Can Jimmy Butler and the Heat go all the way?

The Eastern Conference Finals began last night with Game 1 between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat. What started as a close game and the Celtics ahead, ended with complete second-half domination by Jimmy Butler and the Heat.

Butler led Miami to a 118-107 victory thanks to his massive stat line. The Miami superstar ended Game 1 with 41 minutes played, 41 points, nine rebounds, and five assists. His offensive command was met with an equally paramount defensive showing. Butler recorded five steals and four blocks on Tuesday. The dominant play by Butler was complimented by the Celtics missing two of their most important players and Miami playing exceptional defense.

Looking back

Miami entered the third quarter down by eight points after Boston’s Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown refused to get down in the first half. It was a somewhat surprising effort by Boston, as they were without defensive player of the year, Marcus Smart (foot), and Al Horford (health and safety protocols).

Being down at the half sparked some crucial changes for Miami at halftime. The player-led adjustments in the locker room inspired an entirely new approach to the game in the third quarter. Miami’s defense stole the show, allowing their team to go on a 22-2 run to start the second half.  The Heat went on to score 39 third-quarter points, allowing Boston just 14.

Butler’s dominance continued into the fourth quarter when he blocked a huge three-point shot for Tatum, elevating the energy, and nearly sealing the game for the Heat.

The Celtics almost came back in the fourth quarter. But in the end, Butler couldn’t be stopped, and Miami’s defense wasn’t going to back down.

Looking ahead

Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals will take place on Thursday on Miami’s home court. Miami is at a huge advantage due to the fact they have yet to lose at home in the playoffs. Bam Adebayo and the rest of the Heat’s core players have already shown they can contain Tatum and Brown. What will happen when the Celtics’ defensive star comes back?

Marcus Smart is rumored to be returning to the lineup for Game 2. This will provide another challenge for Miami’s defense, and another limit for Miami’s offense at the hands of Smart’s unbelievable defensive abilities. Al Horford will likely not return for Game 2.

If the Celtics want to keep their chances of advancement alive, they will have to win on Thursday to ensure they don’t get too far behind. One thing is for sure, Jimmy Butler and the Heat don’t make it easy to come back.

Brett Favre at the center of Mississippi’s biggest scandal in 20 years

Hall of Fame QB Brett Favre is embroiled in a massive welfare scandal in his home state of Mississippi
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Brett Favre is one of the most well-known quarterbacks of this generation. He had a Hall of Fame career capped off with one Super Bowl Championship, three MVP awards, and one golden jacket. Twelve years after Favre’s career came to an end, he is now in the limelight for a much different reason. Favre is at the center of one of the biggest fraud cases in Mississippi history.

How it started

Brett Favre’s scandal is recorded as far back as 2019. Then, he met with various members of the Mississippi state government including then-governor, Phil Bryant and official John Davis. The meeting also included former WWE legend, Ted DiBiase Jr. Favre’s goal in meeting with them was to encourage their involvement in a new Florida-based drug company, Prevacus.

The former NFL star connected himself to Prevacus due to their mission to further concussion research and create a “concussion drug”. Favre felt drawn to their goal and wanted them to relocate to Mississippi, hence the meeting with state officials. The meeting did not end the way Favre hoped. What came next started to raise red flags.

Shortly after the meeting took place, Davis and two others, Nancy New and Zach New, were accused of taking $2.15 million in welfare money to personally invest in Prevacus and a sister company. Brett Favre’s involvement with Nancy New extends further than just Prevacus, however.

Aside from trying to invest in the pharmaceutical company, Favre was also lobbying for donations for a new volleyball court at the University of Southern Mississippi, a school Favre’s daughter happened to attend. The new court eventually came to fruition thanks to $5 million provided by none other than Nancy New’s organization, the Mississippi Education Center.

If that wasn’t enough, Brett Favre also benefited from an additional $8 million dollars of welfare money dedicated to his other professional pursuits, and received $1.1 million dollars for appearances he did not attend. Favre has since paid back nearly all the $1.1 million, leaving the remainder unaccounted for.

Brett Favre pleads ignorance

Phil Bryant, the former governor, was the whistleblower in this case, bringing to light the malfeasance occurring between New, Favre, and others. Favre has claimed time and time again that he was unaware of where the money was coming from. However, he sent the following text to the founder of Prevacus, Jake Vanlandingham.  

“Text Nancy (New) and include me if you want and basically ask her if she can help with investors, grants or any other way possible. She has strong connections and gave me 5 million for Vball facility via grant money. Offer her whatever you feel like.”

It’s not looking great for you, Brett.

When John Davis, the Mississippi official who participated in the original meeting, was eventually replaced with another official, Favre touched base with Vanlandingham again, stating that New told him Davis’ replacement “wasn’t their type”.

“Well we may need the governor to make him our type”, the Prevacus founder responded.

A ripple effect

It goes without saying that welfare money awarded to any state should be dedicated to those struggling, not those living in the top 1%. In 2018, Mississippi received $135 million in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding. Of that, just $7.3 million went directly toward assisting the families that needed it.

The remainder of the funding went partially towards the entrepreneurial pursuits of those that received millions of dollars a year to play professional sports. What Brett Favre encouraged and allowed was wrong, and people suffered because of it.

What happens now

Since it came to light, Brett Favre’s scandal has continued to progress. Last month, Nancy and Zach New both plead guilty to misusing public money intended to help alleviate the strain of poverty on the Mississippi population. They have also agreed to testify against the other people involved. John Davis is also among the names facing charges.

Two years after this embezzlement case came to light, Favre, DiBiase and two other former professional wrestlers are now among 38 defendants accused of using welfare funds for their own personal gain. Favre is now required to repay more than $3 million in welfare money used over the last four years. Neither have been charged with any criminal wrongdoing at this point.

The case has now been turned over to the Mississippi attorney general’s office. They are expected to seek the repayment of more than $77 million misused funds.

“I applaud the team the team filing this suit and am grateful the state is taking another step toward justice for the taxpayers. We will continue to work alongside our federal partners – who have been given access to all our evidence for more than two years – to make sure the case is fully investigated” state auditor Shad White told the media.

Brett Favre’s scandal is continuing to develop as it moves through the justice system in an effort to right many wrongs. Check back here for updates as they become available.

The biggest story lines from the Raiders schedule in 2022

Photo Credit: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times

The 2022 NFL schedule was released this week. With that comes record predictions, ticket-purchasing, and more storylines than anyone can keep track of.  The Raiders schedule is no different. It showcases a matchup against the reigning Super Bowl champions, a revenge game 50 years in the making, and more AFC West matchups than your heart can handle. So, let’s look at three of the biggest storylines to keep track of in 2022.

Week 1: Las Vegas Raiders @ Los Angeles Chargers

It’s the game you’ve been waiting all offseason for. The Raiders will head to SoFi Stadium for their first game of the season to try and take down Justin Herbert and a revamped Charger’s defense.

As you may remember, the Raiders beat the Chargers in the last regular season game of the 2021 season, sending the Silver and Black to the playoffs, and ending the Bolts season without a second thought. Los Angeles has spent the duration of the offseason trying to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Since the two teams last met, they have added numerous Pro-Bowlers to their defense including J.C. Jackson, Kyle Van Noy, and former Raider, Khalil Mack.

Mack, who spent the first four seasons of his career with the Raiders, was traded to Los Angeles this offseason. He is infamously known for being a player Raider Nation saw leading the team to their next Super Bowl win. That is, until the former regime sent him off to Chicago. Since leaving Oakland, Mack’s statistics have declined. However, his game-changing talent and sure-fire want for revenge is still cause for concern in Las Vegas.

On top of being a revenge game for many reasons, the Raiders second home is in Los Angeles. It’s not uncommon for Raider Nation to take over SoFi stadium and make it their own, adding fuel to the fire.

Week 15: New England Patriots @ Las Vegas Raiders

While there are numerous storylines in between Week 1 and Week 15, the Patriots vs. Raiders game is what everyone will be looking forward to. Head coach Josh McDaniels will lead his new team out proudly (we hope), as he takes on the man that taught him everything he knows.

Before being hired as the Raiders head coach in January, McDaniels spent 13 seasons with the Patriots. He served as everything from their offensive assistant to their offensive coordinator, learning the ins and outs of coaching from one of the best in the business, Bill Belichick.

McDaniels was joined in Las Vegas by new general manager, Dave Ziegler, who also spent the previous seasons in New England. McDaniels and Ziegler wasted no time in bringing their favorite former Patriots to Sin City, making Week 15 even more meaningful.

Las Vegas has added six players this offseason who played for the New England Patriots including running back Brandon Bolden, tight end Jacob Hollister, fullback Jakob Johnson, and quarterback Jarett Stidham, among others. Along with players, McDaniels also hired several former New England coaches to his staff.

The sheer volume of Raiders that have played or coached for the Patriots is something that doesn’t go unnoticed, making Week 15 a must win game for the Silver and Black.

Week 16: Las Vegas Raiders @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Fifty years in the making, the Raiders will return to the scene of the “Immaculate Reception” one day after its half-century anniversary. If you’ve been a Raiders fan for a while, or have ever known a Raiders fan, its likely you know exactly what play we’re talking about. If not, you can read up on the controversial play, here.

No matter how much time passes, it will never be clear what happened that day. You’ll get a different story from every player, and every referee working that game. The Raiders are three Lombardi trophies better off than they were that day in Pittsburgh, but they’ll never forget. And they’ll be sure to remind the Steelers of that in December.

The Raiders schedule is tough, with a lot valuable storylines in 2022. If they want to return to the playoffs for a second consecutive year, they’ll have to prove each and every week why they deserve to be there.

Raiders trade Bryan Edwards for late-round pick

Raiders WR Bryan Edwards traded to Atlanta
Photo Credit: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The Las Vegas Raiders have traded wide receiver Bryan Edwards and a seventh-round pick to the Atlanta Falcons for a 2023 fifth-round pick. In 2021, Edwards caught 34 passes for 571 yards and three touchdowns per Pro Football Reference.

Edwards is entering his third year in the league after being drafted in the third round of the 2020 NFL draft. His big plays have been few and far between, but he is a reliable and hard-working player with a lot of potential. Last season, Raiders coaches even went so far as to say Edwards reminded them of Hall of Fame player, Terrell Owens. While he didn’t live up to those high standards, he did make some game-changing plays for the Raiders.

The 23-year-old receiver’s biggest impact as a Raider came during a must-win game in Week 15. The Silver and Black were visiting the Browns in Cleveland. Las Vegas sat at 6-7 with their playoff hopes on the line. Both teams had been dealing with COVID-19 breakouts, and the Raiders needed everyone to stand out. Edwards took it to heart the most as he made the play of the game in the first quarter, catching a touchdown pass over the head of the NFL’s highest-paid cornerback, Denzel Ward.

For the Raiders, they are now one step closer to finalizing their wide receivers room after a big shakeup this off-season.

Edwards will now join his former teammate, quarterback Marcus Mariota, in Atlanta. A receiving corps including Edwards, Kyle Pitts, and Drake London is sure to turn some heads in 2022.

These Raiders’ concerns still have to be addressed before Week 1

The Las Vegas Raiders have come a long way this off-season. They have found their new head coach, new general manager, next elite wide receiver, and made many more franchise-changing moves. Now, it’s been one week since the 2022 NFL Draft, and training camp is just around the corner. Las Vegas has made some big moves since February, but the Raiders concerns are becoming increasingly more clear ahead of off-season programs.

Front office stability

More than an improved defense or red-zone offense, the 2022 Raiders need stability. They pushed through the most unpredictable NFL season ever in 2021, dealing with challenges in every sense of the word. And while the playoff loss was disappointing, it also served as a reminder that stability and personnel improvement were finally on their way.

The hiring of Josh McDaniels, Dave Ziegler, and Champ Kelly was a massive step in the right direction. They brought on primarily their own staff and now have executed extensive change in the scouting department as well. All seemed to be looking brighter in Sin City, until this week when it was announced that the Raiders have parted ways with both their vice president of human resources and their team president. It is unclear what lead to the departure of both parties, but new information suggests it may be due to a hostile work environment.

In a newly released statement former president, Dan Vantrelle, suggests he was met with hostility when he brought up concerns regarding the female staff. Vantrelle made clear he stands by his actions and intends to get legal representation regarding his termination.

The Raiders have been involved in many lawsuits over the last year, which makes the latest even more disappointing.

The secondary

The Raiders added a lot of talent in free agency and the draft this year, but one group they hardly addressed was the secondary. Outside of trading for cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, Las Vegas only signed three other players to their secondary, and none of them are known to be game-changing players. For the most part, Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler have hung on the pieces that were already there for them.

While some of the pieces they have in place are solid, like Nate Hobbs, most of the pieces could use an upgrade. Starting cornerback Trayvon Mullen and safety Jonathan Abram are both coming off season-ending injuries and surgeries, making their play in 2022 relatively unpredictable.

Despite these injuries and questions, the new front office tandem decided against drafting a rookie cornerback or safety, in hopes that defensive coordinator Patrick Graham can upgrade the players he has on the payroll already, or they can find a steal in the remaining free agents.

That free agent steal may come in the form of Giants’ cornerback James Bradberry, who is rumored to be released from New York in the coming weeks. The former Pro-Bowler is coming off a season with four interceptions, more than any one player had for the Raiders in 2021. If Mullen is out for the beginning of the season, Bradberry gives the Silver and Black a fighting chance and will be a wildly dependable piece of the puzzle upon Mullen’s return.

The offensive line

Unlike the secondary, the Raiders did choose to address the offensive line during the draft. With their first pick, they took Memphis offensive guard, Dylan Parham. Parham’s skill set is unique because he brings the ability to play both center and guard. Prior to the draft, the widespread assumption was that Andre James would remain at center this season, thanks to a somewhat convincing campaign in 2021. Now, it’s less clear than ever what the starting five will look like in September.

Second-year veteran Alex Leatherwood brings his own set of questions, as he was incredibly undependable his rookie season. After playing at both right tackle and right guard, he came away without much success in either. Head coach Josh McDaniels told the media he is unsure where Leatherwood will play next season, but sees him as a “contributor”.

The questions at center come with equal questions at both guard and tackle. The only solidified position on the front line seems to be left tackle, Kolton Miller. Thankfully, with a new offensive line coach comes new hope for an improved line.

The Raiders live in the hardest division in football, inside the hardest conference in football. Their successes and downfalls next season will come at the hands of the problems still unsolved. If they can choose to make smart decisions and do the right thing, these Raiders’ concerns should be mitigated by September.