Thursday, September 30, 2010

EPT London

I was eliminated on day one of this event. I thought I played well. Playing an ultra-light schedule allows me to play with patience and creativity when I do get in there, and I can evaluate my play without emotion during and afterwards.

This tournament continues the trend which has come to define my 2010: struggles in poker in the midst of unparalleled success in life.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What Dreams May Come

The second half of the summer has been blissful and hazy. I have enjoyed just about every moment of it, but have sometimes felt like I was watching the experience through another man’s eyes. I am only about 80% sure I am awake right now. There is a 20% chance I am in the midst of a dream.

In July I went backpacking around the Maroon Bells with my friend Leo. Dreams in Technicolor.

I hung around Boulder for a couple weeks. I have little memory of what happened at the beginning of August. I think I went to The Great Indoors two or three times.

I went backpacking in the Sangre de Cristo with my friends Jeremy, Reid, and Truman. The first day we listened to Metallica while driving up a chunk of the legendary Lake Como Jeep Road and hiked to the lake. The second day we climbed Little Bear Peak, the most dangerous Fourteener I have ascended.

When we got back to camp, helicopters were flying up the valley like it was a war zone. We had no idea what was going on.

Eventually we learned an epileptic climber had dislocated her shoulder high on Ellingwood Peak. Jeremy and Reid went up the basin in the middle of the night in a driving rain and lightning storm to help with the rescue. The misery they and the volunteer rescue team went through that ferocious night is hard to fathom, though it was nothing compared to that of the victim.

The next morning Truman and I hiked up the valley and helped the rescue team down the last mile or so.

They were cold, hungry, disheveled, exhausted, disgusted by the victim’s ceaseless negativity. But one young man in a crisp Marmot jacket was fresh and chipper, guiding the team and cracking jokes like they had just gotten out of bed. Some have a fire that cannot be extinguished.

Truman and I went back up the basin after the rescue helicopter took off for Pueblo,

and we climbed Blanca and Ellingwood Peaks.

I think I played some poker in August. It doesn’t seem to matter as much as the softball games we play twice a week.

I went backpacking with my dad in the Zirkel Wilderness. We saw a few bowhunters and no one else. He is so protective of the solitude, he told me not to blog the name of the lakes we went to.

On Labor Day a massive wildfire started just west of Boulder. Thouands of homes were evacuated. 170 were destroyed. The city itself was briefly threatened.

A plume of smoke, sometimes stretching all the way to Kansas, has been blowing east across the city.

Blue skies have turned brown. It has been spectacular, strange, disconcerting. The fire hasn’t felt real.

One night I drove to Louisville, Colorado to see the summer’s biggest blockbuster, Inception.

I went alone. My car was the only one in the parking lot. I thought Colony Square might be closed, but it wasn’t. No one else was in the theater. It felt like I was in a dream, even before watching a movie about dreams within dreams within dreams. Inception was strong, but Christopher Nolan has made three better movies. Afterwards I drove home, the horizon lit orange with fire against a black night.

One night last month I woke up suddenly with no idea what time it was. I realized that I had just awakened from a recurring dream, a wonderful dream that turns to empty disgust when I wake up and realize it is fantasy. And then something amazing happened – I realized I was awake, that it had all happened, that I wasn’t and hadn’t been dreaming at all.

I have been losing at poker. I don’t care. I have been winning at everything else. I have a vague feeling of a noose tightening, but it doesn’t compare to the competing feeling of lying in a hammock under the sun.

A friend of mine had a vivid dream I was going to knock him out and win a poker tournament in Louisville, Kentucky. I should go. I have reason to believe it would happen. But instead I am in Europe chasing bigger dreams. Ireland, London, Scotland. I have never been. I am excited. This trip should have a little bit of everything – adventure, culture, romance, enchantment, self-discovery, and of course, fortune and glory.

Recently I have been struggling to fuse my thoughts lucidly. My brain prefers to digest the world atmospherically. But I am acutely aware of how fortunate I have been. I am filled with powers greater than my own. I am living the dream.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

NFL Week Two

Week two was defined by teams that have become accustomed to winning close games (New Orleans, Miami, Pittsburgh, GoodnightMoon fantasy) pulling out rugged wins, teams that have gotten used to losing continuing to find gutwrenching ways to lose (San Francisco, St. Louis, Detroit, Cleveland), and the emergence of three new teams that appear to have bridged that gap (Houston, Kansas City, Tampa Bay).

Fantasy Pickups of the Week

3. Keep a close eye on the Reggie Bush situation. New Orleans won't rely solely on Pierre Thomas, though his value clearly rises.

2. TE Tony Moeaki, Kansas City
Looking like Matt Cassel's favorite target while developing into the shoes of Tony Gonzalez.

1. WR Demaryius Thomas, Denver
Thomas, the first WR taken in April's draft, caught eight balls for 97 yards and a TD in his first game as a pro. He looked excellent.

Power Rankings

32. St. Louis (27)
For three years I've wondered how a team with Steven Jackson could be this bad

31. Buffalo (31)
Still waiting on Chan Gailey to come up with something for this offense, which might be historically bad if he doesn’t.

30. Detroit (29)
The Lions are a flashy bad team with a horrific defense.

29. Oakland (31)

Weren't these the four worst teams the last two seasons?

28. Carolina (21)
The Panthers simply don’t have enough of a passing offense to compete in today’s NFL. Jimmy Clausen did look better than Matt Moore so there is some hope.

27. Cleveland (28)

The Browns are a hair’s breadth from 2-0; instead they have the best shot of any team at 0-16.

26. Seattle (23)
The Seahawks won’t be winning many road games this season, but they’ll put up a fight at home.

25. Arizona (22)

A friend asked me why I liked FALCONS -6.5 over Cardinals so much last weekend. I laughed and said “Derek Anderson.”

24. Jacksonville (24)


23. Tampa Bay (32)
I have to admit, Josh Freeman played well against the Panthers. He made a few plays nobody but Michael Vick could make. But that’s not happening every week, and it sure isn’t happening Sunday against the NFL’s best defense. Tampa does look strong on both lines.

22. San Francisco (25)
One of these teams - St. Louis, Seattle, San Francisco, Arizona - is going to host a playoff game in January. Seriously.

21. Denver (26)

Somehow the aggregate AFC West is above .500 two weeks in...

20. Kansas City (19)

After two years of finding ways to lose games they should have won, the Chiefs have won two games they probably should have lost.

19. Minnesota (15)

The recipe for the Season From Hell (possibly spurred by last year’s Favre/Satan Deal With The Devil) is cooking.

18. New York Giants (14)...and the aggregate NFC East is below .500.

17. Philadelphia (17)
It’s hard to imagine the Eagles being better with Kevin Kolb at quarterback.

16. San Diego (16)
Antonio Gates should be a mandatory double-team the rest of the season.

15. Washington (13)

It’s looking like it could be a long, wild season in D.C. Anything is possible.

14. Dallas (9)
The ‘Boys are posterboys as to why the big boys on the offensive line are more important than the pretty boys on the outside.

13. Cincinnati (18)

Ultimately I think the schedule is going to overwhelm them.

12. Chicago (20)

Fresh off a surprise win over the Cowboys, the Bears now face a mammoth test Monday night in Soldier Field against the Pack.

11. Tennessee (10)

Chalk up the seven turnovers to variance and the defense they were facing.

10. Miami (12)

Huge, huge game Sunday night against the

9. New York Jets (11)
The Jets don’t have Kris Jenkins, Troy Polamalu, or a 100% Darrelle Revis, but they still have the league’s second best defense.

8. Baltimore (2)
Sunday in Cleveland we find out if the offense is sputtering or just playing tough defenses.

7. Atlanta (7)

I’m not sure how you give up an 80-yard touchdown run to Tim Hightower, but they didn’t give up anything else to the Cardinals.

6. Houston (8)
The Texans now have a 191-yard single-game rusher and a 497-yard single-game passer.

5. New England (1)

Classic Angry Beatdown Game coming this Sunday vs. the Bills.

4. New Orleans (3)
Just remember not to bet on them in bad weather.

3. Pittsburgh (6)
This defense may be even better than the championship edition of two seasons ago. They are the Super Bowl favorite upon the return of Roethlisberger.

2. Green Bay (4)

Certainly the most impressive team so far. Just have a bad feeling for some reason.

1. Indianapolis (5)
I don’t have anything to say here that hasn’t been said by others a thousand times, so I’ll note the blockbuster trade I made in fantasy last week: I gave up Larry Fitzgerald, Ryan Mathews, Justin Forsett and Eddie Royal for Wes Welker, Joseph Addai, and Vernon Davis.

Week Three Picks:


CHIEFS +1 over Niners

Really like:

Steelers -2.5 over BUCS

Also like:

BEARS +3 over Packers
DOLPHINS -1 over Jets
PATRIOTS -13 over Bills
Browns +10.5 over RAVENS
SEAHAWKS +5.5 over Chargers

If forced to choose:

Falcons +6.5 over SAINTS
TEXANS -3 over Cowboys
CARDINALS -4 over Raiders
RAMS +3.5 over Redskins
BRONCOS +6 over Colts
JAGUARS +3 over Eagles
Bengals -3 over PANTHERS
Titans +3 over GIANTS
Lions +11 over VIKINGS

Lock season record: 0-0
Really like season record: 1-1
Also like season record: 9-2-1
If forced to choose season record: 10-8
All games season record: 20-11-1

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Week Two Picks

Really like:

FALCONS -6.5 over Cardinals
PANTHERS -3.5 over Bucs

Also like:

LIONS +6.5 over Eagles
REDSKINS +2.5 over Texans
Dolphins +5.5 over VIKINGS
COLTS -5 over Giants

If forced to choose:

Rams +3.5 over RAIDERS
Seahawks +3.5 over BRONCOS
Chiefs +3 over BROWNS
Bills +13 over PACKERS
Steelers +5 over TITANS
Bears +7 over COWBOYS
NINERS +5.5 over Saints
Ravens -2.5 over BENGALS
Jaguars +7 over CHARGERS
Patriots -3 over JETS

Lock season record: 0-0
Really like season record: 0-0
Also like season record: 6-1-1
If forced to choose season record: 5-3
All games season record: 11-4-1

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Week One Observations

I didn’t plan on writing Observations this year. I won’t every week, but the NFL season opened on such a compelling note I just couldn’t help myself. The week featured several thrilling games, including two stone cold heartstoppers. This may have been the most exciting overall slate of games I have seen since I started watching religiously in 2007. I put together a few observations, with more of a fantasy focus than in years past.

1. Eli Manning, overrated for years, looks fantastic. He had three interceptions but none were his fault. Each bounced off a receiver’s hands. Manning could be the best player on the Giants.

2. Matt Moore put on his Jake Delhomme costume Sunday against the Giants. He was tossing the ball into double coverage without a care in the world, casually fumbling the ball while taking massive sacks, and consistently sabotaging his team’s chances to win. Let the Clausen era begin.

3. With Trent Edwards it has never been about accuracy. If I see Edwards throw another three yard pass on 3rd and 10 I am going to lose my lunch.

4. Davone Bess remains the most consistent medium-low production player in fantasy. He’s best as a flex shoring up strong rosters.

5. This could be the worst Colts run defense yet. They have to have the lead. Arian Foster and Steve Slaton were running through holes as wide as two-lane roads.

6. Same Chris Johnson.

7. Same Raiders.

8. September 12, 2010 is the day I finally gave up on Alex Smith. The Niners can’t be far behind.

9. The Cardinals probably would have won Super Bowl XLIII if someone had been able to tackle James Harrison on his 100-yard interception return. On Sunday, Steve Breaston made what will likely hold up as the hustle play of the season, tracking down Rams DT Clifton Ryan and stripping him of the ball on a similar play. As you watch this video, note where Breaston was when the ball was stripped from Derek Anderson. The Cardinals likely would have lost the game (the division??) if not for Breaston's heroics.

10. Awesome crowds from the four night games: New Orleans, Washington, NY Jets, and Kansas City. The KC crowd was particularly impressive. You never know how the TV microphones are set, but from my vantage point, that was the loudest crowd I have heard since the heyday of the old Arrowhead and Mile High Stadiums.

11. Baltimore’s defense looked impenetrable against a pass offense that couldn’t find a way to attack them vertically. It will be interesting to see if the Bengals can.

12. Brad Nessler and Trent Dilfer put ESPN's "#1" Monday Night Football crew to shame. Dilfer could be the sharpest analyst in the game right now.

Fantasy Pickups of the Week:

8. TE Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati
Gresham looks like the tight end the Bengals have been searching for longer than Moses wandered the desert.

7. QB Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle
The Seahawks debuted a surprisingly pass-heavy attack, and Hasselbeck played efficiently.

6. QB Michael Vick, Philadelphia
Vick looked 900 times better than Kevin Kolb before the latter came out with a concussion; even if Kolb plays, it might be worth holding onto Vick in case he eventually usurps the starting job. If Vick starts this week he should be your fantasy quarterback – he might rush for 100 and pass for 300 on the turf against an atrocious Lions defense.

5. RB Peyton Hillis, Cleveland
Any Bronco fan can tell you Hillis is a badass, and the stat sheet tells us he got more touches than Jerome “Permanent Doghouse” Harrison.

4. WR Legedu Naanee, San Diego
Legedu won't be catching many touchdown bombs like the one against the Chiefs, but he is a reliable chain-moving target for Philip Rivers, a tall Davone Bess.

3. WR Mark Clayton, St. Louis
Baltimore's trash is Sam Bradford's treasure.

2. Kansas City D
Don’t laugh. KC D is a great pickup in leagues that reward special teams touchdowns to the defense. Their return game looks like the NFL’s most explosive. KC held the Chargers to 14 points, and feature a number of ballhawks (Tamba Hali, Brandon Flowers, Derrick Johnson, Eric Berry). The Chiefs will have two games against the Raiders and Broncos this season, and also play the Browns (week two), Niners (week three), Jaguars, Bills, Cardinals, Seahawks, and Rams. They do have a bye week four, so don't sign them if you are in a league with limited room for moves.

1. RB Brandon Jackson, Green Bay
B-Jax is not a high-quality back, but he is in an incredibly favorable fantasy situation with Ryan Grant out for the season. Expect the Packers to find someone on waivers to complement Jackson.

Fantasy Movers

Arian Foster
Feature back time. Has the potential to be the #1 RB in fantasy this season if he can stay healthy and out of the doghouse. Of course, I could run for 100 yards against the Colts.

Wes Welker
Welker looked like Welker on Sunday, great news for Welker owners who got Welker at a non-Welker price in their fantasy draft.

Roddy White
Matt Ryan targeted White a ton in Atlanta’s first game, and White was able to grab most of the balls pitched his way.

Pittsburgh D
With Kris Jenkins of the Jets done for the season, the NFL’s best defense is made of Steel.

Devin Aromoshodu
Looks like Jay Cutler’s go-to guy.

Ryan Mathews
Darren Sproles
Mathews actually looked pretty good, but his offensive line didn’t. After a series of rookie mistakes, Mathews was sent to the showers in favor of Sproles and Mike Tolbert. Tolbert looked like a giant ball of stone running the ball while Sproles (ineffectively) took all the third downs. Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates are the only Chargers you can feel good about starting in week two, though Legedu Naanee should be a safe bet for some moderation production in PPR leagues.

Shonn Greene
Eventually Greene will get the bulk of the action, but right now he may have played himself into the doghouse. He is obviously more athletically imposing than LaDainian Tomlinson at this stage of their careers, but LDT is the more complete back.

Larry Fitzgerald
Derek Anderson sucks.

Louis Murphy
Dwayne Bowe
Kenny Britt
Mike Sims-Walker
It’s not time to drop em just yet, but their invisibility this week is certainly a concern. If they don’t produce next week, it might be time to hit the eject button.

Anthony Gonzalez
You can drop him.

New Orleans WRs
Drew Brees just throws to the open man. No one is going to consistently stand out here.

Power Rankings:

32. Tampa Bay (31)
31. Oakland (23)
30. Buffalo (30)
29. Detroit (27)

28. Cleveland (32)

27. St. Louis (28)

26. Denver (26)
25. San Francisco (20)
24. Jacksonville (25)
23. Seattle (29)

22. Arizona (18)

21. Carolina (19)

20. Chicago (24)
19. Kansas City (22)

18. Cincinnati (15)
17. Philadelphia (14)

16. San Diego (17)

15. Minnesota (16)

14. New York Giants (14)
13. Washington (12)

12. Miami (8)

11. New York Jets (11)

10. Tennessee (21)
9. Dallas (4)

8. Houston (10)
7. Atlanta (2)
6. Pittsburgh (6)

5. Indianapolis (1)
4. Green Bay (5)
3. New Orleans (9)

2. Baltimore (7)
1. New England (3)

Thursday, September 09, 2010

2010 NFL Preview Part Three: Power Rankings, Predictions, & Picks

That's Bob Sanders. Do you remember Bob Sanders? He was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2007. That seems like five years ago. Now Bob Sanders is a forgotten man. Things change fast in the NFL. Rebuilding franchises rebuild in one offseason. Contenders become laughingstocks in the blink of an eye. But Sanders' team, the Indianapolis Colts, are an island in the stormy sea. With or without Sanders, the Colts win. There isn't much in the NFL you can confidently predict; the Colts contending for a title is one thing you can.

Power Rankings:

32. Cleveland Browns
Just wasting our time on Sundays.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs actually host the Browns in week one – a sneaky scheduling move by the NFL to hide the season’s worst game while giving both teams an early opportunity to build some false confidence.

30. Buffalo Bills
Ever since the 2009 season came to a close, I’ve been excited to put the Bills at the bottom of this list and predict a 2-14 season. But then I remembered watching the Tyler Thigpen-led Kansas City Chiefs in 2008, and I remembered Chan Gailey is a true offensive genius, a coach with ingenuity. If the Bills had any semblance of an offensive line, they’d be a tempting sleeper pick. Gailey will inject creativity – in fact, the Bills could debut the most interesting offense in the league – but Buffalo’s lack of talent at every position other than running back and a jarring switch to the 3-4 will prevent them from being anything more than fun to watch on offense.

29. Seattle Seahawks
Is there a single good player left on the Seahawks? Help me out here, Seattle fans. Who’s your best player? David Hawthorne?

28. St. Louis Rams
The Rams have won six games in the last three years. They hit bottom last season, winning just one game while sporting the league’s worst offense and second-worst defense. Rookie quarterback Sam Bradford, who played just a little more than two seasons of college ball at Oklahoma, will be the starter from day one. Rookie quarterbacks rarely fare well in the NFL, particularly ones with shaky offensive lines, no defense, and no receivers. The Rams should be staring down the barrel of another 1-3 win season. The only thing is, Bradford has been passing the “smell test” in a big way. Granted, we are talking about preseason. But Bradford looks legit.

27. Detroit Lions
The Lions should be better than last year – but they were very, very, very bad last season and very, very, very, very bad the season before. Expecting this team to morph into a playoff contender, or even a .500 football team, is expecting way too much.

26. Denver Broncos
Their best player (Ryan Clady) is coming back from a major knee injury suffered during a basketball game in the offseason. Their second best player (Elvis Dumervil) is out for the season. Their third best player (Champ Bailey) is 32. With the exception of the head coach and a certain rookie quarterback unlikely to see major playing time until at least 2012, there isn’t much to get excited about here.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars

24. Oakland RaidersAnother bad team buoyed by hope from the acquisition of one mediocre player (Jason Campbell). 2010 Defensive Rookie of the Year Rolando McClain will be more than a mediocre player.

23. Chicago Bears
It’s looking like both teams came out losers in the Cutler soap opera.

22. Kansas City Chiefs
Yet another awful team with aspirations of respectability – but still an awful team with an awful offensive line, awful defense, and awful coach.

21. Tennesee Titans
A closer look at Tennessee’s second half surge in ’09 (an 8-2 finish after an 0-6 start) reveals they beat just two teams with winning records while facing a slate of David Garrard, Alex Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Schaub, Matt Leinart, Peyton Manning (loss), Keith Null, Chad Henne, Phil Rivers (loss) and Matt Hasselbeck.

20. San Francisco 49ers
Not sure where this team slips up. Could be the quarterback, could be the coach, could be an injury to Frank Gore or Patrick Willis, could be a regression on defense – but somewhere there they do figure to slip up.

19. Carolina Panthers
The league’s weakest pass offense in the passing era. Tough team to beat in 1972.

18. Arizona Cardinals
Even if the Cardinals get ’08-’09 Derek Anderson, they still have several extremely talented players and a smart coach. Look for the Cardinals to drastically switch up their offense, eschewing the high variance finesse passing attack for a smashmouth attack featuring a power running game and deep bombs. The Cards still have what it takes to compete in the NFC West.

17. San Diego Chargers
2010 Offensive Rookie of the Year Ryan Mathews and QB Philip Rivers will keep this sinking ship afloat in a sea of weak division opponents. An overhaul is on the horizon.

16. Minnesota Vikings
Picking the Vikings to fall off the cliff and go 6-10 this season has become fashionable. I get it, and I agree with it. The wheels are coming off. Brett Favre is 40 and hobbling. Both lines are starting to fall apart. Sidney Rice is gone for at least half the season. Percy Harvin could miss any game at any time with migraines. The defense is nothing special. Chester Taylor is gone.

But the Vikings still have this guy on the team, entering his fourth year in the league. He’s good.

15. Philadelphia Eagles
I really have no idea what to expect from this team so I tossed them in the middle along with the

14. Cincinnati Bengals

13. New York Giants
The Giants were one of the league’s most frustrating teams last season, looking like an early juggernaut while blasting a bunch of bad teams, then completely and somewhat inexplicably falling apart. On paper the G-Men had the best lines in the league, but they just sort of stopped playing well. If they play well, everyone will slap their foreheads and ask “how did we forget about the Giants?” If they play poorly, everyone will note this team was clearly in decline entering the season.

12. Washington Redskins
Not sure why this team isn’t getting more respect entering the season – all the pieces are in place.

11. New York Jets
Rex Ryan, Darrelle Revis, Mark Sanchez, Kris Jenkins, Nick Mangold, Bart Scott, LaDainian Tomlinson, Shonn Greene, Santonio Holmes, David Harris, Antonio Cromartie, Braylon Edwards, Brian Schottenheimer, Jason Taylor, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Damien Woody, Jerricho Cotchery, Dustin Keller, Brad Smith, Kyle Wilson, Mike Pettine, Jim Leonhard, Nick Folk, Joe McKnight, Mike Westhoff, Tony Richardson, John Conner. This bevy of stars, a slew of veteran acquisitions, and Hard Knocks have made the Jets the most compelling team in the league. There’s no question the Jets are loaded on both sides of the ball as well as the sidelines. But Sanchez, who I ranked #3 in last year’s LVP race behind JaMarcus Russell and Jake Delhomme, is the starting quarterback. This feels like a powder keg ready to explode – but it also feels like a team that could win it all.

10. Houston Texans
The Texans have arguably the best offensive design in the league, an underrated crowd, and a load of young talent on defense. Like the ’08 Titans, ’08 Panthers, and ’09 Saints, the Texans have quietly been bubbling below the surface the last few seasons and go into this season without much hype.

9. New Orleans Saints
Two key differences between the ’09 and ’10 Saints: They have two cold-weather December road games (@Cincy, @Baltimore), which have always given Drew Brees problems, and Darren Sharper will start the season on the PUP list.

8. Miami Dolphins
Just feels like a playoff team.

7. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens boast the Titanic of NFL rosters – deliciously stocked at every position except the secondary, which has holes bigger than the Unsinkable after striking the iceberg.

6. Pittsburgh Steelers
2010 NFL Defensive
MVP Troy Polamalu and a loaded defense will keep the ship afloat until the return of Ben Roethlisberger in week five. At that point, the Steelers will become a serious contender.

5. Green Bay Packers
The Pack appear primed for a championship run – but this isn’t the first time this decade they’ve gone into a season with high expectations. Team record the last six seasons:
2004: 10-6
2005: 4-12
2006: 8-8
2007: 13-3
2008: 6-10
2009: 11-5

4. Dallas Cowboys
For the fourth straight season, the ‘Boys enter battle with one of the most talented starting lineups in football. And for the fourth straight season, the ‘Boys enter battle with very weak reinforcements. This is a team continually gambling on good health. If they get it, they could go the distance; if they don’t (as in 2008), the next thing you know, Jon Kitna is running for his life and they’re losing games to the league’s bottom-feeders. Dallas starts the season high in the power rankings, but don’t expect them to stay lofty unless everyone stays healthy. And check out the Dallas road schedule: @Washington, @Houston, @Minnesota, @Green Bay, @NY Giants, @Indy, @Arizona, @Philly.

3. New England Patriots
Too many pieces (Ty Warren, Leigh Bodden, Logan Mankins) on the shelf for them to be any higher, but they still have the best coach and 2010 NFL MVP Tom Brady. Two years removed from ACL surgery, with a cache of fresh receivers and a shaky defense, expect Brady to be chucking it often and efficiently.

2. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons are loaded everywhere you look, have Matt Ryan entering his third season, and may have finally solved the team’s most glaring weakness (cornerback) with the signing of Dunta Robinson. The schedule starts a little rough, but the Falcons should pick up steam as the season moves along.

1. Indianapolis Colts
Picking anyone else to win the Super Bowl is foolish. Indy has won at least twelve games each of the last seven seasons. The Colts do not have questionmarks, only strengths.

Power Rankings and Predicted Records:

32. Cleveland (3-13)
31. Tampa Bay (3-13)
30. Buffalo (5-11)
29. Seattle (5-11)
28. St. Louis (7-9)
27. Detroit (6-10)
26. Denver (5-11)
25. Jacksonville (5-11)
24. Chicago (7-9)
23. Oakland (7-9)
22. Kansas City (8-8)
21. Tennessee (7-9)
20. San Francisco (8-8)
19. Carolina (8-8)
18. Arizona* (8-8)
17. San Diego* (8-8)
16. Minnesota (8-8)
15. Cincinnati (7-9)
14. Philadelphia** (9-7)
13. New York Giants** (9-7)
12. Washington* (9-7)
11. New York Jets** (10-6)
10. Houston (9-7)
9. New Orleans (9-7)
8. Miami** (10-6)
7. Baltimore (9-7)
6. Pittsburgh* (12-4)
5. Green Bay* (11-5)
4. Dallas (8-8)
3. New England* (11-5)
2. Atlanta* (12-4)
1. Indianapolis* (13-3)

* Division Winner
** Wild Card

AFC Championship: Colts over Steelers

NFC Championship: Falcons over Redskins

Super Bowl XLV: Colts over Falcons

Week One Picks:

Also like:

Dolphins -3 over BILLS
JAGUARS -2.5 over Broncos
STEELERS +2.5 over Falcons
REDSKINS +3.5 over Cowboys
RAMS +4 over Cardinals
CHIEFS +5.5 over Chargers
EAGLES +3 over Packers
PATRIOTS -4.5 over Bengals

If forced to choose:

Ravens +2 over JETS
SAINTS -4.5 over Vikings
SEAHAWKS +3 over Niners
BUCS -2.5 over Browns
Lions +6 over BEARS
Raiders +6.5 over TITANS
Panthers +7 over GIANTS
Colts -2 over TEXANS

Lock career record: 4-3
Really like career record: 17-15-1
Also like career record: 83-80-3
If forced to choose career record: 159-159-6
All games career record: 263-257-10

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

August Top 15

15. Ingrid Michaelson - Can't Help Falling In Love
14. Brandon Flowers - Crossfire
13. Jewel - Hands
12. Television - Marquee Moon
11. Sam Cooke - Wonderful World

10. Metallica - Suicide & Redemption
9. Whiskeytown - Drank Like A River
8. Arcade Fire - City With No Children
7. Griffin House - Better Than Love
6. Indigo Girls - Closer To Fine

5. M83 - Up!
4. Everclear - Sunshine (That Acid Summer)
3. Arcade Fire - Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
2. Griffin House - Let Me In

Song of the Month: Griffin House - The Guy That Says Goodbye To You Is Out Of His Mind

Thursday, September 02, 2010

2010 NFL Preview Part Two: The 40 Most Intriguing Players

40. Donovan McNabb
39. Jason Campbell
The Redskins upgrade from Campbell's Corolla to McNabb's Cadillac, while the Raiders upgrade to the Corolla from a 3-speed Schwinn.

38. Vince Young
Somehow still undefined entering his fifth year. No one has had more ups and downs in such a short time.

37. Dez Bryant
36. Wes Welker
Two high-profile wideouts coming off injury. One checks in at 6'2", 217, one at 5'9", 185. One was drafted in the first round and had 17 catches in college last season. One was undrafted, had 123 catches last season, and finished second amongst NFL receivers in yardage.

35. Matt Hasselbeck
34. Matt Schaub
33. Matt Ryan
32. Matt Cassel
31. Matt Moore
30. Matt Stafford
Who will emerge from the muddle of Matts as a franchise quarterback? Which Matt, if any, will lead his team to the playoffs? Who will be on the trading block by the end of the season? Who will be put on the shelf for good?

29. Donte’ Stallworth
28. Anquan Boldin
The Ravens brought in these two wideouts to bring some more pop to a physical offense. The oft-injured Stallworth, fresh out of prison, has already broken a foot and will miss about six weeks. If Boldin broke his foot, he would probably laugh, tape it up, and step back on the field.

27. Trent Williams
Williams has two claims to fame: he was the fourth pick in the 2010 NFL draft, and he was responsible for the sack that destroyed Sam Bradford’s junior season at Oklahoma. Trent’s rookie season will be spent blocking for frail old men like Donovan McNabb and Clinton Portis.

26. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
25. Calais Campbel
l24. Beanie Wells
Arizona’s youth movement – and their only chance to offset the departures of Kurt Warner, Anquan Boldin, Antrel Rolle, and Karlos Dansby. If all three play to their potential, the Cards could be looking at another NFC West title – and a rather bright future.

23. LaRon Landry
Once on the fast track to perennial All-Pro, Landry’s game has fallen apart since the death of safetymate Sean Taylor. Landry moves to strong safety this season, where it is hoped his run-stopping and man coverage skills will be highlighted.

22. Jason Taylor
21. LaDainian Tomlinson
20. Santonio Holmes
19. Antonio Cromartie
Four veteran acquistions brought in to take the Jets to the Super Bowl. But LT and JT are olddddd, Holmes will miss the first four games of the season with a suspension, and Cromartie has never been consistent.

18. Vincent Jackson
Jackson, who had 1167 yards and nine touchdowns, may not play for the Chargers or anyone else this season. There could be as many as three losers and/or winners in this saga. Stay tuned.

17. John Abraham
16. Peria Jerry
15. Dunta Robinson
Abraham was an absolute monster in 2008, with 16.5 sacks and countless disruptions. His sack total fell to 5.5 in 2009, including zero against divisional opponents. Has the 32-year-old Abraham gone pile-driving over the hill? Or does he just need some more help from the Falcon defense? DT Jerry was a first-round selection in 2009, but missed most of his rookie season with a knee injury. Along with the emerging Jonathan Babineaux and Kroy Biermann and the still-young Jamaal Anderson, the Falcons have potential to put some decent heat on the passer with their front four. They’ll need it - their back end has been looser than Lendale White’s the last few seasons. Free agent Robinson, who sucked in 2009, was brought in to shore things up a bit.

14. Percy Harvin
13. Michael Crabtree
Two second-year high-ceilinged wideouts whose production may be out of their control: Harvin will put up numbers if he can avoid migraines and his rickety quarterback cooperates, while Crabtree’s success is contingent upon...

12. Alex Smith

It seems like Smith has been on this list for the last five years.

11. Ben Roethlisberger

The stage has been set for a fairytale comeback season for Big Ben - though most fairytales don't involve bar bathrooms and sexual assault allegations.

10. Glenn Dorsey
9. Tyson Jackson
8. Eric Berry

If the much-hyped Kansas City turnaround is to actually happen, the Chiefs will need major contributions from these three defenders – each top-5 picks selected in the last three drafts.

7. Chad Henne
6. Marc SanchezTwo young QBs with a little too high expectations. Neither one of these guys was above average in their first year as starters; expecting them to suddenly become elite is wishful thinking.

5. Brandyn Dombrowski
With neither left tackle Marcus McNeill nor the Chargers brass backing down, it’s looking more and more like San Diego is going to put Philip Rivers’ blindside in the hands of Dombrowski, a third-year undrafted free agent whose natural position is guard.

4. Albert Haynesworth

There is so much distaste for Fat Albert wafting around right now, people are forgetting the man is one of the most dominant defensive players in football – possibly even the best as long as...

3. Darrelle Revis
...keeps holding out. As Rex Ryan said on Hard Knocks, “24 is pretty f***ing good.” In fact, he might just be the best football player in the world.

2. Derek Anderson
The assumption here - confirmed by many notable NFL sources though not by Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt - is that Anderson beat out Matt Leinart for the Cardinals starting QB job vacated by the retired Kurt Warner. The District Attorney really shouldn’t be this high on the list. He’s not that intriguing from a talent sense. We know what he brings to the table. At this point, we know he can sling it, we know he can stand in and take a hit, we know he can make all the throws, and we know he’s one of the least accurate quarterbacks in the NFL. But we also know he put up some big numbers and some big wins for the Browns in ’07, and we know he’s taking the reins of an offense that was among the league’s most explosive the last two seasons.

1. Kevin Kolb
The fate of a franchise rests on his shoulders. The difference between Kolb and the other young franchise QBs is that the others are helming rebuilding stinkers, while Kolb’s Eagles have been in the thick of it for the last decade and are coming off a playoff season. Kolb’s success this season will determine that of his team, his coach, and countless fantasy squads. The basement and the sky are the limits.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Fantasy Team

I am in a keeper league: before each season, you sign one player to a 3-year contract and two others to 2-year contracts. Coming into this year's draft, I had Aaron Rodgers signed thru 2011 along with Michael Turner and Larry Fitzgerald for the upcoming season. In the offseason, my league's rules were changed so that no one can re-sign a keeper they already have on the roster coming into 2010. In the 2011 draft, players lose picks corresponding to the round in which they drafted their keepers. While you can sign your top picks to contracts, that means you will be missing out on top picks in next season's draft. So there were two critical factors on my mind entering the draft:
  1. I would need to sign someone in this draft thru 2012 and someone else thru 2011
  2. A ton of awesome players including Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Steven Jackson, Reggie Wayne, Larry Fitzgerald, Randy Moss, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees will be available in next year's draft
Here is how my team shook out:

1. QB Aaron Rodgers (signed thru 2011)
2. WR Larry Fitzgerald (unavailable to sign)
3. RB Michael Turner (unavailable to sign)
4. RB Ryan Mathews
5. WR Dwayne Bowe
6. RB Ahmad Bradshaw
7. WR Mike Wallace
8. RB Justin Forsett
9. RB Michael Bush
10. RB Darren McFadden
11. WR Eddie Royal
12. WR Mohamed Massaquoi
13. RB Correll Buckhalter
14. TE Kellen Winslow
14. D Miami Dolphins
15. K Sebastian Janikowski

Now I have to decide who to keep. Mathews and Bowe (despite having the best overall keeper potential) have to be ruled out because I need those top two picks next season to build the dynasty. I'm leaning towards Bradshaw and Wallace though McFadden and Massaquoi are slightly tempting.