Saturday, September 29, 2007

Preview of the NHL Season- Northeast Division

Ottawa Senators:

Strengths: The Senators boast one of the league's elite collection of scoring firepower, including Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson....The defense remains strong as well. Anton Volchenkov, in particular, provided outstanding play last season and Chris Phillips' steady presence makes this unit particularly hard to beat....Ray Emery proved to be one of the top ten goaltenders last season and is line to have another fine year.

Weaknesses: Wade Redden's play late in the year was a cause for concern as it will if it continues this season....Emery has already sustained an injury in the preseason. His health is paramount to Ottawa's chances of making it back to the Stanley Cup Finals....The team needs to address Dany Heatley's pending free agency status sooner rather than later before it becomes a locker room distraction.

Prediction: 1st in Northeast

Buffalo Sabres:

Strengths: Ryan Miller has proven himself to be among the elite netminders in the league....Buffalo has one of the best rosters comprised of young talent in the NHL. Maxim Afenigenov, Drew Stafford, Tim Connolly and Brian Campbell could all eventually develop into perennial All-Stars....Coach Lindy Ruff had the team playing consistently hard all of last season and there's no reason to think that will change.

Weaknesses: The Sabres were arguably hit the hardest of any team in the league by Free Agent defections this past summer, losing Chris Drury, Daniel Briere and Dainus Zubrus among others. Their contributions will be very hard to replace....Recurring injuries continue to thwart the development of many Buffalo's players....The downside of a having such a young squad is that Veteran leadership is an issue. Someone needs to step up in the locker room and motivate the team when they are behind.

Prediction: 2nd in Northeast Division

Toronto Maple Leafs:

Strengths: This team has already proven they have no problems putting the puck in the net. They bolstered that attribute even further by signing Jason Blake, who scored 40 goals last year for the Islanders....The defense has stepped up and provided a steadier presence, unlike years past. With players like Carlo Colaiacovo and Stefan Kromwell, the Leafs have good core to build from....Toronto signed Vesa Toskala in the offseason, hoping the Finnish goalie will continue his development toward becoming an all star netminder.

Weaknesses: The Leafs Front Office seems to lack a cohesive plan on how to build this team. Their indecision has led to tumult and an unbalanced lineup in recent years....Though Andrew Raycroft recorded 37 wins last season, he lets up too many soft goals. If Toskala does not prove to be the answer in net, the Leafs will find themselves without a reliable goaltender for a stretch run....Toronto has too many players on their roster who play a reckless game and lack discipline for periods of time (Bryan McCabe and Darcy Tucker are two who come to mind.)

Prediction: 3rd in Northeast Division

Montreal Canadians:

Strengths: The Canadians are solid between the pipes. Cristobal Huet, Jaroslav Halak and Carey Price form a trio that incredible amounts of potential....Montreal has several budding talents in their system on the Offensive front as well. Players like Guillaume Latendresse and Andrei Kostitsyn should continue their development this season....Andrei Markov also has the ability to bloom eventually into an All Star.

Weaknesses: The Canadians lost a big source of scoring when Sheldon Souray left the team to go to Edmonton....Montreal signed Roman Hamrlik and Brian Smolinski during Free Agency, but neither player will have a tremendous impact on the team's fortunes and will eat up valuable cap space....The chemistry in the locker room has not been right for awhile and the current roster seems to fold under the immense pressure from the Montreal media. They lack a few strong voices to right the ship.

Prediction: 4th in the Northeast Division

Boston Bruins:

Strengths- The Bruins have possibly the league's most underrated center in Marc Savard. He put up 96 points last season....Phil Kessel came out on top with his battle against cancer and has a load of potential. this could be a big year for him....The Bruins acquired Manny Fernandez to stabilize their situation in goal. Fernandez combined with Niklas Backstrom last season to win the Jennings Trophy.

Weaknesses- Beyond Zdeno Chara, there is very little else to boast about in the Bruins Defensive Corps....Claude Julien takes over the coaching reins. There has been some doubt expressed about his ability to galvanize the dressing room into a cohesive unit....An injury to Fernandez, who has never played more than 55 games in a season in his career, would leave the Bruins with considerably less talented goaltending options and would likely doom their season.

Prediction: 5th in Northeast

Guest Column: Against The Spread Picks-Week 4 by William Jones

Last week we went 2-1 in the NFL and we're looking for a perfect week to get us on the positive side for good!

Game 1 - Green Bay -1 @ Minnesota - Let me just say I LOVE the Minnesota defense. Now, let me add one thing...I REALLY LOVE the Green Bay defense! If you look at this game, it's about the QB's. You have Brett Favre, The Bayou Legend himself vs. Kelly Holcomb. All thing being equal, it's a no-brainer. Adrian Peterson can clear a spot on the mantle for his Rookie of the Year award now, but stacking the line against him will only get the Vikes so far. Rainman could be the Packers Defensive Coordinator on this one...Stack against the run and let your top quality cover men lock down the receivers. Packers D will have to record at least 3 sacks and 2 picks this week.... AND they get the win, so we'll give up the measly 1 point and take the Pack.

Game 2 - Jets -3.5 @ Buffalo - The Bills have been a tough home team in years past and the Jets look like a far different team from last year's playoff contenders but this game is all about injuries. The Bills have been annihilated with at least 7 starters expected to sit this one out. They have rookie Trent Edwards starting at QB. It took the Jets 3 games to get a sack; look for them to add 2 or more in this game and win easily. The difference will be Special Teams and Defensive touchdowns. Take the Jets and give up the always dangerous 3.5 points.

And the UPSET SPECIAL OF THE WEEK!!! - Chicago -3 @ Detroit - Keeping with the theme of injuries, let's take a look at the real story at Chicago. This Rex Grossman thing is a band-aid on an amputation since Griese obviously has no business starting anyway (if he did, he would've beaten out Rex in training camp.) Chicago will lose and lose badly this weekend because of injuries at each level of their defense....Tommy Harris (Defensive Line), Lance Briggs (Linebacker) and Nathan Vasher(Defensive Back). When each tier of your defense is compromised, I have no idea how you can win. Griese manages the game but just as they expected Rex not to LOSE games, I can't expect Brian to WIN games for them. Detroit's high flying offense keeps the second stringers on defense running, causing the Bears to run out of gas in the fourth. Take the Lions and the 3 points...they win outright!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Start/Sit: Week 4

I haven't been all that on target lately with my picks, but that's the nature of the beast. As I said in my first post on the subject, any idiot can tell you to start Peyton Manning and LT every week. There are just some guys who you never sit...period. My job is to try and identify some guys who may be under the radar who might produce better than usual. On the flip side, I might pinpoint some studs who have difficult matchups that you may be better off sitting.

On to this week's picks:


Start: Phillip Rivers- Prince Phillip finally had a breakout game last week and it came against a very stout Defense. He appears to be developing chemistry with Vincent Jackson, giving him three legitimate hot targets (Gates and some guy named LaDainian being the other two). Also, with all signs pointing to Tomlinson on the path to fantasy recovery, Rivers will get his chances to exploit an elderly Chiefs defense. Forecast: 225 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception

Sit: Jay Cutler- Cutler had a nice game last week against a tough Jacksonville defense, but he faces another uphill task in the Colts now. Brandon Marshall has been a nice surprise for him this year, but leading receiver Javon Walker is hobbled and, even if Walker plays, his chances of having a big game are slim. Cutler will have to throw plenty to keep up with the great Indianapolis offense and, without his receiving corps at full strength, I don't see him succeeding. Forecast: 225 yards, 1 touchdown, 3 interceptions, 2 sacks

Running Back:

Start: Thomas Jones- The poor Buffalo Bills have been decimated by injuries to their starting defensive lineup. That bodes well for Jones, who has seen his workload increase each week. The Jets will look to get on the board early and then control the clock, relying heavily on TJ to keep the Bills D on the field. Forecast: 105 yards, 1 touchdown

Sit: Adrian Peterson- Peterson is one of the frontrunners for Rookie of the year. However, he draws the Green Bay Defense this week and the rest of the Vikings offense is devoid of playmakers. Adding in the fact that Chester Taylor may return from injury this week, thereby cutting into AP's carries, so I suggest that you may be better off finding someone else to play RB on Sunday. Forecast- 50 yards

Wide Receiver:

Start: Wes Welker- The Bengals will be so focused on stopping Randy Moss that Welker will have ample opportunity to get open. A strong receiver in his own right, his forte is his ability to exploit the seams in the Cover 2, which will come in handy as it happens to be a glaring weakness of Cincinnati's. Tom Brady knows he has weapons other than Moss and will look Welker's way often. Forecast: 6 catches, 70 yards, 1 touchdown

Sit: Anquan Boldin- Granted, his performance against the Ravens was impressive last week. However, Boldin is clearly hurting this week (injured hip) and may be limited if he even plays at all. He goes against a solid Pittsburgh defense and, no matter who the Cardinals choose to rotate in at QB, I don't see him having a successful outing. Forecast: 4 catches, 40 yards.

Tight End:

Start: Dallas Clark- With dynamic duo Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison blanketed by Denver's elite cornerbacks, Clark has the opportunity to have a special game here. Peyton Manning looks his way often and Clark is too shifty for the Denver linebackers. The Colts will probably be throwing less than usual due to the fact that they should run the ball effectively on Denver, but when they do, you can bet that Clark will be a prime recipient. Forecast: 5 catches, 60 yards, 1 touchdown

Sit: Heath Miller- This may seem like an odd choice because Ben Roethlisberger clearly enjoys throwing to his TE's in the Red Zone. However, that's the problem: The throws can go to any one of three tight ends (Matt Spaeth, Jerame Tuman or Miller). The Steelers will look to have a run-heavy day with Hines Ward out, so you must downgrade expectations for their entire receiving corps, Miller included. Forecast: 3 catches, 30 yards.


Start: Dallas- The Cowboys are not yet an elite, every week starter. But they are matchup-friendly and they have a good opportunity here against a severely hurt St. Louis squad. Marc Bulger will be limited both in his throws and his movement due to playing with broken ribs and Steven Jackson is out, giving Brian Leonard his first NFL start at RB. Forecast: 3 sacks, 2 interceptions.

Sit: Chicago- I'm sure you must be rubbing your eyes, saying to yourself "He's not SERIOUSLY recommending benching the best defense in the league?" Yes, I am and here's why: They have been devastated by injuries and will not be the usual defensive force they have been, especially defending against the pass. They draw pass-heavy Detroit this week, whose elite receivers will be able to take advantage of the Bear's misfortune. Forecast: 2 sacks, 1 interception.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Preview of the NHL Season- Atlantic Division

1. Pittsburgh Penguins:

Strengths- The Pens pack a formidable offensive punch led by soon-to-legendary Sidney Crosby.... They also have an excellent Evengi Malkin centering the second line. Malkin posted 85 points last season....They added veteran Peter Sykora in the offseason and may pair him with Crosby, making for a potentially combustible scoring situation.

Weaknesses- Marc Andre Fleury, despite his 40 wins last season, has not proven yet that he is capable of being the premiere goaltender that Pittsburgh has missed since Tom Barrasso left....The young Defensive Corps, while showing excellent potential, still has a ways to go in terms of developing....The team relies so much on Crosby that an injury to the young star would be devastating to it's bottom line.

Prediction: 1st in Atlantic Division

2. New York Rangers:

Strengths- The Rangers obtained Chris Drury and Scott Gomez in the off season, two of the most sought after Free Agents in the market. How these two fit it on Broadway remains to be seen, but there is no denying their skill level....Jaromir Jagr remains one of the game's all time greats at age 35. He tallied 96 points last season....Henrik Lundqvist's play in goal stabilized the team last season and has made the transition to a post-Mike Richter era smoother.

Weaknesses- Their defense remains a huge question mark. Though certainly not a poor group by any stretch, there are many concerns that they do not play an overly physical game...Marc Staal is an important piece of the future for the Rangers, but may be pressed into heavier action than he's ready for at this stage in his career should injuries mount on the blue line...There's not much proven depth behind Lundquist in goal.

Prediction: 2nd in Atlantic Division

3. New Jersey Devils:

Strengths- Martin Brodeur is one of the best to ever strap on the pads and remains an elite goaltender. Kevin Weekes will do fine in a fill in role for the Devils whenever Brodeur needs one of his infrequent nights off....Zach Parise continued his meteoric development last year and should be a tremendous offensive force this season...The defensive corps, though young, is an underrated unit that should blossom.

Weaknesses- The Devils were decimated during the free agency period, losing Brian Rafalski, Scott Gomez and Brad Lukowich. How they replace their output is a definite concern...Few teams rely as heavily on their goaltenders as New Jersey does Brodeur. An injury to him would be cataclysmic to their chances this season....Brent Sutter is a first time NHL coach. He has had quite a bit of success at the junior level, but it is uncertain how that will translate to the major leagues.

Prediction: 3rd in Atlantic Division

4. New York Islanders:

Strengths- Ted Nolan and Garth Snow have been busy ridding themselves of the vestiges of the failed Milbury era and have acquired a number of hard-nosed grinders who will consistently work hard....Bill Guerin brings a positive veteran leadership to the club, a key ingredient they have lacked.....The defense is tougher than it has been in recent years and should also produce more power play points with Marc Andre Bergeron playing a full season.

Weaknesses- The club could be offensively challenged yet again, having lost considerable firepower in the offseason in the forms of Jason Blake, Viktor Kozlov and Tom Poti...While the defense added muscle, the corps got slower and may be exposed by faster skating teams....Goaltender Rick Dipietro needs to take a huge jump in his development from an above average goalie to an elite one. Otherwise, the Isles will find themselves on the losing end of quite a few 3-2 games.

Prediction: 4th in Atlantic Division

Philadelphia Flyers:

Strengths: The Flyers acquired Daniel Briere in the offseason, who will bring a much needed infusion of offensive talent to their ranks....Simon Gagne should have another outstanding year playing on Briere's wing....Kimmo Timmonen should quarterback an improved powerplay, a former weakness of the team.

Weaknesses: The defense, though big in stature, remains slow of foot, a factor that will be taken advantage of by more fleet teams....Neither Martin Biron nor Antero Niittiymaki inspires much confidence in terms of providing the Flyers with consistently good goaltending....The team is still very young in their maturation process and doesn't have a strong leader to guide them.

Prediction: 5th in Atlantic Division

Guest Column: College Football Picks by William Jones

Last week saw Air Force and Georgia Tech laying eggs while Wake Forest covered the 3 points (in OT, yet!) kept me from going "o-fer". This week's picks have been brought to you by the letters "E", "I" and "S" as in Etched In Stone!

West Virginia -7 visiting Southern Florida - The USF team is nice, but the juggernaut known as the Mountaineers offense has a chip on their shoulder with all the gurus saying they played in a weak conference last year. Now, with USF getting some national attention, this is where WV gets "over" on the "Marks". SF has great team speed on defense, but the Mountaineers have insane firepower with White and Slaton...this one could be a nail biter or a blow out, but, either way, WVU wins it.

Cincinnati -14 visiting San Diego State - Ah, SDSU. The ivy covered walls...the tradition...the academic pride...or not. I'm in SoCal and it's all about Babes and Booze down there. Cincinnati, however, is for real. We're looking at a team that, on average, wins 45-7. It will be a late start for Cincy(10PM EST), but they flew into Oregon State and won by 31 points two weeks ago. This is a Titanium pick! Cinci wins by 40.

UPSET SPECIAL OF THE WEEK!! - Air Force +2.5 visiting Navy at Annapolis -The Air Force Academy was torched by BYU through the air (ironic, eh?)where they are weak. The good news is Navy's Pass to Run ratio is 1:4. AFA is built to stop the run, giving up just over 15 points a game. Since both teams run the ball, this will be a game with fewer possessions and fewer drives, keeping the score close. I expect AFA to win this one outright!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Return of the (previously thought to be) Dead and other thoughts from Week 3

Ok, everybody...raise your hand if you thought Kurt Warner would see the field for meaningful action this year in any other scenario than Matt Leinart being injured.

Ok, let me take a look...You in the back? No?....All right...I come up with hands.

Kurt Warner? Joey Harrington? Roddy White? Nate Burleson?

Who in their right minds could have predicted that ANY of these players would've had a significant Fantasy impact in Week Three? Gotta love the NFL. Who's next? Christian Okoye comes back to spell LJ and runs for 200 yards?

On to the thoughts:

- Good Lord, those Philadelphia uniforms. I haven't seen anything that ugly since I was ten years old and my dentist showed me a picture of a patient who had something called "Trenchmouth". I'm being kind here....This is what the Eagles should do: Auction off the game used uniforms, donate the money to charity, burn the designs, send the "innovator" whose idea this was into hiding in Albania and let's all move on with our lives.

- Staying on the Eagles, their offense moved on the Detroit D like Napoleon through Austerlitz. That's a good thing for Donovan McNabb because, had Philly gone 0-3, he might've been exiled as well....perhaps to a small island in the middle of Lake Muhlenberg.

- I think the Saints are in very, very serious trouble. Tennessee completely outclassed them last night. The news that Deuce McAllister is likely done for the year did not help them any, either. An unfortunate blow to a team that had very high expectations.

- The Giants saved their season with that goal line stand. In fairness, though, I think it speaks more about the Redskins inability to muster a consistently decent red zone offense than anything else.

- Memo to the officials: Either enforce the Horse Collar Tackle rule or choose not to. But do not do what you did on Sunday night in the Bears-Cowboys game. Roy Williams (the man for whom the rule was created) performed the illegal move to bring down Desmond Clark and was rightfully penalized 15 yards. However, on the very next series, the Chicago defense perpetrated the very same horse collar tackle on Julius Jones and was penalized...nothing. It's a very clear judgement, guys...If you tackle someone by grabbing them by the back collar of their jersey and drag them down, it's a penalty. Case closed. There should be none of this "Well, it was just the jersey....You need to get your hand under the shoulder pads" talk.

- I really pity the Buffalo Bills. It seems like they are getting more than their fair share of severe injuries. On the bright side, there's has been a lot of positive progress in regards to Kevin Everett and that's something we should all feel good about.

- Phillip Rivers may have actually arrived as an NFL QB this past week. At this point, he and Antonio Gates are about the only things San Diego has going for them.

That's all for now...look for my upcoming NHL preview later this week.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Guest Column: Against the Spread Picks- Week 3 by William Jones

We took our lumps in the SD game but we got even with the GB pick to win outright. Then, the pick that looked like pure gold, Seattle -3 over the lowly Cardinals of Arizona, was about to be put away. Seattle was the running the ball with purpose on a clock killing drive that would, in 99 out of 100 cases, produce the game winning TD. In the end, the Two Stooges, Matt and Shaun, make with the pratfall and fumble us into a 1-2 week. But that's fine because we can make it right with the following "fumble-free" picks.

Carolina -3.5 vs. Atlanta - The points dropped from -4 indicating the Atlantites are putting their cash on the Dirty Birds in this one and Vegas needs to make the Panthers more advantageous to balance the action. Well, they didn't have to sell me as the Falcons don't have the firepower to make this competitive. Steve Smith will break a few but will be a decoy for most of the game. Look for the Defense to land half of the points for Carolina. Take Carolina and give up the ugly 3.5 number.

Tampa Bay -3.5 vs. St. Louis - Although we hate the 3.5 number, we'd give up 5.5 in this game as the Bucs are back, baby! Jeff Garcia and his large, bumpy head is the Yoda of the West Coast offense. St. Lunatics D has many holes and the O-Line is still hurting with two guys having to jump around from their natural positions to try to defend Bulger. Tampa Bay is playing at home AND...last week we had national Pirate appreciation Day so all signs point to the Bucs playing Kevorkian as they pull the plug on the Rams. Yo ho ho!


Detroit +6 at Philadelphia - Philly has many key injuries and a QB who is flapping his gums to scout out suitors for next year's contract. The formerly airtight McNabb is falling apart at the seams! This game is easy...Detroit can play on both sides of the ball and, even if Philly finds someone to play defense, he'll need ten more just like him. It's simple...Lions offense beats Philly D and Lions D eats up Philly O because it's only real receiver, TE LJ Smith, on the shelf again with a hangnail. Go rent the Brinks truck to bring home the "booty"...Don't forget national Pirate Day! Yo ho ho! Take the Lions with 6 huge points!

We're 1-2 looking now, but can expect nothing less than a clean sweep this week! Go git some!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Start/Sit: Week 3


Start: Jason Campbell- True, he hasn't been all that "Mmm, Mmm Good" as of yet. But he did play an impressive game against Philadelphia on Monday night and added some nice rushing yardage to his so-so passing stats. Washington is playing with confidence right now and Campbell is a big reason why. This week, he draws the G-men, whose secondary and linebacking corps have been less than noteworthy (to put it kindly). Forecast: 225 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception

Sit: Donovan McNabb- No, it's not because he's a black quarterback as he might claim (Funny how he brought that up yet again. Could it be a smoke screen to divert attention from his recently awful play? Hmmm.) He's clearly not fully healthy, his main weapon Brian Westbrook is banged up and he faces an underrated Detroit defense this week. These are not the ingredients in a recipe for success. Forecast: 195 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions, 3 sacks

Running Back:

Start: Laurence Maroney- His owners are worried about his lack of goal line opportunities and well they should be. He's lost touchdown carries to both Sammy Morris and Heath Evans thus far. However, New England ought to be able to put the game against Buffalo out of reach early and will utilize Maroney to control the clock. Besides, he has the talent to break off a long one every now and again and may get his touchdowns that way. Forecast: 105 yards, 1 touchdown

Sit: Frank Gore- Kudos to Gore for playing well on what was a very difficult game for him last week after his mother's death. He is an intense competitor and will usually thrive in most situations. However, he plays a ravenous Pittsburgh team this week who will attempt to shut him down and force San Francisco to beat them through the air. The Steelers held the hapless Bills to a field goal last week and the 49er's have a very similar makeup to Buffalo (strong running game, questionable quarterback, underachieving receivers.) Forecast: 45 yards, 3 catches

Wide Receiver:

Start: Joey Galloway- The Ageless One proved again last week that he still has that fifth gear he can shift into to run away from defensive backs. He is averaging an amazing 23 yards per catch this season. A healthy Cadillac Williams could only help his cause, but it shouldn't matter in any case. St. Louis doesn't have anyone in the secondary who can keep up with him. Forecast: 7 receptions, 108 yards, 2 touchdowns

Sit: Donald Driver- Driver, like Galloway, is another aging WR who continues to defy the odds and produce quality results. However, he will face an enraged San Diego defense who was humiliated by New England last week. Expect Brett Favre to be scrambling all day and for Driver to draw double coverage. I just don't see this ending up well for Cheesehead Nation. Forecast: 4 catches, 55 yards

Tight End:

Start: Bo Scaife- Scaife is having a quiet year so far, but expect that to change soon, beginning with Monday night. He is historically Vince Young's favorite target dating back to their days in college at Texas together. Young has only been able to look Scaife's way 7 times this season, but, in fairness, the Titans have played two very good defenses in Indianapolis and Jacksonville. New Orleans is nowhere near as good on the defensive side of the ball as those two and Scaife should have a breakout game. Forecast: 5 catches, 60 yards, 1 touchdown

Sit: Tony Gonzalez- As you can see, I am not afraid to recommend benching Studs when the circumstances call for it. Gonzalez's problems go deeper than just the matchup against Minnesota. He is dealing with a clearly shaken Damon Huard at QB, who knows he is "thisclose" to being pulled for Brodie Croyle, which certainly wouldn't help Gonzales' fortunes any. Throw in a porous offensive line, a sub-par Larry Johnson and an opportunistic Minnesota defense that has the linebackers capable of blanketing a star like Tony and you'll see why sometimes, it's better to rest and fight another day. Forecast- 3 catches 30 yards


Start: Dallas- All the attention has been focused on the Dallas offense this season, but the Cowboys Defense quietly rebounded from their Week One meltdown by posting a very solid day against Miami last week. Wade Phillips brought the house against Trent Green and the Fins, which resulted in 2 sacks and 4 interceptions. They'll have a great opportunity this week against Chicago to keep the momentum going. Saying that Rex Grossman turns the ball over frequently is like stating there's a little water in the Pacific Ocean. Forecast: 3 sacks, 2 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery

Sit: Jacksonville- Though Jacksonville tore apart an inept Atlanta squad last week, it's hard to forget that they ceded a franchise record 282 rushing yards against Tennessee the week before. The run game is a specialty of the Broncos with Travis Henry averaging 133.5 yards a game this season. Jacksonville also lost it's starting safety Gerald Sensabaugh to a season ending injury which will make them more vulnerable through the air as well. Forecast: 2 sacks, 1 interception

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Guest Column- College Football picks by William Jones

We just keep expanding here at Pigskins and Pucks for your sports mania enjoyment.

William Jones examines the topsy turvy world of College Football and makes his recommendations on which teams will be your best bets.

This is a great week to start as there are several head scratchers when picking against the spread.

Air Force (+11) @ BYU - I'm hearing the "Gurus" talk about how BYU has a huge home field advantage and has a huge personnel advantage over AFA. BYU lost to UCLA and Tulsa (barely powerhouses) and AFA is coming off the improbable victories over Utah ("Make it two"- sorry, Point Break reference there) and TCU with last minute heroics. This should be a great matchup as AFA runs the option and BYU has kept opponents to under 90 rushing yards/game. BYU will air it out, but AFA will slow down the pace and keep the score nice and close. Don't be surprised if BYU wins outright.

Wake Forest (-3) vs. Maryland - UMD is 2-1 with victories over doormats Villanova (they HAVE a football team?!?) and Florida International...right. Wake Forest, at 1-2, coming up short against the very real Boston College and Nebraska, lost their starting QB in week 1. During his absence, the team ran roughshod over the Huskers for 236 yards. He's expected to return for this contest but that will be a gametime decision. Regardless of QB Skinner's status, MD gives up big yards on the ground and their quarterback has a 1:3 TD/INT ratio. This is a divisional game, so WF needs to get right to maintain any kind of prayer to stay in the race for the division championship. Let's "get right" ourselves and take WF, giving up the 3 pts.

GAME OF THE WEEK - Georgia Tech -3.5 @ Virginia - I've been following Virginia for years since their head coach Al "Don't call me Dave" Groh left my NY Jets to take the job. They have been a spoiler team vs. ranked opponents for three of the last four years but kind of fell off a bit last year in big games. This year, they are 2-1 but they've only beaten Duke and North Carolina ( both 1-win-against-a-scrubby-opponent teams) by a total of 19 points . Duke beat Northwestern and NC beat James Madison for crying out loud! They lost to Wyoming, whose only other win comes against my man Philly Gino the Latter Day Saint's alma mater, Utah State, an 0-3 team...GT's RB leads the ACC in rushing but has a tight hamstring...if he doesn't go, they have formidable backups to take his place. They also have the top run defense in the ACC even after losing to #14 Boston College by 2 TDs. They are 2-1 and the "weak" victory was by 30 points. BC has NFL talent, something Virginia hasn't had consistently in awhile, so the Virginia defense, which is average at best,will be on it's heels all day. The fourth quarter will be brutal for the Cavs. Furthermore, this is a divisional conference game with Virginia leading the conference with it's two creampuff wins. Coach Chan "First Cowboys Coach not to win it all" Gailey will stress the importance of winning since the BC loss was in-conference.Finally, I think the records, the RB question, as well as the fact that UVA is leading the division have skewed the points. Let's win big with GT-3.5.

That's it for NCAA, Children. Do with the picks as you will, but,PLEASE...these are for entertainment purposes only! Week 3 NFL picks coming soon!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Brady who? Thoughts from Week Two

I'm guessing that everyone who had already anointed Brady Quinn as the starter for Cleveland's next game probably has been popping Zantac by the hour after all the crow they had to eat. Derek Anderson absolutely shredded the Bungles defense (who themselves were highly touted after a strong Week One showing against that offensive powerhouse, the Ravens) on Sunday, proving that perhaps the Quinn era is not quite ready to get started yet.

On to the thoughts:

-What was up with the Steelers ridiculous uniforms? I really thought I was watching the Ampipe (H.S) Bulldogs from the Tom Cruise 1983 movie "All The Right Moves" play the Bills. Come to think of it, the game probably would've had a similar result.

-I think you have to hand it to Jets, who gave Baltimore everything they could handle. Kellen Clemmens showed that he may have a very bright future, performing as well as he did against the Ravens crushing defense (whom I'm not so scared of anymore). But the next thing Justin McCareins may catch is the slip of paper informing him he has been waived if he plays another game like that. He'd probably drop that as well.

-Didn't Marvin Lewis once have a reputation as being one of the better defensive coaches in the league? Bang up job you're doing there in Cincy, Marv. I guess it helps the scheme when you have Ray Lewis and company carrying it out. (I think I have the Ravens on the brain. This is their third mention in this column thus far.)

-Ok, let's shift now to former Ravens. Welcome back to the land of Fantasy Relevance, Jamal Lewis. Lewis set the clock back with his performance last week. I can see good (but not great) things for him in the future....maybe 1,000 yards and 8 touchdowns. It won't win you your league, but it's nice to see a guy most people had already written off remind everyone he's not through yet.

-I guess I'd be remiss if I didn't weigh in on the week's biggest story, Videogate. Bill Belichick exhibited a stunning amount of gall to continue his illicit practice against Man-Genius, who probably held the camcorder himself a few times in his stint as a Pats assistant. Pride goeth before a fall, Bill. The fines were not devastating (although, I don't care if you're Bill Gates, 500k hurts no matter who you are), but the loss of potentially two draft picks is going to affect the future of the Patriots considerably. A harsh lesson learned and for what? I highly doubt they needed to steal the Jets signals in order to beat them.

-Following up on this story, I was checking the standings in the New York Post yesterday and saw an asterisk next the Pats. Confused, I looked further and saw it stood for "Caught Cheating". Ah, Rupert are one class act, brother.

-I don't believe I've ever witnessed a a greater example of a wide receiver unwilling to give up on a play than Steve Smith's remarkable touchdown reception against the Texans. He shed no fewer than three certain tackles to escape and gallop more than half the field for the score. He may be small in stature, but week in and week out, he plays with the heart of a lion. Take note, kids....the only person who can stop you from reaching your potential in life is yourself.

-Another story about playing with heart is Brett Favre. At an age when many quarterbacks have retired and are living the good life, Favre continues to enjoy playing with the enthusiasm of a seven year old on Christmas morning. I believe he sees each game as a gift and is determined to enjoy his career and performing for the fans to the fullest. It's a wonder to witness

-On a final point, I have no idea what is going on with New Orleans these days, but Sean Payton is definitely on the hot seat as far as righting that particular ship. With the array of talent that the Saints possess on offense, there's no reason they shouldn't have beaten Tampa Bay.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Guest Column: Against the Spread Picks- Week 2 by William Jones

Another new feature here at Pigskins & Pucks:

Stats Guru William Jones will give advice each week on whom you should place your hard earned money on and which matchups to shy away from.

He will utilize his Beta Equalization System which will not only take into account a team's record, but also all applicable trends and history against their opponents. If you believe that you've discovered a new angle regarding beating the odds, chances are he has already thought of it.

Seattle (-3) at Arizona- The Cards let that game slip away last week and I have to believe they are still smarting. The short week will not help. The Seattle D showed up strong last week, shutting down a Tampa Bay team that actually got out to a nice offensive start in the first half. The Seahawks made solid adjustments at the half, knocking Garcia and Cadillac out of the game. Arizona's O-Line is beat up after the Monday night game and they aren't that good to begin with! The Card WR's were a non-factor - was it the defensive coverage of the Mighty 49'ers (Clements can't cover everyone) or is there something wrong with QB Matt Leinart? I'm thinking the Seahawks are as loaded as they were the past two years but this time everyone is as healthy as possible. This one won't be close so give up the points and pick Seattle.

NYG (-1.5) vs. Green Bay - The Pack visits NJ to play NY, having beaten PHI. The Giants are nowhere the defensive team the Eagles are, so look for Favre (in his last go-round in the NFL) to leave us awestruck. The Giants hung 35 points on Dallas's D last week when Terence Newman was out along with Greg Ellis. The Jints will face, in my opinion, one of the top Defenses in the Packers this week; With or without Eli, I can see Coughlin's face on the side of a milk carton as we speak after this blow out. New York has too many holes to fill. The only thing that keeps this close would be the Mercy Rule. Packers +1.5.

New England (-3.5) vs. San Diego - Wish I were a betting man! (Ironic, isn't it?) NE beat a Jets team that is still coming together. They had bogus tape to nail the coffin shut...not this week! SD beat a formidable Bears defense without LT getting a ton of yards. With the aging NE linebackers and patchwork secondary, I see this getting ugly fast with SD looking to assert themselves as the most physical team in the AFC, including the Ravens. NE can't bring the heat on defense like they could 2 or 3 years ago. I'm going with SD +3.5.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Start/Sit: Week 2


Start: Ben Roethlisberger- Big Ben got off to a great start last week in Cleveland by throwing four touchdowns. His merry ride should continue this week in Buffalo against a Bills squad that lost up to three regulars on the defensive side of the ball. Not to mention, the Bills D wasn’t all that impressive to begin with, yielding 470 yards against the Denver Broncos last week. Forecast: 225 yards, 2 touchdowns

Sit: Matt Leinart- Leinart looked completely off the page with his receivers on Monday night, though a late touchdown did restore a patina of hope for this game. However, he faces a stingy Seahawks defense whose front seven will likely shut down the running game and force him to air it out against their undervalued secondary. Give him a couple of more weeks to get it together before you considering starting him. Forecast: 150 yards, 2 interceptions

Running Back:

Start: Willis McGahee- No one has tortured the Jets more in recent years than McGahee. On one occasion, he left a game with cramping, ate a Subway sandwich on the sidelines and returned to absolutely torch them. He is their Lex Luthor and his performance this Sunday will prove it once again. Forecast: 150 yards rushing, 2 touchdowns

Sit: Larry Johnson- Right up front, I will tell you that this advice goes against a treasured Fantasy Commandment: Never sit your studs, no matter who they are playing. However, when your stud is his team’s lone threat (as LJ is), his quarterback is Damon Huard (who scares no one) and he is facing an angry defense (that also happens to be arguably the league’s best) coming off a loss, you may hear a little voice in your head telling you there might be better options available. Listen to the little voice. Forecast: 50 yards, 1 fumble

Wide Receiver:

Start: Marques Colston- Colston was one of the only Saints to have a decent game last week against the underrated Colts defense (6 catches, 47 yards). This week, expect the entire Saints offense to get back on track and for him to improve on those totals. The Bucs secondary is too old to run with Colston and is overmatched as a whole against the Saints receivers. Expect New Orleans to air it out early and often. Forecast: 7 catches, 90 yards, 1 touchdown

Sit: Plaxico Burress- He may have just had an otherworldly game against division rival Dallas, but the circumstances are not quite the same for Plax to succeed this week. For one, even if Eli Manning does play, he will most certainly be limited. If he doesn’t, Burress will be playing catch with "The Hefty Lefty" Jared Lorenzen, a scenario which does not inspire. He’ll also be matched up against a secondary that boasts Charles Woodson and Al Harris. Plus, he’s not playing against my fantasy team this week which seem to be the only occasions on which Burress explodes. You can do better. Forecast: 4 catches, 40 yards

Tight End:

Start: Jason Witten- He was a forgotten man for much of last year, but Witten ripped the G-Men apart for 116 yards and a touchdown last week. He benefits greatly from Terry Glenn’s injury woes and a more stable Dallas offensive line that gives him time to find the seams in the defensive coverage. Miami’s defense is usually tough to play early in the season so Witten may not reach the lofty heights he did against New York, but he will still perform above previous expectations. Forecast: 5 catches, 60 yards, 1 touchdown

Sit: Chris Cooley- Cooley owners entered the season with high hopes that their man would have a breakout season. Well, if "Breakout" means "One catch for ten yards in a game that extended into overtime", then mission accomplished. He will almost certainly have better games than the last one, but it’s obviously going to take some time for Jason Campbell to grow into a competent quarterback in this league. Until then, Cooley should not be considered a regular starter and should not be facing a good Philadelphia defense on Monday night. Forecast: 3 catches, 35 yards.


Start: Denver- No, they are not the second coming of the Ravens or the Bears and are not an automatic start each week. However, they have a particularly advantageous matchup this Sunday against the Raiders. No one knows who Oakland’s starting quarterback will be, but it doesn’t seem to matter much. Whoever it is will be forced to throw against Champ Bailey and Dre Bly. Lamont Jordan may have a bit of success against the Broncos, but they should be able to clamp down and force some turnovers. Forecast: 2 sacks, 2 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery.

Sit: San Francisco- The 49er’s will be a strong defense sometime soon, perhaps even later this season. However, they face an embarrassed Rams team in St. Louis this week. Steven Jackson and Company will be looking to restore their reputations and are always a tough customer when they play at home. San Francisco may have looked somewhat impressive last week against the Cardinals, but they won’t be able to keep Marc Bulger in check. Forecast: 1 interception, 1 sack

Note: I wish to pass on my condolences to my good friend Jeff Goldschmidt on the passing of his father earlier this week.

I really hope I don’t need to tell anyone to do this, but love your family and friends like there’s no tomorrow. The little things that get in the way of relationships can obscure their value. Don’t let them. Contact an old buddy just to say hi, call your mom to tell her you love her, give an unsolicited hug to someone today. Life is just too damn short.

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family, my friend.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Final Thoughts on Week 1

- Controversial ending or not, you have to give kudos to Carson Palmer and the rest of the Bengals for limiting their mistakes and outplaying the Baltimore Ravens Monday night. Of course, it didn't help the Ravens when Ray Lewis was injured early on, but their defense is one of the league's elite and yet they managed only one sack. A very entertaining matchup.

- The 49ers-Cardinals game, even with the exciting finish, was, for the most part, unwatchable. Both teams played as if it were Week Three of the exhibition schedule. Matt Leinart desperately needs to get on track with his fine receivers as soon as possible. Edgerrin James will not stand up to the pounding for a full season if he continues to get 20+ carries a game.

- The NFL ought to exempt Chad Johnson and only a few others from the "No Celebration" rule. Johnson's antics are fun to watch. They're creative and entertaining. For the most part, though, the rule is a good one. It cuts down on my personal least favorite showboating tactic, the Finger to the Lips to "shush" the crowd. Hey, back-up TE who caught a touchdown pass in the preseason: Don't attempt to quiet the fans. They paid good money to come to a game where they should be free to express themselves in whatever civil manner they choose to.

- Speaking of fans expressing themselves, the Jets fans who cheered when Chad Pennington was injured are really setting a fine example for their children. Personal opinions notwithstanding, it shows an absolute lack of class (not to mention basic Human Decency) to applaud an injury to any player. It gave a black eye to the entire organization and the true Jets fans. Do us all a favor and leave your drunken, boorish and disgusting behavior at the stadium entrance. You are pathetic.

- Finally, I would like to wish Kevin Everett a full recovery from his horrific accident. My eyes welled up with tears last night when I heard that he had some voluntary movement in his extremities and there is finally some hope of at least a partially normal life. Godspeed, Kevin.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Reclamation of Randy Moss and other thoughts from Week One

Wow. That's all I can say. Wow.

Ok, perhaps I can say a little more. When the Patriots traded a fourth round pick for Randy Moss last April, it was viewed as a brilliant move by a few and a travesty by many. Coming off his two miserable seasons in Oakland in which he was injured often and frequently displayed a poisonous attitude, he was largely written off by the experts as a player who had wasted the prime years of his career. Never again would the fans be treated to the sight of him scoring highlight reel touchdowns.

"How you like me now?"- LL Cool J

Granted, his offensive explosion came against the hapless Jets, so I'm not quite ready to recommend him as an automatic start in every game this season. However, it wasn't so much his impressive statistics (9 catches for 183 yards and a touchdown) as it was the way in which Tom Brady utilized him. Since he was given ample time against the pathetic New York pass rush, Brady's first look almost always seemed directed to Moss. Brady is usually thought of as a QB who will use every receiver available to him, making no particular New England WR a great fantasy play. Is he that type of quarterback or could it be that he just never had a #1 target with the prodigious skill of Moss to play with? This situation bears watching.

Other thoughts on week 1:

-I am not an alarmist by any means. But any Jet fan who watched the game yesterday has to be hearing warning bells going off in his brain today. From Chad's ankle injury to the inability of the defense to stop the Patriots, there was a lot to be depressed about. Scary thought: New England is not even the best defense in the AFC. Baltimore looms and it will not be pretty no matter who is under center.

-Is it too much of a conspiracy theory to think that Atlanta is going to tank the season so that Brian Brohm (the likely #1 pick of next year's draft) can be reunited with his college coach Bobby Petrino? Atlanta looked worse than Oakland or Detroit yesterday.

-Welcome back, Chris Brown. Nice one. The over/under on you getting banged up is two more games. Boy, won't all those fantasy owners who jumped on your bandwagon feel foolish then?

- The Giants defense may stink, but they showed a lot of heart last night and nearly gave me a heart attack since my opponent in my fantasy league had Plaxico Burress. If Jason hadn't benched Eli Manning, I'd have been a dead duck for sure.

-As far as my start/sit options from Saturday went, I blew it with my Kitna, Deion Branch (zero catches...hey Lama, how about a little something, you know, for the effort?) and Jax defense picks. But I'll give myself a pat on the back for Lee Evans, KC defense and Eli Manning. Just goes to show that predicting much of fantasy football is as much of a safe bet as winning the Powerball lottery.

-I'll give $500 cold hard cash to any fantasy owner in the world who had Derrick Ward in their starting lineup last night (offer expires at 2pm today).

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Start/Sit: Week 1

A new feature for Pigskins and Pucks fans.

Let's face cat Bianca (in between the 18 hours a day she sleeps) could tell you to start LaDainian Tomlinson and Peyton Manning every week. It doesn't take a genius to figure that out.

The purpose of this feature is to let you know what potential diamonds you may have hidden in the rough of your Fantasy roster for each upcoming game and which pitfalls to avoid.


Start: Eli Manning- Manning Version 2.0 has been anything but a sure start in his brief career. His accuracy has been erratic, his confidence has been shaky and his leadership skills have been called into question. Still, he makes an excellent option for this week's tilt against a banged up Cowboys D, who may need a couple of games under their belt before they fully grasp the new defensive scheme. Forecast: 275 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception.

Sit: Jon Kitna- Even with his superb Receiving Corps, Kitna seems to always find a way to snatch Defeat from the jaws of Victory with his brain-numbing mistakes. He'll face a potent crew in the Raiders, who have an excellent secondary and a surprisingly strong front seven. Kitna will air it out a lot, but you don't want to be the recipient of the outcome. Forecast: 225 yards, 1 touchdown, 3 interceptions, 3 sacks.

Running Back:

Start: Willie Parker- Fast Willie has a matchup here that he has been dreaming about since he first laid hands on a football. The Cleveland team he faces is overmatched on both sides of the ball, though they do boast a decent secondary. Therefore, the game plan will be to give Parker 25+ carries and watch him carve up the Brownies. With other top running backs seeing much stiffer competition, he could be the top RB of the week. Forecast: 195 yards, 3 touchdowns.

Sit: Rudi Johnson- Poor Rudi draws the formidable Ravens D his first week. Though you can normally pencil him in for 75 yards and a score every week, he will find the going rough here. Palmer and Co. will be forced to throw plenty to keep up with an improved Baltimore Offense, which will limit him further. Forecast: 60 yards.

Wide Receiver:

Start: Deion Branch- Branch goes up against an aging Bucs secondary and will play the Roadrunner to their Wile E. Coyotes. His speed and long ball prowess will be too much for them to handle. He'll be especially valuable in leagues that reward big plays. Forecast: 7 catches, 115 yards, 2 touchdowns.

Sit: Lee Evans- He may be the Bill's best offensive threat, but he faces Champ Bailey this week who devours opposing WR's likes whales do plankton. The improved Denver pass rush will also force JP Losman into mistakes, further limiting Evans' potential. Look for a very quiet week for Lee with the Bills exploring other options. Forecast: 3 catches, 50 yards.

Tight End:

Start: Vernon Davis- This is a bit obvious, but Davis, due to his injury from last year, has some owners taking a Wait and See approach. Don't be one of those owners or you will watch the parade pass you by. Davis is too much for the Arizona D to handle and will share the glory of this game with Frank Gore. Forecast: 6 catches, 70 yards, 2 touchdowns.

Sit: Alge Crumpler- Not only does it remain to be seen if A.C can capture the same chemistry with Joey Harrington that he had with Michael Vick, he is gimpy this week as well. While the Minnesota defense he faces in this game is better known for their run stopping, their pass rush is underrated and will harass poor Joey all day long. Look elsewhere. Forecast: 4 catches, 40 yards.


Start: Jacksonville- Another fairly obvious pick, but many owners are only familiar with the Ravens and the Bears as top notch Fantasy D's. Jax is a definite up and comer and has an ideal matchup against Galloping Vince Young and his no-name Titan receivers. Look for them to wear Tennessee down early, then capitalize on their mistakes. Forecast: 3 sacks, 2 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries.

Sit: Kansas City- On paper, this would seem a good matchup against the formerly hapless Texans. However, the Chiefs don't have a cornerback capable of keeping up with Andre Johnson and their pass rush is suspect at best. Additionally, their offense will be anemic, meaning the old D will be on the field a lot, sapping whatever strength they did possess. Forecast: 1 sack.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Unrivaled Rivalry: Islanders vs. Rangers

"We want Fishsticks!"
"Crackhead Theo!"
"Potvin Sucks!"

Ah, the celebrated war of words between Islander fans and their Ranger counterparts. The level of passion exhibited on both sides is nearly unparalleled in the world of sports. True, there are more famous rivalries: Yankees-Red Sox, for instance, gets far more media attention. But I cannot recall ever experiencing on a first-hand basis anything like the pure vitriol that exists whenever the Blueshirts visit the Coliseum.

The Islander brass LOVES when the Rangers come to town because they know that these games will be automatic sell-outs, occasions which are few and far between in the venerable old building. The crowd is split evenly and the chanting for one team almost never outshines the other. I have screamed myself hoarse numerous times at these games. Whatever happens on the ice cannot match the intensity the fans bring with them.

I witnessed the famous brawl back in the late 90's between the teams from my ice level seats. The Islanders had just scored to make the game 3-0. Mad Mike Milbury, for reasons that are unknown to me to this day, called a time-out to talk to his team. This action prompted a seething reaction from the Rangers, who felt they were being "shown up". The feeling of tension in the building was palpable. Every person sitting in a Coliseum seat knew that Armageddon was close at hand.

John Muckler sent out Darren Langdon (one of the most underrated fighters in the history of the sport), Jeff Beukeboom, Bill Berg, PJ Stock and another large defenseman whose name escapes me at the moment. Milbury, displaying a level of naivete that was shameful in it's enormity, countered with Trevor Linden, Ziggy Palffy, Mariusz Czerkawski, JJ Daignault and Zdeno Chara....with the exception of the big Slovak, they were hardly an intimidating bunch. It should be noted that the Islanders primary enforcer, Gino Odjick, had been ejected earlier in the game when his jersey came off during a fight with Langdon (the controversial Rob Ray rule).

The puck dropped and the Rangers attacked. Berg, a chippy player who was not normally known for dropping the gloves, went after the Islanders captain Linden. Beukeboom took the easy route by grabbing a seriously overmatched Daignault and forcing him to his knees while Langdon quickly separated Chara from the scrum. Stock latched onto to Czerkawski and proceeded to pummel him unmercifully. Tommy Salo, the Islander's goaltender, left his crease and tried to save the pacifist Pole.

Then all hell broke loose.

Dan Cloutier, a goalie of questionable skill in every area except fisticuffs, screamed down the ice and jumped the unsuspecting Salo. It's tough to hurt a goalie during a fight due to the 30+ pounds of padding they are dressed in, but Cloutier gave it his best shot. Punch after unanswered punch rained down on Salo, who did the smartest thing he could and turtled up against the onslaught.

Cloutier, finished with his blitzkrieg triumph, then proceeded to challenge the Islander bench, knowing full well that not one player would be allowed to engage him due to the hefty suspension and fine that would result. The Islander players, handcuffed by the rules, hurled invectives at the smug goalie. It was a cowardly gesture by Dan on the level of the beating that Mick Vukota gave religious Jeff Bloemberg after the Pat LaFontaine incident at the Garden years earlier.

I took complete leave of my senses and screamed through the glass at Cloutier, attempting to answer the call that my team was prevented from responding to by demanding he meet me in the parking lot after the game. Fortunately, he didn't pay any attention to me. The proposed showdown would've likely resulted in jail time for him and a lengthy hospital stay for me. I then boldly looked around for any fan in a Ranger jersey upon whom I could vent my rage (the nearest one was one of my best friends who is in my upcoming wedding party). Fortunately, through the grace of God, I returned to the world of reality and took my seat.

I look back on this story and laugh at my behavior. Fighting is a completely foreign concept to me except for defending those that I love. Still, I never felt so alive as I did during those matches between my beloved team and their hated enemy. It is what makes sports so essential to us, the fan. For three hours, we're entitled to forget our problems and create a fantasy world where a hockey game between two local teams represents the absolute zenith of importance in the history of Mankind. When else in our pedestrian lives do we ever get to give our emotions such free reign? This outlet is to be cherished.

The Islander-Ranger rivalry will always mean much more to supporters of both teams than it ever will to the players. It is a celebrated tradition that I hope never ceases to exist.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Top Fantasy Stars: NFC West

Just got back from my wild Las Vegas Bachelor party week. For those of you who plan to travel there, I have two words for you: Mandalay Bay.

On to the blog.

Arizona Cardinals:

1. Edgerinn James-RB- James chose to leave the Indianapolis Colts via free agency in order to become an Arizona Cardinal and, thus far, it would appear that he made a fairly bad decision. However, there is room for hope with new coach Ken Whisenhunt promising a more balanced offensive approach. While giving an aging RB like James 400 carries seems like a dubious proposal, he proved he could carry a decent load last season, rushing 337 times for 1,159 yards and six touchdowns. While these are not numbers you'll want out of an RB1, he'll make a nice RB2 and should be available in the early third round.

2. Larry Fitzgerald-WR- Value Alert: Fitzgerald missed three games last season with an injury and therefore may have fallen off a few owner's radar screens because his stats weren't exactly in line with what one expects from a WR1 (69 catches, 6 touchdowns). However, his talent is undeniable and a huge rebound season could be in the works. Even though he shares the wealth with Anquan Boldin, he has a talented QB in Matt Leinart and an aggressive offensive scheme which should ensure that his numbers return to their previous lofty levels. Steal him by the third round as your WR1 and watch him become a top 5 receiver.

3. Anquan Boldin-WR- If you miss out on Fitzgerald, Boldin makes a pretty nice consolation prize. He played in all 16 games last season for the first time since his rookie year, but his numbers didn't rise dramatically with Fitzgerald being out due to the fact that he was constantly double-teamed. A healthy Fitzgerald will paradoxically result in better totals for Boldin. Take him in the late third round as a high end WR2.

Bargain Bin: Matt Leinart-QB- While he still has some growing to do, Leinart has some impressive weapons at his disposal in the above three. He will also benefit from newly bolstered offensive line which should translate to fewer sacks and interceptions caused by pocket pressure. He should still be available in the ninth round as a very low level QB1 or a good QB2/reserve.

San Francisco 49ers:

1. Frank Gore-RB- The fact that he injured his hand in preseason should be looked on as both a gift and a curse: While he avoided a more serious injury and should be fully healthy for the season, a broken hand could spell trouble in terms of holding on to the football. He was the most pleasant surprise in Fantasy Football last year when he seemingly came out of nowhere to garner 1,695 rushing yards, 61 receptions and nine total touchdowns. With the San Francisco offense slightly better on paper this season, Gore should be able to come close to those totals again as he is no longer the lone threat. He'll be gone by the sixth pick of the draft as someone's RB1.

2. Vernon Davis-TE- A physically gifted freak of nature, Davis had his rookie year stunted by a broken leg. However, his potential is off the charts and the 49ers plan to make him a huge part of their attack. It is feasible he could triple his numbers from last year (20 catches, three touchdowns.) Better known TE's will taken before him, but if you take him by the seventh round as your TE1, you could wind up with the steal of the draft.

3. Darrell Jackson-WR- Though Jackson is a supremely talented receiver, his injury problems in past seasons and now this preseason are a major caution flag. He will be San Francisco's starting WR and they'd love to get him involved in a major way. Despite his injuries, Jackson has a nose for the goal line the likes of which few possess, having averaged nearly seven touchdowns per season in his career. Target him in the eight round as a WR2 and hope for the best.

Bargain Bin: Alex Smith-QB- Smith has shown signs of potential as a franchise QB and should benefit from the new weapons he has. His maturation process will continue to be slow, but expect his numbers to rise slightly higher than last year's totals (2,890 passing yards and 18 total touchdowns.) He should be available in the later rounds as a good reserve QB.

Seattle Seahawks:

1. Shaun Alexander-RB- With the Madden Curse behind him, Alexander should once again reclaim his standing as one of the top 5 running backs in the league. There have been whispers that his broken foot has not healed properly, but those are likely just scuttlebutt rumors. Even with his 10 game season last year, he still scored seven touchdowns and a healthy season could produce double that number. He'll taken as an RB1 with one of the top ten picks in the first round.

2. Deion Branch-WR- With Jackson having moved onto to the 49ers, Branch becomes the #1 WR for the Seahawks. He has ached for the chance to prove that he can be a top flight receiver and now he has his opportunity. He has good chemistry with QB Matt Hasselbeck and his new role should increase his stats above last year's (53 catches and 4 touchdowns). Target him in the sixth round as an excellent WR2.

3. D.J Hackett-WR- Hackett also benefits from the Jackson trade and moves into the second WR spot. A burner with tremendous speed, he is the Seahawks' best threat for long touchdowns. He should definitely increase last year's numbers (45 catches and 4 touchdowns.) A certifiable sleeper, he will outperform bigger names and should be grabbed in the eight round as a WR3/Flex player.

Bargain Bin: Matt Hasselbeck-QB- Once considered one of the best QB's in fantasy football, Hasselbeck's stock dropped quite a bit with a subpar season last year. However, he is still a top ten choice and will benefit from having a health Alexander to alleviate some of the pressure. He makes an excellent pick as a QB2/Reserve by the ninth round.

St. Louis Rams:

1. Steven Jackson-RB- If not for a guy named LaDainian Tomlinson, Jackson would be the consensus #1 pick in the draft. He possesses every aspect that comprises a top flight RB (speed, power, intelligence and receiving ability). He has set a goal of 2,500 total yards for this season and realistically has a shot to achieve it. If you don't have one of the first two picks in the draft, forget about him as your RB1.

2. Torry Holt-WR- Year in and year out, Holt is one of the safest picks in all of Fantasy Football. Despite turning 31 this offseason, he is not showing any signs of slowing down either. He is durable (only two games missed in eight seasons) and he has not recorded less than 91 receptions since 2001. Taking him in the second round as your WR1 will put you heads and shoulders above most teams in your league.

3. Marc Bulger-QB- His name is often mentioned among the top 5 Fantasy quarterbacks (and with good reason.) He not only has Holt, Isaac Bruce and Randy McMichael to throw to, he can also dump the ball out of the backfield to Jackson (which he did 90 times last year.) He also played in all 16 games for the first time in his career last season, dispelling concerns about his health. At 31 years old, he is still in his prime and is a steal of a QB1 in the third round after you've loaded up on RB's and/or WR's.

Bargain Bin: Randy McMichael-TE- No one was happier to escape the Miami quagmire than McMichael. He steps into a perfect situation in St. Louis and should respond accordingly by becoming one of the top 7 TE options. Best of all, his name appears to be off the radar in recent drafts and you can still nab him as your TE1 past the ninth round.