Champ and Chump: Week 16

Written by :
Published on : January 1, 2016

 

Happy New Year from myself and everyone here at SBS. As we ring in 2016, we make our New Year’s resolutions. Many of us we plan to make the gym a part of our daily routine, or put down our smokes or maybe it’s less drinking. For others maybe we just want to focus on becoming a better person overall, or get more in touch with our families and friends. While that all sounds great for you and me, we’ve chronicled a lot of athletes over the last 15+ weeks whose resolutions should have been to stay on the right side of this list. This week we take notice of a couple guys who outplayed the competition and also find a couple teams who were outplayed. We hit the hardwood a bit too, recognizing a great individual performance and could be on the way to seeing a first for a team in college ball. For the last time in 2015, let’s take a look at the picks for Champ and Chump, and I’ll see you again in 2016

 

 

Champ: Kirk Cousins

 Cousins has the Redskins headed to the playoffs.

 

How good is Kirk Cousins feeling right now? Out of nowhere the Skins have won the NFC East and are looking more and more like a contender every week. Defeating the Eagles on Saturday night, Cousins threw for 365 yards and 4 touchdowns without turning the ball over. Perhaps more importantly, the connection of Cousins to Tight End Jordan Reed (9 catches, 129 yards, 2 touchdowns in the game) has become lethal and seemingly unstoppable. I am not sure many people predicted a division title for Washington this year and I’m sure even fewer predicted a season like this for Kirk Cousins, but two things are for sure, Kirk Cousins is about to get paid and reporters and fans around the D.C. area definitely like that.

 

Honorable Mention:

Isaiah Ford- The Virginia Tech Wide Receiver caught 12 passes for 227 yards and a touchdown in a 55-52 Independence Bowl win over Tulsa, sending legendary coach Frank Beamer out with a W.

 

CJ McCollum- Starting in place of injured Damian Lillard, McCollum just missed a triple-double in a win over the Sacramento Kings. CJ finished with 35 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists and 4 steals.

 

Bryant McIntosh- Northwestern has never made the NCAA Tournament but is off to a 13-1 start and hoping for the school’s first bid. Sophomore guard Bryant McIntosh, leads the Wildcats including a 33 point/8 assist night against Loyola Maryland. McIntosh hit 11 of 14 field goals leading the charge.

 

 

Chump: Bill Belichick

 Belichick wearing his chump face.

 

Bill Belichick showed Shades of Marty Mornhinweg this past weekend, as Patriots’ coach was on the losing end following a very questionable decision to kick heading into overtime against the New York Jets. Belichick decided to play the wind, and trusted his defense to at least hold New York to a field goal, hoping Brady and the offense would then drive down and win the game. Unfortunately for Belichick, his defense couldn’t hold off Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets and they found the endzone on their first possession, ending the game and making Bill Belichick look foolish. I understand that with the new OT rules a field goal on the first drive no longer ends the game but when Tom Brady is your quarterback and you win the toss, go out there and trust Tom Terrific to lead your team to a touchdown on the first drive.

 

Dishonorable Mention:

Green Bay Packers- I keep waiting for the Packers to hit their stride but it appears they may not find it this season. Heading to Arizona and looking to make a statement, the Packers were overmatched everywhere on the field losing 38-8. The Cardinals defense swarmed Green Bay, finishing with 9 sacks and 4 takeaways.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers- In control of their own destiny for the playoffs, Pittsburgh had seemingly one of the easier matchups this past weekend when they headed to Baltimore. The 4-10 Ravens had Ryan Mallett making his first start with the team after being signed December 15, yet the Steelers couldn’t take advantage and now find themselves on the outside looking in at the playoff picture needing help to get in.

 

Manchester United- Winless in their last 8 games, Man U is fading fast. At one point they found themselves atop the table but those days seem incredibly far away. Manager Louis Van Gaal may be on his way out as the club struggles to find a long term replacement for the great Sir Alex Ferguson.

 

 

 


Champ and Chump Week 7

Written by :
Published on : October 30, 2015

 

A great time to be alive my friends, a great time to be alive. A little something for everybody to enjoy sports-wise right now as we have the World Series going on, the NFL season is almost at its halfway point, college football is in high gear, hockey has been great thus far and now the NBA is underway. Hell, for guys like Antoine Poutine and me, the English Premier League is off to a very interesting start. This week, we honor a couple slingers of the football, say goodbye to a legend with the futbol and we keep on wishing that Greg Hardy would just go away.

The Champ and Chump of the Week ladies and gentleman…

 

Champ: Kirk Cousins

33-40, 317 yards, 4 TD’s (1 rushing) – Game winning TD pass with 24 seconds left

Cousins rushes for a TD in the second quarter of their wins over the Bucs.

 

The Washington Redskins trailed by 24 points in the 2nd quarter on Sunday, and the sports writers at the Washington Post were all but set to send in their articles for Monday morning’s print. A quarterback controversy was back, would RGIII get another shot? Is Colt McCoy going to be the signal caller next week? Staring a 2-5 start in the face, Cousins came out in the second half and took over, helping the ‘Skins outscore the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-6 for the rest of game. Now, at 3-4 and just a game out of first place in the NFC East, anything is possible. While I don’t see the Redskins winning the division, a big swing of momentum like this has been known to get a team on a roll, and make things more interesting than they otherwise would have been.

 

Honorable Mention:

Ryan Tannehill- Finished 18-19 for 282 yards and 4 touchdowns in a blowout win against the Houston Texans. Also, Tannehill broke the NFL record for consecutive completions going back to last week, with 25 straight.

Abby Wambach- After an incredible career, Abby announced her retirement from the US women’s team. The all time leading goals scorer in international competitions (male or female), went out on top after capturing the World Cup championship this past summer.

Montréal Canadiens- Started the season 9-0 while leading the NHL in goals scored and fewest goals against. Very impressive start as they look to bring Lord Stanley back for Canada for the first time since 1993.

 

 

Chump: The U

Lost 58-0 at home to Clemson this past Saturday.

They couldn’t have guessed just how bad this game would go.

 

As embarrassing as that score reads, I am not making the Hurricanes my chump so much for that particular game. Instead, it is for the sad state in which the program currently sits. Similar to what I said about Texas a couple weeks ago (though they beat rival Oklahoma the next week), this team is so far from its glory days that I don’t even know where they should start. I suppose you could say they have started with the firing of Al Golden, but when you’re a program facing NCAA sanctions, how much growth can any coach get from his guys. With postseason bans on the horizon, recruiting is going to take a big blow. Who wants to go to a school that has nothing to play for? Then the following year or two, because no real talent went there, they are so behind the 8-ball, talent wise, that when the post-season sanctions come off they don’t have a chance to match the skill level required to compete for championships. I always think parody is great for sports, but having the usual powerhouses relevant is just as important. A very interesting year it will be as USC, Miami, and potentially Texas all could be seeking new head coaches for next season.

 

Dishonorable Mention:

Ryan Mallett- After missing the team flight this past weekend to Miami, Mallett had to book his own flight. He also slept in and missed a practice during training camp. Today, Mallett finds himself without a team as the Texans cut him saying it’s time to move on.

Greg Hardy- A guy who could be in my “chump” category every week. It’s debatable whether this guy should even be allowed to play pro football, of course leave it to Jerry Jones to give him a chance. His sideline antics after the Cowboy’s special teams gave up a game-winning kick return was the icing on the cake to finally put Hardy on this list. Although calling him a chump is actually being kind.

Florida State- Who would have thought just a week after the Miracle in Ann Arbor we would have another ranked football team fall on a crazy, game-ending play? Kick Six Part 2. Florida State’s kicker Roberto Aguayo, possibly the nation’s top kicker, is about to attempt a field goal with 6 seconds left in a tied ball game and it’s blocked! Georgia Tech scoops up the ball and runs it for the touchdown to end the game.

 

 


Roger Pretzel’s Cloudy Crystal Ball: AFC South

Written by :
Published on : August 21, 2015

 

This season’s AFC South promises a strong showing from the Colts despite Pagano being under extra post-season scrutiny, a Texans team itching to break into the big time, and a group of Jaguars and Titans still searching for an identity.

Simmer down. I’m trying to listen to the danged old ball…

 

Houston Texans:

 photo houstontexans_zpsdtpcwqvw.jpg

 

The Texans certainly have the potential to pop-off this season. A healthy Jadeveon Clowney alongside the indomitable monster that is J.J. Watt is going to provide for one of the best pass rushes in the league. And let’s not forget the addition of big man Vince Wilfork. Veteran Andre Johnson’s departure doesn’t hurt so much with the ascendency of DeAndre Hopkins, and Cecil Shorts could blossom under a new system. But the big offensive questions remain: can anything get accomplished at the QB position, and can Arian Foster stay healthy? Unfortunately it looks like the latter has already been answered with a pre-season groin injury, but there’s still hope in the backfield with Alfred Blue.

The QB question is much tougher. I like how Bill O’Brien is working with Hoyer and Mallett equally, but unless Mallett makes some amazing moves in the pre-season, I think it’s a no brainer to give the job to Hoyer. The guy’s got more starting experience, and while not being a top-tier quarterback in any capacity, I think he’s a lot better than he gets credit for.

 

The crystal ball says:

 

Another solid year for the Texans with more scratches in the W’s column than L’s. The offense will just squeeze by, propped up by a defense that will surely put the fear of God into every quarterback they come across. The good times don’t roll on forever though as a costly divisional loss or two at the hands of the Titans or Jaguars leads to a repeat of last year’s near miss of the wildcard slot.

 

Tennessee Titans:

 photo tennesseetitans_zpsd2wnvfb3.jpg

 

Ken Whisenhunt was my top man for the job in Detroit when Jim Schwartz was given his walking papers, but with a frightful 2-14 record last year for his coming-out-party, I’m thinking Jim Caldwell is looking pretty good right about now. Obviously it’s not all Whisenhunt’s fault, as he came into a team that’s seemed to struggle in every department, hell, every facet of the game.

Second overall pick Marcus Mariota has a lot of expectations weighing on him coming into his rookie season. I love the draft call and think he’ll be a great fit with this team… eventually. It would be foolish to think that Mariota is gonna turn this Titanic around, especially with the limited weapons at his disposal. I could see Mariota and Kendall Wright achieving some chemistry together, and am super curious to see if veteran Hakeem Nicks boosts the offense or simply phones it in.

 

The crystal ball says:

 

Mariota makes a difference, especially with the fire under Whisenhunt’s ass. The Titans improve gradually around their new QB and the whole thing begins to jell. David Cobb and Bishop Sankey will share most of the touches, creating an unspectacular, but reasonably effective run game. The Titan’s aren’t contenders yet, and they won’t be by the end of the season, but with a little luck they will manage to escape a repeat of having the worst record in the NFL.

 

Indianapolis Colts:

 photo indianapoliscolts_zpsdrodosvx.jpg

 

Indy’s at the top of the heap in the AFC South and it looks like it’s going to remain that way for at least another year. Andrew Luck is killing it, and T.Y. Hilton, perhaps the best deep threat receiver in the league, got resigned this offseason. The Colts finally have a bit of stability in the backfield with Frank Gore. Sure, Gore’s lost a bit of his speed and he’s not going to get as many touches as he used to, but his instincts are still good, and he still has that battering-ram toughness that makes him so fun to watch and so frustrating for defenses. He also has the coolest nickname in the league (The Inconvenient Truth). In any case, one would be hard pressed to say that he’s not a huge step up from Trent Richardson, who I mistakenly thought was really going to make a go of it with the Colts.

With the Indy chumping it the past few years of playoffs, questions about Chuck Pagano’s competency are being raised. I think it’s a issue worth talking about, and the buck stops here, but I think it’s difficult to peg those losses, no matter how spectacular, on a guy who regularly racks up winning seasons for his team. Plenty of teams would be so lucky as to have Chuck Pagano as their head coach.

 

The crystal ball says:

 

The offense is there, but the defense will continue to have trouble keeping up with the other side of the ball. The divisional situation gives the Colts another free ticket to the playoffs where they once again lose a heartbreaker. Questions will continue about Pagano’s coaching. He’s out of Indy in the next three years.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars:

 photo jacksonvillejaguars_zpsgpmw3vju.jpg

 

I like Blake Bortles, and not just because of his funny name. I like his arm when he’s on the run and I like his release. There’s plenty of room for improvement, and I think we’re going to see some of it this year. Julius Thomas was a nice off-season present for a guy in need of quality receivers, but let’s be honest, I think plenty of teams will be comfortable double teaming Thomas in the red zone while leaving Marqise Lee open. I like the multiple options at running back, and I think Bernard Pierce makes the roster and has an impact.

Something I’ve noticed: I never see a dude in just a Jaguars hat or jersey. It’s always an entire outfit with hat, jersey, shorts, and even team color sneakers. Just on the street. Just walking around. Crazy people like that deserve to see Julius Thomas succeed with his new team.

 

The crystal ball says:

 

The most exciting games for the Jags this year will be divisional matchups, particularly against the Titans and Texans. Jacksonville has a solid shot at spoiling Houston’s playoff dream, and leaving Tennessee in the dust. The crystal ball says both these things happen. The non-divisional games on the other hand will be mostly losses with a tough schedule for a team in transition.

 

 


Fantasy Football Saints, Sinners and Sleepers: QB Edition

Written by :
Published on : August 15, 2015

 

“Here we lay bare the souls of those who play the game for our entertainment. We praise the saints, condemn the sinners, and root out the sleepers who can help your fantasy football team stay on the righteous path.”

 

The first installment of Saints, Sinners and Sleepers will explore the quarterback position heading into the 2015 NFL season. These are the best of the best, the worst of the worst and some of the most underestimated in their field. The following players can help you gain entry into the pearly gates of a fantasy football championship, or send you to the seventh circle of a losing season. Heed the words you are about to read, and know that it is truth.

 

Saints

Number 12 will be giving opposing defenses trouble once again this season.

 

Aaron Rodgers– The best quarterback in the NFL is also your best option in fantasy football this year. He and Andrew Luck are just about neck and neck, but Rodgers is much more of a proven commodity. He has been slinging the pig skin with pinpoint accuracy for years now, and doesn’t look to be slowing down. Despite some nagging injuries last season he managed to throw for 4,381 yards and 38 touchdowns. He can make plays on the ground as well as through the air, and with a running game led by Eddie Lacy, he’ll have less pressure on him and more defenders in the box than in recent years, which should translate to some big play opportunities. He is a perhaps the biggest saint among QBs in the world of fantasy football and can do no wrong this year if he is your starting quarterback.

 

Andrew Luck- The football chucking ogre in Indy will be carrying his team once again this year and that means lots of yards through the air and touchdowns. In the last few seasons, the Colts have left a lot to be desired in the areas of running game and defense, and this year doesn’t seem to be any different. Hoping that an over the hill Frank Gore can resurrect the ground game seems like a long shot and they just didn’t add enough pieces to improve a bad defense. Once again, the Colts will be trying to hang 50 points a game and outscore their opponents. For owners charmed enough to land Luck this is great news and there’s no reason he can’t come close to the 4,791 passing yards and 40 touchdowns he racked up last season. He is still a very young saint with room to improve on his already very good numbers. If he is still available in the end of the first round then draft him.

 

Ben Roethlisberger- The Steel City has been fortunate to have Big Ben as their quarterback for the last decade. He has helped them win two Super Bowls, and is coming off of his best season yet, statistically speaking. His 67.1 completion percentage, 4,952 yards and 32 touchdowns were all high points in an already impressive career. Oh yeah, he also has arguably the best receiver in the game, Antonio Brown. These two are just hitting stride together and should be a potent combination for years to come.  If that wasn’t scary enough, Le’veon Bell will back after he serves his two game suspension and will have defenses stacking the box and leaving plenty of room for Ben to work miracles. The offense in Pittsburgh is going to score a ton of points, and if Ben Roethlisberger can stay healthy he will be a true saint as your fantasy football QB, helping you win it all.

 

Sinners

Expect more of this if Ej Manuel takes the field for the Bills.

 

Whoever starts in Buffalo- Matt Cassel, EJ Manuel or Tyrod Taylor; it’s all garbage. The three QBs combined for an astounding 1,263 yards, 8 touchdowns and 16 interceptions last season. Compound their collective ineptitude with new head coach, Rex Ryan, who is notorious for staunch defense, strong running game and terrible quarterback play, and you have a recipe for an awful passing attack. I don’t think this really warrants further explanation, but they are bound to live up to their reputations as bums. No matter who wins the starting job, they are sinners and should be banished to the depths of fantasy football hell. Should you be unfortunate (or stupid) enough to end up with them on your roster, don’t say you weren’t warned, and may God have mercy on your soul.

 

Whoever starts in Houston- When Arian Foster went down with a gruesome groin injury in the opening days of training camp, life got considerably harder for whichever QB comes out on top. The two guys vying for the starting job are Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett, and neither of them should have fans down in Houston very excited. Mallett passed for 400 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in three games with the Texans last year. Hoyer actually gave fans up in Cleveland a fleeting moment of hope last season, only to collapse in the second half of the season and finish with 3,326 yard, 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Without their starting running back to keep opposing defenses occupied, you can be sure that both of these guys will see the field at some point, and will perform poorly when they do. DeAndre Hopkins can only do so much to cleanse these sinners and mask their deficiencies. Avoid them at all costs.

 

Whoever starts in Cleveland- This committee thing is becoming a common theme for the QB sinners, but hear me out. Gone are Brian Hoyer, a troubled but talented Josh Gordon and pass-catching TE Jordan Cameron, and in their place are Josh McCown, Brian Hartline and Dwayne Bowe. None of these names are scaring anyone and the fact of the matter is that Josh McCown and his competition, Johnny Manziel, combined for 2,381 yards, 11 touchdowns and 16 interceptions last year (Manziel contributed zero touchdowns to that total). Neither of these guys have ever given the indication that they were any good at the pro level. If you draft either of these sinners you are either desperate or crazy, and guaranteed to a fantasy football season full of pain and despair.

 

Sleepers

The number 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft will be putting up some numbers this year.

 

Jameis Winston- It’s never all that smart to put your faith in a rookie QB in fantasy football, but you could do a lot worse than former Heisman winner and national champion, Jameis Winston. Having two stud wide receivers, in Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson, to help ease the transition to the big leagues doesn’t hurt either. There will be interceptions for sure, but look for Winston’s talent to shine through often. Leading to good numbers in his first season under center in Tampa Bay.

 

Matt Stafford- It’s hard to consider Matt Stafford a sleeper at this point considering the fact that he has put up some very big numbers at times. Passing yards have always been fairly easy for Mr. Stafford but he has been inconsistent and had issues with interceptions at various points throughout his career. That changed last year with the arrival of head coach Jim Caldwell, and Stafford threw the fewest interceptions in any of his seasons as a full time starter. Stafford was much more careful than in years past and even seemed to be going against his gunslinger instincts. As a result, touchdowns were down along with interceptions. Look for Caldwell to give his young QB a longer leash and allow him to sling the ball downfield to the bevy of weapons at his disposal this year.

 

Derek Carr- The young quarterback in Oakland did an admirable job in his debut season for a Raiders team that was not very good, passing for 3,270 yards and 21 touchdowns. With the addition of Amari Cooper, look for Derek Carr to improve vastly over the course of the 2015 season. Cooper is a game changer and will be an easy target for Carr, and I see them connecting for at least 12 touchdowns this season. Opposing secondaries will learn very quickly that they must key in on the rookie wide receiver out of Alabama, leaving Carr plenty of opportunities to spread the ball around, and build on a strong rookie campaign.

 


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