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.