Friday, August 30, 2013

"Liars & Cheats* get Love too" - What ha... happened (August Part two)

"Liars & Cheats* get Love too" - What ha... happened (August Part two)
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (8-30-13)

[Part one - "Hey. Hey guys. Guess what the bat represents!"]

"What ha... happened," where we scour the internet for a crazy sports photo or GIF and someone must try to explain it. Seesaw Sports asks what ha... happened? Monday: Opening statement. Friday: Rebuttal.

Real photos. Real results. But what in the heck happened?

Alex Rodriguez playing with his bat was great and all, but how about actual, sincere love from other human beings. Caught on camera no less. More GIFs baby!

I present to you the following:

Photo: A-Rod the... jovial?

Title: "Liars and cheats get love too"

Description: At some point, in some instance in his long career, teammates were rather fond of Alex Rodriguez. This may have been the only incident, but Andruw Jones and Robbie Cano seem to be having a...dare I say...good time with Rodriguez. A-Rod even seems to be playing along, feigning surprise and acting like a normal guy would while kidding around with buddies. How neat!

Will this ever happen again or will we look back in 30 years and find this GIF as the only remaining evidence that Alex Rodriguez was ever liked by anybody?

What ha... happened?

You see the glass half full, teammates loving on Alex and having a good time WITH him. Not so my friend. Rather naive if you ask me. Let me tell you what went down.

Andruw Jones tricked Mr. Cano with the whole "let me draw your house in your palm" trick which always ends with an extra large swimming pool of spit in the hand. Andruw's chuckling and Robbie has a hand full of loogie. The only thing to do is pass on the prank to his buddy Alex. He casually rubs the spit on A-rod's shoulder, then hugs him as a distraction. A hug is always surprising, but especially for A-rod. Notice how Cano wipes off his hands at the end. He's cleaning away the rest of the evidence. Case closed and prank dismissed.

As for your other question, I have a funny answer and a real answer.

Real answer: Alex Rodriguez will get TONS of love from teammates and fans alike when he starts breaking baseball records. I don't care how much you hate him, breaking records and setting new ones is super cool. Whichever team he's on, his teammates will love him for it and look up to him as one of the all time greats. They understand how the game works. And fans, they'll love the spectacle if nothing else.

Fun answer: Since the GIF is obviously a prank caught on tape, its no real evidence of love. I'd venture to say love is returned when given and A-rod gives himself the most love of anyone. My first GIF brought this to light, but we all know about the centaur painting. He loves himself way too much to ever get a real public display of affection from another person.

Monday, August 26, 2013

"Hey. Hey guys. Guess what the bat represents!" - What ha... happened? (August Part one)

"Hey. Hey guys. Guess what the bat represents!" - What ha... happened? (August Part one)
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (8-26-13)

"What ha... happened," where we scour the internet for a crazy sports photo or GIF and someone must try to explain it. Seesaw Sports asks what ha... happened? Monday: Opening statement. Friday: Rebuttal.

Real photos. Real results. But what in the heck happened?

The Alex Rodriguez crying photo is pretty awesome, but its only a warm up. An insightful cover for the sweet stuff inside. We got GIFs baby!

I present to you the following:

Photo: Nice and easy A-rod

Title: "Hey. Hey guys. Guess what the bat represents!"

Description: Are you familiar with Alex Rodriguez? The third baseman for the New York Yankees? He's been in the news a bit lately. Something about PED allegations, a ban by Major League Baseball, an appeal to MLB which has allowed him to continue to play for the New York Yankees and a potential lawsuit against the Yankees themselves for screwing him over with their doctors. Then he got hit by a pitch, hit a home run, dropped his lawsuit and now...

Oh good, you have heard. Well A-rod seems to be enjoying his time with the bat here. I wonder what he's thinking. I wonder who or what the bat represents to him. Why Alex; why are you man handling your wood like that?

What ha... happened?

As hilarious as this might be, I feel like Alex Rodriguez has been taking too much heat. Enough heat to bring any man to tears, or a fit of passion with the bat.

I know it is an awful lot of fun to hate on the guy, but we've gone over the line. He's not evil; he hasn't hurt or injured others off the field. He has never gotten into legal trouble per say, other than going against baseball's own rules. And those rules seem kind of arbitrary and shallow to begin with. Why are some performance-enhancing actions legal and others are not? Alex is not the villain you want him to be and his fun time waiting on deck exemplifies this.

A true villain doesn't rub so hard. A-Rod is getting slammed all over and it doesn't seem warranted. Bud Selig tried to suspend him a year and a half for a violation that already has a set penalty of a 50 game suspension. Something doesn't add up! I don't like to be a Rodriguez supporter, but like the wood he's stroking, I'm with him for now.

If Alex Rodriguez was not A-rod, rather someone we previously liked, it would be interesting to see what penalty this situation would have warranted. If all the details were the same except the name of the player, I think Selig would have issued a much more reasonable suspension...which seems absolutely ludicrous! Imagine a professional sports commissioner airing out personal grievances against a player by slamming him with harsher penalties. It sounds like something out of the WWE.

So what happened? Alex has baseball by its balls and he's going to town on their bat.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Fantasy Football: Evolution & Naming your fantasy team - Part two

Fantasy Football: Evolution & Naming your fantasy team - Part two
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (8-23-13)

[Part one - Is a two QB league evil?]

You are spot on about wide receivers in fantasy football, but I don't know why this upsets you. Wide receiver has a few studs, the best of the best. Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green are clear; perhaps Brandon Marshall and Dez Bryant could be on that level. There are just a few of them though. After that, there are about 30 interchangeable guys. You were exaggerating to make your point but your lofty number might be pretty accurate. Demaryius Thomas, ESPN's 6th rated wide receiver this season, is costing about $24 more than their 36th rated wide receiver, Mike Williams, and I just don't see it. Sure Thomas has a bigger upside I guess, but Williams scores touchdowns and is a pretty consistent performer. I'd much rather have Williams and the extra dough to spend on a running back. To me, this is just one more instance of separating the smart fantasy owners from the followers. Thomas and Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald are all going to be taken for big money but the receivers going $15-20 cheaper might accumulate 85% of their stats for a fraction of the cost.

It will be interesting to see if the same thing happens at quarterback in normal leagues. The top guys are veeeerry expensive. The bottom guys who are capable of being pretty damn good (Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers, Jay Cutler, Josh Freeman) are going for a buck or going undrafted completely. In a one QB league, it seems plausible that an owner could grab two or even three of those dirt cheap signal callers and play match-ups to a title.

But if fantasy is becoming too offensive heavy for you, which seems like an odd complaint but whatever, they do have IDP leagues. Individual Defensive Player leagues are detailed and confusing. The best performers, as you hinted at, are linebackers and defensive backs. Tackles do usually count, as do interceptions and sacks, etc. But some of the more popular defense-men aren't the best fantasy performers which leaves preparation and success in such a league on quite a learning curve. Also, the scoring settings will be of utmost importance. If certain actions are worth too much, suddenly Eric Weddle or Sean Lee become more valuable than the top offensive guys. It may be worth a try one of these years but, if we're not careful, we may be left on the inexperienced/noobie side of a competitive league.

To those in one QB only leagues, don't listen to Todd. You're crazy if you take three average quarterbacks and try to play the matchups all season long instead of say, taking Tom Brady. That's like not paying as much as humanly possible for LeBron James in NBA fantasy basketball. Its crazy talk. When you can only start one QB you absolutely need a stud. Grab one of those top five guys and you are almost guaranteed an extra ten points a week over a less expensive counterpart. I'm not sure the list is any deeper than five quarterbacks who I'd pay big money for. Miss one of them and definitely grab Eli Manning and Jay Cutler for fifteen bucks combined if you can.

My main complaint about the evolution of fantasy football is not that its offensive heavy, its that all the emphasis has fallen to the quarterbacks in the last five years. When I first started playing fantasy football I felt like I was picking all my favorite players to be on my team. And no, I wasn't losing. The QB, Running Back and Wide Receiver positions felt balanced, with a skew towards the running backs as the killer commodity. With all the NFL rule changes favoring the passing game, and a ton of new QBs being good to great runners themselves, two things happened. First, the running back position in fantasy football got killed. Its not the stud it once was and there are less stars to go around. You end up drafting players you don't yet know. The second thing, which we already touched on, is that the Wide Receiver position is watered down to where the top two guys on every team are more or less even.

I know I'm exaggerating, but the reason I LOVED fantasy football in the beginning was because I could nearly draft a team full of players I knew and adored. I still love fantasy football, but its become more and more like fantasy baseball where you have to play the numbers and ignore the name of the player. That's all well and good, but something got lost along the way. I like to know what the players on my fantasy team actually look like. I want to know I'll care about them again next season, or at least hear how well they have continued to perform. One and done seasons by players is common on a fantasy baseball roster, but has crept itself into fantasy football now too.

On the fun side of things, one of my little joys in life is picking team name's for fantasy football etc. Yet I'm thoroughly confused, as I seem to be alone in this. I think I'm one of maybe two in our leagues who actually changes up their team names. You have the exact same team name for every fantasy sport you play and have always had this team name, never once changed it. And you are not alone by any means. Come on man! 

My rule of thumb for a fantasy team name, if I win it all (or even finish top three if its a killer name) then the name can stay another season. The reigning champ (or close to it) has to defend his or her crown. Otherwise, the name has to go. A loser name has no place around here.

I realize I opened two doors for you. You'll probably point out how you always win, not an exaggeration, and therefore keep your team name. You'll also mention how its absurd for me to be a New York Jets fan and then make the statement about ditching a loser team name.

Go on. I'm ready.

Yeah, I am glad you realized this blatant setup. I don't change my fantasy team name because I don't ever finish lower than third.

Even if that was not the case though, I like to keep my team name consistent, to build the brand if you will. However, as league commissioner, I do enjoy changing the league name a bit every season. The names used to be rather clever; recently I've been finding classic or obscure deceased players to name the season after. It is kind of fun in its own right. Nevertheless, my personal team name needs to remain the same so opponents know who they're dealing with!

Let's revisit fantasy football once the season has gotten underway. We don't want to give too much away now, before we've even drafted.

Image credit: here

Monday, August 19, 2013

Fantasy Football: Is a two QB league evil? - Part one

Fantasy Football: Is a two QB league evil? - Part one
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (8-19-13)

There is something inherently evil about fantasy football leagues in which owners are allowed to start two quarterbacks. This sounds ludicrous to people who do not play fantasy sports. In fact, this may sound rather stupid to others as well. But the evil exists in the logic behind the action. You see, in leagues that allow players to start two quarterbacks, it is a death sentence to not do so. Quarterbacks score so many more points each week than other positions. Even starting a "bad" QB is preferred to starting a solid running back or wide receiver. The numbers back this up.

Last season, Ben Roethlisberger was the 19th highest scoring quarterback (depending on league scoring settings of course). In other words, in a normal league, he started for pretty much nobody. Big Ben was also the 24th highest scoring PLAYER, meaning there were only five non-quarterbacks in the entire NFL who scored more fantasy points than him. They were the five best running backs from a season ago. Roethlisberger, as a bench quarterback and oftentimes a free agent, scored more points than every wide receiver in football; more than Calvin Johnson. He was better than all tight ends and all but the top five guys at RB. He was better than Ray Rice and C.J. Spiller, etc.

So we start with a league that 'allows' two quarterbacks to be started. This is a careful, yet important distinction between leagues that 'require' teams to start two quarterbacks. The decision comes in the form of a flex position and that position generates the evil. Because what it does is create an uneven playing field between owners and an unhealthy value on the QB position. Suddenly, Andy Dalton or Josh Freeman are more valuable than Marques Colston or David Wilson. In normal leagues, the Daltons and Freemans would not even be rostered, let alone started. They are outside the top 12-15 quarterbacks. Thus, they serve no purpose other than bye week filler. Except in these evil leagues where they become vital.

The comparison between Dalton and Colston isn't even apt. Colston is a second tier wide receiver. He is going to be a starter in most every league, as a wide receiver. The teams that are able to start three receivers better than him and thus have the Saints big man as a flex filler are few and far between. The same goes for players like Wilson, borderline number two running backs who may have to battle for carries in real life.

These guys become less important than the bottom feeder QBs but are still starters. The dreaded flex position becomes a battle between Dalton, scoring 12-15 points per week, and a flex RB or WR like, say, Brandon LaFell. This man will score 7 points if you're lucky. Weeks where he does not get in the endzone, owners will be fortunate to scrounge together 55 yards from these fellows. And now you see the problem.

Here's the bottom line: if you play in a league where a second quarterback is allowed to be started, and you do not have a second quarterback to start, you're essentially down 10 points before your matchup even begins. Good luck.

We both play in a fantasy football league that employs this. Full disclosure: I am commissioner and created this evil environment. I can't say that I'm proud of myself. It haunts me. It is my fault people have to consider drafting Sam Bradford over the likes of Hakeem Nicks. I live with this weighing over my conscience.

I guess my question to you is, am I a bad person?

I'm not sure your question has anything to do with the fantasy football league you created. Zing!

You're commissioner of this so called "evil" league, so if it bothers you so much to this day, why did you ever build the league this way? Personally, as someone who has played in such a league for several years now, I'm a little shocked you dare to call it evil and I know exactly why you created your league in this way.

Having a flex position in fantasy football is awesome. You can start anyone you like, but more importantly, it exposes the inexperienced or disinterested player. You wanted to create a competitive league of players who are informed and actually like football. This flex position shows you, as commissioner, who falls short of those expectations. It only took one week of my first season playing with a flex roster spot to realize I'd be an idiot not to play two quarterbacks. Unless you somehow end up with three of the top five running backs in the league, then you're going quarterback all the way for the flex.

I'm going one step further. Its pretty moronic not to have three quarterbacks on your roster. You need a bonafide backup at all times to fill the QB and flex position. But evil? Hell no. I actually enjoy how the flex position gives someone like Mark Sanchez value. Mark freaking Sanchez had fantasy value in his first two years as a pro! He had none last season, but before then he did. With a ten team league we're talking the top 20 quarterbacks being on roster. That's 20 of the 32 quarterbacks in the league collecting points every week. If we add in the three per team wrinkle, that's 30 of 32 quarterbacks being employed by the members of our league. I love this! When in all of sports would you ever find yourself rooting for Ryan Tannehill, sorry Dolphins fans (no I'm not)? You wouldn't unless you had to add him to your team for the points.

I'm actually more fed up with the Wide Receiver position in fantasy football. When I started playing fantasy, the WR position was a money spot. You could rake it in, clean up, with the right guy on your team. Now its like there are three top guys and then 30 who all put up ten points a week. What's the point? Its annoying and disappointing and its the quarterbacks' fault. They are all spreading the ball around so damn much that no one is dominant week in and week out any more.

I think ultimately, fantasy football has always been offensive heavy. But with the watering down of the WR position, the ineptitude of the kicker slot and the top heavy need for quarterbacks, can we get the defense more involved? Why hasn't this been sufficiently worked out so that its fun? Linebackers and Safetys/Cover Corners accumulate statistics week after week. I'm not suggesting we count tackles, but would that be so bad? We count yards after all.

You got me. Guilty. I did this on purpose to set the noobies back. If someone doesn't start two quarterbacks, it essentially becomes a white flag to the rest of us that they aren't going to be winning this league anytime soon.

And by the way, I kind of like Ryan Tannehill this season. I am happy to hear I won't be competing with you when his name comes up for bid as a third quarterback.

As for wide receivers, you are exactly right but I don't know why this upsets you.

Image credit: here

Friday, August 16, 2013

NFL Kickoff: A QB decathlon, rookies & the NY Giants - Part four

NFL Kickoff: A QB decathlon, rookies and the NY Giants - Part four
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (8-16-13)

[Part one - Off season questions Real & Hilarious]
[Part two - Tebow vs Hernandez]
[Part three - The fantasy kicker & Barry Sanders]

The jury is out on whether the New York Jets have a legit number one running back on their roster, but at the very least they have two number twos and a number three. McKnight is the obvious number three since he can barely stay healthy at this point. I only have to look across the division to the Patriots to find a team that has thrived with number two and three backs over the last five seasons. Obviously their ability to succeed has everything to do with the offensive line and Tom Brady, but an elite running back is not a requirement for success. You need a consistent back who gets the three yards on second or third down. I'm all in on Marty Mornhinweg's offense and the emergence of Geno Smith to Steven Hill.

Enough about my optimism for an enjoyable season of football coming out of New York in the AFC. You asked two fun questions and I'm stacking them like PB&J.

You asked:
(4) If Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III played 2 on 2 in a decathlon-type event, what would the teams be, which side would win, who would America be rooting for, and would they all be immediately inducted into the respective Halls of Fame for each sport they participated in?

(4b) How much does it suck for all current and future first year starting quarterbacks?

I know you're going with even numbers, but I gotta throw Cam Newton in their as well (2nd year last season I know, but an excellent first year). He's lightening fast and ideal for any decathlon-type event. Let's reserve him for an injury replacement, or the guy who plays on both teams in order to balance things out.

The Teams:
Andrew Luck & Russell Wilson: Luck is sneaky fast and quite possibly a genius with a rocket arm. Wilson is nothing short of blazing fast with an unrivaled stop and go. His height could hold him back teamed with anyone else. But with Luck and Wilson, intelligence and speed compliment perfectly.

Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III: Both Colin and RG3 are blazing fast. I'd give Colin the edge in speed, but RG3 the edge in the stop and go. They beat team Luck and Wilson easily in a shorter relay, but neither man wins in a straight up sprint or long jump vs. Wilson. This team has obvious strengths, but few to no weaknesses either. Power and speed baby.

Cam Newton: He's a beast and wicked fast. If there's a sprint event, I say Cam subs in for Luck. But if its the javelin throw or discus toss, we get Cam in there for RG3. He's the wildcard.

Who's America rooting for? I think Luck and Wilson make for easier rooting interests. I love rooting for Wilson, just as much as I do for RG3. But Luck is so much more fun to root for than Colin. Its all in the smile. Luck's is warm and inviting while Colin's says "Hey you, you stink and I'm the winner." As for the victors, if its a straight up competition then Colin and RG3 win close. With Cam Newton as the wildcard, however, team Luck and Wilson get the trophy.

To the current and future first year starting quarterbacks, I know why you asked, but you've got it all wrong. Yes, these four men (or five with Cam Newton) had stellar season's in their first year starting. They raised the bar and set it quite high. But they all had either an excellent team around them, a stellar coach, or both. Luck's team was young, but it was no slouch. I think Cam might be the only one who thrived without either one.

So this year's rookies and first year starters know everyone is pulling for them. No more holding a guy's hand or making him ride the bench for an entire season so he can "learn" from the current number one guy. That philosophy only works if your current starting quarterback is half way decent and has something to teach the newbie.

The whole crux of your question is why I'm so optimistic about the Jets' future. No one should be learning much of anything from Mark Sanchez at this point, unless its what not to do in order to alienate a nation and make a fool of yourself. So where does that leave Geno Smith this season? I think he's is prime position to succeed. If he shines then he'll get praised and lauded like the field general he is. Prolonged success is not a guarantee after one good season any longer, so we celebrate what we have when we have it. But if he stumbles, well he is just a rookie. If he doesn't start until week three or four, well he's a rookie and you don't want to rush him. The caveats still exist, but the opportunity for bigger things have never been bigger. Geno, Geno!

Your team pairing was interesting. I agree that Colin Kaepernick seems like he might possibly be a dick. Griffin would be slightly upset that he was put on Kaepernick's team...up until the competition started. I think Colin might be the strongest of the four and just as fast as any of the others. He and RGIII would run away with this thing, literally and figuratively.

The real point of this silly line of questioning though was to get to that second part: how it feels to be a first-year starting quarterback in today's NFL. It used to be that rookies could sit for weeks, or even years, before getting thrown behind center. Or, if they did start from week one, they were given weeks (or even years!) to learn the job and get their bumps and bruises. Common perception was it took a while for a rookie QB so we shouldn't judge his success for a while. Now, things are completely different, and I think this works against Geno Smith, not for him.

In years past, someone like Blaine Gabbert would still have upside. Sure, he's struggled but he's not supposed to succeed out of the gate. Now, the Jags and everyone else in the world has all but given up on him as an NFL-caliber player. Quarterbacks come out of high school more polished nowadays. That translates to being further ahead as freshmen and sophomores in college, and so forth. Now, these guys enter the pros with years of experience running an offense, changing things at the line of scrimmage, and being leaders. It now seems obvious Blaine Gabbert cannot run a franchise just because of how his peers are doing at similar points in their careers.

If Geno Smith is able to start in week one, he has to succeed rather quickly or else people will doubt his ceiling, some wackos will clamber for Mark Sanchez to be put in and it will be a struggle to just remain confident, let alone play well. On the other hand, if Geno sits week one, as crazy as this may have sounded even just three years ago, people will wonder if he doesn't have what it takes and whether the Jets actually believe in him.

It is a strange world out their now for rookie quarterbacks. The buffer zone has disappeared.

As for my last query, into the New York Giants linebacking corp, I am sure you are giddy to throw a backhanded analogy in my face to rival my Barry Sanders line of questioning. But, as in proper rap battle technique, I am going to bring it up first, to take the weapon out of your hand.

Yes, the Giants seemed to have eschewed the linebacker position in favor of bodies who will wear numbers in the 50's on their backs. So, if David Harris came out of retirement for the Jets, he would be able to start for the Giants probably....

Oh, David Harris is not retired? He was just so inconspicuous and made so few plays last season for the Jets that it seemed like he was, even though he is one of the highest paid linebackers in the NFL? Okay, my bad.

Hold up, what just happened? Stop! The Giants have a serious problem on their hands when it comes to defense and I can tell you're scared to death what will happen. You decided to throw egg in my face rather than actually talk Giants football. I'll take this opportunity to puff out my chest and say the Jets' defense is damn good and will totally rival the Giants unit this season. Your team is in trouble.

If the Giants were in the AFC East (in place of the Jets) they'd be fine. We know they can beat the Patriots and Tom "Oh my knee!" Brady, standing tall in a shootout and making enough plays to pull out the games. The rest of the division is average at best, and I'm talking stinky socks average. But in the NFC East, with the likes of RG3, Tony Romo and Michael Vick to contend with, the Giants lack of speed and talent at linebacker is going to kill them. Stopping the run is all well and good if the opposing quarterback stays in the pocket, but those three guys live on the edge, outside the tackles.

My prediction, a rocky 9-7 season for the Giants, maybe 10-6. I don't love anyone in their division, so they'll win games, but just prepare yourself for some indigestion and long Sunday afternoons.

Monday, August 12, 2013

NFL Kickoff: The fantasy kicker & Barry Sanders - Part three

NFL Kickoff: The fantasy kicker & Barry Sanders - Part three
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (8-12-13)

[Part one - Off season questions Real & Hilarious]
[Part two - Tebow vs. Hernandez]

The kicker in fantasy football is irrelevant and should be removed. The stats back this up. Made field goal percentage is so balanced and so steady, everyone always comes back to the mean. You can go through and look up who the projected top fantasy kicker was each season and how rarely that same man finishes the year as the best. So what's the point of using them in fantasy football? It is simply a random chance as to whether you will select the guy who has the good year, the average year or the bad year. There is no skill in this and literally no research you can do to improve your chances of selecting the former.

I am actually in a league that previously did not employ kickers as a position and, just this season, decided to re-institute them, for reasons unbeknownst to me. I guess I can take solace in the fact that someone will overdraft one of these men, and it will work to my benefit. But other than that, what's even the point?

I'm with you on the kicker being a relatively flat position in fantasy football. The man himself is irrelevant. Only his team matters. How do you go about selecting a kicker? Pick a team that meets one of two criteria: 1) Scores a ton of points 2) Has a terrible red zone offense and can't get in the end zone. Done and done!

I don't think you remove it from the fantasy conversation however. Its a wildcard position that is not much different than team defense. You are looking for consistency with the potential for a big week. A five field goal day can win or lose you a week in fantasy football and that's what makes it both wildly fun and unbelievably frustrating to play. Fantasy Football is 50% smarts 40% luck and 10% paying attention to injury. Everyone knows this and removing the kicker does not decrease the luck factor nor improve the need for smarts. It just excludes a rather important facet of the actual game of football. It would be like taking saves out of fantasy baseball. Although a poor analogy, its basically removing a fundamental and critical part of the actual sport from our fantasy pastime. No.

I don't know if you could tell, but I was working really hard to avoid reaching your next question. (If Barry Sanders came out of retirement, could he start at running back for the New York Jets?) Let me first lay two things out on the table. One, I don't appreciate being smacked in the face like that. Two, Barry Sanders was an unbelievable talent and top five all time at the running back position. If this was three or even five years after he retired, I would be tempted to answer yes. And that is NOT a knock on the Jets' current crop of running backs. Sanders retired with several solid years left in his tank and would have still been a force on the field a few years after he hung up his cleats. Now? No gosh darn way.

The New York Jets are not poor at running back. They have a solid offensive line full of veteran talent that has made the likes of Shonn Greene look good for the last couple seasons. He has his moments, that is all. I loved what I saw out of Bilal Powell last season and as the starter, watch out. He is going to surprise people. Chris Ivory is no slouch either and will provide the one, two punch that Rex Ryan loves to employ. And don't sleep on Joe McKnight either. He's too small to be the full time starter, but his big play potential is huge. Moral of the story, I'm glad to see Shonn Greene move on and am clamoring for our next Curtis Martin. I know you love Barry Sanders, but let him enjoy his retirement.

You have your perceived percentages askew. Fantasy football is more like 40% smarts and 60% luck. Isn't paying attention to anything part of smarts? And wouldn't anything having to do with injuries be classified as luck? Unless of course we're talking about drafting Darren McFadden as your number one running back. That injury is on its way; there's no luck about it.

Removing the kicker position would absolutely decrease the luck factor. The baseball closer is a pretty good analogy but not perfect for one reason. Closers are rotated in and out so frequently that the skill involved is about finding saves, not about finding a year-long closer. Kickers are not normally replaced no matter how average or below average they are performing. As an aside, it would be kind of fun to try a fantasy baseball league without the saves stat. We could still use relief pitcher spots, but owners would be trying to find the best RPs in the league, regardless of whether their real-life manager tabs them as their team's closer. The MLB All-Star game seems to be going that way for some, uninteresting reason. The American League was filled with middle relievers who were performing better than closers elsewhere. It was not fun to wait for them to come into the game but it was fun to see the better pitcher rewarded over the guy with more saves.

Now back to the gridiron, and back to the AFC East, where your beloved New York Jets do have a running back problem whether you care to admit it or not. The NFL is a multi-back league for sure. Unless you have one of the top six or so guys, your team needs more than one reliable runner each and every week. Joe McKnight is a nice wild card; I will give you that. And I like Chris Ivory as well, assuming he is a team's second option at RB. But Bilal Powell? His best game last year came against the Jacksonville Jaguars and he barely cleared four yards per carry. The Jets have no number one guy. To venture back to a baseball analogy, they are like a pitching staff with no ace. They have a number two guy and two number three guys. Sure, it may get them some wins but they shouldn't feel confident with that group.

Barry Sanders, on the other hand, is only 45 years old and...okay, that question was just posed to make fun of the Jets. You got me. A few years after he retired, he could have certainly come back into the league. We all knew this at the time. But now it has been an astonishing 15 years since he last played. 15 years! Can you believe that? It seems like just yesterday he was juking, jumping and jiving through defenses.

Friday, August 9, 2013

NFL Kickoff: Off season questions 'Tebow vs Hernandez' - Part two

NFL Kickoff: Off season questions 'Tebow vs. Hernandez' - Part two
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (8-9-13)

[Part one - Questions both Real and Hilarious]

Besides going global and dealing with what to call itself, the NFL is also interested in expanding the schedule, playing 18 games. There has even been discussion about playoff expansion. This is ludicrous but if it makes more money, it cannot be ruled out. Which brings us past saturation and back to safety concerns. More games and more high-leverage games means more injuries. I agree though that the game is infinitely safer than even a decade ago. And the equipment is continually being improved upon each and every season. I suppose eventually we will reach a point where the injuries have been curtailed enough to be worth the destructive excitement the sport brings. We are not quite at that point yet though.

I'm not even going to touch that "appeasing the women" comment. Let's just move on to my other NFL questions.

Give the foreign fans some credit. They'll call it American Football, or simply the NFL. When you talk about soccer internationally, you usually reference the league, not the sport. The real solution however is for everyone to actually pronounce Futbol as its written and use the accent when they say it. Then its easy to hear the difference. Football. Futbol.

Before I dive into your "Fan" questions, the real off season topics of inquiry, you better promise to answer them yourself. I'm sure I'll have followup questions, ahem, the New York Giants defense, but no cop outs. I need answers!

You asked:
(1) From a pure popularity standpoint, as in most interest by the most people, which New England story was actually bigger news, Aaron Hernandez or Tim Tebow?

I wish I could tell you it was Tim Tebow, but from both a New England fans standpoint and from a national standpoint the Hernandez story is infinitely bigger. Initially, when the Hernandez story first broke, it looked like maybe, just maybe, things were getting blown out of proportion. There were a few days when murder was not part of the discussion and him simply missing six games or the season was all this was. At that point in time, Tebow vs. Hernandez was a conversation. Once murder joined the party this was no longer a far fight between news stories. Murder captures headlines and ends careers. It has certainly ended Hernandez's and now the Patriots have a gaping hole in their lineup.

For most teams the loss of a tight end hurts, but is fixable. Take the New York Jets for example. They "lost" Dustin Keller in free agency and promptly signed a veteran replacement in Kellen Winslow. Savy team decision. But the Patriots, their tight ends have been another teams wide receivers of late. Tom Brady's offense thrives on the short game and throwing over the middle to large targets. Now Hernandez is gone, Gronk is out indefinitely it seems, and the Jets already stole the veteran talent in Winslow whom the Patriots would have gotten in years past. This is trouble.

I now have to talk Tim Tebow for a moment or three. This signing should be bigger news, should be more fun and crazy. I enjoyed over a year and a half of Tebow talk when he was on the Jets. Should they have given him an opportunity to start? Yeah, of course. The team sucked last season and had nothing to lose. Hell, I don't think he would have done anything remotely close to the "Butt Fumble" and would have added much needed excitement to a turnover plagued season. But good riddance! He was a distraction and proved less than an asset since the Jets were not going to play him. Having such a huge personality on the team is great if you use him and is annoying if you don't.

Watch out Patriots. No, there won't be chants for Tebow if Tom Brady has a bad game. I'm not sure he's ever put up more than a poor half of football in his professional life. But there WILL be chants for Tim Tebow. Tebow the tight end, with Hernandez and Gronk out. Tebow the wide receiver or Tebow the running back, with question marks across the line of scrimmage at both positions. Tebow the number two quarterback, if and when he falls to third on their depth chart. The Patriots are blowing out the Dolphins with six minutes to go in the game? Put in Tim Tebow you'll here. I say, please oh please play him! Let him ride the bench to your own peril.

Having people actually pronounce things as they are supposed to be said seems like wide eyed naivete, but go ahead and dream.

As for the Patriots off season, obviously the Aaron Hernandez story grew to be a huge deal; perhaps the biggest in NFL history based on the facts. This is an active player who has been accused of murder. O.J. Simpson is the only comparable event and, although he was much more famous than Hernandez ever was, he was already retired when his murder charges were brought on. This is an ACTIVE player...just insane. It dwarfs anything related to Tebow. My question, as the days passed, became more and more one-sided.

But even without the Hernandez story gaining steam as details were unearthed, I actually think New England was partly responsible for Tebow-mania not taking off. They kept him under wraps rather than pushing him to the forefront like a certain New York squad. Did they even hold a press conference when he was signed? Nope. Whereas the Jets did everything but buy advertising time on Fox Sports New York when they brought Tim to their team. Just different mindsets for different franchises. I wouldn't be surprised if Tebow barely plays at all, at any position, for New England, tight end deficiency or not. This just does not seem like the type of franchise that would throw him out there for the sake of it, especially a player like him who (reportedly/apparently) has so much trouble learning plays and responsibilities.

And now with news that Jake Ballard may not even make the final roster because of lingering injury concerns, New England might forget about using the tight end position at all. I had high hopes for Ballard becoming the Patriots' main guy at the spot and having himself a pretty solid season, if unspectacular compared to the likes of Hernandez and Gronkowski. But with that, yet another option that may not come to fruition for the Pats, it may be time to play more running backs and wide receivers. I don't know where else they would turn.

Let's move on though before this becomes an all AFC East blog entry. My next question was in regards to using kickers in fantasy football. Sensible players and experts are aware that, essentially, every kicker is the same. Their point production is perfectly unpredictable from one season to the next. A kicker with a career high in successful kicks has no better chance at repeating that outcome than one who struggled the previous season, assuming the latter still holds a job of course. The stats back this up.

Monday, August 5, 2013

NFL Kickoff: Off season questions Real & Hilarious - Part one

NFL Kickoff: Off season questions Real & Hilarious - Part one
by Dan Salem and Todd Salem (8-5-13)

The NFL is perfecting its takeover of the entire calendar year. We start with training camp and preseason in August through to the regular season and playoffs. The Super Bowl is played in February. From there comes free agency, player movement and draft talk through April-May. After that is finalization of rosters, more player movement and preseason news through the summer. Parts of this takeover are more fun (the NFC West royalty) than others (the Aaron Hernandez story). But either way, the National Football League now lasts 12 months a year.

With that preamble out of the way, let's dive into a myriad of questions that currently surround the league.

First, and possibly most importantly, with concussion research and player safety in the front of everyone's mind, is it realistic that this league eventually folds, AKA no longer exists, like some people have opined? Perhaps not in the next decade, but in our lifetime is there ever not going to be an NFL?

On a smaller scale, we can get into who will win the Super Bowl, what happens to the Patriots offense, who's the surprise team of the year and the biggest disappointment, etc. But those aren't the questions people are clambering for. Not yet at least. Here's what fans are really wondering:

(1) From a pure popularity standpoint, as in most interest by the most people, which New England story was actually bigger news, Aaron Hernandez or Tim Tebow?

(2) Is this finally the year fantasy football leagues realize using a kicker as a scoring position is almost entirely irrelevant and luck-based?

(3) If Barry Sanders came out of retirement today, could he be the starting running back for the New York Jets?

(4) If Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III played 2 on 2 in a decathalon-type event, what would the teams be, which side would win, who would America be rooting for, and would they all be immediately inducted into the respective Halls of Fame of each sport they participated in?

(4b) How much does it suck for all current and future first year starting quarterbacks?

(5) Do the New York Giants actually eschew the linebacker position entirely this season and go with an unconventional 5-0-6 alignment? ...Huh, oh, no one is actually wondering this other than me?

Whoa, whoa, whoa, someone just exploded a four part NFL debate in my face! I see six valid questions and one that is complete horse manure.

A thought on your preamble, the NFL is definitely expanding itself across all twelve months of the calendar and there is no better time for this to happen. Its popularity couldn't be higher and the potential for making money is still growing. Yet I worry for the league, and not because of the concussion issue which I'll get to in a minute. I worry because too much of a good thing is a cliche for a reason. If you eat too much ice cream you get a brain freeze and swear off it for a week. If you drink too much you puke, wake up with a hang over and wish you never knew what alcohol was. My point, we as Americans are reaching a saturation point with football. Its not just the NFL, but college football in conjunction with the NFL is inescapable.

There will be a breaking point, a moment in time where each fan says "Enough!" I can't take anymore football and need a break. Sports were built this way to start out. You had an off season with few to no stories to tell, so by the time training camp came around you were clamoring for some football or baseball or what not. Expanding to twelve uninterrupted months of football news and notes and crap involving the legal system is dangerous territory. ESPN and the like need things to talk about, I get it, and the NFL can still make more money. I get that too. But I worry, will enough be enough or will it never be enough?

How about that first question. The league is not going to fold. That's completely unrealistic. Sports are a part of American culture and football is at the forefront. It has been our entire lives. Our father's generation had baseball in the lead and our kid's generation might have the NBA, if trends continue. But the major sports are staying put in our society. No one is shutting down or boycotting the NFL and the game will get safer. Hell, its infinitely safer then when I played in high school. Rules alone, not to mention equipment, make it harder to get seriously injured. Plus, more importantly, there is something about men that makes them want to inflict pain on one another. I'm not saying we want to injure other men, just bruise them and push them around a bit. It's why boxing gyms are so popular, even if the sport has leveled off. Its also why MMA has blown up. The NFL is like Mixed Martial Arts with a full body suit and too many rules to count. Plus, hold onto this ball. Men love this! We aren't letting it go, just allowing it to change to appease the women of the world.

I'd like to issue a half apology in advance for being semi-sexist. Just covering my bases.

The saturation point seems far off with the way things are transpiring, but certain actions are on the horizon that may expedite this process. Expanding the league into other countries, which already happens once a year, is going to get kicked up a notch. Multiple games will be played overseas. There may even be a franchise located in a country outside of North America. So not only will American football be a full-year sport in America but in other parts of the world as well.

On a side note, if the NFL expands past Europe and into Latin speaking countries, I'm not quite sure what they will call it. Futbol is already taken and we know first hand how confusing it is when soccer fans call soccer futbol here in the states.