General Sports Chatter


Friday, October 2, 2015

2015-16 NHL Season Predictions

Can you believe the NHL season is upon us already? The hockey void in our lives is thankfully about to be filled again. Even though off-ice controversies are threatening to derail some good feelings about this new season, they aren't going stop me from being excited. Player movement was rampant this offseason, two potentially league changing rookies are getting their starts, and the defending champs look very vulnerable. Uncertainty makes for fun hockey, and that doesn't even count the 3-on-3 madness sure to come. Let's get predicty!


1. Washington
2. Pittsburgh
3. New York Rangers
4. New York Islanders
5. Columbus
6. Philadelphia
7. New Jersey
8. Carolina

Thoughts: This is a sentiment echoed by many, but probably cannot be echoed enough: This Capitals team is the best since Alex Ovechkin began his career in DC 10 years ago. T.J Oshie is better than Troy Brouwer in generating shots and offense, and Justin Williams lives to make teams better in the playoffs, which of course the Caps desperately need. Their Power Play is still going to be lethal, and with their tremendous scoring and defense depth, this could well be their year. If they are going to break through, they'll have to get past the scary Pittsburgh Penguins, who now have Phil Kessel to go with Crosby and Malkin. The roster is better constructed than it ever was last season, and if the team stays healthy, they could be the team that emerges from the East. The defense corps is still a worry though. The Rangers are still very solid, but the same questions come about every year when talking about them breaking through: Can they get out of their own way? They have all the talent and the amazing goaltender, but the block almost seems mental now. The Islanders move to Brooklyn is emblematic of a team in some transition, which could cause a dip in performances this season as their environment shifts. The Blue Jackets with Brandon Saad have a terrifying Top 9 that if could stay healthy will be one of the best in hockey, and combined with Sergei Bobrovsky, they may have the needed ingredients to break back into the postseason. The qualifier here of course is whether their defense corps is good enough, and to this observer it might not be. Philadelphia has a new coach and maybe the best forward duo in the NHL of Giroux/Voracek, but little else; The Devils have great goaltending but little else as Ray Shero brings the team out of the Lamioriello era into the 21st century, and the Hurricanes will be a hungry team that possesses the puck well but does little else.


1. Tampa Bay
2. Montreal
3. Detroit
4. Florida
5. Ottawa
6. Buffalo
7. Boston
8. Toronto

Thoughts: The defending Eastern Conference Champions don't look like slowing down at all this season, and with minor tweaks are still the favorites to make it out of the East, and possibly win the Cup. The Steven Stamkos contract situation is a distraction, but a minor one. And yet, they still have some pretty exciting prospects coming through their system too. They'll win the division unchallenged this season. It feels like in Montreal, the same story will be written again. Carey Price is dominant, but their system is inherently fallible and will keep them from breaking through once again. Maybe Alex Semin will help generate some needed offensive punch, but because it's Michel Therrien, it's just as likely he'll spend as much time in the press box as he will on the ice. In Detroit, out goes Babcock and in comes Blashill. His familiarity with the Red Wings bevy of young talent should do them wonders as they transition to a new era, but it will be the old horses of Datsyuk/Zetterberg/Franzen et al that keeps the playoff streak alive despite some defense corps issues and goaltending controversy. Keep an eye on the Florida Panthers (and not just because I'm a fan). Their young talent looks primed to blossom, and if it does they could break their playoff jinx. Huberdeau-Barkov-Jagr could be one of the more fun lines to watch in all of hockey this season, and they should be a step quicker and more solid defensively too. The Ottawa Senators fairy tale last season was fun and all, but they've made exactly zero additions to make this team better. Having Erik Karlsson and being a young team at the core keeps them in the playoff race, but with the improvements other teams have made, it feels like they've been lapped somewhat. The Sabres will be a poor man's Blue Jackets: Amazing up front, weak on the blueline with the only difference being a tremendous question mark in goal. The Bruins had one harrowing offseason that leaves them with a skeleton D corps, slower up front, and probably a sacked coach at some point.

Finally, the Maple Leafs will be very bad, but they won't be the type of bad they were last season. With their entire roster comprising of almost only players on one year deals who are hungry to earn a new contract (either in Toronto or elsewhere), they will be a fun team to watch. Mike Babcock will also have them play a sustainable style where they'll limit scoring chances and possess the puck well. Their goaltending is very good for a bad team too. They'll be frustrating to play against all season.


1. Blues
2. Stars
3. Blackhawks
4. Predators
5. Wild
6. Jets
7. Avalanche

Thoughts: The Blues are the NHL's version of the San Diego Chargers or Cincinnati Bengals: Fantastic regular season team, but they can never find the way to break through in the playoffs. That will probably stay the same way this season because Ken Hitchcock is surprisingly still the coach. If they can't find their way up in the playoffs, expect some major changes at Scottrade Center. The Stars are very likely going to be the most fun team in hockey. With Patrick Sharp joining the likes of Benn, Seguin and Spezza, they'll light up the scoreboard most nights, which should help them cover up some defensive deficiencies and massive goaltending issues (Niemi and Lehtonen, really?). The Blackhawks finished third in their division post their last two Cups, and with the massive changes they had to undergo this offseason, there's no reason to think that won't happen again, irrespective of the Patrick Kane mess that could easily get worse as the season rolls on. The Predators have the goalie, have the anchoring defenseman, and some interesting wingers to roll out this season. But their lack of depth at center is terrifying, especially in the West where centers win games and playoff series. They'll take a step back, but still make the postseason. Minnesota feels a bit long in the tooth, and the lucky streak of Devan Dubnyk does not feel at all repeatable. They'll kill penalties well, possess the puck equally, but it still feels like they're lacking that final piece. The Winnipeg playoff party was a fun one last season, but they feel like they're a year away from being consistently at the dance. Connor Hellebuyck will also be their fulltime netminder by the end of the season too. And for the advance stat denying Avalanche, karma will hit them like a ton of bricks once again, since their defense corps are still iffy and their bottom six is fairly poor.


1. Anaheim
2. San Jose
3. Los Angeles
4. Calgary
5. Edmonton
6. Vancouver
7. Arizona

Thoughts: All hail your regular season overlords, the Anaheim Ducks. Bruce Boudreau knows how to coach a team in the regular season. They are young, fast, physical, and talented in almost every department. The playoff question is one they'll have to answer in April and May, which they could not do last season. Why are the Sharks this high, you might be wondering? It all has to do with their coach, Pete DeBoer. He always, always, always has him teams overachieve in his first season in charge. In Florida, his Panthers were a tiebreaker away from the postseason in 2008-09, and in New Jersey? That team finished two wins away from the Stanley Cup. These Sharks are going to overachieve in the regular season, but still get dumped by their nemesis, the LA Kings, in the postseason, Speaking of them, the Kings had their own harrowing offseason, but seem a tighter knit group coming out of it. Milan Lucic really does fit the Kings profile, and adding Christian Erhoff brings depth to a defense corps that needs it badly. Everything that could go wrong for LA did last season, and don't expect that to happen again. The Calgary Flames might be hockey's most interesting team. Their defense corps is ridiculously good and insanely talented. Their young forwards have grown by leaps and bounds with their postseason experience last season, and might be even better with Michael Frolik on board. But, their goaltending is still suspect and will their performance take a dip because of poor possession numbers last season? They'll regress, but they're too strong to miss the postseason.

Ah, Edmonton. Is this the year you break through after having every #1 draft pick since the '05 lockout? Probably not, but there is reason to be optimistic. Their defense and goaltending should be a little bit better, but probably not good enough to make the postseason. Watching Connor McDavid will all of the other young forwards will be a treat though. In Vancouver though... oh boy. Jim Benning seems out of his depth with this whole GM thing. The roster is getting worse and worse by the year, and boy does it look like they overachieved last season. It's a race between them and Boston (funny enough) for the "worst run team in the NHL" moniker, snatched away from Toronto this offseason. And in Arizona... Auston Matthews is really, really good and is from Scottsdale. Get those lucky cats out now.

Playoff Predictions:


M1 Washington over M4 NYI in 6
M2 Pittsburgh over M3 NYR in 6

M1 Washington over M2 Pittsburgh in 7

A1 Tampa over A4 Florida in 5
A3 Detroit over A2 Montreal in 6

A1 Tampa over A3 Detroit in 6

M1 Washington over A1 Tampa in 6


C4 Nashville over C1 St. Louis in 6
C2 Dallas over C3 Chicago in 7

C2 Dallas over C4 Nashville in 5

P1 Anaheim over P4 Calgary in 5
P3 LA over P2 San Jose in 7

P1 Anaheim over P1 LA in 7

P1 Anaheim over C2 Dallas in 5

2016 Stanley Cup Final: M1 Washington over P1 Anaheim in 6 (Boudreau Bowl!)

Awards Predictions:

President's Trophy: Anaheim
Hart: Steven Stamkos
Vezina: Braden Holtby
Calder: Connor McJesus
Norris: P.K Subban
Selke: Anze Kopitar
Jack Adams: Lindy Ruff

I was close-ish last year (I had Tampa in the Final), so maybe the jinx of being picked by me to do well is starting to fade! Probably not though. Enjoy the new hockey season!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

2015 Week 4 Fantasy Advice

Did you have a good Week 3? Plenty of players put in prime performances, including ones that directly affected fantasy outcomes (naturally, the KC WR jinx broke just when I needed Jeremy Maclin to have a bad game, my luck of course), so it was certainly a week to remember. Now with byes coming into play, more shrewd moves are in order.

Byes: NE, TEN

Editor's Note: No players from the PHI/WSH game will be selected here due to the possibility of Hurricane Joaquin affecting the status of the game.

Who to Start:

QB Cam Newton (CAR) vs. TB: Despite not having his best weapon all season (and for the rest of the season), Newton has been very effecting against Jacksonville, Houston and New Orleans thus far. The Bucs pass defense is not formidable at all, so Newton could be in for another big game on Sunday.

RB Latavius Murray (OAK) vs. CHI: He was certainly a bit underrated heading into the season, but he's not underrated anymore. He could rack up some huge numbers against an extremely porous Bears defense which has already started bloodletting after an 0-3 start.

WR Brandon Marshall (NYJ) vs. MIA LONDON: Despite his rather sluggish start to the season (and self proclaimed worst play in NFL history last week), his matchup against the Dolphins at Wembley is very favorable. The Dolphins can't rush the passer and their secondary has been torched by the like of Kirk Cousins, Blake Bortles and Tyrod Taylor this season.

WR T.Y Hilton (IND) vs. JAX: Andrew Luck's offensive line hasn't been a help to him to start the season, but even if he's hit a bunch, Hilton could still have a huge day against the Jaguars. He's already had big successes against them in his career, and the Jags could be starting a UDFA corner at safety due to a rash of injuries.

TE Tyler Eifert (CIN) vs. KC: Someone on ESPN, can't remember who, called Eifert a "mini-Gronk". While I wouldn't go that far, he has been dominant to start the season for the Bengals. Kansas City has not been good at all on defense the last two weeks against good offenses, so his struggles last week could be forgotten.

DEF Arizona vs. STL: This is almost a gimme at this point. They've been scoring at will, and the Rams offense has looked anemic the last two weeks to say the least.

Who to Sit:

QB Matthew Stafford (DET) vs. SEA MON: He's really become a fantasy poison pill at this point, and facing the Seahawks defense in Seattle makes him a must sit. He then faces Arizona afterwords. The Lions could easily start 0-5.

RB Doug Martin (TB) vs. CAR: Combined with Tampa's own running struggles and running back rotation, the Panthers have given up only 195 rushing yards in three games this season. It's a risk to start Martin on Sunday.

WR Alshon Jeffery (CHI) vs. OAK: Jimmy Clausen is throwing passes to him, and the Bears punted on 10 out of 10 drives last week. Enough said.

WR Jarvis Landry (MIA) vs. NYJ LONDON: He's been the PPR player dujour this season, but even in those leagues he's not a wise play against the Jets. Their secondary has been fantastic this season, and Ryan Tannehill didn't look so good against an equally good Bills defense last week.

TE Kyle Rudolph (MIN) vs. DEN: In the "year of the Tight End", Rudolph hasn't been cashing in quite yet. He's been inconsistent to start the season, and he's facing a Broncos defense on Sunday that hasn't given up a TD to a TE yet this season. Teddy Bridgewater's home vs. road splits aren't encouraging either.

DEF Houston vs. ATL: The Texans defense has been decent enough to start this season, but the Falcons offense has been explosive to match. The Texans might still be able to get after Matt Ryan, but they're still facing Julio Jones.

Three Super Sleepers:

QB Andy Dalton (CIN) vs. KC: Did he turn a corner against the Ravens last week? Maybe, but whatever the status of his "eliteness" is, he is a good fantasy play this week against a Chiefs secondary that is increasingly thin and ragged.

RB Chris Johnson (ARZ) vs. STL: Not the other Johnson who I coincidentally have on my fantasy team, the old CJ2K looked to recapture some of that old magic last week with a great game against San Francisco. He could do that again against a sluggish Rams defense.

WR James Jones (GB) vs. SF: He's not really a sleeper, and I don't think the Giants could have ever gotten this kind of performance out of James Jones, but he's almost a must play now. The 49ers defense is abysmal, and Aaron Rodgers is amazing.

Buyer Beware:

QB Ryan Tannehill (MIA) vs. NYJ London: Last week was a giant step back for Tannehill who had a positive start to his 2015 campaign, and it gets no easier against the Jets at Wembley Stadium.

Good luck in Week 4!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Beyond the Broken Looking Glass

   There is a great tale told by the legendary sports writer Bert Sugar about Babe Ruth, handed down to him by sportswriters from his early day: Sportswriters use to take trains with players to games in those days. One day, on a trip to Chicago, Babe Ruth comes running into the sportswriter's car completely naked, followed by a woman who was equally as naked with a knife in her hand. One writer joked, "well there's another story we're not going to write".

   Sports journalism and fandom has evolved dramatically from that anecdote during the roaring 20's, the supposed "height" of American sports. The collective is far more aware of the issues behind sports, be they social, political, economic, racial or anything to that effect. And with the 24 hour news-cycle, combined with social media platforms giving everybody and anybody a voice, the mixture has brought about some interesting decisions to be made about sports and fandom: what are we to do when sports and the outside world crossover?

  Only 10 years ago did ESPN have a segment on Monday Night Countdown called, "Jacked Up". Back then, big hits were brushed off with little concern for what damage may have been inflicted with these hits.

   Does anybody look at these hits the same way anymore? Can anybody look at these hits the same way anymore? Can anybody not cringe at how these hits are being talked about? It's not necessarily PC culture that has made the world at large so much more sensitive to issues such as concussions in football, or the issues of domestic violence, sexual assault, race, gender, etc. in sports, but the result of more education, and more and more people making their voices heard.

  It's no different than watching film, TV, stage or loving art, video games, or any form of popular media today. Do ardent video game fanatics sometimes cringe at the thought of the rampant sexism that pervades that culture, whether the individual is or isn't responsible for some of that? Will someone put down Call of Duty because they are sickened by Gamergate and its deplorable actions?

  Maybe someone reading this is a Mel Gibson fan and loves his filmography, but cannot rationalize that with some of the terrible things he has said in his life and his actions too. Someone reading this might like Chris Brown's music, but absolutely loathe what skeletons he has in his closet.

   Somehow, sports and the outside world stayed mutually exclusive until recently, with the occasional crossover muted and not given the proper time of day that it deserved.

   The vastly different media landscape certainly plays a role, since now it's almost impossible to ignore the off-the-field aspect of athlete's lives, even if they make much of it available to the masses through social media. There still is a feeling the general public doesn't know what these great athletes are like as normal human beings, and our insatiable craving for knowledge combined with the media cycle makes it impossible for human stories such as Ray Rice's or Adrian Peterson's to emerge. Does that change how we as fans reconcile the leagues and teams we spend so much physical and emotional capital on? For some, absolutely.

  The Patrick Kane ongoing legal drama is a black eye to everyone involved, and has made many women and even men too consider what their future relationship should be with the Blackhawks and the NHL for the stand that they have chosen. No one person can tell anyone what they should or shouldn't think and what they should or shouldn't spend capital on, but even in the murky mess that lies beneath the tampered evidence and 140 character lawyers, there is a brightside.

  Has anyone reading this thought about sexual assault in the same way they now do? The issue has been rampant for years and coverage of them, namely finding ways to help victims, has been almost dead silent. I for one am more informed on the issue than I ever have been. The same holds true with domestic violence, the struggle of religion in sports, LGBT activism, and the list goes on.

  Our idealistic view of sports is that it is an escape from the travails of everyday life, when that couldn't be any further from the truth. The line that has been peddled by many of our media forefathers is that sports and politics should not and cannot mix, let alone inhabit the same ecosystem. But when almost every other form of entertainment coalesces and crosses over with the problems blighting the world at any given moment, why were sports the exception?

   If anyone is re-considering their Blackhawks/NHL fandom because of what has or hasn't happened with Patrick Kane, no one can stop you. You're entitled to that viewpoint as I am to say that sports hold a place in society that almost nothing else does: people of differing backgrounds, life experiences and belief systems come together and share a unique and common experience. For many years, it was yelling about whether Patrick Kane fits on Jonathan Toews' wing or something to that effect.

  Now, the same people are talking about sexual assault and the damage it has caused to so many. Some may not be talking about it in a responsible manner, but at least their minds have been opened to the issue where they would never have been otherwise.

  Fandom doesn't exist in a vacuum. I have cheered for morally reprehensible characters in sport before, and I likely will in the future. I will more than likely write or commentate about some in a false light before I know the facts. The ideal world of sports that was perpetrated in the past was nothing more than a lie, and a lie that is almost impossible to shake from our collective minds.

  Do sometimes I wish I didn't like the NFL as much as I do? Sure. Same with soccer. "Love the game, hate FIFA" is a common refrain for a reason. Everyone has those crossroads moments, as they will with every form of entertainment the human experience offers to us. Nothing is clean, nothing is sacred.

 Accepting that will make swallowing the realities of the modern world, therefore allowing complete disgust of Patrick Kane's alleged actions to exist in the same space as fandom for the logo he wears/wore on his chest.

  Our minds being opened allows us the space to talk about the world outside of sports, and gives so many who neglected it (i.e. me) to understand issues facing society and what some of us can do to fix it. The ideal world of sports is a myth that has been thoroughly and thankfully shattered, and beyond the broken glass so many of us have been exposed to a world that is not all milk and honey.

  Without my sports fandom, I would have never been able to even acknowledge that. And for this, I am grateful.

Inspiration for this piece came from Jessica Luther's "Being a Fan" on Fanside, which you can read here.

2015 Week 3 Fantasy Advice

Did you have a good Week 2? More than likely, if you like picking games as I do, your fantasy team did better than your picks did. Survivor pools all experienced mass death, our perception of up is now down, pigs are flying, dogs and cats living together... MASS HYSTERIA. Well, only kind of. Fantasy perceptions are changing rapidly too, so it might be best to keep up with the times.

Who to Start:

QB Russel Wilson (SEA) vs. CHI: This seems fairly obvious, especially considering Wilson was likely one of the first five QB's drafted in your league. But considering many QB matchups this weekend aren't the best, Wilson will have to suffice. It's become fairly obvious as well that the Bears pass defense is a glorified sieve, so Wilson could have a feeding frenzy in the Hawks home opener on Sunday.

RB Latavius Murray (OAK) vs. CLE: His early season numbers haven't been all that impressive, but going up against the Browns on Sunday should help improve that. Their rush defense has been poor to start the season, and Murray should get a decent chunk of carries to ease the pressure on Derek Carr in Oakland's first road game of this season.

WR Sammy Watkins (BUF) vs. MIA: While Tyrod Taylor still scares me at the QB position, Watkins might fight back against that this weekend playing against a Dolphins secondary that is constantly under threat since the front four can't rush the passer even remotely. Watkins also had success against Miami last season.

WR Jarvis Landry (MIA) vs. BUF: On the other side, the Bills secondary hasn't been nearly as good as the front four of Buffalo would suggest. Ryan Tannehill has also had two very solid games on the road to start the year. Landry could continue his breakout this week.

TE Heath Miller (PIT) vs. STL: He's still around, and not only is he still around, he's still doing his thing every week, like clockwork. And he's a free agent in most leagues. The Rams have not dealt with TE's particularly well to open the year, so Miller could be in for another big afternoon.

DEF Seattle vs. CHI: Another one that's obvious, but Jimmy Clausen. That is all.

Who to Sit:

QB Matt Stafford (DET) vs. DEN: Stafford's start to the season has been fairly emblematic of his entire career to this point, which doesn't bode well when he plays against the Broncos. Their secondary has been the best in football the first two weeks of the season, nevermind the fearsome pass rush.

RB Doug Martin (TB) vs. HOU: He wasn't even a great option to begin with, and the Texans have started off the season very strong against opposing running backs. He normally would only be good enough to merit flex consideration, but this weekend it's not even worth it.

WR Brandin Cooks (NO) vs. CAR: Not only will he be going up against Josh Norman, one of the NFL's best corners, he might be catching balls from Luke McCown and not Drew Brees, which should strike fear into the hearts of his fantasy owners everywhere.

WR Roddy White (ATL) vs. DAL: This is in no way a suggestion to sit Julio Jones, who will have his big day regardless of how good Dallas' secondary is, but White will have considerably more trouble producing. Even if Jones is somehow taken out of the game by Brandon Flowers, White's still not in line for a huge afternoon.

TE Zach Ertz (PHI) vs. NYJ: The Jets defense has been incredibly stingy to start the new season, and the Eagles offense has been...well...offensive. Even though Ertz has been the Eagles most targeted receiver once already, the Jets will probably take care of that without much incident.

DEF St. Louis vs. PIT: Le'Veon Bell is back for Pittsburgh. That's not good for the Rams, who looked rather pedestrian against a far worse Washington team last Sunday.

Three Super Sleepers:

QB Marcus Mariota (TEN) vs. IND: Even though I still think the Titans are not a good football team, and the more likely Mariota performance of his first two will be last week's edition instead of the Tampa one, the matchup against Indy isn't a terrible one. He's available in plenty of leagues too.

RB Jonathan Stewart (CAR) vs. NO: He hasn't been spectacular this season, but then again, neither has the Saints defense. Figure to see Stewart break out on Sunday.

WR Larry Fitzgerald (ARZ) vs. SF: His early season resurgence is somewhat surprising considering his diminished returns the past couple of seasons. But that should be easy to replicate against a 49ers secondary that was sliced and diced by Pittsburgh last Sunday.

Buyer Beware:

QB Andy Dalton (CIN) vs. BAL: Good start aside, and terrible Ravens defense aside, would you really trust Dalton in a stage like this? Moreover, can you really trust the Bengals in a game like this despite every bit of evidence from the first two weeks?

Good Luck in Week 3!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Fanduel to be a Draftking

    Watching the NFL this weekend, an ad for Draftkings or Fanduel might have flashed across your purview while you were reloading on chips or Rolling Rock. If somehow you missed these ads, you were either watching Redzone (good decision) or suffered through a strong bout of narcolepsy. These ads are as ubiquitous as the Vikings-Bengals-Eagles-Steelers-Cowboys family... and have attracted attention from many different pairs of eyes... and these aren't necessarily admiring glances.

    Fantasy sports have gone from just fantasy football, to fantasy basketball/baseball/hockey/soccer, to survivor pools, to reverse survivor pools, to daily fantasy and now even hourly fantasy and who knows what's next... announcer fantasy, or maybe even political fantasy (Pick your lineup of congressmen and see who votes "yay" on this bill to raise the debt ceiling!). But are these truly games of skill, or shrewd ways of getting around the country's supremely restrictive sports gambling laws?

   The popularity of sports in this country is inherently tied in with gambling, legal or not. The ease with which any average Joe can place a bet on football is why the NFL is the titan on Mount Olympus standing over every other sport around the world. The tide is turning on legalized sports gambling in this country outside of Vegas and Dover Downs, but not fast enough for Fanduel and Draftkings, who have notable investors from all across the spectrum. They can hand out millions of dollars in prizes weekly to those who show the most nous in picking fantasy players not just for a season, but for a week, with a budget. The NFL is one of the staunchest opponents of sports gambling, and yet complictly allows something one step away from in the gambling gene pool.

  Both companies spent nearly $27 million in advertising last week alone, and this doesn't include the numerous teams that both have hooked up with, which totals over half of the NFL's 32 franchises. Fantasy sports are exempted from sports gambling laws, but NJ Rep Frank Pallone doesn't believe these games should. And despite the companies, and leagues, claims that these are games of skill, the odds don't portend that.

    Bloomberg indicates that the odds are inherently stacked against you in winning the big prizes, much like they are at almost all casino games, and they are as much "games of skill" as predicting whether Mike Evans or Torrey Smith will have a better day at the office. These games almost fall into the same category as online poker, and those are having an equally tough time gaining mainstream acceptance.

   Whatever daily fantasy is under the eyes of the law, it is just another branch of the larger argument into legalizing sports gambling in this country. New Jersey has tried legalizing it repeatedly in order to raise funds for its beleaguered casinos and racetracks, and have been thwarted at every attempt. Regulated sports gambling across the country could be a major source of revenue with little cost, including taxes (which are not part of the equation for Daily Fantasy games). How legal these sites and games are could well be an indicator as to how a larger sports gambling debate across all folds will go.

   It has taken this country years to move small steps in reforming and regulating casinos and gambling. There are still states in this country that do not have lotteries, let alone casinos, online gambling such as poker and the like and even fewer places have legalized sports betting. It may take years for the red tape and tangled legalities to untwist and unwind, but the larger war is once again being fought with a proxy, and daily fantasy is today's flavor of choice.

   At some point, the worm will turn on sports gambling in this country as it has almost everywhere else in the world, especially in the UK. Daily Fantasy is going to be one of the first battlegrounds in a larger, more public debate.

   Until then, enjoy being bombarded with a blitz of daily fantasy ads almost everywhere eyes can be drawn to. Maybe you'll be one of the lucky ones who could cash out on a Tony Romo fourth quarter comeback.

   But, if all else fails, that $2 entry fee could have been spent in way worse places.

For further reading on Daily Fantasy, check out:

ThinkProgress: Here
The New York Times: Here
Bloomberg: Here


2015 Week 2 Fantasy Advice

Did you have a good Week 1? Most probably didn't, either because they failed to cash in on DraftKings or Fanduel, or because most of the NFL was a Benny Hill sketch on offense last weekend. Drawing major conclusions from Week 1 is a dangerous game, but you have all probably done that already. I'm here to try to at least attempt to dissuade you from some of those glittering new assumptions.

Who to Start:

QB Carson Palmer (ARZ) vs. CHI: He started off 2015 on a high note by having a good game against the Saints, and his Week 2 matchup is equally favorable against the porous Bears secondary. He might even be on the waiver wire in your league, so get on that if you haven't already.

RB Carlos Hyde (SF) vs. PIT: Frank who? Hyde had a very solid debut as the 49er feature back against Minnesota, and while Pittsburgh's run defense wasn't terrible, they did make Dion Lewis look far too comfortable more often than they didn't. Hyde could be an interesting play on Sunday.

WR Brandin Cooks (NO) vs. TB: I picked him to win OROY last year, and that didn't end too well for me. He did lead the Saints in targets last Sunday, even if he didn't put up many points. But if you saw what happened to the Bucs secondary against Marcus Mariota, Drew Brees, and Cooks by extension, should be licking their chops.

WR Jordan Matthews (PHI) vs. DAL: Ugly drop in crunch time aside, Matthews had 10 catches for over 100 yards against the Falcons, which was to be expected but he did reward fantasy owners (me) well for their faith in him. The Cowboys defense has injuries and holes in it, so despite the successes they had against the Giants, don't expect them to continue.

TE Martellus Bennett (CHI) vs. ARZ: Is it September still? *checks calendar* It is? So that must mean Martellus Bennett did had a great game because reasons? *checks box score* He did? So I guess that must mean Bennett should be starting if you have him this week.

DEF Miami vs. JAX: The Jaguars offense looked like the same old, same old against Carolina who were without Luke Kuechly for half of the game. The Dolphins defense looked quite stout in Washington, and held the Jaguars in check in the same matchup last season. Expect that form to continue on Sunday.

Who to Sit:

QB Matthew Stafford (DET) vs. MIN: He'll throw for plenty of yards, and plenty of interceptions as per usual in almost every game he plays in from now on, which means as a fantasy option he's less than viable. He's also struggled recently against Minnesota, making the option of starting him even less appealing.

RB Frank Gore (IND) vs. NYJ MON: His first start in Colts blue and white didn't end so well, did it? Buffalo's run defense is normally stout, and so is the New York Jets front. They held whoever was lined up at RB for Cleveland in check Sunday, and there's no reason to think that they won't do that again against Indy.

WR Amari Cooper (OAK) vs. BAL: My pick for OROY this year got off to a rocky start, thanks in large part to the injury to Derek Carr. Even if he's healthy, Carr won't likely be at 100%, meaning Cooper will either be seeing targets from a hampered Carr or Matt McGloin. The Ravens defense looked good against Denver, so against Oakland...

WR Kendall Wright (TEN) vs. CLE: ALERT. ALERT. The Titans are not as good as advertised last week! Even though they may beat the hapless Browns, they are going up against one of the league's most underrated secondaries, and Wright may be matched up against Joe Haden. ABORT MISSION.

TE Owen Daniels (DEN) vs. KC THU: He and Gary Kubiak should go together hand-in-hand, but they didn't at all against Baltimore. The Chiefs defense is incredibly stout, and with all of the worries about Peyton Manning's arm, Daniels could be in for another tough night.

DEF Buffalo vs. NE: This should be obvious, but in case it isn't: The Patriots are going to get their points regardless of who they play against. Tom Brady is also really good against the Bills, so proceed with caution in this mathup.

Three Super Sleepers:

QB Colin Kaepernick (SF) vs. PIT: Even though many have surmised that the 49er downfall is imminent, it didn't look like it Monday night. The offense should at least hold up its end of the bargain against a well publicized poor Pittsburgh defense.

RB Tevin Coleman (ATL) vs. NYG: The start to his career went pretty decently against the Eagles rush defense. The Giants rush defense is worse, so Coleman could be in for an even better day. The only proviso is that he could split carries with Devonta Freeman, so keep that in mind.

DEF Tennessee vs. CLE: This unit is still really, really bad on paper. Their first two games won't prove that however, because they've played a rookie QB and Jonathan Gridiron in their first two games. This matchup could be fun.

Buyer Beware:

QB Peyton Manning (DEN) vs. KC THU: The scuttlebutt now around NFL circles is all about whether Peyton is past it now. His arm strength was a question before, now it's even more of a question after the Week 1 stinker he put up against Baltimore. The Chiefs defense is also notably stout, so that compounds the problem even more. While I'm not willing to call time on his career just yet, his fantasy career is far more open to stuffing into a coffin. If you have a better matchup, I'd advise going with that if you can.

Good luck in Week 2!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

2015 Week 1 Fantasy Advice

    The column that never sleeps because it only hibernates from the end of December to the beginning of September... The Wednesday staple in your life you couldn't go without and for some reason you felt like there was a hole in your day... The column that has very few original thoughts save for the opening ramble like this... it's the Matt's Sports Musings Fantasy Football Column! Now with its own website tag! In existence since 2009, and maybe not any further beyond this season... let's begin the seventh season of fantasy football ramblings from someone who has only won his league once in nine years playing fantasy football!

Who to Start:

QB Tom Brady (NE) vs. PIT THU: It seems obvious. In fact, it seems too obvious. But don't you think Brady is going to have a little bit of extra juice for this game due to the circumstances? Not only is his playing the Steelers defense, which is uncharacteristically porous, Tom Brady has been dynamite against Pittsburgh even when their defense was respectable, throwing for an average of 331 yards per game and 18 TD's against them in his career.

RB Latavius Murray (OAK) vs. CIN: The Raiders offense is going to be more dynamic than one might expect this season, and Murray is going to be a large part of any successes. Jack Del Rio coached teams love to run the football, and Murray is going up against a Bengals defense sans Vontaze Burfict that wasn't amazing at stopping the run last season.

WR Jordan Matthews (PHI) vs. ATL MON: Though many have concerns about Sam Bradford's health, and for good reason, when he's healthy, every single Eagles offensive player could be a fantasy gold mine. He's a deep threat and also a threat to have 10+ catches in any game. The Falcons defense is improved, but it's nowhere near where it needs to be to keep Chip Kelly's madness in check.

WR Davante Adams (GB) vs. CHI: Aaron Rodgers is going to have to throw to someone this season, and Adams may as well be one of his prime targets. Without Jordy Nelson, the Packers are going to need to find someone else to ease the load, and Adams may well be a solid choice against a Bears defense that may as well be saloon doors.

TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (TB) vs. TEN: Jameis Winston is going to use his TE often this season, as rookie QB's tend to do. Seferian-Jenkins was a pleasant surprise for a bad Bucs team last season, and with a steadier hand at QB, he could be a nice sleeper this season across the board. It also helps that the Titans defense may be historically bad, too.

DEF New York Jets vs. CLE: Despite their offensive, well, calamities, Todd Bowles is a defensive guru, and he's inherited a unit with plenty of talent to work with. It might not get much better facing a Browns offense with Josh McCown at QB and a bevy of injured skill position players. This could be a feast for the Jets D.

Who to Sit:

QB Alex Smith (KC) vs. HOU: He's not someone you should be starting in any league unless it has 20 teams or is two QB's, but he's a risky play in any event. The Texans defense is still very, very solid, and it shouldn't be lost on anyone that the Chiefs did not have a WR catch a TD pass last season.

RB Frank Gore (IND-!!!!!!) vs. BUF: The change of colors from red and gold to blue and white is pretty stark for Frank Gore, but he still figures to have a pretty good season. It might not start early though, as the Bills defense is one of the stingiest in the NFL, especially against the run. And ever since Edgerrin James left for Arizona, the Colts successes with RB's have been... limited, to be kind.

WR Sammy Watkins (BUF) vs. IND: Until proven otherwise, Tyrod Taylor is going to be a fantasy drain on Bills receivers. He hasn't proven otherwise yet, so avoid Sammy Watkins.

WR Steve Smith (BAL) vs. DEN: He faded down the stretch last season, which isn't all that surprising considering his age. A fast start is unlikely this season against a Broncos secondary that was sneakily one of the best in football all of last season.

TE Vernon Davis (SF) vs. MIN MON: Vernon Davis must have been so frustrating to his fantasy owners last season, as his form and pedigree almost vanished overnight. The Vikings gave up only four TD's to opposing TE's last season, so this is matchup that is one to steer clear of Monday night.

DEF Dallas vs. NYG: Despite the Cowboys ability to rush the passer, and the return of the perpetually injured Sean Lee, the Sunday night game figures to be a shootout whatever way it ends up. Even though they may have a good season in the end, it might not start that way.

Three Super Sleepers:

QB Ryan Tannehill (MIA) vs. WSH: Tannehill is going to have to take the next step if the Dolphins are going to move from playoff contender to playoff team. He has the weapons to work with on offense, so it looks like that step may be possible. In Washington, he'll be facing a particularly bad defense, although that is the least among their worries.

TE Jordan Cameron (WSH) vs. MIA: He's basically the only DC TE left standing, which is good news considering Miami struggled defending TE's last season. Kirk Cousins is going to need a safe pair of hands to throw the ball to, and Cameron's paws are perfect for the purpose.

DEF Kansas City vs. HOU: Eric Berry is back after defeating cancer, Justin Houston is still Justin Houston, and the Texans don't have Arian Foster, a wide receiver of note outside of DeAndre Hopkins, and Brian Hoyer at QB. Advantage: Chiefs.

Buyer Beware:

QB Russel Wilson (SEA) vs. STL: If you own him, you'll probably start him regardless of what I say here. But consider this: wasn't the scuttlebutt recently focused on how scary the Rams front seven is? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think that's changed. And lest we forget, the Seahawks lost in St. Louis last season. This is a trickier than expected matchup for the defending NFC Champs.

Good Luck in Week 1 and happy football season to you all!