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The Perfect Season for an Expanded Playoff Field

Last November, I made the case for the College Football Playoff needing to expand the field to eight teams. This season is panning out to be one that could benefit from it more than ever. I’d like to think after the conclusion of conference championship games on the first Saturday of December, it may be a lot easier for the committee to come up with a consensus Top 4 then it was for the committee to release their first rankings Tuesday night.

There are a handful of championship-caliber teams that will likely be on the outside looking in thanks to this being a season in which the Big 10 and SEC both boasting multiple teams worthy of a spot. Don’t forget about the notable independent, Notre Dame who will be in the mix all the way to the end.

The initial Top 4 included Georgia, Alabama, Notre Dame and Clemson. This Top 4 significantly contrasted with the latest Associated Press Poll, which would have produced a bracket of Alabama and Georgia of the SEC and Wisconsin and Ohio State of the Big 10. Now we can assume that these schools likely squaring off in their conference’s respective championship games that the rankings will sort itself out. But is that really what is best for college football, assuming those conference runner-ups find themselves on the outside looking in? I’d say no.

Conference Imbalance?

It can be argued that this is a down year for the other three Power 5 Conferences. While Clemson landed at #4 in the initial rankings, the ACC is not a lock to have a representative.

The Big 12 has the 5th, 8th and 11th ranked teams in Oklahoma, TCU and Oklahoma State, respectively. While the Big 12 added a conference championship game that has the potential to improve the resume of its champion, the risk of an upset by a two-loss team could lead to the conference failing to field a team in the bracket for the third time in four years.

The Pac 12 is the most in-flux, with the highest ranked team being the Washington Huskies sitting at #12. For the Pac 12 to send a team to the Playoff, Washington is their best chance and they would need the Huskies to win out and for a lot of teams ahead of them to lose. Even if that happens, is that a good scenario for college football: a team that is outside the Top 10 leaping 9-10 spots thanks to the slip-ups of better teams? Again, I’d say no.

The question of these three conferences has to be asked – Are these teams being penalized for facing tougher competition at the top of their conference than the undefeated teams in the SEC and Big 10. Through Week 9, both Alabama and Wisconsin have not played a single ranked opponent. On the other hand, one-loss teams such as Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Penn State, TCU, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and even Memphis all have wins over ranked opponents.

What’s the point? Most, if not all, of the teams I just mentioned, should still be in the running to compete for the National Championship. Theoretically, just about all of those teams still have a chance. However, most need teams ahead of them in the rankings to lose in order to reach the Top 4. In a world with a Top 8, all of those teams would be able to control their own destiny to secure a spot in the Playoff.

Untested Unbeatens 

Then you have the undefeated teams that arguably have not been tested to the degree in which the previously mentioned teams have been to this point in the season. While Wisconsin, Miami, and UCF have simply taken care of business by beating everyone on their respective schedules, they don’t have quite the resume to be considered Top 4 teams. Should that preclude them from at least getting a shot against the best in the country to compete for a National Championship? Absolutely not.

I’m not naive enough to suggest they would beat or even are at the same level as the undefeated teams at the top. But I don’t think they should miss out on the opportunity to play them just because their schedule wasn’t strong enough. Fortunately for Miami and Wisconsin, both will have the opportunity down the stretch to strengthen their resume. Miami has games scheduled against Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and potentially a highly-ranked opponent in the ACC Championship Game while Wisconsin will likely have an opportunity against a top-ranked opponent in the Big 10 Championship Game.

UCF will not have that same chance, especially after USF fell out of the Top 25 following their first loss of the season to Houston. At the same time, it would be fun to at least give the top Group of 5 team a shot, and in this case UCF a chance to see if they belong with the big boys.

The bottom line is that there are several, high-caliber teams that may technically still be in the mix to make the College Football Playoff, but realistically will not be able to get into that position solely based on their own merits the rest of the season. This is why this season would have been the ideal year to have an expanded playoff field.

Top 8

My proposal that I lined out last November would award would the eight spots as follows: five Power 5 Champs, two at-large and the highest-ranked Group of 5 team. If we followed this formula, following the initial CFP Rankings, we would currently have seedings and first-round matchups that looked like this:

  1. Georgia (SEC)
  2. Alabama (At-Large 1)
  3. Notre Dame (At-Large 2)
  4. Clemson (ACC) 
  5. Oklahoma (Big 12)
  6. Ohio State (Big 10)
  7. Washington (Pac 12)
  8. UCF (Group of 5)

In the Hunt: Penn State, TCU, Wisconsin, Miami

First Round

Georgia vs. UCF, Alabama vs. Washington, Notre Dame vs. Ohio State, and Clemson vs. Oklahoma.

What college football fan wouldn’t want to watch that? The move to eight teams is on the horizon, and hopefully, this season pushes the needle closer to it happening. The best part of this system may be that subjectively will be limited and earning a spot in “the dance” will have a much clearer path.

 

Source Credit: http://www.houstonpress.com/news/what-would-an-8-team-college-football-playoff-race-look-like-this-season-8926518

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Top Storylines of the NBA Season

Thanks to the NBA responding to the players’ complaints about the number of back-to-back games, the regular season is tipping off tonight, about a week and a half earlier than the usual start to the season. It was one of the most active and fascinating offseasons in recent memory. The flurry of player movement has contributed to this being the most anticipated NBA season since Lebron James and Chris Bosh joined the Miami Heat before the 2010-2011 campaign. Let’s dive into what should be the top storylines to follow up through the 2018 NBA Finals in June.

Did the Rockets and Thunder do enough?

The summer was interesting in that it seemed like some perennial teams made very little effort to get better, suggesting they were punting on the season as they came to grips with the reality of not being able to compete with Golden State. On the other hand, a few of the league’s better teams brought in high caliber complimentary pieces to surround their franchise players.

The Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder were far from being equipped to compete with the Warriors when the summer began. Both teams were led by elite franchise players in Russell Westbrook and James Harden, who coincidentally finished 1st and 2nd in the MVP voting, respectively. But in what has been proven in the NBA, it takes more than one great player to be a legitimate title contender.

The Rockets added Chris Paul to form one of the NBA’s most lethal backcourts. The Thunder brought in Paul George and Carmelo Anthony on what could very well be for one year depending on how things go. Both Houston and Oklahoma City look to be the best candidates to challenge Golden State in the Western Conference.

I don’t know how either of these situations will work out. But both will be fun to watch and I give a lot of credit to the teams by recognizing they were not good enough as they were constructed at season’s end and making the necessary moves to bolster their squads.

Cavs, Celtics and everyone else in the East

There is very little if any debate who the two best teams in the Eastern Conference are. Both the Cavs and Celtics finished atop the Eastern Conference a season ago and possibly got better over the summer. The Celtics improved by bringing in Gordon Hayward and possibly got even better when adding Kyrie Irving. Or at least they think they got better by making a blockbuster trade with the Cavs this past August.

I personally think the Cavs got the better of the trade as they acquired Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, Brooklyn’s 2018 first-round draft pick, and Boston’s 2020 second-round draft pick. But who got better for the upcoming season may be up to debate. However, the Cavs also added Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose, for whatever he can still contribute at this stage of his career.

Bottom line is that barring major injury, the Cavs and Celtics look like locks for 50+ wins, the top two seeds and destined to face each other in the Eastern Conference Finals again. After that, the drop off in the East is precipitous. The Wizards and Raptors are good teams that will likely grab the #3 and #4 playoff seeds.

Next, you have your group of mediocre to above average teams that could win anywhere between 35-45 games. In this category, I’d put the Miami Heat, Charlotte Hornets, and Detroit Pistons.

After that, you have your up and coming teams like the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks who are likely a year or two away from making noise in the playoffs but likely have a ceiling as high as #5/6 seeds if all goes well. Both teams are similar in that they have elite, young talent but do not have quite the experience to be able to safely project where they will finish this season.

Who will win this year’s tank-a-thon?

While the NBA failed miserably in their attempt at lottery reform by evenly out the odds to acquire the #1 overall pick, there will be a competition for the rights to likely draft Michael Porter in the 2018 NBA Draft. Based on the activity of a few teams this past offseason, there appear to be a handful of teams on the quest for a top pick.

The Chicago Bulls traded Jimmy Butler on draft night, a player who was in trade rumors for about a year. In return, they acquired draft capital and young guards, Kris Dunn and Zach Lavine. The Bulls will be fortunate to win 20 games and look to be a good bet to make it to the commercial on the night of the Draft Lottery.

After what seemed like several years of being a perennially above average team with zero hope of competing for a championship, the Atlanta Hawks look like they headed for a very lean year. The positive is that Atlanta finally will get out of NBA purgatory, assuming they are able to land a top draft pick with finding their next franchise player, a role that has been vacant for way too long.

What else is there to say about the New York Knicks? They have been the joke of the NBA for the past few years and will only be worse following the departure of Carmelo Anthony. While they hit on Kristaps Porzingis at #4 overall in the 2015 Draft, there have been rumblings that he wants out of New York. Can you blame him? Assuming their best player does, in fact, get dealt before the trade deadline, the losses and ping pong ball combinations will add up quickly.

ROY Race

This past draft class was the most hyped since the 2003 group that brought in Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Lonzo Ball, more thanks to his helicopter father got plenty of attention before being selected by his hometown Los Angeles Lakers at #2 overall. Lavar Ball possibly put even more pressure on his son and the expectations will be extremely high in his first NBA season.

Markelle Fultz, who the Sixers traded up for with their long-time bitter rival Celtics, was the top pick in the draft. Even with being the #1 overall pick, Fultz looks like a project who we may not see blossom until his third or fourth season. I don’t expect a lot from him in his rookie year. I’m more intrigued by his teammate, Ben Simmons as a “Rookie of the Year” candidate. Simmons missed his entire first season due to injury and has received rave reviews from scouts and coaches around the league. Some have suggested his skillset is a blend of Lebron James and Magic Johnson.

The darkhorse candidate may be Dennis Smith Jr., who was selected ninth overall by the Dallas Mavericks. His flashes of brilliance during the NBA Summer League have ignited the conversation that he may have been the steal of the draft. Smith was an explosive, exciting player at N.C. State who arguably would have been drafted higher if not for his injury history. He should be fun to watch and I wouldn’t rule him out to take home the award.

Top Trade Candidates

I’m very skeptical that DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis can co-exist in New Orleans. Talent-wise, they could form the most formidable frontcourt in the NBA. But they have a big, uphill climb in a very tough Western Conference. If the Pelicans get off to a rough start and if it’s starting to look like they’ll miss the playoffs for the sixth time in the last seven years, I could either guy getting moved before the deadline.

I already mentioned Kristaps Porzingis when making the argument for the Knicks being one of the teams to watch in this year’s tank-a-thon. When you combine the report of KP wanting out of New York due to the front office dysfunction along with the Knicks likely headed for a bad year, he looks like a prime trade candidate.

Despite re-signing with the Clippers in the offseason, I still won’t rule out Blake Griffin getting moved if the team struggles in the first half. By trading Chris Paul over the summer, I took that as a sign of waving a white flag on the 2017-2018 season. Given the Clippers’ lack of cap space and draft capital, I could see Griffin being moved if there is an offer that could jumpstart their inevitable rebuild.

The Final Four

I’m going chalk for the Eastern Conference, anticipating a rematch of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics. But I do not anticipate quite the drama that the networks will hype up leading into the series. I like the Cavs’ playoff experience and I think Kyrie Irving may end up eating his ungrateful remarks about playing with Lebron James when he discovers how much of a dropoff it will be in Boston. I go Cleveland 4-2.

It may take some time for Russell Westbrook to establish chemistry with newcomers, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. But they’re talented enough to be a Top 4 seed. I am going to bet on the Oklahoma City Thunder getting to the Western Conference Finals either by the conventional standards of getting the #2/3 seed and facing the Golden State Warriors or struggling initially, grabbing a lower seed, forcing an upset and getting there. Either way, I like them to give the Warriors a scare before losing in seven games, 4-3.

Cavs and Warriors, again. How boring. Unfortunately, while parody is common in the other three major sports, it is completely absent in the NBA. I don’t have any reason to believe it will be Golden State again, but I like the series to go seven, giving them the 4-3 win.

Source Credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nodUYAWcgDs

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The Case for the American Athletic (Power) Conference

In the latest Associated Press Top 25 College Football Rankings, a third team from the American Athletic Conference joined the list when Navy grabbed the #25 spot. The American is now tied with the prestigious SEC with having three teams. Outside of the three AAC teams in the Top 25, USF (#18) and UCF (#22) being the other two, there is only one other representative from the Group of 5, San Diego State.

Since the newly formed delineation of the Power 5 and Group of 5 in 2014, the American has easily been the best amongst the Group of 5. The conference has been responsible for several statement wins against major, Power 5 programs since the end of the BCS era and it was relegated from the group of BCS conferences to the Group of 5. The performance of these programs in the post-BCS era suggest the American should have never been separated from the SEC, Big 10, ACC, Big 12 and Pac 12 in the first place.

AAC Victories over Power 5 Teams

2014 Season  
AAC Winner Power 5 Loser
Temple Vanderbilt
East Carolina Virginia Tech
East Carolina North Carolina
Houston Pittsburgh
2015 Season
Temple Penn State
Houston Louisville
Memphis Kansas
East Carolina Virginia Tech
Cincinnati Miami
South Florida Syracuse
Memphis Ole Miss
Houston Vanderbilt
Navy Pittsburgh
Houston Florida State
2016 Season
Houston Oklahoma
Cincinnati Purdue
East Carolina NC State
Memphis Kansas
Connecticut Virginia
South Florida Syracuse
Navy Notre Dame
Houston Louisville
South Florida South Carolina
2017 Season (Through Week 6)
Houston Arizona
South Florida Illinois
Memphis UCLA
UCF Maryland

Looking back, we know that the demise of the conference, that is essentially the remains of the Big East, began with the rejection of a new television deal which gave potential newcomers like Boise State, TCU, BYU and San Diego State cold feet and caused them to back out of joining. The next domino to fall was the departure of Louisville, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh for the ACC and Rutgers for the Big 10. In what seemed like a blink of an eye, what was setting up to be a very formidable football conference evaporated into Conference USA 2.0.

You could argue that a conference with programs like TCU, Boise State, San Diego State, BYU, Louisville, UCF, USF, Memphis, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Houston, SMU and Cincinnati would be a very strong one. At the very least, it would be a conference that would certainly deserve the status of a Power 5 conference.  

Instead, we are left with what has been the best Group of 5 conference and one that has been campaigning to be considered part of the “Power 6”. This has been based on the insinuation that they are in the same class as the Power 5 members. Despite the attempts to include themselves and the on-field performances which have backed up their claims, they’re still stuck in the rut of what is the Group of 5. Even if UCF, USF, and Navy continue to rise in the rankings and one of those schools make it to a New Year’s Bowl and defeats a storied program, the current system places a ceiling on what the conference can be.

The American will be up for a new television contract in 2020. The current deal is what separates the AAC from being on the same level as the Power 5. Currently, the Power 5 schools receive about $30 million annually from their television deals, compared to the $3.5 million per school in the AAC.

Despite the occasional great story like what is unfolding for UCF, USF, and Navy this season, none of it is sustainable. The American has become a breeding ground for new Power 5 coaches as a total of five left the AAC for Power 5 jobs just last offseason. Despite any feelings of loyalty or level of commitment those coaches may have felt to their programs, the decisions were a no-brainer when considering the imbalance of resources available to a Power 5 program.

This disparity makes so the story about Scott Frost of UCF isn’t about what he has done with a program that went winless just two years ago, but instead speculating which major program will pluck him after the season.

So what’s the solution? It all starts with television. AAC Commissioner, Mike Aresco has been very clear about his vision for improving the status of the conference. He has been very vocal about his league deserving more television revenue and has shown an ability to think outside the box to make it happen. The major positive for the American is their presence in major media markets like Houston, Dallas, Memphis, Tampa, Orlando and New York. The next step is figuring out how to capitalize on it.

I have to think there are a lot of conversations being had about exploring a contract with a streaming service like Netflix or Amazon. If they can act quickly and possibly secure a ground-breaking deal before any of the existing Power 5 conferences, that could be their ticket to closing the television revenue gap.

If you can close that gap and generate revenue at least in the same neighborhood of the current Power 5 conferences, the AAC will then have the argument on the business side to compliment the performance of their football programs to get a seat at the table and officially form the Power 6.

We have seen that the AAC has very strong football programs. These programs have accomplished a lot despite having roughly 10-15% of the resources of a SEC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12 or Pac 12 school. But if you give them the resources needed to keep up and compete long-term, the AAC could be one of the nation’s better college football conferences.

Source Credits:

http://www.tampabay.com/sports/college/dollars-and-sense-aacs-push-for-power-six/2324288

http://www.newson6.com/story/35334399/tu-to-be-part-of-a-power-conference-aac-releases-plan-using-power-6-narrative

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NFL Power Rankings after the 1st Quarter of the Season

It’s hard to believe a fourth of the NFL regular season is in the books. While a lot can and will change, there is a decent sample size to assess where all 32 teams rank across the league.

1.Kansas City Chiefs (4-0)

It only took until Week 4 for there to be only one undefeated team left in the NFL. That happens to be the Chiefs and it has not been any fluke. The defense has been as good as to be expected, despite the loss of Eric Berry. The major difference has been the play of Alex Smith, who I’d like to think had a fire lit under him after the team traded up to draft Patrick Mahomes. It also hasn’t hurt that rookie, Kareem Hunt has been the best running back in the NFL through Week 4. Kansas City looks like a team primed for a deep playoff run.

2. Atlanta Falcons (3-1)

The Falcons are very talented on both sides of the ball and have everything it takes to make it back to the Super Bowl. Before a disappointing home loss to the Bills, they were less than a yard away from also losing to the Lions. Therefore, the Falcons could very easily be 2-2 and still have a lot of very tough games ahead on the schedule. As long as the offense plays up to its potential and the defense continues to build off last year, the Falcons should be playing in January again this season.

3. Detroit Lions (3-1)

The Lions have been one of the more impressive and surprising teams to start the year. If not for a heart-breaking and questionable loss to the Falcons in Week 3, Detroit would be the lone undefeated team in the NFC. The most encouraging thing about this team is how balanced they are. Matt Stafford is playing exceptionally well, the running game is solid with a healthy Ameer Abdullah and the defense just keeps making plays. If they can stay healthy and keep it going, they could be a very dangerous playoff team.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1)

While the Steelers have gotten off to a 3-1 start that has them in sole position of first place in the AFC North, the offense is yet to flash its full potential. It’s only a matter of time, given the plethora of offensive weapons. I can’t see a scenario where the Pittsburgh offense doesn’t get it together, win double-digit games and get back to the postseason.

5. Green Bay Packers (3-1)

The Packers picked up right where they left off, following a strong close out to the 2016 season. Aaron Rodgers has looked his elite self and is getting contributions from multiple players in the passing game. Mike Daniels may be one of the most underrated defensive players in the NFL, and when healthy helps the Green Bay defense function as an above-average unit. We know what the offense can do. The play of the defense will most likely determine if they can get back to the Super Bowl.

6. Philadelphia Eagles (3-1)

The Eagles are off to a 3-1 start thanks to a big second-year jump by Carson Wentz in addition to dominating the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Generally, good QB play combined with strong offensive and defensive line play equates to success in football. The schedule-makers didn’t do Philadelphia any favors, being that they started their first two games and three of their first four on the road. The Eagles overcame the tough opening slate and have the makings of a legitimate playoff contender.

7. Carolina Panthers (3-1)

The Panthers are looking very similar to their 2015 team that went 15-1 and made it to the Super Bowl. In what was the biggest upset of the weekend, they went into Foxboro and defeated the mighty Patriots. Cam Newton isn’t quite playing in top form but he got a lot closer this past Sunday. If he can fully regain his MVP form from two years ago, Carolina could be in line for a postseason berth.

8. Denver Broncos (3-1)

The Denver defense looks like its dominant self through the first quarter of the season. The big difference and possibly the reason for being 3-1 has been the strong play of Trevor Siemian. The Broncos have been trying to solve the quarterback problem since the retirement of Peyton Manning. They’ve attempted to do so by spending a 1st round pick on Paxton Lynch, which is looking like a bust. The Broncos have enough talent on the roster to get back to the postseason as long as Siemian can keep up his performance.

9. New England Patriots (2-2)

It now seems pretty funny that there were a series of debates across the media landscape around the idea of the Pats repeating their 16-0 mark from ten years ago. The offense has been as potent as expected as they have averaged 32.3 points per game. The problem has been on the defense, which severely lacks a pass rush and has led to allowing 32 points per game. For as much of a defensive genius Bill Belichick may be, he has quite the challenge to sort out if he wants to get New England back to another Super Bowl.

10. Houston Texans (2-2)

It looks like Houston hit on Deshaun Watson and Bill O’Brien, who has been labeled a quarterback whisperer, appears to finally have a franchise QB to develop. The defense is elite, and there is very little evidence to dispute that through four games. The Texans will go as far as Watson and the offense will take them.

11. Washington Redskins (2-2)

The Redskins are coming off a hard-fought loss that can be seen as equally frustrating and encouraging. It was encouraging in that they were dominating the only undefeated team left in the NFL for most of the game Monday Night, yet frustrating in how it felt like they gave it away with mistakes and dumb penalties. Nonetheless, Washington is a solid football team that has greatly improved on defense. We’ll see how they deal with the loss of Josh Norman, but I think the Redskins will be in the mix until season’s end.

12. Buffalo Bills (3-1)

The Bills appear to have nailed their hiring of Sean McDermott, as he has led a team that due to their questionable roster moves in the offseason was not making winning a priority in 2017. Even if that was the case, McDermott surely didn’t get the message. They are coming off an extremely impressive win in Atlanta and find themselves in 1st place in an AFC East that the Patriots have owned for the past decade in a half.

13. Los Angeles Rams (3-1)

The Rams are one of the truly pleasant surprises in the first quarter of the season. Jared Goff looks like the QB that deserved to be selected #1 overall and Sean McVeigh is looking like a terrific hire. The offense has been very efficient and the playmakers on defense have done their part in helping the Rams get off to such a great start. It’s not crazy to suggest the Rams could win the NFC West.

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1)

Despite having a delayed start to the year due to Hurricane Irma, the Bucs are right in the thick of what appears will be a very competitive NFC South race. Their win against the Giants was a great indicator of how mentally tough this team is, considering how desperate their opponent was playing in order to secure their first win. Third-year QB, Jameis Winston has all the weapons to help him have a breakout season and lead Tampa Bay to its first playoff appearance in ten years.

15. Seattle Seahawks (2-2)

While it came against the lowly Colts, the Seahawks got a much-needed dominant win on Sunday Night Football to even up their record at 2-2. The defense is still one of the NFL’s best, but the offense remains a concern due to its dreadful offensive line. Unlike the Giants who have similar strengths and weaknesses, they have a very mobile QB in Russell Wilson who can buy time with his legs in order to make plays in the passing game.

16. Dallas Cowboys (2-2)

The diagnosis of the Cowboys is fairly simple. The offense is very good and the defense is mediocre at best. When you are very good on one side of the ball and bad on the other side, you have an average football team. Dallas sits at 2-2, an average record. They have playmakers in the front seven who will need to play even better in order to cover up for the inexperience in the secondary if they want to return to the playoffs this year.

17. Tennesee Titans (2-2)

The Titans were the chic preseason pick to come out of the AFC South. A lot of that rests on the health of Marcus Mariota, which is already a concern following an injury in Week 4. When he is in the game and mobile, Tennessee has one of the most dynamic rushing attacks in the NFL. The defense can be very vulnerable, as it showed list past Sunday when they were torched by Deshaun Watson in Houston.

18. Minnesota Vikings (2-2)

The Vikings have one of the best defenses in the NFL, with difference-making players at all three levels. The fate of their season rests on the health of Sam Bradford, which historically has been a pretty bleak bet. Case Keenum has played okay in relief and has managed to grab one win in three starts. But if Bradford doesn’t return soon, the ceiling for Minnesota is likely an 8-8 finish.

19. Arizona Cardinals (2-2)

The Cardinals have had a very up and down first quarter of the season as they sit at .500. Their wins came against teams with a combined record of 1-7 and losses are at the hands of teams with a combined record of 5-3. That is to be expected of a team who lost their best player, David Johnson in Week 1 but has enough talent on both sides of the ball to beat the bad teams.

20. Oakland Raiders (2-2)

The Raiders haven’t quite looked like the dominant 12-win team from a season ago. A lot of their hopes rest on the health of Derek Carr, who will likely be out for a few weeks following a back injury in Denver. Hopefully, EJ Manuel can hold down the fort and keep Oakland in the AFC West race until Carr returns.

21. Baltimore Ravens (2-2)

After starting 2-0 while outscoring their opponents 44-10, the Ravens have dropped their last two while being outscored 70-16. Sunday’s loss to the Steelers made me think they were still shell-shocked by the Jaguars in the drubbing they suffered in London. I don’t want to be too harsh because there is not another team in the NFL that has been hit by the injury bug as hard as Baltimore has. But they’ll have to figure out a way to right the ship or it could have the makings of a very long season.

22. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2)

The Jaguars have been very up and down through the first four games. They have had two extremely impressive wins against the Texans and the Ravens and very bad losses at the hands of the Titans and Jets. The defense is playing very well as all of the top draft picks of the past few years are beginning to translate to results. Jacksonville’s season-long success hinges on a balanced offensive attack and needed improvement from Blake Bortles from last year’s disastrous campaign.

23. New Orleans Saints (2-2)

The Saints are off to a start that is very emblematic of who they have been since 2014, an average team that looks destined to be 7-9. The offense has been very good and Drew Brees looks like his usual elite self. Stop me if you have heard this before, but the defense is below average. The difference is the emergence of a few young promising players, specifically the rookie CB Marshon Lattimore. New Orleans is very much in the mix at 2-2 in what looks to be the best top-to-bottom division in the NFL.

24. Cincinnati Bengals (1-3)

The Bengals secured a desperate win this past Sunday after an abysmal 0-3 start. While Cincinnati has been an impressive 58-36-2 since 2011, the slow start to the season can very easily be attributed to the losses in free agency to their offensive line. They have dug themselves in an early hole, but still have enough talent and experience to go on a run and get back in the playoff race.

 

25. Los Angeles Chargers (0-4)

The Chargers may be the most disappointing team of the season to date. They have enough talent on both sides of the ball to suggest they could be a dark-horse candidate in the AFC West. With all of the talent, Los Angeles has had a tough time closing out games, which has been a chronic issue for this franchise. Three of their four losses have come by a total margin of seven points. If two of those games could have been converted to wins, the outlook for the Chargers would be looking a lot different. But like Bill Parcells once said, “You are what your record says you are.”

26. Miami Dolphins (1-2)

The Dolphins are coming off a very embarrassing performance in London, as they were shut out by a mediocre Saints defense. They have beaten up themselves with penalties, which is something they have not been able to afford given their lack of playmakers on defense. Jay Cutler has been very underwhelming and the question has to be asked – Would the-the offense be any worse if it was being led by Matt Moore?

27. New York Giants (0-4)

Despite winning 11 games a season ago, the Giants could not have had a worse start to the season. The achilles heel has been their historically abysmal offensive line. This was their weakness in 2016 and one that the front office completely neglected in the offseason. Due to that, the running game has been nonexistent and passing game has been limited to quick hitters. They still have a very good defense, but it has not been enough to avoid an 0-4 start.

28. New York Jets (2-2)

It may be early. But its nothing short of remarkable that the Jets have already won two games in a season most prognosticators questioned whether they would win two games all season. Given the lack of proven talent on the roster and a true journeyman starting quarterback in Josh McCown, its a great of great coaching by Todd Bowles.

29. Indianapolis Colts (1-3)

As much as the Colts obviously miss Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett has been serviceable in relief. While he may be serviceable, he’s not good enough to make up for the talent deficiencies throughout the Indianapolis roster. If Luck doesn’t return soon, the Colts are likely headed for a 4-12 or 5-11 finish. If he can return and play at the level we can expect, the Colts have a chance to stay relevant throughout the season.

30. Chicago Bears (1-3)

While the Bears have a handful of promising young players on defense, the big bright spots lie within the dynamic running back combo of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. Chicago may be a year or two away from competing for anything significant and it looks like the team has recognized that with their decision to start Mitch Trubisky for the upcoming Monday Night game against Minnesota.

31. San Francisco 49ers (0-4)

The Kyle Shanahan era has gotten off to an even tougher start than even probably would have imagined. The defense has put out two respectable performances in their losses to Seattle and Arizona, as they surrendered 12 and 18 points, respectively. The problem is that your defense has to be practically perfect in order to win with Brian Hoyer under center. San Francisco has a lot of promising young talent and it may not be until late in the season until we see that start to translate to tangible results.

32. Cleveland Browns (0-4)

After wondering if the Browns regret passing on Carson Wentz in 2016, they now possibly now doing the same with Deshaun Watson. Instead, they have to deal with the growing pains of Deshone Kizer as they attempt to evaluate if he can finally be the guy to end the QB carousel. At this point, that has to be the priority for the Browns as they are likely headed for another year at the bottom of the AFC North.

Source Credit: http://www.businessinsider.com/kansas-city-chiefs-backdoor-cover-2017-10

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Week 3 NFL Takeaways and Bets for Week 4

Thursday Night Melee

It’s pretty funny how we all justifiably criticize Thursday Night Football for being a terrible product and leading up to last week’s game. It was set up for a brutal game to watch, with the 49ers and Rams, teams that combined to win six games a season ago, set to play. Much to everyone’s surprise, we were treated with the most thrilling Thursday Night game in many years as Los Angeles topped San Francisco 41-39. The NFL amazes me in the sense that so often the opposite of what we expect ends up happening.

Giants in Trouble

If you told me after Week 3 that three teams would be 2-1 and one would be 0-3, I wouldn’t guess it would be the Giants. Their struggles are a true testament to the importance of an offensive line, as they were manhandled by the Eagles’ defensive front this past Sunday afternoon. New York still has a lot of talent and it may be premature to say their season is over, but they look like a team in turmoil that has dug themselves an enormous early hole in the NFC East.

Falcons look hangover free

Just about every prognosticator assumed the Falcons would struggle mightily after their Super Bowl collapse last February. There has been a documented history of teams losing the Super Bowl to have down season in the following year. Based on the way Atlanta blew a 28-3 lead to New England, it seemed inevitable this trend would continue. After starting 3-0, the Falcons look like one of the best teams in the NFL, thus are not showing any signs of a Super Bowl hangover. It’s a strong sign for how good of a coach Mike Smith is.

Browns look to be in for a long year (again)

Stop me if you heard this before. But, after watching the Browns lose in Indianapolis this past Sunday to the Jacoby Brissett-led Colts, it looks like it will be another tough year in Cleveland. They may finally have a QB to build around in Deshone Kizer, which cannot be overlooked, but the Browns look destined to finish with double-digit losses for the 10th time in the last 11 seasons. I like a lot about what the Browns are doing in terms of their Sam Hinkie approach to acquiring draft picks and building for the long-term, but it looks unlikely that we will see dividends this season.

5 Bets for Week 4 (3-2 Last Week, 7-3 Overall)

New Orleans -3 Miami

In the second London game of the season, I think we have the potential for another lopsided outcome. I’m not suggesting the Saints dominate the Dolphins to the degree that the Jaguars did to the Ravens. But I like the prospect of Drew Brees lighting up the lowly Miami secondary. If I were to throw in an intangible argument to strengthen my case, I think the Saints get an added advantage by traveling over to London a day earlier than the Dolphins, giving them a little extra time to adjust.

Green Bay -7 Chicago

Seven points may seem like a lot to lay in a division game, especially against a team that just defeated the Steelers a week ago. But despite this being the most storied rivalry in NFL history, the Bears are due for a major letdown as they travel to Lambeau Field Thursday Night to face the Packers. The Packers look like a true Super Bowl contender and I like them to win this game comfortably.

Dallas/Los Angeles Rams Over 47.5

I have hit the under’s pretty hard through the first few weeks of the regular season, but this game has shootout written all over it. The Rams finally have a QB who can sling it in Jared Goff and will be facing a banged up and inexperienced secondary. For all the talent on the defensive side of Los Angeles, they have really struggled against the run. This sets up for a big day for Ezekiel Elliott. I like the total for this game to get in the fifties.

Buffalo/Atlanta Under 48.5

I am going the other way with an over/under just one point higher than the last bet. The Bills offense has been borderline prolific at home the past couple years but has been anemic on the road. I see Buffalo really struggling to score points against a very talented Atlanta defense. On the other side of the ball, the Bills have just enough on defense to keep the Falcons potent offense in check just enough to make the under a good play here.

New York Giants +3 Tampa Bay

The Giants are the definition of being “up against the wall” as they travel down to Tampa Bay to face the Buccaneers. The Bucs are really banged up on defense and the Giants have a good opportunity to capitalize. New York still has an elite defense that is run by arguably one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL, Steve Spagnuolo. With as much promise Jameis Winston shows, he is still a young QB who is very prone to mistakes. I like the Giants to cover the three if not win outright.

Photo Credit: http://lastwordonprofootball.com/2017/09/24/week-three-new-york-giants-takeaways/

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Week 2 NFL Takeaways and Picks for Week 3

Not to overreact to one game, but…

The Cowboys were severely exposed by the Denver Broncos in their 42-17 loss on Sunday. As talented as they may be on offense, their defense is mediocre at best. This has been the case for the past few years. Fortunately for Dallas, they have been able to cover up for their flaws on defense with terrific ball control on offense and a great coaching job by Defensive Coordinator, Rod Marinelli. It may only be Week 2, but this game should certainly slow the roll on anyone suggesting the Cowboys are serious Super Bowl contenders.

Which 2-0 teams have the biggest uphill battle?

Speaking of the Broncos, they joined the illustrious 2-0 club along with the Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions, Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Oakland Raiders, and Kansas City Chiefs. According to Oddshark.com since 2007, 57.8% of teams to start 2-0 made it to the postseason. That would indicate it being likely five of the eight 2-0 teams will make the playoffs. If I had to predict the three who will be on the outside looking in, I’d wager it be the Panthers, Ravens, and Lions.

Both the Panthers and Ravens are similar in that they have very good defenses, big questions on offense and faced inferior opponents in their first two games that have a combined record of 1-7. I’m not saying their defenses cannot carry them to the postseason, but both appear to have the largest uphill battles.

I had a tough time going with the Lions for the third team because they look really solid on both sides of the ball. My skepticism comes from looking at their schedule. Starting with this weekend’s matchup with the Falcons, Detroit gets the very competitive NFC South, two games against the Packers and Vikings (which won’t be easy assuming Bradford is playing) and matchups against the Steelers and Ravens. Those are ten potentially tough games which they will probably need to win at least five of to make the playoffs.

What 0-2 team has the most hope?

On the flipside, the 0-2 teams include the New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Chargers, Indianapolis Colts, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers, New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears. Since 2007, 10.8% of 0-2 teams have made the playoffs. Those trends would indicate only one of the nine 0-2 teams will make the postseason.

My money’s on the Los Angeles Chargers. While they play in the best division in the NFL, they are easily the best team in this group. They have elite talent on both sides of the ball and are led by the best quarterback among any of the current signal callers of the nine 0-2 teams. As I said, playing in the AFC West doesn’t make things any easier as I anticipate three playoff teams coming from this division, but I think they have a better chance than any other team.

5 Week 3 Picks (4-1 Last Week)

Los Angeles Chargers +3 Kansas City Chiefs

It may be a stretch to call this a home game for the Chargers, given their temporary soccer stadium situation in a city that couldn’t care less about their existence. But Los Angeles will be entering this game in ultimate desperation mode, following two very tough, close losses that have pitted them at 0-2. They face their division rival Chiefs, sitting a 2-0 and due for a letdown on the road. I’m backing the Chargers with the points and like them to come out with a straight up win on Sunday afternoon.

Dallas Cowboys/Arizona Cardinals Under 47

The Cowboys were stifled by a dominant defense a week ago in Denver and things do not get much easier in Arizona. Therefore, I expect the Dallas offense to be kept in check for the second straight game. On the other side of the ball, the Cardinals have multiple significant injuries on offense. I have a tough time seeing how both teams score in the 20’s, making the under a solid play here.

Cincinnati +9 Green Bay

The Bengals have had a brutal start to the season, as they have not scored a touchdown through their first two games. They fired their Offensive Coordinator after last Thursday Night’s loss, which generally provides a spark, even it may be temporary. Cincinnati has enough talent on defense to keep the Packers’ offense from completely blowing this game open. While I like the Packers to win the game, this spread is big enough given the circumstances to make me think the Bengals will keep the game respectable and cover the nine points.

New Orleans/Carolina Under 46.5

The Panthers defense has been dominant through two games, and given the Saints history of not being as prolific on offense on the road, I cannot see them mustering many points in Carolina on Sunday. While the New Orleans defense continues to struggle, the Carolina offense has not quite been in sync and it starts with Cam Newton’s struggles. The under looks like a really strong play.

Jacksonville +3.5 Baltimore

There is a lot to be said for a team that has become used to playing in London, as the Jaguars have. This will be the fifth straight year Jacksonville has played at Wembley Stadium while this will be the very first time for Baltimore. In addition to having a lack of familiarity, this is a dangerous look-ahead spot for the Ravens, as a game with Pittsburgh looms the the following week. I like the Jags to keep this within a field goal if not win outright.

 

Source Credit: https://www.fanragsports.com/how-broncos-front-7-dominated-cowboys-ol/

Players Who Sucked This Week

Football

The Chicago Bears couldn’t get their run game going, managing just 20 yards on 16 carries along with a fumble – Jordan Howard finished with less than a yard per carry. Marlon Mack rushed six times for -3 yards. Total rookie move!

Deshone Kizer completed less than 50% of his passes and threw three picks, but I guess we can blame that on migraines. Blake Bortles continues to struggle as an NFL quarterback, turning the ball over three times and losing to division rival Titans.

Ezekiel Elliott was held to eight yards on nine carries. Fantasy owners were mad; Broncos fans and Cowboys haters were not.

Keller Chryst had a QBR of 4.9 with less than 100 passing yards and three turnovers. Stanford lost to San Diego State, then dropped out of the rankings. Conner Manning turned the ball over four times, but it’s a lot harder to play at Penn State when you’re Georgia State.

The Ragin Cajuns’ Jordan Davis was responsible for five turnovers against Texas A&M, not like they were gonna beat them anyway. Tyler Keane of Coastal Carolina completed 44% of his passes and threw three picks. Brandon Duncan of Arkansas-Pine Bluff three three picks en route to a 48-3 beatdown by Arkansas State. Darquez Lee of the Southern Jaguars started but couldn’t finish the game against UT San Antonio, completing only three of 13 passes with two interceptions. Bryce Rivers came in with a big league but had three turnovers, one being a pick-six. Rough week for the small schools.

Zach Smith and Baylor are winless after losing their first three games of the season, against teams they should’ve blown out. He turned the ball over four times in his first start, and their offensive troubles are going to make for a dreadful season.

Nevada are 0-3 to start the year, their latest loss against Idaho State. They lost to who you ask? Exactly.

Kent Myers was benched after going 9-28 passing for 54 yards and a pick. Think he’ll get the start next week? Doubtful.

Quarterback blues: Morgan State’s quarterbacks combined to throw 8-23 for 65 yards and four turnovers (3 interceptions).  I know they were expected to lose against a Division I school, but they should play a little better than that. Kent State’s combined for 117 yards on 17 throws – only seven of those were were caught, and one of those by the defense. And lastly, Rice’s completed 11 of 25 passes for 113 yards and an interception.

San Jose State had some bad luck to start the game against Utah. Sam Allen was brought in to replace Montel Aaron after a lack of offensive production cost him. Allen was much worse though, throwing two interceptions in only five attempts. He completed two passes for a measly 15 yards

 

Baseball

The Worst Player of the Week goes to Dylan Covey. In two starts, he gave up nine runs in 9 ⅓ innings, walked eight batters, lost both games, and now sits at 0-6 with a 8.18 ERA for the year. (More on that horrific second start later.)

Chad Bettis and Wade Miley gave Covey a run for his money as the worst. Both gave up five and six runs, respectively, before being pulled midway through the first inning. Strange coincidence both games were on the same day.  

Doug Fister and Matt Harvey were their own worst enemy twice last week, losing both starts with a combined 23 earned runs in 13 innings. Actually Fister lost his first one because his team bailed him out last night.

The weekly one-and-done’s: Gio Gonzalez, Max Scherzer, Sean Manaea, Carlos Martinez, Edwin Jackson, Jason Hammel, Jeremy Hellickson, Andrew Cash, Myles Jaye, Seth Lugo, and Erasmo Ramirez. Tyler Glasnow made his first start since June and the rust showed – five runs and six walks led to a 2-8 loss to the Brewers.

Travis Wood, Jose Valdez, and Cory Mazzoni combined to allow 16 runs in nearly 7 innings last Tuesday against the Twins. Then Jordan Lyles and Miguel Diaz followed suit by allowing 10 runs in less than five innings on Saturday. Mazzoni came into that game to surrender six more and wouldn’t you believe it, the Padres lost 16-0 TWICE in the same week.

Calling all relievers who can’t hold a lead or just make deficits worse: Matt Bush, Jacob Rhame, Chris Rowley, Brian Ellington, and Jesse Chavez. Francis Martes somehow managed to let four guys score without getting an out. Austin Pruitt and Chase Whitley combined to give up eight runs (five earned) in the 14th and 15th innings against the Red Sox Friday night.

Chad Bell, Warwick Saupold, Joe Jimenez, and Victor Alcantara combined to allow 15 of the White Sox’s 17 runs last Thursday. Dylan Covey, Chris Beck and Mike Pelfrey returned the favor Sunday night, losing to those Tigers 12-0.

 

Players Who Sucked Again

Joe Biagini would be a dishonorable mention for his eight-inning no decision, but he blew it Sunday night unable to escape the second inning before giving up six runs.

Before the Phillies starting annihilating the Marlins Thursday night I thought to myself, “Whenever Vance Worley is pitching the Marlins are at a great advantage to lose.” He didn’t even last two innings before giving up 9 runs.

Dishonorable Mentions

LeSean McCoy matched Howard’s terrible rushing performance on 12 carries (0.8 YPC), but he was the team’s leading receiver. The Bills’ offense was sad anyways, putting up 3 points against the Panthers.

Tanner Lee threw three interceptions, but ran for two scores. His late interception solidified Nebraska’s loss. Colgate’s Grant Breneman completed just 26% of his passes for 56 yards. However, he led his team in rushing with 68 yards on 14 carries.

Josh Allen couldn’t figure out Oregon’s defense, having a 38% completion percentage with two turnovers. But he did score the only touchdown for the Cowboys.

Nick Pivetta and Dan Straily started the week with bad starts, but made up for it last night.

 

*Stats week of 9/12-18

Photo Credits:
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http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/vance-worley-of-the-miami-marlins-reacts-after-walking-in-a-news-photo/806577390?esource=SEO_GIS_CDN_Redirect#vance-worley-of-the-miami-marlins-reacts-after-walking-in-a-run-in-picture-id806577390

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Week 1 NFL Takeaways and 5 Picks for Week 2

Due to Hurricane Irma, I was not able to put anything out prior to Week 1. So this piece will kick off our NFL coverage for the 2017 Season.

Week 1 Takeaways

Top Picks of 2016 Shine

It only took a year, but Jared Goff looked like a guy who was worthy of a #1 overall draft pick. I’m curtailing my long-term expectations because it was against the lowly Colts and would still rather have Carson Wentz. But, Goff looked great leading the Rams to his very first career win. If he can build on Sunday’s performance, it should help remind us that highly drafted players don’t always make an impact right away. The Rams didn’t draft him to be a star his rookie year, which he surely wasn’t. They drafted him to be their QB for the next decade, which he sure could still be.

While Carson Wentz was not perfect in Sunday’s win in Washington, he made multiple jaw-dropping plays that displayed his athleticism, awareness and arm strength. What may be most notable was his first completion of the game, a scramble on 3rd and 12 that ended up being a 58-yard touchdown to Nelson Agholor. He still needs to work on his deep ball accuracy and timing, but Wentz looks primed to make a big jump in his second season.

Giants Struggling O-line

The Giants offensive line may be even worse than we thought they would be. This was an area that was scrutinized all offseason, a criticism that was exacerbated by the fact that New York did very little to address what was clearly an issue in 2016. While the Giants may have one of the most talented receiving corps in the NFL, it won’t mean diddly if Eli Manning doesn’t have the time to find them. If the line doesn’t improve, it could be a long season for Big Blue.

The Jags (Defense) is For Real

The Jacksonville Jaguars showed their blueprint for what it will take for them to have their first winning season in ten years. They upset the Texans in Houston by running the ball, limiting the passing attempts of Blake Bortles and playing good defense with what is a very talented group. If they can manage to execute a similar strategy for the next 15 weeks, I wouldn’t be surprised if they sneak into the Playoffs. It looks even more feasible in the perennially mediocre AFC South. How bad has the AFC South been in recent years? Only once since 2009 has the AFC South sent multiple teams to the postseason (2012.)

Pats Aren’t Flawless

The Patriots are contenders, but they are far from perfect. That may sound obvious after the drubbing they took at home from the Chiefs to open the season last Thursday night. Before the season, there was a lot of 16-0 talk, and understandably so. The Super Bowl Champs arguably got better (on paper) by adding Brandin Cooks, Stephon Gilmore, Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee in the offseason. Kansas City exposed New England’s flaws on defense. While Bill Belichick is one of the most brilliant defense minds and will probably figure it out, it was proven that the Pats have their flaws – just like everyone else.

5 Week 2 Picks

Minnesota +6 Pittsburgh

The Vikings have an elite defense, one that is capable of keeping the high-powered Steelers in check. On the other side of the ball, Sam Bradford and an offense not devoid of playmakers have all the potential to move the ball against average defenses. That’s exactly what Pittsburgh’s defense is, average. I like the Vikings to keep this within less than a touchdown.

Green Bay/Atlanta Over 53.5

This is a high total. But these are two of more potent offenses in the NFL. Both the Packers and Falcons offenses were limited by their standards in Week 1, scoring 17 and 23 points, respectively. Now these teams will square off indoors in a game I really think has a good chance to eclipse 60 combined points.

Denver +2 Dallas

Both teams are coming off divisional primetime wins. The over-achieving Dallas defense was able to feast on the inept Giants’ offensive line. They won’t be able to that again against the Broncos, who upgraded their line in the offseason. Dallas was able to move the ball just enough to get the Week 1 win, but things will get even tougher in Denver against an even stronger defense. I think the wrong team is favored here and I think Trevor Semien will get the ball in the hands of his playmakers enough to come away with a win.

Tennessee -2 Jacksonville

I am a big fan of 0-1 teams against 1-0 teams in Week 2, and usually, that’s all I need to like a particular play. In this case, we have the Titans who are favored by many to win the AFC South, coming off a tough loss to the Oakland Raiders, who are coming off a 12-win season and look to be a serious AFC contender. The Jaguars are coming off one of the more shocking victories of the weekend after dominating the Texans in Houston last Sunday. This has “let-down” written over it for Jacksonville.

New England -6.5 New Orleans

There was a time not too long ago when you wouldn’t dream of going against the Saints at home as touchdown underdogs. But the Saints aren’t the same juggernaut and as witnessed on Monday Night Football, look to be weak on defense aging. That is a bad recipe for a Patriots team coming off a bad loss with ten days to prepare. I like New England to win by double-digits.

 

Source Credit: 

https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/jared-goff-or-carson-wentz-rams-player-prefers-one-over-the-other/

 

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Players Who Sucked This Week

Let’s start the week off with what used to be the biggest name in sports, and is now the biggest gossip surrounding sports: ESPN. They mistakenly identified the Broncos’ head coach Vance Joseph. See for yourself.  That other guy looks way too chill to be a head coach.

 

Football

The Worst Player of the Week goes to Andy Dalton. Less than 50% passing and five turnovers (four INTs) led to a 0.7 QBR which is the third worst ever, according to that gossip site.

The Worst Team of the Week goes to the Indianapolis Colts. They lost to the Rams by 37 points, their biggest loss since losing in Jacksonville (Week 14 of 2015) by 45. Both of Scott Tolzein’s interceptions turned into pick-sixes. And yes, Tolzein also makes this week’s list due to his 50% completion rate and those two interceptions.

The Saints’ rushing attack was very weak for the amount of talent they have – 60 yards on 21 carries (53 on 19 carries from Peterson, Kamara, and Ingram). Fans are hoping it’s just week 1 blues.

The Houston Texans made a terrible season debut in front of their home crowd, losing to the Jaguars 29-7. What’s even worse is that Bortles threw just over 50% with no touchdowns and a pick. Four turnovers by Watson and Savage didn’t help matters. Only good news was seeing JJ Watt back in action.

Carson Palmer and Kirk Cousins both turned the ball over three times on their way to a Week 1 loss. Unfortunately, one of them is their team’s future and the other is on his way out.

 

Baseball

Seth Smith, Corey Dickerson, and Dexter Fowler managed to got hitless last week. Smith struck out in every game (6 total), Dickerson struck out 10 times in 17 at-bats, and Fowler struck out in half of his at-bats. Surprisingly none grounded into a double play, and Dickerson and Fowler each scored a run.

There were a lot of one-hit wonders last week: Steven Souza Jr., Alex Mejia, Welington Castillo, Yonder Alonso, Andrew Romine, Mallex Smith, Martin Maldonado, Tommy La Stella, Sandy Leon, Andrelton Simmons, Jay Bruce, Stephen Vogt, Yasmani Grandal, Bradley Zimmer, Joc Pederson, and Luis Valbuena.

Guillermo Heredia hit .095 for the week with several K’s. Domingo Santana hit .158 with nine strikeouts. Chris Davis hit .100 with half of his at-bats being strikeouts.

Kevin Gausman has had an up-and-down season, the latter being what happened last week – five runs in three innings with a  WHIP of 2.67. He better be on the up if the Orioles want to make the playoffs.

Joe Biagini continues to be a detriment to the Blue Jays rotation, allowing five runs in 3 ⅓ innings against the Red Sox.

Mike Pelfrey was bad as a starter and a reliever. It’s been a long time since he was an effective pitcher. Myles Jaye and Anibal Sanchez had similar weeks, but there is still hope for them.

“Did I really lose another one?”

These dude just had a bad start: David Holmberg, Jameson Taillon, Chris Archer, Matt Andriese, Jake Thompson, Patrick Corbin, A.J. Griffin, Brandon Woodruff, Miguel Gonzalez, Matt Garza, and Travis Wood. Maybe next week fellas.

Mike Montgomery, Justin Grimm, and Rob Zastryzny gave up 14 of the Brewers’ 15 runs in seven innings on Saturday evening. Let’s chalk it up to a Cubs fluke.

These relief pitchers were anything but – Jacob Barnes, Caleb Smith, Jace Fry, Vance Worley, Luke Gregerson, Reymin Guduan, Dellin Betances, Paul Sewald, Mark Melancon, Tyler Clippard, Josh Osich, Michael Feliz, Sam Moll, Jesse Chavez, Blake Wood, John Curtiss, Nick Martinez, Matt Wisler. Yes, it is weird that a lot of these guys are on the Astros. Tyson Ross and Andrew Chafin were the worst relievers, with a combined 10 earned runs in three innings and a WHIP of 6.0.

Kelvin Herrera won’t break the Royals’ already-underwhelming season, but five runs and a WHIP of 7.0 sure won’t help things.

“Let’s take you somewhere so we have a better chance to win.”

 

Players Who Sucked Again

Kyle Freeland did it again! He was the worst starter of the week, losing his first start and giving up a combined five runs in just over six innings of work between his two starts. Part of me feels bad for that liner he took to the shoulder, but I won’t let him off the hook.

Never though Madison Bumgarner would make the list, but here he is. He’s lost his last two starts with a combined 11 runs in as many innings. This is really not the year for the Giants.

Jharel Cotton made last week’s list and would have been a Dishonorable Mention this week, so why not put him here? Welcome to the club!

 

Dishonorable Mentions

Neil Walker, Yuli Gurriel, and Roberto Perez all had just one hit in 10+ at-bats, but they were home runs. If you’re gonna avoid hitting the ball, might as make the sole one count.

Jason Vargas gave up seven runs in just two innings in his first start, but turned it around with one run in five innings. He’s now 15-10 after being 13-4 going into August. Bartolo Colon was the opposite, following a good start with a bad one, but he lost both because his team couldn’t score more than two runs in his first.

Ariel Hernandez didn’t record an out in his first appearance despite giving up two runs and three outs, but then pitched like he was paid to in his next. Rex Brothers struck out the side in his first appearance, then allowed four runs without recording an out in his next.

Trevor Cahill wasn’t the worst pitcher in the AL Central, but he definitely was not someone you’d want deciding your game.7 ⅔ innings with eight strikeouts, but six runs and four walks? Make up your mind dude!

 

Got anyone to add? Write ‘em in the comments.

 

Stats week of 9/5-11

 

Photo Credits:
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Players Who Sucked This Week

It got a little boring only hating on baseball. So with football back, I’m back to remind players how awful they played. Let’s get to it!

 

Football

The Florida Gators’ offense was useless in their season opener, gaining 192 offensive yards. Eleven of those were rushing, and Malik Zaire had -29 of those. But don’t worry Gator fans! BYU had less than 100 yards of offense against LSU, finishing with -5 rushing yards. And yes of course, they were shut out. Let’s not leave out the Hoosiers and their offensive struggles – they managed just 17 yards on 27 carries against the Buckeyes.

Shame on the FBS schools who lost their opener to an FCS opponent: Georgia State, East Carolina, Baylor, UNLV. It might be a long season for your fans.

Tyler Harris transferred from UCF to Rhode Island, and us Knights fans are glad to see him go after he threw SIX interceptions against the Chippewas.

Riley Ferguson is supposed to be one of the top QB’s in the AAC, but a 40% completion rate with no TDs and an INT is not how you live up to hype.

Kent Myers of Utah State couldn’t do much right against the Badgers, throwing three picks en route to a 49-point loss.

Ben and Davis Cheek are not brothers, but they played like terrible twins. They each completed two passes in 9 and 10 attempts respectively, and both had one interception. Ben threw for 19 more yards than Davis…who only had 22.

James Morgan completed less than 30% of his passes with an interception. Bowling Green would go on to lose to Michigan State by 24; good for you if you picked the Spartans to cover the 17 point spread. Thomas Woodson threw a measly 71 yards with a pick. Akron lost by 52, more than their spread of +30.

Missouri’s defense allowed Missouri State to score 43 points and gain 492 yards of offense. Their SEC opponents are probably looking forward to crushing them with a real offense.

Saturday was further proof Brandon Harris should never be a quarterback. He went 7-16 for 60 yards and two interceptions and was benched halfway through the second quarter.

Gardner Minshew of ECU went 7-18 for 82 yards and an interception. He was benched in the second half, but ECU still lost to James Madison – an FCS school.

Jeremy Cox of Old Dominion ran for 22 yards on 14 carries with two fumbles and losing one. But he did catch seven passes for 43 yards. Maybe they were screens. Of course I didn’t watch the game, who would?

Brice Ramsey is Georgia’s last hope at quarterback, and they better pray he doesn’t have to play again. Both of his pass attempts were interceptions, at home, against Appalachian State.

Brendan Greene of Hampton was benched after completing one of nine passes for 10 yards. Yeesh.`

Shai Werts ran for 16 yards on 23 carries. He completed 50% of his passes for 8 yards and a pick. Montana State’s Chris Murray threw for only 28 yards with a 42% completion rate and an interception. To make things worse, his Bobcats were blanked. That’ll kill your confidence to start the season.

Tony Brooks-James of the not so mighty Ducks rushed nine times for 32 yards and lost two fumbles. Try stickum next time. (Yes I know that is not the best video quality.)

Desmond Hite of Incarnate Word racked up zero yards on 15 carries. That’s right, a donut for a rushing total. He kinda made up for it with 18 receiving yards.

Texas A&M couldn’t do two things against the Bruins – hold a huge lead and throw the ball. They deserved that tragic loss.

 

Baseball

Mikie Mahtook gave Jose Ramirez his first of two homers by trying to be flashy. He was then robbed of a homer by Alex Gordon. Speaking of Gordon, he couldn’t hit for squat last week going 1-12 with five strikeouts.

Leury Garcia is one for his last 20 with eight strikeouts, four coming in the same game. To the batting cages!

Matt Davidson went 2 for 27 last week, striking out 12 times and drawing no walks. But he has 23 home runs on the year. Second coming of Adam Dunn?

Pablo Sandoval has no hits in his his last 31 at bats. His batting average has plummeted from .288 to .196. Given his age and being on the Giants, it’s going to be hard to bring it back up.

Sean Rodriguez had two hits in 18 at bats with at least one strikeout in every game (9 total). His batting average is even worse than Sandoval’s, sitting at .174 for the season.

Joey Rickard hasn’t provided much offensive for the Orioles since coming up from Triple-A, having one hit in 12 at bats.

As good as he’s been and will likely be in the hall of fame, Miguel Cabrera has made it to the list. He hasn’t gotten a hit in his last 16 attempts, but he’s really been terrible all year. Not too happy I took him in the first round of my fantasy league. His teammate Ian Kinsler has also had a down year, hitting .107 in his last seven games.

Mark Reynolds is having quite a comeback year, but hitting .055 in 18 at bats with 9 strikeouts for the week is gonna land you on this list.

Junichi Tazawa was not a helpful reliever, losing in one of his appearances and letting the Nationals cushion their lead last Tuesday. Kyle Crick of the Giants wasn’t any better, but does it really matter when your team is that bad?

Chris Flexen and Chasen Bradford of the Mets gave up 14 combined runs to the Reds last week. Flexen followed it up with almost identical numbers against the Astros.

Mike Fiers had a bad week, not making it to the 5th inning in both starts while giving up 14 combined runs.

It would take forever to individually call out starters who had one bad start, so let’s rattle em off now: Chris Smith, Troy Scribner, Rich Hill, Jerad Eickhoff, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ivan Nova, Derek Holland,

 Parker Bridwell, Kendall Graveman, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Kenta Maeda, Jeremy Hellickson, Marco Estrada, Gerrit Cole, Buck Farmer, Tyler Skaggs, Kyle Freeland, Dillon Gee, Matt Harvey, Lucas Sims, Onelki Garcia, Yu Darvish, Jharel Cotton, Matt Andriese, Chad Bell, Madison Bumgarner. Notice anything odd? Yep, all of the Dodgers’ pitchers made the list. Well except Kershaw, that dude is too good.

Ricky Rodriguez is not a household name, and weekly stats like this won’t get him there: 2 IP, 5 ER, 7 H, 1 BB, 1 BLSV. Same goes for Richard Rodriguez’s first two career appearances: four runs on six hits in two innings. Coincidence they have similar names?

Sam Dyson continues to struggle, giving up five runs and recording only one out against the Cardinals on Friday. Maybe it’s time to call it quits?

Mike Dunn was anything but a relief for the Rockies last week, giving up four runs in three appearances in less than two innings of work. Lucky for him he didn’t record a loss or blown save.

The pitching staffs of the Braves and Cubs on Saturday were non-existent, with the game ending 12-14 in the Cubs favor. Also, the entire pitching staff on the Royals sucked by giving up 17 runs to the Twins.

 

Dishonorable Mentions

Ian Kennedy was the Rays’ MVP last Monday letting seven runs go by in less than three innings. He then kind of made up for it next game against the Twins, but wasn’t credited with the win.

Jose Urena went four innings and gave up four in runs in his first start of the week, and then went seven with only one run. Too bad his offense couldn’t help him in Sunday’s game.

Aaron Nola had a great start against the Braves (who doesn’t), but then got rocked by the Marlins.

Corey Dickerson was hitting terribly all week until last night when he hit two doubles and a homer to help the Rays beat the Twins.

 

Got anyone to add? Write ’em in the comments.

 

Stats week of 8/28-9/4

 

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