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The 2014 MLB season is almost here! Wild on Sports MLB Analyst Aaron Dorman brings you an in depth look at each of the 30 teams, prospects and key questions as we head towards opening day.

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Friday, October 4, 2013

NFL Fanduel Week 5 Players to Start

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NFL Fanduel Week 5 Players to Start
We are getting into the meat of the season were byes now come into play. Lets take a look at the best match-ups and bargains at each position for Week 5 of the NFL Fanduel season!

QB- Peyton Manning - DEN  $10,400
Unbelievably high price but Peyton has been the top performer all year and has a great match-up this week. If you have some cheap options at other positions that you feel confident in, Peyton is as solid a big ticket player as you will find.
QB- Phillip Rivers - SD  $7,400
Rivers has been on this list before and is slowly starting to trickle up in price but remains a good value this week against an Oakland team that gives up some points.
RB- LeSaun McCoy - PHI $8,900
McCoy and the Eagles offense is going up against a Giants team that is 28th in the league in rush defense this season. Expect McCoy to see a heavy workload and make the big price tag worth every penny.
RB- David Wilson - NYG $5,600
Two runningbacks in the same game? Well, the Eagles rush defense is barely better than the Giants at #27. Wilson showed flashes of what New York had hoped for in 2013 last week against KC. A bit of a roll of the dice but could prove to be one of the better values this week.

WR- Brandon Marshall - CHI  $8,200
If last week is any indication, we are in for a shootout in Chicago on Sunday. The New Orleans pass defense is much improved under Rob Ryan but Marshall and Cutler should find plenty of chances to do some damage.
WR- DeSaun Jackson - PHI  $7000
Like Jackson this week for all the same reasons as McCoy. The Giants are ripe for the taking!

TE- Tony Gonzalez - ATL  $6,200
Coming off a huge week last week and going up against a young Jets secondary that they should handle with  easy.

K- Ryan Succop - KC  $5,200
Is there a more fun last name in the NFL than Succop? Decent match-up against Tennessee.

DEF-Atlanta Falcons $5,200
"When in doubt take the team playing the Jets"

Thursday, October 3, 2013

NFL Week 5 Power Rankings

Wild on Sports
NFL Week 5 Power Rankings

Four week in now and we are starting to learn a lot about teams. At #1 The Denver Broncos are for real. Peyton Manning is torching every defense he faces and may be as dangerous as ever. The Seattle Seahawks remain at #2 despite being outplayed for the majority of their game last week against Houston. It took a 4th quarter pick-6 from Richard Sherman to bail them out. All in all they get a pass - no pictures in the record column. At #3, New England went to Atlanta and put a whipping on a hurting Falcons team but may have lost defensive captain Vince Wilfork for the season with a torn achilles. The New Orleans Saint check in at #4 after a major statement game on Monday night football against a previously unbeaten Miami team. They seem like a completely different squad under Sean Peyton. Rounding out the top five are the Kansas City Chiefs. Andy Reid's group continues to get it done, last week taking care of the desperate New York Giants.

Biggest Movers:
Detroit Lions - Up 9 spots from 18 to 9
St. Louis Rams - Down 5 from 22 to 27

Where does your team rank this week?

1 4-0 (1)
2 4-0 (2)
3 4-0 (3)
4 4-0 (4)
5 4-0 (6)
6 3-1 (10)
7 2-2 (13)
8 3-1 (5)
9 3-1 (18)
10 3-1 (7)
11 3-1 (16)
12 2-2 (8)
13 2-2 (9)
14 2-2 (11)
15 2-2 (12)
16 1-2 (15)
17 2-2 (19)
18 1-3 (14)
19 2-2 (21)
20 2-2 (17)
21 2-2 (23)
22 2-2 (24)
23 1-2 (25)
24 1-3 (28)
25 1-3 (20)
26 1-3 (30)
27 1-3 (22)
28 1-3 (26)
29 0-4 (27)
30 0-4 (29)
31 0-4 (31)
32 0-4 (32)

Knee Jerk Reactions: NCAA Week 5

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Zach Mettenberger (left) and Aaron Murray both boosted their stock during the LSU-Georgia game.
Knee Jerk Reactions: NCAA Week 5
By Wild on Sports Analyst Bryan Ridall

What I Learned from Week 5...

After a lackluster Week 4 of the college football season, which pitted many of the top teams in the nation against some of the worst, Week 5 was defined by an SEC showdown, an upset of the #11 team in the country, and the firing of two coaches, one extremely high-profile after disappointing starts. Most of the Top 10 started conference play this week, but many of the teams that they faced were much inferior, and there was never much question to the outcome, limiting the excitement again this week. However, several players had extremely impressive games, making the battle for the Heisman, as well as a BCS Bowl very intriguing.

Zach Mettenberger Found Redemption In Athens:

In 2010, two freshman recruits were battling for the starting job at Georgia after Matthew Stafford left for the NFL to become the #1 pick that year. Those two quarterbacks faced off on Saturday when Zach Mettenberger led the #6 LSU Tigers into Athens to face #9 Georgia. Mettenberger grew up just outside of Athens and his mom has worked in the football department for almost 20 years, but he was kicked off the team due to a violation of team rules, and later pled guilty to two sexual battery charges. Mettenberger played in the Junior College ranks before transferring to LSU and becoming the starting quarterback. While LSU was 10-3 last year, Mettenberger has looked like a much more polished passer this year, thriving under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s offense. Against Georgia, Mettenberger was unbelievable, throwing for 372 yards and 3 touchdowns, carrying an offense that couldn’t get anything going in the running game and were getting dominated at the point of attack. Even though LSU lost, the loss should not be blamed on Mettenberger because he played the game of his life and led an eight play, 75-yard scoring drive to leave 4:14 on the clock in the 4th quarter. After Georgia scored with 1:47 left, there just wasn’t enough offense left to answer Georgia’s last score. Mettenberger will have two more big games to get this win back (Alabama, Texas A&M), but by returning to a place where he was facing a ton of adversity and playing the game that he did, Mettenberger should have walked out of Athens with his head held high.

Aaron Murray Should Have Silenced All the Critics

As much as I love sports talk radio, every time that there is a marquee Georgia game on against a tough team I have the impulse to turn it off because someone always wants to bring up the point that “Aaron Murray can’t win the big one.” It’s true that Murray has a 6-11 record against teams in the Top 25, but 8 of those losses occurred during his first two years as a starter. Murray has matured since then and in his last two years, he is playing, and more importantly competing at a higher level than ever before; he came within a tipped pass from beating Alabama last year and going to the National Championship game. All Murray has done in his career is throw for the second most yards and touchdowns in SEC history, both of which he will break this year. While Murray did lose to an extremely talented Clemson team this year, he shed his demons by destroying South Carolina, giving him his first career victory over the Gamecocks. Against LSU, Murray was efficient with his arm and his legs and other than one interception, played mistake-free football against the talented LSU defense. Murray threw for 298 yards and four touchdowns, and added another on the ground, helping Georgia to overcome the loss of Heisman candidate Todd Gurley, who hurt his ankle in the first half. Murray did a great job spreading the ball around, completing passes to nine different receivers, but was well protected by his line, which didn’t allow a sack on the day. The only “tough” game left on the schedule is Florida, but they are without their starting quarterback and best defensive player for the year, so it shouldn’t be too difficult. Murray, and Georgia, has to make sure that they don’t overlook any of the teams left on their schedule because they control their own destiny at this point. If they win the rest of their SEC games, Georgia will go to the SEC Championship Game with a chance for redemption.

Who Will Be the Last BCS Buster?

Since it is the BCS format’s last year in effect, it almost seems poetic for it to go out in chaos, as many frustrated fans and teams will remember it. Never mind the discussion of where certain undefeated teams should be ranked (Louisville, Clemson, Ohio State), the BCS could be looking at two non-automatic qualifying teams that will finish the year undefeated and will be looking for a BCS bid; Fresno State and Northern Illinois. Fresno State has had the tougher schedule so far, and the team has had to pull out some tight games, winning 52-51 Week 1 in overtime over Rutgers, and then beating Boise State 41-40. Their 4-0 start has the Bulldogs ranked #23 in the newest AP Poll, and they have a much tougher remaining schedule, with the Mountain West conference being tougher than the MAC. That being said, it is more likely that the Bulldogs will lose a game between now and the Mountain West Championship Game, so they need to play consistently at the high level that they have established. Derek Carr has inserted himself into the Heisman conversation with his play, and if he can keep the Bulldogs undefeated, he should earn himself both a trip to the Heisman ceremony and to a BCS Bowl. The biggest hurdle, Boise State, was overcome, but teams like Nevada, UNLV, and Wyoming could give Fresno State problems if they aren’t properly prepared or focused.

The biggest thing standing in the way of the Bulldogs are the Northern Illinois Huskies, who made it to the Orange Bowl last year after an undefeated regular season. The Huskies have picked up right where they left off last year, starting the season 4-0, including two wins over B1G 10 teams Iowa and Purdue. Northern Illinois is averaging 43.5 points per game, and quarterback Jordan Lynch, like Carr, has played his way into Heisman consideration. The Huskies only have one game left against a team with a winning record, and should be 9-0 heading into their game against Ball State, which will be for the MAC West crown, and could also be the only game in the way between Northern Illinois and another BCS Bowl. However, Northern Illinois needs to start getting noticed by the AP voters if they have any hopes for making moves into the BCS because they are currently unranked, and their difficulty of schedule won’t help them with the voters or the BCS calculations. With 19 other teams still currently undefeated, Northern Illinois needs at least 15 of those teams to lose at least one game in order for Northern Illinois get noticed and ranked, but out of all of the undefeated teams, they have the best shot at staying undefeated because of the strength of their schedule.

The Coaching Carousel Has Started Turning

In a move that everyone saw coming, Lane Kiffin was pulled off the team bus and fired at LAX after USC’s blowout loss to Arizona State. Kiffin had finally worn out his welcome at USC and as his play calling became more and more conservative, his deficiencies as a coach become more and more apparent. After dropping to 2-2, AD Pat Haden decided it was the right time to let go of Kiffin and get ahead of Texas to find a marquee replacement, to help boost recruiting. Haden will have an interesting decision to make, whether he chases an NFL coordinator, or tries to convince a college coach to upgrade to USC and leave their current success. In the NFL ranks, the first name to come up is Jack Del Rio, who was an All-American linebacker and baseball catcher for the Trojans. Del Rio is currently the defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos and would have the name recognition that USC is looking for in its next coach, as well as have the instant respect of the recruits and players that he has because of his NFL background. Two other NFL coordinators that will probably be considered are Indianapolis Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton, and 49ers O.C. Greg Roman, both of whom held the same position at Stanford. Both have implemented offenses that have dominated the Trojans the past five years, and have also had success in the NFL working with and developing young quarterbacks, making them a perfect fit for the college game.

If Haden is looking to convince a coach to “upgrade” the list of obvious suspects include Kevim Sumlin, Chris Peterson, and Pat Fitzgerald. It is unlikely that Sumlin would leave Texas A&M, especially after just arriving and having a ton of success. Sumlin is in the best division in the best conference in all of college football, and while he will always have the pressure of competing in the SEC on him, it is unlikely he would give up the highway of recruiting that comes with both being in the SEC and in Texas. Peterson has been the belle of the ball since his Boise State team beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, but hasn’t found a job worth him leaving Boise. However, Peterson isn’t seeing the same success as he was in the past, and may jump for the opportunity to get a more nationally recognized job. Fitzgerald is coaching at Northwestern, which is his alma mater, so it is unlikely that he will be leaving anytime soon. However, Fitzgerald has taken the Wildcats to a whole new level, and may be able to lead USC back to a National Championship-caliber team. However, by starting their look for a replacement now, USC has the edge on Texas and the rest of the colleges looking for a new, qualified coach to lead their programs.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

2013 NHL Western Conference Preview

Wild on Sports
2013-14 NHL Preview
By Wild on Sports Analyst Jason Gillson

Ah, can you smell it in the air? The leaves are changing, the air is cool and crisp. This can only mean one thing -- hockey season is just around the corner! And to do it one better -- the season is starting on time this year! It is time to dust off those jerseys and buckle up as we take you on a team by team look around a newly re-alined NHL. We start this week with a look and projection for the Western Conference.
**** - Stanley Cup Contender
*** - Playoff Bound
** - On the Cusp
* - There's always next year
Western Conference
Pacific Division

Los Angeles Kings
2013 record: 27-16-5, 5th in West, lost to Blackhawks in conference finals
Notable adds: F Matt Frattin (Maple Leafs), G Ben Scrivens (Maple Leafs), F Dan Carcillo (Blackhawks)
Notable losses: D Rob Scuderi (Penguins), G Jonathan Bernier (Maple Leafs), F Dustin Penner (Ducks) 
Overview: The Kings return largely intact from last year's team that lost to eventual Stanley Cup Champion Chicago in the Conference Finals. The one notable move of the off-seasonsaw the team send back-up goaltender Jonathan Bernier to Toronto for Leafs back-up Ben Scrivens and forward Matt Frattin. Scrivens jumps right into Bernier's role, while Frattin should provide some third line depth. Offensively, the Kings are as dangerous as anyone in the West and they very well may have the best goaltenter in the West as well. There is no reason to believe that the Kings won't be in contention for a Cup run once again.
Projection: ****

San Jose Sharks:
2013 record: 25-16-7, 6th in West, lost to Kings in conference semi-final
Notable adds: LW Tyler Kennedy (Penguins), RW Anthony Stewart (Kings)
Notable losses: C Scott Gomez (Panthers), F T.J. Galiardi (Flames)
Overview: The transition of Brent Burns from defense to forward appears to be permanent as he has flank Joe Thornton all pre-season. That should only strengthen what appears to be a young but formidable offensive attack. The Sharks are one of those teams that has been on the cusp of being a Stanley Cup contender for years. The clock is ticking on vets like Thornton and Patrick Marleau. If they are going to make a run this may be the final year they have the horses to do so. Should Anti Niemi hold up in net, expect the Sharks to make some noise this spring.
Projection: ***
Vancouver Canucks
2013 record: 26-15-7, 3rd in West, lost to Sharks in first round
Notable adds: C Brad Richardson (Kings), C Mike Santorelli (Jets), D Yannick Weber (Canadiens)
Notable losses: RW Mason Raymond (Toronto), C Max Lapierre (St. Louis), D Keith Ballard (Wild), G Cory Schneider (Devils)
Overview: The Canucks were very notable this off-season for a couple of reasons. First, they fired their long time coach and replaced him with his polar opposite in John Tortorello. How his fiery defense first accountability will jell with a squad led by the Sedin twins who have been largely criticized in the past for their soft play will be something to watch. Secondly, they made the decision to move forward with Roberto Lulongo in net, shipping last years starter Corey Schneider to New Jersey. Long term, both of these moves could turn out to be an absolute disaster. Short term however, team tend to respond to Torts in his first year or two -- see Tampa Bay (Cup), New York (playoff turnaround). His style should produce more shots from the outside which should only help build back Lulongo's confidence. All in all, a playoff team but nothing more.
Projection: ***

Edmonton Oilers
2013 record: 19-22-7, 12th in West
Notable adds: C Boyd Gordon (Coyotes), LW David Perron (Blues), LW Jesse Joensuu (Islanders), D Andrew Ference (Bruins)
Notable losses: LW Magnus Paajarvi (Blues), D Ryan Whitney (Panthers), C Shawn Horcoff (Stars), D Mark Fistric (Ducks), G Nikolai Khabibulin (Blackhawks)
Overview: For the amount of terrific young talent that Edmonton has on the roster 2013 was a terrible underachieving performance. They sought out some veteran leadership on the back end via free agency and have found it in the form of newly appointed captain Andrew Ference. Ference is a hard nose player who won a cup with Boston and brings a lot of accountability to the room. That should go along way in grooming the maturity of guys like Hall and Eberle who need to be more accountable, particularly in their own ends. Edmonton could be the surprise team of the league in 2013-14.
Projection: ***

Anaheim Ducks
2013 record: 30-12-6, 2nd in West, lost to Red Wings in first round
Notable adds: LW Dustin Penner (Kings), D Mark Fistric (Oilers), RW Jakob Silfverberg (Senators)
Notable losses: C Matthew Lombardi (Swiss league), LW Bobby Ryan (Senators), D Toni Lydman, C Dave Steckel (PTO)
Overview: The Ducks really came out of nowhere to have a terrific 2013 season. Despite that, they shipped star wing Bobby Ryan to Ottawa in the off-season netting young forward Jakob Silfverberg in return. Silfverberg is a nice young player but he is sure no Bobby Ryan. For a team that overachieved in 2013 a bounce back to reality may be in store this season. They could sneak into the playoffs as a 7/8 seed but are very much on the bubble with this new playoff formatting.
Projection: **

Phoenix Coyotes
2013 record: 21-18-9, 10th in West
Notable adds: C Mike Ribeiro (Capitals), RW Brandon Yip (Predators)
Notable losses: C Boyd Gordon (Oilers), C Matthew Lombardi (Ducks/Swiss league), G Jason LaBarbera (Oilers)
Overview: The addition of center Mike Riberio should really boost the Coyotes power play. The combination of Riberio and captain Shane Doan should be a good one. Beyond that first line there is a lot to be desired. They have some nice young defensemen in Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The jury is still out on goaltender Miek Smith. All in all too many question marks to really see them as playoff contenders.
Projection: **

Calgary Flames
2013 record: 19-25-4, 13th in West
Notable adds: LW T.J. Galiardi (Sharks), RW David Jones (Avalanche), D Shane O'Brien (Avalanche), C Joe Colborne (Maple Leafs)
Notable losses: G Miikka Kiprusoff (retired), LW Alex Tanguay (Avalanche), D Cory Sarich (Avalanche), C Roman Cervenka (KHL)
Overview: The only thing Calgary will be fighting for this season will be the #1 pick in next years draft. OK, a little harsh, but this team is bad -- really, really bad.
Projection: *

Central Division

Chicago Blackhawks
2013 record: 36-7-5
Notable adds: G Nikolai Khabibulin (OIlers)
Notable losses: C Dave Bolland (Maple Leafs), LW Viktor Stalberg (Predators), G Ray Emery (Flyers)
Overview: The defending Stanley Cup Champions return largely in tack and are poised for another deep run.  Jonnathan Toews and Patrick Kane are as good a one two punch as you can find in the Western Conference. As long as they stay healthy and Corey Crawford continues to improve between the pipes, expect the Blackhawks to be among the 2 or 3 teams vying for the Cup once again.
Projection: ****

St. Louis Blues
2013 record: 29-17-2
Notable adds: LW Brenden Morrow (Penguins), LW Magnus Paajarvi (Oilers), C Derek Roy (Stars), C Maxim Lapierre (Canucks)
Notable losses: LW David Perron (Oilers), RW Jamie Langenbrunner (UFA), C Andy McDonald (retired)
Overview: The Blues made some really nice off-season moves in the additions of veterans Brenden Morrow and Derek Roy. They should fit in well with the type of team Ken Hitchcock is trying to build in St. Louis. The Blues also boast on the best young offensive bluelines in the league led by Pietrangelo and Shattenkirk. Expect a nice little season out of St. Louis and a return trip to the playoffs.
Projection: ***

Nashville Predators
2013 record: 16-23-9
Notable adds: C Matt Cullen (Wild), C Matt Hendricks (Capitals), LW Eric Nystrom (Stars), LW Viktor Stalberg (Blackhawks), D Seth Jones (draft)
Notable losses: LW Sergei Kostitsyn (KHL), RW Matt Halischuk (Jets), D Hal Gill (PTO), G Chris Mason (Italy-A)
Overview: It was a down year for Barry Trotz's squad in 2013. Thanks to some quality drafting and savvy depth additions that turnaround should take just one year. First round pick Seth Jones is going to open the season playing along side Shea Weber. That could prove to be one of the better tandems in the league for years to come. The additions of Viktor Stalberg and Matt Hendricks should not go overlooked as well. Stalberg won a pair of Cups with the Blackhawks and should really bring a nice presence to that lineup.
Projection: ***

Minnesota Wild
2013 record: 26-19-3
Notable adds: LW Matt Cooke (Penguins), RW Nino Niederreiter (Islanders), D Keith Ballard (Canucks)
Notable losses: C Matt Cullen (Predators), RW Devin Setoguchi (Jets), RW Pierre-Marc Bouchard (Islanders), D Tom Gilbert (Panthers), RW Cal Clutterbuck (Islanders), D Justin Falk (Rangers)
Overview: A lot of turnover in Minnesota this season but the top talent remains in place in the form of Parise-Heatley-Koivu and on the d-side in Sutter. Thanks a little weaker division the Wild should make it into the playoffs this season. That said, with all their inconsistencies and turnover they are a little harder to project.
Projection: **

Winnipeg Jets
2013 record: 24-21-3
Notable adds: RW Michael Frolik (Blackhawks), RW Matt Halischuk (Predators), RW Devin Setoguchi (Wild)
Notable losses: C Nik Antropov (KHL), C Kyle Wellwood (Swiss league), D Ron Hainsey (Hurricanes)
Overview: The fans in Winnipeg want so badly to have a Cup contender in town. They sell the place out and make for one of the toughest places for opposing teams to play in all of hockey. Unfortunitely, the team on the ice is still not quite on the fans level. They have some terrific young players led by Evander Kane but question marks in depth and the back end should cause them to just miss again this season.
Projection: **

Dallas Stars
2013 record: 22-22-4
Notable adds: C Shawn Horcoff (Oilers), C Rich Peverley (Bruins), C Tyler Seguin (Bruins), D Sergei Gonchar (Senators)
Notable losses: RW Loui Eriksson (Bruins), C Derek Roy (Blues), LW Eric Nystrom (Predators), D Philip Larsen (Oilers)
Overview: Long term I really like the Tyler Seguin for Loui Eriksson trade. The additions of Seguin, Rich Peverley and Sergi Gonchar should add a nice scoring boost to the team. Overall however, they are still very young and have a lot of question marks in terms of health and maturity. If Seguin and Jamie Benn can gel they could pose a pretty potent 1-2 punch. Outside of that it just won't be enough.
Projection: **

Colorado Avalanche
2013 record: 16-25-7
Notable adds: C Nathan MacKinnon (draft), LW Alex Tanguay (Flames), D Cory Sarich (Flames)
Notable losses: RW Milan Hejduk (UFA), RW David Jones (Flames), RW Chuck Kobasew (PTO), D Shane O'Brien (Flames) 
Overview: Patrick Roy makes his return to Colorado to begin his career as an NHL coach. He takes over a very young but potentially talented Avalanche squad. There should be no shortage of scoring in Colorado. Much to the chagrin of Roy, a lot of those pucks will be finding the back of the Aves net on a slightly more regular basis. Until they find a goalie and a defense this team is still at least a year or two away.
Projection: *

Monday, September 30, 2013

2013-14 NHL Eastern Conference Preview

Wild on Sports
2013-14 NHL Preview
By Wild on Sports Analyst Jason Gillson

Ah, can you smell it in the air? The leaves are changing, the air is cool and crisp. This can only mean one thing -- hockey season is just around the corner! And to do it one better -- the season is starting on time this year! It is time to dust off those jerseys and buckle up as we take you on a team by team look around a newly re-alined NHL. We start this week with a look and projection for the Eastern Conference.

**** - Stanley Cup Contender
*** - Playoff Bound
** - On the Cusp
* - There's always next year

Eastern Conference
Atlantic Division

Boston Bruins
2013 record: 28-14-6, 4th in the East, lost to Blackhawks in Stanley Cup Final.
Notable adds: F Loui Eriksson (Stars), F Jarome Iginla (Penguins), F Reilly Smith (Stars)
Notable losses: F Tyler Seguin (Stars), F Nathan Horton (Blue Jackets), F Rich Peverley (Stars), D Andrew Ference (Oilers)
Overview: After coming oh so close to winning their second cup in three years last season the Bruins shuffled the deck a bit in the off-season sending highly touted youngster Tyler Segin and veteran wing Rich Peverley to Dallas for the more rounded two-way game of Loui Eriksson. He plans to hop right into Seguin's old spot along side Bergeron and Marchant. While this move my come back to bit the Bruins years down the line for the time being they got the more Claude Julian type player and a guy who can put the puck in the net on his own right. The B's also made a nice free-agent slash signing Jarome Iginla who will jump right onto the 1st line to replace the departed Nathan Horton (Free Agent). All and all this looks like a club that on paper got better. If the young defense can gel and Tukka Rask continues his Vezena worthy play, the Bruins should be knocking on Lord Stanley's door once again.
Projection:  ****

Ottawa Senators
2013 record: 25-17-6, 7th in the East, lost to Penguins in conference semi-finals
Notable adds: F Bobby Ryan (Ducks), F Clarke MacArthur (Maple Leafs), D Joe Corvo (Hurricanes)
Notable losses: F Daniel Alfredsson (Red Wings), F Jakob Silfverberg (Ducks), D Sergei Gonchar (Stars)
Overview: The Ottawa Senators will have a much different look in 2013/14. Gone is long time captain and superstar Daniel Alfredson. Gone is power play quarterback Sergei Gonchar. Gone is rising phenom Jakob Silfverberg. OK, maybe that last one was a bit of a stretch, but you get my point. More importantly, in is former Ducks star Bobby Ryan and even more importantly the returning to health are Norris contender Erik Karlsson and offensive force Jason Speeza. If they can continue to improve in their own end they should be a team to watch for in the spring.
Projection: ***

Detroit Red Wings
2013 record: 24-16-8, 7th in the West, lost to Blackhawks in conference semi-finals
Notable adds: F Daniel Alfredsson (Senators), F Stephen Weiss (Panthers)
Notable losses: F Valtteri Filppula (Lightning), F Damien Brunner (Devils)
Overview: The change of scenery moving from the Went to the Eastern Conference should be a good thing for Mike Babcock's club. The additions of Alfredson and Stephen Weiss should give the Wings two lines very capable of putting the puck in the net. They are now in year two without Nicolas Lindstorm and that transition period that went through some serious growing pains last season should only get better this time around. With Jimmy Howard steady as ever between the pipes, Detroit should make its presence felt if the East this season.
Projection: ***

Montreal Canadiens
2013 record: 29-14-5, 2nd in the East, lost to Senators in conference quarter-finals
Notable adds: F Daniel Briere (Flyers), F George Parros (Panthers), D Douglas Murray (Penguins)
Notable losses: F Michael Ryder (Devils), F Petteri Nokelainen (Sweden), D Tomas Kaberle (Russia)
Overview: The Canadiens were the surprise team of the 2013 regular season finishing 2nd in the East under 1st year head coach Michel Therrien. After laying and egg in the first round against Ottawa, Motreal sought out to get tougher in the off-season and did that with the additions of Douglas Murray and George Parros. The addition of Daniel Briere could give them a nice little scoring punch. The real wild card for Montreal is in net. Carey Price has been the guy for a while now but his inconsistencies go hand in hand with those of the team. If they want to make a deep run this season Price will have to be better late in the season. Until then they are merely borderline playoff contenders.
Projection: ***

Toronto Maple Leafs
2013 record: 26-17-5, 5th in the East, lost to Bruins in conference quarter-finals
Notable adds: G Jonathan Bernier (Kings), F Dave Bolland (Blackhawks), F David Clarkson (Devils), D Paul Ranger (DNP)
Notable losses: F Mikhail Grabovski (Capitals), F Matt Frattin (Kings), G Ben Scrivens (Kings), F Leo Komarov (KHL), D Mike Komisarek (Hurricanes), D Mike Kostka (Blackhawks), F Clarke MacArthur (Senators), Joe Colborne (Flames)
Overview: The Leafs took a big step back towards relevance last season locking up the 5 seed in the East and very nearly knocked off the Boston Bruins in the first round. 1st year GM David Nonis was very active in the off-season with the big ticket signing of David Clarkson and Dave Bolland as well as trading for goaltender Jonnathan Bernier, a player many believe could have been a starter in the right situation seasons ago. The Leafs are young and should only get better as chemistry builds and players develop. They will start the season in a bit of a hole without Clarkson for the first 10 games after he left the bench to join a pre-season brew-haha with the Sabers. That said, expect the Leafs to be a playoff team capable of making some noise.
Projection: ***

Florida Panthers

2013 record: 15-27-6, 15th in the East
Notable adds: G Tim Thomas (Islanders), F Scott Gomez (Sharks), F Joey Crabb (Capitals), D Matt Gilroy (Rangers), F Brad Boyes (Islanders), F Krys Barch (Devils), D Tom Gilbert (Wild)
Notable losses: F Stephen Weiss (Red Wings), F George Parros (Canadiens), F Peter Mueller (Switzerland), G Jose Theodore (UFA), D Filip Kuba (UFA), F Jack Skille (Blue Jackets)
Overview: As bad as the Panthers were last season, and boy oh boy were they bad, they are only a year removed from being a playoff team. The Panthers may have completely changed their fortunes this fall with the signing of former Vezena and Conn Smythe winner Tim Thomas. Stability in the Florida net has been a major issue dating back to the Roberto Lulongo days. Thomas' ability to steal games really makes things interesting for a team that was near the bottom of the league in team defense a year ago. If Thomas can regain his form the Panthers could surprise a few people in 2014.
Projection: **

Tampa Bay Lightning
2013 record: 18-26-4, 14th in the East, out of playoffs
Notable adds: F Valterri Filppula (Red Wings)
Notable losses: F Vincent Lecavalier (Flyers), F Benoit Pouliot (Rangers), D Brendan Mikkelson (Penguins)
Overview: The Lightning are as dynamic offensively as any team in the league not named the Penguins. Where they really run into trouble is in their own end. Tampa has given up 425 goals over the past two seasons - tops in the NHL.They made a push to improve that at the trade deadline last spring with the addition of Ben Bishop. Immediate returns weren't great but they hope that will change with a full year under his belt. Unfortunately, the defense in front of Bishop has not improved any in terms of new personal. Hope is for further development of Victor Hedman, who many compared to Zedeno Chara when he was drafted. That comparison seems to be a bit of a stretch at this point, but Steve Yzerman and company are hopeful that changes this season.
Projection: **

Buffalo Sabers
2013 record: 21-21-6, 12th in the East
Notable adds: D Henrik Tallinder (Devils), D Jamie McBain (Hurricanes)
Notable losses: F Nathan Gerbe (Hurricanes), D Andrej Sekera (Hurricanes), D Adam Pardy (Jets)
Overview: The Sabers are bad, real, real bad. The highlight of their season may have come this pre-season with a brawl against Toronto that won't soon be forgotten. They have plenty of toughness. Unfortunately that isn't going to put the puck in the net and will struggle to keep in out of their own. Their best bet may be to sell of long time stalwarts Thomas Vanek, Drew Stafford and Ryan Miller and begin the full fledged rebuild.
Projection: *

Metropolitan Division

Pittsburgh Penguins
2013 record: 36-12-0, 1st in the East, lost to Bruins in conference finals
Vital signs: 3.38 goals-for per game (1st), 2.48 goals-against per game (12th), 24.7 power play pct. (2nd), 79.6 penalty kill pct. (25th), shootout record: 3-0 (17th)
Notable adds: D Rob Scuderi (Kings), F Matt D'Agostini (Devils)
Notable losses: F Jarome Iginla (Bruins), F Brenden Morrow (Blues), D Douglas Murray (Canadiens), F Matt Cooke (Wild), F Tyler Kennedy (Sharks)
Overview: On paper the Pittsburgh Penguins should be the team to beat in the East. They are very dangerous offensively and the re-acquisition of Rob Scuderi should help to shore things up in their own zone. The biggest question mark going into the season is in net. Marc-Andre Fleury has been very serviceable during the regular season. Unfortunately, that has not been extended to the playoffs with Fleury even losing the starting job to Tomas Vokoun. With Vokoun hospitalized with a blood clot the job is Fleuy's and Fleury's alone -- at least to start the season. The Penguins are on a short list of team who you would expect to challenge for the cup. If the goaltending works itself out only the Boston Bruins (or a Sidney Crosby injury) could stand in the way of a trip to the finals.
Projection: ****

New York Rangers
2013 record: 26-18-4, 6th in the East, lost to Bruins in conference semi-finals
Notable adds: D Justin Falk (Wild), F Benoit Pouliot (Lightning), F Dominic Moore (DNP)
Notable losses: F Ryane Clowe (Devils), D Steve Eminger (Russia), D Matt Gilroy (Panthers)
Overview: A change in coach should go a long way towards the revival of the Rangers. There is just too much talent on this roster to not be a contending team. They have arguably the best goaltender in the game in Henrik Lundquist. They will have to weather the storm to start the season without captain and spark plug Ryan Callahan. Until then they will look to Rick Nash to be the 50 goal scorer they thought they were getting with last season's blockbuster trade. The Rangers should be in the mix of second tier teams who could contend for a cup with a little luck on their side.
Projection: ***

Washington Capitals
2013 record: 27-18-3, 3rd in the East, lost to Rangers in conference quarter-finals
Notable adds: F Mikhail Grabovski (Maple Leafs), D Tyson Strachan (Panthers)
Notable losses: F Mike Ribeiro (Coyotes), F Joey Crabb (Panthers), F Matt Hendricks (Predators), D Jeff Schultz (Kings), F Wojtek Wolski (Russia)
Overview: How much fun is it going to be to have Ovetchkin and Crosby in the same division this season? While Ovie's supporting cast took a hit with the loss of power play specialist Mike Riberio, there is plenty of talent around him to be dangerous. The addition of Mikhail Grabovski could fly under the radar as on of the off-season better moves league wide. The Caps are a little thinner on the buleline than I'm sure they would like but with Braden Holtby getting better and better each season this is a team to watch for in 2014.
Projection: ***

Philadelphia Flyers
2013 record: 23-22-3, 10th in the East
Notable adds: D Mark Streit (Islanders), F Vincent Lecavalier (Lightning), G Ray Emery (Blackhawks)
Notable losses: F Daniel Briere (Canadiens), G Ilya Bryzgalov (UFA), F Ruslan Fedotenko (Russia), D Kurtis Foster (Russia), F Jody Shelley (retired)
Overview: The essential trade of Danny Briere for Vinny Lecavalier, at least on paper, looks like a win. The vet will likely slide into the second line center position and should prove to be a good fit with youngsters Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds. The question mark, as always it seems in Philly, is once agin between the pipes. The Flyers brought back Ray Emery after a couple of seasons as 1B in Chicago. It remains to be seen if that will be an upgrade over mental case Ilya Bryzgalov or just another in a long line of mediocre Flyer goaltenders.
Projection: ***

New Jersey Devils
2013 record: 19-19-10, 11th in the East
Notable adds: G Cory Schneider (Canucks), F Jaromir Jagr (Bruins), F Damien Brunner (Red Wings), F Michael Ryder (Canadiens), F Ryane Clowe (Rangers), F Rostislav Olesz (Blackhawks)
Notable losses: F Ilya Kovalchuk (Russia), F David Clarkson (Maple Leafs), F Alexei Ponikarovsky (Russia), D Henrik Tallinder (Sabres), G Johan Hedberg (UFA), F Krys Barch (Panthers)
Overview: This will be a very different Devils team from the one that took a dip last year following a Stanley Cup Finals run. Where they fit in the mix now remains to be seen, but more than likely it is somewhere in the middle. Scoring will be a bit of a question mark after the losses of David Clarkson and Ilya Kovalchuk. They will look to fill that void more with depth than star power. Jagr, Brunner, Ryder and Clowe are all nice pieces but more role players than anything else at this point. The real interesting area to watch will be in goal. It is widely believed that this will be Marty Brodeur's last season. The team made a big splash with a trade for Corey Schneider to be the heir apparent. How that time share works remains to be seen. Either way, they should be in the mix for a playoff spot.
Projection: ***


New York Islanders
2013 record: 24-17-7, 8th in the East, lost to Pegnuins in conference quarter-finals
Notable adds: F Pierre-Marc Bouchard (Wild), F Cal Clutterbuck (Wild), F Peter Regin (Senators)
Notable losses: D Mark Streit (Flyers), F Nino Niederreiter (Wild), G Rick DiPietro (UFA), F Brad Boyes (Panthers)
Overview: The Islanders opened some eyes in the playoffs last season giving the Penguins a hand full in the first round. John Tavares is one of the best players in the game and is a shoe in for 50 goals as long as he stays healthy. While they would have liked to give him a little more help on the wing this off-season they were left to roll players in Bouchard and Clutterbuck, the latter of which should provide a boost once he comes back from off-season surgery. The handicap for the Islanders remains in goal. Evgeni Nabakov is very inconsistent.  Until they find a more reliable replacement they will merely been a fringe team.
Projection: **

Columbus Blue Jackets
2013 record: 24-17-7, 9th in the West
Notable adds: F Nathan Horton (Bruins), F Jack Skille (Panthers)
Notable losses: F Vaclav Prospal (UFA)
Overview: The Blue Jackets took a huge step forward last season, nearly making the playoffs behind the Vezina Trophy play of Sergi Bobrovski. He will look to prove that was no fluke in his second season there. Unfortunately,the move from the West to the East, particularly the Metro Division may hurt any progress that they otherwise had made. The addition of Horton is a good one. Once he recovers from off-season shoulder surgery he should be a great fit for them. That said, there just isn't enough there to make noise in this division this season.
Projection: *

Projected Playoff Teams:
1. Boston Bruins
2. Pittsburgh Penguins
3. New York Rangers
4. Ottawa Senators
5. Detroit Red Wings
6. Washington Capitals
7. Toronto Maple Leafs
8. Philadelphia Flyers

Conference Finals
Boston Bruins vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Conference Champion:
Boston Bruins

Sunday, September 29, 2013

NFL Week 4 Sunday Cash-In

Wild on Sports
NFL Week 4 Sunday Cash-In

Chicago Bears (+3) at Detroit Lions
The 3-0 Chicago Bears head to Detroit to take on the 2-1 Lions in an NFC North showdown. Anyone else scratching their heads looking at this line? Sure, inter-division rivals are probably going to play a fairly close game, and yes I understand that Detroit is the home team. BUT COMMON! Has Vegas been watching these games? This is the same Lions team that lost to the Cardinals and very nearly gave the game away last week against a Redskins team that is anything but functional right now. The wrong team is favored. Take the points, take the money line, take the Bears to the bank!
PICK: Chicago +3

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