Friday, January 20, 2017

The NFL Conference Championship Games Picks

We're just not ready to commit to golf in 2017 as a full-time relationship. Too many red flags like the nine calls a day from her mother, the proclivity for baggy sweats over yoga pants and the refusal to simply acknowledge that John Entwistle was and is the Jerry Rice of bass players (it's not like you have a real opinion on the matter and you know it's important to me so just acknowledge it dammit!). Not to mention, it's not that fun when the same guy keeps winning. So before we hit the loaded field (including you know who) at the Farmers Insurance Open next week, let's crank-out some more football nonsense.

Atlanta by 4.5 over Green Bay: The Pick - Falcons

The good news is that this has the potential to be the greatest showdown of offensive firepower in playoff history. It's not just that Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan are involved, it's that the Falcons were ranked 28th in pass defense this year, the Packers were ranked 31st and they combined to allow 63 touchdown passes. The current over/under is 61 for Chrissake! To put that into some kind of random meaningless perspective, the Rams only scored 54 points in their last five games. (The Rams only scored 224 points all season. No wonder Jeff Fisher was so pissed about getting fired?) This could be a real passing hootenanny.

The bad news is that, thanks to the chicken shit at Baltimore County Public Schools who closes the gyms every time the temperature drops below 50 degrees and the sky shakes a drop, my kids now have about twenty-seven rescheduled games stacked on top of each other this Sunday. I think the leagues are actually playing multiple games on the same courts at the same time (in the case of my daughter's basketball team, that might actually make it watchable). Oh yeah, the FGW is headed to Florida for the weekend so I'm going to be busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest . . . on a fucking roller-skate. (I added that last part to make it my own). At least I'll see the fourth quarter of this game if I haven't been incarcerated for cold-cocking a ref, a coach, a parent or all three.

Hotlanta indeed!
But back to the game. It took Dallas the better part of a quarter to realize that the Packers' secondary comes pre-shredded and that maybe getting Dez Bryant involved was a good idea. Unfortunately, by then the Cowboys, Jason Garrett and Jason Garrett's Princeton diploma were down 21-3.

Suffice it to say that it ain't going to take the Falcons nearly that long to catch-on. Especially not when they have Julio Jones and nine other players who caught multiple touchdown passes this season. And, when they do decide to run it, they have arguably two of the ten best running backs in the league. Sprinkle in the fact that the Packers' receivers are all beat-up while the Falcons are relatively healthy and this feels like a one touchdown game. Falcons - 31 . . . Packers - 24.

New England by 5.5 over Pittsburgh: The Pick - Steelers

This would probably be a good time to mention that my pick for this game may be influenced by the fact that I made a somewhat ill-advised wager on the eve of the playoffs that BOTH the Patriots and the Cowboys would NOT make it to the Super Bowl because I was a DRUNK (I did get odds . . . though not very good ones). This pick is, however, quite defensible and here are a few reasons why:

(1) The Patriots gaudy record is bullshit. Ten of their fifteen wins this year were against losing teams and five of those ten were against the absolute drek of the league (Rams, 49ers, Browns and the Jets twice). Four of their wins against supposedly "good" teams are suspect because two were against the Dolphins who they've been treating like a rented minivan for the last fifteen years and another two were against the Texans who might have been the worst team to win a division in any sport since, well, I guess the 2015 Texans who went 9-7 and then got smoked by the Chiefs in the first round 30-0. Therefore, the only quality team they actually beat was the Steelers way back in Week 7 which might make you say "hold the phone there mister" but that just delivers us right to our next point which is that . . . 

(2) The Steelers have won eight games in a row including a manhandling of the Giants when they were rolling, a come from behind win over the Ravens in a must-win game (excuse me . . . FFFFFUUUUUCCCCCCKKKKKK!!!!!! . . . ok, I'm back) and last week's win over the Chiefs. Some people are discounting that one because they weren't able to put the ball into the endzone and we like to call those people dumb asses (among other things). The Steelers dominated that game in yards gained and time of possession against a good team coming off a bye in a brutal place to play primarily because they have the best running back since Adrian Peterson in his prime. Oh yeah, they also have the best receiver in the league and a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback who is at the peak of his talents. And one other thing . . .

"Stop touching me!!!"
(3) The Steelers have the SMOTF a/k/a the Scariest Mutherfucker on the Field in James Harrison. Don't underestimate the value of the SMOTF, especially against Tom Brady who has been known to turtle against other SMOTF's like Von Miller, Terrell Suggs, Trevor Pryce and Michael Strahan. We'll know by the end of the first quarter. If the Pats have a couple three and outs and the Golden Boy takes a few shots, it will be anybody's ballgame.

Of course as someone who despises both of these teams with the heat of a thousand suns, the only acceptable outcome would be for the entire stadium to just disappear from the face of the planet during the third quarter with Phil Simms in it. We'd just need to get Giselle out of there by halftime. Pittsburgh - 27 . . . New England - 24.

Last Week's Record: 2-2

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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!    


* 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.   

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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'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 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.    


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." 

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