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Pittsburgh Steelers

Former Pittsburgh Steelers Linebacker James Harrison Announces Retirement

Former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison has announced his retirement from the NFL for the second time after a strong 15-year career.

The 39-year-old made the announcement on Instagram on Monday. Beneath an image of his children, he said, “I’ve missed way too much for way too long… and I’m done. Many thanks to my family, coaches, the fans, and everyone who played a role in my football life.”

Harrison, who will turn 40 in May, spent most of his career as the linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers before signing with the New England Patriots on 26 December, 2017.

Despite an illustrious career with the revered Pittsburgh Steelers, Harrison and the team parted on negative terms. With reduced playing time during the 2017 season, Harrison requested that the team release him from his contract.

The long-time NFL player had previously announced his retirement in 2014 following a one-year stint with the Cincinnati Bengals, but returned to the game with the Steelers for the next season.

Harrison, who began his career playing college football for Kent State University, won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in 2008. The football star also won two Super Bowls, he XL and XLIII with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The linebacker finishes his career with 84.5 sacks.

Further reading: Robert Griffin Joins Baltimore Ravens

Alliance of American Football

The Alliance of American Football to Launch 2019

Charlie Ebersol has announced the launch of the The Alliance of American Football in 2019.

The league will comprise of eight 50-man teams playing a 10-game schedule that will begin February 9 2019, one week following next year’s Super Bowl.

Ebersol, the son of long-time NBC Sports Executive Dick Ebersol, said, “The Alliance of American Football represents a fundamental shift in the way we approach professional sports.

“We believe fans and players are what’s most important so our approach is simple—we’ve created an alliance where fans and players share in the success of their teams.”

The Alliance of American Football league is to be funded by an all-star roster of investors including the Founders Fund, Slow Ventures, The Chernin Group and Adrian Fenty, to name a few.

The league is to be built through regionally-based allocation in the fall; eight Alliance regions and their coaches will be announced within the next 12 weeks.

Bill Polian, co-founder of The Alliance of American Football has said “There is a significant amount of football talent looking to begin or extend their professional careers. The Alliance will provide those players with a new opportunity to compete at a high level.” He added, “Our players and fans are the lifeblood of The Alliance and we will treat them as such.”

In further support of the league, television network CBS are to air the games in their line-up throughout the season. “As The Alliance of American Football launches next February we are excited to become the official television partner, adding more football to our robust programming line-up with a great package that includes two primetime games on CBS, as well as a full slate of regular-season spring football on CBS Sports Network,” said chairman at CBS sports, Sean McManus.

Further reading: Allen Robinson Set to Join Chicago Bears

NFL Playoffs

Down to Eight: NFL Playoffs Are Here

Although I’ve been one of the many people taking a break from the NFL during the season, I figured I would get my NFL fix during the playoffs. After a long season full of controversy and political implications, we have finally reached the coveted NFL playoffs where all the commotion can die down and we can focus on the best teams in the league competing for the ultimate prize: an NFL Superbowl Championship. The wildcard games were everything we thought they were going to be but the divisional round looks to be a clash of young, up-and-coming talent with three of the games’ greatest quarterbacks to ever lace up their cleats. Let’s break down the games and I will give my predictions at the end.

Atlanta Falcons vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Atlanta comes into this game off of an impressive victory over the L.A. Rams in Los Angeles. The Falcons who have found their stride over the last several weeks of football are looking to bounce back after last season’s collapse against the New England Patriots in the SuperBowl. Their balanced attack gives them the edge as well as the experience of Matt Ryan, who also has the elite wide receiver, Julio Jones as a safety net to lean on in tough times. Philly is coming in without their starting quarterback Carson Wentz and despite having a pretty dominant season, missing a talent like Wentz versus a team looking to redeem themselves seems like a tall order for the Eagles. With the injury, they will start Nick Foles at quarterback to go with the rest of their attack during the NFL playoffs. If Foles can limit the turnovers and manage the game against Philadelphia’s defense and strong running attack, they can keep it competitive. But in the end, I believe the experience and tenacity of the Falcons will overcome the Eagles on the road, propelling them back to the conference championship for the second year in a row. Final Score, Falcons 31- Eagles 17.

New Orleans Saints vs. Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota has been one of the most consistent teams all season. Case Keenum took over for Teddy Bridgewater after his injured players Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater and has not missed a step. Their 13-3 record offered them around one bye and an NFC North championship. They take on the hungry and multifaceted New Orleans Saints who defeated Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers in their wild-card matchup with a masterful performance by their legendary QB, Drew Brees. Despite being one of the most potent running attacks in the league this season, it took a Brees effort to lift them over the Panthers at home. If they can get any help from their running game against the Vikings in that cold weather, then they can pull off the upset during the NFL playoffs. It is hard for me to pick Keenum over Brees in any fashion, so I won’t here either. Saints upset the Vikings with a big game by Mark Ingram and that saints offense. Final Score: Saints 34- Vikings 24.

Tennessee Titans vs. New England Patriots

QB Marcus Mariotta leads his rugged Titans unit up against the defending champions during the NFL playoffs with arguably the best quarterback and coach in the history of the sport looking to cement their legendary status with another NFL championship. Mariotta comes into the divisional round after leading his team to a 22-21 comeback victory over AFC foes the Kansas City Chiefs in the wild-card game. Hoping to continue his success, he will need to play a turnover-free and explosive game in order for his titans to have any chance of completing the upset on the road in Foxboro Stadium. The conditions will be cold and the atmosphere of the NFL playoffs will be unlike any the young Mariotta has ever experienced, but if he wants to start putting his name in the hierarchy of active NFL quarterbacks, this is his best opportunity—an opportunity the entire Titans organization should be waiting for. With all that being said, New England will come out the victors setting up a Championship game versus either the tough defense of the Jacksonville Jaguars or their biggest AFC rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Final Score, Titans 17- Pats 28.

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh has been waiting for an opportunity to play the Jaguars again after getting pummeled early in the season by this tough Jacksonville defense. They forced Roethlisberger the Steelers Championship winning QB into five interceptions and overall his worst professional game of his career. Ben Roethlisberger played so bad that he was quoted after the game questioning his own abilities and whether he still had the hunger to play professional football. Since that loss, the Steelers have won 10 out of 11 games, their only loss coming off the heels of one the most controversial no-catch calls in recent history against the New England Patriots in week 14. They will get a healthy Antonio Brown back for the divisional game which will make the game that much easier for Big Ben. If Jacksonville can keep the game ugly and their defense can keep them in it, then they have a puncher’s chance. But ultimately it comes down to quarterback play and Blake Bortles will have trouble against the Steeler defense while Big Ben is prime to bounce back from that performance in week five of the NFL playoffs. Pittsburgh battles to advance for their long-awaited rematch with the New England Patriots. Final Score, Jags 9- Pitt 24.

These are my divisional round picks, who do you have to advance to the AFC and NFC Championship games? Let me know in the comments.

Further reading: Dear College Football: Stop Playing Playoff Games on New Year’s Eve