Archive for January, 2008

Super Bowl Preview

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

New York Giants (+12) vs. New England Patriots

Comments: The Giants have won 10 straight road games, including three highly impressive victories in the postseason. New York played New England very tough just five weeks ago, but like every other opponent the Patriots have faced this season, ultimately lost. New England has been terrible against the spread recently, but one of the biggest reasons for that, the weather, will be a non-factor Sunday. Moreover, the two-week layoff typically benefits the favorite. If that’s not enough, the public is heavily on the Giants’ side. But wait, there’s more; New York also decided it’d be a good idea to run their mouths all week, effectively putting the nail in their coffin. New England wins another Super Bowl.

Patriots 41-20

First Base Rankings

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

1. Ryan Howard
2. Albert Pujols
3. Prince Fielder

4. Mark Teixeira
5. Justin Morneau
6. Lance Berkman
7. Derrek Lee
8. Carlos Pena
9. Adrian Gonzalez

10. Paul Konerko
11. Nick Swisher
12. James Loney
13. Todd Helton
14. Casey Kotchman
15. Carlos Delgado
16. Conor Jackson
17. Joey Votto
18. Ryan Garko
19. Kevin Youkilis
20. Daric Barton

21. Nick Johnson
22. Dan Johnson
23. Adam LaRoche
24. Lyle Overbay
25. Richie Sexson
26. Mike Jacobs
27. Aubrey Huff

The Scoop

Monday, January 28th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Albert Pujols is falling down my draft board. Don’t get me wrong, I’m normally all about drafting guys coming off down years, and Pujols is still unquestionably one of the three best hitters in the game. However, if his lineup protection was concerning, his health woes are flat-out worrisome. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to spend a top-5 pick on someone who is already talking about surgery in January. Right now, I’d take David Wright, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and maybe even Miguel Cabrera over him.

Dan Uggla is unlikely to be on any of my fantasy teams this year. The counting stats are nice, but do not underestimate how much of an average-killer the strikeout prone second baseman is. Good luck scoring 113 runs again with a .326 OBP, especially with Miguel Cabrera no longer around. I’d rather a boring option, like Jeff Kent. I wouldn’t even be surprised if Kelly Johnson has a better fantasy season than Uggla.

I’m hardly stepping out on a limb here, but I expect Alex Gordon to be a top-10 fantasy third baseman in 2008. So he failed to live up to big expectations as a 23-year-old – big deal. The talent and swing are still there. Kansas City is actually a very good environment for hitters, and his 25-steal potential is underrated. Gordon is absolutely someone to target.

I’m baffled participating in leagues where Dontrelle Willis is still being drafted in the mid-rounds. Maybe some velocity will return, and maybe the league switch will result in early success thanks to the unique delivery, but really, there’s not a lot to be optimistic about. He’s had poor WHIPs and K:BB ratios for consecutive seasons, including last year, when he allowed a disgusting 29 homers in 177 innings versus righties. A switch to the AL means things might actually be even worse in 2008.

No one’s going to have the same impact Ryan Braun did as a rookie last season, or even Hunter Pence, for that matter, but Evan Longoria might be the closest thing in 2008. If he is given the opportunity, nice numbers should follow.

Felipe Lopez is a solid bounce back candidate. One year removed from a 44-steal campaign, Lopez was a massive disappointment last season, thanks in large part to joining the Nationals. In fact, he was limited to just two homers in 309 at-bats at RFK Stadium. Their new confines should be much more friendly to hitters, and as long as he can beat out Ronnie Belliard, Lopez is an excellent value pick in fantasy leagues.

Here are Scott Kazmir’s numbers after the All-Star break last season: 2.39 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, .222 BAA, 124:31 K:BB ratio over 94.1 innings. A simple change in mechanics combined with maturation led to Kazmir finally reaching his vast potential. His small frame will always bring health questions, and pitching in the AL East is far from ideal, but that type of strikeout ability can only be matched by Erik Bedard. It’d be nice if Kazmir could become more efficient, but after turning just 24 years old this week, there’s still even more room to grow. At worst, consider him a top-10 fantasy pitcher in 2008.

If I’m the Dolphins and I’ve been offered Marion Barber and multiple high round draft picks for the rights to Darren McFadden, my biggest worry would be the cops showing up to arrest me for robbery.

The Tim Lincecum versus Yovani Gallardo debate is not easy. On one hand, Gallardo has better command, poise, an improved Brewers defense behind him and the far superior lineup. On the other hand, Lincecum, although less safe, comes with even more upside. He posted 9.24 K/ 9 IP as a rookie, plays in a pitcher’s paradise and has an elite outfield defense behind him. Obviously, the wins category will be in Gallardo’s favor, but Lincecum’s devastating 95-98 MPH two-seam fastball, curve and developing changeup make him simply one of the toughest pitchers to hit in the game. In the end, both are top-20 fantasy options.

Last year’s numbers hardly suggest it, but Delmon Young could jump into the fantasy elite this season. If he finds himself batting in between Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, he can remain an average regular and still beat last year’s solid counting stats. Of course, he might also start tapping into that unlimited potential and become a star. A 25/25 season is hardly out of the question, and because his swing produces so many line drives, his average should approach .300 despite less than ideal strikeout totals. Remember that he’s still just 22 years old.

Top-5 Quarterbacks of All-Time

1. Tom Brady
2. Peyton Manning
3. Steve Young
4. Joe Montana
5. Dan Marino

Industry Draft

Saturday, January 26th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

I hesitate to write about this because talking about personal drafts does get tiresome, and this will hardly be the last one I mention before Opening Day. However, I actually do think it’s helpful to look at as many drafts as possible, to get a better feel about how things are going down. Anyway, I took part in an industry draft a couple of days ago, and here are the results.

My Team:

C – Joe Mauer
C – Brian McCann
1B – Ryan Howard
2B – B.J. Upton
3B – Edwin Encarnacion
SS – Carlos Guillen
MI – Stephen Drew
CI – James Loney
OF – Johnny Damon
OF – Juan Pierre
OF – Michael Cuddyer
OF – JD Drew
OF – Lastings Milledge
UTIL – Billy Butler

P – Erik Bedard
P – Felix Hernandez
P – Matt Cain
P – Tim Lincecum
P – Yovani Gallardo
P – Pedro Martinez
P – Randy Johnson
P – Barry Zito
P – Orlando Hernandez

Comments: That’s right. I took “Boss Junior” over Johan Santana and Ryan Braun. I also didn’t draft a closer by choice, but I’ll get into that strategy more later on. Honestly, I like this squad a pretty good amount. I mean, I guess I went outside the box by drafting Mauer and McCann pretty early, and like all fantasy teams, I’ll need health to go my way, but I like where I stand in most categories other than saves. I’m not a big fan of the Pierre pick, and Willy Taveras 2-3 rounds later seems like better value, but other than that, these so-called experts are going to be looking up in the standings this year.

The Scoop

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Hanley Ramirez versus Jose Reyes is the biggest debate entering the 2008 season. Ramirez should hit for a higher average and much more power, but he’s coming off shoulder surgery and bats in a far inferior lineup, especially with Miguel Cabrera gone. Reyes was brutal during September, but his price tag should be slightly lower, can single-handedly win you the steals category and has shown an improved walk rate. In the end, the guess here is that if you end up with either player, you’ll be quite happy.

Catcher is incredibly thin this year, even more so than usual. After the top-5, there’s a precipitous drop off. There are some decent sleepers to be had later on, but if you’re playing in a two-catcher league, you better address the position fairly early.

I could make a decent argument that B.J. Upton deserves to be a first round fantasy pick this year. He’ll be available at second base, posted an .894 OPS as a 22-year-old and nearly went 25/25 last season despite playing in fewer than 130 games. Sure, his high K-rate and BABIP from last year suggests a lower batting average is in store, but he also started to develop a keen batting eye after the All-Star break. When you combine his age with his power/speed potential, few can match that upside. I wouldn’t be all that surprised if he were a top-3 pick next year.

Howie Kendrick and Casey Kotchman are going to seriously outperform their ADPs this season. Neither will be a big help in the power department, but average is the most underappreciated category, and both of these Angels have the ability to hit .310-.340 as soon as this season. In fact, neither have a batting average. They have a batting outstanding.

Remember Ugueth Urbina? Whatever happened to that trial? Dude still in jail?

Travis Hafner is a confounding player, as there’s no telling whether Pronk’s 2007 was the beginning of a decline or just an aberration. His OPS dropped a full .160 points from the prior season, and he’s about to turn 31 years old. His body type isn’t exactly conducive to aging gracefully. Still, his plate discipline remained strong last year, and he was arguably baseball’s best hitter from 2005-2006. It would have been nice had an injury been to blame, but no major one was reported, and the huge decline in slugging is cause for concern. Draft him only if it comes at a significant discount.

Did you guys hear? They found bin Laden.

Right now, Erik Bedard sits No. 3 on my SP rankings, and I’m closer to moving him higher than lower. After April of last season, he posted a 2.34 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. He also limits homers and flashed an incredible 10.9 K/9 IP. His oblique injury also limited his innings, making him more likely to enter 2008 with a fresh arm. Moreover, a trade is a real possibility, and a move out of the AL East (into the NL?) would be a major boon to his stats as well. Go get him.

Top-5 Kurt Russell Movies

1. Tombstone
2. Escape From New York
3. Captain Ron
4. Overboard
5. Tango & Cash

Tuesday Morning Quarterback

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Philip Rivers’ performance obviously needs to be taken in context, as the numbers reveal a poor outing. Playing without LaDainian Tomlinson and a clearly hobbled Antonio Gates, Rivers made plenty of impressive throws with a completely torn ACL. He deserves a bunch of credit…No one really should have been surprised by Tomlinson’s absence; the writing was clearly on the wall there. He wasn’t just hurt, he was injured…San Diego’s secondary is pretty good at creating turnovers…Laurence Maroney’s last five weeks have been a complete 180. He has the moves and speed to really impress at times. Of course, with each successive big game in the spotlight, he becomes less and less of a value pick in fantasy leagues next year…Not sure what “consensual horseplay” is, but it sounds like fun…Yes, Kevin Faulk is the most underrated Patriot…Pretty crazy that Randy Moss has two catches for 32 yards during the postseason. He never had fewer than 32 yards receiving in a single game all season long.

I haven’t done the research, but I’d be surprised if the Giants aren’t the first team to reach the Super Bowl with a 3-5 home record…Plaxico Burress was the best player on the field Sunday. Coming off a season in which he caught a dozen touchdown passes playing with a torn up ankle for most of it, Burress enters 2008 as a top-8 fantasy WR, at worst…I love Brandon Jacobs’ bruising and wearing down style, but Ahmad Bradshaw is the better running back right now…Has there ever been a team that relies more on their line than the Giants? Not sure why Mike McCarthy gave up on the run so early, especially in those conditions, but New York’s front seven really dominated, despite the lack of sacks…I had no idea Donald Driver possessed that kind of speed still…The Giants will probably get blown out by New England in two weeks, but winning at Tampa Bay, Dallas and Green Bay is an unbelievable accomplishment.

Championship Preview

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

San Diego (+14) at New England

Comments: The Chargers should be applauded for their gutsy effort last week, but that result ended hopes for football fans wanting a close AFC Championship game. A healthy San Diego team would be unlikely to hang around in New England, let alone a beat up one. I’m not so worried about LaDainian Tomlinson being out as I am Antonio Gates and Philip Rivers being hobbled. San Diego is going to need to pressure Tom Brady with its athletic linebackers, but that also leaves them susceptible to the deep ball. New England wins in a rout.

Patriots 34-17

New York Giants (+7) at Green Bay

Comments: I’ve been getting killed going favorite-heavy so far in the postseason and apparently haven’t learned my lesson. I’m finished counting out the Giants; this team deserves to be here. However, Green Bay is a very good football team, especially at home. Their depth at wide receiver should really test a depleted New York secondary. Maybe the Giants’ fierce pass rush can pressure Brett Favre into a couple mistakes, but more likely, the Packers will be the squad creating the turnovers. Green Bay, who opened the season as 60/1 long shots to win it all, improbably represents the NFC in the Super Bowl.

Packers 27-17

Note: I’ll be out of town for the weekend, but look for RotoScoop to start extensive baseball coverage first thing next week. You won’t want to miss it.

Hoops Scoop

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

I take another look around the league over at NBA.com.

Monday Morning Quarterback

Monday, January 14th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Imagine if Seattle hadn’t been gifted a 14-0 lead…Atari Bigby had to have one of the bigger “where did that come from?” games of the season Saturday…Ironic how Charles Woodson went from being typically overrated in Oakland to being one of the best football players this season, yet pretty much under the radar for the most part…I like Matt Hasselbeck’s game, but I like Mike Holmgren’s offensive system even more. If he leaves town, Seattle’s passing unit needs to be downgraded significantly…Remember when all of New England was crying about Deion Branch leaving town? Good times. Like Billy Beane in baseball, it’s best not to trade with the Patriots…Green Bay’s rushing attack went from being a weakness, to a strength, to a top-three unit in football. Ryan Grant is a mid-first round pick in fantasy leagues next year.

Played NBA2K8 for PS3 over the weekend. Probably the most realistic, and best, (sports) video game ever made.

I realize it’s not a terribly important position, but Jacksonville’s lack of talent at wide receiver killed them Saturday night. Dennis Northcutt probably just dropped another pass as I’m writing this…I was on board with the Jaguars’ game plan of never blitzing and taking away the deep ball, but it’s hard to get burned deep in the red zone; they should have blitzed on a couple of those third downs from the 10-yard line…Tom Brady’s performance was masterful, don’t get me wrong, but completion percentage is obviously far less important than YPA…Watching Laurence Maroney reel off four straight big games has to be frustrating for his fantasy owners from this past season.

“Celebrity Rehab” is my new favorite show. Like a car accident on the side of the road, shamefully, I can’t peel my eyes away from it.

I can’t remember a more disappointing performance out of a sports franchise than how the Colts played Sunday. At least not in recent memory. It’s like the secondary forgot how to play football…Thanks for showing up, Marvin Harrison. Now, don’t let the door hit you on your way out…Reggie Wayne is more a product of Indy’s system than a truly special wide receiver. His hands could really improve…In the most important game of the season, LaDainian Tomlinson, Joseph Addai, Antonio Gates, Marvin Harrison and Philip Rivers all left the game hurt at one point. Most were at least hobbled throughout…Credit where credit is due: Philip Rivers has been nothing short of fantastic over the last six quarters…Were you as surprised as me to find out Adam Vinatieri hadn’t made a single field goal from more than 39 yards all season long?…I’ve heard from more than a few people declaring Peyton Manning had a poor game Sunday, but the guy completed nearly 70 percent of his passes and got 8.4 YPA. Both interceptions could have easily been caught…Teams should not be charged a timeout inside 2 minutes if an injury occurs on a dead ball (i.e. an incomplete pass). That rule makes zero sense…I don’t understand Tomlinson’s comments saying how he could have returned if the score was different. Really? Down three points in the fourth quarter of an AFC Divisional game didn’t qualify? I’m not calling him soft. I’m saying I doubt he plays this week…Sunday offered more proof than ever how unimportant the RB position is. Did anyone notice a difference between LT and Michael Turner? Didn’t think so…Teams simply must stop insisting on calling three straight run plays when a first down wins you the game. Not only did Sunday’s playcalling make even less sense since Indy had timeouts, but it’s even more perplexing when you factor in that the defense is gearing toward run, further making a first down via the ground less likely. Call your favorite pass play; if it doesn’t work, your opponent is left with one more timeout. If it does, the game is over…I really wanted to see a Colts vs. Patriots matchup again.

I was glad to see “Extras,” “Mad Men,” David Duchovny, Javier Bardem and Daniel Day-Lewis all win Golden Globes.

No team relies on winning the battle in the trenches more than the Giants, and their line is the No. 1 reason why this team is playing in the NFC Championship game…It’s not saying much, but it appears Steve Smith has a chance at being the best WR from USC in quite a while…How much do prospective Brandon Jacobs 2008 fantasy owners have to worry about Ahmad Bradshaw?…I still can’t wrap my head around watching Terrell Owens cry profusely while defending Tony Romo over taking a vacation in Mexico with Jessica Simpson…The new “American Gladiators” is more likely to win an Emmy than Julius Jones returning in a Dallas uniform next season…Trying to tackle Marion Barber does not look fun…Eli Manning and Philip Rivers playing terrific football in January. Yep, it’s definitely bizarro world.

Divisional Preview

Thursday, January 10th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Seahawks +8 at Packers

Comments: The Seahawks don’t travel well, and while passing is far more important than running, becoming too one-dimensional can really make you easy to defend, especially when your best playmaker (D.J. Hackett) is hobbled. Charles Woodson’s health is a concern, but Green Bay should enter prepared and with a superior defense and offense. Upsets should almost be expected in the NFL, but I’d be pretty surprised if all four home teams didn’t only win but also cover this weekend.

Packers 27-17

Jaguars +13 at Patriots

Comments: The best thing that could happen to the Jaguars is inclement weather Saturday night, as their more physical style is better suited to those conditions. Jacksonville’s overly relied on its red zone defense this season (their YPA and YPC allowed suggests the defense isn’t nearly as impressive as everyone thinks), something that’s not a safe method during December. New England’s front seven (especially the old linebackers) can be run on, and you can bet the Jags will put that to the test. However, once the Pats’ high-powered passing attack starts putting points on the board, the Jags are ill suited to play from behind.

Patriots 31-17



Chargers +8.5 at Colts

Comments: The Chargers have been on a roll, winners of seven straight. Still, it’s come almost exclusively against weak competition, and this team is hardly special when away from San Diego. The Colts have had two weeks to prepare, are getting healthier and will have revenge on their minds after losing to the Chargers earlier this season. A Philip Rivers led passing attack minus Antonio Gates against the NFL’s best secondary? This is one of my favorite bets of the year.

Colts 34-13

Giants +7.5 at Cowboys

Comments: I hate to put too much significance on one player, but Terrell Owens’ health really is huge here. The Cowboys’ offense put a pretty good beating on the Giants’ secondary during both the previous games this season, and Owens was the main reason why. In the end, I expect him to be out there and healthy enough to make a major impact, and while the Giants have been tough on the road, Dallas has a pretty good run D, which plays against New York’s strength. Moreover, the Dallas O-line can neutralize New York’s pass rush. The public is all over New York, so expect Dallas to roll.

Cowboys 31-17

Thursday Morning Quarterback

Thursday, January 10th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Todd Collins may lack in arm strength, but he was pretty good this season all things considered. Forget the ugly late-game interceptions last week, Collins was one of the biggest surprises of the season…Matt Hasselbeck was pretty clearly not playing at 100 percent last week. The Seattle offense did the best they could not to win that game…I really hope D.J. Hackett ends up on a bunch of my fantasy teams next year. Since the injuries suppressed his numbers so much, he’s definitely someone to target as a value pick in 2008…Referees should always err on the side of the play that is later reviewable as opposed to vice-versa. This drives me absolutely crazy.

The Steelers/Jags game was an instant classic. Jacksonville is clearly the better football team, but they should consider themselves lucky to still be alive. I understand the importance of running time off the clock, but that Ben Roethlisberger designed sweep was quite a head-scratcher. I feel like teams too often fall into the trap of doing what they are “supposed” to do instead of giving themselves the best chance of winning…I love Roethlisberger’s ability to hang tough in the pocket and the impressive YPA, but man, he sure does take too many sacks…Is Hines Ward the best possession receiver ever?…Heath Miller could be a fantasy force if he were featured in the game plan like that more often…I disagreed with Mike Tomlin’s original decision to go for two with the score 28-23 with so much time left – can you really expect to prevent Jacksonville from even a field goal for the final 10:25? But the move to still go for two from the 12-yard line in that situation was the single dumbest decision I’ve ever seen in my life. And I’m not exaggerating.

Ironic how the team that rested its players Weeks 15 and 16 jumped out to the early lead Sunday, while the supposedly sharper Giants took a good quarter to get into the flow of things. In the end, that debate wasn’t really answered…Jeff Garcia was seriously exposed, especially with a hobbled Joey Galloway at his disposal…Michael Pittman is one of the best receivers out of the backfield of any running back in the league.

As good of a first half Cortland Finnegan played Sunday, he was equally as bad during the second half. I think I just sounded like Tim McCarver there…In almost every circumstance, quarterbacks make the receivers, and I’m by no means making excuses for Vince Young’s atrocious 2007, but come on, that Titans wideout corpse was possibly the worst unit I’ve ever seen…Jeff Fisher deserves all the credit in the world for his coaching job this season. That team had no business being in the postseason, especially coming out of the AFC.

The 49ers’ hiring of Mike Martz as offensive coordinator is quite interesting. On the surface, it makes very little sense considering their personnel, especially since their best player is at running back. Still, I’m not ready to lower Frank Gore’s fantasy value next year, as he should approach 80-90 catches.

END OF YEAR AWARDS

Coach of the Year: Bill Belichick – Yes, he was coaching the team with the most talent, but don’t try to get cute; the Patriots went 16-0! If I were starting a franchise from scratch, I’d make Bill Belichick the No. 1 pick, ahead of any current player in the league. It’s an even easier choice when you consider longevity.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Adrian Peterson – A no-brainer.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Patrick Willis – A no-brainer.

Defensive Player of the Year: Nnamdi Asomugha – Jared Allen was the best defensive end, Patrick Willis was the best linebacker, Albert Haynesworth was the most dominant tackle, and Bob Sanders was the class of all safeties, but Asomugha was the NFL’s best defensive player in 2007. Charles Woodson was also terrific, but a toe injury derailed the latter part of his otherwise brilliant season. Asomugha’s numbers don’t stand out – 34 tackles and one INT – but that was because of the single craziest stat of the year: he was targeted 28 times all season long, resulting in a microscopic 10 catches allowed. Almost always lined up in man coverage, Asomugha is a physical, rare talent with the ability to match up with any sized receiver in the league. Part of the reason he saw so few targets had to do with the Raiders’ poor run D, but the same could be said about Denver, and Champ Bailey was picked on this season. A truly dominant, shutdown corner in the NFL these days is a rare thing, and Asomugha is the exception.

Worst Defensive Player of the Year: Jason David – He allowed an eye-popping 14.5 yards per pass. That’s almost unfathomable.

MVP: Tom Brady – The only argument would be Randy Moss, but I look at it like this: if I were playing New England, I’d rather face them without Brady than I would sans Moss.

Hoops Scoop

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

Check out my notes around the league post.

NBA.com Chat

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

Here’s a transcript from an “expert’s chat” held at NBA.com from Tuesday. I played the part of expert.

Best of 2007

Monday, January 7th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

With fantasy football season finished and baseball still a couple of months away, it’s as good a time as any to put sports on the backburner for a day or two. After last year’s debut of RotoScoop’s best and worst column ended up being a smashing success, it’s time for the 2007 version.

One caveat before we get started. While it’s an objective fact I’m better than you at fantasy sports, I understand the following “art” is more subjective, and the hierarchy of it all is less important than it’s inclusion in the first place. There’s something ridiculous about comparing a comedy with a drama. And now, without further ado, my 2007 Year-End Lists:

MOVIES

Weird how almost all of the year’s good movies typically come out during December/January. It’s almost as if the picture doesn’t want to end up a RotoScoop favorite. I digress. Anyway, I haven’t seen “There Will Be Blood,” and since I’m a huge Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis fan, I’d be surprised if it’s not worthy of inclusion at a later date.

10. Death Proof – More than anything, “Grindhouse” can best be described as a truly unique movie going experience. If you didn’t see this in the theatre, then forget about it; it’s simply not the same. “Death Proof” was the superior, second half to the double feature, and admittedly, I always have a soft spot for Quentin Tarantino. It’s a film that consists of mostly dialogue and good old-fashioned stunts as opposed to CGI. And last but not least, the fake trailers, which appeared before and in between the movies in the theatre, are pretty ridiculous.

9. Eastern Promises – Far from great, “Eastern Promises” doesn’t even come close to matching David Cronenberg’s last film, the amazing “A History of Violence.” Still, it keeps your interest, with a paradox at its core. I liked its lack of resolution.

8. 3:10 To Yuma – First, a confession: I’ll watch anything with Christian Bale in it. “American Psycho” is definitely one of my five favorite movies of all-time. I’m no fan of westerns, but they simply don’t make movies like this anymore, and I was thoroughly entertained. Ben Foster might be one of the most underrated actors out there right now.

7. Once – This script pretty much reads, “boy meets girl. They sing. The end.” Still, it’s shot very well, is unique and the songs will stay with you for days. For what it’s worth, this is my fiancée’s favorite movie of the year.

6. American Gangster – While there may not be anything special about this movie, it’s acted and executed quite well. Pretty crazy for a true story.

5. Superbad – It’s very funny, if not also blatantly immature. The first half of the movie rates right up there with just about any other on the laugh scale, but it drops off significantly from there on. Still, there’s some terrific dialogue here. “The funny thing about my back is…”

4. Knocked Up – The year’s biggest debate has to be “Superbad or Knocked Up?” While I acknowledge it’s somewhat close, I side pretty heavily toward the more adult “Knocked Up,” which certainly possesses more substance.

3. Zodiac – I did say I reserved the right to change my mind when I previously ranked Zodiac as my favorite David Fincher film, and after a repeat viewing, I’m flip-flopping. It’s still a great film – and certainly the most realistic Fincher flick – but after further review, it’s not as MEMORABLE as the others. My new rank: 1. Se7en 2. Fight Club 3. Zodiac

2. Juno – Written by an ex-stripper and phone sex operator, “Juno” tries to be a little too hip for its own good at times (Dwight from “The Office” saying “home skillet” comes to mind), but this movie is much more rewarding than the vastly inferior “Little Miss Sunshine.” It’s the rare movie that makes you both laugh and cry. I wasn’t a fan of director Jason Reitman’s first film (“Thank You For Smoking”), but here he gets it right. I liked Ellen Page in “Hard Candy.” I loved her in “Juno.” Her dynamic with the adoptive parents is something special, as is this movie.

1. No Country For Old Men – Odd movie. Little character development yet Chigurh haunted me for weeks. And how would you describe its genre? An action/comedy? The Coen brothers finally decided to start respecting their characters, without a snarky wink, and the results are fantastic. I refuse to accept the notion there was a movie released this year that kept you more on the edge of your seat for 2 hours. We all have choices to make in our lives, and never has silence been so loud.

TELEVISION

10. The Shield – Season 6 wasn’t as good as the amazing Seasons 4 and 5, but that’s hardly an indictment. Far from your average procedural cop drama, “The Shield” is griping and unapologetic. Walton Goggins is the best actor no one knows about.

9. 30 Rock – “30 Rock” has become so underrated, it’s now overrated. While most would point to Tracy Jordan or (sigh) Kenneth as the show’s funniest characters, I say it’s Jenna. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s almost universal proclamation as TV’s best show in 2007 is as misguided as Malibu.

8. Flight Of The Conchords – FOTC is subtle, clever and even better after repeat viewings. While I’m normally against musical interludes, these are too good not to like (especially the brilliant “It’s Business Time”). Maybe Bret and Jemaine are a little too dense sometimes, but role players Murray, Mel and Dave are flat-out hilarious. Watching FOTC doesn’t make me quite as happy as this guy, but it’s close.

7. Dexter – More of a guilty pleasure than anything else, but I somehow found myself looking forward to this show every week almost more than any other. The narration is god-awful, but the show as a whole really improved during season 2. If loving Dexter is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.

6. The Sopranos – A terrific show that came to a fitting end. But after writing about the finale here in which I believed Tony didn’t die, I’ve completely changed my tune. I was wrong. In fact, I’m 100 percent convinced that was David Chase’s intention. If you don’t believe me, maybe this guy will convince you. Or Chase himself.

5. The Sarah Silverman Program – This show is not for anyone with taste, morals or is faint of heart. The protagonist isn’t a hero but rather a spoiled, childish, bigoted pervert. She’s also hilarious. The funniest comedian alive today, Sarah Silverman is simply brilliant.

4. Tell Me You Love Me – I gave up on this show midway through the second episode. After being apprised of my mistake, I luckily gave it another shot. Yes, it’s slow, but it’s also realistic to a fault, to the point of being gut-wrenching. If you can’t take the intimacy, I can understand, but to call this show the best drama about couples would be the understatement of the century.

3. Lost – “Lost” can sometimes be gimmicky, but it works. I’m normally not into science fiction, but the existential aspect of this show is beyond intriguing. What’s going to happen next? I refuse to believe there’s ever been a show that leaves viewers wanting more than “Lost” does – and I mean that in a good way. “The Sopranos” last episode was brilliant, but I’d argue “Lost’s” season finale was even better.

2. The Office – Just because the British version is better doesn’t make the American one any less brilliant. With so many likable characters, “The Office” is set for a long run, and it’s the best comedy not on cable since “Seinfeld.” Creed is my favorite character, by the way.

1. Curb Your Enthusiasm – Without a doubt, there’s no one I’d rather meet in person than Larry David. Watching art imitate life (his wife left him both on the show and in reality this year) was fascinating, and Season 6 was easily one of the best the remarkable series has yet to offer. The co-creator of “Seinfeld,” it’s pretty crazy that David has become one of the finest actors on television. The last five minutes of Season 6 was the funniest span of TV in recent memory, if not ever.

Honorable Mention (just missed the list): Mad Men, Extras, John From Cincinnati, Friday Night Lights, Weeds, Californication, Damages

MUSIC

5. The Good, The Bad & The Queen – My friend Sean turned me on to The Good, The Bad & The Queen, (incidentally, you should all check out his new movie), one of the more under the radar groups from 2007. Lead singer Damon Albarn came from Blur and The Gorillaz, but this is his best effort yet. The group is an odd mix – Clash bassist Paul Simonon, Verve guitarist Simon Tong and Africa 70 drummer Tony Allen, plus the production of Danger Mouse. In the end, the eclectic mix works magnificently. And yes, war is bad.

Highlights: “Herculean,” “History Song”

4. The Shins: “Wincing The Night Away” – Admittedly, they sometimes do sound a little too “The O.C.” And the lyrics are incomprehensible for the most part. Still, it’s hard to deny that The Shins are catchy. I don’t think they get enough credit among the snobby music community, and I blame Zach Braff for it.

Highlights: “Split Needles,” “Sea Legs,” “Sleeping Lessons,” “Phantom Limb,” “Turn On Me”

3. Arcade Fire: “Neon Bible” – Listening to “Neon Bible,” which was aptly recorded inside a church, is a divine experience indeed. Frontman Win Butler unapologetically spews righteous accusations on the group’s smart and subtle second album. And it just sounds so damn good. Plus, there’s a song about Jessica and Ashley Simpson’s dad.

Highlights: “Keep The Car Running,” “Intervention,” “Windowsill,” “Neon Bible”

2. Band Of Horses: “Cease To Begin” – If you don’t like the song “Detlef Schrempf,” then you almost certainly are also opposed to puppies, mothers and sunsets. I was late to the party with this group, but my life has become decidedly better after discovering them. BoH are seemingly incapable of making a bad song. Sure, the lyrics are straightforward and sometimes optimistic to the point of cheesy, but I say the world needs more positive messages like this. If you don’t like Band Of Horses, then you probably think up is down, left is right, short is tall, right is wrong and Sophia Bush is ugly.

Highlights: “Detlef Schrempf,” “Marry Song,” “Is There a Ghost,” “No One’s Gonna Love You”

1. Radiohead: “In Rainbows” – Here are my top-five albums of all-time: 1. OK Computer (Radiohead) 2. The Bends (Radiohead) 3. Sea Change (Beck) 4. Nirvana Unplugged in New York (Nirvana) 5. Not exactly sure which one, but it would be Radiohead. It’s safe to say I’m a pretty big fan of the group, so its inclusion at No. 1 comes as no surprise. For what it’s worth, the first three songs listed below would all fall in my top-10 favorite songs from the group from any of their records. Oh, and they changed the modern day market place as well.

Highlights: “Jigsaw Falling Into Place,” “All I Need,” “15 Step,” “Bodysnatchers”

That wasn’t the only music I liked this year, so here are some select tracks that I also particularly enjoyed from 2007: “Boy With A Coin” by Iron and Wine, “Dvno” and “D.A.N.C.E” by Justice, “Paper Planes” by M.I.A., “Great Destroyer Modwheelmood” by Nine Inch Nails, “Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe” by Okkervil River, “Peacebone” by Animal Collective, “Mistaken For Strangers” by The National, “Wake Up Call” by Maroon 5, “Bleed It Out” by Linkin Park, “Dig” by Incubus, “Lazy Eye” by Silversun Pickups and “Unite” by Burial.

WORST

I’m not going to make an exhaustive “worst of” list, as this post is already getting (more than) a little on the long side. Additionally, I made a point of avoiding bad movies this year. I don’t need to waste two hours of my life so I can tell you “Good Luck Chuck” was awful. So I’m making the following more of an overrated/bad combination:

Monday Night Football – If you watched ESPN’s second year of running MNF, you know where I’m going with this. If you didn’t catch a telecast, I’m jealous. Here’s what you missed: Tony Kornheiser found that week’s theme and beat it to death. There’s got to be a larger picture here! We can’t just watch a football game, folks. Oh, and they featured excellent guests in the booth this season – Drew Carrey, Vince Vaughn, John C. Reilly to name a few – all of whom offered extremely informative commentary. And by that I mean the opposite.

Heroes and 24 – It’s not that either of these are particularly bad shows (that’s designated for the words-can’t-describe-how-bad-it-is “Dirt”), but they got to be so boring, I’ve given up. I’d rather watch 2 Girls 1 Cup.

Plain White T’s and Soulja Boy – Both get played on the radio about as often as any group. Both are whack. Here are some choice lyrics from “Crank That:”
“I’m 2 clean off in this hoe
Watch me crank it
Watch me roll
Watch me crank that roosavelt
And super soak that Hoe”

Even this guy finds that unintelligent. Hope all of you have a happy 2008.

Round One Preview

Friday, January 4th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Redskins +3.5 at Seahawks

Comments: The Redskins come in on a roll (winners of four straight) and with destiny on their side. Todd Collins has improbably been a major upgrade at quarterback, and Washington’s secondary has been a big reason for the winning streak as well. Still, homefield is a big deal here, as the Seahawks are very tough to beat in Seattle. While the team may be more one-dimensional (no running game), the Seahawks have a very good pass rush and secondary, which should spell doom for Washington. Matt Hasselbeck is also a big advantage, as well as Mike Holmgren over Joe Gibbs. The Seahawks are my bet of the week.

Seahawks 27-13.

Jaguars pick ’em at Steelers

Comments: At this point, I’m pretty sure even my mom is taking the Jaguars this week, and she doesn’t even know they are playing. Without a doubt, they are the hotter team entering the tournament, and David Garrard has really blossomed this season. Still, it will be awfully tough to go into Pittsburgh and win for the second time in the last month. Pittsburgh isn’t the same team it was earlier in the year (injuries to Aaron Smith and Troy Polamalu have hurt), but they have a significant advantage in net YPA (2.0 to 0.8) – the most important stat in football. Go contrarian; the Steelers win this week.

Steelers 23-20.

Giants +2.5 at Buccaneers

Comments: It’s interesting that these two teams meet round 1, since they could not have gone in more opposite philosophical directions toward the end of the season. While Tampa Bay may be rusty after sitting its starters for the final 1.5 games, the Giants enter sharper but with more injuries and the worry of a letdown after last week’s playoff like atmosphere loss to the Patriots. The Giants are 7-1 on the road this season, while the Bucs have an identical record at home. Tampa Bay’s defense is legit, and Jeff Garcia is much less likely to turn the ball over than Eli Manning. The Bucs come out on top.

Buccaneers 21-17.

Titans +9.5 at Chargers

Comments: Just a few weeks ago, the Titans had a 17-3 fourth quarter lead over these Chargers. They ended up losing that game, and the change in venue this week figures to have a dramatic effect. San Diego is really tough to beat at home, and the team has really come on over the second half of the season. A blowout is possible, but Tennessee seems to always find a way to at least hang around, despite having no stars on its roster (Albert Haynesworth isn’t one when hobbled). The Titans actually have a better net YPA, which suggests this line is way off base, but if San Diego’s ball-hawking secondary (30 INTs led the NFL by a wide margin) can force Vince Young into some turnovers, things could get ugly.

Chargers 24-17.

Playoff Cheatsheet

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Quarterbacks

1. Tom Brady – Because Brady plays in the AFC, risk-adverse fantasy players may want to go with Tony Romo, as Dallas’ path to the Super Bowl is certainly easier than New England’s. Moreover, Brady might get the two best secondaries in the NFL for his first two opponents (Pittsburgh and Indianapolis). Still, he did finish with a passable 50:8 TD:INT ratio this season.
2. Tony Romo – The Cowboys are probably the team most likely to play three games, but Terrell Owens is hurt, and they limped into the postseason. Still, unlike New England, Romo will never have to deal with poor weather.
3. Peyton Manning – It’s not comforting knowing a matchup against a 16-0 team awaits Indy during its second game, but the Colts have more than a fighting chance to win that contest.
4. Brett Favre – If you think a healthy Green Bay team has a good shot at going to Dallas and winning, then move Favre up these rankings. On the flip side, Seattle (Green Bay’s likely first opponent) allowed the fewest TD passes in the league this year and has a puncher’s chance of winning that game in Lambeau.
5. Matt Hasselbeck – The Redskins secondary has been playing very well (6.0 YPA), but Seattle is extremely tough to beat at home, so Hasselbeck owners are likely to get at least two games out of him. The Seahawks’ pass-heavy ways often leads to big stats from the QB, who should finally have a healthy WR corps as well.

6. Jeff Garcia – The Giants secondary is beatable, and Tampa Bay should have to pass heavily to keep up with the high-powered Cowboys offense Round 2. However, the Bucs really only have the upside of playing two games.
7. Ben Roethlisberger – Most people are picking the Jaguars to beat the Steelers Round 1, and while Jacksonville is a very good team, it’s going to be awful tough to win in Pittsburgh for the second time in three weeks.
8. David Garrard – If you feel strongly about the Jags making a deep playoff run, go ahead and bump the impressive Garrard (7.7 YPA) up your list. However, I devalued all Steelers and Jaguars because that’s the toughest first round game to handicap, and the winner will likely be rewarded with a matchup against the 16-0 Patriots during Round 2.
9. Philip Rivers – Rivers is shaky at best, but San Diego is very likely to play two games, with a home matchup against the Titans Round 1.

10. Eli Manning – The Giants have played very well on the road this year, but Tampa Bay is equally as tough to beat while at home. The Bucs’ secondary allowed a miniscule 6.0 YPA this season.
11. Todd Collins – Washington looks like the perennial “just happy to be here” team in this year’s tournament.
12. Vince Young – When playing fantasy football during the NFL playoffs, there’s really no reason to not have your league use the team quarterback format over individual players. There’s usually no transactions allowed after the draft, and why have injuries ruin the fun?

Running Backs

1. Marion Barber
2. Joseph Addai
3. LaDainian Tomlinson
4. Laurence Maroney
5. Ryan Grant

6. Earnest Graham
7. Najeh Davenport
8. Maurice Jones-Drew
9. Fred Taylor
10. Brandon Jacobs

11. Clinton Portis
12. Shaun Alexander
13. Maurice Morris
14. LenDale White
15. Julius Jones

16. Kevin Faulk
17. Kenton Keith
18. Michael Pittman
19. Brandon Jackson
20. Michael Turner

Wide Receivers

1. Randy Moss
2. Reggie Wayne
3. Wes Welker
4. Terrell Owens (only because of his “iffy” health status)

5. Greg Jennings
6. D.J. Hackett
7. Bobby Engram
8. Anthony Gonzalez
9. Patrick Crayton
10. Joey Galloway
11. Donald Driver
12. Santonio Holmes
13. Hines Ward
14. Plaxico Burress
15. Chris Chambers
16. Marvin Harrison
17. Reggie Williams
18. Santana Moss
19. Deion Branch (check status)

20. Jabar Gaffney
21. Donte’ Stallworth
22. Terry Glenn
23. Vincent Jackson
24. Nate Burleson
25. Ike Hilliard
26. James Jones
27. Dennis Northcutt
28. Amani Toomer
29. Antwaan Randle El
30. Roydell Williams

Tight Ends

1. Jason Witten
2. Dallas Clark
3. Antonio Gates

4. Chris Cooley
5. Ben Watson
6. Heath Miller

7. Donald Lee
8. Alex Smith
9. Marcedes Lewis
10. Kevin Boss
11. Marcus Pollard
12. Ben Utecht

Kickers

1. Nick Folk
2. Stephen Gostkowski
3. Adam Vinatieri
4. Mason Crosby

5. Josh Brown
6. Nate Kaeding
7. Matt Bryant
8. Jeff Reed
9. Josh Scobee
10. Lawrence Tynes
11. Shaun Suisham
12. Rob Bironas

Team Defense

1. Dallas
2. New England
3. Indianapolis
4. Green Bay

5. Seattle
6. Chargers
7. Buccaneers
8. Steelers
9. Jaguars
10. Giants
11. Redskins
12. Titans

Tuesday Morning Quarterback

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

After a 9-7 Week 17 against the spread, my 129-118-9 season record means there’s a new RotoWire Staff Picks champion. Like Matthew McConaughey’s character in “Two For The Money,” all I do is work out and pick winners. Only I don’t work out.

It’s tough to find fault with Tom Brady’s 2007 season, but it is a little crazy to think how long it took him to beat Peyton Manning’s TD record after throwing 30 scores over the first half of the season. Manning, who did have the benefit of playing in a dome, did not have the NFL’s most gifted receiver (Randy Moss) at his disposal and also sat out all of Week 17 during his record-setting performance…New England didn’t just go 16-0 this season, they did so winning on the road against the NFL’s next two best teams (Indianapolis and Dallas)…Since I’m all about upside, I’ll be the sucker drafting Brandon Jacobs way too early next season. The more I think about it, the more I’m feeling him as a first round pick.

Few probably watched it, but the Seattle/Atlanta game was actually one of the best of the season…Chris Redman quietly put up 7.5 YPA or more in three of his four starts this year…If Roddy White ends up on your fantasy team next year, you won’t be sorry.

I was surprised to find out the Saints’ secondary was even worse than Kyle Orton at quarterback…Drew Brees completed more passes in a season than any other QB in the history of the NFL this year…Here are Brees’ stats in the red zone for the 2007 season: 23:0 TD:INT ratio and zero sacks. That’s pretty solid…The Bears’ defensive line was banged up, but do not underestimate just how good Pierre Thomas was Sunday. Unless you can nab an Adrian Peterson type, it’s next to insane to spend an early draft pick on a running back. I’d honestly rather Thomas starting in my backfield than I would Reggie Bush.

Hide the women and children when Chris Weinke steps onto a football field. Words can’t describe how poorly he played against a terrible Browns’ secondary Sunday…The Derek Anderson/Brady Quinn saga is an interesting development…Forget Rookie of the Year. Patrick Willis is the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Brandon Jackson looked halfway decent Sunday, and only 16 weeks too late…Ryan Grant is going to be one of the more debatable fantasy players entering next season…I’m not sure if Mike Martz is a really good or a really bad offensive coordinator.

I’m going to be sure to draft Ron Dayne next year and stash him. There hasn’t been a better fantasy running back over the last few weeks of each season over the last two years…Jacksonville might very well go into Pittsburgh and win again this week, but the stats say the Steelers come out on top.

The Ravens were inches away from becoming the only team to beat New England and lose to Miami during the 2007 season…I love how every move the Dolphins make now seems like life-or-death because Bill Parcells is running the show. Is there a more overrated person in all of sports?

The Eagles are playing some of the better football right now, and I’d argue they’d beat the Redskins regardless of venue. They had the hardest schedule in the NFL this season…Where do you take Marshawn Lynch in fantasy leagues next year? I hate drafting RBs who play with poor quarterbacks.

It’s been beaten to death, but why did John Fox give so many more carries to DeShaun Foster instead of DeAngelo Williams this year? I liked the version of Foster more when he was explosive and always hurt…The Panthers really hit a home run by selecting Jon Beason with the 25th pick in last year’s draft.

Troy Smith, NFL quarterback? I still doubt it, but he has looked more competent than I expected…Reason No. 3,867 why RBs are the most fungible position in football: Cory Ross.

It seems to me Terrell Owens is awfully important to this Dallas offense…Clinton Portis definitely exceeded my expectations this year. Imagine what he would have done if seemingly every member of the Redskins offensive line didn’t get hurt…Washington became just the fourth team ever to reach the playoffs after a 5-7 start.

I get that theoretically it’s better to focus on the future than smaller short-term goals, but in my estimation, you’d have to be brain-dead to hand Matt Leinart the starting QB role over Kurt Warner next season…Put a fork in Edgerrin James, he’s done…It’s safe to say Marc Bulger didn’t have a very successful 2007 season.

What Brandon Marshall did as a sophomore is underrated. Cutler to Marshall is the new Montana to Rice…Speaking of which, there is not a better quarterback to target in fantasy leagues next year than Jay Cutler…Chester Taylor’s 2007 season was one of the most underrated in the NFL…Maybe Adrian Peterson’s lackluster finish to the year will allow him to slip in next year’s fantasy drafts. Instead of going No. 1, maybe he’ll fall all the way to No. 2.

After JaMarcus Russell’s first pass of the game Sunday turned out to be one of the worst of the 2007 season, he actually put together a solid performance…The Raiders have a very good running game…While he’s never broken out as some expected, mainly because LaDainian Tomlinson is as durable as they come, it will be interesting to see where Michael Turner ends up during the offseason.

The Brodie Croyle versus Kellen Clemens matchup Sunday was about as ugly as it gets…All of a sudden, Chad Pennington doesn’t look so bad. And neither does Damon Huard…D’Brickashaw Ferguson has quietly become one of the bigger draft day busts in recent memory. He allowed the second most sacks in the NFL this season. Only Jeff Backus allowed more, and at least he had the excuse of playing for pass-happy Detroit.

Is it just me, or did the Colts’ offense drop off after Peyton Manning exited?…It’s Craphonso Thorpe’s world, and the rest of us are just paying rent…Marvin Harrison apparently suffered the worst bruise in the history of bruises.