NFL Preview 2014 AFC North: Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger Leading Old Guard Back To Prominence?

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo)

This is the AFC 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.

Baltimore Ravens (Last season: 8-8)

Offense: In 2013 the Ravens managed an 8-8 season despite having the worst offensive line in the NFL in terms of running the football, according to FootballOutsiders.com. It didn’t help the O-Line though that their running backs were truly among the worst in the league. Ray Rice was not himself, dropping to 3.1 yards per carry from 4.4 just one season ago.

If this version of Ray Rice shows up in Week 3 Baltimore’s on the way to a division title.

Bernard Pierce wasn’t any better, at 2.9 yards per carry. It all put a ton of pressure on Joe Flacco to carry the team with a subpar group of receivers. This offseason, the Ravens added wide receiver Steve Smith to Flacco’s arsenal, and get tight end Dennis Pitta back. If the RBs fail again, Flacco’s better equipped to lead the way.

Defense: The defense was missing Ray Lewis and Ed Reed last year, but on the whole it was a pretty damn good D. The defensive line is powerful and will grind down running games, and it’s backed up by serious linebackers. Terrell Suggs will start the season fully healthy, Courtney Upshaw should improve on the other edge, and rookie C.J. Mosley is expected to contribute right away. This was a Top 10 defense last year, and it should be even better in 2014.

Underrated Asset: DE/OLB Elvis Dumervil is a sack master, and he’s just on the bench according to the Ravens’ depth chart. If they’re keeping him fresh just for passing downs, Dumervil could be an absolute terror against more ground-down linemen.

Floor to Ceiling: 8-11 wins  Continue reading

NFL 2014 Preview AFC South: Jadeveon Clowney, J.J. Watt To Reclaim Division From Luck’s Colts?

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 Colts seem to be a popular pick to drop off the previous season’s pace for a second straight year, but as long as Andrew Luck is running the show I don’t see the rush to bury them. They added Hakeem Nicks to the mix, who joins T.Y. Hilton and a recovered Reggie Wayne, giving him three quality WRs to throw too.

They also have Trent Richardson, who at the very least offers some upside. It seems clear he wasn’t worth his No. 3 overall selection, and likely wasn’t even worth the first-rounder Indy traded for him last year, but he’s too young to give up on.

The O-line was middle of the pack in the running game, but Luck was hit far too often . Can’t keep happening, and may be an issue in a division with some sick pass rushes.

Defense: Indy’s adjusted numbers are prettier than the raw ones, but overall it was a middling defense in 2013. Adding DE Arthur Jones and LB D’Qwell Jackson should give it some teeth though, and with a high-powered offense I see the D being sufficient.

Underrated Asset: RB Ahmad Bradshaw may not be a star anymore, but in just 41 carries last year before hurting his neck Bradshaw had been averaging 4.5 yards per carry. He is a hard runner with experience in pass-blocking, and if T-Rich starts off slowly again it will be easy for Bradshaw to step in and produce.

Floor to Ceiling: 10-13 games. Continue reading

NFL 2014 Preview AFC West: Can Anyone Contain Peyton Manning’s Broncos?

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo)

Denver Broncos (Last season: 13-3) 

Offense: With Peyton Manning running the show, things are just easy for everyone else. They had a historic season in 2013 and they didn’t even have LT Ryan Clady there. He’s back now, and they’ve upgraded Knowshon Moreno to Montee Ball. Demaryius Thomas is one of the league’s best receivers, and Julius Thomas is an elite pass-catcher at TE.

The TD connection was nice, but watch Clady!

The Wes Welker injury is alarming for sure, but if he misses time or goes out again Emmanuel Sanders will thrive. This offense is money, baby.

Defense: Many will be quick to anoint this one of the top defenses in the league after adding DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward and Aqib Talib, but I’m often wary of any unit with so many new faces. That said, these are crazy good players and the defense will be good. One thing that stinks? Matt Prater‘s suspension. He’ll be back after four games though, so I’m sure Brandon McManus can do the job.

Underrated Asset: WR Cody Latimer, a big body who looks like Eric Decker, could be a major cog in the offense if Welker misses time with his latest concussion. Sanders would likely move inside, leaving that outside spot wide open.

Floor to Ceiling: 12 to 14 wins Continue reading

NFL Preview NFC West: Best Division In Football?

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.

San Francisco 49ers (Last season: 12-4) 

Offense: Some have their doubts about Colin Kaepernick as QB, but to be honest I really don’t. He’s not the greatest passer, or the most prolific, and he does battle inconsistency at times. But overall, he’s one of the single scariest threats in the entire NFL at any position.

Kaepernick also has a ton of weapons at his disposal to start the year. Vernon Davis is an elite athlete at TE, Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin are tough to guard, and ageless wonder Frank Gore actually has a promising backup behind him in rookie Carlos Hyde. If the offensive line improves from last year, this is the best offense in the division.

Defense: This typically dominant unit may struggle. Aldon Smith is facing a lengthy suspension, and NaVorro Bowman is going to miss time following a particuarly nasty knee injury. The secondary doesn’t feature studs either. It will be a good–not great–part of this team.

Underrated Asset: The veteran Stevie Johnson/Brandon Lloyd combo hasn’t gotten much publicity, but it gives the 49ers a healthy dose of depth at WR. That’s no small thing after some of their past struggles with injuries and ineptitude on the bench. Kaepernick is the type of player who will thrive with top-notch weapons, but might not be suited to carrying a subpar group.

Floor to Ceiling: 10-12 wins.  Continue reading

Fantasy Football Players To Avoid At Each Position

Special To The Deli: By Stefan Davis

Picking the right players in a fantasy football draft can make or break a season. Sure, there is always a chance to make a few trades and some key free agent pickups, but for the most part, the best players are going to be obtained at the beginning of the year. That is why it is so important to make smart decisions. Here is a look at a player at each position to avoid unless they slip way past where they are projected to go.

Quarterback – Cam Newton

As if offseason surgery is not enough, Cam Newton will be dealing with a lot of new faces on his team in 2014. He lost over 50% of his targets from a year ago, and Carolina did not do a very good job of replacing those players.

Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant and Kelvin Benjamin are the newest faces for Newton to throw the ball to. He will also have returning tight end Greg Olsen, but it looks like he is going to struggle in 2014. Only outstanding money numbers could save his season.

Running Back – Marshawn Lynch

A lot of people talk about the Super Bowl hangover, and Marshawn Lynch could very well go through one in 2014. He is starting to get up there in age, and he has a lot of wear and tear on his body. Seattle could try to save him and little bit during the year by using his backups. They are hoping to make another run towards a Super Bowl, so keeping him healthy might keep his numbers down.

Wide Receiver – Sammy Watkins

Yes, there are high expectations for Sammy Watkins going into his rookie campaign, but it is never that smart to draft a first-year player highly. He has a chance to be a star in the NFL, but it won’t come in year one. He needs to get used to playing with EJ Manuel, and playing against NFL defenses in general. He is going way too early in most fantasy football drafts, so avoid him at all costs.

Tight End – Kyle Rudolph

Minnesota does not really know what to do with their quarterback situation, so that makes Kyle Rudolph a bit of a risk. He has quite a bit of talent at the tight end position, but there are too many other factors out of his control for him to be recommended as a high pick.

 

NFL 2014 NFC South Preview: Will Saints Brees To Easy Division Title?

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.

New Orleans Saints (Last season: 11-5) 

Offense: This is an easy one. The offense is great. Drew Brees is back yet again, with his usual mix of decent players in the backfield (although Darren Sproles is gone) and a shiny new rookie receiver, Brandin Cooks, that might threaten for the NFC Rookie of the Year award. Expect 40+ TD passes from Brees, and a division title.

Defense: The defense was pretty good last year, and now might have the best safety tandem in the NFL after adding Jairus Byrd in free agency. He has nine picks in the last two seasons, and had nine picks in his rookie year alone. He’s an extraordinary game-changer, and his partner Kenny Vaccaro will allow him to freelance. The rest of the defense is solid, but unspectacular. With those safeties that’s just fine.

Underrated Asset: RB Khiry Robinson‘s role might be unclear at the start, but Pierre Thomas is little more than a solid player, and Mark Ingram’s had about 90 billion chances to grab a hold of the lead tailback role. Robinson will have his opportunities, and might break out.

Floor to Ceiling: 10-13 wins.  Continue reading

NFL 2014 NFC North Preview: Where Offense Is King

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: 8-7-1)

Offense: The Packers have their leader Aaron Rodgers, the best quarterback in the NFL, back healthy. That alone could make almost every team in the league a playoff contender. Rodgers has Randall Cobb healthy to start the season, plus Jarrett Boykin begins the season as a legitimate threat out of the slot. This passing game may be the best in the NFC.

The Packers also evolved into a power rushing team out of necessity when Rodgers went down. They now have a legitimate identity as a rushing powerhourse, with one of the biggest bruisers in the league (Eddie Lacy). Protecting Rodgers may still be an issue, but with the run as potent as it is, blitzes should decrease.

The Pack will pour on the points.

Defense: Defensively, I can’t say I think this will be a particularly stout D. There are big-time playmakers all over the place though, so even if they can be gashed, they can also win a game. Don’t be surprised to see them rank very high in the turnover column.

Underrated Asset: Rookie WR Davante Adams could be a breakout player here. In two years with Fresno State he caught 102 and 131 passes respectively, surpassed 1,700 yards receiving last year, and hauled in 24 touchdowns. Even as the No.4 or No. 5 receiver on the roster, he may see opportunities to make an impact.

Floor to Ceiling: 10-13 wins.

Chicago Bears (Last season: 8-8) 

Offense: Head coach Marc Trestman lived up to his billing as a master offensive mind, turning Chicago into a lights out offense even after Jay Cutler went down. With Cutler healthy again, throwing to perhaps the NFL’s best receiving tandem (Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery), they may lead the league in points.

Running back Matt Forte is also arguably the league’s best pass-catcher out of the backfield, plus Martellus Bennett commands attention over the middle. These skill players are a defensive coordinator’s nightmare.

Defense: The Bears’ pass rush got a little scary this offseason after adding Lamarr Houston, and the secondary has ballhawks at CB. The health of the linebackers will determine whether this D is good or great.

Underrated Asset: WR Santonio Holmes had a bad rep after failing as the Jets No. 1 WR for several seasons. In Chicago, he’s a No. 3 target and fourth or fifth option–and in that capacity he might be one of the shockers in the entire NFL. A healthy Holmes vs. No. 3 corners or worse is a difference maker.

Floor to Ceiling: 9-12 wins.

Detroit Lions (Last season: 7-9)

Offense: Calvin Johnson is hands-down the best WR in the NFL, but this year he has real help around him. Golden Tate is a true No. 2 wide receiver, unlike the players before him who simply masqueraded as capable. Rookie TE Eric Ebron could be the next Jimmy Graham. And the running backs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell are both capable of toting the rock between the tackles or catching passes.

Even if Matthew Stafford doesn’t play well he will accidentally have the stats of a Top 5 fantasy quarterback. If he plays up to his potential? Maybe the NFL’s best offense. There’s a lot of that in this division huh?

Defense: The defensive line is downright sick–if Ziggy Ansahdevelops it’ll be the sport’s top pass-rushing D-Line. The secondary leaves something to be desired though. Facing elite QBs four times a season, and with promising rookie Teddy Bridgewater looming in Minnesota, a poor secondary can sink the ship. I’m afraid that may be the case in the D.

Underrated Asset: RB Theo Riddick is underrated. I haven’t seen him play. I’ve merely heard his name on several podcasts that I listen to. That, and this video, is enough for me.
Floor to Ceiling: 8 to 10 wins.

Minnesota Vikings (Last season: 5-10-1)

Offense: This offense will be better if Teddy Bridgewater starts right away. Bridgewater was the most NFL-ready QB in this class, and his accuracy could mean big plays for Cordarrelle Patterson, as well as a TD spike for TE Kyle Rudolph.

Bridgewater could also put a little fear into defenses and keep them from throwing the whole lot at RB Adrian Peterson. If they stick with Matt Cassel, though, this season will look a hell of a lot like 2013.  

Defense: There’s good young talent on the D-line, and a secondary with some upside. Unfortunately for Minnesota, they’re outgunned in a division featuring three potentially elite offenses. For their sake, they’ll need sacks.

Underrated Asset: LB Anthony Barr has the potential to be a force a la Von Miller, which would then transform the Vikings from an also-ran to a real player in the division. It is a lot to heap on a rookie, but that’s his ceiling–no reason to rule out Barr hitting it quickly.

Floor to Ceiling: 5-7 wins.

NFL 2014 NFC East Preview: Football’s Most Flawed Division?

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo

Beginning today, I’ll tackle each NFL division prior to the start of the season. 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. That said…the NFC East.

Philadelphia Eagles (Last season: 10-6) 

Offense: Chip Kelly turned heads last season with his fast-paced offense, and even though he lost Michael Vick, he believes he found the QB of the future in Nick Foles. DeSean Jackson had a career year in this offense, and LeSean McCoy looked like arguably the best RB in the league.

Any line could look good with Shady McCoy behind it.

Jackson’s gone now, but Jeremy Maclin is back and they drafted a possible playmaker in Jordan Matthews. The offensive line gets a ton of credit, but really it seems like McCoy made them look better than they were. If he can duplicate his 2013 production this will once again be a good offense. I don’t believe Foles is elite, but I also think that with Kelly in the fold he won’t have to be.

Defense: This isn’t really the most talented defense in the world, but they can get after the passer with Trent Cole, and their offense will carry the freight. With Cole moving to OLB, the linebacking corps is actually very solid. It won’t be an iron curtain, but they will make plays.

Underrated Asset: WR Arrelious Benn is sneakily capable of making some big plays. He didn’t play at all last year, but in his first two NFL seasons he averaged 15.2 yards per catch, and he’s playing on a team without superstar receivers. If Riley Cooper falls off, or if there’s an injury to a starter he’s going to be able to slot right in and produce.

Floor to Ceiling: 8-11 wins.  Continue reading

MLB Underrated Stars: Four Players That Have Been Much Better Than You Think

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo

When a team like the Los Angeles Angels is dominating as they are, it’s easy to look at their roster, point out Mike Trout, and then figure out he’s the main reason they’re killing it. Obviously there’s other factors, but let’s be real. It’s Trout. In some other places though the top dogs don’t stand out as easily. They blend in. Here are some players that have been better than you expect.

Brett Gardner, OF (NYY) 

The left fielder’s getting a bunch of attention now because of his power surge, but he’s been the Yankees best player all year long. His vaunted defense has actually slipped a little, but he’s turned into this year’s version of Robinson Cano for the Yankees. Obviously, he’s not the player Cano is–but he’s been the type of player without whom the Yanks would be a sub-.500 club.

Even with his defensive metrics down, he’s still had some gems

Continue reading

Boston Red Sox: True Winners of 2014 MLB Trade Deadline

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundTheMundo)

The Detroit Tigers made the best deal on Thursday, July 31 a.k.a the MLB trade deadline. When they picked up David Price from Tampa Bay in a three-team deal, and surrendered just Austin Jackson (to Seattle), Drew Smyly and an 18-year-old prospect, they became the favorites to reach the World Series from the AL.

But just because they made the best deal, and got the best player, they didn’t necessarily win deadline day. That honor goes to the Red Sox.  Continue reading