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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

NFL Fanduel: Division Round Studs & Sleepers

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NFL Fanduel: Divisional Round
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 - Tom Brady - NE vs. IND - $9,000
Alex Smith was able to score 44 points on this defense. Imagine what a playoff om Brady at home will be able to do. The Pats defense is pretty beat up at this point which could turn this into a shootout situation.
QB - Philip Rivers - SD vs. DEN - $8,000
Rivers was able to out duel Manning a month ago in Denver. Odds are he will be playing from behind and airing it out for much of the game. Denver has been vulnerable through the air this year. A 300 yard day isn't out of the question.
RB - Ryan Mathews - SD vs. DEN - $7,600
Mathews had a monster game against them back in December. The Broncos have not been very good against the run this season and that trend is bound to continue so long as the game stays close.
RB - Montee Ball - DEN vs. SD -$5,000
Ball and Moreno have more of less split carries down the stretch. This week one costs 8,500 and the other 5,000. Make sense to you? Looks like a bargain with the latter.
WR - Wes Welker - DEN vs. SD - $7,800
Back from his recent concussion and ready to roll. Welker lives for these type of big time games. In the Denver offense you can only cover so many guys. Little Wes is likely to get lost in the shuffle and could be in line for a big game.
WR - Steve Smith - CAR vs. SF - $4,500
He is injured and questionable so take this with a grain of salt but if he does play he is an absolute steal at the league min. Signs point to him playing. Its one of the biggest games of his career. If he can run he'll be out there and if hes out there he will be Cam Newton's #1 target.
TE - Julius Thomas - DEN vs. SD - $6,800
Red-zone threat, all around threat. Should get his hands one at least one ball in the end zone this weekend.
TE - Coby Fleener - IND vs. NE - $4,900
Had a very respectable game last week. The Patriots are going to do everything they can to stop TY Hilton. That should open things up for the other Indy receivers. Fleener and Luck have a ton of history together in big games dating back to their days at Stanford. He is a security blanket for Luck that should get plenty of looks.
K - Stephen Gostkowski - NE vs. IND - $5,800
The Pats are going to put up some points, there is no doubt about it. That bodes well for Gostkowski. Keep in mind that Gostkowski is very familiar with the history of the kicking position of the Pats. They are going up against the man who owns the record books in New England. He should be motivated in this one.
K - Adam Vinatieri - IND vs. NE - $5,500
Speaking of that man. Vinatieri is probably the most clutch playoff kicker in the history of the NFL. He will be going up against his former mates in a place he is oh so familiar with. If the game is on the line there is no one in the building I'd rather have.
DEF - San Francisco 49ers  - vs. CAR - $6,200
This could be the defensive showdown of the year. Two hard nosed teams that play some fantastic defense. In that situation why not go with the team you expect to win the game.
DEF - New Orleans Saints - vs. SEA - $5,000
A bit of a crap shoot here but it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility that the Saints get some revenge. Seattle doesn't have a track record of running up big point totals. The Saints are a much better defense under Rob Ryan that they have been in the past. This could be that statement game they have been looking for since bounty gate.

Hall Calls Three First-Timers

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Hall Call Three First-Timers
By Wild on Sports Analyst Jason Gillson

Five years, my how the time flies. 

It has been five whole years since Major league baseball had seen the likes of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine or Frank Thomas. In July arguably one of the greatest starting pitching duo's of all time and the one they call "the big hurt" will once again get their day in the spotlight as they are inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

While hundreds of players come and go, the names of the truly great rarely wonder far from memory. Its seems like just yesterday Maddux, Glavine and the powerhouse 90's Braves were moving down opponents. Now they will be enshrined in the ultimate record books, Coopertown, NY, home of the greatest names every to cross the lines. 

The hall will be feeling a little Brave heavy this time around. Fittingly, the two will enter win long time Braves manager Bobby Cox who, along with Joe Torre and Tony La Russa, was elected to the hall last month by the expansion era committee.

At 97.2 percent, Maddux enters with the highest vote total in years. His run of four consecutive Cy Young Awards from 1992-95 is a feat we may not see again for quite some time. His 355 career wins, 18 gold gloves and 3.16 ERA accentual checked his box off automatically for early every vote. The fact that he was not a unanimous entry is a shame, but a debate for a later day.

Glavine, Maddux's partner in crime in Atlanta for ten seasons was a near lock as well with 305 career wins, 10 all-star appearances and a pair of Cy Youngs of his own.

The two Braves will be joined by Frank Thomas, the first true power hitter to be inducted from the "steroid era" in some time. A two-time AL MVP, Thomas held a career .301 average with 521 homers and 1,704 RBIs in a season that spanned 19 seasons. While a firstbaseman for the majority of his career, he did spend some time as a DH, opening the door for a possible discussion for players like Edgar Martinez and potentially David Ortiz down the road.

The official tally can be seen below:
NameVotes (Pct.)Yrs. on ballot
Greg Maddux555 (97.2%)1
Tom Glavine525 (91.9)1
Frank Thomas478 (83.7)1
Craig Biggio427 (74.8)2
Mike Piazza355 (62.2)2
Jack Morris351 (61.5)15
Jeff Bagwell310 (54.3)4
Tim Raines263 (46.1)7
Roger Clemens202 (35.4)2
Barry Bonds198 (34.7)2
Lee Smith171 (29.9)12
Curt Schilling167 (29.2)2
Edgar Martinez144 (25.2)5
Alan Trammell119 (20.8)13
Mike Mussina116 (20.3)1
Jeff Kent87 (15.2)1
Fred McGriff67 (11.7)8
Mark McGwire63 (11.0)8
Larry Walker58 (10.2)4
Don Mattingly47 (8.2)14
Sammy Sosa41 (7.2)2
Rafael Palmeiro25 (4.4)4
Moises Alou6 (1.1)1
Hideo Nomo6 (1.1)1
Luis Gonzalez5 (0.9)1
Eric Gagne2 (0.4)1
J.T. Snow2 (0.4)1
Armando Benitez1 (0.2)1
Jacque Jones1 (0.2)1
Kenny Rogers1 (0.2)1
Sean Casey0 (0)1
Ray Durham0 (0)1
Todd Jones0 (0)1
Paul LoDuca0 (0)1
Richie Sexson0 (0)1
Mike Timlin0 (0)1

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

NFL 10 Takes Tuesday

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NFL 10 Takes Tuesday
By Wild on Sports Analyst Billy Ball

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

 1. Playoff football is just down right awesome. 3 of 4 games separated by three points or less. 2 games end of the final possession. 89 point shootouts and 40 point nail bitters. All in all, a great weekend of football! And the best part is, that was just the beginning -- we get to do it all again this weekend.

2. The QB position has never been more important. Look at the QB's remaining -- Brady, Luck, Manning, Rivers, Brees, Wilson, Newton, Kaepernick. We arguably have 8 of the top 10 QB's in the game still alive this weekend and its by no accident. The old motto of lunch pale defense and a hard nose ground and pound attack have faded into the sunset and a new statistic driven, high tempo explosive passing offense has emerged as the face of the league. In short, if you don't have a franchise QB, you aren't going anywhere in today's NFL.

3. Andy Dalton is not the answer in Cincinnati. We've had a decent sample size now and it is growing clear that Andy Dalton just doesn't have what it takes to get Cincinnati to the next level. Sure, he puts up decent numbers in the regular season, but keep in mind he has four games against Pittsburgh and Cleveland who (outside of Joe Haden) are pretty inapt at stopping the pass. When the playoffs roll around Dalton folds like a cheap suit. Its too bad, he seems like a decent guy who works hard. I want to like him but the results just aren't there. As good as that defense is there is no reason why they should be one and done each year.

4. 2013 Playoff Colin Kaepernick is back. Anyone who watched the San Francisco - Green Bay game on Sunday would tell you that the most impactful player on the field was Colin Kaepernick. He finally showed that combination of the arm and the super scrambling ability to cause just a steady stream of nightmares for the Packers defense. We rarely saw that combination during the regular season but the Kaepernick we saw on Sunday was the same one that took the 49ers to the Super Bowl last season. If he is back to full form the NFC had better watch out.

5. The Chargers are legit. Every year we get that team that gets hot down the stretch, sneaking into the playoffs as a 5/6 seed and proceeds to make a deep run. This year that team appears to be the Chargers. For all the questions surrounding Philip Rivers in big games and the San Diego defense, both of those aspects were the keys to victory Sunday. Now, Andy Dalton's turnover prone nature certainly helped, but overall the Chargers defense was really impressive. Now the real test: a rematch with division rival Denver. They beat the Broncos in Denver a month ago and did so much the same way they beat Cincy last weekend. If the defense shows up they could knock off the top seed. One this is for sure, they cannot afford to get into a shootout against Peyton Manning. They just won't win that. Otherwise, they have a chance.

6. The Drew Brees cold weather curse is over -- thankfully. Its ridiculous really, this thought that some of the greats of this generation can't go out in the elements and get it done. We've heard it before with Peyton Mnaning and we heard it all week with Drew Brees. Granted, Brees didn't have his best game on Saturday. Actually, the Saints offense in general nt he first half was pretty bad. But, he went out in the 2nd half and managed the game and willed his team to victory. That's what great QB's do, they win, period. Brees has a Superbowl to his name, he is a big time QB and one of the best statistically that we have ever seen int he NFL. Forget the cold, hes a winner.

7. More injuries to the Patriots, but they will still win Saturday. The Patriots placed linebacker Brandon Spikes on the IR yesterday, ending his season. Lets just take a quick look at the notable Pats they are lost the season due to injury -- Wilfork, Mayo, Kelly, Boyce, Gronkowski and now Spikes. Really, that's probably four of their top 6 defensive players. As long as they have Talib to lock down TY Holton, they should be OK. In the end Belichick and Brady will find a way to win but you have to wonder just how this this team can be stretched before they just give up so many points that Brady can't keep up.

8. Roger Goodell's push for another playoff team is foolish. If it aint broke, don't fix it. Seriously. The NFL has a good thing going. The Wild Card races that set up the final few weeks of the season are really exciting. I understand the motive, add a game, add major revenue, make the #1 that much more important. I get it, really, I do, but I just don't like it. Keep the playoffs the way they are. I would rather see the regular season expand than the playoffs expand.

9. Trent Richardson's days as an NFL RB could be numbered. After that costly fumble on his first and only carry Saturday it would not be a surprise to see him on the sidelines in street clothes this weekend. My how the mighty have fallen. Just a year removed from a terrific rookie season with Cleveland, he was traded to Indy for a first round pick after week 2 this season. He proceeded to average just 2.9 yards per carry and lost the starting job to Donald Brown down the stretch. Last weekend might have been the final straw. It will be a tough pill to swallow for Colts brass considering what they gave up for him, but the whole situation has been a complete disaster.

10. The winners this weekend will be.... Denver, New England, Seattle and San Francisco.

NHL Power Rankings - January 7th

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NHL Power Rankings
January 7, 2014

Our first NHL Power Rankings of the new year! The Anaheim Ducks kick off the new year as the top dog in our rankings. The Ducks are 9-1 in their last ten games and are tied with the Blackhawks for the most points in the NHL at 67. Perhaps most impressive is the Duck's 17-0-2 home record this season. The St. Louis Blues check in at #2 this week. The Blues are on a five game winning streak and have the best goal differential in the NHL to this point at +55. At #3 are our only Eastern Conference representative in the top five this week in the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins are 8-2 over their last ten games and are slowly starting to get some bodies back after a horrible stretch of injuries. They pretty much have the Metro Division locked up at this point, the only question remaining is whether they will beat out Boston for the #1 overall seed. The San Jose Sharks check in at #4 this week. The Sharks looked very good over the weekend passing a major test by beating the defending Stanley Cup Champs. Speaking of the defending Champs, they round out our top five this week.

Where does your team rank?


Rank

1 Anaheim Ducks
2 St. Louis Blues
3 Pittsburgh Penguins
4 San Jose Sharks
5 Chicago Blackhawks
6 Colorado Avalanche
7 Boston Bruins
8 L.A. Kings
9 Vancouver Canucks
10 Tampa Bay Lightning
11 Montreal Canadiens
12 Philadelphia Flyers
13 Dallas Stars
14 Detroit Red Wings
15 Toronto Maple Leafs
16 Minnesota Wild
17 New York Rangers
18 Ottawa Senators
19 Washington Capitals
20 Phoenix Coyotes
21 New Jersey Devils
22 Carolina Hurricanes
23 Columbus Blue Jackets
24 Winnipeg Jets
25 Florida Panthers
26 New York Islanders
27 Nashville Predators
28 Buffalo Sabers
29 Edmonton Oilers
30 Calgary Flames

Monday, January 6, 2014

NFL Wild Card Playoff Playback

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NFL Wild Card Playoff Playback
By Wild on Sports Analyst Billy Ball

What a weekend it was! The NFL kicked off the 2014 playoffs in style with three of the four games being decided by a field goal or less and a major upset in the fourth game. The real fun begins this weekend as the top dogs come back after a week of rest to play their way towards New York and Super Bowl XLVIII.

AFC

Indianapolis Colts: 45
Kansas City Chiefs: 44

The playoffs got kicked off in style and a hole lot of offense. If you told someone before the game that there would be 89 points scored, none of which by Jamaal Charles, I think most people would look at you as if you had a second head. Well, points there were and boat loads of them.

The 1st half was all KC. The Chiefs took a 31-10 point lead into half time. Colts QB Andrew Luck and was turning the ball over left and right and it looked like the makings of a blowout. Lost in all of this was the fact that arguably the biggest game changer in this game was on the side lines after suffering an injury on the third play of the game. It was Knile Davis, not Jamaal Charles that was leading the way out of the backfield showing explosiveness in both the running and passing game. In addition, the Colts defense was making Alex Smith look like Joe Montana. Smith connected with Dwayne Bowe, Donnie Avery and Anthony Sherman for touchdowns, going to the half with a commanding lead.

The second half was a completely different story. As bad as Andrew Luck was in the first half, he was equally good (minus one throw) in the second. Luck ended up rattling off 443 yards through the air and four 4TD's (5 if you count a fumble recovery) in one of the biggest comeback in NFL playoff history. TY Hilton was the talk of the game 13 receptions for 224 yards and a pair of TD's.

This was really and edge of your seat type of game. It was clear that Indy came out nervous. They won't be able to afford to do that against Tom Brady and the Patriots this coming weekend. They can hang their hats this week knowing that they can come back if they keep fighting -- a trait that may serve them well moving forward against teams that can put up points in bunches, and fast.

San Diego Chargers: 27
Cincinnati Bengals: 10

Coming into the game as seven point underdogs, few people expected San Diego to go into Cincinnati and shut down the Bengals. Andy Dalton had been hot down the stretch and San Diego, despite beating arguably the best offense in the NFL in Denver, had shown some defensive vulnerability. That's what make playoff football great.

After playing a low scoring, hard fought battle int he first half, the Chargers came out at half time ready to go on offense. Their first offensive drive of the 2nd half went 10 plays for 80 yards chewing up nearly six minutes on the game clock and really set the tone for San Diego. They scored (TD-FG-FG) on their first three possessions of the half. Defensively, they gave Dalton and the Bengals fits intercepting two passes and not allowing Cincy to generate any type of sustained offense.

As a result, the Chargers now prepare to hit the road against the division rival Broncos in a building in which they won 27-20 back on December 12th. The Chargers continue to surprise, but there seems to be a trend when they show up to play and that has been the defense. In their last meeting with Denver, the Chargers held the Broncos to just 18 yards of rushing and in addition kept Peyton Manning under 300 yards passing. Whether they will be able to duplicate that remains to be seen, but clearly the blueprint for success has been laid.


NFC

New Orleans Saints: 26
Philadelphia Eagles: 24

Cursed in the cold no longer! All the talk leading into this game was about Drew Brees and the Saints inability to win outdoors in the cold weather.  Brees finished the game with just 250 yards with 1 TD and a pair of INT's. While he wasn't the spectacular superstar that he is at times at home in the dome, but he was good enough to will his team to victory.

Its funny to me really, all the talk around elite QB's about their struggles in the elements (Manning, Brees). Those claims seem to be a little far fetched given the small sample size, but maybe this is the years they kick that title.

As for the game itself, Mark Ingram was the surprise, filling in for an injured Pierre Thomas and leading the game in rushing with 97 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown.

For Chip Kelly, Nick Foles and the Eagles, this was the first taste of playoff football under the new regime. The talk in Philly this week will be that of dropped balls, missed field goals and play calling. All three have their merit and all three will be work on in the off-season. This is a young Eagles' team in terms of organizational development. They took a huge first step this season under Kelly in making the playoffs. They will be that much better down the road for the experience.

San Francisco 49ers: 23
Green Bay Packers: 20

This game just had the feeling throughout that the last team to possess the ball would win. The teams traded field goals and touchdowns throughout with neither team ever having a lead of more than six points. Both defenses played well. Both offenses found their ways at times, all around a great display of playoff football.

The biggest difference in this game was the rushing threat at QB from Colin Kaepernick. Last year Kaepernick exploded on the scene last in the season and playoffs with big plays both with his legs and his arm. Those two components where rarely in sync during the regular season but really came together well Sunday afternoon. Kaepernick led the game in rushing (98 yards) and seemed to just have a knack for picking up big third downs with his legs in key situations. If that trend can continue they will once again be extremely dangerous this off-season and positioned well to make another deep playoff run.


NCAA Rose Bowl Cash-In: Florida State vs Auburn

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NCAA Rose Bowl Cash-In:
#1 Florida State Seminoles vs. #2 Auburn Tigers
Line: Florida State -10.5, O.U: 68

The Match-Up:
The top two teams in the country invade Pasadena on Monday night for the highly anticipated 2014 BCS National Championship, better known as the Rose Bowl. This year the match-up features ACC Champion and top ranked Florida State against SEC Champion and #2 ranked Auburn.

Florida State comes in the lone undefeated team in the country. They haven't just beat teams, they have blown them out. Each of their 13 wins has been by 14 or more points including a 45-7 thrashing of Duke in the ACC Conference Championship. They have shown supreme dominance on both sides of the ball all season long. Quarterback Jamies Winston has been deemed the best player in the country, winning just about every major award including the Heisman Trophy. Winston leads the second best scoring offense in the country, averaging 53 points per game. If that isn't enough, FSU also boast the #1 ranked defense in college football allowing just 10.7 points per game.

Auburn has surprised everyone this season and done so is spectacular fashion. They are the Champions of the best division in college football. They have beaten the likes of Alabama, Missouri, Georgia and Texas A&M, two of which is stunning last second fashion. They are led offensively by running back and Heisman finalist Tre Mason. He is as explosive a runner as there is in college football, leading the Tigers to 40.2 points per game. Defensively, they aren't quite as sound, allowing 24 points per game, albeit against one of the toughest schedules in the country.

Trends:
Florida State is 9-0-1 ATS in its past 10 bowl games.
Florida State is 11-2 ATS as favorite of nine or more points.
Favorite is 4-1 ATS in the past five BCS title games.
SEC won and covered all seven BCS title games.
Auburn is 4-1 ATS in its past four bowl games.
Auburn is 10-0 in their past ten SU & ATS.
Auburn is 2-0 SU & ATS as 10+ point underdogs this season.

The Verdict:
The #2 team, an SEC team, mind you, is getting 10.5 points in a Championship game against a team that really has yet to face a team as strong (in theory) as the top half of the SEC. Sounds a little crazy, right? Auburn has a flare for the dramatic, beating both Alabama and Texas A&M on the final play of their games. They were 10+ point dogs in both of those contests and walked away winners. The defense is really the only concern if you are an Auburn fan. They has survived by the bend but don't break mentality to this point, but can that withstand the best QB and #2 ranked offense in the county? They have beaten Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron and Aaron Murray already this season. Stands to reason, they should be very competitive in this one as well. Take the points to the bank!

PICK: AUBURN +10.5

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