Saturday, November 30, 2013

Top 5 Fantasy Tight Ends

It's been a while since my last installment of this series, but I'm back, and so is the age of the receiving tight end.  This renaissance has largely been sparked by two of the best tight ends that the NFL has every seen: Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski.  Though these two are the centerpiece of what the NFL has to offer, there is certainly a solid supporting cast including Julius Thomas, Vernon Davis, Jason Witten, Jordan Cameron, Antonio Gates, Greg Olsen, and Tony Gonzalez.

1. Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints
This former University of Miami basketball player has blossomed into a truly incredible tight end.  With enough speed to outrun linebackers and safeties, and the strength to overpower smaller cornerbacks, Graham is a mismatch for any defender.  With eleven touchdowns already this year, he is primed to rival, if not overtake Rob Gronkowski's record 17 touchdown catches in 2011.  In addition to averaging over a touchdown per game, Graham has also posted more than one hundred yards in already six of the ten games that he's played.  Simply put, Graham is undoubtedly the number one receiving tight end in the league right now.

2. Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
Despite being injured for the first six weeks of the season, Gronk is only 15th in terms of fantasy points for tight ends.  This is a testament to how incredibly he has played in the last three weeks, compiling 292 yards and three touchdowns.  Even in the two weeks before that, when he was still partially injured, Gronk managed and impressive 141 yards.  With Tom Brady at quarterback, Gronkowski's numbers should only improve with his health, especially with the lack of other options in the Patriot's passing game.

3. Julius Thomas, TE, Denver Broncos,
Thomas, another former basketball player, came out of nowhere this year and has established himself as Peyton Manning's favorite red zone target.  Averaging just under one touchdown per game, Thomas is a very consistent option, for even when he doesn't manage to compile a lot of yards, he usually manages to reward fantasy owners with a touchdown.  It is by no means a coincidence that the top three tight ends on this list belong to the top three quarterbacks in the NFL: Brees, Brady, and Manning.  In years to come, with Manning at the helm, Thomas could develop into a tight end that could challenge the currently untouchable combo of Graham and Gronkowski at the top of this list.

4. Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers
What has really hurt Davis this year is the inconsistent quarterback play from Colin Kaepernick.  When Kaepernick has performed, though, Davis has performed too.  Like Julius Thomas, Davis is averaging just under one touchdown per game.  Also like Thomas, more than once, touchdowns have concealed games that would otherwise be considered very poor for Davis.  This is not too take anything away from his great season, but it just outlines the fact that if his touchdown production stops, Davis could be in a fair bit of trouble, especially with the up-and-down quarterback play of Colin Kaepernick.

5. Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers
I know it, you're surprised, but you shouldn't be. I could have picked so many players for this final spot, and I chose Greg Olsen, but when you look at all the other players I could have picked, they all have obvious flaws, and Olsen doesn't.  For example, Jordan Cameron has to deal with the horrible quarterback play of Brandon Weeden, while Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten have to compete for targets among talented receiving cores, and Antonio Gates is simply not the player he was five years ago.  Greg Olsen has a talented quarterback, is the Panther's only real red zone threat, and is only 28 years old.  The results have showed too, as Olsen has four touchdowns in his last five games.

OPINION: Jason Kidd "Spills" His Drink

          First-year head coach Jason Kidd of the Brooklyn Nets needed an extra time out with 8.3 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of a game against the Lakers in which the Nets were losing 94-96 and the Lakers' Jodie Meeks was about to take the second of two free throws. With no timeouts remaining, I believe that Kidd wanted to relay a drawn-up play to his players on the court in order to get one last look for a game winning shot. The kicker: they lost anyway. 
          However, Kidd was eventually fined $50,000 for his delay the game, for although he said that the incident was an accident, his words hint at sarcasm and are clearly meant to get laughs: "Cup slipped out of my hand [while] I was getting Ty. Sweaty palms. I was never good with the ball." Perhaps if the former 19-year-veteran point guard hadn't made such a mockery of his actions, the penalty would not have been so harsh. 
          But sarcasm aside the incident shows desperation from Kidd. Some may perceive it as dedication, as he said after the fine: "It's about trying to win," but I believe that Kidd is just overwhelmed with coaching in the NBA. He probably assumed that it would be a cake-walk, but heavily underestimated the nuances of the job. His team has been underperforming all season and if they had been winning then I'm sure he would never have pulled such as stunt as this. The only reasoning behind my opinion: Would you ever see Greg Popovich spill his drink on the court in such humiliating fashion just to gain an extra timeout? Of course not.

Friday, November 29, 2013

NBA Power Tankings Through November

With the 2014 NBA Draft expected to be filled with potential franchise-changers in Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, and Jabari Parker (among more), many teams have jumped at the opportunity to tank their way to a high draft pick and therefore one of the college stars. The problem is, of course, the lottery, which is designed to prevent tanking, as the chart below displays (Courtesy of SB Nation). So, these rankings are based on which teams have the best chance of earning the most lottery balls, giving them the highest chance at the first pick.

1.  Utah Jazz (2-14): The Jazz had a really good thing going last year with Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap in the front court along with Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, and Mo Williams as complementary pieces. Now, with Big Al, Millsap, and Williams all gone, Favors and Hayward have had to become go-to guys, both of whom are not best suited for that role. Also, Enes Kanter and Trey Burke have had to step up prematurely. With no superstar, the Jazz are in all-out tanking, and currently have the best chance at the #1 pick.

2.  Milwaukee Bucks (2-12): The Bucks traded their best prospect in Tobias Harris last season for J.J. Reddick, who was traded to the Clippers in the offseason. They signed O.J. Mayo this offeason. These two moves make the Bucks seem committed to putting together a competitive team, but then they draft Giannis Antetokounmpo (who?!?) with their first round pick and you remember their best player is Larry Sanders. Now it looks like they're tanking. The answer is probably somewhere in between, but the bottom line is that the Bucks have a great chance of drafting Wiggins, Randle, or Parker, so if they know what is best for them they will not change a thing.

3.  Philadelphia 76ers (6-10): After starting off 4-0, many thought the 76ers would be a surprise playoff team in the extremely-weak Eastern Conference, but they have since gone 2-10. This fall back down to earth is exactly along the lines of what everyone thought there season would be like.  Michael Carter-Williams should win Rookie of the Year, and he will develop into a solid player for them. Their plan seems perfect, as Carter-Williams, Thaddeus Young, and Spencer Hawes will be able to complement Nerlens Noel and the two first rounders that the Sixers have in the draft this year (one from the Pelicans). If they keep losing, their future will continue to grow brighter.

4.  Cleveland Cavaliers (4-11): The Cavaliers have had the #1 overall pick 2 out of the last three years, and have very little to show for it. Kyrie Irving has underperformed, Anthony Bennett is clearly not ready for the NBA, and Andrew Bynum will never be what he was with the Lakers. If the Cavs get the #1 pick these year, however, they are almost certain to draft a franchise-changer. Tanking is the best option for this team, as three former #1 overall picks along with Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, and Anderson Varejao would surely be able to entice one of the elite free agents this offseason. They may be trying to win, but they are failing, but this year losing is in their best interest.

5.  Sacramento Kings (4-9): DeMarcus Cousins is the only real star on the Kings. However, he can only do so much by himself, especially without any real complementary pieces besides Isaiah Thomas. The Kings are not awful in any statistical category, but being too average in the NBA will lead you to where the Kings are: too often stuck in the middle of the draft because they are not good enough to win but still have good enough players that they never get one of the top 3 picks. Hopefully for them, that will change this year, but if Cousins keeps averaging career highs in points per game (21.3), rebounds per game (10.5) and blocks per game (1.2), then they will end up with a pick in the 5-10 range.

6.  Boston Celtics (6-11): The Celtics are another team with no real star. Jeff Green is not capable of being "The Guy" for them, and the rest of their roster, in Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger, Gerald Wallace, Jordan Crawford, Kelley Olynyk, Brandon Bass, Courtney Lee, and Kris Humphries are all best-suited for bench roles but have started off-and-on this year. The Celtics best option, which appears to be their goal, is to tank while giving their young guys playing time to develop. However, with an up-and-coming coach in Brad Stevens who is looking to make a name for himself in the NBA, the Celtics may win a few too many games this year.

7.  New York Knicks (3-11): How are the Knicks where they are with perennial all-star Carmelo Anthony leading a team of Tyson Chandler, Amare Stoudemire, Iman Shumpert, and Andrea Bargnani? No matter how many "bad days" they have had, there is no way the Knicks should only have three wins on the season. Lack of defense and extremely low shooting percentages from Anthony (42.6% of 312 shooting attempts - 2nd most in the league) and Bargnani (46.1%) are finally catching up to them. The only reason why they are this low in the rankings despite their record is because they have so much talent- they just need to play up to it. If the Knicks are on this list by the end of the season, serious changes will have to be made.

8.  Brooklyn Nets (4-11): Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Brook Lopez. All their starters are all-stars, yet they are 7 games under .500. This has to be a case of too much talent on one team in a sport where it is just not possible to get enough touches to that many great players. Jason Kidd seems to not be ready to coach in the NBA, the aforementioned starting 5 all take bad shots because they feel they need to make something happen when they get the ball because their touches are limited. However, even if their unlikely struggles continue for the entire season, they owe their draft pick to either the Celtics or the Hawks (the Celtics own their pick but the Hawks have the right to trade picks with Brooklyn first), they would not reap the benefits via the draft of such horrific basketball. The Nets have no other option but to improve, and for their sake, they better do it fast.

9.  Orlando Magic (6-9): The Magic are like the 76ers. They have a lot of young talent in Tobias Harris, Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic, Mo Harkless, and Andrew Nicholson, all of whom are under 23 years-old, and all will have the playing time this season to improve- but without producing wins. It is the perfect blueprint for the post-Howard Magic, and they are off to a great start, currently 3 games under .500. It sure seems likely that, in at least two years, the Magic will be a contender in the East. They only have to hope that their plethora of young talent does not rack up too many wins this season that they don't end up with a realistic shot at a Top 3 pick.

10.  Detroit Pistons (6-9): The Pistons signed Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings in order to be a contender in the weak Eastern Conference. The scary thing is, even being 3 games under .500, they are tied with Magic for the 8th playoff spot. Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond have improved immensely since their respective rookie years and seem to be perennial all-star big men, but as Smith and Jennings have not reached expectations, the Pistons have snagged the final spot in these rankings. However, the Piston's are definitely NOT tanking, so with the effort and talent they are putting out there for every game, they should not be listed here for long, and instead may even get to the "On the Verge" mark of the Power Rankings.

On the Verge: Washington Wizards (7-8), Toronto Raptors (6-8), New Orleans Pelicans (6-8), Charlotte Bobcats (7-9).

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Thursday, November 28, 2013

2014 Super Bowl Prediction (Update)

Shockingly, there are just five more weeks of football before the playoffs start; it seems like just yesterday we were covering the major story lines from training camp. Obviously, there have been many surprises in 2013, including the decline of the Texans franchise, Kansas City's incredible year, as well as Peyton Manning's MVP caliber season. With the NFL Playoffs quickly approaching us, we have decided to update our Super Bowl prediction. Originally, we predicted the Broncos to beat the 49ers by a score of 30-27. That prediction has changed. Continue reading to see our new predictions!

AFC Championship Game: Patriots over Broncos: these two teams are in a league of there own in the AFC. Sure, the Chiefs and Colts are both very talented, but their lack of experience hurts by the time they reach the Divisional Round of the playoffs. The Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship game should not come as a surprise. Peyton Manning and the passing game lead the league in passing yards per game, passing touchdowns, passer rating, and points per game. Even running back Knowshon Moreno is performing well, as he ranks second in the league in rushing touchdowns with 9. But the New England Patriots, a team that has managed an 8-3 record despite their many injuries and weak receiving corp, have transformed into one of the Super Bowl favorites. Thanks to the return of receivers Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola, as well as cornerback Aquib Talib, the Patriots were able to beat manning and the Broncos for the second straight year. Tom Brady is not having a great year statistically, but his spectacular performance against the Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football solidified his greatness as a quarterback. Peyton Manning has struggled throughout his career when playing in colder weather, so even if the Broncos are at home in this AFC Championship Game, the advantage goes to Brady and the Patriots.

NFC Championship Game: Seahawks over Saints: The Seattle Seahawks remain perfect at home, but their game this weekend in Seattle against the New Orleans Saints will be a true test. We predict that the game this weekend will be the same two teams in the NFC Championship game later in the season. Following their home game against the Saints, the Seahawks will have a relatively easy schedule (apart from an away game in San Francisco), whereas the Saints will have to play the Panthers twice, and then travel to St. Louis for a game against the Rams. Assuming that Seattle finishes as the number one seed in the playoffs, there is little doubt in my mind that the Seahawks will make the Super Bowl thanks to their home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Seahawks offense is ranked third overall in rushing yards per game (149.7) and second in points per game (27.8). But it is the defense that has carried this team through the regular season. Seattle's defense at home is practically impenetrable, yet the Saints offense will be difficult to detain, even if the game is being played in CenturyLink Field. In the end, the Seahawks will win in a close game over the Saints to earn a trip to the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl XLVIII: Patriots over Seahawks: This upcoming Super Bowl is not your average Super Bowl. Instead of being played inn a warm environment like Florida or Arizona, Super Bowl XLVIII will be played in the Meadowlands of East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Seattle Seahawks, unfortunately, will not be in the safety of their own stadium, and who knows how they will do with the cold February weather in New Jersey. Tom Brady, on the other hand, tends to struggle in the warm weather, but as we saw against Denver on Sunday Night Football, he thrives in a colder climate. To make things more interesting, the Farmer's Almanac predicts a large snowstorm during the Super Bowl, clearly favoring the New England Patriots. Seattle's franchise has yet to win a Super Bowl, and with just one Super Bowl appearance in 2006, the Patriots are more experienced, considering they have reached the Super Bowl five times in the past 12 years. We predict the Patriots to beat the Seahawks in a dominant fashion.

Week 13 Predictions (Thanksgiving Day)

On Thanksgiving Day, you eat an abundance of food, spend time with your family, listen to this strange stories from your weird Uncle Joe, and give thanks for all that you have; however, one of the greatest traditions of Thanksgiving is the football being played throughout the day. This year, the games  are not quite as good as in years past, but they are still worth watching in a day filled with food and laughter. The NFL Report wishes all of you a Happy Thanksgiving!

Packers @ Lions: This game would be ten times more interesting if Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers was in the starting lineup, but it seems as though Matt Flynn will be the starting quarterback for Green Bay for the first time since December 31, 2011. Last Sunday, Flynn replaced an injured Scott Tolzien, where Flynn overcame a 16 point deficit, eventually tying the game and sending it into overtime. In the end Green Bay tied the game, but Matt Flynn's comeback was a good sign for Packers fans. Meanwhile, the Detroit Lions have lost back to back games, where their most recent loss came against the struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The passing game is clearly the strength of this team, where the connection between Stafford and Calvin Johnson is by far the best in the NFL. Already tempers are flaring between these two teams, where Green Bay Packers lineman Josh Sitton accused Detroit's defense of taking "cheap shots all the time." These division rivals clearly do not like one another, so we can expect a decent amount of drama on Thanksgiving. A minor side note: Tomorrow marks the two year anniversary for Ndamukong Suh's infamous stomp against the Packers in 2011.
Prediction: Lions over Packers 31-17

Raiders @ Cowboys: This game between the Cowboys and the Raiders appears to be somewhat of a mismatch, where the 4-7 Raiders are taking on the NFC-East leading Cowboys. The Dallas Cowboys are coming off of an emotional victory over their division rivals, the New York Giants. Even though many accuse Tony Romo of choking in the clutch, he was able to drive down the field, setting up a game winning field goal as time expired by kicker Dan Bailey. Dallas' defense this season has been atrocious, ranking 30th overall in passing yards allowed and 31st in the league in rushing yards allowed. The Oakland Raiders are 1-3 in their last four games, one of which was a loss against the New York Giants. With quarterback Terrelle Pryor still injured, the Raiders will have Matt McGloin start on Thanksgiving against the Cowboys. The Cowboys are the clear favorites in this matchup; if Dallas ends up losing tomorrow, they are completely undeserving of a spot in the playoffs.
Prediction: Cowboys over Raiders 28-14

Steelers @ Ravens: The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens were the best of rivals throughout the start of the 21st century. But the rivalry is no longer the same, where both teams are aging, and several key players have either left or retired. Both Baltimore and Pittsburgh are 5-6 in 2013, so a win on Thanksgiving will keep the playoff hopes alive. Ray Rice, who served as the core of Baltimore's offense during their Super Bowl run, has rushed for just 470 yards with 4 touchdowns in 2013, averaging 2.9 yards per carry. Even quarterback Joe Flacco is having a down season, which is worrisome considering the Ravens signed him to a six year deal worth $120.6 million. After starting the season with a 0-4 record, the Pittsburgh Steelers have truly turned their game around, as their record stands at 5-2 in the past 7 games. I only wish this game took place 5 years ago on Thanksgiving Day, back when both teams were fierce competitors in the AFC North. In 2013, however, these two aging teams will do battle so they can remain in playoff contention.
Prediction: Steelers over Ravens 30-27 (OT)

5 Ways to Sneak Out of Your Thanksgiving Dinner to Check Your Fantasy Football Team

Thanksgiving is the holiday of, well, giving thanks... that is thanks to the fantasy football gods for blessing you with the good fortune of drafting Jamaal Charles with the fifth overall pick.  These same gods demand that you check your fantasy football team in order to pay homage to them, as the only thing sweeter than that delicious cranberry sauce would be another successful fantasy football week.

Go To The Bathroom - You just ate two full pounds of turkey, so I can't believe that anyone would take a second look at you when you say that you have to go to the bathroom.  When people ask why you where in the bathroom for fifteen minutes, simply reply, "I guess I ate more turkey than I thought." Flawless.

You're Feeling Sick - Its perfectly reasonable that you might feel sick during a holiday that is purely dedicated to eating.  This plan adds a bit of time versatility that you don't get with the previous option... just make sure you're feeling better before dessert.  The fantasy football gods will surely understand if you have to take a short leave from your duties to grab some apple pie.

Take a Nap - Understandably, you're probably a bit tired after all the holiday processions, so just join in on a little nap with your five year old niece and nephew.  Don't tell anybody, but you're not actually sleeping.  With the TV on mute and your computer on the live fantasycast, you're screwed if anybody walks in, but the reward is worth the risk.

Spill Water on Your Shirt - You could go all out and "accidentally" pour some gravy on your shirt, but unless you're willing to throw away a perfectly good shirt, water is probably the best option.  This move will surely buy you a couple minutes, just make sure that you do actually change your shirt, otherwise you're going to have an awkward reception on returning to the dining room.

The Walk of No Shame - If all else fails, there is no shame in simply walking out of the room with no explanation.  Let the others decide why you had to take an intermission from Thanksgiving dinner. When making your escape, all eyes are going to be placed on you, but don't be fazed, continue on walking unashamedly towards the doorway.  Once out of the room feel free to celebrate with a quick fist pump or look towards the heavens... You're free.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

2013 Iron Bowl Preview

        3:30 pm, Eastern standard time, you can bet that the televisions of college football fans across the country will be tuned to one game. #1 Alabama @ #4 Auburn looks to be a decent showing, I think. This year's iron bowl is probably the biggest matchup ever between the two rivals, as in no previous game have both teams been ranked this high at the time they meet.

This year, "The mother of all Iron Bowls" is undoubtedly the best rivalry in the sport. Although the last two iron bowls have seen a total of Alabama 91-14 Auburn, we won't see another blowout this week. Interestingly for a game this huge and historically this crazy, the odds are very lopsided. Vegas sides heavily with the Tide (they opened as 9.5 point favorites, and have climbed high and quickly since then), as do most gurus. The Odds Shark computers see a 44-21 drubbing in store for the Tigers. All this is to be expected, as Alabama has done nothing this season to lose their reputation as the best team in college football, but I believe the game might be closer that that. Auburn has done nothing but trend upwards all season, and although this reasoning isn't popular with the number crunchers, this is always a crazy game. When so many Southerners get so worked up for one sporting event, in one state, to determine the undisputed rulers of said state, crazy stuff should happen. This game is bragging rights to a whole other level. As someone who's never been in Alabama I can't really understand it, but the impression I get is that this will be some sort of glorious, timeless war on a gridiron. Folks write poems, ballads, short plays even about this game, every year. Every player knows that a great performance will permanently cement his name in Alabama state history, not to mention guarantee him a drink in half the bars of the state forever. This game lasts and resonates forever. The winner not only wins for his half of Alabama, but punches their ticket to the national championship as well. We can't forget that, and I promise you these two teams have not. With this much emotion, pressure, and desire in one building at the same time, we really don't know what we'll see.

        But let's not get carried away. A few quick (and obvious) things to watch for…
McCarron needs to step up big if he wants a Heisman trophy in this one. He knows it, we know it, and the Auburn defense (a nasty unit allowing 22 points per game) knows it, for sure. If the Tigers win this one, it will be because of not only a stingy defense but a couple of big plays. I'd say they need to force two turnovers to stay in the game, but the occasional sack is also in order. Look for outside linebacker Dee Ford to have himself a day, as he leads his Tiger team in sacks, tackles for loss, and QB hurries, all  stats which put him close to the top of the SEC individually. The Tigers will only win if we hear his name, and hear it several times.
        Alabama has an explosive receiving core, one that can make you regret the blitz in a hurry. Look for sophomore sensation Amari Cooper and senior Kevin Norwood (leading the team with close to 500 receiving yards) to show up. However they have their work cut out for them, against a stingy secondary, led by future NFL stalwart cornerback Chris Davis. We all know TJ Yeldon will feature prominently in any Tide win, but we forget that AJ McCarron has a couple of great targets every play. Finally Auburn RB Tre Mason leads the SEC in rushing. Of course, a quarterback who gives you the ball all the time is nice for a running back's numbers, but regardless he is an impressive kid. That said, I don't see him having a huge day against Alabama's linebackers, including of course C.J. Mosley (just a scary man) and (I had to say his name) Ha-Ha Clinton Dix. These two on the field together go a long way towards stopping any team's offense.
        So I don't see the upset. Auburn's freshman quarterback Jeremy Johnson may fold under the pressure completely, but more likely he is simply shut down by a terrifying Alabama pass rush. So he won't have a terrible day at home, but he won't do anything special, and you need to do something really special to beat the Crimson Tide. Alabama's one weakness is an at-times suspect secondary, and they can be exposed when a talented quarterback has explosive outside threats (Johnny Manziel dropped 42 on them, if you recall.) Auburn's lack luster passing game won't do that, and forced to run the ball they will tire and lose it slowly. Crazier things have happened, and especially in this setting, so knowing full well that I may have to eat these words, I unconfidently predict Alabama 28-Auburn 10. 

NFL Power Rankings Week 13

1. Seattle Seahawks (10-1): Because the Broncos suffered an overtime loss to the New England Patriots, the Seahawks remain the unquestionable number one team in the power rankings. The Seahawks have not lost a home game since 2011, and even though the defense is gaining a large amount of attention, the offense ranks 2nd overall in points scored (27.8) and 3rd overall in rushing yards (147.9). If the Seahawks are able to obtain the number one seed in the playoffs, the home field advantage throughout the postseason will immediately lift this Seahawks team to the NFC Championship Game, or even the Super Bowl. Plus, Percy Harvin's return won't hurt...

2. New Orleans Saints (9-2): New Orleans close call against the Atlanta Falcons is somewhat worrisome, but then again, rivalry games are a completely different story from regular games, so it is difficult to weigh this narrow victory quite so heavily. Quarterback Drew Brees is having an MVP-caliber season in 2013, and even the defense is showing steady signs of improvement ever since they added Rob Ryan to the coaching staff. If there is any team in the NFC capable of knocking out the Seahawks from the playoffs, it would be the high-flying Saints offense.

3. New England Patriots (8-3): In a game against the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football, Tom Brady once again got the best of Peyton Manning, as he erased a 24 point deficit, and the Patriots went on to win in overtime. Despite the terrible weather conditions, Tom Brady passed for 344 yards with 3 touchdown passes, culminating a passer rating of 107.4. In his past 3 games, Brady is averaging a passer rating of 116.8, especially after a spectacular performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Patriots are starting to look like their former selves.

4. Carolina Panthers (8-3): The Carolina Panthers won their seventh game in a row last Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. The Panthers were losing to Miami for almost the entirety of the second half, but for the second straight game, quarterback Cam Newton led an 80 yard drive down field for the game winning touchdown. Luckily, the defense is able to give Cam Newton and the offense the ability to succeed, where linebacker Luke Kuechly is a legitimate contender for Defensive Player of the Year.

5. Denver Broncos (9-2): The loss to the New England Patriots bumped the Denver Broncos down several spots in the power rankings. Peyton Manning no longer looked superhuman, the defense forfeited 31 unanswered points in the second half alone, and several short-term injuries will weaken the team as a whole. The Denver Broncos are playing the Kansas City Chiefs this weekend, so a win on the road would be sure to move this team up in the power rankings.

6. Kansas City Chiefs (9-2): The Kansas City Chiefs lost to the Chargers last weekend in a 41-38 shootout, but luckily for the Chiefs, Denver lost to New England on Sunday Night, so the Chiefs are still tied for first in the division. To go along with the loss in San Diego, Kansas City suffered two key injuries to leading pass rushers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. The two pass rushers have combined for a grand total of 20 sacks in 2013, so the defense will have its hand full with Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense this weekend.

7. San Francisco 49ers (7-4): The 49ers beat the struggling Redskins on Monday Night, and for the first time since Week 1, quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw for three passing touchdowns, along with an additional 235 passing yards. At 7-4, San Francisco is three games behind the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West, but after losing two close games to Carolina and New Orleans, the San Francisco 49ers showed their resiliency by limiting the Redskins to just 6 points in Washington.

8. Cincinnati Bengals (7-4): After having a firm control of the AFC North, Cincinnati lost two straight overtime games to the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins. Cincinnati's dominant win over the Cleveland Browns last week is a good sign for Cincy's offense, even though star wide receiver AJ Green was limited to just two receptions for 7 yards and no touchdowns.

9. Arizona Cardinals (7-4): Following two losses to San Francisco and Seattle in Weeks 6 and 7, the Cardinals won four straight, where their most recent victory was a 40-11 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. Arizona is flying under the radar in 2013, but similarly to last year, we predict the Cardinals to miss the playoffs after a solid start. In the next game, Arizona must travel to Philadelphia to play the Eagles, and then to end the season, Arizona will play both Seattle and San Francisco in the last two weeks.

10. Indianapolis Colts (7-4): The Indianapolis Colts are officially the most inconsistent team in all of football. After beating San Francisco, Seattle, and Denver before the Bye, the Colts have lost to both the Cardinals and the Rams within the past two games. In those two games, the offense has been held to an average of 9.5 points per game, while the defense allowed an average of 39 points. Apart from a Week 16 at Kansas City, the Colts have a relatively easy schedule to conclude the regular season, so there is no doubt in my mind that the Colts will earn a spot in the playoffs despite their inconsistent play as of late.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Tom Brady-Peyton Manning Debate

As Tom Brady and the New England Patriots prepare to play Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in a Week 12 matchup, it is inevitable that people start to argue over who the better quarterback is: Tom Brady or Peyton Manning? There is no denying that these two quarterbacks are first-ballot Hall of Famers, and one could argue that they are in top 3 greatest quarterbacks of all time, alongside 49ers legend Joe Montana. But since Peyton Manning and Tom Brady entered the league at around the same time, people have been asking themselves, who is the better quarterback? With very different backgrounds, the two quarterbacks are relatively similar on the field, as they are both able to entirely take control of their offense. In this post, we will analyze the two quarterbacks, and offer our opinion by the end of the post, all in anticipation of Sunday night's game between the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots.

Tom Brady: Unlike Peyton Manning, Tom Brady was not drafted 1st overall in the draft; instead, Brady was selected 199th overall by the New England Patriots. In his second season with the Patriots, Tom Brady replaced an injured drew Bledsoe, and as we all know, he went on to win three Super Bowl within his first four years as a starter. Yet within that timespan, Brady's regular season statistics were not mind-boggling. Brady's passer rating averaged 87.7 per season within his first four years as a starter, as well as an average of 3,479 yards and 24 passing touchdowns per season. It is important to keep in mind Troy Brown and David Givens, where neither wide receiver ever eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards or over 6 receiving touchdowns within a single season. However, a solid running game and a dominant defense helped out Tom Brady in winning three Super Bowls with the Pats. Overtime, Tom Brady's regular season statistics improved, but everything changed when the New England Patriots traded for a 30-year old All-Pro wide receiver by the name of Randy Moss. Before traveling to New England, Randy Moss showed steady signs of decline, as he finished the 2006 season with 553 yards and 3 touchdowns. In 2007, Brady and the Patriots culminated an NFL Record 589 points on offense, where Tom Brady set the record for passing touchdowns with 50. despite their incredible season, Brady fell one game short of the perfect season after losing to the Giants in the Super Bowl. From that point onwards, Tom Brady culminated very impressive statistics, but a fourth Super Bowl eluded him, even after yet another trip to the Super Bowl in 2012. This year, Brady's receiving corp is clearly lacking talent after losing both Wes Welker and tight end Aaron Hernandez. The most used argument is that Tom Brady has two more Super Bowls than Manning, but there is also the fact that Brady's receiving corp is not nearly as talented as Manning's throughout both of their careers.

Peyton Manning: This year, Peyton Manning has a legitimate shot at breaking Tom Brady's single season touchdown record, which currently stands at 50. Since acquiring Wes Welker from New England, Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense is on track to clobber all kinds of offensive records, even though Peyton Manning has had two surgeries on his neck and is on the wrong side of 35. Despite all of this, Peyton Manning is currently leading the league in passing yards per game (357.2), passing touchdowns (34), and passer rating with a minimum of 200 attempts (118.3). Manning has a reputation of dominating the regular season, where his career statistics in the regular season are far superior to Brady's. As we enter the postseason, Manning's statistics see a decrease in productivity. Manning is 9-11 in the postseason, with a whopping eight one-and-done postseason trips. Manning and the Broncos have a legitimate chance at winning Manning his second Super Bowl, which would add a whole other dimension to this argument. A large portion of Peyton Manning's success can be credited to his highly talented receiving corp over the course of his career. In Indianapolis, Manning was able to throw the ball to the likes of Marvin Harrison, a future Hall of Famer, Reggie Wayne, another future Hall of Famer, and tight end Dallas Clark. This season in Denver, Manning's receiving corp consists of Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker, and running back Knowshon Moreno. Another augment against Peyton Manning is that he played inside a dome for the majority of his career, an environment that clearly favors the passing game; meanwhile, Brady has played in the hostile environment of New England, susceptible to any type of weather that comes his way. Outdoors, especially in very cold weather, we see Peyton Manning's numbers dip pretty significantly. To his credit, Manning has been able to rotate through several coaches throughout his career, but has still been able to produce great numbers.

Bottom Line: Like it says in the tweet above, Tom Brady is 9-4 in his career against Peyton Manning, but on Sunday Night, Manning and the Broncos are the clear favorites. As for the debate over the two quarterbacks, Tom Brady's three Super Bowls and 16-0 season in 2007 proves that he is a complete winning machine, and even though Manning has the better statistics, his environment was more suitable to the passing game. I take Brady over Manning in this one, but another Super Bowl for Manning and I would have to reconsider.

NBA Power Rankings: Week 3

Since last week, the top teams in the NBA have, for the most part, stayed the same. Although, the Bulls have fallen out of the Top 10 and now Derrick Rose has injured his other knee, so their future is looking foggier by the minute. The mirage that was the Phoenix Suns has come back to reality, now only 6-6, and continues to look worse. The Sixers and Celtics have both fallen even out of contention for spots on the rankings while the Mavericks and Warriors have capitalized on their chances and have each gained Top 10 rankings. If the Hawks and Grizzlies make the most of their opportunities, they could do the same next week. Here are the rankings:

1.  San Antonio Spurs (11-1) [Last Week: 2]: Only one loss, first place in the Western Conference, and now first place in our rankings. The Spurs just never cease to amaze you, as they keep winning despite being the 5th oldest team in the NBA (28.3 yrs). They still are allowing the 2nd-fewest points per game in the league (89.3), with the highest differential of points scored to points allowed per game (+10). Currently on a 9-game winning streak, tied for highest in the league, they are showing no signs of slowing down.

2.  Indiana Pacers (11-1) [Last Week: 1]: Their one loss came to the Bulls, who have the size and defensive capability to keep up with the Pacers, but other than that have been dominating their competition. They allow the fewest points per game in the league (86.9) and are third in differential of points scored to points allowed per game (+9.6). The Pacers are also allowing a league-best 40.2%  field goal percentage by their opponents. However, the question has always been if they can offensively match other teams with good defenses, as evident by their loss to the Bulls. Only time will tell.

3.  Miami Heat (9-3) [Last Week: 3]: The Heat are fourth in points scored per game (107.1) and 2nd in differential of points scored to points allowed per game (+9.9).  As a team, they are shooting a whopping 45.9% from three-point range, a rate that, although ridiculous, they might actually be able to sustain for most of the season (see: Ray Allen, Shane Battier, and, oh yeah, LeBron James).  The Heat also are amazing at turning their defense into offense, and are able to because the force an average of 18.8 turnovers per game, which is first in the league.  They should be fighting for a third straight NBA title and it would be disappointment if they didn't make the finals.

4.  Portland Trail Blazers (11-2) [Last Week: 7]: The Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge led Blazers are currently on a 9-game wining streak. At this point, although early in the season, they seem to be for real. A 41.9% three-point percentage is third-best in the league and has certainly helped get them to the record they have now. However, they play the Warriors, Pacers, Thunder, and Mavericks all within the next 8 games, so they will have an opportunity to prove their legitimacy.

5.  Oklahoma City Thunder (8-3) [Last Week: 4]: Kevin Durant averages 12.5 free throws per game, and he and Russell Westbrook are currently carrying the Thunder to a 3-game win streak. They should be better defensively, however, with Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins down low, but are allowing an average of 101.1 points per game, which is 10th worst in the league. The Thunder are winning on the talent of Durant and Westbrook, but will need to improve defensively if they expect to win the Western Conference.

6.  Los Angeles Clippers (8-5) [Last Week: 5]: Chris Paul is still averaging career highs in points per game (19.3 now, 18.6 career), assists per game (12.5 now, 9.9 career), and rebounds per game (5.2 now, 4.4 career).  DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin together form the best front court the Clippers have had in years and have been hoping for it since they drafted him in 2008.  Doc Rivers is still settling in to the team, and while it seems as Los Angeles is finally embracing the Clippers as their team, as evident by their 5-1 record at home, they have only a 3-4 record on the road.  That should change as the season progresses and these Clippers will be going places.

7.  Dallas Mavericks (9-4) [Last Week: On The Verge]: The Mavericks have surprised a lot of people this year, as last year it seemed that as Dirk Nowitzki began to decline, the team would also. However, they are riding a 4-game winning streak and Dirk is a huge reason why. He averages 20.4 points per game, as opposed to 17.3 last year. Monta Ellis is also having a career year, scoring an average of 23.5 points per game (19.5 career) and averaging 5.7 assists per game (4.7 career). His field goal percentage (48.9%) is also much higher than last year (41.6%). This improved efficiency has certainly been aided by the much higher level of talent around him this year than last, and has lead to an average of 7.3 free throws attempted per game, which is 7th in the league. Look for the Mavericks too keep on rolling, but eventually settle for the 6-8 spot in the Western Conference.

8.  Houston Rockets (8-5) [Last Week: 6]: The Rockets score an average of 109.7 points per game, which is the highest rate in the league. However, defense and ball security have kept them from being an elite team. They give up 105.9 points per game, which is second-worst in the league, and turn the ball over at a rate of 18.7 time per game, which is worst in the league. There is no way that the Rockets can expect to go anywhere in the playoffs with those numbers, and with the James Harden and Jeremy Lin constantly handling the ball it will be hard to fix them. Just to point out another major flaw of Houston's game: Dwight Howard averages 11.5 free throws per game, which is the second-most in the league. He is shooting 54.4% at the line, which is the fourth worst rate in the league.

9.  Golden State Warriors (8-5) [Last Week: On The Verge]: The Warriors are all-around solid.  hey are fifth in the league in differential of points scored and points allowed per game (+5.7) and have incredible 3-point shooting (44.6% as a team, which is second in the league). Andre Iguodala has given the Warriors another big-time option to keep defenses from over-playing Stephon Curry. But, Iguodala does run hot and cold, and has only scored a total of 15 points in the last two games combined.  They lost both games, and will continue to lost if Iguodala cannot find some consistency.

10.  Minnesota Timberwolves (8-6) [Last Week: 10]: Kevin Love. 24.8 points per game (4th in the league). 13.5 rebounds per game (2nd in the league by only 0.2 rebounds, behind Dwight Howard with 13.7). 4.7 assists per game (1st among power forwards). 0.9 steals per game. 8.0 free throw attempts per game (4th in the league). He is the team and as he goes they go, for without him they wouldn't be even close to being in these rankings. He is that good. Period.

On The Verge: Atlanta Hawks (8-5) [Last Week: Unranked],
Chicago Bulls (6-5) [Last Week: 9], Memphis Grizzlies (7-6) [Last Week: Unranked]

Start 'Em, Sit 'Em (Week 12)

Start 'Em:
Rashad Jennings, RB, Oakland Raiders
In the three weeks that Darren McFadden has been injured, Jennings has dominated, posting two touchdowns and 340 rushing yards.  Additionally, with 19 carries per game during this spell, and a matchup against the Titan's 27th ranked run defense, all the pieces are in place for Jennings to have another fantastic week.

Aaron Dobson, WR, New England Patriots
Sunday night's blockbuster game between the Patriots and the Broncos is undoubtedly going to be a shootout, with two of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, going up against each other.  Despite his early-season drop difficulties, Dobson has managed to jump Julian Edelman and Kenbrell Thompkins on the depth chart, and now lays claim to the role of Tom Brady's number one wide receiver.  He will still receive fewer targets than Gronkowski and Shane Vereen, but he should get enough balls headed his way to put in a good performance.

Scott Tolzien, QB, Green Bay Packers
The way the Minnesota pass defense is playing right now, I'd start Uncle Rico in my fantasy league if he was playing against them.  Even if Tolzien is not Aaron Rodgers, he still has loads of offensive weapons, and looks a pretty good pick against a Minnesota defense that has allowed more than one passing touchdown against them in all but two games.

Sit 'Em:
Lamar Miller, RB, Miami Dolphins
Miller has not lived up to the lofty expectations we had for him at the start of the year, but he has managed to provide a decent amount of consistency in a year that has seen very poor running back production.  Thus, he continues to be played in a number of leagues despite his low upside.  In the past two weeks, though, he only has eleven rushes for nineteen yards, as Daniel Thomas has emerged as the Dolphin's number one back.  In addition, Miller goes up against a top 5 Panther's defense this week.  Lack of touches and a tough matchup are not a good recipe for success; keep Miller on your bench this Sunday.

Steve Smith, WR, Carolina Panthers
Steve Smith always seems to have a positive impact on the Panthers, whether he's making a clutch catch or requiring double coverage.  However, the play of Smith that has been so important to the Panthers this year, has not quite translated well to fantasy football.  He only has three touchdowns on the year, and has yet to record more than 70 yards.  Thus, with a tough matchup against the Dolphin's defense this week, Smith should be taking a rest on your bench.

Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins
Though his fantasy production has been great  in the past two weeks, I think its if fair to asses these games as outliers for Griffin.  In particular, last week Griffin struggled mightily against a lousy Eagle's defense before recording two long touchdowns late in the fourth quarter (one of which was a bit fluky).  If you watched the game, its was obvious that Griffin is not that same quarterback that he was last year, when he won rookie of the year.  If the Eagles were able to stifle RGIII, surely the sturdy 49er's defense will be up to the task.

NFL Week 12 Predictions

Abridged Version

Saints over Falcons (Correct)

Ravens over Jets

Steelers over Browns

Lions over Buccaneers (OT)

Vikings over Packers

Texans over Jaguars

Chiefs over Chargers

Panthers over Dolphins

Bears over Rams

Colts over Cardinals (OT)

Raiders over Titans

Giants over Cowboys

Patriots over Broncos

49ers over Redskins

Friday, November 22, 2013

2014 Fantasy Baseball Rankings- 11-20

For rankings 1-10, click here. Check back in a few days for rankings 20-50! Comment which rankings you agree with and what changes you would make.

11. Ryan Braun
Had Braun not been suspended for steroid use in 2013, he most likely would have been on the way to another MVP caliber season. Though there is reason to be concerned about the effects of his steroid use, his peripherals are slightly more concerning. In his short-lived 2013 season, he batted .298 with a .360 BABIP, 19 points above his career average. We predict that Braun's numbers will regress slightly from career averages in 2014 though he will still provide excellent value as a late first round pick or early second rounder.

12. Chris Davis
Davis is arguably the biggest candidate to be a bust in 2014. We know he has power, but players do not typically break out at age 27 after 8 full years in the MLB. 2013 was also the first season in which Davis played more than 140 games, just another concern for Davis. We predict Davis to regress in 2013, and numbers of .270/35/100 seem realistic for the first baseman.

13- Adam Jones
Prior to 2012, Jones had been seen as a constant disappointment for fantasy owners. Each season he was touted a "breakout" candidate, but he never had that big season. Things changed in 2012, however, when he blasted 32 home runs, stole 16 bases and scored 103 runs. He put up nearly identical numbers in 2013, good for 10th on ESPN's player rater. Expect Jones to maintain his numbers in 2014, which should fall around .285/30/100.

14. Joey Votto
Votto is one of the most consistent players you can draft in the first couple rounds. He has never batted below .300 in a season, he has hit 24 or more home runs in 5 of the past 6 seasons and he has stayed healthy for nearly all of his career, playing all 162 games in 2013. If Votto drops to 14, consider yourself lucky.

15. Prince Fielder
After a disappointing 2013 campaign, Fielder is a prime candidate for a bounce back season in 2014. The Rangers ballpark is far superior to Comerica park for left handed hitters and it certainly won't hurt that he will be batting clean-up for one of the best offenses in the AL. If Fielder can keep his contact rate up, he should be in for a huge season, providing 1st round value for a 2nd round pick.

16. Adrian Beltre
It is pretty miraculous for Beltre to be putting up the numbers he did in his 16th season in the MLB. Since 2010 Beltre has put together a string of all-star seasons, batting an average of .313 with 126 home runs, an average of nearly 32 per season. Beltre should also benefit from the arrival of Prince Fielder who adds a serious weapon to the already strong Rangers offense.

17. Stephen Strasburg
Strasburg has all the tools to be the 2nd best pitcher in baseball behind Clayton Kershaw, he just has yet to put them all together. Had Strasburg not been shut down in 2013, he more than likely would have improved on his already impressive numbers. A down year for the Nationals and some of the worst run support in the MLB left Strasburg out of luck in terms of wins, as he garnered just 8 over the course of the season. Look for Strasburg to have a tremendous 2014 campaign.

18. Evan Longoria
Longoria had a puzzling 2013 season. Though his fly ball rate was over 2% higher than his career average, his line drive rate dropped which led to a drop in batting average. One interesting stat to watch for Longoria in 2014 will be his K rate. In 2013, it rose to 23.4 from his 20.5 career average. Longoria should put together another strong season in 2014, with an average near .280 to go along with 35 HR and 100 RBI.

19. Giancarlo Stanton
Stanton has the most raw power in the MLB. With a career ISO (Isolated Power) of .270, Stanton should contribute upwards of 40 HRs this season. Increased patience at the plate (his BB rate was 3 points above his career average in 2013 and his K rate dropped a full point in 2013 from his career average) should also help boost his fantasy value.

20. Yu Darvish
Unlike fellow Japanese-native Daisuke Matsuzaka, who proved to be a bust after just 1 successful season, Yu Darvish proved in 2013 that he has the stuff to remain an elite starter in the MLB for years to come. Darvish struck out an astounding 277 batters in 2013 to go along with a sub 3 ERA and should produce similar stats in 2014.