Friday, January 31, 2014

MLB Position Rankings: Catcher

Sure, Opening Day is over 2 months away, but Spring Training is just around the corner! As such, we will be ranking the top 10 players at each position for the 2014 season. For the first installment, we will be ranking Catchers. Check back soon for 1B rankings!

Sleepers- Devin Mesoraco, Yan Gomes, Josmil Pinto

10. Matt Wieters- Wieters is coming off a somewhat disappointing 2013 campaign in which he batted just .235 with a .287 OBP. While earlier in his career the sky was the limit for Wieters, his value will be seriously hindered by his inability to get on base. One reason for owners to have hope, however, is the fact that Wieters posted a career low .247 BABIP in 2013. His next lowest was a .274 and in 2014,
look for his BABIP and thus his batting average to experience a pleasant bump.

9. Wilson Ramos- After a injury-filled 2013 season, Ramos is a great bounce back candidate for 2014. Despite playing just 78 games last season, Ramos hit 16 home runs while driving in nearly 60 runs. If he can stay healthy for the whole season in 2014, Ramos will provide great value at a relatively inexpensive price.

8. Jonathon Lucroy- While Lucroy enjoyed a solid 2013 campaign, there is reason to believe that his 2014 one will be ever better. Last season his BABIP was it's lowest since his rookie season and was a full 20 points lower than his career average. Look for his peripherals to return to average in 2014 and look for Lucroy to be a solid option at catcher.

7. Wilin Rosario- Much of Rosario's value depends on his health. He has yet to play more than 121 games in a season and until he does, his stats won't see much of an improvement. Rosario hit .292/21/79 in 2013, which were buoyed by a career high .344 BABIP. Though he will still provide good value in 2014, be careful of how early you target Rosario.

6. Brian McCann- McCann is an interesting player for 2014 as he should benefit from the move to the AL East. A career .277 batter, McCann's average AIR is 105. AIR measures how favorable a park is to pitchers or batters, with a score over 100 showing that a player has played in mostly hitter friendly parks. McCann, however, is moving to Yankee Stadium which is a notoriously hitters friendly park as well, with 1.087 runs produced there for every 1 run produced in the average stadium. A weak BABIP in 2013 should also rebound in 2013 which makes McCann an enticing candidate for 2014.

5. Salvador Perez- While Perez might not have had the "breakout" season that some experts were
predicting for 2013, he still provided good value for owners while hitting for a mediocre Royals team. I have high hopes for the Royals in 2014 and Salvy should benefit greatly from that. Look for 2014 to be the year that he finally breaks out.

4. Carlos Santana- Though he is only 27 years old, there is little reason to believe that Santana has still has a lot of room to grow as a hitter. His eye at the plate has gotten progressively better and the power is there but hitting in a weak Cleveland lineup and hitting at the pitcher-friendly Progressive Field will prevent Santana from making any real strides in 2014. That being said, Santana could still hit .270/25/80, making him the 4th best catcher in fantasy.

3. Yadier Molina- 2014 will be Molina's 11th season in the league and he is showing no signs of slowing down, which is simply incredible when you look at the average career duration of catchers in the MLB. Molina finished 3rd in MVP voting in 2013, thanks to the best defensive play of any catcher in the league as well as a strong season at the plate. While his 2012 numbers (22 home runs) are starting to look like a bit of an anomaly, Molina should continue to hit for a high average while driving in lots of Cardinals runners.

2. Joe Mauer- Though concussion concerns are always a factor, Mauer might actually benefit from some of them in 2014 as the Twins have decided to put him at 1B full time. Luckily for fantasy owners, he should retain his catching eligibility which makes him even more valuable. Playing at first will certainly put less strain on Mauer's body than being behind the plate and his numbers at the plate could actually benefit as well. His home run numbers have been very unpredictable throughout his career but Mauer should still provide lots of value through his extremely high batting average and knack for scoring and driving in runs.

1. Buster Posey- Well, did you expect anyone else at the #1 spot on the list? Though he is just 26,
Posey has solidified his spot as the best catcher in the game. Even in a "down year" in 2013, he hit .294 while driving in 72 runs. Posey should experience a slight rebound in 2014 which makes him the clear choice for first catcher off the board on draft day. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Top 10 Super Bowls of All Time

10. Super Bowl III: Jets 16, Colts 7: Going into Super Bowl III, Jets quarterback Joe Namath guaranteed that New York would upset the heavily favored Baltimore Colts. In the end, Broadway Joe was right. Super Bowl III itself was not very exciting, seeing that the Jets had control throughout the entirety of the game; however, Super Bowl III marks the largest upset in Super Bowl history, where Joe Namath and the Jets were able to put the AFL on the map.

9. Super Bowl XXXII: Broncos 31, Packers 24: As of 1997, John Elway had yet to win a Super Bowl, and critics were beginning to question Elway's legacy. In Super Bowl XXXII, Elway had a hard time pulling away from Favre and the Packers, but with 1:45 left in the game, Broncos running back Terrell Davis ran into the end zone, thus giving Denver a 31-24 lead over the Packers. Denver went on to win the game, and John Elway finally won his first Super Bowl at the age 37.

8. Super Bowl XIII: Steelers 35, Cowboys 31: Throughout the 1970's, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys were engaged in a bitter rivalry. In Super Bowl XIII, 14 total players on the field that game went on to be inducted in the Hall of Fame, which is not including coaches Chuck Noll and Tom Landry (both Hall of Fame coaches). Following a drop by Cowboys' tight end Jackie Smith in the end zone, the game seemed all but over, and even though Roger Staubach scored on two consecutive drives, the Steelers went on to beat Dallas yet again.

7. Super Bowl XXXIV: Rams 23, Titans 16: Super Bowl XXXIV did not become very entertaining until the second half, where the halftime score was just 9-0 St Louis. In response to a 13 play, 79 yard drive by Tennessee in the fourth quarter, Rams quarterback Kurt Warner threw a 73 yard pass to receiver Isaac Bruce. With 1:54 left in the game, Titans quarterback Steve McNair marched Tennessee down the field. In one of the most famous plays in Super Bowl history, McNair passed to Kevin Dyson in the last play of the game, but was tackled a yard short of the end zone, and St. Louis won Super Bowl XXXIV.

6. Super Bowl XXIII: 49ers 20, Bengals 16: At the start of the fourth quarter, the Cincinnati Bengals had a surprising lead of 13-6 over the heavily favored Niners, but unsurprisingly, 49ers legend Joe Montana pioneered a 92-yard drive to win San Francisco the game. Apart from Joe Montana's drive, Super Bowl XXIII was a relatively boring game, which is why this game is not higher on the list.

5. Super Bowl XXXVI: Patriots 20, Rams 17: The same year future legend Tom Brady took over for Drew Bledsoe in New England, the Patriots were able to play St. Louis in Super Bowl XXXVI. The Rams, otherwise known as the "Greatest Show on Turf", were heavily favored entering this matchup, but thanks to Tom Brady's drive up the field with 1:30 left in the game, Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri hit a 48-yard game winning field goal as time expired.

4. Super Bowl XXXVIII: Patriots 32, Panthers 29: Two years after the Patriots beat the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, Tom Brady and the Patriots returned to football's biggest stage to play the Carolina Panthers. Following a low scoring first half, both offenses exploded in the second half. In response to an 80 yard drive by Carolina to tie the game at 29, Tom Brady marched up the field once again, setting up Adam Vinatieri for yet another Super Bowl winning field goal. Brady's second Super Bowl ring solidified his legacy as a quarterback.

3. Super Bowl XXV: Giants 20, Bills 19: Amidst the Gulf War taking place n 1991, Super Bowl XXV was one of the greatest spectacles in Super Bowl history. Neither the Giants nor the Bills committed a turnover throughout the game, and despite Buffalo quarterback Jim Kelly's attempt to drive his team up field for the winning kick, kicker Scott Norwood missed the game-winning kick, as it soared wide right.

2. Super Bowl XLIII: Steelers 27, Cardinals 23: Super Bowl XLIII is likely the most exciting Super Bowl in recent memory, but it is not number one due to the lack of history between the Cardinals and Steelers. The Cardinals were not expected to make the Super Bowl, let alone win, but they managed to stay competitive throughout the duration of the game. A 64 yard touchdown catch by Larry Fitzgerald put the Cardinals up by a score of 23-20 with 2:37 left in the game, more than enough time for Ben Roethlisberger to march down the field. The game winning catch with 35 seconds left came from Santonio Holmes, who somehow managed to get both feet down in the very corner of the end zone.

1. Super Bowl XLII: Giants 17, Patriots 14: Not only was Super Bowl XLII exciting until the very end, but New England's shot at a perfect season was on the line as well. The Patriots were clear favorites at 18-0 entering this game, but Eli Manning and the Giants planned on spoiling the perfect season. With 2:39 in the fourth quarter, Eli Manning needed a touchdown in order to erase the 14-10 deficit. Manning converted on multiple third and fourth downs, but the most important play in Super Bowl history was made by wide receiver David Tyree. Eli Manning somehow managed to escape New England's relentless pass rushers on 3rd and 5 and heave a 32 yard pass to David Tyree. Tyree then pinned the ball to his head while being draped by one of the best corners in the league. Plaxico Burress went on to score the winning touchdown, thus ending New England's chances at the elusive perfect season.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

2014 NBA Mock Draft #2

Midway through the NCAA season, it is time for another edition of the NFL Report's 2014 NBA Mock Draft. A lot has changed since my last mock draft, most notably at the top with a new projected #1 overall pick. Even more should change by the time of the actual draft on June 26, as there is still a lot of basketball to be played. Here it goes:

*Disclaimer: The draft order in this mock is based solely on the standings from right now and does not take into account the unpredictability of the lottery, as even the standings remain the same by the season's end, the draft order will be different.

1.  Milwaukee Bucks - Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
At the beginning of the season, it was Wiggins. Then Parker. Now its Joel Embiid's turn to be the favorite for the #1 overall pick in a draft stacked with potential all-stars, which is an amazing accomplishment in and of itself. He could be the next Dwight Howard, but better offensively. He could be the difference between a team finishing at the bottom of the standings to making the playoffs. Especially if he gets drafted into the weak Eastern Conference, where there is currently a lack of star big men, he could make whatever team drafts him exponentially better. His defensive game is incredible, and even though it is still improving, so is his offensive game.

2.  Orlando Magic - Jabari Parker, SF, Duke

Parker has tailed of some from an incredible start the year, but slides down more because of Ebiid's outstanding play than anything Parker did wrong. Any team that drafts him will be jumping for joy, as he is maybe the most NBA-ready prospect in the top 5 because of his insane athleticism and outstanding scoring ability. All these adjectives that I'm using to describe Parker and his game may be repetitive, but he certainly warrants the praise. To put it simply, all of those words used to Jabari Parker mean one thing: awesome.

3.  Philadelphia 76ers - Andrew Wiggins, SG, Kansas

Wiggins has fallen from the top spot since the beginning of the season, but he is still an incredibly exciting prospect that the Sixers would love to pair with Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams (and whomever they pick with the Pelican's pick). Drafting Wiggins is the exact reason why they were OK with trading away their best player in Jrue Holiday during last year's draft. He could be a game changer, a go-to player whom the Sixers would expect to be the cornerstone of their franchise for a long time. Some predicted Wiggins to be the next LeBron, and while that clearly seems to not be the case due to his inconsistent scoring, with time he could develop into something close.

4.  Utah Jazz - Dante Exum, PG, Australia

Little is known about Dante Exum, as he is from Australia, but he is loved by many teams and at this point is a near lock to be a top 5 pick. The Jazz could use another guard to pair with Trey Burke and Exum is by far the best available, a tall and athletic scorer who would immediately improve they team ten fold, as he can take over the game by racking up points or by setting up his teammates. Utah is currently filled with complementary pieces, so adding a potential star to build around is a necessity for them at this point, and Exum is just that.

5.  Boston Celtics - Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky

Considered the #2 prospect entering college this year behind Wiggins, Randle has played very well, but has been overshadowed by the very strong play of Embiid, Parker, Wiggins, and Exum. Another factor leading to Randle's small slide down the rankings have to do with the loads of talent on Kentucky's roster, making it so Randle does not have to carry the load himself. Therefore, the Celtics could be getting a steal with Randle at #5, for even though he has not shown that he can carry a team because he has not had to, there is a good chance he would successful at it if necessary. Randle is a great shooter, even from 3-pt range, and adding in his athleticism makes him the perfect stretch-4. He has the ability to attack the basket because the defense has to respect his jumper, allowing him to take over the game. This makes Randle a potential star, something the Celtics desperately need to pair with Rajon Rondo.

6.  Sacramento Kings - Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State

The Kings take the best player available approach here, as point guard is not a pressing need for them, but Smart has elite scoring ability that would make him and Isaiah Thomas a dangerous backcourt tandem for a long time. He is a tall point guard (6'4"), giving him a size advantage in almost every matchup, something which gives opposing defenses fits.  The Kings would love to draft Marcus Smart, hoping that he might become the true star that Tyreke Evans never developed into. Add another pure scorer like Smart to a team with Rudy Gay, DeMarcus Cousins, and the aforementioned Thomas, the Kings could be contenders sooner rather than later.

7.  Los Angeles Lakers - Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana

It is looking less and less like Pao Gasol will be with the Lakers next season, and therefore they will need to find a replacement for someone who has been a scorer, rebounder, and leader with a championship pedigree for many years on the Lakers. Vonleh is an elite rebounder, and has been able to rack up double doubles at the collegiate level, displaying his potential to become a similar type player in the NBA. A consistent double-double would be the best case scenario for Vonleh and the Lakers, and the encouraging part for them both is that it is quite possible with Vonleh's pure athleticism (unlike Gasol who is more deceptively-athletic) that could make him a star with the Lakers.

8.  Denver Nuggets (from Knicks - C. Anthony Trade) - Dario Saric, PF, Croatia

Saric is a well-rounded player, who, like most other foreign players, is very hard to project into the NBA. The level of competition overseas is most often not as great as that in the NCAA, but the fact that Saric is more of a risk also means that he has higher upside than most. League wide, teams are constantly searching for big men who can score, rebound, and pass when needed, and Saric is just that. If he develops as hoped, the Nuggets could have hit the jackpot with the true all-around threat that they haven't had since Carmelo Anthony (ironically this pick is from that trade with New York).

9.  Cleveland CavaliersWillie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky
"As the successor to Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel at Kentucky, Willie Cauley-Stein had a lot to live up to on the defensive end of the floor. Remarkably, even while his Wildcats teammates have struggled to slow down opposing scorers, Cauley-Stein has extended his predecessors’ legacy and put himself in the discussion for the best low-post defender in the college game." - Thad Novak, Bleacher Report  (link to article HERE)
Cauley-Stein's draft stock has risen a lot lately, due to his increasing prowess on the defensive end. He has had 9 blocks in 2 games different games, and 7 in another, which are examples of why Cauley-Stein could be a player that team's build their defenses around, like Joakim Noah for the Bulls and Marc Gasol for the Grizzlies.  Defensive-minded, rim-protecting centers are becoming more and more in demand in order to counter the increasing athleticism of the scorers, and any team in the Eastern Conference (as has been repeated many times) needs a good defensive center in order to beat the Heat and Pacers. The Cavs had that aim when they signed Andrew Bynum, but he obviously never panned out. Cauley-Stein's offense still needs to be improved quite a bit, but the Cavs would be willing to wait to develop his offensive because of the payoff on the defensive side.

10.  Philadelphia 76ers (from Pelicans - J. Holiday trade)Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona

Gordon has a ton of potential, but hasn't lived up to it so far, as he is not dominating at the collegiate level as was expected and as he did in high school. At #10, his overall talent might be too good to pass up for the Sixers who already would have drafted a probable stud in Andrew Wiggins, so Philadelphia's taking a chance on a prospect who was as highly touted as entering this year is more likely than another team doing so. However, Gordon has bust written all over him because of his lack of scoring even for the #1 ranked team in the NCAA. The lack of scoring could be his fatal flaw in the NBA, but there is a good chance he still goes in the top ten because of his potential and the reviews that he received coming out of high school last year.

11.  Charlotte Bobcats (from Pistons - B. Gordon trade) - Rodney Hood, SG, Duke

Hood is a very tall for a shooting guard (6'8") who creates mismatches that give him the advantage in athleticism over most of his opponents. He is a scorer, which is what the Bobcats are lacking and have been lacking for an incredibly long time. They are tired of being the laughing stock of the league, so by taking Hood to pair with Kemba Walker in the backcourt, they are committing to a high-powered offense over defense. While this method has worked in the past, it is a risky one, so the Bobcats are betting a lot that Hood maintains his scoring ability into the NBA. If he is up to the task, Hood could have a great career and score a lot of points for whichever team he plays for.

12.  Minnesota Timberwolves - Montrezl Harrell, PF, Louisville

Kevin Love has all but said that he does not want to return to Minnesota when his contract expires, so it is time for the Timberwolves to look at replacements who could potentially learn under Love while he is still around. Harrell's stock has risen, and even though #12 might be a little too early for him to be drafted, he is by far the best rebounder remaining. Obviously, Kevin Love cannot be replaced by one player, so they T-Wolves will need to go about it piece-by-piece, and Harrell would certainly take care of the rebounding that Kevin Love excels at. Once again, even though taking Harrell here would be a stretch, his athleticism but lesser offensive ability is similar to that of Andre Drummond, who, in a year or two, could become a beast on the boards and with the ball in his hands.

13.  Orlando Magic (from Nuggets - D. Howard trade) - Zach LaVine, PG, UCLA

LaVine could be a steal this late in the lottery for the Magic with their second pick in the top 13. LaVine is another tall point guard (6'5") who focuses on scoring more than anything, which gives him plenty of upside but also the fear that he will become to selfish of a player and hurt his team as a whole. However, after having taken Jabari Parker already, the Magic can take a chance on LaVine and hope that they get two studs in this years draft that also fill their two biggest positions of need.

14.  Memphis Grizzlies - Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton

McDermott is a true scorer, something which the Grizzlies have been in dire need of since they traded Rudy Gay. He would fill a huge need for Memphis, and would volt them back into contender status as they had even a year ago. Adding this type of offensive talent if nothing else allows the defensive-minded players on the team (Marc Gasol, Tony Allen) to focus on defense, and to not be forced to do to much on offense. In other words, McDermott will open up the roster for the Grizzlies, and even if he does not become the elite scorer that Rudy Gay is, he will make the team better.

15.  Chicago Bulls (from Bobcats - T. Thomas trade) - Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse

The Bulls need to replace the departed Luol Deng, for when Derrick Rose comes back they will need as many pieces in place as possible to make a run at the Heat and Pacers as they were expected to this year. Grant is an average scorer whose athleticism could make his scoring even better with time, and is a very good rebounder as well. He is the well rounded player Deng was for the Bulls and they currently need.

16.  Atlanta Hawks (from Nets - J. Johnson trade) - James Young, SF, Kentucky

With a mid-round pick, the Hawks should try to take a chance on Young's athleticism, and hope he will develop into a scorer, although his projected scoring prowess hasn't shown up yet.  However, he  was a highly-touted prospect earlier this year so he might be too good to pass up for the Hawks who have been in desperate need of a star since Joe Johnson left (ironically this pick is from that trade) to add to their plethora of above-average complementary pieces of Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, and leader Al Horford.

17.  Chicago Bulls - Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State

Harris is a good talent but inconsistent shooter, but with so many missed picks in recent years for other teams on shooting guards whose shooting abilities have not carried over to the NBA (Dion Waiters and Bradley Beal are examples), not many teams want to take that risk; but the Bulls took the safer, more well rounded pick just two picks ago so they have the luxury of taking a risk here, one which could pay huge dividends if Harris becomes a great shooter in the NBA.

18.  Phoenix Suns (from Wizards - M. Gortat trade) - Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin

Dekker is a well rounded player who is a better rebounder and passer than scorer. He would most likely be an effective sixth man for many teams, but might start on the Wizards eventually. Even though Dekker is not a go-to small forward like many others in the league at that position, he would fill a position of need for the Wizards and could potentially develop into a nice complementary piece by the time the Wizards are true contenders in the East (playing with John Wall would certainly help improve his game).

19.  Phoenix Suns - Wayne Selden, SG, Kansas

Selden has had a very inconsistent season, but like most other shooting guards, the talent is there, and the Suns can afford to take a risk here and hope Selden develops into a scorer who can run with Eric Bledsoe in an athletic and dynamic backcourt for years to come. Perhaps part of the reason that he is not dominating his opponents as expected is because he plays on the same team as Embiid and Wiggins, so he is not expected to make all the plays all the time. Players such as Selden who are on stacked collegiate rosters often do not display their full potential that was clearly there in college until they reach the NBA.

20.  Dallas Mavericks - Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State

The Mavericks need to think about replacing Dirk Nowitzki eventually, who is getting up there in age (35 years old), and Payne is a stretch forward who can shoot like Dirk. If he could learn how to be a better rebounder and to take higher percentage shots while Dirk is still around, then he could be an effective eventual replacement for the Maverick's franchise player. While Payne by no means will ever reach Dirk's success, he could fill the role that Dirk has for many years while the Mavericks improve in other areas in order to become contenders in the Western Conference once again.

21.  Utah Jazz (from Warriors - A. Iguodala trade) - Mario Hezonja, SF, Croatia

After having already drafted a potential star in Exum with the #4 pick, the Jazz can pass on another point guard in Tyler Ennis where they had a positional need and take more of a risky pick this late in the first round. Like other international prospects, nobody really knows what Hezonja will be in the NBA, but as one of the worst teams in the league as of now, what do the Jazz have to lose? They should take a risk on a player with higher upside than most this late in the first round and hope to hit the jackpot.

22.  Houston Rockets - Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse

The Rockets need a pass-first point guard as to get the ball out of the hands of the turnover-prone James Harden and Jeremy Lin. Ennis is not a scorer but would not have to be, he would just need to set up the playmakers on the Rockets like Harden, Lin, Chandler Parsons, and Dwight Howard, making their team much better with this non-flashy but need-based pick.

23.  Boston Celtics (from Nets through Hawks - P. Pierce trade) - Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan

The Celtics need an athletic scorer to replace Pierce, and small forward is currently the weakest position on their roster. Robinson is an inconsistent scorer and a solid rebounder but has incredible leaping ability, which all seems very similar to current Celtic Jeff Green. The Celtics would be hoping to be get a similar player, but one who can excel in a supporting role (something Green struggled to do prior to this year when he wasn't the best player), and perhaps make the most of his athleticism (something Green has struggled to do even when considered the go-to-guy).

24.  Toronto Raptors - Kyle Anderson, PF, UCLA

Anderson is average at many things: scoring, rebounding, and blocking, but this late in the first round, for a team who is much worse than their draft position indicates (because of the awful Eastern Conference), he is a pretty good prospect for the Raptors, who need help everywhere, especially in the front court. Right now Toronto has to hope to hit on its late round picks because it looks like even in mediocrity they will be near the top of the standings for a while in the East, even though they will not go far in the playoffs. Hopefully for them Anderson can come through and develop into a solid all-around threat.

25.  Los Angeles Clippers - Jahii Carson, PG, Arizona State

Carson should not go this late, but his size will discourage many teams from taking him. For a 5'10" point guard, he is a prolific scorer (even had a 40 pt game), a surprisingly good rebounder (had a 9 rebound game and two 7 rebound games), and can also can pass, having racked up assists this year (13 in one game). He would, once again, go earlier if taller, but the Clippers could be getting a more-than-servicable backup for Chris Paul and possibly even the next Eric Bledsoe because Carson has that kind of ability to take over a game like Bledsoe, despite his size. As seen in the video, it is hard not to like this guy.

26.  Oklahoma City Thunder - C.J. Wilcox, SG, Washington

Oklahoma City has been searching for the next James Harden since trading him away because it has been showed that they need that scorer as a sixth in order to make them championship contenders again. Wilcox is no James Harden, but he can flat out score, which is exactly what the Thunder need off the bench at shooting guard. With the defenses focusing on Westbrook and Durant, Wilcox should have the opportunities to make plays for this Thunder team.

27.  Miami Heat - Chris Walker, SF, Florida

Walker hasn't even played yet in a college game yet, but it is an incredible compliment to his pure talent that he is still projected to go in the first round. If any team is in the position to take a risk late in the first round on a player who hasn't shown literally anything in college so far, it is certainly the Heat, who could be getting a steal here extremely late in the first round.

28.  Charlotte Bobcats (from Trail Blazers - G. Wallace trade) - Andrew Harrison, PG, Kentucky

A team as bad as the Bobcats needs to take risks, especially this late in the first round, and they would not be able to pass up a talent like Andrew Harrison, even though he has played poorly the entire season (he has fallen from a top-5 pick at the beginning of the season). This pick would be a best-player-available one, hoping that Harrison will live up to his potential that was clearly there in high school. If nothing else, he could be a solid backup for Kemba Walker and if he eventually realizes his incredible potential, his talent could carry him to a starting role. Maybe the reason for Harrison's disappointing college season is that he just wasn't ready for such high expectations right away, but the Bobcats hope that time will change his play.

29.  San Antonio Spurs - Samaj Christon, SG, Xavier

Christon is a shooting guard who can rack up assists and score when needed, which sounds like a perfect backup for Manu Ginobili when he needs a break as he is getting older (36 years old). Christon is nothing flashy or spectacular, but could be a solid role player on the Spurs, especially with so many other weapons for the defense to focus on. The Spurs have always been lauded for developing late round picks into contributors, and Christon could be the next Greg Popovich success story.

30.  Phoenix Suns (from Pacers - L. Scola trade) - Jordan Adams, SG, UCLA

The Suns double-dip on shooting guards by taking Jordan Adams here, who is a very good rebounder for a shooting guard and can score efficiently as well. However, he falls this far because of his lack of elite athleticism, but the Suns are willing to take a chance on him with their third pick of the first round, and hope that he develops into a scorer off the bench who can crash the offensive glass on a Suns team that is looking to be young and competitive for a long time.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Highlights from the BCS National Championship Game

One of the big ones, I'd say.

A couple things we can take out of this one: 

Well obviously, the Coaches' Trophy has left the SEC! For the first time in about seven years, mind you, and I am delighted to write that one. I am also thankful that there ended up being an SEC representative in this game. If you recall, it was close to looking like Ohio State vs. Florida State, in which case we would have a bunch of SEC homers on our hands whining about the flawed BCS and how the best teams were all in the SEC and how they prevented each other from punching a national championship ticket and how this and how that… I would have tired pretty quickly. Only a well timed upset from the staunch Spartans in the Big 10 title game let Auburn make it. 

Now Jameis Winston isn't the most eloquent of athletes perhaps-no who are we kidding, he refutes any value the American dream places in a collegiate education. However, one must grant that he won that game, late. He didn't play all together too well, but he brought home a victory on the biggest night of the year, and for that sole reason, we have to commend him as a great player. Those last two drives proved not only that he will be a great quarterback, but in fact that he is. 

The SEC is not the only conference out there anymore. Between, of course, the ACC, but also the Big 10, the Pac 12, and even the Big 12 (thanks for the upset Sooners!), things look more level in college football than they have in a long time. Hopefully we see this trend continue, as it is good for the sport to have more than one relevant conference. 

Ultimately, we should be grateful for a great game. It feels like the BCS went out the way it should have, with a great, well watched, relevant championship game between two quality opponents and a couple national superstars. Here are a couple more quick photos

Despite a heroic effort, Marshall and his Tigers fell just short

I agree, I think, but honestly I couldn't tell you. Regardless, a great quarterback... 
…Because of plays like this one. Chris Davis is a great cornerback who couldn't repeat the feat. 
… and this one. We have to hand it to the kid.
Well deserved, for sure

Sunday, January 19, 2014

NFC Championship Game Recap

     It's official. The Seattle Seahawks will be playing the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. At one point, it seemed as if Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers would pull off the upset against Seattle, but thanks to an interception by outside linebacker Malcolm Smith with just 22 seconds left in the game, Seattle will be going to their second Super Bowl in franchise history. The Seahawks had the best record in all of football, yet people were still questioning whether or not their division rivals, the San Francisco 49ers, would pull off an upset. Seattle's 12th man arrived in full force today, and even though Colin Kaepernick seemed very composed, he could not finish the job at the end of the game.

     The San Francisco 49ers scored on their first possession with a 25-yard field goal after Russell Wilson's fumble on the first play of the game. From there, San Francisco's rushing touchdown put them up 10-0 in the second quarter. Colin Kaepernick's passing game was mediocre at best, but he had a successful game in terms of running the football. His 58 yard gain on the ground set up a touchdown for the Niners, and by the end of the game, Kaepernick had rushed for 130 yards on 11.8 yards per carry in a losing effort.

     On Seattle's first possession of the second half, Marshawn Lynch showed off his incredible talents with a 40 yard touchdown run, very similar to his captivating playoff run against the Saints several years ago. This touchdown led to a 13-point run for Seattle, and the score of 23-16 remained until the end of game.

      But it seemed as if Colin Kaepernick was about to lead a 78-yard drive that would have put San Francisco in the Super Bowl instead of Seattle. A conversion of 4th and 2 in their own end created a huge momentum shift, where it was evident that Seattle fans were becoming uneasy. The San Francisco 49ers cost themselves the game by refusing to use their final two timeouts with 30 seconds left in the game. Had they called a timeout, quarterback Colin Kaepernick would not have felt rushed at the line of scrimmage, which ultimately led to a game-ending interception.

      Not only did San Francisco lose this game, but they also had their All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman suffer a gruesome leg injury that required him to be carted off of the field. Bowman had already forced a fumble earlier in the game, and this injury clearly affected the Niners mindset on defense for the rest of the game. Doctors fear that Bowman may have suffered a tear to his ACl, which would have long term consequences stretching into next season.

Super Bowl XLVIII: Broncos vs. Seahawks

It is official. The Seattle Seahawks will play the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. These two teams are both the number one seeds coming out of their conference, and it will be interesting to see how Peyton Manning fares against Seattle's infamous secondary. Unfortunately, Seattle's 12th man will not be quite as strong in East Rutherford, but Super Bowl XLVIII is bound to be great. We can't wait for February 2!

AFC Championship Game Recap

     So Peyton Manning beat Tom Brady today, marking the third team in Manning's career that he will have the chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. The Broncos were the better, more talented team on all fronts, which was evident in this game. Even though it is difficult to call Manning the superior quarterback over Brady, he sure made an excellent case to be called one of the greatest.

     The Patriots defense had absolutely no response for Denver's passing game, and as soon as Aqib Talib was knocked out of the game following a questionable pick by Wes Welker, it was clear the Patriots would be in trouble. Once Talib walked back to the locker room, cornerback Alfanzo Dennard was to cover a more talented wide receiver in Pro-Bowler Demaryius Thomas. Even if Manning didn't feel like targeting Demaryius, receivers like Wes Welker, Eric Decker, and Julius Thomas always seemed to be open. The Patriots failed to create any sort of pressure on Manning, which was key for New England entering this game. Manning's safety in the pocket, as well as his abundance of talented receivers, allowed him to throw for exactly 400 yards and 2 touchdowns. At one point in the game, Denver was able to score on 5 consecutive drives, which further proves the uselessness of New England's defense in today's game; however, Patriots fans should not be too upset. Their team had a shot at a trip to the Super Bowl, which is absolutely astounding considering they were playing without Vince Wilfork, Jerard Mayo, Aqib Talib, and Rob Gronkowski in today's game.

     The ultimate winner from today's game is obviously Peyton Manning. By marching his team up field time and time again, he successfully kept Tom Brady off of the field for the majority of the game, and this consistency allowed the Broncos to score on 5 consecutive drives. Not only did Peyton win this game, but he also proved that he is just as good a quarterback as Tom Brady, and another Super Bowl ring for Peyton would allow him to be called the greatest quarterback in NFL history. I'm not completely sold on Manning, though, considering the plethora of talent that has surrounded Manning throughout his accomplished career. From Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne in Indy to Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, and Eric Decker in Denver, there is no denying that Manning has been blessed with a skillful group of players year in and year out.

     The biggest loser of the AFC Championship Game is New England's offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. McDaniels continuously tried to rush the ball with LeGarrette Blount throughout the first half, instead of relying on the player that got them there in the first place (Tom Brady). By the time New England started passing the ball, it was already too late, and as if it wasn't bad enough, McDaniels tried to run the ball on a two point conversion, and unsurprisingly, it was unsuccessful. Brady's frustration was clear during the first half, but you can't blame the guy that has put the team on his back since the start of training camp.

     The fact that Bill Belicick and Tom Brady were able to lead the Patriots into the AFC Championship Game is mind boggling. This ragtag group of players earned the second seed in the playoffs, beat the Colts and the Divisional Round, and put up a good fight against a clearly superior Denver Broncos team.

     The bottom line is that the best team from the AFC will be able to play for the Super Bowl, which is not always true. Denver's offense is scary this season, and the Patriots, to be honest, didn't stand a chance. Congratulations to Manning and the Broncos, and good luck to the Patriots next season.

Adrian Peterson May Need Surgery on Groin

Later today, running back Adrian Peterson will see a groin specialist in order to decide if surgery is needed. Two years ago, Peterson tore his ACL on Christmas Eve, and yet he was able to rush for 2,097 yards and 12 touchdowns the following year. This past season, Peterson ran for 1,266 yards with 4.5 yards per carry, and yet the Vikings finished the year at 5-10-1.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

NFC Championship Preview: 49ers at Seahawks

      Before the regular season even started, it seemed as though the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks were destined to play each other in the playoffs . The Seahawks-49ers rivalry has quickly transformed into the best rivalry in the league, and this matchup in the NFC Championship Game will only add to the history of this rivalry. Back in 2009, Jim Harbaugh, a coach at Stanford, ran up the score against Pete Carroll's USC team, and the Harbaugh-Carroll rivalry was born. The rivalry has carried over into the NFL now that both Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll work for two NFL teams within the NFC West. This season, the series between these two teams is tied at one game a piece; however, the last two times San Francisco played in Seattle, the Seahawks outscored the 49ers by a total score of 71-16. The 12th Man at CenturyLink Field may be blown out of proportion at times, but there is no disputing that Seattle's fans are capable of influencing a game with their deafening noise.

San Francisco 49ers: The San Francisco 49ers are one of the most streaky teams in all of football; when they're hot, they can go on 5 game winning streaks, where not even the best teams can knock them down. But when they're cold, the 49ers can lose two or three straight by 10 points or more. Luckily for San Francisco fans, the 49ers have won eight straight games, including two playoff wins over the Packers and Panthers. San Francisco's consistency relies heavily on quarterback Colin Kaepernick, where the 49ers are 13-0 when Kaepernick throws for more than 150 yards. Alongside Kaepernick is a talented group of running backs, led by 9-year veteran Frank Gore (1,128 yards and 9 touchdowns), as well as youthful backs like LaMichael James and and Anthony Dixon. Four offensive players from the 49ers were added to the Pro Bowl roster, where two came from the offensive line. Even though the offensive line is considered to be one of the best in the league, they will have their hand's full against Seattle's front-seven. On defense, San Fran's stars like Justin Smith, Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, and Ahmad Brooks makeup the best front-seven in all of football. The 49ers ranked third in the league in points allowed, fifth in rushing yards allowed, and fourth in opposing passer rating. Similarly to San Francisco, Seattle has an incredibly well-rounded offense, but as long as they are able to shut down wide receiver Golden Tate, Seattle's passing game will struggle to create any sort of consistency.

Seattle Seahawks: When playing at home, the Seattle Seahawks are clearly the best team in all of football. A trip to New Jersey for the Super Bowl would be a different story, but as long as the Seahawks are in Seattle, they are nearly unstoppable. With just one loss at home since December of 2011, the Seahawks are capable of beating any time in the NFL, which they have proven time and time again. In Seattle's last two meetings against San Francisco at CenturyLink Field, the Seahawks have one both times, one by a score of 29-3, the other by a score of 42-13. On offense, second-year quarterback Russell Wilson threw for 3,357 passing yards 26 touchdowns this season, and a passer rating of 101.2; however, Seattle remains a run-oriented team. This season, running back Marshawn Lynch rushed for 1,2457 yards and 12 touchdowns, where Seattle ranked fourth in the league in rushing yards per game. Seattle will be missing wide receiver Percy Harvin for Sunday's game, but since Harvin caught just one pass during the regular season, the Seahawks' offense should not be too worried. Seattle's front seven does a great job of applying pressure (rank 8th in the league in sacks), but the Hawks are known for their deadly defensive backs. Cornerback Richard Sherman, as well as safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, were all named to the Pro Bowl for their spectacular play in 2013, allowing Seattle to rank first in the league in interceptions. As a whole, the Seahawks rank first in total defense, first in pass defense, and first points allowed per game. This defense is nothing to mess around with, and despite San Francisco's talent on offense, Seattle's defense will best the Niners on Sunday.

Prediction: The San Francisco 49ers have had trouble with Seattle when the game is being played at CenturyLink Field, and with so much on the line, you know Seattle's 12th man will be deafening in the final home game of the season for the Hawks. Thanks to their consistent offense and stifling defense, we predict the Seahawks to win and advance to the Super Bowl.
Seahawks over 49ers 33-23

Power Rankings: MLB Mascots

After the introduction of Clark the Cub, we thought it would be appropriate to rank the best mascots in the MLB. Since they are mascots, there is no real formula to determine which mascot is the "best," so these rankings will be solely based on the eye test. Which mascot is your favorite? Make sure to leave a comment!

27. Swinging Friar (San Diego)- A lack of notoriety really hurts the "Swinging Friar's" case. Wait, what even is a swinging friar?

26. DJ Kitty (Tampa)- Why Tampa Bay decided to make their mascot a DJing Kitten we are not sure, but we are sure that it is hilariously bad.

25. Baxter the Bobcat (Arizona)- Much like the "Swinging Friar" in San Diego, we aren't quite sure how the Diamondbacks chose a Bobcat as their mascot. Nevertheless, Baxter's habit of wearing a speedo in front of children scares us a little bit (or a lot.)

24. Sluggerrr (Kansas City)- At first glance Sluggerrr seems to be a pretty solid mascot. He has, however, been involved in more than one (very) inappropriate scandals (we won't share the details) his stock plummets big time.

23. Billy the Marlin (Miami)- Billy the Marlin has all the intangibles for being a good mascot; he relates to his team, is a memorable figure and even has his own kids club where children can interact with him during Marlins games. Only problem is, well, he is the Marlins mascot. Further hurting his reputation is the fact that he once knocked an old man unconscious (albeit accidentally) when he shot a t-shirt at the mans eye. Yikes.

22. Clark the Cub (Chicago)- The MLB's newest mascot, Clark is just a few days old at this point. Instead of spending money on new mascots, the Cubs might want to spend a little more money trying to rebuild their franchise. Clark's lack of pants also creeps us out a bit.

21. Orbit (Houston)- Don't get us wrong, Orbit is a really cool mascot. There is a direct correlation between his name and his teams and he is involved in lots of community service around the Houston Area. The Astros, however, stink, and getting kicked out of games (literally) for arguing balls and strikes isn't cool either.

20. Homer (Atlanta)- Homer is cool enough, but he doesn't bring anything special to the table. We do like his baseball head, however.

19. Paws (Detroit)- Paws is as promising of a mascot prospect as it gets. A few more years of development and he will become a true all-star.

18. Dinger (Colorado)- Why the Rockies chose a purple dinosaur as their mascot remains to be seen, but Dinger brings a lot to the table as a mascot; he is fun, loves bothering opposing players and has even started a fitness campaign for the children of Colorado.

17. Stomper (Oakland)- Why the Oakland Athletic's mascot is an elephant we are not sure, but we do
know that he is one of the best break-dancers around.

16. Slider (Cleveland)- While Slider's species remains a mystery, he loves to shoot hot dogs into the stands during games, which is good enough for us.

15. T.C. Bear (Minnesota)- T.C. Bear is a solid, middle of the pack mascot. He certainly isn't the cutest mascot out there, but he relates to his city and the fans like him.

14. Freebird (St. Louis)- Freebird is a giant Cardinal who loves talking pictures with people's heads in his giant beak. He also loves riding an ATV around Busch Stadium, which earns him his 14 spot.

13. Ace the Bluejay (Toronto)- Saying that Ace the Bluejay is the Bluejay's sole mascot wouldn't be telling the whole truth. Over the years they have introduced a wife for Ace (who mysteriously disappeared a few years later) and just last year, they introduced Jay (Ace's brother). Either way, the family is very cute and relates well to the team name.

12. Oriole Bird (Baltimore)- Oriole Bird is fun, relates to his team and the fans love him. What more could you ask for?

11. Southpaw (White Sox)- We aren't totally sure what Southpaw is, but he gained international fame when he was on President Obama's inauguration float.

10. Captain Jolly Roger (Pittsburgh)- We have officially reached the top 10. Captain Jolly Roger may not have the fame that some of the other mascots have, but he is a perfect mascot for the organization.

9. Rangers Captain (Texas)- One could argue that Rangers Captain relates better to his team name than any other mascot in the MLB, which makes him worthy of the 9 spot.

8. Mr. Red (Cincinatti)- Mr. Red not only is a great fit for the Reds, but his mustache would make even the manliest of men jealous.

7. Mariner Moose (Seattle)- Mariner Moose has one of the richest histories in mascot history, over the years he has 1. Broken his ankle during a mid-game stunt 2. Been nominated for Vice President (by Ken Griffey Junior nonetheless) and 3. Invented his own cheer for Mariners fans to shout during games. Pretty cool if you ask us.

6. Bernie Brewer/The Sausages (Milwaukee)- The Brewers front office makes up for their horrible team by giving the fans not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, but 6 different mascots. Sure, 5 of them may be sausages, but their tradition of racing around the stadium every game is a great one and a fan favorite for sure.

5. Lou Seal (San Fransisco)- Lou Seal might take the prize for coolest mascot in the MLB. He rocks a sweet pair of sunglasses and was even saved by Bat-Kid on one of the most heartwarming days you'll ever see.

4. Phillie Phanatic (Philadelphia)- Phillie Phanatic is one of the best mascots in the MLB, but a lack of correlation between his team name and his species prevents him from breaking the top 3.

3. Wally the Green Monster (Boston)- Named after the famous Green Monster in left field of Fenway Park (or was it the opposite way around?) Wally has certainly gained a huge reputation as a great mascot over the years.

2. Mr. and Mrs. Met (NYM)- Mr. and Mrs. Met might be the most famous of all the mascots in the
MLB, and deservedly so. They have been cheering on their team for nearly 50 years and are even members of the Mascot Hall of Fame (yes, that really exists.)

1. The Presidents (Washington)- In perhaps the most enjoyable mascot tradition in all of baseball, the Nationals Presidents (George Washington, Abe Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt, with William Taft joining at times) run around the stadium in a giant race, with each president using whatever antics possible to win the race. A video of these antics can be found here.

Friday, January 17, 2014

AFC Championship Preview: Patriots at Broncos

     Nearly two months ago, we wrote about the Tom Brady-Peyton Manning rivalry in preparation for November's matchup between the Broncos and the Patriots. The Patriots went on to overcome a 24 point deficit and beat the Broncos in overtime. Now, Brady and the Patriots will try their luck a second time in order to beat Denver on the road in the AFC Championship Game. If Tom Brady is able to win this game, there will be no disputing his legacy, where a victory over Peyton will put the nail in the coffin regarding the Brady-Manning debate; however, a victory by Peyton will continue the argument, especially if he goes on to win the Super Bowl. The Broncos are the 5-point favorites entering Sunday's game, but it is always dangerous to go against Tom Brady in the playoffs, especially when his Patriots are the underdog.

New England Patriots: Last weekend, the Patriots played the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional round, a team that had beaten the 49ers, Broncos, and Seahawks in 2013 (all three of those teams are still in contention). The Patriots led the entire game, and won by a final score of 43-22; however, New England's running game carried the Patriots offense, where all five of New England's touchdowns came from running the ball. New England's running back LeGarrette Blount rushed for 166 yards and four touchdowns in Sunday's win, but don't be surprised if New England does not give Blount as many attempts against Denver. The running game will still be important for the Patriots so that they can keep Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos' offense off the field. Historically, Tom Brady has done well statistically when facing a team led by Peyton Manning, but Brady will no longer be the most important factor in order for New England to win on Sunday. Defensively, the Patriots picked off Andrew Luck four times on Sunday, but because of Indy's weak running game, a large amount of pressure was put on Luck to have a great game. Now, the Patriots will face a more well-rounded offense in the Denver Broncos, so it is reasonable to believe that Manning will not throw more than two interceptions. The Pats defense have lost star defenders like Vince Wilfork and Jerard Mayo, yet they have managed to apply reasonable pressure on the quarterback, as well as smother even the best wide receivers in the league thanks to cornerback Aqib Talib.

Denver Broncos: Peyton Manning has posted great numbers in the regular season throughout his entire career, but his legacy as a quarterback will be questioned if he finishes his career with just one Super Bowl ring. Manning's career passer rating of 76.7 in the Championship Round is his worst rating of any playoff round, where his completion percentage in the Championship Round falls to just 57.1%, as well as a TD/INT ratio of 1:1 (contrary to his rating of 5.5:1 during the 2013 regular season). There is also the belief that Peyton can not play in cold weather games, but if this myth is actually true, Peyton does not need to worry seeing that the temperature is expected to be 52 degrees at kickoff. With all the criticism against Peyton, as well as the immense pressure to beat Tom Brady in the playoffs, we expect Manning to have a reasonable game by his standards against the Patriots defense. Manning's ability to read defenses quickly, as well as his talented offensive line, helped Denver rank first in the league in sacks allowed during the regular season with 20. The Patriots defense is mediocre when it comes to applying pressure on the quarterback, but they certainly deserve credit after losing Wilfork and Mayo for the entire season. With Manning surrounded by extraordinary talent at the wide receiver position, including guys like Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, and Eric Decker, the Patriots will just have to pick their poison regarding who to focus on shutting down. Pats corner Aqib Talib has a reputation of smothering the best wide receivers in the league, but then again, he can only be in one place on the field at a time.

Prediction: With the temperature exceeding 50 degrees on Sunday, the great conditions will allow both quarterbacks to successfully throw the ball, which clearly gives the advantage to Peyton Manning. The Patriots will try and keep Manning off of the field for as long as possible, but in the end, we predict Matt Prater to kick the gaming winning field goal, sending Peyton Manning to his third career Super Bowl.
Broncos over Patriots 23-20

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Potential Fantasy Baseball Disappointments in 2014

Now that the calendar year has turned to 2014, more and more people are preparing for their upcoming fantasy baseball draft. The goal each draft is to craft the best possible team together. To do so, a person must avoid any potential busts. While it is almost impossible to predict busts, here are a few players who have some alarming numbers that should be considered as red flags.

Mike Napoli
The catcher had a resurgence in 2013 when he hit .259 with 23 home runs. However, looking deeper at his numbers would indicate that he might have been just a little bit lucky all season long. He had a .367 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), which is well above his career average. Yes, it was due to him hitting more line drives, but a regression to the mean seems likely.

Yasiel Puig
All season long in 2013, people were waiting for Puig to drop back down to earth. He did a little bit towards the end of the year, but for the most part he posted great numbers. Do not be surprised if 2014 does not go the same for him. He had the highest BABIP in baseball a season ago, and this was all done while swinging at too many pitches outside of the strike zone and not working counts. If he is going to be a legitimate .300 hitter for his entire career, he needs to fix that approach.

Michael Cuddyer
Cuddyer has always been one of the most professional hitters in baseball, but he had a crazy fantasy baseball season in 2013 for the Colorado Rockies. The right-handed hitter took advantage of Coors Field and some luck with a high .383 BABIP. Guys in their mid-30s, especially post-steroid era, simply do not improve the way he did in 2013. He’s still a productive player, but don’t be sucked into picking him too early on.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

BREAKING NEWS: Alex Rodriguez Suspended

In the latest installment of the A-Rod saga, the MLB has decided to reduce his suspension from 211 es to 162 games (The full 2014 season plus playoffs.) A-Rod has vowed to continue his fight, saying "No player should have to go through what I have been dealing with, and I am exhausting all options to ensure not only that I get justice, but that players’ contracts and rights are protected through the next round of bargaining, and that the MLB investigation and arbitration process cannot be used against others in the future the way it is currently being used to unjustly punish me." The rest of his statement can be found here. This decision comes as a relief to Yankees fans as the Yankees now have $27 million dollars of freed up cap space for the 2014 season. Could this mean an aggressive run at Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka? Only time will tell. 

2014 NFL Divisional Round Predictions

Saints @ Seahawks: The last time Seattle played New Orleans, the Seahawks absolutely demolished Drew Brees and the Saints, beating the Saints by a score of 34-7. In that game, Russell Wilson passed for 310 yards, 3 touchdowns, and a passer rating above 135, while Brees passed for 147 yards and a score, both being his lowest totals of the season. The Saints are now trying to plan accordingly for the deafening noise within CenturyLink Field, where the Seahawks have lost only one game at home since December of 2011. Even worse for New Orleans, Brees and the Saints have a history of playing poorly on the road. Not only will the Saints' offense try to beat Seattle's 12 man, but Seattle's stingy defense as well. The Seahawks defensive unit led the league in total defense, passing yards allowed, rushing touchdowns allowed per game, and interceptions. Bottom line: the Saints are in trouble. We predict the Seahawks to roll past new Orleans into the NFC Championship Game.
Seahawks over Saints 30-13

Colts @ Patriots: The Indianapolis Colts were down 28 points to the Kansas City Chiefs in last week's playoff matchup, but thanks to an excellent comeback led by Andrew Luck, as well as a resilient defense, the Colts were able to come from behind and win the game. Last Sunday's win marked Andrew Luck's first career playoff win, and even though he threw 3 interceptions that created the deficit, Luck's five total touchdowns, as well as 443 passing yards, allowed the Colts to advance to the Divisional Round. Now, Indianapolis will travel to Foxboro in order to play Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Ever since the Colts lost Reggie Wayne, Luck's number one target in 2013 has clearly been T.Y. Hilton, who will likely be limited by New England's star cornerback Aqib Talib in Sunday's game. This means Luck will have to rely on his other wide receivers if the Colts wish to win through the air. Even worse for Indy, there is a 100% chance of rain in Foxboro on Sunday, meaning passing the ball will become more difficult. The rainstorm favors New England, whose running back trio of Steven Ridley, Shane Vereen, and LeGarrette Blount have all rushed for more than 100 yards in a single game this season. Lastly, Tom Brady's playoff experience makes New England the favorite to win this game.
Patriots over Colts 23-17

49ers @ Panthers: Colin Kaepernick walked into frozen Lambeau last weekend as the favorite and were able to beat the Packers, even though the temperature reached below zero with the wind. Now, the 49ers are favored to beat the Panthers, just the third time since 1990 that a home playoff team was the underdog in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Everyone expected Cam newton to have a great year statistically, but the main reason why Carolina has been so successful is their punishing defense. Luke Kuechly, a second year linebacker out of Boston College, totaled 156 tackles, 4 interceptions, and 2 sacks in 2013. After winning Defensive Rookie of the Year last season, Kuechly is one of the favorites to win Defensive Player of the Year this season, which would mark the second time a defensive player won Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in their first two seasons (only other player was Lawrence Taylor, who won Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season). The Panthers defense as a whole ranked second in the league in both total defense and run defense, where the 49ers were not too far behind in either category. The two defenses in Sunday's matchup will both play very well, but in the end, we predict San Francisco to win this thanks to their playoff experience.
49ers over Panthers 27-20

Chargers @ Broncos: The San Diego Chargers pulled off the upset over the Cincinnati Bengals last weekend, even though Cincinnati was undefeated at home entering the Wild Card Round. Phillip Rivers has a history of choking in the playoffs, and even though his statistic were not incredible against the Bengas, his numbers are bound to increase now that he is going up against a weaker Broncos' defense. Denver lost star outside linebacker Von miller for the rest of the season due to a torn ACL, but this team is 7-0 in games where Miller is not int the starting lineup. Quarterback Peyton Manning finished 2013 with 5,477 passing yards, 55 touchdowns, and a passer rating of 115.1. Because of the first round bye, Wes Welker has had time to recover from his concussion, and he is listed as probable for Sunday's game. Welker, Thomas, and Decker create the best wide receiving corp in the NFL, which is why we predict Denver to beat the Chargers and move on to play Brady and the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.
Broncos over Chargers 27-23

Sunday, January 5, 2014

BCS National Championship Preview: Auburn (12-1) vs Florida State (13-0)

        The witching hour approaches. No amount of dramatic ESPN commercials, (you know the type)  blindingly complex photo collages, or sports center hype can quite prepare me for this one, this pinnacle of collegiate competition, this sacred night. As some networks would have it, life will pause for four hours on Monday night, and it may not resume after that. My apologies, but I felt it was better to clear out the poetry before we go any further. One fell swoop, that type of thing.

        So this will be a good game of course, a matchup we all want to watch. Florida State was flirting with a ticket here all season long, while Auburn on the other hand was certainly a late comer to the party. But both teams deserve to be here, Auburn with a timeless late victory over the best team in the country (and a huge title game loss from the Buckeyes) and the Seminoles after having played stellar football for four months. Although this is not the end of the championship game as we know it, it is true that we will never again see a game like this, where both teams are elected in and have not won playoff games to get here. That's a good thing, I think most everyone is happy to wave goodbye to a flawed BCS system, but still, the nostalgia deserves mention I should think. The spread here is (as of Sunday afternoon) 8.5 points against Auburn, fairly reasonable I find.
A lot of pride on display 
       What we have here are two teams with two stories. Florida State, proven and tested, early and often, a lock for a while now.With a Heisman winning leader at quarterback, the "team of mastery"is not, as some suggest, flawless, but certainly at times appears to be so. Invincible? We said Alabama was as well. This is the type of team we usually see in these games. The popular young leader, a talented offense, a dominant defense, a storied program with a history and high expectations. So these typically dominant Seminoles will face the upstart Tiger squad: unranked at the beginning of the season, with a prayer perhaps of a winning record, and certainly no hope coming out of the mighty SEC. They did not receive a vote in the preseason AP poll. And yet, they plowed through their season, wins stacking up like pancakes at an IHOP. Finally, as they approached elite status, a timeless matchup against a storied rival loomed large on the schedule. The Iron Bowl was set to be a battle for the ages, and most thought a lopsided defeat was in store for the upstart Tigers, still a team riddled with question marks. A game, a rivalry for the ages, to end the season, and they pulled off the upset. Some have called this one of the biggest wins in the history of the sport, and I agree without reservation. They handed Alabama a loss. I was stunned, along with the rest of our college football nation. Everything about this game was remarkable, cementing its place firmly in college football history, and certainly in the minds of the Auburn fan base. We won't forget for a long time.
Not quite as cool, and War Eagle is vastly preferable. 
        All this rolls into what should be a great game. The Seminoles think, perhaps, that they should win. The Tigers know, perhaps, that they are outmatched, but after beating the Tide, also know that they can beat the best team in the country. Undoubtedly, Alabama was a better team than the Tigers (let's shelve, for the moment, their recent upsetting loss to Oklahoma, though props to the Sooners) but Auburn won. It is that simple, and I can't help thinking, can they do that again?
A formidable unit
        So, to business. (I write that briskly, rolling up the sleeves). Some interesting pro-Florida numbers and tidbits. Heisman winners usually win on this stage. The last two have, (Mark Ingram for Alabama and Cam Newton for, all together now, the Tigers in 2010) so Famous Jameis is looking to go three for three. Some question Auburn's defense, particularly against the pass, and so it begs the question. Will they hold up if Winston brings his best passing game? That passing game, the likes of which we all saw on display against Clemson or Miami, two humongous statement wins this year for the freshman and his team, is tough to beat. The Seminoles can also boast the best scoring defense in the country this
He shows up when it counts, every time. 
year, allowing a paltry 10.7 points per game all season. That's an important stat, maybe one of the most important ones. Auburn's passing game lacks magic, so without really having to respect him through the air, the Seminole defense is probably pretty excited to get to work on Nick Marshall and his triple option. Remember, such Seminole stats have come against a decent schedule all year long. Of course, most opponents are cupcakes, but the same can be said for any powerhouse in the country. This season, this defense allowed 14 points against a then 7 Miami and before that, 14 against a then third ranked offensive power Clemson. Those are big games and big showings from the defensive unit of Florida State. Finally, Florida State's weakest moment this season has been a 48-34 victory over Boston College. That's the closest margin of victory by far this year for this team. The better the team, the better the Seminoles have looked.

        Auburn, I regret to say, wilts a little when held up to the same scrutiny. Their defense by conventional standards has been mediocre. Though they have found the big stops all year long, they rank 95th nationally in yards per play allowed (5.96), by far the worst of any team ever to reach the BCS National Championship Game. They also rank last in passing defense in the SEC. Of course, one look at the quarterbacks they have faced this year might offer some solace to Auburn fans, as this year has seen Johnny Manziel, Zach Mettenberger, AJ McCarron, and Aaron Murray, 4 SEC studs who make most defenses look terrible. Additionally Auburn has allowed a much more comforting, respectable 24 points per game this season, so perhaps all the big plays they let up don't always translate into big points. Regardless, this is at best a solid defense, good in the red zone and bad out of it. Realistically, that won't be enough to stop Jameis Winston and his offensive powerhouse. So if Auburn is to win, then, it will be on the backs of two young men, Nick Marshall and Tre Mason.
He'll have to do that a lot on Monday night. 
Mason was a dark horse for the Heisman this year, after several huge games including a SEC title game performance we will probably never see again. If you missed it, he ran for over 300 yards on 46 carries and four touchdowns en route to a 59-42 pounding over Missouri. It is entirely possible that that performance (the best ever for a running back by far in the SEC title game) holds the top spot in the record books for a very long time. He bested the old mark for yards on the ground in this game by over 100 yards. Meanwhile Nick Marshall has had a long road to this game, including some switching of schools and a junior college stint, even, after leaving Georgia. Everyone may love the guy, as well they should (I've heard much about his soft spoken Southern accent, his humble demeanor, etc etc) but I don't see him scoring 40, and that may be what it takes.

So, I see the crystal football leaving the SEC. Florida St. 35-Auburn 27.