number four

Why is it number four out of four?

I am angry. I’ve been this way since birth, which will not change until America gets it together. I live in a country where the greatest sport known to man does not get the attention it deserves. The growth of the game has been vast, but it isn’t enough. ESPN calls it “the coolest game on Earth” like most people, but they continue to give the sport an approximate two minute segment in their 60-minute nightly Sportscenter broadcast.

There are four major sports in America. Hockey is number four in terms of revenue and popularity. We’re talking about the most skillfully played game known to man here. 75 percent of the game is mastering the unnatural feel of playing on skates instead of your feet! I get it, it’s business, but come on the game is played on ice! Why can’t the coolest sport on the planet be on the same level as the other three major sports?

USA hockey player membership has gone up over 400,000 within the last 27 years, which is great. However, do we really need a miracle on ice to have people interested in playing hockey? The greatest moment in sports history came with hockey and it’s still number four..

It’s a long season, I get it. Playoffs are two months long, I get it. There are a vast number of rules, yes..but what’s your excuse for basketball?

Where is the love for Canada’s greatest gift to the US..??

TV runs the world

number four

Photo: NBC Sports

NBC pays the NHL around 200 million annually for their TV rights. The NFL on the other hand receives over seven billion from Fox, CBS, NBC and ESPN for their broadcasts.

Hockey is four out of four and football is number one. No matter the growth of the game of hockey and the somewhat less popular NFL, the leagues will never be on the same level. This is amazing to me with the NHL’s nine month playing period and the 82-game season. I hate it. The hockey world is the most under appreciated community in sports.

Across the board, an NFL game has close to 15 million viewers on average in this country. A nationally televised NHL game draws around 323 thousand. For myself and avid fans alike, this makes no sense. There must be some reason behind this.

The NHL on NBC has tried to compete with events like the Winter Classic. Unfortunately, it only drew a crowd of 2.6 million audience members this past year, which only musters a 1.5 national rating. That rating is a percentage that has been going down since 2009. Attendances have been great, but the viewership of the spectacle where the league makes their money has not been as good as it could be.

It simply isn’t America’s game (right now)

number four

Photo: USA Hockey

The Nationally Hockey League is a league where Americans are surprisingly the minority. Despite having the majority of teams, American citizens may have trouble identifying with the players that play for them in their respective communities..

America is second to Canada in terms of active players by an overwhelming percentage. Approximately 390 current NHLers call Canada home where just 220 call the United States home. It makes sense given hockey’s origin, but with 81 percent of the league’s teams in America this number should be bigger.

The NHL is the only major sports league where Americans are not the majority. The United States have yet to win a gold medal since the miracle on ice in 1980. If the best players are not from your own country it may also be difficult to identify with them..

Season ending injuries to star players have the NHL backing out of the 2018 Olympics after five consecutive appearances. This is allowing college hockey players, AHLers and American pros playing in Europe the opportunity to show the state of USA hockey. The United States are coming off a World Junior Ice Hockey Championship, therefore this olympics could serve as a step in the right direction for hockey in America.

it is what it is, but dude..

Not everyone is a hockey fan let alone a purist. Hockey may never get the attention avid fans like myself beg for. Although, one must appreciate the efforts the league gives to grow the game..

The NHL has tried and continues to bring the game outdoors with the Winter Classic and bring hockey to communities in the southern states. It’s a game that has been brought globally to places like Stockholm and Beijing. Therefore, some would argue it’s already at its peak from where it was 100 years ago..

The league is in a very good state. It may never be on the same level economically with the NFL, NBA and MLB. However, that is what makes the NHL one of the more attractive leagues to buy into. It’s not caught up in the business aspects of the sport as much as the others. Hockey is a sport that is played more truly for the love of the game than anything else..

Hockey can be the most low key..but it’s undeniably the best.

 

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NFL head coach hot seat

NFL coaching hot seat: Renovate or relocate

The day after the end of the NFL regular season has come to be known as “Black Monday.” A handful of coaches will be fired in about two weeks.

Which ones on the hot seat will be able to renovate their offices in preparation for another year? Which ones will be forced to relocate as they enjoy retirement or hunt for other jobs? It is time for some speculation.

Vance Joseph: Denver Broncos

The former Dolphins defensive coordinator has had a difficult first season as a head coach. 2017 will be just the third losing season in the 23 nonconsecutive years that John Elway has been involved in the Broncos organization as a player and executive.

NFL head coach hot seat

Photo from milehighreport.com

Joseph knew the expectations when he took the job. He has not lived up to them. In fairness, the quarterback situation is a mess, and the offensive line is a work in progress. Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch have all helped contribute to one of the worst turnover margins in the NFL. Those guys simply are not very good. That is not entirely the head coach’s fault.

Denver has had several backbreaking penalties in key spots this year. Mental errors like that do fall on the head coach and are concerning going forward. Joseph may have cost his team three points Thursday night by taking a delay of game penalty rather than burning a timeout on a field goal attempt. The kick was moved five yards back and missed. This is just one small example.

The good news for Joseph is that his team is on a modest winning streak and still playing hard. Life in the NFL is not always fair.

However, it is unfair to fully judge Joseph until he gets his hands on a real quarterback. Broncos management has made no secret of the fact that quarterback is the top priority heading into the offseason. If Josh McDaniels got a second year as Broncos head coach, Vance Joseph gets one as well.

Verdict: Renovate

John Fox: Chicago Bears

Fox has guided two different franchises to the Super Bowl. He has never won one, but there are not many coaches who can say that. However, he has not led the Bears anywhere close to that. The 62-year-old and his defensive, run heavy and conservative philosophy no longer fits well in today’s NFL.

Even with a strong pair of running backs, rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky and young talent on defense starting to emerge, three straight seasons of nine or more losses is likely too much to overcome.

Verdict: Relocate

Marvin Lewis: Cincinnati Bengals

Even casual NFL fans are well aware of the fact that Marvin Lewis has been on the job in Cincinnati since 2003 and has not managed to win a single playoff game. This was the worst franchise in professional sports when Lewis took over. The Bengals had not had a winning season since 1990.

Getting this franchise to the playoffs as often as he has is a massive accomplishment. Despite that, the team has regressed greatly in the last two years. They are on the verge of consecutive losing seasons after four years of double-digit wins. Getting whitewashed by the Bears at home last week was a new low point.

Cincinnati is the only place Lewis could have kept his job for this long without a playoff win. Owner Mike Brown does not like to fire coaches.

Lewis has done a fine job to get this organization out of laughingstock territory. However, after such a long time, a change is what is best for all parties involved. Lewis has overseen some tremendous drafts while with the Bengals and would be a nice addition to any front office.

Verdict: Relocate

Dirk Koetter: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL head coach hot seat

Photo from bucsnation.com

With the way Jameis Winston played last year and new weapons added to the offense, the Bucs were a trendy out of the box pick to make waves this year.

Koetter was brought in specifically to help Winston mature and progress as a passer. Winston has done neither despite some of his statistics being a little better in year two under Koetter. In fact, half of Tampa Bay’s wins this year have come while Winston was hurt. After winning nine games last year, Tampa Bay is guaranteed to lose at least that many this season.

Lastly, if there is any truth to the rumors of friction between the head coach in the quarterback, the 23-year-old quarterback is not the one who will be leaving town.

Verdict: Relocate

Chuck Pagano: Indianapolis Colts

Pagano is a great story. He came back from leukemia to coach the underdog Colts in the playoffs following the 2012 season, but the Colts will now fail to reach the playoffs for a third straight year.

The injury to Andrew Luck really hurt this team. There is no way around that. Even without Luck, the Colts have led at halftime in nine of their 11 losses this year. In game adjustments are critical and fall squarely at the feet of the head coach.

Verdict: Relocate

Jay Gruden: Washington Redskins

This is a tough one. The Redskins change coaches as often as any team in the league. The fact that Gruden has gotten four years makes him unique from many of his predecessors.

The injury bug has bitten Washington hard this year. They have been forced to use countless offensive line combinations in addition to losing their top two running backs.

Gruden did a nice job of keeping his team in the mix for a while, but they have been outscored 68-27 in their last two games and will miss the playoffs for the third time in four years. His future is now a coin flip. Redskins ownership is tough to trust, but they likely want to avoid another rebuild unless absolutely necessary.

Verdict: Renovate

 

Featured image from Sporting News

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NFL Week 15

Stack your money Sundays: Week 15

Week 14 Review (1-2) OVERALL: 27-13-2

Minnesota Vikings (-2.5) @ Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers 31 Minnesota Vikings 24

Going into this matchup, the Vikings were coming off back-to-back road wins over the Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons, so maybe expecting three straight dubs was a bit of a stretch.

The difference in this game was Carolina’s ability to run the football. They rushed for a total of 216 yards, including 103 yards from Jonathan Stewart, including a 60-yard rushing touchdown early in the first quarter. Stewart had three touchdowns on the day.

While Cam Newton did not have his best passing game, he was able to rush for 70 yards on the ground. On the flip side, Case Keenum threw a pair of interceptions, which has only happened one other time this season. He also had his first fumble of the season.

The three turnovers killed the Vikings and ultimately led to the Panthers’ victory.

Tennessee Titans @ Arizona Cardinals (+3)

Arizona Cardinals 12 Tennessee Titans 7

In a rather ugly game, Arizona’s rush defense was the difference maker in this contest. The Titans, who are in the top 10 in terms of rushing yards, were held to just 65 yards on 22 carries. Their longest rush of the game was just nine yards.

Marcus Mariota continued to look like a possible bust, completing 51.6 percent of his passes, throwing a pair of interceptions and finishing with a quarterback rating of 39.6. For the season, Mariota has 10 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

Blaine Gabbert was unable to convert on the majority of third downs, as well as red zone opportunities, but he played well enough to earn the win. He did not turn the ball over and completed 65.4 percent of his passes. This was the first time in nine starts in which the former Missouri standout did not have a turnover. Also, shout out to Phil Dawson for scoring all 12 points for the Cardinals.

At this point, it appears the Titans may play themselves out of the playoffs. Sitting at second place in the AFC South, Tennessee is up against the hot 49ers, Jared Goff and the Rams and the first place Jaguars.

Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers (-5)

Pittsburgh Steelers 39 Baltimore Ravens 38

In a typical intense matchup between these two arch rivals, Baltimore and Pittsburgh combined for 958 total yards. Ben Roethlisberger had this third career 500-yard passing performance, which is good for most all-time.

NFL Week 15

Steelers failed to cover, but business was boomin’ (Photo from CBS Sports)

Le’Veon Bell had three total touchdowns with two rushing and one receiving. Bell ended up with 77 receiving yards, and Pittsburgh’s star receiver and MVP candidate, Antonio Brown, had a monster 11 catch, 213-yard performance. Jesse James also caught 10 balls for 97 yards. Business was booming.

The key to Pittsburgh’s victory was their ability to convert on third down, as they went 12-of-18. However, allowing 413 total yards to the Ravens, who rank 27th in offensive yards, is a tad sketchy. Their defense will have to sharpen up if they expect to beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots this week.

WEEK 15 PICKS

Green Bay Packers (+2.5) @ Carolina Panthers

PICK: PACKERS TO COVER

It’s the return of the Packers savior, Aaron Rodgers. Although Rodgers has been out the last seven games, he is still, by far, the better quarterback when compared to Cam Newton. In has thrown for less than 200 yards in five of his last six games. Dating back to last season, when a quarterback throws for less than 220 yards against Aaron Rodgers, the Packers are 7-0.

NFL Week 15

He’s back. (Photo from SI.com)

Without Rodgers, the Packers were able to develop a better run game. They now rank in the top 10 in rushing yards per attempt. Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones have both done a solid job to keep the Packers afloat, combining for eight touchdowns and 774 yards on the ground.

Although Carolina’s defense is solid, they rank 22nd in opposing red zone opportunities ending in a touchdown. The Packers rank third in red zone scoring, so Rodgers should have no problem closing the deal when he is inside Carolina’s 20. Carolina also ranks 22nd in opposing completion percentage, so expect Rodgers to come back with a bang.

Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills (-3.5)

PICK: BILLS TO COVER

The expected temperature in Buffalo is said to be around 29 degrees. In Jay Cutler’s last three games with the temperature below 30 degrees, he is 0-3. Miami’s two coldest games this year were at New England (47 degrees) and at Carolina (49 degrees). In New England, they lost 35-17 and in Carolina, they lost 45-21. Long story short, the team doesn’t play well in the cold.

Although they just had a big win against the Patriots, Miami is still a very inconsistent team. They rank 24th in points per game, 28th in yards per game, 29th in rushing yards per game and 32nd in third-down conversion percentage.

Under the cold weather conditions, expect the Bills to run all day. They rank sixth in the league in rushing yards per game at 130.1. In the three games in which Miami has allowed over 105 rushing yards, they are 0-3.

In LeSean McCoy’s last game against Miami, he ran for 128 yards. Miami currently ranks 22nd in yards per carry allowed. Miami’s offense ranks 26th in yards per carry. Advantage, Buffalo.

New England Patriots (-2.5) @ Pittsburgh Steelers

PICK: PATRIOTS TO COVER

In 12 games against the Steelers, nine regular season and three playoff games, Tom Brady is 10-2 with 29 touchdowns and three interceptions. His last interception against Pittsburgh was on Sept. 25, 2005. He owns this team.

This year, New England ranks fourth in points per game, second in yards per game, fourth in yards per play, eighth in third-down conversion percentage and fourth in touchdowns per game. They are also efficient in the red zone, while Pittsburgh struggles to defend teams when they are in their own 20. Currently, the Steelers rank 22nd in percentage of opposing red zone drives ending in a touchdown.

Prior to the disappointing loss in Miami, New England was coming off back-to-back games with over 190 rushing yards. With Ryan Shazier out, the Patriots should turn up the carries. Pittsburgh ranks 25th in opposing rushing yards per carry.

 

Featured image from NFLSpinZone.com

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Chris Hogan

Week 15 NFL picks against the spread

Thus far, the home stretch of the NFL regular season has been pretty good to me. Last week, I was 8-8 against the spread, my second straight solid outing. 90-109-8 is where I sit for the year heading into week 15.  My picks are bolded, outright upsets have an asterisk, and all lines are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing.

Thursday:

Broncos (-2.5) at Colts- There is nothing but pride on the line in this one. Traveling to Indianapolis has not meant good things for Denver in recent years. Even so, Trevor Siemian finally played a clean game last week. The Colts’ defense certainly is not anything special. So, Siemian should be able to replicate last week. Unless the Broncos go back to being themselves, the defense will smother a bad opposing offense for the second straight week. Den 20 Ind 13

Saturday:

Bears at Lions (-5.5) – Detroit is still a factor in the NFC wild-card scrum. Despite not having much firepower on offense, Chicago’s ground game and defense can cause problems for anyone. The Lions have been in nail biters with inferior competition all year long, including the Bears just a few weeks ago. We could very well see something similar here, but Matthew Stafford will find a way yet again. Det 21 Chi 20

Chargers (-1) at *Chiefs– The mediocre AFC West may well be decided by the outcome of this Saturday night tilt. The Chargers remain white-hot after a 0-4 start, but Kansas City suddenly looked like the team we saw at the start of the season last week.

The Los Angeles pass rush is one of the best in football, but there are not many people better at designing short quick throws than Andy Reid. He will find a way to neutralize the best thing the Chargers have going for them. Also, Kansas City is one of the toughest places in the league to play. Unless the talent gap is obvious, it is foolish not to take them on the rare occasion that they are home underdogs. KC 27 Lac 20

Sunday:

*Cardinals at Redskins (-4.5) – Matchups this time of year between teams that do not have realistic postseason prospects are often simply about which team is still engaged and playing hard.

Arizona has a bunch of guys who could be on their last go around in this league and are clearly enjoying themselves. This includes head coach Bruce Arians. Arizona has beaten two possible playoff teams in recent weeks. Conversely, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden was almost speechless after last week’s blowout loss to the Chargers. The Redskins appear to be putting their off-season vacation plans on the fast track. Washington is another organization that could look very different in 2018. Ari 28 Was 21

Ravens (-7) at Browns- The Browns nearly got their first win of the year last week, but blew a 14 point fourth-quarter lead to help the Packers keep their playoff hopes alive. Cleveland’s last best chance to avoid going winless is probably next week against Chicago, it certainly is not here.

Yes, the Ravens lost last week. However, there is no shame in being beaten by a Hall of Fame quarterback and his two potential Hall of Fame weapons on the road in the final minute. The defense is still very good and the offense is now dynamic with Alex Collins as the centerpiece. Baltimore keeps rolling here and will absolutely wrestle a wildcard playoff spot away from Tennessee or Buffalo. Bal 24 Cle 13

Bengals at Vikings (-10.5) – Minnesota’s offensive limitations were finally somewhat exposed last week. Despite a late rally, Carolina was dominant for much of that game. The NFC playoff race is strange and wide-open, there are not many top-level quarterbacks involved. That is an absolute requirement to get to and win a Super Bowl in today’s NFL.

Thus, having Case Keenum at the controls disqualifies the Vikings from the Super Bowl conversation, even if they end up with home-field advantage. It certainly does not disqualify Minnesota from being able to be the Bengals. The third ranked defense should be up to that task.

Cincinnati looked dead in the water while getting pushed around by Chicago at home last week, but the Bengals have a strange habit of playing good teams tough when no one expects them to. Their early-season matchup with Green Bay is a perfect illustration of this. The Vikings’ defense will carry them to another win, but the Bengals should be able to keep this one relatively close. Apart from last week, the Cincinnati defense is a proud unit that has played well all year long. Min 20 Cin 17

Photo: packersnews.com

Packers at Panthers (-2.5) – The Packers found a way to keep their playoff hopes alive until the return of Aaron Rodgers, but they are slim. As good as he is, asking Rodgers to lead his team to a road victory against a playoff caliber opponent that has won five out of its last six games in his first start back from a broken collarbone feels a bit unrealistic. Despite that, he is very capable of making that logic look foolish. Car 30 GB 23

Texans at Jaguars (-10.5) – With Tennessee floundering, Jacksonville is inching ever closer to their first playoff berth since the Jack Del Rio era. Blake Bortles stepped up and made some big plays when he had to against Seattle last week, but let’s not forget he was outdueled by Blaine Gabbert just a few weeks ago. Much like Minnesota, no matter how good the regular season might wind up being, there is a ceiling on this team once the games become single elimination. For now though, the top rushing offense and sacking defense in the league should be more than enough to dismantle T.J. Yates and the Texans. Jac 30 Hou 17

Jets at Saints (-16) – Typically, swallowing this many points in an NFL game is insane. However, New Orleans still has everything to play for after losing a game that they dominated in many statistics to a division rival last week. The Saints’ rushing attack and defense are still going strong.

Bryce Petty is walking into a hornets nest. There are not many tougher assignments I can think of for your first start of the year. The Jets spirit to avoid being the embarrassment everyone predicted all year long has been admirable, but it is time to start thinking about what they are going to do with a pretty high draft pick. NO 30 Nyj 10

Eagles (-7.5) at Giants– Philadelphia’s Super Bowl aspirations went up in smoke with the injury to Carson Wentz last week. Nick Foles may not be able to guide this team to a championship, but he is plenty good enough to beat the lowly and directionless Giants. However, the first meeting of the year between these two division rivals came down to a 61 yard field goal at the gun. With the Eagles now missing their starting quarterback, 7.5 points is a few too many. Phi 28 Nyg 24

*Dolphins at Bills (Pick ‘em) – The Bills fought through a blizzard and the Colts last week to stay alive in the playoff race, but they are in quarterback purgatory, hence the uncertain line. Miami upset the Super Bowl champions last week. The team that is playing better and has fewer questions is always a solid bet. Mia 21 Buf 14

Rams at Seahawks (-2) – Even after last week’s loss, everything is still in front of the Seahawks. A win here would give them the same record as the upstart Rams and the head to head tiebreaker.

The Rams are absolutely a playoff team, but going on the road to face Russell Wilson is too much to ask, especially with Wilson playing at an MVP level. Experience wins out as Seattle takes a big step towards another division title. Sea 26 Lar 20

Patriots (-3) at Steelers- New England has gone to Miami late in the season and stubbed their toe before. They have always been fine. There is no reason to believe this time it will be any different. Mike Tomlin is a liability for Pittsburgh in this matchup. Tomlin coaches his team with a high degree of emotion with not as much focus on in game tactics.

Mike Tomlin

Photo: zambio.com

It is good enough most weeks, but not against Bill Belichick who has clearly mastered Tomlin as the years have worn on. The Patriots have won four in a row against the Steelers, including three by double digits. The road to the Super Bowl will once again go through New England. NE 38 Pit 28

Titans at 49ers (-2) – You would not know that the Titans are the team with the playoffs in reach here based on the last few weeks. Jimmy Garoppolo has put a whole different shine on San Francisco’s season in recent weeks. The 49ers have their quarterback for 2018 and beyond.

The Titans’ stagnant offense finally caught up with them last week. They have not scored more than 24 points since mid-October Marcus Mariota is really struggling. There are reports that he may be more banged up than the coaching staff is saying publicly. Tennessee has run out of steam at the worst possible time.  Both teams will continue to trend in their respective directions. SF 24 Ten 17

Cowboys (-3) at Raiders- Despite high hopes to start the year, Oakland has been a major disappointment. Derek Carr’s accountably is refreshing, but the defense is the bigger issue. Even without Ezekiel Elliot, Dallas has done a nice job of getting back to its roots of running the ball and letting the offensive line dominate the last couple weeks. That trend should continue against Oakland’s 22nd ranked defense, even though it may be too late to reach the playoffs. Dal 31 Oak 20

Monday Night:

Falcons (-6) at Bucs- Inconsistency will probably cost the Falcons a playoff spot. Fortunately for Atlanta, the Bucs are just bad. Jameis Winston can still be something special, but this franchise needs discipline. Something the current coaching staff has failed to provide. There is no reason to have any faith in the Bucs right now. Atl 31 TB 21

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Cam Newton fantasy football

Should you start Cam Newton in fantasy football Week 14?

Cam Newton has enjoyed a bounce-back season from last year. After an abysmal season with 52.9 completion percentage, 3,509 yards, 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, Newton has been better in basically every category.

His fantasy status has jumped up as well. After finishing last season as the 17th ranked quarterback in standard leagues, Newton has bumped all the way up to the fifth in 2017.

Now he faces his toughest matchup of the year against the great Vikings defense. With fantasy football entering the postseason, it leaves fantasy owners wondering if Newton is worth a start in Week 14.

Case for starting him

Newton hasn’t been perfect for fantasy owners, but he has been good enough to start every week. Arguably the best rusher on the team with 515 rushing yards and five touchdowns, Newton always has a chance to break off a big run and score rushing touchdowns in the red zone.

This will be the key against the Vikings. The Minnesota defense has one of the best secondaries led by Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith, so the run game will be necessary for the offense to flow.

The part of Newton’s game that fantasy owners reap from the most is his ability to run the football. If he does in fact succeed in running the football against Minnesota, then he’ll rack up the fantasy points for sure.

As for throwing the football and utilizing his weapons, Newton has found much more success recently. Newton has increased his chemistry immensely with Christian McCaffrey and Devin Funchess, plus this week he’ll be getting Greg Olsen and Ryan Kalil back.

Newton’s success depends on his receivers catch success and his offensive line. The drops have been plaguing Carolina as their inexperienced receiving corps is getting the best of them. With the return of Kalil, it will hopefully provide more stability for Newton and the Panthers offense.

There is a lot of big play ability with Newton, and his rushing ability makes him a viable start on Sunday. However, there is a reason to sit him.

Case for sitting him

Newton may be one of the most frustrating players for fantasy owners. He has the talent and the big play ability to be a Hall of Fame quarterback, but his inconsistency and attitude are holding him back.

Cam Newton fantasy football

Super Cam (Photo from IMG Academy)

As a passer, he has had inconsistencies in completion percentage and passing yards. Newton is averaging just 215 passing yards per game. If Newton struggles to run the ball, then his fantasy numbers may take a hit.

Going up against the strong Vikings defense, if Newton doesn’t play smart and use his weapons like he should, he may struggle on Sunday. His top target, Devin Funchess will be going up against Xavier Rhodes, who has locked down elite receivers all season because of his size and strength. Usually Newton and Funchess can connect with jump balls, but that may not be the case going up against Rhodes.

With the Vikings secondary being as good as they are, and the front seven locking down against an inconsistent Panthers offensive line, Newton is a low tier QB1.

Look for other options, but he isn’t a must bench in Week 14.

 

Featured image from Wikipedia

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Jarvis Landry

Week 14 NFL picks against the spread

Finally, a good week. I went 10-6 against the spread for week 13. This included correctly predicting outright upsets by the Packers, Seahawks, and Cowboys. 82-101-8 is where I stand as the stretch run rolls on. My picks are bolded, outright upsets have an asterisk, and all lines are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing.

Thursday Night:

Saints (-1.5) at Falcons- A loss to their division rival here would likely end the relevant part of Atlanta’s season. Even during last year’s Super Bowl run, their defense was average to slightly above average. The difference this year has been the offense being too inconsistent to make up for the defensive shortcomings.

If Atlanta managed to hold an opponent to 14 points last year, that was a certain blowout victory. Last week against Minnesota when that happened, the Falcons lost. Meanwhile, New Orleans is the exact opposite. Run the ball with two great backs, play defense, and ask Drew Brees to go win the game if necessary. The approach is consistent and has worked very well. Taking consistency over inconsistency is always the safe bet. NO 28 Atl 21

Sunday:

Bears at Bengals (-6)- We are getting to the point in the season where there are a few matchups each week featuring teams that don’t have much to play for. This certainly qualifies as one of those. The Bears have stayed scrappy all year long. Firing John Fox would be a mistake, but is likely inevitable at this point.

You could feel the wind come out of Cincinnati’s sails after the close loss to Pittsburgh on Monday night. Chicago has struggled to finish games all year long and Cincinnati definitely has more offensive firepower. The Bengals will win, but six points is too many. Cin 20 Chi 17

Cowboys (-4) at Giants- Dallas is still breathing in the loaded NFC playoff race. They ran the ball down Washington’s throat last week. No matter who is in the backfield, that is what they do best. To call the Giants a dysfunctional franchise right now would be an insult to dysfunctional franchises everywhere.

Eli Manning gets his job back for the Giants a week after his bizarre benching. The regime that made that move as well as all the other moves that have led to New York’s disastrous season has been fired. Who knows what the long-term future of the Giants looks like? In the short term, it is tough to imagine this team being competitive with anyone at the moment. A desperate Dallas team is no exception. Dal 24 Nyg 14

*Lions at Bucs (Pick ‘em) – Here is a game shrouded in quarterback mystery. A pick ‘em line is the only way to go until Matthew Stafford’s playing status becomes clearer. Detroit still has an outside shot at the playoffs. Regardless of who plays quarterback for the Lions, Tampa Bay appears to have closed up shop for the remainder of the season. Their only two wins since the first month of the season came when the guy they drafted to be their franchise quarterback just a few years ago was hurt. This franchise needs to take a long look in the mirror. Detroit is tough to trust, but Tampa Bay is impossible to trust this season. Det 24 TB 20

Packers (-3) at *Browns– The Packers are the better team, but Brett Hundley has been wildly inconsistent since taking over for Aaron Rodgers. He only had 84 passing yards last week in a win against Tampa Bay. The Cleveland defense has been in the top half of most categories all year long. They are one of the more underrated units in the league.

Deshone Kizer

Photo: nydailynews.com

Also, Josh Gordon clearly added a layer to the stagnant Browns offense in his return last week. DeShone Kizer is still responsible for far too many turnovers, but the rookie quarterback has shown real improvement in the last month. Going winless for an entire season in the NFL is hard to do and the Browns could easily have three or four wins by now. This is one of their last realistic chances to avoid legendary embarrassment and they know it. Somehow, they will find a way. Cle 17 GB 14

            *Colts at Bills (Pick ‘em) – A 3-9 record is bad, but if games ended at halftime, Indianapolis’s record would be flipped. They have played hard all year long and can play with anybody, even with a backup quarterback. Even though Buffalo is the team that is still alive in the playoff hunt, that same type of fight just is not there. With Tyrod Taylor injured, the line for this game will remain fuzzy right up until kickoff. Things seem to be trending towards backup Nathan Peterman who threw five interceptions in the first half of his NFL debut earlier this year. That is a great reason to pick the road team.

Vikings (-2.5) at *Panthers– The Vikings continue to defy expectations. Defense is their identity, but Case Keenum and the offense are doing enough to win games. Minnesota has won eight in a row.

I might be the last person on earth that is still skeptical of Keenum, but it is tough to pick this team when they go up against top-flight quarterbacks like Cam Newton. The Panthers run a ton of formations and are difficult to prepare for. The Vikings offense did struggle a little bit last week. The defense had to stand on its head to secure the 14-9 victory. This game will come down to which offense will be able to better move the ball against a really good defense. These teams are right next to each other in a lot of statistics. The only definitive advantage is Carolina being at home. Car 14 Min 13

 

 

Raiders at Chiefs (-4) – With three teams in the AFC West tied at 6-6, this is a huge game. Oakland won the first meeting with a touchdown at the gun. Both teams were thought to have explosive offenses that have pretty much disappeared ever since that shootout. Anything could happen here, but Kansas City still has one of the toughest home-field advantages in all ofsports. Also, even though Andy Reid is taking a lot of heat for Kansas City’s dramatic drop-off, the Chiefs have a significant coaching edge here. KC 27 Oak 20

Jimmy Garoppolo

Photo: espn.com

*49ers at Texans (-3)-  While Texans fans are no doubt wondering what might have been had Deshaun Watson stayed healthy, Tom Savage has settled in and at least played okay the last few weeks. However, Jimmy Garoppolo’s first start had to give the entire 49ers organization a lift last week. The offense struggled in the red zone, but they found a way to win. Like last week, they will not need to score a lot of points to get the job done here. SF 17 Hou 16

Jets (-1) at Broncos- If you had said the Jets would be road favorites in Denver this year before the season, you would have been laughed out of the room. New York has played solid fundamental football all year long to notch five more wins than most people predicted. They do not have a ton of talent, but their ground game is effective and Josh McCown has 10 more touchdown passes than interceptions.

This pick has more to do with Denver. The Broncos defense is still really good, but the offense is constantly shooting itself in the foot. This is a winnable game for both teams, but Denver made the Dolphins look like the 85 Bears last week. It is tough to pick them after that. Nyj 19 Den 13

Titans (-3) at Cardinals- Thanks to the lack of depth in the AFC, Tennessee appears headed for a rare playoff appearance. Tennessee is not flashy, but there is a lot to be said for winning five one possession games this year.

Arizona has been all over the map this year. Despite flashes of looking like the playoff team many thought they would be, sitting at 5-7 means that they are probably closer to the team that got demolished by the Rams last week. A bunch of key people in the organization are old. It could look a lot different in 2018. Tennessee is not really capable of blowing anyone out, but they should get the job done as they have for most of the season. Ten 20 Ari 14

Redskins at Chargers (-6)- The Chargers are suddenly the trendy pick to make noise in the AFC playoffs after getting back to .500 following an 0-4 start. Their remaining game with Kansas City will likely decide that. For now though, with injuries, losses, and questions about the future piling up, the Redskins are in no position to cool off a red-hot quarterback and pass rush at the moment. Lac 30 Was 20

Eagles at Rams (-2.5) – One of the best matchups of the week is a simple one to analyze. Last week, the Eagles faced a team that was playing well on the road for the second time this year. They were manhandled for the second time. The same scenario applies this week. Both these teams have benefited from the fact that there are just a lot of average to below average teams in the NFL right now. They both are probably too young to win a Super Bowl this year, the Rams are coming in with more confidence and playing at home. Lar 24 Phi 16

*Seahawks at Jaguars (-2.5) – Here, you have two likely playoff teams with really good defenses. Jacksonville’s unit is a little better, but rely a lot on sacks. Good luck trying to run down Russell Wilson. This matchup is as simple as one team being quarterbacked by Wilson and the other by Blake Bortles.  Sea 21 Jac 13

Ravens at Steelers (-5) – The best rivalry in football takes center stage for Sunday Night Football. Everyone has been panicking about Pittsburgh’s slow starts and locker room drama all year long. They just keep finding ways to win.

This is a completely different Ravens team than the one that Pittsburgh manhandled in early October. The defense remains stout, but the emergence of Alex Collins at running back has given the offense a much-needed identity. They have scored over 20 points in their last four games.

Most weeks, that is going to be more than enough for Baltimore’s defense. John Harbaugh’s team has started to separate itself in the mediocre AFC wildcard race. The Steelers might be the toughest offense in football to contain. Their stars will do just enough to pull out a win. Even so, an underdog getting anything more than a field goal in this matchup feels like stealing. Pit 24 Bal 21

 Monday Night:

Patriots (-11) at Dolphins- Miami’s convincing win over Denver last week is hardly a sign that this team is making progress. They still committed three turnovers. New England is rolling and never beats themselves the way Denver did. Even with Rob Gronkowski sidelined, there is nothing to suggest that the Patriots will not dominate this matchup much like the way they did less than a month ago. NE 31 Mia 14

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2017 NFL power rankings week 14

2017 NFL power rankings week 14

December football is upon us, and as the weather gets colder, the NFL playoff races are heating up. Four teams have been officially eliminated from playoff contention; Cleveland, San Francisco, Chicago and the New York Giants. There is also a few playoff-clinching scenarios in play during week 14. New England can clinch the AFC East with a win over Miami or a Buffalo loss. Philadelphia can clinch the NFC East title with a win over the Los Angeles Rams, or with a New York Giants win over Dallas. Minnesota can clinch the NFC North with a win over Carolina or losses by both Detroit and Green Bay. With all that being said, here are the current 2017 NFL power rankings for Week 14.

32. Cleveland Browns (0-12)

2017 NFL power rankings week 14

(Photo Credit: John David Mercer, USA TODAY Sports)

Last week: 32 (no change)

Next game: home vs. Green Bay

There is little to say about Cleveland that hasn’t already been said. They are four games away from an infamous 0-16 season. All Cleveland can focus on is the draft. This year they must find the quarterback that can change the franchise. They have gone too long without a true leader to play under center. In the last two seasons, they have missed out on Carson Wentz, DeShaun Watson, Dak Prescott and other. In 2018, they need to find a way to take Lamar Jackson or Baker Mayfield.

31. New York Giants (2-10)

Last week: 30 (-1)

Next game: home vs. Dallas

Giant fans can breathe a sigh of relief. Mustache man, Ben McAdoo is gone and can no longer hurt your team. New York is having a disastrous season but at 2-10, they have a lot of talent still. The defense is a couple of players away from being elite. The offense has Odell Beckham Jr. and Evan Engram to build around. Their focus needs to be solidifying their offensive line and finding a workhorse running back. If they do that they can still win with Eli Manning at quarterback. He does not have to be replaced yet.

30. Denver Broncos (3-9)

Last week: 29 (-1)

Next game: home vs. New York Jets

Getting blown out by Miami has shown just how far the Broncos have fallen this season.  Nothing is going right and they need to hit the reset button. The Jets will be coming to town to put a beatdown on the Broncos. This once feared defense is now 31st in scoring defense giving up 26.2 points per game. Going forward they will need to fix this defense or find a new identity.

29. Chicago Bears (3-9)

Last week: 28 (-1)

Next game: away vs. Cincinnati

The Bears might not be a playoff contender but man does their future look exciting with players like Tarik Cohen and Mitchell Trubisky. Their defensive play has gone under the radar because they are eliminated from the playoffs. The only thing the Bears can do for the remainder of this season is build momentum for the future.

28. San Francisco 49ers (2-10)

Last week: 31 (+3)

Next game: away vs. Houston

Jimmy Garoppolo has generated a buzz in San Francisco. It appears that he will be the franchise quarterback moving forward. This is good news for the 49ers who will have another top-five pick to build their team. As they continue to build their defense Garoppolo can provide the consistency needed from a signal caller. If the defense steps up next season and the front office gets Jimmy G some weapons on the outside, then the 49ers will be one of the surprise playoff teams as early as next year.

27. Indianapolis Colts (3-9)

Last week: 27 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Buffalo

The Colts defense has kept them in most of their games but it usually breaks in the second half. One thing to keep an eye on for the remainder of the Colts’ season is Frank Gore. Gore is only 368 yards from another 1,000 yard and at age 34 which is remarkable. He is also just 404 yards away from passing Curtis Martin for fourth on the all-time rushing list. If he can reach that mark in the final four games it would be the highlight of the Colts’ season.

26. Miami Dolphins (5-7)

Last week: 26 (no change)

Next game: home vs. New England

Miami blew out the Broncos to end their five-game losing streak. Jay Cutler threw for 235 yards and Kenyan Drake ran for 120 yards on just 23 carries. Drake is proving he could be the feature back moving forward. This week the Dolphins will host the Patriots and Miami have lost three straight to New England and four of the last five.

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-8)

Last week: 24 (-1)

Next game: home vs. Detroit

Fixing the defense should be the number one priority this offseason. Jameis Winston is a really good young quarterback but the Bucs could end up wasting his talents. The offense around Winston is very solid as well with O.J. Howard, Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. Doug Martin could be replaced with a more reliable back but overall the offense is solid. The defense must step it up but they can’t salvage this season.

24. New York Jets (5-7)

Last week: 25 (+1)

Next game: away vs. Denver

Somehow, someway the Jets have won five games and continue to be the most unpredictable team in the NFL. They are mathematically alive in the playoff hunt but don’t get it twisted, they are not a playoff caliber team. They should find themselves in the win column again with a road trip to Denver on the schedule. But then again, if anybody could lose to Denver at this point in the season, don’t be surprised if it is the Jets.

23. Arizona Cardinals (5-7)

Last week: 22 (-1)

Next game: home vs. Tennessee

Bruce Arians is a damn good coach who has kept the Cardinals very competitive despite losing David Johnson and Carson Palmer this season. Arizona is struggling to score points but if they had Johnson and Palmer they would be fairing much better. After dropping a game to the Rams the Cardinals get to host the playoff-bound Titans and it will be a tough test.

22. Houston Texans (4-8)

Last week: 23 (+1)

Next game: home vs. San Francisco

For some reason, the Texans threw the ball 49 times with Tom Savage. Anybody who knows anything about football knows that a team can not win with Savage throwing that ball that often. Houston needs to run the ball more and 22 attempts are not enough. It is no surprise they lost to the Titans because of this formula. If they have a similar gameplan against the 49ers they will lose to them as well.

21. Cincinnati Bengals (5-7)

Last week: 19 (-2)

Next game: home vs. Chicago

Cincinnati had a 17 point lead at home against their rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Blowing that game may have cost them a shot at the playoffs. Looking back at that game, it summarizes Marvin Lewis’ time in Cincinnati. In the beginning, it looked great and there have been multiple displays of greatness. At the end though, they always come up short. Cincinnati needs a change of culture and Marvin Lewis needs to be fired.

20. Kansas City Chiefs (6-6)

Last week: 14 (-6)

Next game: home vs. Oakland

Losing to the Jets is the last straw. This team will miss the playoffs and be a footnote in history of the teams that got off to a hot start but eventually folded. Andy Reid finally got back to airing it out and opening the offense for Alex Smith but then the defense decided to go missing. Kansas City has a virtual playoff game this week but the way their season has gone recently they will probably lose again for the seventh time in eight games.

19. Buffalo Bills (6-6)

Last week: 13 (-6)

Next game: home vs. Indianapolis Colts

Buffalo only managed to score three points against the Patriots. LeSean McCoy was held to just 93 yards and as a team, they only threw for 115 yards. The Bills are still in the hunt in the AFC wildcard picture but their schedule doesn’t look favorable. Buffalo should beat Indy this week but then they have to face Miami twice and New England one more time. The benching of Tyrod Taylor against the Chargers might end up being the difference when it is all said and done.

18. Oakland Raiders (6-6)

Last week: 18 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Kansas City

The Raiders control their own destiny in the AFC West as the Chiefs and Chargers are both 6-6 as well. If they win their next four games they will win the division title but they have Kansas City this week followed by Dallas, Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Chargers. It will not be easy to accomplish but if they run the table it would be well earned.

17. Washington Redskins (5-7)

2017 NFL power rankings week 14

(Photo Credit: AP Photo)

Last week: 16 (-1)

Next game: away vs. Los Angeles Chargers

Washington got completely manhandled by the Cowboys and that is a disturbing outcome. The Redskins will not make the playoffs and still have to worry about Kirk Cousins walking away from them this offseason. If that happens Washington will no longer have an identity and will have to start yet another rebuild. They must travel to Los Angeles to face the scorching hot Chargers.

16. Green Bay Packers (6-6)

Last week: 20 (+4)

Next game: away vs. Cleveland

Green Bay got a much needed, momentum building, win against the Buccaneers. All they have to do is beat Cleveland and then they get Aaron Rodgers back for the final three games. 10 wins are typically the benchmark to make the playoffs and with Aaron Rodgers returning it is very possible they reach that benchmark. Cleveland should present an easy opportunity for a win. The rest of the NFC should be on the lookout for the Packers.

15. Detroit Lions (6-6)

Last week: 15 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Tampa Bay

The Lions have lost back to back important games and must finish the season on a four-game win streak to have a shot at making the playoffs. Detroit’s final four games include the Buccaneers, Bears, Bengals and Packers. All their remaining games are winnable. One thing the Lions must do is play better defense as they are giving up 25.7 points per game which is sixth worst in the NFL. Matthew Stafford can’t do it all himself and if the defense doesn’t lend a hand then Detroit will miss the playoffs.

14. Dallas Cowboys (6-6)

Last week: 17 (+3)

Next game: away vs. New York Giants

The Cowboys season may have changed for the better after a huge win against their biggest rival, the Redskins, 38-14. Dallas got back to running the ball. Alfred Morris had 27 carries for 127 yards and one touchdown. Dallas sits at 6-6 and is on the outside looking in of the playoffs. if they can win four straight, like many other teams, they will find themselves in the playoffs. Unfortunately, they still have games against the Raiders, Seahawks and Eagles so the playoffs do not look likely.

13. Baltimore Ravens (7-5)

Last week: 21 (+8)

Next game: away vs. Pittsburgh

For a while now I have not given the Ravens the credit that they have earned. Their defense has been recognized but their inept offense gave a cause for pause. After thrashing the Lions, it is clear that the Ravens will likely be a playoff team. Now, they probably won’t go too deep into the playoffs but this a good team. If they get an upset win on the road this week, they are all but a lock for a playoff berth and could even have a shot at winning the division.

12. Tennessee Titans (8-4)

Last week: 12 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Arizona

Tennessee is an old-school football team that pounds the rock behind two really good running backs. Derek Henry is averaging 5.7 yards per carry and a total of 629 yards while DeMarco Murray has racked up 518 yards. As a team, Tennessee is averaging 122 yards per game on the ground. Marcus Mariota has the ability to get hot at any moment and if he does then the Titans become a darkhorse in the AFC.

11. Atlanta Falcons (7-5)

Last week: 8 (-3)

Next game: home vs. New Orleans

How many times have these Atlanta Falcons been held to under 10 points and no touchdowns at home? Not very often. The loss at home to the Vikings dampers their chance of returning to the playoffs. However, if they can find some of that old offensive magic this week against the Saints, then they still have a shot at winning the division.

10. Carolina Panthers (8-4)

Last week: 7 (-3)

Next game: home vs. Minnesota

Carolina does not match up well with the Saints. New Orleans swept Carolina and holds all the tiebreakers against them. The Panthers don’t get much of a chance to catch their breath either because the first seeded Vikings are coming to town to finish their road trip. The Panthers are going to have to control the clock. If they can win the time of possession they will tire out Minnesota’s stellar defense and have a shot at winning.

9. Los Angeles Chargers (6-6)

Last week: 9 (no change)

Next game: home vs. Washington

Los Angeles is one of the hottest teams in the league, winning six of their last eight. That is why they are ranked in the top ten of these rankings. The Chargers have caught up to the Chiefs. Nobody wants to play the Chargers because they can get after the quarterback and create havoc for opposing offense. On the other side of the ball, they have an experienced quarterback and a young running back to rely on. Los Angeles will continue to win games and just like the Titans, be a darkhorse to challenge in the AFC.

8. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4)

Last week: 10 (-2)

Next game: home vs. Seattle

Jacksonville’s defense is Super Bowl caliber and can lead them deep into the playoffs as long as Blake Bortles doesn’t mess it up. The Jaguars rank first in total defense (282.5 yards allowed per game), passing defense (167.1 passing yards allowed per game), sacks (45) and second in takeaways (27). Seattle will be a difficult challenge but Jacksonville has the luxury of playing this one at home.

7. Seattle Seahawks (8-4)

2017 NFL power rankings week 14

(Photo Credit: JONATHAN FERREY/GETTY IMAGES SPORT)

Last week: 11 (+4)

Next game: away vs. Jacksonville

Just how good is Russell Wilson?  He has the Seahawks winning games with a horrible offensive line and half of the Legion of Boom missing. Wilson should be the favorite to win the MVP award because without him the Seahawks would be lucky to have three wins. Wilson has thrown for 3,256, 26 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. Beating the Eagles was a statement to the rest of the NFC that the Seahawks are not to be overlooked.

6. New Orleans Saints (9-3)

Last week: 6 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Atlanta

There is no better running back duo in the NFL than Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. This duo is doing so well they need a nickname. Ingram likes Boom and Zoom but I am sure they can find a better one. New Orleans has swept Carolina because of these awesome backs that have led the way. If they can repeat that success against Atlanta this week they will put a nice hold on the division.

5. Philadelphia Eagles (10-2)

Last week: 2 (-3)

Next game: away vs. Los Angeles Rams

Philly had their long win streak snapped and it wasn’t a huge surprise. Winning in Seattle is tough and the Eagles had not been in many close games against good teams. The defense was a bit exposed and may struggle to shut down the Rams explosive offense. Carson Wentz will need to play great to keep the Eagles soaring.

4. Los Angeles Rams (9-3)

Last week: 5 (+1)

Next game: home vs. Philadelphia

Los Angeles has been on a scheduling gauntlet lately. The recently played the Vikings and Saints and now they have to face the Eagles. This is a big game for both teams as they are fighting for a possible first-round bye and possibly home-field advantage. Their recent win against the Cardinals was a tune-up for this showdown. There should be fireworks as the teams are tied for first in scoring offense averaging 30.1 points per game.

3. Minnesota Vikings (10-2)

Last week: 4 (+1)

Next game: away vs. Carolina

The Vikings are a win away from clinching the division title. All they have to do is win one game against the Panthers, Bengals, Packers and Bears. That should be easy enough for a team with a defense as strong as theirs. Case Keenum continues his MVP-level play completing 25 of 30 pass attempts against the Falcons. He didn’t throw a single incompletion in the second half. Minnesota has a third straight road game this week against the Panthers. It will be impressive if they can pull off another win.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-2)

Last week: 3 (+1)

Next game: home vs. Baltimore

The Steelers keep catching flack for winning close games against inferior teams but wins are hard to come by in the NFL. A win is good no matter if it is by one or 100 and Pittsburgh just keeps winning. They are earning a lot of experience for close battles they will encounter in the playoffs. When the playoffs start the Steelers will find themselves prepared for anything and everything.

1. New England Patriots (10-2)

Last week: 1 (no change)

Next game: away vs. Miami

New England continues to win games and look like champions while doing it. The Patriots are the best team in the NFL because they have the greatest coach and quarterback of all-time. Their defense is coming off a great performance against the Bills allowing just three points. New England has nothing to worry about and are gearing up for their favorite time of the year.

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Featured image courtesy of http://www.startribune.com/nfl-week-14-power-rankings-it-s-safe-to-believe-vikings-fans-it-s-safe-to-hope-packers-fans/462141183/

Ohtani

Where will Shohei Ohtani land?

Shohei Ohtani is the king of the offseason at the moment. The MLB has not seen anything like him since Babe Ruth was smacking home runs nearly a century ago. Ohtani has the potential to be a two-way star, so when he was posted, every team in the majors wanted a piece of him. Right away though, Ohtani has slashed the field down to seven teams already. Out of those seven teams, where might he sign?

The only two teams that are deeper into the mainland of the United States who still remain are the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers. The other five teams are the San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Ohtani prefers the west coast

The west coast has a much more prevalent Japanese population compared to elsewhere in the country. On top of that, it would be closest to his homeland. Ohtani has already informed 23 teams that he would not sign with them, and they almost all are outside of the west coast.

You can’t blame Ohtani for picking the California teams as well as Seattle, as he still wants to remain close to his roots and there is nothing wrong with that. The 23-year-old has the freedom to choose whatever team he wants as he is the hottest commodity this offseason. Many people thought that his preference would have to do with money or a DH, but it always came down to geography for him.

Which teams fit?

Shohei Ohtani

Dipoto and the Mariners have been working on their pitch for Ohtani all year long (Photo Courtesy of NW Sports Beat)

The DH position may be more in Ohtani’s scope now that he has narrowed down the west coast. Money is not a huge factor at this point though. Due to rules on rookie contracts, there is only so much money he can make at first. That is, he will make the maximum salary for a rookie the first three years before he is available for arbitration.

It has also been reported by the New York Times that Ohtani prefers a smaller market. Considering Los Angeles does not fit that bill, it will be unlikely he goes to the Angels or Dodgers even though he is expected to meet with both teams.

Although it has not been reported how big of a factor the DH is, it would not be wild to assume that an American League team would make much more sense for the Japanese star. That would knock out the Padres, Cubs and Giants from the Ohtani sweepstakes. The Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers would the remaining candidates.

The Mariners have a history of Japanese ballplayers playing for them. Most notably, one of the all-time baseball greats, Ichiro Suzuki. Ichiro built up a real reputation for players across the pond, as if you were to combine his NPB and MLB hits, he would have the most in baseball history. Along with that, the Mariners fit the bill for being on the West Coast, more so than the Texas Rangers.

That is why the Mariners are the most likely destination for Ohtani. Seattle is not far off from being a contending team, so a spark from Ohtani could boost them into the playoffs.

How will Ohtani translate to the MLB?

Shohei Ohtani

MLB teams will try to figure a way to get Ohtani’s bat into the lineup (Photo courtesy of Kazuhiro Nogi–Getty Images)

There doesn’t seem to be much of a question that Ohtani’s pitching will translate to the United States. He has an impressive strikeout to walk ratio and has a career 2.52 ERA in his five seasons in the NPB.

Some wonder if his hitting will be at the same level in the major leagues. He has been able to hit over .300 the past two seasons, and has shown signs of power as well. It would be hard to believe him not getting steady opportunities throughout 2018 to prove his ability at the plate.

The one thing that Ohtani is not custom to is the grueling process of a 162-game season. Also, the month of spring training along with a month long playoff can be very physically demanding. Former NFL and MLB athlete, Brian Jordan, stated that playing a 162-game baseball season is one of the toughest things to do in sports.

Ohtani has not come too close to that mark, however he may not when he is playing in the majors anyway. In order to ensure he is an effective pitcher and hitter, it will be imperative that the coaching staff is able to manage his fatigue well in order to get maximum effectiveness from the star.

Overall, Ohtani could prove to be one of the best players that has come from Japan. Only time will tell if he will be able to make the jump to the majors, but signing with Seattle could give him the opportunity to showcase everything he has in a place he would be happy to be.

 

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Top 5 fantasy TE

Three players to fill in for Rob Gronkowski in week 14

In week 13, Rob Gronkowski had a late hit on Tre’Davious White after he intercepted one of Tom Brady’s passes. This hit caused White to endure a concussion and gave him a one week suspension. This doesn’t only hit the Patriots hard, but it also is a huge loss for fantasy owners either already in their playoffs or trying to get into their playoffs.

Now fantasy owners have to try and replace Gronk and the waiver wire is the place to find viable options. Tight ends on the waiver wire won’t always get you points like Gronk does, but here are three players to fill in for Rob Gronkowski in week 14.

O.J. Howard (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had a rough 2017 season, but one of their bright spots has been rookie tight end O.J. Howard. In his first 12 games, he has hauled in 21 receptions for 348 yards and four touchdowns. Howard has found success in the end zone and has amassed more yards than people thought he would have by now. Also if need be, he’s a great fill in at tight end in fantasy.

The Buccaneers face the Detroit Lions in week 14, a team who is struggling to defend against the tight end in recent weeks. Last week against the Baltimore Ravens, the Lions gave up three receptions for 24 yards and a touchdown and gave up two touchdowns to Kyle Rudolph the week before. O.J. Howard is facing some competition playing alongside Cameron Brate, but here’s why Howard should see your starting lineup instead.

In weeks nine through twelve, Howard out snapped Brate and put up two good weeks with three receptions for fifty yards in both. Even though Brate had a better game than Howard, it seems that Howard is the go to guy in Tampa Bay and he is a good fill in in week 14.

Three players to fill in for Rob Gronkowski in week 14.

(Courtesy of; AL.com).

Julius Thomas (Miami Dolphins)

Julius Thomas has had a bounce back season in Miami in 2017. He’s had 37 receptions for 362 yards and three touchdowns, all of which have come within the last five weeks. Thomas has had a great stretch over his last five weeks with 20 receptions for 194 yards and three touchdowns. A trend which should continue in week 14 against the Patriots.

The Patriots have been mediocre against tight ends this season averaging an opposing 6.5 fantasy points per game against opposing tight ends. Julius Thomas found success against the Patriots already this year in week 12 when he caught five passes for 52 yards. The Dolphins are coming off of a huge week against the stout Denver defense exploding for 35 points.

They’ll look to continue this trend against New England, as will Julius Thomas if you decide to put him in your lineup week 14.

Three players to fill in for Rob Gronkowski in week 14.

Julius Thomas (Photo by: miamidolphins.com)

Dwayne Allen (New England Patriots)

The first name that comes to mind when replacing Rob Gronkowski is none other than his backup, Dwayne Allen. Allen hasn’t had a great start to his Patriots career, however he has been better as of late. When Gronk sat out week five against the Buccaneers, Allen played a season high 50 snaps. He also has been getting used much more in the passing game as of late.

In the last four weeks Allen has had five receptions for 40 yards and a touchdown. Before week 10, Allen hadn’t caught a pass all year so those numbers may not seem very strong, but compared to his early season struggles, he’s on the up and up. Allen isn’t the strongest candidate to replace Rob Gronkowski, but given that he’s in the same system and playing with Tom Brady, he deserves some consideration in replacing Gronk this week.

Feature Image courtesy of washingtontimes.com

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Overwatch League Roster Breakdown: Los Angeles Gladiators

In this edition of roster breakdown, the Los Angeles Gladiators get the spotlight. One of two Los Angeles, California based teams sporting the flashy purple and white jersey’s for the inaugural season of the Overwatch League. The talented Gladiators squad will house players from all across the globe, and will focus on two things in this upcoming season: having fun and playing aggressive, according to Rob Moore of Kroenke Sports and Entertainment (KSE).

Ownership
Stan Kroenke, owner of the newly acquired Los Angeles Gladiators, is constantly being discussed in sports media. He recently moved the St. Louis Rams franchise out of Missouri and back to Los Angeles where the franchise previously resided in the 1980’s. It’s been a point of contention around NFL circles, and since then the Kroenke name has been vilified by the people of St. Louis.

Regardless of the public perception of Kroenke, one thing’s clear and that’s the fact that he understands how to run a franchise. Consider this, Stan Kroenke owns KSE, a parent company for all his sports holdings. That same company has become a multi-media conglomerate with television and radio stations. On top of that, KSE expanded its holdings to five different franchises major sport franchises (MLB, NBA, MLS, NHL, and NFL) and finally seized the opportunity in the esports space.

Now, along with Boston Uprising owner Robert Kraft, Stan Kroenke adds legitimacy and national media attention to a new, burgeoning league. As someone actively cheering for the Overwatch League to succeed, it can’t go understated how important it is to have the backing of names like the Kroenke’s. KSE is planning to build an arena for the Gladiators, and could be big players in free agency.

Coaching
Team Kungarna was one of the surprising North America teams throughout the last year of Overwatch. The Kungarana roster had talented pieces, but the interchanging roster made it difficult to obtain any team synergy. Current Gladiators’ head coach and former Kungarna coach, David “dpei” Pei, was a big reason for Kungarna’s Overwatch Contenders run and meshing a moving roster. His coaching was key in bringing together a jumbled group of players and making them into one of the best North American teams.

Players

Photo via LA Gladiators Twitter

The LA Gladiators are one the few daring teams to only stick with seven players on the roster. The one backup spot will most likely be filled by one of the teams three-DPS (damage per second) mains. Gladiators decision to stick with seven players limits their ability to counter certain match ups. It puts extra pressure on the tank and support line.

Looking at how this roster was constructed, it’s not trying anything innovative or new, like San Francisco Shock essentially going with a team filled with DPS/Flex players. Gladiators roster will be more straight forward: 3 DPS, 1 Flex, 1 Tank, and 2 support.

Lane “Surefour” Roberts
Role: DPS/Hit-scan
Region: North America (Canada)
Former teams: Cloud 9
Favorite Heroes: Soldier 76, McCree

Surefour, as I’m sure this is the case with most people, was the first player to ever grab my attention in high-level Overwatch. Arguably the best North American Overwatch player, and one of the premier hit-scan players in the world. If there was a player to build around on this team, Surefour would be that player.

Recently, we saw Surefour and the talented Canadian team push Korea in the World Cup final. A strong showing showcased that he’s still improving. He’s certainly good enough to compete with the best players in the OWL, and should be a star in the making in Los Angeles. One of the most accurate players in Overwatch.

Jung Sung “Asher” Choi
Role: DPS/hit-scan
Region: South Korea
Former teams: CONBOX Spirit
Favorite Heroes: Tracer, McCree

Asher is a rather interesting name. Obviously starting off in Korea and getting plenty of Apex experience gives him a leg up, but there’s still some questions regarding his effectiveness heading into this season. His play was often overshadowed by former teammate Park “Architect” Min-ho, and he’s not considered one of the best Korean Tracer’s.

As a Tracer main, his duty will be to be disrupt the enemy back line, but his aggressive play can put himself into bad situations. Luckily, Asher will be playing alongside Surefour which will open up lanes for Tracer. Asher’s Tracer heavy play can be substituted for Hydration’s projectile focus on Genji and Pharah. Asher provides explosiveness, experience, and will be a key starting piece for the Gladiators in season one.

Joao Pedro “Hydration” Goes Telles
Role: DPS/Projectile
Region: South America (Brazil)
Former Teams: CLG
Favorite Heroes: Genji, Pharah

Hydration is going to be the first player off the bench. He’s known for his Pharah, but Hydration has a good enough hero pool to go Junkrat or switch onto Genji when needed. He’s one of the few Brazilian born players in the OWL.

 

Gladiators cheering for Surefour. Photo via LA Gladiators twitter

 

Tanks

Aaron “Bischu” Kim
Role: Flex
Region: South Korea
Former teams: Kungarna, Team SoloMid, Ronin
Favorite Heroes: D.va, Zarya

Bischu is a must-watch player and a fantastic pickup for a team looking to play aggressively. The former League of Legends star now switches his focus to Overwatch, and he’s proved in a short amount of time that his Zarya is one of the best.

On top of his efficient play in the flex slot, he brings continuity with his head coach and former Kungarana teammate iRemix. The fact that the Gladiators tank line will have some synergy coming in is a big advantage and is the reason these three guys were brought in over potentially more skilled players. It’s possible this is one of the better tank lines in season one.

Luis Galarza “iRemix” Figueroa
Role: Tank
Region: Puerto Rico
Former Teams: Kungarana, Splyce
Favorite Heroes: Winston, Reinhardt

iRemix’s tank play in Overwatch Contenders was always extremely impressive. His Reinhardt during season two was one of my favorites in North America, and he’s made the necessary adjustments when Reinhardt with Winston when Reinhardt was fazed out of the meta. In his role, iRemix might be the most important player on the team. He’ll be the defensive linchpin.

Supportsional
Jonas “Shaz” Suovaara

Role: Support/Flex
Region: Finland
Former teams: Reason Gaming, Hammers Esports, Team Gigantti
Favorite Heroes: Ana, Zenyatta, Sombra

It’s apparent that Kevin “Kez” Jeon, the Gladiators manager, did his homework. While the decision to go with Asher and Hydration as their DPS-mains is somewhat questionable, bringing in the two Finns is no mistake. Gigantti, which both Shaz and BigGoose played for, overwhelmingly over-succeeded and it’s the play of these two that sprung that success.

Shaz can plug and play any number of heroes, but his primary role in season one will be on Mercy. Look for this team to switch Shaz to get advantageous composition. There’s a reason why they didn’t bring in any other support mains. It’s because this duo is versatile and skilled.

Benjamin “BigG00se” Isohanni
Role
: Support
Region: Europe (Finland)
Former Teams: Rest in Pajamas, Team Gigantti
Favorite Heroes: Lucio

Similarly to the tank line, the Gladiators supports will have plenty of familiarity of how they want to play. It’s a great move to target players that have experience playing with each other. On top of all this, BigGoose’s Lucio is ridiculously good and will play into how this team wants to play on paper.

Expectations?

When I first glanced at the roster, I gave a loud sigh. Another team missing out on Carpe, Saebyeol, and Stitch. After examining it further, this could be a surprise team this season. Yes, they’re lacking the Korean talent, but outside of Miami, Seoul, and London, this is probably the most familiar team in the OWL. A team built around familiarity with each other.

However, it’s tough seeing this squad make a push for the postseason. While Surefour is a game-changer, the two other DPS-mains don’t stack up as well on paper. This team will need more firepower to come out on top.

 

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