Sunday, June 24, 2012

Euro 2012 Quarterfinal #4 Prediction: American Style

3-0 in quarterfinals predictions so far, but today's game is the toughest to predict because there is very little separating the two teams.  Both England and Italy, two traditional powerhouses, had low expectations entering the tournament.  Italy is entombed by its match fixing scandal that forced defender Domenico Criscito to pull out of the tournament days before likely being selected to the final team.  Meanwhile, England named Roy Hodgson its manager only weeks before the tournament was set to begin.  Why the late decision?  Because former coach Fabio Capello would not strip the then English captain John Terry of his captaincy in light of his alleged racial abuse.  By the way, John Terry was still selected to the team and still is featured in a prominent role much to the chagrin of some black players.  This is another reason why sports is the best reality TV.

Italy's American Team Doppelgänger: Syracuse University Men's Basketball Team. Whether it's child molestation, homophobia, or racism allegations surrounding these teams, they just seem to get better.  Somehow, these teams find a way to unite and find a way to win.  When Italy was faced with a similar scandal in 2006, they went on to win the World Cup.  Unity through adversity is the name of the game for the Azzurri.

England's American Doppelgänger: San Francisco 49ers.  Both team's hired new coaches and the style of play has not been well received by everyone, especially in England's case.  The beautiful game has become the pragmatic game for England, who coincidentally resemble the play of Italian squads in the past who are looking to win 1-0 and call it a day.  With that being said, England looks very well organized and has caused every team facing them problems with their stifling defense.  The offense is doing just enough to win them games, but now they are facing an opponent who will be just as prepared as them.  And just as talented.

Prediction: This will not be a high scoring game and the ball will primarily will reside in the midfield area.  The key to this game will be the attitude put forth by the team selections.  England, with Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have something that Italy does not: elite speed.  If one or more of those two start the game and if both see the pitch at the same time, it could really cause some problems for the Italians.  Stopping Wayne Rooney will also need to be a priority for the Italians, but his game plays right into the hands of the Italian style of clogging up the middle of the pitch, which would also open up more space for guys like Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain on the wings.  I, however, strongly believe that Ashley Young and James Milner will start on the outside and that England will have to play from behind because of it.  But, in what will be the most drama filled quarterfinal, the English will advance via the penalty shootout.  England 1 (Roooonneeyy), Italy 1 (Balotelli) (England wins PK 4-3)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Euro 2012 Quarterfinal #3 Prediction: American Style

2-0 in the quarterfinals, so far. However, the next two games are significantly harder to pick than the previous two. Today reigning champion Spain faces off against the, until recently, undefeated French since the 2010 World Cup. The key to the game will be, like in all games against Spain, how much ball possession can France muster? Spain is so good at playing keep away and nullifying any attacking threat on the field. The winner of the possession game will win the game.

Spain's American Doppelgänger: Peyton Manning-led Indianapolis Colts.  Simply put, they both play a brand of football that is not duplicated and have both won everything there is to be won.  Their best defense is their vastly superior offense.  They both depend heavily on steady ball distribution rather than the big play.  That's not to say however, they are not high scoring, because they are.  Entertainment via dominance.

France's American Doppelgänger: Miami Hurricanes of the 80s/90s.  The only difference, and it is a significant one, is that the Hurricanes won championships.  However, the spirit of both teams is eerily familiar.  Both teams have enigmatic stars who are bound to fly off the handle at any time, in good ways and bad.  French star Franck Ribery punched club teammate and Dutch star Arjen Robben over who took a free kick.  The French team revolted in the only way it knew how in the 2010 World Cup by resigning the whole campaign and walking out on the tournament.  However, since then they have lost only once in 23 matches.  Their brand of football is entertaining and they have good talent at every position.  Which France will show up today?

Prediction: France is too schizophrenic to compete against the likes of La Furia Roja.  In the end, Les Bleus will fail to keep possession of the ball and will fall apart mentally first, then physically.  Spain 2 (Iniesta, Silva), France 1 (Ribery)

Friday, June 22, 2012

EURO 2012 Quarterfinal #2 Prediction: American Style

Yesterday's prediction was pretty much spot on and today should be no different.  Yesterday was a mismatch in talent, and today's gulf in talent will be even more so.  And more Miami Heat references!

Germany's American Doppelganger: The Miami Heat.  This year's germany team is full of stars who have disappointed, and I am predicting that the disappointment ends this year (so far so good considering Miami are now champions).  Additionally, the players at the front are tall and always look awkward, but somehow get the job done.

Mario Gomez
Chris Bosh


Greece's American Doppelganger: 2001 Baltimore Ravens without the dominating defense.  Greece is one of the least interesting teams to watch, but they do have the best name in the tournament: Kyriakos Papadopoulos.  There's no guessing necessary to determine where he comes from.  There's also no guessing about the Greek's strategy: defend, defend, defend.  Like the Ravens, Greece will need to depend on its defense completely stifling its opponent in order to win.  Also like the Ravens, the defense needs to score in order to win, and Papadopoulos is dangerous in the air on set pieces.

Kyriakos Papadopoulos

Prediction: Germany 3 (Gomez, Muller, Ozil) Greece 0.  This will not be close.  Having won all three games in the "group of death," I expect Germany to put this game to bed early with an early goal, which will discourage and dishearten the Greeks who miraculously finished second in the "group of meh."  

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Euro 2012 Quarter Final Prediction: American Style

Now that Euro 2012 is in the America-friendly “win or go home” stage of the tournament, it’s only fitting for us to compare each team to an American Sports team, starting with today’s combatants: Czech Republic and Portugal. And yes, there’s a LeBron James reference.

Czech Republic’s American Team Doppelganger: The San Diego Chargers : The Czech Republic have been consistently underachieving even before they were the Czech Republic. Before their independence, the nation formally known as Czechoslovakia had been ranked as highly as number two in the world, but failed to make an impression on the prestigious European and global tournaments, a lot like the 14-2 San Diego Chargers that bowed out of the playoffs the first opportunity it could. Also, both teams’ best players wear a helmet.

Portugal’s American Team Doppelganger: The LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers: The Cavaliers had the biggest superstar in every game they played in LeBron James and Portugal has its LeBron James in Cristiano Ronaldo. Both are physically imposing and are arguably the most talented players in their respective sports. Like the LeBron-led Cavaliers, Portugal is a defensive-minded team that relies on its superstar for all offensive production. The supporting cast for both star players has more questions than answers surrounding them, keeping the superstars from their championships.

Prediction: When the goalie is the best player on your team in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the team always has a chance. The same cannot be said for soccer. Sure it helps, but soccer does not have line changes to keep the players in front of the goaltender fresh like hockey does. Czech goaltender Petr Cech (pronounced ‘Czech’) has the task of keeping his defenders organized and effective for 90 minutes despite having arguably the best player in the tournament, Cristiano Ronaldo, in constant attack-mode. Unfortunately for the Czechs, Ronaldo is in form having scored twice against the Dutch in the final game of the group stage, and should carry the momentum over to today’s game, spelling the end to the unlikely run of the Czechs. Portugal 2 (Ronaldo, Nani), Czech Republic 0

Monday, June 4, 2012

Confessions of a Mockaholic

Yesterday I participated in not one, but two partially simultaneous mock drafts. In the mock draft hosted by the friendly guys at (G.E) I selected first overall, and in the dreaded sixth spot in the other for RotoWire’s (RW) “Mock Draft Monday.” The results of which were eerily similar.

Round 1:
G.E Draft: (1.01) Arian Foster
RW Draft: (1.06) Maurice Jones-Drew
Can’t complain with getting either player, especially MJD with the sixth overall pick. It was the first time I have seen him go outside of the top-4. Guys in the RW draft room had concerns with the mileage on MJD’s tires plus the inferior offense in Jacksonville. Can’t say I can refute either claim, but the value at 1.06 was too much to pass up.

Round 2:
G.E. Draft: (2.12): Darren Sproles
RW Draft: (2.07): Rob Gronkowski
Two names that you never have seen in these spots going into last season. Given that both drafts were PPR formatted, that elevated the value of both guys for me, especially Sproles. Sproles, after Brees, was the MVP of the Saints last season, and that should not change going forward. I have mentioned before that I thought Rob Gronkowski was the MVP of fantasy football last season . Gronkowski was far and away the best tight end last season and even though he is unlikely to repeat his output from last season, he still would have been the fourth best tight end scorer last year if you took away ALL of his TDs last year. Still pretty darn good.

Round 3:
G.E. Draft: (3.01): Brandon Marshall
RW Draft (3.06): Jamaal Charles
So after three rounds in both drafts, I have drafted two PPR gold mines at RB and one solid receiving option that should load up on both receptions and yards and possibly touchdowns. Brandon Marshall’s upside, in particular, is limitless now that he once again has a legitimate quarterback throwing him the ball. Jamaal Charles is a little bit more of a risk coming back from major knee surgery, but will not be asked to carry too much of the load with Peyton Hillis backing him up. Charles has proven that he can be a dynamite player in a two-back system given his past success with Thomas Jones two seasons ago.

Round 4:
G.E. Draft (4.12): Antonio Brown
RW Draft (4.07): Fred Jackson
The trend continues that I continue to target skill players as opposed to a possible QB. In one-quarterback leagues, it is not imperative to draft an elite quarterback. The second tier quarterbacks offer just as good of a value a few rounds later while the skill position players do not. This is evident in the fact that my choices at WR in the fourth round of the GridironExperts draft were DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Percy Harvin so I ultimately had to take Antonio Brown as my WR2, which is decent but not tremendous value. However, nabbing Fred Jackson as my flex/RB3 in the RW draft was a steal. He was on a torrid pace in Buffalo prior to getting injured and could easily skyrocket up draft boards with a good offseason.

Round 5:
G.E. Draft (5.01): Doug Martin
RW Draft (5.06): Antonio Brown
This round proved further to me that it is much more imperative to get as many skill position players early in drafts as opposed to quarterbacks given that Antonio Brown was my WR1 in the RW draft because I waited until the fifth round to take a WR (Gronkowski is my WR1 in reality but he is TE eligible for bonus value). I learned, however, that in 3 WR leagues it is not a good idea to skip on WR in the first four rounds because the talent pool gets thin quickly. In the G.E. draft, I got good value on Doug Martin as my RB3/flex player. Yes, I know he may not be the starting back at the beginning of the season, but by the fantasy playoffs, he will be the every down back in Tampa Bay. His ability to catch and block as well as run will serve him well in the NFL. I have him ranked higher than Trent Richardson this season because of Tampa Bay’s easier schedule compared to Cleveland’s, especially the in-division defenses. Yes, there is a comments section below and I will defend this point there.

Round 6:
G.E. Draft: (6.12): Jay Cutler
RW Draft: (6.07): Philip Rivers
See what I mean by eerily similar? Round six was quarterback time and Cutler and Rivers have unique opportunities to prove their critics wrong this year. A typical strategy for me heading into any draft is to draft at least one receiver from the same team as my QB to get the 10-pt TD special whenever, in this case, when Cutler throws a TD pass to Brandon Marshall in the G.E. league. When you look at that duo playing against you in a head-to-head week, it has to make you at least a little nervous. If there is a QB/WR or TE combination you like going into a given year, do not be afraid to target both.

Round 7:
G.E. Draft (7.01): Robert Meachem
RW Draft: (7.06): Pierre Garcon
I hated myself for drafting Garcon, but the more I look back on the Garcon pick I start to like it more and more. I can see Garcon having a similar kinship to Robert Griffin III that former Baylor teammate Kendall Wright did. Both have good speed and so-so route running ability, but both can adjust their routes well if the quarterback is in trouble/running. With Meachem, this is a boom or bust pick because I am banking on him being Rivers’ #1 target in San Diego. Meachem was a big-play receiver in New Orleans and should continue that ability in San Diego.

Round 8:
G.E. Draft (8.12): Denarius Moore
RW Draft: (8.07): Robert Meachem
An AFC West special. In the RW draft, I got my QB/WR combo with Rivers/Meachem (told you, eerily similar drafts). Denarius Moore emerged as a potential threat in Oakland with Carson Palmer. The Palmer/Moore combination could be the most underrated QB/WR combination in fantasy football next season. Oakland has talent (as a Chargers fan that makes me cringe to type that), but has always somehow shot itself in the foot with bad trades/drafts. Now under new management, it looks like Oakland may make a resurgence in what is an improving division overall with Denver getting Peyton Manning, Kansas City getting its injured players back. The only team that did not get noticeably better was the Chargers who still have not fired Norv Turner and have opted to get different results with the same process/pieces. I think there’s a word for that: insanity.

Round 9:
G.E. Draft (9.01): Josh Freeman
RW Draft (9.06): Robert Griffin III
Round six was QB1 time and round 9 was QB2 time. Overall, I don’t think I could complain with the QB tandems of Cutler/Freeman and Rivers/RG3. Both tandems have question marks, but also have the ability to knock it out of the park.

Round 10:
G.E. Draft (10.12): Jacob Tamme
RO Draft (10.07): Randy Moss
Talk about upside. Tamme could emerge as the TE who showed some promise when playing with Peyton Manning. Wait, he’s playing with him again? BONUS. Randy Moss does not have one of the world’s best QB throwing to him like Tamme does, but still possesses tremendous value in the tenth round. Quick, name a cornerback who could cover Moss one-on-one all game? Yeah, I couldn’t either.

The Best from the Rest:
G.E. Draft (11.01): Rashard Mendenhall
RW Draft (12.07): Rashard Mendenhall
First round talent in the 11th or 12th round? Yes, please. Even if he effectively misses half the season (early reports sound good for Mendenhall), grabbing him late in drafts and stashing him away until the bye weeks is a solid strategy. The other guy I targeted in both drafts but missed on in the double-digit rounds was Michael Floyd. Floyd will easily outperform Justin Blackmon this season and yet is being drafted later. It boggles my mind.