November 13, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

New York Knicks’ season off to rough start – After several key offseason moves, the New York Knicks are hoping to contend for an NBA title this season. That quest, though, is off to a rocky beginning. The Knicks are 2-4 on the season and were routed, 120-89, by last season’s Western Conference champions, the San Antonio Spurs, on Sunday. Unfortunately, none of that is even the worst thing that’s happened to the team. The Knicks learned last week that center Tyson Chandler is expected to miss several weeks with a fibula injury. Chandler’s loss really hurts the team defensively and that’s one of the few things the team has done right so far this year. Giving up only 93 points a game, New York ranks fourth in the NBA in team defense.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Could Ben Roethlisberger be quarterbacking a team other than the Steelers?

Ben Roethlisberger denies trade request talk Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was the subject of some trade talk this past week. NFL.com reported that he was interested in potentially exploring a trade request following the season, but Big Ben says it’s not true. The Steelers have had a difficult season and at 3-6, frustration mounting wouldn’t be a surprise. But Roethlisberger wanting out of Pittsburgh would be a curious move. He’s won two Super Bowls with the team, been to a third, and despite some offseason incidents earlier in his career, has had a lot of support from Pittsburgh fans over the years. He’s played his entire career in Pittsburgh and leaving at this point would be a bit odd. Roethlisberger may be frustrated at the current team, but you can bet that the Steelers will again field a competitive team during his tenure at quarterback.

Arian Foster to have season-ending surgeryHouston Texans running back Arian Foster will reportedly have season-ending surgery for a bulging disk in his back. Foster’s injury and subsequent surgery is just the latest misfortune for the Texans who have had a rough season. Foster, himself, has had a down season with only a single rushing touchdown to his credit. After a 2-0 start, Houston promptly has dropped their past seven games. Quarterback Matt Schaub suffered an ankle injury but even when he was healthy enough to play, head coach Gary Kubiak kept him on the bench in favor of Case Keenum. Kubiak also made headlines when he collapsed at halftime of a game last week. It’s just been a miserable season all around for the franchise.

Lloyd McClendon and Rick Renteria hired as managers – The Seattle Mariners have their next manager after hiring Lloyd McClendon last week. McClendon has prior experience, serving as the head man for the Pittsburgh Pirates. His 336-446 record there, though, wasn’t impressive and he had to settle for a role as bullpen coach and hitting coach with the Detroit Tigers the past few years. Seattle fans have understandably been skeptical of the move, but McClendon was handcuffed a bit to some pretty bad Pirates rosters. Still, if he’s not successful in Seattle, it may be a while before he sees another opportunity to become a manager. Renteria, meanwhile, is headed to the Chicago Cubs. He hasn’t been a major league manager before, but still has a good deal of experience. Renteria managed a few seasons in the minors and was a bench coach for the San Diego Padres. Earlier this season, he also managed Mexico’s National team in the World Baseball Classic. Cubs fans will have to be patient with him as the team is clearly in the midst of a rebuilding movement.

Stanford tops Oregon – In another matchup of top five college football teams, No. 5 Stanford upended No. 3 Oregon last week, 26-20. The win helps the Cardinal, obviously, but the real beneficiary is Florida State. The Seminoles were undefeated but still sat behind top-ranked Alabama and Oregon in the minds of many poll voters. If both teams ran the table, there was a chance that Florida State could have been left out of the national championship picture. Instead, the Seminoles likely will control their own destiny now and just might get the chance to reach the title game.

Bill Mazeroski auction a hit – Former Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Bill Mazeroski raked in a cool $1.7 million from an auction centered around items from his series-winning home run in the 1960 World Series. Leading the way was his game-worn jersey from that epic seventh game, which fetched $633,000. Also auctioned were his cleats from the game and his six Gold Glove awards. It always seems a little discomforting to see former players auction off their awards or game items, but it also can’t be forgotten that players in the 1960s and 1970s didn’t make the kind of money today’s players do. And really, how long can you hang onto those items knowing they’re worth hundreds of thousands of dollars?

Florida Panthers fire Kevin Dineen – Head coach Kevin Dineen was fired by the Florida Panthers after another slow start to the season. The Panthers were 3-9-4 at the time of the move and the front office felt a change was necessary. Florida ranks near the bottom of the NHL in offense (26th), scoring fewer than two goals a game, and defense (28th). This was the second straight slow start for Dineen as his team got off to a 1-5 beginning last year. Peter Horachek has been named the interim coach in the meantime.

August 15, 2012

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Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Backs

By: Junior

With NFL Fantasy Football drafts right around the corner, we will take a look at the top 5 players at each position. Depending on what type of league you are in, theses evaluations will vary, but the general ranking will be similar. Our last rankings focused on quarterbacks. This week, we will look at the running backs and which players are worthy of a high pick.

Ray Rice tops this year's list of fantasy football running backs.

1. Ray Rice

You won’t see this ranking many other places. To me, consistency is important, and Ray Rice has been nothing but solid that past three seasons. Add the fact he averages over 70 catches over the last three years, and you can count on lots of points from Rice. The Ravens are a team that runs the ball well and will feature Rice often. There is a little worry with the trend of players under-performing after signing a new contract, but I have faith that you won’t regret picking Rice early.

2. LeSean McCoy

Another shocker. However, if you compare his stats with Arian Foster’s the last 3 years, McCoy is right with Foster in many categories. Last season, McCoy had more yards on less carries, as well as 7 more rushing touchdown’s than Foster. That is a lot of points. The Texans can run the ball, but I think the Eagles have a better passing game, allowing them to be more balanced and not let defenses stack the box. I think McCoy is a solid pick up on your fantasy roster.

3. Arian Foster

We finally arrive at the consensus #1 running back in fantasy. I don’t have anything against Foster, and if you can get him on your team when the other 2 running backs listed are gone, I don’t think you will be too disappointed. Foster will get you points, but with Andre Johnson being the only other offensive weapon for the Texans, defenses know who they need to key in on. Add Ben Tate to the equation, and I feel the two other running backs are better options for this season.

4. Matt Forte

While the off-season was a little shaky with his contract dispute/holdout, Forte is in camp and should be his reliable self. As you can tell by my rankings, I like my fantasy running backs to be receiving threats and Forte holds his own, averaging over 50 catches over the last 3 years. However, he only has one 1,000 yard season over that time, which is hard to accept. That being said, with the additions the Bears have made in the passing game, I think Chicago could have a solid offense this season, leading to more red-zone opportunities for Forte.

5. Darren McFadden

This is a tough one. Darren McFadden is a solid bet, when healthy. That, unfortunately, is a big disclaimer. McFadden has had durability issues in the NFL so this could be a risky pick. However, most of the running backs left have concerns. Maurice Jones-Drew is currently holding out. The Falcons have said they may limit Michael Turner in the beginning of the year to keep his legs fresh. Steven Jackson is getting up there in age. The list goes on and on. So I will take a flyer on McFadden and hope for the best.

November 4, 2011

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NFL Predictions: Week 9 Fantasy Picks

By: Rick Jarrell

Was Drew Brees on the football field Sunday? Didn’t feel like it. Honestly, I’m not that surprised the Rams beat the Saints. There are no actual facts to back up this theory, but sometimes teams that blow up offensively one week don’t perform the next game. It happens in football, basketball, and baseball. Whether the team grows overconfident in their abilities and slacks off, is tired from the week before, or something else, I don’t know. It just seems to happen more often than it should.

Brandon Pettigrew was a disappointment, too. I had high expectations for him last week, and the entire season, but he just hasn’t performed. If you can’t capitalize in that high powered offense when the opposing secondary is focusing on Calvin Johnson, you’re not worth a starting spot on a fantasy team.

Detroit’s defense had a good game, though, thanks to Tebow performing like many of us expected. He’s a good guy, and you want him to win based on personality alone, but I’m worried he’s not a pro caliber quarterback.

Adrian Peterson performed, well, too, as he always does. But he didn’t blow the roof off, like you’d expect. Part of the problem was the Vikings went down early to the Panthers and had to throw more than they’d like. Still, Christian Ponder used a lot of check-down passes to Peterson, recording a TD on that end, too.

Not a bad week overall… on to Week 9 picks.

Matt Forte

Forte has been tearing it up this year, and will certainly be paid in the offseason (unless the Bears slap the Franchise Tag on him). Sunday he faces the Philadelphia Eagles, who I see as playing strong the rest of the season after they had the bye to get situated.

The Eagles defense shut down Tony Romo and the Cowboys, but their offensive “forte” is the passing game, and with Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie patrolling the secondary off of a bye, it’s easy to see why the Cowboys offense stalled.

The Bears “forte,” though, is Forte. The Eagles’ frontline has not performed well this season. Look for the Bears to feed their workhorse back (and potentially Marion Barber if he plays) plenty.

There’s also a good chance Jay Cutler throws a few picks, but that’s always on the table.

Arian Foster / Ben Tate

I presume Foster will get the bulk of the carries now that he’s healthy, but you never know, so I include Tate here. The Browns have had a tough time stopping the run this year, as the secondary is responsible for keeping them in games. There’s a good chance both these guys score Sunday in Houston, and a decent chance the Texans eclipse 30 points.

Oakland Defense

I’m going to continue to pick on Tebow here, and say that Oakland will have a solid defensive game. Despite losing Asomugha in the offseason, the defense remains the strong suit of the team. Their defensive line is strong and will surely pressure Tebow like Detroit’s big line did last week.

Denver Defense

Staying in the same game, I’ll now pick on Carson Palmer. I’ll dismiss his three interception performance two weeks ago – he was only with the team for a few days, and had spent the entire season throwing to high school kids until he was traded from Cincinnati. But Palmer has not been the top tier quarterback he once was since he blew out his knee in the playoffs.

Last year he had a fairly solid fantasy season and qualified as a top ten quarterback. But I find it hard to believe, even with a bye week to catch up, that he’ll be able to hit the ground running for the Raiders. They’ll likely feed Darren McFadden and Michael Bush and limit Palmer’s impact. If Tebow manages to work some of his intangible magic and jump to a significant lead, and Palmer’s forced to perform, look for pick city.

September 8, 2011

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Fantasy Football as a Topic of Conversation

By: Rick Jarrell

One of the greatest side effects of professional football’s rise in popularity has been the increased interest in fantasy leagues. Decades ago, fantasy football was relegated to small congregations of stat nerds in college dorms. Now, it seems like the majority of sports fan get in on the action – from offices, groups of friends, serious competitive leagues – largely thanks to the increased use of technology.

But as with many great things comes negative side effects. Like the hair on your back, this side effect is not an issue at first – just an observation. But before you know it, you’re whole body is covered in hair like Darrelle Revis on a wideout. The problem I’m speaking of is the NFL fantasy football conversation exchanged between people in separate leagues.

It’s natural for everyone to get excited – or disenchanted – with their team to the point where they have to talk about it. Maybe you picked up Arian Foster late in the draft and he’s carrying your team. Maybe you picked up Michael Vick off the waiver wire last year and won the league. Maybe you lost by a few points after a touchdown was called back. So much enthusiasm comes out… but it tends to boil over from “Wow, you lucky SOB” to “I don’t care about your 6th receiver.”

In basic terms, when speaking with others outside your league, the conversation turns into less dialogue and more talking at each other – allowing someone to speak, but only half listening, really anticipating them to finish so you can blurt out whatever is bothering you about your team, even though it has little to do with what the other person just said. With this in mind, I’ve concocted a two simple rules for what’s cool and what’s not cool when speaking with your cohorts about your adventures in fantasy football.

It’s Cool to Ask for Advice

In an attempt to actually have a conversation, trying asking for advice regarding your team. It takes it from a lecture series on your team’s weekly performance to a more interactive setting. That sentence may have sounded a lot like collegiate learning, but don’t let that scare you. It’ll be a better conversation if you can get the other person involved. It becomes more social, and you may actually get some good advice.

It’s Not Cool to Talk about Your Entire Team

When you begin listing your starting offense is when the conversation gets out of control. You’re counterpart may care about who’s on your team for the first few seconds, but will lose interest quickly. Think about it – you’re essentially naming a Pro Bowl roster, which would be impressive if it were a real NFL team, but the word “fantasy” is key here. Chances are the other guy (or girl) has just as good a team.

Simply following these guidelines will make your NFL fantasy football conversations much more tolerable. Of course, if someone is in your league, you can say whatever you want to them – even if they’re dead last and haven’t updated their lineup in three weeks.

On a side note: this also goes for Madden franchises, to a higher degree. It’s really hard to talk to someone who feels the need to tell you about some running back drafted in the tenth year of their franchise – a running back that was auto-generated by the video game. Just had to get that out there.

January 19, 2011

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2010 NFL Award Predictions

By: Anson Whaley

With the Super Bowl only a few weeks away, it’s time to take a look back at the NFL season and make some predictions for the league’s 2010 awards.

Most Valuable Player

This is likely a three-horse race between three quarterbacks – Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, Mike Vick of the Philadelphia Eagles, and Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers.

It’s no surprise that Brady ended up here.  He’s been one of the league’s best quarterbacks over the past decade and had some pretty good receivers to work with in Randy Moss and Wes Welker.  Brady had to deal with the early loss of Moss (who was traded), but still found a way to excel.  In leading the Patriots to a league-best 14-2 record, he passed for 36 touchdowns (second best in his career) and threw only 4 interceptions, by far the fewest he’s had in a 16-game season.

Mike Vick ending up in this discussion was a surprise, however.  At the beginning of the season, Vick wasn’t even slated to be the team’s starter.  But with an early injury to Kevin Kolb, Vick took over and never looked back.  On the season, he threw for more than 3,000 yards and 21 touchdowns while rushing for 9 more scores.  All of those numbers were career highs, and Vick managed to accomplish all of that playing in only 12 games.  He not only looked like the Vick of old, he looked even better.

Aaron Rodgers also has a shot at landing the award.  He threw for nearly 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns.  The fact that he put up those numbers without a major running threat all season (after the early-season injury to Ryan Grant) and led his team to the playoffs will definitely help his campaign, and he should be a legitimate candidate.

This is a close race, but my vote goes to Brady because his team had the most success in the regular season.

Offensive Player of the Year

This is another tough one to call.  In addition to the three quarterbacks mentioned above in the Most Valuable Player race, there’s Houston Texans running back Arian Foster, who led the league in rushing with more than 1,600 yards and 16 touchdowns and Atlanta Falcons’ wide receiver Roddy White, whose 115 receptions and nearly 1,400 yards receiving made him, statistically, the best pass catcher in the NFL.

Foster had the benefit of defenses needing to respect a great passing game, and White benefitted from the Falcons’ rushing game, so I’ll rule both of those players out.  Vick did it all this season with his arm and his legs, having his best season ever.  I’ll take him by a hair over Brady for this award.

Defensive Player of the Year

I see this as a race between Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware and Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews.  Matthews’ numbers (13 ½ sacks, 60 tackles, and an interception) don’t quite equal those of Ware’s (15 ½ sacks, 66 tackles, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery for a touchdown), but the Packers had a much better season, and Matthews was a big part of that.  My vote goes to Matthews.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

This award is probably coming down to a pair of Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookies – running back LeGarrette Blount and wide receiver Mike Williams.  Blount had 1,007 yards, averaging 5.0 yards per carry, and ran for 6 touchdowns, while Williams led the team’s passing attack, racking up 964 yards and, maybe more importantly, 11 touchdowns.

Williams gets the edge in my book due to his ability to find the end zone so frequently.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Ndamukong Suh has a bit of competition from guys like Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap (24 tackles and 9 ½ sacks), Cleveland Browns strong safety T.J. Ward (2 INTs and 123 tackles), and New England Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty (7 INTs and 82 tackles), but Suh is probably the winner here.

Despite playing on the interior part of the defensive line, Suh was the only rookie to get into double-digit sacks (with 10), and he racked up 66 tackles.  He didn’t stop there, though.  Suh also added an interception and recovered a forced fumble for a touchdown.  For his efforts, he was named as a starter to the Pro Bowl, but will not play due to injury.

Coach of the Year

Atlanta Falcons’ Mike White or Kansas City Chiefs’ Todd Haley will probably win this award.  White led the Falcons to an NFC-best 13-3 record, while Haley took a Chiefs team that was 4-12 in 2009 and turned them into division champs, going 10-6.

While White had a team with several offensive weapons in Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, and Roddy White, Haley had a bit less to work with.  For that reason, Haley gets my vote for turning a franchise around that was a laughingstock the year before.