Sunday, November 9, 2014

NFL Midseason Predictions: Super Bowl Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start 'Em:

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

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

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

Sit 'Em:

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

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

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

Friday, October 31, 2014

NFL Midseason Predictions: Awards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 25, 2014

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

Start 'Em:

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

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

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

Sit 'Em:

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

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

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

Sunday, October 5, 2014

College Football Week 6 recap

This was the funnest weekend college football has seen in my memory. With five teams in the top 8 dropping games, it was also the most upset filled week in the history of the AP poll. Now that the dust has settled, we are left with a slim group of unbeatens left standing, and plenty of amazing games and moments to charge into the next half of the season. I've provided my personal three takeaways from this weekend, in vaguely ranked importance.

Dak Prescott had a day for himself, with 5 TD's in a
rout of the Aggies. 
Most importantly, this will not be a season where being undefeated is a necessary qualification for playoff football. Thank God in his heaven. Perhaps one of the happier states outside of Mississippi on Saturday night was actually Oregon. After a disappointing egg laying by the Ducks (sorry) against an unranked Arizona team (again?!) Mariota and co. must have counted themselves out for yet another season. Another season where they don't run the table, another season where they don't contend for a national championship, another season… oh wait. With Oregon, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M all in the playoff conversation before this weekend, can we really cross them all off the list after losses? We can't, is the answer. Thankfully then, this year we'll have some outstanding one loss teams. I truly believe that those four top 6 teams that lost this weekend should remain in the playoff conversation as the season progresses, which is good for college football. So many strong teams dropped good games that we can eliminate exactly no one from the conversation, especially by the end of the season.
We're still talking about the Ducks, who enjoyed watching
Saturday: The Pac 12's last hope. 
Which brings me to my next important point; This weekend, while providing some fun highlight reel moments, (and some ridiculous stats, including a D1 game passing record from Washington St's Connor Halliday with 734 yards through the air… in a loss) also set up some humongous games in the upcoming weeks. Of particular note are Auburn at Miss St. (next weekend), then Auburn at Ole Miss, Notre Dame at Florida St, another matchup which will cull the ranks of the unvanquished. At this point, there won't be all too many. Baylor at Oklahoma on November 8th will decide the Big 12, and as of yesterday Baylor is in the fourth playoff spot. But again, what's so great about this weekend is that so many good teams lost that none of them are out of the conversation. These are some great match ups.
How many Division one records are set in a loss? 
and Auburn vs Texas A&M. A season ending Auburn at Alabama Iron Bowl could well be for all the marbles, depending on how this season unfolds. Here's hoping... After those first two games for Auburn, there will by necessity only be one undefeated team left of those three SEC teams, unless Auburn loses both games, in which case we have an amazing rivalry game on our hands. The perennial Miss St. Ole Miss at the end of the season would then become without a doubt the most important game in the history of the rivalry. The two teams from Mississippi have never been ranked in the top ten simultaneously, which is going to change in this week's AP poll. A non SEC game to keep on the radar will be

None of which are in the Pac 12. Oh, Pac 12. My once and future king, my favorite conference, my personal preseason pick, how you have let me down. You string me along, telling me this will be the season, a strong conference full of players who can read! I should have known then as I know now, it's simply too good to be true. I did in fact rank the Pac 12 as the strongest conference in college football before this season began, and boy do I look stupid now. In my defense, the computers agreed with me, and the SEC had lost just about every good quarterback it had (Prescott, you've taught me better by now, not to mention a little Nick Marshall laying a whupping on LSU). But the Pac 12 just isn't the conference it wants to be. Oregon can score and always has been able to, but they seem to be more effective at dropping 70 on FCS teams than winning important conference games. They talk a lot about making the next step, about contending for a national title, but they have to deal with upstart Wildcats run amok in their own conference first. Stanford is always a fundamentally coached football team with a top 5 defense, but quarterback play holds the Cardinal back, until Kevin Hogan learns to move his eyes a little for the love of God. (see below, they dropped a great game in Southbend, again.) 8th ranked UCLA lost an ugly game to the Utah Utes, and there's yet another Pac 12 team that talks a big national scene game but loses bad match ups. All these up and coming teams made me pick the Pac 12. I drank the koolaid. I figured this would be the year at least one of those three elite teams delivered on their promises. I can still remember UCLA coach Jim Mora, after good losses against great teams last year, angry as anything and going on about "there has to be a point where we start winning these big games, I don't care about looking good in a loss." Well, the Bruins haven't reached that point. Oh, and not to forget the fourth Pac 12 team we care about, the 16th Trojans coming in hot with a loss to Arizona State on a legendary Hail Mary. So not this year, for the conference. I was rooting for the West, I really, really was, but again they have disappointed their fans, which includes me. All told, top 25 Pac 12 teams went 0-4 this weekend, and that includes two top ten teams losing to unranked opponents. Not a good weekend, and because of it the conference probably won't send a team to the playoff.  

Destined to be a physical football game
(That was a great game against the Irish, by the way. In 35 degrees and pouring rain, it felt a lot like the battle of Helm's Deep, and Golson won it on 4th and 11 with under a minute remaining with a perfect touchdown pass to a wide open Ben Koyack, 17-14. Wet conditions (neither team ever really passed effectively) and great defense were the story in a physical and important football game, that has now gone a little overlooked in such a tumultuous weekend.)

So Mississippi can celebrate for a week, and ditto for Auburn fans, all of whom are sitting pretty at the top of the Sec West. But that conference will look a whole lot different in three weeks, with only one unbeaten remaining in all likelihood. The losers this week shouldn't be too bummed either. In short, the only fans who should bail on this season are fans of Brady Hoke, who's so gone it's not even funny. Michigan dropped to 2-4 with a truly atrocious showing against Rutgers, 24-26. Michigan sucks. But beyond that, there's a lot of great things happening in this sport. Here's to an awesome weekend in college football, and many more to come. Cheers.

NFL Week 5 Predictions

Packers over Vikings (Correct): If Teddy Bridgewater had been healthy for this Week 5 matchup, the Thursday night game would have been a lot more interesting. Instead, the Packers offense, particularly Eddie Lacy, dominated the Vikings defense throughout the game, giving Green Bay an easy win at home.

Bears over Panthers: In the past two games for Carolina, the Panthers have been outscored 75-29, a horrible statistic seeing how the defense is supposed to be one of Carolina's strengths. Cam Newton is not playing like his former self since injuring his rib in the offseason, whereas the Bears have defeated both the 49ers and Jets on the road. Chicago looks like the early favorite.

Cowboys over Texans: While the Cowboys certainly receive plenty of criticism from football fans, there is no denying that their 38-17 victory over the New Orleans Saints is impressive. Among running backs with more than 50 attempts, Murray leads the league in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, yards per attempt, yards per game, and 1st downs. Plus, only giving up 17 points to the mighty New Orleans Saints is a sign of improvement on defense. The Texans should not be a problem.
Lions over Bills: The Lions have beaten both the Packers and the Jets within the past two weeks. Even though Calvin Johnson has struggled thus far, Matthew Stafford and the Lions offense have had no problem putting points on the board. The Buffalo Bills pass rush is pretty talented, but not enough to derail the Lions offense.

Colts over Ravens: Quarterback Andrew Luck is certainly deserving of the Most Valuable Player Award as of Week 4, seeing how he leads the league in both passing yards and touchdowns, as well as recording a 3-1 record. The Ravens are coming off of a dominant victory over the Carolina Panthers, where receiver Steve Smith played like his former self in Carolina. This game is sure to be a shoot-out, but the Colts have home-field advantage, thus giving them a slight edge over Baltimore.

Steelers over Jaguars: The Jacksonville Jaguars are undoubtedly the worst team in the NFL, whereas the Pittsburgh Steelers are playing well enough to earn a spot in the playoffs. Antonio Brown is worthy of a position on the All-Pro team through these past 4 games, and even with a loss against Tampa Bay last week, the Steelers are guaranteed to bounce back against Jacksonville.

Saints over Buccaneers: At 1-3, the New Orleans Saints did not start off the 2014 season the way they would have liked, but with a chance to be tied for second in the division, Drew Brees and the Saints look to beat Tampa Bay, a division rival. Tampa Bay beat Pittsburgh thanks to a last minute score, but after that emotional victory, the Bucs are bound to lose at the Superdome.

Giants over Falcons: The New York Giants are one of the more difficult teams to predict, but based on what we saw last week, it looks like Eli Manning is adjusting well to the West Coast offensive scheme. Atlanta just lost on the road to a rookie quarterback, and their road trip continues into New York. If Manning is able to play well, the Giants will beat the Atlanta Falcons.

Eagles over Rams: The Philadelphia Eagles were undefeated entering San Francisco last week, but in a close game, they were handed their first loss of the season. Meanwhile, the Rams remain winless on the year, and I don't see them earning the win on the road this week.

Browns over Titans: The Cleveland Browns are 1-2 thus far with Brian Hoyer as quarterback, where all three games were decided by three points or less against legitimate playoff contenders. The Titans have home field advantage, but the Browns have more talent on both sides of the ball.

Broncos over Cardinals: Not many people guessed at the start of the year that one of the only remaining undefeated teams by Week 5 would be the Arizona Cardinals; however, that is the case for this season. The Denver Broncos now have the best opportunity to give Arizona the first loss of the season. Even though Arizona's defense has been one of the best in the league within the past two seasons, they will be no match for the best offense in all of football.

Chargers over Jets (OT): This game is a classic example of offense vs. defense, as Philip Rivers and the high-flying San Diego offense takes on the young, talented defensive line of the New York Jets. Sunday's game will be very close, but the deciding factor will be Geno Smith's continuing struggles on offense.

49ers over Chiefs: Last week served as a must-win game for the San Francisco 49ers against the Philadelphia Eagles, and after the Week 4 win, the Niners are just two games out of first place in the division. Kansas City trounced a struggling New England Patriots last week, but if anyone can suppress the now-healthy Jamaal Charles, it would be the 49ers.

Bengals over Patriots: The New England Patriots are coming off one of their worst performances during the Brady-era. While Brady's statistics have dropped, the contributing factor has been a horrible offensive line that is not giving their quarterback enough time in the pocket. The Cincinnati Bengals are an incredible force on the defensive side of the ball, and while the Patriots should have cornerback Brandon Browner return from his suspension, the Bengals look like the all-around better team in this matchup.

Seahawks over Redskins: Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins lost in an embarrassing performance against the New York Giants on Thursday Night Football, and even though the Redskins are at home against Seattle, the superior talent on the Seahawks roster will help give Seattle an easy win.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

2014-2015 Start 'Em Sit 'Em (Week 5)

Start 'Em:

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers - This pick isn't about ability or form - it's purely based on matchup. The Steelers and Big Ben will go up against the Jaguars' abysmal pass defense this week, in a matchup that likely won't be very close for very long. Roethlisberger will have further motivation to punish the Jaguars this week on the back of a humiliating loss last week to the lowly Buccaneers. Unless you're flaunting someone like Peyton Manning or Drew Brees this week at quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger should be in your starting lineup.

Zac Stacy, RB, St. Louis Rams - The Eagles rush defense has been very poor so far this year, so you would expect that Stacy, coming off a bye weak, would have a fair amount of success. It also doesn't hurt that Stacy has been much more prominent in terms of both touches and fantasy points in his last two games. The Rams may not find themselves ahead for long portions of the game, but do expect them to stick with the run, as it should reap benefits.

Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers - Before last week's 10 catch, 135 yard performance, Allen looked like he was going to be somewhat of a fantasy bust this year. However, now that he has seemingly been reaffirmed into Philip Rivers' good graces, he probably deserves a spot in your starting lineup too. Additionally, the Chargers go up against the Jets this week, and, while the Jets have one of the best rush defenses in the league, their pass defense has been lacking this year. Keenan Allen should have another big week, and will hopefully had a touchdown to his stat sheet.

Sit 'Em:

Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
 - I'm actually one of few people who still thinks the Patriots are a playoff-worthy team, so I don't believe that the Bengals' Sunday night matchup against the Pats will be as easy as everyone expects. The Patriots have a good secondary (at least in terms of personnel) and one of the better linebacker cores in the NFL. Even if they can't stop the run and have trouble getting to the quarterback, with the exception of Chandler Jones, they probably won't give up another huge week like they did against the Chiefs. I still think the Bengals win this game, but It'll likely be more because of their running game and stingy defense than Andy Dalton.

Montee Ball, RB, Denver Broncos - Ball really struggled before the Broncos' bye week against the Seahawks run defense, and he has an even tougher matchup this week against the Cardinals. Additionally, you can expect Peyton Manning to take over this game for the Broncos, which could mean a light workload for Ball, another factor that would indicate that this will be a down week for him.

Eric Decker, WR, New York Jets - Decker has put up decent fantasy numbers so far this year, but his role in the Jets offense as a whole has to have fantasy owners concerned. Decker has not had a single game with more than five catches, and in general hasn't been targeted very often. So far, his fantasy season has been saved by a couple touchdowns, but if the targets continue to go elsewhere, his touchdowns will probably go elsewhere too. Factor in an uneasy starting quarterback situation, and we've got a recipe for a bad fantasy week.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

2014-2015 Start 'Em Sit 'Em (Week 4)

Start 'Em:

Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers - Any quarterback that's playing the Jacksonville Jaguars needs to be in your starting lineup - It's as simple as that. Rivers is probably even better than just "any quarterback," though, as he has been on fire this year, with a 6:1 touchdown to interception ratio and massive performance against the best defense in the NFL in week 2. Rivers should have a huge game on Sunday, and we wouldn't want you missing out on those fantasy points, so please put him in your starting lineup.

Lamar Miller, RB, Miami Dolphins - Miller has had an impressive start to the fantasy season when you take into consideration that he has had to share carries with one of the best fantasy running backs in the league last year, Knowshon Moreno. With Moreno out this week and the Dolphins going up against the lowly Raiders, Miller is primed for a big week.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles - Though this may not seem as if it's an extremely bold pick, seeing as Maclin is currently third in fantasy points for a wide receiver, there is still a general sense that Maclin is going to come crashing down to earth sometime soon. I'm not saying thats not going to happen, but I am saying that it's not going to happen this week. The 49ers demand a lot of respect as a defense, but the reality is that they haven't played well at all against the pass so far this year. They are second worst in the league in fantasy points allowed to opposing wide receivers, allowing six wide receiver touchdowns thus far. With the Eagles offense still flying high, I'd recommend you start Maclin this week.

Sit 'Em:

Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons - I'd understand if you have no backup quarterback that Matt Ryan may have to grace your starting lineup. However, if you have a serviceable backup, you should consider giving him the start. Ryan has been fantastic thus far, but I think he's destined for a down performance against a Vikings defense that has actually performed remarkably against the pass this year. After the Falcons dominated the Bucs last week, I see them coming out a bit sluggishly this week, and Ryan won't benefit from that.

Reggie Bush, RB, Detroit Lions - Bush had a really good week against Green Bay last week, but he still only saw 12 carries for just 61yards, which will worry Bush owners, especially because Joique Bell continues to get equal touches to Bush. This week, the duo will go up against a stout Jets run defense that has shut down Eddie Lacy and Matt Forte in the last two weeks. With limited touches and a tough matchup, Bush should probably see your bench this week.

T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts - Hilton hasn't experienced a fast start to the fantasy season like some expected. The biggest problem for Hilton is that he has seen hardly any targets in the red zone, and he hasn't been as explosive as a deep threat either. Hilton goes up against a dominant Titans pass defense that has allowed just one touchdown against Dez Bryant and A.J. Green in the last two weeks, so I wouldn't expect Hilton's poor fantasy start to change just yet.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

NFL Week 3 Predictions

Falcons over Buccaneers: This victory for the Atlanta Falcons came as no surprise, yet the final score may have shocked many people. Atlanta played incredibly well on both sides of the ball, and with Julio Jones healthy, the Falcons could very well have the best passing game in all of football.

Bills over Chargers: The San Diego Chargers are coming off of an incredible upset over the Seattle Seahawks last week, yet in a typical trap game, they will have to fly to the east coast for a game against Buffalo. The Bills are 2-0 this season, and second year quarterback EJ Manuel has done really well with rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins on offense. Plus, the Bills defensive line continues to get better and better.

Bengals over Titans: The Cincinnati Bengals held the Falcons offense to just 10 points last week, which should come as no surprise seeing how dominant the Bengals are at home. Tennessee will be playing Cincy on the road, so in the mortal lock of the week, we pick the Bengals to beat Tennessee pretty handily.

Ravens over Browns: Since 2000, the Browns have had 19 different starting quarterbacks, but Brian Hoyer is the only one with a winning record (4-1). The Ravens will certainly be tough to beat, even if the game is to be played in Cleveland.

Packers over Lions: The Green Bay Packers are coming off of an epic comeback against the New York Jets on the road, where Jordy Nelson went for 209 yards and a touchdown. The Detroit Lions lost to Carolina on the road in Week 2, where it seemed like Matthew Stafford tried to force WAY too many passes to star receiver Calvin Johnson instead of looking for other options.

Colts over Jaguars: Even with Jacksonville at home, the Jaguars really don't stand a chance to Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. In just two games, Andrew Luck has already thrown for more than 500 yards and 5 touchdowns, and with the Luck-Wayne connection stronger than ever, the Colts are likely to dominate on the road.
Patriots over Raiders: After their atrocious start to the season in Miami, the New England Patriots responded by trouncing the Minnesota Vikings, even though they were without Adrian Peterson. The Raiders are a slightly more talented team than Minnesota without All-Day, but Oakland will still struggle on either side of the ball.

Saints over Vikings: Last week, we saw how important Adrian Peterson is to this Minnesota Vikings offense, where his absence led to just 7 points on offense against the Patriots. Peterson will not be playing once again, and it doesn't help that the Vikings are set to play the Saints in New Orleans. There is no doubt in my mind that New Orleans will beat the Vikings at home.

Giants over Texans: The New York Giants have yet to win a football game in the 2014 regular season, mostly because they are struggling to put points on the board. Eli Manning has improved his completion percentage from last season, but he is still on track for 32 interceptions if he continues to throw 2 interceptions per game. The Texans are also not faring well at quarterback, and with the game being played in New York, the Giants should be able to get their first win of the season.

Eagles over Redskins: After RGIII left the game with an ankle injury, back-up quarterback Kirk Cousins stepped in against Jacksonville, leading his team to victory. The Eagles will be a much more difficult opponent, especially with the matchup being played in Philly. Plus, Philly's running game has been nearly unstoppable as of late due to the combination of Darren Sproles and LeSean McCoy.

Cowboys over Rams: Ever since Sam Bradford suffered his season ending injury in the offseason, the Rams have been frantically looking for a solid replacement. Back-up quarterback Sean Hill ended up getting injured in the season opener as well, meaning Austin Davis will be the man to step in and hopefully win games for the St. Louis Rams. This matchup against Dallas does not look good for Rams fans, and I expect the Cowboys to win on the road.

49ers over Cardinals: The Arizona Cardinals experienced a shocking development this past week, where running back Jonathan Dwyer was accused of abusing his wife and infant son. These distractions may have gotten in the way of their preparations for the San Francisco 49ers, and I predict the Niners to trounce Arizona, even though the Niners are on the road.

Dolphins over Chiefs: The Kansas City Chiefs have not played well in 2014, which is surprising seeing how Andy Reid managed to send this team into the playoffs last season. Running back Jamaal Charles did not look like himself in Week 1, and the high ankle sprain he suffered in Week 2 will likely mean he is not 100% for the Miami game. As of right now, it looks like the Dolphins are the odds on favorite to win.

Game of the Week: Seahawks over Broncos: In what might be the regular season game of the year, the Denver Broncos look to avenge their blowout loss to the Seattle Seahawks in this Super Bowl rematch. The Denver Broncos might have Wes Welker return from his suspension, as he will join offensive threats like Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas. The Seahawks are coming off of an atrocious performance against the San Diego Chargers, and they look to respond by beating the Broncos once again, this time at home. The Seahawks managed to beat Peyton and the Broncos in a neutral location last season, so it will be even harder for Denver to win in the most difficult away stadium in all of football.
Seahawks over Broncos 23-21
Panthers over Steelers: Even with Cam Newton playing in his first game since suffering a rib injury during the offseason, the Panthers managed to beat the Detroit Lions in Week 2. The Steelers will be a slightly easier opponent, and I expect to see a similar result as last week.

Bears over Jets: The Chicago Bears pulled off quite possibly the best comeback of the season thus far, as they beat the San Francisco 49ers in the first game at Levi's Stadium. Chicago will now be playing their second straight road game, this time against the New York Jets, who were the victims of a comeback victory by the Green Bay Packers. The Chicago Bears have plenty of offensive weapons, enough to beat this young, talented defense in New York.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

2014-2015 Start 'Em Sit 'Em (Week 3)

Start 'Em:

Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears - Cutler has looked extremely impressive so far this year, so you'd expect him to have an absolute field day against the porous Jets' pass defense. Moreover, Cutler's main receiving targets, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, will be further removed from the injuries that they suffered two weeks ago. Simply put, all the stars are aligning for Cutler to have a monstrous game.

Trent Richardson, RB, Indianapolis Colts - For the first time since his rookie season, Richardson looked dominant when carrying the ball, as he was given the ball 21 times and piled up 79 yards. Granted that was against a poor Eagles' rush defense, but this week he gets to go up against an equally bad Jaguars' defense. Some will say that his value is decreased because of the emergence of Ahmad Bradshaw, but, at least for this week, I expect them to be able to coexist.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals - Though he has been extraordinarily disappointing for fantasy owners so far this season, Fitzgerald's number of targets last week should have fantasy owners feeling encouraged. Though I don't expect him to put up a huge amount of yards, the Cardinals have looked to him enough in the red zone this year that a touchdown is clearly coming soon. Keep faith in Fitz this week.

Sit 'Em:

Colin Kaepernick, QB, San Francisco 49ers - Kaepernick has been an enigma thus far through the season. He had an extremely impressive opening game against the Cowboys, which he followed up with a 4-turnover game against the Bears. He may have enough fantasy potential to keep him in your starting lineup most weeks, but this week he goes up against a Cardinals defense that is a lot better than the Bears defense (and a whole lot better than the Cowboys defense). If you've got another option at quarterback, I'd recommend letting Kaepernick sit this week out.

Terrance West, RB, Cleveland Browns - After grabbing the Browns starting job and playing well in week one, West was a very popular waiver pickup going into week two. Fantasy owners who started him in week two were awarded for their clever pickup with 68 rushing yards and a touchdown. However, in week three, West will have to go up against a stout Ravens' rush defense that is yet to allow a rushing touchdown this year. I actually have faith that West will be a solid fantasy running back this year, but I don't think he will perform well this week.

Anquan Boldin, WR, San Francisco 49ers - Boldin is a solid wide receiver, there's no doubting that, and he should be a decent WR2 in most league. However, this week everything seems to point to him having a rough game. He will be going up against the Cardinals defense, more specifically, Patrick Peterson, he has had a fairly mellow start to the season, and the 49ers aren't an team that will go out and throw the ball 40 times. Honestly, I'd wait until Boldin finally regains his mojo or has a great matchup until putting him back into your team.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Heisman Watch: Week 4

With the season now well underway, talk about the Heisman race can really heat up. No surprises, really, at this point in the season. Besides of course that so far I was spot on in my preseason predictions. Here's a list of top five Heisman candidates, contingent upon not just their current performance but how I see them playing (and thus making their case) in the next couple of weeks. I also tried to spice it up a little, positionally. 

Absolute no doubter
Marcus Mariota is a no doubter at the top of this list. It was a couple of weeks ago when the to date biggest game of the year was on display in Michigan St. vs Oregon, and Mariota did not hurt his case. As I was taught when a wee lad, Heisman moments make Heisman campaigns. Well, Mariota had his moment. Down 24-18 at the half, with the world whispering of an upset in the making and the producers on sports center licking their chops at some "not so mighty ducks" puns, Mariota came out of the locker room and played one of the better halves of football we've seen in a while. He dropped a casual 28 in a half to finish with a resounding 46-27 win over the then 7th ranked Spartans. Suffice it to say this was an awesome game, in which Mariota finished with 318 yards and 3 touchdowns, against one of the better defenses in the country. To top that off, last week he missed a grand total of 4 passes against Wyoming en route to a 48-14 victory, with four total touchdowns, good for an almost perfect performance. Not hurting his chances, certainly. Watch for Mariota to make another statement this week as the Ducks travel to Washington St, a respectable Pac 12 foe. For now, he's miles ahead of the pack. 

Kenny Hill, the sophomore quarterback from Texas A&M is a surprising candidate for the award this year. In this horse race, they're coming around the far turn and he's starting to make his move on the heavy favorite. But the more you think about it, the more it looks like the Heisman is his for the taking. He absolutely has the team for it, (the Aggies are currently ranked sixth and they don't look like they want to stop any time soon) and in the SEC he certainly has the schedule, with the likes of Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Missouri. All those teams are national contenders, and if Hill and the Aggies run the table (I'm not saying that's going to happen) it will be hard to deny that he's the most valuable player in college football. He has already exhibited that uncanny penchant for dazzling, diverse displays of offensive fireworks we see from, for example, the Ducks. The only thing that separates Mariota from Hill is currently Mariota's history; we know Mariota can and will drop video game numbers, because he's been doing it for a while now. Hill, to his credit, has 11 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, and 1,094 yards passing in 3 games this season, with a completion percentage nearing 70%, but the size of his sample size holds him back, for now. Still that's a trend we'd like to see continue. So watch him all season, because we'll see some great games in which he features as prominently as M&M's in trail mix. 
"Johnny Football who?"

Now we drop off a bit, but don't tell Jameis Winston that. Statistically, and unfairly, I don't think Winston has another trip to New York in him. He has of course been effective in two games so far this season, but has passed for only 3 touchdowns compared with 2 interceptions. Not a ratio that will win the award this season, with other outstanding quarterbacks in the mix. 

[Now the horses back here are gasping for breath, and we (the crowd) are vaguely aware that it is the same race, but on some level unsure if they're even viable contenders. We don't spend too much time worrying about them though, preferring the stallions who are something like 40 lengths ahead, for the moment.] 

He does that really, really well
Amari Cooper is the currently sexy Heisman pick, but he's by no one's measure the frontrunner. What he is is an outrageously athletic wideout on a great team, who made his debut a couple of years ago and has been in the back of mind ever since. He is also off to a blazing start, with 33 catches and 454 yards in three games. That's absolutely ridiculous on a team and under a coach that loves to run, against stingy SEC secondaries. He'll stay on my list of top five players until he cools off, and I can't predict when that'll happen. This guy's an animal. 

Todd Gurley is on my list as the best running back in contention. If I had my way, however, he wouldn't be up here. His sixth ranked Bulldogs just lost to rival 24 South Carolina, for starters, and that is a heavy mark against him already. He's averaging over 100 yards a game, and in the SEC that is worth watching of course, with statement performances brewing in the future, but that's a tough hit to take to your chances this early in the season. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

NFL Week 2 Predictions

Last week: We went 9-7 with our prediction from last week, which amounts to a 56.25% win percentage. Clearly, we are hoping to do much better this week.

Ravens over Steelers: For the second straight week in a row, we correctly predicted the winner of the Thursday Night Football game. Our prediction to win the AFC North, the Baltimore Ravens, will be tied for first place in the division if Cincinnati loses their Week 2 game against Atlanta.

Bills over Dolphins: The Miami Dolphins managed to dethrone the New England Patriots last weekend from atop the AFC East by winning at home in a relatively dominant fashion. Yet the Buffalo Bills should not be taken lightly after defeating the Chicago Bears in Week 1.

Lions over Panthers: The Detroit Lions managed to thrash the New York Giants on Monday Night Football last game through the air, and will likely do the same this week against Carolina. While Carolina’s defense is much more talented, Detroit just has too many offensive weapons, and Detroit’s defensive line will also be able to pressure injured quarterback Cam Newton playing in his first game of the season.
Bengals over Falcons: Yes, the Falcons managed to beat their division rivals in Week 1, the New Orleans Saints, but now they will be travelling into Cincinnati, a place where the Bengals did not lose during the regular season in 2013. The Bengals have a much better defense than New Orleans, and the combination of Andy Dalton and AJ Green will be tough to beat.

Saints over Browns: Both teams lost in relatively close games during Week 1, but there is not doubt in my mind that the New Orleans Saints will be the better team on Sunday. Expect Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham to have big games.

Patriots over Vikings: Without star running back Adrian Peterson, this Vikings team will certainly have trouble getting anything going on offense. While the Patriots looked horrible in their season opener, I expect them to win this game in a dominant fashion. Mortal lock of the week.

Cardinals over Giants: The Arizona Cardinals managed to beat the San Diego Chargers, a playoff team last season, whereas the New York Giants looked horrendous offensively and defensively against the Lions. The Cardinals are one of the more underrated teams in football, and I expect them to win this game.

Cowboys over Titans: The Dallas Cowboys certainly looked bad in their season opener against San Francisco, but if Dez Bryant is able to play in the entire game this weekend, Dallas’ offense is sure to fair well against Tennessee; however, don’t take the Titans lightly, who defeated Kansas City in Week 1.

Redskins over Jaguars: After a poor showing against a strong pass rush in Houston, RGIII has a chance to prove himself against the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team not known for their defense. RGIII could very well have a great game.

Seahawks over Chargers: The San Diego Chargers have a very well rounded offense, but the Seattle Seahawks are possibly the most well-rounded team of the past 5 years. The Legion of Boom will likely be able to suppress Phillip Rivers and the San Diego passing game.

Buccaneers over Rams: Both teams have a massive hole to fill at quarterback, where St Louis’ second-string quarterback, Shaun Hill, is marked as questionable for Sunday’s game. This will be a tough game to predict, but I believe Tampa Bay has a reasonable amount of talent on this roster, enough to earn them the win.

Broncos over Chiefs: The Kansas City Chiefs looked horrendous in their season opener against the Titans, while the Denver Broncos played like Super Bowl contenders yet again. Plus, Wes Welker is set to return for Sunday’s game. Advantage Denver.

Packers over Jets: While the Jets managed to squeak by the Oakland Raiders in Week 1, they will be facing a much more talented team this week in Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers and Eddie Lacy both struggled on offense against Seattle, but I believe the will both bounce back to have above-average games.
Texans over Raiders: The Texans suffered an enormous loss last weekend in their victory over Washington, where defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is now expected to miss 6-8 weeks due to injury. Yet with Arian Foster back from his season ending injury, I believe they will be able to beat Oakland on the road.

49ers over Bears: The San Francisco offense was clicking on all cylinders last weekend against the Dallas Cowboys defense, and things are bound to continue into Week 2 with Chicago coming to town. Chicago did not play their best football against Tennessee last weekend, but even if they have a better performance against San Fran, it will be tough to defeat this 49ers team.

Colts over Eagles: While Peyton Manning and the Broncos got off to an early lead last Sunday Night, the Colts almost gave them a run for their money at the end, but to no avail. This week will be different, as Indy will dominate the Philadelphia Eagles defense throughout the majority of the game.

Last Week: 9-7 (56.25%)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

2014-2015 Start 'Em Sit 'Em (Week 2)

Start 'Em:

Knowshon Moreno, RB, Miami Dolphins - Coming into the season, it would have been advised to stay away from the Dolphins' running backs, considering both Moreno and Lamar Miller are fairly talented players and seemed destined to share the running burden equally. However, against the Patriots, Moreno received 23 carries to Miller's 11 and the Dolphins in general seemed extremely dedicated to the run game. This situation may turn into the sort of situation that we have in Detroit, where Joique Bell and Reggie Bush have managed to coexist as good valuable options by taking up different roles. Similarly, while Knowshon will dominate total carries and probably red zone carries, Miller may manage to make enough of a fantasy impact on third downs and passes to warrant consideration. Against a mediocre Bills defense this week expect Moreno (and Miller) to put up an impressive performance.

Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals - Dalton had an up-and-down week one, but one big play to A.J. Green completely redeemed him. You can expect that big play to rear its head again, as Dalton to Green may be the best deep ball combo in the league after Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson. Cincinnati's game against the Falcons this week should be a shootout, which plays directly into the hands of Dalton's fantasy owners as Dalton is likely to be airing the ball out early and often. Dalton may be your number one QB or he may be your number two, but either way you should seriously considering starting him this week.

Michael Floyd, WR, Arizona Cardinals - Week 1 saw Michael Floyd gain nearly six times as many yards as fellow wideout Larry Fitzgerald, which is huge in that it shows the Cardinals' dedication to feeding Floyd the ball. Of course, this lopsided production is not to be expected most weeks, but Floyd should expect to be fairly equal to Fitzgerald in terms of targets by the end of the year. Some weeks, it would be wise to let Floyd stay on the bench for your fantasy team, but going up against the Giants' horrible pass defense will allow for both Floyd and Fitzgerald to prosper, and maybe even get in the end zone.

Sit 'Em:

Zac Stacy, RB, St. Louis Rams - I actually liked Stacy a lot coming into the season, but his performance in week 1 will have owners remarkably worried. Stacy actually didn't play poorly, but he was only granted with 11 rushes, while Benjamin Cunningham, the team's other running back, was somehow on the field for more plays than Stacy. The Rams' stunning desire to play an undrafted free agent over an established player has to have fantasy owners extremely confused. While I still think that Stacy will put together a half-decent campaign this year, his production is now much more questionable than it was a week ago and owners should proceed with caution. A tough matchup against the Buccaneers defense isn't going to aid Stacy in his return to stardom, so I'd suggest letting him stay on your bench this week and reconsidering his status the following week.

Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers - It should be a given that any quarterback going up against the Seahawks defense needs to be out of your starting lineup, and Philip Rivers is no different. Rivers didn't look great against Arizona in week 1 and that probably won't improve much in week 2. The amount of viable fantasy football options at quarterback right now is incredible, so I'd scour the waiver wires for a better option because you can surely find one.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills - Watkins' ribs are now healthy and he remains the Bills only legitimate receiving option, but I am still not ready to call him a legitimate fantasy receiving option. I do expect him to break out at some point, but until he does, I'd recommend keeping him on your bench. The Bills go up against the Dolphins this week, who managed to swallow up the Patriots' potent passing game last week, so don't expect big things out of Watkins just yet.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Adrian Peterson Indicted on Charges of Reckless or Negligent Injury to a Child

Earlier this afternoon, All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson was indicted in Texas on charges of reckless or negligent injury towards a child. According to police, Adrian Peterson has cooperated with law enforcement thus far, yet the running back has not been arrested despite the recently released warrant for his arrest. Supposedly, Peterson used a "switch" to spank his son as a form of punishment. The situation is somewhat similar to the Ray Rice beating from several months ago, an issue that was re-energized when the elevator video was released by TMZ during this past week. Within the past several minutes, the Vikings have announced that Peterson has been deactivated before Sunday's game against the Patriots.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

NFL Week 1 Predictions

Seahawks over Packers: Even though this game already happened, our original prediction for the Seahawks-Packers was a Seattle victory by a score of 14-13. While we got the score wrong, getting the first game right is a great way to start off the season.

Falcons over Saints: Even though the Falcons are coming off of an off-season (which might be an understatement), games against the Saints are aways a different story. Julio Jones is returning from his season-ending injury, so expect the Falcons' passing game to be in full form to start off the season.

Ravens over Bengals: The Baltimore Ravens have many new weapons at receiver for quarterback Joe Flacco, and while Rice may be suspended at running back, receiver Steve Smith and tight end Dennis Pitta are sure to add a new dimension to this offense.

Bears over Bills: The Chicago Bears have an excellent passing game thanks to receivers Alshon Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall, while they are also able to offset the pass thanks to Matt Forte at running back. Also, their defense has many big names on the roster. Mortal lock of the week.

Redskins over Texans: While the Texans may have a lot of great talent on their defensive line, the offense has too many question marks for me to give them the win over RGIII and the Redskins. Washington has many offensive weapons, which leads me to believe that they will start off the season on a high note.

Chiefs over Titans: The Kansas City Chiefs are certainly the more talented teams, and seeing how they are at home, there is no way the Tennessee Titans can march into Kansas City and beat Alex Smith and the Chiefs.

Patriots over Dolphins: The New England Patriots' offense almost always starts off the season slowly, and away games in Miami can also be a trap game for the Patriots, yet I believe the Patriots have so much talent on this roster that they will manage to get the W to start off the year.

Jets over Raiders: The New York Jets have a young but extremely talented defensive line that can push around rookie quarterback David Carr. Geno Smith is not a great starting QB, but he has several weapons that can make him be a relatively above-average quarterback.

Steelers over Browns: Ben Roethlisbereger and the Pittsburgh Steelers did not have the start they would have liked last year, but they are most definitely going to get the victory over Brian Hoyer and the Browns. By the end of the game, Cleveland fans will be yelling for Johnny Football to be put in.

Eagles over Jaguars: Quarterback Nick Foles had a sensational season last year when he threw for 27 touchdowns with just 2 interceptions. The Eagles managed to win the NFC East, in stark contrast to the Jacksonville Jaguars, who missed out on playoff contention yet again.

Rams over Vikings: While the Rams took a big hit at quarterback this offseason by losing Sam Bradford, they were still in the hunt for a wild card sport last season without him. The defensive line will do a decent job shutting down AP, but they will most certainly bump around Matt Cassel in the pocket.

49ers over Cowboys: The 49ers did not play well during the preseason, which has led some people to doubt this team entering Week 1; however, they clearly have more talent on their depth chart than the Cowboys, so I expect Kaepernick and the 49ers offense to thrash Dallas' defense.

Panthers over Buccaneers: The Carolina Panthers may very well be without Cam Newton in today's game, so if in fact he does not play, I predict the Tampa Buccaneers to get the win. Yet if Newton is playing, Carolina's superior offense and defense will earn them the victory over Tampa.

Broncos over Colts: While Andrew Luck and the Colts managed to beat the Broncos last season, the Broncos are tough to beat at home due to the higher altitude. Just look at last season: the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens let Peyton Manning score 7 touchdowns on opening night.

Lions over Giants: The Detroit Lions will likely have the best passing game in all of football this season thanks to weapons like Calvin Johnson, Eric Ebron, Golden Tate, and Reggie Bush at running back. The Giants have been implementing a new offense, so it will certainly take a few games to get used to.

Chargers over Cardinals: The Chargers have a ton of weapons of offense, with quarterback Phillip Rivers, running back Ryan Matthews, and receivers Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates. The Cardinals are certainly this year's sleeper team, but I think San Diego gets the W.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

2014-2015 Start 'Em Sit 'Em (Week 1)

Start 'Em:

Colin Kaepernick, QB, San Francisco 49ers - In many 8 or 10 team leagues, Kaepernick will have ended up as a high-end backup. However, this week he shouldn't be sitting on your bench, regardless of what quarterback you need to bench to make way for him in the starting lineup. Kaepernick is going up against a Cowboys defense that was one of the worst pass defenses in the entire NFL last season and did very little to improve that over the offseason.

Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints - The Saints' running back situation has been somewhat of a carousel over the last few years, with no one back able to cement himself as a reliable player at the position. This preseason, though, Mark Ingram has been dominant, and the 2011 first round draft pick is finally looking like he is going to live up to his potential. What's remarkable about this situation is that, despite the lack of premier running backs in the NFL, Ingram hasn't even been picked up in 100 percent of leagues. If he's still a free agent in your league, you need to pick him up NOW, and maybe even consider him for your RB2 or flex spot as he has a fairly easy matchup against the Falcons.

Marquise Lee, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars - Now that Cecil Shorts has been labeled as "out" for the game against the Eagles and Ace Sanders has been suspended for the first four games, Lee is the only half-respectable fantasy target for the Jags, and he's currently available in most ESPN leagues. You would have to be fairly desperate for a flex spot to pull this move, but he is going up against one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL (that of the Philadelphia Eagles) and Chad Henne has to throw to someone, right? Right? RIGHT?

Sit 'Em:

Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens - My honest pick for a "sit 'em" quarterback this week would have been Aaron Rodgers, but considering he already played and sorely underperformed, that would really be cheating. So, here I'll tell you to sit Joe Flacco, but only if you have a fairly strong backup. Flacco doesn't have a great matchup against the Bengals, but I doubt that he'll absolutely implode. Thus, proceed with caution when sitting Flacco, but, in many situations it would probably be the right move.

DeAngelo Williams, RB,  Carolina Panthers - Williams' yard totals should be decent enough this year, but with Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert, and Cam Newton taking away from his red zone carries, he doesn't really hold much value unless one of the others gets injured or he has a great matchup. This week certainly isn't a good matchup, as Williams will go up against a Buccaneers' run defense that was one of the better run units in the entire league last year.

Golden Tate, WR, Detroit Lions - Tate was a legitimate WR2 last season, but that was in Seattle, where other wide receiver options were often scarce. In Detroit, other wide receiver options will be anything but scarce, as the best wide receiver in the NFL, Calvin Johnson, will demand most of the targets. In games against weak pass defenses Tate might be worth a look, but he goes up against the Giants this week, who were actually fairly impressive on pass defense last season. Tate may end up being a solid spot-start wide receiver, but this week is one of those weeks when you should keep him on your bench.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Notre Dame's Season on the Rocks: A Fan's Take

Every year without fail, Notre Dame provides a veritable fount of college football controversy and excitement. They've mattered since the beginning of the game, and nowadays that gives the anti-Domers ammunition, as they use favorite terms like archaic and irrelevant. But love them or hate them, you're talking about them, so they're important. While we (you should know from the outset that I am a loyal fan of the Irish, through thick and, yes, thin) still don't mention the great debacle of January 2013, this is a team that, when one neatly glances over that briefest of hiccups on a very national stage, has looked stronger and stronger recently. Going into the 2013 season, everyone had high hopes. Everett Golson had struggled late, sure, but it was his defense who carried the team to a national championship berth anyways (a defense led by, that's right, Manti Te'o. It's almost hard to continue at this point, but I'll try). Regardless, he had matured, the defense looked strong, and everything was rosy, even after an egg laying of tremendous proportions against Alabama.

Then Golson cheated. I used to know all the details, but a mercifully selective memory has erased them from my mind. An academic infraction? Really? The enormous, money making machine that is college football is going to take a big hit because some 19 year old had someone else write his final paper on his favorite chapter of Harry Potter? But suspended he was, to be exact because of "poor academic judgement" on a test.
Golson was suspended for the entire 2013 season. 
This is the life of a Notre Dame fan. I do in fact recall my reactions when I heard of Golson's suspension. I raised my eyes to the heavens, quietly walked out my door, screamed briefly, and went for a walk. This was the season! The trend! The quarterback! The stars had aligned, until Golson was out, and Tommy Rees (don't ask) led the team to a respectable 9-4 record, with a final AP ranking of 20th. This was not the Notre Dame season of my dreams, nor anyone's. Meanwhile a tiny voice in the back of my mind was quietly asking me if I was happy that my team applied this sort of standard for a student-athlete, even to its most important player. I couldn't really decide.

Already at the end of that 2013 season, I recall looking forward to this upcoming one with considerable interest, ever the optimist. The SEC had been vanquished on the national stage. The rising sophomore class was the best recruiting class in the country when they were first enrolled. These men can certainly make a difference, most notably outside linebacker Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame's best defensive player already. There was and is a lot to be excited about for the upcoming Irish season.

But of course, as soon as my hopes were raised, with equal, almost pitiful suddenness they were dashed. This came with the news that wideout DaVaris Daniels and defensive captain KeiVarae Russell were to be suspended for the season, for yet another "academic violation." Thankfully, since then it appears that the suspension is temporary and a reinstatement is likely. But for now their eligibility is in some doubt, and if ultimately these two men do not play Notre Dame will not have a legitimate chance at a playoff berth-Daniels was second on the team in receiving yards last year (behind TJ Jones, now drafted by the Lions) and Russell was one of the best cornerbacks in the country.
Some met this with glee, others dismay, and others frustration. I was inclined to a healthy mix of the last two. But more than just fans of Notre Dame should be sad to hear that their season is in peril. A good Notre Dame team is good for college football. Call me a homer, but I can hopefully provide a decent argument for this. As I have clearly shown above, Notre Dame, probably more than any other large football program in the country, values its student athletes as just that. For most top 25 programs in the country, the notion of the student athlete is a myth of laughable scale. Of course there is plenty of "academic support" for football players in Southbend, and I am not saying that every member of the team takes legitimate classes and works hard in the classroom, but I am absolutely saying that Notre Dame is very committed to academic standards. This is unequivocally proven by their commitment to the suspension of key players. Certainly I can't remember many other players at any other big football schools being suspended for cheating on tests and papers. Ask yourself honestly if an SEC school would suspend its starting quarterback (for an entire season!), top receiver, and defensive captain in the course of two years for anything other than a felony. The discrepancy is astonishing.

In comparison, a recent 146 word paper written by a UNC football player reads as follows, with no editing on my part. Note the grammatical prowess on display.

On the evening of December Rosa Parks decided that she was going to sit in the  white people section on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama. During this time blacks had to give up there seats to whites when more whites got on the bus. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. Her and the bus driver began to talk and the conversation went like this. “Let me have those front seats” said the driver. She didn’t get up and told the driver that she was tired of giving her seat to white people. “I’m going to have you arrested,” said the driver. “You may do that,” Rosa Parks responded. Two white policemen came in and Rosa Parks asked them “why do you all push us around?” The police officer replied and said “I don’t know, but the law is the law and you’re under arrest.
The essay received an A minus, and it was the final and only grade for the class.  It was made scandalously public by a whistleblower who noted that UNC had created fake classes for its student athletes.

Most people can agree that this is wrong. Most can also say that some sort of academic standard should be imposed on student athletes, if we are to maintain the pretense of collegiate football. Notre Dame is the place that most quickly comes to mind when such arguments are made. A strong Notre Dame team means a strong year in college football. If you care to see college football preserved as it currently stands, in all its tradition and its history of the student athlete, an entirely different entity than any professional sport, you care to see Notre Dame succeed. Notre Dame's success proves, in effect, that the current college football model is effective. Without getting into the debate about payment or no payment (I'll do so at a later date) if you love college football then please, acknowledge some gratitude (however grudging) to the Fighting Irish for doing it right.
I rest my case, and Michigan sucks.