Wednesday, October 22, 2014

NFL Week 8: Halfway To Nowhere

Again, my pretties, no time for anything, as I'm traveling and working on business and have decks to present and people to talk to and sleep to not get. Let's just get through this and try to log another winning week, as those have been more common than not recently.

San Diego at DENVER (-8)

So much for the meme that Thursday night football is always terrible; the last two games have been downright watchable, which is just a great disappointment for those of us who'd like to see Phil Simms take his own life. (Do it, Phil. Why let defensive players have all of the fun?) There's reasons to think that this isn't enough points, mostly because the Chargers are due for a bounceback and have generally played well in Colorado... but when that happens, they usually have a physical running game to control the clock. Too many injuries for that, and the Bronco offense just purring along, especially now that the running game is working.

Broncos 34, Chargers 24

DETROIT (-3.5) at Atlanta


Just what Falcons QB Matt Ryan did not need: a team with a ferocious pas rush coming to town and turning his OL into even faster turnstiles. Ever since the Falcons went Globetrotter on the Bucs, they've been the Generals. Karmic, that.

Lions 24, Falcons 17

St. Louis at KANSAS CITY (-7)


Are you ready to live in a world in which Kansas City, a town known for bar-b-que, terrible pro sports teams, and the pride of being less unbearable to travelers than the hundreds of miles of desolation around it, is good at both of the leagues it's in? The Chiefs certainly are, especially when it comes to their cross-state rivals that they really should have to play more than once every four years. Home field advantage is back in Arrowhead.

Chiefs 30, Rams 21

HOUSTON (-2) at Tennessee


The also not really running hard enoughs in the AFC South get after each other, with the traveling Texans remembering that they are supposed to have a defense that generates turnovers, rather than just sporadic JJ Watt highlights.

Texans 24, Titans 20

MINNESOTA (+2.5) at Tampa


Do I have to pick this game? Does anyone have to watch it? It seems wrong, really. Almost as wrong as how the Bucs turn tail and quit faster than any other team in the NFL, no matter who is coaching them. It's almost as if they play in a hellishly humid eyesore in the middle of the worst state in the Union, to a local crowd of transients that really couldn't care very much.

Vikings 20, Bucs 17

SEATTLE (-4.5) at Carolina


Maybe the two most mobile QBs in the league, and they couldn't do it more differently. Also, a matchup between teams that prove why you should never take a defense early in fantasy. Seattle would have won last week in St. Louis had their special teams not taken a short bus to the game, so I think they'll turn it around. Besides, after what the Packers did to the Panther defense, they aren't getting well soon.

Seahawks 24, Panthers 17

BALTIMORE (pick 'em) at Cincinnati


Maybe the Ravens are actually good? The Bengals certainly haven't been, and even if they do get back do-everything WR A.J. Green, I don't think he's going to be everything right away. Against a Raven defense that's been taking away the running game, that's not a recipe for success.

Ravens 27, Bengals 24

MIAMI (-5.5) at Jacksonville


Just a perfect time for the Dolphins, who catch the Jags after their first win in forever, but without QB Blake Bortles actually playing all that well. The Dolphins are good and physical on defense, and the increased pace on offense is starting to pay dividends. They'll get up big early, and the Jags will fight to threaten the spread late, but not quite get there.

Dolphins 31, Jaguars 24

Chicago at NEW ENGLAND (-6)


Oh, I'm going to regret this, as soon as Good Jay Cutler shows up and turns his season around, the way they've been doing on the road, or when I've picked against them. But the more likely moment is that the Pats will take their extra rest (remember, they had a TNF game against the Jets last week) and use it to do enough against a weak Bear defense. Chicago doesn't do enough with a pass rush to make me go for the upset.

Patriots 31, Bears 24

BUFFALO (+3) at NY Jets


The Kyle Orton Experience continues, with the Bills also getting enough from the running game against a fading Jet defense. New York's secondary won't be able to contain WR Sammy Watkins, and RB Bryce Brown will make Bills Fan forget about the injured CJ Spiller.

Bills 24, Jets 20

PHILADELPHIA (+2.5) at Arizona


A nice test for both teams, and the Cardinals defense is a solid unit... but Philly comes in with the bye, more health than they've had in a long time, and a dominant special teams unit that gives them margin. Arizona is very good, but the secondary has struggled, and QB Carson Palmer might have real problems staying upright. It'll get pinbally late.

Eagles 34, Cardinals 31

Oakland at CLEVELAND (-7)


Time for the young Browns to bounce back against the NFL's bye equivalent at home. They'll do it with a dominant running game, a defense that will generate turnovers, and for one of the few times this year, something approaching ease.

Browns 27, Raiders 16

INDIANAPOLIS (-3) at Pittsburgh


Taking the Colts with the short week, the explosive offense, and a defense that is coming off a shutout of the suddenly feeble Bengals. The Steelers won't be able to get off the field, and stay with them with red zone execution of their own.

Colts 34, Steelers 24

GREEN BAY (+1) at New Orleans


Is this the final kick for the Saints? There's been few surer bets than Drew Brees at home and at night... but the Pack offense is just absurd right now, especially at WR, and the Saints just aren't doing what they need to do in the trenches. The NFC South is secretly terrible.

Packers 30, Saints 27

Washington at DALLAS (-10)


I'm not emotionally prepared for the Cowboys to be this good, but, well, they are. Let's just take the money while we can get it, pray for injuries to show how front-loaded the roster is, and remember the good times when QB Tony Romo tried to do too much and turned the ball over when it mattered. The safe word, again, is injuries.

Cowboys 34, Slurs 20

Last week: 8-7

Year to date: 49-54-2

Career: 537-554-41

NBA Change: Any Sign That They Are Slowing



So today in the NBA, the presumed highly unpopular Sixers won a major victory in their effort to rebuild the franchise, as the NBA's teams did not vote in strong enough numbers to punish truly bad teams with the potential of a middling draft pick in the lottery.

It didn't have anything to do with their popularity, of course. Rather, it had more to do with the OKC Thunder and San Antonio Spurs coaching and organizational trees working their way through enough sympathetic ears, and the cure seeming worse than the disease.

But a majority did go for change; it just wasn't enough people. Which means this will likely change next year, in a less draconian way, just in time (hopefully) for the Association to lock the barn door after the Sixers and their tanking horses have left.

So why did enough teams vote to let the tankers win by losing? Because the league is changing with incredible speed under them. Max contacts aren't as long as they used to be. The salary cap is about to go boom, thanks to the sudden influx of (much) bigger broadcast dollars. Franchise values may be doubling, even for teams in minus markets, thanks to the rampant popularity of the league in foreign lands. Adding a lottery change was just too much, too soon, for too many. But in a year? Probably not.

Oh, and one other thing: I can pretty much guarantee that there will be a franchise move, or a new team or two, really soon. Because if a franchise in a middling town like Milwaukee is worth $550 million, and the Clippers in Los Angeles go for $2 billion...

Well, how much would a three-pack of teams in Asian markets be worth? That would get the Association up to 32 teams, put franchises in more time zones, and create the greater potential for global numbers. Here, let me roll out a new 36-team Association, with divisions, and see how crazy it looks.

Atlantic

Boston
Brooklyn
New York
Philadelphia
Toronto
Washington

Central

Chicago
Cleveland
Detroit
Indiana
Milwaukee
Minnesota

Southeast

Atlanta
Charlotte
Memphis
Miami
New Orleans
Orlando

Southwest

Dallas
Houston
Los Angeles Clippers
Phoenix
San Antonio
Utah

Pacific

Beijing *
Golden State
Los Angeles Lakers
Portland
Seattle *
Tokyo

And yes, the NBAPA would revolt at all of that plane travel... but if I shorten the regular season to 68 games (20 from 2 home and aways in your own division, home and away with the other five divisions to get you 48 more), they'll come around, especially when teams don't play more than 3 games in any week.

Besides, this isn't baseball, where franchises haven't moved in decades, or football, where teams don't move any more because the game has become the only national religion. There's also no real shortage of actual basketball players, unlike, say, home run hitters or quality quarterbacks.

The pace of change in hoop has, just like every other facet of modern society, quickened. Try not to freak out too much...

Top 10 reasons why the Cowboys cut Michael Sam

Update that helmet & jersey, Vince
10) Practice squad players who work hard, create no distr- actions, sell jerseys and make for good PR clearly aren't good enough to keep the gig

9) Pass rush that's getting a sack a week clearly has no need of giving anyone else a shot

8) Since the team is having a good year so far, no longer need to explore PR sideshowsU

7) Showers weren't nearly as awkward as promised

6) Didn't fit into their scheme, because beating an offensive lineman to collapse the pocket and tackle a QB is entirely scheme-dependent

5) As they didn't draft him, aren't as invested in making sure that Jerry Jones' ego isn't' deflated by kicking him to the curb

4) Didn't want to stand in his way of having 30 other NFL teams work the PR speed bag

3) Wanted to make sure that the people who bought his jersey felt as foolish as humanly possible

2) As Sam hasn't abused a spouse, taken PEDs or picked up an arrest, he clearly doesn't have what it takes to be on an active roster for even one game

1) Need to push him over the edge into that WWE appearance and incredibly awkward second career

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Criminally Irresponsible World Series Pick

We Legalized This, And Now KC Wins
It's been the kind of year that makes you walk away from the sportsbook. The Royals are undefeated; the Giants have lost twice in two series. I didn't pick the Royals to win any of the three events that they have been in to date, and I'm not going to pick them now. You can thank me in the better part of a week, KC Fan...

But the Giants do nice work against the running game, the Royals have been off for a really long time, and could be remembering that they aren't the 1927 Yankees, and it's not as if the Giants aren't good at winning these things.

Giants in five.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Deep fantasy basketball sleepers

Oddly Prophetic, Really
Quick and dirty, the way you like it.

Point Guards

Patrick Beverly, Houston. Jeremy Lin is gone, and Chandler Parsons has been replaced by Trevor Ariza, aka a catch and shoot 3 kind of guy. Beverly is never going to be a monster provider, as he just plays too hard on defense to conserve his energy and fouls, but he's clearly got the capability to get up to a 12/7 kind of guy, with solid threes and steals to boot.

Evan Turner, Boston. Is he a point guard? Hell no, he's a terrible basketball player. But he's a terrible basketball player who seems to have the confidence of his coach, and he might get playing time for a half of a season or more while his team tanks. Marcus Smart is the long-term play here, and Rajon Rondo is the real point guards, but you might be able to ride ET for a few months.

Trey Burke, Utah. Last year's can't shoot at all guy is this year's team leader, mostly because Utah is just so young and bereft of leadership. Burke and the Jazz have looked surprisingly frisky in pre-season, and while Dante Exum is also looking useful, he won't poach enough minutes to harm. Look for Utah to compete harder this year, and Burke to minute his way to fantasy relevance.

Shooting Guards

Jimmy Butler, Chicago. A classic case of less is more, Butler's failed move to prominence last year comes true this year. He's not good enough to create on his own, but with Derrick Rose back amongst the living, he'll have some more free space, and rookie Doug McDermott will also keep him fresh. I'm looking for his percentages to improve, and his defensive counting numbers to go up despite less burn.

Rodney Stuckey, Indiana. Someone's got to lead the Pacers in scoring this season without Paul George or Lance Stephenson, and Stuckey's one of the few guys on the roster that thinks he's better than he is. That confidence will lead to gunning, and fantasy hoop is all about opportunity, more than talent. He'll try enough on defense to help there, too.

Danny Green, San Antonio. Is this the year that Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili just gate-check the entire NBA regular season? Very possible, and that time off for the greybeards leads to minutes for the sharp-shooting Green, who also benefits from a Paddy Mills injury to get a little more PT. The fact that he's not really a SG helps as well, since it means you get assists that your average 2 does not provide.

Small Forward

K.J. McDaniels, Philadelphia. He should have been a first round pick and knows it, having rejected the Sixers offer to extend his deal already. He's got elite level defensive abilities on the wing, unlike every Sixer since Andre Iguodala, and will get as many minutes as he can stand due to that. Offensively, he's not hopeless, and not hopeless is all you need when you get 35+ minutes a game.

Draymond Green, Golden State. New coach Steve Kerr has to know that the reason why his team loses despite breakthrough offensive talent is that, well, David Lee might be the worst 4 in the NBA on defense, right? That should translate into the minutes -- and it's only the minutes -- that Green needs to drive real benefit. Remember, he dominated in the second half of the season last year, and also showed well in the playoffs. On the rise.

Danilo Gallinari, Denver. The closest thing on the roster to a closer, recovering nicely from a knee problem. He does enough of everything to help, will have a clear path to minutes, and could perform at an All-Star level, especially later in the year.

Power Forward

Josh McRoberts, Miami. Now on his third pro team and a winner of no beauty prizes, McBob is a sneaky-good source of assists from the power forward, and with the paucity of production from the meh platter of Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole and Shabazz Napier, I think he's got a shot to keep kicking out numbers. He's also fighting for minutes with guys who should not be in the league any more. That helps.

DeMarre Carroll, Atlanta. As under the radar as it gets, Carroll is an NBA vagabond who put it all together for last year's surprising Hawks squad. This year, he's supposed to lose touches to the returning Al Horford, but they really don't do the same things, and Carroll has startling utility as a steals magnet. It helps that he plays for an NBA team that is as anonymous as it gets, too.

Carlos Boozer, Los Angeles Lakers. Oh, yes, he's terrible; a defensive sieve and offensive black hole who does not give you numbers beyond points, boards, and a superficially tolerable shooting percentage. You should never, ever, watch him play ball, and Kobe Bryant is going to snarl at him more than, say, LeBron James snarled at Chalmers. But he's the best they have, Julius Randle isn't ready for the NBA, Jordan Hill is flighty and flaky, and his coach is dumb enough to just go with counting stats. Draft Boozer, then shower.

Centers

Gorgui Dieng, Minnesota. Think that Minny is going to want to slow things down with Nikola Pekovic, after they've swapped out Kevin Love to get flying young guys? Hells and no; this will be a run and fun team that smiles their way to 35 defense-free wins, which means Peko is going to develop some very convenient injuries and/or a trade out of town. Dieng will swoop up the athletic defensive numbers, and slam home enough garbage to not kill you in points, either.

Mason Plumlee, Brooklyn. Kevin Garnett was too old five years ago, and he's positively embarrassing now. Brook Lopez can't stay healthy, and the other Net bigs are either head cases on on the decline. Plumlee is going to get all of the minutes he can handle, and do good things with them. He's an especially nice target for keeper leagues.

Jared Sullinger, Boston. It's either him or Kelly Olynyk, and I just don't think Olnyk is an NBA player. Sullinger isn't going to be an All-Star, but he is going to have a career, and play 30 minutes a game for a team that spreads the ball. You could do a lot worse.