Wednesday, October 25, 2017

2017 Wee 8 Fantasy Advice: the Columns that keep content on this blog

Fantasy football maybe this year more than ever has just been a slog. So many injuries to key players, and not many superstar surprises emerging have combined for this to just be a brutal year. And now we're in the worst part of said brutal year: the six team bye weeks. You'll be stretched thinner than ever, and seasons can be made or broken at this time of year too. Being prepared is key, and in these weeks of all weeks, you can be really caught off guard.


Start of the Week: WR Doug Baldwin (SEA) vs. HOU

Seattle's offense has been so dicey fantasy, that normally reliable options such as Baldwin fell on hard times to start the season. But he's start to emerge from that fog after a series of good games, and the matchup against Houston is very promising. The Texans defense is thin and not very good in the secondary, which makes Baldwin highly appealing.

Who to Start:

QB Cam Newton (CAR) at TB: It's really hard to peg Cam as a fantasy QB. Some weeks, like against the Pats, he's gangbusters. And then last week against Chicago, he's very poor. Tampa's defense is nowhere near where anyone expected it would be, so this offers up an opportunity in a thin week for some success.

RB Jordan Howard (CHI) at NO: He hasn't met his lofty expectations this year, and plenty of that has to do with the tire fire that has been the Bears offense, but teams are starting to learn how to defend Howard as well. He still gets his touches though, and that is key against a Saints defense that while it's getting better, still gave up a big day to Aaron Jones last week.

WR Keenan Allen (LAC) at NE: Where has he gone in recent weeks? His slide in the fantasy realm is concerning, but there is promise against New England this week. While their defense looked much better against Atlanta, for this column until further notice, it's still twice is a trend, not once, so to speak.

WR Adam Thielen (MIN) vs. CLE LONDON: Without Stefon Diggs, Thielen has really been the focal point of Minnesota's offense. He's not scoring touchdowns, but with the targets he's getting, he's reeling in plenty of catches and yards. The Browns are such a good matchup for everyone, that it's hard to not start Thielen even in a thin week.

TE Jason Witten (DAL) at WSH: He finally popped up after a few weeks in fantasy hibernation, and with a favorable matchup in Washington on hand, his fantasy good spell may just continue into another week. Tight End has been such a dicey proposition in fantasy land this year, this may just be a solid option.

DEF Minnesota vs. CLE LONDON: While they didn't rack up points against the Ravens last week, it's the Browns. If they don't light it up this week, when will they?

Sit of the Week: QB Matthew Stafford (DET) vs. PIT

Stafford has been inconsistent this year, and next, he gets to face the stiffening Steelers defense that has been locking down just about all opposing QB's in their way. Stafford is a dicey play even in a thin week like this one.

Who to Sit:

QB Josh McCown (NYJ) vs. ATL: So you may be thinking to yourself: Josh McCown, a good fantasy QB? Yep, he's actually been one of the bigger surprises this season, especially late. This Atlanta defense isn't the unit it used to be, but it's still pretty impressive, so if you need a flyer this week, there may be better ones available.

RB Lamar Miller (HOU) at SEA: Miller has been decent this season in running and catching for Houston, but no matchup for opposing running backs is ever favorable against the Seahawks. Plus, D'Onta Foreman is starting to emerge as a legit handcuff too. 

WR Terrelle Pryor (WSH) vs. DAL: I don't want to say I told you so, but before the season, I was telling everyone who would listen that Pryor was a very risky high draft pick for many reasons, the least of which was that I wasn't sold on him as a wideout yet. And lo and behold, he's been quite bad this season, which means even against a bad Dallas secondary, it's hard to recommend starting him over Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder. 

WR DeSean Jackson (TB) vs. CAR: He's been hit or miss this season for the Bucs, which isn't what many of us expected to see. Carolina's secondary hasn't been the reason why they're losing of late, so Jackson, who struggled a touch in Buffalo last Sunday, could struggle again here.

TE Jack Doyle (IND) at CIN: As the only player on the Colts who is really fantasy viable anymore week to week, it's hard to bench him in a thin week at a thin position. Yet, the Bengals have given up one TD to tight ends in six games, so Doyle may have to face more trouble this week.

DEF Denver at KC MON: Denver's defense is not the reason why the Broncos are struggling, but at Kansas City on a Monday night does not bode well for the Broncos, especially if their offense continues to struggle as it has been the last few weeks.

3 Super Sleepers:

QB Case Keenum (MIN) vs. CLE LONDON: Yep, another random fantasy option like him who could be great in a six team bye week. As stated elsewhere in this piece, and everywhere else in the world, the Browns are terrible at football, so if you need a one week flyer, he's a fantastic option.

RB Christian McCaffrey (CAR) at TB: I'll admit, I loved McCaffrey coming out as a fantasy option this year because of his ability to catch the ball from the backfield and add something different to this running game. But, it hasn't panned out that way, not even close to that. However, if he can't succeed against this Tampa defense on Sunday, he may be banished to flex play only for the rest of the way.

WR Mohamed Sanu (ATL) at NYJ: He, like all Falcons, was quiet last week in in Foxborough against the Pats, but he could see a decent uptick this week against the Jets, who gave up big chunks of yards and fantasy points to Matt Moore last week.

Buyer Beware:

WR Demaryius Thomas (DEN) at KC MON: The matchup on paper is favorable here for one of the highest drafted wideouts in fantasy land this year, but with the way the Broncos offense is sputtering, and the game on the whole that they are facing, I'm very skeptical of Thomas this week in spite of the week, and matchup.

Good luck in Week 8!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

2017 Week 7 Fantasy Advice: Is anyone left that isn't injured?

Maybe it's just me, but there seem to be more debilitating injuries to standout stars in reality and fantasy football this year more than ever. Perhaps it's perception overshadowing what seems to be otherwise fairly normal, but after Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone, perception is way stronger than reality. With these injuries piling up, and the league knee deep in bye weeks, these may be the toughest times on these fantasy streets.

Byes: DET, HOU

Start of the Week: QB Matt Ryan (ATL) at NE

Matt Ryan's 2016 season looks like a thing of the past, but some of that form may be recaptured in Sunday night's Super Bowl rematch. The Patriots secondary is not very good, as all passers who have gone against them this season have thrown for more than 300 yards each. Ryan may not be an every week starter anymore, but this week he certainly is.

Who to Start:

QB Dak Prescott (DAL) at SF: Most people coming into the season didn't think of Dak that highly as a fantasy QB, but his performances in the last three games (two of them Cowboy losses) have perhaps changed that opinion. Going up against the putrid 49ers secondary may allow the streak to continue into a fourth straight game of wonderful fantasy form.

RB Mark Ingram (NO) at GB: With Adrian Peterson in Arizona, Ingram has asserted himself even more as the Saints featured running back. He has quietly had a very solid season, and that should continue against a less than stellar Green Bay rush defense that is dealing with a myriad of rough injuries. Alvin Kamara is also a decent flex play.

WR Rishard Matthews (TEN) at CLE: He hasn't been that spectacular in a fantasy sense this season, but almost everyone is worth a gamble against the Browns and whatever it is that they call a secondary. They've given up seven TD's to wideouts this season, and that somehow seems like a low number.

WR Adam Thielen (MIN) vs. BAL: No matter who is healthy at any of the skill positions in Minnesota, Adam Thielen is a heavily targeted man. He hasn't scored a TD this season, yet is a machine, especially in PPR leagues thanks to his targets. Even against a rough-ish matchup in Baltimore, Thielen is worth a gamble.

TE Jimmy Graham (SEA) at NYG: He has not come anywhere close to living up to the hype when he was traded from New Orleans to Seattle. That said, he's been a sneaky decent fantasy play in the last few games for Seattle, and he is again against a Giants defense that cannot defend tight ends.

DEF Carolina at CHI: Mitchell Trubisky may have lead the Bears to a victory in Baltimore, but that wasn't much due to him and the offense. Carolina's defense, even potentially without Luke Kuechly, is a wise fantasy play considering the troubles rookie QB's like Trubisky usually have in these games.

Sit of the Week: QB Jameis Winston (TB) at BUF

I still love Jameis as a fantasy option, but not nursing a shoulder injury, and not on the road against a better than expected Bills secondary this week. The Bills have only given up two TD passes all season in their first five games.

Who to Sit:

QB Philip Rivers (LAC) vs. DEN: The no-fly zone was not the reason Denver stumbled at home against the Giants, holding Eli Manning to almost nothing through the air, as expected. Philip Rivers has never performed well against the Broncos at home in his career, and Denver is likely going to be mad after what happened last Sunday night. This isn't a good recipe.

Any Seattle RB at NYG: The Giants have a bad rushing defense. So why then would I say not to start any Seattle running back (Lacy, Rawls, McKissic)? Because no one knows the running back pecking order in Seattle until it shapes itself out over the course of a few weeks. Even though this is a decent matchup, it's worth avoiding all Seattle running backs until they prove themselves consistently as viable fantasy options.

WR Sammy Watkins (LAR) vs. ARZ LONDON: He is listed on the Rams roster, but you'd be hard-pressed to know that even watching Rams games, where he barely gets targeted, let alone gets meaningful touches. Patrick Peterson will likely match up against him Sunday, which means he might be erased from the stat sheet even further.

WR Martavis Bryant (PIT) vs. CIN: I'm not saying to sit him because he requested a trade and then sloppily backtracked on those comments. I'm saying to hit him because JuJu Smith-Schuster has clearly surpassed him on the depth chart, and because Cincy's defense is underrated against the pass.

TE Martellus Bennett (GB) vs. NO: Tight Ends on teams whose #1 QB's are hurt are always sneaky plays in fantasy land, but even with Aaron Rodgers, Bennett wasn't performing up to expectations. With Brett Hundley under center, this doesn't bode well.

DEF Baltimore at MIN: The Ravens defense has been a solid fantasy option in spite of their injuries and up and down performances, but even with Case Keenum, the Vikings are not a good matchup here. Minnesota's offense is consistent and doesn't make many mistakes, which is not a good combination for opposing fantasy defenses.

3 Super Sleepers:

QB Marcus Mariota (TEN) at CLE: On one good leg, Mariota looked quite solid Monday night against the Colts, even if his fantasy numbers didn't show it. Against Cleveland's defense, or lack thereof, Mariota, one week healthier, should fare a lot better.

RB Adrian Peterson (ARZ) vs. LAR LONDON: Mea culpa: all of us who analyze fantasy football whiffed on Peterson last week against the Bucs, big time. While he's probably not hitting the heights from last week against a good Rams defense, he's a viable flex option for sure now that he's established himself as the feature back.

RB Marlon Mack (IND) vs. JAX: For all the talk of how great Jacksonville's defense is, they don't stop the run very well, in their losses that is. It's therefore worth the risk to start the rookie Marlon Mack, who has flashed great potential every time the Colts give him the ball.

Buyer Beware:

RB LeGarrette Blount (PHI) vs. WSH MON: Consistently inconsistent in fantasy land: that's been Blount's story this season. After some rock star performances against the Giants and Chargers, he's been quiet against the Cardinals and Panthers. Washington held him in check in week one, and that could easily happen again on Monday night.

Good luck in Week 7!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

2017 Week 6 Fantasy Advice: At least there's the other football

In one code of football, recent days haven't been very kind to the sport in the country. Thankfully, the this code of football, the one with quarterbacks, running backs and fantasy columns like this one, is still going strong. It has problems too, but there's no argument as to which country in the world is the best at this code football.

On to the fantasy world now and with the injuries that continue to ravage teams, and with bye weeks fully in view, scouring the waiver wire for hidden gems through all the dirt and grime is now an even more important task. There are options available almost everywhere, and there are tough decisions to be made with those players and your lineups. But that's why you read this column, right?


Start of the Week: QB DeShaun Watson (HOU) vs. CLE

Watson has been absolutely ripping up league's passing defenses in the last three games. 12 TD's in the last three weeks plus a boatload of yards has meant Watson is now a potential top five QB in fantasy the rest of the way. That will continue against the Browns who have been abysmal defending the pass this season.

Who to Start:

QB Kirk Cousins (WSH) vs. SF: Cousins' start to the season hasn't been quite as great as many would have expected or hoped, however coming off a bye week, this is when Cousins starts to round into form. The 49ers secondary has been hit hard by a litany of less than special QB's this season, including Jacoby Brissett, so Cousins could be in for a big day.

RB Marshawn Lynch (OAK) vs. LAC: The Chargers finally picked up their first win last week, but their rushing defense isn't really the reason why. They're getting ripped up on the ground week after week by all sorts of different backs. This is why Lynch is probably going to go Beast Mode on Sunday.

WR Chris Hogan (NE) at NYJ: Who says Tom Brady didn't ever have a great Julian Edelman replacement? Without Gronk last Thursday, Hogan became Brady's go to receiver, and he delivered. He's a PPR machine, but even in normal leagues his matchup against the Jets is a good one.

WR T.Y Hilton (IND) at TEN MON: It doesn't seem to matter that Andrew Luck isn't throwing him the ball, because he's still had a few monster weeks from a fantasy perspective. In his career, Hilton has destroyed the Titans, including 12 catches for 230 yards last season. That form should continue on Monday.

TE Evan Engram (NYG) at DEN: Eli Manning has to throw the ball to someone, and Engram may be the only warm body left. Denver has not been great at defending the tight end this season, so Engram may thrive while the Giants on the whole do not as their season has gone down the drain.

DEF Atlanta vs. MIA: Jay Cutler threw for less than 100 yards against a pretty poor Titans secondary last week, which should give a rejuvenated and rested Falcons defense something to lick their chops over.

Sit of the Week: QB Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) at KC

If he says he doesn't have it anymore, whether he's joking or not, you may want to believe him. While he's OK enough at home, he's a disaster from a fantasy perspective on the road. The Chiefs defense gave up plenty of yards and points in garbage time, but they may be salivating at their prospects here.

Who to Sit:

QB Philip Rivers (LAC) at OAK: Oakland's defense isn't that great, so why wouldn't you want to start Rivers in this matchup? Rivers hasn't really been able to take advantage of good matchups this season, and he's not been great against the Raiders in his career, especially recently.

RB Adrian Peterson (ARZ) vs. TB: Peterson should now be the feature back in Arizona, which should mean he's a great fantasy option, right? Nope. Arizona's offensive line is horrendous, and the Bucs have a good run stopping defense. There's also the possibility that Peterson is slowly bedded in to Arizona's offense, meaning Andre Ellington may get the bulk of the load early on.

WR Demaryius Thomas (DEN) vs. NYG: Janoris Jenkins is one of the league's best shutdown corners, and the Giants have held all big name opposing wideouts in check this season. Trevor Siemian still hasn't done enough to inspire that much confidence, so Thomas is a risk this week.

WR Randall Cobb (GB) at MIN: Aaron Rodgers in looking in other directions for production at the skill positions, and Cobb's fantasy stock has taken a hit because of it. Cobb only has 12 catches for 131 yards and one TD in four games against the Vikings, and that secondary is no joke either.

TE Jared Cook (OAK) vs. LAC: Whenever a backup QB comes in to the fold, there's always a slight boon for the tight end on that team as a fantasy option because of the safety blanket factor. But with Cook, that's not likely the case this week, whether Manuel or Carr is playing. The Chargers defense has shut down Travis Kelce and Evan Engram already, so shutting down Cook doesn't seem like a big stretch.

DEF New York Giants at DEN: This defense was expected to do big things this year, but hasn't, as evidenced by their 0-5 record. Denver's offense is multi-dimensional, and after a bye week of rest, they should be ready to attack a Giants defense that defends the pass OK and not much else.

3 Super Sleepers:

QB Cam Newton (CAR) vs. PHI THU: Cam is looking like MVP Cam once again, and that's shown up in his performances. Outside of the game against Arizona, the Eagles secondary has been vulnerable. That may be the case again against a Carolina offense that is starting to stretch its legs.

RB Jay Ajayi (MIA) at ATL: He's a good flex option at this point because of his sub-optimal performances against bad rushing defenses recently, but a good flex option does mean he has potential against an Atlanta rushing defense that hasn't been up to par yet this season.

WR Jaron Brown (ARZ) vs. TB: He's becoming a go-to target for Carson Palmer, and against a weak Bucs secondary, that may bode well for a team that will need to throw the ball to stay competitive.

Buyer Beware:

RB Tarik Cohen (CHI) at BAL: He is a sparkplug that has the potential to break out at any time, but only seems to do so in fits and spurts. The Ravens rushing defense is underrated even with their litany of injuries, so watch out for Cohen here, no matter where he is in your lineup.

Good luck in Week 6, and go American football!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

2017 Week 5 Fantasy Advice: Bye Week Blues

If your fantasy football season hasn't already been derailed by debilitating injuries, poor drafting and most especially, reading into this column, welcome back. It's the point in the season where bye weeks are going to play a major role in how you structure your team, so this column becomes more important than ever, that is if you trust me to give you solid advice in the first place. I don't know why you would, but I like writing these columns so give me some slack.


Start of the Week: Larry Fitzgerald (ARZ) at PHI

Larry Legend is not the world's best fantasy option on the sinking ship that is Arizona's offense, but this week, he goes up against a meager Eagles secondary that has given up big yards and fantasy points to everyone they've played. If Carson Palmer can stay upright (a big if), he'll target Fitz as he always does, which means he should be in for a big week.

Who to Start:

QB Jameis Winston (TB) vs. NE THU: Who would have ever thought that a Patriots defense would be this anemic and incompetent through a four game stretch? Every team they have played has had a big offensive day against them, and Jameis Winston and his bevy of weapons should have a great time in a short week against this confused New England defense.

RB Carlos Hyde (SF) at IND: In the interest of not making the same mistake with Jay Ajayi I've made the last two weeks (even though his matchup is decent Sunday), let's look elsewhere for options. He hasn't broken out in terms of fantasy scoring, but he's been consistent. That's key against a poor Colts defense, and it may just help the 49ers actually score a touchdown this week.

WR T.Y Hilton (IND) vs. SF: If you drafted him, well you probably expected Andrew Luck to be playing right now and he clearly isn't. But Jacoby Brissett in his three starts hasn't exactly been bad, and against a 49ers defense that has some big holes, so Hilton could once again keep your fantasy numbers above water until Luck returns.

WR Chris Hogan (NE) at TB THU: Neither the Patriots nor the Bucs have been playing great defense this season, either because of injuries or communication issues. On a short week, this favors the offenses, and the Pats offense hasn't exactly been a problem. Hogan may be down on the list of Brady targets, but he has the potential to break out Thursday night.

TE Charles Clay (BUF) at CIN: Clay has been one of the better tight ends in fantasy this season since most all of the good ones outside of Gronk are injured. He's going up against a Bengals defense that hasn't been good against Tight Ends, and without Jordan Matthews, Tyrod Taylor has to throw to someone.

DEF Minnesota at CHI MON: Mitchell Trubisky is making his first career start on Monday night, and he has to go against a Minnesota defense that has been quite stout in spite of the injuries on the other side of the ball. They have a chance to feast on rookie mistakes Monday, making them a good play.

Sit of the Week: QB Russell Wilson (SEA) at LAR

Wilson's viability as a QB1 or even a QB2 has dropped dramatically with each passing season, and this year, he's really struggled in ways that even his biggest detractors couldn't see coming. In his career, he's been really bad against the Rams, especially of late. If you have better options this week, you should use them.

Who to Sit:

QB Jared Goff (LAR) vs. SEA: Though Goff has been excellent in the first four games of the campaign, the Seahawks defense is another test entirely. While their offense has certainly sputtered, the defense, particularly the pass defense, has held up well. Though they are dealing with injury issues, it's hard to trust Goff this week against a Seahawks secondary that has always shut down the Rams.

RB LeGarrette Blount (PHI) vs. ARZ: One of the biggest mistake people make in fantasy is riding a player hard one week after they had a breakout game. Last week in the Philadelphia suburb of Carson, California, Blount had a masterful performance. But following up that performance will be hard, especially with the emergence of Wendell Smallwood and he'll be facing a Cardinals defense that has been stout against non Zeke Elliot backs.

WR Amari Cooper (OAK) vs. BAL: Poor Amari Cooper. Even with Derek Carr throwing him the ball, he's had no success this season, and not only is he going to face the Ravens secondary which has actually been decent this season, E.J Manuel will be throwing him the ball which does not bode well. Sit him (and maybe even Michael Crabtree too).

WR Kelvin Benjamin (CAR) at DET: We may need to put a disclaimer in this column about starting players who just played against New England, because there is a risk with Benjamin here. He was fantastic against the Pats, but the Lions defense has been one of the best all around this season, meaning his assignment on Sunday is much tougher.

TE Jason Witten (DAL) vs. GB: His viability as a fantasy option is slowly starting to dwindle as his performances have done in the last few weeks. The Packers have really been good in shutting him down in their past few meetings, holding him to around four catches, 49 yards and only one TD in the last five games against them.

DEF Jacksonville at PIT: They have been really good this season in terms of sacks, turnovers and TD's, but the Steelers are another animal entirely. They haven't even hit their stride yet on offense and when young defenses get their first test, they often don't pass it.

3 Super Sleepers:

QB Alex Smith (KC) at HOU: Do you know that one of the top five QB's in fantasy this season has been Alex Smith? It's true. He's been able to both throw and run the ball very effectively of late, meaning that he can do what most QB's can't do anymore: mix the run and pass effectively. The Texans defense has been gashed at points this season, and the Chiefs offense is not exactly the Titans down a bunch with Matt Cassel under center.

RB Bilal Powell (NYJ) at CLE: Even taking away the flukey 75 yard TD run he had against the Jaguars, Powell had a really solid day at the offense against a team that was supposed to be stout against the run. The Browns are decidely not that in any way, so Powell has a great chance to replicate that success.

WR Randall Cobb (GB) at DAL: While he's still not Aaron Rodger's favorite target, he is now in his second game back from injury and therefore will be more consistent. With the injuries for the Packers up front and at the running back position, Rodgers will be looking to throw more than ever, meaning that Cobb will see his fair share of targets against a Cowboys defense that is underwhelming.

Buyer Beware:

QB DeShaun Watson (HOU) vs. KC: Watson became the first QB in almost 60 years to throw for four TD's and run for one in a game last week, which is incredibly impressive. He is a more than viable QB1 now everywhere, but this week may be a bump in the road against a Kansas City defense that is aggressive and another level than he has faced so far in his young career. You're probably starting him anyway, but he could be in for a fall back to earth.

Good luck in Week 5!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

2017-18 NHL Season Predictions

Continuing a series of posts that aren't really articles, but I have nowhere else to write these things, here you will find my 2017-18 NHL season predictions with the season starting tomorrow, if you can believe that. It really does feel like the season has snuck up on us all out of nowhere, but there are plenty of compelling storylines in this new season, not the least of which includes an expansion team in Las Vegas.

In the NHL, parity reigns supreme, though the Penguins are two time defenders of the Cup. Can they complete the first three-peat in the league since the dynastic Islanders of the early 80's? They certainly have a good chance. But how will they, and the 30 other teams fare, and who will take home the hardware? I don't know why you come here to find answers to these questions, but since you're here...

Metropolitan Division:
1. Pittsburgh
2. Washington
3. Columbus
4. New York Islanders (WC1)
5. New York Rangers (WC2)
6. Carolina
7. Philadelphia
8. New Jersey

The Penguins are not as deep as they have been the last two season as the cap has come back to bite them. But, with Crosby and Malkin (and the return of Kris Letang), they're the class of the deepest division in hockey. The salary cap also pillaged the Caps, but with expectations lightened albeit slightly, maybe that allows them to finally take that long awaited step forward. Columbus needs consistency, but with Artemi Panarin and the core group from last year still there, they have every chance to finally take a concrete step forward.

Uncertainty surrounds the Islanders not only on the ice, but off it too. In spite of all of that, they won't miss Travis Hamonic that much and Jordan Eberle gives John Tavares a dynamic winger he hasn't had with the Isles. That allows them to grab a wild card. While the Rangers don't really have any centers, and King Henrik isn't getting any younger, this team always finds a way to get in the dance, and that will happen again. Everyone's darlings in Carolina (pun intended) will take a big leap forward this season and be a fun team to watch, but something tells me they're not quite there yet.

The Flyers may take a step back before a big step forward next year with their young D and the addition of Nolan Patrick. And while the Devils still don't have a defenseman of note, they have more forwards, so they at least won't be the worst team in the league. They may be close though.

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

Tampa Bay has some bad juju, because if it wasn't for injuries the last two seasons, they may well have won the Cup at least once. With a healthy Steven Stamkos, this team will be on a mission this season. They may end up being the best team in the East. Close behind will be the young and hungry Toronto Maple Leafs, now dealing with the burden of expectations and an accelerated rebuild. They have a fascinating mix of players with a certain Babcock as head coach, and though they're not quite there yet, they're at the very least a playoff team. And notice who they'd play in the playoffs if my predictions come good...

Montreal is on the precipice of a downswing in fortunes, but that's not happening this year. Adding Jonathan Drouin is bold, but their lack of centers and do-si-do with Alex Galchenyuk's position is infuriating. Their defense is also not... fleet of foot, let's say. But, they have Carey Price and with him, a playoff spot is close to assured. Boston has a transition year on their hands as they hand the keys to David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo. But there's a bad lack of depth here and not a ton on the horizon. Their future may be brighter than their present, but their present isn't exactly super bright to begin with.

Florida had everything go wrong last year and finished with 80 points. If a few things go right this year, they'll get to about 90, which puts them on the track to stability and contention next year. Ottawa in their second year under Guy Boucher has second season syndrome to deal with (ask the Lightning), and a lack of Erik Karlsson to start the season is not going to help matters. Buffalo will be better with Phil Housley, and Jack Eichel has to start playing up to his hype, right? And for Detroit... well, the arena is nice.

1. Nashville
2. Dallas
3. Chicago
4. Minnesota (WC1)
5. St. Louis
6. Winnipeg
7. Colorado

This division is arguably the hardest to figure out. Injuries are creating havoc for multiple teams, and others have certain depth problems as well.

Though the Predators have lost James Neal, don't have Ryan Ellis and may not be as deep as they were last year, they're still really good. And remember, they never hit their stride until the playoffs. That won't happen again this year. With Ken Hitchcock behind the bench, an actual goalie and some actual defensemen on the roster, the Stars are primed to make a huge jump forward and could be a serious Cup contender as well. The Blackhawks once again have no depth whatsoever, especially on the blueline and there's little doubt this is the worst Blackhawks roster in about six years. But Alex DeBrincat is really good, and with some cap finagling, they'll get a D from Vegas and suddenly look good again... probably.

Many people have great expectations for the Wild this season in their second year under Bruce Boudreau. However, they have less depth than they once did and that end of season swoon that continued into the postseason is very worrisome. They'll make the postseason, but this team may be closer to purgatory than the Cup. The Blues have been absolutely ravaged by key injuries in camp, and that may derail a promising season, which is a shame because when fully healthy, this team is a sneaky Cup contender.

As for the perennial underachievers on the Manitoba prairies, they need to take a step forward this year and may have an opportunity considering what's ahead of them in the division. But something is holding them back, and it may be a loyalty to players that aren't quite good enough and may never reach their ceilings. It's a shame, but that may be the reality. And as for the Avs, please trade Matt Duchene already.

1. Anaheim
2. Edmonton
3. Calgary
4. San Jose (WC2)
5. Los Angeles
6. Arizona
7. Las Vegas
8. Vancouver

As much as most of the hockey world (see analytics folks on Twitter) dislikes Randy Carlyle, he steered a very good Ducks team through some playoff demons last year before running into the Preds in the Conference Finals. Even though they lost Shea Theodore to Vegas (and the fact that they employ Francois Beauchemin and Kevin Bieksa), that blueline is ridiculously good. And for whatever reason, Carlyle gets the best out of grinders and players who otherwise wouldn't be very good. And with a good goaltending battery of Gibson/Miller, this team is a sure favorite in the West.

Edmonton had their taste last year, and is rightly considered a Cup contender thanks to a certain player that wears 97. And, as shocked as you may be to read this, according to CapFriendly on 10/3, the Oilers have the third lowest cap hit in hockey. That will soon change, but this may be their best chance at the Cup before the inevitable cap ceiling falls on their head. They can easily do it, too.

Down south in Alberta, the Flames may actually have goaltending now, they have a lights out D corps and Jaromir Jagr, so how could they not be considered a favorite? Mike Smith and Eddie Lack may not be quite good enough, and this team hopes it better not run into the Ducks again. In San Jose, there's no Patrick Marleau and a concerning lack of depth. They're close to running out of steam, but this may be their last hurrah, so for this day, they'll make the postseason.

The bottom of the Pacific is not so interesting, but there are some cool stories to be told. LA is trying to remake itself for the modern NHL without changing much of the roster, which means the next few years will be a gargantuan struggle. Arizona suddenly has a very interesting defense group, a fantastic group of young forwards lead by Clayton Keller and perhaps goaltending. This team is a sneaky playoff contender.

Vegas will be better than Vancouver, but saying that is honestly semantics since the Golden Knights are building, and the Canucks are rebuilding.

And here come the playoff predictions:

Conference Quarters:
TB (A1) over NYR (WC2) in 5
PIT (M1) over NYI (WC1) in 6
TOR (A2) over MTL (A3) in 7
WSH (M2) over CBJ (M3) in 6

ANA (P1) over SJ (WC2) in 5
NSH (C1) over MIN (WC1) in 6
EDM (P2) over CGY (P3) in 7
DAL (C2) over CHI (C3) in 5

Conference Semis:
TB (A1) over TOR (A2) in 6
PIT (M1) over WSH (M2) in 7 (I had to)

EDM (P2) over ANA (P1) in 5
DAL (C2) over NSH (C1) in 6

Conference Finals:
TB (A1) over PIT (M1) in 6
EDM (P2) over DAL (C2) in 6

Stanley Cup 2018:

Lightning over Oilers in 6, so once again, Florida prevents Canada from winning a Cup a la 14 years ago.

Awards Predictions:

Hart: Connor McDavid (EDM)
Art Ross: Connor McDavid (EDM)
Calder: Alex DeBrincat (CHI)
Norris: Victor Hedman (TB)
Vezina: Matt Murray (PIT)
Jack Adams: Mike Babcock (TOR)
First Coach Fired (not an award, but hey): Paul Maurice (WPG)

So there you have my 2017-18 NHL season predictions in a post you had to scroll halfway down the page to see all through. But at least you were therefore engaged. Time for hockey!

Monday, October 2, 2017

2017 MLB Predictions in Review (plus Playoff Predictions)

I sadly don't populate this blog with as much #content as I used to for various reasons, but one of the few things I enjoy putting here are pieces in which I look back on my season predictions for multiple leagues. Since we're in October, that means it's time to look back on the predictions I got hilariously wrong for the 2017 baseball season, and there are more than a few. Plus, if you stick around long enough, you'll see my predictions for the 2017 postseason, which should be awesome. Let's all get ready to laugh...

How I predicted the NL East: NYM, WSH, PHI, MIA, ATL
How it ended up: WSH, MIA, ATL, NYM, PHI

Let's just not talk about this, OK?

How I predicted the AL East: BOS, TOR, BAL, NYY, TB
How it ended up: BOS, NYY, TB, TOR, BAL

Behind the Red Sox and Yankees, everyone here was just about the same. The Rays may be on the way up and the O's and Jays could be on the way down, but in 2017, they were about equal. The Yankees rise would have been surprising in March, but hindsight tell us we should have been prepared.

How I predicted the NL Central: CHC, STL, PIT, MIL, CIN
How it ended up: CHC, MIL, STL, PIT, CIN

Milwaukee's run as a contender for a wild card spot to the very end was surprising, but they have a solid foundation to build upon for next season. The Cardinals underperformed again, but with money to spend, that doesn't seem likely in 2018.

How I predicted the AL Central: CLE, DET, KC, CHW, MIN
How it ended up: CLE, MIN, KC, CHW, DET

So the Twins became the first team in baseball history to lose 100 games one season, then make the playoffs the next. Their rise, coupled with their young talent, could establish them in the AL Central for years to come. The White Sox with their massive haul of young talent could be a contender for the playoffs next year as well. As for the Royals and Tigers, it's full on rebuilding time.

How I predicted the NL West: LAD, SF, COL, ARZ, SD
How it ended up: LAD, ARZ, COL, SD, SF

Not many expected the bottom to fall out for the Giants the way it did, nor did many expect the rise of the D'Backs and Rockies. Both, particularly Arizona, have really accelerated rebuilds and each could make some noise against the Dodgers, but they're still the head of the class.

How I predicted the AL West: HOU, SEA, TEX, ANA, OAK
How it ended up: HOU, LAA, SEA, TEX, OAK

Winning the World Series in 2017 looks more than possible for the Astros, who despite a midseason blip were entirely dominant all year. The Angels made a late run after Mike Trout got healthy, and the Mariners once again underperformed expectations badly. Not making that mistake again.

I successfully picked five out six division winners right and out of the 10 playoff teams, six out of 10. Not horrible, could have been better. My preseason World Series pick of Dodgers-Indians seems fairly plausible too, but with the field so wide open, it should be a fascinating postseason.

And now for the wrong awards predictions (thoughts on the picks in parenthesis):

AL MVP: Mike Trout (always safe before the season started, but injury derailed campaign. Should be Altuve)
NL MVP: Corey Seager (not a bad idea, but the Dodgers on the whole were too good as a team for this to come true. Should be Giancarlo because he's a monster, but Arenado and Goldschmidt could win it too. Joey Votto also deserves some love.)
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale (if only the season was cut short a bit, Kluber)
NL Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard (let's just not talk about this one, please. Kershaw and Scherzer, as per usual)
AL Rookie: Andrew Benintendi (he's good, but that Judge guy)
NL Rookie: Dansby Swanson (another one I'd like to forget. Cody Bellinger will win, but if Rhys Hoskins played more games...)
AL Manager: Scott Servais (whoops. AJ Hinch is the favorite, but how could Paul Molitor not get some love?)
NL Manager: Dave Roberts (if the Dodgers didn't slip up, he may have well won it. But Torey Lovullo and Bud Black should be favorites for getting their teams where they did).

And now, since you stuck around in this piece to here, here are your 2017 MLB postseason predictions:

AL Wild Card Game: Yankees over Twins
NL Wild Card Game: D'Backs over Rockies

ALDS: Indians over Yankees in 4
             Astros over Red Sox in 5

NLDS: Dodgers over D'Backs in 4
            Cubs over Nationals in 5

ALCS: Indians over Astros in 7

NLCS: Dodgers over Cubs in 6

2017 World Series: Dodgers over Indians in 6. Can't change what I thought before the season now, can I?

Enjoy the postseason!