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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, January 3, 2014

BCS Bowl Preview: Orange Bowl

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BCS Bowl Preview: Orange Bowl
By Wild on Sports Analyst Bryan Ridall

While this is only the second time ever these two teams have met, the first meeting will always be remembered in college football history. In the 1978 Gator Bowl, then-Ohio State coach Woody Hayes grabbed and punched Clemson nose guard Charlie Bauman, after Bauman intercepted quarterback Art Schlichter, sealing a 17-15 win for Clemson. While this game likely won’t have the fireworks and long-lasting reputation that the first meeting did, this match up is intriguing nonetheless.

How Ohio State Got Here:
Everything had played out perfectly for the Buckeyes: they finished the regular season undefeated after barely escaping The Big House, Alabama lost to Auburn in the Iron Bowl, Florida State was the only undefeated team left, and all Ohio State had to do is defeat Michigan State in the Big 10 Championship game and they would be in the National Championship again. However, Ohio State lost its first game in two years under Urban Meyer in the Big 10 Championship game, ruining their National Championship aspirations. Ohio State was able to overcome the loss of quarterback Braxton Miller for two games and a variety of other injuries and suspensions to key players on the way to their 12-1 record. Ohio State has the third best scoring offense in the nation, averaging 46.3 points per game, and the offense has failed to score 40 points only three times this year, never scoring less than 31 points this year. Ohio State also boasts the nation’s third best rushing offense, using the two-headed attack of Carlos Hyde and Miller to combine for over 2400 yards and 24 touchdowns, and using the rest of their arsenal for an additional 1700 yards and 18 touchdowns, having a total of eight players with over 100 yards rushing. The Buckeyes receiving corps seems rather underwhelming when you look at the overall numbers, but they have been extremely consistent and dynamic once the ball gets into their hands. Seven receivers have averaged 10 yards or more per reception, and their top three receivers have accounted for 24 touchdowns. Ohio State’s defense has been completely transformed since Meyer took over, shifting to a smaller, more athletic unit. Ohio State was tough against the run, only giving up over 150 yards one (152), but teams with above average quarterbacks could exploit their pass defense, if they can keep the ball away from the Buckeyes’ opportunistic secondary. For Ohio State to win, they will need to pressure Tajh Boyd so that he doesn’t get the time he needs to dissect the secondary and let Sammy Watkins get open for big plays. On offense, Ohio State will need to run, run, and run some more on Clemson’s mediocre rush defense, allowing Miller to set up the play action pass, opening up the secondary and taking advantage of the Clemson defense’s poor execution with two-deep safety formations.

How Clemson Got Here: Clemson went 11-2 last year and seemed poised to control its own destiny in the ACC with the maturity of quarterback Tajh Boyd and the return of Sammy Watkins, one of the nation’s most dynamic playmakers. After beating Georgia in a shootout on the first weekend of the season, Clemson seemed to have lived up to the expectations, and won their next five games, setting up a matchup with undefeated Florida State. Clemson was blown out by FSU, eliminating any chance they had at the BCS National Championship game, and then lost their rivalry game to South Carolina for the fifth year in a row. Despite the “unsuccessful” season, Clemson’s offensive playmakers had great seasons, resulting in the 11th best passing offense and the 9th best scoring offense in the country. Boyd threw for almost 3500 yards with 29 touchdowns and added over 250 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground. Watkins finished the season with 1,237 yards and 10 touchdowns, making him the second most efficient receiver in the ACC. Clemson’s defense is a unit of feast or famine, when you consider advanced statistics. Clemson’s defense averages five plays per possession, which indicates, that the defense forces a lot of three and outs. However, closer investigation into the statistic shows that while the defense does produce a lot of three and outs, they are also prone to the big play, which Florida State took advantage of, and Ohio State has the offensive capabilities to exploit. Though Clemson often fell victim to the big play, they were one of the best units against long drives, only allowing drives of ten or more plays ten percent of the time. Clemson’s biggest weakness is its run defense, which is ranked 51st in the country, and has only held four teams under 100 yards rushing in the entire season, including giving up 323 yards to Syracuse. For Clemson to have a chance in this game, they need to hold Ohio State’s third ranked rushing offense under control by winning the battle up front. Ohio State’s linemen are extremely athletic and get to the second level very well, which will create match up problems against Clemson’s slower linebackers. Clemson’s offense will have to limit its mistakes and hope that Sammy Watkins can break free of Ohio State’s secondary.

Outcome: Well I have been wrong on my last two predictions, but it has to turn around at some point. Ohio State has looked relatively mortal its last two weeks against underwhelming offenses, but will be reeling off of their loss to Michigan State. Clemson is coming in after the loss to South Carolina, and Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins will be looking to end their careers with a win. This one should be a high scoring game and is likely to be decided by whoever has the ball last.  

Prediction: Ohio State: 41, Clemson: 38

NFL Fanduel: Wild Card Weekend Studs & Sleepers

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NFL Fanduel: Wild Card Weekend
Studs & Sleepers

Its playoff time! Each week we give you a stud and a bargain at each position to help you win your Fanduel match-ups. Lets take a look at some of the players you should be starting this week...


QB - Drew Brees - NO vs. PHI - $10,400
Its about time Brees and the Saints break the curse outdoors on the road. What better team to do it against than the team with the worst pass defense in football? Expect Brees and the Saints to come out firing. Despite the cold weather this has the makings of a high scoring game.
QB - Andy Dalton - CIN vs. SD - $8,700
Hard to find a true sleeper at QB with only a handful available. Outside of the marque names of Brees and Rodgers, Dalton may be the next best option. After a slow middle of the season, Dalton and star WR AJ Green seem to have reconnected making for one of the most dangerous duos in football. Dalton finished the season with 3 of this top five fantasy outputs of the season including a 31.52 point output week 16. San Diego has show vulnerability to the pass at times this season. Has the makings of a sneaky good game.
RB - Frank Gore - SF vs. GB - $6,100
All the talk is about Charles and McCoy and they both had great season but this is playoffs and we need nothing but the best this week. San Fransisco knows how to win in the playoffs -- control the clock and play great defense. Gore is the key to the offensive portion of that strategy and just to sweeten the deal, is going up against the 25th ranked defense against the run. A good match-up all around for Gore.
RB - Donald Brown - IND vs. KC - $5,800
You can really save some money with our two picks at RB this week. Brown is splitting carries with Trent Richardson but seems to have a nose for the end zone. He has found paydirt 3 times in the past two weeks. Indy is going to put up some points. Brown should get some touches and some opportunity to be a big time sleeper pick this week.
WR - AJ Green - CIN vs. SD - $8,800
If you believe in the Dalton-Green connection this week than you have to go with both players. Green has the highest upside of any of the WR in this week's class. If a player is going to go off for 30+ its going to be Green.
WR - James Jones - GB vs. SF - $5,200
Aaron Rodgers is back which means James Jones can now come out of the shadows and reemerge as a legit threat. He has had 15 receptions over the past two weeks, second only to Jordy Nelson on the team. It is a bit of a stretch but he has shown the ability to have big games in the playoffs in the past. Great sleeper pick.
TE - Jimmy Graham - NO vs. PHI - $7,600
If you can afford him take him, especially if you are using Drew Brees at QB. No WR has been more consistent. You can pencil him in for somewhere around 100/1 on the low end with 2/3 TD potential.
TE - Andrew Quarless - GB vs. SF - $4,800
Quarless was one of Matt Flynn's favorite targets and put up some big numbers in weeks 14, 15. Rodgers has a history of using his TE's in the playoffs. No Jermichael Finley opens the door for Quarless as a sleeper pick.
K - Adam Vaniteri - IND vs. KC - $5,600
Has there been a more clutch playoff kicker in the history of the NFL?
K - Shayne Graham - NO vs. PHI - $5,000
Best of the 5k options. The Saints are going to put up some points this week.
DEF - Cincinnati Bengals - vs. SD - $6,200
Defense wins championships. A lot of experts are leaning towards Cincy as a dark horse championship contender. If they get there it will be primarily due to the defense. They have been one of the best in fantasy this year and have a chance to do some damage against Philip Rivers who has a history of playoff failure.
DEF - San Diego Chargers - vs. CIN - $5,000
Cheap, and a bit of a crap shoot but if you believe they can shut down AJ Green they could hold Cincy to a low number.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

NFL Power Rankings: Wild Card Edition

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NFL Power Rankings: 
Wild Card Edition

What a wild finish to the NFL regular season we had over the weekend! Four teams had cracks at the AFC Wild Card, we had scenarios in the NFC that could have had a team like San Francisco as high as #2 or as low as #7 (out). After the dust settled we were down to our final twelve teams. No surprise, our top five this week features all four teams that will not be playing this weekend. 

Denver enters their bye at the top spot in both the AFC and in our Power Rankings. Last week they had the Raiders beat at half time which allowed Peyton to watch the second half from the sidelines. At #2 are the New England Patriots. The Pats handled division rival Buffalo last week and will have an extra week to rest his severely banged up squad. The fact that they finished the year 12-4 with a bye after all the injuries they have suffered is truly amazing. Representing the NFC at the top seed and #3 in our rankings this week are the Seattle Saehawks. The Seahawks rebounded from a tough divisional loss in week 16 against Arizona to beat fellow division foe St. Louis last week. They enter the bye as most people's favorite to make it to New York in February. Sticking in the NFC West at #4 we have the only team in our top five with a game this weekend: the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers enter the weekend on a six game winning streak. That streak will be put to the test this weekend against Aaron Rodgers and the rejuvenated Green Bay Packers. Rounding out the top five this week are the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers took care of business over the weekend to clinch the NFC South and a first round breather. Cam Newton's crew looks poised for a deep playoff run this season.

That'll do it for this week folks. Without further adieu, our Wild Card weekend NFL Power Rankings. Hope you see your team listed below!

Rank
Opponent
1 Denver Broncos BYE
2 New England Patriots BYE
3 Seattle Seahawks BYE
4 San Francisco 49ers @ Green Bay
5 Carolina Panthers BYE
6 Cincinnati Bengals vs. San Diego
7 New Orleans Saints @ Philadelphia
8 Indianapolis Colts vs. Kansas City
9 Kansas City Chiefs @ Indianapolis
10 Philadelphia Eagles vs. New Orleans
11 Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco
12 San Diego Chargers @ Cincinnati

BCS Bowl Preview: Sugar Bowl

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BCS Bowl Preview: Sugar Bowl
By Wild on Sports Analyst Bryan Ridall

This year’s Allstate Sugar Bowl features two perennial college football powerhouses, with #3 Alabama taking on #11 Oklahoma. For Oklahoma, this season was an overachievement, while Alabama suffered the heartbreak of the season, losing both the Iron Bowl and their shot in the BCS National Championship Game because of one of the greatest plays in college football history. This game is going to be a laughable excuse for a BCS bowl game and when it is all said and done, many people are going to be arguing, once again, that Alabama should have been in the National Championship Game.

How Oklahoma Got Here: Oklahoma finished 3rd in the Big 12 this year, and shouldn’t have been in this game, but the Sugar Bowl committee selected Oklahoma over Oregon to face Alabama. Oklahoma has looked extremely unimpressive in Big 12 play, a conference that was extremely underwhelming this year, as shown by Baylor’s domination by UCF. The only impressive wins on their schedule were the defeat of Notre Dame at South Bend and Oklahoma State at Stillwater, allowing the Sooners the spot in the Sugar Bowl. Oklahoma was embarrassed in the Red River Rivalry, by a 3-2 Texas team that looked completely hapless and then was blown out by Baylor 41-12. Oklahoma had to completely reinvent its offense after the second game of the year because of injuries and overall ineffectiveness. After switching to quarterback Blake Bell, Oklahoma gained some consistency within its offense, because Bell’s passing abilities helped open up the running game. Oklahoma finished with six players over 100 yards rushing, including both quarterbacks, and the rushing game accounted for 18 touchdowns. Oklahoma’s receiving corps is rather underwhelming, with no receiver having more than 700 yards and only two receivers having more then 300 yards. Oklahoma’s defense has been its best unit, ranking 15th against the pass and 27th against the run, but only faced three teams in the top 50 offensive units in the country. In order for Oklahoma to have a chance, let alone win, they will need to win the battles in the trenches with their offensive line, allowing their running game to gash Alabama’s defense the way that Auburn did. The Sooners will also need a near-flawless game from their quarterback, but Bob Stoops hasn’t named who his starter will be, due to injuries to both Blake Bell and Trevor Knight, likely a gamesmanship move.

How Alabama Got Here: By now you have seen Chris Davis’s miracle 109-yard missed field goal return that destroyed Alabama’s national title hopes and relegated them to this bowl game. Alabama opened its season with two of its tougher games of the year, handling Virginia Tech in Atlanta, then beating Texas A&M despite Johnny Manziel putting on the greatest offensive show we have ever seen. From there, Alabama went on to dismantle every team it played on its way to the Iron Bowl, including an extremely impressive 38-17 pounding of LSU. A.J. McCarron put together another efficient season, throwing for over 2600 yards with 26 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions. McCarron spread the wealth this year, with seven players eclipsing 150 receiving yards, but his favorite targets were Amari Cooper and Kevin Norwood, who combined for 1,150 yards and 11 touchdowns. As always, Alabama featured a strong two-back running system, using T.J. Yeldon as the workhorse and Kenyan Drake as a change of pace. Yeldon gained 1,163 yards and scored 13 touchdowns on the ground, while Drake added almost 700 yards and 8 touchdowns of his own. Of course, the strength of Alabama is its defense, which allowed the second-fewest points per game of any defense in college football, and only allowed three teams to score over 10 points; LSU, Texas A&M and Auburn. Alabama has the 4th ranked pass defense and the 9th ranked rush defense, despite facing Auburn, the nation’s best rushing team. The biggest unknown surrounding Alabama is how the team responds to the devastating loss to Auburn. The Tide have been stewing on the loss for over a month and if Alabama can’t keep their emotions under control, it could lead to undisciplined play, which would doom Alabama.

Result: Vegas doesn’t think this is going to be much of a game, making Alabama a 16-point favorite, and that might not even be enough. “Big Game Bob” is 1-5 in his last 6 BCS bowl games, including 0-2 against the SEC. Oklahoma can’t stop the run, and you have to believe that after the way the Auburn game, Alabama is going to look to physically obliterate the next team in their path, which happens to be Oklahoma. A.J. McCarron will finish his career with one more big game win to cement his legacy as Alabama’s greatest quarterback.  
 
Alabama: 42, Oklahoma: 14

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

USA Announces Hockey Roster

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USA Announces Hockey Roster
Wild on Sports Analyst Jason Gillson

Ah, what a day of hockey! At the conclusion of this year's traditional NHL Winter Classic on New Year's day USA Hockey has announced the roster that will heading to Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympic games. The team will be led by Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma and is comprised largely of players who were part of the 2008 silver medal winning team. All told, there are 14 returning players to the USA Olympic roster led by such notable names as Ryan Miller, Patrick Kane, Ryan Callahan, Dustin Brown and may other deserving returnees.

When major roster like this are announced the initial buzz generally is about the boarder line players who either did or did not make the cut. There was a a lot of talk going in about who the third goaltender would be behind Miller and Jonathan Quick. The selection committee decided to go with Detroit's Jimmy Howard over the likes of Ben Bishop and Tim Thomas. Howard returned to play just in the past week after missing a large chunk of the season due to a knee injury. Skeptics will look at the snub of Bishop who is having a career year for Tampa Bay. Bishop is 3rd in the NHL in both wins (20) and save percentage (.935).

On the offensive side the two real surprises are Winnipeg's Blake Wheeler and New York's Derek Stepan. Wheeler is known best for his wheels (speed for those unfamiliar with the hockey lingo). His speed and puck handling on the large Olympic ice surface where more coveted by the committee then the slower, but more skilled goal scoring ability of most people's top snub Bibby Ryan.

Overall, this roster is one that is certainly capable of contending for a gold medal. The team lacks the laundry list of marque names that are seen on Canada, Sweden or Russia but play a grinding style of hockey that can frustrate opponents and ware down opposing defenses. As always, the key to success for the USA will be its goaltending. Ryan Miller was sensational in 2008 and the main reason why they beat Canada the first time around and made it back to a rematch in the gold medal game. It is unclear at this point if it will be Miller or Quick as the starter this time around. Whoever it is will need to play nearly flawlessly over the course of the tournament if they want to have a chance at the gold.

Without further adieu, the roster for the 2014 USA Men's Ice Hockey team...

Jonathan QuickGoalieLos Angeles Kings
Jimmy HowardGoalieDetroit Red Wings
Ryan MillerGoalieBuffalo Sabres
Ryan SuterDefensemanMinnesota Wild
Keith YandleDefensemanPhoenix Coyotes
Ryan McDonaghDefensemanNew York Rangers
Kevin ShattenkirkDefensemanColorado Avalanche
Brooks OrpikDefensemanPittsburgh Penguins
Cam FowlerDefensemanAnaheim Ducks
Paul MartinDefensemanPittsburgh Penguins
Justin FaulkDefensemanCarolina Hurricanes
Zach PariseForwardMinnesota Wild
Joe PavelskiForwardSan Jose Sharks
Patrick KaneForwardChicago Blackhawks
James Van RiemsdykForwardToronto Maple Leafs
Phil KesselForwardToronto Maple Leafs
Ryan KeslerForwardVancouver Canucks
David BackesForwardSt. Louis Blues
Dustin Brown ForwardLos Angeles Kings
Ryan CallahanForwardNew York Rangers
Max PaciorettyForwardMontreal Canadiens
T.J OshieForwardSt. Louis Blues
Derek StepanForwardNew York Rangers
Blake WheelerForwardWinnipeg Jets
Paul StastnyForwardColorado Avalanche

NFL 10 Take Tuesday Wild Card Edition

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NFL 10 Take Tuesday Wild Card Edition
By Wild on Sports Analyst Billy Ball

Each week I give you my 10 takes from the weekend that was in the NFL

A day late this week but hey, Happy New Year everyone!

1. Did anyone really want the AFC 6 seed? Miami had two cracks at it, lost both. Baltimore (yes, the defending Super Bowl Champion Ravens) did as well. Pittsburgh wanted it so badly that they started the season losing 6 of their first 8 games. San Diego, well we know their troubled past in the closing weeks of seasons. Seriously, how many games were lost in the closing weeks that would have locked up the final playoff spot? Its embarrassing really.

2. The Pittsburgh Steelers got screwed. With 8 seconds remaining in regulation Kansas City kicker Ryan Succup had a 41 yard field goal to win the game for the Chiefs and send the Chargers home to watch the playoffs from their couches. He missed the kick, but worse the refs missed a blatant penalty, "a rule of emphasis" in the 2013 NFL. The Chargers had seven players on the line of scrimmage at the snap. A new rule in place for this season limits it to 6. Yes Succup missed what normally is automatic for him, but he should have been given a second crack at it and from a little closer in. He makes the kick, the Steelers make the playoffs. Sorry Steelcity.

3. Watch out for the Green Bay Packers. The Packers got both Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb back after long term injuries and the two hooked up on 4th and 8 late in the game to clinch the NFL North and a trip to the playoffs. It was an improbable series of events that got the Pack into the playoffs. They won three of their last four, two of which with their 3rd QB of the season. Two guys written off for done come back and spark a comeback victory against their division rival to get in. They are flying high and as hot as anyone coming in. I would want no part of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers if I were an NFC team.

4. As long as Jerry Jones continues to act as Cowboys GM bad things are going to continue to happen to their team. Its karma really. Micromanaging to the umpth degree. Its time for Jerry to step away. We know you love your team. You want to win so bad it hurts. We get it. But please for the love of humanity give it up. It was Kyle Orton this time, not Tony Romo (out with injury) who gave up a late back breaking interception but in reality this is was just Jerry once again getting what he had coming to him. Jerry, if you are reading this PLEASE, PLEASE hire a GM. Then go lock yourself in your booth, unplug the phone, don't talk to the press until after the season and just then you might win something.

5. The Browns firing Rob Chudzinski is a slap in the face to Browns fans. If you are a head coaching candidate out there why in the world would you want to go to Cleveland? Chudzinski had been on the job less than a year, had his star running-back traded away just a couple games in, lost three QB's to injury and was told by the GM that the team was "building towards 2014" only to get a pink slip before the calendar even hit 2014. Why would anyone want to go there knowing that is how the new management conducts their business. Sorry Browns fans, it might be another 20 years before you see another contender.

6. Houston had the worst record in the NFL in 2013 but will be a playoff team in 2014. Houston was a playoff team in 2012. They have one of the best running-backs in the NFL (when healthy) and a defense that can just be down right nasty at times. They are going to finally get a QB in this year's draft. Most believe it will be Teddy Bridgewater. I think a lot of fans hope it will be local favorite Johnny Manziel. Either way it will be a much improved Texans team in 2014.

7. The #1 seed really isn't that important. In the past 19 season only once have the top seeds advanced to the Super Bowl (2009 - Saints/Colts). Yes -- that stat is correct -- go check for yourself. Mind blowing really, but a testament to how deep the NFL really is. How many times have we seen a team sneak in and get hot as a wild card team and ride that to a Super Bowl. Just ask last year's Ravens how that works.

8. I have absolutely no idea what is going to happen in the AFC. Can Manning win in the cold? Are the Patriots just too injured? Which Andy Dalton are we getting -- the 33 TD's or the 20 INT's? The Colts aren't at the level yet, right? Can KC regain that early season shut down defense? Do we really trust Philip Rivers with a late season game on the line? Too many questions.

9. The Seattle Sehawks are the best team in the NFC. Will they win the Super Bowl? Maybe. But that one thing I can say is they are clearly the class of the NFC. They are strong at every aspect of the game. They are playing at home, a place where they are unbeatable. I just don't see them losing under those circumstances. 

10. The NFL playoffs will once again show why the NFL is the most watch sport in America. They never fail to amaze us. The "OMG" moments will be around at every turn. This weekend we get Drew Brees, Jamaal Charles, Philip Rivers and Andrew Luck. Next week it will be two of those names with Manning, Brady, Newton and Wilson. Its going to be a fun ride. I for one can't wait.

The Greatest Game in Hockey

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The Greatest Game in Hockey
By Wild on Sports Analyst Jason Gillson

Hockey is a game of some of the greatest traditions in sports. From the Stanley Cup to playoff beards and the traditional post playoff hand shake, there is a lot that has been etched in stone from the beginning as the way of life in the National Hockey League. While much newer than its fellow traditional counter parts, perhaps the greatest "new" tradition in hockey -- all of sports for that matter, takes place this afternoon, this year in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

There are few things Gary Bettman deserves credit for. After all, under his watch the NHL has experienced three lockouts, one of which lost an entire season and the other two losing thousands of fans. The one thing that I can without a doubt tip my cap to him for however is the NHL Winter Classic.

The Winter Classic is a thing of beauty. It is hockey at its purest of form. Anyone who grew up in the Northern United States or Canada has probably laced up the skates for a little pond hockey.  From Maine to North Dakota and Vancouver to St. John's there are kids all across North America that are probably tying their skates as we speak for a little shinny with some friends. You don't have to be Wayne Gretzsky or Sidney Crosby, all you need is a stick and a pair of skates. Its hockey in its greatest form; cold crisp air in your lungs, the glistening of the sun off the ice surface, maybe a snowflake falling here and there and that unmistakable sound of your blades carving up the ice.

It puts a smile on my face just thinking about it.

For one day every year two lucky NHL teams get to turn back the clock to those fond childhood memories and step back onto the ice in all the elements. This year's edition of the Winter Classic will feature two original six teams in the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. Fittingly, for two of the league's most storied franchises the game will be played in the venue known to millions as "the Big House" home to Michigan football and holding some 100,000+ people when at max capacity.

The game will be the highest attended game in NHL history. A tribute to two of the greatest franchises in the game and to two truly fantastic fan bases. Just a short drive from the Canadian border, there figure to be as many, if not more Leafs fans as Red Wing fans which should make for just an incredible environment. To top it all off, the forecast: 19 degrees with light snow. Does it get any better than that?

Hockey in its greatest form will be on full display. Even if you are not a hockey fan and just a general fan of sport, this one day a year is the can't miss hockey experience that no sports fan should ever miss.

So on this New Years day, round up the family, warm some hot chocolate and sit back and enjoy on of the great traditions in sports. You can thank me later...

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

BCS Bowl Preview: The 100th Rose Bowl

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BCS Bowl Preview: The 100th Rose Bowl
By Wild on Sports Analyst Bryan Ridall

The Rose Bowl is the most iconic bowl game played in college football, symbolized by its 100th anniversary, which will be played this year. Recently, the Rose Bowl has become the game in which the PAC-12 Champion has played the Big 10 Champion, as long as those teams were not in contention for the National Championship Game. This year will be no different, with #4 Michigan State representing the Big 10 after ending Ohio State’s undefeated season in the Big 10 Championship Game, and #5 Stanford representing the PAC 12, after pounding Arizona State in the PAC 12 Championship game. Both of these teams pride themselves on their running games, and playing a physical brand of defense to wear out the opposing offenses. While this game will probably be a relatively low scoring game, it will showcase a brand of smash-mouth football that many teams can’t compete with.

How Michigan State Got Here: 
Sparty has had its best season in a long time, going undefeated in Big 10 play, and it lost its only game to Notre Dame, a game that was played in South Bend. Connor Cook was named the starting quarterback, after only throwing 17 passes as a freshman, but played a conservative, mistake-free brand of football, throwing for 2400 yards, 20 touchdowns, and only five interceptions. He relied mostly on Jeremy Langford who embraced his role as the workhorse back, rushing for over 1300 yards and 17 touchdowns. Michigan State doesn’t have a game breaking wide receiver, but has had consistent production from all of their weapons, with seven players having over 15 receptions and six players with over 190 yards receiving. Sparty also has a consistent kicking game, with kicker Michael Geiger hitting 14 of 15 field goals, including 8/8 from 40+ yards. In reality, Michigan State’s hopes for victory rely on their top-ranked defense. Michigan State’s defense is #1 in yards allowed per game, including the #1 rush defense and the #5 pass defense, as well as giving up the fourth fewest points per game. Michigan State only gave up over 350 yards in three games this season, and held teams to under 250 total yards in eight of their games. However, as of Thursday, Michigan State announced that defensive leader Max Bullough would be suspended for the Rose Bowl for violating team policies. Bullough has started at middle linebacker for the past three years and was a senior captain and main play caller for the defense. While the Spartans have senior Kyler Elsworth as Bullough’s back up, Elsworth has played limited snaps, especially in meaningful situations. Elsworth will get thrown into the fire and will have to make calls and change formations to contend with Stanford’s run-heavy formations, which can feature up to 8 offensive linemen on the field.

How Stanford Got Here: 
This may sound ridiculous, but this may be Stanford’s most disappointing season in recent memory. In a season during which they dominated the best teams the PAC 12 had to offer, Stanford lost at Utah and against USC at The Coliseum. Stanford, like MSU, used a relatively conservative passing game and a strong running game to wear opposing defenses down. Quarterback Kevin Hogan threw for almost 2500 yards, with 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions, while completing over 61% of his passes; adding over 300 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Stanford’s offense was defined by its running game, which utilized unique formations, often using more than six offensive linemen in order to overpower opposing defenses and wear them down. Running back Tyler Gaffney was a workhorse, carrying the ball over 300 times, gaining over 1600 yards with 20 touchdowns. Gaffney is a big, bruising back who led the offense as a senior this season, and ran with a violent aggression and refused to go down after first contact. Stanford’s receivers are relatively underwhelming, save for game changer Ty Montgomery, who can score any time he touches the ball, whether it’s in the receiving, return, and sometimes even rush game. Montgomery had 14 all-around touchdowns, including ten receiving touchdowns, and was Hogan’s most reliable receiver because of his blend of size and incredible speed. Shayne Skov, who is technically a linebacker, but was often on the line, and also played with his hand on the ground, led Stanford’s defense, which gave up the 10th fewest points in college football and was the 3rd best defense against the run. However, Stanford’s biggest problem is their pass defense, which ranked 85th in the country, but that is a bit misleading. Teams were forced to throw on Stanford because of their inability to run the ball on the Cardinal defense, and eventually were able to get big plays on the aggressive and physical corners. Outcome: This will most likely be the lowest scoring and “ugliest” of all of the BCS bowl games, but it will give us a glimpse back in time to old school football. Both of these teams win their games in the trenches, relying on their offensive and defensive lines to dictate the way that the game is played. Both teams will have their difficulties running the ball, but Tyler Gaffney and the overloaded formations that Stanford uses will wear down Sparty’s defense, leading the Cardinal to victory.

Prediction:
Stanford: 17, Michigan State: 10

Sunday, December 29, 2013

NFL Fanduel Week 17 Players to Start

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NFL Fanduel Week 17 Players to Start

Each week we give you a stud and a bargain at each position to help you win your Fanduel match-ups. Lets take a look at some of the players you should be starting this week...

QB - Drew Brees - NO vs. TB - $10,000
A playoff berth is on the line for the Saints in a must win home game. The key to that statement being HOME. Brees and company are a much different team in their own building. Expect them to put up some huge offensive numbers this week.
QB - Philip Rivers - SD vs. KC - $7,900
Philip Rivers has quietly put together one of the best seasons in his career. They still have an outside chance of getting into the playoffs and are playing a team that will be resting their starters in the 2nd half. Could add up to a great value play this week.
RB - Matt Forte - CHI vs. GB - $8,500
Forte and the Bears are in a win and in lose and out situation against their division rival Packers. The wind is expected to be howling which favors a rushing attack. Forte will be going up against the #26 ranked defense against the run. He and fantasy owners everywhere should be licking their lips.
RB - DeAngelo Willams - CAR vs. ATL - $5,800
Carolina still needs to win this game to assure themselves of a first round bye. They will likely get out to an early lead against a team that has simply given up and is horrible defensively. Willams should see a ton of touches. He doesn't get the ball in goal line situations which keeps him in the second tier of fantasy backs most weeks but that shouldn't matter in this one. At just $5,800 is an absolute steal.
WR - DeSean Jackson - PHI vs. DAL - $7,800
Jackson and the Eagles go up against 31st ranked defense against the pass in a game that the winner will take home the division crown. The Eagles will put the game in Nick Foles hands and Jackson is his #1 and most explosive receiver. A great match-up at a reasonable price.
WR - Marques Colston - NO vs. TB - $6,000
We usual define a bargain as $6,000 or less so this is right on the cusp and maybe not what you would look for most weeks but this match-up at this price cannot be ignored. The Saint are at home with something to play for. Revis island will have to float between Jimmy Graham and Colston. There are going to be more than enough balls to go around. A line of 110/1 at this price would bode well for owners.
TE - Jimmy Graham - NO vs. TB - $7,600
Love for the same reasons as Colston above. While he may not rack up the yards if he has Revis on him, he still could score double digit touchdowns. If you have the budget to fit him, play with confidence.
TE - Charles Clay - MIA vs. NYJ - $5,000
Clay had seven catches for 80 yards against them a few weeks ago. Miami is in a must win situation. Clay is Tannehill's favorite redzone target. Looks like a good match-up this week.
K - Stephen Gostowski - NE vs. BUF - $5,600
New England scores points in bunches. Last week they exploded and will look to continue that momentum with a first round bye on the table with a win.
K - Steven Hauschka - SEA vs. STL - $5,000
Seattle has nothing to play for but still are too good not to score some points against a division foe. St. Louis has a decent defense that could keep the Seahawks out of the endzone. Good play for the money.
DEF - Seattle Seahawks - vs. STL - $6,100
While the Seahawks have little to play for they take great pride in their defense and shutting down opponents. St. Louis is going to try to run the ball all day which plays just fine into Seattle hands. This could be a very low scoring game.
DEF - Miami Dolphins - vs. NYJ - $5,000
In their last meeting the Dolphins held the Jets to just 3 points. They will be very motivated in this one with a playoff berth on the line. Geno Smith is just way to inconsistent to scary anyone. Looks like a good bargain here.

NFL Wek 17 Cash-In: Baltimore at Cincinnati

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NFL Week 17 Cash-In
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals
Line: Cincinnati -6.5, O/U: 43.5

The Match-Up:
The Baltimore Ravens head to Cincinnati with a playoff berth on the line against the division rival Bengals. There is a lot at stake for both teams in this one. For the Ravens, win and a Miami or San Diego loss and they are in. For Cincinnati, they could lock up a first bye which would be a huge step over playing a motivated wild card team in the first round next week.

Baltimore really shot themselves in the foot last week laying a major egg at home against New England. They controlled their own destiny going into the game but now need a win and some help. The defense was particularly puzzling giving up 40 points to an injury depleted offense.

Cincinnati comes into the game after a nice little bounce back victory last week against Minnesota. The key to success lately has been Andy Dalton and the offense. The Bengals have scored 40+ in three of the last 5 games. The defense is still very good even without Geno Atkins. There is a lot to like about this team going into the playoffs.

The Baltimore Ravens took a four-game winning streak into its game against New England last week, but hit a wall against the Patriots in a 41-7 loss at home. The loss put the Ravens on the outside looking in for a playoff spot, and the defending champions now need help to make the postseason.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/sbnation/SBNation_20131226_Baltimore_Ravens_vs__Cincinnati_Bengals__Betting_odds__Week_17_pick__preview.html#ZYQiB8eCBmk3TtvS.9
The Baltimore Ravens took a four-game winning streak into its game against New England last week, but hit a wall against the Patriots in a 41-7 loss at home. The loss put the Ravens on the outside looking in for a playoff spot, and the defending champions now need help to make the postseason.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/sbnation/SBNation_20131226_Baltimore_Ravens_vs__Cincinnati_Bengals__Betting_odds__Week_17_pick__preview.html#ZYQiB8eCBmk3TtvS.
Trends:
Ravens are 5-1 SU past six versus the Bengals
Ravens are 5-2 ATS past seven as road underdogs
Bengals are 10-1 SU and ATS past 11 home games

The Verdict:
The Ravens need this game. They are embarrassed after last week's flop and John Harbarugh is too good a coach to let his team lay down with the playoffs on the line. This is a huge rivalry game and should be very close. The Ravens have won five of the last six meetings and need this more than any of the others. We'll take the points in this one.

Pick: BALTIMORE +6.5

NFL Week 17 Cash-In: Detroit at Minnesota

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NFL Week 17 Cash-In
Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings
Line: Minnesota -3, O/U: 51

The Match-Up:
The Detroit Lions head to Minnesota to take on the division rival Vikings. This could be a game without stars as Adrian Peterson has been ruled out and the Lions are considering shutting down Calvin Johnson. Neither team has a chance of making the playoffs at this point so the two teams will be looking at auditions for 2014 and perhaps a little pride.

The Lions seemed to be in the drivers seat for a division title three weeks ago as they controlled their own destiny and were playing some inspired football. Fast forward three weeks and here are the Lions one the outside looking in after dropping three straight games. Matt Stafford has been turnover prone, the running game has failed to gain traction and the defense seems to be just porous enough to not get it done.

Minnesota comes into the game as a confusing team. Clearly they are terrible on the road, going 1-7-1. At home they are 3-3 with wins over Philly and Chicago in their last two home games. Will that home momentum continue this week? With the horrible inconsistency at QB you just never know what you are going to get both in terms of playing ability and personnel. Add to that the loss of all world runningback Adrian Peterson and this could be ugly. But then again...

Trends:
Lions are 1-14 SU past 15 trips to Minnesota
Lions are 1-8 SU, 1-7-1 ATS past nine games as road underdogs
Vikings are 2-7-1 ATS past 10 games as home favorites
Lions are 5-1 ATS past six divisional games
Lions OVER is 10-1 past 11 Week 17 games
Lions 5-1 ATS past 6 regular season finales
Vikings 3-10 ATS past 13 regular season finales

The Verdict:
Matthew Stafford and company have a lot to prove going into the off-season. This group has been together for a while now and it is about time they start showing promise or significant off-season changes could be in order. The Vikings are favorites by virtue of being at home. In a game that is a toss up, at least in the minds of many, we'll take the points.

Pick: DETROIT +3

NFL Week 17 Cash-In: Miami vs. New York

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NFL Week 17 Cash-In
Miami Dolphins vs. New York Jets
Line: Miami -5.5, O/U: 41.5

The Match-Up:
The Miami Dolphins have a chance to lock up the final wild card berth in the AFC this weekend as they play host to division rival New York Jets. There is a ton at stake for both teams. For Miami its obvious, win and you could get in. Granted, they need San Diego to also win or Baltimore to lose, but first and foremost they need to take care of their own business. They failed to do so last week laying a major egg at Buffalo. For the Jets this has the potential to be the final game at the helm for head coach Rex Ryan. The whispers are out there, lose and hes out, win and well, I guess we will wait and see. Either way this has the potential to be the end of a very entertaining era in New York.

Trends:
Miami won the previous meeting 23-3 in New York December 1st.
New York is 1-6 SU, 2-4-1 ATS on the road this season.
Miami is 4-3 SU, 5-2 ATS at home this season.
Five of the last six meetings played UNDER the total.
Jets are 12-3 ATS at Miami since 1998.
UNDER is 9-1 past 10 Miami divisional games.
Dolphins OVER is 11-2 past 13 Week 17 games.

The Verdict:
The Dolphins flat out flopped last week in their first chance to lock up a playoff berth. They are a much different team at home in the Miami heat. We expect them to show up to play in this one. Cameron Wake and company will be introducing themselves to Geno Smith early and often making it difficult to muster up any type of offense. In the end, Ryan Tannehill will show why he is worthy of consideration for most improved player of 2013 and the Dolphins will roll to a 10+ point victory.

Pick: MIAMI -5.5

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