Thursday, December 15, 2016

NFL Week 15 - Jeff Fisher Gets the Boot

Mediocre quarterback play, juicy sound bites and our first head coach firing of the season highlighted Week 14. Just eight days after it was reported Jeff Fisher had a contract extension in place to remain with Los Angeles, the oft-criticized head coach was kicked to the curb by the Rams. While the decision to move on from Fisher was long overdue, the timing is a bit puzzling considering the aforementioned news that broke last week. With that said, the tension within the Rams organization is well-documented and a head coaching change was pretty much inevitable.

With three weeks of regular season games remaining, the playoff race is shaping up to be very entertaining. Despite a shaky start and decline in ratings, the rumblings regarding the NFL's demise appear to be greatly exaggerated. It's safe to say that people simply enjoy gambling on football, whether that be in the form of office pools, fantasy football or picking games, which is primarily why the NFL reigns supreme in comparison to the other major American sports leagues. Additionally, when the most popular teams, such as Dallas and Pittsburgh, are relevant, the macro sentiment surrounding the league won't have as much of an impact, but I digress.

Without further ado, let's jump into Week 15.

Los Angeles @ Seattle (-16) O/U 38.5

Fun Fact: Before leaving the office on Friday, I told my co-worker I wouldn’t be surprised if Atlanta came out flat against St. Louis (in Week 14), considering they had to travel across the country to LA and play outside the friendly confines of the Georgia Dome. That’s a true story.

Fast-forward to Sunday and the Falcons were up 42-0 before the third quarter ended.
This organization is a complete dumpster fire.

Pittsburgh (-3) @ Cincinnati  O/U 44

Lev Bell put up an NCAA-esque stat line in snowy Buffalo last week, carrying the rock 38 times for over 200 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Currently riding a four-game winning streak, Pittsburgh has the inside track to win the AFC North after Baltimore's loss to New England on Monday night. Despite their Jekyll and Hyde tendencies, the Steelers are a dangerous team that can contend with any of the AFC heavyweights come playoff time.

Last year's bizarre Wild Card matchup between these two teams was unfortunately littered with injuries and cheap shots. Vontaze Burfict was an absolute menace on the field that night (as shown above) and ultimately cost his team the game while receiving a three-game suspension in the process. I hate to say it, but considering Cincinnati is out of the playoff hunt with nothing meaningful to play for, this game could get ugly, especially since Burfict will be on the field after missing their first meeting due to said suspension.

It's safe to say Pacman Jones doesn't have much respect for Terelle Pryor. 

Detroit @ New York Giants (-4) O/U 41

While both of these teams possess a 9-4 record, the jury is still out on whether or not either squad is actually good. Eight of Detroit's nine wins have been decided by seven points or less, which is absolutely absurd. Ironically, the Giants have also won an unsustainable eight games decided by one possession. Historically, these types of games are often decided by a coin-flip and thus the numbers tend to revert back toward the mean from year-to-year.
After beginning the season running an offense revolved around a hurry-up style, Detroit has done their best Dallas Cowboys impression, adopting a ball control style in an attempt to mask their defensive deficiencies. As Evan Silva points out, Detroit is playing keep away with their opponents, which enables their defense to stay off the field, or at the very least, fresh and well-rested.
On another note, Eli Manning was my dark horse MVP candidate coming into the season and I drafted him in all three of my fantasy leagues.


New England (-3) @ Denver O/U 43.5

Continuing our trend of fantastic postgame interview clips, below is Aqib Talib's reaction after Harry Douglas landed an egregious cheap shot on fellow Broncos teammate Chris Harris Jr.

If I were to construct a set of power ratings ranking the NFL players you would least likely want to beef with, Aqib Talib would be up near the top of that list (along with our boy Pacman). Not only does Talib have legitimate street credibility, but he also has the pedigree of an enforcer considering his Grandma is an East Cleveland legend. Come to think about it, maybe I'll follow through with this and create some rankings in an offseason post.

P.S. What a time to be alive

Friday, November 11, 2016

NFL Week 10 - Marquette King for President


Houston @ Jacksonville (-2) - O/U 42

First reaction after seeing this game on the slate.

Kansas City @ Carolina (-3) - O/U 44

Although it may be too little too late, Carolina has started to show signs of life. After commencing the year 1-5, the Panthers have won two straight and currently find themselves installed as three-point favorites against a 6-2 Chiefs team. I've said it before and will say it again - the market doesn't pay attention to win/loss records. Considering point spreads (and the betting market) are the most accurate indicators available in terms of predicting the outcome of a sporting event, win/loss records don't have much relevance in determining how good a team is, but I digress. Despite being sizeable underdogs to reach the postseason, Carolina could conceivably be in the conversation for a wild card spot if they can get to 9-7.

Denver @ New Orleans (-3) - O/U 49.5

Circling back to the notion that oddsmakers don't put much stock in win percentages, the 4-4 Saints find themselves favored by a field goal over the 6-3 Broncos. Granted New Orleans has a strong home field edge and Denver will be traveling across the country for a 1:00 PM ET start, it still supports my belief. Despite dropping their first three games, New Orleans has won four of their last five, while putting up over 32 points/game during that span. Rocky start aside, the Saints are only a half-game out of a playoff spot

Atlanta (-2) @ Philadelphia - O/U 50

If it weren't for NFL tickets being egregiously expensive, I'd probably be on hand in Philly to catch this one.
Considering Ryan Matthews has played on just 10% of the snaps over the past two weeks, this is not breaking news. However, I'd much rather Pederson mix in the two together instead of picking favorites. As much as I love Sproles, he is pretty much the opposite of a between-the-tackles power back. After dropping two straight divisional games, Philadelphia's playoff aspirations are looking bleak.

Dallas @ Pittsburgh (-2) - O/U 49.5

While Pittsburgh's home/road splits are well-documented and Dallas is going on the road with a rookie quarterback, this line seems high at first glance. Big Ben is clearly not 100% and the Cowboys have demonstrated they are one of the few elite teams the NFL has to offer this year. On the surface, Seattle/New England appears to be the most appealing game of the week, but personally I'm looking forward to this matchup the most.

P.S. I didn't get to touch on them due to a bye week, but Oakland's punter, Marquette King, is probably my favorite player in the NFL. 


Thursday, November 3, 2016

NFL Week 9 - Brady for MVP

Unfortunately I wasn't able to find time to write last week. As I alluded to in my return post, sports blogging is a secondary hobby and takes a back seat to more important aspects of my life. As much as I want to consistently create content, sports writing will not take precedence over family dinner with relatives or happy hour with co-workers.

As we reach the halfway mark of the NFL season, essentially every team has visible flaws. New England is in a class of their own atop the league, but even they have some kinks to iron out (on the defensive side of the ball). Although he missed the first four games due to suspension, Tom Brady is currently the favorite to win the MVP by a wide margin. Since the star quarterback returned under center, the Patriots are 4-0, winning each game by double-digits and scoring an average of 34 points/game in the process. Fortunately for the rest of the league, New England is on a bye this week.

 Atlanta (-4) @ Tampa Bay - O/U 51

After dropping two straight winnable games, Atlanta bounced back and took care of business against a potential playoff team. Matt Ryan continues to look sharp, despite the absence of Tevin Coleman and limitations of a hobbled Julio Jones last week against Green Bay. While the defense remains a concern, the Falcons have established themselves as an upper-echelon team in an NFC Conference littered with question marks.

Despite their opponent committing an NFL-record 23 penalties (resulting in over 200 penalty yards), the Bucs failed to take advantage of the opportunity. Offensive tackle Demar Dotson summed it up pretty well in the video shown above. If Tampa Bay wants any chance to win the NFC South (and potentially earn a postseason bid), they absolutely have to win this game. 

Philadelphia @ New York Giants (-2) - O/U 43

My beloved Eagles blew a ten-point fourth quarter lead in an important divisional game against Dallas and ended up losing in overtime. Admittedly, I fell asleep during the third quarter so I can't comment too strongly on what transpired. After beginning the season 3-0, Philadelphia has dropped three of their last four. To make matters worse, seven of their remaining nine games come against teams currently above .500, with the exceptions being at Cincinnati and at Baltimore. According to numberFire, the Eagles have about a 50-50 shot to make the playoffs, which I personally think is pretty generous.

Dallas (-7) @ Cleveland - O/U 47.5

Despite leading his team to an overtime victory after trailing by double-digits in the fourth quarter, Dak Prescott looked like a rookie for most of the night. The former Mississippi State quarterback finished with a completion percentage under 50% for the first time in his young career and threw an egregious red zone interception. However, Prescott added 38 yards on the ground and a rushing touchdown to help balance out his deficiencies in the passing game.

Indianapolis @ Green Bay (-7) - O/U 54

I've said it before and will say it again - Indianapolis might have the least talented roster in the NFL, and if it wasn't for Andrew Luck and an annual cupcake schedule, they would be bottom-feeders every year.

Broncos @ Raiders (PK) - O/U 44

The Derek Carr for MVP chatter is in full force after throwing for over 500 yards and four touchdowns last week. Although they have a 6-2 record, oddsmakers still don't respect the Raiders and the current market price of a PK (despite this game being played in the Bay Area) supports that notion. Considering Oakland is an unsustainable 5-1 in games decided by seven points or less, I'd have to agree that the skepticism is warranted.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

NFL Week 7

After an interesting NFL Sunday that featured the return of Colin Kaepernick and an unconventional sideline proposal, we turn the page to Week 7. Overall, the slate looks relatively bleak aside from a primetime divisional matchup between Arizona and Seattle, but we do get another London game. While the overseas contests haven't been the most aesthetically pleasing since their inception, I'm not going to complain about an NFL game kicking off at 9:30 AM ET.

Chicago @ Green Bay (-9.5) O/U 46
 Alshon Jeffery has a profound plan to solve Chicago's offensive struggles.

New York Giants (-2.5) @ Los Angeles O/U 43.5

After dropping three straight and falling to 2-3, the Giants bounced back against Baltimore thanks to a game-winning Odell Beckham touchdown late in the fourth quarter. The volatile wide receiver proceeded to remove his helmet in the end zone (and chirp a referee), earning him a 15-yard penalty, before proposing to a kicking net. To say Beckham plays with his heart on his sleeve is an understatement. While his antics have already become a distraction, it's easier to look the other way when he puts up 222 yards and two touchdowns.

Baltimore @ New York Jets (PK) O/U 40.5

Here's a live look at Jets fans. I'm not sure anything else needs to be said. 

San Diego @ Atlanta (-6.5) O/U 53.5

Although I wasn't sold on them initially, the Falcons deserve to be recognized in the top tier of the NFC with Minnesota, Dallas and Seattle. Atlanta put together back-to-back impressive performances on the road against elite defenses. As I've mentioned before, the Falcons are a dome team that excels indoors, but the past two weeks showed the offense can travel outdoors and maintain competence. 

New England (-7) @ Pittsburgh O/U 46

Prior to Ben Roethlisberger's knee injury, this matchup was poised to be one of the best regular season games and potentially an AFC Championship preview. Personally I thought the Steelers would be favored by a smidge with a healthy Big Ben, which would indicate he's arguably the most valuable player to his team. A case could be made for Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees, but I'm not sure there is another player that would warrant an eight or nine point swing in the point spread. We've seen enough spot starts from Landry Jones to know he's a run-of-the-mill replacement. While it's much easier said than done, Pittsburgh's game plan should incorporate a heavy dose of Le'Veon Bell in an attempt to control clock and keep Brady off the field.

Seattle @ Arizona (-2) O/U 43.5

After dropping three of their first four, the Cardinals have clawed back to .500 and find themselves just a half-game out of a playoff spot. Arizona's strategy to pivot away from their vertical passing attack in order to feature stud running back David Johnson has paid dividends. Carson Palmer has looked very shaky thus far and Bruce Arians had no choice but to change his offensive approach. Considering the Cardinals were fortunate to face two bottom feeders in as many weeks, I'm curious to see how they respond against a division rival with Super Bowl aspirations.

Houston @ Denver (-7.5) O/U 40.5

Regardless of the comeback he engineered on Sunday night against Indianapolis, Texans fans can't feel good about Brock Osweiler. On the bright side, Lamar Miller looked explosive, rushing for 149 yards and averaging over six yards per carry despite playing from behind for basically the whole game. Fantasy owners finally got the positive touchdown regression they were waiting for as Miller found the end zone twice.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

NFL Week 6 - The Return of Colin Kaepernick

Denver (-3) @ San Diego - O/U 44.5

After blowing a fourth quarter lead for the third time (in five games), the Chargers find themselves at 1-4 with basically no chance to make the playoffs. It sucks to see another year of Philip Rivers in his prime go to waste. Mike McCoy is coaching on borrowed time and it's unlikely he makes it through the season unscathed. The franchise has advanced in the postseason just once since 2008, and it makes you wonder what Rivers' career could have looked like if he was surrounded by more talent, like his 2004 draft class counterparts.

The Broncos defense finally looked mortal last week against Atlanta after wreaking havoc on opposing offenses during the first quarter of the season. The game script got away from them early as Denver was unable to ease their rookie QB into his first career NFL start. Granted this won't be a common occurrence considering the elite status of their defense, but it's reasonable to wonder if this team is capable of playing from behind given their inexperience at the quarterback position. While Trevor Siemian has been solid thus far, he's still in his first season as a starter and it remains to be seen whether he can shoulder the load for an entire season.

Cincinnati @ New England (-9) - O/U 47

Last week I suggested Tom Brady might be rusty coming off his suspension and the Browns-Patriots game would be closer than most expected. Spoiler Alert: That was not the case. Brady came out of the gate with a vengeance and torched the Browns for over 400 yards. The Ugg Sponsor/Golden Boy/Future Hall of Famer basically gave the middle finger to the entire NFL in his 2016 debut.

Baltimore @ New York Giants (-3) - O/U 43.5

Coming into the season, I honestly thought Eli Manning was a dark horse MVP candidate. While Eli missed plenty of throws on Sunday night, it was obvious he didn't trust his offensive line and never got comfortable in the pocket. Second-year left tackle Ereck Flowers had a particularly rough night in pass protection and proceeded to take his frustration out on a reporter follwing the game. After opening the season 2-0, the G-Men have dropped three straight and find themselves occupying the NFC East basement.

San Francisco @ Buffalo (-8) - O/U 44

Colin Kaepernick is back under center for the first time since Week 8 of last year. Although San Francisco didn't have high expectations coming into the season, it's somewhat puzzling why it took so long for Chip Kelly to give his dual-threat quarterback the starting job. Whether it was the contract situation or off-season shoulder surgery, there was a reason why Blaine Gabbert started the team's first five games. With a 1-4 record and Kaepernick's contract restructured, the 49ers have literally nothing to lose by rolling the dice with their embattled signal caller.

Kansas City @ Oakland (-1) - O/U 46.5

On the surface this line seems pretty fishy. Despite being 4-1 and playing at home, the Raiders are barely favored against a 2-2 Chiefs team. Granted this is a divisional game and Kansas City is coming off a bye, but the market clearly doesn't respect the Raiders. By digging a little deeper, we can see that Oakland has the worst defense on a yards-per-play basis and won their four games by a combined 12 points. It's good to see the Raiders become relevant again after years of mediocrity, but the jury is still out on whether this is an upper-echelon team.

Indianapolis @ Houston (-3) - O/U 46.5

After receiving a four-year, $72 million contract (with $37 million guaranteed), Brock Osweiler has looked nothing more than a fringe starter through his first five games in Houston. Luckily for the Texans, they play in the AFC South, which is the worst division in football. After an ugly road loss to Minnesota, this appears to be a nice 'get right' spot at home against a middling Colts team. From top to bottom, Indianapolis has the least talented roster in the league as far as I'm concerned. It's hard to imagine how awful this team would be without Andrew Luck under center. 

P.S. This is a bit off topic, but if you haven't grabbed this exclusive mixtape yet, make sure to stop at the nearest Sam Goody and snag one.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

NFL Week 5

With a quarter of the NFL season already in the books, we have some intriguing story lines entering Week 5.

Tom Brady returns from his infamous suspension. Carolina and Arizona find themselves at 1-3 despite facing off in the NFC Championship game less than a year ago. Carson Wentz looks to continue his undefeated start as a rookie. The list goes on.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to cover every game in time for kickoff tonight, so I provided some general commentary on a handful of teams instead.
Arizona (-3.5) @ San Francisco - O/U 42.5

Need I say more?

New York Jets @ Pittsburgh (-7) - O/U 48

The NFL schedule makers didn't do the Jets any favors. After opening the season against a Cincinnati Bengals team with five straight playoff appearances, Gang Green traveled to Buffalo on a short week to face off with a division rival in Week 2. Add in a trip to Arrowhead before a home bout versus Seattle, and you can see why someone in the league office may have had it out for the Jets. As if it couldn't get any worse, New York currently finds themselves as seven-point underdogs against Pittsburgh with the Arizona Cardinals on deck. Despite Arizona's recent struggles, the Jets will almost certainly be getting points when they travel to Glendale assuming Carson Palmer plays. Todd Bowles and Co. will need a minor miracle to reach the playoffs.
Washington @ Baltimore (-4) - O/U 44

I don't have much to say about this game. Despite a 3-1 record, Baltimore has faced a cupcake schedule and may very well be a fraudulent team. I'm not sure what to make of them at this point.

Tennessee @ Miami (-3.5) - O/U 43
Pretty much Tennessee's season in a nutshell.
New England (-10.5) @ Cleveland - O/U 46.5

This matchup has widely been referred to as the "Tom Brady F-You" game, as the star quarterback returns from a controversial four-game suspension. As crazy as it sounds, I wouldn't be surprised if Cleveland kept this one close. Despite possessing an 0-4 record, the Browns have been competitive in the majority of their games. Considering Brady hasn't practiced with the team since his suspension, it's not inconceivable to think he comes out a bit rusty. Couple that with an unhealthy Gronk and this game could be closer than most expect.

Atlanta @ Denver (-5) - O/U 47

Through four games, the Falcons appear to have the best offense in the league. Julio Jones went absolutely HAM to the tune of 300 receiving yards last week as Atlanta put up 48 points on the defending NFC champs. Sporting a 3-1 record, the Falcons have a two-game cushion in their division and are clear-cut favorites to win the NFC South. With that said, we will find out how good Atlanta is over the next two weeks when they travel to Denver and Seattle. We cannot forget this is a dome team that thrives indoors. I'm interested to see how the offense performs on the road against two elite defenses.

It appears rookie Paxton Lynch is going to start for Denver. While he looked competent in his relief appearance against Tampa Bay, I'd expect a heavy dose of C.J. Anderson with the Broncos looking to play keep away.  

Tampa Bay @ Carolina

I'm just going to come out and say it - the Carolina Panthers are in trouble. Their once-vaunted defense has taken a major step back this year and the running game is pretty much nonexistent. On top of that, Cam Newton is currently in the concussion protocol and head coach Ron Rivera has "no idea" if he will play this week. According to numberFire, the Panthers have a 35% chance to make the playoffs despite going 15-1 in the regular season last year.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Return Post

After a two-year hiatus, I'm excited to announce my return to the sports blogging world. I took a break from posting for a variety of reasons which will be addressed shortly.

Considering my forte is professional football, expect the site to consist primarily of NFL coverage and analysis for the foreseeable future. As time elapses and the Super Bowl approaches, I anticipate a transition into college basketball with potentially some NBA sprinkled on the side.

I've always been extremely passionate about sports. Whether it consisted of attending countless Yankee games with my dad as a youngster or being one of the lone Eagles' fans residing in North Jersey, sports were simply just a part of me. However, while I fully support individuals having a passion and/or potentially chasing their dreams, it is important to strike some sort of balance and understand what truly matters in one's life.

Looking back on the past few years, there were several occurrences in which I allowed my affinity for sports to interfere with much more important aspects of my life. For example, during my senior year of college, there were many instances where I sat in the back of the classroom on my laptop, paying no attention to the teacher or lesson whatsoever, creating power ratings and blog posts relating to sports. While there were probably worse things I could have been doing, this approach did not seem like a recipe for success.

As my college career wound down and the real world began to stare me in the face, I came to the conclusion that my passion for sports was not going to result in any job opportunities or sustainable monetary gains. Consequently, I decided to put the sports writing hobby on the back burner and steer my focus towards more meaningful facets of my life (such as getting a job, maturing/growing up, etc.). Long story short, I needed to sort some things out within my personal life, and thus had to give up on my passion for a while. With that said, I've been able to reflect on a lot of stuff over the past few years and I'm ready for another crack at this.

The plan is to write once or twice per week. I haven't settled on a specific format, but most of the posts will consist of general thoughts and commentary. Creating power ratings is not my focus, but as the season progresses and stronger opinions begin to formulate, I may end up implementing them into the blog. After being out of the sports realm for so long, it might take some time to get back into the swing of things, so please bear with me.

I was pleasantly surprised to see there has been a decent amount of viewership despite the extended layoff, so be sure to stay on the lookout for upcoming posts. It feels good to be back!

P.S. I try to steer clear of general news stories that surround the sports sphere, but if a unique situation arises, I may have to weigh in.