Monday, October 24, 2016

2016-17 NBA Preseason Power Rankings

I can't believe basketball season is already here since that instant classic of a Game 7 in the Finals felt like yesterday, yet here we are. Today was the cut down date for rosters to get to 15 players, meaning things are still a bit in flux, so here are just my brief thoughts on how each team that I plan on expanding on once things begin to settle down. As usual, I'm listing teams' raw point differential as the best way to evaluate how they truly performed along with their offensive and defensive efficiency listed on

1. Golden State Warriors (1st in the West)
2016: 73-9, Point Differential: +10.8 (1st), Offense: 112.5 (1st), Defense: 100.9 (T-4th)

I knew there was a chance, but it's still hard to wrap my ahead around the fact that Kevin Durant is a part of this team. They are the prohibitive favorites to win it all and have a Vegas over/under of 66.5 wins that sounds silly at first until you consider that they won 67 in Steve Kerr's first year as coach before last year's NBA record of 73 wins. I'd still caution against betting that at all considering that they won't be pushing for the record again, but with their talent, it's hard not to see them around the 70 win mark. Unlike the 2010-11 Miami Heat, this team should mesh immediately with their shooting and lack of ball dominating skill sets, and their All-NBA stars are all in the peak of their primes, giving them more staying power than the 2007-08 Boston Celtics. Durant fits in seamlessly with his shooting, passing, positional versatility, and overall unselfishness while also adding more shot blocking with more length than Harrison Barnes provided in their smaller lineups and provides the one thing they were missing in their league-best offense: the ability to get to the free throw line.
I used this slide for school in a hypothetical free agency pitch, but it's relevant here to show KD's fit.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers (1st in the East)
2016: 57-25, Point Differential: +6.0 (4th), Offense: 108.1 (4th), Defense: 102.3 (10th)

It will be interesting to see how much LeBron James and the defending champs coast now that they finally delivered a trophy for Cleveland. With the Matthew Dellavedova sign and trade and Mo Williams late retirement, they are mostly relying on rookie second rounder Kay Felder as backup point guard, and although he is a potential dynamo, they might have to tax James with the strain of leading the second unit in his age-32 season. They remain mostly unchallenged atop the East and still have the best player of his generation to lead the way to 55-60 win campaign, but Zach Lowe made a great point in his recent tiers rankings: there's never been a Finals trilogy. Even the famed 1980's Celtics and Lakers would stumble upon the Sixers and Rockets in the middle of their historic meetings, so you never know what can happen.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

2016 NFL Week 7 Picks

I didn't feel great about the games last week and should have went with some of the teams I liked in teasers as my picks like the Patriots and Cardinals. Of course, the Seahawks would have come through on a teaser but failed to cover after a disastrous third quarter following a dominant first half, dropping me perilously close to .500 on the season. Time to change that!

Giants -2.5 "at" Rams (in London)

Odell Beckham Jr. is starting to look like his game breaking self again, and the Giants defense is playing decently enough that I expect them to take care of business on what is essentially a neutral field. In particular, they rank 9th in run defense DVOA on Football Outsiders while the Rams have the 31st best run offense since they can't seem to block for Todd Gurley. Although Case Keenum has been playing over his head, I am not too concerned about him airing it out more than Eli Manning.
This could be a spot for Olivier Vernon to convert his pressures into sacks.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

2016 NFL Week 6 Picks

I'm going to keep this short since balancing school, work, and these posts have taken a toll on my picks lately, but alas, I abide by Vince Vaughn's wise words in Wedding Crashers: Rule #76, no excuses, play like a champion.

Steelers -7 at Dolphins

Coming off of back to back big home wins, I am somewhat hesitant taking Pittsburgh on the road since Big Ben's numbers haven't been as dominant away from Heinz Field, but Miami is coming off back to back bad losses. Their secondary is likely to get picked apart by this explosive attack, and Ryan Tannehill might not have much time in the pocket with this offensive line trying to block the Steelers' fierce front. A healthy Arian Foster could help if he is set to make his return, but it won't matter if the Steelers get up early and tee off.
I like Antonio Brown's chances of finding the end zone again this week.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

2016 NFL Week 5 Picks

Looking back on it, picking against Pittsburgh at home was about as bad as my Week 3 pick against New England. Big Ben and that offense often looks unstoppable in the friendly confines of Heinz Field, and that helps their defense tee off and play at a higher level. I was tempted to go with them at home again this week against a slumping Jets team, but the public was too swayed by last week and pumped the line up from -6 to -9.5. I thought about taking the Texans +7 what figures to be a low scoring slugfest with Minnesota's main outside threat Stefon Diggs ruled out, but I still expect the Vikings to win at home if they keep feeding Jerrick McKinnon.  Lastly, the other pick that I almost went with is Green Bay -7 at home, but although I like the Packers to win, I expect Odell Beckham Jr. to bounce back in a shootout that could get close.

Patriots -10.5 at Browns

This line has gotten a bit inflated after opening at 7.5, but they really can't this one high enough, even if it's on the road against an opponent that never seems to go away. Coming off an embarrassing home loss where they struggled in all phases of the game, you can bet that Bill Belichick will have them ready for this one and all the trickery involving Terrelle Pryor. Although I don't completely buy into the narrative of "angry Tom Brady" (he's a first ballot Hall of Famer; it's not like he's ever needed extra motivation thus far), the value of his return is immeasurable. Combine that with Rob Gronkowski continuing to get healthier and Cleveland's slot corner Tramon Williams dealing with a shoulder injury against Julian Edelman, and sometimes you just don't want to overthink things.
Tom Terrific is always in line for a big season, "scandal" or not.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

2016 NFL Week 4 Picks

Alright, now we're starting to get a bit more of a sample size with three weeks of games in the books. I still had another blowout loss in my picks with Pittsburgh suffering some key injuries on defense and proving to be a touch overrated, but we're going to stay positive in this space! After some initial hesitancy with laying -7.5, I took the Bengals at home against an over matched defense on a short week (albeit with Miami's run defense holding surprisingly steady before the awesome A.J. Green took advantage of their inexperienced corners), so I'm 4/5 on my most recent picks. Book the flight to Vegas!

Broncos -3 at Buccaneers

This is a rare 1:05 pm PST start for a western team traveling east, and it's welcome change to help balance that there are SEVEN 10:00 am games. Tampa had this same situation last week hosting L.A., and San Diego got a 1:25 pm game in Indy last week while Oakland has back to back early starts. It seems pretty arbitrary to put certain West Coast teams at that built in disadvantage over others, and selfishly, it puts us viewers in a scramble with so many early games and few options late!

Okay, now that I got that off my chest, I'm going with the surprisingly 3-0 defending champs thanks to the growth of Trevor Siemian, who is starting to let it rip and make better throws in the red zone. Their ferocious defense should be able to contain Jameis Winston, Mike Evans, and Charles Sims, so the inexperienced passer just needs to make enough plays to open up the running game. The Bucs are stout against the run, but they struggled against Case Keenum with top rusher Robert Ayers out.

The AFC Defensive Player of the Month could feast on TB's tackles.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

NFL 2016 Week 3 Picks

Week 2's are always tough because you don't want to overreact to one  game, but that's all you have to go on besides preseason expectations. I struggled with my picks after the Jets won on Thursday, with the Giants not covering by a point after kneeling at the 1 and the Jaguars and Bears killing themselves with turnovers that took them out of any chance to win, but I did get it right with the Texans, which is where I'm going to start my redemption week. Posting this early for the Thursday night game, and I'll add the rest over the weekend.

Texans -1 at Patriots

This feels like the type of game Bill Belichick somehow pulls out when the odds are stacked against him like in Week 1 at Arizona, but they had all offseason to get Jimmy Garoppolo ready for that one compared to a short week for the third round rookie , Jacoby Brissett. A good defense travels, and J.J. Watt's group will be ready to terrorize the third string quarterback who relied almost exclusively on passes at the line of scrimmage in relief last week. That will change with first team reps at practice, but it will be difficult to match points with the suddenly explosive Texans, whose new additions at the skill positions are paying off.

Image result for jadeveon clowney
Now back at defensive end, JD Clowney has been dominating
9/24 Addition:
Man, when I lose a pick, I lose BIG, with another team that shot themselves in the foot. Note to self: don't pick against your Super Bowl pick at home, no matter who's starting.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

NFL 2016 Week 2 Picks

The last couple of seasons, my weekly posts have faded down the stretch due to priorities with work and school, so I'm going to change things up a bit this year and only highlight a handful of picks each week that I at least have some sort of confidence in after going much more in depth in my season preview. Due to a lack of injury information on most teams earlier in the week, I won't always have picks for the dreaded Thursday games, but I had the Jets in that surprising shootout.

Giants -4 versus the Saints

It'll take more than that to stop OBJ.
The Cowboys' usual keep away tactics didn't let the Giants get their explosive offense into rhythm, limiting them to a minuscule 54 total plays in just 23:17 of possession, but New York is in a great spot this week at home against a bad Saints defense that lost their top corner Delvin Breux while giving up 35 points last week. The Giants lost this matchup 52-49 in New Orleans last year at the last minute, but Drew Brees has been mortal on the road in recent season, with a 288.1 yards per game average and 9-6 touchdown to interception ratio away from home compared to 356.6 YPG and a 23-5 ratio in the Superdome last year. It will be hard to match last year's jaw-dropping numbers, but New Orleans natives Eli Manning (30/41 for 350 yards, 6 touchdowns, and no picks) and Odell Beckham (caught 8 of 9 targets for 130 yards and 3 scores) should have no trouble carving up this defense again.