Archive November 2008

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A Few Random NFL Notes

Some random notes from Week 13:

-How did Jerricho Cotchery's fumble that was returned for a TD in the first quarter of Denver's win over the Jets get called a touchdown? He sure seemed to have control of the ball when lying on the ground and giving himself up for a tackle. If an NFL player has control of the ball and lays down to concede a tackle, is it a fumble when he gets hit hard and loses the ball? Isn't he instantly down? I think the refs blew that call.

Sunday Live Blog

Chiming in late after arriving back from a day trip to Temecula.

We're All Arena Leaguers Now

My antipathy for the BCS and the college football bowl system is very well documented, but it's taken another step up the ladder of irritation this season because it's turning college football into the arena league. Does defense matter anymore?

Barkley's Not Stupid - He's Right

Barkley called out LeBron James for talking about his potential 2010 destinations when he becomes a free agent.

The Book is Getting Crushed

Not by me - that's for sure, but just got word that over the last month, my "friend of a friend's" guy has taken a beating.

Thanksgiving Games Live Blog

Could Detroit live down to expectations any better than that?

What's Next for Marbury?

With the Knicks' backcourt badly depleted by trades and injury, I actually thought Stephon Marbury could emerge as a decent waiver wire target this week.

Missing the Cut - Yankees

We're deep into production for this year's Baseball Magazine, and one of the big tasks I've had to do is vet all the players in our database for each team to determine whether they merited inclusion for a season outlook.

Pardon My Brother

It turns out that Giants backup kicker Lawrence Tynes is petitioning George Bush to pardon his drug-trafficking brother.

NFL Notes

Marvin Lewis’ decision to kick a field goal down 20-7 with 6:47 left last Thursday was beyond perplexing (still down two scores!), compounded by the fact it meant Pittsburgh was no longer covering the 11-point spread. Thankfully, the Steelers drove back down the field and scored a touchdown, righting what looked like a horrible wrong.

Sympathy for Tony Kornheiser

I was reading some of the comments in a previous post, and it made realize how bad the MNF format is for someone like Kornheiser.

Sunday Bloody Sunday

It's safe to say there's much less luck involved in fantasy basketball than fantasy football.

"Go Vanilla Vick!"

Interesting article in the NY Times about how the Falcons' largely African American fan base, turned off by the harsh Michael Vick punishment, are warming up to Matt Ryan.

What Bugs Me About the NFL

The NFL is as close to perfect as a league can get, but its sloppiness with unaccounted for yards grinds on me. For example, in the first quarter of Sunday's Carolina-Atlanta game (a great game, by the way), Atlanta had the ball 2nd-and-10 at the Carolina 48. Carolina was then called for encroachment on consecutive plays.

Why Your Fantasy Football Team Scored So Many Points This Week

There were 837 points scored this past weekend, an NFL record. It's the first time ever the league topped 800.

What Can Happen to a RotoWire Reader

Hopefully, most of you know how to use the site responsibly.

Should the Chargers Have Gone For It?

At first glance, Norv Turner did the obvious Sunday night with his team was down three on 4th and 2 at the Indy 29-yard line with 1:30 left in the game: He kicked the game-tying field goal.

Surprising Blowouts

I wasn't expecting the Raptors and Pistons getting blown out Sunday. Toronto was at home hosting the Celtics, who have looked vulnerable at times early on, despite a 12-2 record coming into the game. As a matter of fact, the Celtics escaped with a win in Boston two weeks ago in a game the Raptors were in control for the first 43 minutes. The Pistons were also at home kicking off a four-game homestand, having weathered an early season major shake up, preparing to face the two-and-something Timberwolves.

Sunday Live Blog

Brutal start to the game for the Jaguars. They have to be one of the more disappointing teams in the NFL this year, no? I saw them as a trendy sleeper pick to make the Super Bowl in the preseason, yet they've lost at home to the Browns and lost to the Bengals, among other shortfalls. Does Jack Del Rio deserve to be on the hot seat, or does he get a pass because of all the OL injuries?

Mike D'Antoni is the Barack Obama of the NBA

When Obama got elected in the midst of a recession/depression of indeterminate depth, a credit crisis, two wars, environmental problems, a broken health care system and an automotive industry on death's door, he essentially got the New York Knicks job.

On Second Thought, New Topic

Whoa! Here I was thinking about the Southeast Division. How the Mavericks turned around a slow start to win four straight. How the Hornets seem to be hurting without consistent perimeter scoring from Peja or Mo Pete. How the Spurs trotted out a lineup of Roger Mason, George Hill, Ime Udoka, Fabricio Oberto and Tim Duncan in a game last week. How the Rockets can survive injuries to Yao and T-Mac, and whether they have the athletes to run a small ball game. How will Memphis ever survive if it doesn't get better point-guard play from Mike Conley or Noah Lowry... Then, bang! The first major moves of the season hit Friday. The Knicks cleaned house and salary, while the Thunder fired head coach P.J. Carlesimo.

More Knicks Knotes

Donnie Walsh has been a busy little bee today, huh?

In addition to the Jamal Crawford/Al Harrington trade I discussed earlier, Walsh has cut a second deal that will ship Zach Randolph and Mardy Collins to the Clippers in exchange for Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas.

Knicks/Warriors Trade

Didn't see this one coming.

The Knicks and Warriors have reportedly agreed to send Jamal Crawford to Oakland in exchange for disgruntled forward Al Harrington. As just about every analysis of this trade will point out, the deal has very little to do with these two players and their relative merits, and everything to do with the free agent class of 2010. The deal leaves the Knicks with just $35 million committed in contracts for the 2011 season: Eddy Curry, Zach Randolph, Jared Jeffries, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Mardy Collins.

Thursday Night Game Complaints

Setting aside for a moment that you can only watch it on DirecTV, (and since I'm in NY for Thanksgiving and a business conference, I couldn't), it's also throws off our normal fantasy football/office pool/survivor schedule. If you run a fantasy site, that means all the relevant columns need to be posted by Wednesday night/Thursday morning, and many pools require the picks to come in before kickoff on Thursday, meaning you don't even know who practiced on Friday, i.e., who's really going to be active on Sunday.

Fantasy Football 7-10 Split

In my Experts League, I've got an interesting dilemma - start Cedric Benson or Reggie Bush?

Kidd vs. Calderon

I co-own a team, and this weekend my co-owner and I got into a mini debate over who was more valuable this year: Jason Kidd or Jose Calderon.  My feeling was that Calderon was more valuable, but that Kidd’s (who we own) name was bigger so we could trade Kidd for Calderon + an upgrade.  My co-owner’s thought was that Kidd is still more valuable, and that with the way our team was set up we couldn’t afford to trade him for Calderon even if we got an upgrade.  I saw his logic and backed down, but what do you guys think?

NFL Notes

Another fantastic Thursday night game, hopefully all of you have NFL Network. The Jets still don’t have an extremely impressive win on their resume, but this team has improved as the season has progressed, which makes sense with all the new additions. Brett Favre is playing better, but this team is interesting thanks to their play in the trenches on both sides of the ball…Sammy Morris didn’t do much in his first game back, but he’s the favorite for carries in New England’s backfield from here on out. He can’t be unowned in any fantasy league…Jerricho Cotchery has fantastic hands and is one of the more underrated receivers in the league. He needs to get the ball more…What a game from Matt Cassel. He's making himself an awful lot of money.

The Tides in the Atlantic

Boston Celtics - After an opening-night ceremony at which they received their championship rings, Boston fell behind to Cleveland in the first half before turning up the defense in the second half for a win. I thought it was a hangover from the ceremony, but they've been flirting with the same kind of behavior since, falling behind in the first quarter of seven of their first nine games. Against a couple of Eastern Conference contenders -- Atlanta and Toronto -- the Celtics were down by double-digits in the first half before turning on the defense in the second half. As champs, they're getting every team's best every time they step on the floor. Falling behind early is not a trend they want to establish. They couldn't overcome it Friday when Denver landed a fourth-quarter knockout. Not helping this situation is a league-leading 17.1 turnovers per game.


The Sixers had me with their second-half run last season to qualify for the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, where they beat the Pistons twice in the first three games before losing three in a row. The new AI (Andre Iguodala) was emerging as a consistent multi-category producer nightly, Andre Miller was the steady hand directing the show from the point, and rookie Thaddeus Young (54 percent) gave us some signs of something special in 2008-09. When Philadelphia general manager Ed Stefanski made the biggest splash in the offseason pool by signing Elton Brand, they added a piece -- an inside scorer -- that was sorely lacking from last season's squad. With another scoring option in Brand, who would also improve team defense for a club that allowed the seventh-fewest points in the league last year, I figured a top-4 in the East was within reach.

Well, now that the euphoria of the World Champion Phillies has worn off and the presidential election has passed, I've noticed the Sixers got off to a sluggish start. Two early blowout wins over New York and Sacramento -- two teams playing much better now than when they played Philadelphia -- were not enough to offset some sloppy play, leaving the Sixers with three more losses than wins (2-5). When they were winning, they were good. When they were losing, they were bad. In their two wins, Philadelphia was averaging 120.5 points on 59.1% shooting. In their five losses, the Sixers were scoring 84.6 points and shooting 38.2% from the field. Overall, they were turning the ball over a league-worst 17.6 times per game. Iguodala, fresh off his six-year contract signed this summer, has looked confused at times while shooting 39 percent from the field in the first seven games. Without a consistent perimeter threat to space the floor, Brand has seen a lot of double-teams, which has limited his shots at times and reduced his shooting percentage.

That was then and this is now. Following a stirring come-from-behinder over the Pacers on Friday, the Sixers have ripped off two straight road wins and are showing signs of the team I thought could be a high playoff seed. Against the Pacers, Philadelphia fell behind by as much as 26 early on, before clamping down in the second half (Indiana had 35 second-half points). They've protected the ball, averaging 11 turnovers, and finally found someone who can drill an outside shot. The oft-wild Willie Green is 12-of-25 from the field, including 5-of-6 from 3-point range, with games of 17 points and 14 points in wins over Toronto and Indiana. With the Sixers improving to 4-5, a closer look at the wins reveals that Green has shot well in all of them, going 25-of-41 (8-of-9 3pt) from the field in the wins -- in other words, providing the semblance of a jump-shooting threat. We've seen Green before. I'm not going to be fooled into thinking he is the key driver for this team's success, nor that the career 41-percent shooter can continue to knock down jumpers at a 50-percent clip, but he's given the team what it needs to be successful. And that's something Iguodala must do more often. He needs to be the scorer that he was last season. He's contributing in other ways -- 10 assists and nine rebounds against the Raptors with 10 rebounds and three blocks against the Pacers -- but the shot is still off and he's not getting to the rim as he did last season. The Sixers have used recent practices to work on floor spacing. The Sixers have had to adjust to a player like Brand who commands so much attention in the low post. Even in last night's win, Brand was just 4-of-17 from the field. He's shot over 50 percent in just two of the first nine games. And it isn't only Brand who needs space. Iguodala does, too. With Brand and Samuel Dalembert clogging the middle, there isn't much room for Iguodala to drive and create. Coach Mo Cheeks needs to bring Brand out to the mid-post area, which would create space for both Brand and Iguodala.

The two-game winning streak with a Saturday night game against the 1-7 Thunder on the immediate horizon provides some salve for the stress caused by five losses in seven games to open the season. But the Sixers still need to get their priorities in place. Iguodala needs to shoot better than 36 percent... Dalembert needs to show up and stop picking up cheap fouls (3.8 per game). He's been a non-factor in four of the first nine games, including a combined six points and six rebounds in the two recent wins. While his playing time has been mostly limited by foul trouble, he played just 12 minutes Friday night and saw little action after allowing the Pacers an open-door policy in their 36-point first quarter... Miller is a willing shooter and capable scorer -- he leads the team in both field-goal attempts and points per game -- but this team runs best when he's setting up others to succeed... They need to continue to protect the ball... The bench play, other than a solid stint to help them get back into Friday's game, has been spotty. Green can't be counted on every night. And Lou Williams really needs to look at his teammates every now and then, instead of fixating on the basket every time he touches the ball.

NFL Notes

Last Thursday’s Broncos/Browns tilt was easily one of the best games of the season. I don’t care if purists disagree, offense is just more fun. Jay Cutler has the guts of a burglar. It’s true at times he’s a little too Brett Favre in his risks, but he also makes throws that no other current quarterback can. He has an excellent mix of zip yet also the ability to float lobs into the right place. His one pick was Brandon Marshall’s fault, not his…Brady Quinn didn’t play poorly, but the normally spot on Chris Collinsworth was a little hyperbolic in his praise of the young QB. Quinn attempted just one pass that went 15-plus yards through the air, which was incomplete. It’s nice he didn’t make any mistakes, but that Denver D is the worst, and his 6.8 YPA was unimpressive. With this dink and dunk approach, Braylon Edwards’ already low fantasy value might be crushed. Bump up Kellen Winslow, however…Did everyone enjoy the Ryan Torain era as much as me? After excessive hype despite never playing and being just a fifth round draft pick, Torain looked like the second coming of Jim Brown for 20 minutes. Then, his knee bent the wrong way. It’s safe to call the kid talented, yet too injury prone to ever really matter.

Windy conditions didn’t help, but to call Rex Grossman inaccurate would be an understatement. And again, why are teams attacking Cortland Finnegan? His reputation clearly hasn’t caught up to his play yet…Then again, even Vegas and the oddsmakers have been extremely slow to the Titans’ party all season long…It’s crazy how many rookie running backs are having a great season, and none of them are Darren McFadden, Jonathan Stewart, or Rashard Mendenhall.

It’s great that Jacksonville can beat up and bully doormats, but this team is deeply flawed, evidenced by allowing a staggering 11.0 YPA to the Daunte Culpepper/Drew Stanton duo…It’s possible Kevin Smith is a difference maker in fantasy leagues down the stretch…There won’t be a better time to try and trade Maurice Jones-Drew than after last week’s effort.

I’d try to avoid the Baltimore backfield at all costs. That’s a mess from week-to-week…John Harbaugh has done a terrific job replacing that preening schmo Brian Billick and deserves serious Coach of the Year consideration…Sage Rosenfels is capable and can move the ball, but his tendency to turn the ball over is a killer. Hopefully all that silly talk about him being better than Matt Schaub can be put to rest for good now.

Michael Wilbon is an idiot. He said on PTI Tuesday that the Tim Lincecum Cy Young choice was horrible, and he would have him fourth or fifth on his list. He would have voted for Brandon Webb because of his 22 wins. He also had Brad Lidge ahead of Lincecum. Webb wasn’t even the best pitcher on his own team and wouldn’t factor into my top-10. As my blood boils, I’ll try not to let this lunacy ruin a beautiful moment: congrats Lincecum! The voters got something right for once.

The AFC East is really interesting right now, as the Bills continue to fade while the Pats continue to improve. Also, the Jets’ defensive line makes them noteworthy. And it wouldn’t be out of line to call the Dolphins the best team in that division…Go ahead and put this down in ink – bench Lee Evans when he’s facing New England…Bill Belichick is underrated. Seriously, think about all the massive failures who have left New England: Romeo Crennel, Charlie Weiss and to some extent, Eric Mangini. It’s all Belichick.

Marques Colston is back. Consider him a top-10 fantasy wideout from here on out…The Giants absolutely ripped off the Saints in the Jeremy Shockey trade. I know he’s been hobbled, but what else is new? How is he averaging the fewest yards per catch of his career playing in that offense and with Drew Brees throwing to him? He’s much better at limping and bitching to his own quarterback then he is at playing football…Matt Ryan is a top-5 QB in the NFL RIGHT NOW. If starting a franchise from scratch with every player in the league available, the only person I’d even consider taking ahead of Ryan would be Jay Cutler. Therefore, I view Ryan as the second most valuable commodity in the NFL.

Chad Pennington’s interception returned for a touchdown was atrocious. Up 14-0, ball security should probably be at the forefront, so a late throw across the field to the sideline was uncalled for…I actually like Miami’s squad, but this team is bad when it comes to special teams and tackling. The Wildcat can still be effective, though…The Seattle offense won’t be so dreadful with Matt Hasselbeck returning, but it’s still a situation to mostly avoid in fantasy leagues.

Adrian Peterson is far from a complete back since his hands are so poor, and he’s still a big injury risk, but with the football in his hands, there’s an argument he’s the best running back ever. Currently, he might be the NFL’s best short-yardage runner and breakaway threat – quite a rare combination. And Minnesota’s offensive line hasn’t opened up nearly as many holes as the unit did last season. I’m not a religious man, but in Purple Jesus, I trust…The Vikings’ special teams and coaching are a joke, but they have become a bit more interesting since the defensive line has started to develop a serious pass rush…The refs flat-out blew that first safety call. In fact, once they realized it wasn’t intentional grounding, they termed the penalty an “illegal forward pass.” That’s laughable.

One of my favorite moments Sunday was when the Rams sent out the field goal team to cut the Jets’ third quarter lead to 40-3. A crucial decision indeed…I have no idea what the contract details are, but I’d have a hard time seeing St. Louis not cut, or at least renegotiate, with Marc Bulger this offseason…I won’t be drafting Steven Jackson next year. He’ll still look good enough to have people talking themselves into making him a first round pick, but this guy simply can’t stay healthy. This much we know…You won’t see a weaker QB statline during a 47-3 win than Brett Favre’s last week…Imagine how good this Jets’ defensive line would be if the team hadn’t wasted last year’s sixth pick in the draft.

Jake Delhomme was just brutal Sunday. I would say it was tough to watch, but the game was blacked out in my area thanks to incompetence…The Raiders lost despite having more yards, first downs, takeaways and nearly a 15 minute edge in time of possession…Can’t wait to see what Joey Porter does against Kwame Harris next week…Quietly, DeAngelo Williams is having a very solid year…If starting a franchise, I’d make Nnamdi Asomugha the first defensive player taken. I understand it seems a little crazy since Oakland’s defense is so bad, and for the most part, I’d value guys on the line far more than a defensive back. Elite pass rushers demand double teams, and a guy like Albert Haynesworth definitely deserves consideration since he both stuffs the run and gets to the quarterback. However, there are at least 15 dominant defensive lineman, whereas there isn’t another corner in the league within a mile of Asomugha’s skill set, making him a unique property. He literally takes away half the field on every single snap.

The Steelers may have given up 24 points last week, but it certainly wasn’t the defense’s fault. The team allowed just 6.0 YPA and 3.3 YPC, but too often a Ben Roethlisberger turnover left them with a short field to defend. Roethlisberger is really struggling right now, and one wonders whether he should sit out until fully healthy…With a playoff schedule featuring the Bengals, Lions and Jaguars, and Marvin Harrison having one foot in the grave, Anthony Gonzalez could be a major factor in fantasy leagues when it matters most…I wouldn’t call Indy’s win a “they’re back” type victory, but with a terrific pass defense and the upside of that passing offense, they still represent a potential threat…I’ve heard more than once how the absence of Willie Parker has hurt Pittsburgh, but that’s erroneous. Very few running situations in the NFL would be greatly impacted by the starter going down (49ers being the best example), and the Steelers certainly aren’t one of them.

Jamaal Charles was looking at a highly productive game Sunday had he not aggravated his ankle injury during his first touch. Now with the backfield so depleted, Kansas City has no choice but to welcome Larry Johnson back with open arms. If he can avoid incarceration, LJ could be a major fantasy factor down the stretch with fresh legs and a suddenly potent Chiefs offense…Like Darren McFadden and his toe injury, Chris Chambers should just sit out until his ankle fully heals. I’m all for toughness, but what good does it do to play at 60 percent and never let the injury truly heal?...Tyler Thigpen is clearly the answer at quarterback for Kansas City. He can play. Mark Bradley possesses serious talent as well. Just like that, the Chiefs have a very intriguing young nucleus…You think LaDainian Tomlinson looks slowed this season, wait until next year. I won’t be recommending him as a top-50 pick in 2009. It may not be Shaun Alexander, 2007, but it could approach that territory.

Any team can win any given week, but last Sunday’s line (Philadelphia -3) in the Eagles/Giants game was the most dumbfounding I’ve seen all year. Really, those two teams are equal? The Eagles are paper tigers. That game wasn’t nearly as close as the final score indicated. Philadelphia shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath as this dominant New York team…I had no idea that rule existed regarding Eli Manning’s near past the line of scrimmage throw. Interesting.

Johnny Drama has somehow transformed from one of my favorite characters to the most loathsome one currently on TV. Seriously, Californication is better than Entourage.

Shaun Hill made some boneheaded decisions Monday night, and his 5.4 YPA mark left a lot to be desired, but he also made some plays as well. He’s fine to start in fantasy leagues this week at home against the Rams…Not sure what happened to Tim Hightower, but I wouldn’t panic. He still seems like a top-15 fantasy back…In Jason Hill and Josh Morgan, San Francisco has some young receivers with upside…Everyone is criticizing the 49ers for the Michael Robinson run to end the game, but I thought their decision to call a run on second down with 20 seconds left and no timeouts was equally as bad. Just a horribly incompetent finish to an otherwise entertaining game.

My new favorite player in the NBA: Rudy Fernandez - "Rudy is not everyday a shooter," Fernandez said. "He's defense. He's passes. He's assists." As awesome as that third person quote was, it didn’t bring me as much joy as reading that Edinson Volquez finished fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year race. And yet, he’s not a rookie! Just fantastic work by the BBWAA all around. That’s almost as good as when Rafael Palmeiro won a Gold Glove for playing 28 games in the field in 1999.

Everyone is killing the Marlins for the Scott Olsen/Josh Willingham trade, and while I agree they should have been able to get more in return, I’m not very high on either of those players’ futures at all. Olsen’s 4.20 ERA last season came with an ugly strikeout rate and a brutal 1.6:1 K:BB ratio. He’s also completely lost his fastball. Good luck sustaining that .266 BABIP. Willingham’s career OPS is .833, so left fielders like him are a dime a dozen. It’s frustrating watching Florida having to make so many decisions based on payroll, but with a staff featuring Ricky Nolasco, Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez, Andrew Miller and Chris Volstad, they will be contenders for years to come.

When I first heard about the Matt Holliday trade, my instinct was: “What in the hell is Billy Beane thinking?” So, naturally, Michael Wilbon and Rick Reilly go off on PTI about how much of a steal it was for the A’s. We are talking about a corner outfielder with an .803 career OPS outside of Coors Field. He’s improved in recent years away from home, but with Oakland’s payroll and Holliday about to hit free agency, it’s essentially a one-year rental. Still, I’m not big on questioning the brilliant Beane, so here’s my now revised thinking: Greg Smith’s peripherals were way out of whack with his 4.16 ERA, so he’s a nothing. Huston Street is a health risk and isn’t even the best reliever on the A’s. Also, while his component stats are pretty, he has been poor during save situations throughout his career. Carlos Gonzalez, however, is quite interesting. He could be the one true regret Beane let go. However, his horrible strikeout rate and inability to take a walk never really fit with the A’s, and he’ll only be an asset against right-handers. Beane must think either a) he’ll be able to get a better return than he just gave up at the trade deadline, when teams often become far more desperate or b) the A’s are ready to contend, and he’s happy to receive the draft picks with Holliday being a Type A free agent.
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