Golden State Warriors Preview: Youngsters Will Make or Break Season

The Golden State Warriors are the Oakland Raiders of the NBA. The similarities are eerie. And for any self-respecting Bay Area sports fan, that isn’t a good thing.

Randolph better have a Superman suit under that uniform if the Warriors are to be contenders.

Randolph better have a Superman suit under that uniform if the Warriors are to be contenders.

Train-wrecked front offices, apathetic coaching, and the love for a certain type of player that does nothing but look sexy in a uniform; I could continue, but I’m sure Warrior fans are well aware of the situation.

After languishing through 12 seasons wherein the team did not even get within sniffing distance of the playoffs, Warrior fans were repaid with arguably the most exciting month in franchise history.

Of course, the next season, Golden State went on to a set a record only to be expected by the most pessimistic of fan bases—compiling the most wins in the regular season, 48, without making the playoffs.

So now, after the obligatory front office dismantling of anything reminiscent of success, the Warriors are once again starting at ground zero. Or maybe lower.

Despite the curious offseason moves, the conclusion of last season left a lot for Warrior fans to get excited about. Monta Ellis started flashing his pre-moped quickness, Anthony Randolph and Brandon Wright emerged as legitimate frontcourt players, and Corey Maggette took the sixth man role to heart.

But once again, the Warriors managed to disturb the good will they had created when aptly named Captain Jack threatened to go all Al Harrington on Don Nelson. Jackson made a public request to be traded in August and later asked to relinquish his captaincy—Nelson obliged.

And if that weren’t enough, Jackson has been “taking it easy,” to say the least, during the preseason.

Jackson picked up five fouls and a technical in less than 10 minutes in a matchup against the Lakers earlier this month, and was sent to the locker room by Nelson following a testy exchange.

Jackson never returned and a two-game suspension that cost the ex-captain roughly $139,000 followed.

So where does all this leave the Warriors for the 2009-2010 season? They certainly have the talent to be a threat in the Western Conference, especially with the Pacific Division looking remarkably weak—aside from the Lakers.

Ellis, Stephen Curry, Jackson, Randolph, and Biedrins form an explosive fivesome. And with Maggette, Turiaf, Kelenna Azubuike, Anthony Morrow, and eventually Wright coming off the bench, the team even has nice depth to boot.

But Golden State is still facing the same problems they encounter every season: lack of size, lack of leadership, and too many guys who play the same position.

Once again, the Warriors will try to win by forcing the opposition into a fast-breaking score-a-thon, a strategy that has been sparingly successful in the NBA.

But if any team could do it, this might be the one. Biedrins and Turiaf are nice players, don’t get me wrong, but they’re no match for legitimate scoring big men like Tim Duncan or Amare Staudamire; especially if they find themselves playing Jackson, Randolph, and Biedrins at the three-four-five.

Last season, the Warriors were the youngest team in the league. So what did they do to rectify the situation? They added a rookie to the starting lineup and took the fire out of the only person in the entire organization who offered any semblance of direction—including the head coach.

Who are the Warriors expecting to emerge as guides to the youngsters? Speedy Claxton? Mikki Moore? Not a good strategy.

The Warriors are on their third GM of the decade—Garry St. Jean, Chris Mullin, and now Larry Riley—and it seems like each one tries to outdo his predecessor in adding more swingmen to the team. Imagine this possible scenario in the front office:

Chris Cohan: Larry, Mullin has the franchise record with six. I don’t think you can beat that. A steak dinner on me if you do.

Larry Riley: I was hoping you would ask me about that. I’ve been spending the entire season thinking about it.

Chris Cohan : Great! I never bought into the idea of landing a legitimate star like Amare or Chris Bosh anyway. What are your ideas?

Larry Riley : Here’s an easy one. You know how Jamal Crawford can create a lot of points by himself? Well, we can trade him for two overpaid, below-average guards who can’t do anything.

Chris Cohan : Oh! I like it.

Larry Riley : Hold on, you haven’t even heard the best one. We can trade Belinelli, who emerged last season as a clutch shooter and a solid defender, for Devean George. That guy is in the playoffs every year!

Chris Cohan : And then I can draft another two-guard instead of a big guy like Jordan Hill, meanwhile making Monta unhappy at the same time!

Larry Riley and Chris Cohan in unison: Excellent (evil laughing).

Although I absolutely love Curry, it will take him time to adjust to running the point, as he’s only spent one season playing the position in his career.

But there is no question that Curry is already the best point guard the Warriors have—not that he has much competition. Expect rookie struggles and slumps, but it will be worth the growing pains, however, because if Ellis and Curry make nice, that is one dangerous backcourt.

Overall, I think it will take a minor miracle for the Warriors to return to the playoffs, but if things break right—lots and lots of things—there is a possibility.

It’s a good thing Golden State fans care more about Randolph winning the Rookie Challenge MVP award than the Warriors playing meaningful basketball in April. Oh well, maybe next year.

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NFL Power Rankings Week 2

What an amazing weekend. The 49ers get a win on the road, the Oregon Ducks get a W, Brett Tomko throws a shutout for the A’s, Tom Brady resumes his place as an NFL God, and my fantasy football teams go 3-0. Could life get any better? I submit that it cannot.

So now that week 1 is over, and every team has taken the field, there is some actual in-season analysis to go along with preseason projection. Mind you, there is a lot of football left to be played, as one game doesn’t make or break a season. As much as a douche-nozzle as he is, I don’t think Jay Cutler is that bad or the Seahawks are that good.

But let’s get it on. On to the rankings (you can see my week one rankings here and here):

32 (Last week 32) – Bengals – Their top pick breaks his foot in his first day of practice; not good. They are shut out in the first three quarters by a team who gave up 28 points per game last season; bad. Carson Palmer, who’s arm is toasted more than Michael Richard’s comedy career, managed to lead the Bengals to a go-ahead touchdown with 0:38 seconds left; promising. But then on a play straight out of NFL films, the Bengals clutch defeat from the jaws of victory, giving up a back-breaking 87-yard touchdown to a white wide receiver. Ouch.

Fantasy update: Cedric Benson – YPC wasn’t good but finished with over 100 total yards and still has a firm grip on the starting job.

31 (31) – 0-1 – Lions – What do ya know, it’s the same old Lions. The running game sucks, the defense sucks, and the hotshot rookie throws for three INTs.  On the bright side, Stafford was only sacked once. Too bad moral victories in the NFL are worth just as much as a poopy-flavored lollipop.

Fantasy update: Calvin Johnson – Despite an inexperienced passer and a non-existent running game, Megatron still got his. He numbers will go up as Stafford improves.

Big weekend for the best white wide receiver in the AFC West. Man, look how gritty he is!

Big weekend for the best white wide receiver in the AFC West. Man, look how gritty he is!

30 (30) – 0-1 – Rams – When you give up more yards in penalties than you gain on the ground, you’re in for a long day. Clearly, Bulger and Jackson can’t do it by themselves. This team is going nowhere; time for the Rams to start looking for a QB of the future.

Fantasy update: James Laurinaitis – If you play in an individual defensive player league, pick this guy up. He is a tackling machine and their only true playmaker on defense.

29 (29) – 0-1 – Browns – Is it just me or does it seem like every single huge game by a running back is against Cleveland. If Willis McGahee played in the AFC North, the Browns run defense could single-handedly revive his career. Oh wait, he already is. Nevermind.

Fantasy update: Braylon Edwards – Just a shove out of bounds away from being fantasy relevant. He will continue to tantalize next week.

28 (27) – 0-1 – Chiefs – Gave up 501 yards of offense to the perennial offensive juggernaut Baltimore Ravens. In other news, Larry Johnson is still awful.

Fantasy update: Larry Johnson – Stay. Away.

27 (26) – 0-1 – Buccaneers – Offense impressed, led by has-been’s Byron Leftwich and Cadillac Williams. Defense torched, by Tony Romo and Roy Williams. Don’t believe in the offense, but I believe in the defense. At least I believe in something.

Fantasy update: Kellen Winslow – Good day for Miami tight ends, well at least two of them. You can do better than 8 yards, Greg Olsen.

26 (28) – 0-1 – Raiders – The running game is for real and the defense looked surprisingly good, holding the Chargers to under 100 yards rushing. But in typical Raider fashion, they choked down the stretch. How has Al Davis not had a heart attack yet?

Fantasy update: Zach Miller – Say hello to Zach Miller, the Raiders only 1,000 yard receiver this season.

25 (16) – 0-1 – Panthers – To put it positively, Jake Delhomme answered a lot of questions about his ability to still play quarterback in the NFL. Unfortunately, the answers weren’t pretty; kind of like watching Rick Fox or 90210’s Jennie Garth on Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader this month. Makes you wonder why Carolina didn’t take a flier on Jeff Garcia.

Fantasy update: Jake Delhomme – If he was your sleeper backup QB, don’t kid yourself. You can stick a fork in Jake, he’s done.

24 (23) – 0-1 – Jaguars – Yeah, they only lost by two points at Indy, but man did their offense look pathetic. Wonder if Matt Jones gave David Garrard a discount on the good stuff.

Fantasy update: Maurice Jones-Drew – If Garrard can’t get it together, this could turn into a Steven Jackson-like situation.

23 (22) – 0-1 – Dolphins – Aside from the fact that I just don’t think they are any good, Miami goes from a .465 SOS last year, to the most difficult schedule in the league this year, at .594. I don’t see one game where I can guarantee a Dolphin victory.

Fantasy update: Devon Bess – Had over 550 yards in his rookie season, and has a nice first week grabbing 7 catches. Sleeper

22 (25) – 1-0 – Jets – Mark Sanchez looked good on Sunday. Do it two weeks in a row and then I might start to believe it. Until then, I’m not buying.

Fantasy update: Dustin Keller – He could be someone to keep an eye on. Sanchez might have found a favorite target in his super-athletic tight end.

21 (20) – 1-0 – Broncos – What an inspiring play for white people all around the world.

Fantasy update: Correll Buckhalter – Took advantage of Moreno’s poor day and had a nice 10 touches for 57 yards. Workload may increase.

20 (19) – 0-1- Texans – This is just one of those games where you forget about and move on. Kind of like that night where you had a few too many drinks and hooked up with a girl so ugly your friends don’t even say anything.

Fantasy update: Matt Schaub – I wouldn’t worry about him unless he does it again. Just a really, really bad day for the Texans.

19 (21) – 0-1 – Bills – God is a Patriots fan.

Fantasy update: Fred Jackson – Playing for his future workload. Motivation does crazy things to people.

18 (18) – 0-1 – Redskins – Game really wasn’t as close as the scoreboard suggests, as Campbell hooked up with Cooley for a late TD pass in garbage time. Should lower them just because they made Eli look good.

Fantasy update: Chris Cooley – Even though his TD was in garbage time, I like him as a solid tight end  you can count on week in and week out.

17 (24) – 1-0 – Seahawks – Played against the worst team in the NFC in the one stadium with a true home field advantage. We’ll learn a lot more when they travel to San Francisco next week.

Fantasy update: Julius Jones – Looks like Jones might have found a home in Seattle. Not too worried about Edge.

16 (11) – 0-1 – Bears – ESPN couldn’t have said it better in their power rankings, “The loss to Green Bay was tough. The loss of Brian Urlacher for the season was devastating.”

Fantasy update: Matt Forte – Never really bought into him as a top-5 pick. Be happy if he duplicates his stats from ’08.

You never know what will happen when Shaun Hill drops back for a pass, but hey, that's part of the fun!

You never know what will happen when Shaun Hill drops back for a pass, but hey, that's part of the fun!

15 (17) – 1-0 – 49ers – After getting swept by the Cards in three of the past four years, getting a win in Arizona is a great start for Mike Singletary. San Francisco certainly wasn’t flashy, but they controlled the clock (31:47 TOP) while Shaun Hill and defense stepped up when they were needed.

Fantasy update: Shaun Hill – Will never sell an instructional video on the 7-step drop, but he gets it done. Solid #2 quarterback.

14 (12) – 0-1 – Cardinals – Still have too much firepower to not be competitive in the NFC West. Boldin wasn’t at full-strength and they were without Steve Breaston. But even though Tim Hightower had 12 receptions for 121 yards, Arizona needs to improve the ground  game.

Fantasy update: Tim Hightower – 49ers were leaving the flat open all day. Hightower didn’t just suddenly become Marshall Faulk.

13 (15) – 1-0 – Packers – Made a $20 bet with Alon that the Vikings would finish with more wins than the Packers. You can now add Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings to my anti-man crush list.

Fantasy update: Aaron Rodgers – With that being said, I like Rodgers much better than Favre this season.

12 (14) – 1-0 – Saints – Is there anything more fun to watch than Drew Brees playing the Lions? Yes, actually. Watching Drew Brees play the Lions when you have him on two of your three fantasy teams. Dear diary: jackpot.

Fantasy update: Jeremy Shockey – Has Drew Brees found a new red zone target?

11 (9) – 1-0 – Giants – Along with Miami tight ends, I have an unhealthy obsession with Michigan receivers. My hate for Eli Manning was assuaged by the fact Mario Manningham made his first career touchdown.

Fantasy update: Mario Manningham – Is 800 yards and 6 TD’s out of the question?

10 (10) – 1-0 – Cowboys – Who needs T.O.? Romo, Barber, Williams and Witten provide plenty of weapons for Dallas’s potent offense. The defense, though, is a little frightening.

Fantasy update: Tony Romo – Pretty solidly locked in as the #3 QB right now, I’d say.

9 (5) – 0-1 – Titans – Could you really have asked for more going into the defending champion’s house on opening night? Yea, a win would have been nice. (Mandatory argument for a change in the playoff system).

Fantasy update: Kerry Collins – How is he still alive, let alone a decent quarterback in the NFL? Isn’t he like 40, and an alcoholic?

8 (8) – 1-0 – Falcons – All this game proved to me was that Miami is not good. I still need to see more from Matt Ryan to have Atlanta as a legitimate NFC title contender.

Fantasy update:  Michael Turner – I apologize if you bought into the Matthew Berry hype.

7 (13) – 1-0 – Ravens – Joe Flacco is really good. (I’m already at 1,700 words, give me a break).

Fantasy update: Joe Flacco – I have no problem with starting Flacco against a mediocre defense.

6 (3) – 1-0 – Chargers – I think the Raiders are better than what San Diego expected, but what worries me are the injuries to the O-line. The absence of Nick Hardwick and Marcus McNeil could turn LT into Sean Alexander.

Fantasy update: Antonio Gates – Is there a more consistent player in fantasy?

5 (6) – 1-0 – Colts – The Jags always give Indy a good game. Defense was impressive without Bob Sanders, can they keep it up?

Fantasy update: Reggie Wayne – Yeah, he’s pretty good.

4 (7) – 1-0 – Eagles – The McNabb injury hurts, but I love Garcia as an insurance policy. The scheduling Gods are watching over Philly; after playing the Saints in week 2, they’re at home against the Chiefs, a bye, at home against the Bucs and then at Oakland. Even a convicted animal killer could win two of those games.

I'm not 100% sure God is a Pats fan, but I know this guy is.

I'm not 100% sure God is a Pats fan, but I know this guy is.

Fantasy update: Defense/ST – Forced 7 turnovers. Nuff said?

3 (4) – 1-0 – Vikings – I said it: Adrian Peterson for MVP.

Fantasy update: Bernard Berrian – Don’t worry, the  chemistry will come.

2 (2) – 1-0 – Steelers – Has there ever been a defending Super Bowl champ that gets less love than the Steelers?

Fantasy update: Santonio Holmes – Finally emerging as the Steelers #1 WR.

1 (1) – 1-0 – Patriots – It’s so true I’m going to say it again: God is a Patriots fan.

Fantasy update: Pats RB’s – Stay away, you don’t want any of them.

NFL Power Rankings (continued)

With the NFL season starting tonight, I figured it might be a good idea to finish off my rankings before the season gets underway.

21 – Bills – Firing the offensive coordinator before the first game of the season usually isn’t a good sign. Figure in a three game suspension for Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch and the potential for a T.O. blow-up, things could get ugly in Buffalo (and Toronto).

Prediction: 7-9.

Wait a second, that's not Marshawn Lynch!

Wait a second, that's not Marshawn Lynch!

Fantasy player to watch – Lee Evans – Has been a number two WR trapped in a number one WR’s body. With the addition of T.O., the deep threat should see a lot more single coverage.

20 – Broncos – The Raiders, Chiefs and Broncos all can’t go 4-12. It would be a statistical phenomenon. That’s why, despite the awful Jay Cutler fiasco this off-season, I’m buying Belicheck-disciple Josh McDaniel to put together a high-flying offense in the Mile High city. A five-game stretch against Dallas, New England, San Diego, Baltimore and Pittsburgh could be their undoing.

Prediction: 7-9.

Fantasy player to watch – Knowshon Moreno – Every year there is a rookie RB who goes nuts. The former Georgia Bulldog couldn’t have landed in a better spot than Denver, where anybody can rush 1,000 yards.

19 – Texans – The Texans are the Tampa Bay Rays of the NFL. Loaded with athletes and top picks, but just can’t put it together. This year will be no different, as Brian Cushing won’t be able to stop the run all by himself.

Prediction: 7-9.

Fantasy player to watch – Matt Schaub – Has always put up great numbers when he’s been healthy, is this the year he finally stays on the field for 16 games?

18 – Redskins – Love the defense. Love the addition of Albert Haynesworth. Love Clinton Portis as a fantasy sleeper. Don’t love the division. Put them in the NFC West and they’re 10-6, but that could be said about a lot of teams.

Prediction: 8-8.

Fantasy player to watch – Clinton Portis – He’s one of those guys who drops in drafts because you know what you’re getting with him – even though it’s 1,500 yards and 10 TD’s a year.

17 – 49ers – Can’t justifiably have them any higher than this. Love what Singletary is doing in San Francisco, but at least until Crabtree signs, the offense is too one-dimensional.

Prediction: 8-8.

Fantasy player to watch – Josh Morgan –Showed flashes of brilliance in his rookie year. With a more stabilized situation at QB, Morgan will emerge as Hill’s favorite deep threat.

16 – Panthers – If you watched any of Jake Delhomme’s spectacularly bad, five INT performance in the playoffs last season, you can’t take Carolina seriously.  How far can the running game carry them?

Prediction: 8-8.

Fantasy player to watch – Jonathon Stewart – Have to give love to my former Ducks. J-stew was awesome last year in a limited role, look for a more equal timeshare with Williams this season.

15 – Packers – It all depends on how well the defense adjusts to the new 3-4 scheme; the offense will be there. If the Packers can contain the run, there’s a good chance playoff football will return to Lambeau field.

Prediction: 8-8.

Fantasy player to watch – Aaron Rodgers – I don’t know how many people realize he threw for over 4,000 yards and had a 28:13 TD/INT ratio. Pretty good for a first full season.

14 – Saints – Is there a more fun team to watch than the Saints? Drew Brees makes the NFL look like a video game. Unfortunately, so does their D. Maybe Malcom Jenkins is the answer.

Prediction: 9-7.

Fantasy player to watch – Marques Colston – The favorite target of a quarterback who will throw for 4,500+ yards? Sign me up.

13 – Ravens – How will they handle the departures of Rex Ryan and Bart Scott on defense? Lewis, Suggs, Reed and Ngata still make up a pretty formidable nucleus. Joe Flacco needs to build on solid rookie campaign for the team to make the playoffs.

Prediction: 9-7.

Fantasy player to watch – Ray Rice – The Ravens have always been a run-first team and it looks like Rice will get the majority of the workload. 75% of fantasy success is opportunity.

12 – Cardinals – Still the best team in the NFC West, but that isn’t saying much. Card fans must pray for Warner to stay healthy, because they won’t go anywhere without him.

Prediction: 9-7.

Fantasy player to watch – Anquan Boldin – Gets overlooked because he plays next to the best WR in football, but any player who breaks his face and then grabs nine passes and two scores two weeks later is an absolute beast.

11 – Bears – Cutler is the first legit QB in the Windy City since Jim McMahon. Too bad Cutler’s best WR was a DB two years ago. Could be a frustrating year with expectations so high.

Prediction: 9-7.

Fantasy player to watch – Greg Olsen – I have an uncanny obsession with Miami Tight Ends.

10 – Cowboys – Maybe getting rid of T.O. is just what Dallas needs to get back to the playoffs. Must hope Roy Williams can revert to his 2007 form with the Lions. Never a good thing, though, to be counting on former Lions.

Prediction: 9-7.

Fantasy player to watch: Roy Williams – Severely underrated after difficult time adjusting following the trade.

9 – Giants – Loss of Plax makes Eli Manning a below-average quarterback. Concerns on defense and one-dimensional offense will keep the Giants from returning to the promise land this season.

Prediction: 9-7.

Fantasy player to watch: Ahmad Bradshaw – The Giants will have to run to be successful this year; Bradshaw slides into the spot Derrick Ward had last year as lightning to Jacobs’ thunder.

8 – Falcons – I learned my lesson last year after doubting Matt Ryan. He is for real. Emergence of Roddy White and the Tony Gonzalez acquisition only make Ryan more dangerous.

Prediction: 9-7.

Fantasy player to watch: Tony Gonzalez – Will be amped up now that he’s finally on a contender again. Amazing what a winning environment can do for a player.

7 – Eagles – Top 3 defense will miss the late Jim Johnson. With the workload Westbrook handles each year, you have to wonder when he will break down. But until then, the offense will have plenty of firepower.

Prediction: 10-6.

Fantasy player to watch: DeSean Jackson – McNabb will throw plenty, and Jackson has become his favorite target. Must rid stupid me-first attitude.

6 – Colts – Huge hole left by the sudden departure of Tony Dungy. Coach-on-the-field Peyton Manning will be more important than ever this season. O-line needs to step up big time.

Prediction: 10-6.

Fantasy player to watch: Anthony Gonzalez – Increased role in the offense and third year in the league will lead to a breakout season.

5 – Titans – It’s amazing what laying off the Tequila will do for you. If career fizzles out in the NFL, Lendale White will have one waiting for him in the weight loss industry.

Prediction: 10-6

Fantasy player to watch: Nate Washington – Quietly was very solid for the Steelers, now number one WR in Tennessee.

4 – Vikings – Despite my hatred for Brett Favre, the combination of AD (I’m on your side Oklahoma) and the defense make this team a sleeper Super Bowl contender.

Prediction: 11-5.

Fantasy player to watch: Bernard Berrian – Berrian is a deep threat. Favre loves to throw deep. With defenses needing to stack eight in the box, this is a match made in heaven.

3 – Chargers – Yes, I know what happened the last time the Chargers had this much hype, but with so much talent and their division so weak, they can go 10-6 without breaking a sweat. I think they do better.

Prediction: 12-4.

Fantasy player to watch: Vincent Jackson – With LT getting old and Rivers coming into his own, the Chargers have shifted their focus to the passing game.

2 – Steelers – Probably should be number one but my man crush on Tom Brady is too big.

Prediction: 13-3

Fantasy player to watch: Willie Parker – Has been so overrated that he is now underrated. Mendenhall will not steal his touches.

Yes, this is the best player in the NFL.

Yes, this is the best player in the NFL.

1 – Patriots – It’s almost unfair how veterans in their twilight years go to New England on the cheap. Oh and that Brady guy is back at full strength. I like their chances.

Prediction: 14-2.

Fantasy player to watch: Wes Welker – How do you not love a 5-8 white WR? With Brady back, you can count on 100 receptions.

NFL Power Rankings

Time for the Sports Dude to do some actual analysis. With the NFL season right around the corner, it’s time for everybody’s favorite: the Power Rankings. With pre-season hope still riding high for every team, except possibly the Raiders and the Bengals, one could make the case for any team to top the list, but this is just one simple blogger’s point of a view (albeit a knowledgeable, yet overly-confident college student).

chadAs always, there’s the chance these rankings could very well end up being completely meaningless, but I’m just going to disregard that because at least for right now, I’m 100% not wrong.

Along with my prediction for each team, you’ll get one fantasy player who will exceed expectations (completely free of charge!) How about them apples?

32 – Bengals – What do you get when you put together an already bad NFL team, a publicity stunt appearance on “Hard Knocks,” and a player who legally changed his name to a grammatically incorrect spelling of his jersey number in Spanish? Answer: an even worse NFL team. I pity Bengals fans this season.

Prediction: 3-13.

Fantasy player to watch: Cedric Benson – After never living up to expectations in Chicago, the former number four overall pick quietly had a nice run as the starter last year; could flourish in full-time gig.

31 – Lions – I like what Jim Schwartz brings to the Lions and I guarantee that they will win more games this year than they did last year, although I don’t think it will be by much. Matthew Stafford will be a good NFL quarterback, but not this year. Rookie quarterbacks are almost never successful, especially when they are thrown into bad situations.

Prediction: 3-13.

Fantasy player to watch: Brandon Pettigrew – With Calvin Johnson sure to draw double and triple teams, look for Stafford to use Pettigrew as his security blanket a lot this season.

30 – Rams – Marc Bulger has been awful the past two years, and that was when he had Torry Holt as a go-to receiver. Who is he going to throw to now, Randy McMichael?

Prediction: 4-12.

Fantasy player to watch: Steven Jackson – Is there a single player more important to his team’s offense than him this year? Jackson will get plenty of touches, health is the key.

29 – Browns – Will finally hand starting gig to Brady Quinn. Unfortunately, that means they will have to take their lumps as Quinn learns on the job. I do like what Mangini will bring to the defense, but it’ll take him more than one year to turn things around.

Prediction: 4-12.

Fantasy player to watch: Braylon Edwards – Let’s just say I was visibly angry when my buddy Alon grabbed him right one spot ahead of me in the draft. Could be a top-5 receiver this year at a 6th round value.

28 – Raiders – Until Al Davis goes away, the Raiders will continue dwell in mediocrity (or worse), but there are some exciting pieces to work with. Darren McFadden, Justin Fargess and Michael Bush form a legitimate three-headed monster of a backfield that will take pressure off of developing quarterback JaMarcus Russell, but until someone steps up to help All-Pro CB Nnamdi Asomugha, the sieve-like run defense will be their undoing.

Prediction: 5-11.

sp_raiders_bengals_f04Fantasy player to watch: Darren McFadden – As talented as Adrian Peterson, just needs the help in the trenches; could emerge as a fantasy stud this year. Keep an eye on Zach Miller as well.

27 – Chiefs – Not sold on Matt Cassel outside of New England. When you trade Randy Moss, Wes Welker and a top-5 O-line for Dwayne Bowe, Mark Bradley and the rotting corpse of Larry Johnson, you unquestionably take a step back. Heck, give me Moss and Welker and I could put up 3,000 yards.

Prediction: 5-11

Fantasy player to watch: Dwayne Bowe – A near lock for 1,000 yards and 6 touchdowns. Not sexy, but he will produce.

26 – Buccaneers – Let me get this straight, Byron Leftwich is the starting quarterback? Really? This is the same team that stockpiled like five quarterbacks two years ago. What happened?  Washed up quarterback, new offensive scheme and a defensive-minded head coach. Without even knowing the number, I’ll take the under on every single of their games this season.

Prediction: 6-10

Fantasy player to watch: Kellen Winslow Jr – Over 1,100 yards in 2007 and then crashed with the rest of the Browns in ’08. I feel a major comeback with the change of scenery this season.

25 – Jets – They have the same issue as the Lions: starting a rookie QB. Difference is, Mark Sanchez only had one full season under center in college. Is he talented? Yea, no doubt. Would Kellen Clemens be any better? Probably not. But remember, there have only been three quarterbacks to lead their team to at least seven wins in their rookie season: Dan Marino, Kerry Collins and Matt Ryan (as multiple readers have pointed out, Big Ben and Joe Flacco have done so as well, my mistake).

Prediction: 6-10

Fantasy player to watch: Defense/ST – Even though Pod Vader from the Fantasy Focus on ESPN isn’t a fan, I think defensive mastermind Rex Ryan will implement a run-first scheme that will keep the defense rested and off the field, and the scoring low.

24 – Seahawks – Quickly becoming a media darling in the putrid NFC West. I wish former-Oregon Duck Max Unger all the best, but I just don’t see it.

Prediction: 6-10

Fantasy player to watch: Matt Hasselbeck – With his receivers healthy again, I could see the gritty Hasselbeck re-emerge as a premier QB in the NFC.

23 – Jaguars – Unfortunately they play in the toughest division in football, and even more unfortunately, three of their first four games are against the AFC South. The other game? The NFC champions Arizona Cardinals. Quite possibly could start the year 0-4.

Prediction 6-10

Fatntasy player to watch: Torry Holt – Had 8 straight 1,000 yard season before the Rams fell apart last year. May be getting older, but the crafty veteran will be the favorite target of surprisingly effective David Garrard.

22 – Dolphins – They had a magical Cinderella season last year, but with the inevitable year-after curse and an off-season for teams to figure out the Wildcat, the Dolphins will come crashing back to earth. Of course, with Parcell’s running the ship, there’s always a chance Miami will jump the Bills and have a shot at the Wild Card come December.

Prediction: 7-9

Fantasy player to watch: Anthony Fasano – Fasano was a favorite red-zone target of Chad Pennington last season, totally seven touchdowns. Fasano should see an increased workload between the 20’s this year as well.

Come back tomorrow for teams 21 through 11.

If you have a disagreement with any of my rankings, please feel free to make your argument in the comments!

The Anti-man Crushes, People the Sports Dude Hates

First, let me say, I wasn’t going to write this blog until Tuesday, but for the sake of my girlfriend’s sanity and the future of our relationship, I needed to get out my snide comments and sarcastic witticisms before I do any more irreversible damage. Let’s just say she was not amused when I called her a “borderline midget” even though she is 5’2” and a whole one-third of a foot away from being a legal dwarf. I was clearly joking. Why she puts up with me, I have no clue. Let’s move on.

boston-sports-si-coversBrett Favre – According to ESPN, Brett Favre can do no wrong. He helps old ladies cross the street, adopts lost kittens from the pound, and if they had to venture a guess for who would find the cure for cancer, I’m pretty sure they would pick Brett Favre. Who cares if he’s only a mediocre NFL quarterback anymore? I mean, the man was just in a Super Bowl in 1997. Wait, that was 12 years ago, already? Somebody go get John Madden’s inhaler.

And then, of course, they would go on to force meaningless Brett Favre stories down our throats for the next week, making sure to get all their top analysts to line up and kiss Favre’s butt for 30 second clips. I can just picture Merrill Hoge, Ron Jaworski, Chris Mortenson and Trent Dilfer all sitting together in the make-up room, competing to see who has can squeeze the most superlatives into a 300-word speech. I set the over/under at 20, bet my life savings on the over, and then put my future children’s college education money on Jaws. It’s a stone cold lock.

Eli Manning – Continuing with overpaid, underperforming quarterbacks, I pose a simple question: where would Eli Manning be without his last name? A store manager at Sports Authority? The UFL? if he was lucky, a back-up quarterback in the NFL? Seriously, the dude was good college, but I never watched him and thought, “Man, this guy sure has what it takes to be a legit NFL quarterback.”

And then to force a trade so he could be in a major market? If that doesn’t scream douchebag, I don’t know what does. Anyone with an IQ over 75 could tell he would crumple under the pressure in New York. And I know there are some of you out there that will say, “how can he be overrated, he won a Super Bowl MVP.” It’s not that simple. First of all, he didn’t even play that well. 19 for 34 and a QB rating of 87.3 hardly screams MVP. Second, the pass that won him the award was complete luck and never should have left his hand. How he wasn’t sacked is beyond me. And if you re-did that jump ball match-up of Rodney Harrison and 18th-string wide receiver David Tyree 5 million times, do you see Tyree ever winning again? I don’t.

So let’s recap. He’s good in college, get’s drafted #1 overall because of the hope he will turn out to be half of what his brother is, sucks for four years, rides the best defensive line in the history of the NFL to a magical playoff run, receives the good fortune of the luckiest play in Super Bowl history, has his first decent season in his contract year but loses Plax and then instantly turns in four straight sub-200 yard games, dupes the Giants into one of the biggest (and worst) contracts in NFL history, and now will rely on Domenik Hixon and Hakeem Nicks as his top receivers this year. I am not bitter at all.

Steroids – The only thing I care less about than Brett Favre. The only players I would care about if they tested positive would be Jeter and Pujols, but until then, I’d rather watch highlights of the WNBA pre-season.

Boston fans – I used to like them, I really did. All the history, Fenway Park, Ted Williams, Larry Bird, Bill Russell. There was just something likeable about them. Maybe it was being able to empathize with a team who had encountered so much epically bad luck, or maybe it was how passionate Bostonians were about their sports no matter what happened year in and year out. But then 2004 hit and all hell broke loose. The curse was over, and Boston’s collective sports personality went from cynical to cocky after a routine Ruben Sierra ground out to Pokey Reese. There wasn’t even a need to play the Cardinals after that. The ensuing 4-game sweep was inevitable.

The one time lovable losers quickly forgot their storied past and took on a whole new identity, more annoying than those Guido, work out three hours a day, wear shirts one size too small, collar popping Mets fans from New Jersey. You could say the success got to their heads. The Patriots become the best team in the NFL, the Red Sox break the curse, and the Celtics are given the Big Three in an act of collusion between ESPN and David Stern. Hell, even the Bruins are a playoff team, Matt Ryan leads Boston College to a spectacular year, and Boston University has one of the greatest comebacks in the history of college hockey. The altogether success was mind-boggling.

But this is where it get’s annoying. That isn’t enough for them. Now they have to win every year. I came in contact with this first-hand this past year in the dorms at Oregon where I met Alon. We were talking baseball, one by one going through the Red Sox roster: Ellsbury, Pedroia, Youkilis, Bay, Ortiz, Lowell, Drew, Beckett, (Mo) Lester, Wakefield, the bullpen, etc. ESPN, SI, everybody has them pegged as a playoff team and a legitimate World Series candidate, yet Alon complains to me, knowing I am an A’s fan, “I don’t really like our team this year. We need a better second lefty out of the pen.” Wow.

The San Francisco Giants – It’s already 1:30 and I have to wake up in 6 hours. Unless I want to go to work tomorrow with bags under my eyes bigger than the size of Greg Anderson’s prison cell, I am going to save this for an entirely new post. Goodnight.

The Sports Dude’s Man Crushes

i-love-you-man-segel-rudd-476x300-(2)Disclaimer – these are all completely heterosexual. I have a girlfriend.

Derek Jeter – Yeah, I know, he’s a Yankee. But that doesn’t change the fact that he’s been my childhood idol ever since I picked up a baseball for the first time. There are multiple factors that make this aging first-ballot Hall-of-Famer a personal fave.

First of all, I am man enough to admit that he’s a pretty damn good lookin’ dude. He has that boy next door look, with his huge toothy smile, and clean cut appearance. Embarrassingly, I confess that I once took a picture of his hair with me to Great Clips, pointed to the 47-year old Asian women who only spoke broken English and said, “I want that.” Unfortunately, either she skipped the Derek Jeter Haircut Day in beauty school or she didn’t think I could pull it off, saying, “no, you no want that.” To this day, I believe the former.

Also, Derek Jeter is so good at baseball that he took a typical play, the middle infielder jump throw, and did it so well that now he is forever known as the “Jump Man.” How many other players have their own play? The Jose Cruz Jr. dropped fly ball? The Ruben Rivera base running spectacular? They don’t quite have the same ring to it. I don’t think there is a major league baseball player who has caused more unearned runs in little league games by having kids try to imitate his signature play.  Plus, the man has hooked up with 6 (possibly more) of the Maxim Top 100 list despite having the middle name Sanderson. That’s G.

Albert Pujols – Have you ever seen him swing a baseball bat? If yes, you need no further explanation. If no, drop whatever you are doing and YouTube him. And he’s even got a sense of humor.

Tom Brady – First of all, how can you not love his story? 6th round pick becomes best QB of his era. He was passed over by guys like Spergon Wynn out of football powerhouse Southwest Texas State, and Giovanni Carmazzi from Hofstra. Think the Browns and Niners regret those picks?

The San Mateo, Calif. native (my hometown, baby!!!) was even drafted out of Serra high school in the 18th round to play catcher for the Montreal Expos. That’s doubly impressive because he didn’t necessarily have a body that makes you go, “wow, what an athlete.” He gives short white guys like me hope, maybe not to dominate the NFL, but intramural football at Oregon certainly isn’t out of the question.

He is basically the Derek Jeter of the NFL. Golden boy who leads their team to multiple championships, has multi-million dollar endorsements, the hottest girlfriend in the world (sorry baby, Giselle is well, Giselle) and has led the Sports Dude to several fantasy football titles. He even held his own in a recent guest appearance on Entourage, looking like a Ralph Lauren model while simultaneously making fun of Johnny Drama. Impressive.

Paul Rudd – So what if he’s not a star athlete? If I could trade personalities with anyone, it would be him. The talented actor displays the perfect combination of witty quirkiness, boyish good looks, happy go lucky attitude, and shyness topped with a subtle yet strong sense of confidence. His resume is impeccable, starring in The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Anchorman, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and I Love You, Man, while also adding a little extra bit of wonderful to seasons 6 through 8 of Friends, and displaying some impressive range in his performances of Nick Carraway in the Great Gatsby and the bad guy in the Halloween movie from 1995.

Once again, he gives me hope of becoming famous. One look at Mr. Rudd and all you see is an unassuming, mildly chubby, 5’9 pale white guy, but the more I watch him, the deeper my man crush grows. I think it’s because I can relate to him. And damn, can he dance – the sexuality was palpable.

Coming soon: The Anti-man Crushes, People the Sports Dude Hates.

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