Saturday, August 22, 2015

Top Premier League Transfers of the 2015 Transfer Window

I'm taking the liberty here to extend my role as World Cup analyst to include an article here about the Barclays Premier League. At the end of the month of August, the BPL summer transfer window will close shut and teams will be forced to work with their roster as it is until the window reopens again in January. Thus, I'm going to rank my top ten transfers of this summer, with transfer quality based on a combination of player talent, fit, and price.

10. Gokhan Inler, $8m, Leicester City
They may have lost Esteban Cambiasso, but Leicester City managed to replace him with an experienced, talented, international in the heart of the pitch. Players with top flight experience are crucial to Leicester, who were just promoted prior to the 2014-2015 season and made a remarkable escape from relegation having been bottom of the league on Christmas day. Inler also comes at a very cheap price and will help solidify a position that was previously lacking for the Foxes.

9. Adama Traore, $11m, Aston Villa
It's not often that an extremely talented youngster from the Barcelona youth system would choose to move permanently to Aston Villa, but so are the odd circumstances surrounded the relegation of the Barcelona B team that Traore did just that. For 11 million dollars, Traore represents only a fraction of what Villa recouped from the Benteke transfer and will bring a flair and technical ability to the attack that the Villains have been lacking for years. As an added incentive, Traore's price will only rise over the next few years, and his resale value should eventually exceed twice or three times the 11 million dollars that Aston Villa paid for him.

8. Jordan Amavi, $14m, Aston Villa
Adama Traore is not the only incoming Villain that can provide flair and technical ability on the pitch, as Jordan Amavi has more tricks up his sleeve than you'd expect for a left back. He's a decent defender, but will become better at that portion of his game as he matures. On the other hand, his attacking ability is right where it needs to be and his pace is phenomenal. Most of all, he looks comfortable in the position, and Aston Villa have sorely been missing a confident left back the last couple years with Aly Cissokho manning the position.

7. Andre Ayew, Free, Swansea City
Admittedly, I wasn't sure that Andre Ayew was going to fit into Swansea's first team for much of the season with the excess of midfielders that they have on their roster, but he has burst onto the scene and made a real impact in their first few games. He's physically dominant, with great speed and a very sturdy build, while his technical skills are well above average and he seems to have a poacher's ability of being in the right place at the right time. And wait, you tell me they got him on a free transfer!? Yep.

6. Nathaniel Clyne, $19m, Liverpool
Clyne is only 24 years of age now, but he's been among the best (if not the best) right back in the Premier League for several years now, so it's rather remarkable that Liverpool got him for only 19 million dollars. Factor in the massive gap between him and Liverpool's previous starter at right back, Glen Johnson, and you've got yourself a brilliant transfer by Liverpool.

5. Yohan Cabaye, $15m, Crystal Palace
For Crystal Palace to capture a 29 year old rotation player from PSG really speaks to how far the mid-to-low table BPL teams have come over the past few years. Just two years ago, Cabaye was at Newcastle and probably could have transferred to one of the top 5 in the Premier League if he'd wanted. Now, a mere two years later, he's been picked up by Crystal Palace (Crystal Palace!!) for just 15 million dollars. What a phenomenal capture. 

4. Matteo Darmian, $19m, Manchester United
I actually had my doubts about Darmian when this transfer was confirmed, but the forward-thinking right back has done everything possible to reverse my opinion of him in the first few weeks of the season. He has offered dominant display after dominant display to lead Manchester United to three straight clean sheets and has also been alert in attack. With Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester City lacking any real form or consistency at the right back position, Darmian and Clyne are undoubtedly the two best in the BPL right now and they were both captured for the lovely fee of 19 million dollars.

3. Xherdan Shaqiri, $18m, Stoke City
I said this about the Cabaye transfer too, but let me say it again -- look how far the mid-to-low BPL teams have come! Shaqiri is only two years removed from being a Bayern Munich player and only one year removed from playing for Inter Milan. He also had an incredible 2014 World Cup, leading Switzerland with relatively little help. Lastly, he's still only 23 years old! (that's the second exclamation point I've used in this paragraph because I'm so surprised by this transfer) I really like the transition that Stoke are making from a rough team that played for draws to an aesthetically pleasing team that plays with attacking intent, and there's no doubt that Shaqiri, when on his game, is both aesthetically pleasing and forward-thinking. Does he have some sort of attitude problem that has caused him to be cast off from Bayern and Intern? Maybe. But if Stoke can solve him then they've got themselves a gem for only 18 million dollars.

2. Dimitri Payet, $16m, West Ham
I liked this transfer by West Ham at the outset and I like it even more now that I've seen a few weeks of Payet. As an attacking playmaker, he's a silky smooth dribbler with good pace and a brilliant eye for passes, which is exactly what West Ham were looking for after letting Stewart Downing go. He lead the Ligue 1 in assists last year and if he had a better supporting cast at West Ham there would be a legitimate possibility that he'd top the Premier League. Watching him play is a joy and for only 16 million dollars, I'm not sure that the Hammers could have found anybody better to fill their attacking midfielder role.

1. James Milner, Free, Liverpool
Sure, Milner's not a long term solution - at 29 years old he likely only has a couple more years of top flight soccer, but on a free transfer I'm not sure that you need a player that's going to grow because there's no incentive to earn back any transfer fees (if you paid $10m for him you might be hopeful to gain that $10m back at some point, but that's clearly not the case on a free). As for his ability and motor, until he begins to decline, he will be in my opinion one of the top 50 players in the BPL. Last year he was probably even higher on that list, as he played all over the pitch and scored all sorts of crucial goals for Manchester City. If Liverpool can get that sort of value from him this year, I don't care what he offers for the future, he will have been way more than worth it.

Friday, August 21, 2015

2015-2016 Fantasy Football Love/Hate

I know it's been a while. You may not even remember me anymore. My name is Gabe Schmittlein. I'm back. Matthew Berry just came out with his Fantasy Football Love/Hate article for the upcoming season and I was inspired to give all the dedicated readers of the NFL Report my own view on the landscape of fantasy football. So -- Matthew Berry, my muse -- this one's for you.

Love:

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers and Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts --
Rodgers and Luck can be looped in together because they are far-and-away the top two fantasy options at quarterback this year. Brady is suspended/not-suspended/who-the-hell-knows, Peyton Manning's arm strength is right down there with the Mark Sanchez's of the world (that's not good), and Drew Brees has a receiving core made up of guys who are not Jimmy Graham. Mid-level options behind Rodgers and Luck are there, but even guys like Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, and Matthew Stafford represent steep drop-offs in value from Rodgers and Luck and don't represent extraordinarily higher values than their late draft quarterback counterparts like Ryan Tannehill or Sam Bradford. The first few rounds of fantasy football drafts are all about maximizing value in positions where value can be most effectively maximized (if ya see what I mean)... For example, running backs are often drafted so high because there tends to be a sharp drop-off in fantasy quality, while receivers are drafted lower because the difference between the 1st and 20th best receiver is marginal when compared to the difference between the 1st and 20th best running backs. So take Rodgers and Luck. Or Don't. But don't be a sucker and take Peyton Manning in the second round.

Wide Receivers in the Second/Third Round --
Dez Bryant, Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas, Odell Beckham Jr., Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones, Jordy Nelson, A.J. Green. Alshon Jefferey. T.Y. Hilton. With the usual high splurge on running backs, those are all the wide receivers that could be available in rounds two and three. Picking up most of those guys in the second round would represent a good value and getting any of them in the third round would be incredible. Be aware that there is a decently sharp drop-off after these wideouts, so you don't want to be the one guy in your league to go quarterback in the second round (don't. pick. manning.) and have to draft after all of these guys are gone.

Jeremy Maclin --
He's going way way way too low right now. Maclin thrived last season with Mark Sanchez at the helm, and I don't see Alex Smith being a huge downgrade from him. Sure, Chip Kelly's scheme played a part, but Maclin was great under Andy Reid when he was in Philly too. Matthew Berry said that Maclin was going in the eighth round in most ESPN leagues, down with Mike Wallace, Jarvis Landry, and Allen Robinson. Ridiculous is what that is. Hey, if you can get Maclin in the eighth round, that represents awesome value, but I'd even be happy if you took him as early as the fifth or sixth round. Pro-tip - if you're playing with a bunch of guys on auto draft, he'll likely fall right into your hands in the eighth round, so at least there's some good news with him being ranked as low as he is.

Hate

Tight Ends Not Name Gronkowski or Graham --
Ugh. See Rodgers and Luck paragraph above. Or I'll just type it out in a slightly different way down here... Gronkowski and Graham represent a massive value gap between them and the rest of their position, so I'm fine with either of them in the first couple rounds. However, guys like Travis Kelce, Greg Olson, and Julius Thomas that are being drafted around the fifth round don't seem to be providing a maximized value over a tight end that you could be drafting in the tenth round (Zach Ertz is totally gonna get it going this year!!). On the other hand, the difference between a wide receiver/running back in the fifth round and the tenth round is going to be huge.

Ameer Abdullah, RB, Detroit Lions --
The Abdullah hype train has been very real the past couple weeks, but I struggle to see where his value is going to come. He's not going to get many touchdowns, as Joique Bell is one of the more accomplished goal line backs in the league, and he's not going to get as many touches as you'd hope, once again because of the aforementioned Joique Bell. I guess he provides some value as a pass-catcher out of the backfield, but it isn't enough to warrant the sixth round (about) draft slot that he's been getting in most leagues. I do like Abdullah in the long term, but it's going to take time for him to win carries away from Bell, who I actually think is being drafted too low right now.

Defenses and Kickers --
Matthew Berry said this in his Love/Hate article, but I believe I said it in my Love/Hate article prior to last season, so if anything he's copying me. Please please please don't draft a defense or a kicker before the last couple rounds. Berry listed a whole catalog of people who he hates more than those who draft defenses and kickers in the first ten rounds, and it was all very cute. I'll say this, though, (and I mean it for real) I hate those sort of people more than I hate cleaning off the inside of peanut butter containers so they can go in the recycling. Sorry to one-up you Berry, but I hope you understand that I don't mean any harm because we're fighting on the same side. The opportunity for maximizing value in positions where value can most effectively be maximized is almost negligible when talking about defenses and kickers. In terms of defenses, it makes much more sense statistically to just pick up a defense that has an easy matchup every week, while for kickers, our ability to predict their year-to-year success is really really poor so you're better off (once again) keeping your eye on the waiver wire.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

2015 NFC Playoff Seeding Predictions

1. Green Bay Packers (13-3): The Packers are basically a lock for winning the NFC North for the fifth straight year due to a lack of competition within their division. Green Bay suffered no major losses in the offseason and managed to re-sign receiver Randall Cobb to create a solid receiving corp for Aaron Rodgers. And even though the Packers must play all four NFC West teams this year, the game against the mighty Seahawks will be in Lambeau.
2. Seattle Seahawks (12-4): After appearing in the past two Super Bowls, the Seahawks are poised for a return to the Big Game in 2016. Quite possible the weakest part of Seattle's depth chart was its receiving corp, but by trading for All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham, dual threat quarterback Russell Wilson will lead one of the most productive offenses in the league. The Legion of Boom lost cornerback Byron Maxwell to free agency, but the core of this legendary secondary remains intact. The Seahawks are bound to earn a first round bye for the third year in a row.

3. Carolina Panthers (10-6): Cam Newton suffered career lows in almost every single major statistical category last season after losing receiver Steve Smith. The receiving corp has some great young talent lead by second year player Kelvin Benjamin, along with rookie Devin Funchess. Meanwhile, Carolina's defense is still very solid, especially with the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year Luke Kuechly being one of the league's best players. The race for the NFC South title last year was more or less a pillow fight, but expect the Panthers to see a lot more difficult competition next season as they look for a third straight division title.
4. Dallas Cowboys (10-6): The loss of DeMarco Murray to the division rival Eagles could be detrimental to the Cowboys next season, especially with such a massive hole now at the running back position. Murray's incredible season with the help of the NFL's best offensive line took plenty of pressure off of quarterback Tony Romo and the rest of Dallas' offense. Moreover, a successful running game gave the defense more time to rest off the field, so it will be interesting to see if the Cowboys can continue to remain relatively solid on defense without Murray.

5. Arizona Cardinals (11-5): Hopefully, Arizona's defense will still be able to find success as last year's defensive coordinator leaves for the head coaching job in New York. Bruce Arians is one of the best head coaches in football, and if quarterback Carson Palmer is able to stay healthy, the Cardinals will have yet another chance to dethrone the Seahawks from atop the NFC West.

6. New York Giants (9-7): Second year wide receiver Odell Beckham appears to be one of the most talented young players in recent memory, and with Victor Cruz returning from a season-ending injury, as well as the addition of running back Shane Vereen, New York's passing game has the potential to be lethal in 2015. New York's pass rush lacks the same talent seen by the two Championship winning teams of the past, so it will be interesting to see if Eli Manning can succeed with more pressure on the offensive side of the ball.


Tom Brady Loses Appeal, Goodell Will Keep Suspension at Four Games

Earlier today, the NFL announced that Tom Brady's supension will be kept at four games for the star quarterback's supposed involvement in the saga known as "Deflategate." The major breakthrough that accompanied the announcement was that on March 6th, the day that Tom Brady interviewed with Ted Wells, the quarterback asked an assistant to destroy a cellphone that he had been using since November of 2014. The NFL simply viewed Brady's unwillingness to cooperate with the investigation as an ongoing pattern.
Meanwhile, Brady's attornee Don Yee quickly released a statement of his own: "The commissioner's decision is deeply disappointing, but not suprising because the appeal process was thoroughly lacking in procedural fairness. Most importantly, neither Tom nor the Patriots did anything wrong. And the NFL has no evidence that anything inappropriate occured. The appeal process was a sham, resulting in the Commissioner in the Commissioner rubber-stamping his own decision." Don Yee went on to complain that the NFL gave Brady and his team just several days to prepare for a four hour argument in juxtaposition to the roughly 100 days that the NFL had to prepare. Moreover, Brady's team points to the third party's that sided with the Patriots, whereas the the information collected by the NFL's investigation is deemed "junk" by Yee. Lastly, Yee argues that the team presented Goodell with all kinds of electronic data, even though this data was eventually "ignored."

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

2015 AFC Playoff Seeding Predictions

1. Indianapolis Colts (13-3): The Colts had one of the busiest offseasons of any team in the league, adding plenty of talented veterans such as receiver Andre Johnson, running back Frank Gore, safety Mike Adams, and outside linebacker Trent Cole. Meanwhile, Andrew Luck enters his fourth season, where over the past three years, his completion percentage, touchdown percentage, and passer rating have all increased. Next year, don't be surprised if Luck is able to snatch the Most Valuable Player Award away from Aaron Rodgers.

2. New England Patriots (12-4): While the New England Patriots are almost guaranteed to earn a spot in the playoffs next season, their exact seeding depends on how many games Tom Brady will be able to play in 2015 due to his suspension. The Patriots certainly lost plenty of talented players this past offseason--Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Vince Wilfork, Shane Vereen--but if there is any coach in the league capable of creating a Championship caliber team with a reduced amount of talent, it is six time Super Bowl champion Bill Belichick. Moreover, Tom Brady seems to play his best when the critics and doubters are at their absolute loudest.

3. Denver Broncos (11-5): After suffering a torn right quadriceps, posting a passer rating of 76.8 in the month of December, and having his team lose in their first playoff game, Peyton Manning appears to be nearing the end of his career (or so they say). The truth is, Manning likely has one or two more years left to compete for a Super Bowl, and taking into account Manning's age and the loss of Eric Decker and Julius Thomas the past two seasons, Denver will likely need to rely more on running back CJ Anderson. Anderson became the starter for the Broncos in the final few weeks, and in games where the he had twenty or more attempts, the Broncos went 4-0. A reduced workload for Manning may result in another division title for Manning and the Broncos, but the Chargers are certainly talented enough to regain control of the division.

4. Baltimore Ravens (10-6): The Ravens passing game took a pretty sizable hit this past offseason by losing receivers Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones. Thus, more pressure will be put on "Cool Joe" Flacco offensively, as well as running back Justin Forsett, one of last year's breakout stars. Meanwhile, Baltimore's defense ranked sixth last season in terms of points allowed, fourth in rushing yards allowed, but just 23rd in passing yards allowed. Hopefully, the signing of cornerback Kyle Arrington will be able to help Baltimore's pass defense.

5. San Diego Chargers (11-5): The San Diego Chargers easily have the talent necessary to dethrone the broncos from atop the AFC West. First, quarterback Phillip Rivers is entering the last year of his contract, and will be looking to produce the same numbers he had at the start of the 2014 season. Second, the additions of rookie running back Melvin Gordon through the draft and wide receiver Jacoby Jones through free agency will add versatility to this offense that was not present last season. Don't be surprised if the Chargers make a run at one of the higher seeds in the playoffs this postseason.

6. Buffalo Bills (10-6): The Buffalo Bills are most definitely going to be a hit or miss team in 2015 with new head coach Rex Ryan at the helm. This Bills team is a slightly better version of the New York Jets team that went 4-12 last season: solid running game, talented defensive line, but no quarterback. The Bills managed to acquire All-Pro caliber running back LeSean McCoy who can hopefully take some pressure off of quarterbacks Matt Cassel and EJ Manuel.

Teams On the Bubble
Cincinnati Bengals: Have made the playoffs for four straight seasons, but the organization's confidence in quarterback Andy Dalton is beginning to fade

New York Jets: A great defensive line become even better with rookie Leonard Williams and a new head coach. But one can not put too much confidence in Geno Smith

Pittsburgh Steelers: Big Ben is now one year older, and the rookies that Pittsburgh drafted are unlikely to improve a relatively weak secondary.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Three Rookies Ready To Make An Impact On Offense

The NFL has a new crop of talent entering the league every single year. No one is claiming that the class of 2015 is one of the best ever, but there are a number of guys who could make an impact as a rookie. Here is a look at three to keep an eye on in fantasy football.

Jameis Winston
Other quarterback rookies are probably going to start at some point in 2015, but no one is in a better position than the #1 overall pick. Tampa Bay is going to allow him to learn on the job from day one. Even though they were awful last year, Winston knows that there is some talent on the team for a quick turnaround. He’s not going to be drafted like a starter in fantasy football, but he’s worthy of a backup role from Week 1. By the end of the season, he could have similar numbers to some of the more recent rookie quarterbacks.

Amari Cooper
No receiver was considered a safer pick coming out of college than Amari Cooper. Oakland knew that they had their options, but they decided to go with the Heisman finalist out of Alabama. The Raiders had a terrible passing game last year, but Cooper becomes a featured guy right away. People in fantasy football should keep that in consideration.

Melvin Gordon
Gordon wasn’t the first running back off the board in the draft, but he was the first healthy one. Couple that with him going to a team like San Diego that definitely needs a better running game, and you have perhaps the offensive rookie of the year in the NFL. At Wisconsin, he was a workhorse. San Diego could make him the #1 running back right away as well.


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX Recap: Patriots vs. Seahawks

Super Bowl XLIX had it all. Two of the NFL's most talented teams, a major storyline leading up to the Super Bowl in Deflategate, an aging quarterback looking to cement his legacy, a franchise trying to be the first team to win back-to-back Super Bowls in 10 years, and an all around great game that came down to the final seconds. Malcolm Butler's interception in the final minute of the game made Super Bowl XLIX the greatest Super Bowl game in the 49 year history of the event, as it completed a back and forth competition between the NFL's two biggest powerhouses.



Brady's Legacy
Coming into this game, Brady may have had three Super Bowl rings to put on his resume, but seeing how he was ten years removed from his last Super Bowl victory, and had suffered two losses in the Big Game since, the the glow of Brady's aura was beginning to fade. In fact, critics of the Patriots began to say things like "Brady hasn't won since Spygate" or "he can't win without cheating." And during the actual game, the Patriots were down by 10 points with 2 interceptions on the stat sheet for Brady. Yet all of a sudden, Brady capped off two excellent scoring drives to regain the lead for the Patriots with 2:02 left in the game, drives where Brady was 13-15, and he even completed all 8 of his passing attempts on the final drive. The comeback kid certainly needed a little bit of help from his teammates, as Malcolm Butler saved Brady and the Patriots with a game winning interception. As a result of this victory, Brady becomes just the third quarterback in NFL history to have four Super Bowl victories, but when taking into account Brady's longevity, incredible statistics, and six Super Bowl appearances, there is no doubt in my mind that Brady is the greatest quarterback in NFL history. I might even argue that he was one win away in 2007 from becoming the greatest player in NFL history, period. Best of all for Patriots fans, Brady's incredible career has the potential for more Super Bowl victories in the future.

Pete Carrell's Controversial Decision
With 26 second left in the game and three possible attempts for Seattle to score the game winning touchdown, Pete Carroll decided to attempt a pass towards undrafted receiver Ricardo Lockette, a pass that Malcolm Butler of the Patriots intercepted to seal Seattle's fate. Many fans argue that Carroll should have relied on their All-Pro running back, Marshawn Lynch, to punch in the game winning score, seeing how he managed to pick up positive yards on nearly every single rushing attempt during that game. Pete Carroll justified his decision by arguing the Patriots were utilizing their goal line defense, and even though he did not mention this, Marshawn Lynch was 1 for 5 on the year when it came to scoring from the one yard line. But at the end of the day, I side with Seahawks fans in saying Seattle needed to run with Marshawn on that second down play, where even if it failed, there was still a potential for two more plays at the one yard line.

Looking Ahead to Next Season
While it is unlikely that either team will go out into free agency and sign a star player, both the Patriots and Seahawks will need to resign several key players that played a vital role in leading them to the Super Bowl this past season. The AFC remains wide open in 2015, easy enough for New England to recapture their title as AFC Champion. Their success next season relies entirely upon whether or not they resign Darrelle Revis, the best cornerback in football. Other Patriots that may hit the market, including safety Devin McCourty and offensive lineman Dan Connolly, will need to be re-signed in order for the Pats to have a shot at a repeat. If New England goes on to restructure both Jerard Mayo and Vince Wilfork's contracts, they may even have a shot at picking up Larry Fitzgerald (if the rumors are true). As for the Seahawks, keeping running back Marshawn Lynch from retiring is 100% the main priority for the front office this offseason, seeing how he is the most important player on this roster. Yet when it comes to free agency, the Seahawks should do their best to keep guys like Jermain Kearse, Byron Maxwell, and Malcolm Smith on the depth chart next season. In conclusion, the Seahawks and the Patriots are both very likely to return to the Super Bowl next season.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX Pump Up Videos

With Super Bowl XLIX just hours away, we have combined the best arrangement of Super Bowl pump up videos into one post. These videos range from quarterback Tom Brady's career in the NFL, to a recap of the Seahawks' season synced to "Uptown Funk." Enjoy, and hear's to an exciting Super Bowl!















Saturday, January 31, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX Prediction: Seahawks vs. Patriots

For the second year in a row, the top seeds from each conference will play on football's biggest stage. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will play in their sixth Super Bowl since 2001, whereas third year quarterback Russell Wilson looks to become the first NFL franchise to win back-to-back Super Bowls since the Patriots did so in '03 and '04.
The Seahawks pulled off a miraculous comeback against the Packers in the NFC Championship Game, and despite Wilson's horrible performance at the start of the game, he is more than capable of extending a play with his sensational scrambling ability, as seen with the successful 2 point conversion ate in the 4th quarter. To make matters worse, the Patriots defense will have to deal with stopping Marshawn Lynch, a running back who is willing to sacrifice his body in order to gain a few extra yards.
The Patriots have a physical back of their own by the name of LeGarrette Blount, as seen with his incredible performance against the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship. Yet the patriots offense has earned a reputation throughout the years for their consistent passing game pioneered by future Hall of Famer Tom Brady. Brady appears to be one of the most driven players in football, and the fact that he has lost in his past two Super Bowl appearances certainly adds to the significance of Sunday's Game. Seattle's "Legion of Boom," a secondary consisting of players like Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, and Earl Thomas, will give Brady problems throughout the game, especially if they are capable of minimizing Rob Gronkowski's effect on the game.
Brady tends to struggle when facing pressure in the pocket, as seen with the two Super Bowls against the New York Giants. Seattle is quite possibly the most well-rounded team in NFL history considering everything that they bring to the table, and with a win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX, this "Legion of Boom" will be considered one of the greatest defensive units ever assembled.
Seahawks over Patriots: 24-20

Friday, January 2, 2015

2014-2015 Complete NFL Playoff Predictions

Wild Card Round

Steelers over Ravens: The Pittsburgh Steelers are an underdog to upset either the Broncos or the Patriots to win the AFC Championship Game. Big Ben and the Steelers tend to step up their game when it comes to the postseason, and even if star running back Le'Veon Bell is not healthy for Sunday's game, Antonio Brown and the passing game can carry the weight of this team. The Baltimore Ravens are also sneaky in the postseason, but Joe Flacco and the Ravens have been much too inconsistent this season.
Colts over Bengals: Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis is capable of creating solid teams during the regular season, yet he remains winless in five postseason appearances, where his starting quarterback Andy Dalton has 1 touchdown, 6 interceptions, and a passer rating of 56.2 in the playoffs. There is no way that Cincy can march into Indianapolis and stop Andrew Luck in the Colts this postseason.

Cowboys over Lions: Tony Romo has gained a bad rap for his performance in the playoffs, but this Dallas Cowboys team seems much more talented than Dallas teams from the past. DeMarco Murray is well deserving of the league's MVP award (1,845 yards, 13 touchdowns), seeing how he is a major reason behind this year's success. Tony Romo also had a historic month of December, with 12 touchdowns and only 1 interception on his resume. Meanwhile, Matthew Stafford is 0-16 when playing winning teams on the road. Dallas will likely move on to play Green Bay in the Divisional Round.

Panthers over Cardinals: Had Carson Palmer remained healthy throughout the duration of the regular season and into the playoffs, the Arizona Cardinals could have locked up home field during the postseason; however, that is not the case, and Ryan Lindley, the third string quarterback, will start against Carolina. While I don't like either team in this situation, Cam Newton and the Panthers seem like the better choice seeing how they are playing in their home stadium.

Divisional Round

Patriots over Colts: Tom Brady and the New England Patriots had a slow start to the year, but eventually went on a hot streak that included a dominant win over Indy on the road. The Pats are 3-0 against Andrew Luck, including another dominant win over the Colts in the Divisional Round. The Patriots could have the most talented New England team in recent memory, and are going to have no problem winning at home against the Colts.

Steelers over Broncos: At this point in time, Bell will be completely healthy, and thus, the Pittsburgh Steelers offense will be more than ready to upset the Denver Broncos in this divisional round game. Come January, Denver will likely be below freezing, which means Peyton Manning's struggles throughout December will continue into the playoffs.
Seahawks over Panthers: Even though the Panthers managed to make it to the second round in the playoffs, there is absolutely no chance that Cam Newton can upset the Seattle Seahawks in Seattle. The Seahawks defense has returned to their Super Bowl winning form as of late, and the offense certainly makes this team a favorite to win the Super Bowl.

Packers over Cowboys: Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers managed to win the NFC North title on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field, and as the Dallas Cowboys--a team that tends to play indoors--travels into Wisconsin in January, it seems rather unlikely that the Cowboys will be able to upset the Packers on the road.

Championship Round

Patriots over Steelers: If Le'Veon Bell is entirely healthy at this point in time, the Steelers offense will certainly provide problems for the Patriots run defense. On the other hand, Big Ben will have problems finding the open receiver with Antonio Brown and Martavias Bryant being covered by Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner respectively. Plus, the Pittsburgh pass defense ranks 27th in the league, which will allow Tom Brady to consistently put up points on the scoreboard.
Seahawks over Packers: In the first game of the season, Seattle already trounced Rodgers and the Packers by a score of 36-16, and even though both teams are incredibly talented, it will be extremely difficult for Rodgers to go into Seattle and upset the Seahawks. Had this game been played in Green Bay, a different team would have been named champion of the NFC.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

NFL Midseason Predictions: Super Bowl Update

While the final seeding for the playoffs is hazy, it becomes easier to predict the teams who will earn a spot in the postseason by the halfway point of the season. At this point in time, the Seahawks, 49ers, and Saints are all on track to miss the postseason, whereas the Bills, Cardinals, and Cowboys are all projected to finish the regular season with a spot in the playoffs. While this is certain to change, the NFL is not surprising in that there will always be surprises. At the beginning of the season, we predicted the New England Patriots to beat Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers by a final score of 24-23. While we still believe that the Patriots will make an appearance in the Super Bowl (if, and only if, Rob Gronkowski is healthy throughout the playoffs), we are changing the NFC Champion after watching football for the past 8 weeks from San Fran to the Green Bay Packers. Now, let's go into further detail regarding this quarterback battle for the ages, as well as predicting the new champions of football.

Patriots Offense
Tom Brady experienced a statistically historic October. With Rob Gronkowski returning from injury at the start of the season, the Patriots offense has gradually improved over the course of the year. Julian Edelman remains Tom Brady’s favorite target, but Bill Belicheck is slowly increasing Gronk’s workload in the offense, which is directly proportional to the Patriots improving record overtime. Recently acquired targets Brandon LaFell and Tim Wright have both had their bright spots in 2014, and it will be interesting to see how the fare later in the season. While running back Steven Ridley may be out for the rest of the season, Jonas Gray and Shane Vereen have stepped up nicely to fill the void.
Packers Offense
While the Packers are not currently atop the NFC North standings right now, Green Bay is always a threat to win the division as long as Aaron Rodgers is leading this offense. Wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are both experiencing incredible seasons thus far, where Cobb is averaging one touchdown per game. Running back Eddie Lacy is experiencing a down year as of this point in time, but seeing how outstanding his season was in 2013, we at least understand that the potential to do well is present.

Patriots Defense
The New England Patriots secondary might just be the best we've seen from head coach Bill Belichick since he took over for the Patriots nearly 15 years ago. Darrelle Revis is beginning to look like his former self, and fellow cornerback Brandon Browner has already recorded 6 tackles and an interception. While Jerard Mayo's injury will be significant in the long run, the Patriots certainly managed to shut down the Denver Broncos offense last week. The win over Denver was even without their best pass rusher Chandler Jones, but luckily, he will be ready to go come playoff time.

Packers Defense
The Green Bay Packers run defense currently ranks dead last in the entire National Football League. There are currently several big names on this defensive roster, such as Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, and AJ Hawk, who are all very talented defensive players, but clearly, they add little to the run defense.  Meanwhile, the secondary is incredibly youthful, where four out of the five members of the secondary are 25 years old or younger. Yet clearly, it has paid off, seeing how they rank eighth in passing yards allowed, as well as fourth in passing touchdowns allowed.

Quarterback Tom Brady is on a mission to win his fourth Super Bowl after losing in both 2007 and 2011. The New England Patriots showed they are capable of limiting great quarterbacks, as seen with the game against Denver, so count on Bill Belichick on creating a game plan meant to suppress Aaron Rodgers as much as possible. Meanwhile, Tom Brady will be able to pick away at this young Green Bay secondary, as New England manages to win their fourth Super Bowl in 14 years.
Patriots over Packers 30-27 

2014-2015 Start 'Em Sit 'Em (Week 10)

Start 'Em:

Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons - Remember what happened last time Matt Ryan faced the Buccaneers defense - he threw for 286 yards and three touchdowns and had to be pulled in the second half before he could hand out even more of a beating. Sure, Ryan's looked increasingly worse after that game, but he still is yet to have less than ten fantasy points in a game. Also, the Buccaneers pass defense has actually continued to go downhill since that Thursday night game in week three. Start Ryan this week and your setting yourself up for a low risk high reward scenario. I like that.

Ronnie Hillman, RB, Denver Broncos - Some may wonder why I have Hillman on this list considering he's been a top ten running back over the past few weeks. Others will remember that Montee Ball is supposed to return to the Broncos' offense this week, which would result in a decreased workload for Hillman. However, to those of you who are worried about the return of Ball, I urge you to ignore your instincts this week and start Hillman, who, in my opinion, has completely won over the Broncos' organization and will still see a huge role in the offense. Additionally, Hillman gets to go up against the putrid Raiders defense that has given up nine rushing touchdowns in just eight games this year.

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina Panthers - I like the way the Eagles' defense has played this year, especially up front, but they still have a huge weakness, and that's dealing with big athletic wide receivers. Kelvin Benjamin, is exactly that, a big athletic wide receiver, and should absolutely torch Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher on Monday night. Don't be thrown off by his poor showings the last two weeks - Benjamin is starting quality this week.

Sit 'Em:

Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions - Picking Stafford here is tough because he is getting back Megatron and Reggie Bush this week, but it's all about matchup. The Lions face the Dolphins, who have been the toughest fantasy matchup for quarterbacks and have been on an absolute roll recently, only allowing 14 total points against in the last three weeks. Love the situation, but hate the matchup, and ultimately I think the poor matchup will win out.

Chris Ivory, RB, New York Jets - Ivory only got eight carries for a measly twenty two yards last week against the Chiefs, which is concerning for this week's game against the Steelers. It is very likely that the Jets will find themselves down early and will end up airing out the ball much more than Ivory fantasy owners would want. Honestly, another single digit carry game is a large possibility, and unless Ivory gets a touchdown, that's not going to get it done. Even though there are a lot of running back byes this week, I'd recommend you try to get Ivory out of your starting lineup for the time being.

Michael Floyd, WR, Arizona Cardinals - Carson Palmer's return for the Cardinals has spelled disaster for Floyd, as he only has four catches for 36 yards in his last two games while John Brown and Larry Fitzgerald have flourished. Floyd does have an alright matchup against the Rams this week, but would be an incredibly risky start seeing as the only way he's going to score points is on the deep ball.

Friday, October 31, 2014

NFL Midseason Predictions: Awards

As we reach the halfway point of the regular season, the future of the 2014 NFL season is beginning to take shape. Certain players in the league have been extraordinary through Week 8, where the clear cut choice for MVP as of right now would be DeMarco Murray. Other players are certainly in the mix as well, including Peyton Manning, JJ Watt, and Andrew Luck. In this post, we will make predictions as to who will be taking home each of the seven awards on night before the Super Bowl.

Awards:
Most Valuable Player: RB DeMarco Murray: As of the halfway point of the season, DeMarco Murray has already recorded 1,054 yards, 7 touchdowns, and 5.1 yards per carry. Murray is the main reason behind the Cowboys' massive turnaround, as he is on track to smash Eric Dickerson's single season by nearly 100 yards.

Offensive Player of the Year: RB DeMarco Murray: DeMarco Murray is on track to have one of the greatest seasons by a running back in NFL history. With the Dallas Cowboys atop the NFC East, Murray's performance has made them a serious contender for a postseason bid.

Defensive Player of the Year: DE JJ Watt: Through the first 8 games of the season, JJ Watt has recorded 7 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 interception, 6 putdowns, and 2 total touchdowns (1 on offense, 1 on defense). These numbers are worthy of the MVP Award, yet I'm sure he wouldn't mind settling for Defensive Player of the Year.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: WR Sammy Watkins: While Sammy Watkins started off the season slowly, his past two games have been absolutely incredible, where he totaled 279 yards with 3 touchdowns. While it will be difficult to replicate such incredible performances, Watkins is bound to play to his true potential in the second half of the season.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: CJ Mosley: The Alabama alum has been spectacular though the past 8 games, already recording 76 tackles, 1 forced fumble, and 2 interceptions. Mosley's well rounded season is likely to continue until Week 16, as he is certainly the strongest candidate for this award.

Coach of the Year: Chip Kelly: While Bruce Arians appears to be the front runner for this award as of right now, by the end of the season, we predict Chip Kelly to win Coach of the year Award. The Eagles are half a game behind the Cowboys, and though their schedule is not easy, Bruce Arians and the Cardinals will have a horrendously difficult schedule to end the season.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

2014-2015 Start 'Em Sit 'Em (Week 8)

Start 'Em:

Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs - Smith's seemingly unshakeable label as a "game manager" tends to keep him out of most fantasy football lineups. However, he has a great matchup this week against the Rams' defense and has been a remarkably solid fantasy performer thus far this year. Smith rarely throws interceptions and has a reputable 9 touchdowns over 6 games to this point. There are certainly quarterbacks who would deserve to start over Smith, but if you're in a position where you have been rotating quarterbacks week to week, Smith may be your man.

Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints - Ingram won't have inspired confidence in fantasy owners with his very poor showing last week, but you have to understand that he likely wasn't yet 100 percent. With a likelihood for more touches, and more effective touches at that, as well as a favorable matchup against a Packers' defense that has been fairly porous against the run, you would expect Ingram to have a good fantasy performance this week.

Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle Seahawks - Baldwin has already had his breakout week, with a monster performance last week against the Rams, so this may seem like an easy pick, but it's just too perfect a scenario for me to pass up. Baldwin is now the only qualified receiver on the Seahawks' depth chart, and he goes up against a Panthers' defense that has struggled to contain opposing wideouts. Additionally, you can be sure that Seattle will be playing angry after last week's loss at St. Louis, and will likely come out swinging. This week may prove to be the perfect storm for Baldwin, who should absolutely be in your starting lineup this week.

Sit 'Em:

Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals - I hate to tell you to sit Dalton for the second time in the last few weeks, but I absolutely hate his matchup with the Ravens this week. Dalton proved last week how vulnerable he can be without his number one target, A.J. Green, and this week he'll be without Green again. He also goes up against a Ravens' defense that has been pretty impressive thus far, and did well against Dalton in week one with the exception of one long touchdown pass to the aforementioned A.J. Green. Sorry Bengals fans, but Dalton is a definite sit this week.

Anthony Dixon, RB, Buffalo Bills - There's lots that would point to Dixon having a good week this week, as both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller are injured, making him the only serviceable back on the roster. However, he has a horrible matchup against a Jets run defense that is one of the best in the league. One would expect the Bills to keep the ball in the air on Sunday, so Dixon may not really get a chance to have an impact.

Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons - White blew up against the Ravens last week, but he has a much tougher matchup against the Lions' pass defense this week. Even though I believe White may be a good fantasy option by the end of the season, its unlikely that he'll be able to replicate his performance against the Ravens - there's just too much inconsistency right now with White. He may be worth flex consideration, but the reality is, there are other options at the position right now that will likely be better this week.