Saturday, January 31, 2015

The FGR Super Bowl Preview

I can't say that I am overly enthusiastic about previewing a game between two of the least likeable teams in real and fictional sports history. If you were sending-out invitations to the Tournament of the Hated, the Patriots would definitely be on the "A" List along with the 1980 Soviet hockey team, the prison guards from the The Longest Yard (the original version), Christian Laettner's Duke Blue Devils, the German national soccer team in Victory and every Yankees and Red Sox team ever. The Seahawks don't warrant quite that level of detest but they certainly belong on the "B" List with teams like the mid 80's Celtics (I'm detecting a theme), the Italian cycling team from Breaking Away and any team coached by Nick Saban or Urban Meyer.

"Put Belichik on it. He's a
sneaky little shit just like you."
Alas, it's the Super Bowl so we have to give it its due. As we proceed with the analysis, we're going to assume that the cheating on both sides will cancel-out so we'll have a "fair" game kind of like your typical big city mayoral election where everyone is so shady that the overall playing field ends-up being somewhat level. (Also see anything involving the United States Olympic Committee).* On the other hand, don't count-out Bill Belichick a/k/a the Douglas C. Neidermeyer of the NFL as he may still have a few tricks up his sleeve.   

Let's see if we can tease-out a few factors in this game that have nothing to do with (a) how we expect certain players to perform or (b) the X's and O's because we really have no way of predicting (a) and I know next to nothing about (b). The Patriots have the edge at quarterback and coaching while the Seahawks have a better running game and defense but no one really knows if those edges will hold on Sunday and how much weight to give each one. However, here are a few things we do know:

(1) The majority of the current Seahawks just dominated the last Super Bowl proving that the moment was not too big for any of them. Meanwhile, the Patriots haven't been here since 2012 which doesn't seem that long ago until you consider that their leading rusher in that game was BenJarvus Green-Ellis and their leading receivers were Aaron Hernandez, Danny Woodhead and Deion Branch. Besides sharing the fact that all of those Patriots either played with or are an alleged murderer, they also share the fact that they are no longer Patriots. In all, the Patriots only return seven offensive and defensive starters from the team that played Giants in 2012. The Seahawks will start fifteen of the twenty-two players who won last year.

(2) Since they began playing the Super Bowl back in 1967, eleven teams have won it and then made it back the next year and those teams are 8-3 in their second trip which makes sense because (a) they had to be pretty damn good to win it the first time and (b) they are still basically intact from a roster standpoint (like this year's Seahawks).

At least we have the new 
Carl's Jr. ad to look forward to.
(3) The top ranked regular season scoring defense has played in the Super Bowl sixteen times since the merger and has won thirteen of them including Seattle (2014), Pittsburgh (2009), New England (2004), Tampa Bay (2003), Baltimore (2001), Green Bay (1997), N.Y. Giants (1991), Chicago (1986), San Francisco (1985), Washington (1983), Pittsburgh (1979), Miami (1974) and Miami again (1973). The three losers were Pittsburgh (2011) (to Aaron Rodgers) Denver (1990) (to Joe Montana) and Philadelphia (1981) (Jaws and the Eagles offense laid a major egg with 10 points).

So what we know is that defending champions are 8-3 and top ranked defenses are 13-3 in the Super Bowl. The Seahawks are both of those things and essentially this same defense throttled the highest scoring team in the history of the NFL last year. I kind of feel like Tom Hanks in Big because "I don't get it." Sure the Patriots are a solid team and Tom Brady will deservedly go down as one of the best quarterbacks ever but do we really think he's going to carve-up the Seahawks with that one dimensional passing game? I've heard Steve Young say on multiple occasions that the Seahawks defense just lines-up in front of you and says "try to beat us" because they have the personnel to do it. Sounds to me like a nightmare match-up for an offense that struggles to run the ball and relies on trickeration to get people open. It will give me no satisfaction to see Pete Carroll hoist another Lombardi Trophy but . . . . 

Seahawks - 27 . . . Patriots - 17.       


* Hey look which city was just selected by the USOC for its 2014 Olympic bid . . . BOSTON!!! Apparently the bribes weren't deflated. HEYOOOOOO!!!!!  

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Fantasy Golf: Waste Management Preview

The Waste Management Favorites
A big hint for this week's one and done pick.

1. Bubba Watson - 14/1
2. Jordan Spieth - 16/1
3. Tiger Woods - 20/1
4. Phil Mickelson - 20/1
5. Matt Kuchar - 20/1
6. Rickie Fowler - 20/1
7. Hideki Matsuyama - 22/1
8. Patrick Reed - 25/1
9. Bill Haas - 28/1
10. Ryan Palmer - 33/1

The Waste Management Top Five

1. Bubba Watson
2. Jordan Spieth
3. Phil Mickelson
4. Hunter Mahan
5. Brendan Steele

One and Done Pick: Hunter Mahan

It would be hard to describe last week's FGR effort as anything other than an abject failure. I completely reached for my one and done pick with Russell Knox and came-up with a missed cut and a handful of air. Other than having Charley Hoffman and his T2nd in the Top Five, the picks were weak and, if you had the misfortune of using my Golf Channel fantasy league advice, you pocketed a whopping $12,882 on Charles Howell, III's tie for 56th along with missed cuts by Knox, Zach Johnson and some guy named Max Homa (note to self: don't pick guys who sound more like jazz drummers than golfers).

So this week we're going mostly chalk with a little Brendan Steele mixed-in because he's playing well and he kicks ass in Phoenix. I originally had him as my one and done pick but I just spent last week punishing myself for picking a lower tier guy on a hunch and, if I'm going to ruin this week's viewing experience, it will be with a player who at least has some pedigree. Not to mention, the Mahans are expecting again so if you're going to use Hunter, do it now before baby #2 comes along and Kandi starts saying things like, "Oh, you're going to play golf again? Fine. Whatever."

Last Week's Report Card: C-
OK, I'm running out of ways to
depict my disastrous start.

1. Russell Knox - M/C

2. Ryan Palmer - T10th
3. Charley Hoffman - T2nd
4. Keegan Bradley - T48th
5. Zach Johnson - M/C

One and Done Picks to Date

Hyundai: Kevin Streelman - $70,667
Sony: Chris Kirk - $42,280
Humana: Russell Knox - M/C

Pathetic Season Total - $112,947

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Fantasy Golf: The Humana Challenge Preview

The Humana Favorites
A free FGR hat* to the first person who
can email me with the Elizabeth Hurley
- Humana Challenge connection.

1. Patrick Reed - 12/1
2. Matt Kuchar - 18/1
3. Phil Mickelson - 22/1
4. Ryan Palmer - 22/1
5. Chris Kirk - 25/1
6. Zach Johnson - 28/1
7. Bill Haas - 28/1
8. Harris English - 28/1
9. Ryan Moore - 33/1
10. Keegan Bradley - 33/1

The Humana Top Five

1. Russell Knox
2. Ryan Palmer
3. Charley Hoffman
4. Keegan Bradley
5. Zach Johnson

One and Done Pick: Russell Knox

This week we head back to the mainland for the Humana Challenge in Partnership with the Clinton Foundation. And since no one really has a clue who is going to win a birdie fest that features recent random champions like a then up and coming Patrick Reed (2014), a forgotten Brian Gay (2013), a pulse numbing Mark Wilson (2012) and a total unknown Jhonnattan Vegas (2011), the FGR is going semi-random with a player we've been touting for the better part of a year now in Russell Knox. The Knox pick is supported by (a) the Blutarski argument (why not?) and (b) the fact that he finished tied for 13th last week and tied for 13th in this tournament last year. Also consider that in 2013, Knox made his only cut in a major and shot a 59 in a Tour event. Ignore all of those 13's if you want but, like Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, I know this means something and I will prove it with a plate of mashed potatoes if necessary. Don't think I won't. 

Enough about the golf (but you haven't really said anything yet).** What I really want to talk about this week is the purported charitable mission of this event which apparently is to improve global health and wellness. I'm assuming this has been part of the mission since they stopped calling it the Bob Hope Classic in 2012 and turned it into some kind of bizarre infomercial for fitness with celebrities like comedian Ron White who once said, "I believe that if life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade and then try to find somebody whose life has given them vodka and have a party." So the mission already seemed a bit shaky but now I'm having an even harder time getting on board with it when just yesterday, the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics published an article on Energy and Nutrient Intake from Pizza which found that "[t]he adverse dietary effects of pizza consumption found in this study suggest that its consumption should be curbed and its nutrient content improved." In other words, eating too much pizza makes you fat. In more other words, duh duh duh duh duh duuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!

Are you f-cking kidding me? We've got a former president sitting in the booth at a golf tournament talking about the incredible health benefits of walking blah blah blah. Meanwhile, it took until 2015 for someone to formally reach the conclusion that feeding your kid four slices of deep dish pepperoni every night might not be in the best interest of his long term health. Here, let me save you some time on future studies by pointing out a few other popular foods you don't want your kids eating three or four servings of at a time: donuts, burritos, cheesesteaks, corn dogs, milkshakes, onion rings and menu items that include any of the following words in their name: fried, double, triple, pounder, whopper, king, monster, ultimate, deep, stuffed, full, plus, footlong and of course baconator.***

Now don't get me wrong. I would literally eat pizza and cheeseburgers fourteen times a week along with breakfast burritos every morning if I wasn't trying to outlive the remaining members of the Allman Brothers because I do love me some salty ass junk food and I am sometimes even drawn to the sirens' call of a deep fried chicken sandwich at Wendy's**** so don't go all Fox News and accuse me of declaring a "War on Pizza." But shouldn't we really know when we're sandbagging our arteries without having some P.H.D. tell us and shouldn't we also know when to insert a salad or a few grapes into the rotation? To paraphrase Allen Iverson, "we're talking about pizza man. What are we talking about? Pizza? We're talking about pizza man." 

But all kidding aside . . . we're talking about pizza. It's basically salty cheese melted over sugar sauce on dense white bread and, until yesterday, there was apparently still some confusion as to whether or not kids should be eating it by the square yard. Mr. President, you and the fat cats at Humana can ditch the carts and take all the caddies you want but if we're still wrestling with the whole healthy v. unhealthy debate when it comes to pizza, your foundation is wandering around like the Haverkamps
So long Hawaii. We'll miss you.
Last Week's Report Card: B

1. Chris Kirk - T26th
2. Jimmy Walker - 1st
3. Zach Johnson - T64th
4. Brendon Todd - T44th
5. Charles Howell, III - T26th

One and Done Picks to Date

Hyundai: Kevin Streelman - $70,667
Sony: Chris Kirk - $42,280

Total - $112,947

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* FGR hats don't actually exist yet but the winner will get first dibs if they ever do.

** As always, if you want more thorough analysis, check-out Rob Bolton's work over at Rob's picks are generally about as crappy as mine but at least with his you know there is more than five minutes of research and some half-baked numerology based hunch supporting them.

*** If you want to feel bloated (and who doesn't?), just Google "least healthy restaurant foods" and scroll through the pictures. Caution: Do not do this on a full stomach.  

**** That actually happened today and now I feel like I swallowed a balloon full of paint. By the way Wendy's, please dispense with the shred of dilapidated lettuce and the albino tomato on that sandwich. Don't ruin the debaucherous experience by dressing my food up as a replica of what I actually should be eating.   

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Conference Championship Game Picks

We'll get to the picks but first we need to do a few post mortem paragraphs on what went down last Saturday in New England. First and foremost, the Patriots won the game fair and square. I love John Harbaugh but, in addition to figuring-out a way to not squander his second half timeouts, he needs to learn that sometimes you just have to quietly eat the loss and move on. (In fact, you're kind of supposed to learn that on the way to being an NFL head coach, not after you get there). Even if the Patriots did cheat, which they apparently didn't, all post-game complaints will rightly beconsidered sour grapes as the Ravens have no one to blame but themselves for getting fleeced on a perfectly executed trick play (Brady to Edelman to Amendola) and for Joe Flacco throwing an ill-advised pass on the pivotal drive.

With that being said, I feel Harbaugh's pain because losing to a team that plays like the Patriots is just brutal. After it was over, I went through all of the sports experiences of my life to try to come up with an appropriate analogy. It's not like playing tennis against the guy who calls balls that hit the line "out" because that is actually cheating. So is the case of the lacrosse player with the pocket that's a quarter inch too deep and the golfer who puts the ball down an inch in front of his marker. No, the Patriots are something a little different and, when the right comparison finally dawned on me, I actually said out loud, "THAT'S THE GUY!!!"

"Sorry buddy. Just trying
to make a play out there.
No hard feelings right?"
The guy in question is fairly unique so you've probably never run into him and you can be thankful for that. If they made a movie about animals playing sports, he would be the weasel. If you were going to associate him with a real actor, it would be someone like Neal McDonough. So who is this athletic bottom dweller? He's the guy who runs at you as you're preparing to shoot in basketball and then, at the last second, ducks his head and runs past your legs to give you the impression that he's going to cut them out from under you. It's perfectly legal and highly effective but good luck trying to find a regular pick-up game if it's your go-to move.

That's the Patriots. Anytime someone defends their actions by saying "check the rulebook," your "ass-hat" antenna should go up. That was pretty much Greg Schiano's answer a few years ago when he had his defenders slam into the line as opposing teams were taking a knee to run out the clock on another Buccaneer defeat. I wouldn't want my favorite team to win that way just like I wouldn't want the quarterback of my favorite team to stamp his feet and throw a temper tantrum every time someone bumped into him. Hundreds of NFL quarterbacks used to get hit below the knees but it wasn't until Bernard Pollard knocked precious Tom Brady out for a season that the league said "well we can't have that now can we" and instituted "The Brady Rule." So after hundreds if not thousands of NFL players went down with severe and sometimes career ending knee injuries, it happens to Brady and the league essentially names a rule after him. Need I say more?

But it's not all bad because ultimately we need a team like the Patriots in the league. As enjoyable as it is to watch your own team win, it is nearly as enjoyable to watch a team like the Patriots lose. They are the modern version of the 70's and early 80's 
Dallas Cowboys with their acerbic head coach and their thoroughly detestable fans (I should know because I was one of them and I'm pretty sure nothing could get under your skin quite like a 12 year old Cowboy fan who knew a little too much about football at that age). The millions of Patriot haters will always have the blown undefeated season followed by the second gagged Super Bowl against the Giants. Ravens fans have the second half of the 2013 AFC Championship game when Flacco threw three touchdown passes and the defense simply erased Brady. And if there is any karmic justice in the world, the Colts, Seahawks or Packers will ensure that the Patriots remain without a title since they were caught cheating back in 2007.

And that brings us to the end of this season. The Patriots narrowly escaped a Ravens team that featured one of the worst and most inexperienced secondaries in NFL playoff history. Other than one Brady run and some kneel downs, the Patriots literally threw on every play in the second half. That probably won't work against the Colts who are better than the Ravens and it definitely won't work against the Seahawks who are waaaayyyy better than the Ravens. In fact, there is part of me that wants Brady to make it to his 6th Super Bowl just so we can see watch Seahawks defense coached by New England reject Pete Carroll completely demolish him like they did Peyton Manning last year. And I know I'm not alone.

Seattle by 7.5 over Green Bay: The Pick - Seahawks

The Seahawks could not have orchestrated this season much better. They started with a big win over the Packers and then immediately went into what appeared to be post-championship implosion mode by essentially dumping Percy Harvin, threatening to do the same with Marshawn Lynch and leaking stories to the press questioning the leadership style of Russell Wilson. During all of that commotion, they lost three of their next five and then struggled to beat the Panthers and the Raiders (the Raiders?!?!). But now look at them. They've won ten of their last eleven games allowing an average of less than 12 points. They appear to have rediscovered their juggernaut status and no one really remembers the shambles of the early fall. 

"Well gee wizz. I never
thought about it like that."
Then we have the Packers who have two playoff wins since their Super Bowl run almost four years ago. One was last week against the Cowboys (when then did not look particularly sharp) and the other was against the Vikings back in 2013 who were forced to start Joe Webb and his 152 career passing attempts. Factor-in Aaron Rodgers' suspect health and their 4-4 road record this season with those four wins coming over the Bucs, Bears, Viking and Dolphins (barely) and the picture just looks that much more grim. This game is going to look a lot like the Packers' Week 15 loss at Buffalo, only substitute Russell Wilson for Kyle Orton.   

New England by 7 over Indianapolis: The Pick - Colts

When the Patriots hammered the Colts back in Week 11, the rushing stats were slightly one-sided and probably made the difference in the game and, by "slightly," I mean the Patriots out-rushed the Colts 246 yards to 19 (you may remember this as the game in which Jonas Gray had four touchdowns before entering the witness protection program). It will not be that lopsided this Sunday because (a) it can't be . . . it just can't, and (b) through two playoff games, the Colts have improved in that area on both sides of the ball. (We're going to conveniently ignore the Week 16 game at Dallas when the Cowboys ran for 127 yards and the Colts ran for exactly one more yard than I have gained in my NFL career . . . to date).

This pick has less to do with stats, however, and more to do with the Colts' role in delivering the message to Manning and now Brady that their time has come and gone. Manning clearly wasn't right last week and the Colts were able to exploit that. Brady was solid against a terrible Ravens secondary but he's been slipping as evidenced by his eight interceptions in his last eight games after throwing only two in his first eight games (I'm not including the Week 17 game because it didn't matter and he only threw 16 passes). And then you have a supposedly upgraded defense that gave-up 428 yards and 31 points to a Ravens offense that is somewhere between above-average and good. There is no question that this pick is based in part on my desire to see the Brady-Belichik era come to an end but it's also based on the evidence that the end is closer than most people think.        

Last Week's Record: 2-2 . . . Playoff Record: 4-4.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Fantasy Golf: The Sony Open Preview

The Sony Favorites
We're skipping the preamble this week
and getting right down to business.

1. Jason Day - 12/1
2. Jimmy Walker - 16/1
3. Matt Kuchar - 18/1
4. Chris Kirk - 20/1
5. Hideki Matsuyama - 20/1
6. Zach Johnson - 25/1
7. Russell Henley - 25/1
8. Sang-Moon Bae - 33/1
9. Ryan Palmer - 33/1
10. Brendon Todd - 33/1

The FGR's Sony Top Five

1. Chris Kirk
2. Jimmy Walker
3. Zach Johnson
4. Brendon Todd
5. Charles Howell, III

The FGR's One and Done Pick: Chris Kirk

This one came down to Chris Kirk versus Brendon Todd because (a) I'm sitting on Jimmy Walker and Zach Johnson for later in the season and (b) putting is one of the main strengths you'll find in most of the recent winners of this event (Jimmy Walker, Russell Henley, Mark Wilson, Zach Johnson, etc.) and both Kirk and Todd can really roll it (I mean like reeeaaaallllly roll it baby!!!). In the end I landed on Kirk because he clearly found something good in his game on Monday when he ripped-off 11 birdies on his way to a 62 and his last two finishes at the Sony are 2nd and T5th. There are almost too many good options this week including everyone in The FGR Top Five along with Jason Day, Russell Henley, Ryan Palmer, Marc Leishman, Hideki Matsuyama and the somewhat forgotten Charles Howell, III who has finished top ten here five of the last six years. It would be hard to make a bad pick so um, no pressure.      

"Houston, we have a problem. What is it?
 . . . Well just look out the damn window!!!"
Last Week's Report Card: C-

1. Matt Kuchar: T17th
2. Bubba Watson: 10th
3. Chris Kirk: T14th
4. Jimmy Walker: 2nd
5. Billy Horschel: T22nd

One and Done Picks to Date

Hyundai: Kevin Streelman - T22nd

This just in. I continued my streak of screwing-up the Hyundai pick as last year I went with Gary Woodland (T13th), in 2013 it was Scott Piercy (T13th) and in 2012 I dropped the ball with Bill Haas (20th). So over the last four years, the average finish of my pick in a 33 player event has been 17th. Clearly my approach is not working and I feel like the guy in Boogie Nights who just had two girls OD on him in two days. Now the Colonel is standing over me saying, "well do you think this means that maybe you oughtta think about getting some new shit? Whaddya think?" Screw this conservative approach. Next year I'm going big at the Hyundai. Now can someone write that down and shoot me an email in about 51 weeks?   

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Friday, January 9, 2015

The NFL Divisional Round Picks

Let me begin by saying "screw you Bill Simmons, you sanctimonious prick." You've been crowing all year about how the "Karma Police" are going to catch the Ravens for their handling of the Ray Rice incident. Meanwhile, your favorite team of proven "Spygate" cheaters waited until Aaron Hernandez was arrested before finally releasing him despite a checkered past that included, among other things, punching a waiter outside of a restaurant in college, a domestic incident in June of 2012, the implication of Hernandez in a double murder in July of 2012, another domestic incident in March of 2013 and yet ANOTHER domestic incident in April of 2013. (I only listed the ones where the police were involved. For a full list, click here). The Patriots had full knowledge of all of these incidents yet kept Hernandez on the payroll because he was so valuable to the team. It wasn't until he was actually arrested for murder that they decided to release him and even then, it took them a week to do it. Stay classy Robert Kraft.

I'll give you a hint.
Maybe you're just trying to throw your readers off the scent of the true scumbag organization or maybe you just suffer from the common ailment of Male Boston Ignorance (MBI) which severely impairs the judgment of fans from the Northeast and leads them to believe that they are collectively anything more than a bunch of overbearing self-involved dickheads. By all means go ahead and keep demonizing the Ravens and Roger Goodell and continue to ignore the fact that the Patriots knowingly employed a violent criminal. Oh, and as you rail against Goodell, take a moment to consider who primarily influences the people pulling his strings (at least according to the Sports Business Journal). And then do us all a favor and get over yourself.  

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, time for some picks.

New England by 7 over Baltimore: The Pick - Ravens

Let's play the always fun Quarterback "A" v. Quarterback "B" game with this match-up:

In his last nine playoff games over the past five years, Quarterback "A" has thrown 20 touchdown passes with 2 interceptions and has averaged 252 yards per game. His team is 7-2 over that span.

Over the same number of playoff games and the same timeframe, Quarterback "B" has thrown 17 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions while averaging 274 yards per game. His team is 4-5 over that span.

Of those nine playoff games, Quarterback "A" has played two at home, six on the road, one at a neutral site and his team has been the underdog in six of them. Quarterback "B" has played seven of the last nine playoff games at home, one on the road, one at a neutral site and has been the favorite in all but one. 

The team led by Quarterback "B" is favored by 7 points over the team led by Quarterback "A" in this game.

(Joe Flacco is Quarterback "A" and Tom Brady is Quarterback "B." I know that was pretty obvious but I wanted to make sure the Patriot fans got it).  

And one more point. Once you get through the big names in this game like Brady, Flacco, Gronkowski and Revis, the next best five play defensive line or linebacker for the Ravens including Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Haloti Ngata, Courtney Upshaw and C.J. Mosley (who as a rookie was 7th in the league in tackles). Maybe this is the playoff game where Bill Belichik finally out-coaches John Harbaugh, Brady stops choking against the Ravens when it counts and the Patriots escape with a victory. At some point they're bound to live-up to the hype but, even if they do on Saturday, it's not going to be pretty so I'm taking the points, the defense and Quarterback "A."

Seattle by 11 over Carolina: The Pick - Seahawks

We can be pretty confident that the Seahawks are going to win this one as all the Panthers had to do to beat the Cardinals last week was get out of the way and let Ryan Lindley hand them the game . . . and they almost screwed that up with stupid turnovers, penalties and a punter who inspired one ESPN analyst to ask, "Is Butler punting a bowling ball?" Now they visit the other end of the spectrum in a game on the road against a team that isn't going to give them anything. And beyond that, the Seahawks want to start laying the foundation for the NFC Championship game by annihilating the Panthers so that the Cowboys and the Packers get the message that their trip to the Northwest in January is going to be about as fun as well, a trip to the Northwest in January.

Green Bay by 6 over Dallas: The Pick - Packers

Applying the transitive law to football games never seems to work because it fails to take into account that fifty three men might play football differently from one week to the next. In other words, just because a > b and b > c means that a > c does not also mean that if the Packers handled the Lions by 10 points in Week 17 and the Cowboys needed a play that involved the most dubious officiating in the history of the NFL to beat the Lions at home by 4 points last week, the Packers are going to win comfortably over the Cowboys on Sunday. But if that's the case, then why do I feel so confident that this game is never going to be in doubt and we're headed for a marquee NFC Championship Game showdown in Seattle?

Just seems like things always
work-out for Aaron Rodgers.
I mean the Cowboys have now won five games in a row including a solid performance in Philadelphia with the division on the line and then a blowout of the Colts the following week. Even with all of the help from the officials, they still had to make the plays to beat the Lions and they did (though all you apparently have to do to beat the Lions when they're on the road is give the ball to them with a chance to win it and then watch their offensive line crater). And probably the biggest "X" factor in the Cowboy's favor is the health of Aaron Rodgers who has something between a cramp and flesh eating parasite in his calf (depending on who you talk to) that is going to limit his mobility which is part of what makes him great . . . but not the main part. 

Everyone is making a big deal about the Cowboys going 8-0 on the road this year and, while that is impressive, it should be noted that only two of those games were against teams with winning records including a win over the Seahawks when they were still dysfunctional back in October and another over the Eagles once everyone finally figured-out that all you had to do to beat them was sit back and let Mark Sanchez be Mark Sanchez. Meanwhile, the Packers went 8-0 at home averaging 40 points per game while outscoring their opponents 318 to 163 and that included recent wins over the Patriots and Lions. In the end, I just couldn't pick against Rodgers playing at Lambeau even if I wanted to, which I don't. 

Denver by 7 over Indianapolis: The Pick - Broncos

I'm still wearing the look of a guy who missed a two foot putt to win the Masters over my decision to pick Andy Dalton and Marvin Lewis on the road against Andrew Luck last week. I wanted to change that pick the moment the game kicked-off because the mere sight of Dalton on the sideline told me I had screwed-up. I initially picked the Colts in this game but then realized that my belief in them was being overly inflated by that uninspiring win. The fact is that the Colts stunk on the road this year, especially on defense. They played six competent teams away from home (not counting the Jags and Titans) and they allowed an average of over 33 points per game and that number goes up to over 41 points per game against playoff teams on the road (Broncos, Steelers and Cowboys).

Then we have the Broncos who've kind of been flying under the radar ever since they lost the Home Field Advantage Bowl to the Patriots back in November. Since then, they dropped a couple of stinkers to the Rams and the Bengals but those were both on the road against pretty solid defenses. They have also used that time wisely to develop a running game behind C.J. Anderson who has averaged 95 yards and a touchdown in each of the last eight games. The concern is that Peyton Manning's performance in December has, to put it bluntly, sucked as he's thrown 3 touchdown passes and 6 interceptions in his last four games. 

I am going to choose to ignore Manning's mini-slump because he's had two weeks to figure things out, the weather is supposed to be mild in Denver and, as good as the Colts' defense looked last week, you need to take into account that Andy Dalton has made a lot of playoff defenses look good in his career. On the other side, the Broncos defense is going to take advantage of the Colts' non-existent running game and absolutely wear Andrew Luck out with pressure. He'll make some plays and they'll probably score 24 points but Manning and the Broncos' offense is going to score a lot more than that.  

Last Week's Record: 2-2.

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Fantasy Golf: The Hyundai Preview

After a fairly dismal 2014 season, the Fantasy Golf Report is back to prove that a little research, the application of sketchy logic and pictures of hot women (included solely for the purpose of increasing website traffic - particularly in Eastern Europe) can yield success in a game where you are generally trying to find a needle in a 150 player haystack. Fortunately, we get to ease into it this week with a much more manageable 33 player haystack, however, it's made somewhat more complicated by the fact that 30 of those 33 are probably capable of winning and could therefore be the needle at which point this analogy completely falls apart leading to the start of a new somewhat non-sequitorial* paragraph. 

There are a couple of problems with trying to pick the winner of the Hyunadai Tournament of Champions.** First and foremost is that it's the first and foremost tournament of the year and most of the players haven't played a meaningful round in over a month so we don't know who's feeling it and who's hitting it sideways. Secondly, there does not appear to be a player type for the course as the last five winners were Zach Johnson (straight hitter), Dustin Johnson (bomber), Steve Stricker (straight hitter), Jonathan Byrd (random winner) and Geoff Ogilvy (all around solid player). So for the purpose of the FGR Rankings, I'm copping-out a little by putting Mr. Reliable Matt Kuchar at the top and backing him up with four studs. I'm going to be a little more creative with my one and done pick (see below). As always, the odds are brought to you by our good friends at     

In this case, "Aloha" means 
"you're welcome."
The Hyundai Favorites

1. Bubba Watson - 13/2
2. Jason Day - 15/2
3. Matt Kuchar - 9/1
4. Hidki Matsuyama - 14/1
5. Jimmy Walker - 16/1
5. Chris Kirk - 16/1
5. Zach Johnson - 16/1

The FGR Rankings

1. Matt Kuchar
2. Bubba Watson
3. Chris Kirk
4. Jimmy Walker
5. Billy Horschel

The FGR One and Done Pick: Kevin Streelman

In the past, the FGR would provide full one and done rankings with a different player at the top every week and then four more players based on some unscientific subjective formula made-up in my head based on the caliber of the event and which players you might want to use versus which you might want to save for another day. This year I'm going to simplify the process by just picking one guy and then defending him. That one guy for the Hyundai is Kevin Streelman for these reasons: (1) He finished tied for 3rd here last year so at least we know he can play the course; (2) He played four times in the fall including a 2nd place finish at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open so he shouldn't be rusty; and (3) At no point later this season are you going to say to yourself, "man, I really wish I hadn't burned Kevin Streelman so I could pick him this week." Sorry Kevin . . . it's true but hey, give 'em heck this weekend.   


* "Non-sequitorial" appears to fall into that category of words and phrases that may not be real but may sound just clever enough to pass themselves off as being real.  

** You can expect my writing style to echo the narrative style from Serial for at least the next few weeks until I get Sarah Koenig's voice and that hypnotic freakin' theme song out of my head. Clink clink clink clink clink clink clink clink . . . AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!! I can't recommend it enough.

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Sunday, January 4, 2015

The 2015 Fantasy Golf Preview

My simple goal this year was to release the 2015 Fantasy Golf Preview before the official start of the 2015 fantasy golf season (seems logical) at this week's Hyundai Tournament of Champions. That way I wouldn't have to qualify it with a bunch of excuse laden double talk as to why I didn't get it done as in "the dog ate my fantasy golf preview." Mission accomplished on that front but it wasn't easy with back to back major holidays falling on Thursdays which basically made for two five-day weekends along with an eight day football bonanza, the likes of which I'm not sure we've ever known.* At one point, I found myself on an extended text thread in which we paid tribute to a friend's liver with Chuck Norris facts as in "Dave's liver has counted to infinity . . . twice" and "Dave's liver once fought Superman on a bet. The loser had to start wearing his underwear over his pants."

So when the rubber met the road on Sunday evening and I decided to put the final touches on this sucker, I found myself with a fortnight long beer-wine-sugar-cheese-potato chip hangover (mmmmm . . . potato chips) which made for tough sledding and a few cut corners. Hopefully I've made-up for that with some sage advice and semi-salient commentary. If you have issues with any of my rankings, want to make a case for a player I left-out or just want to let me know that there are single Russian ladies in my area looking for a "relationship," my email address is below. 

(The number in parenthesis is where each player finished in the 2013-14 regular season FedEx Cup standings).

1. Rory McIlroy (1): If you have the number one overall pick and you take someone else, you're over thinking it.

2. Jordan Spieth (8): I'm drinking the Kool Aid and can easily picture him having a lighter version of Rory's 2012 season after he'd put a couple years worth of tournaments under his belt and then just went bananas. The only difference was that back then McIlroy didn't have to compete with 2015 McIlroy which Spieth will (I probably could have written that a bit more artfully).

3. Sergio Garcia (7): Sergio was overshadowed last year by Rory's dominance along with the emergence of Spieth and Rickie Fowler but he probably had the best season of his career with ten top 10's in sixteen starts along with three consecutive seconds at the Travelers, British Open and WGC Bridgestone. More importantly, he doesn't seem to be tortured anymore and that, dare I say, has made him more likable though that is your classic low bar situation.

4. Matt Kuchar (4): Two months ago I advised taking Kuch because picking him is like buying a Subaru (it was meant as a compliment). Until he shows some signs of not being able to win a couple times a year, that will continue to hold true.

5. Adam Scott (14): In 2013, Scott looked like he was headed for best player in the game status after winning the Masters and almost backing that up with the Claret Jug. Last year was a bump in the road but one of the keys to fantasy golf is finding players who are underrated because they're coming off of a season that was below their standards. One of the other keys to fantasy golf is pure uncontrollable luck. Never forget that.

6. Jimmy Walker (2): If you want him, you're probably not going to have to jump this early but his game and confidence make him worthy of this spot. As an added benefit, he has that rare combination of playing almost every week while also delivering in the majors.

7. Bubba Watson (3): Two months ago, I barely had Bubba in the top thirty but taking a break from having to watch him scowl his way around the course has brought me back to reality and reminded me that, when he gives a crap, he's not going to be worse than top ten.

So here's Rickie's new girlfriend. May 
need to take back what I said about 
him having a "winning problem."
8. Dustin Johnson (6): Speaking of giving a crap. Johnson has now been through at least one suspension that we know about and rumor has it that his future father in-law (who probably has a few bad ass friends to back him up) advised him to get his shit together or stay away from his daughter. At some point, even the biggest dumbass has to realize his debaucherous lifestyle is wrecking the very thing that is feeding his debaucherous lifestyle. I mean look at Anthony K . . . um, let's move on.

9. Rickie Fowler (16): Top five finishes in all four majors should probably get you ranked higher than 9th but the fact is that Rickie still has a winning problem in that he almost never does it (one in five years). Until he proves that he can close, he doesn't warrant top five consideration.

10. Justin Rose (18): Rose is the total package and one of these years he's going to rip-off a major and three more wins to separate himself from the herd chasing McIlroy. If you want to roll the dice that this is that year, I have no problem with that.

11. Tiger Woods (218): I'm just playing drunk darts on this one as I have no idea where to put Woods. He went from player of the year in 2013 with five high quality wins to Dumpsville (Population: Tiger Woods) in 2014 culminating with that train wreck at the Hero World Challenge which was played on his home course (I'm not putting much stock in that). You're just going to have to go with your gut on this one and, if you don't trust your gut, maybe consider what your inner thigh has to say about it.

12. Jim Furyk (5): Full disclosure: this is probably too low for Furyk based on the recent quality of his game but I can't stand watching him play and he's a Steelers fan so when the names start dropping into slots on the list, his just keeps getting bumped. If you have the patience to endure his putting routine and you can live with yourself, go ahead and take him in the top ten. (January 4th update: Eat it Furyk).

13. Chris Kirk (10): From a fantasy golf standpoint, Kirk looks like he could be cut from the Zach Johnson mold. Just pick him somewhere around this spot, then sit back and watch him rake in the dollars with a bunch of top tens and a win or two. That's all I got on Chris Kirk who ain't exactly Ian Poulter (not a criticism).  

 "I'm trying to listen to the new Robert
Palmer tape but Evelyn, my supposed
fiancee, keeps buzzing in my ear." 
14. Billy Horschel (69): Horschel has been on a roller coaster ride from a fantasy golf perspective. In 2013, he had a four tournament stretch where he went T2, T3, T9, win and then he grabbed the second round lead at the U.S. Open and we all went OOOOOHHHH. Then he shot 72-74 to fall back to 4th and we want AAAAHHHH. After that, he kind of muddled along for the better part of fourteen months before blowing-up in the FedEx Cup playoffs last year with two wins and a tie for second. Since then, he's gone back to muddling along in the fall. As recently as yesterday, I had Horschel at no. 20 but then it dawned on me like a brick to the head that if he can dominate for one month a year, then who cares about the rest of the time when he's basically just a Christian Bale impersonator in wacky pants?

15. Henrik Stenson (70): Stenson's Achilles heel has and always will be putting which was worse than normal last year and it showed in his results. He is one of the three most volatile risk/reward plays along with Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed. If you want to gamble on them, don't think they're going to be sitting there in the third round because someone is going to roll the dice on the huge upside they all bring.   

16. Hideki Matsuyama (22): Matsuyama is the flip side to those risk/reward players because he appears to be low risk and high reward and you can probably land him in the high teens or early twenties. He doesn't draw the attention of some of the other second tier non U.S. players like Stenson, Martin Kaymer and Jason Day because he hasn't made much noise in the majors yet but he played twenty four tournaments last year and he won the Memorial. If you go back to 2013, he finished T10 at the U.S. Open, T6 at the British Open and T19 at the PGA Championship so he's going to make a run at a major within the next two years.  

17. Zach Johnson (11): The only reason you don't take ZJ somewhere around this spot is if you have a really strong hunch about one of the next four guys who are all capable of top five seasons but are also total flake balls when it comes to consistency. I'd go with ZJ for the following three reasons: (1) He's going to win a tournament as he's won ten in the last eight years and the only blank was in 2011 which was a complete aberration season for him, (2) he's made the cut in 132 out of his last 150 events meaning he never gives-up on a tournament and is almost always around on the weekend to win you some extra dollars, and (3) his game is ideal for both Opens and the Players meaning he gives you a legitimate shot at those big paydays every year.

18. Patrick Reed (9): You can't argue with the results and that's before you factor-in the clutch Ryder Cup performance. What makes me nervous about Reed, however, is that he does not appear to be really good at any particular aspect of the game (124th in GIR, 149th in Total Driving and 51st in Strokes Gained Putting) which makes him susceptible to having a really really bad year. He also stunk-out the joint in the 2014 majors with two missed cuts to go along with a T35 and T58. He's really something of an enigma wrapped in a riddle walking around in Jack Black's body. That's too much risk for me. Then again, a big risk for me these days would be wearing my tight white pants after Labor Day so consider the source.        

19. Keegan Bradley (23): He has ten top-five finishes since he last won at the end of 2012 so that drought is due to end this season. If you're drafting in a twelve team league and you could back-up a first round pick of Bubba or DJ with Bradley in the second, you'd probably be feeling pretty good about yourself you smug son of a bitch.

I just can't see this guy
having neck problems.
20. Jason Dufner (57): Dufner took home over $3M in a four tournament stretch during 2012 and, just to prove he was for real, he tied for 4th at the U.S. Open. That made him a top ten lock for every 2013 draft and then he sleepwalked through the first six months before tying for 4th at the U.S. Open again and then BOOM, he won the PGA Championship. 2014 was a different story, however, as there would be no U.S. Open spark and no second half charge due to injuries that limited him to just three starts after June. All indications are that he is now healthy as he had finishes of T26th and T10th in November. I've got him at 20th because we've reached the point where all of the really talented remaining players have question marks but his health is a big one.

21. Brendon Todd (12): Don't forget that Todd was in the discussion for potential Ryder Cup captain's picks. It was mostly in the context of "Watson better not pick Brendon Todd" but at least he was in the discussion.

22. Jason Day (34): Day is the Rob Gronkowski of fantasy golf. When he's healthy and in the game, he's a top five talent but when he checks-out, he REALLY checks-out like he did last year after winning the Match Play and then only teeing it up twelve more times with two withdrawals. The upside is that he has finished 4th or better in five of the last eight Masters and U.S. Opens so if you're focusing on the majors, this could be your guy.

23. Martin Kaymer (14): I wouldn't pick him because I have a hard time rooting for him. Not sure why because he seems like a good dude and his game is certainly back in order but maybe it's the enduring image of him capping-off Europe's comeback win at the 2012 Ryder Cup. Ummm . . . yup, that's it. So go ahead and take him here if you (a) want to win and (b) hate America.

24. Brooks Koepka (N/A): Koepka is the type of player who could win you the league as he's going to be pretty much unknown to half the guys in the room. Here is what you need to know. He tied for 4th at last year's U.S. Open and 15th at the PGA Championship. In November events, he had a tie for 4th and a tie for 8th but, more importantly, he won the Turkish Airlines Open over players like Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson and Lee Westwood. If you want him, I wouldn't wait past this point because hopefully you're not the only one reading this.

Or maybe he'd just like to 
spend a little time with 
Candy's old work pals.
25. Hunter Mahan (62): You're probably going to have to reach a bit higher to get Mahan because, despite the inevitable in-season slump he seems to go through every year, he's finished with between $3M and $4M each season since 2009. He also has four wins over that span and three top tens in his last seven majors so he's good value anywhere after about pick fifteen. I have him lower because he dealt with some injuries last year including back and hip which send-up a bunch of red flags on the fantasy golf Carfax report. He also strikes me as the type of player who could suddenly announce out of nowhere that he's taking three months off to hang-out with his family. That makes him a great guy but a lousy fantasy pick.

26. Ryan Palmer (30): Palmer should have more to show for the sum of the parts of his game considering he hits it far, is a decent iron player and a very solid putter. Last year he finished 5th in the All Around category but ended the season without a win for the fourth time in a row. The other issue with Palmer is that his record at the majors is lousy with a tie for 5th at last year's PGA Championship and a 10th at the 2011 Masters being his only top tens. So why am I putting him here? Well, I must have had a good reason when I originally put this list together back in October . . . just can't remember what it was. In a related story, has anyone tried edible marijuana in fudge form? 

27. Cameron Tringale (61): If nothing else, you have to like Tringale based on sheer volume as he played 31 tournaments last year and made the cut in 25 of them. More importantly, he took the results up a notch in quality with three top fives and a trip to the Tour Championship. And I must admit I'm a bit swayed by his cool demeanor which makes me think a Pterodactyl could grab his caddie and he wouldn't even look-up from his yardage book.    

28. Ryan Moore (19): Moore climbed to 30th in the World Rankings thanks in part to his win at the CIMB Classic in November. Seems like every year is the "this could be the year" for him but he inevitably cruises along to finish somewhere around 20th. Last year that included another win at the CIMB Classic which means that his last two wins didn't count in any fantasy leagues other than those that factor in November tournaments and the Fantasy Golf Report does not endorse or acknowledge any such rogue operations.

"You passed on me in the
second round? Sucker."
29. Phil Mickelson (45): Phil has done nothing since his second place finish at the PGA Championship which was the lone bright spot in an otherwise dismal season but there are two things we know that make him a must pick if he's still hanging around at this point: (1) He hasn't gone a season without a top five in a major since 2007 so you know that, if nothing else, you're going to get at least one exciting run out of him, and (2) Phil is always best when he's either been counted out or he's not part of the story which is the case coming into 2015. Bottom line is that there isn't a better feeling in fantasy golf than having Phil on your team when he gets it rolling.**

30. Bill Haas (24): I wanted to fit in another sleeper here but then I looked at the list of quality players I had left-out and decided I had to pick one of them. Haas is the safest because he plays a lot (27 times last year) and he's a proven winner with five titles since 2010. The only issue is that his best major finish in nineteen starts since 2010 is a tie for 19th. I'm going to treat that as anomaly and figure it just means he's due because it's my list so I can do whatever I want. 

So there you have it. Obviously, there are a lot of deserving players who didn't make the cut including Brandt Snedeker, Webb Simpson, Charl Schwartzel, Marc Leishman, Graham DeLaet, Gary Woodland, Harris English and Kevin Na but we only have room for thirty and we know from experience that there are going to be more party crashers than the two I have in there (Koepka and Tringale) so if anything, I should have had a few more traditionally high level players on the outside looking in. We'll cover the outliers in the Fantasy Golf Sleeper Edition . . . circa 2016.   


"I want answers!!!"
*I initially took the "get those kids off my lawn" approach to the four team versus eight team college football playoff debate because I thought that extending it to eight would water it down. But after the revitalization of New Year's Day by the two games last Thursday, I am all in favor of the eight team plan if it means four games on January 1st with the first game kicking-off at noon. It would be the perfect storm of football and freedom because New Year's Day is the only day left when men aren't expected to do anything. No work, no family, no religion, no coaching, no household projects, no sentimental angle and, most importantly, no expectations. Just 12-13 hours of glorious football. How has this not already happened?

**It's very hard to reconcile the fact that I just wrote that with the fact that I was able to move out of my parent's basement and convince someone to marry me.  

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