Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Did You See That: The 2014 Year-End Awards

As 2014 comes to a close and 2015 is ushered in, it's time to look back at the 365 days gone by. For the last 3 years, I've sent the year off with awards to honor the accomplishments of the year past... this is what I would say if I wasn't as cynical as I am. So, this means the year end awards have returned with a bang, and hopefully a rise in prestige (I asked for it last year and didn't get it, but a guy can dream, right?) They didn't try to win them, they're not getting dressed up to receive them: I present the 2014 year-end awards.

The "Wait, he's not actually dead"Award: Brazil's XI against Germany

The scene could not be more perfect. Brazil against Germany in Belo Horizonte for the right to go to the World Cup Final. But one key member of the Seleccao was missing: Neymar.  To honor their fallen comrade, during the national anthem the Brazilian players held up Neymar's jersey to honor his tragic loss... wait, he's still alive, right? *Checks twitter*... Yeah, he's still alive, he's in the stands watching. So if the Brazilian team thinks he's basically dead... then that means they're toast right? 90 minutes later, Brazil loses 7-1 to Germany at home in what was possibly the most stunning sports result of the 21st century to date. So next time your best player gets injured and misses an incredibly important game, hold up his jersey during the national anthem. I dare you.

The "Lemon Meringue Tastes Better" Award: Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo's Puck Daddy Blog

Here's a lesson for the world to take heed of: Never bet a mascot with a pie in the face as a punishment. Sure it might have worked for Nickelodeon in a 1992 game show, but in 2014 it can only end in shame, disappointment, and a bloody nose. Unfortunately, my good friend Wysh didn't remember that (and episodes of "What Would You Do?" it turns out) and bet Bailey, the LA Kings mascot, that the Sharks would win their playoff series against the Kings with the punishment being the loser gets some pies in the face. The Sharks of course blew a 3-0 series lead to the Kings as they went on to win the Cup. And so it ended up, with Wysh being pied in the face by not only Bailey, but Bob Miller, the voice of the Kings, and Wil Wheaton of X-Files fame. I guess that's better than being pied by Marc Summers, right? It'll be a helluva story to tell during a game of canasta at the retirement home though.

The "All of your eggs don't belong in one basket" Award: The Big XII

The college football playoff was a new experience for everyone, especially the Big XII, who had two teams in the hunt all season. Baylor and TCU were class articles all season, and one of them seemed destined to make the 4 team dance. But Bob Bowlsby thought, "Hey, we could get both of 'em in right now!" And so he tried to make it happen, but it became apparent that unless absolute chaos happened in front of his beloved Bears and Horned Frogs, getting 1 in was going to be hard enough. So he sold Baylor down the river and tried his hardest to push for TCU to get in, seeing as they had a better shot (seemingly), but then Ohio State's 3rd string QB pasted Wisconsin into a wall in the B1G Championship Game. Then, he was left with no one to cling to when the Big XII was left out of the new Big Dance, and currently his conference is 0-3 in bowl games. Now, he's trying to get a conference championship for his 10 team league, or a 13th game in the feeble attempt to cover his own blood up. Next time, just keep it quiet, maybe the committee will take your teams on their merits alone and not stumping. That means you too, Art Briles.

The "I was one card away" Award: Jerry Jones

The story is almost ubiquitous now. Jerry Jones had the card in his hand that would have blown the world up: Johnny Manziel to the Cowboys. His son, however told him to trash that card and hand in the one he eventually did, that had Zack Martin on it. Martin went on to receive OROY votes and become one of the best young O-Lineman in the league, and Johnny Football hasn't yet realized that partying the night before meetings and travel to a game is probably a bad idea. The Browns are just as big of a mess as ever, and the Cowboys have just had their best season in 5 years. That one card man...

The "At Least I didn't bite his Ear" Award: Luis Suarez

As of this moment, he hasn't chomped on any La Liga player while at Barcelona, which is progress, possibly? He had his taste of both Serbian and Italian cuisine in the past 2 years, and both surprisingly didn't taste all that amazing. Gordon Ramsey would have probably said the food he ate was raw, twice over. These cooking metaphors are not going very well, so let's simply say this for Suarez: at least he didn't bite someone's ear off (honorable mention to Claude Giroux who hasn't yet learned that sweaty hockey sweater tastes like sweaty hockey sweater).

The "Why did we blow that up again?" Award: The Oakland Athletics

Just when you think the A's have found a core of players that could finally get them past the ALDS for the first time in... it feels like forever now, the team gets blown up and scattered across the majors in a fire-sale that makes Jeffrey Loria envious. Billy Beane has always done some strange things as A's GM, but this offseason has been a particularly strange one, especially after he traded for big name pitching in the regular season seeing as this may be his last roll of the dice. Maybe after 2015 the A's will do the same thing again, or there will just be seeping regret... like the sewage at the Coliseum that never stays where it should.

The "What's Tanking" Award: the Philadelphia 76ers, Buffalo Sabres, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The 76ers and Sabres have made no bones about professing their love for the art of tanking completely and totally. The 76ers are trying to be their best at it in order to build their team slowly and methodically, but there might not be a pot of gold at the end of that rainbow in the 2015 NBA Draft. The Buffalo Sabres went as far as to schedule games featuring Connor McDavid's Erie Otters and Jack Eichel's BU Terriers at the First Niagara Center, just in case you weren't sure what Tim Murray's plans were. But now, the Sabres are actually playing decent hockey and winning games! Maybe the price for Tyler Myers will be lower now. But a late entrant into this award, making it a 3 way tie: The Tampa Bay Bucs! They were winning handsomely over the New Orleans Saints, until Lovie Smith conspicuously pulled his starters as the Saints made a nice comeback. Was it a threatening phone call from GM Jason Licht, or a subconscious devil on Lovie Smith's shoulder that told him "tanking is good, tanking saves souls"? Maybe we'll find it out in Chicago in April when Marcus Mariota is holding up a Bucs jersey.

And finally...

The "Wagging Finger of Shame" Award: Twitter

I love twitter. It's a necessary evil in our current time. But damn it had a horrible year in 2014. From jumping the gun on stories, to fake stories, to elements of stories that weren't true and yet thousands of people believed, to creepy men trying hit on women on twitter but only end up being abusive pieces of garbage, from people just flat saying horrible things to each other on twitter because it's twitter, to an obsession with disappearing planes, discussions on politics that only end up in crap flinging matches... and there's probably more that I missed but good God this year was awful in 140 characters. Twitter... you need to get better in 2015. Or at least take who I block and report for spam seriously. Although props to Michelle Beadle for directly calling out one of her abuses as a registered sex offender. Bravo.

I'll make sure to have the $10 trophies in the mail and on your respective doorsteps by January 2nd.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

2014 Week 17 Fantasy Advice

Merry Christmas to all those who will be celebrating, and for those who aren't, the perfect way to spend your day when everything is shut is to read fantasy football advice for a week you might well not be playing fantasy in, right? At least that's what I do...

Who to Start:

QB Cam Newton (CAR) vs. ATL: If you start him or Matt Ryan, you'll probably be in good shape for what is likely to be a shootout for the NFC South. Newton looked like his normal self against a better Cleveland defense, so going up against the worst unit in football is a favorable matchup for him in this decisive game.

RB Arian Foster (HOU) vs. JAX: You're probably starting him anyway, but his performance a few weeks ago against Jacksonville was very good, and with so much at stake for the Texans, it's likely we'll see the same determination from their best offensive player.

WR Odell Beckham (NYG) vs. PHI: It's not surprising that I say to start him anymore, is it? He's been absolutely dominant recently, and seeing how the Eagles secondary dealt with Washington's pass attack should make his owners mouths water.

WR Mike Evans (TB) vs. NO: Even though he may have well hit a wall in his last few games, the Saints defense is an appetizing one to find some form against, and this is his last chance to impress for rookie of the year votes too.

TE Delanie Walker (TEN) vs. IND: He's fourth among tight ends in receiving yards this season, which you probably don't know about because the Titans are garbage. The Colts defense can be had, especially against tight ends, so Walker could have a big day.

DEF Baltimore vs. CLE: Connor Shaw or Brian Hoyer? Not like it'll really matter for the Ravens, who have everything to play for against a Cleveland offense that has looked totally inept in their last 2 games.

Who to Sit:

QB Philip Rivers (SD) vs. KC: He's going to play despite his bulging disk, but his numbers are never that spectacular, even when he's healthy, so when he's not 100% and his offense isn't either, starting him is a risky play.

RB Joique Bell (DET) vs. GB: He's never had any real successes against the Packers when he's played them in his career, and the Pack are a much better team defensively at home than they are away from Lambeau.

WR Eric Decker (NYJ) vs. MIA: He was a risky pick-up before the season, and he's a risky play now for all of the same reasons from August until now.

WR Larry Fitzgerald (ARZ) vs. SF: Arizona's offense is a disaster zone right now, which doesn't bode well for Fitz who has gone almost completely quiet since Arizona's QB situation hit the skids. He's never done well against the 49ers in his career, either.

TE Travis Kelce (KC) vs. SD: He didn't have much success against KC in his first start against them this season, and even though the Chargers defense has been banged up, they always defend the Tight End well despite that.

DEF Cincinnati vs. PIT: Even though that defense was awesome on Monday night, it's not likely to be the same this week against the Steelers who torched the very same unit a couple of weeks ago.

3 Super Sleepers:

QB Teddy Bridgewater (MIN) vs. CHI: Has he been the best of the rookie QB's this season? You could make a very convincing argument that he has been. If you're in desperate need of a better QB, you'd be hard pressed to find a better option.

RB Dan Herron (IND) vs. TEN: If the Jaguars can find success running against the Titans, then anyone can. Boom Herron had a tough week last week in Dallas as most Colts did, but I think he's going to be just fine on Sunday.

WR Golden Tate (DET) vs. GB: If Matt Stafford cuts down on the mistakes, Tate could have a huge day against a susceptible Packers secondary who has been found out at home this season.

Buyer Beware:

WR Wes Welker (DEN) vs. OAK: The Raiders defense has been underrated this season, so keep that in mind for any Denver offensive player this week, especially after the disaster of a performance on Monday night in Cincy.

So that ends the sixth year of this fantasy column, which has morphed into a staple of anywhere I've written. It has been another good season, even though my fantasy team can't say that. Thanks to everyone who has read my little ramblings this season or any season since '09, and this column will return in September when the regular season does. In any event, enjoy Christmas, Week 17, and the New Year, and something will be concocted for the playoffs.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

2014 Week 16 Fantasy Advice

Happy fantasy championship week to all who are still in it! And to those who aren't, well there's always next season, right? Or, if your championship is somehow next Sunday, good luck in the semis? Sorry if I sound shocked, but I thought that became illegal in 2007.

Who to Start:

QB Drew Brees (NO) vs. ATL: Yes it's been an up and down season for Brees and the Saints, and I'm not entirely sure whether I can trust them at this stage in a game that will decide their season, but seeing what he's going up against, it might be worth riding Brees this time around. The Falcons secondary is pretty bad, and Brees and the Saints can't possibly lose 5 in a row at the Superdome, can they?

RB C.J Anderson (DEN) vs. CIN MON: It looks like the Broncos running back Wheel of Fortune has stopped on C.J Anderson's wedge, which is good news considering the Bengals have been torn apart by running backs at Paul Brown Stadium this season. With Peyton Manning's health also a bit of a question, it wouldn't be a shock to see Anderson get a large workload Monday Night.

WR Odell Beckham (NYG) vs. STL: Even though it's not really advice anymore to start him in fantasy, the Rams defense may spook some people into benching him. They've been had by receivers at the Eddie Jones Dome recently, so that fear is unfounded.

WR Mike Evans (TB) vs. GB: It's a shame he plays for a team as bad as the Bucs, because he's had a truly great season. The Packers are susceptible in the secondary as has been proven over the season, so Evans could have another big day out.

TE Travis Kelce (KC) vs. PIT: Since it's become pretty apparent that Alex Smith is allergic to throwing to his wide receivers, Kelce is the Chiefs biggest weapon in the passing game. That's good news for him and his fantasy owners since the Steelers have not defended Tight Ends well at all this season.

DEF Seattle vs. ARZ: Ryan Lindley and Logan Thomas. Come on now.

Who to Sit:

QB Colin Kaepernick (SF) vs. SD SAT: Boy has his fantasy star dimmed completely. He's really struggled against even the best fantasy matchups recently, which means that this one against a middling Chargers defense is no walk on the beach.

RB Trent Richardson (IND) vs. DAL: Sure Dallas' rush defense hasn't been that great all season, but with Richardson seeing his carries go to Boom Herron by the day, why would you even bother?

WR Josh Gordon (CLE) vs. CAR: Yonny Football's debut didn't go so well, did it? And here's some news that will make Josh Gordon's fantasy owners feel even better: The Panthers defense has been sneaky good recently, especially in Charlotte.

WR Percy Harvin (NYJ) vs. NE: If he struggled as mightily as he did against the Titans, who have one of the worst defenses in football, what's he going to reasonably do against New England, who has one of the best defenses in football?

TE Heath Miller (PIT) vs. KC: He's been able to score some recently, but he hasn't been a gamebreaker at this position all season. The Chiefs have been pretty stout against Tight Ends all season too.

DEF Kansas City vs. PIT: The Steelers are capable of having a game-breaking passing attack if they fire on all cylinders, and see the Bengals and Colts games as proof positive of that. The Chiefs defense isn't particularly bad, but the Steelers in a game of this magnitude could break out at any point.

3 Super Sleepers:

QB Kyle Orton (BUF) vs. OAK: Sure this isn't that enticing of an option, but he is playing against the Raiders who, despite what some performances may tell you, still have a pretty awful defense.

RB Tre Mason (STL) vs. NYG: Even though the Rams have had a running back carousel of their own, Mason has ended up taking the bulk of the touches, which is good news for him against a Giants defense that has not played well against opposing running backs all season.

WR Golden Tate (DET) vs. CHI: Since the Bears have almost officially packed it in, almost anyone going up against their defense might be a good play. Since Golden Tate is, go with him.

Buyer Beware:

QB Russell Wilson (SEA) vs. ARZ: He hasn't been particularly lighting up the scoreboards recently has he? Seeing the way the Cardinals defense has stepped up since their QB situation went to hell, it's quite possible that can happen again. If you have no better option, it's not worth sitting him, but keep it all in mind if you do.

Good Luck in Week 16!

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Bigger Oil Slick than BP

I'm not saying anything new here when I say that the Edmonton Oilers are a tire fire. They are, and everyone in hockey knows that. It's actually quite sad at this point that another high draft pick might be laid to waste in the wasteland of hockey that is Edmonton at the moment. It's pretty clear why the Oilers are such a mess at present, but what isn't clear is how they can fix it, or at least, why they're unwilling to fix it. It seems so obvious, and yet their only solution is to fire coaches like a crazy Italian football club chairman... certainly there has to be something better, right?

Bob Nicholson was formerly in charge of Hockey Canada and now he sits atop the perch with the Oilers, and you'd be hard pressed to remember that because so far his influence hasn't been felt. It's still the old boys network at the top with Kevin Lowe, Craig MacTavish and the dream that the glory days of the 1980's will return simply by keeping people around from then. The first and most obvious step to take is to fire Kevin Lowe, which would mean there might be some fresh air pumped into an organization that's smelling a bit stale now, but can the Oilers really do that? Boy Daryl Katz or someone else would have to swallow a ton of pride to do that, and as of now nobody seems willing to take a punch for the team. It also didn't help that the supposed breath of fresh air was Craig MacTavish, who promised sweeping changes when he was hired but has delivered very little. The fresh air always seems to be the coach, who is as interchangeable as an Edmonton winter coat. With MacT now patrolling the bench for an interim period, that means the Oil have had 7 coaches since 2009 with a new one about to come (you're up next Todd Nelson). And yes the numerous coaches and the myriad of systems has probably wrecked one or two of the young stars on that team, but there are further missteps here.

When the Oilers struck gold in getting the #1 pick in 3 straight seasons, they drafted the best player available every time in Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov. When you have the #1 overall pick, sometimes your hand is forced because it could be disastrous if you overthink it, and the Oilers never did. They made the correct decision drafting all of them, even if some of the picks behind them have had more recent successes. It's doubtful that any of Tyler Seguin, Gabriel Landeskog, or others would have had the same success in Edmonton as they have where they are now, partly because of the situation they're in now and partly because of the toxic situation in Edmonton. And even if you think they've missed on the top draft picks, which is not entirely wrong, the problems go deeper because the rest of their drafts recently have been absolutely terrible. Scott Howson and Jeff Tambellini are as much to blame here, especially since drafting well in Edmonton is of the utmost importance. Some of those players drafted from 2009 to now are either on other teams (Tobias Rieder having the game of his life for Arizona against Edmonton was particularly hilarious), stuck in OKC, or not in the NHL. The draft gambles have failed, which means the Oilers have no depth to call upon when the first options aren't working.

Drafting is so important to Edmonton not because they can't be a cap team, but because getting free agents to Edmonton is impossible without either overpaying them or doing the best sell-job in the history of hockey. Good trade targets with NTC's or NMC's probably also have Edmonton high on their lists as well, making it nearly impossible to improve without drafting well or taking drastic measures by trading one of the core players away. To date, no GM has been willing to even consider that, and while giving up on young players can make anyone look foolish (see Seguin, Tyler), in this situation it is absolutely called for. There is no other way to shake up that organization since changing coaches every other day hasn't worked and the good old boy network seems firmly entrenched. This isn't to say coaching hasn't been a problem because it has been, since the Oilers do play basically the same way on all 4 lines since the makeup of the team is too samey across the board, but when Dallas Eakins basically threw his hands up earlier this month, it gives you a clue as to how deep the problems run in Alberta's capital.

So what next for the Oilers? Craig MacTavish is coaching the team at least for now, until Todd Nelson takes over at some point soon. Since it's firmly been established that coaching is part of the problem, but not nearly the biggest part of it (Edmonton's advanced metrics are improving this season, so they're not Buffalo or Calgary bad but they're still in the bottom third of the league), and that the core of the team is untouchable, they're stuck. At some point, massive change is going to be made out of necessity because this cannot continue, right? But as has been proven here already, the hole the Oilers are in is so deep that it may take 5 years or more to get back to level ground because of poor drafting, poor coaching, etc. and that is truly sad.

The Oilers, despite what you might think of them now, are still a glory franchise in the NHL. They may be like what the Leafs were for so long, a titanic disaster zone, but the NHL is better when they are good. They're not too much different than the old Atlanta Thrashers or the 2000's Florida Panthers in terms of ruinous dysfunction, except for the microscope that is far larger and more detailed on the dysfunction than in the other 2 situations.

Only when the Oilers look inward will they realize the scope of the situation they're in, and only then will the fix begin. Until then though, this ruinous cycle they've gotten caught up in will continue to subsume them, no amount of nostalgia trips to the 1980's can fix that.

"There's a new bunch on the block" is a phrase that Oilers fans wish they could here when they think of 2015, not 1985.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

2014 Week 15 Fantasy Advice

If you're still alive in your fantasy league after last week, congratulations! If not, do not fear. Your fantasy team was likely was more functional than the Washington NFL organization, so it could always be worse. Or, you could be like me, since I have a bad fantasy team and my real one is also a tire fire. No wonder this column rakes in the readers... only 7 for last week's edition. Not much longer now...

Who to Start:

QB Joe Flacco (BAL) vs. JAX: It's fine if you are never sold on him away from home, as most folks are, but at home he is a much surer bet. The Jaguars defense is also far better at home than they are away, so this portends a good combination for the Ravens and Flacco, even if Torrey Smith is out injured.

RB Justin Forsett (BAL) vs. JAX: Normally I don't recommend two players from the same team in the "Start" or "Sit" column weekly, but I have to make a special exception here. Remember what I said about Rashad Jennings 2 weeks ago? Same thing applies here.

WR T.Y Hilton (IND) vs. HOU: Not only does he have awesome career numbers against the Texans, he seems like he's good value for at least one TD every week. Houston's secondary has already been torched once by Indianapolis this season, and there's no reason to think that won't happen again.

WR Odell Beckham (NYG) vs. WSH: Washington is a tire fire, and despite the fact that the Giants aren't much better, Beckham is still playing pretty well despite the fact that the Giants are out of the playoff mix. He'll still have a massive game on Sunday against whatever's left of Washington's secondary.

TE Greg Olsen (CAR) vs. TB: He's still statistically the best TE in fantasy football this season, and even without Cam Newton throwing him the ball he's a good start for Sunday. He usually does well against the Bucs and Derek Anderson is going to need a safety blanket.

DEF Seattle vs. SF: You were probably starting them anyway, but boy does this matchup look even tastier after the egg the 49ers laid against the Raiders last Sunday. Seattle has allowed 20 points in 3 games, and I doubt they'll allow any more than that on Sunday.

Who to Sit:

QB Ryan Tannehill (MIA) vs. NE: Tannehill is usually a different QB on the road than he is at home. It also doesn't help that he has not fared well in his 2 starts in Foxborough, with 2 TD's and 3 INT's on his CV. He's been playing well this season, but he's one I'd avoid.

RB Ryan Mathews (SD) vs. DEN: Not only do the Chargers struggle at running the ball, but their opponents this week have been very impressive at stopping the run all season. Mathews is also a bit dinged up after last week, so this could be a dicey matchup.

WR Dwayne Bowe (KC) vs. OAK: Can you believe that it's been over a year since a KC WR has scored a TD (That's a lot of 2 letter abbreviations in one sentence)? You really shouldn't be surprised because of the Andy Reid factor, but even with that said the matchup is unfavorable against Oakland (I know, scary right?)

WR Michael Crabtree (SF) vs. SEA: Not only has he been a fantasy failure this season, he's also done quite poorly in his past couple of games against Seattle. Steer clear of this one if you can.

TE Jordan Cameron (CLE) vs. CIN: He's only had 1 very good game this season, against Pittsburgh back in Week 6, and he's also coming off a concussion last week. The Bengals defense has been hit with some injuries, but the matchup is still dicey.

DEF Buffalo vs. GB: Even as they held their own in Denver last week, Aaron Rodgers is absolutely on fire so starting this unit is a bit of a risky play.

3 Super Sleepers:

QB Eli Manning (NYG) vs. WSH: Even though he's good for something dumb in every game, Washington is another level of absolute terribleness. He's still not a bad start this week.

RB Chris Johnson (NYJ) vs. TEN: The playing against your former team factor has come into play in fantasy land this week, amazingly. Johnson can still run a bit, and you know he'll be amped up to play his former Titans teammates.

WR Martavis Bryant (PIT) vs. ATL: The Falcons secondary is pretty bad, so Bryant could not only get some good targets, he could also have a big yardage day as well.

Buyer Beware:

QB Johnny Football (CLE) vs. CIN: It's going to be his first start on Sunday in the Battle of Ohio, and even though he's shown some good signs in his limited playing time, and the Bengals defense has also been hit by some major injuries, but I'd still steer clear because of the unknown factor, and it's fantasy playoff time too.

Good Luck in Week 15!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

You Have Arrived at Your Destination... We Just Took the Scenic Route Instead

The winding road to somewhere that was the 2014 college football season has ended, and we finally have clarity in the playoff picture. Alabama will play Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, and Oregon will duel Florida State in the Rose Bowl. If one looked at those 4 teams and 2 matchups in a vacuum, he would probably say that the 4 best teams in college football were selected to play in the playoff. But how the road took us here is the question. But no matter what 4 the committee settled on, someone was going to say they were wrong. And sure enough, cue the outrage. But even spliced in with the haziness and murkiness of this first year process, the 4 best teams were chosen to play in the playoff. That doesn't mean changes shouldn't be made, not just from the committee but college football in general. There's some reflection to be done.

Yes, many people are confused about how the #3 team from 5 days ago in TCU could find itself at #6 after winning by 52 points. And they should be, because it makes no sense. They should also ask why the same TCU team was ahead of Baylor all of this team when head-to-head supposedly didn't come into play until just now. The Big XII probably has to ask itself about its future, seeing as even though Jeff Long didn't say it outright, no conference championship game certainly affected the co-champs of the league negatively. We as a college football populace should ask why the slate was supposedly wiped clean after every set of rankings came out, yet they were released weekly anyway. We should ask why this is how the committee has decided to do business when college rankings are conditioned upon building samples of games weekly.

Yes, most of us will probably still ask for an 8 team playoff, which is still clearly the best solution. But amid the chaos, the fog, and the confusion that every set of rankings has brought to bear, the best 4 teams in college football will decide on the field who the best 2 teams and later 1 team in college football is. Not by an algorithm or complicated formula, or one set of sports writers coming together for a potluck lunch. And college football on the whole has benefited tremendously.

Say what you want about the weekly rankings show (and I'll do just that, they are useless and a detriment to the process), they sparked intense debate and thought about how the landscape will shake out week to week. When most of us honestly had no clue what one loss would mean to the overall picture, we'd eagerly await the weekend's games because we so desperately wanted to find out. Even though the BCS emboldened chaos when many things went haywire, one game could send the playoff haywire. And even when things went according to form as Championship Saturday 2014 did, somehow chaos reigned anyway. Even if you're mad about the process, and based on twitter and columns like this so many are, the process gave us the correct outcome.

What is going to change because of this decision? The Big XII might be on the verge of expanding, or creating a Championship game for a conference that doesn't need it (Baylor are the clear champs because they beat TCU head-to-head, at least to me). Many teams who scheduled cupcakes out of conference are now going to scramble to try harder to play better teams, even as the majority can't avoid it. Maybe the committee will think through their decision to release weekly rankings, or simply spell out their criteria better. There was too much confusion regarding the moving target weekly, even as the clock reset itself every Tuesday night. Fans will probably still ask the same questions next year as they've done this year, and every year going forward.

Very rarely will the decision be easy. When was it ever for the BCS?

All of that is the result of a process that even the 12 committee members still don't fully understand yet. It is in the first year of a 12 year growing process. The BCS wasn't totally clean in its first year, even though the 2 teams that played in the Fiesta Bowl that season were probably the 2 correct ones. There will be controversies ahead every season because there is no clean way to decide the best 4 teams in college football, as there isn't a way to decide basketball's 68 without controversy surrounding the bubble. Such is the nature of the beast.

Through all of the mindlessness, moving targets, and feigned outrage, the 4 best teams in college football are going to decide on the field who the national champion is, and that's all we can ask for, right?

We just had to take the scenic route to get there.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

2014 Week 14 Fantasy Advice

Here come the fantasy football playoffs, and it's crunch time. Every decision could end up being make or break for your season, and every crumb of news is equally important. So, this column is even more important than before. Hopefully, I can be of service in this time of need.

Who to Start:

QB Ryan Tannehill (MIA) vs. BAL: He has been incredibly underrated this season, both in fantasy and real terms, but he's been even better at home. He really is a better QB at Sun Life Stadium. The Ravens secondary has been decimated by injuries, and also is not that good away from home. This is a perfect combination for Tannehill.

RB Rashad Jennings (NYG) vs. TEN: What did I say about Jennings last week? Before he injured his ankle, he was dominant. If he goes against the Titans on Sunday, he'll have another fantastic game because the Titans defense has been absolutely woeful. If he can't go, Andre Williams is a decent sleeper pick.

WR Josh Gordon (CLE) vs. IND: The Colts defense has certainly been susceptible all season, especially away from home. Even as they are going through the inevitable QB questions that bringing on that Manziel fella invites, Gordon is still a must-start on Sunday.

WR Alshon Jeffrey (CHI) vs. DAL THU: Sure the Bears have been pretty poor at home this season and yes the Bears overall are not the same team from a year ago. Yet, Dallas' defense is starting to revert to the form many expected of them before the season, which means Jeffrey could have a monster game Thursday night.

TE Antonio Gates (SD) vs. NE: While the Patriots defense has been overall very impressive, it hasn't quite been as so against opposing Tight Ends. This bodes well for Gates, who has hit a dip in form but is a hard sit with a somewhat favorable matchup.

DEF New Orleans vs. CAR: They have been truly terrible this season on this side of the ball, but with the sieve that is Carolina's offensive line on the other side, and with Cam Newton's lack of weapons, the Saints defense is actually a nice play for Sunday.

Who to Sit:

QB Mark Sanchez (PHI) vs. SEA: Great offensive scheme + going against poor defenses (Houston, Carolina, Tennessee and Dallas all have bad defenses guys), has meant that Sanchez has become amazing to watch. But, the Seahawks have been absolutely dominant defensively recently, only allowing 6 total points. Watch out.

RB Trent Richardson (IND) vs. CLE: Isn't Cleveland terrible against the run, you might be asking? Well, they're playing better, Daniel Herron is vulturing carries away from Richardson, and oh by the way, Richardson is really bad.

WR Keenan Allen (SD) vs. NE: It is tough to bench him, but the Patriots have been pretty stingy against top receivers recently, and their defense has been incredibly stingy overall.

WR Michael Crabtree (SF) vs. OAK: He's been a fantasy no-show for most of this season, and that's putting it nicely. Even though the matchup against the Raiders is quite favorable, take almost any other skill position for San Francisco ahead of him.

TE Greg Olsen (CAR) vs. NO: Even though he's been one of the best fantasy tight ends all season, he's never had... hope you're sitting down... more than 45 yards in any game of his career against New Orleans. Welp.

DEF Buffalo vs. DEN: This should be pretty obvious, even as Buffalo has one of the more consistent fantasy defenses around, and was pretty dominant last week against Cleveland. But of course, Denver is a different animal entirely.

3 Super Sleepers:

DEF Minnesota vs. NYJ: It's the Jets. Come on now.

QB Colin Kaepernick (SF) vs. OAK: Even though he's been incredibly unreliable in fantasy land this season, have you seen the Raiders defense?

RB Joique Ball (DET) vs. TB: He's been inconsistent all season, but he at least warrants some flex-consideration because the Bucs rush defense has been absolutely awful this season.

Buyer Beware:

RB Steven Jackson (ATL) vs. GB MON: He had a 100 yard rushing game last week for the Falcons, which is kind of like seeing the white whale. It's not really a favorable matchup anyway, but Jackson is going to be important regardless if the Falcons are to pull off the massive upset. It's probably unlikely.

Good Luck in Week 14!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Let's Help Fix the Internet

Every now and again, I'll scroll through who I follow on twitter to drop some people and add new ones. I always am looking for women to follow, because I believe they're just as important to the overall discussion on twitter and in general about sports as men are. But, during that scroll I always say the same thing: "I don't follow enough women on here". I manage to find a few each time, but I still end up following mainly men because I don't have much of a choice. There are many female sports fans and writers out there; sometimes they outnumber men, and yet they are vastly outnumbered on twitter by men, and I've always wondered why. Sometimes I think it's because I'm not looking hard enough, but there's been another reason why women aren't on twitter in numbers:

If you're a keen follower of hockey, and hockey on twitter, you'll know the stories of Harrison Mooney and Steve Lepore. If you don't, look up their stories since I'm not in the business of repeating them, but let's say they said some... unappealing things to women on the internet; things that would probably get the police called on you in public. I've wanted to believe that these incidents are isolated, but being on twitter for more than 4 years now has proven me dead wrong. It's not just that women in sports twitter are harassed like that, it's that it's almost constant. None of these women can hold a conversation with some men it seems without it devolving to either a comment about how they need to get back in the kitchen or something about how they look. God forbid it gets into a private conversation, where the situation could devolve even further. It's a big problem, and my eyes have only just been opened up to how widespread it is.

That is the problem, and there is no use to continue talking about it in those terms, because I couldn't effectively speak about it. As a white male, there is next to zero chance that I'll be harassed on twitter like that once, let alone as many times as some women have dealt with in the past week. And, many of them feel too scared to tell anyone that they've been harassed, and if they do summon the courage to tell their story, someone is going to say that they're lying. It's truly disturbing. Honestly though, I think many women and sensible men have used enough air talking about the problem, and truly want to help find a solution. I do too.

So I ask the many women of twitter: What can I do to help make your experience twitter easier? Do you want me to call out those who are caught in their act? Do you want me to promote your work as much if not more than your male counterparts? I want to become a part of the solution, and even if I haven't done anything to make the situation worse (thankfully) on twitter, I feel like I haven't done enough to make the environment on twitter a more friendly one. It feels like men need to be more educated as to how to act with women on the internet (can't believe so many don't know how to), but how can that be done effectively? I can't name the solutions since I'm not the one directly affected by the problem.

I've always thought in idealistic terms about the internet, especially that the good it does will wash over the bad that inevitably rears its ugly head every now and again. Recently, that's been changing. And that's a terrible thing.

I want to be part of helping women feel more accepted and welcomed in sports discussions on twitter and everywhere else. They have every right to be. Tell me what to do, and I'll try to help.

Doing nothing and saying nothing it seems has only made the situation worse. It's on all men to help make the situation better.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

2014 Week 13 Fantasy Advice

It's that time of year when we all engorge ourselves on Turkey, Family and Football. Mainly that last one though. It's not that family isn't important because it is, but really, what says America more then spending an entire day on the couch watching football and stuffing your face with food? (Probably many things but they can't be said here so keep them to twitter if you can).

Who to Start:

QB Tony Romo (DAL) vs. PHI THU: I was wrong about the Dallas Cowboys. I think many people will admit they were wrong about the Dallas Cowboys. Tony Romo has played exceptionally well this season; maybe better than he has ever played before. The Eagles are not the same team away from home, and when they play good teams, so Romo could be in for a feast Thursday afternoon.

RB Rashad Jennings (NYG) vs. JAX: Either it's karma or just what it's like being a Jaguars fan, but not only do former Jags do really well when the leave Jacksonville, they'll do even better when they play them. Rashad Jennings falls into that latter category, and now that he's healthy, he could have a big game on Sunday.

WR T.Y Hilton (IND) vs. WSH: He's almost a must start in every league now, as he consistently performs week in and week out, even when his QB has an off day. The Washington defense is an insult to the word defense, so he could have an even bigger day Sunday afternoon.

WR Josh Gordon (CLE) vs. BUF: He looked like he hadn't missed a beat in his return to action last Sunday against Atlanta, and that should continue against the Bills on Sunday, who have not had the best luck in the secondary this season, Monday night aside.

TE Greg Olsen (CAR) vs. MIN: The matchup isn't amazing, but Greg Olsen always seems to produce even in those circumstances. With Cam Newton's offensive line being a turnstile at best, Olsen will be a safe target and probably rake in the points in Minneapolis.

DEF Miami vs. NYJ MON: If you watched any or all of the Jets disaster against the Bills on Monday, then this won't be a surprise to anyone. Miami's defense is also really good too.

Who to Sit:

QB Philip Rivers (SD) vs. BAL: Something is off with Rivers, and the Chargers offense. They didn't look good at all against the Rams and Raiders, and they never look even close to how they do at home when they travel. The Ravens are on a bit of a roll now, and even though their secondary has holes, it's doubtful Rivers will be able to exploit them.

RB Trent Richardson (IND) vs. WSH: Sometimes he surprises and puts up a decent performance, but more often than not he doesn't. Not only does he have to split carries and workload with Daniel Herron, the Washington rush defense isn't really all that bad.

WR Vincent Jackson (TB) vs. CIN: Even though he is coming off one of his best games of the season last weekend in Chicago, he has two things working against him here: One is Mike Evans, and two is the Bengals defense has been incredibly consistent (and good) this season even when the offense hasn't.

WR Andre Johnson (HOU) vs. TEN: He's fallen off the fantasy cliff so to speak this season, and he has not performed well against the Titans recently either. Even though Tennessee's defense is pretty woeful, Johnson is a risky play.

TE Martellus Bennett (CHI) vs. DET THU: It's November, and Bennett's performances in months not named September have been pretty bad, as this column has loved to point out once the calendar flipped.

DEF New England vs. GB: Even though the Pats defense has been so impressive this season, the Pats haven't faced Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau yet this season, but have to this Sunday, which means that you should firmly root the Pats D to your bench.

3 Super Sleepers:

QB Alex Smith (KC) vs. DEN: Denver's defense is not the same unit it was last season, and in these big games, usually Smith performs well. He did so against New England back in September, and he needs to in order for Kansas City to beat Denver. He has a chance to on Sunday.

RB Justin Forsett (BAL) vs. SD: It's amazing to think how far his stock has risen in Baltimore after his disastrous season in Jacksonville in 2013. After a 200 yard outing in the Superdome, he could be in for another big day against the Chargers who aren't spectacular defending the run.

WR Marques Colston (NO) vs. PIT: Even though the Saints are mediocre at best and the Steelers play better defense at home, it's hard not to be tempted by this matchup based on the Steelers propensity to slip up in the secondary regardless of where they are playing.

Buyer Beware:

RB Jonas Gray (NE) vs. GB: Is he even on the Patriots roster anymore? Didn't seem like it against Detroit. Based on the Hoodie's running back rotation, it's hard to see Gray getting the Lion's share (pun intended) of the carries in Green Bay.

Happy Thanksgiving and Good Luck in Week 13!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

2014 Week 12 Fantasy Advice

There's only one week left until Thanksgiving, so it's time to start thinking about what we're all thankful for. I have a few ideas, and surprisingly, the Jacksonville Jaguars are not something I am thankful for. I now believe they may be a spite on my soul for something I've done in a past life that I can't quite articulate. But I am thankful for fantasy football and this column, which has made me look at least a little bit smart.

Byes: CAR, PIT

Who to Start:

QB Colin Kaepernick (SF) vs. WSH: Even as the 49ers struggle to decide what their offensive identity is, Kaepernick might be starting to find his feet. The 49ers schedule gets tougher as the season winds down, so this Sunday's matchup against a Washington secondary that made Josh McCown look like a world beater is a favorable one.

RB Matt Forte (CHI) vs. TB: If the Bears are to climb back into the playoff race, they're going to need Matt Forte to run the ball with efficiency... at least more than he has done recently. He might get off to a good start on Sunday against a Bucs rush defense that has struggled recently.

WR Josh Gordon (CLE) vs. ATL: He's back. Even though I'm hesitant to start someone who is cold like Gordon will be Sunday, the matchup against the Falcons is just too good to pass up. They are the worst in the league against the pass for a reason.

WR Odell Beckham (NYG) vs. DAL: Despite Eli Manning's struggles recently (and there are plenty of them), Beckham has still found a way to have a big game every week despite that. Dallas' defense isn't quite what some people think it is, so even if Manning and the rest of the Giants struggle, Beckham probably won't.

TE Dwayne Allen or Coby Fleener (IND) vs. JAX: If Allen is healthy, he's about as close to a must start as possible. Not only do the Jaguars struggle to defend Tight Ends, Allen is a red zone pilferer of touchdowns. But, his injury status remains a question. If he's healthy, go with him. If not, go with his partner in crime in Coby Fleener.

DEF Buffalo vs. NYJ: The weather in Western New York is frightful, and it's almost as frightful as watching the Jets. Even though they're coming off a bye and a great performance against Pittsburgh, the Jets are still a really bad team on offense. The Bills need this game, and they'll probably get it against a Jets team that hasn't won a road game yet this season.

Who to Sit:

QB Alex Smith (KC) vs. OAK THU: Even though Smith has been very consistent this season, that means his numbers haven't been spectacular. Going with him as your #1 on a short week and on the road is a dicey proposition, and the Raiders defense has been playing much better of late.

RB Jonas Gray (NE) vs. DET: The winner of the Patriots running back Russian Roulette this week is... Even though he was awesome last Sunday night in Indianapolis, there are 2 factors going against him this week. One, is that the Lions still have the best rush defense in football. Second is that there could be another UDFA running back that Wally Pipp's him.

WR John Brown (ARZ) vs. SEA: Despite the QB changes around him, Brown has still managed to put up big fantasy numbers anyway. His roadtrip in Seattle this week is a tough spot for him though. Even though the Seahawks aren't the same team from a year ago, they're still third against the pass and obviously tough to beat at home.

WR DeSean Jackson (WSH) vs. SF: Jackson has been the one constant in the constant turnover that  is the Washington offense. With the struggles that unit has been having (and the calls for Colt McCoy (!!!!!!)), and the 49ers defense still being what it is, he is a risky play on Sunday.

TE Jared Cook (STL) vs. SD: His numbers this season have been iffy, and the Chargers defense has been pretty good against Tight Ends this season as well. The Rams are also prime for a letdown after a big win against Denver as well.

DEF Chicago vs. TB: This matchup might seem like a decent one. It's the Bucs on the road, in the cold, and almost everyone knows the Bucs struggle in the cold. But, it's Lovie Smith coming home to Chicago, and I bet he wants a good measure of revenge against his former team.

3 Super Sleepers:

QB Mark Sanchez (PHI) vs. TEN: He looked a lot more like the New York Jet Mark Sanchez last Sunday and not the guy that set the world on fire last MNF. I think he'll be back to the form of the latter against the absolutely putrid Titans defense on Sunday. The Eagles also don't seem vulnerable to trap games, as this one certainly can be.

RB Denard Robinson (JAX) vs. IND: Robinson has established himself as the #1 back in Jacksonville, and despite their record, Robinson has become a viable fantasy option for the Jags. The Colts were gashed by Jonas Gray last week, so it figures that Robinson could almost pull off the same feat.

RB Dan Herron (IND) vs. JAX: With Ahmad Bradshaw done for the season, Herron is going to see more touches in the backfield. The Jaguars have allowed the most receptions by running backs this season, so Herron could be a decent option in PPR and standard leagues.

Buyer Beware:

QB Russell Wilson (SEA) vs. ARZ: He's not the same Russell Wilson as a year ago. Also, the Cardinals defense is incredibly aggressive, so even though he'll have the home field advantage, it could be a long day at the offense for the Seahawks signal caller.

Good Luck in Week 12!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The 32nd Team at a World Cup isn't an "All-Star" Team

The World Cup of Hockey will be returning in 2016. It hasn't been formally announced yet, but it's a formality. The ability to hearken back to the old Canada Cups of yore, and even the 1996 World Cup which was a breath of fresh air for USA Hockey is going to be amazing television, and who doesn't want to see more USA-Canada games? The NHL and NHLPA have wanted to control a major tournament themselves for the longest time, and this is finally their avenue to do it. But there's catch. Once you get passed the US, Canada, Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic and Russia, there are not enough NHL players to populate an international roster of say Switzerland or Slovakia (even Russia is a stretch) without dipping into the Euro leagues. The powers-at-be would like nothing more than to avoid that. So what do you do? Can't have a six team tournament, can you?

One team, according to Chris Johnston of Sportsnet, is going to be a Ryder Cup style "Euro All-Star" team, essentially the best of the rest. So, I guess playing with the logo of the EU (even though Switzerland is not part of the EU so the irony will be palpable), Zdeno Chara, Jonas Hiller, Anze Kopitar will all compete for... actually I have no idea what. So that's team 7, what about team 8? The other squad will apparently be a North American all-star team of some kind. What kind? Either a cast-off team of USA/Canada rejects (I wish I was kidding), or a young all-star team, or in essence the best of North America's under 23 that wasn't already picked for Team USA or Team Canada.

If it's a struggle to fill out the 8 team roster with just NHL players for a World Cup (meaning countries competing against each other), then it's not a World Cup. It's a glorified shinny tournament.

An ideal World Cup would have the best roster possible of players from all leagues representing their countries, but the only difference from the Olympics would be the NHL controlling the whole thing instead of the IOC. There would be qualification for the 2 open slots that couldn't be filled by NHL players (3 if you really want to stretch for Russia), and players from the KHL, Swiss League, Czech league, etc. would be able to compete. Obviously, the NHL wants to keep this whole pie to themselves, meaning that this solution is impossible. The NHL wants to do something fresh and new to keep a little slice of intrigue about a World Cup... and yet it makes the tournament seem like a gimmick and money grab more than anything.

The Olympics maintain their intrigue because of the genuine country on country battles that take place. Winning a Gold Medal is one of the highest honors any athlete can achieve, and in soccer, that same feeling comes from winning a World Cup. This tournament would achieve neither of those things, especially if team Euro-reject All-Stars has to play a 3 game series against Canada to win the World Cup in Toronto. It doesn't really feel like a level playing field.

Since, if we're being honest, many of us just want to see US-Canada as we do almost every year at the World Juniors, here are couple of ideas that may be better solutions than having an "Euro all-star team of countries we couldn't fill out because not enough of them play in the NHL".

1) Just do a 7 game US-Canada super-series. Sure the other countries get excluded, but if under oath, most of us would say we only care about 3 teams in truth: The US, Canada and Russia. Since this Russian team wouldn't nearly be the best they could ice, just have the US and Canada play each other in 7 games before training camps start. Have 4 in the US (NYC, Boston, Chicago and LA) and 3 in Canada (Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto), and in 2 years, have a Canadian city host the 7th game if needed. Alternate the sites in order to keep it fresh. People would still tune into NBC or CBC and watch it because it's USA-Canada.

2) Make it a 4 team tournament. Lop off two teams if you can't fill them out instead of shoehorning bastardized all-star teams into the tournament. Just have the US, Canada, Sweden and Finland. Or, if you can fill out Russia, have them replace Finland. Or, if you're really concerned, make it a 6 team tournament with the ones you can fill out with NHL/AHL players.

3) Talk to the Euro leagues about them possible releasing their players or starting their season later. Sure they don't want to be dictated to by the NHL, but they could possibly be given a cut if this grows into something bigger. And, fans in Europe will still want to watch the tournament even if their league's players are not participating, so the Swiss League would have some leverage here, for example.

I've been awaiting a return of the World Cup of Hockey ever since the 2012-13 lockout ended, and the idea of another international hockey tournament has always excited me. Now that news has leaked that it won't really be the tournament that most of us expect, the excitement has been frittered away. It's not a tournament for national pride anymore, it's only for money. It was always for money, but at least if it looked like a real World Cup that fact would have at least been  somewhat hidden.

If this is the kind of money grab the NHL and NHLPA want, then I'd rather see ads on jerseys tomorrow, NHL expansion in Las Vegas, Seattle, Quebec City and Markham all at once, the league controlling all advanced stats on almost anything over this so called "World Cup".

FIFA at least hasn't screwed up the World Cup... yet. This wouldn't be a World Cup, it would be an All-Star game.

And no one likes All-Star games.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Love the Game, Hate the Bosses

FIFA's own report on the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup's was released today, and if you expected anything other than the free pass Russia and Qatar got, then you're not well-versed in the ways of FIFA. The 42 page report even went on to criticize England's bid of all things, which drew the suspected ire from almost everyone in the World. FIFA's "independent" investigator Michael Garcia lambasted the report, who is appealing the findings, even though his own thorough investigation can't be released publicly due to "legal reasons", according to FIFA. Is this very confusing? Absolutely. Is it incredibly stupid? You bet. Is it also entirely expected? Again, yes. Even if everyone else on the planet knows about something fishy underneath the surface, FIFA just wants to sweep it all away without anyone noticing. They're terrible janitors in that regard.

The debate over FIFA has certainly heated up (pun absolutely intended) with Qatar's claim that they were never expected to host a World Cup in the summer even though that's exactly what they bid as if they were doing and so did every other country in competition with them did. Qatar's also been tagged with numerous human rights allegations, and of course every single bribing accusation under the sun. But, it's become abundantly clear that FIFA will not put the competition up for a re-vote even despite all of the evidence. And what little hope many people had in Michael Garcia's report was washed away quickly when it was revealed that his report couldn't be released publicly despite his criticism of Joachim Eckert's recent findings. But again, all of this was expected.

The 2022 World Cup will be held in Qatar no matter what, even if it was proven that FIFA's entire executive committee was bribed to high heaven. It will probably be held directly in competition with either the NFL season or the Olympics (lord knows FOX is excited about that). No number of detailed journalistic investigations from the US, England, Germany or anywhere else will change the ludicrousness of that. At this point, most soccer fans are resigned to seeing the World Cup being held in a place that doesn't deserve at a time that makes no sense because FIFA didn't realize that the desert is hot in the summer, whether they had stacks of cash in front of their eyes or not. There may be only one hope left for disillusioned soccer fans: The FBI.

How? What does the FBI have to do with anything related to an organization based in noted neutral safe-haven Switzerland? The New York Post recently revealed that former FIFA exec and noted racketeerer Chuck Blazer became a FBI informant, which meant silly things like his cats having their own expensive NYC apartment revealed, but also gave the FBI a key in in their investigation of FIFA. The FBI can hopefully use the information Blazer has in order to indite more officials for probable corruption and bring them to court. Possibly then, the FBI will sue FIFA. If that happens however, something interesting may happen.

FIFA automatically suspends federations from international football that bring up lawsuits again them, and if the FBI was to do that, the USSF would be suspended from all competitions, including the World Cup. No doubt FOX, who just spent an arm and leg to gain FIFA TV rights for the States would be ecstatic with that development. They may then jump in on the lawsuit party and sue FIFA themselves in US court. And what of the many international sponsors for FIFA, who would then lose the ability to market themselves in the biggest Capitalist economy on the planet and might raise a stink with FIFA or even pull their sponsorship?

This situation was muddled before, and is probably going to become even more muddled as time goes on. The hope that many harbored was that it would force FIFA to have a re-vote for the 2022 World Cup host, but that hope's faded long ago. Now, it's about the future of organized global soccer and whether change will be made in time for the next go-round at FIFA's HQ. They've already stated they'll put the bid process open to the whole FIFA board instead of just the executive committee, which is like dumping a small bucket of water on a 5-alarm fire. But this whole mess has done nothing other than harden this belief among soccer fans of all types:

Love the game, hate the people running it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

2014 Week 11 Fantasy Advice

Can you believe Week 11 is already here? This week we might see the first team eliminated from playoff contention officially in the Oakland Raiders (as if they weren't already in reality), and a team reach 9 wins as well. There are going to be new QB's, great games, and maybe a primetime game that isn't an abomination! Hooray!


Who to Start:

QB Matt Ryan (ATL) vs. CAR: While his road splits are very poor in comparison to his home ones, it's hard to think of this matchup and not feel a little giddy. The Panthers defense, especially their secondary is abhorrently bad this season, and Ryan still has Roddy White and Julio Jones to throw to.

RB Mark Ingram (NO) vs. CIN: In the endless merry-go-round that is the New Orleans Saints backfield, it looks like Ingram is on top for now. He's been running the ball very well of late, and is going up against a Bengals rush defense that has lost a lot of its luster over the season. He could be in for another big day.

WR DeSean Jackson (WSH) vs. TB: He's been on quite a hot streak recently, and that's likely going to continue against the Bucs, whose secondary has been absolutely shredded by almost everybody this season.

WR Kelvin Benjamin (CAR) vs. ATL: Despite the fact that Cam Newton has essentially become a crash test dummy behind the turnstile that is Carolina's O-Line, Benjamin if he sees the ball should have a comeback game against a Falcons secondary that might be as bad as Carolina's.

TE Dwayne Allen (IND) vs. NE: He doesn't put up a ton of yards, but boy does he pilfer red zone targets. He has 7 TD's this season and most of them come from short yardage situations. The Patriots haven't defended Tight Ends particularly well this season, so Allen should figure to get at least 1 TD Sunday Night.

DEF Denver vs. STL: Welcome back Shaun Hill! Your first test, should you choose to accept it, is to lead your Rams into battle against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos! Uh... *cowers in fear*... why can't Austin Davis play this week?

Who to Sit:

QB Russell Wilson (SEA) vs. KC: He's very hard to bench even with a matchup as poor as this one looks on paper, but if you have a better option available it might do you well to consider it. The Chiefs are incredibly tough on defense at Arrowhead, and the Seahawks have just not looked the same away from home.

RB Reggie Bush (DET) vs. ARZ: Not only do his carries seem to be slipping away by the minute due to injury concerns or what have you, the Cardinals have one of the league's best rushing defenses regardless. Steer clear.

WR Andre Johnson (HOU) vs. CLE: Up next in the "mediocre QB's to start for Houston" derby is Ryan Mallett, who may have ties with Bill O'Brien but that does little to inspire confidence for Andre Johnson this week, who has to go up against Joe Haden even if Tom Brady was chucking passes to him.

WR Michael Floyd (ARZ) vs. DET: His fantasy production was falling off even with Carson Palmer at the control, and it's harder to have much trust in Floyd to produce when Drew Stanton takes the wheel. The Lions defense is also really really good at the same time.

TE Martellus Bennett (CHI) vs. MIN: The September Stunner, the October Occult, and the November No-Show. In layman's terms, that means Bennett is awesome in September, and not very good in other months. My calendar says it's November 12th right now so...

DEF New England vs. IND: This one should be fairly obvious, but in case it isn't: Andrew Luck is always a torrent at home, and even though New England's defense has been spectacular of late, it can be had in games like this one.

3 Super Sleepers:

QB Teddy Bridgewater (MIN) vs. CHI: As most rookie QB's are, he's up and down. But this week he plays the Chicago defense which is certainly not your father's Chicago Bears defense. Bridgewater could be in for a breakout game.

RB Ryan Mathews (SD) vs. OAK: He's back! Even though he'll likely split carries and time with Branden Oliver, he should still be a decent fantasy option all things considering against the Raiders.

WR Mike Wallace (MIA) vs. BUF THU: Ryan Tannehill might be inconsistent overall, but he's consistent at home. The Bills have a tendency to shoot themselves in the foot even on defense, so this could lead to a big game for Mike Wallace.

Buyer Beware:

QB Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) vs. TEN MON: While the Titans are very terrible, the Steelers may be equally terrible away from home. Their only wins were against Carolina and Jacksonville, and they just lost to the Jets on the road. Forgive me for not wanting to trust them away from home at all, even in Nashville.

Good Luck in Week 11!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

2014 Week 10 Fantasy Advice

Sorry for this being a day late, I was ill yesterday and couldn't write. I am better now. Was I ill because I was lugging heavy equipment around a major city on little food and water, or was it because I really wanted to find an excuse to not have to write for a day? You be the judge.


Who to Start:

QB Colin Kaepernick (SF) vs. STL: He struggled mightily last week against the Rams at home, but this game against New Orleans could kick-start his season. The Saints defense is usually porous (last Thursday against Carolina aside), and Kaep has been consistently effective on the road in his career.

RB Ronnie Hillman (DEN) vs. OAK: I think we've found who Denver's new running back is, and it's Hillman. Now consistently getting the bulk of the carries, Hillman should be in for a big day against the Raiders, because most everyone has success running the ball against Oakland.

WR Julio Jones (ATL) vs. TB: Now while he and his team have struggled mightily this season, the Bucs are the perfect tonic to cure what ails you. Jones has had really good success against Tampa in his career, and it also helps that the Bucs are generally really bad.

WR Kelvin Benjamin (CAR) vs. PHI MON: Benjamin is one of the best rookies in the NFL this season. His stature and hands are something to behold, and he has single-handedly made Carolina's offense not be the worst in football. The Eagles secondary is prone to give up the big play, and Kelvin Benjamin can usually make the big play. He could have a monster game.

TE Owen Daniels (BAL) vs. TEN: The former Texan is still trucking along quietly, and having many big games to boot. The Titans are generally quite terrible, and usually can't defend tight ends either, so Daniels could have a nice rebound game from last week's quiet showing in Pittsburgh.

DEF Arizona vs, STL: Austin Davis, meet another one of the NFC West's gauntlet. He's been able to beat both San Francisco and Seattle this season, but Arizona and this defense is at another level. The Rams have scored 20 points combined the last 2 weeks combined, and they'll score fewer than that on Sunday as well.

Who to Sit:

QB Jay Cutler (CHI) vs. GB: As the Jeff George comparisons look more and more apt, that means Cutler will throw more and more interceptions. Also, the former Vandy QB has never played well at Lambeau in his career, and you can bet the Packers will be ready for him this Sunday Night.

RB Lamar Miller (MIA) vs. DET: Did you know the Lions still have the league's #1 total and rush defense? Well now you do, and now that you know that, it's likely you won't start the inconsistent Lamar Miller on Sunday.

WR Percy Harvin (NYJ) vs. PIT: While Pittsburgh's defense may not be the same steel curtain of old, it's still pretty solid and opportunistic. With the questions at QB for the Jets, Harvin is absolutely one who should be benched on Sunday.

WR Reuben Randle (NYG) vs. SEA: While the Seahawks defense isn't the same unit as a season ago, they're still pretty tough to beat at home. Randle has seen his share of targets with Victor Cruz on the shelf, but this game presents a multitude of matchup problems for him.

TE Delanie Walker (TEN) vs. BAL: It's not gone well for him this season, and against the Ravens who are typically stout at home defensively, it could continue for Walker this Sunday in Baltimore.

DEF San Francisco (SF) vs. NO: It's the Superdome, the Saints, and the 49ers defense hasn't looked great on the road all season.

3 Super Sleepers:

QB Mark Sanchez (PHI) vs. CAR MON: He looked surprisingly competent against Houston last week, and this week's matchup against Carolina is quite favorable. Their defense has not given up fewer than 28 only 3 times this season, and 2 of those games were at home and the other was against Tampa Bay. He could have a huge Monday Night.

RB Bobby Rainey (TB) vs. ATL: If Doug Martin is still on the shelf due to injury, Rainey could have a massive day against the sieve that is the Falcons defense, especially their porous run defense.

WR Mohamed Sanu (CIN) vs. CLE THU: It almost looks as if it won't matter that A.J Green is back and healthy, since Sanu will still get his targets and catches every week. The Browns will look to try to take away Green, so Sanu will be left open to reap the rewards.

Buyer Beware:

QB Ryan Tannehill (MIA) vs. DET: While he's starting to look like a bonafide top-tier QB in this league, this matchup against the Lions may quickly send him back to earth. The Lions defense has been incredibly good this season, especially at home.

Good Luck in Week 10!

Monday, November 3, 2014

To Tank or not To Tank: That is the Question

Tanking is one of those words in sports that always incites a reaction no matter what. When someone mentions "tanking", everyone's ears perk up. Normally, talk of tanking was restricted to the NBA and the NBA only... that is until this NHL season, when it became clear that tanking is now a crossover term. Since the 2015 NHL Draft is so loaded with amazing and even generational talent, it would make sense that teams like the Buffalo Sabres would try their hardest to put themselves in position to put Connor McDavid in a blue and yellow sweater next season, or at worst Jack Eichel. But the way they've gone about it is so... deliberate that it has made people wonder whether not only is it good for the game, but whether they'd want their team to do it too. The answer is not as clear-cut as you'd think.

The NBA's proposed anti-tanking measures would have made it almost completely fruitless to throw away a season in the hopes for a better draft pick, even if all it would have done is make teams tank to get in the bottom 4, not just the bottom 1. The NHL's sudden Lottery changes can be construed as the same thing, even though the Sabres have every right to cry foul. But while the NBA has been used to tanking for so long, it feels so alien for NHL onlookers. The last generational talent, a one Sidney Crosby, had his draft completely randomized by a lockout that wiped out the season. Eric Lindros, the one before him, made deliberate and brazen machinations so he didn't have to play in Quebec City (even though they ended up just fine in the end anyway), and we will never know what would have happened to Wayne Gretzky since he never had to be drafted by any team anyway. So that's why watching a team like the Sabres deliberately ice one of the worst teams in the modern era of the NHL is such a shock to the system. NBA fans are used to seeing teams like the Sixers brazenly suck in the hopes of finding the next LeBron James or Derrick Rose, since one player can so dramatically change the fortunes of an NBA team. But in the NHL? Nope.

While the Sabres are historically bad, and it certainly stinks that season-ticket holders had to pay good money to go in and watch 41 games of that slop, I don't think many of them are complaining about the strong likelihood that Connor McHockey (hi Wysh and Marek!) or the next American hockey hero Jack Eichel will don Sabres colors next season. It certainly is painful to watch the current iteration of the Sabres, but the future is bright enough that the darkness of this season doesn't matter much. Whether other teams will join them in the race for the bottom is not clear yet, especially since teams like Calgary and Winnipeg are performing above expectations at the moment, but there will certainly be teams joining them come the trade deadline.

But would you want your team to do what Buffalo has decided to do, even knowing the results aren't assured? I'd bet the majority would say go for it. One key difference between the NBA and the NHL is that the chance that one players totally transforms the fortunes of a team is almost nil for the latter, compared to a much higher rate for the former. Players worth tanking for almost never are available, and even the 10 year gap between Crosby and McDavid is sort of small once mulled over. You weren't seeing teams like the Avs tank for Nathan MacKinnon, or the Oilers (as hard as it is to believe) tanking for Taylor Hall. Being bad still has an element of luck to it, unless you are this year's Sabres, so tanking until now was almost completely worthless in the NHL.

Does that mean tanking will go into mothballs until the next Connor McDavid is draft eligible? Probably not, as there will be teams who feel their futures are best served by being as bad as possible (deliberately or not) and putting their hopes on chance, but tanking like what Buffalo is doing this year is likely to become an artifact of a past time until a generational talent comes again. The new draft lottery rules are part of this, but there aren't many players that it's worth being so bad for.

That said, if your team replaced the Sabres as the deliberate tanker, you'd probably champion it. There may never be a draft like the upcoming one ever again, so why not cast your lot?

It's not like the Sabres have much choice anymore.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

2014 Week 9 Fantasy Advice

This column is coming out later than usual because I've been absolutely mesmerized by Game 7 of the World Series. Can you blame me?


Who to Start:

QB Colin Kaepernick (SF) vs. STL: Fresh off a bye week, Kaepernick should be licking his chops at facing the Rams, a team he has usually tortured during his career and a team whose defense has been uncharacteristically vulnerable for most of the season.

RB Ahmad Bradshaw (IND) vs. NYG MON: I love revenge, don't you? Bradshaw could be in for some against his former team whose run defense has been next to abysmal all season. The Colts could use some balance in their offense after the way their defense got shredded in Pittsburgh last week.

WR Jeremy Maclin (PHI) vs. HOU: He had a huge week against Arizona a week ago, and he could be in for another big day against the Texans on Sunday. Their secondary is quite vulnerable, and Maclin has improved to becoming one of the most consistent wideouts in football.

WR Kelvin Benjamin (CAR) vs. NO THU: He's been the most consistent receiver for the Panthers all season, and he should continue that form going up against the Saints who have been absolutely torched through the air on the road this season.

TE Antonio Gates (SD) vs. MIA: His connection with Philip Rivers is making his fantasy owners think it may be 2007 all over again. He's been on fire recently, and the Dolphins defense isn't the stoutest against Tight Ends.

DEF Cincinnati vs. JAX: The Jaguars offense is still young and growing, which means they turn the ball over a lot. And Blake Bortles has thrown 4 pick-sixes this season, and taken a good number of sacks. The Bengals defense is finally looking like itself again, and it should continue on Sunday.

Who to Sit:

QB Joe Flacco (BAL) vs. PIT: He's been pretty consistent this season, but one nut he's never been able to crack in his career is the Pittsburgh Steelers. He's never had all that much success against them in his career, and while the Steelers defense is shaky, they always show up for Raven games.

RB Zac Stacy (STL) vs. SF: The concern is two-fold here. One is the running back by committee that the Rams are currently using right now, and the second is that the 49ers are the best team in football at stopping the run.

WR Vincent Jackson (TB) vs. CLE: He may have been one of the biggest fantasy busts at wide receiver this season. His season will get no better against the Browns who have been so stout against opposing wideouts, especially at home.

WR Julian Edelman (NE) vs. DEN: He's seen only 13 combined targets over the Patriots last two games, and as other receivers get the bulk of the targets, Edelman should be firmly hitched to your bench even in a bye week situation.

TE Charles Clay (MIA) vs. SD: Against a team that usually is torched by tight ends, Clay got only 1 receiving yard. The Chargers are one of the best defensive units against Tight Ends, so Clay is a risky play on Sunday.

DEF Dallas vs. ARZ: They showed a few signs of the old Cowboys defense last Monday night didn't they? The Cardinals offense doesn't make a lot of noise, but they are very consistent in scoring points, so the Cowboys may not be the best option on Sunday.

3 Super Sleepers:

QB Andy Dalton (CIN) vs. JAX: His stats have not been amazing this season, but this week he gets a bit of a break against a Jaguars secondary that has been absolutely decimated by injuries recently. Maybe he'll get A.J Green back as well.

RB Ben Tate (CLE) vs. TB: Tate hasn't been seeing all of the carries, especially the goal line ones, but this matchup against the Bucs is a favorable one.

WR Andre Holmes (OAK) vs. SEA: Garbage time points alert? You'd figure Seattle will get up big early, which means garbage time fantasy points are well in play. He is a quiet little bye week option.

Buyer Beware:

QB Eli Manning (NYG) vs. IND MON: I know the Colts got absolutely torched last weekend in Pittsburgh, but that's not how their defense is usually. This is the same unit that shutout the Bengals the week before, remember. I have a feeling the real Colts defense will show up big on Monday Night.

Good Luck in Week 9!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Finally... We got the Chaos we Wanted

We all wanted it, and finally, we got it. We had so long clamored for it, begged for it, wrote books about why we wanted it so much, vented about how everything other than it was utterly worthless and needless, and some even wrote songs about why we wanted it. No, the "It" I'm referring to is not Tim Curry playing a demonic clown that somehow is a spider from another world, it's the College Football Playoff. And if you've been watching any college football this season, it's been omnipresent... which is for the best. 

As the first rankings from the playoff committee are to be released tomorrow, it's time to look at what the Playoff has done for college football this season. There were some people (similar to the renegade Japanese soldiers on some Pacific Islands still fighting World War II 30 years after it had ended), who believed that the death of the BCS also meant the death of the meaning of college football's regular season. Hopefully, those people have found their good hiding spots again. 

This college football season has been the most exciting that I personally have ever seen. That might have something to do with the rise of Mississippi State and Ole Miss from nowhere to become powers in the SEC, or maybe it's because Maryland football is somewhat relevant for the first time in about a decade, but mainly it's because of the playoff's ever looming presence. Even as we know so little about it, including how the committee members will think and decide who they deem are the 4 best teams in college football, it still hangs over us like the fog in San Francisco every morning. 

The playoff has meant teams have started scheduling bigger out of conference matchups than ever before, and even if those come 7 years in the future, the big games this year still have a hold, such as the Michigan State-Oregon game from September, or even some of Notre Dame's games such as the one against Florida State and the looming one with Arizona State. It's also meant that one loss is by no means killer to a season, which under the BCS system one loss was next-to-always fatal. 

If the BCS still existed, the rankings would have spat out the obvious: Mississippi State and Florida State are on a path to play each other for the National Title unless one of them loses, which then would bring about chaos. But who of the many one-loss teams would be deserving of playing an undefeated Florida State... or would the Seminoles deserve it at all based on their cakewalk of a schedule? The debate would be furious, and eventually meaningless, seeing as the decision was almost completely out of the hands of any human beings. The Playoff has opened up the debate even further, but the lack of clarity has meant that every game is even more important than before.

The murkiness of picture has meant that every game means even more than normal, and gave teams that had early season hiccups like Ohio State, Michigan State and Oregon chances of rebounding and reviving their chances of going to the playoff. Even if they don't make it, there are still 4 prestigious bowl games for them to play in and very likely a great team there to meet them. Everyone's list of who the 4 best teams are looks dramatically different, and for good reason because nobody knows anything for sure heading into November, and that just adds to the drama. With the BCS, the path would at least have been somewhat clear barring absolute 2007-like chaos and insanity.

Even as the rankings are released tomorrow, they essentially mean little because there are 6 more weeks of football to play. Who knows whether the Bulldogs of Starkville will still hold the fort down, or whether maybe Baylor or Michigan State gets back in the race because of the craziness above them... and that's the glory of it.

Who said the College Football Playoff was going to diminish the meaning of the regular season? If you can find them, they're probably holed up in some Mariana Island trench thinking the BCS is still king. 

Or maybe they're still commenting that Condoleeza Rice has clear PAC-12 bias. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How Far is Too Far?

Note from Matt: This isn't necessarily a sports story but since I have nowhere else to put it it's going here. Hopefully that doesn't alienate you from the usual fare of mediocre fantasy advice and occasional thoughtfulness this blog usually provides.

Today there was a horrible tragedy in Ottawa with a shooter on Parliament Hill that killed an off-duty Canadian soldier. It has been an absolutely terrible day for all of Canada, and anyone who knows a good deal of people in the country (me). It's also been a day to reflect on the state of the media because we as consumers had a chance to look at how our neighbors to the north cover a tragedy like this. Us in the United States have a tendency to blow things out of proportion because of "HOT TAKES" and the like, but today is the day that proved that being an adult is sometimes the best way to get people through tragedy. It should not need to be a revelation to say that, but in the modern media world apparently it is, and here's why:

The job of the news media is not telling you what to think; it never has been that. The media tells you what to think about. Why is Ebola especially freaking everyone out senseless right now? The media is droning on and on about it, and doesn't feel the need to stop. While Ebola is a major news story that deserves to be covered, the way it's being covered is farcical, and that's being kind. So naturally, when the story in Ottawa started breaking, many people south of the 49th parallel turned away from US cable news like the plague, which is the correct move.

For example as I am typing this, CNN's lower-third reads as if the attack was a guaranteed terrorist attack, and how is anyone, let alone in Atlanta not Ottawa or Toronto going to know that just 10 hours after the tragedy began to unfold? The authorities in Ottawa and with the government have been especially careful to not jump to any conclusions, even with how many shooters there were/are, and the (Canadian) media has followed suit. That is such a breath of fresh air considering the experiences we have dealing with major tragedies in this country where conclusions and sources are bandied about as if those words have magical powers.

The website "The Daily Beast" might be the most blatant offender of this. The headline is in bold print and says "Terrorist ends Canada's Innocence". Below it, the tag says further, "A gunmen attacked Parliament in an unprecedented attack bringing violence to the very heart of Canadian democracy." That doesn't sound all that bad, but consider earlier today it said that the attack "brought real terrorism to the country for the first time".  Tim Mak of the website wrote the piece that went below it, and I hope he knows that what came above it in the headline and the tag are both patently false, because if he doesn't someone has mislead a lot of people. And what for... page clicks?

Why did CNN and other stations do what they ended up doing for most of the day for? Just a few people to stop on their customary and nonchalant channel scroll because "OMG Terrorism, ISIS AHHHHHHHHHHH"? Why are reputable people doing this to themselves now?

I'm not naive enough to believe that this hasn't been going on for quite a long time and that it hasn't been a massive disservice to every sane human being and been carved open by the John Oliver's and John Stewart's of the world, but today seemingly was my final straw. I could deal with falsities during the Sandy Hook shootings and the Boston Marathon Bombings, but apparently I draw the line at a shooter on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. That was the straw that broke the camel's back. Then I read an article from the wonderful website Mediabistro, and then it hit me why I finally snapped today: The coverage of the tragedy in Canada is so markedly un-American that it is sickening.

Not just from the newspapers and local stations around Ottawa, but national coverage from Global, CTV and especially the CBC. Peter Mansbridge is unlike those we have now manning the national news desks (aside from Brian Williams), but we did have men like that in the past in Dan Rather, Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw. The media world is vastly different now than it was then, but why does it stick in Canada and not here? CBC being the public broadcaster has absolutely nothing to do with it, for the record.

As Mediabistro said and I'll parrot here, Mansbridge was calm, collected, patient and not frenetic, breathless or panicked. There was a point in time when we had anchors like that in this country, but sadly we do not anymore. At one point Mansbridge even asked the many who had tuned in to watch his coverage (about 3 hours straight by the way), "what do we know with certainty right now?" With certainty... that's a phrase you'll never hear Wolf Blitzer saying anytime soon.

Yes, these media companies need to find ways to get viewers so they can get advertising so their heads can stay above water, and this is true for many traditional and new media sources as well, I get that. But the CBC is HEMORRHAGING MONEY. And yet they can still tackle a news story with poise, solemnity and calm without going into a panic or trying to connect dots that don't make any sort of picture. The reason why the CBC and to a lesser extent the other Canadian media outlets can do this and not any American one is not solely because of a cultural difference, and shouldn't ever be said as such. Sure the world has changed here, but it's changed everywhere. If you can train people to think one way, you could certainly train them back too.

Two other notes from a really impressive day for journalism at Canada's public broadcaster: While they were not first in reporting that the Canadian solider shot at the War Memorial was dead, they were certainly by that point right. They had done enough reporting to convince only themselves as journalists that they were right. Just because someone from the Globe and Mail had reported it first didn't mean that Peter Mansbridge had to jump around on TV waving his arms saying "CBC News confirms". The focus of the story was in fact the story, not the people reporting it or the organization they worked for.

We can learn a thing or two from everyone in Canada who reported so well the tragic events of the day today, not just as journalists (as I am), but also as consumers. We can accept news that comes not first to us, but correctly, and news that is reported to us with calm and not a frenetic energy that confers nothing but cluelessness.

An old anchor named Frank Reynolds once said, "let's nail it down, let's get it right". Today showed us how far away us in US media are from doing that on the regular, and how much we have to learn from our friends above 49' North.

2014 Week 8 Fantasy Advice

Are we already halfway through this NFL season? Apparently we are, as I just checked the calendar and it's October 22nd. That's amazing considering this season has felt like it has been going on forever, but that may have something to do with the Jaguars being a partial disaster. 

Byes: NYG, SF

Who to Start: 

QB Russell Wilson (SEA) vs. CAR: Sure the Seahawks are slumping right now, but the Panthers are likely going to play the role of slump-buster on Sunday. The Panthers have allowed more than 37 points in 4 of their last 5 games this season, and the Seahawks offense could desperately use a jolt. Wilson is likely to be a major beneficiary of a secondary in flux.

RB Andre Ellington (ARZ) vs. PHI: As has been proven already this season, the Eagles are an absolute sieve against the run. Andre Ellington has been running at a very high level the last couple of weeks, so combine those two factors and you get a prime fantasy matchup.

WR Golden Tate (DET) vs. ATL: Sans Calvin Johnson, it looks like the Lions haven't missed a beat. Golden Tate has gotten the yards left in the Johnson vacuum, and this Sunday in London he gets to face another absolute sieve in the Falcons defense. Here's another must-start.

WR Mohamed Sanu (CIN) vs. BAL: Even though the Ravens have been stout against the run, their pass defense has been somewhat suspect. Without A.J Green for targets, Sanu could see similar to what he had been getting in the past couple of games (Carolina not Indy), and might have himself a good afternoon.

TE Greg Olsen (CAR) vs. SEA: The Seahawks defense has fallen off from last season's torrid pace, and it's nowhere more evident than in their defending of Tight Ends. It's been poor to say the least. Greg Olsen is one of the best Tight End's in football, so he could be in for a big day in a potential shootout.

DEF Miami vs. JAX: The Jaguars won in spite of a bit of an offensive disaster last week, and Miami's defense on its good days is pretty formidable. This could be a fantasy steal if you need it.

Who to Sit:

QB Matt Ryan (ATL) vs. DET: This game is not in the Georgia Dome, and Matt Ryan isn't the same quarterback away from the Dome. To add to the worries, the Lions defense is absolutely stout right now as one of the best in football. This has the potential to be an absolute beatdown.

RB Branden Oliver (SD) vs. DEN THU: Denver's rush defense is better at home than it is on the road, and while Oliver has done pretty well in the absence of the rest of San Diego's running backs, this is a tetchy matchup on Thursday night.

WR DeSean Jackson (WSH) vs. DAL MON: He's been up and down all season, partially because of his own form and also because he's had to catch passes from 3 different QB's this season. With Colt McCoy (!!!!!) starting, the concern for Jackson is amplified none the least due to Dallas still having a very good defense.

WR Percy Harvin (NYJ) vs. BUF: Yes, I didn't scratch him from the "Sit" list after he was traded so I apologize, but it doesn't change the fact that Harvin has now gone to a team with a downgrade at QB and is still run first. Starting him is a major gamble.

TE Martellus Bennett (CHI) vs. NE: I didn't want to believe that he was going to go into his usual October swoon, but he has. Since that's happened, and the Patriots are coming off a 10 day break, Bennett is not a good play in Foxborough on Sunday.

DEF Arizona vs. PHI: The Eagles offense could explode at any time, and despite the run defense being incredibly solid, the pass defense is exploitable. I'm a little nervous about starting the Cardinals despite my reservations about the Eagles as a whole.

3 Super Sleepers:

QB Alex Smith (KC) vs. STL: He's been solid if unspectacular all season, which is nice for the Chiefs and their fans but not great for fantasy owners. But the Rams defense has been nothing to write home about all season, so there's a chance for a possible breakthrough in the Battle for Missouri.

RB Lamar Miller (MIA) vs. JAX: He's started to catch fire pretty quickly due to his recent performances against Green Bay and Chicago, and despite the Jaguars doing a pretty good job against the run last week against Cleveland, injuries are starting to take a toll.

WR Sammy Watkins (BUF) vs. NYJ: The hero last week for the Bills has a chance to continue pretty good fantasy form against a Jets secondary that has been absolutely ravaged by injuries.

Buyer Beware:

QB Jay Cutler (CHI) vs. NE: Someone had compared him recently to Jeff George, and I'm starting to buy into those comparisons more. He's become woefully inconsistent, and even though he's not going up against a brutal matchup problem, he can still either have an amazing or completely terrible day. As of now, he's a risky start.

Good Luck in Week 8!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

2014 Week 7 Fantasy Advice

Week 7 already? Where has time gone? Since I'm a Jaguars fan, I'm assuming time has gone into a vacuous void of nothingness wondering what it did to deserve such treatment. But I digress.

Byes: PHI, TB

Who to Start:

QB Philip Rivers (SD) vs. KC: I might start a campaign to get him some MVP love, because he's a large part of the reason why the Chargers look so dominant. Remember he's done what he's done with about 70 different centers so far this season. His hot hand will continue against Kansas City, a team he's dominated over his long career.

RB Ben Tate (CLE) vs. JAX: While the Jaguars defense has overall been better the last 3 weeks, it's still a favorable team to put people out against, and Ben Tate is no exception. Even if he lost some carries to Isaiah Crowell, he'll still see the bulk of the touches on Sunday, which means he could be in for a good day at the office.

WR Randall Cobb (GB) vs. CAR: If you're wondering what happened to the once stout Panthers defense, it's probably a good idea to start Cobb against them. The defense has given up 30+ in 3 of their last 4 games, and has been torched through the air numerous times. Cobb might not get the love Jordy Nelson does, but he should get some of the stats this week.

WR Golden Tate (DET) vs. NO: With Calvin Johnson still nursing an injured ankle, Matt Stafford's favorite target is now going to be Golden Tate, which is good news against the porous Saints secondary. The Saints defense is even worse on the road too.

TE Jason Witten (DAL) vs. NYG: Tony Romo's best friend should have another good afternoon against a Giants defense that was just torn apart by Brent Celek and Zach Ertz last week. Witten is starting to find his feet, and that's good news for his fantasy owners.

DEF Seattle vs. STL: This would be obvious if it weren't for what happened last week, but it's Austin Davis against the fearsome Seahawks defense. It's self-explanatory.

Who to Sit:

QB Andy Dalton (CIN) vs. IND: Some of that inconsistency that has flummoxed Bengals fans and neutral observers alike is starting to show up again, especially against good teams. The Colts are a good team. He's thrown 8 TD's and 8 INT's in his last 6 road games. That's worrisome.

RB Ronnie Hillman (DEN) vs. SF: In Montee Ball's absence, Hillman seems to have become the feature back. While that's a nice story, it's not been an easy time for him on the stat sheets. The 49ers are typically stout against the run, so this is a worrying play if you have to make it.

WR Percy Harvin (SEA) vs. STL: I don't want to say I told you so but... I didn't like that trade when it was made and Harvin's done little to dissuade my fears. He's had an incredibly rough start to the season, and the Rams matchup isn't an amazing one either.

WR Pierre Garcon (WSH) vs. TEN: Is everyone asking for RG3 to come back yet? Yes? Maybe he can revive Pierre Garcon when he does. It's going to be hard without the Baylor man for Garcon against the Titans, who have been surprisingly stout against the pass this season. They also have a decent pass rush that will cause Kirk Cousins some problems.

TE Travis Kelce (KC) vs. SD: He had been a target machine... until he played San Francisco. The Chargers won't help in the attempt to get him more, since they've been incredibly stout defending Tight Ends for most of the season.

DEF San Francisco vs. DEN: This is another self-explanatory one right here. Even though the 49ers defense is typically stout this season, they're going up against Peyton Manning at Mile High. This does not bode well.

3 Super Sleepers:

QB Brian Hoyer (CLE) vs. JAX: The man who has kept Mr. Manziel firmly rooted to the bench has been somewhat of a revelation this season, and he's continued to throw the ball well all season. The Jaguars defense has been playing better, but can still be had against good offenses, of which Cleveland has one.

RB Lamar Miller (MIA) vs. CHI: With Knowshon Moreno on IR, Miller is Miami's #1 option at RB, and this week's matchup against the Bears who have been quite lackluster at home especially on defense is a favorable one.

WR Andre Holmes (OAK) vs. ARZ: He's a big sleeper for you... Andre Holmes. Yes, a Raider has made the cut. Derek Carr threw the ball all over the yard last week, and did a surprisingly good job of it, and while Arizona's defense is stout, it can still be had in the secondary.

Buyer Beware:

QB Cam Newton (CAR) vs. GB: He's been incredibly impressive this season, especially in the face of a distinct lack of playmakers, injuries and a turnstile of an offensive line. But, at Lambeau, all of that may finally catch up with Cam against the Packers. This is a touchy start.

Good Luck in Week 7!