Wednesday, December 8, 2010

All We Want for Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa

Is for the Knicks to finish 2010 with a better than .500 record.  A recent hot streak is great because they have a TOUGH next couple of weeks coming up.

The Knicks are currently at 13-9 with more wins than only four other Eastern Conference teams.  Starting tonight against Toronto, here's a sneak peak at the rest of December.

vs. Toronto
@ Washington
vs. Denver
vs. Boston
vs. Miami
@ Cleveland
vs. Oklahoma City
vs. Chicago
@ Miami
@ Orlando

The good news is a lot of the games are at home.  The bad news is they are against some of the better teams in the league, some in particular are finding their winning ways (cough cough miami). 

Let's go for wins against Toronto, Washington, Cleveland, Chicago, and one against one of the other premiere teams.   2011 begins with a record of 18-14.  We'll be thrilled. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Return of the King

So much hype about what the fan's in Cleveland will do to LeBron. My idea: during introductions everyone stands in silence and turns their back on LeBron. Don't pay him any attention while he's being introduced. After all he turned his back on Cleveland so why not stand in unison against him. No music, no fancy lights, just complete silence for him to think a minute about how great life is in South Beach.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

MLS Expansion Draft

This thing is live and streamable at or directly at

We'll be updating this post as the draft progresses with some thoughts and surprises on who will be joining the Vancouver Whitecaps and Portland Timbers for their inaugural 2011 seasons (or as trade bait).

For the entire unprotected list:

The New York Red Bulls have left some quality players up for grabs after trading away right back/midfielder Jeremy Hall for a third round draft pick.  Juan Pablo Angel could go but it's not evident whether he's more valuable on the field or in a future trade to an Eastern Conference team like New England, DC, or Philadelphia.

  • Angel, Juan Pablo
  • Boyens, Andrew
  • Chinn, Conor
  • da Luz, Austin
  • Garcia, Irving
  • Nielsen, Brian
  • Robinson, Carl
  • Salou, Ibrahim
  • Sassano, Luke
  • Sutton, Greg
  • Talley, Carey
  • Ubiparipovic, Sinisa
Unlikely to go: Conor Chinn, Austin da Luz, Irving Garcia, Brian Nielsen, Carl Robinson, Luke Sassano, Greg Sutton, Carey Talley.

More likely to go: Andrew Boyens, Ibrahim Salou, Sinisa Ubiparipovic.  

The only people who know who will likely be changing teams today have quite a task today... some other big names that could move teams on the draft board today:

Dax McCarty (FC Dallas)
Pat Onstad (Houston)
Guillermo Barros Schelotto (Columbus) 
Frankie Hejduk (Columbus)
Freddie Ljunberg (Chicago)
Tim Ward (San Jose)
Julian de Guzman (Toronto)
Blaise Nkufo (Seattle)
Sanna Nyassi (Seattle)

Also a familiar face to Red Bull fans is Nick Zimmerman - many were disappointed when he was left unprotected in last year's expansion draft and was lost to Philadelphia.  For the second consecutive year, Zimmerman finds himself unprotected and could find himself moving West.  

Just about to get started, updates coming soon.  

UPDATE 1 (2:08 PM): Dax McCarty goes to Portland #1 and Vancouver take Nyassi from Seattle.  Great picks to start the afternoon.  Dallas has protected Daniel Hernandez and Seattle has pulled back Patrick Ianni.

UPDATE 2 (2:15):  Eric Brunner, Columbus Defender goes to Portland,  Attiba Harris (FC Dallas) to Vancouver.    Columbus pulls back Kevin Burns.  Columbus not completely revamping roster but definitely will be making some more roster adjustments.  FC Dallas thrilled not to lose Eric Avila but two big hits with McCarty and Harris.  Dallas now can't lose any more players to Portland or Vancouver.

UPDATE 3 (2:19): Adam Moffat to Portland, Nate Sturgis to Vancouver.  Columbus and Seattle players are now all pulled back from the pool.

UPDATE 4 (2:24):  Anthony Wallace, Colorado Rapids defender goes to Portland.  This comes after the Rapids traded away two defenders on Monday for Seattle midfielder Peter Vagenas.  Shea Salinas (Philly) goes to Vancouver.    Colorado pulls back Wells Thompson and Philly protects GK Chris Seitz.

UPDATE 5 (2:30):  David Horst (RSL) will be heading to Portland and veteran Alan Gordan goes to Vancouver.  Salt Lake pulls back Collen Warner and Chivas pulls back Trujillo.  With a break in the action between rounds the only big surprise, and surprises are hard to pull off in expansion drafts, is Alan Gordon to Vancouver.

UPDATE 6 (2:33): ROBBIE FINDLEY GOES TO PORTLAND.  So much for no big surprises.

UPDATE 7 (2:41): Real Salt Lake off the board with that Findley pick.  Lots of speculation that Findley would be moving to Europe, so there was either some early signaling or this is a real dice roll.
Vancouver picks O'Brian White from Toronto who subsequently protect Julian de Guzman.

UPDATE 8 (2:45): Peter Lowry from Chicago to Portland, Alejandro Moreno from Philly to Vancouver.  Jonathan Bornstein to Portland???? Why is Portland stocking up on players leaving MLS? (Oh, because USMNT players don't go into a reallocation draft if (when) they return to MLS.  Portland retains their rights.  Savvy.

UPDATE 9 (2:53):  Joe Canon (San Jose) to Vancouer, Tim Ward pulled back.  Also need to mention Dasan Robinson pulled back by the Fire from the Lowry pick, Chivas players off the board with the Bornstein pick.  Jordan Graye (DC United) to Portland and DC pulls back Morsink.  Vancouver takes Sporting Kansas City back Leathers.  Kansas City for some reason pulls back a goalkeeper despite Portland and Vancouver being set between the sticks.

UPDATE 10 ( 2:55): To Portland: Arturo Alvarez from San Jose and the Earthquakes are off the board.

UPDATE 11 (2:57)  Last but not least, with the final pick of the draft, Vancouver picks John Thorrington from the Chicago Fire.  Seattle, Chicago, San Jose, Dallas, Philly hit hard.  Los Angeles and NYRB untouched....    

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Breaking News: Knicks in Rebuilding Year

The Knicks have now lost six of their last seven, and if it wasn't blatantly clear going into the season, despite being big spenders on the free agent market over the summer, New York is in a rebuilding year.  Their starting lineup consists of two rookies (Landry Fields and Timofey Mozgov) and third-year Danilo Gallinari who played his first full season last year because of rookie injury problems.  It shows. 

The decision making on the floor and shot selection, particularly down the stretch, is poor.  Bursts of energy and up-tempo offense matched with high pressure defense are not sustained.  To be fair, it's early in the season and the Knicks are relatively better off now than they were at this point last season.  I'm not a huge fan of D'Antoni (at least with this group of players) but I'm also by no means singing the "hey hey, ho ho, Mike D'Antoni's got to go" song like a lot of Knicks faithful.  Give these guys a bit of time to fit together and they could very well compete for the 7th or 8th playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The worst thing that could happen, however, is if Donnie Walsh succumbs to the building pressure and trades away valuable assets (draft picks or young talent) for a short term solution.  Some are calling for Steve Nash to be brought in.  I love Steve Nash, he's an elite point guard, and the increased possiblity of playing pickup soccer with him at Sara Roosevelt Park in New York City would skyrocket if he came ot the Knicks. 

But New York is in their current position because of overreacting and looking for short-term solutions.  The main targets of the organization need to be Chris Paul or Deron Williams either via trade or through free agency after the 2012 season.  It absolutely hurts watching second-year standout Brandon Jennings run the up-tempo Milwaukee Bucks while we watch Jordan Hill... oh, wait.  We don't watch Jordan Hill.  With drafting young talent, there is a bit of luck involved.  For every two or three first round picks teams usually find one future franchise cornerstone (aside from the 1990s Dallas Mavericks). 

The Knicks do not have that luxury because they notoriously trade away all their draft picks.  It made sense as a way to clear cap space for a run at LeBron, but enough is enough.  Stop trading the draft picks (especially since they are most likely lottery picks) and focus on building a team from the ground up, supplementing with role players and perhaps even a superstar brought in via free agency or a beneficial trade.  I'll cheer for the Knicks regardless of their record if they stick to a long term plan to contend on a consistent basis.   

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

USA vs. South Africa preview

We have arrived - the United States' last match of 2010 against South Africa is today.
The biggest story for the match is that Teal Bunbury, coming off an impressive MLS rookie season for the Kansas City Wizards, has agreed to play for the United States national team instead of Canada where he was born.  Earlier statements by Bunbury gave clear preference to Canada, but a change of heart came because the young forward wants to play in a World Cup - a long shot for the Canadian national team in the foreseeable future.

Some other exciting call ups for the US are Tim Ream and Mikkel Diskerruud.  Good performances today and at the January camp could land both spots on the 2011 Gold Cup roster, but more than likely we'll be getting a good look at some players who will factor in more heavily for the 2014 World Cup.

South Africa has called in over ten players from its World Cup team for the match, the big news being that midfielder and Everton standout Steven Pienaar will be wearing the captain's armband today.  Rumors are linking Pienaar with a move to Liverpool during the January transfer window, and an inspired performance today will reinforce how high this player's ceiling is. 

Enjoy the match (ESPN2 at 2 pm) and post your thoughts before, during, or after the match below. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Few Seconds of Panic Review

While killing some time browsing on I came across a review I wrote a couple of years back for Stefan Fatsis' A Few Seconds of Panic.  If you're looking for some good winter reading, especially now that football season is in full swing, I highly recommend it (especially to Broncos/Redskins fans - lots on Mike Shanahan):

"I enjoyed this book. It was a quick read, and as the 2008 NFL season is winding down, it provided an interesting look at a team that year in and year out is in the thick of the playoff race - the Denver Broncos. Fatsis does a great job touching on a number of different subjects including kicker subculture, coaching approaches to game preparation and roster cuts, the NFL as a bureaucracy, and players who go largely unnoticed from city to city, filling in for injured players and making the league minimum's salary on various practice squads. As a football fan, gaining a better understanding of the off-season, training camp, and the preseason from someone almost entirely on the inside was well worth the time on this page-turner. 

The book is a lot about the mechanics and psychology behind kicking, and as an often-overlooked part of football, that's fine. But while Fatsis seemed to assimilate well with Denver's coaching staff, kickers, Quarterbacks, and a handful of other various position players, much of the book focuses on players toward the bottom of the depth chart who don't even make the 53-man roster. His book relied too heavily on a small group of players, leaving me feeling like there were many other personalities and stories that he either left out or did not have access to despite his presence being casually accepted by the majority of the Broncos organization.

This is a story of a 43-year old who becomes a member of a professional team as an experiment, and much credit to Mr. Fatsis for pulling that off in a league that is incredibly controlling of its media exposure. But it is also a story largely about the journeymen of the NFL, as Fatsis tries to uncover why these players, many of whom are injured, neglected by the coaching staff, or unlikely to ever find a steady job playing professional football, still show up to fight for roster spots. I would have liked to see more about the players with more job security (non-kickers) and gotten more of a glimpse into the preparation they go through year after year and what their impressions of the game, league, and team were.

Definitely a great piece of writing and Fatsis' story in this book is just as interesting as that of any of the players."  

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tim Ream Robbed

Most of the buzz around MLS' 2010 Rookie of the Year centered around Tim Ream and Danny Mwanga.  A surprise announcement today that the award went to 17-year old DC United rising star Andy Najar.  Najar is undoubtedly an emerging talent in Major League Soccer and possibly even for the Honduran or US National Team (depending on which country he decides to play for).  He has huge upside, but my take on rookie of the year is to give it to the player who in his first year made the biggest impact for his club.  And that player, without a doubt, is Tim Ream.

Ream started every game for the team that finished 1st place in the Eastern Conference.  And he didn't enter an established back line - the Red Bulls were terrible in 2009 and switched Ream's counterpart at Centerback halfway through the season (an aging Mike Petke was replaced by Carlos Mendes).  Chris Albright took some time getting back into form and Roy Miller loves to play up the left wing.  Tim Ream was the one consistent piece of the defense and impressed even USMNT coach Bob Bradley with his vision and skill on the ball (a call-up during the January camp for Ream is likely).

Andy Najar could in the next season or two break out into a legitimate star and command a sizable transfer fee to a European club.  But he was not the best 1st year player this season.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Moss Released: Who's Laughing Now?

So when I last commented that the Vikings had gotten Moss I thought that New England would eventually come out the winner in this trade. Little did I know was that Randy would prove me right (for once) so soon. The Vikings got 13 catches in 4 games and gave up a 3rd round pick. Remember, the Pats only had to give up a 4th rounder to get them so they really cleaned house. Moss just made Belichick look even smarter than he already is. It will be interesting to see who picks Moss up off the waiver wire, if anyone.

I wonder how this plays out with the Vikings front office. It looks like Childress has lost the confidence of the team and possibly management. Maybe he'll be following in Randy's footsteps and is the next to go.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Knicks Open Season With Win

The Knicks will leave Toronto having won their first game of the 2010-2011 season, 98-93.  It wasn't the most impressive win and it came against a team that will likely be at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.  But a win in the 82 game season is just that, and when a team is looking to sneak into the playoffs for the first time since 2004. every game counts.

Despite almost giving the game away at the end with defensive lapses as well as poor decision making and ball movement on offense, Toronto was only able to make the final result closer than it could have been.

A couple of thoughts: 10 Knicks got on the court tonight, which is high compared to Mike D'Antoni's  team last season, and particularly surprising considering Anthony Randolph did not dress with a minor ankle injury.

Wilson Chandler was left out of the Knicks' starting 5, but still led the team with 22 points off the bench.   Amar'e Stoudamire had a tame double double (19 points, 10 boards, and 9 turnovers aren't $100 million numbers).

The difference tonight?  Free throws.  The Knicks only got to the line 17 times, but shot 88% making 15.  Toronto went 18/24 with key misses in the fourth quarter.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Turducken Power Rankings Week 7 Edition

Six teams at 3-3 are chasing the Maddenisms, Murkin Men (5-2), and Brwlers (4-2).  But even for teams at 1-5 and 2-4 there’s a lot of season left and plenty of time to challenge for playoff spots.  Onto the power rankings!

1) Team Murkin Man (Last week: #1): TMM remains #1 but faces a tough challenge this week with 5 usual starters injured or on their bye week. 

2) Manhattan Maddenisms  (#2)-  Usually Tight Ends don’t matter much but a questionable Antonio Gates could make the difference this week for the Maddenisms, especially since two of San Diego’s WRs are out. 

3) GSO Bayern Ballboys (#3) - GSO lost a close one last week, scoring less than 100 points for only the 2nd time this season.  Strong performances by Roddy White, Jabar Gaffney, and Miles Austin this week will make up for the low projection for RB Thomas Jones.   

4) GaGa's Penis (#4) – ESPN projectors love Gaga’s Penis but I’m still not convinced that Tampa Bay QB Josh Freeman will score almost as many points as Aaron Rodgers this week.  Keep an eye out if Roy Williams stays hot in Dallas – he’s on pace to put up some career highs but is competing for Tony Romo’s attention with Austin, Bryant, and Witten.  

5)  BKLYN Brwlers (#6) – The Brwlers have won 4 in a row, and even with Megatron and LT on BYE weeks, only one player is projected to score under ten points from Brooklyn, and that’s recent pickup RB Chris Ivory.   Who?  Look him up, he could soon be New Orleans’ #1 back. 
6) Oaktown Griz (#8) – Knowshon Moreno and Beanie Wells are finally back from injuries and bye weeks, and Jeremy Maclin should have a big game with Desean Jackson out of action on Sunday.  Look for Oaktown to get over 100 points for the 2nd straight week and continue to move up in the standings (and rankings). 
7) Chelsea Pirates (#5) -  Losing Dallas Clark for the season is a huge blow to the pirates, but with the best Running Back combo in Turducken (Gore, Mendenhall, Best) the Pirates are still a tough matchup for any opponent and a likely playoff team. 

8) Pre Season Champs (#7) – Could Deion Branch be the answer to all the Champs problems with underachieving Shonn Greene and Percy Harvin?  No, but if he follows up a great first game back in New England with more double-digit performances he sure won’t hurt! 

9) Gowanus Grwlers (#10) – Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams have been disappointments so far and Larry Fitzgerald consistently mediocre, all of this overshadowing the resurgence of Steven Jackson and a Bears defense that has been playing much better with the return of Brian Urlacher from injury in 2009. 
10) Kathleen Turner Overdrive (#11) – Brandon Jacobs has scored in the double digits for the past 3 weeks, and Steve Smith (Carolina) seems to have recovered from injury.  KTO missed being in the 3-3 club by 4.5 points last week, but is hoping to regain that ground with a tough matchup against fellow smacktalking GaGa’s Penis. 
 11)  DC Dementors (#9) – Big Ben is back in Pittsburgh and should start putting up numbers quick against Miami who ranks low against the pass.  But where is DeAngelo Williams???

12) Team Box (#12) – Only one player on Team Box scored over ten points last week – Kicker Rob Bironas.  Good thing too, because otherwise Team Box’s starters only put up 26 points.  Don’t expect that to repeat this week, as Team Box has some favorable matchups and could possibly knock off the injury/bye week plagued Murkin Men.  

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

New York Knicks vs. Boston Celtics - NBA Preseason arrives at MSG

At a quick trip overseas, the Knicks are back stateside and made their 2010-2011 debut at the Garden tonight against the Boston Celtics.  We were even lucky enough to get rocking seats since someone knows how big of a Jesus Shuttlesworth Ray Allen fan I am.

Not too many takeaways from the first game except Landry Fields is just as athletic as he looked during the summer league and a raw talent.  Tony Douglass has a knack for putting himself in good positions for rebounds (especially for a guard).  Amar'e Stoudamire is going to dominate the Eastern Conference teams that don't have Dwight Howard or Chris Bosh in the middle.  Wilson Chandler must have been checking out ESPN rumors this morning and saw the report that D'Antoni doesn't want to settle with him in the starting rotation - he played well hitting shots and hustling.  Even though he's nearing 40, Shaq can still get the greatest arena in the world to chant his name.

And most importantly, the NBA's rule change which practically makes any interaction in response to a bad call with a referee a technical foul is, as expected, pathetic.  What's next?  Will college football ban any kind of celebration after a player scores a touchdown?  Oh... never mind.

Angel’s Expected Departure Caps a Year of Change for New York Red Bulls

The New York Red Bulls finished the 2009 season in last place with a miserable 21 points, a 5-19-6 record, and a -20 goal differential.  What a difference one offseason can make though, as only seven players on the roster at the end of last year remain on the roster and have not indicated an inclination to leave or retire.

Seth Stammler has announced he will be leaving the club to attend business school, Mike Petke plans to retire, John Wolyniec already retired following his release from the club, Mac Kandji was traded, and during halftime of the USA v. Colombia friendly on October 12, Juan Pablo Angel told a somewhat startled Alexi Lalas that he probably would not return to the club next year live on ESPN2 (Lalas commended Angel for his enexpected candor via tweet the next morning). 

That leaves Carlos Mendes, Danleigh Borman, Jeremy Hall, Bouna Coundoul, Dane Richards, Luke Sassano, and Andrew Boyens as the only players leftover from 2009.  With two expansion clubs joining MLS next season, it would not be surprising if Borman, Hall, Sassano, or Boyens were with another club to start next season as well.

While Hans Backe has generated a lot of attention and praise (and even Manager of the Year buzz) for his consistent approach and ability to turn a struggling team around on the field, a lot of credit has to go Sporting Director Eric Soler who, along with Backe, manages the roster and has brought in new players that compliment each other well even before the major signings of Henry and Marquez. 

The backline has had three new faces in Chris Albright, Roy Miller, and rookie of the year candidate Tim Ream.  Joel Lindpere and rookie Tony Tchani have been huge difference makers in the midfield.  And more recently and much more publicized, the signings of Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez have brought skill and international attention to the club that is commonly absent from even the most competitive MLS sides. 

Another recent arrival is attacking midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy who was traded from Colorado in return from Mac Kandji.  The Red Bulls were almost able to secure the services of Notts County forward Luke Rodgers before the transfer window closed, but Visa issues (the passport stamp, not the credit card) kept him in England for the time being.  A January signing is now expected.  The club has also showed interest in Swedish winger/midfielder Jan Gunnar Solli.  With the expected departure of Angel, the Red Bulls will also open up their third designated player spot and would most likely bring in an attacking playmaker or striker. 

While it’s fun and interesting to speculate on next season, one thing is for sure: Backe and Soler have completed one of the most impressive team turnarounds in MLS history. We’ll be watching closely over the next few weeks to see not only how the Red Bulls close out the season and make a run for the MLS cup, but also for clues on how the team might change and adjust for a successful follow-up 2011.    

Monday, October 11, 2010

USMNT: A look back and ahead

Saturday night's match against Poland gave a bit of insight into the mind of Bob Bradley, at least in terms of his approach with European based players.  With the exception of Brek Shea and Heath Pearce from FC Dallas, the entire roster called in for the two October friendlies play in European leagues that observe the FIFA calendar dates.   And since Carlos Bocanegra has returned to his club as pre-arranged after Saturday's game, the call-up of Heath Pearce as an option at left back makes a lot more sense.

On Saturday, Bradley switched from his traditional 4-4-2 to a 4-2-3-1 formation.  Stuart Holden played remarkably well and with the confidence of an English Premiere League starter.  Jermaine Jones also was stellar in the midfield and should play a key role in the next cycle for the US.  Jozy Altidore finished a great opportunity for his first goal for the national team in 2010.  While his inability to finish other chances has come under fire among US fans and commentators, the fact is he created good opportunities  and it's encouraging that he could have finished with an additional goal or two.

It's a ways out, but my projected starting midfield/forwrads for the USA for next summer's gold cup based on Bradley's willingness to switch to a better formation for the United States:



-------------------Bradley------- Jones-----------------

The defense is a bit more open, but it's safe to assume that Onyewu, Cherundolo, and Bocanegra will be top candidates to start based on experience.  Maurice Edu played fine at centerback, but going with a younger MLS based player like Tim Ream, Ike Opara, or Omar Gonzalez might be a better direction, with the versatile Edu available off the bench.

On Tuesday night we'll hope to see some of the other players Bradley has called up for the friendlies such as Eric Lichaj and Eddie Johnson who has been getting time at Fulham under their new manager.  EJ is still relatively young and without other options up top the competition to backup Jozy Altidore is wide open.

Why is this News?

Why do we care who Brett Favre shows his- umm package too? I don't care. It's none of my business and I'd make an assumption it's none of yours unless you happen to be the significant other of this man or any other athlete for that matter.

Athletes today are coddled, put on pedestals, and told they are untouchable and better than the rest of us. This doesn't even start when they make it to the big leagues, but it starts much earlier in life-for some as early as middle school. They start getting special treatment and treated as demigods. Look at Ben Roethlisberger-regardless if a crime was committed his actions were despicable. I don't think any mother would be proud of her son if he did that, but yet he's going to get cheered and adored and forgiven because like Favre he can throw a leather ball better than most. All I can say is athletes aren't role models, but there are more important things going on in the world than to report on this kind of crap-and yes, I realize the hypocrisy of my last statement, but deal with it.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Week 5: Under the Radar

Week 5 - Week 7 in the NFL is when you start to see who the real contenders will be and who just got off to a hot start, but fades away aka 2009 Denver Broncos. So many 2-2 teams so who will get over the hump this, it's fantasy so who cares. Logic out the window and here are the UTR's for this week.

Bye Week teams: Dolphins, Steelers, Seahawks, Patriots.

Cedric Benson RB-playing a weak Bucs Def should get him a lot of carries.

Ryan Torian RB-Who? Starting RB for the Washington Redskins now that Portis is out he'll get plenty of carries.

Thomas Jones/Jamal Charles- They are playing the Colts, which means one thing...running the ball is the only option and best defensive strategy to stopping Peyton.

Kevin Walter, WR- I'm not sure how healthy Andre Johnson is so he might be getting more targets than usual.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB-The bills play a terrible Jags secondary and Fitzy has been surprising since taking over for the cut Edwards. Not a bad option if you had Tom Brady as your starter.

Kevin Boss TE-Did you see what Zach Miller did last week against the Texans? Eli will be looking his way A LOT.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Red Bulls/Real Salt Lake Preview

In a potential preview of this year's MLS Cup final, the New York Red Bulls host Real Salt Lake at 4:00 pm EST. While the LA Galaxy are still in position to take the Supporter's Shield, RSL and NYRB can stay in te hunt and also maintain their playoff positions with FC Dallas and Columbus close behind. The Red Bulls in particular can create some distance between Eastern conference foe Columbus, who after a tough loss Tuesday night in the U.S. Open Cup final vs. Seattle, lost 2-0 last night a Chicago Fire side fighting to stay alive and catch Colorado for the final playoff spot.

New York will be missing Bouna Condoul (Senegal) and Dane Richards (Jamaica) for international team play. So while there won't be any "Bouna time" tonight, backup keeper Greg Sutton has proved he is a more than competent fill-in option. So what will decide tonight's game? It will all come down to the midfield and how well Tony Tchani, Rafa Marquez, Joel Lindpere, and Mehdi Ballouchy can contain and counter against a formidable Salt Lake attack. If they can put pressure on Kyle Beckerman and support New York's back four to neutralize Saborio, Findley, and Espindola, the Red Bulls should come away with the win.

Prediction: NYRB win 2-1 with goals by Angel and Lindpere. And if the Red
Bulls take the match, look for youngsters Austin Da Luz, Connor Chinn, and Juan Agudelo to see some time as manager Hans Backe rests more veteran players down the stretch.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Turducken League Profile of the Week

Could there be better timing to launch a new Turducken weekly series profiling each team starting with the current team on the bottom and working our way up to #1?  Not like being 1-3 at this point means anything, a win in Week 5 and Team Box will be right back in the top 8 with the rest of the league currently at 2-2.  And is it just me, or is there some interesting trade action buzzing?

QB:  Donovan McNabb, Brett Favre
RB: Michael Turner, Cedric Benson, Fred Jackson, Clinton Portis
WR: Randy Moss, Hakeem Nicks, Louis Murphy, Josh Morgan (SF), Joey Galloway (Washington)
TE: Tony Sheffler (Detroit), David Thomas (New Orleans)
D/ST: Buccaneers, Saints
K: Rob Bironas

Tier 1:
Michael Turner, Randy Moss, Cedric Benson

Tier 2:
Clinton Portis, Hakeem Nicks, Donovan McNabb, Brett Favre

Tier 3:
Fred Jackson, Louis Murphy

Comments:  If Clinton Portis weren't out for a few weeks with an injury, Team Box would have a great foursome of backs, especially since Marshawn Lynch was traded to Seattle and Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller seem destined to have a healthy split of carries in Buffalo.  Michael Turner and Cedric Benson have gotten off to relatively slow starts but should start to pick up their production as Atlanta and Cincinati's matchups improve (except for Cinci's remaining games against pittsburgh and baltimore...).

Rob Bironas is a good kicker, Tennessee can move the ball pretty well but doesn't have that go to guy to catch touchdowns in the red zone.  The Saints defense will create points on special teams and with turnovers and play particularly well at home.

Now what everyone is talking about: a trade currently under league review that would send Brett Favre to teh Brklyn Brawlers for Marques Colston.   Colston would fall under the tier 2 player category, as does favre, and each have upside but serious downside.

Favre: Has a lot of weapons and proved last season he's still a great quarterback.  Lingering questions over his age and ability to sustain an entire season of punishment against some of the league's best defenses in the NFC North and AFC/NFC East teams who the Vikings are scheduled to face.  Also how much will the Vikings rely on Adrian Peterson?  Will they let Favre throw 25-30 times per game?  Plus he is retiring after this season.  Or is he....?

Colston:  Off to a slow start this year (8.5, 8.5, 4, and 5 points respectively in the first four games), lots of weapons on the Saints offense could mean reduced targets some games, but once the saints pick it up on offense they can easily put up 500 yards passing and 4-5 touchdowns, which is plenty to go around.  In the first four weeks of 2009, Colston only averaged 12 points per game... it wasn't until weeks 5-7 that he put up 26, 16, and 17).  Could that be the case again this year?

What do you think of the trade considering Team Box and Brklyn Brwlers??

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Week 5 Power Rankings

A bit of movement on the power rankings this week, and if you check the transaction wire things are abuzz around the league.  Cadillac Williams has changed teams and the PreSeason Champs picked up the Rams defense, probably since they are playing the Lions this week.

One sidenote - if you look at the standings and each team's total points scored, it almost goes perfectly in order from top to bottom.  Let's see how long that lasts.

We've got one team undefeated and seven teams deadlocked with 2-2 records.  Who will start to pull ahead??? On to this week's rankings!

1) Team Murkin Man (Last week: #1): Still undefeated, TMM will look to role with minimal impact by this week's byes against the Bklyn Brwlers, winners of their last two after a slow start to the season.  Look for Ray Rice's #s to begin to pick up but DeSean Jackson to have lower output until Michael Vick returns to take control of the Eagles offense from Captain Check-Down, Kevin Kolb.

2) Manhattan Maddenisms  (#2)- Six of the Maddenism players are on the injury report or on a bye this week which might be some kind of record.  But Adrian Peterson and Antonio Gates still make the Maddenisms a favorite to continue to put pressure on Team Murkin Man.

3) GSO Bayern Ballboys (#3) - GSO has put up over 100 points in 3 of their first 4 games and is looking for its first back-to-back wins of the season this week against the Dementors.  Besides a small lack of depth at running back, their wide receiver corps is deep and have some very favorable matchups this week.  Look for a lot of points and a big win for GSO to keep them in the chase for 1st place.   

4) GaGa's Penis (#4) - Pop quiz!  which GGP running back leads the team in average points per game?  If you guessed 2009 league leading rusher Chris Johnson, you owe GGP a beer!  Peyton Hillis, whether you buy the hype or not, has put up some monster consistent numbers.  GGP will hope Chris Johnson can start to do the same, and their points and win total will start to climb.

5) Chelsea Pirates (#5) -  The Pirates lost a nail-biter to GSO in Week 4 largely in part to Brandon Marshall forgetting that he is a professional football player on national tv on monday night.  Santonio Holmes returns this week, however, and Rashard Mendenhall will come off Pittsburgh's bye next week rested and with the return of 2-time superbowl champion and skeezeball, Big Ben Roth. 

6)  BKLYN Brwlers (#8) - The first team to move up in the power rankings, the Brwlers are teaching a class in how to mix experience with young up and coming players.  How LaDanian Tomlinson and Ryan Matthews do for the next few weeks will go a long way in determining where the Brwlers will be standings wise at the end of the season.  

7) Pre Season Champs (#6) - Despite the Champs owner saying he'd rather see the Lions win than beat his week 4 opponent in Fantasy football (his rationale? The Champs have better odds of winning one more game this season), the Lions lost and the Champs prevailed.  Drew Brees will start to fire it up sooner or later, and if the Packers ever decide to run the ball John Kuhn has shown a few flashes of brilliance.

8) Oaktown Griz (#7) - A tough week #4 for the Griz, as recently acquired Pierre Thomas sat out nursing an injured hamstring.  Only two players scored over ten points for the Griz last week, and one was their kicker.  Once a few injury and bye week woes clear up though, the Griz will be in a much better place.  And while everyone is buzzing about the Randy Moss pickup helping Brett Favre's #s, look for Visanthe Shiancoe to reap the benefits as well as Moss will draw double coverage leaving Shiancoe more space up the middle.

9)  DC Dementors (#12) - The other big team to make a big jump this week is the DC Dementors.  A little thin at running back, but with the Giants offense clicking, Eli and Steve Smith can really carry this team.  DC has great plays at Wide Receiver, why else would someone keep Mark Clayton on the bench when matched up against Detroit?  DC may not get the win this week against GSO but every point will count when determining the top 8 seeds come playoff time (just 8 weeks away!).  
10) Gowanus Grwlers - 6 Grwlers are on their bye this week (must be synched up or something), but Gowanus are hoping that their Miami running back tandem of Ronnie Brown and RIcky Williams come back ready to play.  Their chances to steal a win this week against Kathleen Turner Overdrive will depend on Jay Cutler's availability after suffering a concussion in Week 4 since usual starter Tom Brady is off.     

11) Kathleen Turner Overdrive - Injuries and bye weeks can be a turducken team killer, and while KTO sits above Oaktown, DC, and Gowanus in the official standings, two injuries to starting WRs Steve Smith and Austin Collie could be a real damper on KTO's chances at moving up to the 3-2 club.  Then again, if the playoffs started this weekend, KTO would be IN, and their chance to win the league alive.

12) Team Box -  After being the only team to complain publicly about their ranking in week 4, Team Box players couldn't put up double digit performances, including usually reliable Randy Moss (who unbeknownst to anyone Monday night was on the verge of being traded so kept largely out of action), Michael Turner, and Clinton Portis (who was knocked out by an injury).  And after leading the Redskins down for an opening drive touchdown against the Eagles in his homecoming, Donovan McNabb went cold and finished with a subpar QB rating.  What will the Randy Moss to minnesota trade do for Team Box, as they have both Brett Favre and the happily relocated WR???

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Moss returns to Minnesota

Who is happy right now? Brett Favre?!?

Details of trade:

Vikings send a reported 2011, third round draft pick for Moss.

Interesting trade that I think New England will actually come out the winner of this in the long term. Right now it doesn't make a whole lot of sense on the surface why the Pats would deal him. Moss is still a viable player, but for how much longer? He can still stretch a defense and paired with Sidney Rice-when he returns from hip surgery- and Percy Harvin along with Schiancoe will give Favre plenty of passing options, but this looks like a last attempt to get the Vikes to the Super Bowl this year and will stunt their long term growth.

Good thing for Fantasy owners is that Moss and Favre's stock just went up.

Monday, October 4, 2010

MLS Playoff Update

Chicago and Kansas City blew great opportunities to make up ground when Colorado lost at home to DC United, who currently sit in the absolute basement of MLS.  And with Colorado having to face FC Dallas, Real Salt Lake, and the LA Galaxy, the playoff race could have really gotten interesting.  Chicago still has an outside shot, but I just can't see Kansas City pulling it off.  Watch for the two playoff fringe teams to face off on October 12th, if only they were just a few points closer...

What else happened this weekend?  The Red Bulls moved into first place, and expect them to stay there.  The Galaxy, Salt Lake, and Dallas all won keeping things close and interesting in the West.  Columbus managed a draw after resting most of its starters in last week's CONCACAF Champions League match, but who suits up tomorrow night against Seattle for the U.S. Open Cup?  Chicago is hoping that regardless they can take advantage and get back in the hunt for the playoffs.  Better late than never!  

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Week 4: Under the Radar

The first week Fantasy teams are dipping into their benches with the bye week, unless your like me that has umm...well, underperformed starters?!? Yes, that's it. Wake up boys! Here are some guys that have favorable match ups this week or I just have a good feeling about. Logic out the window and here we go.

BYE Week Teams: Cowboys, Chiefs, Vikings, and Bucs.

Maurice Jones Drew: Yes, he was off to board by pick #5 in 99.99% of all fantasy drafts, but thus far has been a DUD and off the radar, but alas he gets to play a suspect run defense of the Colts and if the Jags have a pea-sized collective brain between the collective coaches then they'll know they need to play like the Texans did in week 1 and RUN THE BALL again and again and again. MJD gets 30 touches and one of those will actually be for a TD.

Louis Murphy: The Oakland receiver has established himself as a legit starter. I mean it. His stats are better than Larry Fitzgerald, Randy Moss, Calvin Johnson, and Hines Ward to name a few. Get him off the wire or get him in your lineup.

Zach Miller: Why? Texans can't cover the TE.

LaDanian Tomlinson: Playing Buffalo and although they are better now that Trent Edwards has been benched, it's still Buffalo. He's nicely established himself as Rex Ryan's go to man. He plays with a chip on his shoulder and is making each game an FU by way of Thank You to the Chargers. No wonder Ryan loves a reject.

Cedric Benson: He's been playing okay, but has started to pick up steam. Look for him to go full speed ahead again Cleveland today.

Johnny Knox: Playing the Giants on Sunday night he'll have some good match-ups. The only question will be which Jay Cutler shows up.

Sam Bradford: He's at home and coming off his first NFL victory. He'll make that his 2nd win today against Seattle. He's not an everyday starter, but if he's on the wire and you need a back up then he's worth a look.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

MLS Playoff Picture

With just a few games left there isn’t as much excitement around the playoff race with only four teams realistically fighting for the supporters shield for best record and two surging teams desperately trying to make up ground. In MLS, the top two teams in each conference qualify automatically to be the top two seeds in their respective conference brackets.  However, the teams with the highest point totals, regardless of their conference, fill out the remainder of the brackets.   

Here’s a quick look at the ten teams that are still relevant in the 2010 Major League Soccer season and my projections.

“Western Conference” Bracket
1) LA Galaxy
2) Real Salt Lake
3) FC Dallas
4) Seattle Sounders

“Eastern Conference” Bracket
1) New York Red Bulls
2) Columbus Crew
3) San Jose Earthquakes
4) Colorado Rapids

1) LA Galaxy (50 points currently): The Supporters Shield will return to LA for the first time since 2002.  A hot start to the season put them well in front of the rest of the league, even though Salt Lake, New York, and even Dallas may still make a last minute push, and are only still possible candidates because the Galaxy only managed one victory (1-0 at Red Bull Arena) between July 22 and September 3rd in six games.  Their mix of veteran leadership and young talent will carry them past the initial clumsiness re-integrating David Beckham into the starting 11.  If the Galaxy were still playing CONCACAF Champions League games in October, they might not be such a sure thing. 

2) New York Red Bulls (44 points): The Red Bulls will win the Eastern Conference and finish a close runner-up for the supporters’ shield, a remarkable turnaround from an abysmal 2009 season.  The Red Bulls have one of the more favorable schedules down the stretch with three home games against Kansas City, Real Salt Lake, and New England and a short trip to Philadelphia.  The squad should stay well rested and the Red Bulls will only risk losing a game if manager Hans Backe tries an unsuccessful lineup combination with new addition Mehdi Ballouchy at the same time he rests key players. 

3) Real Salt Lake (48 points): Having already clinched a berth in the next round of the Champions League, RSL can focus on its remaining MLS games and keeping its players fresh.  Manager Jason Kreis has already shown a willingness to do so resting four key players in a 1-1 draw vs. Colorado.  Salt Lake hasn’t lost a home game since May 16, 2009, but that streak may be put to the test as Salt Lake closes out its season against playoff hungry FC Dallas and Colorado

4) FC Dallas (46 points): What’s more impressive than RSL going undefeated at home since May 16, 2009?  Quite possibly FC Dallas not losing a match at home or away since May of 2010.  Their only two losses this year came against the LA Galaxy and at New York Red Bulls (if you don’t remember Angel earning his Designated Player salary: LINK).  That unbeaten streak will be put to the test as Dallas closes out its season at home against Chicago and Colorado and on the road against the LA Galaxy.  One of the most anticipated matchups of the season will occur if Dallas takes its unbeaten streat to Rio Tinto stadium to challenge Real Salt Lake’s home undefeated streak on October 16.  Look for the Burn to come out on top as Salt Lake will be between tough MLS games against the Red Bulls and Colorado as well as a CONCACAF Champions league game on the 19th.    

5) Seattle Sounders (39 points): After trading Designated Player Freddie Ljungberg to the Chicago Fire and signing new DP Blaise Nfuko, the Sounders have been on a tear.  With a fan base that is already legendary around the league despite the team only being in its second season, the Sounders will finish the season strong against four non-playoff bound teams.  Which top seed will be unlucky enough to face Seattle in the 1st home/away round of this year’s MLS playoffs?  The Galaxy might have their work cut out.    

6) San Jose Earthquakes (39 points): San Jose currently holds the 8th playoff spot, but with five games remaining, three of which are against lowly DC, Houston, and Chivas, expect their stock to rise despite a tough loss to Chicago earlier this week.  Wondolowski is having a career year and the re-emergence of Bobby Convey is doing wonders for the Earthquakes on the wing.  Strategically bringing in a Designated Player made up for the absence of previous candidate for rookie of the year Ike Opara.  Opara has recently started training with the team again, and his return could bolster a defense that has been inconsistent in his absence.    

7) Columbus Crew (45 points): Sometimes, being a good club has consequences.  And for the Columbus Crew, it’s that they have non-MLS league games in October for the U.S. Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League. Columbus must travel to Seattle on October 5th for the U.S. Open Cup championship, and then on October 21st fly to Trinidad & Tobago to take on Joe Public where only a win would guarantee advancement to the next round.  Besides that, Columbus will play San Jose and Chicago, two teams fighting for playoff berths, and travel to Toronto where many teams struggle against a lively Canadian fan base (not kidding).

8) Colorado Rapids (41 points):  Despite currently sitting in 6th place overall, Colorado finishes the season with games at Dallas, at the LA Galaxy, and home against Real Salt Lake.  If Kansas City or Chicago were a few points closer at this point we might have seen a real close race for that 8th spot.    

Chicago (29 points) and Kansas City (33 points) are the two realistically remaining teams left out this season even though they each have five remaining games compared to most teams having just four.  Chicago has put together a solid run since making a couple of key acquisitions during the transfer window but it was too little too late.  Kansas City has a brutal final five games with the only match against a non-playoff contender being a visit to New England later in October (the other four are @ NYRB, Seattle, @ Chicago, and San Jose). 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Week 4 Turducken Update w/Power Rankings

1) Team Murkin Man - 3-0.  Legitimate like the Steelers or overrated like the Chicago Bears?  You be the judge, but taking Matt Schaub with the #1 pick isn't looking quite as crazy after his 500 yard game vs. the redskins in week 2.  Arian Foster is looking like a much better running back than the majority of players who went a few rounds ahead of him.  And when Ray Rice is healthy and picks it up....  

2) Manhattan Maddenisms - Like the Oakland Raiders, the Maddenisms aren't concerned with what its players do off the field, and Michael Vick has picked up right where he left off with the Atlanta Falcons pre-busted for organizing dog fighting.  Adrian Peterson, Antonio Gates, and LeSean McCoy have been point scoring machines, and watch out for Hines Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw once the New York Giants and Steelers offenses get rolling.

3) GSO Bayern Ballboys - Matt Forte is back!  And everyone who drafted him in 2009 in the first round are hitting their heads against the wall.  Roddy White, Miles Austin, and Aaron Rodgers are consistent sources of big points.  And TE Jermichael Finley is having a breakout season.  As the season wears on an injury to a key player could be detrimental, but until then GSO is going to rack up points and definitely compete for a top playoff seed and the highest point total prize.

4) GaGa's Penis - Can Peyton Hillis step in and be a #1 RB, especially in a division where the lowly browns have to go up against Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Cinci's run defenses six times?  Brandon Lloyd will be a good pick up for GGP, but let's be honest: Peyton Manning, Chris Johnson, and Wes Welker will carry this team regardless of who else starts, and who wouldn't rely on those three?

5) Chelsea Pirates -  Once Santonio Holmes is back from Suspension and has Big Ben throwing him touchdowns left and right, the Pirates core of three #1 RBs (Gore, Mendenhall, and Jahvid Best) leaves running back deprived Turducken owners all kinds of jealous - as long as they stay in the Pirates starting lineup when they score 50+ points!   Dallas Clark and Brandon Marshall are also capable of putting up some serious points.

6) Pre Season Champs - If Fox News covered Turducken, the headline would read "Running Back Crisis - Obama's socialism to blame."  While you can blame Obama for a lot of things, I guarantee he has nothing to do with horrible first weeks by PreSeason Champs Shonn Greene and WR Percy Harvin.  With Andre Johnson battling an injury, Drew Brees will have to start putting up monster numbers that he has in the past to keep the Pre Season Champs in the top half of the league while they sort out their Running back situation.  Watch out though, could John Kuhn be this year's version of last year's Willis McGehee?

7) Oaktown Griz - The Griz might not end the season with the highest point total, but putting up consistent numbers is just as dangerous as alternating between scoring low and high every week.  Devastated by the Ryan Grant injury and nagging ailments to Beanie Wells and Knowshon Moreno, picking up Pierre Thomas should reap big rewards for the Griz moving forward - almost as good as if they got DeSean Jackson for Mark Sanchez...

8)  BKLYN Brwlers - Every week, Calvin Johnson and Maurice Jones Drew are projected to score 20+ points.  And every week, "washed up" LaDainian Tomlinson outscores them, sometimes combined.  Shonn Greene is obviously not ready to be the #1 RB in NY so LT is looking for at least one more year of great fantasy numbers.  Megatron and MJD will come around, and keep an eye on some of the younger players on this team to start putting up big numbers later in the season (Ryan Matthews, Dez Bryant, and TE Jermaine Gresham).

9) Gowanus Grwlers - Injuries are killing Gowanus, and Ronnie Brown/Ricky Williams have had less than ideal matchups in the early weeks against top run defenses Minnesota and the NYJ.  Tom Brady will give Gowanus consistent 20 point games, but can the rest of the team pick up their point totals (I'm looking at you, Larry Fitzgerald)?

10) Team Box -  Arguably the team with the most consistent point scorers, McNabb, Michael Turner, Cedric Benson and Randy moss will sooner or later put up big games.  In the meantime, Team Box is 1-2 with a starting QB, which is a much better start than last season.  If Brett Favre and the Vikings get in sync during this week's bye it could be just the source of points Box needs to be among the best of the league.  

11) Kathleen Turner Overdrive - KTO is poised to move up and fast once Jamaal Charles is past his bye week and Brandon Jacobs' situation gets worked out.  The Giants need to play him or trade him, end of story.  In the meantime, look for Mike Sims Walker to start making a bigger impact for the Overdrive once Santonio Holmes returns to the Jets from his suspension and Braylon Edwards gets another DUI - impressive considering they've all been in Manhattan where not driving a car is a pretty easy option.    

12)  DC Dementors - With the Giants offense off to an abysmal start, the Dementors have yet to start generating a lot of points from their first two draft picks, QB Eli Manning and WR Steve Smith.   DeAngelo Williams' slow start doesn't help either - the Green Bay Packers defense has scored more points than any DC running back... it's a long season but they'll have to start producing if the Dementors want to contend for a playoff spot.  

GOTW: GGP (2-1) vs. Manhattan Maddenisms (2-1):  Each team is projected to score over 120 points and the winner will keep the pressure on Team Murkin Man, who is only projected 10 points above their sunday matchup the gowanus growlers.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

FIBA World Championships...Prelude to a Final?

USA vs. Australia today.

Should be a fierce and competitive game. These teams do not like each other and I'd imagine it could get physical despite not being a medal round game. There were some interesting omissions off the USA's roster (no Cappie, no Seimone?). Ok, In Geno I Trust, but really? Maybe the players had some say in the matter as I know Cappie was spent after the WNBA season, but I think Geno played a bit of his favorites for the roster.

Either way, big game today and I'm picking the US to pull away late in the second half and make a statement.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

'Melo to Knicks?

So ESPN is reporting that the Nets pulling out of the Melo Sweepstakes-a good sign for the Knicks. Clearly, there is much that has to happen before Carmelo could join the Knicks and in most scenarios, the best one for the Knicks is if he stays put with Denver and becomes a free-agent. Denver will be patient and definitely try to trade Carmelo before the trade deadline so they get something in return. The Nets apparently put together an attractive package, but balked when Anthony would not agree to signing an extension and would have to give up way too much for possibly just having him for one season. That is 'Melo's only trump card and a good sign for the Knicks. There are a few other teams that have been mentioned that are interested, but no way Denver trades him to a Western Conference foe and there are few teams that will have the cap to sign him to a long term deal. So what are the odds he'll end up in a Knicks uniform during this season? I say 30%, but what are the odds he's at MSG for 2011? 65% and those are odds I'll take any day.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Week Two: Under the Radar

Ok, so after some stellar performance in week 1 (CJ2K, Arian Foster) and then some disappointments here are my picks for some players who will come up big in week 2.

Brandon Jacobs and everyone else for GB. They have Buffalo at home. 'nuff said.

Greg Camarillo: Shiancoe might be Favre's favorite target, but look for GC to emerge as his favorite WR.

Malcolm Floyd: I know Naanee had a monster game, but Floyd was River's favorite target. Look for him to put up solid numbers against the Jags.

Arian Foster: I guess after last week I can't really say he's under the radar, but it's like playing knockout-gotta prove it with one more game before he's no longer UTR.

Michael Vick: Can this really be? I see Vick running wild and doing some damage to Detroit.

Ahmad Bradshaw: Shakes off the cobwebs from a slow start in week 1 and is salivating to play that Indy D on Sunday night.

Dez Bryant: I think in his home debut he comes up big in big D.

Sam Bradford: I only saw the highlights from his debut, but playing Oakland could make him feel like he's back in college. His biggest fan might be the man behind w/Stephen Jackson finally thinking he might not have to face 8 man fronts every down.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The most eventful week for NYRB since...

After a recent announcement that Mike Petke, who started the season paired with rookie standout Tim Ream at centerback, would be retiring at the end of this season, Seth Stammler, only 29 years old and contender for sweetest shot from distance this year (Rafa Marquez would also be a nominee as would Dane Richard if you include exhibitions/friendlies), announced today that he will be leaving the Red Bulls to pursue an advanced degree at the University of Chicago.  Stammler has earned respect on and off the field for his play and his commitment to humanitarian work through the Sporting Chance Foundation.  He will be a missed presence for the Red Bulls for sure.

To fill the void and address a possible lack of depth in the midfield, the Red Bulls also announced today they would be trading forward Mac Kandji, who recently announced that he would not be pursuing U.S. citizenship and therefore would not be eligible to play for the US Men's National Team (I know Bob Bradley is desperate for another striker but can't believe that Kandji was on his radar).  In return, the Red Bulls will receive midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy from the Colorado Rapids.  Once upon a time, Colorado traded away Kyle Beckerman to obtain Ballouchy, so he was a bit of a disappointment to many Rapids fans.  But a fresh start with a new coach who has shown he can bring out the best in his players (i.e. drastic improvements in Dane Richards and Bouna Condoul) and being surrounded by one of the most dynamic mix of attacking players in MLS could be just what Ballouchy needs to flourish.  Look for him to be a regular coming off the bench to replace a striker if the Red Bulls are ahead or add an additional attacking option if they are playing from behind.

Some have expressed concern that without Kandji, a major void will be left at forward next season if Juan Pablo Angel is not offered a contract renewal as a Designated Player, which at this point is widely expected.  That doesn't mean, however, that he won't resign with the team as a non-DP, very much like Guillermo Barros Schelotto did with Columbus despite being one of the top contributors to the team.  The Red Bulls have promising young forwards in Connor Chin who played well during US Open Cup qualifiers as well as Juan Agudelo, who features for the United States U-20 national team.  Salou Ibrahim also remains on the roster, but if you've ever been within 1000 feet of me during a Red Bull games you'll know my thoughts on his lacking pace and first touch.

If Angel does indeed leave, look for the Red Bulls to use their third Designated Player spot for another threat up top to pair with Henry.  A slew of options at midfield also could lead to a formation shift from the typical 4-4-2 to a 4-2-3-1 with Marquez and Tchani playing behind Richards, Lindpere, and Ballouchy.  The Red Bulls organization has shown it is willing to invest the money necessary to build a competitive club team that will be a real threat in US and international club tournaments for at least the next couple of years.      

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fantasy Football 101

So a lot of my non-fantasy football friends ask me what fantasy football is and what is the big deal. Well fantasy football is now a billion dollar enterprise for what used to be a bunch of armchair quarterbacks. We don't care about if the Patriots win or lose, we just want to know how many touchdowns Tom Brady threw, how many receptions Randy Moss got and how many points the opponent was held to for the game. We are addicted to stats and look for any advantage to give us a statistical edge.

For the die-hard fantasy owners this is something you do year round-not just in September when the NFL season starts or even in August with mock drafts, but this can be a 365 day obsession. You follow the offseason workouts, college combines, the draft, trades, waivers, GMs, coaches, strength of schedule; everything and anything that will give you an edge for the fantasy draft and when the season starts.

The Basics:
Fantasy football is a competitive game where owners earn points by using real NFL players statistics each game. The idea is to have the team that accumulates the most wins in your league over the course of the 17-week NFL regular season. So how do you get a win? Well each player on your team will earn fantasy points based upon their statistical performance in their real game that week. Every week you will compete head to head with another owner and see who can get the most points.

Ok, so hopefully you're following so far. Next question: How do you earn fantasy points? There can be slight variations, but I will give the most basic scoring format. Quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends can earn points for yardage and touchdowns. Kickers earn points for extra points and field goals. Defenses earn points if they get a defensive touchdown, how many points they hold their opponent too, and turnovers.

Likewise, players can lose points if they turn the ball over (interceptions or fumbles), a kicker misses a field goal/extra point or if a defense gives up a lot of points to their opponent.

Quarterbacks generally earn 1 fantasy point for every 25 passing yards, 4 points for every touchdown they've thrown, and 6 points if they ran for a touchdown themselves. So if your fantasy quarterback was Peyton Manning and for Week 1 his stat line was 250 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns and 1 interception he would get 10 points for his 250 passing yards, 8 points for passing touchdowns, but lose 2 points for the interception so his net fantasy points that week would be 16 fantasy points.

Running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends earn points mainly 3 ways: 1 point for every 10 yards receiving/rushing, 6 points if they score a touchdown, 1/2 point per reception and can lose points for fumbles. So if you had Randy Moss as your wide receiver and he had 10 receptions for 100 yards and 1 touchdown with no fumbles he would earn 5 points for the 10 receptions, 10 points for the 100 receiving yards, and 6 points for the touchdown he scored for a total 21 fantasy points.

Each of your starters will earn points, you take the grand total and hope it's more than your opponent's starters. You do not get points for players on your bench.

Most leagues have 9 starters, which consist of: 1 Quarterback, 2 Running backs, 2 Wide Receivers, 1 Flex player (allows you to play a RB or WR), 1 Tight End, 1 Kicker, and 1 team Defense. There are variations to this. For example some leagues don't have a Flex option and regulate 2RBs and 3WRs or maybe you draft individual defensive players instead of the team defense, but for the most part you have 9 starters and 7 bench players that comprise your team.

Ok, but how do you get your team? Well first you join a league. You can create your own with your friends or join a public league. Generally they range from 10-16 members (owners) per league. 12 is the most common number of owners. Once you've joined a league the next step will be to participate in a draft. There are different types of drafts, but basically you can either have a computer make all your picks for you or you can enter what's called a "live" draft and make the picks yourself. Most fantasy owners will enter a live draft with their league and each team gets 16 picks. The draft order is chosen at random and everyone makes their picks depending upon that predetermined order.

This is where following football year round can pay off because everyone knows the obvious star fantasy players. I say "star" fantasy players because you can have a quarterback who may be a great NFL quarterback, but an average fantasy quarterback because in the NFL everything is based on wins; in fantasy everything is based statistics. A quarterback who gets 13 wins a season for his team is great, but if he only averages 10 fantasy points a game-well that's not what we like to call a fantasy stud.

So now you're in a league, you've drafted your team, and you compete week in and week out with the other owners mostly for bragging rights, but there are plenty of buy-in leagues anywhere from $10 to $10,000.

I hope this has helped those of you understand fantasy football a little better. Hit me up with questions or comments.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Why Nadal Will Win

After winning the French Open, Rafael Nadal during his post match interview gave everyone that was watching what title he was zeroed in on after reclaiming his King of the Clay title. He told Johnny Mac that he wanted to add the US Open to his trophy case. What had hindered Nadal in the past was not that he was a poor hard court player, but after playing front loaded schedule his body simply could not withstand the hard courts. He was broken by the time September came around. Anyone that plays tennis knows that hard courts can be grueling on your body. Add that with Nadal's physically demanding style of play meant he was running on empty.

This year though he really cut down on the number of tournaments knowing that if he came in healthy he'd have a great shot. What you've seen is a fresh Nadal with an improved serve that gets him free points that he's never had before. Nadal has been a great player, but always lacked a serve that was a weapon, which only compounded the number of balls he would have to hit. Now, he's getting more free points, which keeps him fresher, longer. Not that conditioning has ever been an issue for Rafa, but I'll take an ace/service winner over a 15 stroke rally any day. I don't care who he's playing (props to Djokovic for a great semi-final), but he's winning this match. He'll have a career grand slam and a chance to have all 4 titles at the same time if he can win the Aussie Open-something Federer has yet to do.

Viva Rafa.

Live Commentary and Under the Radar Starters for Week 1:

Some guys who will be solid if not spectacular this week.

Jabar Gaffney: Denver’s number 1 receiver. Someone’s got to catch the ball and if he picks up where he left off from last season he could be addition off the waiver wire. Add that Jacksonville has a weak passing D only helps the case for him to start.

Brandon Marshall: Playing against Buffalo. Miami wears the Bills down with the run and the Henne hits Marshall for a few short passes that turn into 25+ yard plays.

Ahmad Bradshaw: He’s getting the start over Jacobs and will back it up with a solid performance.

Ryan Mathews: Makes his debut and it will be big.

Cadillac Williams: Finally healthy this year and Browns will be without Shaun Rogers.

Arian Foster: Explosive game with high octane offense and he’ll benefit from it.

Chad Henne: More because he’s playing Buffalo, but will be a solid starter today.

Matthew Stafford: Look for him to put up enough stats for to be a top 10QB this week.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

EPL/MLS Soccer Saturday

I'm really looking forward to watching Bolton visit Arsenal this morning (loving the new arrival of Fox Soccer HD on my cable box).  Stuart Holden is playing some of the best soccer of his young career and arguably of any of the usual suspects on the USMNT.  Many supporters of USA Soccer have been calling for a formation change away from the outdated 4-4-2, at least while the team is without a second dominant forward.  A formation change to a 4-2-3-1 would allow Altidore to play up top with Donovan, Holden, and Dempsey in an attacking midfield role.  Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu/Jermaine Jones as defensive/holding midfielders, and a back four that no one, including USA soccer, knows exactly how will evolve.  If Holden continues to impress in the EPL, he may force Bob Bradley to utilize the depth of the American midfield (relative to the forward position).

Two of Major League Soccer's best face-off tonight late as the Columbus Crew visit the LA Galaxy.  David Beckham may make his 2010 MLS debut after tearing his achilles while trying to secure a spot playing for England in the World Cup on loan to AC Milan.  The LA Galaxy were able to win games while Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle were in South Africa, but they have dropped off their incredible form to start the season (fatigue?).

This could be a preview of MLS Cup 2010 and both teams are in a good position to compete for the Supporters Shield.  Columbus has one of the deepest rosters in Major League Soccer despite not employing a single Designated Player.  They'll need lots of legs as the MLS season wears on and Columbus competes for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, which will be decided vs. Seattle on October 5th, and the CONCACAF Champions league, currently in the group play stage.

After missing last week's game due to a Labor Day trip to Boston, it will be great to catch the Red Bulls host the Colorado Rapids.  The NYRB are coming off a tough 1-0 loss at Real Salt Lake, a result that reflected the handful of key contributors missing for international duty (starters Rafa Marquez,  Bouna Condoul, Dane Richards, and Roy Miller).  This afternoon's match comes down to New York's back four, particularly rookie standout Tim Ream, containing Colorado's Omar Cummings and Conor Casey - one of the more complimentary striker pairs in MLS.

I'll be keeping an eye on how Lindpere, Marquez and Tchani go after Mastroeni and if speedy Colorado defender Marvell Wynne sees the field despite a nagging hamstring injury.  Speedy actually doesn't come close to describing how fast Wynne is and how quickly he can make up space, as Irving Garcia discovered during a US Open Cup qualifier earlier this summer.  Only 24, Wynne is actually a player who could still work his way back into the national team picture if he can stay healthy and show he is a threat getting forward.  

More to come - enjoy a great weekend of soccer and football!    

Friday, September 10, 2010

Knicks Mystery Man

In case you were wondering how Timofey Mozgov will do in the NBA then look no further than an update about him at the FIBA World Championships

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Turducken Week 1 Matchups

Power rankings are in the works for a post-Week 1 release.  In the meantime, some quick thoughts on the first six matchups of the season...

GaGa's Penis vs. DC Dementors: When do you bet against Peyton Manning?  When he's up against the Saints.  Unfortunately, the Dementors don't have any New Orleans players but could make it a much closer game than ESPN projects.  Watch for breakout games from Jerome Harrison and Malcolm Floyd, two great later round picks from DC.   Interestingly enough, GGP will rely on two Saints, Pierre Thomas and Robert Meachem to compliment what will be almost certainly a huge day for Chris Johnson vs. oakland.  Pick: Gaga's Penis

Team Box vs. Chelsea Pirates: The Pirate's backfield of Frank Gore, Rashard Mendenhall, and Jahvid Best may be the best in Turducken.  And with Brandon Marshall, Dwayne Bowe, and Dallas Clark all bound to score a ton of points off receptions, the Pirates only downfall this year may be once again at quarterback.  Team Box, on the other hand, has two future hall of famers in Brett Favre and Donovan McNabb behind center.  Brett Favre gets the call against New Orleans, but a stroke of bad luck for Team Box - their star RBs and WR are all up against some of the league's best defenses.  Pick: Chelsea Pirates

Oaktown Griz vs. Team Murkin Man: The battle of the Bay Area, past vs. present.  This game comes down to how many points Houston can store vs. Indianapolis as TMM puts its faith in #1 draft pick Matt Schaub and RB Arian Foster.  The other big question here is how many points will Ray Rice score against the Jets?  Oaktown might not have as flashy a roster, but if Green Bay scores a lot of points against Philadelphia (by no means a guarantee) they'll have a great shot to pull a big week 1 upset against last year's runner up.  Pick: Team Murkin Man

Manhattan Maddenisms vs. GSO Bayern Ballboys: Two of last year's top scoring teams will face off in what will likely be Week 1's highest scoring matchup.  Maddenisms QB Matt Ryan has a tough task against a hungry Pittsburgh defense, but will likely get a lot of opportunities to drive Atlanta down the field as Dennis Dixon will inevitably go three and out at least a few times.  If Aaron Rodgers finds Jermichael Finley for a couple of touchdowns, either team could score over 150 points and still lose.  Pick: Maddenisms.

PreSeason Champs vs. Kathleen Turner Overdrive (game 1 of this week's Brooklyn Bowl 2010): Drew Brees is going to score a lot of points this week, and it will be up to Philip Rivers to make up the difference despite the absence of WR Vincent Jackson.  Brandon Jacobs, Jonathan Stewart, and Jamaal Charles can all score a lot of points, but will they all contribute the same week?  Pick: PreSeason Champs

GAME OF THE WEEK (GOTW):  The other half of Brooklyn Bowl of 2010,  BKLYN Brwlers vs. Turducken newbie the Gowanus Growlers.   A truly great matchup that's too close to call - even ESPN has a projected final score of 128.5 to 127.   The Growlers seem to have better matchups than the Brwlers at first glance (Jay cutler vs. Detroit, Ronnie Brown/Ricky Williams vs buffalo, and Larry Fitzgerald vs. St. Louis (SOMONE will pick up Derek Anderson prematurely after he passes for 400 yards and 4 TDs this week).  This game will come down to the possible resurgence of Calvin Johnson, the dependability of Donald Driver, and the promise of rookie RB Ryan Matthews.  Pick: Too close to call.  

The winner of the Brooklyn Bowl will be the team from Brooklyn with the best record against the other BK teams.   Contestants?  Brklyn Brwlers, Gowanus Growlers, Pre Season Champs, and Kathleen Turner Overdrive.  The trophy?  a tallboy of PBR.  

Turducken Me

Some quick takes on each round of Turducken's legendary draft last night.

Round 3: 6RBs, 4WRs, 2QBs
Best pick: Pierre Thomas. Why? GaGa has CJ2K and Peyton Manning to go with him-that could be the best backfield all year.
Worst pick: Steve Smith. Doesn't help that Hakeem Nicks will be Eli's top target.
Big or Bust: Ryan Mathews. You never know with Rookies.

Round 4: 5RBs, 3WRs, 2QBs, 2TEs
Shocked with Eli going this high. I know there weren't a lot of QBs on the board, but Eli is hardly worth a 4th round pick. Considering the Vikings depleted receiving corps Favre is a stretch here as well. A few early TEs off the board, but when there names are Gates and Clark that's not a shock.
Best pick: Antonio Gates. I'm not a fan of TE's going this high, but considering SD doesn't have any proven WRs, Rivers will be relying heavily on Gates.
Worst pick: Eli Manning. He's good, but this is too high with so much talent on the board.
Big or Bust: Jamaal Charles and Matt Forte.

Round 5: 5RBs, 4WRs,1QB, 2TEs
Running backs are still the popular picks as teams are starting to get their core players together.
Best pick: Jermichael Finley
Worst pick: Joe Flacco (see note on Eli).
Big or Bust: Arian Foster. Can he live up to the hype?

Round 6: 4RBs, 5WRs, 3 TEs
Interesting that Felix Jones and Marion Barber both went n the 6th round. Someone will end up with the short end of the stick on this one.
Best pick: Michael Crabtree. He could be a steal this late.
Worst pick: Clinton Portis. He's got a lot of miles and is injury prone.
Big or Bust: Felix Jones. Can he finally establish himself at the Cowboys #1?

Round 7: 3 RBs, 5WRs, 2 TEs
Probably one of the most interesting rounds when you look at the upside/downside of each pick. Most teams are adding to their bench with this pick you can tell they're willing to be a bit more risky.
Best pick: Pierre Garcon. I think he'll push Reggie Wayne as Peyton's most prolific WR.
Worst pick: Zach Miller. You have Celek, Winslow, Shiancoe available and it's Miller time?
Big or Bust: C.J. Spiller. A rookie on a talent-less team. This might be a very large burden to carry.

Round 8: 3RBs, 4WRs, 1 TE, 2QBs, 2K
2 kickers in the 8th round? Really? Where is Seth Meyers when I need him.
Best pick: anyone not picking a kicker this high
Worst pick: TIE Kaeding and Gostkowski
Big or Bust: Ahmad Bradshaw. Can he get the touches to be legit starter?

Round 9: 3RBs, 3WRs, 1QB, 1K, 4Ds
More defenses selected than any other position!?!?!
Best pick: Matt Ryan. Good value this late in the draft.
Worst pick: Ryan Longwell. Again, a Kicker?
Big or Bust: LT and Thomas Jones: both veteran backups with fresh legs ahead of them-could be a waste of space on the roster.

Round 10: 3RBs, 4WRs, 2QBs, 3Ds
Best pick: Kevin Kolb
Worst pick: Darren Sproles
Big or Bust: Steve Slaton. Can he become relevant again in Houston?

Round 11: 2RBs, 3WRs, 1QB, 2TE, 3Ks, 1D
Best pick: Owen Daniels. Good value on a pass friendly team.
Worst pick: Leon Washington. Not enough PT for Leon this year.
Big or Bust: Mike Williams. Reunited with Pete Carroll and it feels so good?

Round 12: 4RBs, 5WRs, 1QB, 1TE, 1K
Best pick: Vincent Jackson. Great value. He'll play this year and pay off bigtime
Worst pick: None.
Big or Bust: None. A pretty safe round through and through.

Round 13: 4WR,1QB, 3TE, 1K, 3D
Best pick: Devery Henderson. The way Brees spreads the ball he could easily become a flex/3WR option
Worst pick: None
Big or Bust: Golden Tate

Round 14: 3RBs, 5WRs, 2QBs, 1TE, 1D
Best pick: Vince Young. He could actually become a legit fantasy QB this year. It's the 14th round. No harm, no foul.
Worst pick:none
Big or Bust: Dexter McCluster

Round 15: 1RB, 6WR, 1QB, 1TE, 2K, 1D
Best pick: Sidney Rice. Yes, he's out atleast 6 weeks, but that could mean 10 weeks with a top-10 WR. Just in time for playoffs.
Worst pick: none
Big or Bust: Mark Sanchez. Let's see if Sanchez has a sophmore slump.

Round 16: 2RB, 4WR, 1QB, 1TE, 3K, 1D
Best pick: anyone who picked a Kicker in the 16th round
Worst pick: anyone who didn't pick a kicker in the 16th round
Big or Bust: Heyward-Bey. Let's see if he can live up to his top draft status this year with a new QB.

The Greatest Season of All...

Yes, fantasy football is finally here! With 99% of all the drafts completed before tonight's kickoff everyone for one day can feel like an undefeated champion. Tonight's game is a rematch of last year's great NFC Championship with the dramatic OT victory that propelled the Saints to the Super Bowl and sent Favre fans ironically happy knowing that he would never retire with an interception as his last pass. Fast forward through all the drama of the offseason and we are here-finally.

Tonight's prediction. Minnesota will look to control the ball on the ground until Favre finds his new favorite target. Fantasy owners of all-day AP will benefit the most from Sidney Rice's 6 week absence. I expect Percy Harvin and Shiancoe to be Favre's favorite targets.

New Orleans will look to use its' many offensive weapons and spread the ball. Only Peyton Manning does a better job than Brees in using every weapon on the offensive arsenal.

Biggest fantasy winner's tonight: Brees, Colston, Peterson, and Harvin.
Losers: MIN DEF, Favre, and Bush.

Enjoy the fireworks.