NFL 2015 Preview NFC North: Is Adrian Peterson Enough To Run Past The Packers?

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo

This is the NFC North preview. The teams will be ordered according to how I see them finishing. I’ll break down each team’s offense and defense in brief fashion, highlight an underrated player or two, then give a win range. Slapping a win total on a team is silly to me–I’m more interested in ceilings and floors. If a team’s win range is 6-12, that doesn’t mean I’m predicting 12 or 6. Just means I see them as a team that can wildly fluctuate.

Green Bay Packers (Last Season: 12-4)

Offense: How does best in the NFL sound? Aaron Rodgers is the best QB in the league, and he is once again loaded with top-notch skill position players and a solid offensive line. RB Eddie Lacy is the true game-changer here. He is considered to be a bruising back, and rightfully so, but he also caught 42 passes in 2014. Lacy is a dual-threat out of the backfield, and can play all three downs.

If Green Bay somehow got something out of the TE position, I shudder to think what they’d do to defenses.

Defense: The defense is okay. I love their safeties, which is the lynchpin of many a great defense. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett can both lay the wood to people, and create turnovers. The rest of their defensive stars are either aging, injury-prone, or both. I think this D will make things tougher for them more often than not.

Underrated Asset(s): WR Davante Adams is really, really good. It’s hard to tell when he’s in the same offense as Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, but he is the real deal and will put up numbers.

Floor to Ceiling: 10-13 Wins. (*Please note that this was written before Jordy Nelson’s season ending injury.) Continue reading

NFL 2015 Preview NFC South: Winning This Division Is A Brees

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo

This is the NFC West preview. The teams will be ordered according to how I see them finishing. I’ll break down each team’s offense and defense in brief fashion, highlight an underrated player or two, then give a win range. Slapping a win total on a team is silly to me–I’m more interested in ceilings and floors. If a team’s win range is 6-12, that doesn’t mean I’m predicting 12 or 6. Just means I see them as a team that can wildly fluctuate.

New Orleans Saints (Last Season: 7-9)

Offense: Losing TE Jimmy Graham and WR Kenny Stills seems like a big hit, and it is, but the Saints are going for something different this season. They became a run-heavy team last year, and signing C.J. Spiller in the offseason confirmed their commitment to the ground.

This is a beefed-up RB corps featuring Mark Ingram, Spiller, and the underrated Khiry Robinson. They acquired one of the NFL’s top run-blocking centers, Max Unger, in the Graham deal. The receiving corps absolutely took a hit, but with an improved line, they’re clearly betting that their scheme, and QB Drew Brees, can elevate the pass-catchers. That’s a good bet, even if he’s 36.

Defense: Ehhhhhhhh. This isn’t a great unit. Losing Junior Galette as a pass rusher does hurt. He was clearly a locker room cancer, and I’m not saying it was the wrong move, but purely based on his play, he was one of their best players. The secondary has some playmaking ability, but top-to-bottom the defense is very blah. They will be average at best.

Underrated Asset(s): TE Josh Hill isn’t the starter right now, but who really thinks a 25-year-old with upside won’t overtake a 34-year-old veteran (Ben Watson)? Hill has playmaking ability that’s been flashed in the past, and the passing game needs that.

Floor to Ceiling: 7-10 Wins.  Continue reading

NFL 2015 Preview AFC South: Can J.J. Watt And Co. Dethrone Andrew Luck?

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo)

This is the AFC South preview. The teams will be ordered according to how I see them finishing. I’ll break down each team’s offense and defense in brief fashion, highlight an underrated player or two, then give a win range. Slapping a win total on a team is silly to me–I’m more interested in ceilings and floors. If a team’s win range is 6-12, that doesn’t mean I’m predicting 12 or 6. Just means I see them as a team that can wildly fluctuate.

Indianapolis Colts (Last Season: 11-5) 

Offense: The offense’s floor is very high thanks to QB Andrew Luck, but the ceiling is almost non-existent. Luck gets better every season, and now he has added a future Hall of Famer at WR in Andre Johnson, and a rugged new RB in veteran Frank Gore. The receiving corps is very deep, and that includes two capable tight ends in Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener.

The only real hole for Indy offensively was their run blocking last season, and it may not be better. Gore might help though. The Colts would like for Luck to cut down the interceptions too, but if he’s chucking 40 TD passes they will live with it.

Defense: There’s not much I do like about this unit, aside from an elderly, but effective pass rush. Trent Cole and Robert Mathis as OLBs can still wreak havoc, but I see Indy getting run on this year, and giving up big plays in the passing game too. There will be shootouts.

Underrated Asset(s): CB Vontae Davis will be lost in the shuffle because the Colts will probably have a poorly-ranked defense, but he is one of the top cover men in the NFL. If he can be more consistent, he may start being mentioned among the elites, and he could potentially raise the secondary up on his own.

Floor to Ceiling: 11-13 Wins.  Continue reading

NFL 2015 Preview AFC West: Can The Raiders Escape The Cellar?

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo)

This is the AFC West preview. The teams will be ordered according to how I see them finishing. I’ll break down each team’s offense and defense in brief fashion, highlight an underrated player or two, then give a win range. Slapping a win total on a team is silly to me–I’m more interested in ceilings and floors. If a team’s win range is 6-12, that doesn’t mean I’m predicting 12 or 6. Just means I see them as a team that can wildly fluctuate.

Denver Broncos (Last Season: 12-4)

Offense: Peyton Manning is back, so the offense will be stellar. There are some key losses that will have an effect though. TE Julius Thomas is gone, and he was a tremendous red zone weapon for Manning. The staff may have faith in Owen Daniels and Virgil Green, but those TDs won’t be easy to replace. LT Ryan Clady is out for the season again too, so there goes one of the best tackles in the NFL. They lost slot receiver Wes Welker too.

Fortunately, the running game became the focal point toward the end of 2014 while Manning battled a quad injury and it was strong. C.J. Anderson is returning to be the starter from the get-go, and new head coach Gary Kubiak is a running game whiz. If Cody Latimer is good, this offense will still be great, and fantasy owners can expect Demaryius Thomas to have a HUGE year.

Defense:  I like it a lot. The LB corps is vicious, led by Von Miller, and the CBs (Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr.) are of the shutdown variety. Defensive line is a problem, but the ILB combo of Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall can hold it down. Denver was the fourth-ranked defense in the NFL a year ago, and they should get similar results again.

Underrated Asset(s): I’m going to double-down on the defense here, because the offense gets so much publicity. Those middle linebackers are very good, especially Trevathan, and Harris Jr. does not get recognized enough.

Floor to Ceiling: 10-12 Wins.  Continue reading

NFL 2015 Preview NFC West: The Rams Defense Is Ready For The Crown

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo

This is the NFC West preview. The teams will be ordered according to how I see them finishing. I’ll break down each team’s offense and defense in brief fashion, highlight an underrated player or two, then give a win range. Slapping a win total on a team is silly to me–I’m more interested in ceilings and floors. If a team’s win range is 6-12, that doesn’t mean I’m predicting 12 or 6. Just means I see them as a team that can wildly fluctuate.

Seattle Seahawks (Last Season: 12-4) 

Offense: Seattle’s big moves this offseason were to trade C Max Unger to New Orleans for Jimmy Graham, finally giving Russell Wilson an elite pass-catcher, and to dole out huge money to Wilson. The latter move hurt the team in terms of their ability to maintain overall depth, but the former should be a huge boost to this offense.

Marshawn Lynch is only 29, but he’s not the future of this team, Wilson is. Expect Wilson to be throwing more, for Graham to have huge numbers, and for one of Chris Matthews/Jermaine Kearse/Tyler Lockette to break out. Seattle’s D gets all the pub, but this was a Top 10 offense in 2014 and it will be better, even with the loss of Unger.

Defense: There is cause for some concern. This will still be an elite defense, no doubt about it. But the Wilson contract has caused them to lose a starting DT (Tony McDaniel), and created some discord. Kam Chancellor is holding out right now, and their other safety, Earl Thomas, is dealing with some injuries. Ditto for All-Pro CB Richard Sherman. These are all minor concerns for now, but enough of them may add up to some slippage from this typically A+ squad.

Underrated Asset(s): LB Bobby Wagner also got paid this offseason, and despite being an All-Pro First Team selection he is overshadowed by guys like the Legion of Boom, and Wilson and Lynch. Wagner is essential to Seattle’s run defense, which in turn helps the Legion of Boom be the NFL’s best secondary.

Floor to Ceiling: 11-12 wins. 

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Keith Thurman On PBC: Why We Shouldn’t Knock “One-Time” For Fighting Luis Collazo

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo

Tonight one of the best young boxers in the world, Keith “One-Time” Thurman, will headline the first ever Premier Boxing Champions card on ESPN vs. veteran Luis Collazo. The matchup is not the best; Thurman is a humongous favorite to win, and the matchup seems like a lateral move at best in terms of his progression in opponent quality. Normally, this is where I get annoyed and angry and complain about matchmaking. For an example, see how I recently treated Danny “Swift” Garcia.

But Thurman gets a pass, and here are the reasons why.

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Anti All-Star Team: A Starting Lineup Of Big MLB Disappointments

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo)

As much as I enjoy showing some love to guys who are killing it without proper recognition, sometimes a light must shine on those not pulling their weight. This is an starting lineup of players who are vastly underperforming in relation to their expectations, contract, or both.

C: Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers: This one hurts me, because Lucroy was an absolute beast in 2014, and the MVP of one of my fantasy teams. Lucroy has battled the injury bug this year, but he was not hitting before he got hurt, and since coming back it’s only been marginally better. BABIP is largely to blame; his has dropped from .324 last year to .276 this year, but he’s also shown no pop.

His Isolated Power is a weak .084, and when his batting average and OBP can’t make up for it, Lucroy is not a very valuable player. At least his defense has remained stellar.

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Ep. 63 DeAndre, The West, And Free Agency: The Deli Counter

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo)

Coach Gottlin and I get deep into DeAndre Jordan ditching the Mavs, the Western powers, the Knicks and more.

All-Star Spotlights: 5 Studs In 2015 That Need Praise

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo

The All-Star voting has been wonky this year with the Mid-summer Classic being held in Kansas City. In the event that some of these players you’re about to read about don’t make it, I want something to be written about these hugely important players. Each brings at least one skill indispensable to his club, and several bring much more.

The Next Big Thing–Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers 

This offseason the Dodgers put their eggs in the Joc Pederson basket when they traded away All-Star Matt Kemp, who socked 25 home runs last season, to a division rival. Kemp had reportedly ruffled feathers in the locker room, but 20+ home run hitters aren’t too plentiful in this new, cleaner era. The pressure was on Pederson.

He has passed every test with flying colors. Pederson has become a premier power hitter already, cracking 19 home runs in 305 plate appearances. He’s been a plus defender in the outfield, whereas Kemp was one of MLB’s worst and eventually had to be removed from center field. In fact, Pederson has a flair for the spectacular in the outfield, making 40 plays outside of his zone already, and completing 20 percent of his “remote” opportunities, defined by Fangraphs as plays with a 1-10 percent chance of being made.

Dodgers fans surely have forgotten Kemp by now, and Pederson has even moved Yasiel Puig aside as L.A.’s big deal. If Pederson’s this good already, his ceiling seems limitless.

The Stick–Stephen Vogt, C, Oakland A’s 

During the 2015 A’s’ offseason makeover, Vogt was handed a full-time job. Previously he had been a potent platoon player, but in 71 games this year, vs. right-handers and southpaws, Vogt has been a beast. One of the A’s bright spots in this dim season thus far Vogt is slashing .304/.399/.545 with 13 home runs and 53 RBI.

He’s proven he can rake vs. left-handed pitching, batting .333 in 57 at-bats, but he remains death on conventional pitchers, socking 12 of his 13 blasts against them. Part of Vogt’s big season has been increased patience; he’s walking 14 percent of the time in 2015, up from 5.6 percent last year. His ground ball rate is up, but so is his line drive rate.

No catcher in 2015 has had as big an offensive impact as  Vogt, and he’s been a neutral defender too. Vogt is quietly one of the sport’s most valuable players right now thanks to that production at such a hitting-starved position.

The Fireman–Dellin Betances, RP, New York Yankees

Betances was one of MLB’s most dominant relievers last season, partially because of the length he gave the Yankees when he pitched. David Robertson was there to close the door but he left this offseason–even though Betances was the obvious choice to become the closer, free agent left-hander Andrew Miller took the role.

Betances never sulked, and instead has been as dominant in 2015 as he was in 2014. He has continued to go more than one inning, and his ERA is lower this year than last, and his strikeout rate has increased. In just 37.1 innings of work Betances has set down 61 hitters, and with Miller on the DL Betances has finally claimed that closer role. He has five saves on the season, and whether he keeps the job upon Miller’s return or cedes it back, he’s currently the most dominant reliever in baseball.

The Complete Package–Lorenzo Cain, OF, Kansas City Royals

The Royals made the World Series last season largely on the strength of their bullpen, and a phenomenal defense. Lorenzo Cain has continued to shine in that outfield, posting a 9.9 defensive rating and making 57 plays outside his zone. He routinely makes impressive plays look easy, and almost impossible plays look merely tough.


But he ain’t all glove. Cain has stepped up his work at the plate and become one of the more dangerous all-around players in MLB. He’s reaching base at a near-.350 clip, batting .290, and he’s stolen 13 bags.

Cain’s added 3.6 runs of value as a baserunner, and is a positive at the plate, in the field, and on the base paths. It’s unrealistic to call him an MVP candidate, but Royals MVP isn’t far-fetched.

The Buccaneer–A.J. Burnett, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates

This man won’t go away. After a brutal 2014 with the cellar-dwelling Philadelphia Phillies (8-18, 4.59 ERA) Burnett was expected to hang up his cleats. Instead, he decided to take another tour in Pittsburgh, and he’s once again formed a shockingly good 1-2 punch with Francisco Liriano.

Burnett is 6-3 with a 2.01 ERA–and it’s backed up by his 2.64 FIP. He’s whiffing 7.87 batters per nine innings, walking less than two-and-a-half hitters per nine, and keeping the ball in the park. Burnett has only allowed three home runs in 98.1 innings of action, and stranded 81.8 percent of baserunners. If the Buccos reach October, this may be the guy getting the ball in Game 1.

 

 

Is Jason Kipnis Really Leading The American League MVP Race?

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo

Rattle off some MVP candidates in the American League. Mike Trout? Miguel Cabrera? Felix Hernandez? Sure, all good choices. Place yourself in a world where you were asked this question, but hadn’t already seen the headline of this article. It’s unlikely Cleveland Indians 2B Jason Kipnis‘ name would have entered your mind.

That’s what I’m here for though–to keep you informed.

Kipnis is having an absolutely monstrous year so far. He’s slashing .354/.428/.523 with five home runs, 31 RBI and 10 stolen bases. He’s put up those numbers when while including a horrific March/April in which he batted just .218. Remove that, and he’s slashing .416/.498/.632. Wowwwwww!

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