NFL Division Longshots to Consider (or Not)

Although long shots do not pay off very often – there’s a reason they’re long shots, after all – it’s worth it to consider which ones might beat the NFL odds in 2017. Last year, those who were paid off the most by betting on a long-shot division winner had the Atlanta Falcons to win the NFC South at +450. Of course, much of the credit for Atlanta’s division title does have to go to the Carolina Panthers who fell from a 15-1 mark in 2015 to a 6-10 record.

Longest of Long Odds

Two teams enter the 2017 campaign at +3300 to win their respective titles, the Cleveland Browns (AFC North) and New York Jets (AFC East).

One positive for Cleveland is that, barring a winless season, there’s nowhere to go but up after the Browns went 1-15 in 2016, the team’s worst record in its storied history. But the focus for us is whether they can shock football fans and win their division. One plus is that the Browns have basically torn apart their playbook in the offseason and started over as that sometimes leads the way for surprises to occur, which will be necessary, especially from the quarterback position; Cody Kessler is tentatively leading that battle.

Now, the New York Jets may appear to have a few steps on Cleveland as their 2011 record was a bit better at 5-11. However, they have to overtake the New England Patriots to win their division title, which will likely be a much harder hurdle to overcome than anything Cleveland has to face. In fact, the Patriots have the shortest division title odds in the NFL at -500. And, like the Browns, New York is in rebuilding mode and hoping that all of the pieces end up going in the right places and that career seasons come from unexpected sources.

Long Shots

Three more teams have double-digit odds against them winning their respective division titles: the Chicago Bears (+1200), Los Angeles Rams (+1200) and San Francisco 49ers (+1800).

Chicago is another team coming off of a horrible season as the Bears were 3-13 in 2016, their second-worst record in history. Can that be turned around so much that a NFC North title is in the works? Of course, the Green Bay Packers (-140) falling to the pack is as necessary as an unexpected Bears turnaround for that to occur. As far as the Bears go, they are expecting more of the same after little change in starting personnel and a questionable draft. However, they should have some depth behind what appears to be mediocre starters.

The Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers are also hurt just as much by the strength of a division rival, the Seattle Seahawks in this case (-350), as they are by the relative lack of quality they appear to bring.

If Seattle does falter, the Rams will need to see a dramatic improvement under the tutelage of 31-year-old Sean McVay, the youngest head coach in NFL history. Of course, a positive that can be taken from not knowing what to expect from an unproven coach is that the potential for an unexpected positive outcome is there as well. Wade Phillips joining the Rams staff as their defensive coordinator is a good sign as well as he recently helped the Denver Broncos to a Super Bowl title.

Conversely, will the 49ers be able to rise up and take the crown should the Seahawks fall back to the pack? It’s unlikely, especially when you consider how much turnover the team has experienced over the last few years, especially at the head coaching position. Kyle Shanahan will be San Francisco’s fourth head coach in the past four seasons. However, the front office did take advantage of all of the cap room that the team had to sign players such as Pierre Garcon, Kyle Juszczyk and Malcolm Smith.

Best Pick

Of the five long shots to win their division this year, I would go with the Los Angeles Rams. The added energy of such a young head coach in McVay will help them exceed expectations while the 70-year-old Phillips will bring some stability too with all of the knowledge that he’s bringing to Southern California. Of course, much of the success of this bet will have to do with Seattle faltering too, but that’s possible, and it’s important to remember that long shots like this don’t have to pay off that often to be good bets.

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The Run for World Series This October Just Got Interesting!

Everyone knows the two favorites this year are the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers have Kershaw at the head of their rotation, and he’s the best pitcher in baseball. Their team ERA is 3.15, which is among the best. The Astros are scoring touchdowns worth of runs and have a team batting average of nearly .300. Their team slugging percentage is .500 … including pitchers in National League parks. Do you want to see a comparison in World Series odds? The 1927 Yankees hit 158 home runs in their season and scored 976 runs. The Astros are on a pace for 960 runs and 269 home runs.

There are, however, some teams that might make some noise down the stretch. How about a team that is two games over .500 but has been outscored by more than 60 runs? The Minnesota Twins are gutty, gritty, and do whatever they can to win. Their uniforms are always dirty from sliding, diving, and putting forth extra effort. They are finding ways to win when they need to win and have a good shot at winning the American League Central, particularly if they can pick up the pace at home. They are already 10 games over .500 on the road this season. This is a far cry from losing 109 games last season!

The Milwaukee Brewers are the Rodney Dangerfield of the National League. Only one team has hit more home runs: the slug-o-matic Houston Astros. Although their defense is suspect, the Brewers are doing the same things the Twins are doing to win. Domingo Santana, especially, has worked on his patience at the plate, raising both his batting average and on-base percentage 40 points in 2017.

The Arizona Diamondbacks are in an even less enviable position than the Brewers. While the Brewers get no respect, the Diamondbacks are hardly even noticed. Just check out their best player: Paul Goldschmidt. Who? Goldschmidt just hit .312 with 20 homers and a league-leading 73 runs scored. Guess what? He didn’t even start in the All-Star game even though he had a better on-base percentage than Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals, who did start. Zimmerman is a poor fielder, too, when compared to Goldschmidt. The Diamondbacks aren’t going to catch the Dodgers in the regular season, in all likelihood, but they have a terrific shot at the wild card and have Zack Greinke, Zack Godley, and Robbie Ray headlining the rotation. Anything can happen in a seven-game series too.

Is it likely to be the Astros and Dodgers in the World Series? Yes. It is not a foregone conclusion, however, and they will have to be on the lookout for good teams with great character who are gunning for them.

Red Sox Trying To Contend Again

SOXTwo years ago, the Boston Red Sox were starting off a championship campaign. They were able to go all the way to the World Series thanks to a number of guys stepping up. Unfortunately, they fell apart in 2014, and that led to quite a few changes over the winter. They enter the 2015 season very confident that they will get back into contention. The question is, can they actually win a World Series title with the team they have assembled?

The two main pieces Boston brought in over the winter include Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. These two players were National League rivals last year, but both help out one of 2014’s worst offenses in baseball, as most of the other talented hitters on the Red Sox had started to show their age.

Boston is also expecting some more things out of their youngsters who will get a chance to play on a consistent basis. Xander Bogaerts was unable to turn that corner in 2014, but he is still considered to be a future All-Star. Mookie Betts could get to that level as well, as he brings some much needed speed and defense to the roster. He is considered a sleeper in fantasy baseball heading into the season.

Pitching is the biggest question mark for the Red Sox, but a lot can change between April and October. For starters, a pitcher or two on the current roster could exceed expectations in fantasy baseball. There is also a chance that Boston will decide to go after a few different options in a potential trade down the road. They are not afraid of all to be active at the trade deadline if that means an opportunity to win.

Boston probably enters the season in the as the favorites American League East with the Toronto Blue Jays. Overall, the division is not a strong as it has been in the past. If they can get into the playoffs, Boston certainly has the firepower to go all the way.

International Roadtrip – NHL Playoff Style

Bruins-CanadiensBoston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens. If you’re reading this website you probably don’t need to be told what that means but just in case, I’ll sum it up for you in three sentences: We hate them. They hate us. This is going to be awesome.

After opening up with the first two games in Boston, the series heads north of the border for games three and four on Tuesday, May 6th and Thursday May 8th. If a game six becomes necessary it will be back in Montreal on Monday May 12th.

Our boys could use the support for those road games and seeing how Montreal is just a five-hour drive from Boston, the circumstances make for a perfect guys’ getaway. If you’re going, here’s a guide for what to do, where to go and what to bring.

What to do: Drink Good Beer

Where to go: The Dieu du Ciel! is one of the most popular microbreweries in a city that loves its microbreweries.

What to bring: Your liver.

What to do: Go to a strip club

Where to go: Montreal is known for two things: Habs hockeyand strip clubs. There are hundreds, but here are four of the more popular places with all the details.

What to bring: Canadian currency. The Canadian dollar comes in both bill and coin form, giving you the option of making it rain or hail.

What to do: Gamble

Where to go: The Casino de Montreal has tables for poker, blackjack, keno, baccarat, craps and roulette plus slot machines.

What to bring: A poker strategy guide and this (although the dealers may not be too fond of it).

What to do: Eat Poutine.This local cuisine is poutine, a hot mess of french fries, gravy and cheese curds.

Where to go: If you’r looking for poutine, La Banquise is the place to do it.

What to bring: An empty stomach and an open mind.

What to do: Ice skating

Where to go: C’mon, this is hockey playoffs! Get in the spirit and lace ’em up at Atrium Le 1000, located in Montreal’s tallest building.

What to bring: Your Bruins jersey and skates (although rentals are offered).

Oh, and don’t forget your passport. You might need that too. Go Bruins!

Red Sox Return to Baseball’s Fall Classic

Picture Courtesy of boston.cbslocal.com

Pennants and Playoffs: The Boston Red Sox have clinched the American League East division title for the first time since 2007 and will make their first post-season appearance since 2009. At 95-62 (as of September 23rd) the Red Sox continue to hold the M-L-B’s best overall record as well as a league leading home record of 53-28.

The Sox also top the majors in nearly every batting statistic. Boston is in first place in total runs with 812 and slugging percentage with a .443 average, meanwhile the Sox rank second in the league for batting average with a .275 and on-base-percentage with a .348.

On a pitching end, Boston’s staff remains rock solid ranking in the top ten or higher in two of the four major statistical categories. Currently the Sox hurlers rank third in the league in quality starts with 94, eighth in the majors with a batting average against of .246, 11th in ERA with a 3.72, and 13th in WHIP posting a 1.29.

With just a few games left in the 2013 regular season, Manager John Farrell has been hard at work finalizing the 25 man roster for October play, so let’s take a look at who will likely make the cut, and what’s in store for the bearded beasts of the east.

Picture Courtesy of ESPN.com

Fall Ball: Here’s a rundown of what the Red Sox 25 man roster should look like once the playoffs begin: (roster information is accurate as of September 23rd according to 25manrosters.com)

C Jarrod Saltalamacchia

C David Ross

C Ryan Lavarnway

DH David Ortiz

IF Dustin Pedroia

IF Mike Napoli

IF Stephen Drew

IF Will Middlebrooks

IF John McDonald

IF Brock Holt

IF Xander Bogaerts

OF Jacoby Ellsbury

OF Sahne Victorino

OF Jonny Gomes 

OF Daniel Nava

OF Mike Carp

OF Jackie Bradley Jr.

OF Quintin Berry

P Clay Bucholz

P Jon Lester

P Ryan Dempster

P John Lackey

P Jake Peavy

P Koji Uehara

P Junichi Tazawa

P Brandon Workman

P Allen Webster

P Franklin Morales

P Craig Breslow

P Matt Thornton

P Steven Wright

P Felix Doubront

P Rubby De La Rosa

P Brayan Villareal

P Drake Britton

The list above contains 36 players, meaning 11 of them will not make the cut. The obvious choices of Ortiz, Pedroia, Napoli, Gomes, Drew, Ellsbury, Victorino, Saltalamacchia, Middlebrooks, Nava, Ross, and Carp come as no surprise to anyone. However, with Farrell wishing to carry 11 pitchers in to the post-season, (according to ESPN.com/Boston) who he deems worthy of the final two position-player spots will be interesting.

With De La Rosa, Wright, Britton, Villareal, Webster, and Doubront all likely being left out of Farrell’ 11 man pitching posse, and Holt, Snyder, and Lavarnway missing the positon-player party, this leaves four players fighting for those final two spots: Bradley Jr. vs. Berry and McDonald vs. Bogaerts.

As far as who Farrell will choose, this has yet to be determined, but it’s really just a matter of choosing which type of role player the Red Sox will need.

In the Bradley Jr. vs. Berry case, it’s quite simple, Farrell will pick Bradley Jr. because of his defensive skills and potential plate presence to sure up the outfiled, or go with Berry becasue of his base speed and glove work. Either way the Sox will have a solid player added to the 25-man roster.

Then in the case of McDonald vs. Bogaerts, Farrell has the choice between the more seasoned McDonald, or the up-and-coming Bogaerts who has turned heads with his defensive work on the left-side of the field. Again, like with Bradley Jr. vs. Berry, either way Farrell goes, Boston will have a deep depth chart on the left side of the plate defensively.

Picture Courtesy of boards.sportslogos.net

Final Thoughts:

Given the surprise success the Red Sox have had this season, it would not be farfetched to say that this year’s squad has what it takes to storm into the World Series and walk away as the winter classic champions. While the A-L competition will be fierce with the likes of the Oakland Athletics and Detroit Tigers standing in their way, history may repeat itself this post-season.

The last time the Boston Red Sox won the A-L East (2007) they went on to win the World Series Sweeping the surprising N-L Pennant winning Colorado Rockies. How far do you think Boston will go this October? Leave a comment below.

Selfish

The “cool” thing to do the past couple of seasons has been to take pay cuts in order to build a team that can contend. LeBron did, Bosh did (even though he does not deserve what he makes now), Wade did it, Garnett did it, and Tim Duncan did it. Even Dirk offered to do it, but no one wants to take him up on it. Kobe Bryant’s salary next season is going to be worth a total of $30.45 million and he won’t take a cut. He said the following to Lakers Nation:

I’m not taking any at all — that’s the negotiation that you have to have.For me to sit here and say, ‘Oh yeah, I’m just going to take a huge pay cut. Nah, I’m going to try to get as much as I possibly can.”

I mean, how much money does this guy need? He already has to be one of the richest around, and he’s about to play for a team that is too scared to rebuild and that will fight to make a playoff spot since Howard bolted. This guy is selfish and deserves every single loss that is coming to him. Lakers suck, so does Kobe.

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New Look to the NBA Landscape

Picture Courtesy of ranklogos.com

Out with the Old in with the New: It’s hard to believe, but in just two years time the likes of Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Steve Nash, and many more long-time NBA veterans, will all be gone from the game. Yes, some of the leagues brightest stars will soon burn out by way of retirement.

This means the NBA’s landscape will look a bit different moving forward, and just as Doc Rivers was the first domino to fall in the C’s rebuilding scheme, so to is Dwight Howard’s decision this Friday for re-shaping the scene of league. For now, it’s still unclear exactly how the league will look moving forward. However, next year’s NBA off-season will provide all the answers to the burning questions from basketball fans everywhere.

It’s July 1st, 2014…and NBA superstars, stars, and role players alike hit up the free agency market harder than little kids do the local ice cream truck in the summer time. General Managers salivate of these sultry stars, the way a wild animal would over a piece of fresh meat. All at once these players leave their teams faster than horses out of the gates at the Kentucky Derby; for bigger endorsement deals, fatter contracts, and the chance to win a championship.

Sounds like an absolute free-for-all brawl between any and every team with a winner takes all result, right? Not exactly.

Yes, the free-agent-frenzy that will be the summer of 2014 will be an exciting one. However, most of those role players will be re-signed before they ever have a chance to change teams, and some of those stars will continue to shine above the skylines of their respective cities. Nevertheless, there will still be more than a few big names that could send shockwaves down the spine of the new look NBA. Here’s a list of some of the free agents who could shake things up during the summer of 2014:

(Note this is NOT a complete list of the 2014 NBA free agents. Also these scenarios are solely based on what if scenarios, NOT actual salary cap or contract numbers. Furthermore, some of the veterans mentioned in the opening of this post are also free agents and will be accounted for in the following fictitious rosters)

LeBron James will head a deep 2014 Free Agency Pool. Picture Courtesy of nb.si.com

Future Free Agents:

Point Guards                                         Shooting Guards 

Kyrie Irving                                                 Dwyane Wade

John Wall                                                 Thabo Sefolosha

Eric Bledsoe                                              Klay Thompson

Damian Lillard                                           Iman Shumpert

Small Forwards                                      Power Forwards

LeBron James                                         Amar’e Stoudemire

Carmelo Anthony                                        Zach Randolph

Danny Granger                                             Dirk Nowitzki

Kawhi Leonard                                               Pau Gasol

                                     Centers      

Chris Bosh

DeMarcus Cousins

Anderson Varejao

It was hard to determine an appropriate amount of team rosters to re-arrange for this post, but I settled on six. The Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks, and Los Angeles Lakers will all likely have both the cap space and room on their rosters to make major moves. Let’s take a look at what some of their lineups could look like starting with the Heat:

The Heat Re-Sign Everyone                         Heat Re-Sign Big 3 + Kyrie Irving

PG Mario Chalmers                                          PG Kyrie Irving

SG Dwyane Wade                                            SG Dwyane Wade

SF LeBron James                                             SF LeBron James

PF Udonis Haslem                                            PF Udonis Haslem

C Chris Bosh                                                      C Chris Bosh

As you can see there isn’t really much that the Heat absolutely needs. However, if they could steal Irving away from Cleveland (oh how Dan Gilberts blood would boil) that’s about as good as it gets in South Beach.

For Tony Parker and Co. time is ticking. Picture Courtesy of nj.com

San Antonio Spurs

 Big 3 Stay On + Leonard                      Big 3 Retire, Sign Z-Bo, Leonard, Lillard

 

SG Danny Green/ Manu Ginobli                     SG Danny Green

SF Kawhi Leonard                                          SF Kawhi Leonard

PF Tim Duncan                                               PF Zach Randolph

C Tiago Splitter                                                C Tiago Splitter

While it will be sad to see the trio of Parker, Duncan, and Ginobli go, the Spurs will have to invest during the summer of 2014 if they wish to stay competitive in the west. Landing the likes of Z-Bo and Lillard, plus resigning Leonard would be a great start.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Re-Sign Sefolosha Stay Put                              Sign Thompson to Switch it Up

PG Russell Westbrook                                               PG Russell Westbrook

SG Thabo Sefolosha                                                 SG Klay Thompson

SF Kevin Durant                                                         SF Kevin Durant

PF Serge Ilbaka                                                           PF Serge Ilbaka

C Kendric Perkins                                                        C Kendrick Perkins

Like the Heat, the Thunder don’t need to tinker too much with their roster. However, OKC may choose to move Perkins and opt for other players or draft picks to help sure up what should be a very bright future. A Perkins trade could lead to the Thunder being bold and shifting Ilbaka to center and signing Dirk Nowitzki to give them a seasoned vet to go along with great young talent. However, I foresee Dirk retiring in Dallas at the end of the day.

Los Angeles Clippers

Stay Put, Add Role Players                                 Go Crazy Add Anthony, Bledsoe

PG Chris Paul                                                         PG Chris Paul

SG J.J. Redick                                                        SG Eric Bledsoe

SF Matt Barnes                                                       SF Carmelo Anthony

PF Blake Griffin                                                       PF Blake Griffin

C DeAndre Jordan                                                   C DeAndre Jordan

The Los Angeles Clippers are a few pieces away from having a title team on their hands. Maybe they add the likes of Anderson Varejao or a Danny Granger as I doubt Anthony will be willing to pack up and head west. It may, however, not be a bad idea to bring back Bledsoe if they can.

New York Knicks

Keep Melo/Amar’e, Add Irving                        Keep Melo/Amar’e/Shumpert Add Wall

PG Kyrie Irving                                                          PG John Wall

SG Pablo Prigioni                                                     SG Iman Shumpert

SF Carmelo Anthony                                                SF Carmelo Anthony

PF Amar’e Stoudemire                                             PF Amar’e Stoudemire

C Tyson Chandler                                                    C Tyson Chandler

For the New York Knicks, keeping Melo and Amar’e while adding either Irving or Wall would give them something they haven’t had in quite some time, a “true” point guard. Of course whether or not they would have the cap space to land all of the above.

The Bad news for Kobe, he only has a one or two good seasons left. The Good news is that he probably won’t have to put up with Howard any longer. Picture Courtesy of nydailynews.com

Los Angeles Lakers

Keep Kobe, Pau, Howard Add Bledsoe      Keep Kobe, Pau, Add Bledsoe, Cousins

PG Eric Bledsoe                                               PG Eric Bledsoe

SG Kobe Bryant                                               SG Kobe Bryant

SF Metta World Peace                                    SF Metta World Peace

PF Pau Gasol                                                  PF Pau Gasol

C Dwight Howard                                             C DeMarcus Cousins

The Los Angeles Lakers are likely to lose D12 by this Friday, and will be lucky to squeeze another season out of Bryant after next year is through. However, LA may be able to add a few key players next off-season in the form of Bledsoe and Cousins if they are available. If nothing else the Lakers could rebuild around those two and role players.

Final Thoughts: Of course all of this is just a rough idea of the change to come in the NBA. Nevertheless, a new era of basketball is upon us, and whatever happens, it’s going to be big.