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.