2011, Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Antonio Brown paid tribute to fellow wide receiver Hines Ward after catching a touchdown during a contest with the Atlanta Falcons. The dance evoked Ward’s performance as a contestant on “Dancing With the Stars,” which he won. (Brown, however, did not have the same success on the show).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EeLKdH3f1DI

Odell Beckham Jr. nabbed a touchdown for the New York Giants in late 2016 and followed it up with a quirky – and eerily accurate – “Thriller” tribute as a part of his celebration. He even managed to avoid a flag despite already being flagged for excessive celebration the same season.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vRXloeJjuKg

The Cowboys‘ rookie phenom Ezekiel Elliott made headlines in 2016 not only for his outstanding play on the field (he captured the season’s rushing title) but also for a unique touchdown celebration in December. After scoring a rushing touchdown, Elliott headed directly to a large Salvation Army bucket that had been placed on the field – and jumped in. His celebration led to a huge spike in Salvation Army donations. Elliott also promised to contribute a donation personally.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7xtJQl91xM

Rob Gronkowski is well-known for smashing the ball violently to the ground after a touchdown, but when his New England Patriots played the St. Louis Rams at Wembley Stadium in the U.K., he added a little London flavor to his traditional spike. While he explained later that he was imitating the changing of the guard, it certainly was unique.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdCZIrJBYHw

Steelers player William Gay grabbed a pick-six and ran it to the house, where he proceeded to celebrate for a full 60 seconds. He, of course, got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the play, but he made sure he got the best use of his time while he could.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40pzvNyxQk8

J.J. Watt may be a big guy, but that didn’t prevent him from scooping up an Andrew Luck fumble in 2014 and hustling 55 yards for a touchdown. He topped it off with a rousing version of the “Nae Nae” dance, which unfortunately wasn’t enough to ensure a win against their division rivals.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBbG-DSaLec

Von Miller busted a move after what he thought was a touchdown as the Broncos romped their way past the Steelers in the divisional round of the playoffs – and eventually won Super Bowl 50. Unfortunately, for Miller, his “touchdown” was deemed not a touchdown after the dancing ended, but his moves were pretty sharp regardless.  

Classic and Iconic TD Celebrations

Other touchdown celebrations have become so classic and iconic that their fame lives on, and other players sometimes take them up. Here are a few examples.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9oVth5rJbg

The “Ickey Shuffle” got its start with  running back Ickey Woods. His NFL playing career, which took place in the late ’80s and early ’90s, was short (all four seasons were with the Bengals), but his iconic dance moves transcended his playing time. After a standout rookie season, Woods’ career was plagued by injury, but he recently revived the Ickey Shuffle in a commercial for Geico.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIAxhcae4ow

The “Lambeau Leap” is a celebration that continues today by a large number of players – in particular, Green Bay Packers players at their home field, Lambeau Field. It got its start in 1993 when safety LeRoy Butler took it to the end zone after teammate Reggie White flipped him the ball after grabbing a fumble. Since that day, many Packers players jump into the stands, where thrilled fans good-naturedly pound them in celebration.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2CnlLoOCC3o&feature=player_embedded

Victor Cruz, who recently signed with the Chicago Bears, spent the first six years of his NFL career with the New York Giants, where he followed up every touchdown with a salsa dance. He notes that it’s in honor of his grandmother – who taught him the dance – and disapproves when other players do the same.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckvtnWj1i2o&feature=youtu.be&t=11s

Billy “White Shoes” Johnson is credited for being one of the first – if not the first – to celebrate a touchdown with an end zone dance. He was drafted by the Houston Oilers in 1974 and made a name for himself returning kickoffs and punts, and is still remembered today for his knee-knocking celebration dance.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vkxnFiHfMds

Before group celebrations were ruled a no-go, the Washington Redskins enjoyed choreographing elaborate group high-fives by players known as the “Fun Bunch.” The celebrations consisted of wide receivers and tight ends and were loved by fans but not by rivals.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUq8CajBN3I

Former Atlanta Falcons running back Jamal Anderson is not only revered for his play with the franchise, but also for the end zone celebration dance dubbed the “Dirty Bird” he started in the late ’90s. He took a disparaging name that fans of an opposing team hurled at him after a game and turned it into a dance known around the league today.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XtsHxQNYDc

The league forbids props, but Joe Horn, a New Orleans Saints wideout, stashed a cellphone in the goal post padding, from which a teammate grabbed it and handed it to Horn, who punched in numbers and held it to his helmet. He was flagged on the play and fined by the NFL for the stunt – to the tune of $30,000. This celebration wasn’t one that’s been repeated, as the NFL has no patience for such, ahem, cell-ebrations and will come down hard and fast on any player who tries something similar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XkgMCPEP-0A

Wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. – who played for the Panthers for 13 years and the Ravens for three before retiring – was well-known for his elaborate end zone celebrations. In 2005, he “rowed a boat” after a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings – a move that was inspired by the Vikings’ “Love Boat” scandal a few weeks beforehand.

Celebrate Away This Fall

As we get further into summer and training camps start firing away around the nation, we have a lot in which to look forward. Which teams will cruise through the season for a playoff appearance? Who will lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy next February? And what kind of amazing touchdown end zone celebrations will we get to enjoy?

No matter which NFL team you follow or players you love, you’ll find the best NFL gear at Fanatics.com.

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Digging Into The NFL Draft

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10 Years of First-Round Picks

After 32 picks, the first round of the 2017 NFL draft was over. Teams had the chance to select the next big thing – from a new face for the franchise to a highly talented player in a position of need – from the most recently declared class college athletes. These picks may have represented the dreams of not just a team, but a city of fans, and the hope that success is on the horizon.

Just what has the history of first-round picks looked like over the past decade? What positions have been most coveted? Have any vindicated their draft position, or did the franchise that selected them ask for a redo? We profiled the last decade of NFL drafts to highlight the highs and lows across the 32 teams in the NFL.

Positions in Demand

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In nearly 350 picks made in the past ten years in the first round of the NFL draft, almost 100 were used on either a defensive end or defensive back. The Cleveland Browns and five other teams helped this cause by using their first-round picks this year on defensive ends. Myles Garrett, Solomon Thomas, Derek Barnett, Jonathan Allen, Takkarist McKinley, and Taco Charlton all joined the NFL in this year’s draft class as their team’s latest addition in this position.

The future is now.

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Only 6 players from the three safety positions – free safety, safety, and strong safety – have been drafted in a decade of first rounds. And over 30 percent came from the 2017 NFL draft, with Jamal Adams from Louisiana State University to the New York Jets, Malik Hooker from Ohio State to the Indianapolis Colts, and Jabrill Peppers from Michigan to the Cleveland Browns.

NFL’s Farm System

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While Alabama head coach Nick Saban couldn’t unlock a winning formula as the Miami Dolphins head coach, posting a 15-17 record over 32 games, he has proven to be a master of player development. The Crimson Tide accounted for 22 first-round draft picks in the last decade.

History made. #BuiltByBama #rolltide #nfldraft

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Four Alabama players were drafted in the first round this year: Marlon Humphrey by the Baltimore Ravens, Jonathan Allen by the Washington Redskins, O.J. Howard by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Reuben Foster by the San Francisco 49ers.

The Southeastern Conference is well-represented in regard to total first-round picks over the last 10 years, with two other schools in the top five: the University of Florida and Louisiana State University. One of the biggest picks from these prestigious programs was the 2010 NFL draft’s 25th pick, Tim Tebow. He’d post an 8-6 record as a starter for the Denver Broncos before he’d begin a new line of work, but not before uncorking a beautiful Hail Mary against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2011 AFC wild-card.

Adverse to First

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While some teams have had more picks in the first round, others have been less concerned about the glitz and glamour of those first 32. In fact, the New England Patriots have only had eight first-round picks in the last 10 years, but have had the league’s best record in the same period. With a 10-season record of 126-34, and 20 wins more than the second-place Green Bay Packers, the lack of first-round talent hasn’t hurt the five-time Super Bowl champions.

Only the Seattle Seahawks have had less draft picks in the first rounds – seven – and have made two trips to the Super Bowl, winning one. However, it wasn’t a first-round draft pick that came back to haunt them in their Super Bowl XLIX loss, but New England’s undrafted free agent cornerback, Malcolm Butler.

Who Goes Where?

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In seven of the last ten NFL drafts, a quarterback was selected as the number one overall pick, and four had a QB going in the second overall spot. In three drafts – 2012, 2015, 2016 – there were back-to-back quarterback selections in the top two positions.

If you’re looking for defenders to get drafted in the top 10, try and pay attention during the third and ninth picks. Defensive ends and linebackers have been picked most commonly over the past decade in these spots.

Stacking the Deck

While there’s plenty of roster moves that happen through free agency, many teams built their teams through their picks in the NFL draft. Just as there have been over-hyped players who never lived up to their potential, there were also stars who soared higher than anyone’s initial grades. Get all the best gear to represent your favorite NFL draft picks and team at Fanatics.com!

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The Top 50 Best-Selling NFL Player Jerseys 2016 season

The 2016 NFL season saw plenty of rookies breaking out and young players emerging into the forefront, but it takes a lot more than one big performance to become a top jersey seller throughout an entire calendar year. The NFL is dominated by household names who have built their brand over years of stellar play, but 2016 represented a changing of the guard with a number of rookies ranking at the top of the NFL’s top 50 best-selling player jerseys of 2016. (Top 50 best selling NFL player jerseys is based on sales data of Fanatics Inc across NFLshop, Fanatics & Fansedge for the period of July 2016 – January 2017). See the best-selling jerseys in the NFL updated every month on NFL shop.

  1. Ezekiel Elliott; (Dallas Cowboys) There were some chuckles around the league from folks who thought the Dallas Cowboys reached when drafting Ezekiel Elliott fourth overall in the 2016 draft. It’s the Cowboys who are laughing now after Elliott staked his claim as not only the NFL’s best back but the league’s top jersey seller as well. The former Ohio State star ripped off nearly 2,000 total yards and 16 touchdowns, propelling the Cowboys to a 13-3 record. At 21 years of age, Elliott’s reign at the running back position is only just beginning. Get your Ezekiel Elliott jersey here.

Ezekiel Elliott Dallas Cowboys

  1. Dak Prescott; (Dallas Cowboys) While Elliott’s ascension could have been predicted, few saw the emergence of Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott coming. He got his chance to start after Tony Romo’s preseason injury and never relinquished the job, leading Dallas to victory in 11 of his first 12 games. Prescott never hit the feared rookie wall, raising his level of play and throwing for 302 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in the Cowboys’ NFC divisional loss to the Green Bay Packers. Cowboys fans have a two-headed backfield monster in Prescott and Elliott to cherish for years to come. Get your Dak Prescott jersey here.

Dak Prescott Dallas Cowboys

  1. Tom Brady; (New England Patriots) He’ll be 40 years old before the 2017 season begins, but Patriots quarterback Tom Brady looks to be in his football prime as he leads New England to Super Bowl LI – what could become his fifth crown. The Pats have won 13 of 14 games with Brady in the lineup this season, with an average margin of victory of nearly 17 points. Father time inevitably gets everyone, but Brady is showing no signs of slowing down as his New England Patriots look to add another notch to a 15-year dynasty on Super Bowl Sunday. Get your Tom Brady jersey here.
  2. Odell Beckham Jr.; (New York Giants) Three seasons into his NFL career, Odell Beckham Jr.’s influence at the wide receiver position continues to grow exponentially. Beckham’s highlight-reel catches and elusive playmaking allowed him to rack up 1,367 yards and 10 touchdowns while navigating the Giants to their first playoff appearance since 2011. His productivity – top-five among receivers in receptions, yards, touchdowns and yards per game – is as strong as there is, but Beckham’s personality and style of play resonate with fans in an increasingly passing-dominated league. Get your Odell Beckham Jr. jersey here.
  3. Carson Wentz; (Philadelphia Eagles) Carson Wentz had his critics prior to his first play after the Eagles traded away lots of picks to take him #2 overall in the draft, but they disappeared after Wentz’s pre-snap intelligence and rocket arm made the Eagles an early surprise team in 2016. Philadelphia would sputter to finish 7-9, but fans in the City of Brotherly Love no longer doubt that they have the signal-caller they need to ascend back into contention in the competitive NFC East. With a few more weapons around him, Wentz figures to be a top quarterback for years to come. Get your Carson Wentz jersey here.

Carson Wentz Philadelphia Eagles

  1. Rob Gronkowski; (New England Patriots) It’s been a difficult year for Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski on the gridiron, but his popularity off it has never been bigger. Gronk’s 2016 debut was delayed due to injury and he only played in eight games before a back surgery sidelined him for the remainder of the season, but he still managed to average 21.6 yards per reception as a perpetual mismatch in the middle of the field. New England hasn’t skipped a beat without Gronkowski, but the Pats could sure use him back heading into Super Bowl LI. Get your Rob Gronkowski jersey here.
  2. Antonio Brown; (Pittsburgh Steelers)From big-statistic performances to entertaining touchdown dances, the Steelers’ Antonio Brown rivals Beckham as the league’s most exciting and entertaining wide receiver. Including postseason numbers, Brown racked up over 1,500 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns before his Steelers crashed out in the AFC Championship Game. Free agency looms for Brown after the 2017 season, but he’s more than proved his worth to a Pittsburgh Steelers team with top-end talent at every skill position. Get your Antonio Brown jersey here.
  3. Derek Carr; (Oakland Raiders) Third-year quarterback Derek Carr and the Oakland Raiders were perhaps the story of the NFL season as Carr led the Raiders to a surprising 12-4 record while performing like a MVP candidate. Carr threw for almost 4,000 yards along with 28 touchdowns and battling through injury to lead Oakland to its first playoff appearance in 14 years. A broken leg in Week 16 derailed Carr’s season and eventually the Raiders’ Super Bowl aspirations, but his leadership and moxie put the franchise in a great position moving forward. Get your Derek Carr jersey here.
  4. Von Miller; (Denver Broncos) The popularity of the Super Bowl 50 MVP didn’t waver throughout 2016, as Von Miller became the only defensive player to crack the top 10 in jersey sales. The sixth-year defensive end racked up 13.5 sacks in 2016, showing no signs of a MVP hangover after tormenting Cam Newton throughout Super Bowl 50. Miller is the de-facto face of the Denver Broncos after Peyton Manning’s retirement and is now right up there with J.J. Watt and Richard Sherman as the league’s most recognizable defensive player. Get your Von Miller jersey here.
  5. Russell Wilson; (Seattle Seahawks) It was a down year for the Seahawks from an outsider’s perspective simply because they’re not playing on Super Bowl Sunday, but Russell Wilson’s greatness was never more apparent in 2016. He set a single-season franchise record for passing yards with 4,219, progressing considerably as a pocket passer after injuries limited his mobility throughout the season. As if he hadn’t proven it before through two Super Bowl appearances and one championship, Wilson further showed that he’s the guy to lead Seattle to more hardware in the future. Get your Russell Wilson jersey here.

The 20 – 50 top selling player jersey’s in the NFL for the 2016 season are (which includes retired players like Joe Montana):

  1. Dez Bryant
  2. Jason Witten
  3. Aaron Rodgers
  4. Khalil Mack
  5. Julio Jones
  6. Cam Newton
  7. Julian Edelman
  8. Ben Roethlisberger
  9. Matt Ryan
  10. Eli Manning
  11. Le’Veon Bell
  12. Amari Cooper
  13. Richard Sherman
  14. Drew Brees
  15. JJ Watt
  16. Luke Kuechly
  17. Larry Fitzgerald
  18. Jarvis Landry
  19. Peyton Manning
  20. Todd Gurley II
  21. Jordy Nelson
  22. Kam Chancellor
  23. Kirk Cousins
  24. Colin Kaepernick
  25. Clay Matthews
  26. Marcus Mariota
  27. Matthew Stafford
  28. Brian Dawkins
  29. AJ Green
  30. Tyler Lockett
  31. Stefon Diggs
  32. Bo Jackson
  33. Landon Collins
  34. Joe Montana
  35. Doug Baldwin
  36. Harrison Smith
  37. Jimmy Graham
  38. NaVorro Bowman
  39. Justin Tucker
  40. Andrew Luck

 

NFL Playoff Pet Pick ‘Em – Predicting NFL Playoff Winners: The Big Game

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First, there were 12 Big Game contenders. Wild Card Weekend whittled it down to eight, and after the divisional round, only four NFL teams remained. Now that the AFC and NFC championships were last weekend, we’re down to two teams to duke it out on the field on Sunday.

Again, we put our experts (this includes professional experts as well as other humans, plus actual animals, and a coin for good measure) to pick the winners of the championships. As evidenced after last week and the week before, some of our experts are pulling away from the pack, while others are content to twitch their tails and beg for treats.

As our experts sharpen their pencils (or claws) to choose this year’s Big Game winner, let’s take a look to see how they all fared after last weekend’s games.

The Ringleaders

It may come as no surprise that Kylo Ren, the pup, and Mike Golic, the human expert, are still leading the pack; both now sport a 9-1 record after they picked Atlanta and New England to advance to Sunday.

Directly behind this fearsome pair is NFL expert Dieter Kurtenbach, who is holding steady with an 8-2 record. Kurtenbach went astray when he picked Seattle and KC to advance to the championship round. Right behind him is amateur fan Matt, who rocks a 7-3 record. He erred when he chose the Chiefs and Cowboys to do the same and picked the Steelers to advance to the final showdown. Still not bad, considering they’re about as accurate as many of our animal pals!

Speaking of which, here are a handful of awesome critters who also hold a strong 7-3 record: Korra the cat, Dibs the bearded dragon, Chester the dog, and Polly the dog. We also have to mention former NFL great Michael Irvin, who’s picking as well as a beardie, and the FiveThirtyEight Data Lab, which is doing the same.

Coiney, our completely impartial and totally random pick picker, is doing about the same as it did last week, currently holding a .500 record.

Creeping Behind

Of course, we have a few mentions at the opposite end. Baby Leo edged up a spot with a 4-6 record, and our fave half-blind doggie Riggins is finally not in the last place, as he thought the Patriots were on their way to their ninth championship ring. This means the little cat Artemisia has dropped behind ol’ Riggins and holds steady at two correct picks and eight incorrect choices.

Big Game Picks

Now, most of our humans and animals have made their picks for the Big Game on Sunday, Feb. 5. Kylo, our top playoff pickin’ hound, thinks New England will be taking home their fifth Vince Lombardi Trophy. Ella the cat, standing strong at 8-2, thinks it’ll be Atlanta taking home their first instead.

Other picks for New England include Dibs the bearded dragon, Margie the human non-fan, Matt’s Grandma, Roofus the cat, and Bentley the dog.

Those gunning for Atlanta include Ella the cat, Tyler the amateur fan, Drake the dog, Coiney the coin, and Riggins the dog.

Who will come out on top Sunday night? Will Kylo still be the top dog, or will Ella the cat join him as the best picking critters out there?

Methodology

Our “animal experts” were pets submitted by members of the Fanatics.com team. Pet owners were given cutouts of the logos for each playoff team and asked to record their furry (or scaly) friends’ choices. Some owners chose to put the logos on the ground, while others put them in a bowl. There were no hard rules for how the choices had to be made, except that owners were not allowed to influence the choices.

The real experts included in this study were selected at random from a pool of former NFL players and sports journalists who currently cover the NFL across a variety of networks and mediums.
No real playoff prediction would be complete without a “wild-card” element, hence our inclusion of random people and inanimate objects, like our beloved Coiney.

Best Places To Watch The Super Bowl

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Getting tickets to the 51st installment of the NFL championship game in Houston, Texas, isn’t easy or cheap. With packages selling for thousands of dollars, fans of the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots could be left to watch the game at home rather than side by side with fellow fans as the drama of the Big Game unfolds.

Thankfully, these two cities have vibrant food scenes and passionate fan bases, meaning there are plenty of spots to take in the game and root for their guys in the company of fellow supporters – all while getting to enjoy some food and beverages as well! Here are just a few of the locations in Atlanta and Boston where Falcons can #RiseUp their glasses together, and Patriots can order #OneMore side of fries.

ATLANTA

Atkins Park Taverns

With multiple locations in the Atlanta area – this chain offers the coziness of a local bar with plenty of great food and beverage options. You’ll be able to take in the game among your fellow Falcons in these two spots.

The Elder Tree Public House

TGIF! Tonight’s special is braised turkey ribs carmelized w/housemade honey BBQ. On draft @orpheusbrewing Atlanta #fridayspecial #atleats

A photo posted by The Elder Tree Public House (@theeldertree) on

This Irish pub is bracing for the NFL championship game. Here’s a place where you can feel the appreciation the owners have for sports. Try ordering some fish and chips, a fun alternative to wings, if you’re trying to change up your gameday food choices!

Twin Peaks Buckhead

Enjoy an ice cold beer with us and come watch the football game! #mondaynightfootball #knottybrunette

A photo posted by Twin Peaks (@twinpeaks_atl) on

TVs, TVs, and more TVs. Twin Peaks is ready to make sure that anywhere you turn, you won’t miss a second of the action. They have a menu with something for everyone, making pleasing the pickiest Falcon in your flock easy on gameday.

BOSTON

McGreevy’s

Billed as “America’s First Sports Bar,” McGreevy’s couldn’t have more local pride if they tried. If you want to hang out with real Patriots fans, the ones who know facts about the team (when Belichick was a head coach for the Browns and Brady was a backup at Michigan), this is the place.

Tavern in the Square (10 Locations!)

If you want modern menus and enough TVs to ensure you won’t miss a moment of the action, one of the ten Tavern in the Square locations is likely within walking distance or at least walking distance from your train stop.

The Lower Depths Tap Room

 

They may not have the most TVs, but with a curated selection of beers from around the globe and an elevated food menu, perhaps this is the place to be on gameday if you want a more refined experience. You most certainly won’t be washing your food down with your average beer here.

Tasty Touchdowns

Wherever you’re watching the Big Game this year – at home, at a bar, alone, or with friends – make sure you’re sporting your team’s colors. Head over to Fanatics to pick up the best officially licensed NFL merchandise and apparel for the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots.