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.