Tuesday, November 27, 2012

FAABulous: Fantasy Football Pick-ups Week 13


"Hey, you're not Ronnie Hillman!" said Peyton Manning and fantasy owners. (Cannon City Daily Record)

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.


Talking about fantasy sports is fun. Playing fantasy sports is fun. When it comes to predicting fantasy sports, that can be not so fun.

What is funny is that as soon as the business side of things comes into play regarding fantasy sports, things take a turn to the ugly. Sure in leagues among friends there's trash talk and the occasional blow up. Public leagues allow the mask of anonymity to allow some to be total jerk-offs, but in general there's just a sense of competition. As soon as someone pronounces themselves an expert or works for a big company like ESPN, then the attitude towards these 'experts' in fantasy change.

Their predictions and rankings become something sacred. Line-ups are set, add/drops are made, and of course FAAB money is spent largely based on these fairy tale prognosticators doing their job and getting that insider info out to the public.

No one tunes into a podcast or reads a fantasy football article to hear about how awesome Tom Brady is, or that A.J. Green is a pretty good wideout. No, these are all obvious and not very astute observations. What draws people in is the mystery. Who is the next big sleeper? Is this back-up running back going to take over the starting job? What do you think this 7th round rookie will do in Week 13?

Those more in-depth opinions are what fantasy experts are out there for, and as a result being an expert and being responsible for making these more difficult calls gets you grilled by the fans 95% of the time. 

"You told me to start Kenny Britt over Brandon LaFell!? Thanks for nothing, moron!" 

That's basically how I see things going. People that do go off on fantasy experts are clearly disappointed in their inability to make their own decision as well as putting a little too much emphasis on an industry where they are anointed experts.

Of course, in a world where everything is listed out or ranked, there would be a site that ranks these rankers. The overall mark equals out to about a D- in school grading terms, so across all experts the hit rate isn't all that definitive. 

I guess now would be a good time to state the obvious. I'm not an expert. I don't claim to be. Could I see myself being one? Yes, but at this point, I'm just a guy that loves sports and writes down some thoughts. My opinion is based on my own skills and probably on par with the next 20-something year old guy bellying up to a bar that serves some great microbrews

With that out of the way, to me, what makes an expert an expert is having a lot of good insights, and getting paid for those insights so he can focus his livelihood around researching, reading, watching games and doing all the things amateur fantasy fans or people that have to work for a living cannot do.

As a result they should be able to dig deeper; to search a little harder and look for the nuances of teams, games and match-ups which is why fans tune in to hear what the experts have to say.

One fact that many people appear to ignore is that the experts on their computer monitor or TV screen aren't necessarily the best at what they do. They're fantasy experts with personality. You need that presence to write interesting and fun columns or carry an hour long fantasy show on Sunday mornings. Unless there's a guy out there who can predict in the low 80% range, then no one is going to sit there and sift through pages of data and info for a guy who hits on 62.1% of his rankings as opposed to 61.1%. 

While fantasy players may not admit it in this new sabermetric world we live in, we still want to be entertained. Sure, it doesn't have to be lame jokes or puns, but interesting writing or an on-air personality is what players value just as much as who is right and who is wrong. If I'm lying then John Paulsen would have almost half a million Twitter followers. This isn't praising guys like Paulsen or shunning guys like Berry, this is just a note that fantasy experts come in different shapes and sizes. They bring different things to the table. But for this game, entertainment is paramount. 

In this game of, let's face it, failing grade fantasy analysis - it's impossible to be right a large percentage of the time. Fantasy experts go off of the same thing that guys like Mike Florio go off of. Information. So when being a fantasy experts basically invites you to accept failure and criticism all the time, I found it particularly rough this past week when an obvious add for Week 12 Ronnie Hillman was set to take over for the injured Willis McGahee and quite frankly looked primed to be a big impact player. Everyone was reporting this, but then hours before the game we were all out foxed. Out John Foxed. The Broncos head coach started the 2009 12th overall pick Knowshon Moreno. Moreno was a former high pick, yes, but injuries combined with a fumbling problem left him inactive for most of the season. So to suddenly see him in the game and starting nonetheless sent shockwaves through fantasy football.

Perhaps a great fantasy expert would have see the writing on the wall, but doing so would only be out of a gut call. There was nothing to suspect Moreno would start or be effective - well, except for Peyton Manning being involved. Sure enough, there were plenty of people freaking out and complaining about their fantasy team being ruined as a result of adding Hillman over Moreno. Again, I'm not expert, but I didn't even pick the right guy and I had two guesses.

Moreno's injury bug doesn't make Hillman an automatic drop, but it does suck for fantasy players and experts alike. Let's not feel bad for Scott Pianowski, Ray Flowers, Ladd Biro, and their ilk because they have awesome gigs, but let's not pretend that they are holding the answers to everything. Like most oracles in this realm, they are here to guide you, not tell you what path to take. 

So let's get nudged in the direction of some free agent pick-ups.


Bottoms up. (NY Daily News)

Knowshon Moreno, RB - DEN (21% owned) TB

Damn you fantasy experts! Damn you! Regardless if Hillman eventually steps in, Moreno has the gig now. He's a bigger back that might be preferred for his pass catching and pass blocking capabilities. After all, it's Peyton that makes this team run on offense.

Daniel Thomas, RB - MIA (26%) NE

Fantasy experts, why didn't you predict the Matt Forte injury and tell me to trade for Michael Bush! Well, Bush is owned in 57% of Yahoo! FFL so he doesn't qualify for this column. Of course though, if you can get him, do it. Bush has been underrated since he broke his leg near the end of his college career in Louisville. He's capable of monster games and sure handed at the goal line.

Daniel Thomas is available though. While he hasn't shoved the other Bush out of his way in Miami, Thomas is starting to come around in Joe Philbin's system. He's got some tough run defenses coming up, but weeks 15 and 16 he faces Jacksonville and Buffalo...who are not.


David Wilson, RB - NYG (15%) @WAS

Hey, remember David? That was all the way back in Week 1, but now Wilson has the opportunity to make his rookie not about if he cried or not after a fumble. Previous Lockration FAABulous pick Andre Brown unfortunately broke his fibula which opens up carries for Wilson behind Ahmad Bradshaw, and allows us all non-Bradshaw owners to player our favorite game of "There's no way Bradshaw can make it through the rest of the year, he has X injuries. Wait, how does he have 19.70 fantasy points? He's not stopping is he? Are we sure he's hurt?" I gotta think of a better title for that one.

Mark Sanchez, QB - NYJ (10%) ARI

Just kidding about Mark. Arizona is 28th in the league for most fantasy points allowed to QB's, but unless you're Fireman Ed, you can't believe in this guy. Although a nice QB to look at for a bench spot is Jake Locker. Since his return from a shoulder injury, the former Huskie has put up 14 and 16 points respectively. Even going against a not quite as good as you remember from the start of the year Texans D, his remaining schedule breaks favorably.

PENNY SAVED IS A PENNY EARNED

Cole Beasley, WR - DAL (0%) PHI

This is a half-hearted one, not because I don't think he's necessarily ownable, but the 5'8 Beasley was quite the Thanksgiving treat. As my family and I watched football, we loved seeing this guy fly all over the field for 7 rec 13 tar and 68 yards. With Miles Austin hurting, there's an opportunity for him, but I think the ball will be going other places, especially with DeMarco Murray due back...soon?

THE 1%

Joe Webb, QB - MIN (0%) @GB

You know he's coming. Christian Ponder is struggling and with Minnesota fading they need the sometimes WR-eligible QB to take the field. If the Vikings' fans aren't already in a Colin Kaepernick fueled rage, then I don't know football fans.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

FAABulous: Fantasy Football Pick-ups Week 12

Dallas Clark's OT TD capped probably the greatest gambling moment of my life. (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 50% of Yahoo! FFL. This is the one time where mo' money probably wouldn't mean mo' problems.

No one likes to hear about gambling wins. Gambling losses are usually much more pleasurable in a schadenfreude kind of way than how someone hit on their 4 team parlay, but I feel I must jot this particular gambling win down in the annals of history so that I can reflect on this when I'm old and gray. What occurred on Sunday might just be the apex of my gambling life.

Anyone that gambles on sports knows the feeling of sitting on your couch staring at all of the games going on and realizing your 3 team parlay is dead and buried. You have about 20 minutes to mull over whether to double down and try to make your money back in the afternoon games, or just cut your losses.

I was pondering this on Sunday probably the same time my younger brother was placing bets for the afternoon games.

We've both gambled on football for a bit. I'm less intense about it than he is. I'll use www.sportsbook.ag, while he has a bookie. I'll usually bet less money than he does, but we do enjoy it and as disturbing as it sounds, it's a good way to stay in touch. We will text or call Sunday morning to discuss games we like and games we don't. Get another perspective on things and see if we come to an agreement on teasers or parlays that could work out for us.

Most of the time we go our own way, but on Sunday we came to an agreement on a 3 team parlay.

Our bet was as follows:

Eagles/Redskins under 45 points
Packers (-3)
Bucs (+1.5); although I think my brother got them as a pick-em

There's nothing Earth shattering about those picks, but how they came to win is what makes this bet perhaps the gambling apex of our lives.

**I'm sure there are real gamblers out there who spend thousands of dollars a week on bets, have won more money than I'll ever see and so on and so forth, but this is for me and my casual betting self. 
The bad news is, that it's never a good thing to realize the moment you hit your apex in anything. By defnition it's all down hill from here. The good news is, with gambling, you can never be exactly sure. The best gambling moment of your life will always be in hindsight, less you win Powerball and collect a couple hundred million dollars. I can sit here right now, and say, yes, that's probably my gambling apex, but I have no idea. There could be a 5 team teaser in my future or...even who knows what kind of gambling options will even be available 10 years from now? This may be a drop in the bucket...at least that's what I have to tell myself to continue gambling and having fun doing it.

That does not apply for your sexual apex. If you're just a regular guy, then I'm pretty sure most of us know exactly when our sexual apex hit. A moment where, yes, it may not get better than this. Like, if you somehow find yourself in bed with Mila Kunis, it's probably time to jump off a high building (John Mayer need not take note of this).

For some the sexual apex is more obscure, or in reality not much of an apex, but a high note. A blip on the fooling around radar. For others it's a thunderous body slam that rocks your world forever. A friend told me that he knows a guy that knows a guy that took a certain famous actresses virginity while they were in high school. They went to prom together and there's photographic evidence of that. Whether they went all the way, well, I'm not cracking open an investigation. But if you're that guy and you got it on with this B-list actress, then where do you go from there? It's not like you're going to meet Kate Upton at the supermarket. For the rest of your life, that will be - without a doubt - your sexual calling card.

Dates may not seem as sweet, the allure of a woman might be limited to the fact that she hasn't starred in movies and TV shows, or let's face it, you may just not nab a better looking chick for the rest of your life.

So the good news is: I've never had sex with an any letter actress and I can still pretend my gambling apex hasn't happened. Go gambling!

Like most things this season, unfortunately, the outcome of the Eagles game was never in doubt. The Skins were on cruise control, and this Eagles offense has put up more than 20 points only 3 times all year. Final score WAS 31 Eagles 6.

However, the other two games looked like lost causes. The Packers had been struggling most of the day against Detroit, and the Bucs were down 10 against the Panthers with 6:00 minutes left.

When Doug Martin fumbled at the goal line with at the end of the 3rd quarter leading to a Panthers TD drive, I'd say things were just about sunk.

On the subsequent Bucs drive, they made a 40 yard field goal courtesy of Connor Barth, making it 21-13 with 4:03 remaining in the game.

My brother and I were both thinking that Cam Newton owed us a pick 6, as he hadn't thrown an INT all game, but that was not in the cards. We did get something positive, which was a punt after the Panthers had run off 3:01 of game time. The legendary Josh Freeman had the ball with 1:02 remaining in the 4th quarter, down 8.

Meanwhile, in Green Bay, the Packers had taken the lead from the Lions. An Aaron Rodgers led 82 yard drive ended in a Randall Cobb floating TD pass (his 7th TD catch of the year, by the way). The next Lions possession was lost on downs and netted -5 yards. The Pack were up with 1:19 left in the 4th quarters.

Back in Tampa, Josh Freeman had no timeouts and needed a TD. What happened next was a 7 play 80 yard TD drive that lasted all of 50 seconds. Freeman's TD pass to Vincent Jackson was a laser between three Carolina defenders.

While Freeman was doing his thing, the Packers had run out the clock the best they could. With 19 seconds left they kicked a field goal to go up 24-20. In real life, this served to force the Lions to have to score a TD, but it was pretty insignificant. How insignificant? I couldn't even find a picture of the field goal kick on ESPN's game wrap. In gambling life, the Packers had covered, and Mason Crosby owed everyone that bet on the Packers as he had missed his previous 2 field goal opportunities that day.

So now, in the span of 4 minutes of NFL game time, our bet had gone from dead to very much alive. The Eagles/Skins and the Packers were in the books. The Bucs had just made an improbably drive, but still needed the two point conversion to force overtime. Freeman dropped back and found his best friend (and now, probably mine) Jackson on a slant for the conversion. We were going to overtime.

The Bucs got the ball first, which under the new rules, doesn't mean a whole lot, unless you score a TD. They were again on their own 20 with 80 yards of grass to go. Huh, some deja vu for Josh.

He had his timeouts now and could utilize Martin as a result. The Panthers were reeling and after some big Martin runs, Freeman was able to ice the cake with a 15 yard pass to Dallas Clark. Touchdown! Bucs win! Our parlay wins!

From losing hope for a day to having a complete turnaround in about 8 minutes of NFL game time with all of those games going on simultaneously was crazy, crazy, crazy. My life gambling bar is set pretty high. I'll probably never put $10,000 on black or be in a high stakes baccarat game like James Bond, so I guess the goal now is to somehow top this one.

I have a feeling I'll fall short a good amount of times.

Onto some adds for Week 12. As playoffs near, injuries have been a big part of the narrative last week as well as this one. However, this week, some bigger fantasy impact players took a tumble. As I've mentioned most times this season, just because a back-up gets the starting job, it's not a reason to jump all over him. There are always good back-up and just back-ups.

I'm a very important person! (philly.com)

Bryce Brown, RB - PHI (5% owned) CAR

Bryce Brown is a rookie running back for Philadelphia. Something else you may know about him is that he was taken in the 7th round. You might even know he ran a 4.37 40 at the combine. Here's something you may not know, coming out of college, he was ranked higher than Trent Richardson and Matt Barkley which makes sense because he was the top recruit in all of high school football his Senior year. So yeah, he was a big deal back in the day. To say he has the pedigree would be an overstatement. He transferred to Kansas St. after a year at Tennessee, then had a multitude of issues that completely derailed his once promising career. With LeSean McCoy getting a concussion late Sunday, there's no reason the Eagles should bring him back Monday against Carolina, and they should probably sit McCoy longer than that.

Brown has yet to prove himself above the high school level and will be running behind a horrible offensive line, but against a weak defense. Monday Night seems like an interesting time for Brown to shine and let people know who he is.

Lance Ball, RB - DEN (2%) @KC

Another injury knocked Willis McGahee out for most likely the rest of the season with an MCL tear. The play here is Ronnie Hillman, but I profiled him back in Week 4 as an add, so for the sake of repeating myself, Lance Ball is the other option in Denver. With Denver's offense the way it is and Philadelphia likely plugging McCoy back as soon as he's healthy, Hillman is the big free agent this week.

Justin Blackmon, WR - JAX (27%) TEN

Blackmon was late arriving to the 2012 rookie bonanza, but he kicked in the door and made sure people took notice. It's interesting what will happen when a wide receiver has a quarterback that actually throws the football and takes chances. Some of Blackmon's biggest plays, including an overturned TD catch due to a holding penalty were jump balls that Chad Henne threw up there for him. Blackmon was a high pick for a reason. He has the physicality that can set him apart from a big possession receiver.

With his titanic 236 yds 1 TD performance, the stock will be high for Blackmon, but that game against the Texans was just screwy. With Henne keeping the job I like Blackmon a bit more moving forward, but I won't expect any repeat performances.

Julian Edelman, WR - NE (4%) @NYJ

The biggest injury of the weekend was Rob Gronkowski breaking his forearm. The TD machine was injured on the 59th point of the game. An extra point. Grand.

There will obviously be a redistribution of looks in New England, but with Aaron Hernandez finally due back from his high ankle sprain, the Pats may not lose much of a step. One player that has come on recently has been Edelman. he had a big week last week and unless the Pats have a lot of confidence in Visanthe Schancoe, any leftovers could be Edelman's for the taking.


PENNY SAVED IS A PENNY EARNED

Jalon Parmalee, RB - JAX (6%) TEN

We've been here with Rashad Jennings and we're still here looking to replace Maurice Jones-Drew. Parmalee isn't the answer just like Jennings wasn't. Only if you're desperate should you add Parmalee.


THE 1%

Shane Vereen, RB - NE (6%) @NYJ

A better RB option would be Vereen. The offensive benefits are clear, and Bill Belichick has shown that although Stevan Ridley is the starter, there's still room for Vereen.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Looking for a Fight: UFC 154 Part II

There's been an air of happiness and calmness to GSP leading up to Saturday night. (Getty)
If you missed it, Part I of this two part Looking for a Fight looked at the return of GSP. Part II will look ahead to the action Saturday night.

During the open workouts to the media Georges St-Pierre sat in the ring, legs crossed, and a smile on his face.

During the press conference, in a stylish suit, GSP fielded answers wearing that same smile and even when continually deflecting questions about the seemingly set in stone super-fight against Anderson Silva should GSP win, he smoothly side steps the question like a slow overhand right.

This is what you'd expect out of 6-time defending welterweight champion. Maybe not what you'd expect out of a 6-time defending welterweight champion coming off of major knee surgery and not competing inside the Octagon for 19 months.

But as surprising as it was finding out GSP had "lost the fire" that drove him to be champion, the picture become clear that something has changed in the champ while he was rehabbing.

Looking to test out the rewards of his rehab on Saturday night is interim champion Carlos Condit. For a guy with a belt around his waist and a 14-1 record over the same time GSP was carving out his 170 lb legacy, you'd think he'd be able to nab some headlines himself, but Condit won't go out of his way to be a part of a tale he can frankly, only ruin.

When Condit's not fighting, this is basically what is going on in his head. (facebook.com)
A win for Condit Saturday night would destroy Silva v. GSP, would crush the Canadian audience in attendance at Bell Centre as well as the larger GSP fan base watching live on PPV, and depending on how he won could cast a significant doubt in GSP as to whether he may even want to continue fighting.

The last potential outcome of a Condit win may be a little far fetched, but it's unfair to cast all these negative aspersions on the interim champ for a couple of reasons. First, Condit is a great fighters and person. To say there's hardly been any trash talk leading up to this fight is an overstatement. There's been none I've heard except each fighter say they expect to win and expect to finish the fight and make it exciting. That's headlining a fight talk 101. There's no doubt Condit would be a great ambassador for the UFC as champion. He might lack some of the marketing flair GSP has, but the guy works hard, comes from a great family, and puts on exciting fights. The more fans get to see Condit as an individual fighter and not the guy trying to beat GSP, the more they'll come around.

Second, losing to Condit wouldn't be all that surprising even if GSP was healthy. If you look at GSP's last several fights, there hasn't been a fighter with championship pedigree that is excellent in every facet of mixed martial arts. Sure there's BJ Penn, but 170 lb BJ is different from 155 BJ. I'd say the last true test he had with a fighter as all-around dangerous as Condit was Matt Hughes in 2007. Sure each fighter brought a different challenge that posed a threat to GSP, but Condit is able to bring a lot of different things to the table making it more difficult for GSP to adjust and attack a weakness. Of course on top of that, he's also dealing with his knee and ring rust and those pesky butterflies. I'm not buying GSP as a 3-to-1 favorite like Vegas does just because that line undermines the level of fighter Condit is.

Condit has been in championship fights before and hasn't fizzled in them. There seems very little that can shake either of these guys, less it's each others fists or shin bones.

Which brings us back to the ebullient GSP. He's just been walking around with a vibe about him that makes you feel like he hasn't left, and that there's nothing wrong or different at all. From my memories of GSP pre-Jake Shields/Josh Koscheck/Dan Hardy there was a focus that bordered on nervousness to put on a big show and finish the fight. Continue that downward spiral he says he was on of just beating an opponent and moving on to the next one. This time, removed of those pressures as people are more focused on his knee and more importantly, happy having him back and fighting; GSP doesn't need to overthink things and feel burdened with anything other than the fight. I think that's something he hasn't felt in a while and it shows.

BREAKDOWN

Speaking of butterflies, I haven't had any for a UFC main event in quite some time. I like both fighters a whole lot, and it's hard not to let my superior fandom of GSP and my curiosity in seeing if Silva v. GSP would actually happen cloud my judgment for thinking about Saturday night.

In a UFC fight, things can go either way in the blink of an eye, but when I try to be objective, I see more paths to victory for GSP than Condit.

While both fighters come out and execute a game plan as well as any fighter in the UFC stable, I've seen GSP do it time and time again. His physical tools along with an almost systematic breaking down of his opponents has been successful time and time again to the point where GSP has had his way with many opponents.

Condit executed a great game plan against Nick Diaz that was smart and safe, but it's when he is a more aggressive fighter that he is at his best. Condit has a strategy, but his ability to throw a diverse striking set against his opponents is what can give him an advantage against GSP, who will most likely be starting slowly - as he usually does and to get comfortable back in the Octagon.

So if Condit goes aggressive, which most people say he will, how does he attack his opponents? He will throw kicks and combos to close space and get in striking distance. The problem with that against GSP is due to GSP's karate background he is much more comfortable further away from his opponents (a la Lyoto Machida) than a fighter with either a more traditional Muay thai or boxing striking background. This means Condit will most likely have to find a way in other than kicks because at that distance GSP can easily see them coming and take Condit to the mat.

If Condit comes in with punches, then GSP can keep him at bay with his jab and movement. The observation at that point is how will GSP counter strike Condit to enforce his game plan? No one could possibly know what that plan is other than it won't be a kick boxing match. He judo toss Condit until he taps or throw up spinning pile drivers like it's Streets of Fury or something. I'm a believer that this fire GSP has found will equate to a more dangerous fighter.

I'm not overly concerned about subs by either fighter. Both have adequate BJJ skills, but more importantly their ability to avoid submissions is world class. When GSP takes Condit down, Condit is dangerous off his back, but GSP is too good to be caught in something; less he gasses late in the fight.

I expect both fighters to come out, not slow, but with a strategy they look to implement. Condit will have a more aggressive strategy, but I expect GSP to be ready and ride that through the first round; settling down both fighters for round 2.

This will be my favorite for fight of the night as I expect a see saw affair in the toughest fight for either opponent. If the fight ends early it'll be a Condit win as I'm not sure GSP can finish Condit. So with that said, I'm saying split decision victory for GSP. Welcome back.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Looking for a Fight: UFC 154 Part I

It's no coincidence that GSP's return is also the return of the big main event. (ufc.com)

It's been 19 months since Georges St-Pierre stepped into the Octagon. A small span of time in the grand scheme of the UFC, but leading up to UFC 154 Saturday night at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada, it's a wonder that the UFC survived without him.

As per usual, the UFC landscape has changed over the past year and a half, but it's clear that the impact of it's biggest star (sorry, Jon Jones, fans hate you a bit too much to wrestle that title from GSP) and biggest draw can still sculpt valleys and mountains like a great glacier, cutting to the heart of what makes the UFC so great and what fans pine for during every pay per view. The best of the best putting on a show. Fighters that masterfully blend all aspects of martial arts into a dominant and awe inspiring performance.

In what has been mostly an injury riddled and disappointing year for the UFC, GSP is shining a very bright light as 2012 comes to a close. So far he's been able to provide an intriguing comeback story (complete with "I've go my fire back" quotes!), set up a great fight between himself and interim champion Carlos Condit that can and is single-handily carrying a pay per view that will easily surpass 600K buys, starred in one of the most entertaining UFC Primetimes in a long time, led to rumors of an Anderson Silva v. GSP mega-fight at Cowboys Stadium and everything that goes along with that (mainly will Anderson enter the ring should GSP win on Saturday to what beach will Anderson be sipping mai thais on during his "vacation"...even though we all know his posturing is just free publicity for his movie with Steven Seagal).

So for Part I of this two part Looking for a Fight, let's focus on GSP, because basically there isn't a person in the fight world right now that can't do anything but that. Sorry, Carlos, I'll get to you soon.

The surprising story line that emerged from GSP's rehab process isn't that his rehab was tough, that he faced some self-doubt; as these are all things that I'm sure most top level athletes will go through, but rather that GSP frankly has stated that in his last couple of title defenses he was a much more dour GSP. He became engulfed by the business side of fighting, viewing each match-up as a chore rather than a chance to compete. This makes everything about being a fighter more arduous. Training, strict dieting, sparring, the aches, the pains, and knowing that every morning you wake up, you'll be going to sleep maybe a little better but a lot more frustrated.

I found an interesting take on this part of the process (training and the day to day grind as opposed to the actual fight itself) in Grantland's piece yesterday about Rembert Browne's trip to NFL HQ to visit the set of NFL Red Zone. The always seeming caffeinated host of Red Zone Scott Hanson (he doesn't drink coffee!) mentioned this:
Deion and Sapp and all those guys will tell you, when they played, you didn't need to pay them for Sunday. You pay them to come to practice every day and do film work and all that other stuff that was kind of drudgery. Game day they would do for free. This is the fun stuff.
That's it right there.

When athletes or a person with a seemingly glamorous position say they'd do this for free, they probably would. The this being playing on Sunday, acting in a movie, or whatever. The payment part comes from the droll of training and mentally preparing and sitting in a trailer memorizing lines. That mundane stuff is where payment is owed. Getting to go out there and perform your craft, to put it on display, that's the payoff for all that work.

GSP had lost even that. There was no payoff for him. It was just knock one down and move onto the next one. And knowing what we know about GSP, it wouldn't be a big leap to suggest that being one of the top pound for pound fighters on the planet, being the undisputed welterweight champ, to take on each day with those kinds of expectations and pressures, sure that along with the business side of things could squelch any man's flame.

The knee injury is what freed GSP of these burdens. It broke him from his routine of train, press conference, fight, win, train, press conference, fight, win - and gave him that always powerful "perspective on things."

Due to that injury, he had to deal with the possibility that he'd never be the same guy again. That he'd lose even a portion of that athleticism that made him such an elite fighter against all types of opponents. His agility and explosiveness allowed him to implement his game plan with expert precision in order to become a truly dominant mixed martial artist.

Also, as he witnessed from afar, the UFC trucks along. An interim title was set up between Condit and Nick Diaz. Coincidentally, it was Diaz who essentially took the title shot back from Condit after Diaz trash talked his way to GSP and certainly made Georges show some fire.

Training for that fight is when he tore his ACL, and sent him down a different path with new challenges.

For the first time since he entered the Octagon in 2002, there was no clear path for him. He was either focused on winning fights, getting to the title and defending the title. Now, he was in some kind of champion limbo. Not quite fighting for the championship, but not quite fighting to win it back. He had to prove to himself that he wanted to get back in the cage. He had to prove to himself that he still has the drive and fire to be not one of the greats, but the greatest fighter at 170.

When GSP comes out of the tunnel with his customary karate gi on Saturday night, he would have proven to himself he found those things in his year and a half journey back to the UFC. Internally he knows. That fire is burning bright and his butterflies are flying in formation. Now, he'll be out to prove to everyone else that the best GSP possible is back, and he'll do it in one of the toughest fights of his career.

Tomorrow in Part II, the fight breakdown...


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

FAABulous: Fantasy Football Pick-ups Week 11

Week 10 led to a lot of QB injuries and poor performances that probably didn't sink your fantasy team. (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 50% of Yahoo! FFL. This is the one time where mo' money probably wouldn't mean mo' problems.

We all know what football is in 2012-2013. There's an increased concern for player safety and specifically concussions. Rules have been put into place, tests have to be administered, and the public consciousness is growing week by week.

The NFL will take credit for this, throwing around how much money they are spending on concussion research, that awareness is high, hell, even in Madden if a player is injured with a concussion he is automatically out for the rest of the game.

While these are all factors in how we are watching this violent sport, and while player safety is the dark cloud on the horizon of the sport of football, the reason all of these procedures are put into place is that while football is the most popular sport in the United States, that also makes it the most lucrative.

There have been plenty of great pieces about how NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has preached player safety out of one side of his mouth, all the while looking to extend the season and schedule, make Thursday through Monday football a reality and keep the NFL money train rolling. Among all of the articles you can find written by a Jason Whitlock or Bill Simmons, the quintessential moment of this money vs. football mess is the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal. In this one story, you get everything from the true violence in football, to the overblown reaction of the NFL, to skirting the facts and Goodell relying on his title as commissioner to serve as a power play to push his agenda.

Well, there's no one that will agree paying players to injure another player is acceptable, there are real questions of what does it really matter, or if the NFL can just fine and suspend players without adequate evidence. The question of does it matter will probably always be up for debate, but the legal system has found that no, you can't just suspend players and serve personal vendettas because you feel like it. There has to be proof. As a result of the fallout of Goodell's hasty actions, his reputation has taken a hit, and his respectability among the players he lords over is at an all-time low. It's something that needs to be addressed moving forward if Goodell is to remain commissioner and a lesson to be learned that the public as well as football players themselves are no dummies. There's unlimited resources available to learn, read up, and formulate an opinion. People won't just fall blindly in line with the NFL because they love the sport or they hear the NFL is funding a lot of brain damage research. Time to focus on improving the reputation of the game, not just making more money from it.

For all the rules and protection the NFL gives its players, especially quarterbacks, that didn't save a lot of them in Week 10. Four starters went down, three to concussions. In order of fantasy relevance, they would be Ben Roethlisberger, Michael Vick, Jay Cutler, and Alex Smith.

The good news, fantasy wise, is that all of the quarterbacks listed are nowhere near elite fantasy players. Roethlisberger is the 13th ranked QB and Vick is 15th. Roethlisberger has been solid, but he's always been a million times more important as a real player than fantasy. As for Vick, well, we know his tale. He hasn't been an explosive fantasy player in 2 years now. His injuries are always a concern, and outside of that 2010 season, he's always been a below average fantasy player minus his rushing numbers, which have been non-existent for those same 2 years. Cutler and Smith are back-up level at best, so odds are your team isn't hurting too badly.

There are some potential fliers to take for each of these players. While Roethlisberger's injury seems to be the most serious, Byron Leftwich carries no fantasy value. But let's take a look at some two back-ups that could bring us some value through the remainder of the season.

Nick Foles has a legitimate shot at the starting job in Philadelphia. (usatoday.com)

Nick Foles, QB - PHI ( 5% owned) @WAS

What makes Foles the top QB to add this week is simple. Above all other back-ups, he has the best chance to keep the job. Michael Vick is out with what coach Andy Reid declared a severe concussion. Vick is already ruled out for Sunday's match-up in Washington, and more likely than not, will not play Monday night the following week versus Carolina. Those are two pretty nice match-ups for the 6'6 6'4 Arizona grad. He's got some offensive weapons around him, but it'll be tough for Foles to avoid getting cracked after every snap as the Eagles have been operating with only one original starting lineman from Week 1. On top of that two of the absolute worst tackles to ever put on an NFL jersey in Demetress Bell and King Dunlap will be blocking for him.

Foles did well in the preseason and despite lacking arm strength has shown an ability to make quick decisions. For his limited time playing on Sunday, he also showed an Eli Manning like propensity to throw into coverage to draw penalties. Not good for fantasy points, but might help him move the ball with more efficiency than Vick was.

Colin Kaepernick, QB - SF (1%) CHI

If I was picking up a QB for one start and one start only, I might side with Kaepernick. Even though he's facing the Bears, Kaepernick has shown a competency playing quarterback, but his most valuable asset is his speed. The Niners have used him in limited packages to showcase his stuff, and while he is passing at a 61.3% completion percentage, he's already run for 3 TDs averaging 7.6 YPC. This won't be a high scoring game with Kaeprenick against the Bears D and Jason Campbell against the Niners D, but there are points to be had.

Jaquizz Rodgers, RB - ATL (37%) ARI

Are the Falcons a fraud of a team? We've seen it with them before. Great regular season team that when the playoffs start and defense and the run game take center stage, the Falcons fade away. Regardless of what success they have in the upcoming playoffs, they are going. It's clear Michael Turner is not viewed as a contributor on offense, and while T.J. Duckett isn't walking through that door, the Falcons need to establish some kind of run game. Rodgers hasn't been carrying the load, but he has been the Falcons most productive RB out of the backfield both rushing and receiving. Unless the Falcons want to repeat errors of postseasons past, they'll need to see what Rodgers can give them. He's an add an hold for the rest of the season.

Ben Tate, RB - HOU (39%) JAX

Houston is in nowhere near the trouble Atlanta is regarding their run game. Houston does look like they'll run away with their division, and that means resting guys like Arian Foster during those final couple of weeks of the season. And if you're Houston and you have Ben Tate, why wouldn't you? Tate has been nursing a hamstring injury the last couple of weeks, but should be back soon. I'd look for his run load to increase in the interim, with the potential to be the top back on the depth chart come Week 16 as Foster rests.

PENNY SAVED IS A PENNY EARNED

Danario Alexander, WR - SD (5%) @DEN

He had a big game for San Diego and at 6'5 fits the bill for tall Philip Rivers targets, but a lot of Alexander's stats came on an 80 yard TD catch, and he was taking time from the injured Robert Meachem. With Meachem expected back, marginal production can be expected from Alexander moving forward.

THE 1%

Riley Cooper, WR - PHI (0%) @WAS

One of the injuries not covered earlier on was that to Jason Avant, the Eagles sure handed slot receiver. Due to the depth among the Eagles WR core has left Cooper primarily as a special teams ace and 4th WR. Cooper hauled in his 1st TD pass of the season on a rare fade route thrown to him by Vick. If Avant is out, Cooper is a guy Foles has had a lot of reps with and their 2nd string chemistry could pay WR3 dividends.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Looking for a Fight: UFC on Fuel 6

Will you be asleep while people are being put to sleep? (espn.com)

Sleeping in on a Saturday morning has become a bit overrated. Although it's never been a big deal for me. When I was young enough to enjoy television, I'd wake up at 6am, hop out of bed and go watch TV for most of my Saturday morning. I would want to watch this kids game show based around video games. The only thing I can remember about it, is the final "challenge" was running through a fake video game store, grabbing any game you could and velcro-ing it to your body (each kid had a velcro vest they would wear), and in the end I think there was a slide involved. Completely lame, but as a 6 year-old, all I wanted was to be on that show.

By the time I grew into my teenage years, I was never a pro at sleeping in, but at least made an effort to try. I knew that the earlier I woke up, the earlier my dad would send me out to do yard work. So if I was up and moving at 9am; I'd be working alone until like 11am when my brothers would finally get out of bed.

College, of course, was my sleeping in prime on Saturdays. My college was D-III, and all football games started at 11am. I never made it to one. There wasn't much motivation to go in the first place, but then tack on being out til the early morning, probably hung over, and hungry for some diner food, any effort to wake up early and not sleep in would have been a waste of time.

Now, as I age, I'm back to the Saturday mornings where I don't necessarily sleep in, but I'm also compelled to wake up early. This started when I would watch soccer. Fox Soccer Channel, ESPN, and next season NBC Sports Network air live British Premier League matches starting early in the morning - like 7am since it's live from England. So when my team, Arsenal, would be programmed to play, I'd be up early and even set an alarm (! on a Saturday morning) to catch the action.

It is worth noting that due to my work schedule, I was pretty much automatically waking up by 6:30am anyway. And also, the way Arsenal's season is going, my early Saturday mornings might soon be a thing of the past.

So I'd wake up, turn on the game, french press some freshly ground coffee beans and make an omelette and relax. I continue to enjoy this process immensely. When it comes to this Saturday mornings UFC card live from Macao, China there is no question as to if I will be up for the 9am ET live event, as I probably would have been finishing up a pot of coffee and finished updating my fantasy football line-ups by then.

The question remains for those not so morning motivated to interrupt their sleep. In today's day and age, there's DVR and TIVO to make your decision simple. But beyond that, this fight card isn't one to excite nor one that will make it hard to sleep the night before.

In their inaugural trip to China, the UFC hasn't exactly put a lot of fighters with big names potential title contenders on this card. While it's par for the course to trot out countrymen on foreign located cards, so China isn't exactly booming in the realm of actual combat sports.

They've been notably better in the fictional realm of combat sports.

The card not only has no potential #1 contender fights, there isn't a fighter on the entire card that will probably ever be a #1 contender, with the possible exception being Dong Hyun Kim. But again, that'd be a stretch considering how packed 170 has become.

While there are notable fights with fighters looking to call it a career or reestablish themselves as a regular UFC fighter, there aren't even match-ups that in it of themselves seem to portend to an exciting fight.

This aspect is the one I find the most puzzling. To put together an entire card, where obviously you're not going to get a big main event, but to fill it with fighters that don't jump off the page as an exciting fight is something I hardly remember the UFC ever doing. Granted with the end of the year upon us, many of those highlight reel guys already booked in a crazy busy finish to 2012 that might have tied Joe Silva's hands a bit.

Sure Rich Franklin always shows up for a fight, and Cung Le might have some flashy kicks up his iron fists, but it would be shocking if Franklin busted out the Rich Franklin dazed face against Le. In MMA, Franklin's diverse skill set is more than enough to neutralize the smaller Le. Also, a fight like Mac Danzig v Takanori Gomi, I mean, I feel like we've been here a hundred times before with both of these guys.

For my fight pick, I'm opting for the unknown in Thiago Silva v Stanislav Nedkov. Silva was once quite feared in the light heavyweight division before injuries, losses, and submitting something other than human urine for his mandated post fight piss test (which he served a 1-year suspension for) after beating Brandon Vera. Now that Silva is sufficiently humiliated and presumably healthy it'll be interesting to see if he can still rattle some noggins with his punching power.

One guy that certainly can do that is Nedkov. He KO'd Luiz Cane in the first round of his UFC debut, and by all accounts is not a guy to mess around with. The 30 year old is similar to Silva in that they don't bring much grappling to the cage. This is a stand 'em and bang 'em affair, and the best shot we've got for a really exciting fight.

BREAKDOWN

At this point, Silva is hardly the guy anyone remembers as a Top 10 fighter at 205. Winning only 1 of his last 4 fights, along with the suspension doesn't put him in the UFC's favor either. He's going to have to come out swinging to put on a good show and to protect himself from gassing, as he tends to do.

I wish I knew more about Nedkov, but information on him is limited, not only in the UFC, but in Wikipedia. A 7-0 record in Bulgaria doesn't mean much, but it's something; and his impressive win of Cane was a good welcoming card, but there's a lot to get to know about Nedkov. That's why I'll be watching to see what he's got going for him.

Just because I am so down on Silva, I'm going to choose Nedkov 3rd round TKO. Again, I know nothing about his strategy or cardio, but I'd imagine he'll try to resist Silva's opening overture and try to drag him deep into the fight. Unless of course Silva gets careless and clocked.

And if that's not enough to get you to tune in, there will be Chinese ring girls!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

FAABulous: Fantasy Football Pick-ups Week 10

Doug Martin earned his Ray Rice comparison on Sunday. (deadspin.com)

It's been quite a year for fantasy rookies. Robert Griffin III started the party off right with his highlight reel plays. For the first half of the season his Cam Newton 2.0 impression netted him the top slot in the fantasy rankings and leaving owners with the issue of trying to trade the QB they thought would be leading their fantasy team to glory.

RGIII has started to level out a bit, but he's still as exciting a players as there is to watch. The Redskins aren't nearly as good as they've played, and that's thanks to RGIII.

There are 6 rookies (RGIII, Doug Martin, Trent Richardson, Andrew Luck, Alfred Morris, and Stevan Ridley) in the top 25 fantasy player ranks going into week 10. Let's look at a couple of guys that made their mark on Sunday.

Andrew Luck had been more of a leader of men than a fantasy focal point. His surprising 5-3 Colts are 2nd in the AFC South and with a quick turnaround Thursday night against the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars could be in a prime position to make the playoffs. Well, Luck made his fantasy presence known this past Sunday, throwing for an NFL Rookie Record 433 passing yards in a win over the Miami Dolphins.

The guy is doing all you can ask for on the field. He's making his teammates better and under tough circumstances with first year head coach Chuck Pagano undergoing successful treatments for leukemia being out for most of the season; Luck has taken a young mix of players and made them a formidable team. All you would hear about Luck pre-draft was that he was "pro ready." That's a nice term and all, but seeing him in action you really begin to know what that means. His poise and maturity running an NFL offense is shocking. He's able to recognize blitzes and pass coverage to exploit a team's weakness. There are some QB's that have been in the league a decade that can't do that. Along with his smarts, the physical skills are obviously there. He is extremely accurate, daring, and blends pocket presence with mobility on the level of a Ben Roethlisberger or Luck's most frequent comparison, John Elway. For all the praise that is, frankly, overdue for what Luck has done, his time in the Week 9 spotlight lasted about 40 minutes. Why?

J'adore Doug Martin. 
Because in Oakland, California, Doug Martin was slashing and gashing the Oakland Raiders. The Stockton native and Boise State alum dropped 251 rushing yards and 4 TDs causing his owners to swoon like Peppy Le Pew in one of the greatest fantasy weeks ever. After a less than productive couple of weeks, Martin now has this performance coming off his 214 total yard 2 TD performance two weeks ago in Minnesota.

Martin, at this point, is shaping up to be one of the top fantasy players this season. While I wouldn't rule against selling high on him, if you can get some great pieces in return, outside of him hitting the rookie wall I think Martin will be able to continue his duel threat destruction for the rest of the year. The injury to Carl Nicks didn't show itself against the weak Oakland run defense, but it will at some point. However, out of Martin's remaining games the only tough ones appear to be at Denver Week 13 and at Atlanta the last week of the season. But it's time to play my favorite game of looking ahead to the playoff weeks, and he'll be facing New Orleans and St. Louis. Yummy, yum.

Like Pepe, we're not all successful in love, or fantasy rookies. Let's see some potential plays this week.

T.Y. Hilton has been on the tip of my tongue for weeks. Now it's time to click the + button. (Getty)

T.Y. Hilton, WR - IND (8% owned) @JAX

Makes sense to focus on another rookie or two. So what if they're not in the Top 25 or even 50. Ranks ain't nothing but a number.

Hilton has been a guy that's been mentioned a lot without producing significant fantasy output. Two things have changed recently that have made him much more interesting now than say 3 weeks ago. First is that he's been under the tutelage of Reggie Wayne which is clearly beginning to pay dividend. Hilton has topped 5 receptions for two straight weeks and is becoming an increasingly favorite target of Luck. Second, the player I thought would be Luck's security blanket Colby Fleener has been injured opening up targets for Hilton. I'm not sure how much it would cost to land this Hilton, but it's probably cheaper than a stay at the Paris Hilton.

Joique Bell, RB - DET (19%) @MIN

Another victim of the Doug Martin Fantasy Domination was Mikel Leshoure. He had 3 TD scampers in the red zone and made himself a strong case to be the Lions top back. With Javid Best injured as per usual, undrafted rookie Bell has become a solid weapon out of the backfield for his running and pass catching. Leshoure doesn't have the cleanest health record, and Bell is still getting TDs as a secondary back making him worth a flex play.

Chris Ivory, RB - NO (4%) ATL

Opportunity seems to be the issue for Ivory, as it is most running backs in the Big Easy. With Darren Sproles going down for 4-6 weeks with a broken hand, there was a mad dash for Pierre Thomas, but while Thomas is helpful, he doesn't do what Sproles does. In fact, none of the NOLA back do except for Travaris Cadet, but it appears Cadet's Sproles impersonation isn't going to net him any fantasy love. Ivory is a big, tough runner that can provide a good change of pace for the speedy Saints offense. Thomas is more of a pass catching threat, but Ivory has the ability to outplay Mark Ingram as the grind it out back.

Mike Goodson, RB - OAK (11%) @BAL

We all knew this was coming. The Darren McFadden injury has occurred. And it's a fantasy football doozy. The high ankle sprain is tough to gauge when everything will be fully healed and a player will be ready to go. With McFadden's injury history, I'd say his chances of being productive again this year are minimal. He was barely productive when he was playing averaging barely over 3 yards per carry. Overall, McFadden's performance is good for 29 out of 30 ranked backs via Football Outsider's DVOA ranks.

With that being said, Run DMC's back-up is also out with a high ankle sprain, but this appears to be much less severe than McFadden's. Goodson would be a speculative add in that a.) McFadden is out for a while b.) Goodson is healthy c.) Oakland's run game has been horrible as is and d.) the Raiders don't just pack up their lockers and forfeit the rest of the season. At this point of the year though, if you can add a running back that will get a bulk of the carries for a team, it's worth it.


PENNY SAVED IS A PENNY EARNED

Golden Tate, WR - SEA (12%) NYJ

Tate hauled in 2 TD passes on Sunday for a less than eye catching 28 yards receiving. He's become a bit of an end zone threat with 5 TDs, but I guess after that miracle Monday Night Fake Refs call against the Packers, he's got some magic on his side. Like most Seattle players not named Marshawn Lynch, home is where the performance is. Tate isn't a play maker, but rather a guy you need to catch TDs to be any kind of factor on fantasy game day.

THE 1%

Rod Streater, WR - OAK (0%) @BAL

As highlighted in the Goodson write up, the Oakland run game has been poor. I don't necessarily envision Goodson or any other back on their roster to change that, so combine that with constantly being behind in games means that Oakland will be throwing a lot. They really already have been throwing the ball judiciously this year. Denarius Moore and Brandon Myers have benefited, but Streater might be looking to make his mark with Darius Heyward-Bey not looking quite right since his concussion earlier this season. Streater needs to become more consistent and establish his role as a possession receiver to become a key part of the Raiders pass game.