Thursday, October 31, 2013

Best Photos of the World Series

Here are some of our favorite pictures from the World Series, in which we correctly predicted the winner of all 6 games! Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox!

Heisman Watch (Week 10)

A shallow foray into the plethora of college football coverage out there (googling "Heisman watch") quickly reveals the flavor of our Heisman week after last Saturday, a day where the top 5 or so prospects shined, some on bigger stages than others. AJ McCarron is finally making some noise, proving my point that for a quarterback candidate (so, any candidate) team success is almost as important as the numbers. There's a new guy who's cracked my list here, hello Bryce Petty, and though he has yet to prove himself in a big game he'll shortly be getting the call, which should be fun to watch. Without further ado…

1) Marcus Mariota had an off week, I'll be the first to admit. I had him pegged for 400 yards through the air against the Bruins last Saturday, but he fell back to earth with a mediocre 21-28 for 230 yards passing yards, with 1 TD and nothing really going on the ground. That being said, you don't lose Heisman races with average performances, and we can look at what Mariota didn't do: He didn't turn the ball over in a big game, and he didn't lose. In fact, he won big, a 42-14 stomping over the much lauded Bruin defense. Without a bad performance, I can't bring myself to drop the Hawaiian from my one spot, keeping my eye on his so far video-game like numbers. Numbers like 2281 yards through the air, 20 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions through 8 games. Oregon remains unbeaten, and two studly running backs (DeAnthony Thomas and Byron Marshall, who combined for five TD's last week) will keep the pressure off Mariota, allowing him to go deep for big plays and run the ball a fair amount (we know Heisman voters love their dual threat QB's) As long as Oregon is winning big, (and they don't look like they're planning on stopping)  Mariota will reign supreme. Back to my theory that a winning team will keep it's quarterback in the Heisman picture, even after an off day.

2) Jameis Winston had a 35 point first quarter against the Wolfpack. Now had NCST looked like anything but a half decent middle school flag football team out there, Winston would be getting more praise and we would be hearing more about his deserving the #1 ranking. However the Wolfpack could have run their cheerleaders out there to show some proper tackling technique, and so this week, tough luck Jameis, but you stay in the two hole. Winston gets the opportunity this week in a huge game against #7 Miami (almost everyone else will be at home, watching during a bye week, including Mariota) so check next week to see if these two have traded places. Winston has already stepped up big against Clemson, but this game is, if possible, as important. An in state traditional rival, a top 10 team, a big conference matchup… Keep in mind as well that almost every other team in the top 10 has a bye week, and so all eyes on famous Jameis this Saturday. He could very well have his (second) Heisman moment.

3) AJ McCarron: I am not a huge fan of McCarron, but at this point you have to hand it to the guy. He's the leader of what is really looking like an unstoppable team. Alabama will play in the national championship this year, and chances are McCarron will win his third national title. No wonder his girlfriend's… well… 3 national titles! Just the sound of that makes you imagine sports center exploding. Here come the dynasty montages, here comes the historical perspective, here come the interviews, and more interviews, and more montages, the "Best Ever?" tab on the left hand side of the screen...but I digress. McCarron has looked like an NFL quarterback this year, simply put, against for the most part very impressive SEC defenses. With a great receiving core at his disposal (see an earlier article) and every quarterback's best friend in TJ Yeldon (money sign double throat slash), McCarron has clawed himself into this race. He's still about 400 passing yards short of making my top spot, but as the big no doubter wins pile up, we have to ask "how much longer can he not be in the conversation?"

4) Johnny Manziel had some choice words last Saturday on the Jumbotron down in College Station this week, (really? Tiger Woods? Did anyone else find that kind of strange?) but Heisman voters will grudgingly give him this: the kid can play. No matter what he does off the field, short of second degree murder, he will remain on the field, and when he's on the field there's a sense that anything can happen. This is why he's so much fun to watch. He dazzled again against Vanderbilt this week, a nice 53 spot which featured 4 touchdowns.  However with 2 losses, (in which he scored a combined 83 points against Alabama and Auburn defenses) his team has dragged him almost out of the race. Some people still love the kid for number one, but for me you need to be leading your team to undefeated greatness. Many would disagree with that standard, but when there are Marcus Mariota's and Jameis Winston's out there, I know who goes in my top spots.

5) Bryce Petty: Here's an easy way to drag yourself into the national conversation: Score an average 63.7 points a game. The junior quarterback down in Baylor has long had reason to quietly raise his hand and ask why he isn't being talked about, but apparently one Heisman quarterback from Baylor is enough for the next several years. Petty had big shoes (or big socks) to fill after RGIII's Heisman career at Baylor, but he has proved he's more than up to the task. For now, this guy still isn't in the elite category simply because his schedule has been softer than mashed potatoes, but he must be licking his chops: The next 3 weeks (after a bye this time around) bring Baylor some real football teams, in #13 Oklahoma, #15 Texas Tech, and #18 Oklahoma State. The entire Bears team has been waiting for these three games, to put on an offensive show like they are capable of, but in particular this is Petty's time to step up. If he does, I don't know what will do in the BCS or the Heisman conversation.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Boston Red Sox 2013 World Series Champions!

Breaking News: The Boston Red Sox are now World Series champions, after beating the St Louis Cardinals 6-1 in the sixth game of the 2013 World Series. This win for Boston is their eighth World Series title in franchise history, and their third in nine years. David Ortiz will likely be named MVP of the Series, but players such as Shane Victorino and Koji Uehara were key contributors to Boston's success in this series. Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox, especially after the tragic events that took place at the Boston Marathon. Boston Strong!

MLB Award Predictions

As the season comes to a close it's time for baseball experts around the country to make their decisions for awards. Here are our predictions for who will take home the hardware.

Rookie of the Year:

Who will win? Wil Myers
Who should win? Wil Myers
Runner-up? Jose Iglesias
Top 5? Myers, Iglesias, Chris Archer, Dan Straily, Cody Allen

Despite joining the Rays in mid-June, Myers led all rookies with 53 RBI to accompany his 13 homers. Jose Iglesias is the only other rookie that stands out in the American League but a lack of offensive prowess will hurt Iglesias in the vote department. Chris Archer, Dan Straily and Cody Allen round out the top 5.

Who will win? Jose Fernandez
Who should win? Jose Fernandez
Runner-up? Yasiel Puig
Top 5? Fernandez, Puig, Ryu, Shelby Miller, Julio Teheran

The biggest name in this category is rookie sensation Yasiel Puig. After joining the Dodgers in early June, Puig went on a 4 month tear that the Dodgers rode right into the playoffs. Puig annihilated NL pitching, batting .319 with 19 homers and 11 SB in just 104 games. The most deserving rookie, however, is clearly Marlins starter Jose Fernandez. Fernandez was one of the best pitchers in baseball over the past few months of the season and finished with a 2.19 ERA with 12 wins on an atrocious Marlins squad. He had 187 K's in just 172 IP as well. While the argument for both candidates is strong, Fernandez will win the ROY.

Cy Young:

Who will win? Max Scherzer
Who should win? Max Scherzer
Runner up? Koji Uehara
Top 5? Scherzer, Uehara, Darvish, Felix Hernandez, Anibal Sanchez

The AL Cy Young race will be one of the most interesting races to watch. Max Scherzer is the favorite to win the award and he certainly deserves it, going 21-3 with 240 K's for the Tigers. The race gets interesting after that. With no clear favorite for runner up, we predict Koji Uehara will sneak his way into the spot. Uehara had the single best season from a reliever ever and his stats reflect it. From the time he took over the closer role in June until the end of the season, Uehara let up just 3 earned runs. 3. At one point during the stretch, Uehara retired 37 straight batters, shattering the previous record.

Who will win? Clayton Kershaw
Who should win? Clayton Kershaw
Runner-up? Matt Harvey
Top 5? Kershaw, Harvey, Fernandez, Adam Wainwright, Zack Greinke

Kershaw is the clear candidate for Cy Young this year. He was undoubtedly the best pitcher in the MLB this season, throwing 236 innings while maintaining a measly 1.83 ERA along with his 16 wins. Kershaw will look to win the award for the second time in 3 years. As for runner up, Matt Harvey seems to be the most logical choice. Harvey was dominant this season before injuring himself in September, holding opposing hitters to a 2.35 ERA while winning 9 games with little run support. ROY candidate Jose Fernandez, Adam Wainwright and Zack Greinke close out the contenders.

Most Valuable Player:

Who will win? Miguel Cabrera
Who should win? Miguel Cabrera
Runner-up? Chris Davis
Top 5? Cabrera, Davis, Mike Trout, Josh Donaldson, Koji Uehara

After his historic 2012 campaign, Cabrera put up nearly identical numbers in 2013. Chris Davis broke out this season, hitting 53 home runs with 138 RBI, and we predict that he will be the runner up for the MVP. After that the race is a toss-up but we predict that Mike Trout, Josh Donaldson and Koji Uehara will round out the top 5. Max Scherzer and Robinson Cano could also be in the mix.

Who will win? Andrew McCutchen
Who should win? Clayton Kershaw
Runner-up? ClaytonKershaw
Top 5? McCutchen, Kershaw, Carlos Gomez, Paul Goldschmidt, Freddie Freeman

The NL MVP is truly a toss-up between McCutchen and Kershaw. While both put up worthy numbers, we feel that Kershaw was more valuable to his team and should win the award over McCutchen. We predict, however, that the voters will give the title to McCutchen. Part of this is due to the Pirates historic season but McCutchen's numbers certainly help as well. He hit .317 with 21 homers during the season along with 27 SB and 84 RBI. After McCutchen and Kershaw, we predict that Carlos Gomez, Paul Goldschmidt and Freddie Freeman will round out the top 5.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Top 10 Fantasy Football Team Names

In fantasy football, fielding a successful team is always difficult, however, what may be even more difficult is giving that team a name.  See, this name has to be clever, witty, concise, and punny; a group of characteristics that can be nearly impossible to accomplish.  Fear not, though, because here is a list of my top ten fantasy football team names that will make your friends question how such a boring guy like you could come up with such a hysterical team name.

10. Newton's Laws of Physics
No, not Isaac Newton, Cam Newton, who seems to play by his own theory of general relativity when scrambling outside of the pocket.  The 6'5" Panthers quarterback is nearly impossible to take down, and you could be too if you choose this as your team name.

9. Foster: Australian for Touchdown
Ripping off of the slogan for the Australian beer "Foster's," this name, though not the most original, will certainly earn you a couple of laughs.  Unfortunately, you may be wishing the name provided more truth, for Foster only has a measly one rushing touchdown on the year.

8. Rice Rice Baby
Alright stop, collaborate and listen,
Rice is back capturing the nation,
Something grabs ahold of him tightly,
Escape from defenders daily and nightly,
Will he ever stop? Yo - I don't know,
Fourth and 29, he won't slow,
To the extreme a defender he tramples,
Light up the field, the opposing team is dismantled.

7. Shake and Tate
When Ricky Bobby and Cal Naughton Jr. tore up the racetrack in "Talladega Nights," their catchy motto was "Shake and Bake."  When you tear up your fantasy league, you will also need a catchy team name, and what better than "Shake and Tate."  The only thing that would make this better is if Ben Tate (or Golden/Brandon) was a legitimate fantasy football option.

6. Fantasy Football is My Forte
Any team name that uses the "Forte" pun is a solid one, but this is my favorite.  Perhaps being the most practical of any on this list, it screams "I'm a fantasy football stud so get out of my way."

5. Too Legit to Britt
If Kenny Britt is on your fantasy team, you probably should quit fantasy football and pick up a different hobby.  However, I could not resist adding this awesome name to the list, as any team that is "Too Legit to Quit" deserves to be top of the league in my book.

4. My Vick in a Box
Does it have anything to do with football? No. Is it still a hilarious reference to the song by Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg? Yes.  Sometimes, you don't need a practical name, as long as it is as laugh-inducing as this one.

3. The Luckness Monsters
If you have Andrew Luck on your team, you're doing things right.  Having gotten off to a good start, Luck is certainly going to help your team gobble up the opposition, much like the Lockness Monster would (see what I did there).

2. RG-3PO
Whoever thought up this name is a genius.  This combination of Robert Griffin III's nickname, RG3, and the robot in Star Wars, C-P30, is almost too clever.  The only thing holding that is holding RG-3PO back is Robert Griffin's poor fantasy season so far.

1. Taste Dwayne Bowe
I could have gone with "Somewhere Over the Dwayne Bowe," but that's too mainstream, and this name is a rip off of the hilarious Skittles "Taste the Rainbow" add campaign.  Dwayne Bowe isn't exactly the type of player that you want to name your team after.  However, when you can tell your opposition to "Taste the Dwayne Bowe," it doesn't really matter how good the player actually is.

College Football Power Rankings (Week 10)

After a week of bizarre upsets (with 5 teams in the top 10 losing) some order was restored last Saturday, as favorites rolled and everyone else sputtered along. A couple of teams unused to top 10 status were knocked back down to their rightful spots (Missouri and Texas Tech) and in all it was a more or less predictable set of games. I suppose game 3 of the fall classic used up all of the ridiculousness in sports allowed for one day… but I digress.
Easily the enjoyable race to watch this year has become the matchup between FSU and Oregon. Both have young QB's dominating the Heisman conversation, and both are desperate for big wins to push them into the 2 slot, battling for the opportunity to pit their considerable talent against that perennial behemoth, the mighty Crimson Tide. The BCS and the AP poll last week were divided, with the computers preferring the Seminoles by a shade. Every week the 2 and 3 rankings seem like a toss-up, but personally I am going with the Ducks in the two hole after a nice, "cute, but we're the big boys of the Pac 12"message sending type of win over the straight-out-of-highschool Bruins.

1. Alabama: People forget what an impressive receiving core AJ McCarron has at his disposal: not a single player graduated at wide receiver last year, and several studs returned from an injury plagued 2012, possibly rendering WR the Tide's deepest position this year. It really seems like they never run out of weapons, from true-sophomore sensation Amari Cooper (5 receptions for 75 yards and a TD) to Kevin Norwood (6 receptions for 112 yards) to DeAndrew White and Kenny Bell, how on earth do you defend a team that can hurt you in so many ways? Tennessee would have liked to have found the answer to that question. Of course I couldn't write about Bama without mentioning TJ Yeldon and his 3 TD's yesterday, the latest in a dynasty of great running backs. To those who toy with the idea of dethroning Alabama from the 1 spot, I say these guys aren't going anywhere, except the national championship in January.

2. Oregon: The Oregon Ducks had me worried, I'll admit, when they went into the half tied at 14. Both of UCLA's touchdowns came off of big defensive plays, however, and it was that half of the Bruin team that kept them in the game. When Brett Hundley's offense couldn't buy a first down in the second half, Oregon ran wild on the Bruins and the game quickly got out of hand, ending 42-14, shockingly close to my prediction of, I believe, 45-10 last week. However, I was way off in one respect: I called Mariota to have a monster game, and he really didn't. It was the return of DeAnthony Thomas, not to mention Byron Marshall's 3 TD's on the ground that proved decisive here. But Mariota's mediocre 230 yard day actually revealed a further strength about this squad. If their remarkable quarterback is having his brand of off day, they will hurt you badly on the ground. They did this against a previously vaunted UCLA run defense. You need a balanced team to win big, and the Ducks proved without a doubt that they have just that.

3. Florida St: I got excited when I tuned to FSU vs. NCST, ready for a big day from my now favorite Heisman candidate. I was keeping tabs on other games, but each time I changed the channel back, I saw the 'Noles put up another TD, until by the end, Winston had 3 TD's and his offense had 35 points. The end of the first quarter, that is. Yes, in 15 minutes, the Seminoles scored 5 times, 2 TD's being beautiful 40 yard passes to the end zone, Winston's big moments. This 49-17 rout of a truly pathetic tackling Wolfpack didn't say much about the Seminoles, except perhaps that they appreciate their former head coach. But with sixth ranked Miami next week, it's good to see they didn't lose sight of the present. That's a great game coming up, by the way, the ACC is back!

4. Ohio St: Ok, pass the humble pie please. I was not a huge fan of the Buckeyes this year, and after two lackluster wins over bad opponents, I picked them to be upset by Penn St. this week, in my one unorthodox call. Plenty of good teams were losing to bad ones, the Nittany Lions were coming off a bye (and before that an emotional 4 OT win over the Wolverines)… all the stars seemed aligned for Urban Meyer's squad to tumble, finally. My hunch proved slightly incorrect. The only thing upset in this game was Penn St. freshman Christian Hackenburg's balance, as he was sacked 4 times in a lopsided 63-14 loss, Penn St.'s worst in over 100 years. OSU proved superiority in every sense, playing a great physical brand of football. 238 lb RB Carlos Hyde moves like he's 30 lbs smaller, and he kept up his impressive streak of games with another 2 TD's. Braxton Miller was phenomenal despite a slight injury scare, running for 2 touchdowns and passing for 3. No big deal, as OSU finally gets the statement win they were looking for.

5. Baylor: Another week, another 60 spot from the boys in green. To be exact, they are averaging 63.9 points a game, led by junior QB Bryce Petty. In less than 3 quarters (saving his arm, perhaps, for a big home game against Oklahoma next week) he threw for 430 yards, 3 touchdowns and ran for another against the Kansas defense, this week's victims to the sports car/tank that is the Baylor offense. They took two series to warm up, but boy, when they get going there is very little that gets in their way. Of course, the cupcake schedule so far for the Bears has set them against everything short of a Pop Warner team, but still, to put up the type of numbers this team puts up every week is shocking. Thankfully, they will face 3 ranked opponents in the next 3 weeks, and if they win those 3 convincingly, I do not know what we'll do at the top of the rankings. The playoff can't come soon enough… but for now, the Bears can worry about #9 Oklahoma, #15 Texas Tech, and #12 Oklahoma St. They are probably relishing the chance to prove themselves against 3 legit squads. Three great games are coming our way from this Baylor team, but that's my next article.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

OPINION: Allen Craig call

As nearly everyone knows, a controversial play ended game 3 of the World Series. First, here is the video for people who have yet to see the play. As you can clearly see, a collision occurred at 3rd base. Will Middlebrooks certainly raised his legs as Craig was making his way to home plate. Whether the contact was on purpose or an accident we will never know. What we do know is that in the MLB rulebook, rule 7.06b clearly states that "Under rule 7.06(b) when the ball is not dead on obstruction and an obstructed runner advances upon the base which, in the umpires judgement, he would have been awarded because of being obstructed, he does so at his own peril and may be tagged out." This rule perfectly describes the sequence that occurred on the play. Don't get me wrong, interference could have been called on the play. Jim Joyce, the 3rd base ump, certainly had a tough call to make and it was basically a judgement call. Was Craig in the baseline? Maybe. Was there anything that Middlebrooks could have done to avoid contact on the play? No. But one thing is for sure, Craig should not have been awarded home as a result of the play. Had Craig not continued home on the play, he would have been awarded home and the game would have been over. Instead, he proceeded to run home and was thrown out at the play. As rule 7.06(b) clearly states, Craig was running at "his own peril". What would have happened in extras is a mystery, but it is clear that the Red Sox should have at least had the opportunity to win this game.

Start 'Em, Sit 'Em (Week 8)

Start 'Em:
Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills
Fred Jackson has dominated the Bill's backfield despite having to share carries with C.J. Spiller all season.  Now, imagine the game that Jackson could have with Spiller completely out of the picture.  Though he did have an injury scare last week, Jackson is second to none when it comes to toughness.  Expect Jackson to get into the end zone at least once against a poor Saints defense.

Terrance Williams, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Having solidified his spot as Tony Romo's second favorite wide receiver, Williams should be worthy of a flex spot in your team this week with a good matchup against the Detroit Lions.  In a game that is destined to be a shootout, Williams will receive more than enough passes to have a significant fantasy game.

Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
If Vick is able to go this week (which seems likely), he should have a field day against the Giant's weak secondary.  The giants defense has allowed the third most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this year, and many of those games came against quarterbacks with a lower pedigree than Vick (see Alex Smith and Nick Foles).  Though his run game will likely be limited this week, Vick has the arm to put up great numbers nonetheless.

Sit 'Em:
Steven Jackson, RB, Atlanta Falcons
If you are a Steven Jackson owner, you're probably thrilled to insert him into your lineup after being injured for the last four weeks, but not so fast.  First off, Jackson is going up against a tough Arizona run defense that has allowed the sixth fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs.  Also, Jacquizz Rodgers has performed admirably in Jackson's absence, especially in the passing game.  Rodgers should be on the field for nearly every passing down which will certainly work to limit the effect that Steven Jackson could have on this game.  Lastly, you have to remember that Jackson is an old-ish running back and the Falcons will probably look to ease him back into the offense after his injury.  When taking all of this into consideration, it is clear that Jackson should not be in your lineup this week.

Geno Smith, QB, New York Jets
Smith has been very inconsistent this year, but recently he has been much improved from his horrid start.  Last week against a decent Patriot's defense, Smith had a very good game, but the Pat's mediocre pass rush is nothing compared to what the Bengals have up front.  Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins, James Harrison, and Vontaze Burfict will put pressure on Smith all game long and will likely take him out of his comfort zone.  Unless you are in a two quarterback league, leave Smith on your bench this week.

Harry Douglas, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Douglas seems like a good fantasy start this week, coming off of a huge game and being Matt Ryan's favorite target (now that White and Jones are injured).  However, Douglas will be blanketed by Arizona's Patrick Peterson and the Falcons will likely be playing run-out-the-clock for much of the second half.  Don't be fooled by Douglas' breakout week 7, as he should be falling back to earth in week 8.

Week 8 Predictions

Game to Watch: Redskins @ Broncos: The Denver Broncos were handed their first loss of 2013 season by the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday Night Football, and now they have a chance to redeem themselves this week at home against Washington. The Washington Redskins (soon to be the Washington Bravehearts??) are 2-5, and a key factor of Washington's poor play is that quarterback Robert Griffin III does not look the same since his injury in the 2012 NFL Playoffs. Luckily for Redskins fans, RGIII is coming off of a dominant performance in Week 7, as  Washington's offense scored 45 points in a win over the Bears. The Denver Broncos incredible offense will create problems for Washington's struggling defense, as this game is sure to be high scoring.
Broncos over Redskins 34-23

Stand Out Performance: RB Jamaal Charles: The Kansas City Chiefs are 7-0, as they look to be 8-0 for the first time since 2003. The success of the Chief's offense relies heavily on running back Jamaal Charles, who is just one rushing touchdown away from tying his career high . At this rate, Charles is on pace to rush for 1,280 yards with 14 rushing touchdowns in 2013. Tomorrow, Charles and the Chiefs will play the Cleveland Browns, a defense that has struggled to stop the run. Charles is going to make his fantasy owners very happy with this Sunday's performance.
RB Jamaal Charles: 120 yards, 2 total TDs

Player to Watch: TE Rob Gronkowski: The New England Patriots have been missing a healthy Rob Gronkowski from their lineup for almost a full year. Gronk made his return last week against the New York Jets, as he recorded 114 receiving yards in an overtime loss to the Jets. The Patriots will try to successfully incorporate Gronkowski into their lineup so that the Patriots may return to their winning form. Once Belicheck and the coaching staff are able to figure out their plans with Gronk, the Patriots offense has the potential to be one of the best in the league once again.
TE Rob Gronkowski: 105 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD

Week 8 Predictions:

Panthers over Buccaneers

49ers over Jaguars

Chiefs over Browns

Patriots over Dolphins

Lions over Cowboys

Saints over Bills

Eagles over Giants

Bengals over Jets

Steelers over Raiders

Cardinals over Falcons

Broncos over Redskins

Packers over Vikings

Seahawks over Rams

Last Week: 9-6
2013 Season: 71-35 (66.9%)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Top 5 Fantasy Wide Receivers

It is truly a golden age for the wide receiver position in the NFL right now.  With more than 15 top-tier receivers to choose from, this was understandably a very difficult list to make.  Calvin Johnson, or Megatron, may have finally found his Optimus Prime in Bengal's youngster A.J. Green, while Dez Bryant and a field of other outstanding wide receivers hope to adopt the role of Sam Witwicky in this hollywood-esque competition to be the best.

1. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions
Johnson has been injured for portions of the season (1.5 weeks), yet is only eight fantasy points off the pace of the leading wide receiver A.J. Green.  That's how good Megatron is.  Already with six touchdowns and three games over 100 yards receiving, Calvin Johnson seems to be the Matthew Stafford's only trusted receiver, and should be set up for another fantastic fantasy season.

2. A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
The competition for second place in these rankings was very tight between Green and the Cowboy's Dez Bryant.  The only thing that separates Green from Bryant is Green's marginally larger role in his offense.  Dalton is entirely reliant on Green, who has the 78 targets so far, good for first in the NFL.  More targets will inevitably result in more touchdowns and yards, as has been the case for Green, who is third in the NFL in yards and is tied for fifth in touchdowns.

3. Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Now, when I said that A.J. Green was more a focal point of his offense than Bryant, I was being very picky, because the Cowboys offense is clearly centered around Bryant, though not to the same extent as the Bengal's is around Green.  Dez is fourth in the NFL with 71 targets this year.  Additionally, these targets have produced the ninth most yards in the league and the second most touchdowns for the electrifying wide receiver.  If Bryant can stay healthy all season, he could surpass Green in these rankings, but fantasy owners have to wish that he was on a team with fewer star playmakers.

4. Wes Welker, WR, Denver Broncos
Welker provides something that no other receiver on this list can truly bring to the table, and that is consistency.  Welker has yet to score less than nine fantasy points (ESPN standard) and has gotten into the end zone in all but one game so far.  As long as Peyton Manning is your quarterback, good things are going to happen, and that has been the experience for Welker.

5. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos
There are so many options for this fifth spot, but every wideout except for Thomas has significant downfalls.  For example, DeSean Jackson, Brandon Marshall, and Vincent Jackson all have tumultuous quarterback situations while Victor Cruz and Eric Decker have been "boom or bust."  Meanwhile, Thomas has no such problem and, with Peyton Manning at quarterback, should continue to produce consistent, impressive numbers.

Five College Football Games to Watch (Week 9)

Week 9 will see one great game in particular, but you'd be surprised at some other nice looking match ups I have found here. In order of must watch to will probably be a good game, here are 5 bouts that I'll be tuned to this weekend. At the very least I'll catch post game coverage, with highlights. My motto with regards to making predictions? Fortune favors the bold. 

#12 UCLA at #2 Oregon:  I am really impressed with the team head coach Jim Mora has put together in sunny Los Angeles. The Bruins started this year ranked 21st, but have shown that they are not to be messed with. They hung in there with 8 Stanford (a 14 point loss at Stanford), and with a sophomore stud QB in Brett Hundley and 3 freshman starting on the offensive line, they will be a team to watch in the next couple of years. All this being said, you know what's coming here. In the only real challenge they have faced all year, the Ducks beat then 15 Washington 45-24. This is a team averaging 57.6 points per game. Oregon takes this one, and it won't be close. It'll be pretty though, as Mariota will pass for at least 400 yards, putting on an offensive clinic. UCLA defense is allowing an average 250 yards per game against through the air, and 165 yards on the ground. Both of those numbers are about to change drastically. Mariota will step up big (with that much needed "Heisman moment" in the back of his mind) and drop at least 45 on the Bruins defense (19th in the country with a 19.2 points against average). I see him running for at least 1 TD and passing for at least 3. The Ducks defense will pressure UCLA's very young offensive line, and it will be Oregon 46 UCLA 17.

#20 South Carolina at #5 Missouri: This is not the most likely upset this week, but it'll be pretty darn close.  A win against the Gamecocks would be huge this week for the Tigers, who are ready to pounce on a berth in the SEC title game. South Carolina is coming off a horrendous loss to Tennessee last week, but I don't see them rolling over. Sophomore RB Mike Davis (5'9" 215 lbs, which I just find awesome) will have a day for himself, as dazzling young running backs tend to enjoy doing, and South Carolina's defense will be better equipped to deal with red shirt freshman Maty Mauk than 22 Florida was last week. In his first career start, Mauk put many doubts to rest with a 36-17 victory against a good Gators squad, but this week I see the SC defense showing a little more spine. Ultimately Mauk will have a second good start in homecoming at the 'Zou, the Conner Shaw-less Gamecocks will fall short late, and I go Mizzou 23 South Carolina 20.

Penn St. at #4 Ohio St: My big upset pick this week. OSU is coming off 2 mediocre wins, and so many good teams have lost this year after close wins the week before. Then 5 Stanford fell to Utah, 7 Georgia lost to a 25 Missouri, an unranked Texas team beat then 12 Oklahoma, #6 LSU fell to the unranked Rebels, #7 A&M lost to #24 Auburn, the list goes on, and on, and on. What is the point of this, besides to demonstrate my ridiculous command of college football statistics? These games illustrate my favorite aspect of college football, upsets. Emotions run high, the season is a grind, and every once in a while (or every week, it seems) a "bad" team beats a "great" one. That's a wonderful part of the game at this level, whether you attribute it to younger men, playing for your school, or a flawed ranking system, it happens. Enter the Nittany Lions. Vegas doesn't think this will be close, but the Lions are coming off a 4 OT win against Michigan two weeks ago, and a bye week. OSU can only escape fate so many times and were just saved by RB Carlos Hyde last week, but Penn St. defense has been stout against the run this year, allowing an average 117 yds per game on the ground. True freshman Christian Hackenburg is leading the Big 10 with close to 300 yards per game. Urban Meyer can kiss his unblemished record goodbye. Penn St. 24 OSU 17

#10 Texas Tech at #17 Oklahoma: A great opportunity for Texas Tech to prove its legitimacy against a quality opponent. The Sooners are 7-1 in their last 8 meetings, but Texas Tech is 7-0 this season, and 5-2 against the spread (Oklahoma -7 in this one at home, incidentally.) Every year under Bob Stoops, the Sooners look like national title contenders until they drop a game in which they are big favorites. This year, that game was another great installment in the great Red River rivalry, against an unranked Longhorns squad. However, once they get the loss out of they way they usually play some terrific football. While the Raider defense has allowed just 18.7 points per game this season, that average is against a schedule of relatively little manliness. I see a shootout, Oklahoma 43 Texas Tech 35. 

North Carolina St. at #2 Florida St: Now this won't be a great game, by any stretch. Winston at home will take care of business handily against the Wolfpack, but I'll be checking this game out for one reason. The Ducks and the Seminoles are going to be battling for the #2 spot all season long, and chances are neither of them loses for the remainder of the season. I was so happy when the Seminoles were bumped up, not because I am a fan but because, finally, the BCS changed it up even though the #2 team did not lose. This is rare, but fair, as we can safely say FSU had a big day against Clemson. What we got here was clearly a declaration that either of these teams, whichever one outplays the other, will win the right to a national championship berth vs Alabama. This ensures that every remaining game for FSU and Oregon will be interesting, as each week brings an opportunity to punch the ticket. Meanwhile, I hope every week those rankings change. This week, I see FSU beating the Wolfpack, but the Ducks beating a much better Bruins team. After FSU 38 NCST 17, Oregon will move into the #2 spot. It's going to be a great final stretch of the season to see these two battle it out, and if neither squad loses, may the best man (with the best wins) win.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

2014 NFL Mock Draft 3.0

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Teddy Bridgewater: Even though Teddy Bridgewater is no longer the favorite to win the Heisman, his incredible skill set makes him the favorite to be drafted first overall, probably by the Jacksonville Jaguars. In 2013, Bridgewater has completed 72.0% of his passes as of  October 23rd, with 2,213 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, and just 2 interceptions. Bridgewater is the real deal.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: QB Marcus Mariota: Marcus Mariota, the starting quarterback for Oregon, has quickly become the front runner in the race for the Heisman Trophy. Marcus Mariota is a dual threat quarterbacks, who is just as talented at running the ball as he is at passing it. Mariota is incredibly quick, and his ability to make big plays earns him the second overall pick in the draft.

3. Oakland Raiders: OT Jake Matthews: The Oakland Raiders are ranked last in the league in sacks allowed with 28. Young quarterback Terrelle Pryor has the potential to be an above-average quarterback in the league, but before that happens, the Oakland Raiders must protect him the pocket. Jake Matthews is the best offensive lineman in the draft, so it makes sense for him to be drafted by Oakland.

4. Buffalo Bills: OT Taylor Lewan: Ever since the Bills lost Andy Levitre at tackle, they have been searching desperately for a solid replacement. Enter Taylor Lewan. After injuring his leg against Penn State earlier in the season, Lewan returned to play a week later against Indiana, and his performance was impeccable as usual. Lewan is still a solid pick behind Jake Matthews.

5. New York Giants: DE Jadeveon Clowney: Jadeveon Clowney's stock value has rapidly decreased over the course of a season due to injuries and inconsistent play. In 5 games, Clowney has recorded just two sacks with no forced fumbles. Clowney is still a very talented defensive end with size, speed, and power. The New York Giants would be thrilled to have Clowney resurrect their struggling pass rush.

6. Minnesota Vikings: DT Louis Nix III: Three of Minnesota's four offensive linemen will be free agents at the end of the 2013 season. The Vikings may have drafted defensive tackle Shariff Floyd in the 2012 draft, but there is no guarantee that fellow defensive tackle Kevin Williams will be re-signed. Louis Nix III is the best tackle in this draft, and is definitely worth a top 10 pick by the Vikings.

7. Arizona Cardinals: WR Sammy Watkins: We still believe that the Arizona Cardinals will select wide receiver Sammy Watkins with their seventh pick in the draft. Larry Fitzgerald turned 30 years old last August, so his days as one of the best receivers in the league are over. With Tajh Boyd as quarterback, Sammy Watkins has been averaging 14.8 yards per catch with 5 receiving touchdowns in 2013. Watkins is one of the most talented offensive weapons in this year's draft class.

8. Tennessee Titans: OLB Anthony Barr: Outside linebacker Zach Brown will likely leave Tennessee at the end of this season once his contract expires, so the Titans will look to fill this void in the draft. Anthony Barr is by far the best linebacker of this entire draft class, and is worth a first round draft pick by the Titans.

9. St. Louis Rams: QB Brett Hundley: In last Sunday's game, Sam Bradford tore his ACL, and sadly, he will be out for the rest of the season. In a draft class loaded with above-average quarterbacks, Brett Hundley may be their best option in the first round.

10. Houston Texans: QB AJ McCarron: McCarron, the starting quarterback for Alabama, has already won three National Championships, proving he is capable of winning big games. Sure, McCarron's supporting cast is the best of any football team in the nation, but I would say this senior is the most NFL-ready of any quarterback in the NFL.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

World Series Preview

It has finally arrived. The holy grail of baseball is upon us. These next few days will determine whether the season was a success or failure for the Red Sox and Cardinals, both of whom are no strangers to the World Series. The teams have met 3 times before in the World Series, with the Red Sox sweeping the Cardinals in the most recent meeting in 2004. Both teams won 97 games this year and this series is shaping up to be as even as it gets.

Cardinals Preview- 

The Cardinals rolled through the Dodgers in 6 games in the NLCS after narrowly defeating the Pirates in the NLDS. The starting rotation has clearly been the Cardinals biggest strength so far this postseason and rookie Michael Wacha has been nothing short of dominant in his first postseason. Wacha has maintained a .30 ERA over his past 4 starts, going 29.2 innings and allowing a measly 9 hits to opposing batters. This matchup has the potential to be a true test for Wacha as the Red Sox have hit right handed pitching better than any other team in the league this season. Starters Wainwright, Kelly, and Lynn are also right handed, along with the majority of the Cards pen, so it will be interesting to see how manager Mike Matheny handles this conundrum. The Cardinals batters struggled at times during the NLCS, scoring just 21 runs in the 6 games against the Dodgers, but the offense truly exploded against Clayton Kershaw, arguably the single best pitcher in baseball, in game 6. Matt Holliday and Shane Robinson provided power for the Cards but the true focal point of their offense is Carlos Beltran. Simply put, Beltran is one of the best postseason hitters ever. He has hit .337 in the playoffs to go along with 16 homers and 37 RBI in just 45 games. This, however, will be Beltran's first World Series so it will be interesting to see if his success can carry over. 

Players to watch:

The Cardinals Pen- The Cardinals have one of the best lineups and starting rotations in baseball. Then again, so did the Tigers, yet the Red Sox beat them in 6 games. The way the Red Sox achieved this was by running up pitch counts of the opposing starters early and feasting on the relievers. The Cardinals pen will be nothing short of pivotal in this series. The work that the starting rotation does will mean nothing if the pen cannot close out games for the Cards. Closer Trevor Rosenthol is inexperienced but has the stuff to shut down the Sox lineup, and set-up men Edward Mujica and Carlos Martinez have been fantastic this entire season and postseason. The title hopes of the Cardinals could rest in the hands of their pen.

Red Sox Preview:

Preview- Is there a more fun team to watch in the MLB than the Red Sox? Much like the 2004 team that swept the Cardinals in the World Series, this team is full of jubilant personalities and players that simply love playing baseball. Manager John Farrell echoed this sentiment following the ALDS series against the Rays, "They like to have fun, by evident by the beers and all that stuff. This is a group that loves to be together, and they know how to party together, I know that." The offense has looked shaky at times but they seemingly have a knack for winning games. Two grand slams and counting this postseason have also provided major boosts for the Sox. Koji Uehara and the rest of the pen have also been spectacular thus far and will try to continue the success against the Cardinals batters. The Sox rotation, however, has struggled this postseason, posting a 4.46 ERA so far. Lester has been solid for the Red Sox but after that, the rotation has been very inconsistent. Lackey was brilliant in the ALCS, throwing 6.2 shutdown innings against the potent Tigers offense, but he struggled against the Rays in the ALDS. The key for Lackey will be home-field advantage; during the 2013 season, Lackey had an impressive 2.47 ERA at home while posting a 4.48 ERA on the road. Farrell clearly realized this while setting his rotation for the World Series as he has Lackey slated to start game 2 at home as opposed to having him start game 3 on the road as many predicted. Buchholz had a great regular season but has struggled in his 3 postseason starts, allowing 10 earned runs in just 16.2 innings pitched. Peavy has also been horrendous for the Red Sox, sporting an ERA that is close to 9 in just 8.2 innings pitched over his 2 starts. If the rotation continues to fail to produce, the Red Sox will be in deep trouble against the Cardinals offense. 

Player to Watch-
It will be very interesting to see what John Farrell does with 1B/C Mike Napoli for the road games in St. Louis. David Ortiz certainly won't see the bench for more than one game as he is the Red Sox's star and one of the best hitters in postseason history. Napoli, however, is the hottest hitter for the Red Sox right now and it will be hard to bench him. One option for John Farrell is to have Napoli catch a game behind the plate, play one game at 1st base, and have him sit one game. Napoli has yet to catch a game this season, but if Farrell has him catch Game 3, and then has him rest in Game 4, he would be more than ready to return to 1st base by Game 5.


*****NOTE- Clay Buchholz has been scratched from Game 3 and will supposedly start game 4 instead. As such, we now predict the Cardinals to win game 3 and the Red Sox to win game 4. 

Game 1- Adam Wainwright vs. Jon Lester
Emotions run high as the series opens at Fenway. Red Sox take this one 5-2

Game 2- Michael Wacha vs. John Lackey
Michael Wacha has been the best pitcher in the MLB over the past month and he shuts down the Sox in this one. 4-1 Cards

Game 3- Joe Kelly vs. Clay Buchholz
As the series shifts to Busch Stadium the Red Sox regain the momentum and win this game 7-4.

Game 4- Lance Lynn vs. Jake Peavy

Peavy struggles in this one as the Cardinals tie the series up 2-2 with a 6-3 win in this game

Game 5- TBA

Late-inning heroics help the Red Sox squeak out a win in this pivotal game 5 to head back to Boston up 3-2. Final score- 4-3

Game 6- TBA

The Red Sox close out the series at home for the first time in nearly a century. 3-1 Red Sox

WORLD SERIES MVP- Xander Bogaerts 

Heisman Watch (Week 9)

Well, it's that time of the year again. When Mark May and Lou Holtz finally stop pretending to like each other and we see all out warfare on our TV screens, when the air gets cold and 2nd string quarterbacks get colder, when, finally, teams with one loss are allowed to be in the top 5. In short, college football is past the halfway mark, and we're closing in on the game we've all been waiting for, but more on that later. After a week 8 which saw 5 top 10 teams fall, the crowd is thin at the top, and the Heisman race is thinner. However, although it may seem like a 2, maybe a 3 pony race for now, one mediocre performance can see the latest flavor of the week tumble. In short, the fact that this is pretty boring right now does not mean that it will finish that way. Keep that in mind as you read these rankings.

1) Marcus Mariota: A couple of fun facts about the young lad who hails from Honolulu. Well, there's one already. He can only hope his Heisman candidacy (and his draft stock) will fare better than that of another famous Hawaiian born college football player. Anyways, Mariota was offered 2 scholarships coming out of high school (a team on which he did not start as QB until his senior year). He wisely chose Oregon over the University of Memphis, and at Oregon he became the first freshman to start the season opener for the Ducks in 22 years. To cut a long story short, as an athletic 18 year old (what have I done with my life?) he led the Ducks to a 11-1 season and a #2 final season ranking in the AP poll. But the Heisman is, of course, about production during this season. Mariota has improved by leaps and bounds this season. He has scored 403 points in 7 games this season, a tidy 57.6 for those of you keeping score at home. He has thrown for 2051 yards, 19 TD's, and no picks, though he has fumbled the ball twice. He has rushed for 493 yards and 9 TD's, averaging 10.1 yards a carry. These are not stats from a video game, or from the end of the season. He has accounted for 4 TD's a game. Admittedly, he has done this against for the most part cupcake opposition, but 2 big games against #12 UCLA and #6 Stanford should give the guy a chance to prove his mettle on the big stage. I have no doubt that he will, and thus, I proclaim this still his race to lose.

2) I know, bold words, especially after Jameis Winston's 51 points against Clemson, the most ever dropped on the Tigers in Death Valley. If you watch any respectable amount of ESPN, you know this about their college football coverage: Boy, do they love them a "Heisman moment." In fact, it seems at times that all they care about is getting a good "Heisman moment." Well Jimmy boy undoubtedly had his last week; In a top 5 matchup within his conference, as a freshman, he embarrassed a very good football team. But a closer look at the numbers reveals a case for the Heisman way beyond one game. He has a 71.3% completion rate, 1885 yards through the air, and 20 TD's. Notice, as impressive as these statistics are, they fall short of Mariota's, against a schedule with a little more spine.

3) Teddy Bridgewater started the season as a favorite to win this year's Heisman, and his stats have held up remarkably. 2213 yards through the air and 20 TD's through 7 games will never eliminate you from a Heisman race, but when a quarterback candidate has a soft schedule, he absolutely has to run the table to lead the pack. It is unfair to pin last weeks 38-35 loss against UCF on Bridgewater, but that's just how it goes. The tough luck candidate this year, but you sympathize less when you hear that, of every opponent he has played so far, only Rutgers has received a vote in an AP poll this year. 2, in fact.

4) We of course can't forget about last year's winner. No amount of off field shenanigans will permanently taint what Johnny Manziel has going on down in College Station, and despite two losses now (2 losses, by the way, in which he scored a combined 83 points against SEC defenses) Manziel has to be in the race.  Impressively, his "Heisman moment" probably came in a loss to Alabam
a (which may well have been the game of the year). He threw for 5 TD's, and had one 30 yard scramble in which he escaped the clutches of several large, scary Alabama defensive linemen and ended up throwing for the 1st down. If you haven't seen this play yet, do.

5) AJ McCarron: Well here we get to the "if he goes down, he starts tanking, and he gets injured, this guy's a frontrunner" part of the list. AJ has been a great quarterback this season, especially against big bad SEC defenses, but Manziel has been better, and the other two fellas at the top of the list have completely outplayed him. We probably go with the game winning drive against the Aggies for the "Heisman moment" here, and it was impressive. If there was an award for most NFL-ready quarterback (some call it the first overall pick) it may go to McCarron. His sparkling resumé will probably include 3 national championships after this year, but with under 1600 yards so far, only 14 TD's, and no dual threat capability (which the Heisman voters love, for good reason) he seems like a long shot right now.

There you have my top 5, and thanks for reading!