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.