Archive for January, 2010

Best of 2009

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

It’s that time of year again – RotoScoop’s year-end lists. I know you’ve all been impatiently awaiting 2009’s version after last year’s was such a hit. As always, feel free to let me know what I got right, what I missed and what I got wrong in the comments.

MOVIES

Here are the movies I have yet to see this year but want to: “A Serious Man,” “The Hurt Locker,” “Food, Inc,” “In The Loop,” “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “Moon,” “Precious,” “Whatever Works,” “An Education” and “Sin Nombre.”

Other movies I watched that barely missed the list: “Public Enemies,” “District 9,” “500 Days of Summer,” “Star Trek,” “Adventureland,” “Observe and Report” and “Where The Wild Things Are.” The problem with movies is that unlike TV shows where I can get a feel over a full season, I usually change my mind with movies after repeat viewings (while also realizing later some I don’t even have any desire to see again), so not only will this list change once I finally watch all the movies I listed above, but it might also be different from the ones listed below based on further evidence. Just know I’m not sold on my top-10 for 2009, and like TV, it’s pretty crazy how comedy heavy it is.

10. Avatar – Yes, it borrows heavily from “Dances With Wolves” and “Pocahontas,” and yes, the story itself is lacking, but seeing this film in 3D (and at an IMAX, preferably) was truly an experience unlike any other. Normally I don’t like big budget movies like this, and I can’t imagine it translating onto Blu-ray at home, and maybe we’ll laugh at the technology 20 years from now, I suppose, but I can’t explain the palpable buzz in the theatre right when “Avatar” started, with everyone basically saying to each other, “holy shit this is cool.” And it was.

9. Humpday – The movie’s premise: what if two heterosexual friends made an art (porno) film of them having sex together? Sure, may not sound interesting to you homophobes out there, but this movie was creative and had me hooked. The husband and wife relationship was about as real as I’ve seen on film. Not well known, “Humpday” was far better than the silly title indicates.

8. Extract – Just because Mike Judge continues to fail at matching “Office Space’s” comedic genius doesn’t mean “Extract” should be dismissed, because this was one of the more underrated movies of the year. The cast is strong, with Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig and Ben Affleck like you’ve never seen him, but it’s Dustin Milligan who might have the funniest part. And seriously, how hot is Mila Kunis? Jesus.

7. Inglourious Basterds – I’m an unabashed Quentin Tarantino fan; “Pulp Fiction” is easily one of my 10 favorite movies of all-time, and I liked “Death Proof” far more than most others did. I wouldn’t exactly say he hit a home run with “Inglourious Basterds,” which probably dragged on a bit too long, but it was one of the better films of 2010 nevertheless. The opening scene was my favorite 20 minutes of any movie this year, hands down.

6. The Cove – Decidedly one-sided, this documentary was chilling regardless. In fact, the conclusion was so crazy, I questioned whether it was even real. When I got married in Hawaii in February, I really wanted to ride a dolphin, but the price was pretty steep, and I think I ended up just drinking instead. And while I still say it would have been an experience, I guess I also have to concede it would have been cruel after watching this movie, although better than the other alternative (slaughter). Watch this movie, and you’ll never think of SeaWorld the same. Those bastards.

5. Tyson – Yes, Mike Tyson appears in two of my top-five favorite movies this year (after all, I did name my boxer dog after him). Another documentary on the list, and this one is unflinching. Born with a prostitute for a mom and a pimp for a dad (literally a pimp, not a theoretical one like this guy), let’s just say Tyson didn’t have the easiest upbringing, and some of his behavior can well, at least be explained. James Toback does a great job of getting the champ to open up, and ultimately, it’s pretty clear Tyson is just a big kid unaware of the impact his actions and words actually have. And don’t forget, he gave by far the best speech in the history of sports, and there is no denying this. None.

4. Funny People – Judd Apatow’s latest film wasn’t as good as “The 40 Year Old Virgin,” and I can understand why some get turned off by his serious side, and the criticism about the final third of “Funny People” is valid, but this is still good stuff. I’m in the minority, but I actually like serious Adam Sandler, and I thought this was the best performance of his career, and the look at the underlying standup comedy scene was interesting. Good movie.

3. I Love You, Man – Few movies these days are actually original, especially comedies, but this one is definitely different, as it could be considered a romantic comedy yet it centers on two dudes. Paul Rudd and Jason Segel were perfect casts, and Jon Favreau was great as well. And Rashida Jones isn’t ugly. Definitely one of the smarter and better movies of 2009.

2. The Hangover – I enjoy being a contrarian as much as the next guy, but like often happens, “The Hangover” suffered severe backlash with its immense popularity, and while it’s not some classic like “Dumb and Dumber,” this was a damn funny movie that deserved its adulation. I saw Zach Galifianakis in standup in college about five years ago, so in a way, his rise to stardom has been annoying, because he was MY guy. Oh well, dude that funny, it was inevitable. And everyone reading this has better watched every “Between Two Ferns,” or you just aren’t living.

1. Bruno – Listen, this movie shows a bit more male genitalia than I’d prefer, but come on, it’s hilarious. I watched this with my wife, and afterward (and still does) proclaimed she didn’t like it at all, but every single time I turned and looked at her during it, she was going ape shit laughing, so go figure. It’s not as good as “Borat” or “Da Ali G Show,” but Sacha Baron Cohen hit yet another home run.

TELEVISION

Honorable Mention: Damages, The Office, Friday Night Lights, Lost, In Treatment, Community, The League, Californication, True Blood, Weeds, Hung, Big Love, United States of Tara, Flight of the Conchords, Scrubs, Celebrity Apprentice, Nurse Jackie, How I met Your Mother, Jersey Shore, Survivor.

As you can probably already tell, I watch way too much TV. DVR and HD are two of the five best inventions of my lifetime, what can I say. My one main neglection was “Breaking Bad,” which I promise to catch up on DVD soon enough. Now, onto my top-10:

10. Party Down/Modern Family – Yes, a lame copout with a tie, but I felt both deserved credit. “Party Down” is a little known comedy that airs on Starz, whereas “Modern Family” is on ABC and looked terrible based on its initial commercials (only strong reviews made me give it a chance). But both are extremely smart, and really, I wouldn’t blame anyone for ranking either as their favorite show of 2009. “Modern Family” shows there’s hope for comedies on non-cable/non-NBC channels, and “Party Down” boasts an extremely talented cast (Ken Marino from the fantastic “Wet Hot American Summer,” Adam Scott, who was great in “Tell Me You Love Me,” one of the best shows ever that was criminally cancelled after one season, and he was also my favorite character in “Step Brothers,” along with Jane Lynch and Lizzy Caplan) and should immediately go to the top of your Netflix queue.

9. Eastbound & Down – “Eastbound & Down” definitely goes for shock value too much at times, and it’s not for everyone, but it also made me laugh pretty consistently, and Stevie Janowski was hands down one of the best characters on TV this year. I was fairly shocked to see the show renewed and can’t wait to see what direction they take it after that ending.

8. 30 Rock – This show frustrated me in the past because it was good, not great, yet every review/award ceremony treated it as royalty. But sometimes you got to call a spade a spade, and “30 Rock” was very funny in 2009. Kenneth remained insufferable and Jenna underrated, but it’s pretty clear by now Tina Fey is one of the best comics alive.

7. Reno 911! – Of course, right when I discover this show (I obviously knew about it and saw the movie but didn’t start watching it on TV until this year) it’s cancelled. Like Comedy Central has so many better alternatives? I digress. Reno 911! absolutely kills me – go watch “Extradition to Thailand” and/or “We Don’t Want the Pope” for confirmation. And if you don’t agree, you’re dead to me. No other show could pull off a John Mark Karr joke so perfectly.

6. Parks and Recreation – It should surprise no one that the fantastic mind behind the now defunct FireJoeMorgan.com has helped make “Parks and Recreation” one of the best shows on television. And there’s zero coincidence “The Office” has declined sharply ever since he left to become head writer for P&R, and I don’t care if it’s a direct rip off of a show that’s also a direct rip off – good is good. And while I agree it improved in Season 2, I’m tired of all these “huge turnaround” proclamations. Go rewatch Season 1, Parks and Recs has ALWAYS been good.

5. Sons of Anarchy – Not watching a single episode of Season 1, I jumped right into Season 2 this year at the behest of my wife, and my life was better because of it. Taking place in a fictional town located about 20 miles from where I actually live (and using a fictional biker gang based on one my wife’s uncle was actually in), SoA was easily one of the best shows on television in 2009, and few people know about it. To wit, the show has yet to receive the five requisite votes to even compile a user rating on IMDB! Adam Arkin and Henry Rollins were ridiculously good as white supremacist villains (and rapists), but there’s more to this show than just entertainment based on a biker gang – lots of subtly good writing. Plus, Maggie Siff is not unattractive.

4. Dexter – The cheesy voiceover remains, and yes, the premise is a bit implausible. But this is a show that has done the impossible – gotten better with each season despite the fact the writers painted themselves in a corner (in other words, the exact opposite of what “Lost” has done). I’ve always liked John Lithgow, mainly for the awesomely campy movies “Cliffhanger” and “Raising Cain,” but this is his best work yet, in a way carrying Season 4. And the ending of the season finale was one of the five biggest shockers of any TV show I’ve ever seen.

3. Mad Men – I have nothing more to say about this brilliant show at this point. Top-notch writing, acting, everything. There’s simply nothing like it on television, and while all the praise created some backlash, ultimately, it remained terrific.

2. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – I didn’t start watching this show until Season 4 last year, and while I liked it, I became hooked with the superior Season 5 this year. While I shy away from crazy action movies, I clearly have no problem with over-the-top comedies. And none are more so than this one. But make no mistake, it’s also smart and consistently produced laugh out loud moments. If you haven’t watched, I’d specifically recommend episodes “The Waitress is Getting Married” and “The Gang Reignites the Rivalry” from this past season. Plus, how cool is it that Fred Savage directs almost every episode? And Danny DeVito is clinically insane (both on and off the show).

1. Curb Your Enthusiasm – Was there ever any doubt? Season 7, which featured the Seinfeld cast reuniting, didn’t disappoint. Always on the brink of going too far over-the-top but never falling completely off the ledge, Larry David really outdid himself. My two favorite episodes of the season were “Denise Handicapped” and “The Black Swan.” You know the old question, if you had three people to go to dinner with, who would they be? Mine would be Larry David and no one else. The man is pure genius. While “The League” (which I did like) has a guy named Derrick Williams getting drafted in the fifth round (of an eight team league!) and Sinorice Moss in the sixth round, “Curb Your Enthusiasm” offered a discussion about how “statistically speaking, Derek Jeter has been the worst defensive shortstop in baseball.” I’ll now leave you with Marty Funkhouser telling a joke to Jerry Seinfeld right after meeting him.

MUSIC

5. Bat For Lashes: “Two Suns” – ‘Two Suns” was written and recorded around the world, from Big Sur and the Joshua Tree desert in California to the rolling Welsh countryside and the city sprawls of New York and London. It features one person (Natasha Khan), and while this isn’t the typical music I lean toward, there’s no doubting the quality (and for some reason, my music list this year is female heavy).

Listen to: Daniel, Glass, Peace Of Mind, Pearl’s Dream, Travelling Woman, Sleep Alone, Moon And Moon, Good Love, Siren Song

4. Fever Ray: “Fever Ray” – Like “Bat For Lashes,” “Fever Ray” is composed of a single female, and I’m not going to lie, this isn’t for everyone. That said, I think she’s pretty much brilliant. Others will know her from her past group, “The Knife.”

Listen to: Seven, If I Had A Heart, When I Grow Up, Triangle Walks, Concrete Walls

3. The xx: “The xx” – “The xx” consists of four 20-year-olds from South London whose songs are mostly about sex, and it’s a little off-putting when you find out she isn’t cute and he looks like one of the bigger douchebags ever. That said, the lyrics are beyond their years in age, and I can’t remember a debut album being so good. Literally, the sky’s the limit here. Really, really good stuff.

Listen to: Crystalised, Infinity, Heart Skipped A Beat, Islands, Intro, VCR, Basic Space

2. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: “It’s Blitz!” – Although I had obviously heard of them previously, I basically discovered their entire catalog this year, and while I was tempted to list them No. 1 on this list, that might have had a lot to do with going to one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. I love me some Karen O.

Listen to: Hysteric, Zero, Heads Will Roll, Runaway, Dull Life, Shame and Fortune, Skeletons, Dragon Queen

1. Broken Bells: “Broken Bells” – I’m cheating here since this album won’t officially be released until March 2010, but for me, it’s my favorite album of 2009, and I don’t want to wait another year to reveal it. It’s a two person group, featuring Danger Mouse and James Mercer from “The Shins.” Unfortunately, because it’s yet to be released, I can’t link to any of the songs, but I’ll still let you know my favorites nevertheless. Normally I don’t let lyrics influence me too much, but there’s some deep stuff here, and more importantly, it’s damn catchy. If you don’t like “Broken Bells,” you probably think Amanda Knox got a fair trial, like Jay Leno, believed Balloon Boy wasn’t an obvious hoax, think Greg Oden has a small one, think “Denise” from the Taco Bell commercials is ugly, was surprised by Tiger Woods’ infidelity, think John Travolta is straight and can relate to this guy.

Listen to: The Ghost Inside, The High Road, Trap Doors, The Mall and the Misery, Citizen, Float

That wasn’t the only music I liked this year, so here are some select tracks I also particularly enjoyed from 2009: “So Far From Your Weapon” by The Dead Weather, “Things Fall Apart” by Built to Spill, “Stillness Is The Move” by The Dirty Projectors, “Dirt Room” by Blue October, “Catch and Release” by Silversun Pickups, “Gold Guns Girls,” “Help I’m Alive,” “Satellite Mind,” and “Collect Call” by Metric, “Wait It Out” and “Bad Body Double” by Imogen Heap, “Psychic City” by Yacht, “Blood Bank” by Bon Iver, “Sunlight” by tUnE-yArDs, “Here to Fall” by Yo La Tengo, “Seasun” by Delorean, “What Would I Want? Sky” by Animal Collective, and “Quiet Little Voices” by We Were Promised Jetpacks.

WORST

As in years past, this section combines the bad with the overrated, as I tried to avoid movies that will obviously be awful. Here is a much shorter compilation of things I didn’t enjoy from 2009:

“Up in The Air” – Here’s the thing, this is NOT a bad movie. But it’s been winning a bunch of awards, which is a joke and a sign that humanity is headed in the wrong direction. I will admit one thing: the fact there was a girl in the theatre when I saw it who laughed outrageously during any and every even half-assed joke made it worse (which isn’t the movie’s fault), although to be honest, it made the whole experience more enjoyable (Clooney fell into the water! What a laugh riot!). My friend Robby and I commonly looked at each other during the film and rolled our eyes – to put it simply, I’m dumbfounded at people who LOVED this movie. The dialogue was clunky and some scenes were truly laughable (Clooney conveniently talking Kenny Powers back into getting married, Clooney giving a backpack speech when he was undergoing a life-affirming change himself that was so predictable I felt embarrassed for the movie), although I will say I liked the “twist.” And while I ranked “Juno” pretty high last year, I actually regretted that later on when I realized it wasn’t very rewatchable, and I didn’t like “Thank You For Smoking,” so it’s safe to say I’m not a huge Jason Reitman fan. But what do I know? I thought Will Leitch had the best review I read.

Joe Buck Live – Actually, this placement is unfair, as his episode with Artie Lange was one of my favorites from 2009. Watching one of the biggest sacks get eviscerated on live television was easily one of my favorite moments of 2009. In fact, if not for the subsequent episodes in which Buck made sure no controversy ensued, this new show would have made my top-10 list. As Michael Irvin states at the end, “It’s refreshing to see white-on-white crime.”

Paranormal Activity – Watch “Open Water” instead. I loved how the city’s demon exorcist was out of town during their whole ordeal. And the ending, ugh. Don’t get me wrong, this movie made me jump and had me on the edge of my seat at times, but it could have been so much better.

And now, instead of ending on a negative note, I wanted to leave you with a few of my favorite YouTube clips. Enjoy:

George Brett telling a story.

Great tackle by a high school football player.

Charles Manson may very well not be sane.

Someone arrest this man before it’s too late.

Joaquin Phoenix in the best late night interview of our generation.

The Scoop

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

I hope Joey Votto ends up on a bunch of my teams this year. His overall numbers were suppressed last season since he took some time off dealing with depression, and while his BA is probably due for a bit of a dip, Votto possesses serious power potential. He more than held his own against lefties (.329/.400/.531), and over his final 104 at-bats last season, he posted a 20:22 K:BB ratio. Votto is just 26 years old with barely 1,000 career ABs, so the best is yet to come, and a true explosion could occur in 2010. He’ll bat in the middle of the order in a good park for hitters, and he’s also capable of adding 8-10 steals as well. Despite all the turmoil with his personal issues and it being just his second full season in the bigs, Votto’s .981 OPS last year was the fourth-highest in all of baseball. There’s a big-five at first base who will be ranked ahead of him (Pujols, Howard, Fielder, Teixeira, Cabrera), but there’s no way I’m putting any other over Votto, so don’t make the mistake of taking Justin Morneau, Kendry Morales or Adrian Gonzalez ahead of him.

On the flip side as far as age is concerned, I like Chipper Jones as a later round CI target. Despite staying relatively healthy last season, he hit just .264/.388/.430 and finished with the fewest homers (18) and RBI (71) during his 15-year career. Jones remains an injury risk, but he can be plenty valuable if he bounces back in 130 games (in leagues where acceptable replacements are available. It’s trickier in NL-only formats), and I highly doubt he’s truly done at age 38. Jones is one season removed from posting a 1.044 OPS, and his plate discipline remained intact last year. He’s never been this cheap, and this isn’t football – boring veterans often produce the most profit in baseball.

It’s no secret Cole Hamels’ peripherals last year suggest he pitched far better than his 4.32 ERA and 1.29 WHIP indicate, but that doesn’t mean there’s still not a pretty good opportunity to “buy-low” here. Hamels’ K:BB ratio was actually better last season (3.91) than his stellar 2008 campaign (3.70), when he posted a 3.08 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. Maybe the huge workload (he increased his previous high by 70 innings in 2008) is one explanation, but last season’s decline was far more likely simply due to bad luck. His G/F ratio was actually a career-best 1.09, and predictably, his BABIP (.325) and strand rate (.693) were career-worsts. Despite having far less success with the pitch, his fastball velocity remained completely intact, and his xFIP (3.75) was the 16th best in baseball. Hamels will always give up too many homers, so he’s a bigger help in WHIP than ERA, and he’s not a truly dominant strikeout pitcher, but he should be treated as a top-12 fantasy starter for 2010.

Jose Reyes is one of the tougher guys to rank this year, as his immense upside remains, but there’s also no doubt plenty of risk associated with the shortstop coming off hamstring surgery. He played in an average of 158.3 games per season from 2005-2008, but it’s also worth noting all the leg issues he dealt with during his first two years in the league. Reyes entered last year atop my overall rankings, but most of his fantasy value is tied to his speed, so it’s imperative he enters 2010 fully healthy. Maybe Citi Field saps some of his power, but I wouldn’t let that affect his ranking too much, and it’s easy to forget Reyes is still just 26 years old. His current 23.39 ADP seems about right (although there’s no way I’m taking Mark Reynolds ahead of him), and I’d personally be willing to use a second round pick on him.

Chris Young makes for a pretty good late round flier (the pitcher, although the hitter isn’t a bad last year’s bum target either). Sure, he’s an injury risk having never thrown 180 innings in a season during his career, but he’s expected to enter 2010 fully healthy after undergoing surgery last August, which he described as, “Everything’s great, best-case scenario. They went in, identified the problem and fixed it. It wasn’t a major surgery. They didn’t have to repair a tear in the rotator cuff or a completely torn labrum.” Young has consistently been the least efficient pitcher in baseball when healthy, and it’s not like he’s some dominant force, either, posting a 2.25:1 K:BB ratio over his career, but Petco Park makes him a viable fantasy option when he’s not hurt. Some will argue it’s still too small of a sample, but to me, it looks like his career .265 BABIP is here to stay, in no small part because of his extremely flyball tendencies. Before suffering two injury-ravaged seasons over the last two years (and in 2008, a line drive to the face off the bat of Albert Pujols was hardly his fault), remember, Young posted a 3.46 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 2006 and a 3.12 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 2007. Mat Latos will be more hyped in 2010, but don’t be surprised when Young finishes as the more valuable fantasy property.

What do we make of B.J. Upton? The 2008 postseason outburst in power may ultimately prove to be a fluke, but last year’s drought could also be attributed to coming off shoulder surgery. And how do you explain his massive struggles against southpaws (.190/.302/.270. – one homer over 163 at-bats) when he’s typically fared better against left-handers throughout his career? He’s still just 25 years old, and even when Upton is a huge disappointment, 11 homers and 42 steals aren’t exactly not useful in fantasy leagues. Personally, I’m still treating him as a top-10 outfielder, with the upside of a top-10 overall commodity.

With a 12-4 record (over just 23 starts), a 2.93 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP, J.A. Happ had a highly successful rookie season. However, I want no part of him in 2010, as his BAA with the bases empty (.267) versus with RISP (.158) was the biggest discrepancy in MLB last year (h/t Buster Olney). His 2.13 K:BB ratio wasn’t impressive, and in fact, his xFIP (4.58) was downright bad. Of course, there’s always the possibility Happ improves as a pitcher during his second year in the league, relying less on luck in the process, but with a modest 6.45 K/9 and a 3.04 BB/9 ratio last season, it would take quite a leap in performance for that to happen. Stay far, far away.

A few quick random notes:

Sure, it’s an honor to just be nominated, but fuck that shit, I wanted to win damnit! (You might have to scroll to the next page)

My 2010 year-end list will FINALLY be posted later this week. I’ve been dealing with bronchitis for the past 10 days, which was a real setback. I promise I’ll make it up to you with a quality list. Be on the lookout later this week.

I do want to bring back my “Top-5” random rankings at the end of my baseball posts, but I’m also going to start incorporating YouTube clips of songs I like – some will be recent, others will be old school ones that may not necessarily be popular. And with that, I give you a classic Alice In Chains song:

The Scoop

Monday, January 25th, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

For those who took the over in the Jets/Colts game Sunday, what a difference a quarter makes. The game was scoreless at the end of the first quarter, yet the teams had totaled 30 points at halftime…What an effort by New York. Ironically, the last person to blame for the loss was Mark Sanchez, as the defense gave up its most yards in a game all season, and the team’s rushing attack was actually far less effective than Indy’s. The Jets didn’t win a single game (0-6) when allowing more than 17 points this season…I was waiting for Brad Smith to throw from that formation. Yes, the ball was (pretty badly) underthrown, but when you have a receiver that open, and you’re attempting the first pass of your NFL career, far better to underthrow than overthrow. And the team scored on the drive anyway…Sanchez’s elusiveness is underrated. And for a QB with (much) worse stats over his first 15 NFL starts than JaMarcus Russell, I’m beginning to think Sanchez will ultimately have the better career…Rex Ryan absolutely was right being pissed for the no-call when Sanchez was destroyed after a handoff. Like he said, if that happened to Peyton Manning, he would have probably been escorted out of the building. Speaking of Ryan, I love how he completely gave the Colts credit after the game, essentially saying this team is the best he’s faced and New York has a long ways to go to be in their class. He’s cocky, but Ryan’s not stupid…What was up with the Jets being so conservative in the second half?…For the most part, running back is the most overrated position in the NFL, but there’s no doubting Shonn Greene’s injury was a big deal. Thomas Jones, who is probably more injured than we have been let on, was a pretty obvious downgrade. And as for the Colts, you won’t find someone who’s been more critical of Joseph Addai than me in the past (and as a result, I lost out on an excellent value in fantasy leagues in 2009), and I was the first one making the “Addai is in the locker room dealing with a bad case of PMS” jokes when he left the field Sunday. But you know what, the guy returned and played a great game, hitting holes hard, blocking well (as always), and it’s so apparent Addai is a superior player to Donald Brown right now. And I guarantee Peyton Manning agrees. Addai did lose a fumble, but that came on a jail break when the defender hit him immediately, and ball security in general is another point in his favor (he’s fumbled just two times over his past 635 carries since his rookie season. Put differently, he’s the anti-Adrian Peterson)…Is there a luckier person in all of sports than Jim Caldwell?…I get the fact Indy rested its players over the final 1.5 games didn’t adversely affect their performance in the postseason, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t have been cool to see a team go 19-0…Do you realize that during the coin toss, the referee said, ‘‘The New York Giants call tails.’’ I tell ya, the Jets get no respect. (My favorite Rodney Dangerfield joke: “I saved a woman from getting attacked today. Yeah I changed my mind.”)…At this point, the only relevancy Anthony Gonzalez has in 2010 is how much will he hurt Pierre Garcon’s budding star status?…Catching is a pretty important part of being a receiver, I’d say, but other than spotty (terrible?) hands, Braylon Edwards is a very good WR, consistently getting separation from DBs. As a result, he improved the Jets’ running game, and few wideouts in the history of the league are good enough to catch 80-yard touchdowns in Championship games…With Manning an obvious no-show, this year’s Pro Bowl will apparently make past efforts seem like a playoff atmosphere. Vince Young? David Garrard? As far as Miami goes, I’m more interested in Burger King starting to serve beer there than that game…Saying Peyton Manning was fantastic Sunday doesn’t do him justice. You see, sometimes when players reach a status such as him, greatness is expected, and the only time his play is really worth noting is when he fails. I rarely get historical (or sappy), but we are all lucky as hell right now – we are watching the Michael Jordan of the NFL in his prime. He made the Jets’ defense, quite possibly the best unit of this decade, (h/t Mike Salfino), look feeble Sunday, posting 30 points over the final three quarters, completing 66.7 percent of his passes for 9.7 YPA with a 3:0 TD:INT ratio, making guys named Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon look like stars on the biggest stage of the biggest sport in America.

It wasn’t the smoothest game ever, but the NFC Championship was still memorable and close to a classic, with fumbles being the overriding story (which is the worst kind, since they are the most random part of football). Of course, New Orleans deserves credit for doing a terrific job of hitting the ball out of the Vikings’ hands, but Percy Harvin and especially Adrian Peterson were bordering on pathetic…Sean Payton still underused Pierre Thomas, but it’s fairly clear what the coach really thinks of Mike Bell after two postseason games…Pretty crazy (funny?) that both Brett Favre’s final passes as a Packer and in an NFL uniform were intercepted (assuming he retires, which of course, remains to be seen. Naturally). I’m hardly going to kill Favre though. He dealt with horrible conditions Sunday and was constantly under duress, and as bad as his last pass was, he played well enough for Minny to win, and despite the three turnovers in the box score (his one fumble was clearly Peterson’s fault), it’s hard not to say the Vikings didn’t outplay the Saints (475 yards to 257. 5.8 YPP vs. 4.7)…How many fumbles would it take for it to truly affect Peterson’s playing time? I mean, this has past become an epidemic, but really, this isn’t Steve Slaton we are talking about. Could AP put the ball on the carpet another 8-10 times next season without consequence? Probably, right?…One of my favorite parts of Sunday’s contest was the shot of Bourbon Street about 25 minutes before the game ended and then the subsequent view right after it was finished. It wouldn’t be a bad time to be in New Orleans right now…An absolutely crazy stat from Scott Pianowski entering this week: Since 1970, there have been 78 Championship games, and when the line is fewer than 10 points, the team winning the game was a perfect 65-0-2 ATS. So of course, the Vikings lose yet cover Sunday…I criticized Joe Buck and Troy Aikman enough live, so I’m saving my breath (and words) here, but let’s just say I don’t quite agree with Fox’s assessment that Buck should be announcing such important athletic events…Last week word broke that the spread would be Colts -3 if they were matched up with the Saints in the Super Bowl, but unsurprisingly, the line opened at -4.5 or -5 Sunday night. For the most part, taking the dog in Super Bowls has been highly favorable over the past decade, and this is the rare instance of two No. 1 seeds meeting up. It certainly appears like it should be a great game on paper, but for some reason, I see the Colts rolling. Maybe New Orleans covers, but Indy is the best team this year, and I fully expect them to show that in Super Bowl XLIV (I think that means 45).

Bet on It

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

Last week I went 2-2, making me 3-5 during the postseason. Here’s my outlook for the Championship games:

Jets +8 at COLTS (Best Bet)

VIKINGS +3.5 at Saints

Comments: The Jets are no fluke, and turnovers could be the great equalizer, but this is a tough matchup for New York. Not getting down early could be imperative, or it could turn into a laugher in the second half. Of course, an upset wouldn’t truly shock, either. The Colts can defend the run pretty well when they focus on doing so. I don’t feel good at all backing the Vikings, who are probably the public side after they just undressed America’s team in the spotlight last week, but the dome setting mitigates the road factor, at least somewhat (except for the crowd noise). I’ll take the points, but this is a game I’d stay away from.

The Scoop

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

Clayton Kershaw is just 21 years old, tossed more than seven innings in just one of his 30 starts last season and had the second-worst BB/9 (4.79) in all of baseball last year, and yet I’m having a hard time not ranking him as a top-10 fantasy starter for 2010 (his current ADP rates him as the 23rd SP). His .274 BABIP helps explain how he kept his ERA low (2.79) despite so many walks, and while that number is likely to raise some this season, the fact remains Kershaw is simply tough to hit (he held opponents to a league-low .588 OPS last year, as hitters slugged just .282 against the southpaw). His fastball is already one of the best pitches in the game, and his curveball has the potential to be not far behind, and playing in the NL West is also advantageous. After the All-Star break, Kershaw posted a 10.85 K/9 mark (Tim Lincecum led the league with a 10.42 K/9 over the full season), and his control also improved. A Cy Young isn’t far away.

I’ve never been a big Adam LaRoche guy, probably letting his typical first half slumps wrongly get in the way of valuing someone who usually finishes with solid overall numbers. After ending last season with a .325/.401/.557 line with 12 homers and 40 RBI over 57 games in Atlanta, he’s not going to be exactly dirt cheap in fantasy leagues, but the move to hitter-friendly Chase Field makes him someone to target nevertheless. According to Park Factors, Chase Field has ranked as a top-six hitter’s park in each of the past five seasons, and signed to a one-year deal, LaRoche will be plenty motivated to put up big numbers after free agency didn’t quite treat him as expected this offseason.

Adrian Beltre is never going to repeat his 2004 season, but before last year’s injury-ruined campaign, he averaged 25 homers, 83 runs, 88 RBI and 11 steals over the previous three seasons while playing in cavernous Safeco Field. He’s typically been highly durable throughout his career, so now is the time to buy coming off such a disastrous 2009, although he’s obviously not going to be under the radar with the move to Boston. His home/road splits were fairly massive over 2007 (.745 OPS vs. .858) and 2008 (.703 vs. 862), so a move to Fenway Park could be huge. Add in the fact Beltre will now be hitting in the best lineup of his career, and he should enter this season as a borderline top-10 third baseman.

With a 2.52 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 10.09 K/9, David Aardsma had a strong 2009 and rightfully enters this season entrenched as Seattle’s closer. However, I’d let someone else take him and target Brandon League much later instead. Aardsma has posted 6.47 and 4.29 BB/9 marks over the last two years, so he’s walking on thin ice, especially since he’s such an extreme flyball pitcher (0.37 G/F last season). Don’t expect last year’s .271 BABIP to repeat, so he’ll need to significantly improve his control to keep that ninth-inning job all season. League, meanwhile, also flashes impressive strikeout ability (9.16 K/9) only with far better command (2.53 BB/9) and a ridiculously impressive groundball rate (3.47, 2.37 G/F over past two years). League’s recently discovered changeup was highly effective last year, making his fastball that much tougher to hit. Seattle’s fantastic outfield defense may serve to benefit Aardsma more, but I doubt the intelligent Jack Zduriencik traded the upside of Brandon Morrow for League if he didn’t envision him as a future shutdown closer.

I can’t think of a better value pick right now than David Ortiz, whose current ADP sits at 195.06. Sure, he hit .238 last season and finished with a career-low .794 OPS, but let’s not overrate a two-month sample (no matter how awful it was). Over the final four months, Ortiz hit 27 homers with 81 RBI and a .913 OPS, and at age 34, there’s little reason to think he’s “done.”

I really like what the Diamondbacks have done this offseason, signing both Adam LaRoche and Kelly Johnson on the cheap, while also remaining patient with Conor Jackson and Brandon Webb. I didn’t like Arizona trading away Max Scherzer, but it’s also possible the team will ultimately be right (he’ll get hurt or forced to move to the bullpen), and for 2010, Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy probably improve the rotation. Chris Young, Stephen Drew, Kelly Johnson and CoJack are all due for huge regressions (in the good way) in 2010, and while Mark Reynolds will probably decline some, Justin Upton could truly explode. There isn’t an obvious weakness in the lineup, and if Brandon Webb returns to form, despite finishing in last place in 2009, the DBacks could win the NL West this season.

If and when Octavio Dotel signs with the Pirates, he’ll become an excellent fantasy target who shouldn’t be too costly at draft tables. He’s not without injury risk, but Dotel hasn’t been worked overly hard over the past two seasons, when he compiled an 11.6 K/9 while pitching in a far tougher environment (the American League and U.S. Cellular Field). Heath Bell is great, but because of his near certainty of being traded midseason, I’d actually prefer Dotel over him (and that’s not even counting the differences in ADP).

Among starting pitchers, Brett Anderson currently has an ADP of 63, which seems about 40 spots too low. As a rookie, he posted an 86:20 K:BB ratio over 88.0 innings after the All-Star break last season, and his 1.74 G/F ratio also impressed. With a projected starting outfield of Ryan Sweeney, Coco Crisp and Rajai Davis combined with Mark Ellis at second and the addition of Kevin Kouzmanoff at third, the defense should be a major team strength as well. Anderson’s xFIP last season was 3.80, which ranked inside the top-20 among all starters in baseball, ahead of bigger names like CC Sabathia, Johan Santana and Matt Cain, to name a few. Anderson should only get better during his sophomore campaign.

The Scoop

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

What a performance by the Saints. I would have loved to see how the Packers would have fared (no doubt a much closer contest), but the Cards were also pretty unlucky losing both Antrel Rolle (concussion) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (knee) in the first quarter Saturday…I still like Beanie Wells plenty long-term, but I’ve never seen a running back have more problems with handoffs/pitches than him during his rookie season…”Jeremy Shockey comes up limping.” The only news I heard this weekend less shocking than the rumored Lindsay Lohan sex tape…Might want to keep your head on a swivel after an interception Kurt Warner. What a hit he took…Imagine taking Mike Bell in a fantasy playoff format since the always hurt Pierre Thomas was banged up, only to see the immortal Lynell Hamilton get the goal-line TD instead…What a clean pocket Drew Brees had all game. New Orleans’ offensive line is very good when healthy…Arizona’s tackling was bordering on pathetic this week, but Reggie Bush did look pretty explosive.

Peyton Manning wasn’t exactly sharp Saturday night, but the apparent rust factor by the Colts didn’t come to fruition. The Ravens are not built to be down 17-3 at halftime…As much as any team in the league, Baltimore needs to acquire a playmaker at wide receiver. Brandon Marshall?…In a way, Joseph Addai’s constant injuries are even more frustrating since he’s often able to return to the same game (or a week later with no mention on the injury report). Either this guy is extremely tough, or he’s missing action with maladies most players wouldn’t. My bet is the latter…That said, while I’ll be all over younger, more exciting backs who ended 2010 behind veterans, I’m not sold on Donald Brown. Addai should enter next year well ahead of Brown on fantasy cheat sheets…I’m a John Harbaugh fan for sure, but his decision to punt down 20-3 with eight minutes left Saturday was indefensible. Have we really reached the point where coaches are playing to lose by the least amount of points as possible over giving their team the best chance to win even in the playoffs? I mean, even if they didn’t convert and held Indy to a field goal, it was still a three-score game. Just awful…Since the Colts rested their starters and ultimately helped the Jets reach the postseason, will the verdict end up being “careful what you wish for” with an upcoming matchup against New York? Or did they inadvertently give themselves a far easier opponent in the AFC Championship game (if the Chargers were involved instead, you’d have to think the spread would be three points instead of seven). You certainly can’t dislike this matchup from the Colts’ perspective…If you haven’t read this article about Marvin Harrison, do so immediately. I implore all of you.

The Dallas/Minnesota game was closer than the final score indicated, but I got that game flat-out wrong, no two ways about it. And seriously, what’s up with the kicking in the NFL this season?…Tony Romo didn’t have his best game, and his interception was terrible, but he had no chance against that pass rush. Sunday’s loss was hardly his fault…Sidney Rice is very, very good, and only the uncertain QB situation (will Brett Favre return? At 41, can he remain healthy and effective even if he does come back?) prevents me from ranking him as a top-five fantasy WR in 2010…I understand Dallas couldn’t go downfield with such problems in pass protection, but what happened to all those successful WR screens we’ve seen recently, which would have seemingly been a perfect counter? Jason Garrett got far too cute Sunday…The Cowboys didn’t allow a single rusher to gain 100 yards in a game in 2010…I’m beginning to think Roy Williams is overpaid…Favre posted a 25:2 TD:INT ratio over nine games at home this season…Marion Barber may return with more explosion back to 100 percent next year and remains the top goal-line option, and Felix Jones is definitely an injury risk (so is Barber), but there’s no way Jones can’t be ranked ahead of Barber in fantasy leagues, right? Is it even close? I say no…What about Joe Buck repeatedly talking about how the Vikings declined a penalty on themselves? I never knew you could do that. After Brian Sabean (who has every one beat by a mile), I’d probably say Buck is my second least favorite person in the world.

No team chokes like the Chargers in the playoffs (specifically, Nate Kaeding and Norv Turner). Admittedly, the Jets were an awful matchup for the pass first team, but still, what a debacle. I can understand why Darrelle Revis wasn’t shadowing Vincent Jackson (so Philip Rivers didn’t have an obvious first read always, and obviously Antonio Gates is a huge weapon as well), and none of Jackson’s catches came with Revis on him. What an interception by the best player who isn’t a quarterback in the NFL…Rex Ryan is my favorite coach/manager in all of sports, and I’m happy for him…That said, with 55 seconds left in the first half at the Chargers’ 45-yard line, why did the Jets spike the ball? You’re telling me 5-10 seconds is more important than a down at that point?…Vincent Jackson kicking the challenge flag was incredibly stupid, but I agree with Phil Simms – is a penalty really necessary at that time? I mean, who cares if he kicked a challenge flag? The winner of this game is playing in the AFC Championship!…Question San Diego’s decision to go for an onside kick at the end of the game all you want (and in hindsight it looks worse because on 4th-and-1 from their own 30, the Jets are punting no matter what instead of going for it), but one thing is indisputable – it was a fantastic kick…Speaking of Norv Turner (I probably would have gone for the onside kick, to be fair), this guy has no clue. Please give LaDainian Tomlinson 15 touches compared to just six to Darren Sproles. After all, pleasing veterans who used to be good should definitely take precedence over making the AFC title game. Congratulations Norv, you were blessed with an awful AFC West division and one of the three best players in football, but after that, what is there? And I’d love to know what this guy got on his SATs. With 2:07 left Sunday, he decided to wait until after the two-minute warning to use his last timeout. This would be defensible with something like two-three seconds left beforehand, because then that opens up the opponents’ playbook (they can pass), but this wasn’t that case. Pathetic. Especially since Ryan and the Jets went for it on 4th-and-1 later on to seal the victory, I took pleasure in watching stupidity ultimately lose…I get that just because I think a RB is better than the veteran behind him doesn’t mean the playing time will be dispersed as such, but considering Thomas Jones’ mileage, what’s happened down the final stretch, New York’s ridiculously good defense, offensive line and run-first philosophy, I’m going to be drafting Shonn Greene aggressively in 2010. It would be nice if he were more of an option as a receiver (his catch Sunday was the first of his career), but I’ll have him ranked as a top-15 fantasy back next year.

Bet on It

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

Last week I went 1-3 to open the playoffs, making it a particularly bad time to happen to be in Reno. The Green Bay loss will be felt for some time. Here are my divisional picks, and beware, I actually feel pretty confident about them:

CARDINALS +7 at Saints

Ravens +6.5 at COLTS

COWBOYS (Best Bet) +2.5 at Vikings

JETS +7.5 at Chargers

Comments: The over/under in the N.O./Zona game is 57. 57! So I suppose seven points means less, and the Cardinals have been pretty hit-or-miss all season, but then again, it’s not like the Saints can be trusted right now. Take the points and don’t be surprised if Arizona wins outright… Indy is hardly in an ideal situation having not played a meaningful game in a full calendar month, and the team is 0-3 historically during their first game after a first-round bye in the postseason. Baltimore is also dangerous, and Peyton Manning has run into problems against the 3-4 in the past. Still, a dome environment on short rest is also hardly ideal for a run-first team like the Ravens, and Joe Flacco is clearly playing hurt. Remember, this is a Colts team that would almost certainly be riding a 25-game regular-season winning streak if it wanted to… Minnesota has been the toughest venue in which to win this season for opponents, but Dallas enters playing the best football in the NFL. They surely would have preferred a matchup against the Saints, and it should be a highly competitive game Sunday, with the winner the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Ultimately, expect the Cowboys to prevail – it’s the rare game in which they actually have a coaching advantage, and this defense might be the most underrated unit in the league… San Diego is rightfully the (heavy) favorite, but New York was the No. 2 team defending tight ends this season, and obviously Darrelle Revis will shut down Vincent Jackson on Sunday, so while I still expect SD to win, how are the Chargers, with no running game, going to score a bunch of points? Expect a relatively close game this week, especially since San Diego’s defense is hardly elite.

Baseball Draft

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

I participated in a fantasy baseball draft Wednesday with a bunch of folks who have their own blogs. Here are the results:

My final roster looked like this:

C – Joe Mauer
1B – Pablo Sandoval
2B – Ian Kinsler
3B – Chipper Jones
SS – Derek Jeter
CI – Todd Helton
MI – Rickie Weeks
OF – Shin-Soo Choo
OF – Nyjer Morgan
OF – Nolan Reimold
OF – Vernon Wells
UTIL – David Ortiz

P – Roy Halladay
P – Clayton Kershaw
P – Chad Billingsley
P – Rich Harden
P – Ben Sheets
P – Aaron Harang
P – John Smoltz
P – Mariano Rivera
P – Billy Wagner

The Scoop

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

Funny, I backed the Jets ATS more than any team in the league this season and consistently proclaimed the Bengals would be “one-and-done” in the playoffs, yet picked Cincy last week. I’m an idiot…Leon Washington will enter the picture, but for 2010 fantasy drafts, I guarantee I’d draft Shonn Greene ahead of Thomas Jones…Where did that come from, Dustin Keller?…Seriously, how bad are Braylon Edwards’ hands?…What happened to Carson Palmer? His 21:13 TD:INT ratio (with three rushing scores) wasn’t bad this season on a run-first team, but over his last 595 passing attempts over his past two seasons, he’s gotten 6.4 YPA…What a fantastic performance by Jay Feely. Three punts inside the 20? Pretty crazy from a placekicker…Speaking of kicking, I love how Shayne Graham is the Bengals’ “franchise player.” What a choke job…This is ultimately still a passing league, so the Jets are severely hampered, but with such a dominant run game and the best defense in the league, they remain dangerous. New York was the No. 2 team defending tight ends this season, and obviously Darrelle Revis will shut down Vincent Jackson on Sunday, so while I still expect San Diego to win, how are the Chargers, with no running game, going to score a bunch of points? Expect a close game this week…Speaking of Revis, what a travesty he didn’t win Defensive Player of the Year. Charles Woodson had a very good year and was easily the second-most deserving pick and would have been the right choice in many other seasons, but Revis so clearly should have won it in 2009. Aside from quarterbacks, if I were starting a franchise from scratch, he’d be my No. 1 pick. Put it this way, if Revis replaced Woodson last week in Arizona, I guarantee the Packers would still be alive in the playoffs. Revis got screwed worse than Conan O’Brien. But don’t listen to me, Rex Ryan has his own thoughts on the matter.

I’m beginning to think the Cowboys are better than the Eagles. Seriously, the outcome just gets worse each time they face each other. The Vikings were undefeated at home this season and might be the toughest opponent in the NFL when in Minnesota, but gun to head, I’m picking Dallas to win the NFC this year. And I’m done with Marion Barber. He’s dead to me. Felix Jones is a pretty big upgrade anyway…I wouldn’t bump down DeSean Jackson’s ranking too much next fantasy season because of his two terrible games against the Cowboys to end 2009, but it’s also worth noting just how impressive Jeremy Maclin looks. There will be more mouths to feed in Philly’s passing attack in 2010…What happened to Brian Westbrook on Saturday? You simply can’t touch him with a 10-foot pole in fantasy leagues next year…I will say this – a Colts/Cowboys teaser this week might be one of my favorites in a long time. You can thank me later.

Baltimore caught some breaks Sunday, and with no Wes Welker and a clearly injured Randy Moss, the Pats became pretty easy to defend. That said, looking back at their schedule and with so many close losses this season, the Ravens also deserve a ton of credit. This is a very good team. Still, it’s not a great matchup in Indy this week. And Joe Flacco’s health is a big concern as well…What about Laurence Maroney surprisingly getting New England’s first carry of the game, and then not another one the rest of the way? Of course, Kevin Faulk was needed more once the Pats got down early, and the team had to go shotgun heavy. That and Maroney can’t block…Tom Brady entered Sunday with a 23-game home winning streak. Pretty impressive performance by Baltimore. But what the hell was John Harbaugh thinking not challenging that fumbled punt? He says his guys upstairs didn’t get the right view. Umm, no one had it turned on the CBS feed that was available to all of us?…Julian Edelman is pretty good, I must admit…Flacco completed four passes, got 3.4 YPA and finished with a 10.0 QB rating. He’ll need to play a bit better for the Ravens to have a chance in Indy this week.

What a crazy Packers/Cardinals game. Unbelievable play by the quarterbacks, and I loved Mike McCarthy’s willingness to go for it on fourth downs as well as his surprise onside kick…Anquan Boldin has officially lost all leverage. Look for him to be moved during the offseason…Next year, I see no reason why Aaron Rodgers shouldn’t be ranked as the No. 1 QB, Jermichael Finley as the No. 2 tight end and Greg Jennings as a top-10 receiver in fantasy leagues…Anyone who doesn’t consider Kurt Warner a Hall of Famer by now is crazy. I’d be surprised if Arizona doesn’t make it a close game in New Orleans this week…Neil Rackers = shankapotamus…The line opened with the Cards as 2.5-point favorites. By Sunday morning, the Packers were favored by three. I’ve never in my life seen a spread change 5.5 points like that…My pocketbook will be feeling that Rodgers to Jennings would-be touchdown miss in overtime for quite some time.

Bet on It

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

Last week I went 9-6-1 to close the regular season, making me 126-125-5 for 2009. Over the last three years, I’m 386-358. My best bet (Titans) pushed last week, leaving me an underwhelming 7-8-2 for the season. We’ll start fresh for the postseason:

Jets +2.5 at Bengals

Eagles +4 at Cowboys

Ravens +3.5 at Patriots

Packers (Best Bet) +1 at Cardinals

Comments: I’ve rode the Jets and faded the Bengals all season long, so naturally, I’m backing Cincy this week. First team to 13 points wins…The Cowboys may just match up too well against this Eagles team, but I’ll stubbornly take the points again. Either team could easily make the Super Bowl, but I expect the Eagles to perform far better than last week’s embarrassment…I don’t get the Joe Flacco hate – I expect him to move the ball plenty against a mediocre New England defense. The loss of Wes Welker is significant, so expect a close game Sunday, although ultimately, the Pats are undefeated at home and should win it…This isn’t a great setup for Green Bay, coming off an easy win just the week before when they showed far more of their hand than Arizona did. They keep having to travel back and forth as well. Still, the Packers have quite a bit of upside, and even if it’s the “sucker” side, I’m backing Green Bay, who ended the season 7-1 over its final eight games.

Playoff Rankings

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

Quarterbacks

1. Peyton Manning
2. Philip Rivers
3. Drew Brees
4. Brett Favre
5. Aaron Rodgers
6. Tony Romo
7. Tom Brady
8. Donovan McNabb
9. Kurt Warner
10. Joe Flacco
11. Carson Palmer
12. Mark Sanchez

Running Backs

1. Joseph Addai
2. Adrian Peterson
3. Ryan Grant
4. Pierre Thomas
5. Marion Barber
6. LaDainian Tomlinson
7. Cedric Benson
8. Ray Rice
9. Thomas Jones
10. Beanie Wells
11. Reggie Bush
12. Brian Westbrook
13. Felix Jones
14. Darren Sproles
15. Sammy Morris
16. Mike Bell
17. Fred Taylor
18. Willis McGahee
19. Shonn Greene
20. Tim Hightower
21. Donald Brown
22. Laurence Maroney
23. Chester Taylor
24. Leonard Weaver

Wide Receivers

1. Reggie Wayne
2. Vincent Jackson
3. Sidney Rice
4. Miles Austin
5. Marques Colston
6. Randy Moss
7. Greg Jennings
8. Pierre Garcon
9. Robert Meachem
10. Larry Fitzgerald
11. Julian Edelman
12. DeSean Jackson
13. Malcom Floyd
14. Donald Driver
15. Percy Harvin
16. Steve Breaston
17. Chad Johnson
18. Jeremy Maclin
19. Derrick Mason
20. Austin Collie
21. Roy Williams
22. Braylon Edwards
23. Anquan Boldin
24. Jerricho Cotchery
25. Bernard Berrian
26. Devery Henderson
27. Patrick Crayton
28. Laveranues Coles
29. Mark Clayton
30. James Jones

Tight Ends

1. Dallas Clark
2. Antonio Gates
3. Jason Witten
4. Jermichael Finley
5. Visanthe Shiancoe
6. Brent Celek
7. Jeremy Shockey
8. Ben Watson
9. Todd Heap
10. David Thomas
11. Dustin Keller
12. Martellus Bennett

Kickers

1. Adam Vinatieri/Matt Stover
2. Garrett Hartley
3. Nate Kaeding
4. Ryan Longwell
5. Mason Crosby
6. Shaun Suisham
7. Stephen Gostkowski
8. David Akers
9. Neil Rackers
10. Billy Cundiff
11. Shayne Graham
12. Jay Feely

Defenses

1. Colts
2. Saints
3. Chargers
4. Vikings
5. Packers
6. Cowboys
7. Patriots
8. Bengals
9. Jets
10. Eagles
11. Ravens
12. Cardinals

The Scoop

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

By Dalton Del Don

It’s never easy to project next season just after this one ended, especially with a new coaching staff taking over, but you have to think Fred Jackson’s Week 17 performance put a stamp on him being Buffalo’s true workhorse moving forward. Marshawn Lynch’s presence still causes concern, dropping him from first round consideration, but Jackson could be a second round pick in fantasy leagues in 2010…I’d let others make Reggie Wayne a top-five WR selection next season and take Pierre Garcon much later…Over the last five quarters, Curtis Painter has completed 28.6 percent of his passes for a 3.0 YPA mark. He also committed four turnovers without a TD. Of course, his opponents were two of the best secondaries in football, but still, that’s strikingly bad. After resting its starters in the second half of Week 16, what was Indy thinking having Peyton Manning attempt 18 passes last week?

No team has ever won the Super Bowl after finishing the regular season with two straight losses, something both No. 1 seeds have done this year, including the Saints dropping their final three games. To say they are limping into the playoffs would be an understatement…The Panthers would be fools not to enter 2010 with Matt Moore as their starting quarterback. Sure, the sample size has been small, but Moore just ended the season with an 8:0 TD:INT ratio with a 7.8 YPA mark over the final four contests. Three of the four opponents made the playoffs (the other being the Giants), and he didn’t have Steve Smith for one of them either. And if you want to talk sample size, how about Jake Delhomme’s last 12 games, when he’s committed 27 turnovers to just eight touchdowns.

Chris Jennings had one of the best runs of the season Sunday, but when it comes to Cleveland running backs, what more can be said about Jerome Harrison? It’s a joke he was planted on the bench so long. And while there’s no guarantee he could withstand a 350-carry type season, he ended the year by setting an NFL-record with 106 rushing attempts over the final three games – the most ever by a back over a three-game stretch…Over the last five games of the year, Mike Sims-Walker totaled just 12 catches for 129 yards with one touchdown, so he really struggled to finish the season, perhaps keeping his price tag down at 2010 draft tables.

Leave it to Jay Cutler to toss eight touchdowns to just one interception over the last two games, reminding everyone of his still vast potential. Especially if the recent revelation that Matt Forte suffered an MCL sprain in the middle of the year affected his performance more than we realized, he, Cutler and Greg Olsen should all be good targets in fantasy leagues next season…The Lions are 2-30 over the past two years – the worst stretch in NFL history (and yet they don’t even get the No. 1 pick in 2010’s draft).

Good luck trying to handicap Houston’s backfield next year. I’m still a Steve Slaton fan, and he might represent a good buy-low opportunity, but the Texans probably view him strictly as a change-of-pace type used extensively in passing situations, and undrafted Arian Foster impressed in between fumbles. To wit, the Pats entered last week having allowed an NFL-low four rushing scores on the year, yet Foster hit pay dirt twice Sunday (of course, New England’s D-line wasn’t at full strength, but still). Houston’s defense quietly improved over the second half of the year, and if not for some crazy last second losses, this 9-7 team could have easily been 11-5 this year. With continuity in the coaching staff and system, if Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels stay healthy in 2010, a playoff appearance should finally result…Interesting decision by Bill Belichick to play Tom Brady but remove him during both two-minute drills last week, the thought being to eliminate risk in obvious passing situations. What a devastating injury to Wes Welker (and how crazy was it that it once again involved Bernard Pollard?), and anyone who thinks Julian Edelman is a reasonable facsimile is way off.

Scary hit taken by Pat White. Weird he was ahead of Tyler Thigpen on the depth chart to begin with though. I’ve never seen a more conservative offense with White in. Chad Henne’s “eye” injury was clearly a euphemism for concussion…If you want to draft Rashard Mendenhall in fantasy leagues next year, it will likely cost a top-eight pick.

The toughest opponent in the NFL might very well be the Vikings when playing in Minnesota. They have a lot of warts and benefitted from a very easy schedule, but with the Saints looking extremely vulnerable, don’t be surprised by a deep run in the playoffs from the Vikes. Sidney Rice is a top-three WR in postseason fantasy leagues…Everyone keeps talking about Brandon Jacobs being soft, but if the guy really suffered a fairly serious knee injury Week 1, can we really fault him for his lackluster season? Of course, he seems to suffer a knee injury every year, so it’s not like I’m targeting him in fantasy leagues in 2010.

I love Antonio Gates and Dallas Clark, but I’d have a real hard time not ranking Vernon Davis as the No. 1 tight end in 2010…Ndamukong Suh looks can’t-miss, but he’s a defensive tackle. How can the Rams not take a quarterback?…San Francisco allowed 6.75 points per game during second halves this season, easily an NFL-low…It would be a big mistake if the 49ers entered 2010 completely content with Alex Smith as their quarterback of the future.

It’s too bad Antonio Bryant has likely talked himself off another team, because if he returned with a fully healthy knee next year, he would be just the weapon Josh Freeman could really grow with…If you examine the Falcons’ schedule and account for injuries, this is a team that will be dangerous in the NFC in 2010.

Dallas hadn’t scored a touchdown on its opening drive of any game over the first 13 contests this season and then did so in each of the final three games to close out the year. Go figure…The more I think about it, the more I’m willing to rank Miles Austin as the No. 3 wide receiver for fantasy purposes in 2010….The Eagles looked nothing short of terrible Sunday, but don’t be surprised if Saturday night’s wild card matchup is much more competitive, with a Philly win a possibility…You’ll hear people talk about how hard it is to beat a team three times in one season, and while that may be true because it’s rather rare, it’s not that hard once the first two games are out of the way. In fact, when teams meet for the third time in a given season, the squad that has won the first two times has a better winning percentage in game three than the one who has dropped the first two contests.

It’s safe to say the Cardinals will be in a lot of trouble when Matt Leinart becomes QB1. Considering Kurt Warner will be 39 years old when next season starts, that prospect may be sooner than any prospective Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Beanie Wells fantasy owner would like…The Packers are a weird team. On one hand, they were the most penalized team in the NFL this year and have a bad special teams unit. On the other, they led the league in turnover ratio and had the second-best point differential in football this season. They could easily lose this week to a team that didn’t try while watching GB utilize its playbook last Sunday, but the Packers also wouldn’t surprise if they made the Super Bowl either.

I won’t say the Broncos didn’t miss Brandon Marshall last week, but Jabar Gaffney sure made Eddie Royal look bad with a big performance. Marshall will be tough to rank in fantasy leagues next year, but hopefully his situation will become clearer come August…Tim Castille’s halfback pass was honestly one of the five-worst throws I’ve ever seen in any football game of my life last week, emphasized by the announcer suggesting the cornerback should have “called for a fair catch” on the throw.  I get it – you’re not a quarterback and not used to throwing in an NFL game. I don’t care. If the trick play doesn’t result in someone wide open, just throw the ball 10 rows deep in the stands. This isn’t rocket science…I‘ve been guilty in the past of overrating running backs similar to what Jamaal Charles has done – huge performances (on a bad team) down the stretch (and against weak competition) with little to no history. That said, I have Charles as the No. 6 overall pick in 2010 drafts, and I stand by it. He’s the real deal.

JaMarcus Russell didn’t show up to the Raiders’ season-ending meeting because he wanted to go to Vegas instead? I can’t say I blame him, but he’s now officially one of the five biggest busts in NFL history…Willis McGahee was the most worthless fantasy player to ever score 14 touchdowns in a given season this year…I keep hearing Joe Flacco getting killed in the media, but this is a sophomore QB who has posted a 7.9 YPA and a 7:1 TD:INT ratio over his past four games despite a bad outing in Oakland last week. His season YPA (7.2), TDs (21) and completion percentage (63.1) all rank in the top half of the league; he’s played one game indoors this season while facing an extremely difficult schedule with one of the worst receiving corps in football. Flacco deserves far more credit than he gets.

While I wasn’t impressed with Mike Shanahan the GM (at least not toward the end of his Denver tenure), it’s hard to deny he wasn’t a good coach, so I can’t wait to see what he does with this Washington roster, especially on offense. Good luck in that division…Here’s a Peter King quote from his MMQB column this week: “This is the year (Philip) Rivers joined the elite of NFL quarterbacks.” Look, I still read King and don’t care if he makes me cringe from time-to-time; the guy means well and works hard, but that comment is indefensible. I picked Rivers as the MVP last season. Dude had 34 TD passes (which tied for the NFL-lead, but he had six fewer INTs) with an 8.4 YPA that easily led the league. Call me crazy, but I think he entered the “elite” last season. Not to kill the guy, but later in King’s article, he argues Tim Tebow should be selected high because Joe Montana and Tom Brady lasted far too long during their drafts. Huh?

I love how many in Seattle are shocked by T.J. Houshmandzadeh being a bust during his first year as a Seahawk when he averaged 10.2 and 9.8 yards-per-catch during his last two seasons in Cincinnati. I mean, he’s always had good hands and had to deal with a terrible QB in his final season with the Bengals, but he’s eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving just twice during his eight-year career – never reaching 1,150 yards. He’s an OK possession receiver in a good offense and nothing more…That holding call should NOT have been called. Chris Johnson was screwed.

I’m beginning to think the Bengals didn’t show up to play Sunday night. Now that was embarrassing. That said, don’t be shocked if Cincy wins this week…The Jets have unquestionably the best defense in the NFL this season, and the No. 1 ranked run offense as well (I like YPC better than YPG, but still, their rushing attack is legit either way), but unfortunately, this is a passing league, so they have little chance of advancing past the divisional round of the AFC playoffs (and I’m a big Rex Ryan fan too).