Christmas Recap: Where Things Stand, and Each Team’s Christmas Wish

Merry Christmas, and Happy Hanukkah, Boxing Day and Kwanzaa to everyone! Today is December 25, and we have had 16 full scoring periods in the inaugural season of Real Deal Dynasty Basketball. Let’s begin, as always, by taking a look at the playoff picture:

EAST
1. Orlando
2. Toronto
3. Washington
3. Cleveland
5. Miami
5. Charlotte
7. Detroit
7. Atlanta

WEST
1. Houston
2. Memphis
3. Sacramento
4. OKC
4. LA Clippers
6. Golden State
6. Minnesota
8. Dallas

STOCK RISING
Memphis
After a somewhat disappointing start, the Grizzlies are back on an elite trajectory and is one of just three teams left with fewer than 10 losses. This team has a way of sneaking up on you.

Atlanta
rajon-rondo-geeksandcleatsDwight’s back, and that means the Hawks are back. See below for how much Dwight has truly impacted the team. Recent upswings from Horford, Redick, Mirotic and a previously-slumping Reggie Jackson have also made a world of difference. Plus, a new face in Atlanta will help the Hawks reach a new level. Expect the Hawks to soar from the bottom of the unfairly-tough Southeast Division any day now.

Golden State
Curry and Klay are bona fide studs, with Curry standing out as a legit superstar. Mason Plumlee has been straight fire lately and if Brook ends up leaving Brooklyn, he’ll continue beasting.

Phoenix
As predicted, the Suns have begun their slow descent upwards. Westbrook has been MVP-like lately as this team is finally getting over the injury bug, but is it too late to make a playoff push? We’ll have to wait and see.

Toronto
Hello, playoffs. See below for why.

STOCK FALLING
Atlantic Division
Holy crap. Just like in real life, this division is more like the “Titanic Division.” Also just like in real life, it’s a race to the bottom for the Nets, Knicks, Sixers and Celtics and the Raptors are coming out on top just by virtue of not being terrible. It’s still only December, but nobody else has a prayer of winning this division, bar a miracle. The race is over and Toronto wins.

Chicago
Derrick Rose has been disappointing, Rubio and Gordon are still hurt and everyone else has been underwhelming. I didn’t project this team very high going into the season, but the Bulls are in a huge hole and already toward the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

Dallas
It wasn’t too long ago that Dallas was in the third position in the loaded West. Now, they’re looking at the 8 spot with three teams (Portland, New Orleans and the Lakers, all of which have been pretty hot as of late) biting right at the heels.

Utah
Losers of five straight, the Jazz are out of sorts and at 12-23 are in last place in the Northwest Division and seemingly out of the playoffs. The team has a lot of great pieces that just didn’t come together, and it might be too late to make a run at the postseason with such a strong competitive field in the West.

 

MVP RACE
DeMarcus Cousins
Since returning from whatever nasty virus that was, Boogie has resumed monster status to the tune of 26 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists and more than a steal and block per game, all while shooting 52% from the floor and 77% from the line. Short of Anthony Davis, there may not be a better player in all of Real Deal.

Anthony Davis
The exponential growth of Davis’ talent continues as he continues to blossom into the next Hakeem Olajuwon. What more can be said about this guy? Sure, his rebounding is down this month, and that might be a problem in terms of nabbing double-doubles with Asik hanging around in the low post, but the combination of scoring, shooting (60%!!!) and blocks with low turnovers makes him one of the most valuable players to own.

James Harden
Much maligned for his defense last season, Harden has actually upped his game on the other end of the court and is no longer a pushover. That translates into fantasy numbers, as, believe it or not, Harden is averaging almost a block per game to go along with his 2+ steals. We know how elite he’s always been on offense, but he’s taken it to a new level this year (averaging 30 points a game in December) while also posting – dare I say it – LeBron-esque rebounding and assist numbers. He’s the best guard in the game by a mile.

LaMarcus Aldridge
LMA has been straight dominant through the month of December. This month, he’s averaging 25 points, 12 rebounds and over 1 steal, block and assist per game while shooting 45%. He’s also notched 9 double-doubles in 12 games, which we all know is monumental in this league. Aldridge and the Blazers continue to prove the doubters wrong.

Dwight Howard
Maybe a homer pick, sure, but let’s talk about what “valuable means.” “Valuable” means taking a sub-.500 Atlanta Hawks team to a 6-game winning streak and getting that team over .500 for the first time since the early goings simply by returning to the lineup. “Valuable” is 20 points on 59% shooting and 13 rebounds a game. “Valuable” is posting a double-double in every contest since returning. “Valuable” means that, per game, Dwight is the 5th-best fantasy player this year. “Valuable” means the Hawks are going to the playoffs (file that under “Official Trash Talk”).

Now for something a little different. I’m going to take a look at each team and list their Christmas wishes for the rest of the year.

Atlanta Hawks: Please stay healthy, Dwight.
Boston Celtics: Might be time to rebuild. Let’s see the young rebounders like Hickson and Nurkic flourish.
Brooklyn Nets: Let’s try to get Deron’s and Brook’s contracts off the books (sound familiar?).
Charlotte Hornets: Hopefully someone on the Sixers will get hurt so Wroten gets big minutes again.
Chicago Bulls: Stay healthy for next season, DRose.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Don’t let the Knicks shut Melo down for the season, and thank you, Santa, for Dray Green.
Dallas Mavericks: Let Tony Parker come back already, and let the Hornets get rid of Lance already.
Denver Nuggets: The recent great play of Faried and Olynyk needs to continue.
Detroit Pistons: Great play from some truly unlikely sources (Mbah a Moute, Casspi, Rasual Butler) has helped push this team over the middle of the pack. Let that continue.
Golden State Warriors: Kill ’em, Plumlee!
Houston Rockets: Everything is fine. Please don’t change anything, Christmas wish gods.
Indiana Pacers: Don’t let the Bulls or Celtics catch me in the race to the bottom!
Los Angeles Clippers: A real center.
Los Angeles Lakers: No more missed games for KD.
Memphis Grizzlies: Let Afflalo, Carroll and Sullinger live up to their potential.
Miami Heat: Please, please do not let Collison get traded to the Nets, and give Kyle Anderson some more action.
Milwaukee Bucks: The starting lineup has been great. A little backup would be nice.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Don’t let Josh Smith go to Houston and eat Corey Brewer’s minutes.
New Orleans Pelicans: If someone could play anywhere near AD’s level, that would be great.
New York Knicks: A time machine would be cool, so maybe Melo could stay on the Knicks.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Keep up the good work, Timmy.
Orlando Magic: Another good guard could push the team over the top.
Philadelphia 76ers: To tank or not to tank? Help me decide!
Phoenix Suns: Don’t let Russ get hurt again.
Portland Trail Blazers: Aside from Aldridge, Lillard and Butler, this entire team has struggled mightily. Bring in a ringer.
Sacramento Kings: No more missed games for Kobe and Boogie.
San Antonio Spurs: Youth movement appears to be in full swing. Let me hibernate until 2016.
Toronto Raptors: Ending up in this division was nice. Let’s hope the divisions stay the way they are!
Utah Jazz: This team needs a little bit more from everyone on the roster.
Washington Wizards: When John Wall leads the team in double-doubles, it’s time to bring in a big.

And there you have it. Happy Holidays, everyone, and as always, let me know what features you’d like to see in the next edition of the Real Deal Basketball Report!

Real Deal (Football) Report – Super Bowl Preview

I have a mixed opinion personally on last week’s results.  On the one hand, I went 2-0 and totally nailed who was going to the Super Bowl.

On the other hand, it means that the Super Bowl now consists of two teams that I picked to miss the playoffs and finish either 3rd (Dallas) or last (Pittsburgh) in their own divisions.

In one, minor way, last week validated my awesome predictive powers.  In another, deeper way it pointed out just how terrible I am at this.  So keep that in mind as we move into prediction mode.

Finish Reading: Real Deal (Football) Report – Super Bowl Preview

First, last weeks results.

Pittsburgh Steelers 202, Buffalo Bills 183

This game ended up being closer than it seemed.  Pittsburgh decisively won the offensive matchup 115-53 behind big games from Big Ben, Le’Veon Bell, Jarvis Landry, and Markus Wheaton.  Buffalo responded with defensive dominance, winning 109-61.  With special teams about even, Buffalo’s defensive dominance just wasn’t quite a match for Pittsburgh’s offensive advantage.

The thing that looms largest over this game, though, are the men who didn’t play – Mr. Nicholas Foles and Mr. Julio Jones.  The Bills got 4 points from Kyle Orton at the quarterback position, and 4.5 points from Philly Brown at the W/R flex spot.  If Foles and Julio Jones both play and get 15 points (league average for a QB and well below Julio’s per game average), The Bills are advancing to the Super Bowl.

Here’s the other thing that looms large, though.  ALBERT WILSON.  He contributed a key ten points and a million intangibles on the way to a Pittsburgh victory.

I’ll say more about Pittsburgh in predicting the Super Bowl, but want to congratulate Buffalo on an outstanding season and some aggressive trading to put themselves in position to almost make a Super Bowl.  Congrats Buffalo!  I selfishly hope you’ll regress next year… but kinda doubt it!

Dallas Cowboys 226, Green Bay Packers 159

I didn’t think this one was going to be close.  And it wasn’t.  Though in this case, it wasn’t really Green Bay’s fault, but a stroke of severe misfortune that Aaron Rodgers was inexplicably stymied for the first time all year by a Buffalo Bills defense that didn’t allow him a single touchdown.  It was a game effort by the Packers, but when Aaron Rodgers and Jamaal Charles combine for 11.5 total fantasy points and not a single player scores more than 20, it’s going to be hard to when too many games.  Just a bad time of year to suffer an inexplicable dud from their studs.

Dallas, meanwhile, cruised to the win behind a 138 point offensive outburst featuring franchise man Dez Bryant and much maligned off-season trade Devin Hester.  Congratulations to Green Bay for waiting until the NFC Championship game of year two to suffer their first ever elimination, and best of luck to the Packers next year – given the stars on this team in their prime, I’m guessing they’ll be back and be a force for a long time to come.

Onto the Super Bowl… For both Pittsburgh and Dallas, these championship games were coronations of sorts.  Both teams have been clearly the best teams in their respective conferences going back to week one.  Dallas faced some stiff competition from the New York Giants, while Pittsburgh surrendered the #1 seed to the Bills down the stretch, but at the end of the day, both the eye test and the points scored metric labeled these two teams as the best in their conferences.  Both squads are loaded with playmakers on both offense and defense, and just as importantly, both teams have risen to play their best fantasy football in big games.  This will be a spectacular Super Bowl, and I can’t wait to see how the dust settles.

Onto the predictions… I’ll go position by position and pick my edge…

Quarterback:

Tony Romo vs. Ben Roethlisberger

Edge: Pittsburgh

Both of these guys are good, and it is hard to bet against Romo, particularly after what he just did to the Eagles, and particularly with DeMarco Murray out and against a relatively porous Colts pass defense (Roethlisberger, for what it is worth, gets the Chiefs).  I think, though, that we encounter a familiar frenemy on Sunday in the old Tony Romo.  Consider – he’ll be at home in December with a playoff berth on the line and with DeMarco Murray out.  Who really thinks he’s not going to throw a ton of interceptions?  I think Big Ben has a tough day in KC throwing downfield, but gets his points on checkdown passes to Le’Veon “I think I might go for 50 again” Bell.

Running Backs:

Lamar Miller vs. Le’Veon Bell

Edge: Pittsburgh

Oooof.  This should have been a battle of superstar running backs.  Le’Veon Bell and DeMarco Murray have been the best RBs in the league all year – and it is not surprising that the two biggest stud backs are the biggest reasons these two teams are here today.  But with DeMarco almost certainly out with a screw in his hand, Dallas will have to turn to Lamar Miller, who has been decidedly inconsistent.  Miller does not have a 100 yard running game yet this year, and has not broken 20 points a game yet this year.  Le’Veon, on the other hand, has broken 20 more often than he has not and has not gone for less than 30 points in a game since LeGarrette Blount was released.  Make no mistake, the step down from DeMarco to Lamar is huge, and this is Pittsburgh’s biggest advantage.

Wide Receivers:

Dez Bryant, Pierre Garcon, Devin Hester and John Brown vs. Markus Wheaton, Jarvis Landry, Doug Baldwin, and Albert Wilson

Edge: Dallas

Whatever edge Pittsburgh gains from the Running Back spot, Dallas gets back in the passing game, as Bryant, Garcon and Hester are all capable of going off for huge games on any given day.  Even John Brown is averaging 10 points a game, and is capable of breaking one deep – though Ryan Lindley will almost certainly prove a giant wet blanket filled with led weights to his value.  On the Steeler side of things, these receivers have been some of Pittsburgh’s greatest surprises.  Everyone knew that Roethlisberger and Bell were going to be good.  But nobody expected (or at least not me!) that Markus Wheaton, Jarvis Landry and Doug “I define unremarkable” Baldwin would do what they have (combined to average over 40 ppg together).  And, of course.  ALBERT WILSON.  He’s the wild card.  He affects gravity.  Physics and Math stop working when he’s around.  Dez Bryant might catch 6 touchdowns and still score fewer fantasy points than Doug Baldwin – even if Baldwin only catches one pass.  These are the sorts of things that happen around Albert Wilson.

But, if normalcy holds, the WR position is a big strength for Dallas, who futures current superstars compared to Pittsburgh’s future ones.

Tight End:

Delanie Walker vs. Larry Donnell

Edge: Dallas

Larry Donnell has been a very good Tight End this year.  But he has also been a very touchdown dependent tight end this year.  More to the point, it has been five full weeks since he has scored in double digit fantasy points – coincidentally, the last time he caught a touchdown.  Delanie Walker, meanwhile, has produced whenever he has been healthy, and faces a very nice match-up this week.  Once again, I expect the current star to outperform the future one.  Of course, Donnell could catch three touchdowns again…

Defensive Line:

Chris Clemons, DeMarcus Ware, Andre Jones, Sen’Derrick Marks vs. Tyrone Crawford, Datone Jones, Jurrell Casey, and Kyle Williams

Edge: Pittsburgh

Both teams play a 4-3, an interesting point not lost on me as I consider roster construction for next year.  And neither team has a tremendously strong front four.  Pittsburgh’s squad is very strong in the center with Jurrell Casey and Kyle Williams eating up tackles, but weaker on the sides where Crawford and Jones combine to average only 10 points per game.  Dallas is a little bit more well-rounded, but even Sen’Derrick Marks lacks the potential upside and stud potential of Casey and Williams.  If Williams plays, that is.  Pittsburgh cannot afford another goose egg from him here – he must make his presence felt.

Linebackers

Thomas Davis, Sio Moore and Daryl Smith vs. Alec Ogletree, Prince Shembo and Lawrence Timmons

Edge: Dallas

This is if Sio Moore plays.  Dallas very quietly put together a ravenous and rapacious group of tackle mavens who have combined to average 35 fantasy points per game – and combined for 291 tackles.  291.  Already.  On the other side of the ball, Alec Ogletree and Lawrence Timmons have largely matched them on the outside, though their tackle counts have not been quite impressive.  But Prince Shembo does not yet have a starting role, and the 7-8 point drop off between Shembo and Moore gives the edge to the Cowboys – if he plays…

Secondary

AJ Bouye, Bradley Fletcher, Tony Jefferson and Antrel Rolle vs. Antoine Cason, Darrin Walls, Mike Mitchell and Troy Polamalu

Edge: Dallas

The Cowboys have hit on the secret to an effective secondary – draft a bunch of crappy cornerbacks who are going to get thrown at a lot – and reap the rewards of the tackles.  Then, grab some hard-hitting, fast-talking safeties who can hawk the ball and take off a guy’s head.  These guys aren’t the best group in the league, but they are good for 40-45 points per week, and combine with the other parts to give the Cowboys a consistent bajillion tackles a week and 100+ fantasy points.  The scary part about the Cowboys defense is that, since it is so tackle-heavy, it is not as subject to the big-play vicissitudes that other defenses encounter.  Instead, it is a consistent force for evil in our fallen world.

Pittsburgh, on the other hand, has a patchwork, bend and hopefully don’t break defense cobbled together from aging veterans like Polamalu.  Many of these guys don’t even start, but get sufficient coverage time to log significant points.  Antoine Cason is a classic example – listed as a third stringer by Fantrax (well done, Fantrax, well done!), Cason averages ~11 points a game for a league minimum salary.  It is on the backs of such plebeians that Pittsburgh has built its empire.  But once again… the Steelers are no longer facing the goblins of the AFC – now they face the dragons of the NFC.  And the faithful citizens with pitchforks may get eaten alive.

Special Teams:

Dan Bailey and Tim Masthay vs. Shaun Suisham and Drew Butler

Edge: Pittsburgh

Both of these teams have similar situations – strong kickers (their teams score a lot) and questionable punting situations.  Dallas, in fact, lost one of its few games this year because Masthay dropped a goose egg.  And that’s why the edge goes decisively to Pittsburgh here.  There are games where Green Bay simply doesn’t punt.  And following their humiliating offensive performance against Buffalo, I expect this to be one.  And on the other side, I expect the Cardinals to play a field position game (that’s a nice way of saying “play terribly and punt a lot”) with Ryan Lindley getting the start.  Butler will simply get more opportunities

PREDICTION: Dallas Cowboys 208 over Pittsburgh Steelers 193

Even without DeMarco Murray, I have the Cowboys.  I think they have a decisive edge on the defensive side of the ball and should win that battle by a good 20-25 points over the Steelers patchwork defense.  The two teams are evenly matched on offense, but while I see Le’Veon Bell having a very good game against Kansas City, I don’t see him having a great game.  And without a 40 pointer, I just don’t think it will be enough to overcome the Dallas defense and passing game.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Albert Wilson can turn the tide of a lot of things, and Murray’s absence makes this a much closer game than I would have predicted.  But I think the best team in the league proves it one more time, and the Dallas Cowboys take home a Super Bowl – while the Steelers grab pole position to win it all next year with its young stars one year older.

Good luck to both teams this weekend, and congratulations for making it this far!

 

 

 

Real Deal (Football) Report: Conference Championships

Chalk.  Chalk.  More Chalk.

Four games and four top seeds advanced.  No upsets.  No surprises.  The only painful thing is that we say goodbye to the New York Giants, a team who by any objective measurement, deserved to be here.  Beyond them?  I have no quibble with any of the teams in the final four.  No flukes.  Everybody left belongs.

Finish Reading: Real Deal (Football) Report: Conference Championships

The divisionals didn’t have much drama this time – but they did have some seriously explosive performances.  Here’s hoping for more of those – and maybe some more drama.  As Cleveland GM Jeff Hemlick noted “I am really excited about these matchups and I’m not even playing!”.

If we learned anything this week, it is the importance of the big player in playoff games.  A team of decent players can go far, particularly over the course of the regular season when consistency matters.  But the story of these divisional playoffs was the explosive player.  You can chart the wins and losses by the players who went off – and those who didn’t.

Observe:

Buffalo (Julio Jones 64 and A.J. (#)$&#(&$. Green 56) over Indianapolis (Julian Edelman 38)

Pittsburgh (Le’Veon Bell 59) over Kansas City (none)

Dallas (DeMarco Murray 48) over New York (none)

Green Bay (Jordy Nelson 42) over Philadelphia (none)

Every winning team had at least one player go off for more than 40. No losing team did.  More than anything, it was franchise explosions that dictated games this week – and after Jamaal Charles carried Green Bay to a Championship last year, I’m sensing a trend.

On to what happened in the divisionals:

Buffalo Bills 277 over Indianapolis Colts 208

This, my friends, is why you make blockbuster trades at the end of the season and why you give up massive amounts of future potential to win it all now.  Buffalo gave up a king’s ransom in picks and future players for Julio Jones and Arian Foster.  Want to guess how many points those two put up this week?  90.  A combined 90.  Replace those two guys with bad performances by replacement players… and this could have gone a different way.  It’s also worth calling out the value of trades in general.  A.J. $#)(&*&#(. Green + Julio Jones combined for over 120 fantasy points on 22 catches, 480 yards and two touchdowns.  Neither A.J. #$)&#(*$. Green nor Julio Jones was on the Buffalo Bills one year ago.  Ironic.

The Colts also got some outstanding performances from big time players, with Julian Edelman going for 38 to make a game of it on Sunday night.  It was a “fall back to earth” moment for the rest of the offense, though, which mustered only 26 points aside from Edelman and Andrew Luck.

Pittsburgh Steelers 254 over Kansas City Chiefs 191

Every year, I pick somebody in my pre-season predictions to do poorly.  Every year, that team knocks me out of the playoffs in a vengeance game.  Last year it was the Colts, who took exception to my characterization of their defense.  This year, it was the Steelers, who I picked to finish 4-12.  Next year, it could be you…

This time, it was franchise guys Le’Veon Bell and Ben Roethlisberger who paced the Steel Curtain, combining for 91 points.  Ironically, they only had a combined 19 by halftime of their game, doing 72 points of damage in the second half and putting this game on ice early on Sunday.

The Chiefs got a breakout game from Tavon Austin and a characteristically solid performance from Randall Cobb, but simply lacked the defensive big plays to keep pace with Le’Veon Bell’s explosion.

Dallas Cowboys 207 over New York Giants 179

Well.  It wasn’t what I was hoping for.  But it was enough.  I was expecting a titanic clash with both teams finishing in the upper 200s in a fantasy football contest that would set a gold standard for the ages in terms of drama and performance.  Instead, Dallas barely eclipsed 200 and the Giants didn’t even get there, in a somewhat sloppy game that never quite lived up to its billing – and was never quite in doubt.  DeMarco Murray and his 40 total touches and 48 fantasy points put the Cowboys ahead big on Thursday – and the Giants never got within spitting distance after that.  The Giants defense fell off big-time, posting only 71 points, and while the offense still scored over 100, it just didn’t get the explosive, 40+ point performance that carried all of our playoff winners.  The Cowboys did, from their main stud all year, and move on to the conference championship game with a relative dud out of the way.

Green Bay Packers 206 over Philadelphia Eagles 158

This was a back and forth dogfight in the cold that eventually revolved around the big player – just like every other playoff win.  It started off in Green Bay’s favor, as Jamaal Charles went off for more than 20 points and two touchdowns in the first half of his game.  It tilted back towards Philadelphia as Andy Reid forgot JMail existed in the second half and nobody else on Green Bay’s team did much of anything, while the Philadelphia defense put up 90 points, catapulting the Eagles into a decent lead.  It all came down to how many points Green Bay could score on a Monday night showdown against Atlanta.  And score Green Bay did, netting a 42 point performance from Jordy Nelson to go along with 33 from Rogers and 24 from Morgan Burnett.

This game was closer than the score appeared, but has to count as a massive disappointment for the Philadelphia Eagles, who struggled across the board and managed only 53 offensive points.  Green Bay actually struggled in similar fashion, but was bailed out by the Fantasy Rodgers to Nelson connection.

 

Conference Championship Picks

Pittsburgh Steelers over Buffalo Bills

So the danger with lightning is that it is hard for it to strike two weeks in a row, and even harder for it to strike three weeks in a row.  Buffalo’s stars detonated in the divisional round, and if they do that again, obviously they will advance.  But I don’t think it will happen.  Julio Jones may be slowed with an injury, and will almost certainly be quadruple-covered.  A.J. #($)&&#*$ Green gets the equally immortal Joe Haden, who has proven to be the one man who can really slow him down and take away his expletive.  And while Julius Thomas is back, Denver’s ability to get it to him against San Diego’s defense is a question.  I think the Bills score a lot of points (Kerwynn Williams is under-rated and they really do have a lot of guys who could go off, including Arian Foster), but I also think Pittsburgh is a fantastic team that can win without those explosions.

Besides.  Pittsburgh has an Albert Wilson.  And the first rule of fantasy is that you never pick against any team that has an Albert Wilson.  Ever.  More than that, Pittsburgh finished the year with an average of over 200 points.  This team has a great offense, a great defense, and is very very hungry.  I think Buffalo’s stars fall back to earth, and that while the game is high-scoring and close, I think Pittsburgh advances… on the shoulders of Albert Wilson.

Dallas Cowboys over Green Bay Packers

Much as I hate picking against the defending champs, I have no choice here.  I don’t think this game is close.  Dallas is coming off an uncharacteristically mediocre performance.  And I think this team has saved something.  I think Dallas absolutely explodes this week.  I’m predicting 250.  And Green Bay… well, the question there is the Charles factor.  Green Bay has staggered around a bit, struggling on defense and struggling with offensive depth.  Jordy and A-Rod bailed them out last week, and I think those performances will remain good, if not spectacular.  Really, I think it comes down to this.  If Jamaal Charles goes for more than 40 (which he is prone to doing in championship games), Green Bay pulls the pseudo-upset.  If he does not, it’s Dallas all the way.

In truth, my gut is screaming that it’s going to be Dallas and it is not going to be close.  Perhaps that’s because I think it is only fitting that the best team all year in both leagues gets to play for the title.  But more because I just feel the anticipation in the air and think this is a week for the ages.  I think DeMarco, Tony and Dez avenge themselves against a reeling Eagles team.  I think Devin Hester takes one to the house.  I think the real Delanie Walker returns to the tune of ten catches against Sexy Rexy’s pack of goons.  And I think Dallas takes it to the house on defense at least once.

But you can never count on JMail and those Packers…  They’ve never lost a playoff game yet…

Good luck everybody!!!!

 

 

Real Deal (Football) Report – Divisional Round Playoff Predictions

And then there were eight.  Four games.  Four winners.  Four go home.  But now things change.  Now the big boys come out to play.  Well, NYG was already playing.  But now Dallas, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Green Bay come on the scene.  No more flag football.  No more of that plastic basketball hoop five feet off the ground nonsense.  No more bumper bowling. Now it gets REAL.

I was 2-2 last week.  That’s better than I usually do – so I hope to go 2-2 again.  Always set your goals high, kids.  When you’re predicting, you always want to do exactly as well as random chance.

Finish Reading: Real Deal (Football) Report – Divisional Round Playoff Predictions

So last week’s games:

Kansas City Chiefs 225 – Oakland Raiders 180

Oakland’s hot hand carried the Raiders to another respectable performance – but not quite a victory, ending a strong late-season run.  It looked like things were going to be different when Jordan Matthews was catching everything that moved early on Thanksgiving, but the offense slowed down enough to allow the Chiefs to squeak through.   Big plays on defense turned out to the key in this one, as the Chiefs defense blocked punts, scored multiple touchdowns, and had 4 defensive players achieve nearly 20 points days.

Indianapolis Colts 194 – Denver Broncos 137

Thud.  It happens to all of us.  And it always sucks.  Always.  No exceptions.  It’s the worst feeling to play strong all year – and then lay an egg in round one of the playoffs.  Sympathy cards to the Broncos.  The Broncos only got moderate performances from sometime studs Manning, Welker, Thomas, and Boldin.  But it was their defense that really let them down, turning in only a pathetic 35 point performance in which only one player scoring more than 5 points.  Brutal.  On the other side of the ball, Indiana cruised to the win with a 41 point explosion from Andrew Luck and a workmanlike day-at-the-office from everyone else.

Philadelphia Eagles 250 – Seattle Seahawks 151

This was a good old-fashioned ham-smacking!  I don’t even know what a ham-smacking is, but you have to admit, it’s a pretty darn applicable term for this one.  Put in more descriptive language, Philadelphia played really well, Seattle played bad.   The Eagles scored over 100 points on both offense and defense, despite a combined 4.5 points from Colin Kaepernick and Shane Vereen.  Coby Fleener lead the way with 35, and 3 other players on the offense averaged over 20 points.  On Seattle’s side of the ball, it was just a very blah performance.  Big time players step up in big time games… and simply nobody stepped up, as the Seahawks did not produce a single 20 point game.  Eric Decker (4), Jason Witten (1.5), and the entire Defensive Line (5 points combined) were the true goats.

New York Giants 281 – New Orleans Saints 214

HULK SMASH!!!!!  Welcome to the playoffs, New York Giants.  They’ve been good all year.  But this week the offense ripped off its shirt, turned into a giant green monster, and literally dismembered a solid Saints quad limb-by-limb.  Mercy.  The offense scored 192 points behind an insane 61 points by DeAndre Hopkins, who went off for 238 yards and a pair of touchdowns.  The obliteration was so bad that Heath Miller’s 20 point performance seemed positively mediocre.  Highest point total on offense EVER, and highest point total by any team this season.  The Giants have announced their arrival with an incredible game – and as a reward, get a rematch with the archrival Cowboys.  The Saints actually played quite a strong game featuring a 28 point defensive explosion by Cameron Jordan and breaking the 200 point barrier easily.  But against New York this week, there was simply no chance.

Divisional Round Predictions:

Buffalo Bills over Indianapolis Colts

So a couple weeks ago, I would have said something different here.  Buffalo hasn’t quite been the same team the second half of the season, and came into the playoffs scuffling a bit.  But then they pulled off a blockbuster trade, brought in Arian Foster and Julio Jones, and gave themselves a needed shot in the arm.  I don’t think they have enough to get over the top at Pittsburgh.  But I do think Julio and Arian perform well enough to get past the Colts, who beat a scuffling Broncos team on a Luck explosion.  I think the Colts play better as a team than they did last week.  But I think Luck turns in only a good game (18 or so) and think Julio and Arian turn out to be blockbuster in the playoffs as the Bills advance.

Pittsburgh Steelers over Kansas City Chiefs

This is a total vengeance game for the Steelers, after I picked them to go 4-12 and chill in the basement all year.  Pittsburgh, led by Le’Veon “I am ridiculously insane in a PPR league now that LeGarrette Blount has gotten kicked off his 84th team” Bell, is an absolute juggernaut.  The defense is strong.  Young players like Markus Wheaton and Jarvis Landry have had time to develop.  And this team is not rolling over for anybody.  Until New York or Dallas rip their arms off.  The Chiefs made it past Oakland on the strength of big plays and defensive touchdowns.  That doesn’t happen two weeks in a row.  This one might be close, but Darren Leung and the Steel City move on.

New York Giants over Dallas Cowboys

My God, what a game.  This should be the Super Bowl.  They should just stop the season and agree to award the title to the winner of this one.  It is an absolute travesty of justice that the two best teams in the league meet in the quarterfinals.  These two teams have easily been the strongest all year, and it hasn’t been close.  So many studs.  So many big players.  So many points.  An intra-division rivalry.  This one is going to be CLOSE.  And it is going to be high-scoring.

I’ll be honest, I have no clue who wins it.  Anybody, and I mean anybody, on either team’s offense is capable of going off for 50 points on any given night, like DeAndre Hopkins just did.  Here’s the thing.  You can’t pick against somebody who just threw down 281 points.  So I’m picking the upset, DESPITE the fact that Dallas is playing the Bears and Romo and DeMarco will almost certainly bounce back.  And EVEN DESPITE the fact that Eli Manning is playing Quarterback for the Giants.  The Giants are just so hot right now.  They are hotter than Zoolander.  I could easily be wrong.  But WHAT.  A.  GAME.

Green Bay Packers over Philadelphia Eagles

So I picked against Philadelphia last week when signs pointed to them winning.  And so, of course, they won.  Well, I’m doing it again.  You don’t pick against the champs.  Somebody has to beat the champs.  Here’s what I think.  Jamaal Charles is going for 50 this week.  Just like he did a year ago.  And the Eagles come off their big win at Dallas with a huge thud against Seattle.  Maclin catches nothing.  Shady gets stuffed.  And Russell Wilson doesn’t turn the ball over.  I still think its close.   But I think Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson against a suspect Falcons secondary brings Green Bay within a game of back-to-back Super Bowls.

Good luck everybody!!!

Real Deal (Basketball) Report: Recap Periods 6-10

Well, another five scoring periods have passed, and some things have definitely changed. Teams like the Lakers (well, Durant’s back at least), Bucks (I guess a lot of those “what-if” guys have been duds), and Hawks (come on, already, Dwight!) have been disappointments, while the Rockets (holy crap, that team), Kings (Boogie magic) and Magic (#VucevicMVPurl) have soared to the top of the standings.

Who knew?

This is what the playoff picture currently looks like:

EAST
1. Orlando
2. Miami
2. Toronto
4. Charlotte
4. Cleveland
4. Washington
7. Detroit
8. Brooklyn

WEST
1. Houston
2. Sacramento
3. Dallas
4. Memphis
4. LA Clippers
6. Golden State
6. OKC
8. Portland/New Orleans

Yup, the West is still a lot better than the East, but I think the East is catching up a little bit. The main difference is that the East has more truly stank-quality teams (Milwaukee, Philly, Chicago, Boston and Indy) than the West, which really only has one – an injury-riddled Phoenix Suns. As of now, it’s a race to the finish in the West for those final playoff spots. In the East, it’s more of a sputtering crawl to the finish.

Let’s talk about some of the big headlines.

kevin-durant
Kevin Durant is BACK!
It’s always exciting when the reigning MVP returns to the league. It’s almost as if the whole season has begun anew. Just as the Lakers, who welcome back fantasy stud Slim Reaper into action. But can Durant save LA from a sluggish start in an action-packed Western Conference? Sources say yes. Bar Anthony Davis – and that’s if he stays healthy and keeps it up – KD is the best player in the (fantasy) game. In a 30-team league, depth is important – but sometimes all it takes is a stud to keep a time alive and in the hunt. Add him to a roster that includes a surprisingly pretty good Roy Hibbert, rebounding monster Jordan Hill and a backcourt that is at least “eh, good enough,” and I’m sticking to my guns and saying the Lakers make the playoffs.

 

anthony-davis
Anthony Davis is a MONSTER!
If only PER (player efficiency rating) was a stat in fantasy. Hey, Commish, can we work on that for next year? New Orleans hopes so. Anthony Davis has had a monster season so far, averaging 25 points, 11 rebounds, 2 steals and 3 blocks a game while shooting 56% from the floor and 77% from the line. That gives him a PER of 33.33. The next highest PER? Steph Curry, all the way down at 27.88. What I’m saying is nobody comes as close to how good Anthony Davis has been this season. He’s far and away the MVP in this league. It would be a shame if he missed the playoffs both in the NBA and in Real Deal.

 

phoenix-suns
The Suns are RISING!
Phoenix has had a rough start to the season with Russ Westbrook out. At 4-18, they’re one of the worst teams in the league and the very worst in the West by 3 games. I don’t see that remaining the case for much longer. It may be too late already for the Suns to claim a playoff spot, but then again, it might not be. Russ has the talent and the will to carry a team (a 20-shot game on his return from injury proves that in spades), and there’s enough talent on the roster for the Suns to be considered a pretty good team. Taj Gibson is also hurt, and guys like Knight, Thomas and Amir Johnson are still trying to hit their strides, but I think they’ll all get there. Watch out for the Suns. The

 

Best Teams in Real Deal are GOOD! And I mean scary good. Let’s start with the Rockets: with just 1 loss so far, they’re the best team in the league thanks to a few surprise outbreaks. Mario Chalmers? Mo Williams? Harrison Barnes? Who expected such great performances from these guys? Outside of Flip Saunders, probably not a lot of people. And the addition of Joakim Noah shored up a frontcourt that was pretty slim before. James Harden is challenging Curry and AD for MVP of this league with some big games. And Houston has options they can feel comfortable with on the bench, while most of us are deciding which scrubs to start this week when our decent players only have one game. For Orlando, it’s all about that frontcourt. Vucevic and Pau are a monster duo, scoring well over 100 points per game together. That’s game over in just about any matchup. This team also has a very deep bench. And Sacramento – wow, does Boogie ever look good. I’d say he’s a top 5 player in the NBA. This dude is focused and hungry, when normally we’re used to seeing him just being hungry. Rudy Gay has held up his end of the bargain and guys like Crawford and Lopez are perfect role players. Also, Kobe.

 

BIG NAMES ON THE TRADE BLOCK There haven’t been enough trades this year! Maybe you guys have forgotten about the trade block, so let me just remind you guys about some of the best players and how you can get them on your team.

Kobe Bryant (SAC)
The numbers: 26 points, 5 assists, 5.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 1.5 threes, 49.37 RDPPG
The lowdown: Hey, Kobe is still Kobe. His biggest drawback is definitely that fat salary, which may be why Sacto has him on the trading block, but the numbers are still there.
How you can get him: The Kings would definitely need a bigtime guard in return, at least. They also don’t have a draft pick in 2015 – use that to your advantage, and use the salary to your advantage as a bargaining chip.

Carmelo Anthony (CLE)
The numbers: 23.5 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 46% shooting, 1.5 threes, 44.52 RDPPG
The lowdown: The Knicks are terrible, and Melo is having a down year. He’s still scoring, but for a dude capable of averaging 30 a game, this is pretty disappointing. One would expect more rebounds and threes, too, based on the last few seasons. Might be a buy-low candidate, but it’s always hard to say that when you factor in his starpower.
How you can get him: It would cost a fortune, to be sure, but Cleveland may be itching to make a move and claim a spot atop the East.

Derrick Rose (CHI)
The numbers: 16 points, 5.5 assists, 3 rebounds, 42% shooting, 33.6 RDPPG
The lowdown: Oh man, does the NBA miss the real Derrick Rose. He hasn’t been the same since that first gruesome injury, and he’s still in and out of the starting five. People have questioned his commitment a lot this season as he’s sitting out games pretty frequently, but Rose is still only 26 and you’ve got to believe that there’s still some of that old MVP magic in there somewhere.
How you can get him: Is Chicago embracing the tank? After a 3-17 start, a Ricky Rubio injury and trading away Joakim Noah, it looks like they are. Try a package of some prospects and picks, if you’ve got them.

Roy Hibbert (LAL)
The numbers: 13 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks, 83% FT shooting, 40.5 Real Deal Points Per Game (RDPPG)
The lowdown: Hibbert, on a flailing Pacers team, has surprisingly been kind of a rock this year after a pathetic second-half performance last season. Indy is going to rely on him all year long for shots in the low post, and his defense is back to being elite.
How you can get him: The Lakers are looking for a SG/SF after Dion Waiter has been a total dud and other options there are not the best. If you’ve got a spare winger, perhaps Big Boy Roy can be yours.

Goran Dragic (MIA)
The numbers: 15.5 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 three, 31 RDPPG
The lowdown: The point guard experiment in Phoenix has been incredibly weird, and Dragic is suffering for it. He’s only getting on the floor for 31 minutes a game right now, but he did recently score 34 points in a game. Dragic is a buy-low guy right now, so why not buy low?
How you can get him: Miami is trying to get really good right now to vault themselves to the top of the East. They’re about one elite player away from doing it. If you’ve got a star rotting on a bad team, it might not be a bad idea to swap him for Dragic and some prospects and/or draft picks.

Al Jefferson (CHA)
The numbers: 20 points, 7.5 rebounds (2 offensive), 1 block, 49% shooting, 43.6 RDPPG
The lowdown: The real-life Hornets are in a tailspin right now, but the Real Deal ones are doing pretty well. Jefferson is still scoring a lot for an offensively-challenged Hornets team, but that pesky Lance Stephenson is gobbling up all his rebounds, which hurts his value a bit.
How you can get him: Maybe you can’t. Charlotte is asking for a big haul in return and help in the guard category, so if you really are lacking at center and are willing to pay, you might consider Big Al.

Al Horford (ATL)
The numbers: 13.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 56% shooting, 36.62 RDPPG
The lowdown: Is he one of the biggest reasons I’m 2 games under .500 right now? Yeah, definitely. But does he still have the potential to be a 20-10 guy with 2 blocks? Also definitely. The Hawks are as mediocre as ever, but Horford is one of those guys that deserves more props. He’s still a bit rusty from his injury last year, but you can expect him to bounce back and put up some numbers.
How you can get him: I’m looking for guard help. I’d trade him for a good guard. Look at my division – I need help!

 

And that’s it, everybody. Stay tuned for next time and leave some comments below! What should I write about? Let’s use your ideas!