Sunday, March 31, 2013

Saturday, March 30, 2013

UEFA European Soccer Power Rankings

Every two weeks we'll analyze the top ten European Soccer teams and rank them according to current form.

1. FC Barcelona


Hard to argue this one. You know this is a good team that when they go 2-0 down to AC Milan in the Champions League, and you have no doubt they'll turn it around with ease when they go back home to the Camp Nou which is exactly what they did. They had an odd slip up today against 18th place Celta Vigo, but with a 13 point gap between them and 2nd place Real Madrid, I think they can coast to the title. Have a mouth watering clash with PSG in the Champions League quarterfinals looming.

2. Bayern Munich

Anyone see them put up 9 today on Hamburg? A ridiculous +65 goal difference and a 20 point lead on second place Dortmund, they should just give them the trophy already. They let their guard down in the Champions League return leg against Arsenal and were fortunate to hold onto their 3-1 aggregate lead. They cant do the same when they go up against Italian power Juventus this week. So much depth, and so much power on this team, all signs point to a Munich v Barca final at Wembley in May.

3. Paris Saint Germain

Ever since PSG was bought out by Qatar Investment Authority, they've done all they can to assemble a dream team. The French capital is now home to one of Europe's best and they see themselves with an eight point advantage in the league. Boasting a lineup including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and Javier Pastore, PSG will be a very tough out for Barcelona this week.

4. Juventus

Juventus, who seem to be facing match fixing scandals every other day, find themselves forth on the list after defeating Inter at the San Siro 2-1 and going 9 points clear of 2nd place Napoli. Italian teams are known for their defending and they're going to have to stick to those principals to have any chance against offensive juggernauts Bayern Munich this week.

5. Real Madrid

While Real Madrid's domestic form has left something to be desired (13 points behind Barca and drew 1-1 at 17th place Zaragoza today), they still find themselves in the last eight of the Champions League after deservedly dispatching Manchester United a couple of weeks ago at Old Trafford. Face Galtasaray in the Champions League this week.

6. Manchester United

While some people may think this is a little low for United, I cant see them beating a single team above them on this list. While they may be dominating England right now, I think that comes down to it being a soft year and City being incredibly inconsistent. They came away with a 1-0 win at Sunderland off an own goal (what else is new) after the ball took two deflections. No longer in the Champions League after Nani lost his mind, they surely have the Premier League wrapped up and face a big replay with Chelsea in the F.A. Cup.

7. Benfica

Gotta give Benfica some love here. The Portuguese league doesn't get as much attention as England, Spain, Germany or Italy since its usually a two horse race between them and Porto every year, but an unbeaten start through 24 games has to be noticed. At 20 wins 4 draws and 0 losses they are still only four points in front of Porto who are ALSO unbeaten (18-6-0). Put six past Rio Ave today and are still fighting it out in the Europa League.

8. Borrusia Dortmund

Borussia Dortmund finds themselves in Bayern Munich's shadow in Germany, but dont let that fool you. This is a team that can play with the best of them, just ask Manchester City. Matched up against surprise package Malaga in the Champions League quarterfinals, they should easily move onto the semi's.


9. Manchester City
 
This team literally makes no sense to me. They could put out two teams that could finish in the top four in the Premier League. They took care of business against Newcastle today with a 4-0 win but have losses against Everton and Sunderland (??) that has all but ended their hopes to repeat as champions. Fixtures away from home have been their downfall this season as they have dropped points to teams such as QPR and Stoke City which they cant be doing if they want to challenge for a title. Maybe next year guys.

10. Atletico Madrid

Barcelona and Real Madrid may get all the attention in Spain but you cant forget about Atletico Madrid who are only 2 points behind Real Madrid for second place in La Liga. They are led by one of the best strikers in the world Radamel Falcao who has 21 goals in La Liga this season.

Honorable Mentions: Tottenham, Galtasaray, Arsenal FC, Chelsea FC, FC Porto, Napoli, Ajax Amsterdam




Early 2013 Fantasy Football Rankings: Tight End




1. Jimmy Graham
2. Rob Gronkowski
3. Aaron Hernandez

This trio is the clear-cut first tier of the tight end class for 2013. Jimmy Graham should put up numbers in 2013 similar to what he did in a healthy 2011 season thanks to the return of the Saints offensive mastermind Sean Payton.
With Wes Welker leaving town, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez should both expect to see an uptick in targets while Tom Brady and Danny Amendola work on their timing and chemistry. Both Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have proven to be great when on the field, however both have had their issues with inuries in the past. Hernandez to me has the highest potential (especially in PPR leagues) with the departure of Welker, but his risk could outweigh the potential. My advice would be to draft a solid backup if you were to take Hernandez (perhaps #15 Brandon Myers?).




4. Jason Witten
5. Kyle Rudolph
6. Vernon Davis
7. Tony Gonzalez
8. Martellus Bennett

The name that stands out most for me in this tier is Kyle Ruddolph. The guy is a beast to put it simply. He won the MVP award in last years Pro Bowl game and looked absolutely dominate with an elite QB throwing his way. The reason for him being in the second tier as opposed to where he rightfully belongs can be blamed on the current Vikings QB situation (see Christian Ponder). As you can see by my ranking, I'm expecting him to take a huge leap in his third year, regardless of the QB throwing to him.
Martellus Bennett is an interesting option with his move to Chicago. Jay Cutler isn't an upgrade on Eli Manning in any sense, but the Bears lack the weapons the Giants had in 2012. Bennett will now compete with Brandon Marshall for looks, whereas last season he was competing with both Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. 




9. Dwayne Allen
10. Dennis Pitta
11. Greg Olsen
12. Owen Daniels

This tier breaks down ranks 9-12, which will be starters in the majority of twelve team leagues. One name that I am higher on than other analysts is Dwayne Allen. As a rookie he had 45 receptions, 521 yards and 3 TD's in 2012. I'm expecting him to take a step forward in his second season because of the promise and skill set he displayed as a rookie. Also, moving from a Bruce Arian's vertical attack to Pep Hamilton's west coast offense will translate to more looks for the tight ends.
Dennis Pitta might rise up draft boards as the off-season progresses thanks to the departure of Anquan Boldin. Just take a look at his postseason stats if you are skeptical as to his potential (14 receptions, 163 yards and 3 TD's), and remember that was WITH Boldin still on the roster.


Brandon Myers signed with the NY Giants

13. Antonio Gates
14. Jermaine Gresham
15. Brandon Myers
16. Brent Celek
17. Brandon Pettigrew
18. Jermichael Finley
19. Coby Fleener
20. Dustin Keller

The remaining tight ends are fringe starters and great options for bye week fill-ins. My choice for the tight end with the highest upside would be Brandon Myers. Last season he put up his best season as a pro with 79 receptions, 806 yards and 4 TD's. He was the lone bright spot in an otherwise atrocious Oakland offense. I think the move to the Giants both hurt and helped his stock at the same time. Myers will now have Eli Manning throwing to him instead of Carson Palmer (+), but he will have increased competition for looks thanks to Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks (-). Overall I think the upgrade in offense and QB outweighs the negatives.



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Articles to come 3/30/13 & 3/31/13:

  •    European Power Rankings 
  •    Early Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings
  •    Any recommendations for other posts you would like? (leave them in the        comments section)





Early 2013 Fantasy Football Rankings: Wide Receiver



TOP 50 WR



1. Calvin Johnson
2. A.J. Green
3. Dez Bryant
4. Demaryius Thomas
5. Julio Jones

I feel like this tier is Calvin Johnson as the clear-cut top receiver followed by an interchangeable 2-5 ranking. I would be happy to select any of the above as my #1 WR. Outside of Calvin Johnson, I'm highest on A.J. Green. Green simply doesn't have the competition the other receivers from this tier have (see Miles Austin, Eric Decker/Wes Welker & Roddy White).  Add in the fact that Green is in his third season with an improving Andy Dalton and I expect big things (100 receptions, 1500 yards and 12 TD).




6. Victor Cruz
7. Brandon Marshall
8. Percy Harvin
9. Roddy White
10. Vincent Jackson
11. Andre Johnson


I may be a little low on Marshall here, but there are a couple things that concern me about him going into the 2013 season. Marshall had his third hip surgery this off-season, he faces added competition for looks with the addition of Martellus Bennett (formerly of the NY Giants), and he will see added defensive pressure. 
Percy Harvin being traded to Seattle was the best thing that could have happened to him. Harvin will now have Russell Wilson throwing to him, instead of the mess of a QB known as Christian Ponder. Don't forget that Harvin is extra valuable in leagues that awards points for return yards & TD's.



12. Hakeem Nicks
13. Mike Wallace
14. Wes Welker
15. Randall Cobb
16. Jordy Nelson
17. Larry Fitzgerald


Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are hard to rank for me. Randall Cobb took over during the season because of a Greg Jennings injury, so it will be fun to see what a full off-season getting starters reps will due to his production. Jordy Nelson has the past production (2011 season stats: 95 receptions, 1263 yards and 15 TD's). For me though Randall Cobb has the higher ceiling because of his versatility as a runner and return man. 
As for Fitzgerald, it's crazy how far he has fallen in drafts over the span of a year. I do see a rebound from him thanks to Bruce Arians arrival, which features TONS of down field passing. The only thing holding back higher expectations is that the offense will rely on a QB that is able to make the down-field throws, and the Cardinals quite simply don't have that QB on the roster. Although I think Drew Stanton will be serviceable for Fitzgerald while the Cardinals groom a rookie QB.




18. Michael Crabtree
19. Danny Amendola
20. Eric Decker
21. Reggie Wayne
22. Pierre Garcon
23. Antonio Brown
24. Dwayne Bowe
25. Greg Jennings


Michael Crabtree evolved into a different, game-changing receiver with Colin Kaepernick at QB. Kaepernick was simply able to make throws that Alex Smith couldn't even dream of making. Crabtree's stats with Kaepernick (including playoffs) if prorated over a full season would be 97 receptions, 1408 yards and 13 TD's. I want to see him do it for a full season before I can feel comfortable having him higher on the list.
Pierre Garcon could be the bargain of all WR's depending on his health and the health of his QB RGIII. In games that Garcon was healthy, he looked absolutely dominate. But those games were few and far between last season. He is someone who could rise considerably from now until the start of the season.




26. Torrey Smith
27. Miles Austin
28. DeSean Jackson
29. Jeremy Maclin
30. Marques Colston


The departure of Anquan Boldin has left the door wide open for Torrey Smith to take the leap necessary into borderline WR #1 status. We've seen the big games from him in the past, however his issue has always been consistency. I believe in what will be his third season, he will take that leap with a solid season.
DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are in a situation similar to Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, only with a wild card at QB in the form of Michael Vick and a new head coach (Chip Kelly). In the past, they have both shown the ability to put up big stats. Add in the Chip Kelly Oregon offense, and you have the possibility for both WR's too succeed.


31. TY Hilton
32. Denario Alexander
33. Stevie Johnson
34. Steve Smith
35. Cecil Shorts
36. Josh Gordon


TY Hilton and Josh Gordon are late round picks that have the chance to out perform their respective draft spot. As rookies, both players flashed the ability to make big plays and score TD's. These characteristics are very valuable in the fantasy game. TY Hilton has five 100+ yard games and six games with at least 1 TD in his rookie season. Josh Gordon didn't have the same quite the same impact but his potential was on full display weeks 5-7, when he racked up 240 yards and 4 TD's. I think drafting either receiver as a WR #3 will be a smart move as they will both finish in the WR #2 range by seasons end.



37. Kenny Britt
38. James Jones
39. Kendall Wright
40. Anquan Boldin
41. Justin Blackmon
42. Santonio Holmes
43. Vincent Brown
44. Darrius Heyward-Bey*
45. Sidney Rice
46. Alshon Jeffrey
47. Mike Williams
48. Chris Givens
49. Brandon Lloyd
50. Lance Moore


In my eyes, 37-50 in my WR rankings is pretty interchangeable as I don't see any surefire starter in 3-WR leagues out of the bunch. Each of the receivers above has flashed potential at some point but has question marks. Their low rankings can mainly be blamed on several factors; whether that is their current health, the QB situation, or competition for targets. If I was forced to name two WR's from the list I could see myself starting, they would be Kenny Britt and Brandon Lloyd (depending on where Lloyd ends up). Anyone remember Britt performance against Philly in week 7 of 2010 (225 yards and 3 TD's)... can that guy please stand up?
*Darrius Heyward-Bey was signed by the Colts (4/1). With Luck throwing to him he has risen up from #50 to #44.




Friday, March 29, 2013

Best of the Rest? Top 10 Available Free Agents



1. Andre Smith (T)--


Has the potential to be a top right tackle in the league as he showed last year, and he deservedly wants to be paid that way. The Bengals have been holding out to this point as well as other teams in the league. My question is, what's the issue here? Best fit: re-signing with the Bengals





2. Karlos Dansby (LB)--

At 31 Dansby still has a few years of solid production. The Dolphins were just hell bent on spending money on new linebackers, even though their true weakness can be seen in the secondary. Best fit: New York Giants

(view http://sportsfreaksanonymous.blogspot.com/2013/03/nfl-off-season-winners-losers.html for more detail about the Dolphins off season)--> Dolphins questionable off-season


3. Dwight Freeney (DE/LB)--

Dwight Freeney still has 2-3 more years of solid production left in him. He was never suited for OLB in a 3-4 scheme. He's best as a 4-3 end with his hand in the ground, getting off the edge. I still see him as a 10 sack threat for the coming season in the right situation. Best fit: Denver Broncos)




4. Brandon Moore (T)--

Moore has solidly help anchor the Jets offensive line over the past few years. In fact, the only bright spot for the Jets last season might have been their offensive line play... although that's not saying much. Best fit: re-signing with the New York Jets






5. Brent Grimes (CB)--

At 29 years old, Brent Grimes still has what it takes to be a great corner. He is coming off an Achilles injury which is scary because of the rate of re-injury to the player's legs. However, I believe on a one year "show me" contract (like the one signed by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) that he could be worth the gamble. Signed: Miami Dolphins



6. Darrius Heyward-Bey (WR)--

Heyward-Bey is a 26 year old burner who was stuck to rot away in Oakland. In 2012 he suffered from a horrendous offensive attack/scheme. If you go back to 2011 he actually had 975 receiving yards and 4 TD's in only 15 games with Carson Palmer throwing to him. He was recently brought in for visits with the Indianapolis Colts and Detroit Lions, both of whom have a number 1 receiver in town and a franchise QB. Signed: Indianapolis Colts


7. Brandon Lloyd (WR)--

Brandon Lloyd has proven he can be a solid WR in the right system and with the right QB. Last year in New England wasn't the best situation for him (clearly). He is no #1 receiver by any means, but as a #2 or 3 he could be a big get for a team. Best fit: San Diego Chargers




8. Kerry Rhodes (FS)--

He had a phenomenal season last year for the cardinals recording 67 tackles, 1 sack, 4 INT's and 2 forced fumbles. The Cardinals viewed him as expendable going on his age 30 season though in what was seen as a cap dump off. Best fit: re-uniting with the New York Jets




9. Charles Woodson (DB)--

He will start the season at 37, but his veteran leadership will be crucial to a team in contention as he would like to pursue another ring to add to his resume. Best fit: San Francisco 49ers





10. John Abraham (DE)--

At this point in his career (going on his age 35 season) he is mainly a pass rush specialist. But if used right he could be good for 7-9 sacks. His scheme flexibility is a big plus. Best fit: New England Patriots

Messi vs. Ronaldo: Battle of the Best


  Let me just start off by saying this to everyone who enjoys the beautiful game of football:  we are extremely lucky to be living in the time of Messi and Ronaldo.  These are two extremely gifted players with the type of raw talent that you don't see very often.  This is why we watch.  Let's get started...


CRISTIANO RONALDO
Cristiano Ronaldo - Real Madrid
As a fellow Portugee and Manchester United supporter, it will come as no surprise to say that I absolutely LOVE Ronaldo.  When I had first heard that he was leaving Old Trafford for the Bernabeu, I felt like someone had shot my dog...it was depressing, to say the least.  Ronaldo's pace, in my opinion, is unmatched by any other in the game, making him extremely lethal in counter-attacking situations (his speed matched with an incredible ability to make cuts across the middle is something special).  One of the best things about getting Ronaldo the ball on the counter is that he's pretty efficient with both feet; while he prefers his right foot, he's shown that he can certainly find the back of the net with his left as well.

Then there's Ronaldo's free-kick ability....I'm not putting anyone else in the world in front of him in this category.  His quick release causes a dipping & swerving effect that is all his own; it's almost as if he's punching the ball with his foot.  Simply amazing!  See below:

Cristiano is also extremely lethal in the air, making corner kicks a lot more dangerous for his side...his hang time is ridiculous.  In the 2011-2012 season, Ronaldo scored 14.29% of his goals with his head (9/63).  Compare that to Messi's 3 goals in the air and we obviously have to give Ronaldo the edge. (Ronaldo is 6'1'' though, so he's got the physical advantage here)

While we're talking about physcial advantage, let's look at Ronaldo's physique compared to Messi's.  Standing at 6'1'', the Portuguese international has the ability to force opposing players off the ball more than Messi, who stands at only 5'7".  In a game where winning the ball is about as important as any other facet of the game, Ronaldo's sheer power and quick movement makes him even more dangerous.


LIONEL MESSI
Lionel Messi - Barcelona
Lionel Messi may not have the power, pace, or physique of Cristiano Ronaldo, but he makes up for it in just about every other way.  While Ronaldo uses his speed and acceleration to dart past defenders, Messi likes to play close, keeping the ball at his feet.  This style of play, paired with his precision and technique, has allowed Messi to develop into the greatest one-on-one player in the game of football.

Let's take a quick look at Messi's goal scoring ability.  His 91 goals in 2011-2012 was straight up extraterrestrial; I'm convinced that he's not a human being.  The absolute best thing about Lionel Messi is his ability to slot one home in tight spots.  As a result of his style of play, it's difficult for defenders to anticipate when he's going to take a shot.  The Argentinian dances on the ball, and next thing you know he's putting one past your keeper; he's that quick.  His ability to make defenders miss is also nothing short of amazing.  Check out this run he made vs. Getafe.  Stunning!


SO WHO'S THE BETTER PLAYER?


Messi is widely known as the best player in the world.  His record 4 straight Ballon d'Or titles speak for themselves.  I believe that it comes down to preference and team needs.  These are two very different players who are great in their own ways.  Most would agree that Messi has had a better supporting cast over the years, playing alongside Xavi and Iniesta (who are easily two of the best passers in the world).  The Barcelona squad that beat Manchester United in the 2011 UEFA Champions League final may also be the best club team ever to play the game.  Meanwhile, Ronaldo has shown that he can be dominant on two different teams in two very different leagues.  Ronaldo has had the reputation of not showing up in big games and being a diva, but I feel as though he's starting to shed that image a bit (8 Champions league goals thus far in 2012-13).  I feel as though Ronaldo also has to put in alot more work to perform at the level he does, where Messi's natural talent is definitely superior in comparison.  If I had to choose, I'm taking Messi; his skill on the ball is like nothing I've ever seen.  Ronaldo is a BRILLIANT footballer, but I have to give Messi the slight edge.

Share your opinion!  Who's the best in the world, and why?

NFL: Off Season Winners & Losers

Winners:


Denver Broncos--


Setting the Broncos recent fiasco aside (see Elvis Dumervil), they stole Wes Welker from the rival Patriots. By doing so, they made themselves stronger and perhaps their biggest threat in the AFC weaker. Adding Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on a one year "show-me" contract was also a great get for the secondary. They have an opportunity to improve their pass rush if you add in the current pursuit of a defensive end/rusher (see Dwight Freeney and John Abraham). I believe either addition would offset some of the production lost from Elvis Dumervil. They still need to address several areas including safety, but they can focus on that in the upcoming draft which looks to be a promising draft for safeties.




Seattle Seahawks--



The Seahawks started things off by this off-season by trading for Percy Harvin and signing him to a contract extension. Great get! Harvin immediately gives them a legitimate receiver for Russell Wilson to grow with, while also providing them with a solid return ma. The addition improves both the offense and special teams in my mind. Add in the additions of speed rushers Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett on team friendly deals and the Seahawks defense, which was already a strong point for the team, grew even stronger. To put it simply, the Seahawks have killed free agency.




Indianapolis Colts--



People have questioned the spending spree of the Colts. The way I look at is that this team had street free agents and career backups starting at key positions last year due to the post-Peyton overhaul and over $30 million in dead cap space. With a year to clear the bad contracts off the books in 2012, the Colts set into the 2013 free agency period with one goal in mind... to improve every level of the team. I believe they have done that. Gosder Cherilus and Donald Thomas upgrade one of the worst offensive lines in the league. Ricky Jean-Francois and Aubrayo Franklin provide big bodied depth along a defensive front that has never seen such size. Greg Toler and LaRon Landry were signed to shore up a secondary that lacked a physical presence in 2012. The only signing that comes into question in terms of talent, is the acquisition of Erik Walden. Let me put this simply, it was a terrible move. But overall, adding 6-7 starters to an 11-5 team, the Colts have done enough to sneak into the free agency winners category.
Updated (4/3): Adding Darrius Heyward-Bey to their off-season haul was a big get after the loss of Donnie Avery. getting him on a 1 year deal for the price they did only solidified the Colts as belonging in the winners category.


LOSERS:



New York Jets--


Is Mark Sanchez still there quarterback? Yes. I could stop there and it would be enough to call them off-season losers. I'm not going to stop there, but trust me I could. Topping off a disastrous 2012 season in which they actually over-performed at 6-10, the Jets lost 7 of their 22 starters and are currently exploring the idea of trading their best player (by a mile) in Darrell Revis. I wouldn't be surprised if this team finishes in last place in football and secures the number 1 pick in next years (2014) draft, which might not be the worst thing for New York fans. They will be in the market for a new franchise QB after all.



Baltimore Ravens--


The Ravens started the off-season by making Joe Flacco the highest paid NFL QB (for the time being-- until Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan are inked). That move was necessary for obvious reasons, but it strapped them financially. The financial situation caused them to trade Anquan Boldin shortly after. And they have followed that up by losing Ed Reed, Dannell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger and Cary Williams in free agency and future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis to retirement. The only positive that can be said about the Ravens this off-season was their move to acquire Elvis Dumervil (see Broncos fiasco mentioned above). However, that move won't be enough to stop the bleeding.



Miami Dolphins--


The Dolphins made some big name acquisitions. Mile Wallace, Brandon Gibson and Dustin Keller give Ryan Tannehill legitimate weapons to throw to outside of Brian Hartline. However, they overspent on Wallace, which could come back to haunt them if he plays anything like he did a season ago. Other additions of note were on the defensive side of the ball. Inking Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler were good talent acquisitions, but I believe they grossly overpaid for both of their services. The big money should have been spent on the secondary which has lost Vonate Davis and Sean Smith in the past 2 seasons. Ignoring the secondary when the league is becoming more of a passing league, and having Tom Brady in your division is just not a smart move. Expect another mediocre season from the Dolphins in 2013. 


National League Preview & Predictions

REGULAR SEASON


NL EAST:


1. Philadelphia Phillies

      This team could be in for a big season depending on the health of Chase Utley
      and Ryan Howard., and Roy Halladay being able to rebound from a lackluster
      2012 season. Add a breakout season from Domonic Brown and the Phillies will
      be a team to look out for in the coming season.


2. Washington Nationals

      I'm expecting a repeat performance from this club. I see long term success in
      their future with Stephen Strasburg as the ace, and Bryce Harper as the
      cornerstone of the offense. One scout said he wouldn't be shocked by a 50-50
      season from Harper at some point in his career. I'll settle for a 30-30 season
      this year fro Harper.

3. Atlanta Braves

      The outfield has the potential to be scary good with the Upton brothers and Jason
      Heyward. The starting pitching is one potential weak spot on the team, but I expect
      Hudson and Medlen to have solid seasons.

4. N.Y. Mets

      It's going to be a rough year in New York for baseball fans. Johan Santana might
      need another shoulder surgery (guy can't catch a break lately). David Wright and
      The Marlins being an absolute joke of a franchise are the only things keeping them
      from the NL East cellar.

5. Miami Marlins

      Giancarlo Stanton. Giancarlo Stanton. Giancarlo Stanton. If you're a Marlins fan
      just keep repeating that name to yourself over the season because this guy is
      special. Outside of him, the Marlins don't have much to look forward too. How is
      Jeffrey Loria not run out of Miami by a herd of angry fans?

NL CENTRAL:


1. Pittsburgh Pirates

      The Pirates will need their starting pitching to find the magic from the first half of
      last season and an MVP type season from Andrew McCutchen. Starling Marte is
      someone I'm expecting big things from in his first full season in the majors.

2. Cincinnati Reds

      I think their starting pitching is up there with the best in the NL from top to
      bottom. I like the move for Aroldis Chapman back to the closer role after
      being stretched out at times over the winter.

3. St. Louis Cardinals

      Adam Wainwright will have a big bounce back year (NL CY Young a possibility),
      but I'm not impressed with the rest of the team. I do admit Shelby Miller is someone
      to follow throughout the season, but the magic of the last couple season may soon
      be fading.

4. Milwaukee Brewers

      This ranking is before any possible Ryan Braun suspension. Not saying it will
      happen, but if it does... they are in major trouble.

5. Chicago Cubs

      The Cubs have a bright future with Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and Jeff Samardzija. 
      The future doesn't start this season though. Save the big expectations for the 2014
      season when the young talent has another season of conditioning and when I expect
      more talent to be on the way.


NL WEST:


1. L.A. Dodgers

      The Dodgers offense will be fine with the likes of Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp,
      Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and Hanley Ramirez (after his return from injury).
      The big question as to their win total will be if Beckett can rebound and if Greinke
      can handle the LA spotlight and massive contract he inked.

2. San Francisco Giants

      One bad season and the world writes off Tim Lincecum. I think that's a bad move.
      With Cain and Bumgarner as the 1-2 punch, the pressure is off Lincecum and I
      fully believe he can have a strong season. Don't forget Buster Posey at catcher who's
      a game changing talent.

3. San Diego Padres

      It's tough to see the Padres truly competing, especially with their best player Chase
      Headley missing time.

4. Colorado Rockies

      Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez are stars, but have you seen their pitching?
      Their #1 starter is a guy named Jhoulys Chacin. If your answer to that was "who the
      hell is that?" then we are on the same page.

5. Arizona Diamondbacks

      Trading Justin Upton left them with a big space to fill in their lineup. I don't expect
      them to find the answer this season. There are a few bright spots on the roster though.


SEASON PICKS


NL EAST:
 










NL CENTRAL:












NL WEST:











WILDCARDS:







LEAGUE CHAMPS:


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Early 2013 Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Backs



1. Adrian Peterson
2. Doug Martin
3. Marshawn Lynch
4. Trent Richardson

5. Arian Foster

       I may be a little low on Foster here, but there are a few things that concern me about him going into the 2013 season.  In 2012, Foster averaged less than 4.0 YPC in 9 games...not good.  His YPC has also gone down from 4.9 in 2010 to 4.1 in 2012.  Gary Kubiak has run Foster into the ground over the past three seasons (99 more carries than any other RB over the same amount of time) and it's starting to show.  Foster also took a step backward in the passing game, averaging only 5.4 YPR in 2012 compared to 11.6 YPR in 2011.  The lack of explosion as of late is worrisome to me, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him hit a wall in 2013.  
  As for Trent Richardson, Norv Turner is now in town as the Browns new offensive coordinator.  Turner is known to support a one back system, and has produced a league leading rusher on five different occasions (Emmitt Smith ’91-’93, Ricky Williams ’02, and LaDainian Tomlinson ’07).  I expect Richardson to have a big sophomore season, earning him a #4 spot in the rankings.

 6. C.J. Spiller
7. LeSean McCoy
8. Ray Rice
9. Jamaal Charles
10. Alfred Morris

Can Fred Jackson just get out of town already?  Honestly…there’s absolutely no reason why C.J Spiller shouldn’t be getting at least 250 carries in 2013.  His 6.0 YPC in 2012 tied him for highest in the league (with whom else but Adrian Peterson).  Spiller also averaged 10.7 YPR out of the backfield.  He’s easily one of the most explosive backs I’ve seen in recent years, and if offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett doesn’t get him at least 250 carries, I’m suing him for crimes against humanity.

Some would say this is too low for Ray Rice, but I think Bernard Pierce is going to see an increase in workload in 2013.  Pierce looked great towards the end of the season/playoffs and John Harbaugh will certainly utilize him in any way that he can.  We’ll have to keep an eye on this one though, as Harbaugh may look to Rice a little more in the passing game now that Anquan Boldin has moved to the 49ers.

Originally I was concerned about Alfred Morris when RGIII went down with that horrific looking injury in the playoffs, but according to recent reports it looks as though he may possibly be back for week one.  If RGIII is good to go, bet on Alfred Morris having a top ten fantasy season.


11. DeMarco Murray
12. Steven Ridley
13. Chris Johnson
14. Maurice Jones-Drew
15. Matt Forte

Demarco Murray could be a bargain at number 11...if he stays healthy.  His first two seasons would tell us to expect another injury in 2013, but I want to believe that he can keep it on the field this year.  Maybe my man-crush for DeMarco is getting in the way, but with the emergence of Dez Bryant as one of the game’s elite wideouts, I’m hoping it’ll open up the running game a little more for Murray, resulting in a breakout year that we all know he’s capable of.

16. Reggie Bush
17. David Wilson
18. Steven Jackson
19. Frank Gore
20. Darren McFadden

I would LOVE to move Wilson up a few spots, but Tom Coughlin’s use of Andre Brown at the goal line concerns me.  Wilson is absolutely lethal in the open field and with Amhad Bradshaw out of the picture; Wilson is the clear go to guy.  I expect a big yardage output in his sophomore season, but Brown is definitely going to cut into his TD total.  Meanwhile, Steven Jackson has plenty left in the tank to have a solid year for Atlanta.

21. Lamar Miller
22. Darren Sproles
23. Ryan Matthews
24. Rashard Mendenhall
25. Vick Ballard
26. Jonathan Dwyer
27. Mikel Leshoure
28. Daryl Richardson
29. Shane Vereen
30. Jonathan Stewart
31. BenJarvus Green Ellis
32. Bilal Powell