Real Deal (Football) Report: Week #3 Recap

Separation.  The first three weeks of the Real Deal Football season are critical to establish separation and pecking order.  Since they are all double weeks, we’re now nearly halfway through the regular season, and we’ve eliminated some teams from contention already, while other teams are most of the way to a division title.   In some ways, it is a merciful system because teams know early on whether to focus on contending or rebuilding.  In other ways, it is a vicious system because a couple bad weeks early on (always a crapshoot in fantasy sports, particularly with injuries) really can do major damage to an otherwise good team’s shot at contention.

Finish Reading: Real Deal (Football) Report: Week #3 Recap

That said, it is only 6 games in, and most teams still have a decent shot to make up some ground in what will now turn in to a long season.  So settle in, assume marathon pace, and enjoy the ride.

Games of the Week: Yes, that’s right, games.  You always get premium content here at the Real Deal Report, and lots of it.  And man did we have some games this week.  Three amazing games, all between good teams with playoff hopes, all where both teams scored over 200 points, and all decided by 7 points or less.  You can’t get better than that!

Cincinnati Bengals 226, Pittsburgh Steelers 219: This could also fall in the “are you freaking kidding me?” category for Pittsburgh.  The Bengals got a stunning 118 points from Andy Dalton (37), Theo Riddick (18), Rishard Matthews (34), and Chris Johnson (29).  And 15 more from some guy named Will Compton who apparently plays linebacker.  I mean, are you freaking kidding me?  And they STILL would have won except that Big Ben Roethlisberger went down early in the game with a sprained MCL and deep bone bruise which will keep him out for 4-8 weeks.  Are you freaking kidding me?  The net result is that the Steelers lose for the first time in something like 10 or 11 weeks and fall a game behind the startlingly lucky Baltimore Ravens in the North.  Man.

Cleveland Browns 217, Oakland Raiders 213: Another significant upset in the AFC and another game where much of the scoring came from very surprising places.  The difference being that in this game, it ALL came from very surprising places.  The upstart Cleveland Browns set a franchise record for points to knock off the Raiders, paced by 26 points from Gary Barnidge, 22 from Marvin Jones, 19 from Karlos Williams and 24 from Nose Tackle Brandon Williams.  Not to be outdone, the Raiders (still missing Eddie Lacy), got 35 points from the inestimable Preston Brown, 25 from Nose Tackle John Jenkins (those nose tackles!) and 34 from James Jones, who nearly combined with James Starks to bring the Raiders all the way back from a massive deficit on Monday night.  In the end, however, Oakland couldn’t overcome key injuries and dud performances from Tyler Eifert (-0.25 points on an overruled touchdown catch) and 0.5 points from Davante Adams, who couldn’t seem to make up his mind about his health.  Oakland deserves to be 6-0.  Instead they are 3-3.  Fantasy football really is brutal sometimes.

New Orleans Saints 206, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 205: This could have been an absolutely horrible week for the Saints, after the Carolina Panthers exploded out of nowhere to hang 295 on them.  A double divisional loss on top of a difficult start could have put the Saints in a major hole.  Instead, they found a way to survive a furious Monday night comeback attempt by Tampa Bay, who posted 45.5 defensive points on Monday night (27 from Jaye Howard!) with a Sam Shields interception of their own.  Like the real life Eagles, they were nudged to victory by a massive Darren Sproles punt return for a TD, and, some might say even better, Jimmy Graham actually got footballs thrown in his general direction.  For the Bucs, it was a missed opportunity, as Torrey Smith, Alfred Morris, Von Miller, Darrelle Revis, and Doug Miller COMBINED for less than ten points.  The Bucs are still in the lead.  But the Saints aren’t dead.  And that has to be scary for both Tampa and Carolina.

Rising Teams:

Kansas City Chiefs: Look, I hate to do this.  But I need ONE week to celebrate.  I mean, my team scored freaking 304 points, I won two games by 140+ points, and vaulted into first place in the division.  It can’t possibly go anywhere but downhill from here.  So I’m going to give the Chiefs props.  38 from Cobb.  32 (and a WR TD!) from Maclin.  22 from Gore.  18 from Jordan Reed, who has stayed healthy for THREE CONSECUTIVE WEEKS.  23 from Everson Griffen.  A combined 31 from Rashean Mathis and Brandon Carr!?!  It was a perfect storm week for the Chiefs, who now have the most points scored in RDFL by a significant margin and a one game lead in their division.  It can’t last.  But damn it feels good!

Carolina Panthers: Speaking of rising teams and perfect storms… I mean, Damn.  This was one hell of an offensive explosion, as the Panthers set the league record for offensive points in a week with 191.  Yep.  One hundred and ninety-one!  It was so ridiculous that 27 from LeGarrette Blount and 21 from Mark Ingram didn’t even seem noteworthy because they get 56 from Steve “I’m 63 years old and somehow STILL better than Dwayne Bowe has EVER been” Smith and 41 from Greg Olsen.  The sad part is that Zach Ertz and Robert Woods combined for only 14 fantasy points when their respective NFL teams scored 65 points.  Can you imagine the score if this had gone off?  Like with KC, this isn’t sustainable.  But also like KC, the Panthers are suddenly at 4-2 with some key divisional notches in their belts.

Indianapolis Colts: It appears I spoke too soon.  Just after I called out the Colts for abysmal early season play and suggested that cold, hard reality was setting in, they go 2-0 within division and rattle off a 218 point week.  The offense still stunk outside of Luck and Edelman, but the defense turned in a nice 137 point performance behind Dwight Lowery (28).  6/11 players posted double figures, and the Colts are back at .500.  They still can’t score.  But they might not need to in a division that suddenly looks wide, wide, wide open.  The problem is that the division has Brandon Weeden throwing it the football.  So even though it might be wide open, you wonder who is going to win it.

Honorable Mention: Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions (again), Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens (again), Cleveland Browns

Teams Falling:

Tennessee Titans: They say that one of the difficulties facing young teams is learning how to win.  There’s a stability to veteran, championship caliber squads that younger teams sometimes simply lack.  Exhibit A: The Tennessee Titans.  How do you react to moving into sole possession of first place in the division?  Not by scoring 131 points and getting blitzed by the New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts – a combined 3-7 besides these games.   The game was a brutal reminder that this team is still young and inconsistent – there will be days that the rising stars will score 131 on offense alone.  And then there will be days like this.  The division, as we’ve noted, is still winnable.  But these were two games the Titans really could have used.

Green Bay Packers: Ok… Green Bay is in trouble.  This team has scuffled in the past and had the occasional bad week in years past.  But they’ve always bounced back quickly.  After getting blown out by KC and dropping a moderately close game to Dallas, the Packers find themselves at 2-4, 4 games behind the high-flying Lions in the division and two games out of the wildcard race.  Quarterback has been a disaster for Green Bay all year, and DeMarco Murray’s injury situation hasn’t helped at all.  I suspect Green Bay will be a decent team when the injuries get cleaned up – but at this point, it may almost be too late in a tough NFC.

Houston Texans:  At 2-2, with some decent performances on the first two weeks, the Texans were a solid tweener squad.  A pair of wins and a nice week could have vaulted them into contention in the winnable AFC South.  Instead, Houston showed its true colors with a 125 point stink bomb that dropped it to 2-4 and strongly suggests that the Texans are more pretender than contender.  The loss exposed a few of Houston’s fatal flaws (namely a lack of offensive contributors when Hyde and Jameis aren’t contributing) and a lack of depth on the Defensive side.  It could be argued that a great game from Joseph Randle would have helped things had he been in the starting lineup.  But Houston simply doesn’t have enough weapons to compete until Carlos Hyde, Jameis Winston, Donte Moncrief, and others are really ready to step up to the plate – something that looks much more likely to happen next year than this year.

Honorable Mention: Pittsburgh Steelers (Roethlisberger), Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos

 

Games of the Week:

Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: It’s been a LONG time since Pittsburgh has looked up at anyone in the standings, and it is not a stretch to say that the Steelers have looked like the better team, scoring 60 more points than Baltimore and doing it without Le’Veon Bell for the first two weeks of the year.  But Baltimore has been undeniably good even as it has also been undeniably lucky – and the Ravens catch their rivals without a Quarterback.  This still feels like the Steelers division, but if Baltimore can capitalize and take a 2 game lead with the tiebreaker…

New York Giants vs. Buffalo Bills: Ka-boom.  Now this is a game.  The 6-0 Giants vs. the 5-1 Bills.   An in-state rivalry with possible super bowl ramifications.  The G-Men have been one of the best teams in the league so far, but the Bills are coming off a 275 point romp behind 60 points from A. J. Mother. ($)&#*()$#. Green.  Man that guy comes up every week!  He won’t do THAT every week, but with Latavius Murray and Derek Carr playing as well as they have been, they may not need to.  The Giants face QB uncertainty for almost all of their big receivers, with Romo and Roethlisberger out, Luck potentially out, and whoever starts for the Texans not being very good.  Should be an interesting show!

Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Back to division rivalries, this should be a good one.  The league leading Buccaneers were 1.5 measly points away from an unblemished perfect record and a two game lead in the division.  Instead, the Panthers, riding high after an insane week, can catch them with a win this week.  The Bucs need more from Josh  McCown to hold off Johnny Football, and also need guys like Alfred Morris to do much more than they’ve been doing.  For their part, the Panthers seek to prove that last week’s explosion wasn’t a fluke – particularly guys like Steve Smith and Mark Ingram

New Orleans Saints vs. Dallas Cowboys: The battle of scuffling powerhouses takes place in the Lone Star state this weekend as struggling Dallas meets struggling New Orleans.  Both teams were expected to contend for a Super Bowl berth this year, and while neither team has been bad… neither team has quite appeared to be that good, either.  This game could revolve around Drew Brees, who is uncertain for this week’s matchup.  The winner will be well-positioned to keep pace in the fight for a playoff berth, while the loser might find itself in some more serious trouble.

Good luck everyone!  And whether you are buying or selling, enjoy the unpredictable marathon that is RDFL!  Who knows?  Maybe your team will make like a superhuman Kenyan and win!

Real Deal Divisional Championship Series

Even Prince Fielder was scratching his head when he found out he was the top Real Deal scorer in the Divisional Series with 42.833pts.
Even Prince Fielder was left scratching his head when he found out he was the top Real Deal scorer in the Divisional Series with 42.833pts.

Last week was the League Championship Series and it featured a little bit of everything. From a blowout win for the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Championship to a back & forth battle that finished by less than 10pts with the Houston Astros beating the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL Championship.

The Brewers ended up beating the Colorado Rockies by a score of 282.762 – 164.028 Milwaukee used both offense and pitching to secure the Divisional Championship. They even used a one-two punch at first base. Prince Fielder led all players in this playoff week with 42.833pts and Edwin Encarnacion jumped in with another 32.265pts. The Brewers seemed to have the whole infield covered with offensive stars. Dee Gordon led all 2B with 39.474pts, and Matt Carpenter had the hot corner covered with 41.373pts. The two games had 3 players score over 40pts and two of them were Brewers. On the mound, it was Josh Tomlin leading all pitchers with 29pts. For the Rockies, it was tough to write up the highlights when they were the only team to not break 200pts. Brandon Phillips did lead all Rockies with 24.260pts. On the mound, Jorge De La Rosa did what was asked of him as he scored 15pts in his only start. However, the Rockies needed more than a 2 man show to advance to the Real Deal World Series.

In the AL Championship, the Houston Astros defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 223.606 – 215.356 In this tug of war battle, it ended up matching the Rays offense versus the Astros pitching. For the Astros, they got a pair of 23pt games from 2B Jose Altuve & 3B Todd Frazier. Todd is the hottest non-Brewer in the Playoffs with 64.379pts in two weeks. On the mound, Julio Teheran led all Astros with 22.5pts. The Astros also had 4 SP’s score in double digits. The Rays used the bats to keep pace. Shin-Soo Choo was the top scoring OF of the week and the only outfielder to score over 30pts as he had 40.004pts. Evan Gattis more than tripled any other catchers score as he had 33.395pts. 3B Carlos Santana also had a solid week as he scored 29.481pts. The Rays biggest problem was the pitching staff as it struggled all week. Chris Archer was their only SP in double digits as he scored 10.5pts.

The Real Deal Championship Series is now set with the Houston Astros taking on the Milwaukee Brewers. Not really sure how the Real Deal execs are handling this series with no real big market team in the series. We’ll have to wait and see how the tv ratings pan out.

 

Here are the Real Deal 3 Stars for the Divisional Championship Series:

 

FIRST BASE:

Prince Fielder…………….Brewers……………..42.833

Edwin Encarnacion…….Brewers……………..32.265

Chris Davis……………….Rays…………………..22.639

SECOND BASE:

Dee Gordon……………….Brewers………………39.474

Brandon Phillips…………Rockies………………24.260

Jose Altuve………………..Astros…………………23.563

THIRD BASE:

Matt Carpenter……………Brewers………………41.373

Carlos Santana……………Rays……………………29.481

Todd Frazier……………….Astros…………………23.159

SHORTSTOP:

Carlos Correa……………..Astros………………..19.469

Jose Reyes………………….Rays…………………..8.404

Josh Rutledge……………..Brewers………………1.333

OUTFIELDER:

Shin-Soo Choo…………….Rays…………………..40.004

Jose Bautista………………..Brewers………………24.214

George Springer…………..Astros…………………21.278

CATCHER:

Evan Gattis………………….Rays…………………..33.395

Chris Iannetta………………Astros…………………10.390

A.J. Pierzynski…………….Astros………………….7.000

STARTING PITCHER:

Josh Tomlin………………….Brewers………………29.000

Julio Teheran………………..Astros…………………22.500

James Shields……………….Brewers………………17.250

RELIEF PITCHER:

Ryan Webb………………….. Rockies………………11.250

Will Smith…………………….Brewers………………10.500

Sergio Romo…………………Brewers………………..7.250

Real Deal Report: Week 2 Recap

Fantasy sports are wonderful.  We all play them because they are interesting, challenging, and fun.  And most weeks, we find that they enhance our enjoyment of the week’s games.

But sometimes, fantasy footballs pulls off the mask and reveals its hideous, heartless soul.  Sometimes, we see it for the capricious, temperamental master it is.  Sometimes, we realize that it is a total masochist who simply wants to see us suffer, shrieking our anguish as we drown in unjust misery, laughing as it snatches away that hope it has dangled in front of us….

A lot of teams experienced that this week.

Finish Reading: Real Deal Report: Week 2 Recap

The Oakland Raiders were about to go 4-0 with a season sweep of division rival KC and a nice win over wildcard contender Baltimore.  Then, Eddie Lacy and Davante Adams both went down in the first quarter of Sunday Night Football.  The Raiders lost by 17 to KC and 11 to Baltimore, and are now 2-2, in third place in the division.  Seriously?

The Green Bay Packers had already lost Jordy Nelson and Orlando Scandrick for the year.  Then Sam Barrington went down.  Then, early in week 2 against Dallas, new acquisition Tony Romo broke his collarbone and was placed on Injured Reserve.  The hard luck Packers are 2-2, and just got word that DeMarco Murray exited Eagles practice today and is questionable for this weekend’s game against the Jets.

The Atlanta Falcons, fresh off an absolutely brutal 0-2 and 27 point defensive performance, responded with aplomb, scoring 236 points.  They also had the misfortune to be playing the New York Giants, who scored 242… and got only a quarter point from Roddy White.  Now at 1-3, the Falcons face a serious uphill climb.

The Dallas Cowboys, last year’s worldbeaters, have already lost both Dez Bryant and Kelvin Benjamin for significant time.  Aaron Rodgers has lost all his weapons, and even Jeremy Hill contributed a negative score.  Dallas is still a team to be reckoned with, but the Cowboys are sitting at 2-2 – with a game dropped to both intra-division rivals, Philly and NYG.

So where has all that luck GONE?  Well, let’s take a look at a couple of the beneficiaries:

The Baltimore Ravens are sitting pretty at 4-0.  They have not yet scored 200 points.  How?  They played a forfeiting Miami team in week #1, and a Denver Broncos squad that put up only 150 points (compared to 212 in week 2).  In week 2, they beat the aforementioned Oakland Raiders in a stroke of dumb injury luck and survived the Cincinnati Bengals by SIX-TENTHS OF A POINT.  4-0.  With two games in hand in the wild card race.  The Ravens must be living right or something…

The Tennessee Titans are also division leaders at 3-1 after posting a pedestrian 179 points – and beating Cleveland by 8 and Indianapolis by 16.

The New York Giants are 4-0 and in cruise control in the NFC after a pair of insane wins – 242-236 over the Atlanta Falcons and 242-238 over the Philadelphia Eagles.  In both cases, a star receiver finished with 0.25 points for the other team (Michael Floyd for Philly and Roddy White for Atlanta).  You can’t call a team that won the week with 242 points lucky… but you can certainly suggest they have an outstanding heavy laying the Tonya Harding on some critical wideouts…

Teams Rising:

Denver Broncos – after a lackluster 150 point 1-1 effort in week one, Denver exploding for 212 points and a pair of divisional wins over KC and SD.  Manning got back on track, Demaryius Thomas get back on track, D’Angelo Williams and Dion Lewis are playing way above their paygrade, and the Defense is playing better than expected.  Combined with Oakland’s bad luck week, the Broncos are somehow where we’ve all become accustomed to seeing them – in the driver’s seat of the AFC West.

Detroit Lions – 4-0 with a pair of pretty monster weeks and a 2 game lead over injury wracked GB in the central.  Detroit is flying high and showing some nice balance.  Megatron bounced back in week 2, Jamie Collins is a ridiculous monster, and some of those draft picks who looked totally lost last year like Stephon Tuitt are suddenly showing what they can do.  Unlike most years, the NFC Norris could be over as soon as week 3.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Those 4-0 Tampa Bay Buccaneers… seriously.  I finally guessed right when I predicted TB was going to have a good season.  It’s not just that they are winning, its that they are beating divisional rivals – big.  In their 216-183 win over nemesis New Orleans, Emmanuel Sanders and Eric Decker went off for a combined 60 points, Jaye Howard (WHO?) threw in 21 on defense, and the much maligned (by me) Darrelle Revis proved he could have a nice fantasy game, dropping in 18.  AND McCown is starting again, so they get their QB back.  Things are looking bright and sunny in Tampa!

Arizona Cardinals – After a brutal year last year, the Cardinals are showing why they are the favorites in what is proving to be a truly atrocious AFC West.  Arizona laid down a 223 spot behind 149 points on defense.  Get this – the Cardinals defense and special teams would have outscored EVERY OTHER AFC WEST TEAM this week.  They could have swept the division without an OFFENSE.  At 2-0, all systems are firing behind JJ Watt, and Arizona appears to be approaching cruise control already.

Teams Falling:

Beyond those unlucky teams mentioned at the top…

New Orleans Saints: Brees is injured and playing as poorly as he ever has.  Jimmy Graham has barely gotten a sniff of the football, Tampa Bay is 4-0, and the Saints are in new territory, facing a 2 game divisional deficit having gotten smoked by both Tampa and Atlanta.  It hasn’t necessarily been that performances have been terrible – 183 is respectable – it is just that the Saints are merely respectable.  New Orleans needs its stars to produce to reach a third straight playoff birth.

Chicago Bears: The monsters of the Midway have gotten a slow start out of the gate, squeaking to a 1-3 record in the NFC North.  Even worse, they haven’t shown the same kind of fight the Vikings have, and appear much closer to the bottom than the top. Nothing is working real well for the Bears so far, who limped to an 0-2, 149 point performance this week despite 27 points from Matt Forte and 15 from Brandon Marshall.

Indianapolis Colts: The Colts went 1-1 this week to get off the Schneid, but it is becoming apparent that there are no miraculous breakouts to save this team this year, and that each week is going to be a struggle, particularly on offense. The entire offense (including Luck) scored 23 points aside from Julian Edelman’s breakout.  Luck’s going to be better – but the offense is going to be a problem all year, and reality is starting to sink in for the perennial South division champs.

I won’t even mention the forfeits…

Week 3 Games of the Week:

Atlanta Falcons vs. Dallas Cowboys: Two extremely strong teams who don’t have the records to show for it.  With the Falcons at 1-3 and the Cowboys at 2-2, both of these teams badly need a 2-0 week.  At least one of them is not going to get it.  There’s big players a-plenty on both sides, and I think this game might depend on who has a player drop a 50 spot.

Denver Broncos vs. Oakland Raiders: Yet another big divisional game in the AFC West, these two are expected to battle for the divisional crown all year long, and the winner of this matchup will most likely find themselves in the drivers seat headed into the single weeks.  For Oakland, the question is injuries – will they get Davante Adams and Eddie Lacy back?  For Denver, the question is consistency – is the real Denver team the one that staggered to 150 in week 1 and was saved from 0-2 by forfeit?  Or the team that looked like worldbeaters in week 2?

New Orleans vs. Tampa Bay: A rematch.  And a must win game for the Saints. The Bucs could take a three week advantage plus the tiebreaker into the single weeks – they wouldn’t be so much in the driver’s seat as they would be driving away to some remote location in Alaska and hiding with the divisional crown.  Drew Brees and Josh McCown’s health will be the huge story leading up to this one – as will their performances if they play.

New York Giants vs. Miami Dolphins: Why does this matter?  Because it could easily be our largest margin of victory EVER.  The Dolphins can’t seem to figure out their lineup and are coming off a pair of zero weeks… New York has been the best team in football and just dropped 242.  I don’t know what the largest margin of victory ever has been… but this could easily top it.  Don’t watch for the game.  Watch for the history.

Good luck this week!  For those of you who got totally screwed last week by circumstances beyond your control, may you be reimbursed with good fortune this week.  Except Green Bay.  I hope you get reimbursed next week and that DeMarco totally sits out this week.

Real Deal Baseball Playoffs / Week #1

Todd Frazier points to the Twins bench and tells them the Astros will win, even if I have to fight all of you.
Todd Frazier points to the Twins bench and tells them the Astros will win, even if I have to fight all of you.  He then went on to score 41.22pts.

 

The first week of the Real Deal Baseball League Playoffs was a two part series. It included the Wild-Card matchups that were on Monday & Tuesday. Then the next series ran from Wednesday thru Sunday. As for the stats, I really only tracked the teams that were making a run for the Championship. Sure, there’s a Consolation Bracket. I’m not one for tracking those stats. It feels like a bracket to where every team gets to participate and then gets a nice ribbon as they get called up to the podium. League officials will say it’s more than that. The winner of the Consolation Bracket get a $50 or it pays for next season’s entry. I guess that’s more than a ribbon, but it’s still not enough for me to track the numbers. It’s all about the Championship, so that’s where this number’s guy/reporter is going to spend his time.

There were 2 Wild-Card games and they had the AL matchup with the Boston Red Sox pummeling the Texas Rangers 103 – 42.4. For the Red Sox, they got help from both the offense and defense. 3B Evan Longoria led all players with 19.848pts in just 2 days. On the mound, Francisco Liriano led the way with a 17.5pt start. Patrick Corbin had a solid start as well as he scored 12.5pts. For the Rangers, their lone bright spot was 1B Adam Lind as he scored 8.608pts.

In the NL matchup, it was the Milwaukee Brewers beating the Arizona DiamondBacks 91.4 – 71.4. For the Brewers, it was the offense that led the way with 2B Dee Gordon scoring 14.741pts and C J.P. Arencibia scoring 12.333pts. The D-Backs tried to keep pace on the mound as they were led by Dan Haren and his 13.25pts.

Then on Wednesday, it was onto the 5 day series from Wednesday thru Sunday. That pitted the Boston Red Sox -vs- Tampa Bay Rays / Minnesota Twins -vs- Houston Astros / Colorado Rockies -vs- New York Mets / Milwaukee Brewers -vs- Chicago Cubs.

The Tampa Bay Rays led all teams with 251pts as they beat the Red Sox 251-173. It was the OF’s that led the way for both teams. For the Rays, it was Mookie Betts with 35.751pts and the Red Sox led with Lorenzo Cain and his 33.52pts. Chris Davis also chipped in with 33.304pts for the Rays. The SP combo of Felix Hernandez & Zack Greinke led the Rays and all SP’s with 17pts each.

In a closer game, the Houston Astros defeated the Minnesota Twins 170-137. The difference had to be 3B Todd Frazier for Houston. He led all Real Deal players in these series matchups with 41.22pts. That’s nearly 10pts a day. You wouldn’t expect the catching position as an offensive position but the Twins relied on C.J. Cron as he led all catchers with 29.278pts. OF Yoenis Cespedes also helped the Astros with 28.752pts. The top SP performace was led by the Twins and Kyle Gibson’s 15.75pts.

In a matchup of NL Central rivals, the Milwaukee Brewers defeated the division champ, Chicago Cubs 214-184. A pair of offensive stars led the Brewers as 1B Edwin Encaracion scored 31.31pts and OF Jose Bautista scored 30.023pts. For the Cubs, they were led by SS Ben Zobrist with 27.056pts and OF Josh Reddick with 24.668pts. Another catcher with a big series was Kyle Schwarber as he scored 23.712pts for Chicago. OF Carlos Gomez also chipped in for the Brewers with 22.821pts.

The final series was the Colorado Rockies beating the New York Mets 158-127, in the lowest scoring series. Another catcher was the offensive star as Travis D’Arnaud led all Met players with 15.5pts. From the pen, Jeurys Familia came in with 14.25pts and that was the identical score for their top SP, Noah Syndergaard. The Rockies bullpen was top notch as the top scoring RP of this series was John Axford with his 21.25pts. Chad Bettis also chipped in with 14.25pts. The offensive star for Colorado was OF Nelson Cruz as he scored 17.25pts.

It’s now onto the NL & AL Championship series with the Milwaukee Brewers -vs- Colorado Rockes and the Tampa Bay Rays -vs- Houston Astros.

 

 

Real Deal Report: Week 1 Recap

Now that was quite a week!

 

Week #1 in RDFL didn’t disappoint – it had everything from missed field goals and extra points to ridiculous breakout performances from rookies (Ameer Abdullah) to ridiculous breakout performances from veterans (Stevie Johnson) to ridiculous breakout performances from overhyped pseudo-busts (Tavon Austin) to ridiculous breakout performances from guys who had been broken most of their careers (Tyler Eifert).

 

Since RDFL boasts double week schedules before the byes kick off, the first several weeks are critical to a successful season.  That’s great news if you are, say, Oakland, New Orleans, or Detroit.  That’s not such great news if you are Atlanta or Miami.

Finish Reading: Real Deal Report: Week 1 Recap

 

Game of the Week: Oakland 241, Kansas City 225

In the first of a rivalry game doubleheader, Oakland announced with vigor that the Raiders are a player this year, posting a 240 point total bolstered by an absurd 142 point offensive performance.  The scary part about that is that Eddie Lacy and Davante Adams, two projected studs, put up only average days, and the team was led by explosions from Tyler Eifert (35), Carson Palmer (27), and Jordan Matthews (24), with double digit performances from De’Anthony Thomas and Vince Coleman.  This is sustainable.  Sure, Eifert isn’t going to go off for 35 every week.  But Adams and Lacy very well could.  This Raiders team is here to say.

 

Rising:

 

New Orleans Saints: Ka. Freaking. Boom.  This team looks like worldbeaters in week #1.  It wasn’t just the 271 point total that they dropped on Arizona and Carolina.  It was the sheer BALANCE of the performance.  129 from the offense.  134 from the defense.  No single player scoring more than 23 points.  14/19 starters posting double digits.  Explosive performances win weeks, but don’t tend to be replicable.  When a team has THAT MUCH BALANCE – hard to imagine everyone is going to fall off a cliff at once.  And what would have happened had Brees, Sproles, or Graham gone off?  Look, are Nate Washington, James Jones, and Khiry Robinson sustainable?  I don’t know.  But even if they are not, this team got a fabulous start and looks really good.

 

Detroit Lions: My turn to eat a Crockpot full of crow.  This is not last year.  Some startlingly strong performances from interesting characters who I had serious questions about.  I see you Ameer Abdullah (33 points), Stevie Johnson (21 points) and Tyler Lockette (25 points).  And of course, the estimable Henry Anderson (28 points) and Glover Quin (25 points).  Unlike New Orleans and Oakland, I’m less convinced that these performances are sustainable, but when you score 231 points and crush your #1 divisional rival… that’s a good thing.  A very good thing.  Particularly when it does seem to suggest that players like Lockette, Abdullah, Stevie are here to stay.  Still, the question for the Lions is going to revolve around Stafford to Megatron.  This duo produced only 19 total points… if they get back to form, this team is going to be insane.  If they can’t, though, can the young guys really carry the team?

 

Pittsburgh Steelers: I know, I know, how can the Super Bowl Champions possibly be risers?  Two one-hundred point shellings and a 227 point performance without Le’Veon Bell bodes really well.  The challenges for the Steelers was also going to be a slow start in the absence of Bell and some of Roethlisberger’s big weapons.  But if Pittsburgh can get Bell back and find itself at the top of the division?  Look out.

 

Rising and Falling:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: It wasn’t a powerful performance points-wise for the Bucs, but make no mistake – this was a good week in the record colum.  Tampa Bay survived divisional rival Atlanta with a 3 point win, 176-173, and also knocked off Tennessee 176-152.  These were two challenging games on the schedule, and for the Bucs to emerge 2-0 bodes very, very well for their season.  So why falling?  Well, 176 points isn’t going to cut it if the Bucs want to keep competing, and they particularly need to improve on their 55 point offensive performance.  That’s going to be tough without a quarterback (McCown out with an injury) and star TE Owen McDaniels did not look great in an overall anemic Broncos offense.  The record is great.  But the trends don’t bode well

 

Falling:

 

Atlanta Falcons:  Owww owww oww owww.  This one hurts a LOT.  The Falcons got Brady back and looked like they were going to be a seriously competitive team.  And, on one side of the football, they were.  Led by Brady, Marshawn Lynch, and Julio Jones, the Falcons cruised to a 129 point offensive performance.  Unfortunately, the defense utterly failed Atlanta at a critical juncture, recording FIVE zeroes and not a single double digit performance on route to a woeful 27 points.  Brutally, Atlanta lost both games by 3 and 13 points to divisional rival Tampa Bay and Wild Card rival Philadelphia.  An even PASSABLE performance puts the Falcons at 2-0.  No rest for the weary either, as Atlanta gets high-flying New Orleans and the always crazy New York Giants.  An 0-4 start might be too much to overcome.  To make matters worse, Marshawn Lynch’s Mom insists that it’s owner Zach Wydick’s fault and is calling for his head.

 

Tennessee Titans: Tough week for the Titans.  I  love this squad as a young, rising, team – but week 1 showed how far away from prime time they still are, as Tennessee squeaked to a 152 point 0-2 start.  The biggest let down came on offense, as the Titans young core looked decidedly unexciting – Teddy Bridgewater, CJ Anderson, Kenny Stills, Tevin Coleman and Devin Funchess all scored in single digits, and Dwayne Allen and Odell Beckham only scored 11 each.  I suspect that with Breshad Perriman out and not dropping balls, some of Odell’s yang mojo may be impaired.  Whatever it is, Tennessee needs to hope that this week was a fluke.

 

Big Matchups in Week 2:
Atlanta vs. New Orleans: We’ve already discussed this one – but New Orleans can really establish some distance in the division with a win over Atlanta, particularly in light of Tampa’s QB woes.  Early must-win for the Falcons.

 

Baltimore vs. Oakland: The unheralded Ravens turned in a workmanlike 2-0 start with victories over Denver and Miami.  This showdown between contenders in the AFC West and AFC South is going to be closely monitored.  Combined with a likely win over the Bengals, a 4-0 start would position Baltimore very nicely, while another strong week for the Raiders (also play KC again) could give them a nearly insurmountable 2 game + tie-breaker lead in the AFC West.

 

Philadelphia vs. Dallas and NYG: The ever-loaded NFC East.  The NYG were the clear week 1 winners with a 233 point performance and a win over Dallas.  Now, the Eagles get both core NFC East competitors.  A win against both would give the Eagles early control of the division – a loss against both would be a huge hit to their chances.  This will be a dogfight all year long, but these early weeks matter a lot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Stars Real Deal Dynasty Baseball Week #21

Nolan Arenado(SDP) is all smiles as he finished the 2015 Real Deal season with a league best 72.25pts in Week #21
Nolan Arenado(SDP) is all smiles as he finished the 2015 Real Deal season with a league best 72.25pts in Week #21

 

Week #21 Recap: Week #21 was the final week of the Real Deal Regular Season. Man, how summer has just flown by! The season ended with the Tampa Bay Rays winning the AL East and have the best record in the league with a 76-17 record. The Boston Red Sox finished 5 games back but still made the playoffs with a 71-22 record. In the NL Central, the Chicago Cubs came in with the 2nd best record in the league with a 75-18 record. They needed every single win as they outlasted the Milwaukee Brewers by a single game as the Brewers finished 74-19. The Houston Astros of the AL West also finished with 70+ wins at 71-22. It wasn’t a cake walk season for them as they took the division by 5 games over the Texas Rangers at 66-27. The New York Mets had the biggest cushion in all of the divisional races. They won the division by 9 games as they finished at 67-26. The Miami Marlins finished their regular season at 58-35. The Washington Nationals also finished above .500 in the division with a 51-42 record. The NL West season has been like the Great Dust Bowl of the Midwest. However, the Dust has finally settled! Now that the dust has settled, you can once again see the Rockies on the horizon. The Colorado Rockies, that is. They won the division with a 63-30 record and took the division by 4 games. The Arizona Diamondbacks finished second at 59-34 and took one of the Wild-Card slots by 1 game over the Marlins. The San Francisco Giants also finished with better than a .600 winning percentage, at 56-37. The AL Central had the lowest winning percentage divisional winner as the Minnesota Twins took the crown with a 61-32 record. The Kansas City Royals did finish above .600 too with a 56-37 record.

Here’s a look at some of the top players for the week:

1B It wasn’t the high-powered scoring from the position that 1B is known for, but there were still some big games. Joey Votto(BOS) led the way with 46.393pts. Votto has to be the hottest 1B in the last month with just over 160pts. He’s also been over 30pts in 6 of the last 7 weeks of the season. He finished with 614.805pts and moved all the way up to 2nd at the 1B position. Chris Davis(TBR) came in with 43.438pts. He had slumped the last 2 weeks with only 9.8pts. Before that, he had scored 128pts the previous 3 weeks. He has 462.258pts and finished 10th for 1B.

2B Brandon Phillips(COL) was the only 2B to finish above 40pts as he scored 41.578pts. It was his second solid week in a row as he scored 34pts last week. It was sort of a De-Ja-Vu performance for Brandon as it was similar to his Week #16 & 17 showings, with 46 & 30pts. He has 416.35pts and is ranked 7th for 2B. Yangervis Solarte(ARI) came in with a 37.130pt showing. It was his 2nd best week of the season after he scored 40pts 2 weeks ago. He didn’t really start seeing any Real Deal playing time until Week #10 and he finished with 262.401pts.

3B Nolan Arenado(SDP) had a monster week as he led all Real Deal players with 72.25pts. He also had a big week with 69pts in Week #12, but hadn’t broke 30pts since then. He only had 4.8pts last week but finished the Regular season with a bang. He finished with 562.947pts and was the #2 ranked 3B in the league. Ryan Zimmerman(WAS) didn’t have a spectacular but has been playing solid lately. He had over 25pts in Week’s 18&19 and finished the season with a huge 65.43pts. It was the 3rd highest output in the Real Deal this week. Ryan ended up with 273.49pts on the season.

SS Jed Lowrie(PHI) only appeared in 9 weeks this season. That didn’t stop him from having the only 40pt+ week from a SS. After scoring less than 1pt in the last 2 weeks, he scored 48.495pts to finish the season. That gave him 158.035pts on the season. Veteran, Jose Reyes(TBR) also had a solid week with 36.52pts. Age has not slowed Jose down as he scored 95pts in the last 3 weeks of the season and looks to keep the streak going in the Playoffs. He finished the regular season with 369.075pts. He is ranked 5th among SS.

OF Bryce Harper(WAS) was the top OF early in the season, then he relinquished that to Mike Trout. Bryce took back over at the end of the season as he finished with a 65.792pts. It was the 2nd highest point total of the week. That gave Bryce 618.88pts and he was the only OF to finish over the 600pt mark. Carlos Gonzalez(COL) was the only other OF with more than 50pts as he scored 57.721pts. A nice turnaround after scoring less than 8pts last week. He finished with 465.426pts and was ranked 13th for OF’s.

C The #1 catcher in the Real Deal finished the season as the top catcher in Week #21. Buster Posey(SFG) scored 34.812pts as he led all catchers. That’s more points than the 32pts he scored in the last 3 weeks combined. He was the only catcher to finish above 500pts as he has 504.242pts. Pretty impressive considering that his teammate Brian McCann(SFG) finished the season as the #2 catcher with 401.139pts, over 100pts behind Buster. Travis D’Arnaud(NYM) was the only other catcher over 30pts this week as he scored 32.106pts. He finished the season with back to back 30pt weeks. He has 187.028pts on the season and is ranked 16th for catchers.

SP What about this old geyser? Instead of being worried about getting his colon checked, he’s more worried about throwing strikes. Bartolo(my)Colon(is fine) led all SP’s with 39.75pts as he even surprised his team, the Tampa Bay Rays with his resurgence. He was the only SP over 30pts and he finished the season with 327.5pts. With a nearly 60pt finish in the last 2 weeks, is he going to be having a off-season colonoscopy (necessary for somebody his age)? Or is he going to be working on getting back into shape(round) for the 2016 season? Dallas Keuchel(SFG) came in with 29.25pts. It’s his first 20pt game since Week #15. Dallas has 327.5pts on the season and is ranked 4th for SP’s.

RP Three weeks ago, Tom Wilhelmsen(NYM) only had 49pts in the 2015 season. Last week, he scored 17.5pts and this week, he led all RP’s with 25pts. That pushed his season point total up to 91.75pts. Andrew Miller(BOS) has been way more consistent as he scored 21.75pts. He was the only other RP over 20pts and he finished the season with 218.5pts. That ranked him 5th among all RP’s.

To see all the players listed as the 3 Stars, check them out below:

FIRST BASE:

Joey Votto………………….Red Sox………………46.393

Chris Davis………………..Rays…………………..43.438

Kendry Morales………….Pirates………………..40.880

SECOND BASE:

Brandon Phillips…………Rockies………………41.578

Yangervis Solarte………..D-Backs……………..37.130

Asdrubal Cabrera………..Rays…………………..36.202

THIRD BASE:

Nolan Arenado…………….Padres……………….72.250

Ryan Zimmerman………..Nationals……………65.430

Kyle Seager…………………Giants……………….43.675

SHORTSTOP:

Jed Lowrie………………….Phillies………………48.495

Jose Reyes………………….Rays………………….36.520

Alexei Ramirez……………Cardinals…………..34.564

OUTFIELDER:

Bryce Harper……………….Nationals……………65.792

Carlos Gonzalez…………..Rockies……………..57.721

Yoenis Cespedes………….Astros………………..49.437

CATCHER:

Buster Posey………………..Giants…………………34.812

Travis D’Arnaud…………..Mets…………………..32.106

Brian McCann……………..Giants…………………29.222

STARTING PITCHER:

Bartolo Colon……………….Rays…………………..39.750

Dallas Keuchel……………..Giants…………………29.250

Clayton Kershaw…………..Dodgers………………27.750

RELIEF PITCHER:

Tom Wilhelmsen……………Mets………………….25.000

Andrew Miller……………….Red Sox……………..21.750

Aroldis Chapman…………..Mariners…………….19.750

Free Agency Grades 2015

Good ol’ grades. Guaranteed to rile everyone up, whether they be on a first grader’s book report or a professional sports team’s offseason. Or even a fantasy league’s team’s offseason. I’d love to be like that hippy English teacher you had in 10th grade and be all, “Hey man, I don’t give grades because they’re reductive and oppressive, who wants to smoke a doobie with me behind the dumpsters after school?” but the fact is that grades get ratings, and we’ve got to pay the production bills over here at the Real Deal Report. Plus, ESPN does them, and these writeups are at least as crap as ESPN.

However, I will say that these grades are on a bit of a curve – otherwise, I’d be throwing more Ds around than JR Smith armed with a cell phone. The reason? It was all our first time doing this so nobody knew what to expect. Also, the crop was pretty lame this year. So here you go.

Grades, much like anime, only matter to a small group of weird people. So don’t get mad!
ATLANTA: D
Signings: N/A

Atlanta has one of the best top eights in the league, but beyond that there is literally nothing. And it’s not like I left the team with nothing to work with – there was nearly $15 million in cap space, which was more than enough to sign three or four quality backups. The ship has sailed on almost all of the useful FAs available and now ATL will be SOL if injuries start happening. This is not a team meant to be ignored by management.

BOSTON: A
Signings: N/A
For the Celtics, doing nothing was the best thing. There was some young talent they could have taken a gamble on, but nobody really worth blowing a portion of the nearly $70 million in cap space on. The team has six draft picks next month, identical to the amount of roster spots they have left. No sense in adding players just to have to get rid of some others when you can hoard cap space and young, cheap picks.
Boston was more than content to do nothing in free agency.

 

BROOKLYN: C
Signings: Kevin Seraphin ($2.3M), Cole Aldritch ($1.6M), Carl Landry ($1M), Justin Holiday ($1.2M) (via trade)

I took a gamble and went for a ton of players, which may or may not work out for me in the end. Certain guys, like Aldrich, Seraphin and Holiday (acquired via trade), are worth holding onto, but others, like Landry, are pure trade bait. Many others I ended up cutting right away because I knew I’d get nothing for them. A little more ambition wouldn’t have killed me, but it’s not like I’m going anywhere this season anyway.

CHARLOTTE: D-
Signings: Kent Bazemore ($18.2M), Clint Capela ($16M), Jerami Grant ($9M), Jarnell Stokes ($9M), Nick Johnson ($7M), Tarik Black ($6M)

I really hate to be this harsh, but it’s nearly impossible to defend any of these signings. These are all fine players, but with the exception of Kent Bazemore, none of them have played more than 65 NBA games and they’ve all ended up with proportionally huge contracts. The one signing that was at least sort of good and saved this team from getting a big fat F was Bazemore, who will probably get a lot of minutes on Atlanta’s wing this season. But other than that, things didn’t go super well for the Hornets. They will probably have to end up eating a lot of cap space unless they can find willing takers. Capela and Stokes might be worth $16 and $9 million some day, but that day is very far off.

CHICAGO: C-
Signings: Hassan Whiteside ($46.5M), Jordan Clarkson ($27M), JaVale McGee ($6M), Dewayne Dedmon ($620K)
File this under the “so crazy it might just work” category. The Bulls made Hassan Whiteside the richest man in Real Deal NBA by handing him a three-year, $46.5 million deal – $16 million more per year than the next-highest paid player (Kobe Bryant, $30M). They also made Jordan Clarkson the third-highest paid player in the NBA with a $27 million per year deal. Absolutely bonkers and totally unexpected, but it just goes to show the unpredictability of NBA free agency, even if it’s only pretend. I had just gotten through with calling the Bulls one of the thriftiest teams in the league, and now they have two of the three most expensive players. Sure, they’ll get a lot of production out of them, but are they really worth a combined $73.5 million? (Keep in mind, the salary cap is $81.6 million.) If Chicago can make it work, maybe it’s worth it. But there are definitely questions about both Whiteside and Clarkson. Chicago now begins the long and painful process of trying to wriggle back under the salary cap. Side note: I actually really like the Dedmon signing. Potential monster shot blocker.
Ladies and gentlemen, the richest man in basketball.

 

CLEVELAND: C+
Signings: N/A

Cleveland probably should have signed someone, but it’s understandable why they didn’t with more than $40 million tied up in LeBron and Melo. Cleveland could be in trouble in terms of depth and injuries down the road but the reality is there wasn’t really anyone available worth investing a ton in.

DALLAS: B
Signings: Nikola Jokic ($4.6M), Spencer Dinwiddie ($4.1M), Walter Tavares ($1.7M), Elijah Millsap ($1.7M)

I like these signings. After majorly reshuffling the roster, Dallas was in some pretty serious need of some depth players, and that’s what they got in these four. These guys are all far from a sure thing, though, so it may just be meaningless depth if things don’t go their way this winter. However, they do all have reasonable upside. I especially like Jokic and Tavares to make some noise this season.

DENVER: B-
Signings: Damien Inglis ($500K)

The only reason I attached a minus here is that Denver needs an upgrade at that guard spot and they didn’t get it. Still, Inglis is definitely a nice deal at the minimum salary. Denver didn’t really need to make a big move here to stay relevant so it’s nice to see they didn’t go overboard.

DETROIT: A
Signings: Kirk Hinrich ($2M), Ramon Sessions ($2M), Jon Leuer ($900K)
While other teams blew big cash on mediocre players, savvy Detroit laid back and scooped up some very dependable vets on team-friendly contracts. The team still has a ton of cap space left and may not be done making moves yet, but I like the way things have gone for Detroit so far. This team progressed toward answering some serious depth issues with these signings. They don’t instantly make them a contender, but all three are very solid pickups at great prices – a rare feat.
Who’da thunk I’d be calling this guy one of the smartest signings of free agency.
GOLDEN STATE: A
Signings: N/A

Golden State’s best move was to do nothing. Their roster is all full and they’re ready to go. Nothing more to say here.

HOUSTON: B
Signings: James Michael McAdoo ($501K)

Would have liked to have seen Houston go for a bit more in the free agency pool, but it’s not like the team needed a ton of help. McAdoo is nothing special but there are worse guys to have on your roster. There was no need to make a big move here.

INDIANA: A-
Signings: Allen Crabbe ($1.75M)

No point in Indiana going for anything huge this offseason. The team is still incredibly young and incredibly cheap – no need to muddy that up. I really like Crabbe as a sneaky good pickup this season. Everybody is raving about McCollum this offseason but I actually think there’s a decent role for Crabbe on a Blazers team that has nothing to lose this year.

LA CLIPPERS: B-
Signings: N/A

The Clippers are hard up against the cap, so it’s hard to criticize them too much for not making any moves, but this team, like so many others, has potentially significant depth issues and there were a lot of useful guys hanging around for a million or less.

LA LAKERS: B
Signings: N/A

Cap space prevented the Lakers from making a big move – but it’s not like they necessarily needed to make a splash in free agency anyway, so I can’t really pass judgment here.

MEMPHIS: A
Signings: Tim Frazier ($2M), JaMychal Green ($500K), Wayne Ellington ($12M) (via trade)

The Grizzlies didn’t need to add anything, but I really like the Frazier pickup. I wrote last time that he could end up being the steal of free agency and I stand by that prediction. Lillard will probably play 40 minutes a game, sure, but there are still backcourt minutes for Frazier. He was an assists god when he got to play last season and is a nice option for Memphis to keep on the bench. The addition of Ellington is likely a one-year trial run just because the team had cap room and a move I can endorse.

MIAMI: B
Signings: N/A

It’s always impossible for me to tell what direction this team is going in, and the lack of action in free agency didn’t exactly help to clear things up. I’ll give them a B simply because I can’t really justify giving them any better or worse.

MILWAUKEE: C+
Signings: Robert Covington ($23M), Markel Brown ($6M)
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of these players – but I’m definitely not a fan of the price tags. Covington was a big part of the Bucks’ success last season, and it was important to bring him back, but at $23 million? Covington is now the fourth-highest paid player in Real Deal basketball and out-earns all of his teammates by more than $20 million except for one: Markel Brown, who got a $6 million deal for his services. Brown is a freak athlete and has some upside, but he was a second-round pick by the Nets and is buried on the depth chart under Johnson, Bogdanovic, Ellington and potentially Dahntay Jones. The overpay for Covington I can understand, but the Brown deal was a bit of a head-scratcher.
When examining Markel Brown’s salary, just remember he can jump one million feet in the air.

MINNESOTA: A
Signings: Furkan Aldemir ($1.65M), Dwight Powell ($1.65M), Kendrick Perkins ($600K)
Dwight Powell is one of my big sleepers this year and was an excellent grab at $1.65 million. Carlisle loves this guy and the Dallas frontcourt is an absolute mess – seriously, have you ever even heard of Maurice Daly Ndour, Jarrid Famous or Brandon Ashley? Because that’s who he’s competing against behind Dirk at the four spot. Possibly the best signing of the offseason here. I also love Kendrick Perkins at such a low salary. He’s still a supremely underrated rim protector and will definitely play minutes. Smooth moves by the Wolves here.
No idea who Jarrid Famous is but I imagine he probably looks something like this.

NEW ORLEANS: A-

Signings: David West ($8.45M), Beno Udrih ($2M), Dante Cunningham ($1.3M), Joffrey Lauvergne ($1.3M), Martell Webster ($500K)
It appears that New Orleans is going for it this season after all. They traded two first round picks and brought in some nice veterans on pretty frugal deals. I’m especially a fan of the Lauvergne signing because of his high potential and the fact that the Nuggets frontcourt is such a disaster that he can maybe see a lot of minutes this year. This team was always good enough to make a push, and I’m glad they’re heading in that direction.

 

NEW YORK: C
Signings: JaKarr Sampson ($3.4M)
I think New York could have been more bold here, especially after seeing what Toronto, their only real rival in the Atlantic, did. $3.4 million is not a ton of cash, but it’s still an overpay for Sampson. There was a lot of cap space to work with here, but the Knicks did nothing to improve their situation.

 

OKLAHOMA CITY: A
Signings: Raul Neto ($3M), Chase Budinger ($2M), Seth Curry ($2M), Jonathon Simmons ($500K), Pierre Jackson ($500K), Shayne Whittington ($500K)
Depending on how things shake out, OKC may have hit a few home runs in the offseason. Neto can potentially start for Utah if Burke is really as bad as advertised and I can see Budinger carving out a nice role for himself in Larry Bird’s new up-tempo, three-point shooting scheme. Curry and Jackson are crapshoots, but at those prices, why not take a gamble? Low risk, high reward. The Thunder may have just solved their depth issues and remained under the cap in doing so, to boot.

 

ORLANDO: A-
Signings: Tayshaun Prince ($505K), CJ Wilcox ($600K), Jason Terry ($505K), Josh Huestis ($600K), Steve Blake ($505K), Drew Gooden ($505K)

Orlando’s strategy was a pretty good one (even if it wasn’t necessarily intended from the outset): wait until the dust settles, then come in and scoop up the leftovers for dirt cheap. The Magic roster is now full and with no picks this year, they’re all set. Lots of very nice vets here who should all continue to play meaningful minutes. I like the upside of Huestis and Wilcox (will he finally get to play a game?) too.

PHILADELPHIA: B+
Signings: N/A
A pickup or two might have been nice, but there was no urgency here for a Philly team that is not competing and has two lottery picks to fill out its roster. I’m fine with the lack of signings here.


PHOENIX: A-
Signings: Langston Galloway ($12.8M) (via trade), Luc Richard Mbah a Moute ($3.5M), Jabari Brown ($765K), Lance Thomas ($750K), Donald Sloan ($500K)
I like all of these signings because they are basically zero risk with potentially helpful rewards. Phoenix is building itself quite a deep squad here. I’m sure eventually they won’t enjoy paying Galloway $13 million but that can be sorted out later. Jabari Brown was a revelation when giving playing time last year. It might prove difficult for him to get on the court in 2015-16, but who knows with the Lakers. LRMAM is still a free agent but he’ll definitely wind up on a roster soon. Thomas and Sloan will both get good garbage time on those crappy New York teams.

 

PORTLAND: B
Signings: Thanasis ($2M)
NBA fans have been wanting Thanasis to make a roster for what seems like years now, and now finally seems like his chance to make it as the final guy on the 15-man roster in New York. Even still, $2 million is a bit steep for a guy with limited upside and the Blazers could have used some depth here. I don’t mind the signing, though, and they do still have two picks to fill out the roster.

 

SACRAMENTO: B+
Signings: Joe Ingles ($5.5M), Glen Robinson III ($500K)
I like both these signing for the Kings. Ingles is a legitimate player to plug in at that flex spot that they didn’t have before and Robinson is a great cheap upside guy. They could use another body or two on the bench, but you can’t complain about these two.

 

SAN ANTONIO: C-
Signings: Evan Turner ($19.8M), Paul Pierce ($17.8M), Kris Humphries ($16.8M), Quincy Acy ($1M), Nick Collison ($1M)
Hoo boy. Where to start? San Antonio was extremely lucky to be able to unload Ellington and Galloway’s contracts so quickly, even if it was basically for free. I do like Collison and Acy at one million a pop, but obviously there are concerns with Pierce, Turner and Humphries. The Spurs need to get rid of at least one of them somehow before they can even move Holiday and Jennings off of IR. There’s also the matter of San Antonio already having 14 players and six draft picks, meaning that a combination of five will have to be offloaded somehow. Two will be eligible for the minors, but unless they can flip those other three assets, they’re gonna be stuck eating some cap. This initial free agency period was a live and learn experience for all of us, but perhaps for San Antonio more than anyone.

 

TORONTO: A
Manu Ginobili ($7.5M), Omri Casspi ($5M)
Two really good signings. Manu probably has another six months of usefulness in him, and that will go a long way for a team that will be clawing to stay on top of its division. Casspi is also a really nice grab – remember at the beginning of last season when he was red hot? George Karl teams always have room for long range shooters, so expect Casspi to take a step forward this year. Along with Minnesota, probably the best free agency period in Real Deal and it will go a long way in Toronto’s Atlantic title defense.

 

UTAH: B+
Signings: Nemanja Bjelica ($3M)
One or two calculated moves was probably all Utah needed to make their team more competitive in the West, and Bjelica may just be the guy. The reigning Eurleague MVP, Bjelica has played great this summer in Eurobasket and is suddenly the talk of the town. The Minnesota frontcourt is one of the most crowded spots in the entire NBA, but as far as I’m concerned, give me Bjelica over a 70-year-old KG, Anthony Bennett or Adreian Payne any day. Hopefully Flip Saunders shares that opinion. Another signing or two could have served Utah well, but I consider Bjelica a fine pickup.

 

WASHINGTON: B-
Signings: N/A
The reigning champs have no dire needs but they could be in trouble in Dwyane Wade only plays 55 games this season, which is almost certainly the case. They certainly won’t be kicking themselves over missing any of the guys available, but there are some really visibly holes that the team has yet to plug.

Real Deal Report: 2015 RDFL Predictions: West Divisions

Ahhh the West.  Out where smoking marijuana is legal, time zones mean that you can actually watch sporting events and get up for an office job, nature is your friend and not your enemy (unless you live near rivers where the EPA actually CAUSES environmental disasters), and where you can never count on Super Bowl contenders, but you can always count on tight divisional races.

Finish Reading: Real Deal Report: 2015 RDFL Predictions: West Divisions

Manmade disaster in the west (spill in Colorado River)
Manmade disaster in the west (spill in Colorado River)

Yep, that’s the West.  Every year it is Seattle and San Francisco neck and neck in the NFC West, and Denver and somebody neck and neck in the AFC West.  And whoever wins can get knocked out early in the playoffs.  This year, will it be more of the same?  I tend to think so.

Manmade disaster in the east (Camden). Which is worse?
Manmade disaster in the east (Camden). Which is worse?

 

 

 

 

AFC West

Oakland Raiders (10-6): ::sigh:: As Kansas City, I’ve been waiting since this league launched for the inevitable decline of that ridiculous powerhouse that was the Denver Bronco offense.  And for the last two years, I’ve been horrifically disappointed.  But this year, the stars seemed aligned for Denver to take a step back.  Could it finally be my time?

Nope.  Damn you, Jordy Nelson. Damn you, Chip Kelly.  And Damn you, the Preseason.  Denver doesn’t win the west.  But it’s not my turn this year, it’s Oakland’s – by a nose.

In many ways, Oakland was last year’s surprise team, coming close enough to nearly win the regular season in the last couple weeks of the year – but not quite having the horses to do it.  I think people forget, though, what Oakland had stashed and didn’t get to use because of Injury.  Josh Gordon, Tyler Eifert, and Carson Palmer.  While Gordon is still out, simply getting Carson Palmer and Tyler Eifert back will be a huge boost to an offense that is already on the upswing.  Andre Holmes and Jordan Matthews will both be better with a year under their belts and Eddie Lacy will continue to be one of the best RBs in the game.  But Oakland got the push it needed when Jordy Nelson went down in the preseason, pushing Davante Adams into a starting outside role in the high octane Packers offense, and giving the Raiders the best offense in the division, hands down.

Defensively, this team is also startling good – and loaded with young talent.  The LB core of Preston Brown, Christian Jones, Paul Worrilow, and Dont’a Hightower should be spectacular, and the secondary is loaded too, with TJ Carrie poised to make a big leap forward and join Charles Woodson and the somehow “bad in reality, good in fantasy anti-Revis” Nate Allen.

It COULD all fall apart.  It’s a lot of reliance on guys who haven’t yet made the leap.  For all of Tyler Eifert’s promise, he’s done nothing but get injured at a pro level.  Carson Palmer could easily go down again.  A sophomore slump is possible for Andre Holmes (though less possible for Joran Matthews), and Davante Adams may not actually do much with his role.  But it looks good for Oakland.  Really good.

 

Denver Broncos (10-6):

And you know what?  The more I looked, the more I think the Broncos are going to be fine.  Peyton Manning to Demaryius Thomas is STILL an enormous advantage over the type of tandems everyone else can bring out in this division, and Anquan Boldin, Cole Beasley, and even the combination of DeAngelo Williams and Dion Lewis should be serviceable.  Defensively, while there are holes, there are still enough stalwarts like Jon Beason, Danny Trevathan, Chris Harris, Vince Wilfork, Rahim Moore, and Malik Jackson (sorry Malik Jackson, I am PHO REAL!  That plays in my mind every team I read this guy’s name.  I don’t know why) to make this defense at least solid.

Make no mistake – this isn’t the 2013 Broncos.  It’s not even the 2014 Broncos.  There are real holes on both the offense and defense, and even Manning to Demaryius probably isn’t as devastating as it once was.  This team is definitively trending downwards towards a rebuild. But I think they have enough horses this year to hold off at least the Chiefs – but

This goes out to all the baby mamas.  But that’s true of all Real Deal Reports.

 

Kansas City Chiefs (9-7):

And so I continue my destiny – high mediocrity.   My Chiefs are, IMHO, solid across the board.  Decent offense.  Decent defense.  QB Alex “I WILL throw a TD to a wide receiver, I WILL” Smith will have a serviceable squad of receivers in Jeremy Maclin, Pierre Garcon, Randall Cobb, and Tavon Austin – but Cobb is the only one of those guys who could realistically be called a star.  Frank Gore and Gio Bernard will also provide above average play (You cannot even know how much I hate Jeremy Hill, by the way).  And Jordan Reed should be a serviceable TE if he stays healthy, particularly with the decimated Redskins TE situation (he won’t, of course, stay healthy).

And on defense, every positional group is serviceable, with the exception of the DE spot.  The linebacking core could even be outstanding if things break right and such worthies as Derrick Johnson and D’Qwell Jackson can avoid injury.  But with Eric Berry working himself back into the mix, there just isn’t a lot of star power on this team outside of Justin Houston, and for the Chiefs, it continues to be a “just can’t quite get over the top” in the AFC.

 

San Diego Chargers (3-13):

It’s hard to predict a season with this kind of record for any squad that has Philip Rivers at the helm, but it’s going to be a tough season for the Chargers.  With Antonio Gates suspended for the first 8 games of the RD season, 1st round pick Kevin White out for even longer, and the ultra-expensive Riley Cooper fading into well deserved obscurity, the Chargers are going to be relying on Ryan Matthews, Malcolm Floyd, Jason Avant, Jermaine Kearse, and Brent Celek to score points.  None of these guys are worthless, but taken together, it is not going to be a very ferocious offense.  The ceilings are just simply not very high for any of these guys.

The defense should actually be very strong, with first round pick Bernie Dick McKinney joining Cory Liuget, Cameron Wake, DeMarcus Ware, Domata Peko, and Eric Weddle to give the Chargers some nice defensive star power.  And in all honesty, I really like the moves made to bring in defensive free agents – Nolan Caroll, and Zach Bowman should provide some nice value.

As I think about it, this defense should be solid enough that San Diego deserves a lot more wins.  And may well win a LOT more games.  I’m just not sure where they come from.  This division won’t produce a Super Bowl Challenger.  But it should produce an intense race and some very good teams.  And while anything can happen, and probably 6 wins is a lot more likely for the Chargers, I just don’t know who else to take them from.

::Sigh:: Which of course means they’ll win the division.  One of the tough things about writing these reports is that you are always providing a perfect source of bullet in board material – which I’m told thoroughly motivates player names on online spreadsheets.

Producing bulletin board material.  It's what I do.  You're welcome, San Diego. Stay classy.
Producing bulletin board material. It’s what I do. You’re welcome, San Diego. Stay classy.

 

NFC West

This division, man.  I mean.  I don’t even know.  The Seahawks and 49ers have each put together consecutive strong seasons.  But this year?  I’m struggling.  I’m looking at all four rosters.  And I’m struggling.  It reminds me of what would happen if you took all the Cleveland Browns quarterbacks from the last decade and put them together and had a quarterback competition.  Lots of entrants.  But would anybody want it enough to win?

This division is bizarre.  Each team has a franchise QB, a couple of stars, and holes big enough to roll a large cask of rum through.  With the monkeys we discussed earlier.  I’m in no way sure I can guess who is going to win – and I’m in no way sure I can eliminate anybody at all.  What I can say is that it should not be more of the same, as I think all four teams have a serious chance to win, and think there will be some serious unpredictability from week to week.

Arizona Cardinals (9-7):

So let’s go for broke and pick Nathan Reising’s cardinals for the surprise crown.  Will it happen?  Who knows.  But I like this roster, particularly this offense, the best of anyone’s, and I think it has the most upside.  Why?  Well, Matt Ryan is going to continue to put up good numbers, and I don’t think that Arian Foster is going to be out too long, which should give the Cardinals a vicious one-two punch for the second half of the season.  Beyond that, the Cardinals have some guys who could tank – but who also have some seriously high upside – CJ Spiller in the Darren Sproles role in New Orleans, and Percy Harvin in the “guy for Rex Ryan to throw under the bus for sowing clubhouse discord role” in Buffalo.  Rueben Randle, Marlon Brown, and Richard Rodgers all also have the potential for decent seasons.  I’m not saying it is going to be a good offense.  But in THIS division?  I think it will be the best.

Defensively, the JJ Watt trade is growing on me like a bad foot fungus.  I thought it was too much to give up for Watt when it happened, but it gives Arizona a 10 point edge at the DE position over everybody else, and combined with the offense, I think that will be enough.  Barry Church, TJ McDonald, Calais Campbell, Wesley Woodyard, and Craig Robertson give this defense a core of fantasy serviceable guys without big name appeal – and more than anything else, keep this from being a team with major weaknesses.  No real holes.

The more I looked at the Cardinals squad, the more I liked them.  And while this isn’t a team that I think is traditionally good, I do think it has the horses to finally unseat Seattle / SF atop the division – and if things break right, even make some noise in the playoffs.

Watt and the Cardinals may get bloodied... but I think they'll come out on top.
Watt and the Cardinals may get bloodied… but I think they’ll come out on top.

San Francisco 49ers (7-9):

Man.  Do I like this choice?  Not really.  Do I like picking a team starting RGIII at QB and losing key pieces like Aldon Smith in the off-season?  Do I like betting on a team that has 14 (Fourteen!) red flags on its roster at present?   Nope.  But I still think the 49ers have pieces, especially on defense.  I was surprised by the 49ers struggles last year, and expect a number of guys to have bounce back season.  Carlos Dunlap, Mean Willie Young, and Star Lotululei are actually a pretty solid front three, and the LB core of NaVorro Bowman, Sean Weatherspoon, and Michael Wilhoite should be absolutely serviceable (I expect Weatherspoon to play most of the year and Bowman has looked excellent in preseason action.  Shelden Richardson’s suspension hurts, but I still really do like this defense, especially the front seven.

I’m not enamored of the offense, and I think RGIII is a big fat zero at this point, but there are pieces here – Alshon Jeffery is GOOD – even Jay Cutler can’t take that away from him.  Michael Crabtree is mediocre, and even Colin Kaepernick can’t take that away from him.  Vernon Davis is GOOD – and while somehow Colin Kaepernick DID take that away from him last year, expect a bounce back.  And even youngsters Austin Sefarian Jenkins, Tim Wright, and James White should contribute.  Again, not a great offense, but a good enough one to compete.  This team would have been the odds-on choice without the injuries and suspensions.  But with them?  And with RGIII now out for the year… I can’t do this.  But who do I pick instead?

Crabtree needs this guy back in the worst way.. but I'm not sure even this guy could save RGIII...
Crabtree needs this guy back in the worst way.. but I’m not sure even this guy could save RGIII…

St. Louis Rams (7-9):

But what do I do?  St. Louis definitely has the edge at QB in Sam Bradford.  Assuming he can stay healthy.  We’ll make that assumption for the sake of optimism.  But after that?  This offense has Bishop Sankey and Chris Sims at running back, Jeff Cumberland in a starting role because the 2nd TE is the best flex option this team has, and Chris Givens and Cordarelle Patterson at Wideout.  It’s a mess.

The defense is alright, and James Laurinitis is a stud at LB, but its a middling sort of alright.  A Cedric Thornton, Janoris Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Darian Stewart, 8 points a game in a clowd of dust sort of alright.  It will keep them out of the basement, and if things break right it could be a downright decent defense.  But not enough to overcome that offense.

Ironically, St. Louis might be one of the most set teams at Quarterback in the entire league, with both Bradford and Mariota.  Bradford in a high octane Chip Kelly offense could legitimately be top 5, and Mariota could have an incredible career ahead of him.  It’s just fascinating that the QB group is so strong when the other positional groups have real holes – the opposite problem to the rest of the league.

Look, there IS potential here.  A lot of these guys could catch fire, particularly guys who a lot was expected of last year and who disappointed, like Sankey and Patterson.  But I still feel like this team falls behind of the 49ers, even without RGIII in a starting role.

 

Seattle Seahawks (5-11):

So you have to give new Seahawks owner Malcolm Herbert credit.  He doesn’t mess around with rebuilds.  When he rebuilds, he does. it. right.  Mercy.  Since taking over the Seahawks, he’s gutted the team in favor of bringing in young potential and draft picks.  Mediocrity doesn’t pay in this league – you’re either competing, or you’re tanking.  And you have to admire the guts in the strategy.  But MAN is this going to be a painful year for a team that is used to competing in the West.

It could be a historic disaster for the Seattle Seahawks in 2015.  But if they survive hypothermia, it could get brighter in a couple of years...
It could be a historic disaster for the Seattle Seahawks in 2015. But if they survive hypothermia, it could get brighter in a couple of years…

First, this is the worst offense in RDFL.  It’s Russell Wilson and then a tire fire.  A young tire fire.  Maybe with the potential to grow into a moderately useful ghetto-scenic tire fire.  But a tire fire.  Fantrax projects that besides Russell Wilson, the entire offense will score 12 points on the average weak.  TWELVE.  The highest number in that?  A monstrous 4.25 points from relative stud Lance Dunbar.  I’m serious.  If Russell Wilson gets hurt, this offense could set records for futility that may not ever be broken.

Even on the defense, the rebuild is in effect, and has even been hampered by bad luck.  The Kam Chancellor holdout is bad for Kam Chancellor.  He’s going to lose and look like a fool.  It’s even worse for these Seahawks to have one of their best players hold out for the critical part of the season.  There are other star parts, as we’ve come to expect from a Seattle defense, notably Bobby Wagner and to a degree, Aaron Williams.  And Denzel Perryman has potential.  But even looking across the rest of the defense, there are second stringers who are going to be playing a lot of downs for the Seahawks this year.

This year looks like it might be historically bad for the Seahawks.  Sam Hinkie 76ers tank level bad.  It’s a gutsy strategy – and should pay dividends down the road.  But while most cities have promotions where fans get free stuff when their teams win, Seattle might be advised to give away free stuff when their team scores more than 100 points.  Mercy.

Real Deal Report: 2015 RDFL Predictions – North Divisions

The mighty Norris divisions are probably the strongest top to bottom divisions in RDFL (across both conferences).  Every Super Bowl Champion has come from a Northern Division.  Last year’s Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers prowl the AFC North and the 2014 Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers roost in the NFC North.  Will North divisions make it a trifecta?  They may well.  Probably will.

Finish Reading: Real Deal Report: 2015 RDFL Predictions – North Divisions

AFC North:

Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4): What happens when the reigning Super Bowl champions get even better in the off-season?  Bad things.  Very bad things for everyone.

It’s really hard to find a weak spot on this team, but the strength is undeniably the defense.  From Defensive Tackles Kyle Williams and Jurrell Casey to Linebackers Alec Ogletree, Lawrence Timmons, and Keenan Allen to Corners Byron Maxwell and DeAngelo Hall – this defense is stacked.  The Defensive Ends (Allen Bailey and Tyrone Crawford) are the weakest links, but even they would be good enough to play for a lot of teams.  I predict a whole bunch of 100 point defensive games for the Steelers.

He's got the munchies... for yards!
He’s got the munchies… for yards!

And on offense, they are just as scary.  A rejuvenated Big Ben (when not assaulting people) will join a fresher, faster (when not high) Le’Veon Bell.  Also returning for the Steelers are surprising young receivers Jarvis Landry (trending up towards stardom) and Albert Wilson (trending downwards with Maclin’s change of scenery), and the offense is joined by first round draft pick TJ Yeldon, who should hog the lion’s share of snaps for the jags.  Mercy.   Even the depth is better this year for the Steelers, with guys like Markus Wheaton ready to come off the bench.

This team is scary good, and on-paper seems poised to simply run away with the AFC North – and possibly the entire AFC.  My only hesitation for them is similar to that I have with the Falcons.  If the Steelers struggle a bit out of the gate with the absences of Le’Veon Bell, Martavis Bryant, and Albert Wilson, and the rookie-ness of TJ Yeldon, it could open a momentum door for other teams in the league.  Still, it’s a stretch for me to imagine the Steelers missing the playoffs barring a serious, extended injury bug.

Baltimore Ravens (10-6):

Of course, this game isn’t played on paper.  What is this, the 80s?  It’s played on a computer.  Or a phone.  And on a computer or a phone, anything can happen.  That’s why they play the games.  And if the Steelers should struggle, the Ravens will be lying in wait.

Unlike their rivals in the steel city, the Ravens make their money on offense behind a series of guys who could produce

How do you cope with the fact that this guy likes you?  Death sentence.
How do you cope with the fact that this guy likes you? Death sentence.

maximum star power if they can bounce back from key challenges.  Joique Bell needs to bounce back from injury to hold off Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick for the starting job – but should produce a lot of points if he does with Reggie Bush gone.  Keenan Allen needs to bounce back from a major sophomore slump – and all signs point to him doing just that.  Mychal Rivera also needs to bounce back from an injury (though it is very hard to bounce back from the traumatizing psychological experience of playing for Oakland).  Christine Michael needs to bounce back from the traumatizing psychological experience of being traded FOR by Jerry Jones (I mean, come on, that’s pretty much indisputable evidence that you’re a bad football player).  And Amari Cooper simply has BOUNCE.  This is a good offense.  And all these guys have high ceilings – so this could be a GREAT offense if everything breaks right.

I have no similarly glowing accolades for the defense, however, and I think that this is the reason why Pittsburgh won’t be seriously challenged for the division title.  Remember Tampa Bay?  Same issue here.  With the notable exception of Telvin Smith, this defense is populated with a bunch of guys who play better real football than they do fantasy football.  The names sound imposing (Olivier Vernon, Haloti Ngata, Elvis Dumervil, Lardarius Webb, Terrell Suggs, etc.), but the production has actually been only above average, not star power.  Don’t get me wrong – this is not a bad defense by any stretch – and the combination of solid, potentially excellent, offense, and powerful, grinding defense should produce enough to get the Ravens a playoff spot.  But it’s a tall order to track down the Steelers, and I don’t think this squad can quite get it down.

Cincinnati Bengals (7-9):

The Bengals find themselves in the unhappy position of a rising squad – but rising right into two excellent teams.  It’s a little bit like when you dive in a crowded pool, and try to come up for air, and end up running into the rump of a large bather in one of those floaty donuts with a mimosa.  And so you drown.  In disgust.  That’s sort of what I predict for the Bengals this year.

If you look closely, you can see a Bengal Tiger trapped under there...
If you look closely, you can see a Bengal Tiger trapped under there…

This year’s edition of the Bengals has both star power (Andy Dalton, Reggie Bush, Vontaze Burfict, Geno Atkins, Karlos Dansby) and potential (Cody Latimer, Marqise Lee, Andrew Hawkins, Josh Morgan) – but it also has starting mediocrity (Jermaine Gresham, Harry Douglas, Taylor Gabriel, Buster Skrine, Derrick Shelby, Michael Johnson, Chris Owens).  It’s a decent team, and poised to get much better, particularly if Burfict can return from his injury and some of the younger guys can break out.  Still, I think the Bengals are at least a year away (this team could have a spectacular WR core in 2016 if things develop as hoped with Latimer, Lee, and Josh Morgan – but it isn’t going to be this year).

Cleveland Browns (7-9): 

Poor Cleveland.  This team has it going in the right direction.  But like Cincinnati, they have the nose pointed up, but not the torpedoes to power their way to the top.  And unlike anywhere else, they have the Cleveland miasma of futility floating above them, sucking the life out of the air and filling everyone on the squad with a crippling, crushing depression.

Still – there IS hope in the form of a core nucleus of young players that really do have a future.  Blake Bortles looked bad last year, but is still the Jaguars QB of the future and is surrounded by a number of impressive weapons.  Mike Evans IS an impressive weapon already, and should get even better with another year of experience and Jameis Winston under center.  Isaiah Crowell, Theo Riddick, Jeff Janis, Charles Johnson, Marvin Jones, Terrelle Pryor, Lorenzo Taliaferro.  The list of nice young talent on offense continues.

The defense has a corresponding list  – Joplo Bartu, Manti Te’o, and Avery Williamson at LB, Brandon Williams on the Line, and Clayton Geathers and Mo Alexander in the secondary.  Even guys like Shareece Wright qualify – the average age of this team is one of the lowest in the league, and the team has clearly been assembled for potential uber alles.

Owner Jeff Hemlick (left) hopes to look like this by the end of the year
Owner Jeff Hemlick (left) hopes to look like this by the end of the year

It’s a wise strategy – just about every player on this squad screams “lottery ticket” – it’s the type of team that pundits brim with optimism about at the beginning of the year, because sleeper lists LOVE this team.  And if enough of those lottery tickets hit over time, this team could be good.  The problem with lottery tickets, though, is that they depend on the role of the dice.  And even if enough of the dice rolls turn out to be in Cleveland’s favor, I struggle to think that enough guys are going to make large enough leaps to seriously threaten the Steelers and Raven’s.  The future is bright.  But the present is still Cuyahoga-murky.

One other note that makes me a little sour on the 2015 Browns is the secondary.  While Shareece Wright and Joe Haden are decent options (Haden is only decent because, like other poor souls like Darrelle Revis, he suffers from “Lockdown corner who doesn’t get thrown at and therefore doesn’t generate many fantasy point syndrome”), the rest of the secondary is going to be young and untested.  In a year when most secondaries are going to generate a good 40 points plus per week, the Browns are going to be at a 10-15 point secondary disadvantage in most games this year.

 

NFC North

The NFC North division comes into the 2015 season with less hype than in any other season of RDFL’s existence.  In large part that’s because the two divisional kings, Detroit and Green Bay, both enter the season with lower expectations.  That’s a function of injuries (Jordy Nelson), declining skills (Megatron, Reggie Bush, Jamaal Charles, Marques Colston), and a revolving Lions roster that seems to reinvent itself every year.

However, I think this division is going to be more fun than a barrel of monkeys.  Honestly, more fun than a barrel of rum and monkeys.  Honestly, more fun than a barrel of rum and monkeys and those weird foam spray cans that always show up (nobody knows why) at college parties.  Parity and uncertainty bring fun – and I think there’s lots of fun to be had in this division.  Does GB have another year in the tank without Jordy?  Will Detroit’s entirely new team be good?  Just how fast will Minnesota rise?  Is Chicago a 4-12 team or a 12-4 team?  This division could shake out in a lot of different ways.

Green Bay Packers (11-5):

Until they lose it, the Norris belongs to the Pack.   The loss of Jordy Nelson HURTS.  Big time.  You simply can’t replace Jordy Nelson with Kamar Aiken and not expect to pay some serious costs.  That said, this loss should not be enough to dislodge the Packers from the throne, particularly in light of their off-season trade with the Cowboys, which brought in Tony Romo to replace Aaron Rodgers – but more importantly, added DeMarco Murray as an additional offensive player, depth which looks increasingly critical today.

That said, it’s going to the TRAINER who is the most valuable player for Green Bay’s chances, and if I’m the Packer’s GM, I’m investing in a whole damn health system in the off-season.

  • Tony Romo – 35 – back problems and vaginal dryness
  • Jamaal Charles – 28 – durability concerns and a history of season ending injuries
  • Kamar Aiken – ?? – suffers with a malady called “not very good at football-ness”
  • Andre Johnson – 34 – history of health problems and season ending injuries
  • DeMarco Murray – only 27, but 80 bajillion carries last year – history of major injuries
  • Charles Clay – actual only 26 – you’d just think he’s 63 because he has a name that belongs in “Clue”.
  • Marques Colston – 32 – History of injury problems and declining skills

That is either one of the best offenses in the league, or the best IR in the league.

The key to the Packers season...
The key to the Packers season…

Fortunately for the Packers, the defense is much younger and healthier, (with the exception of the secondary, which includes already injured Orlando Scandrick, aging Antonio Cromartie, and Rashad “I lost a finger.  I iced it.  I had a great season.  Wusses.” Johnson).   Indeed, younger guys like Jared Crick, Sam Barrington, and David Hawthorne form the core of this defense.  And while I project this defense to be quite good, there are holes, as the Packers need strong performances from guys like Josh Mauga, Corey White, and William Mayes Hayes (runs like Mayes, tackles like #()$&(*).  It’s a concern.

Here’s the north in a nutshell though.  If the Packers training staff is good enough to stave off major injuries, a little aging, and the occasional yeast infection, Green Bay wins the north.  Otherwise…

Detroit Lions (10-6):

Why Detroit?  Stafford to Megatron. And nobody gets THAT unlucky with young players two years in a row.  Right?

Detroit was my favorite to win it all last year.  I loved the combination of studs and young talent.  It was a team I thought had no holes and was going to massacre people Game of Thrones Style.  Instead, they ended up in a Jaime Lannister role, losing a hand and eventually stumbling to a mediocre playoff missing finish.  Injuries to key playmakers meshed with young studs who just never really developed (Bishop Sankey and Cordarelle Patterson being only the two most noticeable).

NOTE: BAM!  Game of Thrones reference.  That’s my first.  But that makes me bona fide.  Because for whatever incomprehensible reason, it is now a requirement that every professional sports writer reference Game of Thrones at least once a month.  And I wanted to be professional for you guys.  Only the best for RDFL.

Never one for patience, Lions owner Michael Seraphim deep-sixed the roster and traded most of his team for most of the draft in order to depend on Rookies again.  There’s three schools of thought on this:

1. Seraphim thinks he is John Calipari and this is college basketball (but it is NOT)

2. Seraphim actually IS John Calipari and is enjoying applying his standard one and done tactics in a professional sport

3. The rookies plug holes – and eventually, you’ll hit on some serious lottery tickets.

We can pretty much eliminate #2 (college basketball IS a professional sport for Cali-sleazy.  Yes I’m a Kansas fan.  Yes I’m butthurt about constantly losing recruiting battles.  He’s still sleazy!).

Gratuitous Kansas Reference for no apparent reason! Take that, Kentucky!
Gratuitous Kansas Reference for no apparent reason! Take that, Kentucky!

Therefore, whether you believe #1 or #3 pretty much dictates what you think about the Lions chances this year.

Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson are back to headline the offense.  But beyond that, it’s question mark city.  Ameer Abdullah,  Josh Hill, Tre Mason, Brandin Cooks, Tyler Lockett, Todd Gurley, Phillip Dorsett… that’s a pretty spectacular range of outcomes right there.  Very high ceilings.  And to my mind, enough strength to make this offense great.  But I thought that last year about Sankey, Cooks, and Cordarelle Patterson.  It’s HARD to rely on rookies.  And Detroit needs to thread the needle to get those rookies to stud status before Megatron breaks down like a 1982 Geo Tracker.

It’s a similar story on the flip side of the ball.  Jamie Collins is a certifiable fantasy stud.  Steven Tulloch is a beast.  And I’m pretty sure James Ihedigbo is a hacker, because he continues to put up fantasy points on the online in spades despite not actually being very good and never seeming to show up in actual games.  But after that – the list of young question marks starts: Stephon Tuitt, Ego Ferguson, Tahir Whitehead, Kyle Van Noy, John Jenkins, LaMarcus Joyner…  The defense also has a major range of outcomes.

In the season two finale, we find out that Mr. Robot, who engineered the downfall of global capitalism, is actually a socially awkward James Ihedigbo.
In the season two finale, we find out that Mr. Robot, who engineered the downfall of global capitalism, is actually a socially awkward James Ihedigbo.

End of the day, I think enough guys hit that Detroit gets into the playoffs this year.  But remember what I said last year…

Chicago Bears (7-9):

 The Chicago Cubs suffer from the Curse of the Billy Goat.  The Chicago Bears suffer from the fact of Jay Cutler.  It’s not a curse.  It’s much less mystical and easier to understand.  The man is Donald Trump’s lovechild.  The family resemblance is uncanny.  Look:

  • Most distinguishing feature: Bad hair.
  • Offends everyone effortlessly: Check and check.
  • Picks fights with media, positional coaches, and debate moderators: Yup (Kromer, Aaron and Kelly, Megan)
  • Turns entire organization into clownhouse:  Yes.  See Party, Republican and Bears, Chicago for more details.
  • Biggest Issue: Trump wants a wall to protect him from illegal immigrants, Cutler wants a wall to protect him from Defensive players who sack him all the time.

And yet, somehow, inconceivably, Trump leads the Republican polls and Cutler is starting for the Bears.  I can’t explain either result.

Like father...
Like father…
Like son...
Like son…

Beyond Cutler, this team is intriguing.  Davante Parker and Martavis Bryant join Brandon Marshall, Cutler, and Forte to form an offense that has the potential to be startlingly potent, though there is not a lot of depth – Brian Hartline and Jacquizz Rodgers are not going to strike fear into hearts on bye weeks or in the case of injury.

Intriguing is the right word for this team on defense as well.  I generally tend to like the Fantrax point projections – I think they do a good job.  But this is a team I think that a lot of the projections may be scoring low – guys like Eugene Sims, Desmond Bryant, Kevin Minter, Kwon Alexander, Nate Irving, and Jamarca Sanford – I expect all of them to well outperform their Fantrax Projections – and hell, their Lipper Averages for that matter.   And guys like Frostee Rucker (99 cents at Wendy’s while supplies last), Ron Parker and Da’Norris Searcy will provide solid play.

Look, I think the Bears are where they have always been – close enough on paper for Green Bay and Detroit to pay them heed and worry a little bit.  But I think they suffer the same fate they always have – the Jay Cutler will dismantle them in the end – just as the Donald will end up being passed by Jeb Bush or somebody.  I’m telling you.  They have to be family.

 

Minnesota Vikings (4-12):

The good news for Minnesota is that I think this team is going to be VASTLY better than last year’s edition.  The bad news is that I just don’t think it is going to show up in the wins column – at least for one more year.

I’ve been effusive in my praise of Minny’s team-building and draft strategy, and I think that owner Pedro Fiadeiro is building a winner the right way – and that this team really will win.  Nelson Agholor, Allen Robinson, Dorial Green-Beckham, Joseph Fauria, Jace Amaro, Jerick McKinnon, Eric Kendricks, Vic Beasley, Harrison Smith, Marcus Peters, Jonathan Bostic… this team is loaded for the bear with young talent.  And they do have some returning veterans in Greg Jennings, Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen and Chad Greenway to teachup the young guys.  It’s definitely not enough for this year, though – too many of these guys are rookies and the lack of a sure thing QB (Matt Cassell is the only one the Vikings have right now) is going to be too much to overcome this year.

That said, wins and losses are not going to be the real story for the Vikings this year.  The real story is going to be – who pans out and how quickly from their stable of young players?  And what do the Vikings try to do with valuable offensive assets like Jennings and AP – do they hold on to them and try to win next year?  Or do they trade them off to continue the rebuild?

The Vikings remind me a lot of the real NFL Detroit Lions, who struggled through a decade of futility, drafted well, and hoarded high picks before becoming a perennial playoff contender.  The Vikings need that final piece (a franchise QB) and hope that that QB will put them on an even higher trajectory than the NFL Lions – a Super Bowl, not just playoff appearances.

 

 

 

 

Real Deal Report: 2015 Real Deal Football Preview – East Divisions

NFC East

The NFC East WAS the RDFL.  This division was sheer insanity.  Particularly the top half.  The Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants were arguably the two best teams in Real Deal last year, and the rivalry games within this leagure were so far beyond nuts that they made sense to Michelle Bachman.  So, which of these two incredible teams will I pick to win the division (and possibly the Super Bowl) this year?

Clearly, its’ the….

Finish Reading: Real Deal Report: 2015 Real Deal Football Preview – East Divisions

Philadelphia Eagles (11-5): 

THE Stagg.  King of the NFC east.  Father of Bambi.  Shot by Cowboys?
THE Stagg. King of the NFC east. Father of Bambi. Shot by Cowboys?

Yup.  Make no mistake.  This team was not as good as the Giants or Cowboys last year.  But it was a damn good team in its own right.  And to my mind, the Giants and Cowboys have taken a step back while the Eagles have taken a double step forward.  It’s a brutal schedule in a brutal division, but I think the Eagles have the horses to do it.

Why? Well, for starters, I like that defense – both starters and depth.  It’s not so many teams that can boast a linebacking core that averages 12ppg, or a DE combo that averages 10 ppg – or has starting backups coming off the bench at every major position.  Not only is the defense deep, but it has star power, with Mychal Kendricks, DeMeco Ryans, Fletcher Cox, and the Honey Badger leading the way.

On the other side of the ball, the fascinating Philadelphia Eagles have NO Philadelphia Eagles, relying instead on a

Just like this guy, Jason Witten ain't dead yet. In fact, he's getting better.
Just like this guy, Jason Witten ain’t dead yet. In fact, he’s getting better.

collection of interesting players from other squads.  This team is the ultimate in guys that don’t look like much, but that should produce solid point totals.  LeSean McCoy is still a clear stud, but he’s surrounded by non-star producers like Colin Kaepernick (remember when he was hyped?), Michael Floyd (remember when he was hyped?), Breshad “the anti-Odell” Perriman, Shane “PPR stud” Vereen, Larry Donnell (Yeah, nothing to say about him, really), Jason “I’m not dead yet.  I’m getting better” Witten, and even Stedman Bailey, who came on strong last year.

Put together, this team has no glaring weaknesses and has the depth to survive injuries.  I genuinely think that this is the Eagles year to conquer the East and go deep into the playoffs.

 

Dallas Cowboys (10-6):

I’ll be honest, the Cowboys make no sense to me on paper.  I had the Cowboys last year as fighting for the last wildcard spot.  Instead, this team eviscerated the universe and mauled its way to an upset defeat in the Super Bowl, its dreams shattered by a punter.  And after a ballsy off-season trade for Aaron Rodger, the cowboys have arguably gotten better in the off-season.

You picked the Cowboys to finished 2nd?!? Better run fool. Ima do to you what they did to everybody else last season!!!
You picked the Cowboys to finish 2nd?!? Better run, fool. Ima do to you what they did to everybody else last season!!!

But it still doesn’t make sense to me.  Offensively, this team is top heavy – Aaron Rodgers, Jeremy Hill, and Dez Bryant are one hell of a trifecta.  And Delanie Walker is still a high end tight end.  And I guess I see John Brown coming into his own with Carson Palmer this year.  And Devin Hester WAS actually worth that 1st round pick Dallas used to trade for him last year.  And Allen Hurns IS underrated, particularly from a fantasy perspective and particularly if Bortles takes a leap forward…  so i guess I’m talking myself into the Cowboys…

But at the same time, the Kelvin Benjamin loss HURTS.  And at the end of the day, I just can’t help but wonder if Brown, Hurns, Hester, Walker and the rest of the supporting cast are really actually that good?  Are they good enough?  Stats suggest they are… and I suspect they WILL play well.  But will they?  Really?

The defense also confuses me.  Sean Lee I get.  He’s a huge step forward.  But Daryl Smith is projected to be the third best defensive player in the LEAGUE this year.  How?  Antrel Rolle.  Thomas Davis.  Chris Clemons.  AJ Bouye.  Bradley Fletcher…  I just don’t KNOW.  Every statistical projection of this team agrees with last year’s results – the Cowboys should score a lot of points and still be a powerhouse.  But when I look at the team, my fantasy eye test tells me it just shouldn’t be that good.  And I can’t reconcile the two.

So for the same reason I picked the Cowboys to fight for a wild card spot last year, I pick them to finish second in the division this year.  And probably the same thing will happen and they will maul everybody else in the universe Ronda Rousey style and put me in some sort of crazy Armbar submission in twelve seconds.  And I’ll still have no idea how.

 

New York Giants (9-7):

Last year’s giants reminded me a little bit of Jimmy, the red-suited guy from Double Dragon.  Bad-ass in his own right.  But always second fiddle to the blue-suited guy, Billy, for some reason.  Or Luigi.  Or the 1990’s Buffalo Bills.  A spectacular team.  But also just slightly second fiddle…  I felt for this team.

Poor Luigi. Poor Giants.
Poor Luigi. Poor Giants.

This year, under new ownership for the third consecutive year, the Giants are going to be a force to be reckoned with.  But I feel like they may still end up playing in the shadows, toiling just behind in a spectacular division…

Unlike the other two squads ahead of them in the division, the Giants make sense to me.  Their strengths and weaknesses are crystal clear.  Strength – OFFENSE.  Weakness – DEFENSE.  If this were an NFL team, there scores would look something like 87-63.  At the end of the third quarter.

I mean, Dear Lord look at that offense.  Eli Manning should step up his game this year with a full year of Victor Cruz and Odell Beckham, and many sites are projecting him as a top 10 QB.  Justin Forsett surprised last year and could well be a top 10 back this year.  And THEN it gets scary.  Dear Lord, those receivers!  Antonio Brown, the consensus best receiver in the game is joined by DeAndre Hopkins and TY Hilton to potentially give the Giants three top 20 receivers to go with those other weapons.  Terrance Williams has the potential to be a breakout WR4, and the Giants are bringing potential starters / stars like Eric Ebron and Rashad Jennings off the bench.  It’s silliness.  This team should eclipse the 100 point barrier on offense regularly, and on those couple weeks when all those guys explode at once, could set an offensive scoring record without too much trouble.

On defense, though… mediocrity.  Not a single defender is projected to score 12 or more points per game, and only 4 guys on the squad are projected into double digits, compared to just about everybody on the Eagles defensive roster.  Sure, guys like Christian Kirksey, Kawann Short, and Brock Vereen could surprise – but honestly, it’s just as likely Prince Amukamura and Jerod Mayo get hurt, or Shamarko Thomas’ production doesn’t materialize.  I think this offense is the best in RDFL.  But I think this defense is decidedly mediocre.  And in a division with the Cowboys and Eagles, I don’t think mediocre gets it done – though a wild card birth is definitely possible if things break right.

 

Washington Redskins (3-13):

It’s not easy to be a Redskin.  Living life in this division is INSANE.  And while the Eagles, Cowboys, and Giants are dominant, Washington is just simply nowhere close.

Don’t get me wrong, this team has some very nice pieces.  LB CJ Mosley is already a star and just keeps on rising.  Richard Sherman gives this team some nice attitude.  Travis Kelce is a blossoming star at TE, and nobody is denying that DeSean Jackson can hit home runs or that Andre Ellington is a solid player, particularly for that salary.

But man.  Jacoby Jones, Danny Woodhead, and Brandon Pettigrew all in unquestioned starting roles?  No offensive depth to speak of?  No QB (especially following Brady’s suspension)?  Literally half the starting defense not guaranteed starting roles on their own teams?  I give owner Matt Finn credit – he took over a team in a bad spot and has drafted well, made some nice moves to bring in talent, and seems to have a plan.  But the talent gap between Washington and the other three teams in the league is painful.  In almost every case within these predictions, I am quite willing to acknowledge that I could be completely and totally wrong, and anybody can win.  But here, I just see no real way that the Redskins don’t finish 4th in the NFC East.  Times will change.  But it’s going to be a long 2015 campaign.

Exactly the reversal that Washington needs.
Exactly the reversal that Washington needs.

 

AFC East:

Moving over to the AFC, we have a division that shaped out easily last year, with the Buffalo Bills running away with the division, Miami playing a solid Wild Card contender role, and New England and the Jets gamely competing.

This year, I see more of the same – at least at the top.

Buffalo Bills (12-4):

Wait, but how can there be more of the same when Nick Foles is no longer in Philadelphia and Julio Jones, Arian Foster, Julius Thomas, and Rolando McClain, just to name a few, are no longer in town?

Well, it reminds me of a time long ago when I was used to playing the original WarCraft.  And a friend showed me WarCraft II.  And about the time he was churning out 87 Knights, I wanted to know why he needed such a big army.  And he turned to me and said in a tense voice “Because the other guy’s got a BIGGER one”.  Yup. Why is it ok that Buffalo got rid of such a big group of studs?  Because in return, he got a BIGGER one!

Rob Gronkowski replaces Julius Thomas.  Latavius Murray replaces the oft-injured Arian “Australian for Running Back” Foster, Marquess Wilson and Victor Cruz replace Julio Jones, and the defense somehow still seems loaded for the bear.  And AJ Mother _(&#($*&#**$( Green.

Yeah, Foles may take a step back.  But Gronk’s the best tight end in the game by a long shot.  Marquess and Victor are no slouches when teamed with AJ, and Latavius should have a breakout year now that he’s finally getting his chance.  The defense has solid double digit performers at almost every position (and would have had more had JPP not blown his hand off), and this team has so much more firepower than anyone else in the AFC East can match.  And three nice, juicy #1 picks for next year to use as trade bait.

The question isn’t so much will Buffalo repeat as AFC East champions.  The question is whether or not Buffalo can knock off the Steelers for the AFC Crown and compete for a Super Bowl.  Can Buffalo take that next step and be THE big fish?  Or will they just be the biggest fish in the AFC East (the rough equivalent of seeming like the most sensible guy in a facebook political debate).

Which fish is the Bills. I know they aren't the purple one... but are they green, orange, or red?
Which fish is the Bills. I know they aren’t the purple one… but are they green, orange, or red?

After Buffalo, it gets a lot tougher in the East, as the Jets, Dolphins and Patriots all have a range of outcomes running the gamut between Wild Card competitor and dumpster fire.  So I’m mostly guessing as to how the rest of the division will shake out.  But here’s what I think.

Miami Dolphins (8-8): 

I think Miami has the best shot to get closest to contender status again this year, simply by virtue of having the most proven team with the fewest question marks.  Ryan Tannehill isn’t necessarily a stud QB yet, but he’s a sure thing.  Same can be said about Mike Wallace, and it’s probably even early enough to say it about Sammy Watkins.  And, well, that’s about where the sure things end.  At least the good sure things.  Jonathan Stewart should have a sure starting role.  But he may also be a sure bet to get injured.   Ronnie Hillman is sure to be a backup.  Dwayne Harris is sure to have his name misspelled.

And the defense is sure to struggle.  I actually think Miami is going to have a very strong offense compared to the rest of the division – Harris and Hillman are question marks – but the top four have the capacity to be very good.  It’s the defense I’m worried about.  Robert Quinn is exceptional up front, and the secondary, anchored by Alterraun Verner, Rashad Jones, and DJ Swearinger, should be solid.  But I don’t see a lot of star power here, and I don’t see a lot of sure things, even among the starters.  If things break right, this defense should do enough to support the offense and get Miami to a second place finish.  If things go really right, the Dolphins might even contend for a playoff spot.  But if things break incorrectly, this defense could struggle to put up more than 50 or 60 points a week.

New England Patriots (7-9):

Those wheeling and dealing Patriots are back at it again this year, with a motley collection of interesting pieces that, like the Dolphins, have a very wide range of outcomes.  In fact, I think the Patriots could be the biggest wild card in the AFC.  A quick look at the offense is illustrative:

– Brian Hoyer might be a strong starter all year for the Texans and throw many touchdowns to DeAndre Hopkins, or he might lose his job by week #3.

– Jordan Cameron might be a top 5 TE.  Or he might have five concussions on his top.

– Lamar Miller might finally fulfill his potential as a bell cow back in an Eagles-styled Bill Lazor offense – or he might be himself.

– Andre Roberts might maintain his starting role and catch some touchdowns – or he might lose his starting job to Jamison Crowder

– Dwayne Bowe… yeah.  No.  I can’t forecast a positive outcome for Dwayne Bowe with a straight face.  I have integrity.

– Alfred Blue might be a starter in a RB-focused offense – or he might be a backup again by week 3.

It continues with the defense too!

– Bruce Carter might be the PPG stud he proved to be last year – or he might lose his starting job to Danny Lansanah and Kwon Alexander and chill on the bench.

– Charles Johnson might be a stud DE… or his calf injury could be one of the lingering kind…

– Trent Cole might experience an Indy resurgence and reach double digit sacks.  Or he could be stuck way behind Robert Mathis in an LB rotation that barely gets him double digit snaps.  We’ll see.

The defense actually has the capacity to be pretty good – guys like Corey Graham and Mike Adams anchor a solid secondary, and enough of those question marks should turn out positive that I think this defense outperforms Miami’s.  But this team could boom.  Or it could bust.

NY Jets (6-10):

The Jets, unfortunately, are the team in this league most likely to end up as a dumpster fire.  I think they actually have a pretty strong defense, and arguably have the most defensive star power in the division.  To my mind, though, this team simply has the lowest level of upside for its question marks.  Where the other groups have wild cards that really could come up aces, I can’t help but think that the ceiling for a lot of the guys the Jets are going to be relying in is about a seven of spades…

It's the Jets people. I HAD to post this guy. It was either that, Shelden Richardson, or Rex's departing rear end. You know I made the right choice.
It’s the Jets, people. I HAD to post this guy. It was either that, Shelden Richardson, or Rex’s departing rear end. You know I made the right choice.

Looking at the offensive starts: Ryan Mallett/Johnny Manziel, Melvin Gordon, Rod Streater, Joseph Morgan, Luke Willson, Chris Ivory, Lance Moore, Toby Gerhart.  Where is the upside?   I just can’t see it.  Melvin Gordon might have some real upside.  But he’s a rookie.  Beyond that?  The highest possible achievement for any of these guys seems to be starting.  I foresee weeks when the Jets will literally score 20 offensive points.  And it’s hard to win that way.  It’s hard to compete that way.

Now the defense IS better, as I said.  Maybe the best in the league.   The Franchise Jets Defenders are still performing at very high levels (Mo Wilkerson, DeMario Davis, David Harris, and when he gets back, Sheldon Richardson).  But the Jets have augmented that defense with some nice pickups from other teams, including Sharif Floyd at DT, Brandon Flowers at CB, Ha-ha Monica Lewinsky, Keenan Lewis, and Hussain Abdullah at Safety.  I literally think there are going to be games when the Jets score 150 points – and only 25 of them come from the offense.

But it’s hard to win with 150 points in this league.  And I don’t think the Jets have the juice to get a lot more than that on a regular basis this year.   Even in a best case scenario.