Saturday, January 14, 2017

The NFL Divisional Round Picks

During last week's 2017 PGA Tour Preview we made a half-assed commitment to keep the momentum going so in an effort to fulfill that half-assed commitment with a proportionate level of effort, we're going to do some NFL Divisional Round picks. We probably should've done this last week but let's face it, those weren't even real playoff games and we knew that going in. When half of your starting quarterbacks are Connor Cook, Brock Osweiler, Matt Moore and Matthew Stafford with an iffy finger, that smacks of a second preseason game. To make matters worse, two of those turnips were playing against each other meaning one of them inevitably got to add NFL playoff game winner to his resume.*   

Look, this dearth of quality writing isn't really my fault. I'm coaching like six of my kids teams which I manage to sucker myself into every fall and winter based on the fairly accurate premise that I'm more qualified than the dad who shows-up in a turtleneck and baggy jeans and then wastes half of every practice on fitness and ball skills. Here's the scoop Skip. When you get the kids once a week for an hour, you better focus on teaching them not to stand in one place while yelling "I'm open, I'm open, I'm open . . ." as their teammate gets mauled by the defense like a clumsy gazelle on the Serengeti a/k/a the Texans in Foxborough this weekend but we'll get to that in a minute.

Hey, that felt like a segue. Let's go in order of gametime:

Atlanta by 4.5 over Seattle: The Pick - Seahawks

We're hoping Atlanta moves
on because there's more
where this came from. 
After a really shaky 0-3 start to his playoff career, Matt Ryan started to right the ship in the 2012 season with a win over Seattle followed by a great game against the 49ers that the Falcons wound-up losing. That's the good news. The bad news is that the Falcons haven't been back to the playoffs since which, at a minimum, has to make you ask "what the fuck?" Quarterbacks of the caliber that Matty Ice is supposed to be don't have three year droughts. The longest such drought by any of the other established quarterbacks in the playoffs is two years by Ben Roethlisberger and that was because he used to be a meathead who didn't know how to get out of harm's way so his injuries cost the Steelers a couple postseasons. Ryan hasn't missed a game since 2009.

The Falcons should still win this game the way their offense is clicking but it's got 27-24 written all over it. Even if the Seahawks are down by 10 with five seconds left, Russell Wilson is going to pull a Paul Crew to get the ball into the endzone for the cover. (If you don't immediately get that reference, there's a gaping hole in your sports movie resume).

New England by 16 over Houston: The Pick - Patriots

We've actually already seen this show back in Week 3 when Tom Brady was still suspended and a fired-up Houston squad rolled into Foxborough ready to throw a Full Metal Jacket blanket party for the Patriots backup to their backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett. The Texans then played like someone tied their shoes together by turning the ball over three times and it became readily apparent why John Elway treated Brock Osweiler's departure with slightly less concern than losing a $5 Chipotle gift card. Now they get a rematch only this time New England will have a well rested Brady who is on a fuck you campaign that won't end until Roger Goodell hands him both the Lombardi and the Super Bowl MVP trophies. As much as I despise the Patriots, I do appreciate a good vengeance story. 

Kansas City by 1.5 over Pittsburgh: The Pick - Chiefs

This is a total contrarian play because betting on Andy Reid in January is like betting on Marty Schottenheimer in January (cash flow negative). Not to mention, the Steelers have been on a serious roll since hanging twenty-one fourth quarter points on the Ravens in the game that ruined Christmas evening. (This year we learned that the only thing worse than talking politics with your in-laws is watching football with your in-laws). 

There are, however, three reasons the Chiefs are appealing: (1) They're at home and Arrowhead is about as welcoming as a truck stop toilet seat; (2) Roethlisberger is a tad gimpy and, if you take away his mobility, he goes from great to very good; and (3) Despite his sketchy playoff history, Andy Reid is one of the smartest coaches in the league and he's had an extra week to get ready to shut down the Steelers. Don't be surprised if they stymie Le'Veon Bell and force a couple of picks. If they can do that, they'll win. That is assuming of course that Reid's clock management "skills" don't cause the Chiefs to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory (shit, can I change my pick?). 

Dallas by 5 over Green Bay: The Pick - Packers

Despite the great run the Cowboys have been on, how can you bet against Aaron Fucking Rodgers when he's doing Aaron Fucking Rodgers things and the quarterback on the other side is a rookie? Especially when you're getting five points. The answer is you can't but let's see if we can get another paragraph out of this so it looks like we're trying. 

Green Bay doesn't have
cheerleaders, however . . .
Aaron Fucking Rodgers!
The "X" factor in this game is Ezekiel Elliott (Captain Obvious reporting for duty sir) and, if the Packers can slow him down and hold the Cowboys to around 24 points, that should be enough to win and certainly enough to cover. That is, however, easier said than done against arguably the best offensive line the league has seen since the last time the Cowboys were any good (back when Jimmy Johnson was picking the players). You know, we could go on about the matchups in this game for hours but we wouldn't really know what we're talking about (which qualifies us for our own ESPN morning show) and, more importantly, we'd just keep coming back to Aaron Fucking Rodgers so ultimately, that's the analysis. Aaron Fucking Rodgers!    

Footnote

* Picturing Osweiler at the NFL Playoff Game Winner's Club and Terry Bradshaw constantly yelling, "HEY BROCK, TELL US ABOUT THE TIME YOU OUTDUELED CONNOR COOK" and then giggling in the corner with Brett Favre and Jim McMahon.   

You can email the Fantasy Golf Report with your comments, questions and concerns here

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Fantasy Golf Report's 2017 PGA Tour Preview

After a nearly three month hiatus from writing about golf and a two month hiatus from writing about anything at all, we're back you beautiful sons (and daughters) o' bitches! We have no idea how long this renewed enthusiasm will last - hopefully longer than the average American's new year's commitment to fitness which is fizzling somewhere on a barely moving elliptical as we speak. One thing we do know is that the weekly previews will be sporadic this year with their posting dependant on the quality of the upcoming tournament and my wildly fluctuating mood swings. Especially in the winter months because I live in Baltimore where, on some days in February, The Wire actually feels like a tale of hope and promise.

But enough about huge mounds of pollution coated snow piled-up in the corner of rundown strip malls. A new golf season is upon us and, in a couple of days, we're going to get the next best thing to a gummy bear laced with THC - primetime golf from Hawaii which signals the unofficial real start to the 2017 golf season. (Sorry but I just can't do the post Tour Championship thing any more than I can watch a bowl game between two 6-6 teams that finished 7th in their conferences). We'll get some Tournament of Champions picks out via Twitter (click "Follow" to your right) because this is going to be one of those no preview weeks due to the relatively enormous amount of energy we poured into this full season preview which provides almost no gambling value whatsoever (as opposed to our weekly picks which provide enormous gambling value . . . often to the people you're gambling against).    

Last year's preseason picks were typically mediocre as we way overrated guys like Brooks Koepka and Justin Rose while way underrating guys like Adam Scott and Patrick Reed but we did get two things right: (1) The trend of three players falling-out of the previous year's top five on the final money list continued with Scott, Reed and Rory McIlroy replacing Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler and (2) Dustin Johnson would be one of the two guys who stayed in the top five. Instead of looking at that and seeing failure, we're going to look at it and see a lot of room for us to mature like the tiny acorn that becomes the oak. So with that goal in mind, let's take our nut sacks off our step brother's drum set, move out of our parents' house and grow.

As always, we would recommend cross-referencing these forecasts with the more thoroughly researched and well thought-out list put together by PGATour.com's Rob Bolton. While we only crunch some of the numbers, Rob crunches most of the numbers. Rob also provides his own brand of colorful commentary apparently inspired by an affinity for tawdry romance novels. For example:

Dustin Johnson: "He's what the fulfillment of potential during one's prime looks like, so embrace the reality and resist the urge to raise the expectations even higher." (I will try to resist the urge but I'm just a man dammit).

Jordan Spieth: "Grinded more . . ." (Yeah baby).

Matt Kuchar: "Can't overemphasize that he doesn't need length . . ." (Good news for most of us). 

Justin Thomas: "So much to love . . . he's shown maturity beyond his years . . ." (On the list of things no one has ever said about me). 

Patrick Rodgers: "Not a sleeper but a sleeping bear. In the subset of potential breakout stars in whom you just throw all caution to the wind . . ." (Yeeeehaaaaa!!!!!). 

And my favorite . . . 

Ryan Palmer: "So, just let him come to you and embrace the predictable." (Sounds like something my wife would say).

You know what, maybe Rob is onto something here. Let's see what happens if we take his advice and throw caution to the wind by embracing our own inner romantic.  

1. Rory McIlroy: We've always maintained that Rory's "A" game is better than anyone else's "A" game but, after the stretches that Dustin Johnson and Jason Day had last season, that may no longer be the case. With that being said, you should never underestimate the raw power that can be generated by a small package.   

2. Dustin Johnson: Considering all of the bullshit that D.J. had to put up with during the final round of the U.S. Open, we're pretty sure that the "headcase" label can be removed. With that out of the way, there should be nothing between him and an extended run of potentially hall of fame caliber golf. His prodigious length can be overpowering, even intimidating but, just when you think that's all that defines him, he shows the smooth delicate touch of a Venetian glass blower.* 

We're going to throw a few traditional FGR
images in here so it doesn't get weird.
3. Hideki Matsuyama: He has recently jumped from 15th to 6th in the World Golf Rankings after a stretch of four wins in five events and a second place finish in the fifth one (only two of them really mattered but he was playing against talent for big money so you've got to give him some credit). The rhythm of his golf swing is like a willow swaying in the breeze and, just when you think you've timed it, he pauses for the briefest of moments before releasing a downswing of absolute bliss.        

4. Jordan Spieth: All anyone seems to remember from 2016 is that he gagged the Masters which is true but it ignores the fact that, in twenty-four events worldwide, he had three wins and eleven top 10's. He also has the greatest ability among his peers to simply put the ball in the hole over and over and over, again and again and again.

5. Bubba Watson: Like him or not, you have to give Bubba credit for being a consistent bounceback player. From 2011 through 2015, he had two seasons when he finished lower than 15th on the money and list and both times he came back the following year to finish in the top five. Last year he finished 18th and was left-off the Ryder Cup team. We're thinking that's enough to motivate even the most enigmatic player. Especially one who plays the game with such reckless abandon, practically ripping the cover off the ball on every shot as if a world of pleasure awaits inside of it. 

6. Jason Day: Let's face it, if not for the self-imposed rule that we've got to drop two guys from last year's top five, he'd be in the top three. On the other hand, you never know when the Jason Day train might suddenly derail. When he's on, however, he plays the game with the power and grace of a bare chested lance-thrusting Spartan warrior.

7. Brooks Koepka: The numbers just don't add-up with Koepka who is ranked 16th in the world, plays plenty of tournaments on Tour and still only finished 23rd on the money list last year. Injuries were a factor but there is still no excuse for this guy not to finish top ten. "Koepka" she whispered, the name rolling off her tongue like an inaccessible jar of spaghetti sauce being thrown through a kitchen window.

8. Adam Scott: After a truly forgettable 2015 season that led some dopey forecasters to drop Scott all the way to 33rd in their preview (ahem . . . oops), he rebounded in 2016 and showed that he ain't done yet. So this year when he presents himself, eyes sparkling and white teeth gleaming, just let him wash over you like a cool summer rain. (I have no idea how this is going to be received but I am cracking myself up).

9. Patrick Reed: Another guy who is certainly worthy of top five consideration but I'm not going there until he proves he can do something (anything) in a major. His prickly personality lends itself well to Ryder Cup success but, as for a player you want to root for all year, not so much. The vibe in the club was electric that night. The music, the lights and the crowd on the dance floor all seeming to pulsate in perfect rhythm. And then a full-faced man approached and engaged me in awkward conversation. After twenty minutes, I started feeling crampy so I called a cab and went home.

Speaking of hypnotic power.
10. Henrik Stenson: Stenson had a nice run from the British Open through the Olympics but the rest of the season was kind of a wash. Usually that means he's hurt but his last four finishes have been 2nd, T9, 8th and T2 so we can rule that out. As we learned down the stretch at Royal Troon, his eyes are as icy as his Swedish homeland. Try to avoid their hypnotic power at your peril and maybe wear a parka.

11. Rickie Fowler: Remember when Rickie won in Abu Dhabi and then should've won in Scottsdale and everyone was trying to jam him into the new "Big Four" with Rory, Day and Spieth. Now he'd be lucky to make it into the "Big Twelve." With that being said, we see 2017 as at least a partial bounceback year. He had a certain innocent youthful quality in the way he carried himself most likely attributable to his young age. 

12. Emiliano Grillo: Grillo finished top twenty in three majors to go with his win at the Frys.com and his runner-up at The Barclays. The dude can flat-out play and he's going to be a top ten talent eventually. I couldn't place his accent. "Italian?" I asked. "I'm from Argentina you American imbecile." It was at that moment that I knew we were meant for each other.

13. Paul Casey: So is this the year we can trust Casey to keep it together physically, mentally, spiritually, cosmically and whatever other "ally's" are waiting out there to undo him? Our answer would be a very strong maybe. Be drawn in by his smile and drink in his eyes but keep your gaze low so as not to glimpse his towering forehead which is honeydew melonesque.

14. Justin Thomas: Thomas won the CIMB Classic again in October but to be taken seriously, he's got to win something between January and September. He came close last year with third place finishes at The Players, The Honda Classic and The Travelers but it's time for him to do better than close. I thought you'd be taller she said. I get that a lot he replied. No seriously, I thought you'd be taller . . . I'm not into midgets.

15. Phil Mickelson: The wily one had three second place finishes and six top fives last year on his way to finishing 12th on the money list. Everything about 2016 would indicate that he's got at least two or three high level years left. He carried himself like a man who had gambled and lost but was ready to gamble again and I thought to myself, "I'm ready to gamble too so let's spin the wheel on a roll of the dice and take a chance."  

16. Jimmy Walker: Just when we thought old Dyn-O-Mite's late career run was losing steam, he up and pretty much dominated the PGA Championship on a serious major track. Walker thrives in Hawaii and California so use him as a one and done pick early. He saunters into 2017 with the casual swagger you'd expect of an Oklahoma cowboy . . . weathered and dusty from the trail. As he steps into the warm glow of the saloon, he removes his hat like the gentleman he is and it is only then that the swarm of flies is revealed.

17. Daniel Berger: Berger's roll started during the 2015 playoffs and has continued through his second place finish at the WGC-HSBC in October. There's nothing particularly flashy about his game. He just has a nose for the top ten and his swing is sweet, like the chocolaty top of the cookie that bears his name.  

18. Sergio Garcia: As long as Sergio keeps racking-up solid major finishes (two top fives in 2016) and competing for wins (one win and one runner-up), he's a top twenty value despite his limited schedule and even more limited fan appeal. As the valiant Spaniard leapt from the window onto his horse and quickly disappeared from view, I breathlessly asked the bartender, "who is he?" He replied, "no one knows . . . but they call him . . . the Ferret."

As in Penelope Cruz.
See what we did there?
19. Matt Kuchar: Kuch has finished 15th and 28th on the money list the last two years and 2016 was the first year since 2011 that he didn't have a top ten in a major. At 38, he's not getting any younger or longer off the tee so there has to be some reasonable concern but his overall consistency still makes him top twenty caliber. As does his smile which warms you like two $7 bottles of Merlot on a cold winter night. Only not from the inside, and without the skull splitting hangover.

20. Jon Rahm: We need another dose of new blood in our top twenty and Rahm is going to be a stud. He played nine events in 2016, contended for the win in two of them and added a T23rd at the U.S. Open. He could be the next in a long line of great Spanish artists on and off the course like Picasso, Gaudi, Ballesteros and Cruz.          

And that's it. That's the list. Obviously we've left some big names out of the equation but that's what happens when the talent pool gets this deep. Some guys weren't worth the injury risk (Justin Rose, Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker). Some seemed like they may have overachieved last year (Kevin Chappell, Russell Knox and Si Woo Kim). And some we just couldn't fit despite their top twenty credentials (Zach Johnson, Ryan Moore, Kevin Na and Kevin Kisner). We'll call those guys our 21-30 in no particular order and with that, we say goodbye until next time. Whenever the hell that might be.    

Footnote

From this point on, we will be deriving inspiration from the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest Winners. If you've never given this website a look, I'd highly recommend it for lines like this 2015 winner in the romance category: "Claire had more daddy issues than a Boy’s Life magazine published in the late 1970s, but she was a perfect match for Donald, whose personality was vaguely sticky, like the outside of a squeezable honey container or anything handled by a three-year-old." 


Email the Fantasy Golf Report at fgr@fantasygolfreport.com

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The NFL Mid-Season Power Rankings

Okay so every team has now played at least eight games, I haven't written anything other than some snarky tweets in weeks and my foot hurts (one of those facts is not relevant to this or anything really). That means it's time for either a personal anecdote or a contrived list and, since I remember almost nothing about my trip to Scottsdale two weeks ago, we're going with the latter. That's right. A good old fashioned batch of midseason NFL power rankings just like the kind your grandad used to brew-up in the still behind the barn and then drink out of a mason jar while he called you by your cousin's name and told you stories about how he used to have a still behind the barn (I'm half hillbilly on my father's side).

Manufactured at the
"Factory of Sadness."
Let's start with a general overview of the season. The league is dreck. If it were a Carmax lot, there would be one 2014 Range Rover looking out of place (the Patriots), three 2013 Chevy Tahoes (the Cowboys, Raiders and Seahawks), one 1998 Ford Taurus that has almost certainly carried both a dead body and a family of racoons in its trunk at some point in its history (the Browns) and twenty seven 2005 Dodge Stratuses with cloth seats, manual windows and a minimum of four previous owners, two of whom smoked (every other team).

If the NFL was a movie character right now (back to back analogies!), it would be one who the writer just spent the first twenty minutes making you fall in love with only to have her kiss the kids goodnight and then go into a minor coughing fit that she assures her husband is "nothing." There's no blood on the handkerchief yet but let's just say you wouldn't want to combine that cough with other fatal symptoms like unwatchable Thursday night games, dwindling starpower at the most important position, a high profile domestic violence case every year and referees who think they're getting paid by the penalty. When the NFL games start moving with the flow of an over-officiated middle school field hockey game between two bad teams, you've got a problem.   

Remember that there was a time in this country when other sports like boxing and horse racing ruled. I'm not saying that the NFL is going to get knocked off its pedestal anytime soon but those games the college kids are playing on Saturday tend to be a lot more entertaining. And while the NFL is ham-handedly trying to plunder England, soccer is taking over Sunday morning viewing in a lot of American households and then the next generation of sports fans is actually going out to play the sport they just watched. Cristiano Ronaldo just signed a $1 billion lifetime deal with Nike who have a pretty strong history of predicting the next big thing. Just sayin'. With that backdrop of unbridled optimism, let's do some ranking.

1. New England Patriots

Just fucking shoot me now. Not to kill or mame but please hit me square enough to cause enough pain so I forget how good the Patriots still are. Maybe through my left calf while being careful not to hit my shin bone. (Had a friend in high school who actually did that to himself . . . by accident though. Apparently wrestlers have lousy aim). Bill Belichick just traded their best defensive player to Cleveland to show the league that he can do whatever in the hell he wants and still win. Suffice it to say that trade's going to work-out great for the Browns (eye roll . . . sideways glance . . . chuckle).        

2. Oakland Raiders

Well it took three decades but it looks like the Raiders have finally found their way back to what once made them great. A clutch quarterback, a coach who likes to take chances and committing more penalties than both teams in The Longest Yard combined. So there's your #1 and #2 Goodell. A team that you failed to derail with a lawsuit that Judge Judy would've scoffed at and the most penalized team in the league. Eat it.   

3. Dallas Cowboys

Let the 70's throwback continue with the one-eyed Cowboys currently ruling the land of the blind that is the NFC. Wait, so you mean that if you can run the ball (1st) and stop the run (5th), you can still win in this crazy madcap passing league? Well leave it to Jerry Jones to stumble onto that idea during the 2014 draft while indirectly (but predictably) setting-back the Browns' already failed recovery another two years by leaving them the burning turd on the doorstep that was Johnny Manziel. (The ineptitude of the Browns will be a recurring theme. Sorry to hit you while you're down Cleveland but hey, LeBron).  

4. Seattle Seahawks

We're going to give the Cowboys their day in the sun but, let's be honest, the NFC is on a collision course with a 24-10 win for the Seahawks in Dallas on January 22, 2017. Dak Prescott and, more importantly, Jason "Hey Are Those Headlights?" Garrett are not going all the way this year.    

5. Atlanta Falcons 

You could put a bunch of different teams here but let's go with the Falcons while we can before they close the season 3-4 and get bounced in the first round of the playoffs to drop Matty Ice's postseason record to 1-5. The curse of Bobby Petrino is tough to shake.      

6. Kansas City Chiefs

Not to dwell on the rampant mediocrity in the league this year (but that's kind of the theme of these rankings so dwell we will) but a team that we can rank 6th without much debate just eked-out a 19-14 win over a 2-6 Jags team that would be the worst team in any league that didn't include the Browns and 49ers.   

7. Denver Broncos

The Broncos are fighting on valiantly after Peyton Manning's retirement but the fact is that you're not going to win a Super Bowl with a quarterback named Trevor so this is kind of a lost season. Super Bowls are not won by quarterbacks with lacrosse player names so that also rules-out Carson, Blake and Brock. (Consider that twelve Super Bowls have been won by guys named Joe, John or Jim). You could maybe argue that Trent Dilfer in 2001 qualifies but the Ravens defense could have won that game with Trent Lott under center.    

8. Detroit Lions

We're only at No. 8 and it already feels like we're sliding off the rails because we just put a testament to historical ineptitude in the top ten. But someone has to win the NFC North and, after what we saw last weekend, it sure doesn't look like it's going to be the dysfunctional Vikings or the lethargic Packers. Besides, the Lions' offensive coordinator is named Jim Bob Cooter and, when the Jim Bob Cooter bandwagon rolls into town, you don't ask questions. You just jump on, take a swig of whatever they're passing and enjoy the ride. But most importantly, don't ask questions.   

9. Cincinnati Bengals

This seems like about the right spot for an inevitable division winner/first round playoff loser from a division that isn't the AFC South (more on them much later in the rankings). I'm pretty sure we have a sufficient sample size on Andy Dalton and Marvin Lewis to say that they may never play more than 17 games in a season.   

10. Pittsburgh Steelers

It feels like we're witnessing a once proud division in decline as the Bengals and Steelers have slipped, the Ravens seem lost and the Browns look like a disoriented SCUBA diver who is low on oxygen and swimming in the opposite direction from the bubbles. The prospect of the Steelers winning by throwing the ball fifty times a game and outscoring everyone always seemed a little odd (if not sacrilegious) anyway.  

11. Arizona Cardinals

As noted earlier, you're not winning a Super Bowl with a guy named Carson and you're sure as hell not winning one with a 50 year old guy named Carson. Anyone who thought that last year's catastrophic playoff performance was an aberration definitely spends their holidays at Carson Palmer's house.    

12. Minnesota Vikings


The Vikings are in freefall. The only reason they're here is that their purple cape got caught on the wing of a gargoyle mid-fall but the seams are tearing and the only thing left between them and the ground is Sam Bradford. LOOK OUT BELOW!!! 

13. Buffalo Bills


Rex Ryan may come across as the MC for open mike night at the Chuckle Hut and he certainly is that but he also took the Jets to two AFC Championship games with Mark Sanchez as his quarterback so the man can coach. The man can also implode so the Bills' outcome this season ranges from making the playoffs to going 1-6 down the stretch with the Ryan brothers getting dropped like a pair of patsies in a WWE tag-team match.  

14. New York Giants 

Here are the Giants again in the middle of no man's land halfway through the season. Sure they're 5-3 but, other than an opening day win over the Cowboys and Dak Prescott playing his first NFL game, they don't have much to hang their hats on. And this year they don't have Tom Coughlin's angry old man "fuck that sunscreen" beet red wind burn tan to inspire them.   

15. Green Bay Packers

The Packers look really bored. Not just the sitting around the house on Sunday morning at 11:30 a.m. waiting for the games to start kind of bored. More like stuck on a five hour flight just finished your book, forgot your laptop and thumbing through the in-flight magazine kind of bored. Might be a good idea for some of the teams who've had the same Super Bowl winning coach for 8-9 years (Ravens, Steelers, Packers and Saints) to just rotate them like tires . . . as long as the Ravens got Mike Tomlin or Sean Payton. 

16. San Diego Chargers

It seems like at least once per game an announcer hints that Phillip Rivers is a Hall of Fame quarterback which might be true if the Hall voters used passer rating like an SAT score because his 95.5 currently ranks him 8th between Drew Brees (7th) and Ben Roethlisberger (9th). However, the Chargers are currently 4-5 which anyone could have predicted (except maybe Nate Silver) considering that they're 50-55 since 2009 - the last time they made the playoffs. And speaking of playoffs, Rivers' postseason record is also 4-5. And you know what else? Rivers' birthday is April 5th. That's right . . . 4-5!!! (Actually I made that up. This Rivers thing wasn't really going anywhere and I needed a way out).

17. Baltimore Ravens

The bad news for the Ravens' offense is that they're ranked 24th in passing and Joe Flacco has thrown more interceptions than touchdown passes. On the other hand, they're ranked 28th in rushing. But the really good news is that they're ranked 26th in scoring with 154 points, 82 of which have been scored by their special teams meaning that their offense is averaging 9 point per game (one semester math major baby!). And the best news of all is that they recently fired offensive coordinator Marc Trestman and replaced him with Marty Mornhinweg who once lost an overtime game as a head coach because, under the old rule of the team that scores first wins, he won the toss and decided to kick-off (I did not make that up. I wish I had but I didn't).          

18. New Orleans Saints

Meet the Bizzaro Ravens. The Saints have leveraged 30.3 points per game into a 4-4 record. How do you do that? Easy. Just allow 29.8 points and 300 passing yards per game. You'd think that practicing against Drew Brees every day would make them better. You'd be wrong.      

19. Indianapolis Colts 

Hey look . . . it's the AFC South stopping by with their first entry at #19. The Colts may be a little better than this but would you feel confident about them beating any of the five teams above them or, for that matter, the five teams below them. Didn't think so. Let's move on.   

20. Carolina Panthers

Many people are saying that the Broncos provided the blueprint for how to beat Cam Newton in last year's Super Bowl. You think? He's currently ranked 26th in passer rating. But that's not even the Panthers' problem this year because they're still scoring 25.5 points per game. The problem is that their defense which carried them in 2015 is allowing 25.8 points per game. Their next four games are against the Chiefs, Saints, Raiders and Seahawks. At least Cam won't have to deal with any awkward postseason press conferences this year.    

21. Miami Dolphins

Blah blah blah the Dolphins blah blah blah Tannnehill blah blah 7-9 again blah blah blah.

22. Washington Redskins

The Redskins actually appeared to be heading in the right direction coming-off their playoff season but then they bungled their way to a tie against the Bengals and now they've lost arguably their best player in left tackle Trent Williams to a four game weed suspension. The next four games are against the class of the NFC in the Vikings, Packers, Cardinals and Cowboys. On the other hand, calling those teams the "class of the NFC" is like calling Chick-fil-a, Sbarro, Panda Express and Subway the "class of the food court."  

23. Philadelphia Eagles

Wait. Are you trying to tell me that the league has started to catch-up to a quarterback who made his bones in college playing against Youngstown State, Missouri State, Indiana State and every other "State" school the Missouri Valley Conference had to offer? Carson (there's that name again) is hanging in there but, after throwing for 7 TD's and 1 interception during the Eagles 3-1 start, he's thrown for 2 TD's and 4 interceptions during the ensuing 1-3 stretch. At least Philadelphia fans are known for their patient and nurturing support so Wentz will be able to grow at his own pace.    

24. Houston Texans

This first NFL gig for Bill O'Brien has all the earmarks of a Pete Carroll in New England or a Bill Belichick in Cleveland. Not saying he's going to go on to win Super Bowls but it might be time for him and the Texans to sit down to an awkward lunch and tell each other "it's not you . . . it's me." O'Brien could spend three years turning Notre Dame around and then come back to a team with a quarterback not named Blake, Brock or Carson.   

25. New York Jets

Not quite sure what to make of the Jets. They should be better, especially with the seemingly competent Todd Bowles running the show. They've lost some tough road games and some close games to relatively decent teams so maybe they're just victims of the schedule this year. On the other hand, they only beat the Browns by 3 so maybe they just suck. 

26. Tennessee Titans

The bad news for the Titans is that they're 4-5. The good news is that they might only need three more wins to take the division if those wins come against the Colts, Texans and Jags. The bad news for the rest of us is that those games will presumably be televised.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This was definitely going to be the year when the Bucs started to fulfill that potential that people liked to talk about but no one could really prove existed. They play the Bears this week in a game that could best be described as "pointless." 

28. Los Angeles Rams

Help us out with this one. The Rams traded-up to get the #1 pick so they could draft quarterback Jared Goff. Case Keenum has started every game at quarterback for the Rams this season. Keenum has the lowest QBR of any quarterback in the league. Goff has yet to see the field. This is Jeff Fisher's sixth season coaching the Rams. They have not made the playoffs in any of them. They probably won't make the playoffs this year. Fisher will probably coach the Rams next season.  

29. Chicago Bears

One of the hidden benefits of the Cubs' win for Chicago sports fans is that it concealed the fact that Jay Cutler returned to action two weeks ago. They're going to turn on the TV this Sunday and feel like you do on a Monday when you thought your in-laws were leaving on Tuesday and you find-out that they're not leaving until Thursday.     

30. Jacksonville Jaguars

Every three or four years the Jags pull a Rickon Stark (GOT reference and SPOILER ALERT) by sprinting far enough across the open field that you think this year is going to be the one where they actually make it and then BAM!!! . . . that arrow from Ramsey Bolton hits them and we're left to wonder how we could've been fooled into thinking any other outcome was possible. Last year was the sprinting part. This year is the arrow part.

31. San Francisco 49ers

If you click on the 49er homepage on ESPN.com, there is (or there was) a headline which reads "Arike Armstead's injury forces 49ers to reconfigure defensive line." The 49ers are allowing a league worst 32.5 points and 193 rushing yards per game (193!!!). Pretty sure they could reconfigure their defensive line with four grizzly bears and still give-up 125 yards and two touchdowns per game.  

32. Cleveland Browns

The Browns are scoring 18.7 points per game and allowing 30.3. You don't really need an offensive gameplan against them because they will be equally hospitable to your running backs (150 yards per game) and your quarterback (275 yards per game). They are on their fifth attempt in the last five years to find a worthy successor to Romeo Crennell who went 24-40 from 2005-08. Over that five years, their record is 33-87 and they've started sixteen different quarterbacks, most of whom are no longer in the league. And with all of that, I would not be the least bit surprised if they beat the Ravens in Baltimore tonight. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2016 NFL season!       

Email the Fantasy Golf Report at fgr@fantasygolfreport.com.   

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

See You in January

The Fantasy Golf Report is going on golf pick hiatus until the Tournament of Champions. We need to spend some time getting back in touch with our inner Pete Axthelm. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Ryder Cup Perspective

Let's start with the good and man there was a lot of it. Most obviously the fact that this is the first time in the history of the Fantasy Golf Report that we didn't have to call this The Ryder Cup Post Mortem. For whatever reason, the Americans just had better stuff than the Europeans this time. Better chemistry. Better mojo. And most importantly, better putting.* If you ask Phil Mickelson why, he'll give you that smug fucking "I told you so" look he wore for the post-match interviews and talk about how they followed the plan they use to win the President's Cup almost every year. However, I think there might be a more accurate and straightforward answer. The Americans were a demonstrably better team. (Prove it). Ok. Consider these points:

1. Since the last Ryder Cup was played, here is the scoreboard between American Ryder Cuppers and their European counterparts of wins in tournaments that feature world class fields:
  • Majors: Americans - 5 . . . Europeans - 2
  • WGC: Americans - 2 . . . Europeans - 1**
  • Players: Americans - 1 . . . Europeans - 0

Even the uniforms were cooler this year.
That's a big game score of 8-3. And, if you include the Americans 5-2 edge in runner-ups at majors which you could argue are more valuable than WGC wins and are certainly more valuable than a Players win, that takes the score up to 13-4. Also, six American players contributed to that score (Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson, Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler). Compare that current depth to the fallow years since the last U.S. Ryder Cup win in 2008 when their best big game players were an erratic Mickelson, an enigmatic Bubba Watson and the artist formerly known as Tiger Woods. Any chemistry involving those three is going to end-up going BOOM which is great if you're trying to counter-intimidate a drug dealer but not so great if you're trying to win a team golf event.

2. The average World Golf Ranking for the American team was 16.3. The average ranking for the Europeans was 27.7. That might not seem like such a big deal until you start pairing players off in match-ups. You want to play your #3 against our #3? Ok. How do you like your odds with Danny Willett against Patrick Reed? You want to go #9 v. #9? Cool. We get Brandt Snedeker and you've got Matthew Fitzpatrick. How about #11 v. #11? Fine. Zach Johnson v. Martin Kaymer will be a good match but we like our chances. Of course the Europeans could've balanced this out a bit by fielding Paul Casey (#12 in the world) but they have a rule that made Casey ineligible because, despite the fact that he was born and lives in England, he's not an official European Tour member (I'm sure Brexit had something to do with it). And again, Clarke could have picked Knox (#19 in the world) over Westwood but Knox's booze game is as yet unproven and Clarke needed to make sure he had someone to get back-slapping drunk with after Ian Poulter and Sam Torrance passed-out every night.  

3. The Americans got better by "promoting" certain guys from player to vice-captain. When they lost the Cup in 2012 by simulating a person who has a large bone stuck in his throat while stumbling around an Outback Steakhouse begging people for help, Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker combined to play in 11 matches and produced a whopping total of 1.5 points.*** Bubba Watson played ok in 2012 but his career Ryder Cup record is 8 matches played and 3 points won. And you can interpret this analogy however you like but the most difficult conditions under which to play golf are either (a) gusty unpredictable winds or (b) when you can't stand your partner. I'll just leave that there.    

So you see? Sometimes it's just as simple as the better team wins. This makes the job of the 2018 "task force" fairly straightforward: (1) Hope you have better players to choose from leading-up to the Cup . . . (2) choose those players . . . and (3) avoid chokers and dickheads. 

For about five seconds on Sunday, Patrick Reed
did the impossible and made me stop hating him.
And then that feeling passed.
And now for the bad. Come on people. You can heckle the Euros as they walk down the fairways and between holes but don't bark on their backswings and cheer missed shots. And American players. You're not much better. Here is the proper sequence to follow when dropping a dagger putt to win your singles match (I'm looking at you Patrick Reed):

1. Make the putt.

2. Remove your hat.

3. Calmly shake the hands of your opponent and his caddie.

4. Turn to the crowd and go completely apeshit. 

Aside from this being the respectful way to do it, it's also the cooler way to do it because during those brief moments when you're honoring your opponent, the crowd intensity is quietly building just waiting for you to turn around and light the fuse. When you start jumping around and double-fist pumping right away, you waste the opportunity to send the crowd into a full extended frenzy because watching you awkwardly shake hands after you just rubbed it in the guy's face is a buzz kill.   

And while we're here, can we all agree that cupping your hand to your ear as a way of telling the crowd "I can't hear you" is a dorky gesture that every sport besides golf has left behind. If you're not convinced, then just know that no matter who you are, you look just as annoying as David Duval in 1999 when you do it. Enough said on that.   

"It's a one foot putt Lee.
I'd say go right at it."
Before we conclude and potentially go dark until January (and beyond if I actually follow-through on my annual threat to stop writing this crap), we would be remiss if we didn't at least make mention of the passing of a great American golf hero who has impacted countless major championships and whose disembodied spirit helped inspire last weekend's victory. Even though we have almost surely seen the last of it in Ryder Cup competition, Lee Westwood's putter will always have a place in our hearts even as it sinks to the bottom of lake with a name like Windemere, Ullswater, Bassanthwaite or some crazy shit like that. Godspeed Lee Westwood's putter. Godspeed.    

Footnotes

* Please don't check me on that from a statistical standpoint because I have no idea if it's true but it sure seemed that way. Then again, it rained all weekend around here so alcohol got involved early and often meaning I may have been watching highlights of the same putts over and over and not known it.   

** The Europeans could have had another WGC winner if Darren Clarke had picked Russell Knox instead of one of the world's most notoriously bad clutch putters in Lee Westwood. But hey, how often do Ryder Cup matches ever come down to putting anyway? ("So I was gonna wear a condom but then I thought hey, when am I ever going to get back to Haiti?"). More on Westwood's putter later in the show.

If this gesture had a name, it
would be "not our finest hour."
*** And we're not even going to get into what they did playing in three of the last five matches on Sunday with the Cup on the line because if you're reading something called the Fantasy Golf Report, you probably already know what they did so no need to ruin the joy of 2016 by reliving it here . . . though I just got a chill remembering Furyk's putt on 18 . . . and not the good kind of chill like when someone says "drinks on me" . . . more like the "did I forget to close that browser on my home computer when I had the whole house to myself?" kind of chill. Speaking of which, is "did I forget to close that browser?" the new "did I leave the oven on?" Don't ovens eventually turn themselves off these days? If so, can someone please invent the self-closing browser? Come on Bill Gates. Stop trying to cure everything and help a brother out.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Fantasy Golf: The Tour Championship Preview

Hey everybody . . . golf's back! Did you miss it? Finally something to break-up the monotony of the first two weeks of NFL action and one ridiculously spectacular college football game after another. (We kid because we love). I've actually missed this game that I love from both a playing and viewing standpoint over the past couple of weeks and now we get treated to a double-dip of the Tour Championship followed by the Ryder Cup and this guy gets a little 45 hole two-man competition to closeout golf season in the Mid-Atlantic (someone please shoot me with a six month tranquilizer dart on October 2nd). 

So what can we expect at East Lake? Well, Henrik Stenson loves this course as evidenced by his win in 2013 and his T2nd last year highlighted by an opening 63. But he's not playing. So what else you got? Well we've got Justin Rose who also finished T2nd last year to go along with a T4th in 2014, a 6th in 2013 and a 2nd in 2012 . . . except that he's not playing either because he predictably had one of the worst years of his career after being drafted by the coolers in my fantasy golf league. (These guys are such a reliable jinx that I almost feel compelled to write a letter to their top pick each January and pre-comfort him about the otherwise inexplicably terrible season he's about to have).


Stop fucking around and make some picks!

Ok, here's the problem. Every legitimate contender this week has had some success at East Lake led by Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson who have all won there so we've got ourselves a bit of a crapshoot. D.J., McIlroy, Day and the recently hot Paul Casey all have at least one top five so it wouldn't be a surprise if any of those guys won it. And don't rule-out Bubba rediscovering his game for four days and getting it done. We'd love to pick all of them but we can't so here comes some good old fashioned frontier analysis.

Jordan Spieth is going to win because in the space of a little over five months, he's gone from Cobra Kai to first hour of the movie Danny LaRusso and he's going to turn that around with one seriously awkward looking crane kick in Atlanta. He's been showing signs of life in the playoffs and I think he really wants to avoid ending 2016 as an afterthought. He's also got to be getting jacked for the Ryder Cup where I expect he and Patrick Reed to dominate together (more on that next week). 

After Spieth, we're going with the fairly stock picks of D.J. who refocused at the BMW Championship and Jason Day he keeps being more overdue every week. That leaves Scott, McIlroy and Mickelson on the outside but seating is limited. If gambling is legal in your state and you're building rosters, I'd balance those high dollars guys with some big hitters in Gary Woodland and J.B. Holmes along with a few bargain buys in Emiliano Grillo, Ryan Moore and Jason Dufner. Don't be the least bit surprised when Grillo is in contention on Sunday and how could you be now that I've warned you. As always I'm here to help.      

That transition from golf to football
is always a little awkward . . . 
The Tour Championship Odds

1. Dustin Johnson - 9/2

2. Rory McIlroy - 5/1
3. Jason Day - 9/1
4. Jordan Spieth - 9/1
5. Adam Scott - 9/1
6. Paul Casey - 16/1
7. Patrick Reed - 18/1
8. Bubba Watson - 25/1
9. Phil Mickelson - 25/1
10. Hideki Matsuyama - 28/1
11. Matt Kuchar - 28/1
12. Brandt Snedeker - 30/1
13. Russell Knox - 35/1
14. J.B. Holmes - 35/1
15. Gary Woodland - 40/1

The One and Done Pick: Jordan Spieth


The Sleeper Pick: Emiliano Grillo
 . . . but we'll figure it out.

Ten Guys We Like in DraftKings

Dustin Johnson - $11,700
Jordan Spieth - $10,600
Jason Day - $10,300
Paul Casey - $9,500
Gary Woodland - $7,800
J.B. Holmes - $7,400
Kevin Chappell - $7,200
Daniel Berger - $7,000
Emiliano Grillo - $6,900
Ryan Moore - $6,800
Jason Dufner - $6,400

Email the Fantasy Golf Report at fgr@fantasygolfreport.com