Week 8 Recap

Hello all,

Sincere apologies for what will almost undoubtedly be a shorter post this week – the professional side of my life is NUTS!!!

That said, weird week in a lot of ways.  Oakland and New England scored over 200 points.  Detroit and Jacksonville also scored over 200 points, but LOST.  San Diego beat Denver on stat corrections by less than half a point.  Buffalo scored only 135 in a brutal divisional loss.  And the New York Giants, despite having so many players on the IR that they had to start the team doctors at skill positions, scored the most points of the week and absolutely waxed the 49ers.  Very strange.

Finish Reading: Week 8 Recap

Game of the Week: Atlanta Falcons 224, Detroit Lions 204.

The first game of the double-header did not disappoint at all, with both teams going over 200 points.  The Lions younger players really showed up for this one, with both Brandin Cooks and Cordarelle Patterson going over 25.  However, Detroit absolutely missed its superstars. With both Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush on the bench, Detroit got only a combined 18 points from Kenny Stills and Jonas Grey.  While a healthy Megatron and Reggie Bush might not have made up the full margin of victory, they sure would have helped.  The Falcons also had to overcome some adversity, weathering an epic, career-ending Geno Smith meltdown (-4 points) by getting monstrous games from Arian Foster (46 points) and Larry Fitzgerald (38 points) on the way to a 138 offensive performance.

By the way, how lopsided does the Arian Foster for Stacy and Mettenberger look right now?  Foster has scored 68 points in the last two games, while Zac Stacy has exactly 7, and the Falcons stole Mettenberger back – and will now be starting him at Quarterback after his bye week.  Unfair – until Arian injury-tweets again.

Stock Rising:

Miami Dolphins: Now THAT is how you go after a playoff spot.  The Dolphins put together their best game of the season against wild-card rival Jacksonville, pulling off a 226-212 victory behind 104 points from their defense and a cool 50 from Gronk.  The win leaves Miami in a tenuous position within the AFC wildcard.  Any team that can throw down 226 points against a rival is going to be a legitimate wild card threat.  But after a winnable date with San Diego, the Dolphins finish their season with three games against Detroit, Buffalo, and Denver.  2-2 would probably be good enough to secure a playoff spot.  But 1-3 may not.

Oakland Raiders: So… uhhh… guys… the Raiders are 7-5.  7-5.  How is this possible?  And not only are they 7-5, they are riding a four game winning streak, just scored 224 points, and are about to get Josh Gordon back from a suspension.  The young receiving core of Jordan Matthews, Davante Adams, and Andre Holmes looks good, Eddie Lacy is a stud, and the defense is holding its own despite some difficult injuries to the linebacking core.  The Raiders are also well-positioned for a run – after a game against Seattle, Oakland finishes with three games against divisional opponents – and plenty of chances to make up ground.  A 3-1 finish with wins over KC and Denver would put the Raiders at 10-6 – with a very real shot at a playoff.  Why oh why didn’t somebody buy all his veterans in week 3????

New Orleans Saints: How do you stop a slide?  By smashing the reigning Super Bowl Champions by 40 and looking good while doing it.  This is the Saints squad we’ve expected for weeks.  27 from Brees.  38 from Golden Tate (poetic as well as impressive).  107 from the defense (led by 25 from rising stud Anthony Barr).  And all this with Darren Sproles inactive and putting up a goose egg.  It is going to be an exciting race to the finish in the NFC South – and after this week, I have to give the slimmest of edges to the Saints.  Experience counts in fantasy, ya know.  It’s not all about the numbers.

Honorable Mentions: New York Giants, Houston Texans, Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles, Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots

 

Stock Falling:

Denver Broncos: Rough week for the Broncos.  Anytime a team loses to a divisional rival by less than half a point after a stat correction, you have to feel for them.  Of course, when they only score 151 points on a non bye-week, it’s hard to feel THAT sorry for them.  It was an overall sluggish week for the Broncos who got less than 20 points combined from all offensive personnel not named Peyton or Demaryius, and an average of less than THREE points from their seven linemen and linebackers.  The secondary was strong, as was the characteristic Bronco connection – but the Broncos need more from their supporting cast.  Even the schedule looks a little darker for the Broncos.  New England, Oakland, St. Louis, and Miami would have looked like a cruise a few weeks back, but looks much more challenging now.  It’s all still in play for Manning’s crew – everything from a first round playoff bye to missing the playoffs.  We’ll see which Denver squad shows up.

Buffalo Bills: So at first glance, this game for the Bills (a 155-135 loss to the Jets) appears to an anomaly of epic proportions.  A blip in the space-time continuum.  An isolated and irrepeatable aberration on par with Roger Goodell making a politically sensitive decision (although… the man is brilliant.  That whole Ray Rice thing?  And the cover up?  Nobody cares anymore.  HOW?!?!?).  But this isn’t the first time for the Bills.  If you scroll back through an impressive series of wins and crushing performances that have given them their well-deserved best in the AFC record, you also find week 4 – where the Bills managed only 131 points in a similarly perplexing loss to the Texans.  The consistent theme in both of those games?  A complete no-show by the offensive supporting cast.  In week 4, Trent Richardson went off for over 20, but the rest of the offense together managed less than 25.  In week 8, Kyle Orton managed 25, but with Richardson out, the rest of the offense put together less than 20.

Is it a huge concern?  Not really.  Particularly once Trent and A. J. Mother. (#$&)#*(. Green. comes back, I fully expect this offense to put up huge points and continue to dominate.  But it is a concern.  It only takes one egg in the playoffs…

The Race to the Bottom: I thought about a bunch of teams for this third spot… but I couldn’t really bring myself to select any of them.  San Francisco got obliterated by NYG… but it was a bye week.  Indy got shelled by Pittsburgh… but everybody does.  Tennessee, Jacksonville, and Detroit’s playoff hopes took major hits, but we picked on Tennessee last week and both Jacksonville and Detroit scored over 200.

So instead, I want to honor our competitors in the race for the bottom, and their outstanding accomplishments over the last couple of weeks.  Over the past two weeks, Arizona, Chicago, Minnesota, the Jets, St. Louis, Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Washington have combined to go 4-14, with only two of those wins (NYJ over Buff and Washington over Tennessee) over non-bottom teams.  Ouch.  There’s some drama in the race for #1, not just the race for the playoffs!

 

Games of the Week:

So I’m not going to lie.  It’s NOT a great week for drama.  There are very few epic showdowns, as most playoff teams are facing non playoff teams and seek to hold their ground.  There could be a couple of gems though… and this is the week that a couple of bizarre upsets could really throw a wrench into the playoff race!

Indianapolis vs. NY Giants: Those crazy Giants.  So far their hell stretch has looked like: ATL (W), PHI (L), DAL (W), SF (W).  Their reward?  An angry Indy squad fighting to retain control of their division.  And oh, by the way, the Giants long-term injured list right now is a whose who list of studs: CJ Spiller, Victor Cruz, Jerod Mayo, Justin Durant, and Rashad Jennings.  Meanwhile, this is Indy’s final true test before a final three weeks that are all winnable.  A win here would go a long way to locking up their title defense.

Detroit vs. Atlanta: Round two.  FIGHT!  If Atlanta wins, we could see a “Finish Him” sequence worthy of old school Mortal Kombat.  With a likely Green Bay win, another Detroit loss would push the Lions to three back with three to go – and pretty much spell the end of their season.  This is going to be a bizarre week for both teams, however, as both times face a rather ridiculous bye week.  Detroit relies more heavily on its franchise core (Bush, Megatron, Stafford, and EIGHT players on Defense).  Atlanta is just as hamstrung, losing fewer franchise stars (Julio, Roddy, Kroy Biermann), but losing other bye week stars as well, including Martellus Bennett, Zach Mettenbergerer, and DeAndre Levy.  Weird week.  Weird doubleheader.  Weird game.

Houston vs. Philadelphia: What the hell are the Texans?  They are in!  They are out!  They are great!  They are terrible!  Who is this team, really?  At this point, they are tied for the AFC South lead – but have to face a strong scoring Philly team that intends to make a push for the NFC East now that RG III is back.  The Texans roster is talented, but very young and inconsistent.  But the Eagles are finally healthy.  Finally playing.  And I think it’s about to get CRAZY up in the NFC East.

Oakland vs. Seattle: Didn’t expect this one to be a game.  But it should be one of the week’s best.  This was the stretch where the Seahawks were supposed to ride a weaker schedule to separation from the 49ers.  So far so good.  But Oakland is not the slouch they originally appeared to be, and have actually outplayed the Seahawks the last few weeks.  A win keeps the Seahawks in the driver’s seat in the West.  But in some ways, a win for the Raiders would be more interesting, as it would set them up at 8-5 at most a game out of the wild card, with three divisional games left to play, and a playoff spot there for the taking…

Good luck this week, everyone!

Real Deal (Football) Report – Week 7 Recap

Separation Week.  Most weeks, the Real Deal Football universe is a terrifying place, replete with upsets.  Good teams go down, bad ones startle and surprise.  It’s the chaos of fantasy football and we experience it every single week we play.

Except this one.  Week 7 was like March Madness without the Mad.  Chalk.  Worst bracket ever.  Let’s examine:
Finish Reading: Real Deal (Football) Report – Week 7 Recap

The favored team went 13-3 in week 7 – and the only exceptions were barely exceptions:

  • The New York Giants (a trendy Super Bowl pick in week #1) knocked off the Dallas Cowboys.  It’s a divisional rivalry game between two great teams.  It’s going to happen.
  • The Detroit Lions (my Super Bowl favorite in week #1) knocked off the New Orleans Saints.  Another major NFC showdown with no clear favorite – but a desperate Lions squad.
  • The Washington Redskins upset the Tennessee TItans (an anti-super bowl favorite in week #1).  This one legitimately qualifies as an upset – or as legitimately as it can when the team being upset is 5-5.

So it was a boring week.  But it was a SEPARATING week.  When the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, playoff races take shape.  By my calculation, only 9 teams in the AFC and 9 in the NFC remain in contention for the 12 available playoff spots.   The story of the next five weeks will be to determine which 3 teams are tough luck pretenders from each league – and which twelve will keep fighting for the Super Bowl.
Game of the Week: New York Giants 253 – Dallas Cowboys 214

Is it just me, or is the game of the week always between the Dallas Cowboys and whoever they play?  What gives?  The Cowboys (who, by the way, are 9-2 with the most points scored against them in the league – nobody else is allowed to complain about strength of schedule), kept their streak going, to go over 200 points for every single game this year.  The story of this game, though, was not the Cowboys, but their archrivals, the New York Giants.  The Giants bounced back from last weeks dud against the Eagles to salvage an NFC East contender split with a Monday night comeback victory over the East leaders.  A week after losing Victor Cruz for the season, the Giants proved that their WR corps was not going to be in trouble – or perhaps it is exactly the kind of trouble they were hoping for!  Sammy Watkins, Torrey Smith, DeAndre Hopkins, and Antonio Brown combined for a whopping 104 points (26 point average) and the outcome was never really in doubt.  It is very possible that the East could end up with three teams in the playoffs – although the Giants face a brutal stretch run of contenders.

Stock Rising:

Indianapolis Colts – A week after losing their hold on the South, the Colts put in a workmanlike effort against the Bengals to reclaim it with a Texans loss.  Strong games by Andrew Luck and Ahmad Bradshaw overcame a Reggie Wayne injury and a lackluster defensive performance to notch the win.  If the Colts can survive the next two weeks (brutal tests against Pittsburgh and the Giants), they come home with winnable games against the Vikings, Patriots, and Jaguars.  A 3-2 record should be enough to secure the South title at 10-6 – can they get there?

Pittsburgh Steelers: Don’t mess with Pittsburgh.  Just don’t do it.  You don’t know how they will win.  But you know they will put up points and obliterate you.  On the flip side of the Southern ledger, the Houston Texans ran into a buzzsaw in the Steelers, who answered the challenge by obliterating the Texans by a solid 100 points.  It was a great game for Le’Veon Bell (29 points), Doug “Percy who?!?  Child, Please” Baldwin (31), and a crushing defense (115 points) that received over 50 points from an always solid linebacking core.  Pittsburgh’s magic number is exactly ONE, with 5 games left, and the only question the Steelers are asking is whether or not they can hold off Denver and Buffalo for one of the two AFC byes.  What a year for the Steelers.

Detroit Lions: When a good team gets down, you have to step on their neck.  Hard.  Repeatedly.  And with prejudice.  Otherwise, you might miss your chance.  It happened to the AFC with Denver.  And the NFC had better watch out for Detroit.  Once left for dead in a competitive division, Detroit has followed up it’s “get well” victory over the Vikings with a much more noteworthy victory over the Saints.  At 6-5, the Lions are hardly beating the world – but a weird scheduling quirk gives them back-to-back opportunities against fellow Wild Card contender Atlanta, and close out games at the end of the year against New England and Arizona.  A playoff spot is not out of the question quite yet.

Honorable Mention: Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, Seattle Seahawks

 

Stock Falling:

Houston Texans:  Owwww….. Nothing like fighting your way into a tie for first place only to get obliterated in a potential game of the week.  Make no mistake, this was a nightmare outing for the Texans, and every element of the offense came out totally flat.   Derek Carr and Carlos Hyde regressed on their way to a 36 point performance – half of which came from Andre Johnson.  But most worrisome for the Texans?  Zac Stacy didn’t even sniff the field, as Tre Mason started and finished.  The Texans have to hope that this is a temporary development, particularly while Arian “Australian for Running Back” Foster is posting 22 point games.  The Texans certainly have hope – but they need to put this game behind them quickly, and get the ball back in the end-zone.

New Orleans Saints: Bye weeks suck.  They simply do.  Anything can happen (and usually does), on a bye week, as the nearly traumatized Philadelphia Eagles almost discovered.  So the Saints bye week loss to the Chiefs wasn’t anything to worry about.  But this was not the bye week.  Jimmy Graham WAS in the lineup.  And the Saints still managed only 157 points in a lackluster loss to the Lions, to drop back into a tie for the division with the Falcons.  It’s even worse – more than 25% of the Saints total points (40 of them) came from a career game from Golden Tate, meaning the other NINETEEN guys scored only a total of 117 points, including a combined 0.5 point from Khiry Robinson and Jimmy Graham.  Up next is a very tough game against Green Bay.  Can the mighty New Orleans Saints really lose three in a row?  It’s possible.

Tennessee Titans: Speaking of AFC South teams with tough letdowns, the Titans had fought themselves back into divisional contention with some nice wins.  But a brutal 139 point stinker of a loss to the woeful Redskins may have undone all the recent good work the Titans have accomplished.  At 5-6, they are now two full games behind the wild card and divisional leaders – but much more dangerous, every team in the division is between them and a playoff spot.  The Titans probably need to win out from here to have a realistic shot – and Green Bay, Philly, and Pittsburgh all loom in their final five.  Even finishing at .500 might be a stretch.

Dishonorable Mention: Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets

 

Week 8 Games of the Week:

Houston Texans vs. Tennessee Titans – Can you say elimination game?  Both teams have put forth very strong efforts this year, but both are also reeling from brutal, non-competitive, bubble popping losses.  The resilient team will have a shot to put together a playoff run.  The loser is, in all probability, out.  Who has a short enough memory to shake off week 7 and rebound?

Atlanta Falcons vs. Detroit Lions – In the immortal words of Ernie Banks “Let’s play two”.  In a bizarre scheduling quirk, the Lions and Falcons play back to back non-divisional games in weeks 8 and 9.  To make this even more interesting, both of these teams are fighting for a coveted NFC playoff spot, and these two games will go a long way towards determining who gets it.  Both teams are looking good, but also vulnerable, with the last 200 point performance by either team several weeks back.  This will be a fascinating game to keep tabs on, particularly to see if Arian Foster can duplicate his inaugural effort and how Calvin Johnson looks, should he return.

Green Bay Packers vs. New Orleans Saints – In a battle of two heavyweight competitors moving in opposite directions, the Packers have put their early season inconsistency behind them and gone into cruise control, mounting a solid two game lead over Detroit behind a series of impressive offensive performances.  The Saints, on the other hand, are struggling offensively, have lost two straight, and find themselves tied with the aforementioned Falcons.  Can the Packers keep the Saints slide going, or will the Super Bowl champs bring out the best in their NFC rivals?

Indianapolis Colts vs. Pittsburgh Steelers – It’s always a good game when division leaders clash, and this time it is Indianapolis’ chance to take on the surprise Steelers.  Pittsburgh has eviscerated all comers, and will bring their “A” game in an attempt to take another step towards an AFC bye.  But Indianapolis needs this game to stay ahead of the competition in the South.

Miami Dolphins vs. Jacksonville Jaguars – In the under-the-rader wildcard game that nobody is talking about, both Miami and Jacksonville are mounting a nice push for the 2nd AFC wildcard spot.  The Jaguars are very quietly sitting only a game back of the Colts in the South, and the Dolphins have a nice 7-4 record that could very easily be 9-2.  The winner of this game has a real nice shot to take home a playoff spot in the AFC – while the loser will face an uphill climb.

New York Giants vs. San Francisco 49ers – A lot of good games this week!  In the East vs. West edition, the Giants are two games into their ridiculous gauntlet of doom closing schedule.  Their reward for a tough loss to the Eagles and bouncing the Cowboys?  The first of two dates with the 49ers, who suffered a tough, come from ahead loss to Denver when Peyton and Demaryius went nuts on Sunday night.  Every game counts for these two NFC powers, both of whom are in a dogfight for a playoff spot.

A huge good luck to everyone this week!  It’s starting to get really fun!

Real Deal (Basketball) Report – 2014 Rookie Draft Recap

Sorry for the delay, all – been moving into an apartment and it’s been a hassle. But now, without further ado, here you have it.

Real Deal Dynasty Rookie Draft Recap

There were some pretty interesting narratives going in to this draft. Indiana, the consensus “sad now, happy later” team, was shopping its No. 1 overall pick. Brooklyn, another team in need of some major help, had two of the top three picks! Wiggins and Embiid were surely his! And, of course, we were all anticipating plenty of trades going on last week.

Aaaaaaand none of that happened.

But that’s ok, because it really seemed like everyone got somebody they wanted. I know I did. And there’s still plenty of talented young rooks that didn’t end up on a team.

The other big thing that I noticed is that there were a bunch of teams that traded their picks away. Only 20 teams split the 30 picks – that’s one third of the league who missed out on the rookie draft. Interesting.

Anyway, below is a team-by-team grade (that seems to be the most common way that all those websites rank drafts, for some reason) of the rookie draft.

Atlanta Hawks

Grade: B
Pick: Jordan Adams (22)

I think Jordan Adams will be solid in the league, but I didn’t really fill much of a need with this pick. I will look smart if Redick gets injured and Adams performs, but I definitely needed a point guard or a small forward more than I needed another two guard. I was really close to taking Russ Smith or Kyle Anderson, but I went with my gut. Hope I don’t regret it.

Boston Celtics

Grade: B
Pick: Jusuf Nurkic (26)

I’m a believer in Nurkic. He has McGee, Hickson and Mozgov all in front of him, so that’s a bit of a problem for now, but I see Nurkic as a legit NBA starter in a few years at least. Good value that late in the draft, too.

Brooklyn Nets

Grade: B
Picks: Noah Vonleh (14), PJ Hairston (15), Tyler Ennis (30)
Missing out on two of the top three picks was certainly a big ouchie, but luckily the new owner seems to be taking everything in stride. Brooklyn is clearly not in the running to win now, so picking up some “project” rookies was a good move. Vonleh is really raw, but has a ton of potential and can perhaps someday fill the big defensive frontcourt void for the Nets. Hairston has some attitude problems, but Steve Clifford is a hardass who I think has a good shot at whipping him into shape. Ennis is an interesting pick with a lot of talent, and I think he may benefit when Phoenix inevitably has to ship one of Dragic/Bledsoe/Thomas away to shore up their frontcourt. Good picks, Brooklyn, and I think I speak for everyone when I say thank god Wiggins and Embiid aren’t on the same team. The Nets made the most of what they had here.

Charlotte Hornets

Grade: A-
Pick: TJ Warren (11)

I think TJ Warren will be one of the best rookies in an extremely deep class, and Charlotte filled a major hole at SF by picking him up. When it comes to talent, especially scoring, Warren just outclasses his competition (Green, Tucker, Marcus Morris) in just about every way and I don’t expect it to take long for him to find his place on this team. Also got great value for him at 13 – I was thinking about taking him at 9 when I still owned that pick.

Chicago Bulls

Grade: A+
Picks: Andrew Wiggins (2), Adreian Payne (19), James Young (27)

Lucky bastard! The potentially lethal combo of DRose and Wiggins might just prove my power rankings entirely wrong. Someone (I forget who) in this league said it best: sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, and that’s certainly the case here. Getting Wiggins at No. 4 is probably the best value we’ll ever see in a rookie draft, so enjoy it, Chicago. Adreian Payne is just icing on the cake (and a way better option at PF than Tyler Zeller). Well done, Chicago. Or rather, good for you.

Cleveland Cavs: N/A

Thank god.

Dallas Mavs

Grade: A
Picks: Aaron Gordon (4), Nik Stauskas (6)
Two really great rookies, no doubt. Gordon is one of the most explosive new players we’ve seen in years, I think, and Stauskas might actually be a legit lights-out shooter, as he’s having a nice preseason. The one knock on these two picks as that they were both picked a little bit early. I think there were probably better options out there, as Dallas still lacks a true big other than Varejao and Gordon’s game is still a long way off. Still, though, two great rookies and two solid picks. Dallas can’t complain.
Denver Nuggets
Grade: A
Pick: Marcus Smart (9)
Denver got lucky with Marcus Smart slipping to him. He’s going to have a great rookie year and only stands to get better as Rondo is rumored (again) to be on his way out and he’s a way better distributor and ball handler than Avery Bradley. Things are looking up for Smart, and for Denver, as that backcourt is looking strong.

Detroit Pistons

Grade: C
Picks: Doug McDermott (10), KJ McDaniels (13)

Both picks – McDermott and McDaniels – were reaches to me. There were more than a few better options still on the board (LaVine, Harris, Warren, Vonleh, etc.) and McDermott, to me, is a huge unknown on a really deep team. The 76ers are also a disaster right now, and I’m not sure I’m taking bets on anyone right now to emerge as the top scorer on that team. For me, these picks were both too risky for a team that will be pushing for a playoff seed. A more sure-thing rookie could have made a big difference, but maybe these two picks will pan out.

Golden State Warriors
Grade: B
Pick: Rodney Hood (12)
Hood, I think, is one of the more NBA-ready rookies in this draft, which is good for the Warriors. Hood should start putting up numbers pretty much right away, as the Jazz are terrible and will look to give him some time to perform. But I don’t see Golden State competing for a title this season, so it may have been a good idea for them to go for someone perhaps more raw, but with a higher ceiling. Good pick overall, though, for sure – Hood is the real deal.
Houston Rockets: N/A

Indiana Pacers
Grade: A+++++
Picks: Jabari Parker (1), Dante Exum (5), Zach LaVine (16), Garry Harris (17), Dario Saric (18)
Well, Indy needed this one. What a freaking haul. Not much needs to be said here. Paul George’s injury spelled doom for the Pacers this season, but that broken leg might prove to be the gift that keeps on giving if even two of those rookies pan out (I think they all will). Shrewd, Indy. Shrewd indeed. Enjoy it for years to come.
LA Clippers
Grade: B
Pick: Cleanthony Early (25)
This was a pretty good pick. I don’t know how Early fell into the second round in the NBA, and I’m glad someone nabbed him in our draft. Early has a lot more experience than his counterparts in the 2014 draft class when it comes to playoff experience and being a winner with one team for more than three months, so that’s a plus. The reason this pick is a B is that LA still doesn’t really have much long-range shooting and I think a distance guy could have served this team better.
LA Lakers: N/A

Memphis Grizzlies: N/A

Miami Heat
Grade: A-
Pick: Kyle Anderson (29)
I was deciding between Adams and Anderson for a long time, and I have the feeling that I’m going to be kicking myself for not taking Slo-Mo. He’s an absolute perfect fit for the Spurs and will likely contribute meaningful minutes from early on. Long term, I love this guy and I think he was a steal at 29. The one knock is that he plays on the Spurs, so minutes could be hard to come by and his best stuff this season will probably come in garbage time or rest nights.
Milwaukee Bucks
Grade: C
Pick: Bruno Caboclo (23)
I really know nothing about Caboclo other than the usual “Brazilian Kevin Durant” and “two years away from being two years away” stuff, but I think the pick was a bit too safe for Milwaukee. The Bucks are a team that can challenge for a title this year, so I would think it would have behooved them to go for a rookie who has a shot at contributing right away, a la a Russ Smith, Cleanthony Early or Kyle Anderson. There are now just too many “project” players in this lineup, and I’m actually starting to question my earlier power rankings.
Minnesota Twolves: N/A

New Orleans Pelicans
Grade: B+
Pick: Joel Embiid (3)
In a keeper league, Embiid was probably the right choice. But man, foot injuries on skinny bigs scare me – especially on skinny bigs who have never played an NBA game. Embiid was a virtual unknown until very recently and is still incredibly raw. Combine that with the fact that he’s going to miss an entire season, and I’m just not sure. But if he comes back strong, his pairing with Anthony Davis sets up New Orleans to be an elite team because that would be the best young frontcourt duo, hands down. It’s probably a good pick for the future, but there are holes on this team that a trade of the pick could have shored up and made the Pelicans a solid playoff team this season. Let’s hope it all works out.
New York Knicks: N/A

OKC Thunder: N/A

Orlando Magic: N/A

Philadelphia 76ers
Grade: C+
Pick: Mitch McGary (21)
I just don’t see it with McGary. He’s a high energy, tough big guy – just like Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams. He could perhaps solidify a spot in the rotation, but I’m not sure how with the likes of Adams, Perkins and Collison all in front of him and all unlikely to budge from their minutes. It’s not that I hate him as a player, I just don’t like the situation and I think he was a reach at 21. I was expecting him to go undrafted. The need for a big for Philly was dire, so I get the pick for that reason, but to me, there were better options on the table.
Phoenix Suns: N/A

Portland Trail Blazers
Grade: C
Pick: Bogdan Bogdanovic (28)
I’m really not sure where Portland was going with this pick. DoubleBog is clearly a stash guy, as he won’t be coming to the NBA for another year at least – but if you’re going that route, why not opt for Clint Capela? And even when he does come to the NBA, who’s to say if he’ll have a spot in Phoenix anyway? The Suns’ backcourt is so crowded that he might be stuck in a logjam, unless somebody gets traded. I’m sure commish believes in this guy, but for my money, there were better options out there.
Sacramento Kings
Grade: B+
Pick: Russ Smith (24)
I’ll be honest, I love Russ Smith and I love his situation. His only competition for playing time behind Jrue are Austin Rivers and Jimmer Fredette – not exactly world-beaters. And there’s no telling how healthy Jrue will be, so Smith could be primed for some legit minutes. Feeding the ball to the likes of Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson and Tyreke Evans would see Smith getting plenty off assists – if he gets the playing time. The pick also gives Sactown a nice option at PG (they’re currently starting Kobe at that spot).
San Antonio Spurs
Grade: C+
Pick: Elfrid Payton (7)
Payton might have been a reach that early, but the Spurs needed the depth at PG. I would have gone with Marcus Smart, though, I think he’ll have the much better career and kind of fits San Antonio’s needs more. Payton will probably be a poor man’s version of the two points they already had, Steve Nash and Kendall Marshall, with low scoring and a bunch of assists – the only major difference is Payton’s defensive stats, but Smart should replicate or surpass those, too. I like Payton, but with Smart still on the board, I can’t endorse the pick.
Toronto Raptors: N/A

Utah Jazz: N/A

Washington Wizards
Grade: A-
Picks: Julius Randle (8), Shabazz Napier (20)

Wizzies filled a big need by taking Julius Randle – now they don’t have to start Udonis Haslem at PF any longer. I expect Randle to step in and be a near-double-double guy pretty much right away. Enjoy the consistency for years to come. Randle was exactly the right pick in this situation – not much else to say. I’m not a fan of the Shabazz pick, but playing behind Wall, Wade and eventually Beal, he was kind of just icing on the cake anyway.

Real Deal (Football) Report – Week 6 Recap

Another week, another bunch of big games in the books. This is the time of year when the season really starts to heat up. The contenders are identified. Practice Squad eligibility is ending. And there are somehow only SIX games lost in which to make a move. It’s now or never, people!

Finish Reading: Real Deal (Football) Report – Week 6 Recap

Game of the Week: Houston Texans 227 over Indianapolis Colts 197.

There were a few possible choices this week, from Chicago’s one point stat-correction squeaker over Atlanta (who knew Desmond Bryant was good enough to score the game-winning points 36 hours after his game was over? That dude is CLUTCH!) and Dallas’ continued assertion of NFC dominance.

But I think Houston’s victory over Indy was the game of the week because of the fascinating playoff picture it creates in the AFC South. Coupled with rapidly rising Tennessee’s win over Jacksonville, all four teams in the AFC South are within one game of each other – and within one game of the Wild Card – setting up a drama-filled final four weeks of the season.

The game itself featured characteristically strong Quarterback play from the Colts (25 for Luck) and an also characteristically strong defensive effort (96 points). Julian Edelman continued his excellent play also with 23, and the Colts put up a very nice effort.

This game, though, belonged to the big play Texans, and featured the re-emergence of Arian “Australian for Running Back” Foster (31.5), the best game of Derek Carr’s young career (matching luck with 25), and a 15 tackle, 28 point performance from Jonathan Cyprien. But the biggest came of all came from the Texans biggest stud, the possibly immortal JJ Watt, who threw down an unheard of 40 point game behind 7 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 passes defensed and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.

While the NFC East is clearly the strongest division, the AFC South has become the most intriguing down the stretch.

 

Stock Rising:

Carolina Panthers: This team has gotten no publicity and no buzz this year (my fault!) and has flown very far under the radar. But following a 217 point win over the Bengals, the Panthers have won three straight, hit .500 and are the #10 team in the league in Fantasy Points Scored. Even more surprisingly, the Panthers have very quietly become the #3 ranked offense in the league behind the likes of Cam Newton, Greg Olsen, Steve Smith, Robert Woods, Zach Ertz, LeGarrette Blount, and Eddie Royal. The defense will have to improve for them to truly make a run in a very tough NFC South – and the schedule is tough, with back-to-back-to-back games with Green Bay, New Orleans, and Seattle. But if the Panthers can win 2 out of 3…

Pittsburgh Steelers: Man it must be nice to be the Steelers. Darren Leung’s team has absolutely run away and HID from the rest of the AFC North. If the AFC South boasts the bests divisional race in football, the AFC North boasts the worst. With a 206-160 thumping of the Browns, the Steelers have moved to 8-2 and taken a four game lead in the division, which would be damn near impossible to lose.

I couldn’t have been more wrong on the Steelers, who I picked for a miserable 4-12 finish in the pre-season, and now seem to have a first round bye on lock-down. The Steelers are riding a strong defense (2nd in the league) and getting outstanding contributions from young receivers Jarvis Landry (31 points against Cleveland) and Markus Wheaton, who join Le’Veon Bell as young building blocks for a team on the rise.

San Francisco 49ers: Who is that all alone in first place in the NFC West? That’s right – it’s the Niners – fresh off a 227-106 obliteration of the Saint Louis Rams. San Francisco now leads the West in wins, in fantasy points, and in divisional record (4-1). More encouraging, QB Colin Kaepernick is picking up the pace, Vernon Davis is back (and making Vance McDonald drop touchdowns in the back of the end zone) and Alshon Jeffery is rounding into form, giving this team a formidable offense. The 49ers don’t have a very easy schedule the rest of the way, though, with games against Denver, New Orleans, and the Giants twice, interspersed around what should be easy wins against Washington and St. Louis. A 4-2 finish isn’t out of the question, and would give the 49ers a 10-6 season and a likely playoff berth.

Honorable Mentions: Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

Stock Falling:

Miami Dolphins: After a nice 6-2 start, the Dolphins have suddenly dropped two straight, wasting a 30 point performance by TY Hilton to fall to the Packers. Worse, the Bills have just continued to win, and the Dolphins now find themselves 3 back with 6 to go – a lot of ground to makeup. Their record places them on the cusp of the AFC Wild Card, tied with the Indianapolis / Houston loser for the 2nd AFC Wild Card. It should be noted that Miami is the tough luck team of the year, with 2 1 point losses. Take those away and the lovable aquatic mammals are 8-2. The good news for Miami is that they don’t play another team with a winning record until a week 11 rematch with the Bills in the penultimate game of the year. The other plus for the Dolphins is that they have stayed pretty healthy, with only one IR player and nagging injuries to Stew Beef and Perry Riley to mar their starting lineup.

New York Giants: Not a great week for the erstwhile East Rutherfordites. It’s one thing to have a flat game here or there. It’s another thing to come out dead flat in a prime time game against a divisional rival that may well determine a playoff spot. No way around it, the Giants offense let it down hard against the Eagles, scoring only 57 points. The Victor Cruz injury also hurts, but the Giants have always had pretty spectacular WR depth, and still boast a rather stunning WR corps of Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins, Torrey Smith, and Antonio Brown. More concerning for the Giants is that they are now tied for the final NFC Wild Card spot, with the hardest schedule in football remaining: Dallas, SF, Indy, SF, Seattle, Dallas. That’s a brutal schedule with which to make up ground.

St. Louis Rams – Thud. Led by an emergent Knile Davis, the Rams went on a tear to start the season, racing out to a surprising 4-4 start with some nice victories to their name. This was a team that appeared to be way ahead on a rebuilding project, and one that could even contend for a playoff spot. Back to earth. Back to reality. Back to the 80’s. Whatever. 121 total points. Only 34 on offense. Against a division rival. Not even on a bye week. The Rams fall to 4-6 and are absolutely trending the wrong direction. Sure, Knile Davis will be back this week – but a second string running back won’t be enough to get St. Louis back to the playoffs. It was a nice and hopeful start that galvanized the Rams faithful to believe in a promising future – but the season is officially breaking the way it was expected to.

 

Games of the Week – Week 7:

Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants: Murderers row continues for the Giants, and it couldn’t have come in more challenging fashion. The Cowboys scored under 200 points for the first time all year in week 6, but still won comfortably and come roaring into this divisional showdown with a chip on their shoulder, looking to extend their lead in both the division and the conference. The Cowboys strength has been their franchise players, with the triumvirate of Romo, Murray and Bryant putting up stunning numbers. The Giants, on the other hand, really need a win to keep pace in the NFC Wild Card chase, and must get a bounce-back performancefrom Eli Manning to compete.

Denver Broncos vs. San Francisco 49ers: A pair of western teams with the upper hand in their respective division races, something has to give when the 49ers and Broncos square off this week. It’s a case of conflicting styles as well – the Broncos boast a very strong offense (6th), but are very mediocre on defense (28th). The 49ers are only middle of the road on offense (17th), but boast a top ten defense.

Detroit Lions vs. New Orleans Saints: This one could be a heavy-weight shootout. The Lions mustered a much needed win in week 6 to return to .500, but need to keep a good thing going against the mighty Saints. The Saints, on the other hand, suffered a disappointing bye-week loss and only a late stat correction kept them in front of Atlanta in the division. Both teams could really use a win, and both teams will have to get it without their best players, as both Calvin Johnson and Jimmy Graham are expected to miss this game. Which team’s supporting cast will come up big in this pivotal week?

Houston Texans vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: No rest for the weary Texans, who come off an emotional win over division rival Indianapolis to get the 8-2 Pittsburgh Steelers. The Texans can’t afford a let down, as the victory over the Colts was enough to put them into contention – not enough to buy them a break. The Steelers, meanwhile, will look to extend their winning streak and improve their record against teams outside of their division (Pittsburgh is 4-0 against the AFC North, only 4-2 outside). A win for the Texans puts them in the drivers seat of their playoff fate. A win for the Steelers further establishes them as a team to beat in the AFC – and brings them closer to a playoff bye.

Great week! Good luck everyone!

Real Deal (Football) Report – Week 5 Recap

This week, the world mostly returned to normal.  Mostly.  We still had two games decided by a single point (Carolina over Chicago and Oakland over Miami), a 1-7 team knocking off a 7-1 team (Tampa Bay over New Orleans), and the Tennessee Titans with the week’s second largest margin of victory (83 points).

But by and large, week 5 restored a modicum of sanity to a crazed, confused RDFL.  Don’t worry – there’s no way it’s gonna last.

Onto the recap!

Finish Reading: Real Deal (Football) Report – Week 5 Recap

Game of the week: Carolina Panthers 182, Chicago Bears 181.

This one doesn’t win for most points scored, or most relevant playoff outcome – but frankly, there was not and obvious candidate for game of the week this week, and this one was just so darn close!  The Bears had only four offensive players who played a snap, but made the most of them, as Forte, Cutler, Wright and Marshall combined for over 87 points.  Ex-Bear Julius Peppers popped in 29 on defense, and the Bears looked to be on their way to an early romp, particularly with Cam Newton playing a merely pedestrian game.  Greg Olsen through in 27 points, however, and Luke Kuechly was his normal, monstrous 18 point self.  In the end, I don’t have a clue what the difference in this game was – when you’re separated by 7/10ths of a point, there really isn’t much.  But if the Bears had had even 5 players on their offense get a point…  Now it’s time to look at next year, as 2-7 is near mathematically impossible.  The Panthers stay alive, albeit on the outside looking in, at 4-5.

Stock Rising:

Tennessee Titans:  Don’t look now, but the commish’s team might be getting good ahead of schedule!  The Titans have won three of their last four, and have point totals of 207 and 197 sandwiched around a stinker in Indianapolis.  Tennessee is getting extremely balanced production from a young and still growing offensive that is loaded with upside.  Against Cleveland, the starting 7 of Jake Locker, Jeremy Hill, Justin Hunter, Mohamed Sanu, Dwayne Allen, Odell Beckham and Kenny Britt all combined for 115 points, with everyone scoring at least 10 and nobody scoring more than 20.25.  Just as important, the Titans find themselves only two games off the pace in the AFC playoff race, and are a team that should continue to improve as the season progresses and the younger guys find their legs and gain more opportunities.

Denver Broncos: This was the Broncos team we all expected.  The one we saw last year.  The one we were all terrified off.  The Broncos have sputtered through the first part of the season, maintaining a hold on first place by pulling out close victories against a weak schedule.  Even after Sunday’s 257 point outburst, the Broncos still rank only 23rd in the league in Fantasy Points scored.  Sunday’s explosion must have felt wonderful for a team that had to have wondered about it’s mojo.  Led by a ridiculous 104 points between Peyton Manning and Demaryius Thomas, the Broncos obliterated the Cardinals by almost exactly that margin, posting the week’s highest point total and maintaining a tie for the division lead in the AFC West.  With 5 of their next 6 games against teams with losing records and their bye week behind them, one has the feeling that the Broncos are about to round into form – and that the other AFC contenders should have struck while they had the chance.

Seattle Seahawks: Another struggling contender who got a nice lift in week 5, the Seahawks were mired in mediocrity, sitting with a .500 record, a middling spot in the point standings, and some rather unpleasant losses to their credit.  While a solid 206-160 win over the Redskins won’t solve everything, crossing the 200 point plateau is never easy (unless you’re Dallas, in which case it’s damn near impossible to do anything but) and is the sign of a quality team.  Even more, the Hawks did it with Eric Decker putting up a goose egg, riding Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson to a nice win.  Dallas looms next week, but is followed by three very winnable games with St. Louis, Carolina, and Oakland.  If the Hawks can go 3-1, they’ll bring an 8-5 record into the final three and be well positioned for a playoff berth.

Honorable Mention: Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, Green Bay Packers

 

Stock Falling:

Pittsburgh Steelers: It’s hard to fall too far when you have a three game lead in your division and have already sent your extended family their playoff tickets.  But after a gangbusters start to the year, the Steelers are falling off the pace a little bit, losing 2 games in the last three weeks after a 5-0 start.  The first loss was a Game of the Week quality 228-217 loss to a playoff caliber team in the Falcons.  This loss?  Less understandable, as the Steelers got their lowest point total of the year (160) by far, and fell to a .500 Jacksonville team.  More concerning than the simple 163 point total is the trend – the Steelers have scored fewer points each week of the season, starting off with 224 in week 1, 218 in week 2, 217 in week 3, 198 in week 4 and 163 in week 5.  None of those scores are anything to scoff at, but the trend itself is a concern.  Has Darren Leung’s squad already played it’s best football?

Miami Dolphins: This is a team that has earned the right to be a little bit bitter.  At 6-3, the Dolphins are a solid wild card team.  However, they have now lost two of their three games by a combined total of 2 points, with one point losses to both the Chiefs and Raiders.  Miami is a good time, and on a playoff track, but the Fins have now lost 2 of 3, and are sitting at 6-3 instead of a very easy 8-1.  More alarming, Miami is only 21st in total Fantasy Points scored and is facing an alarming lack of defensive production.

NFC North: At the beginning of the year, I highlighted two divisions that I thought would be the class of Real Deal – the NFC North and the NFC East.  The East has held up its end of the bargain.  But the North has not, and suffered through another 1-3 week as it fades into what might be the worst division in the NFC.  The Packers have held their own in the singles, posting another nice win to improve to 6-3 and open up a two game lead in the division.  But the Lions, Vikings and Bears (insert obligatory “Oh my” comment here) have combined for an 8-19 record, including a combined 2-10 in the past three weeks.   The Bears, a playoff contender at the beginning of the year, are much closer to the #1 pick now, and if the Lions can’t turn it around, the North may well be a one bid league.

Dishonorable Mention: AFC North, San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints

 

Week 6 Games of the Week:

New York Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles – The NFC Wildcard is shaping up to be quite a battle, with Philadelphia, the Giants and the Falcons sitting at 6-3, with the 49ers/Seahawks loser sitting only a game back at 5-4 and the dangerous Lions still sitting within striking distance.  Only two of those teams can make the playoffs – and this game will raise one team into the relatively safe ground of #1 WC, while the other will be cast back into the muck and the struggle.  Big, big Sunday night game.

Dallas Cowboys vs. Seattle Seahawks – East vs. West.  New Money vs. Old Money.  Hot shot upstart vs. Last Year’s big news… Aside from a week of Punter trouble, the Cowboys have crushed all competition this year and seem the odds-on Super Bowl favorite at the midway point.  The Seahawks, one of the early favorites, sputtered out of the gate but seem to have righted their ship.  Can they keep it going against the Cowboys?  Or will Dallas add yet another scalp to its NFC domination belt?

Green Bay Packers vs. Miami Dolphins – Almost forgotten amidst some of the other great games is this scuffle, featuring two 6-3 teams.  A win by Green Bay allows the packers to maintain a 2 game lead in the North with only 6 more games to go.  A win by Miami keeps the Dolphins in the lead for the AFC wild card.  More importantly, a win against Green Bay would go a long way towards proving that the Dolphins aren’t pretenders.  And for Green Bay, another solid week without a meltdown would help reassure a still jump fan base of the team’s consistency.

Houston Texans vs. Indianapolis Colts – Somehow, despite winning what seems like every week, the Colts find themselves only a single game ahead of the Texans in what looks like the most meaningful Thursday night tilt we’ve yet seen.  If the Colts win and Tennessee beats the Jags, Indy will have a comfortable two game lead as they look to take their second division title. But it is also possible that week 6 could result in a three way dogfight.

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Tennessee Titans – Do teams with a combined record of 9-9 really deserve a game of the week spot?  Yes.  Both of these teams are coming off legitimate wins with legitimate point totals, and the winner of this one will be poised to make real noise in the AFC South.  The Jaguars are a much older, veteran squad, while the Titans are an up and coming bunch.  Which one will make itself a player as the season progresses?

Good luck this week everyone!