Tuesday, October 30, 2012

FAABulous: Fantasy Football Pick-ups Week 9

Michael Vick was Andy Reid's choice. And while it looked brilliant for a season, it's been a precipitous drop from glory. (AP)
FAABulous will recap the week of football activity and point fantasy owners where to spend their hard earned (not really) FAAB or waiver priority. Players will be owned in at most 50% of Yahoo! FFL. This is the one time where mo' money probably wouldn't mean mo' problems.

As I mentioned last week, this week would be declaration week. A time in which teams have shown their true colors and we can safely assess their prospects as well as individual player "realness" in regards to continued performance and ability to produce through the second half of the season. Hot streaks be damned, each player and team has had more than enough time to put up or shut up.

The Eagles, and not just Michael Vick, are falling apart.

On Sunday, the Eagles lost their first game ever in Andy Reid's tenure after a bye week (12-1). Now that record does mean a little something, but ultimately it's more a novelty record than anything. Overreacting to a crushing loss to the only unbeaten team in football is nothing to be up in arms about, but for the first time in Reid's career in Philadelphia, this team truly seems lost. Appropriately the Eagles dawned black jerseys because Sunday might as well have been a funeral.

There have been good teams and bad, teams that needed a little kneading to turn make that dough rise and achieve success, but this Eagles team is one that has no identity or purpose.

A lot of the conversation circles around Reid and Michael Vick. This isn't surprising, but while Vick has amassed and unseemly amount of turnovers this year, he's not the only person to blame. Most of the blame should in fact fall on Reid. Reid has turned his solid success into a Belichick-ian or Shanahanny type reign where all power and personnel decisions go through him. Out of virtually any team the Eagles have ever had in his tenure, this is Reid's vision. He made Vick one of the most dominant QB's in football (not just a flashy runner, but a true QB threat), he extended DeSean Jackson and signed Nnamdi Asomugha to large extensions. His play calling and clock management have always been in question, but his stubbornness to adapt and improve is what is ultimately leading to his downfall.

It isn't a stretch to say that the Andy Reid that coached his first game in 1999 with Doug Pederson is virtually no different from the coach that took the filed Sunday and led a listless team to an underserving 3-4 record (they could have easily been much worse). Sure he has some more gravitas, some wins and NFC titles under his belt, but the strategic and game management side have only grown more tiresome and frustrating. Once Reid was able to successfully take the reigns of this team a couple of years ago, team owner Jeffrey Lurie, who always has supported Reid, let him know that continuing to fail to adapt, to fail to make key subtle personnel decisions (improving draft picks, developing players, not just QB's) would put Reid in the cross-hairs should the Eagles fail to perform again.

Reid has responded by doing more of the same thing. Exposing Vick by having him throw all game long. Neglecting the run game and establishing or at least attempting to keep the opposing team's defense on their heels. This was an Eagles team, under the helm of Vick, two years ago that was one of the most explosive offenses in football. Now, they've been relegated to dinks and dunks. Wide receiver screens and quick slants to Jason Avant. There is a clear realization that either Reid has no confidence in Vick or himself.

This isn't to get Vick off the dunk tank seat. He's very much in line as his lack of decision making ability quickly enabled defenses to expose weaknesses and make life in the pocket for Vick hell. Vick hardly, if ever, audibles at the line to change protections or make decisions based upon what he sees from other teams. Sure, he'll kill a play or make a quick change from time to time, but when it comes to recognizing what the other team intends to do and fully controlling the situation like the Manning brothers or Tom Brady it's clear he is incapable. If another team wanted to constantly blitz their safeties, you don't think that Eli Manning would make them pay?

Vick's increased difficulties are largely on his shoulders. His accuracy has completely dropped off from two years ago, and along with Reid, he should be no longer a member of the Eagles come 72 hours after the final whistle at the Super Bowl where a $15 million roster bonus would kick in.

Reid took this team as far as he could, but it wasn't good enough. The Eagles are still one of the younger teams in football, so a new coach has a lot to work with. They can build around LeSean McCoy and Domonique Rodgers-Cromartie, but with a new regime primed to take the stage and no reliable starting QB, it may be a long time coming before the Eagles will again be a threat in the NFC East. (My head coach pick: Jon Gruden)

A couple other declarations:

Andrew Luck and RGIII are as good as advertised - baseball has Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, football has these guys. Worth noting that while RGIII has garnered more headlines, Luck leads RGIII in many of Football Outsider's DVOA ranks.

The Buc$ aren't half bad - aside from the force that Doug Martin has become and a much improved defense under first year head coach Greg Schiano, the Bucs have been my favorite team to bet on all year. They are constantly underrated by Vegas, and have the ability to keep in close games whether it's a defensive battle or a high scoring affair.

Something is happening with Calvin Johnson - somehow people have figured out a way to stop him from destroying everything in his path. Getting at Matthew Stafford helps, but the fact that Johnson has 1 TD to date in spite of increased targets is an anomaly.

How important is a head coach? - The Saints must be saying a lot. While they've always been a suspect defensive team, without Sean Payton, they've become simply a vehicle for Drew Brees to put up stats.

Alfred Morris is starting and good - easily my biggest missed call thus far has been Morris. He's managed to not only start regularly under Mike Shanahan, but perform well enough to earn Terrell Davis comparisons. I even just traded Brady for him in my one fantasy league (RGIII is my starter).

Don't sleep on AJ Green - he's starting to earn more well deserved attention. Fellow draft mate Julio Jones is getting a lot of hype and we all know what Calvin Johnson has failed to live up to. Green is quickly vaulting into the upper echelon of wideouts. Also, Larry Fitzgerald who is long forgotten in Arizona will be opting out of his mega contract. He's too good to waste away there.

Time to declare some money makers in Week 9.

It was hard not to notice Jonathan Dwyer on Sunday for a lot of reasons. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Cecil Shorts, WR - JAX (11%) DET

It's time to open up my favorite file. The Alshon Jeffrey/Josh Gordon "Someone has to Catch Passes" file. With Blaine Gabbert dinged up and no Maurice Jones-Drew someone had to enjoy themselves against the Packers miserable pass defense Shorts was able to continue a solid season hauling in his 3rd TD pass of the season.

Danny Woodhead, RB - NE (38%) BYE

Especially in a PPR league, Woodhead appears to be the kind of dual threat back that can be helpful, you know, when he's not on a bye week. There's plenty of balls to go around in the Pats offense, it's always a question of which 2nd level offensive player for the Pats will be graced with a solid game.

Jonathan Dwyer, RB - PIT (46%) WAS

There are plenty of unhealthy options in Pittsburgh at running back. While Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman got their first couple of shots at the starting job, injuries have cleared a path for Dwyer. When Mendenhall is healthy you can expect him to get a shot at earning his job back, but with injuries mounting in Pittsburgh like they usually do, Dwyer has an opportunity to be a factor in the backfield.  

PENNY SAVED IS A PENNY EARNED

Beanie Wells, RB - ARZ (11%) @GB

He's coming back from injury again. Feel free to waste money on him.

THE 1%

Ryan Broyles, WR - DET (7%) @JAX

Typically I like to try to get this done prior to 12 on Tuesdays because around then is when ESPN's Chris Harris drops his pick up list. Now, obviously, we're not in competition, but personally, I like to see who he picks and who I pick in a given week. A bit of a compare and contrast. Well due to the hurricane I got a bit delayed today, so I read Harris' article and his write up on Broyles is better than I could ever do.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

FAABulous: Fantasy Football Pick-ups Week 8


Pass happy and catch crazy, Vincent Jackson almost had 3 TD's on Sunday. (Getty)

FAABulous will recap the week of football activity and point fantasy owners where to spend their hard earned (not really) FAAB or waiver priority. Players will be owned in at most 30% of Yahoo! FFL. This is the one time where mo' money probably wouldn't mean mo' problems.

The NFL Regular Season is coming up on the half way point this week. A moment of silence as we reflect on a season that, as per usual, always feels like it just started. While it's about that time to make some season declarations (Note: idea for next week's column) we can still focus on the overall scope of the league. As mentioned a couple of weeks back, while running backs have been featured more this year than last, there are some guys that still like to throw the ball around. As such, match-ups are certainly there to be exploited, and with those poor match-ups comes the most volatile position in fantasy football, the wide receivers.

Value of wideouts are always minimized simply because any given week any stick-um-less player that runs routes can haul in 2 TD's and lah-dee-dah you're getting 18 points out of a guy projected for 4.50 - right, Randall Cobb?

In Week 7 there were 6 WR in the top 21 in scoring for the week. The first (#2 ranked scorer*) Vincent Jackson was a yard away from finishing #1 overall. Cobb was the third ranked scorer followed by Victor Cruz (who pulled off a 77 yard TD catch in the last minute of the game), the on-fire Jordy Nelson, and then 44-year-old Santana Moss (thanks for extending my career, RGIII), and Andre Roberts (former Lockration pick-up selection). So out of the top 6 scorers at wide receiver their average projected draft position was 88.3. 
*Per Yahoo! FFL the ranks are dictated not by overall points, but factors in that along with position and probably some other values and calculations that I have no idea about.  Jackson was technically the 4th highest scorer, but since he's a WR he was ranked #2. Make sense? Kind of? Well whatever, my point is going to remain the same.
While declaration time may have to wait a week, the group of QB's and RB's are certainly more solidified than they were earlier in the season. Jobs are less likely to be won or lost (and those jobs that are lost do you really want the new hire - John Skelton and Felix Jones, much?). Wide receivers offer the best opportunity for a big swing in production. It just so happens there are some talented receivers available in many leagues that could boom over the next half of the season. Let's focus on them first, then some RBs. Also, as we move along in the season, match-ups become more and more important, so I'll highlight who the player is playing in the upcoming week. 

As we throw our cash in the air, let's see who's hauling it in.


If Chris Givens is as good as he thinks he is, he can be a playmaker rest of the season. (Getty)

Titus Young, Sr., WR - DET (26%) SEA

Young had his best game of the season Monday night against Chicago, and yes, that is saying something. His 6 receptions tied his season high and his 81 yards set his season high. The only negative was he didn't score a TD, but apparently the Lions don't do that anymore. He had the second most targets behind Calvin Johnson, Young's longest reception was 23 yards, so he earned his 81, and Nate Burleson left the game with an injury. With zero run game to speak of and teams somehow figuring out how to negate MegaTron, it looks like after a rough start, Young could fulfill his sleeper status many experts had him pegged for. Although his talent was never in question, just what goes on in his cranium during the game. 

Chris Givens, WR - STL (6%) NE

Speaking of head cases, Givens does fall into this category. He has, what us Arsenal fans like to call Nicklas Bendtner disease. Basically it's unbelievable confidence in yourself and abilities, while things like sight and video and performance tend to work against your delusions. While some one's mouth can get them into trouble, Givens abilities have started to shine through in St. Louis as a deep threat.

Brandon LaFell, WR - CAR (20%) @CHI

While no one bought the Panthers early proclamation by now injured offensive lineman Ryan Kalil that these Panthers were Super Bowl threats, the wheels have really come off for Carolina. After the arbitrary mid-season firing of their GM, the Panthers are 1-5 and seem to be heading nowhere. For all Cam Newton did last year, he's been largely ineffective in this offense. Steve Smith hasn't continued his renaissance of last year, and the Carolina running backs...well they're nothing to tweet about.  One positive out of the narrow loss to Dallas last week was the delayed emergence of LaFell. He appeared to be the perfect counter to the speedy Smith, but with the Carolina offense in such a rut, who knows how or why things weren't clicking properly. His match-up this week is not good at all, but if you look past this week there are some goodies against Washington, Denver, and Tampa.

Andre Brown, RB - NYG (42%) @DAL

There was potential for a Brown breakout after Week 3, but a concussion and Ahmad Bradshaw have cooled that fire a bit. Brown came back to minimal work last week, but should build on that moving forward. Bradshaw is also battling a foot injury, but as we saw last year, that may not be enough to keep him out of a uniform. David Wilson may be more of the future, but for heavy workload, Brown has shown he can do it. 

Rashad Jennings, RB - JAX (27%) @GB

Here we go again. Maurice Jones-Drew lasted all of two plays last week due to some sort of foot injury. He's already been ruled out this week against Green Bay, and odds are it'll be a couple more weeks after that. Foot injuries aren't only tough to diagnose, they're tough to come back from. After all the contract posturing that dogged MJD in training camp, I'd be sure he'll take his time coming back from this. Now, Jennings is a serviceable replacement level back. But with this team, and this offense, I wouldn't want to own any Jacksonville players. If you're desperate for touches, then shoot for Jennings, but again, some players are back-ups for a reason. They just aren't that good.

PENNY SAVED IS A PENNY EARNED

LaRod Stevens-Howling (18%) SF  

As mentioned before, we've been down this road. Felix Jones showed us how this usually plays out. In case you're talking yourself into LRS-H simply based on carries let's try to use some facts to dissuade you. 

He is averaging 3 yards per carry. The undersized back plays San Francisco next week, and after that Beanie Wells is supposed to return. The rest of the schedule after that is brutal. I'm not convinced he even still is the primary back with William Powell running well. Last week might have just been going with the hot hand.

He has an up-up-up hill battle to return any kind of fantasy value this year.

THE 1%

Vincent Brown, WR - SD (3%) INJURED

It's not out of the question that when Brown returns from injury around Week 9 that he'll be the best wide receiver the Chargers have. Sure there are issues with that team, but getting reps above Malcolm Floyd and Robert Meachem shouldn't be impossible to do.  For all that ails Philip Rivers this year, the one thing he continues to do is throw the football. Whether it ends up in the hands of a guy with lightning bolts on his helmet or the other team is completely up in the air, but that suits Brown's game very nicely. Good preemptive strike opportunity here.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Slobblog: Monsu - Always Hungry in Philadelphia


The proprietor of our limoncello wasn't the only guy going through changes.

It's been a while for the Slobfest gang getting back together. It's been a month, felt like 4 months, and with all the changes going on with the gang might as well have been 3 years.

There's been former roommates who have new roommates, new pet owners, future fathers, somewhat unexpectedly continued relationships, and even a bottle of Danny DeVito limoncello who just went through a big change himself.



Yes, as the Slobs gathered at Monsu in Queen Village, there were a lot of changes to catch up on. And the tiny Italian eatery served as a great spot to break bread and talk about how things are going.

Monsu is a BYO right near the Italian market serves an ever changing array of Southern Italian delicacies. Most of the food isn't just pasta sauce and some meatballs, but the food expertly highlights the signature tastes of Sicily with rich spices, salt, and nuts to bring a cuisine that is unique to the Philadelphia area.

Antipasti and calimari apps.
The menu changes so often that the menu on the website is utterly useless. However, by the looks of things the website hasn't been updated in quite some time. Don't let the garish design and complete lack of a modern website turn you away. This is only a faint attempt to dissuade some from stumbling across the neighborhood gem.

We found ourselves in the back corner booth. Two Slobs were not able to attend, which while they were missed, probably worked out space wise as there was no way we'd be fitting two more people in the back booth. The cramped arrangements didn't seem to hamper the evening, and it might have added a bit to the family type feeling you can only get at a small place like Monsu.

As we found ourselves isolated, it was no concern of ours how loud and drunk we got. Then again, it hardly ever is, but at least by the time we've barely taken a sip of red wine the f-bombs were flying and fellow diners wouldn't have their experience at Monsu ruined by us.

The Slobs came to battle with 3 bottles of red wine, a 12 pack of Stella Artois, and a bottle of Danny DeVito's limoncello. We were prepared to get our share of food at Monsu, but what to order? Turns out, that question was simpler to answer than we expected. Monsu, like owner/chef Peter McAndrews' heralded Modo Mio, offers a turista menu. For the price of $40 you can select one dish from each section of the menu along with dessert. Done deal, except for one Slob who was perturbed by the server's disclosure that these courses in the turista may be a tad smaller than the actual entrees, so he went off the turista and ordered his own food at the higher price. Well, as you can see from the picture below, the difference probably wasn't anything to be concerned about.

Factor in the non-turista dish is further away, the difference is minimal.

The Slobs were happy to catch up and dig into some good food. As the appetizers came out, it was clear that the simple, but well executed food was something that everyone could enjoy. The updated menu (whenever it was updated) all lent themselves very well to the changing seasons.

For me, the clear winner is the gnocchi. Monsu has the best gnocchi I've ever had, and it's always an experience diving into the pillowy pasta.

While the food was meant for one, we had no problem sharing food with each other to sample everything from the snails to the pasta.

Spice rubbed rib eye.



Most seemed to be enjoying their meals, but with Italian food the difficulty is truly being able to separate yourself. Monsu's take is an interesting one, and it is some of the better Italian food I've had, however, with the highs there were some fair-to-middling dishes that pushed our way through the turista. There's no wow factor that you might get from creative and unique dishes at a place like Chifa or a truly elite Italian spot, Osteria.

This is not meant to be an attack on the BYO, but rather a fact of the matter regarding the difficulty at executing this food at a high, high level.

By the next Slobfest, there could be a change in the President of the United States. A new candidate could take office, or the current president will have a second term, after winning his first election on the idea of change.

The concept of things in continual change isn't new. Some think you can never step in the same river twice, but with all of these important and fun changes taking place over the past couple of months for us Slobs, it can be sure only better things are yet to come. One thing we do know is we'll be gathering and stuffing our faces for our love of food and drink.


Tip included. Easy math for some drunk Slobs.
-Slobs Out.

Monsu
901 South Christian Street
Philadelphia, PA
215.440.0495

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

FAABulous: Fantasy Football Pick-ups Week 7

Shelling out some cash for Felix Jones is pretty much a requirement. (Getty)

FAABulous will recap the week of football activity and point fantasy owners where to spend their hard earned (not really) FAAB or waiver priority. Players will be owned in at most 30% of Yahoo! FFL. This is the one time where mo' money probably wouldn't mean mo' problems.

Any article about adding football players for your fantasy team this week will undoubtedly mention Felix Jones. The Cowboys back-up running back will re-assume a starting role for at least this week as incumbent/budding star DeMarco Murray has succumb to another injury in his young career.

It's another opportunity for Jones to show some consistency among the early flashes that had him pegged as the future star running back in Dallas. Jones was the 22nd pick in a pretty loaded draft, especially when you take a look at the running backs. Jones was the sentimental pick for owner Jerry Jones, who like Felix, is an Arkansas Razorback alumni (I'm told any and all similarities end there). After Jerry was unable to move up to draft Darren McFadden fourth overall, Felix was selected as the third RB in the draft after McFadden and Jonathan Stewart.

The running backs taken after Jones (in order): Rashard Mendenhall, Chris Johnson, Matt Forte, Ray Rice, Kevin Smith, and Jamaal Charles.

Outside of Rice - who clearly anyone 54 picks earlier probably should have considered - every one of those running backs have had their ups and downs, but outside of Smith, are clearly and definitively better than Jones.

The point of all of this is, yes, Jones hasn't been able to replicate the early explosiveness that highlighted the first 6 games of his career, but he is talented. When a player of DMM's magnitude goes down, there is a common perception to quickly add his back-up. Well, back-ups are back-ups for a reason. They aren't very good. This isn't always the case. Jones is a decent example. He has the talent and ability and plays for a team that should pack a punch on offense. What always bewilders me is when players that are clearly no good become FAAB darlings.

We all go for fliers, and we love to hit that homerun pick, but it rarely happens. More often than not, you get Vick Ballard or the oft-referenced Brandon Jackson from Green Bay several years back. Jackson is still serving 15 years of a 30 year fantasy prison sentence for all the FAAB dollars he stole. It's not his fault he failed fantasy wise. It's ours! Every owner that spent a large amount of money on a player that his own team dictated as a 2nd fiddle.

While running backs always seem to spring out of nowhere, it's important that when these situations come about, we still keep our heads. We don't get caught up on if this second year back-up is the next Arian Foster. Odds are he isn't. And in Jones' case, he'll be right back to the bench when DMM is healthy. Jones is an add for his potential, but know you're getting the same Jones that has been around for several years now.

Time to shop with our heads, not our hearts.

Felix Jones, RB - DAL (23% owned)

People may be chomping at the bit for Jones, but he's only the second most famous Felix this week.



Daryl Richardson, RB - STL (14%)

A funny thing happened last week when Stephen Jackson was declared healthy for the first time all year; he still split carries with Richardson. Richardson has done a good job sharing the load with Jackson, and it is a positive that he still got touches even with Jackson ready to roll. There's rumors that Jackson is on his way out in St. Louis, which makes sense, but as long as he's still on the roster, he's the best RB they have. Richardson will stick around, and clearly Jackson hasn't been the picture of health in his latter years. Richardson is worth a bench spot to see how this rides out.

Sidney Rice, WR - SEA (63%)

I wanted to put Rice as my Penny Saved this week, but I just...couldn't...do it. Rice has shown his talent before, and he's been gaining steam over the past three weeks. While the Seahawks are built around defense, special teams, and running in that order, Russell Wilson has shown himself able to at least get the ball deep on occasion.

Kendall Wright, WR - TEN (38%)

There was a lot of buzz around the young wideout and while he hasn't been a disappointment, necessarily, he hasn't had a big game yet. Part of that might relate to the teams he's faced thus far: Detroit, Houston, Minnesota, and Pittsburgh. Easier times are ahead, starting this week with Buffalo. Wright has 33 receptions on the year, so he's been involved. Some easier match-ups will lead to bigger numbers even with Kenny Britt and Nate Washington around.

PENNY SAVED IS A PENNY EARNED

Montario Hardesty, RB - CLE (3%) 

Hardesty is the flip side to Felix Jones. People will see Trent Richardson is out, and hustle to pick up the back-up in Cleveland. Hardesty had a decent game last week, but he's never proved himself to be an every down back. If you're looking purely for a guy that will get attempts, then go for him. Other than that, I don't see much fantasy production coming his way. Especially with Brandon Weeden and Josh Gordon beginning an air show with each other.

THE 1%

Tom Crabtree, TE - GB (0%)

Don't look now, but the forever disappointing dynasty of Jermichael Finley in Green Bay may be slowly ending its reign. Tom Crabtree may not ultimately be the man to do it, but with yet another Finley year of inconsistency and dropsies, it's time to seriously start looking at other, more reliable options for Aaron Rodgers. Crabtree is what he is at this point, so maybe he can help with a fluky TD here or there, but let this be a warning sign for Finley owners. Time to make your escape.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Looking for a Fight: UFC 153 - Brazilian Breakout

Come for the future stars, stay for the legend. (mmafrenzy.com)
Anderson Silva's imminent destruction of Stephan Bonnar has dominated many of the words written about UFC 153, and rightfully so. However, in the midst of wondering how Bonnar could possibly win the fight, along with some sniveling about how this main event is just a guilty pleasure since the original headliner Jose Aldo had to pull out due to injury, there hasn't been much made of the two Brazilian fighters on the co-main event and under card that are going to be a pretty big deal as we turn into 2013...and no, I don't mean Big Nog.

Glover Teixeira (no relation to Mark, because Glover can actually hit) and Erick Silva could both walk away from Rio De Janeiro with their fair share of headlines assuming Bonnar doesn't win, or Anderson doesn't finish him with something out of Mortal Kombat.

ERICK SILVA V. JON FITCH

It's actually Silva who draws the tougher fight, taking on lay and pray guru Jon Fitch. With all the complaining UFC fans have with Fitch, aside from a shock loss to Johny Hendricks at UFC 141, Fitch has long been the champion no one wants to be champion. Injuries and that loss to Hendricks have "dropped" Fitch a bit in rankings and setting him up with the still unproven Silva.

The funny thing is that no one expects this the be the start of another title run for Fitch. This is meant to be a big step up for Silva, but a step that he can assuredly make. Although Silva is only 2-1 in the Octagon (the one loss being a bogus illegal strikes call to...wait, let me sure I'm spelling his name correctly...Carlo Prater) his skills on his feet and on the mat are unquestioned. The welterweight hasn't seen the 2nd round in quite some time, and the big question mark on his resume revolves around fighting a strong wrestler. While Charlie Brenneman does wrestle, he won't offer up the elite MMA style wrestling that has propelled Fitch to the closest base camp to the peak of the welterweight mountain.


Silva is a bad man, with every intent to finish this fight in front of his home crowd and take a big leap up at 170.

BREAKDOWN

While it's always in a fight fans interest to see the flashy finish fighter win over the grind it out wrestler, this is a huge fight for both Silva and Fitch. Fitch is older and has fought through some serious injuries recently, but he's still the old Jon Fitch. I see Silva working Fitch pretty thoroughly. If his take down defense is where it needs to be, then this match has the potential to look like the Georges St-Pierre v. Fitch championship fight. If Fitch can get him down, then Silva will look to the judges for the win. I say Silva by split decision.

GLOVER TEIXEIRA V. FABIO MALDONADO

Here are some questions for the Glover Teixeira fight.

How did he end up fighting Fabio Maldonado?
Who is Glover Teixeira?

Last things first. Teixeira is the hottest property at light heavyweight since Alex Gustafsson. Ok, Gustafsson is still a hot prospect, and people were excited about him only 4 months ago, but still anytime there's a 205 pound guy out there that can knock people out, fans seem to get excited.

Now, excitement would make sense, except for the fact that in the course of finding Teixeria's next opponent the following people were rumored to trade blows with the 31 year old: 'Shogun' Rua, Lyoto Machida, and Rampage Jackson pulled out due to injury. Even Stephan Bonnar said no! So in the search for an opponent for this guy, who last triangle choked Kyle Kingsbury in his only UFC performance, Joe Silva and Dana White ran through three former light heavyweight champs and a guy that's gleefully taking on Anderson Silva. By all accounts, people view Teixeira as a bad dude in the cage. But talking about a step up, that'd be huge for Glover. Instead, after all of those people passed (for assorted true or BS reasons) he's taking on Fabio Maldonado. While Silva has a big step up to take, Teixeira's fight is more of a calling card to the upper levels of the light heavyweight community. There's already rumbles of a Jon Jones fight in late 2013, so a grand finish by Teixeira should put him right on track after maybe Dan Henderson takes a shot at the champ.

There's still a lot of mystery around Teixeira, and the proclivity in MMA to keep looking for the next big deal has led a lot of people astray and produced more disappointments than successes. This guy could be Todd Duffee or Rory MacDonald. In this time and space, I'll side more with Rory than Todd.

BREAKDOWN

While it's not the toughest test he can face, it's time to see what Glover has got. Teixeira by 1st round KO.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

FAABulous: Fantasy Football Pick-ups Week 6

Stay sharp grasshopper. Stevan Ridley has become the apple of Bill Belichick's eye. (ESPN.com)
FAABulous will recap the week of football activity and point fantasy owners where to spend their hard earned (not really) FAAB or waiver priority. Players will be owned in at most 30% of Yahoo! FFL. This is the one time where mo' money probably wouldn't mean mo' problems.

Guess who's back? The running backs.

We were supposed to be entering the decade of the quarterback. Guys throwing the ball 50 times a game and racking up more 5,000 yard passing seasons in a year than had previously ever existed. Oh, if only Dan Marino were still around. Hell, maybe this would be promising if Don Majkowski were still around.

But, poof, just like that we've returned to the seemingly bygone era of running back heavy football, and needing those players to carry our fantasy squads.

This past week, 16 rushers had more than 15 attempts carrying the rock, and two of them - Jamaal Charles and Ahmad Bradshaw - reached the 30 carry mark. They also ran for 200 and 140 yards respectively.

What could have been for the Majik Man.
The 49ers were "Down" for 311 rushing yards against a shockingly poor Bills defense. On the 666th Monday Night Football game, the Texans opted to run the ball heavily to set up their play action to wear down the Jets. And don't look past a team like Pittsburgh, who with a healthy Rashard Mendenhall back could easily become the running force with Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer they usually are.

Ten teams thus far are averaging over 30 rush Att/G. Of those ten teams that average over 30 rushes per game, only Kansas City has outright fallen on their face. Washington and Miami have losing records, but have exceeded expectations to this point, and the rest of the teams have winning records, including the top two teams in rush attempts - New England and Houston - who are both candidates for best team in football.

What's been the cause of this? Well there are a couple of factors that jump out after 5 weeks.

1. Two Back System

What started as the perceived as the death nail for 30 carry per game rushers, the two back system has become all but mandatory in today's NFL. For every running back no matter how elite, there needs to be a more than qualified back-up to keep the top RB on the depth chart rested, healthy, and keep the offense moving for the team. Even Arian Foster, who just signed a monster deal to stay in Houston, has Ben Tate backing him up. If Tate was traded tomorrow and given the lion's share of the carries, he'd be a top 10 back, easily.

2. New Blood

There have been a lot of impact running backs this year, that were injured, ineffective, or not even in the league in 2011. Guys like Alfred Morris, Trent Richardson, Stevan Ridley, Doug Martin, and Mikel Leshoure have all turned teams with limited run presence into run threats. Aside from Leshoure who just returned form injury, all have helped fantasy teams as well.

3. Offensive Line Value

While manning the o-line will hardly ever be glamorous, it's without a doubt that teams are focusing more and more on developing and paying these players. Pass and run protection are key, and as Michael Lewis pointed out in The Blind Side (it's not just about Michael Oher) that the players on the offensive line are as important as ever. While his initial take is about the development of the left tackle, you can see how every position has increased in significance.

If your team loses a center, all you hear about is the fret and concern about pass protection calls, snapping the ball cleanly to the quarterback, knowing the audibles and everything else that goes into running a smooth offense. Well, with this increased value in the o-line, wouldn't it make sense that players develop and embrace this role more? Become better players at run and pass blocking?

We've yet to have a dominant batch of offensive linemen in a draft class, but there have been linemen emerging on a year to year basis. Last year I had never heard of Josh Sitton, but commentators were talking about him like he's the best player in football.


4. Old Dogs Learning New Tricks

The main reason this is happening is due to two of the most stubborn coaches in the NFL. Bill Belichick and Mike Shanahan have both learned to love the run game and one running back. How this happened I have no idea. In all of Belichick's hubris did he choose to zig with the run game when everyone thought he'd zag and throw the ball 50 times a game? Perhaps his offensive line's trouble pass blocking for Tom Brady made running the ball more of a necessity to keep teams at bay. Maybe Aaron Hernandez's injury caused a dramatic shift in strategy, when it appeared BB was looking to unleash Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski on unlucky defenses. For whatever reason, he found Ridley/Brandon Bolden/Shane Vereen/Danny Woodhead and he's trudging along.

The bigger shocker is Shanahan. He's never stuck with a RB like this since Clinton Portis. Alfred Morris has been a beast thus far. With Robert Griffin III getting dinged up, you would imagine Shanahan would rely on Morris even more this week if RGIII can't go. Has Shanahan finally bought in to a running back? Is this his last ploy to suck all fantasy owners in only to have him pull the rug out from under us one more time? Get out of my head Mike Shanahan, get out!

And yes, I know I picked Morris as a stay away in Week 2. If you added him, then hey, you definitely got value. He's even getting the Terrell Davis comparisons I joked about! As far as a season long player, I need two more weeks. If he does that, I'll throw in the towel on Alfred.

Can Alex Green get the Packers' offense back on track? (Andy Lyons/Getty)

Those waiver picks are getting slimmer and slimmer. Time to look at some players with $$ signs in our eyes.

Brandon Bolden, RB - NE (47% owned)

It'd kind of kill the momentum of the article if I didn't suggest a running back add this week. Bolden is clearly behind Ridley in carries, but he has the ability and the opportunity to emerge any given week. He's more of a straight line back than Ridley, so he's not going to break out on a lot of long runs, but with Ridley's potential fumbling issues, Bolden could sneak his was in as a goal line back. Sort of a Kevin Faulk/BenJarvus Green-Ellis hybrid player.

Davone Bess, WR - MIA (32%)

For all the Brian Hartline love that was going around last week, I feel that Bess is the better play in Miami. If you had the will power to pass on Hartline, you should invest in Bess. With Ryan Tannehill getting more and more comfortable, he'll be throwing a lot more, and I would look for the Dolphins to increase their play action pass plays with Reggie Bush running so well. He'd be a WR3 start for me this week in St. Louis.

Alex Green, RB - GB (10%)

Let's not get all Brandon Jackson 2.0 over here. With Cedric Benson injuring his foot, he could be out 6 weeks in the cheese state. Some things to keep in mind is that the Packers are having trouble running the ball, and on top of that they aren't much of a run team. However, with their recent struggles and a clear need for a change in mentality among the offensive players, the 2nd year man Green could take this opportunity to impress. He was a yards per carry beast, leading NCAA Division 1-A with 8.2 YPC in 2010, and in his first limited action last week, he pulled off runs at a 6.1 average (granted with a 41 yard run thrown in). He looks to be tough to bring down, and the Pack just may look to feature him a bit more.


PENNY SAVED IS A PENNY EARNED

Santana Moss, WR - WAS (33%)

Is he really owned in a third of leagues? He's the 3rd WR on the Redskins when everyone is healthy, and there's nothing to look forward to here as far as upside. With the lack of chemistry he's created with RGIII along with doubts Kirk Cousins will be throwing many more 77 yard TD's, this is a stay away. Many better wide receivers to click on for your roster needs.

THE 1%

Josh Gordon, WR - CLE (2%)

I'm filing this one under the "Someone has to Catch Passes" corollary. It's Cleveland. Someone has to catch passes! Brandon Weeden has been sneaky not terrible since his Week 1 fiasco, complete with getting sacked by the American flag. I wouldn't look to much into a 2 catch day against the weak Giants secondary as a coming out party, but he can serve as a big play threat for the Browns.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

FAABulous: Fantasy Football Pick-ups Week 5

Brian Dawkins emerges from the inflatable Eagle head one last time. (AP)

FAABulous will recap the week of football activity and point fantasy owners where to spend their hard earned (not really) FAAB or waiver priority. Players will be owned in at most 30% of Yahoo! FFL. This is the one time where mo' money probably wouldn't mean mo' problems.

The Philadelphia Eagles retired the #20 from their uniform line this week. Honoring safety Brian Dawkins in a week long celebration of his career that culminated on Sunday Night Football with a halftime ceremony that nearly muted Bob Costas (if only).

The Eagles went on to beat the Giants to go to 3-1 on the season. With all the energy surrounding Dawkins' return to Lincoln Financial Field, I was partially serious when I posted to Facebook to see if the Eagles could hire Dawkins as Pre-Game Fire Up Coordinator/Last Player to Run Out the Tunnel-er. No one hypes up the fans like B-Dawk.

As a lifelong Eagles fan, Dawkins is without a doubt the most revered athlete in Philadelphia history. That's saying a lot considering 1. How bad Philadelphia sports teams have been and 2. How prone Philly fans are to destroy their athletes that fail to meet expectations (Eric Lindros, Donovan McNabb) (3a. Or even destroy those that do (Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins). There are few free passes in Philadelphia sports.

Not that Dawkins got one, but he was able to ascend the height of Philly fandom not by winning a championship (he never did), but by playing football the way Philly fans want the sport to be played. It's contrived to say it like that, but there was never a time watching Dawkins play where you ever felt he wasn't giving everything he had. The hustle was always there. The aggressiveness was always there. He was respected by the fans and feared by the opposition.




Even when he left Philadelphia for Denver in 2009, no one really held it against him like fans do Jayson Werth who moved to Washington for $126M*. He got paid like a top 3 safety, which he no longer was, and people knew Dawkins was past his prime.
*It's funny that Werth, who left for probably double of what he could have got in Philly get's crap from fans when he returns. People thought he was leaving for the money, and even if he was, he earned it. The guy had a broken wrist and was barely a utility guy in the majors when he revived his career in Philly. He way outperformed what he was getting paid, and at his age new this would be his last pay day in baseball. He'd be insane to not go to Washington. And as for people saying he was just about the money? The Nationals just won the NL East Title and the Phils have been out of playoff contention for 87% of the season. 
I think that the image of Dawkins really downplays just how good of a player he was. Everyone remembers the big hits and the timely interceptions, but Dawkins was able to do everything on the football field. Perhaps his most underrated trait was his ball hawking and coverage abilities. Look at the "Pro Bowl" corners the Eagles had while Dawkins was patrolling the secondary. Lito Sheppard, Sheldon Brown, Rod Hood...these were dominant cornerbacks in the NFL. As soon as they left? After thoughts. Dawkins covered for a lot of mistakes in the secondary, and his pressure on the QB surely helped some interception numbers.

Behind Reggie White, Dawkins was the best player I've ever seen play for the Eagles. He's certainly left the most indelible images I have for football as well as Google (seriously, if you Google him, lots of cool/demon looking photos).

Any attempt to spit out how important Dawkins was to the Eagles fans would be a failed attempt. Great writers probably can, but I haven't seen anyone sum up exactly what this guy means. It's an honor to have his number retired forever. It's how it should be.

As NFL 2012-2013 Season: Revenge of the Replacement Refs reaches the quarter point, let's see who could still be out there to help your woebegone team.

Jackie Battle could find the end zone more this year than Ryan Mathews. (Getty)


Jackie Battle, RB - SD (24% owned)

People love Ryan Mathews. I'm not sure why, but they do. Norv Turner doesn't love Ryan Mathews. Norv Turner controls Ryan Mathews carries. I'd rather see how the head coach of the football team handles Mathews rather than fantasy fans. Mathews is too talented to be benched, but I could certainly see Battle getting a fair amount of carries and especially on the goal line. Plus, it's not as if Mathews has been the picture of health in his young career. Good flex play here.

Andre Roberts, WR - ARZ (17%)

I believe in the Cardinals a little. Confidence is a hell of a drug. While people are busy doubling Larry Fitzgerald, Roberts has come into his own as Kevin Kolb's possession type guy. Beanie Wells is hurt, again, and I don't like Ryan Williams much at all, so shockingly, this offense will have to go - conservatively - through Kolb. Let's file Roberts under the Titus Young/Alshon Jeffrey category.

James Jones, WR - GB (34%)

Maybe the Packers haven't been the juggernaut many people were expecting. Aside from Aaron Rodgers performance last weekend, he's left a lot to be desired. The key with Jones is that with Greg Jennings tweaked and pulled muscles there's a real opportunity for Jones to step up. He's been in this offense for a while, and he has caught an escalating number of TDs over the past 3 years (5, 7, and 3 already this year).

Greg Zuerlein, K - STL (17%)

A kicker? Yes, a kicker. Kickers should always be the last pick in your draft and Zuerlein is Exhibit E double F in the case for it. The rookie kicker crushed boots of 24, 48, 58, and 60 last week. He's got legit power in his leg, and kickers that explode onto the scene happen all the time. Don't they Dan Carpenter or Neil Rackers? Aside from his bye week, Zuerlein should be your starting kicker every week. He's in that nice cozy spot for kickers where he plays in a dome for his home games and his offense is good, but not great - leading to a lot of field goal opportunities.

PENNY SAVED IS A PENNY EARNED

Brian Hartline, WR - MIA (28%)

I'll give it to Ryan Tannehill (man, how many Ryan's have been mentioned already) he didn't look overwhelmed last week. He's definitely gotten a lot better since Week 1 when I was cackling with joy every time he attempted to throw a pass. His growth though does not equal to me buying Hartline. This early in the season, a monster game like the one Hartline put up would vault him to the top of the WR list, but his struggles against tough defenses along with the possibility of him getting #1 WR attention instead of Davone Bess makes Hartline a match-up only play, and not worth a splash of cash.

THE 1%

Here's something I've noticed in Week 5. The amount of players that are 1% available are basically 3rd stringers or players that are inactive. With that being said, I will now change The 1% section to include players owned is less than 10% of Yahoo! leagues! Makes sense, doesn't it?

Tim Tebow, QB - NYJ (9%)

As Dez Bryant showcased last night, there is a difference between being a good fantasy football player and a good football player. Tim Tebow is a good fantasy football player, and his resurrection in New York appears imminent. Mark Sanchez has been a total flop. You can factor in as many reason as to why this has happened, but it boils down to Sanchez not being good. If Sanchez can't show marked improvement in two weeks, you can expect Tebow to take big boy snaps with the starters. I would expect to see more Tebow oriented plays in the coming weeks. Tebow did finish with 18 total TDs last year and ranked 55. If you're like me and have Russell Wilson hanging around as QB2, may not be a bad option. I will be sad to see Sanchez go though. He will instantly make the Jets from a gambling perspective a "bet against," to an "I don't know what the hell to do" with Tebow involved.