October 12, 2011

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NFL Predictions: Week 6 Fantasy Picks

By: Rick Jarrell

Fantasy Football Predictions: Week 5 Recap

I’m not sure what’s going on with the New York Jets. They held up pretty well against the New England Patriots, only losing by nine points, but I’m surprised they didn’t run more. Sure the Patriots’ secondary is suspect, but slowing the game down and playing good defense was the Jets bread and butter. Super Bowl hopefuls I just don’t see.

Where I missed on Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson, I hit on Alex Smith. The 49ers crushed the Tampa Bay Bucs 48-3, with Smith tossing 3 TD and 0 INT. The offensive explosion did not include Michael Crabtree, though, recording only a couple catches for 36 yards.

Oh and Nick Novak kicked five field goals. That’s a solid pick for a kicker, albeit lucky. But when your fantasy team begins to tank, you take what you can get.

Fantasy Football Predictions:  Week 6

Dallas & New England

It feels like a cop out to just select two offenses, but this match up has high scoring written all over it. Expect Tom Brady and his receivers to have a big game, as well as Tony Romo and his crew. Brady doesn’t discriminate when it comes to his receivers, so who knows who will be his favorite target for the week. If you’re looking to pick someone up, go after Aaron Hernandez, their second tight end who gets first tight end receptions, or Chad Ochocinco, who has disappointed fantasy owners so far, but has to score at least a few times this year, right?

Michael Bush

The Oakland Raiders face my Cleveland Browns this Sunday, which I fully expect to result in personal dismay. The Brownies can’t stop the run, and Darren McFadden has become the top tier player the Raiders expected him to be when he was drafted in the first round a few years ago.

But unless your league-mates have been in a cave, he’s not on your waiver wire. Chances are Michael Bush isn’t either, but I have him on many of my teams, and it’s always a toss-up whether he should play or not. This week he’s a good play in a likely blowout of the Browns. The Raiders will run the ball a ton, and Bush will get the goal line carries.

Ryan Grant

Speaking of the running game, the Green Bay Packers go up against one of the worst run defenses in the league in the St. Louis Rams. They’re also one of the worse defenses in general, so Aaron Rodgers should have a big day. But eventually they’ll pull out to a big league and run the clock down. Grant splits carries with James Starks, but Grant is technically the starter and incumbent, although he missed all last year due to injury.

For whatever reason, I’ve noticed Grant go undrafted and stay on the waiver wire in many leagues. He’s definitely not what he was two years ago, but he’s a good value play if you’re desperate for a running back.

August 22, 2011

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Top Ten Fantasy Football Drafting Tips

By: Anson Whaley

The NFL lockout’s over and with the season about to begin, here are ten tips to keep in mind when drafting your fantasy football team.

10. Never take a Kicker or Defense until the Late Rounds: Kickers in high-scoring offenses will produce points for sure, but it’s much better to add another quality skilled NFL player in the sixth or seventh round than to burn that pick on an ‘idiot’ kicker (Thanks, Peyton – I’ll never forget that one). There are always several good options left in the free agency pool and while you don’t necessarily have to wait until your final pick, you should avoid drafting one in the middle rounds. The same can be said for defenses. You may even prefer to switch your defense from week to week to take advantage of good matchups (i.e. Playing against the Buffalo Bills’ offense = gold mine).

9. Don’t Draft Based on Last Year’s Stats: While it’s fine to use last year’s numbers as a guide, they can’t be relied upon solely for your analysis in drafting. Sometimes the losses of seemingly minor NFL players such as blocking fullbacks change teams drastically and could mean that running back you’ve been watching won’t be as successful.

8. Avoid Taking Too Many Players from One Team: Even if it means potentially passing on what may be a slightly better player, it’s a good idea to limit yourself to two players from one NFL team. The Packers may be a great team, but drafting Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Grant, and Greg Jennings is probably the worst idea since the Houston Astros 1980s rainbow-colored unis. Not only will you have to deal with a potential loss during Green Bay’s bye week, but anytime their offense stumbles during the season, it could mean another automatic defeat.

7. Draft Based on Your League: It’s always a good idea to draft personnel depending on the rules in your league, so make sure you’re paying attention to them. Someone like Reggie Bush who’s a dual threat out of the backfield is obviously more valuable in a point-per-reception league. Or if you’re in a league where accumulated yardage doesn’t count, you’ll want to target players with only high touchdown possibilities.

6. Target Several Players Immediately after Your Pick: This rule is especially true for online drafts that run on a timer. Your pick will come up sooner than you think and poor planning can result in a hurried, or even wasted, pick. Don’t turn into the Minnesota Vikings – be ready. Immediately after your selection, highlight at least five players you’d like to take next and use your time to rank them. There’s a good chance that one or even several will be taken by then, but by planning ahead of time, you can ensure that you’re ready when your team is on the clock.

5. Avoid Listening to Too Many ‘Experts’: I like Yahoo’s Brandon Funston and ESPN’s Mel Kiper’s just as much as the next guy, but the more analysts you listen to, the more confused you’ll get. These guys aren’t perfect and often have conflicting opinions. The best thing to do is to use them for compiling groups of players you like at each position and make the final pick based on your own knowledge. Just because Kiper isn’t follicly-challenged doesn’t mean that he’s always right.

4. Limit Rookie Draft Picks: Sure, there are plenty of NFL rookies that can impact your team positively. But for every Adrian Peterson there are five Michael Crabtrees. Facts are facts – most rookies won’t play as much as projected and even if they do, that doesn’t mean they’ll be successful. Not only is the speed of the NFL on another level, but first-year players have plenty to worry about. Trust me, Cam Newton is not the key to your fantasy football team reaching the playoffs.

3. Overvalue quarterbacks and tight ends: This is one rule that’s a bit debatable, but I’ve seen too many good teams destroyed by mediocre quarterbacks. Invest in a good one in the first two or three rounds and your team should be better for it. There are only a few elite ones (Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Leaf to name a few), so you’ll need to act fast. It’s also worth targeting the top tight ends in the early middle rounds since there aren’t many that are capable of finding the end zone regularly.

2. Stockpile skill players (WR, RB, QB): Many owners will make a mistake in thinking their team is fine because they’ve got capable starters at all positions, but you can never have enough skill players. For one thing, you’ll need to worry about injuries and bye weeks. Plus, they’re always good trade bait and you can move them for other needs you may have down the line. If your quarterback goes down, it will be much easier to strike a deal for someone’s quality backup. So instead of picking up the league’s best kicker in the seventh round, take a third running back or wide receiver.

1. Leave emotion at the door: Just as that was Brad Pitt’s first rule in poker in Ocean’s Eleven, it should be made so in fantasy football. You should never pick up or avoid a player based on how you feel about them or their team personally. If you’re a Steelers fan, make the sacrifice and you don’t pick up Tom Brady who happens to be on the board in the fourth round, you’ve made a huge mistake. And just because you have a Texas Longhorns Ricky Williams jersey in your closet, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should take him with your first pick. Or second, third, fourth, or …

Well, you get the picture.

February 7, 2011

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Super Bowl Recap

By: Anson Whaley

Christina Aguilera may have gotten the night off to a rough start after botching some of the lyrics of the National Anthem, but after that it was smooth sailing.

Fans were treated to another competitive Super Bowl on Sunday, and for the third time in the past four seasons, the final score was within a touchdown. The Green Bay Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-25, and this highly anticipated game definitely lived up to the hype.

The difference-maker was clearly the play of the two quarterbacks. The Packers’ Aaron Rodgers was crisp, and his passes were on the mark all game long. The final stats show that he completed 24 of 39 passes, but the quarterback suffered several drops by receivers, and in reality, his numbers should have been better. He also played much of the game without one of the team’s top receivers (Donald Driver, who left with an injury), and was constantly under pressure (a television stat shown during the fourth quarter indicated that Rodgers was hit a total of 16 times up to that point). His 304-yard, three-touchdown performance is even more impressive when you consider those factors.  Rodgers was the obvious choice for the game’s Most Valuable Player award.

Conversely, Ben Roethlisberger was sloppy and didn’t have his best game. While he made a few big scrambles and finished with a respectable 25-40 for 263 yards and two touchdowns, his two first half interceptions were a major reason the team had an 11-point halftime deficit. And with a chance to put together a potential game-winning drive as he had done two years ago in the Super Bowl against the Arizona Cardinals, he was unable to effectively move the ball down the field.

Heading into the game, it was expected that Green Bay would struggle to run the ball. The team has been without starting All-Pro back Ryan Grant most of the season, and the Packers’ rushing attack has been up and down ever since. But the Steelers didn’t have a sustained running attack, either, as Rashard Mendenhall, Issac Redman, and Mewelde Moore combined for only 19 rushes for a total of 95 yards. 5.0 yards per carry is above average, so Steelers’ coach Mike Tomlin may look back on this game and wish he had run the ball a bit more. Mendenhall, though, also made a key fourth-quarter fumble tat was recovered by Green Bay as the Steelers were driving and down by only four points. That killed Pittsburgh’s drive and may have been the key play in Sunday’s game.

Despite holding a fairly comfortable halftime lead, things started unraveling for the Packers early in the second half. The defense gave up a late touchdown in the second quarter, but perhaps more importantly, the Packers had just sustained the potentially devastating injuries to Driver, cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Sam Shields, and safety Nick Collins. The Steelers immediately took advantage, scoring an early touchdown in the third quarter to bring the game to within four. But after the Mendenhall fumble, the two teams traded touchdowns in the fourth quarter, and the Steelers couldn’t get anything else going.

When fans look back at this Super Bowl, however, Rodgers will be the guy everyone remembers. After a great regular season, he has clearly cemented his status as a bonafide star, leading his team to its fourth Super Bowl victory in the franchise’s storied history. He had an outstanding game, and as frustrated as the Steelers are about this game, there’s another team that should be equally disappointed – the San Francisco 49ers.

The Niners held the #1 pick in the 2005 NFL Draft and desperately needed a quarterback. Despite the fact that Rodgers held the franchise in high regard and had a successful college career, the team instead selected Alex Smith out of Utah. Granted, the 49ers weren’t the only team to pass on Rodgers, but they had the first chance to draft him. And we all know how the story goes from here – Smith has struggled in the pros, while Rodgers, at 27, is one of the league’s top quarterbacks and has an extremely bright future. In Rodgers, Grant, and wide receiver Greg Jennings, the Packers have a young nucleus on which to build and should be competitive for years to come.

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.

February 24, 2010

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My Two Cents – Get Your LT Chargers Jerseys NOW!

By: Denny

LaDainian Tomlinson is a for sure first-ballot Hall of Famer and one of the greatest players of our generation. Whatever happens the rest of his career, LT Chargers jerseys will be the ones to have. People are going to be unloading these things like crazy, but if you are the kind of person who likes sport jerseys, I guarantee in 5 years you will regret either selling or not buying a Tomlinson Chargers jersey when you had the chance.

It just seems like this is one of those guys whose jersey everybody will want once he’s been gone a couple years. Do you see a lot of Joe Montana Chiefs or Franco Harris Seahawks jerseys out there?  Nope.  They had made their departures, but after a few years went by, the went back to being the iconic and in Montana’s case, “face of the franchise” guys with their original teams.  In a few years, when the Tomlinson Chargers jersey is the retro jersey of choice, you’ll be glad to have yours!

Where will Mr. Charger end up?  It’ll be strange to see him in another uniform, but one thing is clear.  Tomlinson wants to win a championship. Sorry Lions fans, he’s not coming to town.  Philly could use another pair of legs, Green Bay has been in search of a good pass-catching back to platoon with Ryan Grant and they are both contenders.  But how about this?  I know a team that loves to bring in supposedly over-the-hill players on the cheap and get good performance out of them.  Could LT fit in with the Patriots?  They’ve been looking for a featured back for years now and LT might just have enough gas in the tank to be the answer for a couple years.  He’s slowing down and isn’t a 25-carry guy anymore, but it’s an intriguing thought.  Hopefully, Tomlinson can get a few more successful years under his belt and can go out on a good note.  He’s one of the best we’ve seen and should be remembered as such.