2015 NFL Kickoff: The Madness Begins!

I say it every single year. I have one religious holiday and today is that day. NFL kickoff is FINALLY here, and I cannot put into words how excited I am. This is my favorite time of year, when all hope is still in tact, and everyone in the hobby is buzzing for the first time in months. The barren wasteland of football-less time is over, and we are now primed for the 5 months of seeing what this season is all about.

Prediction for Hobby MVP – Andrew Luck

This isnt really a prediction per se, but rather a statement. Luck has already surged into a status reserved for people like Brady and Rodgers, but I think that this year will be his time to really reap the rewards of his talent. I think the Colts are easily a favorite to win their division, and might be a favorite to win the whole thing. That would make Luck’s ridiculous prices that much more insane.

As you can see, things are already in the stratosphere:

2012 National Treasures Andrew Luck Rookie Auto Patch /49

2012 Contenders Andrew Luck Auto Ticket BGS 9.5

2012 Topps Five Star Andrew Luck Rookie Auto Patch

2014 Topps Five Star Andrew Luck Silver Signature Auto

Prediction for Hobby Rookie of the Year – Amari Cooper

Again, not going too far off book on this, because many of the experts are picking him too. The reason why this might be a surprise for the hobby is that WR are usually very low valued. Hell, if you arent a QB these days, its low value by default. As expected, Cooper’s stuff isnt that high right now, or at least not where it should be, mainly because everyone is so focused on Mariota and Winston. I think he could have a great season and really light up the scoreboard in the hobby as well.

Here is where his value is currently:

2015 Topps Inception Amari Cooper Auto Blue Parallel

2015 Topps Football Amari Cooper Rookie Premiere Red Ink Auto /10

2015 Topps Football Amari Cooper Jumbo Patch Auto

Prediction for Hobby Rookie Disappointment of the Year – Todd Gurley

Let me start this off by saying that I dont think this will be 100% a result of his talent. It will be a combination of the knee injury, the place he is playing, and RBs being hobby plebeians as of late. Gurley is a talented player, but he isnt going to put up numbers to sustain any real value. His name will prevent him from going into the crapper completely, but I wouldnt dive deep on him at all. Doesnt help that his autograph is a give up.

Gurley’s stuff is a bit down already following news he will be out until week 3:

2015 Donruss Elite Todd Gurley Auto Patch

2015 Topps Football Todd Gurley 1987 Retro Auto

Potential Blockbuster – Topps Huddle Gets NFL License

As was just announced, Topps Digital secured an NFL license for their Huddle app, something that has been 3 years in the making. When you consider the juggernaut that their digital portfolio has become, adding an NFL license could not be bigger. With Topps losing the NFLPA license after 2015, this is a way that Topps football can live on. Truly amazing that they got the license when they did.

Check out my write up from Digital Card Central for More info!


Cut Bait – Robert Griffin III

I know that many of you dove in deep on his cards during his rookie year as the top guy in the yard. He was spectacular. Of course, Washington never seems to be without their own personal brand of clusterfuck in every situation, which has led to Kirk Cousins getting the nod. Neither looks to be in a particularly good situation, and that is going to impact hobby value in a tremendous fashion. Its time to cut bait on buying in any further, but you might want to hold your goods to see where he lands next year. Who knows, lots of people find new life in a new city.

Here are his cards:

2012 Topps Supreme Robert Griffin III Jumbo Patch Auto

2012 Topps Strata Robert Griffin III Rookie Patch Auto Clear Cut

Second Year QBs Poised for Success – Carr and Bridgewater

These guys are walking into some prime territory, and its looking very good for their prospects in 2015. Teddy has Peterson back on his side, which should do wonders for their passing game. Carr has Amari Cooper, who I have already pegged as a top candidate for rookie of the year. If the 2015 class is soft, these guys should pick up some of the pieces.

Cards are already heating up:

2014 National Treasures Teddy Bridgewater Rookie Auto Patch

2014 Topps Supreme Teddy Bridgewater Jumbo Booklet Inscription Auto

2014 Topps Chrome Derek Carr Rookie Auto BGS 9.5

2014 Crown Royale Derek Carr Silhouette Auto Patch

This is really going to be a fun season, and it starts tonight. Although I dont think the league has quite recovered from everything that happened over the offseason, tonight that all melts away.

On the Radar: 2015 Topps Definitive Collection

Let me start out by saying I am upset that Five Star is likely gone. Let me finish that thought by saying this new set looks fucking awesome.

Today, we got a good look at what Topps is planning for what looks like their final set of the year, and I am literally floored by what the sell sheet is showing this product is all about. Although this should cost a bit more than Five Star, the product looks to encompass a lot of what Five Star was all about, plus a bunch. I have said over the years that Five Star is one of my favorite sets of the year, if not only because it remains the only affordable product with all on card autographs.

Although enormously under appreciated, I have never been disappointed by a set that offers what Five Star offers. I will surely be sad to see it go:

2012 Topps Five Star Ryan Tannehill Logo Patch Auto 1/1

2010 Five Star John Elway Quotables Inscription Auto /10

2011 Five Star Peyton Manning Auto Inscription

2014 Topps Five Star Tom Brady Auto SSP

Definitive Collection, as a possible replacement, looks tremendous in just about every way. The Rookie auto patch cards, which use a silhouette type approach are some of the best looking cards I think Topps has done in a long, long time. Cutting the player into the swatch window adds an element of action to the card’s look, something that makes these cards absolutely awesome. This is something Panini has done well over the years, but Topps is finally looking to add some die cut content in a product like this.

The jumbo patch autos look to be taking a very similar elegant approach, with a simplistic yet stunning look, which provides a jumbo patch auto along side the on card autograph. These look very similar to the National Treasures cards of the same type, but I like the look a lot better with the added foil embellishments, and possible leather bound backs according to the sell sheet.

Definitive looks to also be bringing framed elements into the product on the Winston preview, something I absolutely live for with its inspiration in Museum Collection. The framed cards are some of the best examples of a cool technology that exists, something that Panini has even copied for its basketball sets.

Overall, each design looks better than the last, something that I wish Topps had more years to develop under their current NFLPA and NFLP licenses. I think that as a whole, this is easily the best best set that Topps has put together, at least on paper, and at 750-800 dollars a box, it better be. Where Panini tends to fail is that Football cannot support a product like Flawless, despite what current prices show on the wax market. Singles will never add up to a 1500 dollar box price, but something at this price point will sell like hot cakes for the content it delivers. Its sad that National Treasures will win the value wars by default, even though I would be SHOCKED if they could generate anything that looks as good as the jumbo auto rookie patches look for this product. Panini just doesnt operate at this level, and Topps has shown that they are the FAAAAAAR superior company in just about every single opportunity they have.

To think that this is likely Topps’ last go at a top end football product, they are definitely going out with a bang. All around, we will be sad to see them go, and when you look upon a product like Definitive Collection, its pretty fucking clear who should remain a part of this sport.

On the Radar: 2015 Immaculate Football

Even though I absolutely HATE the awful name of this set, its hard to argue that it isnt one worth looking forward to. Immaculate has been a product that people seem to enjoy in all the sports its offered, despite some issues with it being truly a product worth raving about. Last year’s version was quite the surprise, with a lot of non-RC on card content, and some really good looking cards. There were still stickers in the product, which took away from the overall potential, but as a whole it was one of the best sets Panini put out.

Check out some of the stunning cards from 2014:

2014 Immaculate Teddy Bridgewater NFL Logo Auto 1/1

2014 Immaculate Odell Beckham Jr Auto Jumbo Logo Patch 1/1

2014 Immaculate Tom Brady Auto Jumbo Patch /49 – Lots of high profile stickers in this set

2014 Immaculate Andrew Luck Auto Patch /25

This year, Panini has struggled with just about everything that has to do with football. On card content for the rookie class has dropped to almost nothing, and design as a whole has been a complete fucking disaster. They may have just released the worst product of the last 15 years with Spectra football, and that scared in looking ahead to sets that will anchor their calendar. Luckily for us, the Football team decided to yield to a much more talented Basketball team, copying the first cards previewed verbatim.

These cards look pretty tremendous, as they did in Basketball, and if we are lucky, they will copy a lot of the other great elements as well. Basketball, as a whole, tends to find ways to put out good looking designs much more frequently than Football, and it shows with products that have origins there. Of course, we are likely in for more of those disgusting signed scraps of black construction paper, but we can hope that the stupidity of previous sets is minimized by a product jam packed with other great stuff. Topps has already previewed a new product called “Definitive Collection” which looks to be something that could rival National Treasures as their final set under the current NFLPA license. Immaculate will likely be out by then, as will Flawless, and only then will we be able to see how everything measures up.

Last year, Flawless offered ZERO of the cards from this preview, with very few really stunning cards that couldnt be found anywhere else. In what I consider to be a HORRIBLE decision, Immaculate is where those cards were used, despite Flawless costing 1500 a box. Immaculate offers the content that should be available in a top shelf price tagged product like Flawless, and yet, here we are again. Obviously, when Panini solicits the full product, we will have more to judge as to the potential merit of the set.


On the Radar: First Look at the 2015 Contenders Ticket Design

I have said on numerous occasions that Contenders is probably the set that Panini is most associated with. Its easily one of the most rabid loyal fan bases that Panini has been able to maintain, and its history is responsible for some of the most iconic cards of the modern era. That being said, outside of those iconic cards, the brand has been poor to mediocre at best in the way it looks, and I fail to see why people love it as much as they do.

Here are the worst of the worst designs:

2011 Contenders Cam Newton Auto Ticket

2009 Contenders Matthew Stafford Auto Ticket

2008 Contenders Joe Flacco Auto Ticket RC

2014 Contenders Teddy Bridgewater Posed Photo Variation Cracked Ice

When I saw the post for the new Contenders ticket for 2015, I tempered my expectations to very low. In my opinion, the last time Panini created a good looking ticket design on their own was in 2013, and before that, you have to go back to 2010. It has been a long road of shitty looks for the product, including the worst ever in 2011, and a horrible take in 2014. Contenders is rarely good looking, and that scared me for 2015.

Luckily, the design is actually great. They look to have gone back to a normal style ticket design, which almost looks similar to 2013 in a way. The vertical card fits in nicely with previous successful years of the product, and this time there isnt an autograph the players will have to sign going up the side. Its pretty simple looking, and SIMPLE IS FUCKING GREAT.

We have yet to see the rest of the set, for which Panini could resume being their normal selves, bringing the standard ugliness for the remaining unseen cards. At least as a whole, the Ticket should do a great job anchoring the product, leading to my happiness once again with a product I have had major problems with. Kudos to them.


What Makes 2015 Panini Spectra Football So Bad?

Today marks the release of a product I put on my list for the worst products of the new millennium. Spectra is so bad, that it sucks on more levels than just design, or price or content. It sucks on all of them. Other bad Panini products like Certified or Clear Vision suck on multiple levels too, but nothing of this type of suckage. This product blows so hard, that it makes the duds of previous years look like winners. That is not a good way to get into the market with a product on the highest price tier. Here is a breakdown.

Box Price

Since its inception, Spectra has been a whopper at close to 300 per box. In 2013, there was a lot of on card content, and the design wasnt horrible. Last year, there was a lot of on card content, but the design was god awful. This year, the autographs are all stickers, and the design is legendary in how fucking horrible it is. When you have a product that costs above the normal expectations, there has to MANY things that make the set worth buying. Whether its a combination of great looking cards, on card autographs or even great looking relic cards, something has to justify the price tag and exceed what people expect. Spectra not only does not exceed, but it doesnt even meet the basic expectations we have for low end. That is a disaster waiting to happen.

Card Design

This is where Spectra takes terrible to a whole new level. When you see the first design, you think to yourself that there is no way things could get worse. Then you see the next and the next, and it all goes downhill from there. The cards are plagued by giant boxes behind the sticker autographs, odd swatch placement, and terrible design composition. The dual auto patch cards are by far the worst, with Panini choosing that the heads of the player are really the only part they feel like showing. There is not a single good looking chrome stock card in the entire set.

Spectra’s cards seem to showcase a general lack of brand separation from the rest of what Panini has put out this year as well. When you look at the way the cards look, the similarities in the structure of the design is pretty easy to spot. It would be one thing if the design they replicated was good to begin with, but its not even close to that level.

Product Content

I cant even find the right adjective to describe how the cards look with the neon pens used to sign the stickers and what I have started calling "seizure stock" due to its likelihood of inducing seizures when viewing it. The crazy patterns used on the card stock have been used in other sets before, so Im not saying that it hasnt been bad until now. It has been. The seizure stock has never been used in this way in a high end set that I can remember. Coupling the nauseating look with rookies who signed their stickers in neon colored pen onld makes things more disgusting, and that isnt really giving the correct gravity to the terrible look.

Panini also chose to steal the card stock design from Topps' wildly popular Superfractors, which just looks like a dick move. Dont get me wrong, things get ripped off all the time. Hell, Panini even ripped off an entire Upper Deck product back in 2013 – name and all. It happens. The issue is that Superfractors kind of have Topps’ brand name written all over it. Stealing the look only makes it look like your team doesnt have the creativity to come up with a similarly valuable parallel structure. When you see what Panini typically has to offer, I guess that isnt a surprise though.

The biggest complaint is that just a few weeks ago, Panini released 2015 Certified, which offered a jumbo patch auto with a sticker for 1/3rd the price of this shit. Both products have been panned online, but the difference in price showcases how few elements of unique content are available in this. Although on card autographs of some Top HOFers are included, the use of Seizure Stock, combined with general rarity makes it almost a moot point.

Panini should be ashamed of themselves with this product. I sincerely feel that way. With every product release, there are certain people I look to as a barometer for how it will perform. Every time something comes out, one of those people seems to think there is some redeeming factor worth looking at. This time, none of them do. I may be biased towards Panini the same way Fox News is biased towards democrats, but even the more objective individuals think this is a bloodbath. Pretty telling.