2017 Real Deal Dynasty Baseball Preseason Power Rankings: 20-11

This posted is continued from page 1, rankings 30-21.

  1. Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore needs a 1st baseman. This is the first thing I noticed when looking at the team. First base is a position that can represent a fantasy cornerstone player.  (See Miguel Cabrera, Anthony Rizzo, Paul Goldschmidt, Joey Votto, etc.) Without one, it will be hard. There are a few bright spots on the offense though, with DJ LeMahieu and Stephen Piscotty. The rest of the outfield should be decent, but probably not quite strong enough. On the pitching side, it’s hard not like Gausman going into the year, especially on that contract. Bundy could be a break-through, too, but I feel like I have been saying this for years. Overall there is some talent, but it feels like a stretch to say this team will be competing this year, especially in that division.

  1. Philadelphia Phillies

Philly is a team that has yet to make any moves this year, which is curious. On offense, Pedroia, Franco, and Trumbo are good bets to be solid consistent producers. Franco could even be someone who could improve drastically. Rupp is someone I like this year too, at a thin position. The rest of the offense is more of a question mark. Hernandez and Joseph, if they progress, could be nice. Bourn, Werth, Guyer, and Lowrie, not as exciting, though they will at least provide some points, unlike some teams who have rookies or injured players in these slots.  For the arms, not much stands out beyond Hamels and Watson, though I do think that Greg Holland has the chance to be a steal, and would make for excellent trade bait, or a good keeper. Nova should be okay too, but is a little expensive. In fact, this team is more than $20 over the limit, so moves already have to be made. In summary, probably not a staff that can be a huge difference maker.

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers

       

On first glance, I notice that this is certainly a team with talent, but there are also three minor league players in starting positions. This helps in terms of fielding a compliant roster, but that’s about it. Still: Manny Machado, Jose Ramirez, Clayton Kershaw, and to a lesser extent, Adrian Gonzalez, Yadier Molina, and maybe even Puig and Duda, who knows. There are some guys I like on that staff that could be sneaky good, too. Walker (NL now…could be in for a big year), Baez, Strop, Ottavino, and in particular, Matt Moore. Still, there are some holes on the roster in the form of those minor leaguers. And if a team is going to be carried by its offense, that outfield isn’t all that intimidating. Don’t sleep on the Dodgers, though. There’s a large farm system, with some good names. Trades or call-ups could change this team’s outlook, as obvious as that may sound. Though he would have to make some changes, after not making a single trade in 2016. Finish Reading: 2017 Real Deal Dynasty Baseball Preseason Power Rankings: 20-11

  1. Toronto Blue Jays

Starting with the offense, this is a pretty solid roster. Not really a glaring hole, but aside from Carpenter and Polanco, there are some question marks. Will Buxton will emerge? Will Vargas reach his power potential? Can Reyes still play at a high level? I’m willing to guess that for at least one of these, the answer will be yes. On the pitching side, there are certainly some steady contributors. For one, I am a believer in Marcus Stroman, and think he comes back strong this year. Manaea is another player I like to take a jump this year too. The bullpen is unspectacular, but there are players that will contribute. Keep an eye on Cam Bedrosian, who has been lights out this spring. His name is one that could be a lot more popular come mid-season. Lastly, this is another deep farm system, with multiple top-100 prospects, which provides hope for the help in the future, or ammo for in-season trades for a more immediate run.

  1. San Francisco Giants

The future down we get, the more you see a “complete team.” And by that I mean literally, a team with all spots filled. In every spot on this offense, there are players that are going to contribute consistent points, or will at least be given the opportunity to do so on a regular or semi-regular basis. Some more (Posey, Seager, Pence), than others (Mahtook, Jay, Smoak), but still, points are points. In looking at the pitching staff, your eyes may first go to Bumgarner. Hard not to. But Ian Kenndy, and then bullpen names like Jeffress, Madson, and Strickland should put up some good points. And maybe Keuchel has a year closer to 2015, or at least better than 2016. Of note here, too, is the fact that the Giants also have plenty of players in the farm system.

  1. Atlanta Braves

I think this could be a sneaky good offense. Let’s start with the obvious contributors: Wieters, Pujols, Jones, Kemp. But what about Thames, Haniger, Polanco, and maybe even Saladino? You’ll also have some decent contributions from Gomez and Garcia. Could potentially be a deeper offense than it seems, if one of those aforementioned question marks can break out. Regarding the pitching staff, though, this isn’t as much depth. Sure, Teheran and Ramos will offer plenty of points, but some of the other names are quite average, Dickey, Garcia, Koehler, or even just not very good, Peralta, Knebel. German Marquez could be a nice sleeper though. Not a bad minors’ system here, either, with top 100 names like Albies, Allard, and Anderson in the mix.

  1. New York Yankees

Last year, the Yankees made 59 trades, most of which were non minor-to-majors moves. The team improved from 8-85 to 37-56 last year. Expect another jump this year. Since last season, the Yankees have acquired, among other assets, Justin Upton, Chris Carter, Brandon Phillips, Eduardo Rodrigez, Brandon Finnegan, Mike Montgomery, and Jerad Eickhoff. He also has a healthy Greg Bird for 2016, a player that many people look at as capable of having a star-turning breakout season. In his active minors, he has some players that could help soon, too, in guys like Aaron Judge and Jose De Leon, as well as guys that can help now, like Eduardo Rodriguez. Other certain players, if they pan out, could end up helping too. Names like Severino, Refsnyder, Mitchell. Still, even by slotting in Rodriguez, Severino, Holder, and Mitchell, there will be two open roster spots to fill. Free agency is looming though, so things should pan out. A solid roster coupled with a breakout season or two could help to improve the Yankees, a team on the upswing, once again.

  1. Miami Marlins

Last year, the Marlins made to the NL Championship against the Cubs, but ultimately fell short. Since then, the team has moved Chris Sale, Drew Pomeranz, Neftali Feliz, Steven Wright, Shelby Miller, Eduardo Rodriguez, JT Realmuto, Rougned Odor, Addison Reed, Francisco Liriano, and David Freese. In those deals, he’s added, among others, Corey Kluber, Yu Darvish, Shin-soo Choo, Nathan Karns, Chris Owings, CJ Cron, Dee Gordon, and Jeff Samardzija. Points prediction wise, the system didn’t seem to favor these moves, but knowing Miami, there are multiple moves to be made. Not to mention, this is a team has Mike Trout, Dee Gordon, Corey Seager, Christian Yelich, in addition to some of the other names mentioned above. I’m trying to steer clear of predictions here, but I am guessing that Miami’s mid-season power ranking is going to be a bit lower on the list. (That is, closer to the top 5-10.)

  1. New York Mets

Check out the offensive depth here. Some teams don’t have full rosters. The Mets have Jason Heyward, Gerardo Parra, Michael Brantley, and Brett Lawrie on their bench, along with a few others. The roster, aside from (promising) rookie Hunter Renfroe, all contributed more than 200 points last season. When healthy, Matt Duffy should be a nice player, too. Beltran, Pederson, Realmuto, and Simmons will put up steady points all year. To the pitching staff we go, where deGrom, Syndergaard, and Matz (if healthy) will anchor the starters. Will Hernandez improve like Verlander, or will he slide more? That determination will have an impact on this team, for sure. Harvey is hitting 97 MPH on the gun too…. The relievers are less impressive than the rest of the team, though he does have Gsellman as an RP available, along with Seth Lugo, who could be decent.  The Mets regressed from 2015 to 2016, but we could see and upswing this year if people stay healthy.

  1. Kansas City Royals

The last of the middle group is the Royals, who were a playoff team last year. Looks like the team is poised to once again put up points, with a roster that includes Wil Myers, Robinson Cano, Yasmani Grandal, Jackie Bradley Jr, Jonathan Villar, Jay Bruce, and a healthy Mike Moustakas. If the Royals are going to make another run, though, they will be relying quite heavily on the offense. This a staff that, if we are looking at last year’s numbers, only has two players that eclipsed 200 points, both of which are relievers (Will Harris and Kenley Jansen, the latter of which should once again put up monster numbers, to be fair.) Maybe a Robbie Ray breakout season could assist here, otherwise the Royals will be looking to acquire pitchers, or just stack up an already formidable offense to win games.

2017 Real Deal Dynasty Baseball Preseason Power Rankings: 30-21

Rejoice, fellow baseball fans. The 2017 Major League Baseball season is almost here, and with it comes a fresh chance for all of us to once again chase the Real Deal Dynasty Baseball crown.

Will the Chicago Cubs, both the MLB version and the Real Deal version, have a chance at repeating this year? Sure. But there will be plenty of other teams and owners that will doing their best to prevent that. In an attempt to show just which teams have the best shot at unseating the Cubs and making out of the long season as the league champion, I’ve put together a Power Rankings list that factors in the projected points for each team.

Since the league’s current projections are different from what our actual point scoring system is, primary league Commissioner Jeff Hemlick helped me come up with a calculation that would help give us a good idea (but not perfect idea, mind you) of where all of the teams stack up. The method is inexact, so I will omit the actual numbers, but please do note that these rankings are entirely based on the numbers, and not any predictions. Also consider that the calculation is not perfect, and that these are just projections. (Which is to say, don’t take it as gospel.)

First, the projected top offense this year is the Boston Red Sox, who just edged the Milwaukee Brewers. The top projected pitching staff this year is the Arizona Diamondbacks by a good margin. Who has the second best projected staff? Again, the Milwaukee Brewers. More on them much, much later in the list.

So without further ado, the 2017 Power Rankings.  Finish Reading: 2017 Real Deal Dynasty Baseball Preseason Power Rankings: 30-21

  1. Seattle Mariners

       

This probably isn’t too surprising. This is a team that doesn’t have a full offense, and the majority of its players are rookies. There are some pitchers on the staff that are likely just there to fulfill roster requirements, and a few that will likely be trade bait later in the season, in order to obtain more prospects, because the cupboard is quite bare there, too.

  1. San Diego Padres

Sometimes it can be tough to keep the minimum amount of franchise players for your fantasy team. This is a good case, as San Diego is basically going into the season with one franchise player who will contribute. The weather in San Diego is beautiful. This fantasy season for the Padres may not be. That said, if you are curious how this team is being built, go check out the farm team. Absolutely loaded, including big names like Brinson and Robles. Oh, and he also has Yoan Moncada. So the long-term picture isn’t so murky.

  1. Los Angeles Angels

Another team in transition with a number of young players in key positions. Not a team that is necessarily going to be competing this year, but also a team with a good amount of prospects in the pipeline, headlined by Manny Margot and Rafael Devers, etc. There are also some pieces here that will be tradeable during the season, so if a team like this remains patient, the team could be in much better shape in a few years.

  1. Chicago White Sox

This is an interesting team. There are some stud names on both the offense and defense, but overall the depth isn’t quite there, since the team some spots to fill. Empty spots definitely impact projections, hence why Chicago is here. Still, the team could choose to try and compete this year by acquiring some MLB-ready talent, or to move names like Frazier and Greinke (and others) to acquire younger talent, and punt to next year. Keep an eye on this team if you are a buyer, or a seller.

  1. Pittsburgh Pirates

Not exactly a sexy roster, but there are certainly some names here that are going to be highly-tradeable commodities, if that is the path that is chosen. A big minor league system here, too, with top 10 talent Austin Meadows leading the pack.

  1. Minnesota Twins

This is a tale of two teams. The offense looks like it could put up some serious points. Stanton, Walker, Odor, Hosmer, Crawford, and Braun. Not bad. Scroll down a bit further, though, and you’ll see a pitching staff with only five names, one of which just had Tommy John surgery. Of the remaining four, only Paxton has true upside, unless you see Wacha having a bounce back season. To compete, Minnesota would need to make a lot of moves for pitching, and I am not sure he has the ammo to do so, even with Joey Gallo in the minors.

  1. St. Louis Cardinals

Well, he’s got a full team. So he’s got that going for him. There are some real solid players on the roster, for sure, mostly on offense though. There are also four rookies in starting slots, and the pitching staff, particular the starters, look a bit thin. But there is young, inexpensive talent on the offense, so it may not be crazy for this team to be turned around sooner rather than later.

  1. Cincinnati Reds

Tough blow to see Reyes needing Tommy John so early in the offseason. I personally had a lot of faith in him having an excellent season, both in real life and in fantasy, but these injuries do happen. Again, this should be another rebuilding type season for the Reds. There will be some in-season trades for the Reds, I am betting, as he looks to bolster an already deep minor league.

  1. Colorado Rockies

The pitching staff leaves a lot to be desired here, but there are some bright spots on the offense. Colorado will have some weeks where there are a ton of points put up, I am guessing, but overall I just don’t see the team being deep enough to make a serious push.

  1. Oakland Athletics

This should be a decent offense. Acquiring Schwarber probably feels pretty good right now. Sonny Gray came in that deal too, and who knows, he could easily have a bounce back season as well. That said, the A’s aren’t there yet, in terms of being able to compete with the teams that will be outlined later on in the rankings. Things can happen quickly, though. Ask Jeff/take a look at the new Cleveland Indians roster…

Parts 2 and 3 coming soon…

Real Deal (Football) Report: Wildcard Recap

And then there were eight.  In a series of solid contests, divisional winners went 4-0 over wild card squads to produce a full chalk advancement and set up some of the games we’ve all been waiting for.

Finish Reading: Real Deal (Football) Report: Wildcard Recap

Detroit Lions 216, Philadelphia Eagles 171

Tyler Lockett had 31, Matthew Stafford threw for 28, both the offense and defense broke the century marker, and Detroit cruised to an easy 45 point victory over the Eagles in the wildcard round – though since Lockett played on Monday Night, the victory appeared much more questionable up until that point.  The Eagles were undone on the defensive side of the ball, where not a single player reached double figures.  Combined with a Witten goose egg, it was simply too much for the Eagles to overcome.

Arizona Cardinals 198, Atlanta Falcons 150

The bright lights of the playoffs do strange things to teams.  Atlanta and Cleveland are both teams that are vastly better than they showed in the Wild Card round, leading one to wonder just what sort of first time playoff jitters both teams were experiencing.  Julio Jones came to play with 23 and Jay Ajayi got a respectable 16, but nobody else on the team scored more than 11 points as the Falcons stumble to a quick exit.  Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 4 point whimper will increase the cries for Goff over the off-season.  Arizona, on the other hand, put in a strong, workmanlike performance that shows they know what the playoffs are about and are planning on a long stay.  Shady McCoy led the way with 32, Brandon LaFell snared 22, and the Cardinal offense outscored the Falcon offense by 40, proving to be the difference in the game.

Kansas City Chiefs 244, Cleveland Browns 115

Cleveland’s drama and triumph happened in week 12, when the Browns posted a nice win and won a four team tie-breaker to make their first ever RDFL playoff. It was a huge milestone for what has been a struggling franchise, and a great step on the rise to success.  Coupled with a bye week that away 5 starters and an injury to star receiver Marvin Jones, one could forgive the Browns for just being happy to be there.  The Browns were lifeless from the jump, falling behind 25-9 on Thursday night and staying there.  Both sides of the ball were abysmal as Cleveland posted 48 offensive points and 55 defensive ones on the way to their worst overall performance of the year.  Still, a first ever playoff experience deserves congratulations.  Kansas City, meanwhile, took advantage, feasting on defense.  The front-line trio of Everson Griffen, Kyle Williams, and Dante Fowler combined for 66 defensive points, the defense put up 153, and Jordy Nelson added 31 to make this a convincing route.

Houston Texans 230, New England Patriots 201

The best game of the playoffs was never truly decided until Monday night, as the Houston Texans and New England Patriots both put up strong performances worthy of playoff teams.  New England road strong games on each side of the ball, getting a well rounded 95 on offense and 92 on defense.  Houston countered, however, with a preposterous ground and pound game all weekend long behind a 40 point explosion from David Johnson and a 36 point complement from Jordan Howard.  As a result, Houston outscored the Patriots at RB (Frank Gore and Kenjon Barner) 75-15, more than enough to make up for the difference in the game.  Still, a hugely successful year for the 12-4 Patriots, who would have advanced against 3/4 NFC teams in the Wild Card.

 

Divisional Round Predictions:

Carolina Panthers vs. Arizona Cardinals: This battle of playoff veteran teams also appears pretty one-sided.  The Panthers have the 2nd ranked offense and 6th ranked defense in football, while the Cardinals are on the middle of the list.  Injury concerns do loom for Carolina though, with Luke Kuechly and Kurt Coleman still in the concussion profile, Eddie Royal and Robert Woods suffering from lingering injuries, and whatever the heck is going on with the real life Cam and the Panthers threatening to impinge.  Still, the biggest danger to me is that the Panthers look past the Cardinals this week.  Face to face and at full strength, Arizona would need a repeat from Shady and much more to knock off the Panthers.  But if Carolina turns in a dud, Arizona is absolutely strong enough to capitalize

Prediction: In a startling break from my playoff rule about never predicting Carolina, I pick Carolina.  This is largely because Carolina seems to have their own rule about winning every damn playoff game.

New York Giants vs. Detroit Lions: To my mind, this is the best matchup of the divisional round, and potentially one of the best 2 vs 3 divisional matchups we’ve seen in a long-long time.  The Giants were the best team by far in fantasy points in the regular season, dropping out of the top slot by virtue of a pair of back to back losses against teams like LA playing their hearts out.  Let’s be clear, though – they scored 3775 fantasy points, which is an AVERAGE of more than 230 per game.  When they are on, they are massacring people.  By contrast, the Lions won their division handily, are an outstanding team in their own right, and scored 3219.

Prediction: New York Giants.  It’s hard to vote against Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, and the best point total in RDFL.  I’m riding the Giants until Carolina beats them and makes me look bad.

Buffalo Bills vs. Houston Texans: Here’s where things get interesting.  The red-hot Texans against the wounded but still powerful Bills.  Houston is on a tear, winning some ridiculous number of games in a row (is it 11?) and posting 230 points in a very strong playoff performance.  As Jordan Howard emerges in the Bears backfield as a stud, this team just gets stronger.  Nobody wants to play them, and they are a brutal 12-4 four seed.  At the same time, the Bills injuries are well documented, with Gronk, AP, CJ Prosise, and AJ Green suffering major injuries and Alshon Jeffery suspended.  So does this bode well for an upset?  Hard to say.  Because of that defense.  Just when everyone thought the Bills might be vulnerable, they dropped a 156 point defensive day to combine a still solid 80 points from the offense to score the most points in fantasy in the week #12 double and maintain the #1 seed.  Same old Buffalo.  Wounded?  Yes.  Still fighting?  Absolutely.  This is going to be one heck of a fun game.

Prediction: Houston.  Going out on a limb here and saying Houston is too hot and the injuries are too much.  But man this will be close.

Baltimore Ravens vs. Kansas City Chiefs: Another one that should be close.  The Baltimore Ravens have not lost since week 3.  This team has done nothing but win, week after week, game after game, opponent after opponent.  Add to that the sudden re-emergence of “good Joe Flacco” and Dennis Pitta, and this is a ferocious team that nobody wants a piece of.  The Ravens make their hay with their #3 ranked offense that could get even better, and feature a complimentary #9 defense.  The Chiefs, meanwhile, are riding high after their wild card round laugher, but will be watching the injury news all week anxiously for updates on Jordan Reed and Tavon Austin.

Prediction: Baltimore.  You don’t go against a team this hot, especially not after seeing what they would have put up last week had they been playing!

Good luck to all, and condolences/congratulations to Atlanta, Philadelphia, Cleveland and New England.

Real Deal (Football) Report: Playoff Predictions 2016

EDIT: I am officially an idiot.  Carolina is the #1 seed in the NFC and NYG is the #2. I have amended my predictions accordingly

The playoffs are here!  It’s crazy!

I’m writing a post!  It’s crazy!  I know, I know.  I’m sorry.  It’s been a rough year, both timewise and otherwise, and my attention has been elsewhere. Finish Reading: Real Deal (Football) Report: Playoff Predictions 2016

In fairness to myself, I wrote a full and detailed apology, followed by a 3.5 hours treatise analyzing the playoff chances of 16 total teams before the season’s final week, as well as a detailed recap of the previous two.  I clicked save draft.  I shut my computer.  I came back Thanksgiving morning to edit and post and found that I had only the first paragraph.  I was demoralized, and had neither the heart nor the time to duplicate either the apology or the treatise.

So, as they say in Canada, “Sorry ‘boot that that!”

Anyway, ya hosers, thanks for sticking with me, and I am hear to predict the playoffs.  A little drama in the commishing world today, so it’s Thursday night after games have started.  “Sorry ‘boot that.”

In any case, here goes nothing!

NFC Playoffs

#1 – Bye – Carolina Panthers

#2 – Bye – New York Football Giants

#3 Detroit Lions vs. #6 New… wait… Phil… wait.. New Orl!… wait. nope.  It’s Philadelphia.  It’s the Philadelphia Eagles.

After stat correction mayhem featuring the New Orleans Saints vs (ironically) these very same Detroit Lions, the Lions prevail in their final match of the season against the Saints and avoid a rematch, getting the Eagles instead.

It’s worth noting at this point that absolutely nobody has ever gotten more screwed by stat corrections than the New Orleans Saints, who had the only undefeated regular season in real deal history in 2013 – until they lost it in a stat correction the final week of the season.  The constant state of anxiety Saints fans feel about Monday and Tuesday stat changes is downright legit.

The metrics, needless to say, like Detroit in this wildcard matchup.  The Lions are 6 overall in fantasy points, the Eagles 13th.  The Lions have the 7th ranked offense and 13th ranked Defense, while the Eagles are 12th and 18th respectively.  The last time the Eagles outscored the Lions on an individual week was week 9.  Add to all this that the Eagles have four starters questionable with injuries (not even talking about Jamaal Charles) and 10 ppg DT Jurrell Casey on bye.  It’s rough.  The Lions, to be fair, also have a #1 RB in Ameer Abdullah on the IR, and do lose Jaime Collins on bye.  However, with Leonard Floyd returning to practice, it’s a much better week for the Lions, who have played better both all season and the last few weeks.

Prediction: Detroit

#4 Arizona Cardinals vs. #5 Atlanta Falcons 

A classic example of the highest seed not necessarily being the better team, the Cardinals cruised through the year to an easy championship in a weak NFC West.  The Falcons faced the exact opposite challenge, warring to a wild card in RDFL’s hardest division.  The metrics in this one all point the Falcons way, though.  Atlanta is 9th in fantasy points scored compared to Arizona’s 16th.  The Falcons also have better offensive and defense metrics, finishing 11th on offense and 6th on defense.  The Cardinals are consistent, coming in at a solid 16th on offense and 15th on defense.  It’s got to be a little hard to win a playoff game when Ryan Fitzpatrick is your quarterback, but that defense is downright excellent and the receiving core of Julio Jones, Kelvin Benjamin, John Brown, and Mohamed Sanu are going to be tough to beat in the playoffs.  Arizona hasn’t scored 200 points since week 2 and hasn’t scored 100 points on either offense or defense since week 4.  Just like in the other NFC playoff game, both the long-term and short-term trends predict an obvious result.

Prediction: Atlanta

 

AFC Playoffs:

#1 – Buffalo Bills (246 patients in week #12 with all those injuries…)

#2 – Baltimore Ravens (nothing like a 12 game winning streak, eh?)

#3 Kansas City Chiefs vs. #6 Cleveland Browns

After winning the tie-breaker of the century through head-to-head victories and a brutal Tennessee Titans collapse down the stretch, and benefiting heavily from Pittsburgh forfeits, the Browns heroically claim the wildcard for a playoff berth… only to have a week #13 wild card round bye.  My goodness. That is stinking horrible, as the Browns are only one of two teams with a scheduling quirk week 13 bye.  It costs them star running back Isaiah Crowell, starting TE Gary Barnidge, and four defensive starters.  Ouch.  Cleveland’s strength all year has been its quietly underrated #4 ranked offense, compensating for a porous (#20 overall) defense.  It’s going to be hard to maintain that without Crowell and Barnidge, but the Browns have been proving people wrong all year.   They’ll need a huge game from their passing attack of Blake Bortles, Marvin Jones, Jeremy Maclin, MIchael Crabtree, and Mike Evans.  The Chiefs, on the other hand, will be without Jordan Reed yet again, but totally avoid byes.  The Chiefs scored the most points in the AFC in the regular season and have a top 6 offense and defense… it’s the sort of game KC should win hands down… but it’s also the sort of game where you almost want to pick Cleveland for just that reason.

Prediction (Oh man I hate to do this to myself!): Kansas City

#4 Houston Texans vs. #5 New England Patriots

A pair of two of the quietest really good teams you will ever see will rematch in the wild card round.  The two hooked up in a nice week 3 game that New England won 211-193 behind 6 defensive takeaways (3 picks, 3 forced fumbles).  Jameis Winston and Carlos Hyde went nuts to keep the Texans close, but couldn’t quite close the gap.  Both teams hang their hats on offense, (Houston #5, New England #9) and try to keep their defenses off the field (New England #17, Houston #21).  New England loses Delanie Walker, their star TE, and Damien Stafford to bye weeks – but its not as much as a curse as it might seem – Cameron Brate, Walker’s replacement, threw down 27 against Houston in week 3.  A repeat of that would not be amiss at all.  Still, Houston has been one of the best teams in the league after a slow start, reeling off a whole passel of wins behind an outstanding offense, and they are totally healthy and facing no bye losses.

Prediction: Houston 

 

For the record, here’s how I expect the playoffs to play out in total:

Wild Card Round:

Detroit over Philadelphia

Atlanta over Arizona

Kansas City over Cleveland

Houston over New England

 

Divisional Round:

Carolina over Atlanta

New York Giants over Detroit

Buffalo over Houston

Baltimore over Kansas City

 

Divisional Championships

New York Giants over Carolina

Baltimore over Buffalo (injuries finally catch up)

 

Super Bowl

New York Giants over Baltimore

 

Good luck in the playoffs everyone!

Real Deal (Football) Report: Week 8 Recap

Well, well, well things are starting to get interesting!

Week 8 brought an influx of upsets and surprising results, with a full 7 games that could reasonably be classified as upsets. As a result, both the NFC and AFC wild card spots are getting fascinating.  With just 5 games to go in the season, fully 22 teams remain in striking distance (within 2 games) of a playoff spot, and with the exception of the undefeated 11-0 Bills, not a single one of the divisional races is cleanly decided  It’s going to be fun from here on out!

Game of the Week: Arizona Cardinals 165, Carolina Panthers 160

With apologies to Dallas’ narrow 186-182 squeaker over a suddenly injury ravaged Philadelphia Eagles squad, this one makes the cut both because of how tight the game was, and how substantial the playoff and seeding implications could be in the competitive NFC.  Both teams nearly hit the century mark on defense, didn’t break double figures on special teams, and cruised to disappointing 50something performances on offense.  The difference?  A Practice Squad Poach.  Earlier this week, Devontae Booker was hanging out on the Vikings Practice Squad.  The Cardinals snared him and flipped him into the starting lineup, where he scored 18.5 points.  On a week when Shady McCoy, Richard Rodgers, and Michael Floyd all put up zeroes, Devontae was the difference.  Watch the Practice Squad folks.  It can make or break you!  As a result, the Cardinals move into sole possession of first place for the first time all year while the Panthers fall back into a tie with the hard-charging Falcons.

Teams Rising: 

Dallas Cowboys: Ok, you don’t get game of the week.  But an upset like that deserves a shoutout.  The Cowboys rode 20+ points from Carson Palmer, Davante Adams, and Allan Hurns to barely overcome a 50 point explosion on Carr.  It’s the Cowboys first win since Washington in week 2, and provides some hope that the young core of players that the team has put together via trade this year will make a solid foundation moving forward.

Oakland Raiders: Well now.  This is what happens when Oakland finally gets healthy, eh?  Dez is back.  Tyler Eifert is back. Jonathan Stewart is back.  Aaron Rodgers seems to have recovered from whatever funk was plaguing him early on. The result is a 230-164 obliteration of Tampa Bay, which would have been worse had the Raiders even remembered to start Eifert.  Oakland has very quietly won three straight to move to 6-5 and pull within 1 game of the wild card and 2 games of the division lead in the West.  The Raiders could continue to make some hay with games against Denver and Indy coming, before a brutal stretch of Houston, Buffalo, and Carolina to close the season.

Houston Texans: The Texans are tied for first place.  After a bipolar start to the year, the Texans have now put together four straight victories against decent competition to tie for the AFC South lead.  Their latest win, a 212-184 triumph over the Lions, was no joke either.  Detroit’s a division leader and had a great shot at a playoff bye before this setback.  Even more encouraging, ever player on the Texan offense scored in double figures, and contributions came from a variety of players who had been huge lottery ticket question marks before the season began.  If Mike Gillislee, Austin Hooper, Chris Hogan, Kerry Hyder and John Simon can keep putting up double figure scores for the rest of the season, Houston could be very hard to beat.  Opportunity looms again in week 9 in the form of a showdown with fellow AFC bubbler Cincy.

Honorable Mentions: New York Giants, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints.
Teams Falling:

Philadelphia Eagles: Yeeouch.  One week after pulling to within a game of the Giants, the Eagles had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week 8.  A four point loss in what should have been a gimme game against the Cowboys.  A significant arrest for Josh Huff.  Derrick Henry outshining DeMarco Murray.  And the Honey Badger out for the rest of the regular season at least.  All that combined with wins by the Giants, Falcons and Saints, and the Eagles are no longer thinking about the division. They are thinking about their wild card life.  On tap, of course, is just what the doctor ordered.  A date with the newly revitalized Giants.

Tennessee Titans: Adversity.  It’s where the stars shine.  It’s where you find out what men are made of.  It’s where heroes are born and goats are immortalized.  It’s where the Tennessee Titans suddenly and unhappily find themselves.  Coming off a vigorous week 6 shelling of the Cleveland Browns, the Titans had a 7-2 record, a 2 game lead in what appeared to be a mediocre division, and with two very winnable games against Indianapolis and Jacksonville coming up.  A two-seed and playoff bye appeared to be clearly in sight.  Ouch.  Two painfully mediocre defeats later, the Titans are now 7-4, tied for first, have not broken 200 points (other than 201 against Cleveland) since week 2, and are only 7th in the AFC in points scored.  The good news for the Titans is that the next three games are against San Diego, Green Bay, and Indianapolis, all below .500 teams, so there’s time to recover.  The bad news is that so were their last two.  We’ll see.

Los Angeles Rams: What’s the best way to follow up a stunning victory over the New York Giants where the whole team shows up and plays well?  A lackluster, uninspired 98 point performance in a total beatdown.  A goose egg from six players who did play and a number of others on bye.  Not a single player hitting 20 and only 5 hitting double digits.  Yeeouch.  Sometimes big wins are catapults.  Sometimes they are flukes.  This one looks like a fluke.

Dishonorable Mentions: Chicago Bears, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions.

Oh, and a special dishonorable shout-out to Denver and Green Bye.  Come on guys.  Can you at least try to start a legal lineup on occasion?

 

Games of the Week: 

Arizona Cardinals vs. Chicago Bears: It’s bye week Mayhem for the Bears and Cards!  Arizona is on a hot streak after beating the Panthers, and look to keep it going against the Bears.  After pulling off a trade for Landry Jones, the Bears remain in spitting distance of both the Lions and the NFC Wild Card – but really need a win in week 9 to pull it off.  The bye looks a little more damaging for Zona than for the fighting Butkuses, but injuries may play on even larger role in the outcome.

Atlanta Falcons vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Despite seemingly losing every single week, the Bucs have scored the 7th most points in the NFC, and could ostensibly mount a run.  If so, it has to be now.  The Falcons are looking very good, riding a winning streak and a 245 point performance.  This is their chance to both deep six Tampa Bay’s season and move into sole possession of first place in the NFC South.

Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: This rivalry game has lost a little luster as the Steelers have struggled to maintain a legal lineup at times this year, and have had major bad luck with suspensions and injuries at others.  Still, this is a team that is much better than 5-6, and can play anyone tight.  Heck, they can dominate anyone on any given week.  Baltimore is no slouch either, having knocked off the Giants and quietly kept pace with Cleveland and Cincy in the better than expected AFC Norris.  Both teams should be near full strength, which should be a treat for us.

Buffalo Bills vs. Seattle Seahawks: What an utterly bizarre situation this is.  The Buffalo Bills are 11-0, have the AFC East locked up, are cruising towards the #1 overall seed, and have barely even been challenged.  The Seahawks, after a schedule-boosted 6-1 start, have lost four straight to fall to 6-5, and plummet.  Easy, right?  Well, except that the Bills get killed on the bye week.  DeSean Jackson, AJ Green, Rob Gronkowski, Alshon Jeffery, Mason Foster, Deion Buccannon, Tracy Porter, and George Iloka among others are ALL on bye.  The Bills players on bye are better than most TEAMS.  The Seahawks do lose a few players themselves, but nowhere near THAT.  The result being a Fantrax projected Seahawks victory.  How bizarre would that be?

Houston Texans vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Another great matchup that will be heavily influenced by the bye week, the 7-4 and tied for first place Texans square off against the 8-3 and also tied for first place Bengals.  Hard to say who the bye week hurts more, as Cincy loses their QB and some huge defensive pieces, while the Texans keep their QB, but lose David Johnson, Jordan Howard, and some solid defensive pieces in their own right

New York Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles: It’s a week to week league, right?  The Eagles need to hope so.  This is NOT what the doctor ordered for an injured team.  A week ago, Philly might have welcomed this as a chance to knock off the suddenly vulnerable Giants.  Not now.  Now Philly just wants a win to keep pace with the wild card – and will have to do it with no Honey Badger and facing the Giants full lineup.  It’s possible.  But my money is on the Giants.
Good luck this week everybody!  Enjoy game 7!

Real Deal (Football) Report: Week 7 Recap

Ten games in and 23 teams still have legitimate, solid playoff aspirations.  That is not a bad competitive season!  It was a bit of a low scoring week 7, with only 8 teams reaching or breaking the 200 point barrier, but that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t some associated drama.

Finish Reading: Real Deal (Football) Report: Week 7 Recap

Game of the Week: New England Patriots 206, PIttsburgh Steelers 202

Well, this one definitely lived up to its billing.  The outcome was in doubt literally the entire weekend.  It wasn’t over until Brock Osweiler staggered home with ten points on Monday night, staving off a combined 12 points by the two Monday night Steeler defenders.  When the dust settled, the Patriots had a four point win behind a combined 100 points from Jamison Crowder, Mike Wallace, Frank Gore, and Delanie Walker.  Talk about some unexpected gems that have been huge contributors for the Pats!  Le’Veon Bell scored 30 in a losing effort for Pittsburgh, and the Steeler defense was outstanding – but without Ben Roethlisberger, a zero at the QB spot was too big to overcome.  With the result, the Patriots stay in front of the Wild Card Line at a nice, solid 7-3.   The Steelers, meanwhile, fall to 5-5.  Still a great team.  Still within striking distance.  But they need to move soon.

 

Teams Rising:

Buffalo Bills: It’s awesome to be undefeated.  But in some ways it sort of sucks to be the favorite and go undefeated.  Because then you never really rise.  You’re always meeting expectations, never exceeding them.  So it seems only fitting that this week we recognize the Buffalo Bills for hitting the 10-0 mark behind a quiet, workmanlike, ho-hum 228-98 thrashing of the Miami Dolphins.  Buffalo is on track.  They’ve scored the most points in the AFC and haven’t lost yet.  They haven’t really come anywhere close to losing.  Tyrod Taylor has been good at QB.  AJ Green and Gronk have been as awesome as expected.  Nobody’s even noticed this team hasn’t had AP.  The defense routinely hits the century mark even on a bad day.  Everything is going according to plan.  And that’s a fantastic plan.  It’s the best plan. Believe me.

Cleveland Browns: We mentioned last week that it was a week-to-week league, right?  Scuffling team?  Pair of abysmal performances in a row.  Facing the division leader who happens to be on a roll.  Tough, right?  No problem.  Cleveland bounces back with a 197-173 win behind huge games from Mike Evans (31) and Michael Crabtree (25).  The Bengals have some uncharacteristic struggles on offense (posting three goose eggs) and Cleveland is back in a tie for first place (and own the tiebreaker in a two-way tie).  Now admittedly, the defense remains a problem for the Browns (only 63 total points in week 7 and the last time the defense hit the century mark was in week 2), but things all of a sudden look a whole lot rosier for this somewhat less tortured than it used to be city.

Philadelphia Eagles: I confess that I’ve dogged Philly a bit and haven’t really bought into the hype.  The Eagles seemed like a mediocre team excelling against a weak schedule.  And to some degree, that’s borne out – Philly has scored the fewest points out of the twelve teams who would currently be in the playoffs.   But that’s two straight wins for Philly with solid point totals, and this recent one, a 235-138 pasting of Minnesota, was the third-highest score of the week.  Most exciting, question mark guys like Lance Kendricks, Brian Quick, Josh Huff, and, especially, Ty Montgomery, showed up to play this past week and seem to be finding real roles in their respective offenses.  Coupled with a pair of consecutive Giant losses, the Eagles stand only a game back (albeit without the tiebreaker) and the unthinkable is an actual possibility.

Honorable Mentions: Los Angeles Rams, Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts

Teams Falling:

New York Giants: Speaking of the G-Men, what on earth is going on?  After looking like they might not lose all season, the suddenly vulnerable Giants have lost two straight games, this one to the lowly LA Rams.  In a lot of ways, though, this is simple schedule misfortune and speaks more to the Ravens and Rams than it does to the Giants.  Combined between the two weeks, New York has still averaged over 200ppg – it’s just that the Ravens and Rams have combined for 511.  Way over both of their season averages.  There are genuine concerns for the Giants (again on defense), where only two week seven starters reached double figures.  But they’ll be fine.  This is more a testament to the fantastic game played by the Rams, who got 20+ points from six players.  LA has been knocking on the door, but this was the signature win the program needed.  Now to see if they can build on it.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Yeesh.  After a gift 116-112 win over Minnesota, the Bucs apparently got the message that they could coast and win against lesser competition.  That was the wrong message, and it bit them in a big way in week 7, as the San Francisco 49ers staggered across the finish line in a compellingly ugly 166-161 sloth race.  The Buc defense came to play and put up 122 points behind a 60 point performance from the D-Line of Emmanuel Ogbah, Jaye Howard, Gerald McCoy, and Jadaveon Clowney.  But that offense… something needs to change fast.  It was a 28.5 point “Seahawk-esque” showing for an offense that got legitimate points (14) only from Emmanuel Sanders.  Quarterback issues loom large for the Bucs, and Tampa faces a daunting climb out of the basement in the brutal NFC South.

Tennessee Titans: With a golden opportunity to put away divisional rival Indianapolis for good, the Titans couldn’t muster the juice to get up for the game, struggling to a thoroughly mediocre 216-164 loss.  Both sides of the ball were similarly average, with 72 points on offense and 74 on defense.  The wrong kind of consistency.  Indy won with their characteristically stout defense, but also with a 74 point offensive game – the highest offensive total the Colts have posted since week 1.  As a result, the AFC South falls back into question, with Tennessee maintaining a meager 1 game lead over Houston (who beat Denver) with the Colts hanging gamely around at 5-5.

Dishonorable Mentions: New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks, Jacksonville Jaguars

Games of the Week:

Arizona Cardinals vs. Carolina Panthers: The good ship Cardinal seems to have righted itself as Arizona has won three straight and caught up to Seattle to restore balance in what had been a bizarre NFC West.  Carolina remains its strong self, though it hasn’t put out a signature performance in a few weeks.  This isn’t necessarily a “need to have it” game for either side – both teams should be fine even with a loss – but it is a bragging rights game and just some good fantasy football between two excellent teams.  Should Arizona win this, it would be a psychological victory declaring their early-season struggles are history.

Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots: This is what you call “a shot at the champ”.  Does Buffalo need this game?  Nope.  Will they win through to top seed and a playoff bye regardless of the outcome?  Sure.  Does New England need this game?  It’s not desperate, but yeah, they could always use more wins.  Nah, this isn’t a “standings game” either.  What this is is is (yep, three is’s in a row and it’s right baby!) a surprisingly game New England team that is getting contributions from unexpected players throwing its best shot at the league bully.  A good game?  Who knows.  A must have?  Not really.  But drama?  Almost certainly.

Detroit Lions vs. Houston Texans: While Detroit calmly and quietly holds on to a two game advantage in the NFC North, beating exactly who they should beat and rarely facing a huge challenge, life has been a topsy turvy roller coaster for Houston.  After a rather uninspiring 150-137 win (still a win!) over the Denver Broncos, the Texans find themselves only a game back of the AFC South crown.  This IS a standings game.  Houston can’t afford a loss here.  Detroit could.  But best not let the Bears get too close…

Indianapolis Colts vs. Kansas City Chiefs: One big win down for Indy, another in the works?  A week after shutting down Tennessee in a must-win game, the Colts get another division leader in the Chiefs.  The key for the Colts will be to maintain their level of offensive play.  That defense can win against just about anybody, so if the offense can continue to score 75, that’s often going to be enough.  It’s been a challenge to point.  Some key pieces are out on both teams, with Indy losing three primary defensive pieces, and the Chiefs likely without Jordan Reed for yet another week and Tavon Austin on bye.

New Orleans Saints vs. Seattle Seahawks: Now THIS is a standings game.  Both teams sit at a quite respectable 6-4.  Both teams badly need this game.  For New Orleans, it’s a function of a slow start and a tough division.   For Seattle, this is a function of really needing to win A game to slow down a recent funk.  In a big break for the Saints, Russell Wilson looks like he may miss this game, and Sterling Shephard is on bye, so this Seattle offense could look like…  ::haunting music:: last year!  A Halloween special.

Good luck everyone!

Real Deal (Football) Report – Week 6 Recap

We begin this week’s recap with a hearty helping of deliciously foul (fowl!) crow.  Roasted in cinnamon, oregano, and cayenne paper and soaked in pickle juice for extra nastiness.

I wrote last week that the Baltimore Ravens had absolutely NO chance against the Giants and predicted a 100 point win for the G-Men.

Let’s see exactly how that turned out for me:

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

Game of the Week: Baltimore Ravens 267, New York Giants 220

So let’s be clear.  This wasn’t a great game for the Giants.  Easily one of their lowest outputs of the season.  A mere 220 points.  They aught to be ashamed of themselves.  Imagine scoring only 220?  But no.  That’s not it.  This was not a game the Giants lost.  This was a game that the Ravens went out and won handily with an epic 159 point offensive performance.  It wasn’t just that Baltimore scored a ton of points on offense, though.  It was WHO.  An unsung offensive cast exploded!  Christine Michael got 26.  Amari Cooper (ok, he’s sung) got 30.  Terrelle freaking Pryor got 31, and Kendall Wright got 35.  Mercy.  The Ravens are now 6-3, averaging more than 200 points a game, and if the season were to end today, would be in the playoffs – and a team nobody would want to see on the opposing line!

Teams Rising:

Cincinnati Bengals: Time to give the Bengals a little credit as they ascend to sole possession of first place in the AFC North at an absolutely flabbergasting 7-2.  Cincy’s latest triump was an 184-175 win over fellow playoff contender New England.  With Cleveland suddenly scuffling and Pittsburgh suddenly without Ben Roethlisberger just as they Steelers were starting to get hot, it looks increasingly likely that Cincy and Baltimore might need to duke it out for the North division title – and the loser may well grab a wild card.  The Bengals defense was the story in week 6, with 6/11 players scoring in double digits and a 20 point performance by one Zachary Orr.

New Orleans Saints: And boom. The Saints are back!  248-201 over divisional rival and Super Bowl Champ Carolina.  This win puts the Saints in a three way tie for the wildcard with Atlanta and Philadelphia, and, just as importantly, only one game back of Carolina.  After a brutal start, New Orleans is baaaaack.  Fittingly, Drew Brees led the way with an absurd 44 point outing, but was paced by Golden Tate (38) and CJ Fiedorowicz (21) on offense.  The Saints knew they were going to have to find some role players to step up and answer some question marks, and boy did they ever this week.  A pick six from Malcolm Jenkins (28 points) added to the cause, as the Saints overcame 30 points from Cam and 23 from some guy named Nick Bellore.  It’s getting crazy again in the NFC!

Houston Texans: Aight, Houston.  Aight.  I see you. After a cool 226-183 win over divisional rival Indianapolis, the AFC South is starting to sort itself out with Houston and Tennessee gaining a little separation from Indy and Jacksonville.  David Johnson scored 38 points on a three score game and nearly outscored the hapless Colts offense by himself to pace the Texans.  Still, there’s no forgetting a defense where 7 players scored in double figures and an 8th got nine.  Houston’s two-back in the division and still a game out of the Wild Card, so they need to keep on moving, but this is a very nice divisional win for an embattled squad.

Honorable Mentions: Oakland Raiders, Arizona Cardinals, Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers, Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions, Tennessee Titans, Minnesota Vikings.

 

Teams Falling:

Cleveland Browns: Another brutal week for the Browns.  Another loss against a contending time.  Another game where the team simply didn’t look competitive.  Another week where division rivals posted wins to knock them farther back in the race.  46 points on offense with a high score of 10 from Blake Bortles simply isn’t going to be good enough to win most weeks.  Cleveland still leads the AFC North in points scored.  They can still right the ship.  But with Cincy and Baltimore playing as well as they are, they had better do it quickly.

San Diego Chargers: As recently as a couple weeks ago, San Diego looked like they could be a contender in the West, or at least make a solid push for second.  Two losses later, not so much.  The offense failed the Chargers utterly as they managed only 36 points on the offensive side of the ball, and fell to the Denver Broncos (who have suddenly won two in a row!).  At 3-6, the Chargers face a huge hole to climb back into contention, and may not make it this year.

Minnesota Vikings: Yeeouch.  The Vikings have looked better and better this year, posting competitive game after competitive game, but not posting a whole lot of wins.  Well, they got their chance in week 6 as Tampa Bay posted only 116 points.  The problem?  Minnesota posted only 112.  Sure, they had bye issues.  But 45 points on defense is not going to get it done, as everybody not named Andre Branch combined for exactly 32 points.  It’s a culture issue in Minnesota, where the Vikings now have talent – but have to figure out how to win.

Dishonorable Mentions: Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars

 

Week 7 Games of the Week:

Welp, unless we get some upsets, this could be another rough week for good games, unfortunately!  Only four that really seem to me to feature much competition.  But some should be excellent.

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Cleveland Browns:  It’s a week to week league.  One week you can be on the top of the world, only to come brutally crashing back to earth the next.  Or you can be on the outs, facing a lost season, only to bounce back, dominate, and right the ship.  Right now, big Mo (that’s momentum) is all on the side of Cincinnati, and the Bengals are poised to knock out their rivals with a brutal hook.  But Cleveland isn’t done yet.  And this could be the game that rights the Browns ship.  Lots at stake in the battle of Ohio.  We’ll see who prevails

Indianapolis Colts vs. Tennessee Titans: This is what you call a run away and hide game.  A win by the Titans would move them to 8-2, keep them solidly in control of the AFC South regardless of what Houston does, and pretty much put a nail in the punchless Colts coffin.  Of course, see the above about a week-to-week league.  If the Colts win, all of a sudden the South is right back in play.

Kansas City Chiefs vs. New Orleans Saints: The Chiefs are smarting from a 3 point loss to the Raiders and losing an opportunity to put their own division away.  No time for woundlicking though, because the high-octane, rejuvenated Saints come roaring into town fresh off their demolition of the Panthers.  Both teams are close to full strength, so this game should tell us a lot about the relative prospects of each team – and things are going to be looking pretty rosy for the winner.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots: A tough and tricky game for two teams who need to rebound.  After a nine point loss to Cincy, New England has fallen three games behind the unbeaten Bills and into a tie for the wild card.  They need some wins to stay afloat, particularly given the competitive AFC landscape.  The Steelers, after a brutal start without Le’Veon Bell, have rediscovered their world-beating mojo and posted several fantastic wins.  Of course, they also just lost their quarterback.  How will Pittsburgh fare in a non-Ben world?  Both teams need this win.  Only one will get it.  Drama in the AFC Wild Card!

 

Good luck this week everyone!

 

Real Deal (Football) Report: Week 5 Recap

Ok y’all, that sucked. Week 5 sucked.  We all, in week 5, collectively sucked.  And I think we all need to come together as a league and vow to try harder and do better.  Because honestly, that was really, seriously terrible.

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

First off, there were NO good games.  Zero.  I can’t even pick a game of the week because this week’s games were so damn bad.  Do I pick New England’s uninspiring 166-141 snoozefest against Cleveland where both teams underperformed their season averages massively (not on a bye week)?  Do I choose San Diego’s almost sort of maybe kind of exciting 179-162 Monday night triumph over the Raidres because it had the most drama (not all that much) and pulled the two squads into a 3-5 tie in the standings?  Denver’s 174-140 upset of a cornswaggled Atlanta franchise for its first win?  Buffalo’s utterly irrelevant 227-181 win over the Rams because it had the most points?  I’ve literally got nothing, y’all.  That was the WORST set of games I’ve ever seen.

And frankly, we all sucked as well as being noncompetitive.  There were literally only FOUR teams that broke 200 points (Buffalo, Pittsburgh, the Giants, and, surprisingly, Chicago).  FOUR.  With the exception of the always fantastic Giants, the highest point total was 227.  17/32 teams (more than half the league) scored 166 points or less.  There were two games (only two!) where both teams scored more than that.  I could go on.

Consider this the equivalent of an expletive filled Rex Ryan-esque freakout.  There’s no excuse.  Do better.  Play better.  Be better.  Or I’ll be the first mother-effer out of here!*

Game of the week: NONE.  No game of the week.   Y’all don’t deserve a game of the week.  No participation trophies just for showing up.  Damn millennials.
Teams Rising:

Chicago Bears: Gotta give credit where credit is due.  The Bears break the 200 point threshold and are one of the few teams that didn’t embarrass us.  They played above their season average and beat a decent Indianapolis team to get back up to .500 and keep pace with the Lions.  Great game by Brian Hoyer.  Great game by Brandon Marshall.  Great game by the un-concussed Kevin Minter.  There’s more to be done, but this was a step in the right direction.

Denver Broncos: So that’s one team that is off the schneid!  After being epically terrible for the first weeks of the season, the Broncos came out and knocked off Atlanta, scoring more points than well over half the league and actually looking like a competitive squad.  Paxton Lynch to Demaryius Thomas looks like it could be a thing, and that Cole Beasley pickup is looking very shrewd.

New Orleans Saints: Rumors of the Saints demise have been greatly exaggerated it seems.  After “thud” performances from Tampa and Atlanta and a win over the beatable but 6-1 Seahawks, the Saints are suddenly tied for second at 5-3 – and more importantly, tied for a wild card birth.  It’s hard to get too excited about a 171 point win where Sammie Coates (38) and Kiko Alonso (21) made up literally more than a third of their points.  But the Saints have to be thrilled at where they sit after having struggled this year.

Sort of honorable mention: Tennessee Titans, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers

 

Teams Falling: 

Cleveland Browns: Man.  I don’t know if the Indians stole the Browns mojo to use against Boston, but damn that was a thud performance when the Browns could least afford it.  Not only did Cleveland lose 166-141 to wild card rival New England, they scored a grand total of 52 points, had their lowest output of the season by 50 points and saw all three of their divisional rivals notch key wins.  Suddenly in second place in a hard-charging division, Cleveland has to hope this was an abberation as they face a tough game with the Titans.

Seattle Seahawks: They are who we thought they were.  It seems unfair to say that about a 6-2 team.  But frankly, this team could be 2-6 based on their points outputs and just laid a 132 point egg in a need-to-win game.  They’ve lost to every good team they’ve played, and the next time they play a team that is under .500 is NEVER.  Literally.  Every single team they play for the rest of the year, with the exception of Tampa Bay in week 12, is over .500, and Tampa is 4-4.  It’s about to get bad, folks, and I think there’s a serious chance the Hawks don’t win another game all year.  Sell, sell, sell and sell some more.

Atlanta Falcons: You are in a tough division.  You’ve just scored 282 points to whack the defending Super Bowl champions.  You’re one back in the division and feeling good about yourself.  Your all world receiver has just posted a 70 spot.  And you have the winless, hapless, punchless Denver Broncos coming up.  Complacency?  Guess just a little bit.  The Falcons posted the most uninspired performance since Trump’s first debate, getting handled by the winless Broncos by 35 points.  Julio Jones scored 5.5 points, the highest scoring player had 17 points, and Eddie Lacy might be injured.  Bottom line – the Falcons have the talent to beat anyone.  But they have the talent to lose to anyone on any given night too.  And in a division like the NFC South, you HAVE to beat the Broncos.

Really dishonorable mentions: Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Philadelphia Eagles, Oakland Raiders, Washington Redskins, Indianapolis Colts, and anybody picking anybody besides Buffalo or NYG in this year’s Super Bowl.

Ok guys, here’s our chance.  A few decent games this week.  Let’s do better!  REDEMPTION!

Week 6 Games of the Week: 

Atlanta Falcons vs. Seattle Seahawks: Umm… errr… angry, good, Atlanta team.  Revealed Seattle team… Ummm.. Nope.  Atlanta.  By 150.

Baltimore Ravens vs. New York Giants: Baltimore has looked really good, and now we get to see a powerhouse battle of… No.  Stop it.  C’mon.  Just stop.  Giants by 100.

Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints: Interesting battle here.  Carolina still looks fantastic at 7-1, and I’m inclined to think they put the skids to New Orleans’ resurgence.  The Saints have gotten wins and not points, and they could run into a buzz-saw here, particularly if Cam is back.  But this wouldn’t shock me if it went the other way.

Chicago Bears vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: Ok, maybe I’m reaching a little bit, but it’s possible.  A pair of 4-4 teams wavering on the edge of contention.  The winner could ostensibly move within a game of the division.  The loser could be in some trouble.  Nicely, both teams look pretty close to full strength for this one, so may the best team win!

Cincinnati Bengals vs. New England Patriots: Now this is an interesting matchup.  The Patriots have gotten a lot of love in cruising to 6-2 and the first wildcard spot in the AFC behind a revamped offense and a better than expected defense.  The Bengals have likewise surprised, leading the AFC North at 6-2 and having scored over 1600 points, averaging over 200 per game.  The jury is still out on both squads, but the winner is going to have a very serious case to be not just a surprise team, but a force to be reckoned with in the AFC.

Cleveland Browns vs. Tennessee Titans: Yet another fantastic matchup in what will hopefully be a bounceback week for them.  The Titans are another 6-2 team in first place in the AFC South, while the Browns seek to bounce back from an uncharacteristic dud of a week 5 performance.  The pressure is on Cleveland here, due to the rough week 5 and the strong division, but the Browns have also outscored the Titans by 250 points, so we’ll see where this one falls.  I like the Browns to bounce back with Bortles returning from bye.

Houston Texans vs. Indianapolis Colts: Another “war of the desperate”, both the Texans and Colts have lacked consistency this year, ping-ponging between nice wins and bad losses.  Both teams are sitting mired at 4-4, though interestingly enough, the Texans have scored only 9 points less than the 6-2 Titans this year.  While I’d usually go with Houston, one key development in this week’s game is that the Texans lose Jameis Winston to the bye.  I think Indy sneaks this one out.

Good luck this week everyone!  Let’s all score 200 – except for Oakland 😉

 

2016 Real Deal (Football) Report – Week 4 Recap

I am a terrible person.  I have no excuse.  I failed you last week.  No recap!  And it was a double.  A double.  And I gave you no recap!

I deserve to have Chip Kelly as my coach!  I deserve to have Aaron Rodgers as a father looking down on me for every incompletion with that smirk of his!  I deserve to be sat on by Chris Christie dressed as a clown!

To none do I owe my heartfelt apologies than Ric Nowinsky and his New England Patriots, who threw down a beautiful 2-0 week 3 to move to 5-1.  You should have been my first team rising and I failed you.  I’m so sorry.

This week, it’s Saturday and it’s quick and dirty.  But ya know what, at least it’s something.

Finish Reading: 2016 Real Deal (Football) Report – Week 4 Recap

With no further ado!

Game of the week: Atlanta Falcons 281, Carolina Panthers 269

Was there ever any doubt?  This was one hell of a game!  Carolina had SIX players score more than 20 points in this one – the ageless Eddie Royal, the even more ageless Steve Smith Sr, the still aging Greg Olsen, Mark Ingram, Luke Kuechly (of course), and Kurt Coleman.  They scored 147 on offense, 116 on defense, and put in the #2 score of the week.  And lost by 12.  How?  Well, there’s the obvious answer – Julio Jones scored 73 points on THREE-HUNDRED YARDS receiving.  They literally forgot to cover that fool.  But that’s not the full answer.  The rest of Atlanta’s offense scored only 45 points, leaving the offensive output at 117 – 30 left than Carolina’s.  WITH JULIO.  So what gives?  Defense? Clinton McDonald got 29, Zach Brown got 34, and the kicker/punter combination of Hauschka and Ryan grabbed 24.  On the Carolina side?  5 special teams points combined.  Julio Jones is a boss.  But special teams was this game.  Carolina falls to a still invulnerable 6-1, while Atlanta bounces back from a brutal week 3 to stay in the chase at 5-2.

Teams Rising:

Pittsburgh Steelers:  When you are used to winning the division, it’s weird to start 2-4.  Well, the Steelers put a stop to that nonsense in week #5 with the third highest point total at 252 in a shellacking of Kansas City.  Huge offensive numbers, Le’Veon Bell back in the lineup, Ben Roethlisberger throwing for numbers again, and the defense is clicking for 120 point weeks.  Cleveland and Cincinnati jumped out to big leads in the North and just keep winning – but this week gave notice that the Steelers will not simply go quietly into the night.

Seattle Seahawks: This is still PURE illusion.  PURE illusion.  The Hawks have scored a TOTAL of 1151 points.  This would be good for 4th place in every other NFC division.  However, due to some nice luck and a stunningly easy schedule, Seattle is 6-1 and firmly in control of the NFC West.  This past week’s 151-117 win over the Jets said more about a struggling New York team than it did for the Seahawks.  But when you are 6-1, you have to get a mention!  Also, Zeke Elliott continues to look good and justify the #1 overall pick the Hawks spent on him.

New England Patriots: I owe this one to the Patriots.  Not for this week, which was a tough drop to the still undefeated Buffalo Bills, but for last week, a 2-0 performance with 211 points and wins over the Jets and Texans.  The Patriots remain in the thick of of the playoff race at 5-2, and unsung and unexpected heroes like Cameron Brate, Jamison Crowder, and even Frank Gore continue to keep the Patriots in the AFC Wild Card hunt.  I don’t expect this to be the last time New England is here.

Honorable Mention: Buffalo Bills, New York Giants, Tennessee Titans, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals

 

Teams Falling:

Dallas Cowboys: Welp, the wheels have officially fallen off in Big D.  A 1-6 start has resulted in a full-scale tear-down and rebuild for the Cowboys.  In are picks and young players who can help for the future.  Out are Aaron Rodgers, Thomas Davis, and Jeremy Maclin.  It’s going to be a long, long year in Dallas who has gone from divisional competitor to total tear down – but hopefully the infusion of youth and talent will lead to good things for a long time to come.

Houston Texans: It’s been a rough few weeks for the Texans, who hung steady early on before a disappointing pair of weeks has knocked them well back in divisional competition.  The latest heartbreak was a 4 point set back to the Tennessee Titans.  Instead of moving into the division lead, the Texans now find themselves two back, albeit with a winnable game against the Texans upcoming.  What makes it all the more painful is the Texans got only a half point combined from Chris Hogan and Vance McDonald – a decent game by either one and they are in first place.

Competition: The state of the league’s competitive balance is down, as are great games.  On the one hand, teams like Buffalo, Carolina, and New York are absolutely dominant.  On the other, there are five teams with 1-6 or 0-7 records, and most of them (Denver, Green Bay, Washington and Miami) have not even come close to winning a game.  While the league has had dominant teams over the past few years, it has lacked the “gimme games” we are seeing this year.  Here’s hoping that we can see some significant improvement in the drama level as the season moves forward.

Dishonorable Mention: Everybody mentioned above, NY Jets, LA Rams, Jacksonville Jaguars, LA Rams.

 

Games of the Week, Week 5: 

Cleveland Browns vs. New England Patriots: A battle of two 5-2 teams in contention for AFC playoff spots, this game is suddenly very, very relevant.  It doesn’t contain the same drama as the real life struggle of Tom Brady’s return, but it does feature a series of some of the most underrated and overperforming players in the league (Mike Wallace, Marvin Jones, Cameron Brate, Michael Crabtree, Frank Gore) – and come on, when else are you going to see a matchup between two playoff favorites featuring a QB battle between Geno Smith and Brock Osweiler?

Detroit Lions vs. Philadelphia Eagles: Philly has bounced back nicely from a brief slump to maintain strong contention for an NFC wildcard spot with a pair of recent wins.  The Lions continue to coast nicely through the NFC North.  In fact, there’s a very good chance these two squads could end up playing in a first round Wild Card game.  To my mind, this one is going to come down to the Defenses, and whether Detroit’s franchise players can make Carson Wentz look like more of a rookie.  Advantage goes to Detroit in this one, as Philadelphia has genuinely struggled to score points despite the gaudy record.

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: It’s another matchup of potential playoff teams as KC takes on Jacksonville.  Both teams are missing key bye-week pieces (Travis Kelce for the Jags, Alex Smith and Derrick Johnson for the Chiefs), but this one should also come down to which defense can play best.  Both teams had disappointing week 4’s and are looking for major bouncebacks.

New Orleans Saints vs. Seattle Seahawks: This could be a “for real” game for the Seahawks, who have cruised through one of the league’s easiest schedules to 6-1.  After a brutal start to the season, the Saints have started to show some life in recent weeks, and could be Seattle’s most potent challenger to date.  A lot rides on this for both teams – if Seattle can win this, they could show that they are truly for real.  In the more likely case, New Orleans gets the “W” and positions itself to try and make a run at Atlanta and Carolina – who may already be too far ahead and too good to catch.

2016 Real Deal (Football) Report – Week 2 Recap

It was the best of divisions.  It was the worst of divisions.  But not the same ones.  Different ones.  In fact, divisional disparity has been a huge part of RDFL through the first two weeks, with some divisions looking incredible and others struggling to get a single win.  As a result, the playoff picture already looks very clear in some areas – and very muddy in others.  Particularly in the NFC, there’s been a clear split between the haves and have-nots and the number of playoff slots available already seems limited.  The AFC, on the other hand, is a complete muddle, with just about everybody outside of Denver and Miami still in contention.

Finish Reading: 2016 Real Deal (Football) Report – Week 2 Recap

Games of the Week:

Tennessee Titans 202, Detroit Lions 197

Tennessee keeps on getting in close games with good teams – and keeps on winning them by the slimmest of margins.  One week after knocking off KC by 2 points, the Titans bounce NFC North favorite Detroit by 5 points to move to 4-0.  Sam Bradford played well, CJ Anderson had another nice week, and Odell Beckham put in a standard 17 point game, but the story of this game was a 31 point defensive eruption by Ndamukong Suh, who literally shredded people.  Even more surprising than his 8 tackles and 1.5 sacks was his lack of standard cheap shots and groin kicks, which kept him in the game to wreak havoc.  The Lions benefited from Martellus Bennett’s breakout 25 points, but were let down by their running game, where Ameer Abdullah and Todd Gurley combined for just 10.5 points.  The end result?  The Titans have a perfect record heading into week 3 and are sitting pretty at the top of a surprisingly strong AFC South.  Detroit, at 2-2, remains atop a predictably down NFC North, and should be fine so long as the running game can get going.

Arizona Cardinals 210, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 209: 

I did not expect to be sitting here after week 2 talking about how Arizona needed to win that game in the worst way by 1 point over Tampa Bay.  This was a team that was expected to already be sipping alcoholic beverages on some beach somewhere regardless of this outcome.  But man.  Arizona really needed to win this game in the worst way.  This was a nailbiter with playoff ramifications.  It had heroes (Matt Ryan, Torrey Smith, Joshn Norman), goats (Doug Martin, Lavonte David, Jermaine Gresham), star performances in defeat (Eric Decker, Clive Walford, Von Miller, Aqib “he went to Kansas!” Talib) and in the end, it came down to Johnathan Bullard not being able to make just ONE MORE ASSISTED TACKLE on Monday night football.  He needed two.  He got one in the first quarter.  And then… nothing.  Arizona escapes to stay in striking distance of the “more lucky than good” Seahawks.  Tampa Bay falls a disappointing two games back of Carolina and Atlanta, albeit with the chance to make up ground with winnable matchups against the Rams and Saints in week 3.

Rising:

Cleveland Browns: Well, well, well.  Take a look at your 3-1 Cleveland Browns.  Cleveland dropped 259 points in a week two shelling of divisional rivals Baltimore and Cincinnati.  It was an all around outstanding performance by the Browns, who had 12/20 starters go for double figures and 6/20 go for 20+, but nobody over 26 (Isaiah Crowell).  It’s the sort of highly-balanced performance the Browns were looking for, and puts them in the catbird seat in what is turning out to be a very winnable decision.  Even better, unknowns like Corey Grant and question marks like Crowell, Jordan Poyer, and Marvin Jones are playing well.  Could be a very good season in Cleveland.

Atlanta Falcons:  So I picked the Falcons to finish DEAD LAST in the NFC South.  Oops.  Atlanta posted a second consecutive strong week, scoring 237 and knocking off both a competent Oakland Raider squad and a surprisingly game LA Rams team to move to 4-0.  Ryan Fitzpatrick looks like the answer (at least for this year) at quarterback.  Kelvin Benjamin looks awesome, not overweight.  The safety combination of Kemal Ishmael (24) and Tony Jefferson (22) looks worldbeating, and even the temporary loss of Jonathan Stewart and potentially indefinite badness of Mohamed Sanu and Marc Mariani doesn’t appear to be crushing.  It’s a long season, and a lot of fantasy football is left for the Falcons, especially in the brutal NFC South – but so far, so good.

The SOUTH and the EAST:  Divisional records through two games:

Southern Divisions: 23-9

Eastern Divisions: 19-13 (19-5 without Miami and Washington)

Western Divisions: 12-20

Northern Divisions: 10-22

The Southern divisions look utterly dominant, with Tennessee, Atlanta, and Carolina all undefeated, Indy and Jacksonville at 3-1, and strong teams in Tampa Bay and Houston gamely hanging on at 2-2.  The Eastern divisions look even better at the top, with Buffalo, New York, and Philadelphia undefeated and the surprising New England Patriots at 3-1.  It is already looking like a pretty good bet that all four wild card teams are going to come from these two divisions.

Honorable Mentions: New England Patriots, Jacksonville Jaguars, Carolina Panthers, Indianapolis Colts, Philadelphia Eagles

 

Falling: 

The NORTH and the WEST: See the records noted above for the obvious parallel.  It actually gets worse than that.  The Seattle Seahawks are 3-1 while averaging less than 150 points per game, the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders are struggling with major injuries to key players already, and Denver and Green Bay have struggled just to field legal lineups, let alone win games.  If there is a silver lining, it’s that four of the top seven teams in the league in scoring (KC, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Detroit) are from these four divisions.  Of course, nobody else is higher than 16.  The real problem is wild card jockeying.  With East and South division teams compiling stellar records and West and North teams losing games, the need to make up ground to compete for wild cards is already looming large.

New Orleans Saints: What a brutal start for the Saints.  A week after scuffling a 1-1, 175 point performance in the inaugural week, the Saints came back with only 164 in week two, and got absolutely blitzed by Tampa Bay and the New York Giants.  The good news for New Orleans is that they have the divisional favorites from the East and West off their schedule.  The bad news is that they are at 1-3, 3 games out of both the wild card and the divisional race, down in tie-breakers, and just simply not scoring many points.  It’s been the offense that has really let New Orleans down thus far.  The Saints are a Brees 40 spot from 0-4 – and even with that 40 spot, are ranked 22nd in the league in offense.  Jimmy Graham just can’t get going in Seattle, John Nelson is barely even getting looked at, Jeremy Langford has struggled to find running room (and was almost benched for “going down too easy” after week 1), and only Sammie Coates has looked like a “above the expectations” bright spot.  Tough sledding for the Aints, who must get this fixed fast.  It’s a literal must win in week 3 with divisional rivals TB and Atlanta in town.  If things don’t turn around quickly, NO could find itself literally five games back, an almost impossible hole.

Baltimore Ravens: Speaking of good teams in rough spots, what a heart-breaking week for the Ravens!  Not only did the Ravens get snowed by divisional rival Cleveland, they dropped a 190-189 point loss by less than HALF a point to the New England Patriots.  It all came down to Monday Night Football, where Nelson Agholor outscored Zach Miller by 1.5 points for the Pats to seal it for New England.  Baltimore has had the misfortune of facing RDFL’s hardest schedule by a good 50 points (922 points scored against them in 4 games – a 230 point average!), so things should get easier.   The bad news, though, is that they are now 3 off the pace, down in the tiebreakers, and only 16th themselves in points scored.  The issue is clear for the Ravens – with the exception of Telvin Smith, they’ve really been let down by their defense, which managed only 53 points outside of Telvin’s double deuce.

Dishonorable Mentions: Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, Houston Texans, and hard luck teams going 0-2 with point totals in the 190s (New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Minnesota Vikings, Baltimore Ravens).

 

Week 3 Games of the Week:

Arizona Cardinals vs. Buffalo Bills: Cards-Seahawks doesn’t count yet.  I won’t do it.  But this one does.  Arizona needs a big game against Buffalo, as everyone does.  But despite their 4-0 record, the Bills have looked surprisingly beatable this year, and may not have AP available for week 3.  A 3-3 start wouldn’t be the end of the world for the Cards, but best to avoid a dud and at least beat Seattle.  A 2-0 week and that beach looks just a weak delayed.  An 0-2 week and it  might be time to worry.

Atlanta Falcons vs. Carolina Panthers: This could and should actually read “Every divisional game in the AFC South”, which has an incestuous week of mayhem on tap that should either provide some clarity within the division or muddle it yet further.  This is the headliner though, with the 4-0 Falcons sizzling the first two weeks – up against the “yes, we are 4-0 and SOMEHOW NOBODY IS TALKING ABOUT US AGAIN” Carolina Panthers.  How do they DO that?  There is some sort of cloaking device that prevents anyone from paying attention to them… until it’s too late.  Like an invisibility ring.  What’s that you say?  One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, one ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them? Atlanta’s flashier…  but you don’t mess with the Dark Lord.

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Tennessee Titans: We play in a realistic league.  It has depth, defense, special teams, formations.  Salaries. Cap hits.  It’s as real as they get.  But sometimes you remember that this league is FANTASY.  The fact that JACKSONVILLE is playing TENNESSEE in a game of the week is one such reminder.  And yet, these two teams are 7-1 and squaring off for the division lead.  It should be a close, interesting game, as both of these teams are in the top 10 in defense.  Tennessee has a track record now of winning these.  But something tells me Kirk Cousins is about to have himself a very big game…

New York Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles: 4-0 vs. 4-0.  National stage.  Huge division.  For all the marbles.  But this still feels like a David vs. Goliath matchup.  The Eagles are undefeated despite ranking only 14th in the league in total points with 761 (averaging 190 per game).  By contrast, the Giants are just simply breaking people, having scored 1070 points through four points (265+ per game).  Yes these two teams are both 4-0.  But New York is outscoring Philly by 75 points per game.  I don’t see anything changing this week, as the prohibitive super bowl favorites continue their death march through the real deal world.