NFL Week 8 Picks ATS

NFL: OCT 02 Raiders at RavensAnother winning week last week!  3-1-1.  21-13-2 on the season.  I’m starting to get really cocky.  Just being a total asshole to people.  I should be!  I’m making you all a ton of money, and nobody is thanking me!  A nice elderly gentleman was in Lloyd mall yesterday, and he was just trying to get to Shopper’s Drug Mart to pickup his prescription.  Anyway, I walked up to him and softly yelled in his ear “YOU’RE WELCOME!!!!!”  I’m probably the reason he can pay for that prescription, and I don’t get a thank you?!  Anyway, YOU’RE WELCOME guys, here are your week 8 picks.

 

Washington at Cincinnati

Redskins +3

This one is pretty simple for me.  I don’t think people realize just yet that the Bengals have gone from consistent to a mess and the Redskins have gone from a mess to consistent.  Ok, so maybe they aren’t consistent, but they’re definitely the more competent team of the two right now, so I’ll take them getting points here.

 

NY Jets at Cleveland

Jets -2.5

Ok, I tap on the Browns.  I know the Jets are 2-5, but they’ve played a tough schedule and now appear to have a really pissed off Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB.  Their D hasn’t been the same this season, but it isn’t as though they’re playing a juggernaut of an offense.  The Browns will give a f*** in this game as they have in every game this season, and Hugh Jackson’s play calling will put some points on the board.  But this should be more than a 2.5 point spread.  A few weeks ago I bet the Jets would have been -6.5, so this is a gift.

 

Oakland at Tampa Bay

Raiders -1

I love the Raiders here.  The Bucs have been a bit of an odd team to start this season.  They beat the Falcons out the gate who have been pretty good.  Then they lost three straight to the Cardinals who haven’t been impressive either in a blowout, the Rams who are QB’d by Case Keenum, and the Broncos with Paxton Lynch at QB for most of the game.  They’ve won two straight, but both were on the road so all three wins have come on the road, and neither the Panthers (who didn’t have Cam Newton) or 49ers have been good this season.  So I don’t know what to think of them really.  But I do know what to think of the Raiders and that is they’ve been very impressive.  And they’ve stayed out East all week to keep up with the Eastern time zone.  I expect the Raiders to win another close one.

 

Seattle at New Orleans

Saints +3

This has upset written all over it.  Set aside how awful the game last Sunday night was to watch, the Seahawks were awful period.  Just because a game is 6-6 doesn’t mean it was played like shit.  But the Seahawks played like absolute shit.  And the Saints actually put up a pretty good fight in KC in a game that I figured they’d get blown out in.  The Saints are only 2-4, but I think they’re going to compete for a playoff spot.  They win this one, then they get the Niners, Panthers, and Rams in three of their next four.  So this would be a massive win for the Saints.  Plus you have the whole West coast team playing a 10 AM PST game that I love so much.  And finally, Russell Wilson is playing very hurt.  The O-line is terrible and that’s ok when Wilson can move like he normally can…but he can’t.

 

Green Bay at Atlanta

Falcons -3

I really have a feeling that at some point this season, things are going to click for the Packers as long as they stay relatively healthy (and as I say that I think about how messy their running back situation is).  But this Falcons team, despite a tough loss in Seattle and then a bit of a back breaker at home to an underrated Chargers club last week are still among the top teams in the NFC.  Until we see improvement out of the Packers, you have to take the Falcons at home.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Doesn’t Get Much Better Than This

cubs-vs-indiansI don’t care who your baseball team is, that was a pretty amazing scene at Wrigley Saturday night.  Most of you are Jays fans, and obviously those of us who are wanted to see them win the World Series.  But even before the playoffs began I was saying to buddies, as a Jays fan, that if the Cubs played the Indians in the World Series that would be a heck of a consolation prize!

 

You have the hard luck Cubs against hard luck Cleveland, and someone HAS to win.

 

As I sure as hell hope you know by now, this is the Cubs first World Series since 1945, and they haven’t won the Series since 1908.  Yet the first season the Cubs really endured heart break post 1945 wasn’t until 1969.  Leading the NL East by 8.5 games over the Cards, 9.5 over the eventual champion Mets.  On September 2nd they were 84-52 and even though the Mets were coming hard they still had a 5 game lead on them.  It was all downhill from there though as they would lose 17 of 25 games, finishing 2nd in the NL East to the Mets…who went on to win the World Series.

 

There wasn’t really anything more that went on until the 1984 season.  This was the first season the Cubs had made the playoffs since their World Series appearance in 1945 (and you think the Oilers streak of missing the playoffs is bad!)  They won the first two games of the best of five at home, then went out to San Diego for three.  After getting blown out in game 3, the Cubs and Padres were tied at 5 going to the bottom of the 9th in game 4.  Closer Lee Smith couldn’t keep it tied as Steve Garvey hit a two run walk off.  Then in game 5 the Cubs jumped out to a 3-0 lead.  It was still 3-2 going to the bottom of the 7th.  That’s when disaster struck.

That error opened the flood gates and the Padres went on to score three more that inning and take the NLCS with a 6-3 win.

 

After that there were a few postseason appearances, but nothing too threatening.  Lost 4-1 to the Giants in the 89 NLCS and got swept by the Braves in the 98 NLDS.  But 2003, that looked a lot different.

 

They won the NL Central, and even though the win total wasn’t too impressive (88), the Cubs were built to be a playoff team.  A great starting staff lead by Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, a good mix of youth and experience, and after the defending National League champion Giants were upset by the Marlins, the NL seemed there for the taking.  Kerry Wood was dominant in a game 5 victory in Atlanta to put away the Braves, and then all that was left was the Marlins and the Cubs would jump out to a 3-1 lead in the series.

 

They lost game 5 in what seemed like a nothing game at the time.  But now in hindsight you could say the legend of Josh Beckett was born.  Beckett was expected to be a hall of fame pitcher, and of course he wasn’t, but did he ever come up big for the Marlins in 03 and the Red Sox in 07.  A two hitter for Beckett in game 5, but that was ok because the Cubs would win it at home.  And EVERYONE was saying with the series going back to Chicago “they can’t beat Prior and Wood” who were the starters for games 6 and 7.

 

They weren’t going to beat Prior in game 6.  Score was 3-0, the Cubs were cruising.  And you likely know what happened next.

8 runs followed, and an 8-3 final.  All of a sudden after believing the Marlins couldn’t possibly beat Prior and Wood in back to back games, it seemed like the Cubs couldn’t possibly win.  And they didn’t.  They relinquished a 5-3 lead in the top of the 5th inning and trailed 6-5, which was big trouble with Beckett set to come in and close the door, and he did just that.

 

I would say that was the Cubs best team.  Prior and Wood were so dominate that season, they would have shut down the Yankees in the World Series.  It wasn’t just those two.  Carlos Zambrano was emerging as a star (although he only ever showed flashes of being one, never consistent), and Matt Clement was a real dependable starter.

 

They did have another shot at things in 2008 though.  Lou Piniella was in his second season as manager, and they were fresh off a surprising NL Central title in 2007 (although were expectedly swept in the playoffs by the Diamondbacks).  2008, 100 years after the last title, top team in the National League which of course meant home field throughout the playoffs (thanks to the NL winning the all-star game of course), it was all setting up perfectly.

 

ANNNNNNND then it was done.

It has been the longest and roughest road ever seen in sports, at least in North America.  There hasn’t been much heartache in the last 108 years, because they hardly are ever good.  But as I just laid out, when they’re good, something bad always seems to happen.

 

On the other side of the fence, you have a documentary called “Believeland” that is getting dated in a hurry!!!  First the Cavs comeback from 3-1 down to the 73-9 Golden State Warriors to win the NBA crown, and now you have the Indians just four wins away from winning the World Series.

 

Indians fans didn’t have much going for them after their last World Series win in 1948.  But then in 1989 it all seemed to come together after their owner looked to tank so she could move the team to Miami.  The group of misfits rallied in the 2nd half of the season and their one game playoff against the Yankees for the 89 AL East crown was one for the ages.  The broadcast of this game was unlike any other, filled with dramatic music, amazing close up’s of all the players, and incredible audio from some of the mic’d up players.

Ok you got me, that was a movie.  Thought I could slip one past you but you’re just too smart!

 

From 1955-1994 the Cubs were actually the more successful franchise of the two!  But in 95 the Indians looked like what the Cubs do this season, a total powerhouse.  They won 100 games in a 144 game season.  Their starting pitching was great, but their offense was so amazing that the staff was good enough, and the back end of the bullpen was lights out with Jose Mesa (in 95, we’ll get to 97 shortly).

 

But they ran into the one team who had the pitching to shutdown that amazing lineup in the World Series, and it culminated with a Tom Glavine masterpiece in game 6.  One of the best lineups in MLB history was held to one hit.

They were back in the playoffs in 96, and although they weren’t as dominant, they won 99 games and were the top seed in the American League heading into the playoffs.  However, they were bounced in four games by the underdog Baltimore Orioles.

 

Then you had 1997.  Albert Belle was gone, Kenny Lofton was gone (for that season only in this entire seven year run, weird I know), and the Tribe were really flying under the radar heading into the playoffs posting the worst record of all the AL playoff teams (86-75).  But they caught fire heading into the playoffs and rode that wave once they got there.

 

Game 4 of the ALDS against the Yankees that season is one of the best baseball games you’d ever see.  They came back to win that one, and then closed the Yankees out the next night in the 5th and deciding game.  Then they took out the Orioles in 6 which was viewed as a pretty massive upset at the time.  Onto the World Series to play the Marlins in a series that was “built vs bought” or as 14 year old me thought of it “good vs evil”.

 

For six games the two teams alternated wins.  Marlins would win, Indians would counter.  But in game 7 the Tribe would send the rookie phenom Jaret Wright to the mound, and while you likely don’t remember or have never heard of Jaret Wright, he was expected to be the Indians ace for the next 10-15 years.  Only 21 years old that postseason.  Wright was terrific and the Indians had a 2-1 lead going to the 9th, with Jose Mesa coming into the game.  But, this was not the Jose Mesa of old.

The Indians did rebound to get the game to the 11th, but watching it, you just KNEW it was inevitable.

With all that relatively recent heartbreak it’s easy to forget about another time.  2007, and the Tribe were back in the playoffs for the first time since their great run of six playoff appearances in seven seasons from 95-01.  After knocking off the Yankees, they took a 3-1 lead on the heavily favoured Red Sox, with their ace C.C. Sabathia on the mound at home for game 5.  But, remember the legend of Josh Beckett?  Well, that legend showed up in game 5 to take the series back to Boston, where the Red Sox took over.

All that heart break is for the Indians, I didn’t even get into how brutal of a road it’s been for the city of Cleveland between 1965 and June of this year.

 

So it’s the Cubs vs the Indians and someone has to win.  The Cubs are coming in as the heavy favourite, as they should be.  But the Indians are riding an incredible wave right now.  They won the ALCS because of Terry Francona and their bullpen.  They had to be running on fumes by the end of that series, but with the 6 days off they’ll be well rested heading into game 1.  It looks as though they’ll have starter Danny Salazar back, and Francona said yesterday that he believes Trevor Bauer’s fingered will have heeled up enough to give it another go.  So Cleveland has the pitching to shutdown the Cubs offense.

 

The problem is that the Cubs have the pitching to shutdown the Indians offense.  But that wasn’t a problem for the Tribe in the ALCS.  They hardly hit against the Jays, but every opportunity they had, they capitalized on.  They’re as clutch of a team as you’ll see.

 

Both teams have elite managers so I don’t see an advantage there.  Probably two of the top three managers in the majors.  Both are well known for keeping their teams incredibly loose, and both are known for trusting their gut over conventional thinking.  Neither care about what the fans or media will say if they make a wrong move, and because of that they rarely do.

 

I definitely don’t see this to be as lopsided of a series as most do.  But I don’t want to pick a winner in this series, because all I want to do is see an amazing World Series.  I like both teams, I normally pull for both cities, I just want to enjoy the baseball.  But that’s no fun.  So I’m going to say, as long as both Salazar and Bauer can go, that it’ll be the Indians pulling the upset in 7 games.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

NFL Week 7 Hot Takes

redskins%20lions%20footballNot just hot takes, the hottest of the hot takes this week!  That’s it, that’s all I got for an opening because I wrote this backwards and I have to be up at 5 so I’m going to bed, but you will read this and you will damn well enjoy it!  Got it?!

 

Let’s start by going back to Thursday night and an Aaron Rodgers update.  He’s still not right, it got beat to death on sports radio on Friday, but the Packers won.  They’re 4-2, they’re only a game back of the Vikings, and they still play the Vikings at home.  Some people want to look at that as troubling, but I say that’s pretty intriguing.  I just don’t buy that there is much more wrong with Rodgers than he’s playing poor.  Although I did hear an interesting theory on the Bill Simmons podcast and I can’t recall if it was Mike Lombardi or Simmons himself who had it, but that there are so many young players surrounding Rodgers that Mike McCarthy has to keep the playbook simple to help acclimate them.  In doing that, it makes the Packers very predictable.  Makes a lot of sense to me.

 

When I was doing my season preview, I looked hard at two teams to be “out of nowhere” type teams.  I went with the Bears and obviously that was a humiliating pick.  But the other team I looked at, though didn’t take, were the Lions.  They were great last season once Jim Bob Cooter (wonder how many left wing media types can say his name without assuming he’s voting for Trump) took over as the offensive co-ordinator.  I also think the retirement of Calvin Johnson has actually helped Matthew Stafford.  I believe Stafford was looking to Johnson far too often which was forcing a ton of mistakes.  Now he’s spreading the ball around nicely and looking like the franchise QB I personally always knew he was.  And I don’t say that as “told ya so”, but I just never bought that he wasn’t a franchise QB.

 

I said in passing last week that the Jags might be the worst coached team in the league, and yesterday may have cemented that.  I’ve been sky high on the Raiders all season, so it’s not as though the Jags were playing a pushover.  But the Raiders are going cross country to play a 10 AM PST game, and the game was never close.  The Jags are just sloppy on both sides of the ball.  I believe this team has all the talent needed, they just simply need to get the right coaching staff in there.  The AFC South is begging for a decent team, and if they bring in the right staff they easily can be that team.

 

Have I mentioned that it might be time for a coaching change in Baltimore?  Pretty sure I have not once ever brought that up.

“The Ravens aren’t the worst 3-0 team of all time, but don’t let that record fool you.  Buffalo, Cleveland, and Jacksonville, and not one of them in impressive fashion.  I’m starting to wonder if after this season it won’t be time for a coaching change there.  John Harbaugh is real good, but this is his 9th season with the team, might just simply be time for a change.”

I’ll just leave it there.

 

Another one I had right was that the Pats are the best team in the league.  Heard a lot this week where people were claiming they weren’t.  Minnesota was.  Ok, so Sam Bradford (who wasn’t the problem in this game), coming back to play his former team, off a bye week, and THAT’S how you play?!  You can’t play hard and help your QB win THAT game?!  And don’t give me “injuries on their offensive line” because the Eagles also have injuries/suspensions on their O-line.  The Vikings weren’t close in that game.  I had turned the page early on this team and jumped on their bandwagon, so they better not make me regret that, or else…you know what’ll happen?…..THEY’LL BE ON THE LIST!!!

 

I told you Buffalo wasn’t as good as their record.  I told you the Dolphins were better than their record.  I told you the Chargers might pull the upset (I’m doing a lot of “I told you so” this week, and I hate that guy, so I really hate myself right now).  And if the Broncos blowout the Texans tonight I’ll have told you some pretty good picks for the second straight week.  2-2-1 if it’s close, 3-1-1 if the Broncos cover.  I don’t know what’ll happen, but I do know I’m “feeling it” so to speak a lot more this season than I had been.  In 2012 I picked 60% in the regular season ATS, and I have that same feeling picking games this season.

 

That Sunday nighter was just a total dog.  Man, what an awful game.  As I said on Twitter, there is not a luckier franchise in sports right now than the Seattle Seahawks.  They didn’t deserve a tie in that game and were insanely fortunate to get one.  As for the Cards, they still don’t look right, but they did look better than they have.  I’d be a bit surprised if they don’t cut kicker Chandler Catanzaro.

 

Brock Osweiler makes his return to Denver tonight.  It’ll likely be a warm homecoming for Brock as Denver fans will be elated that he left them for Houston.  Broncos at last look were favoured by 8, which I’m taking.  I think the Broncos blowout the Texans who really just aren’t a good football team.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

NFL Week 7 Picks ATS

osweiler4-0-1 last week!  I bragged about it in my “Hot Takes” on Monday morning, and I’ll brag about it again this morning, and I’ll probably brag about it the day after the Super Bowl when my overall record for this season ends at 18-45-1.  “Sure, I lost you a SHIT LOAD of money this season, but remember my week 6?!”  18-12-1 to date.

 

Buffalo at Miami

Dolphins +3

Have to love the Dolphins here.  I’m not buying the Bills at all.  They beat the Cards at home which isn’t the impressive win some might think it is (Cards lost at home to the Rams the next week).  They beat the 49ers at home.  They beat the Patriots with Jacoby Brissett at QB.  And they beat the Rams.  That isn’t very impressive, and probably doesn’t warrant being a 3 point favourite on the road against most teams.  The perception of the Dolphins is that they’re awful, yet they beat the Steelers last week.  And before you say “without Rothelisberger”, they were winning that game before Ben went out.  They also damn near pulled the upset in week one at Seattle.  I guess what I’m saying is I see these teams as even, just that the Bills are worse than their record and the Dolphins are better than theirs.  So take the Dolphins getting 3.

 

Cleveland at Cincinnati

Browns +10

Here I go again picking the Browns.  I remember hearing a stat one time, about two years ago, where if you just simply bet on the double digit under dog in the NFL you would clean up.  It was a lot more technical than how I just elegantly worded it, but you get the point.  I said it last week, I won’t move off the Browns being that major under dog who covers and even though I’ve been burned a few times by them this season I still believe they can beat the spread.  Last week they were right on schedule with a nice little meaningless end of the game TD to beat the spread.  The Bengals played better at Foxboro last week, but still tripped all over themselves.  They just aren’t the same team this season, and while they’ll win, I don’t believe they’ll impress and the Browns will give them a game.

 

New Orleans at Kansas City

Chiefs -6

This game is just ALL WRONG for the Saints.  A tough defensive squad, a tremendous running game, a physical team, and playing on the road in one of the toughest road stadiums in the league.  The Saints can’t win on the road, and really can’t match up with the Chiefs.  Look at how they handled the Raiders passing attack and that was in Oakland.  No chance for the Saints here, Chiefs blow them out.

 

San Diego at Atlanta

Chargers +6.5

This feels like a bit of a Vegas bait to me.  Falcons have been much better than the lowly Chargers, right?  Well, first of all I expect this to be a let down for the Falcons after playing the Panthers, Broncos and Seahawks the last three weeks.  Another thing working for the Chargers is that this game starts on their time.  1:05 PM PST.  That’s huge, because traditionally West coasts teams playing in the East and starting at 10 AM PST are terrible.  Still another thing working for the Chargers is they’re coming off playing the Thursday nighter, so they’ve had 10 days off.  And finally, they are playing everyone tough, and could easily be a 4-2 team, maybe even 5-1.  They’ve blown leads late.  With all these factors added up, I really wouldn’t be surprised at with a Chargers upset here, though now that I’ve jinxed it….

 

Houston at Denver

Broncos -8

That’s a massive number, but I feel like this game couldn’t be more wrong for the Texans.  Brock Osweiler sucks, there is no nice way to put that.  John Elway walking away from him was a better decision than I even thought.  As I said a few weeks back, it’s now a trend with Gary Kubiak.  His system/play calling makes QB’s look great.  Matt Schaub, T.J. Yates, Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian, for one game Paxton Lynch did and he is as raw as a kid can be!  I know it’s a big number, but the Broncos at home on 10 days rest should completely shutdown the Texans passing attack.  I could honestly see a couple of pick six’s happening in this one.  Couple that with the fact that the Texans D just doesn’t look the same minus J.J. Watt so Siemian and more so C.J. Anderson should be able to put up some points too.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Feeling Blue?

ee-jpg-size-custom-crop-1086x724Well I don’t know about you, but that sucked worse than last year for me.  Last year, you had a red hot and experienced KC Royals team that felt like the favourite in the ALCS.  I’m a pretty big fan of this Cleveland Indians team, but the Jays on paper were heavy favourites, especially with all the injuries to the Tribe’s starting staff.  Even at 3-0 a lot of my buddies and myself were looking at the pitching matchups and saying “they beat Kluber, the Tribe are in a ton of trouble.”  But it wasn’t to be and the better team won in five.

 

That’s the bad news.  There is a lot of good news with this team moving forward.

 

Lost in the September swoon that had the country on pins and needles as to whether or not the Jays would make the playoffs was the hiring of Ben Cherington.  Who is Ben Cherington?  He’s the former GM of the Boston Red Sox.  He built much of their 2013 World Series winner.  He is responsible for them having arguably the best farm system in baseball entering this season.  Betts, Bogaerts, Bradley, Moncada, Benintendi, Swihart, they’re LOADED with young talent both on the team already and still to come in the system.  Things don’t always go as planned, but I’d be surprised if under this regime the Jays don’t have at least a top 10 farm system in two years time.

 

And if that’s the case, that young talent could arrive just in time, as this isn’t a young roster.  Josh Donaldson is 31 next season, Troy Tulowitzki just turned 32, Russell Martin is about to turn 34, and if they keep one of Encarnacion or Bautista, Encarnacion will be 34 and Bautista turned 36 yesterday.

 

I say one of, because I believe they have to let one of them walk.  Both are DH’s at this point, but even if you put one at first and the other at DH, you’re ensuring that the lineup stays as is and that simply can’t happen.  Cleveland’s staff didn’t pitch a great series, despite what everyone has and will say.  What happened is that the ALDS was a mirage.  Cole Hamels and Colby Lewis were amazing matchups for the Jays, and Yu Darvish just had a poor outing in game 2.  Teams have figured out how to pitch to the Jays, and they refuse to adjust.  So they need to mix in some left handed or switch hitters, and they need to mix in more speed.

 

If you ask me which one of them you let walk…you put up with a guy like Bautista when he’s got one of the biggest bats in baseball.  I have to think his act has gotten REAL old in that clubhouse.  I’m a Jays fan, and while I have liked his bat, I’ve never liked the guy.  I don’t think he’s a bad guy, but I know for me he would be a guy that you could get sick of real quickly with some of the garbage he pulls.  He’ll be the cheaper option of the two, but I’d be willing to do a four year deal with Encarnacion.

 

It is very possible that the organization lets them both walk.  With such an old roster I wouldn’t suggest that they’ll want to get younger, but they may want someone in that position who they don’t have to commit to long term.  So perhaps Carlos Beltran?  They were interested in him at the deadline, he’s a switch hitter, despite being 39 he’s coming off an outstanding season hitting 29 HR’s, 93 RBI’s, .295 AVG and a .337 OBP.  Tough to expect THAT again, but close to that would be pretty great.  In doing a move like this, you would also keep more of your options open for the 2018 free agent class that is shaping up to be incredible.  Still a couple years away, but no doubt management will be keeping an eye on it.

 

Something that became evident as a need this October is a good backup catcher for Martin.  He was gassed in the playoffs, and he was gassed last year in the playoffs despite Dioneer Navarro seeing a lot of his AB’s.  A left handed or switch hitting backup who can be trusted defensively (so probably not Navarro at this point) is what is needed.  A guy like Jason Castro is probably too good to be true, but he’d be perfect.  He is the only guy who can hit left and is solid behind the plate on the free agent market, so if they’re going to find this guy they’re going to have to trade for him.

 

As for other needs…I could see them making a big run at Josh Reddick in free agency.  Lefty stick (hope you don’t get sick of me saying this!), former gold glove winner, and a guy who hits for average.  Hasn’t been great since being dealt to the Dodgers, and wouldn’t be cheap.  But I think he’s a perfect fit for this Jays team.

 

They could use a leadoff man.  Most sabermetric fans will tell you a leadoff man is a myth.  I lean that way as well, but over the last two years the lineup has been at it’s best with Jose Reyes and then Ben Revere leading off.  Jose Bautista didn’t work.  Troy Tulowitzki didn’t work.  Devon Travis didn’t work.  The only other guy that kind of worked was Ezequiel Carrera, and the jury is definitely going to be out on whether he was a guy who simply got on a hot streak, or if he can continue to improve.  I love his approach, love his swing.  I’d be willing to try him as a platoon with Melvin Upton.  But I’m not sure either are the answer at the top of the order.

 

Speaking of LF, what about Michael Saunders?  I’d say he’s another candidate to be a short term answer at DH if he’s willing to accept a two or three year deal for reasonable money, but it’s tough to gage what kind of deal he’ll get.  He’s not a terrible glove in left, but again I would think Shapiro and Atkins would like a guy who can hit at the top of the order and that’s a prime position to find those types.

 

They need a big time lefty for the bullpen much like they did last offseason, but I really hope they look to use Francisco Liriano in that role.  He’d have to be ok with it, but should he be I’d rather he be a 14 million dollar Andrew Miller than a 14 million dollar 5th starter.  You can find 5th starters, and in my opinion you should want to leave that spot open for a value signing type guy.  Look at how valuable Miller has been to the Indians.  That type of guy isn’t easy to find and the Jays may have him with the type of stuff Liriano has.  C.C. Sabathia was rumoured to have interest from the Jays at the deadline due to his relationship with Shapiro, perhaps he is of interest to them as a free agent?

 

I don’t think the pen needs much work next season.  If Liriano did start the season there, they’ll definitely be picking up the option on Jason Grilli, and Joe Biagini should be able to improve on this season so that gives them a rock solid back end of the rotation.  Joaquin Benoit is a free agent that I’m sure they’d have interest in bringing back, as is Brett Cecil.  Cecil has been up and down with this team but I’d want him back as well.  Even at his worst he can still get left handers out.  And he’s likely the 3rd best lefty reliever on the open market, if not the 2nd.  But having said that, you never know the trade options which could be out there.  I was livid that they didn’t touch the pen last offseason and then they did the Storen deal, which obviously went sideways before flipping him for Benoit, but at the time looked like a fantastic move.

 

Then of course you have the big want for just about all Jays fans.  I know hardly any of you would have read this, but do you recall what I suggested a year ago at this time?  I’ll refresh your memory….or it’ll be your first time reading this.

People might laugh at this notion, but I’m going to put it out there.  I could see Joey Votto at 1st to start next season.  The Reds are rebuilding.  Votto has a monster contract which the Jays could afford to take on.  The Jays lack a big left handed bat.  The Jays lack a guy who’ll hit for average in the middle of the order.  He’s a former gold glove winner.  And for ownership to sign off on bringing such a big contract in…he’s a Toronto born player.  It is totally just a hunch, I haven’t even seen Votto’s name mentioned in rumors.  But Anthopoulos has pulled trades out from seemingly nowhere a few times before, and this would make sense.

That was written on October 24th, 2015.  Of course, Anthopoulos is gone now.  But rumours have really heated up about this since around the trade deadline, and word is that the Jays are very interested should the Reds move Votto this offseason, which is a very real possibility.  He is 34 next season, but there isn’t a more perfect fit for this team at 1st base than Joey Votto.  .326 BA this season, .434 OBP!  A left handed bat that doesn’t just simply go up there looking to hack, what a concept!  The Reds would need to eat some money on the back end of the deal, but if they were willing to (they pretty much have to if they want to move him, the contract is an albatross despite how great Votto is) I could see the Jays landing him.  I also want to say that Votto has a no move?  I would guess that’s 10 and 5 rights which is basically the same thing.  I’m sure if he were to be dealt he’d have interest in more teams than just the Jays, but the fact his hometown team is a contender and he would be such a great fit at 1st and in the lineup, I’m certain would put them near or at the top of the list.

 

Yesterday sucked, no doubt.  But this team is setup.  They’re setup for next season, and next season this front office will begin setting them up for the next decade.  As shitty as it was to see them get bounced in the ALCS for the 2nd year in a row, they appear to be here to stay.  The AL East will be tougher next season with the Yankees on the rise and the Red Sox being so young and already so good, but the Jays are in excellent shape.  I don’t think we’re going to see things go back to the way they were anytime soon.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

NFL Week 6 Hot Takes

38cowboys%20packers%20footballI hope you all get the joke that this is titled “hot takes” because they aren’t anything like that.  They’re rationale takes…that’s the joke.  Probably isn’t good that I treat my readers like blithering idiots is it?  But if you don’t get the joke, I don’t know how else to treat you.

 

There is a ton of things I’m going to talk about where I feel like I’ve been proven wrong, but one thing I got right, this week specifically, were my NFL picks!  4-0-1, 5-0-1 if you want to include the over/under pick I snuck in there on the Saints/Panthers pick.  That’ll move the record to 18-12-1 on the season.  Though as great as that was, I can’t believe the 1 happened.  I’ve never been more sure that I caught Vegas with their pants down as I did on Houston/Indy game.  Maybe if the Texans would have shown up the first 3 quarters it would have been a win rather than a push.

 

Ok, so normally I just go off the NFL.com scoreboard and work my way across, A.K.A. I go from the early games to the late games.  But I have to talk about the game that killed my thousand dollar dream.  The legend of Dak Prescott just keeps getting bigger and bigger.  It’s great for me, because I want to write a big ass piece just on him and the trickle down affect that he’ll have.  But I think we have to start giving a LITTLE credit to this Cowboys defense that was projected to be one of the worst units in the league.  They have no pass rush, but that secondary is really talented and with Morris Claiborne now showing flashes of becoming the stud corner he was expected to be, it’s a big lift.  Think about it.  Only one QB has put up more than 20 points on them, which was Kirk Cousins at home (23).  Eli Manning, Cousins, Andy Dalton, and now Aaron Rodgers.  They’ve been solid.

 

HAVING SAID THAT…

 

What the hell is up with the Packers and Aaron Rodgers specifically?!  I’ve defended him all season but yesterday was my breaking point.  No, not because he lost me money.  He only managed 16 points at home.  And I just praised the Cowboys defense, but this guy is a guy who two years ago was the best QB in football, he should be able to pick apart a defense that is just ok.  That O-line is good, he has plenty of weapons, something just isn’t right with the guy.  He’s not over the hill or anything either.  So I have to wonder if he’s playing with an injury.  Colin Cowherd keeps piling on and his big reason he claims he’s not good is exactly why he’s top three in the league.  Keeps pointing out how Rodgers isn’t the biggest, isn’t the fastest, doesn’t have the best arm in the league….it’s garbage, because he literally has all the tools.  And if you read me you know I love Cowherd, but he’s been a dip shit and clearly has an agenda when it comes to Rodgers.  But he is right, when he says something isn’t right.

 

That missed call in Seattle was disgusting.  And it was a combination of time of game and reputation, which are the two things that bother me most about officiating.  Time of game was late, so for some reason late in a game means more can happen, because it’s late in the game.  Minute 59 is more important than minute 12 in a game, because refs say so.  The RULES don’t say so, but the refs do.  And then you have the reputation.  Since the Seahawks got the reputation that they have a good defense, they magically have gotten away with MUCH more than most teams.  And this is no secret, this is a philosophy, and a damn good one on their part honestly!  The philosophy is that they’re going to challenge refs to call everything, because they know they won’t.  So they get away with a ton of different things…like the PI that should have been called on Jones.  The Falcons should have won this game, and the Falcons are damn good.  The last few weeks have proven this.

 

The Falcons have supplanted the Panthers in the NFC South.  So have the Saints.  So have the Bucs.  The Panthers are a MESS.  They can’t get off the field, and the offense just can’t gel.  I know they put up 38 yesterday, but it was against the SAINTS!  Myself and ten of my buddies can put up 38 on the Saints!  I’ve always questioned Cam Newton’s maturity.  That’s far from all of the Panthers problems, but this team are total front runners, and he’s the leader.  When things are going great and they’re somewhat easy, Cam is amazing.  But thus far in his career, when things have started to go South on him, he folds.  He pouts.  He has a chance to be one of the all time greats, and you can say he was coming off a concussion, and that’s true.  But the season itself, the guy hasn’t found a way to get things done and the team has followed that lead.  15-1 last season, done by week 6 this season.

 

Different week, same Ravens.  What the hell happened to this franchise?  I mean, I called it that they weren’t as good as their 3-0 record said, but heading into last season a lot of people (myself included) were picking them to go to the Super Bowl!  Last year was awful, and this season doesn’t appear to be any better.  New offensive co-ordinator, still lost to a Giants team which is relatively on the same path.  I really think a change is coming there and John Harbaugh after nine seasons has to be on the hot seat.  Great coach, but sometimes you just need a change.

 

That Chiefs/Raiders game yesterday was exactly why I picked the Chiefs to win that division.  Love the Raiders, they’ll be fine.  But that Chiefs running game and defense are both right near the top of the league.  They are far from the sexiest team to watch in the league.  But they can beat you in several different ways, and Andy Reid is one of the top coaches in the game (now 16-2 off the bye week!)  With the Broncos coming back down to earth, the AFC West is there for the Chiefs to win.

 

What else can I say about the other games?  The Pats are the best team in the league.  The Steelers are close with them but got humiliated in Miami yesterday.  The Jags only beat the lowly Bears by a point off a bye week and with their talent I wonder if they aren’t the worst coached team in the league.  The Eagles and Carson Wentz are back to being in a rebuild.  How do you destroy the Steelers and then lose two in a row after your bye week?  The Niners are a total train wreck and I really don’t think it’s Chip Kelly.  Conversely the Bills have really righted the ship and while I’m not a big fan of Rex Ryan I think he deserves a little credit because the train was on the verge of coming off the tracks there after the loss to the Jets.

 

The Monday nighter tonight is a total dog, and I assume you’ll be watching the Jays game rather than that.  IF YOU MUST bet it, the Jets getting 7.5 and the over of 46 feels right because something is off with the Cards, and the Jets D just isn’t close to what they were last season.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

NFL Week 6 Picks ATS

635535898691192842-tda20141207saintspanthers011A little late putting these out this morning, but I guess you still have an hour to lay the bets.  Though right now, the lines get all messed up with last minute betting.  I should come out with these Thursday night, because I was doing them Thursday night and had about four of the five games the same way as Colin Cowherd had them!  And then he does a segment with RJ Bell from pregame.com where Bell asks the Vegas wiseguys if they agree and they agreed with all five!  I left two of them in, but did three other different games I like.

 

Anyway, another losing week for me.  So after I started so hot with three straight losing weeks, I’ve gone back to back 2-3, bringing my season record to 14-12.  Considering being really good at this is 60%, I’ll gladly take that.  But I want the losing to stop this week, and I think it will.

 

Carolina at New Orleans

Saints +2.5

I like the Saints here a lot even with Newton going.  I think the Panthers are getting exposed badly, and the Saints aren’t good, but they’re good enough to take advantage of a team on the ropes like this.  Plus the Saints are off a bye, Panthers are on a short week.  Saints getting 2.5 right now, may even be at 3 by the time I get this out.  If you need something extra, the over is 53.5.  Take the over even though it’s high.  Panthers D isn’t what it was last season and the Saints can’t stop anyone.

 

Cleveland at Tennessee

Browns +7.5

Some may scratch their heads at this one, but the Browns are playing teams tough this season, and even though they’ve burned me here the last few weeks I’m not ready to jump off of them as a team that’ll suck, but they’ll cover.  Oh yeah, and the Titans suck.  They’re awful at home.  So Mariota doesn’t scare me at all, and I think the Browns will move the ball.  So giving the Browns this many points is a mistake.

 

Jacksonville at Chicago

Jaguars +2.5

Feels to me like the Bears are getting love now with Brian Hoyer in at QB.  He kept it close with the Colts.  The Colts outside of Andrew Luck have the worst team in the league.  Imagine Luck with the Browns, the Browns might be better than what the Colts are now.  I know it’s in Chicago and I know we still can’t trust the Jags.  But they’re coming off a bye and more so I just think the Jags have a much better team.  I bet this at Jags +1, so getting 2.5 I view as a GIFT!

 

Philadelphia at Washington

Redskins +3

Is anyone taking notice that the Redskins are starting to get their act together?  The public is so high on the Eagles right now, and coming off their first loss I think the public believes that they’ll take out their anger on an inapt Redskins team.  But the Redskins aren’t the Browns.  Kirk Cousins is good, and he has real good weapons, and their defense is solid (not great, but solid) and Jay Gruden is a good head coach.  Washington getting points at home, better take that bet.

 

Indianapolis at Houston

Texans -3

This game won’t be close.  Not freaking close.  The Texans are going to completely blow out the Colts here.  Osweiler isn’t that good, but the Colts D is horrendous.  Last week they made Brian Hoyer look incredible.  Cameron Merideth (started him in fantasy, no big deal…) looked like Randy Moss in that game.  What’ll DeAndre Hopkins look like?!  Or Will Fuller?!!  Add this to the fact that the Texans D, a top D in the NFL, will blitz Andrew Luck non stop.  This is going to be about 31-10 Texans.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

2016-17 NHL Season Preview & Prognostications

nhl100-0These are now going up on my Facebook page.  Correct, I would like more readers, though I’m likely going to just alienate anyone who is still on Facebook.  Whatever.  I alienate people all the time anyway, I assume it’s just kind of a thing people expect me to do.

 

So I’m supposed to have some kind of opening to really hook you.  But truth be told, I’m writing this part last.  I just did nearly 6,000 words on everything else, and I really don’t have any fuel left in the tank.  Read this.  You might find it interesting.  Or you might not.  Meh.

 

Pacific

1. Anaheim Ducks

I don’t feel good about this prediction at all, but I don’t feel good about any prediction in this spot.  I really believe their are five teams who could win this division this season.  Yes, the two Alberta teams are in that discussion.  Not because I think they’re as good as any of the California teams, but I believe all three of the Cali teams could have pretty big issues entering this season that’ll limit their point totals.  The Ducks have all that young talent though, and they still have Getzlaf and Perry.  Not a fan of the Carlyle hire/return, but having said that I believe Carlyle is a better coach than the analytic guys believe he is.

 

2. L.A. Kings

I feel safest about the Kings of all the California teams.  They won’t miss the playoffs, but they are in a transition.  I believe they’ll struggle early on, but they’ll continually get better and better as some of the kids get more experience.  Still have Kopitar, still have Doughty, and even though I believe he’s a bit overrated, they still have Quick who is still damn good, and they still have that crusty old Dean behind the bench.  They really need some of their kids like Forbort and Kempe to make an impact this season, but if they do this team could be dangerous.

 

3. San Jose Sharks

Of all the teams, I believe this is the one poised to fall off, yet I’m still putting them third in the division because they SHOULD be better than Edmonton and Calgary.  I don’t know what happened in that room last year to all of a sudden elevate this team from after thoughts heading into the playoffs to world beaters until the Cup final.  But they are pretty solid all over the roster.  I think they’ll struggle like most Cup finalists do, but they should still get in.  The depth they have down the middle is such a massive key to their success.

 

4. Edmonton Oilers

Settle down.  I don’t have them making the playoffs yet again.  A big jump in the standings, they’ll be in it come late March, but they still aren’t getting in.  There are just too many good teams in the Central, so they’d need to finish 3rd in the Pacific.  But at the risk of sounding like an Oilers homer, let me point out some things.  This team was decimated by injuries last season, which most people fail to point out.  McDavid, Klefbom, Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle all missed significant time.  As long as key guys don’t go down for big stretches this season it’ll be a massive boost.  Also, while they lost the Hall/Larsson deal from a value standpoint, it still improved their defence a lot.  Klefbom and Larsson now gives them a legit top pair, and slots everyone else where they should be.  As for the Kris Russell signing, I’m not a big fan as I’ve expressed on Twitter, but I do get it.  They want a more mobile blueline who can pressure, and they want to keep building a hard nosed/gritty culture.  Finally, Connor McDavid is about to become a top three player in the league, and possibly the best starting this season.  They’re well coached, much more balanced, and much tougher to play against.  This won’t be the same old Oilers this season.

 

5. Calgary Flames

Coming into the season, I think you can flip a coin between the Oilers and the Flames.  Brian Elliott is a massive upgrade for the Flames in goal.  But I do worry about the fact that a lot of netminders look great playing behind a Ken Hitchcock squad, then look awful once they don’t.  I also am not too high on the hiring of Glen Gulutzan, but it’s tough to question anything Brad Treliving has done thus far.  He’s seemingly won every trade, every draft pick he’s made seems to crush it both in value and need, the guy looks like an elite GM thus far.  But Gulutzan feels like a stop gap.  I don’t think he’s a bad coach, but I’m not sure he’ll elevate the team.  But this team should challenge for the playoffs this season and they’re looking tremendous moving forward.  Their high end draft picks have fallen perfectly into place.  Two centres with their first two (Monahan and Bennett), then land a young RH shot stud D-man with their 2015 first, and then they needed a power forward last year and had Matt Tkachuk fall right into their lap.  It’s been a long wait, but the battle of Alberta is getting close to returning.

 

6. Arizona Coyotes

Another team that looks tremendous moving forward.  I loved their draft even though I’m not the biggest Clayton Keller fan.  He oozes skill, but I think Tyson Jost is going to be the type of player you build around.  Anyway, that won’t be decided for about 10 years.  Today, the Coyotes have put together a real solid blueline, they’re really skilled on the wings, and I’m still a massive Dave Tippett fan.  Down the middle is where I worry about them, specifically Martin Hanzal.  If he can play 80 games, that’ll be huge.  They could be in the playoff hunt should that happen.  But he never does, so it’s tough to expect that.

 

7. Vancouver Canucks

It just isn’t going good in Vancouver these days.  The Sedin’s are nearing retirement despite still being very solid contributors, they made what looks to be a bad trade for Erik Gudbranson, and it feels like while they’ve drafted high the last few seasons that the pieces aren’t falling into place to making this an easy rebuild/transition.  If you want some good things to point to, I like the goaltending situation moving forward.  Markstrom will be the starter, and he’s still pretty young (for a goaltender).  Miller will be the backup, and while that’s a very expensive backup he only has a year left on his albatross of a deal.  Him backing up buys Thatcher Demko a season in Utica, and then Demko moves up next season to split time with Markstrom.  But they have a lot of work to do up front and while they aren’t empty by any means on the back end, I’m not sure they have anyone who’ll be high end.  Maybe Juolevi but I wasn’t as high on him as most going into the draft.  I could easily see another house cleaning of GM and coach at the conclusion of this season.

 

Central

1. Minnesota Wild

I don’t think many will have this.  I’m a pretty big believer in it because Bruce Boudreau has done it in two other spots.  Granted, the Central is a heck of a lot better right now than the Atlantic division was in 2008 or the Pacific division was in 2013.  But the Wild were also a lot better last season than the Capitals were in 2007 or the Ducks were in 2012.  They have good depth down the middle, though lack a legit number one centre.  That’s not as big of an issue during the regular season.  With Koivu and now Eric Staal, they’ll be able to matchup.  Staal isn’t what he was, but he’s still a 6’4 centre with two way ability and can skate (despite the fact he can’t skate the way he once did).  The blueline is starting to emerge.  I expect pretty big seasons out of Mike Reilly and Matt Dumba.  And then while I’m not a big Devan Dubnyk fan, he does give you a chance to win.  They have a lot of talent, and nobody gets more out of his talent (during the regular season), than Bruce Boudreau.

 

2. Nashville Predators

Most will have this as their division pick because of P.K. Subban.  I don’t think Subban makes them that much better.  What could make them the division champion is a full season and a year older of Ryan Johansen.  What’ll also help a ton is if Pekka Rinne bounces back.  He quietly had one of the worst seasons of his career.  Even then this squad still made the playoffs and got to game 7 of the 2nd round.  I like them a lot heading into the season, but I see them getting overrated, and like the Wild a lot more than most.

 

3. St. Louis Blues

I like this team to finish in the top three of the division yet again this season, but I wouldn’t trust Jake Allen come playoff time.  Mind you, I didn’t trust Brian Elliott last year and he came up huge for them.  But Allen has an awful track record in big games in his career.  I also could see the departure of David Backes hurting them a bit.  He was the heart and soul of this team, and even though he had been relegated to the 3rd line, he was still a big part of this team.  Still, you counter that with a blueline which could be the best unit in the league, a lot of talent on the wings led by Vladdy Tarasensko, and one of the best coaches in the game in Ken Hitchock.

 

*4. Chicago Blackhawks

Their depth has taken a massive hit the last few seasons, and I think it has to start showing at some point.  I also think Patrick Kane is going to be hard pressed to repeat what he did last year.  Most just assume they’ll go right back to the top of the division and compete for a Cup.  But they took some big hits again this offseason with Terravainen and Shaw moving on for virtually nothing.  Unless Tyler Motte and Ryan Hartman can seamlessly step into those roles, I think this team is going to be challenged most of the season.  The blueline is a bit better with the returning Brian Campbell, but he’s now 37.  Most likely they won’t miss the playoffs, but I think they’ll struggle in the regular season.

 

*5. Dallas Stars

They’ll be in tough to make the playoffs.  I’ve never liked the way this team was constructed with not much grit.  They were showing signs of cracking against a weak Wild team in last year’s first round, and I really don’t know how they went seven with the Blues.  The goaltending is weak, although good enough for the regular season.  The D has a ton of good young talent set to take the reigns this season, but without a doubt there will be growing pains.  Alex Goligoski out, Dan Hamhuis in.  Jason Demers out, Stephen Johns in.  Kris Russell/Jyrki Jokipakka out, Jamie Oleksiak and eventually Esa Lindell in.  It’s a lot of change, and I think by seasons end they’ll be a better group.  But I can see them being really shaky out of the gate, and in this division it’ll be tough to get back into it.

 

6. Colorado Avalanche

The only thing that puts the Avs ahead of the Jets in my mind is Semyon Varlamov.  But I do love that Patrick Roy is out as head coach.  That was an amazing gift by Roy to the Avs organization.  He had lost the room last season, and Joe Sakic didn’t appear to have the…”testicular fortitude” to fire him.  Most of you likely don’t know who Jared Bednar is.  Hell, I’d be lying if I said I knew much about him.  But he led Lake Erie to a Calder Cup this spring and also has an ECHL title under his belt.  Coached in the minors for 14 seasons, head coach in the AHL for four of them.  He is the anti Roy.  Zero flash, zero fan fare, zero grudges against his franchise players.  The D still needs a lot of work, but I believe we’ll finally see progress with the Avs this season.

 

7. Winnipeg Jets

I love where they’re going.  They have an insane amount of talent in the organization, and they’re without a doubt a future powerhouse in this league.  Scheifele, Kyle Connor, Patrik Laine, Nik Ehlers, Josh Morrissey, whoever they get for Trouba (he will be dealt), Connor Hellebuyck, and then insane depth either going into their second season with the team or in the system that will make this team elite in the West.  And I love the vets they currently have to lead the way.  Only issue is that they’re in the toughest division in hockey.  They might be a playoff team in any other division, but in this one they’re stuck.  Easily could finish above the Avs, but I don’t like their chances to be higher than 6th.

 

Atlantic

1. Tampa Bay

More than anything, I just believe the organization has a TON of momentum after a rocky season last year.  They have a good blueline, great goaltending, a ton of offence, Stamkos locked up to a fair deal, Kucherov locked up to a fair deal, and they finally have Jonathan Drouin going.  I was pissing on Steve Yzerman a lot last year, and frankly for good reason.  But in the end he came out on top and now has the Lightning primed for a Cup run.

 

2. Florida Panthers

I think the Panthers are the only team that will challenge the Lightning for the division crown.  Obviously they won it last year, but the Lightning had a ton of distractions and the Panthers seemingly had very little going against them.  Luongo has made it back for the opener, but how ready will he be?  And I feel like there is always a regression the season following a break out year, at least in the standings.  But this organization finally has their act together and should be a force for a long time to come as they have all the key pieces in place.

 

3. Montreal Canadiens

I worry that this team is stuck in no man’s land.  They’ll never be good enough to get over the hump, and they won’t be bad enough to rebuild it.  It feels toxic right now.  Marc Bergevin I believe is a damn good GM, but it feels like he might be too close to Michel Therrien.  Therefore, while a coaching change might be needed, it ain’t coming.  You would have thought the Habs traded P.K. Subban for magic beans.  Granted, I’m not sure why the Habs and the Oilers couldn’t have struck up a deal with Hall and Subban as the primary parts, but Bergevin wants to build around his goaltender and I do understand that.  Shea Weber still has some miles left, and while he doesn’t push the play like Subban does he is a much better defender.  I do worry about what this team has down the middle.  Alex Galchenyuk did well offensively last year when he played the middle, but Michel Therrien seems to hate using him there.  Price can only get them so far, they’re going to need a couple guys in the system to emerge.  They do have some ok pieces coming, but the jury is out on how good they can be.

 

4. Buffalo Sabres

Yeah, I’ll say they make a big jump this season.  I’m not in love with how Tim Murray has run it in Buffalo.  I’m not a fan of guys who the media seems to have blinders on for.  Tim Murray seems to be a media darling just like Patrick Roy was.  Cool, but can you guys please assess the job he’s done, or do we just get to hear more stories about him smoking darts?  Praising the guy for tanking to get Jack Eichel would be like praising Craig MacTavish for the Oilers getting McDavid.  Anyway, I’ll give it to him that he has put together a talented group, it’ll just be a matter of when they bust out.  Evander Kane could be a big distraction.  Jury is out on Robin Lehner.  They need to get Rasmus Ristolainen signed ASAP.  Those three are the x factors for this team.  But with Eichel ready to take a step, O’Reilly being one of the most underrated centres in the league, Sam Reinhart quietly emerging as a high end player, this team has a lot of key pieces in place.  And I like Dan Bylsma.  I don’t love him, but I think he’s good enough to get this team to the playoffs.  Not that I’m saying they will, but I do see them being right in the thick of the race.

 

5. Detroit Red Wings

I hate the fact that they could rebuild it really quickly if they would just give up on this meaningless playoff streak.  But they won’t, and there for they’ll still be in the hunt for a playoff spot this season.  And if they can get one more relatively healthy season out of Zetterberg and Kronwall then they could make it.  But it’s just like watching someone die a very slow death.  The Wings are on life support right now, and Ken Holland won’t pull the plug.  Perhaps he’s hanging on with the new arena on the horizon?  I do like some of the young talent.  Not as much as others, but they appear to have a legit number one starter in Petr Mrazek.  Gustav Nyqvist should have a bounce back season.  Dylan Larkin is what I expected him to be, but because he came out of nowhere for some people he was considered on par with McDavid at some points last season as moronic as that is.  He’s real good, a great piece for the Wings to have, but he’s not going to be a superstar.  Frans Nielsen can replace a bit of what Datsyuk did for them (not a lot, but at least he’ll stay healthy).  Not a fan of what they’re doing, but they’re still a solid team.

 

6. Ottawa Senators

You know, they have a real solid roster top to bottom.  You look at the roster and you say “ok they have pretty good centres, pretty good wingers, pretty good D, depth everywhere, pretty good number one goaltender, what’s the big issue?”  The big issue is that they aren’t good in their own zone most nights.  Now, if they get that cleaned up, they’ll be a playoff team.  And I do think that short term, Guy Boucher can get them going in the right direction.  But it’s essentially the same team returning other than the upgrade Derrick Brassard will bring over Mika Zibanejad.  That’ll help a lot, but I don’t know if it’ll be enough.  Wouldn’t shock me at all if they finished as high as 3rd in the division, they have that good of talent and depth.  They just need to clean it up in their own end and until they do, I can’t trust them to finish higher than this.

 

7. Boston Bruins

This is another team that really needs to blow it up and start over, yet refuse to do so.  They’re slow, aging, and outside of a legit number one goaltender they don’t have much else elite.  Bergeron would be an elite 2nd line centre, but I don’t think he should be anyone’s 1st line centre…at least not on a contending team.  I have no clue why they signed David Backes.  Conversely I have no idea why David Backes signed with them, but what does Backes do for them?  He makes a slow and aging team slower and older.  I really like David Backes, but the Bruins were the last team that should have wanted him.  It just feels like this organization has absolutely no plan.  A.K.A. they’re a shit show.

 

8. Toronto Maple Leafs

I’ve been all about this rebuild.  I did think it was a pretty massive joke that the Leafs “new rebuild” and the “Shanaplan” got nothing but praise from the Toronto media just because the Leafs got new management.  Oilers did the same thing, yet just because the Oilers didn’t label it a “new rebuild” it was the same rebuild and there for the Oilers were still a joke.  Ok….Anyway, I’ve loved the direction they’ve been headed, but at this point I’m getting a little worried.  I look at this roster and think this is very similar to what the Oilers had for years.  Six rookies to start the season, a ton of pressure on Morgan Rielly to carry the defence, Martin Marincin is on their top pairing (according to TSN), and I don’t know that you can trust Freddy Andersen.  I love Mike Babcock, love a ton of what they’ve done, but a mix of an extremely young team with a piss poor blueline is a recipe for disaster.

 

Metropoliton

1. Washington Capitals

They need to plug their holes once and for all going into the playoffs this season.  They can’t rely on has been’s fresh off the scrap heap being their 3rd line centre.  Lars Eller is an upgrade here, but I’m not sure he’s enough of an upgrade.  If I were running this organization, I’d be looking to upgrade on Nick Backstrom.  People always look to immediately shit on Ovechkin anytime anything goes wrong, but their alleged first line centre is a total fraud.  He is a tremendous setup man on the PP.  Congratulations, you’re Jason Allison or Andrew Cassels.  Ovechkin needs a legit first line centre who can matchup with anyone come playoff time, because wingers can’t carry teams to Cups.  It’s the position they play, they can only do so much.  Having said all this, they’ll be first in the division again.  Too good to not dominate the regular season.

 

2. Pittsburgh Penguins

The monkey is off their backs!  It’s shocking that it took seven years after this core’s last Cup, but they finally won their second.  The good news is that they look ready to stay in the hunt this time around.  I don’t know how Jim Rutherford did it.  I will not move off the point that he’s a bad GM.  But he seemingly made one great move that brought everything together in firing Mike Johnston and hiring Mike Sullivan.  And Mike Sullivan figured out that with three superstar players who can carry a line all you have to do is let them carry their own line.  Fans and media get FAR too caught up in what the line combinations will be and certain players playing in the top six.  Who cares?!  I want the lines that matchup best five on five.  The PP is the time to load up.  Anyway, not sure why Rutherford didn’t jettison Marc-Andre Fleury this offseason.  If he goes into next offseason with him, Fleury could force his hand to lose Matt Murray for next to nothing thanks to the expansion draft.  They would trade him before it got to that, but they still wouldn’t get much for him.  As for the Crosby concussion….we’ll see how much time he’ll miss.  I felt like he was primed for a career year prior to this news.  Hopefully he is only out a few games.

 

3. NY Islanders

It feels as though the Islanders are destined to be a team stuck in mediocrity.  They have Tavares who is a star, but all that losing they went through only produced him and then a lot of B and C level talent.  They have yet to develop another star to play with Tavares and it doesn’t really look like they will.  Hell of a fun team to watch though!  They matchup with anyone in the league as far as grit and toughness goes.  Andrew Ladd fits that bill perfectly.  Unfortunately for the Islanders they’re getting Ladd on the back nine of his career.  I also believe the reason Matt Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier (there is the Griffin Reinhart deal Oilers fans for those of you who said I was an idiot for pissing all over it the second it happened) are making the squad already is they’re worried about their scoring depth.  Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome seemed to have stalled in their development.

 

*4. NY Rangers

It could be a nasty fall off the cliff soon for the Rangers.  This feels like a team who is starting to live off their hall of fame goaltender, and their hall of fame goaltender is going to regress one of these days seeing he’s turning 35 before this season is finished.  But as of today, I think they still have enough talent to get by.  A massive key for them is that Mika Zibanejad gets his career going because Derrick Brassard was a real underrated player for them.  If Zibanejad doesn’t take a step in his development, they’re in a ton of trouble down the middle.  It just feels like they’re on the verge of a major tumble.  I won’t predict it comes this season, but I won’t be shocked if it does.

 

*5. Carolina Hurricanes

Yep, the Canes are making the playoffs!  I love what Ron Francis has done building this team.  They’re going to have the best blueline in hockey in pretty short order.  That’ll make Eddie Lack better, and it’ll make their smaller skilled forwards better.  A lot of small skill up front, and then a big horse down the middle in Jordan Staal who can eat up a ton of tough minutes.  And Bill Peters is quietly one of the better coaches in this league.  The Canes are extremely structured under him.  Some might see this pick as being done for shock value, but I honestly feel extremely confident that the Canes will get in the dance this season.

 

6. Philadelphia Flyers

While I love how Ron Hextall is building this team, much the same as I love the job Ron Francis is doing with the Hurricanes, I don’t see them getting back to the playoffs.  Until more of their blue chip D-men start emerging on the backend I can’t bring myself to be a big believer in this team.  Provorov is starting with the team this season, so perhaps he is ready to make an impact?  Mason and Neuvirth in net are two guys who have never been able to sustain success in this league.  Claude Giroux puts up points, but I really don’t see him as a legitimate first line centre as his all around game is lacking.  He is the best player on either the Flyers or the Hurricanes, so perhaps that is an x factor as I see them as very even teams who’ll battle for the last playoff spot.  But I just don’t see the Flyers …as of today.  But again, really love the direction they’re headed.

 

7. Columbus Blue Jackets

I’m just going to make the point one more time that I really believe the Jackets made the right call by taking Pierre-Luc Dubois in the draft.  Now moving forward, this team looks good on D, good on the wings, and good down the middle.  Had they taken Puljujarvi, they wouldn’t look good down the middle.  Anyway, while the future looks bright, I just don’t get why John Tortorella is behind that bench.  They did improve under him from Todd Richards because it was evident that they needed a change, but this team still lives and dies with the health of Sergei Bobrovsky.  They’re built to be solid this season, just because I have them finishing 7th in the division doesn’t mean I think they’ll be a pushover, but I don’t see them being much of a playoff threat.

 

8. New Jersey Devils

I said this when the trade went down and I’ll say it again: The Devils won the Hall/Larsson trade in terms of value, but I don’t think it made their team any better.  Damon Severson now has to take a pretty massive step in his career if he is going to replace Adam Larsson.  No doubt, Hall gives them much more scoring up front, and reuniting with Adam Henrique should be a smooth transition.  But on the back end this team wasn’t too good last season.  Now, they’re even worse.  Cory Schneider is going to have his work cut out for him.  He is one of the best goaltenders in the league, but he’ll have to be unbelievable to get them close to a playoff spot.

 

Playoffs, 1st round

Dallas defeats Minnesota

Chicago defeats Anaheim

Nashville defeats St.Louis

Los Angeles defeats San Jose

 

Tampa Bay defeats Carolina

Washington defeats NY Rangers

Pittsburgh defeats NY Islanders

Florida defeats Montreal

 

Playoffs, 2nd round

Nashville defeats Dallas

Los Angeles defeats Chicago

 

Tampa Bay defeats Florida

Pittsburgh defeats Washington

 

Conference Finals

Nashville vs Los Angeles

As good as the West still is, it’s insanely deep, there now doesn’t feel like an elite team.  Everyone just has a flaw.  The Preds are the one team who could be, but they need Johansen to take a step, and they need Rinne to bounce back.  Those are limited flaws.  The Kings are another team who could be.  For all the warts that a Dustin Brown and Marian Gaborik create with the cap, they still have two elite players in the positions you want them in, still have a top end goaltender, still have an elite 2nd line centre, still have a real good farm system, still have one of the best coaches in the game.  And if we get to this point, I’d just have to go with the Kings.  Why?  Experience.  This would be the deepest the Preds have ever been.  Also, the Kings matchup with Nashville extremely well.

 

Tampa Bay vs Pittsburgh

A rematch of the 2016 East final.  It wasn’t nearly as close of a series as you’d expect a 7 game series to be.  But that was without Steve Stamkos and as much as I get after Stamkos for not being the elite player many make him out to be, he is a hell of a factor.  Even if he’s not producing, he gets so much attention from the opposition that it opens it up for that 2nd line five on five, and for the other four during the PP.  Writing this today, I’d take the Pens on paper.  But the defending champs are always low on fuel and the Lightning I expect to be pretty driven this season after two very close calls the last two seasons.  They weathered a season full of turmoil, and I think they’ll be a lot better for it.  They’d beat the Pens this time around.

 

Stanley Cup Final

Tampa Bay vs Los Angeles

Would this be the first ever all “sun belt” Cup final?  I think it would be.  Does it really matter anymore?  That feels like something I’d care about in 2004, not now.  Anyway, this would be a pretty intriguing final.  The Kings essentially representing what is old, the Lightning representing what is new.  I could see this one being a hell of a Cup final.  My initial thought is the Lightning would win, but I don’t know.  I’d trust Quick in a big game more than I’d trust Bishop.  Kopitar is a better player than Stamkos, Carter is better than Johnson, I’d probably take Doughty over Hedman, I’d probably take Sutter over Cooper.  So while, full disclosure, I started out writing this assuming the Lightning would be my pick, if it shook down like this I just don’t think the Lightning would have answers for what the Kings would toss at them.

 

2016-17 Stanley Cup Champion

Los Angeles Kings

 

Awards

Hart – Sidney Crosby (although the concussion news makes me hesitant on that)

I just think he is at his peak right now.  Any pressure that existed in past seasons should be gone.  Two Cups, and the media is back to acknowledging it’s him and everyone else in this league (although McDavid is obviously coming for that spot).

 

Norris – Victor Hedman

I expect Tampa to run away from everyone with the President’s trophy a little like Washington did last season (maybe not quite that good), and if that happens then I believe Hedman will start getting his recognition.  He’s emerged as an elite D-man already, but the media can be slow on these things unless you put up big numbers.  They love them big numbers.

 

Vezina – Carey Price

He was great before hand.  Now, the Habs are primed to have an even safer, more defensive team than they’ve had.  A focus on shot suppression and only allowing low quality shots.  Not that they haven’t been that team under Michel Therrien in the past, but it’ll be enhanced with Weber swapped in for Subban.  This should only improve Price’s already amazing numbers.

 

Calder – Zach Werenski

As we seen with Connor McDavid, it just never seems like we have a sure thing as Calder winner.  So entering the season it feels like it should be a two horse race between Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine.  I like Mitch Marner, but Matthews may cancel him out.  I like Kyle Connor, but Laine may cancel him out.  I’m going to go off the board a bit here and take Werenski.  He has a chance to put up really big numbers should he be paired with Seth Jones on the top PP unit in Columbus, and if he’s putting up big numbers, the media will fawn over him being a D-man.

 

Jack Adams – Bill Peters

This award is always tricky, because it normally goes to the coach of a team that came out of nowhere.  Good thing for me, I feel like the Hurricanes could be that team this season, and the media just may see Bill Peters as their darling should they do just that.

 

Richard – Jordan Eberle

“Homer!!!”  Whatever.  He’s going to be playing with Connor McDavid, who offensively is going to be a top three player in the league this season.  If both players stay healthy, I believe this happens.  He developed a one timer this offseason, even without McDavid he was a guy who has put up big numbers in the past, I don’t love the player but I love the potential here to have a massive goal total in 2017.

 

Selke – Ryan O’Reilly

I don’t know why I’m predicting this award.  Who the hell knows who the top defensive forward in the game will be.  The media doesn’t know, they just look for guys they deem to be good defensively and pick whoever had the highest point total out of those players.  I’ll say O’Reilly.  He was on team Canada for the World Cup so now the media will go “hmmmm, he must be good”.  Combine that with the Sabres possibly taking a big step this season (at least I believe that), and he’ll at least get consideration.  I actually still think it’ll be either Toews, Kopitar or Bergeron because they’re elite, but that’s no fun.

 

Conn Smythe – Drew Doughty

If it shakes down with the Kings going on another amazing run, the media will look to make up for the insane mistake they made in 2014.  Justin Williams had a great run, but Doughty was the MVP that year and he would be again.

 

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NFL Week 5 Hot Takes

tom-brady-bd510a49b3d76914I’ll level with you, I’m shocked that I’ve been able to do this now five weeks in a row.  And all five of you must be enjoying reading them, so that makes it worthwhile.  That self deprecating joke never gets old does it?

 

So I guess I have to start with #Tommy.  Rust free, or are the Browns that awful?  He was pretty great, and I guess he really didn’t have any rust like I wondered if he would after all.  I don’t know who not only in the AFC but in the league could take them down right now.  Brady at his best isn’t getting stopped by any defense.  And the top teams in the NFC are all teams like Minny who have incredible defenses, but not much offensively.

 

Two weeks ago I said this about the Ravens: “The Ravens aren’t the worst 3-0 team of all time, but don’t let that record fool you.  Buffalo, Cleveland, and Jacksonville, and in none of them in impressive fashion.  I’m starting to wonder if after this season it won’t be time for a coaching change there.  John Harbaugh is real good, but this is his 9th season with the team, might just simply be time for a change.”  Long ways from happening, but they’re now 3-2.  A loss at home to the Raiders who are emerging as a top team in the NFL, that’s forgivable.  A loss at home to the Redskins?  That’s not good.

 

The NY Jets won’t need a coaching change anytime soon, but Ryan Fitzpatrick is showing his true colors again.  He tends to do this.  He has a season that makes you believe he’s a borderline starter in the NFL, and then he falls back to earth.  He did it in Buffalo a few years ago, and the same script is playing out in New York now.  Because he should have been able to move the ball on the Steelers D, and couldn’t.  Mind you, their D can’t allow 31 points, but that’s tough to do against what might be the best offense in the league.

 

I don’t know what to make of the Eagles now.  Coming off a bye, you expect a win.  Facing the Lions, you expect a win.  You destroy the Steelers who have looked amazing in pretty much all their games this season other than the one against the Eagles.  I would assume that much like with the Steelers, this was a one off.  But it’s a real weird time to have a brutal game coming off a bye.

 

Indy won, and Indy was coming off a week in London, but man the Colts suck so much.  It’s Andrew Luck and nobody else.  The Bears are TERRIBLE (and I picked them as a darkhorse playoff contender like a moron), and the Bears nearly pulled off the upset, though I’m not sure it would have been an upset.  #freeAndrewLuck.

 

The Raiders are 4-1!  All of a sudden, every game has been down to the wire, the only loss was to the Falcons who have now beat the Panthers and Broncos, and this is starting to take the look of one of those teams which everyone falls in love with.  They’re exciting, they have a hard nosed/risk taking coach, they have a lot of the classic “Raider” qualities (reclamation projects, criminal element, etc.), and they have one of the best young QB’s in the game.  When I watch Derek Carr I expect him to be better than good.  Then when the game is over and they’ve won and he’s put up numbers like 25/40, 317 yards and 2 TD’s.  Not bad…

 

Ahhh the Cowboys.  Every week I give them more credit, every week I say “yeah but next week it comes crashing down”, and every week they prove me wrong.  Now, beating the Bengals at home isn’t as impressive as it would have been in the past three or four seasons.  But it’s still a pretty impressive win.  Next week they’re in Green Bay.  It’s not the biggest test, but it’s a little bit tougher than playing Cincy at home so we’ll see how they do.

 

Speaking of those Packers….you know, I talk about how I listen to Colin Cowherd a lot, and during football season if you want football talk, his is the show to listen to.  He has the best guests, the best insight, it’s just great to listen to if you’re a football junky.  Having said that, he has something against Aaron Rodgers.  Like, without a doubt has a major agenda against Aaron Rodgers.  I think the Packers have yet to hit their stride, and yet they’re 3-1 with their only loss coming on the road to the Vikings, best team in the NFC, in a tight game.  Yet Cowherd is all about piling on the Packers at every turn for some reason.  Trust me, they’re damn good.

 

When I started doing this piece five weeks ago, it was more so meant to be humorous.  I’m too tired to be humorous.  It’s 1:05 AM, and the Jays took all the energy out of me tonight.  So if you were expecting to laugh…who are we kidding, I never make you laugh.  See, self deprecation, works every time.

 

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NFL Week 5 Picks ATS

skysports-brady-free-fans-patriots_3802429Had to happen.  Three straight winning weeks, the amazing ride had to come to an end.  2-3 last week.  I’ll take that though.  Thus far on the season I’m Mr. Consistency.  Not REAL confident in this weeks picks, but the last time I felt uneasy about my picks I was good.  Last week I felt great about my picks and had a losing week.  So there you go, f*** you life.

 

New England at Cleveland

Browns +11

Is there anyone out there other than me who has the balls to even SUGGEST that Tom Brady might be a little rusty for this one?!  He hasn’t been able to practice with his teammates since the season began.  Hasn’t been able to go to the facilities or even have contact with anyone from the team.  I know he’s going to be a little pissed, but chances are he’s a little rusty.  Also, you could see the Pats let down quite a bit here.  They have their hall of fame QB back, and they’re facing the lowly Browns.  And the Browns are playing really hard.  Hugh Jackson is a heck of a game planner.  I’m not at all suggesting the Browns could win, but to cover 11 points isn’t far fetched, and I might be the only person outside of Cleveland willing to acknowledge that.

 

NY Jets at Pittsburgh

Jets +7.5

This line feels like a massive overreaction to the Steelers blowout win combined with the Jets piss poor last two weeks.  Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t as bad as he’s been of late, and the Jets are real solid everywhere else.  Fitzpatrick likely won’t have a rough week facing a Steelers secondary that is one of the weaker units in the league.  No Revis, no Eric Decker, so they are beat up a bit, but I just simply see them playing with some pride and keeping it close.

 

Tennessee at Miami

Titans +3.5

Why in the hell would one of these teams be favoured by more than a field goal?  Scary, because perhaps this is another Vegas bait job that I always talk about.  But the sharp guys I listen to say take the Titans here, so that’s exactly what I’ll do.  The Dolphins aren’t good at home, the Titans aren’t near as bad on the road as they are at home, and the Dolphins have had a pretty massive distraction this week with hurricane Matthew.

 

Cincinnati at Dallas

Bengals -2

Love this pick, because most of the money from the public is going on the Cowboys, while the sharps in Vegas are putting their money on the Bengals.  Cincy has a great D, vs a rookie QB with no Dez Bryant to throw to.  The Bengals will look to take away Ezekiel Elliott and make Dak Prescott beat them.

 

Buffalo at L.A.

Bills -1

The records don’t suggest this, but the Bills are the better team.  The Rams statistically aren’t as good as their record indicates.  So I like the Bills to sneak a win out here in what is essentially a pick’em game.  I’m not the biggest Bills fan, but I just feel as though the Rams have been lucky thus far and their luck is about to run out.

 

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