Who are the Super Bowl favorites going into the year?
From @mkroeger via Twitter
Let’s split this into the conferences. In the AFC, all discussions start and end with the Patriots. The Jets deserve a mention, the Chargers should at least get a little talk, but the Patriots are the favorites without a doubt in my mind. They don’t have any glaring holes (Special Teams, lack of a running game at times with the Chargers, Mark Sanchez’s actual ability with the Jets) and have a system they can plug guys into. The Steelers deserve a mention too, but at some point their porous O-Line is going to catch up to them, so for me, they are not the favorite. It is the Patriots in the AFC.
In the NFC, it looks a bit more like a two-horse race with the Eagles and Patriots. I think the Falcons and Bears will drop off a little and there is nothing to worry about with the NFC West. However, the Eagles have one serious issue and that is their complete dependence on Michael Vick’s health. Notice how I didn’t mention the Colts in the AFC because of their complete dependence on Peyton Manning’s health? The Eagles are one pile-up-gone-wrong or one defensive lineman rolling into Vick’s knee from not even making the playoffs. The Packers, on the other hand, just won a Super Bowl with 16 guys on IR, including Jermichael SuperFreak Finley (Trademarked), and Ryan Grant. That’s right, that doomsday machine of an offense was missing two big pieces and still just won the Super Bowl. The Packers are the favorites in the NFC.
So there you have it, Packers-Patriots in the Super Bowl, but one doesn’t make it. We will save that for another day.
How should I congratulate the Brewers on winning the division without anyone realizing it?
Lonny TaRussa in St. Louis
Hmm, that name looks familiar. Here are my suggestions, since the Cards manager has already tried throwing at the Brewers for pitching his guys inside and has insinuated that the Brewers were stealing signs because his pitching staff was getting hit by an excellent lineup. First off, you need to send a message to the club that you are serious about being out of the race. Go buy a few cases of Miller Lite and share it in the clubhouse with the players. Subtlety is key. Then you leave a sausage in everyone’s locker. Note that this could be extremely creepy and you need a fall-guy for it. Blame Lance Linn. Next, you start Corey Patterson, Theriot, Schumaker, and Descalso. I don’t care where they go in the order for the day but they need to be in the lineup to make your intentions clear. It wouldn’t hurt to give Mr. Scrabble (Rzepcyzinski) a spot start.
Finally, you need to make sure that no one suspects you. Kind of like how LaRussa clearly was throwing at Braun but refused to say it out loud. Here’s what you do: intentionally walk Fielder with the bases empty and then have your pitcher practice his pick off move. Thirty times or so should work. Next, bat your pitcher ninth. It seems simple enough but it would be a true white flag and we would all know that the Cards have packed it in for the year.
All kidding aside, pretty solid year for the Cards given Wainwright’s injury and the complete failure of a bullpen for much of the year.
What compares the the Barcelona-Madrid rivalry?
Felix en Madrid
Nothing compares. Nothing is close. First off, almost all football (soccer) rivalries trump almost all american sports rivalries. Yankees-Red Sox is a joke of a rivalry frankly that, if not for ESPN, would still be hovering around Alabama-Auburn level instead of the perception being what it is. Giants-Dodgers is equal to Yankees-Red Sox in baseball, and a distant third is Cardinals-Cubs when both are good, and MAYBE Mets-Braves when both are good. I made my list based on history of the rivalry, passion of the fans, overall continuous quality of the teams and natural rivalry (geographic, some other inherent reason) vs produced. We will keep it to american sports + Madrid-Barcelona for simplicity’s sake.
- Madrid vs. Barcelona- 10s across the board. Maybe 11s.
- Army vs Navy- Natural rivalry, once upon a time a both were great programs, just a little extra something to the game. Distant second.
- Duke vs. UNC- Regional, almost always good, college sports seem to breed rivalries more successfully, Almost always fun, though it is getting a bit produced.
- Ohio State vs Michigan- About 3 years ago, this goes #2 for me. Right now, both are tarnished, though Michigan’s tarnish has been on the field as well).
- Lakers vs. Celtics- Regional (East vs West), tons of great series and games between them. Only NBA rivalry on the list.
- Auburn vs Alabama- Committing crimes in the name of rivalry is bad, but good for this list.
- Texas vs Oklahoma- Excellent rivalry and both teams usually good. If I lived nearer to Texas, I bet I would put this much higher.
- Yankees-Red Sox and Giants-Dodgers- A lot of history here, but with baseball how it is these days you cannot have great rivalries. That is a topic for another day.
- Colts-Patriots- This only really stretches back the past decade, but it has been the top rivalry in the NFL for a while.
- Packers-Bears and Steelers Ravens. One has the history, the other has the toughness. Neither is too consistent in keeping the rivalry up.
That is the list. Barcelona-Madrid is by far the biggest.
You know the NBA Trade Machine and how much fun it is? Now the same idea doesn’t exactly work for the Transfer Market since there is no cap, but throw me some ideas on what the following clubs should do: Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham. Make it happen
Bubbles in Baltimore
You have come to the right place. I have done a few articles on how to fix teams in the past and lucky for these London clubs, I have what they need. However, we need to add one minor caveat: let’s act like the transfer window has a bit longer until it closes so these false negotiations can take place on a reasonable timetable.
Chelsea beat WBA this weekend, but not by much and looked pretty mediocre doing it. This is not an alarm sounding, simply a suggestion on how they could be better.Look, they have an embarrassment of riches and probably know it. Sure, they want Luka Modric and I do not blame them, but there is a solution to be had without him. Ironically, their solution involves selling some players off rather than adding any to the mix. It is going to hurt, but Drogba and Anelka are outbound. Anelka can further his world record and Drogba can get overpaid by a club in dire need of his services. I do not have one picked out but surely there is an Italian club or any other club in need of a good striker. Getting good prices for them do not even matter as much since Roman Abramovich has yacht-fuls of money (including a mini-giraffe!). Letting these two go makes some important room for some new faces who are more than ready to produce, some of whom have even proven it so far. Below are my Before and After propositions for Chelsea.
If you want to nitpick and put Ivanovic in for Bosingwa or something, that is fine. The point is that Sturridge needs to be on the field much more often given how well he played at Bolton last season and how diminished Drogba looks lately. On the other side, you have new signings Lukaku and Juan Mata who can add some creative spark (which the club desperately needs) along with Kakuta and Kalou, both of whom are more than capable. Not only would most Chelsea fans like the diagram on the right more, I think they would even do better. Torres has been trash lately but if he picks it up that lineup on the right looks fantastic. NEXT!
The big issue here is that teams such as Chelsea and others are lusting after Luka Modric, Spurs midfield maestro. Gareth Bale is also high on many teams’ wish lists after his sterling season last year. Now naturally, Spurs would love to keep both of these guys, but the reality is that they will probably have to sell one of them (likely Modric) if they fail to reach the Champions League this year. Spurs do have a possible Croatian replacement for Modric lined up in Niko Kranjcar but it just would not be the same. Just as a reference point, both are probably worth 40-45m euros on the market. Do you sell Modric, the midfield organizer and creator, or Bale, the athletic freak who terrorizes defenses from the wing? I would not sell either now, but come the January transfer window, when leverage might be highest, I sell Bale, maybe to Real Madrid, maybe elsewhere. He will go on to have a fine career elsewhere, but Tottenham really, really need a striker. A Spurs friend of mine suggested 35m and Sturridge for Modric, and if Spurs can get that, they should do it, but I doubt Chelsea would offer that up. Assuming they cannot get that, or something similar, their best bet is to sell Bale, let Kranjcar/Dos Santos and Lennon run the wings, let Modric organize and have Fernando Llorente (Athletic Club Bilbao) and Van der Vaart up top. That is a far better lineup, in my opinion, than Bale and Lennon on the wings, Kranjcar trying to be the playmaker and going with a comparable duo up top. They are evidently moments from signing Lassana Diarra as well. They should stand pat for now but at the January window, assuming prices do not drop and Tottenham is not in a Champions League spot, Spurs should sell Bale and use that cash to add their striker.
Fabregas is gone and there is nothing they can do about it, so instead of trying to replace him directly, Arsenal should try to strengthen the parts of the team that need help without him, specifically the wing opposite Walcott. I am going on the assumption that Nasri will be leaving at some point soon, but will include him regardless. They have a solid defensive-minded midfield, solid striking, but without Fabregas, the service will struggle. Arsene might not want to do it, but he is going to have a very hard time playing the exact same way without Fabregas, who was probably the hub of the attack. They do not have to become a team that just boots it wide and boots it back to the middle and hopes for a header, but letting the ball go wide and working it back in is not a bad idea in the least. So who do I want to add to the squad to help them do this? Well Mr. Wenger is pretty comfortable with plundering Barcelona’s youth and bench, so why stop now? Ibrahim Afellay has been made obsolete by Barcelona new-boy Alexis Sanchez. He is pretty damn good and can probably go for a very reasonable price (probably less than 8m euros). That means you would be looking at RVP and Nasri/Gervinho up top, Walcott and Afellay on the wings, Song and Wilshere in central midfield and the back line more or less as it is now since most of the defenders in the market have been snatched up. Once again, here is the before and after:
First off, notice there is not a huge difference, but I think Afellay is loads better than Ramsey or Rosicky. Clearly, the formation changes a bit if it is Nasri or Gervinho in the lineup, but either way it seems a bit more potent if you ask me. Wilshere can be the distributor in the midfield spraying balls out to Walcott and Afellay or up to Nasri and Van Persie. If they do lose Nasri, the formation on the right works even better with Gervinho and RVP being good targets in the middle for crosses and being good outlets if they decide to go about it on the ground. Moreover, it is a move that will keep the Arsenal faithful from going nuts. It isn’t an amazing move, but it is a pretty good one and there are not tons of options out there right now. It will not make them title contenders in the blink of an eye but it will be a nice shot of energy into a team that has not looked good thus far. If any of you Arsenal fans out there have better ideas that are within reason, let me know because otherwise I think they will have to jut be patient in their reloading.
I am new to this “fantasy” thing. Who are this year’s (good) surprises for Fantasy Football? Everyone knows about the love everyone is showing the Lions and guy “sleepers everyone has heard of making them no longer sleepers” but who is going to surprise me this year?
Tim Hasselbeck in Bristol, CT
How about I give you 1 QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs and a TE worth of sleepers. That’s right, almost an entire starting lineup. In return, promise me you will not go on air and suggest that, as a fantasy football player, you do not draft a guy because of the system he is in, or say anything else that just comes to you in the moment. I will stop picking on you now. However, here is the thing about sleepers. Due to the nature of the media’s coverage, sleepers are not guys like Matthew Stafford who have loads of talent around them who had a down year last year or were injured. Sleepers have to either be the guys we have already passed over and appraised, or be a rookie in a position to succeed that, for whatever reason, hasn’t been brought up.
QB- Colt McCoy (CLE)- New west coast system that fits his skill set, a division that is going to lose a good defense (the Ravens D will struggle), a soft-ish schedule and all sorts of upside. He will not create any WR stud along with him but I think Colt McCoy can be a very successful QB in deeper leagues. You shouldn’t be taking him over Philip Rivers or anything but he can be extremely useful in a league *such as mine with 12 teams all starting 2 QBs). Donovan McNabb will be extremely solid as well. He is nearing the point of not being a sleeper because of the hype around him, but I think playing for the Browns will keep his sleeper status.
RB1- Fred Jackson (BUF)- The most boring sleeper ever, but I will almost guarantee he has a solid-very good year. I don’t trust Ryan Fitzpatrick to turn the Bills into the K-Gun Bills so opportunities should be abundant and Jackson is durable and good. I do not fear CJ Spiller in the least and have no issues making Fred Jackson one of my sleeper RBs.
RB2- Tim Hightower (WAS)- This is exactly the reason you draft guys based on system and situation. No one else is going to pick up the load, he is a very solid receiver out of the backfield and there is no QB there so they are going to have to run it a lot. He isn’t great but he is very serviceable and just did not get a ton of chances to carry it consistently in Arizona. Moreover, he should clean up on the goal line. Very solid and seemingly low-risk sleeper.
WR1- Percy Harvin (MIN)- Everyone complains about his migraines, but I cannot remember him missing a single game due to migraines, and he plays hurt whenever needed. Maybe this is just my perception of it all, but it seems everyone thinks of Percy Harvin as a good slot receiver and not Steve Smith (Carolina) in his prime. 1400 yards, 78 catches and 6 touchdowns might be asking a little much of Harvin, but I think he can be somewhat close to that with Sidney Rice gone. Grab him and don’t look back.
WR2- Sam Bradford’s favorite WR (STL)- Last year, Josh McDaniels helped turn Brandon Lloyd into a fantasy stud. Sam Bradford is a little better than Kyle Orton and now McDaniels is his Offensive coordinator. Last year this was Danny Amendola. I would be against Donnie Avery since Bradford seems to like more shallow routes, but I am not sure if Amendola will be the top option again. Maybe Brandon Gibson will do it, and maybe it is Mike Sims-Walker, but someone is going to be a stud in that offense this year. Catch it if you can.
TE- Greg Olsen (CAR)- Cam Newton is going to start for this team. Greg Olsen is still a freak athlete with really good hands and ball skills. Rookie QBs throw to TEs quite a bit in large part because they run easy routes and often are covered by only one linebacker or safety. Greg Olsen can absolutely capitalize on this, and even though Jeremy Shockey is also in the mix, his history of injuries as well as his inferiority to Olsen means very good things for Olsen.
BONUS WE- Davone Bess (MIA)- Ok, honestly he has very little chance of having a good year given the QB situation. But that will not stop me from giving a plug to my underrated WR man-crush. I am not even going to defend it, just watch him when he plays and try to tell me he is not awesome. That is all.
Alright that is all for this week. We will be back later in the week to talk EPL and more.