Football

Nick’s 2016 NFL Preview

I know it’s been a few years since I posted an NFL preview, but I really wanted to write something about sports and wrote about 3,000 words over the last two days to satisfy that urge. Below you can find the records I predict for each team in football, as well as who I think will make the postseason.  (more…)

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2016 NFL Free Agency Review

by Nicholas Cicale (@nickcicale)

Giants sign OLB Olivier Vernon
5 years $85 million

Good lord that’s a lot of money! The Giants aren’t messing around, and with the three additions so far (Vernon, Harrison, Jenkins) have completely revamped their defense.

Jaguars sign DE Malik Jackson
5 years $85 million

After year’s of targeting the second tier of the free agency market and getting underwhelming returns, the Jags finally went for a big gun, signing one of the more impressive pass rushers down the stretch last season. The only concern is that Jackson was just one piece in a strong front seven in Denver, and will be “the guy” in Jacksonville.

Washington signs CB Josh Norman
5 years $75 million

When you consider Josh Norman wasn’t close to a household name up until this past season, and that he’s already 28-years-old, a 5-year deal for this much seems almost sure to give headaches down the road. However, right now, it’s the perfect addition for Washington. Their defense showed vast improvements last season but still missed a top-level piece in the secondary. Norman will give them more flexibility, more confidence and take pressure off the offense.

Texans sign QB Brock Osweiler
4 years $72 million

When looking at the numbers, Osweiler posted more or less the same numbers as Brian Hoyer last season. However, Osweiler offers a lot more upside, and gives the team a young quarterback to build around. It is a lot of money for a guy who’s played in seven games. (more…)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL RANKINGS: WEEK 14

by Nicholas Cicale (@nickcicale)

My final top four of the regular season is Clemson, Alabama, Michigan State, and Stanford, after each team won their conference championship game.

Oklahoma is the odd man out, after not playing this week and only playing 12 games this year, compared to 13 by the four teams ahead of them. Their average per game is actually higher than Stanford’s, but Oklahoma can’t get credit for a game they didn’t play now that we’re at the end of the season. I’m guessing the Playoff Committee will put Oklahoma in, but going by my metric, I’d leave them out.

After the championship games this weekend, the only non-bowl game left is Army/Navy.

last ranking

COLLEGE FOOTBALL RANKINGS: WEEK 13

by Nicholas Cicale (@nickcicale)

We’re one week away from knowing the answer.

Oklahoma is standing at #3 right now, but remember that their season is over. They won’t have any more chances to earn points because the Big 12 doesn’t have a championship game, and playing only 12 games instead of 13 will always hurt teams in the Big 12. A team can’t get credit for a game they don’t play.

This mean that the winner of Iowa vs Michigan State, as well as Clemson if they win the ACC should pass Oklahoma pretty easily.

Stanford also has a chance to squeak by Oklahoma (or even Alabama if they lose to Florida) if they take care of business in their game against USC.

The only other team that has an outside chance of cracking the top four is North Carolina. Doing the unthinkable and beating Clemson won’t be enough, but if they win and Stanford loses, they’ll have a shot.

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Update 11/29 2:50 p.m.: I double checked and went through every team’s points again for the whole season to make sure I had the math right. I found a few half point errors here and there, and as a result, Oklahoma moved down from #2 to #3, and Michigan and Northwestern swapped positions. Everything else stayed put.

 

COLLEGE FOOTBALL RANKINGS: WEEK 12

by Nicholas Cicale (@nickcicale)

There are only two weeks left in the college football season, but they’re the most important of the year and could cause the most movement in the ranks.

Rivalry week will bring up key games between ranked teams: Florida vs. FSU, Notre Dame vs. Stanford, Baylor vs. TCU, Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State, Ohio State vs. Michigan, UCLA vs. USC, Texas A&M vs LSU, and Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State. Also, one-loss Navy and Houston will square off to see which team was the best of the mid majors this season, and the winner will most likely find themselves in the top 25 at season’s end.

The most notable losses this week were Ohio State and Oklahoma State, but former undefeated teams that lost to games against their conference’s toughest competition. Oklahoma State still has an outside chance if they take care of business against Oklahoma, and some of the team’s ahead of them fall. Ohio State needs a lot of help from things out of their control and would have to win against two really difficult opponents to jump up into the top 4. It could happen, but it’s highly unlikely.

One team to keep an eye on is North Carolina. They haven’t lost since the first week of the year, and if they can somehow upset Clemson in two weeks, they would have a really strong resume. Probably not top-4 worthy, but it’s cool to see a new face near the top.

cfb week 12

COLLEGE FOOTBALL RANKINGS: WEEK 11

by Nicholas Cicale (@nickcicale)

There are only three weeks of games left before the College Football Playoff, but there is still plenty of time for things to change near the top of the polls with rivalry week and conference championship games on their way.

One rank I would like defend is Ohio State at 12. I know they’re defending champions and they’re undefeated, but the best two teams they’ve played this season are Minnesota and Penn State, neither of which are all that impressive, and they haven’t completely blown out the weak teams they’ve been up against either. This shows that these ranks are doing their job: to grade a teams based on what they’ve done so far this season, and not to factor in their preseason perception. Also, just because Ohio State is ranked 12 doesn’t mean they’re far out of the playoffs. Their last three games will be against Michigan, Michigan State, and Iowa in the Big 10 Championship game, and if they win all three, there’s no way they get left out.

Another similar situation has been happening in the Big 12. The top teams in the Big 12 were all lower than their record would probably indicate for the majority of this season because they all scheduled their hardest games the last three weeks of the season. Therefore, even with one loss already, Oklahoma, TCU and Baylor have a chance to really jump up the rankings if any of them go through these last three games unscathed. That would, however, require them to beat undefeated Oklahoma State, who’s the best chance for the conference to cement themselves in the playoff picture.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL RANKINGS: Week 10

by Nicholas Cicale (@nickcicale)

There were a lot of games between ranked teams in week 10, and as a result a lot of change near the top of the rankings. Clemson clinched their division, and beat FSU for the first time in four seasons, making them a pretty strong number 1 with a really good chance to go undefeated. Even with one loss, Alabama cemented themselves in the playoff race by beating LSU. TCU, who hadn’t been tested by a decent team all season, lost big to Oklahoma State, who is now up in the top 4 and has two more chances to impress to close out the season. Also in the top four, Iowa, probably the most consistent Big 10 team this season. Iowa’s only flaw is they have had a very week schedule and their only chance of being test is in the Big 10 Championship game.

Undefeated teams that lost this week were LSU (dropped from 1 to 8),TCU (3 to 12), Michigan State (8 to 15),   Memphis (21 to unranked), and Toledo (23 to unranked).

 

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Team Battles: Players That Should Have Their Team’s Trust (and Yours)

by Nicholas Cicale (@nickcicale)

This piece is pretty easy to figure out. Throughout you fantasy football draft there are a handful of teammates that have similar value, are fighting for roles in their offense, and are going in or around the same spot. Here, I go through a few of these situations for each position (other than quarterback) and explain who should be getting your vote of confidence.

Running Backs

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Risks Worth Taking Late In Your Fantasy Football Draft

by Nicholas Cicale (@nickcicale)

On Thursday, I posted a column that talked about the idea of “drafting with hindsight,” an exercise that is meant to help identify high upside plays that may be going too early in the draft, and where projections might stand in the way of common scenes. While picking the right guys with upside could really help elevate your team, by missing on one in the opening rounds, you put yourself at a massive disadvantage from the start.

If you’re going to draft with hindsight in the six rounds or so, it’s nice to utilize the last few picks of your draft on players you think can vastly over perform their draft position, thus giving you a potential edge at the back end of your roster. This is where I want to draft rookies that could break out, players who could see an expanded roll at some point in the season, or historically proven players coming off an unexpectedly bad season.

In this column I’ve listed a few of the guys at each position I would target late. I think the guys on this list have an outside shot at performing much more than their draft-day value, however, it’s very possible that you drop them from your team after a week or two due to lack of performance. Therefore, I just to make sure everybody understands, these are guys I would ONLY take in the final round or two of a draft. I wouldn’t take them any earlier because of their huge bust potential, and wouldn’t want to have to start any of them on day one.

Quarterbacks

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Drafting with Hindsight: Avoiding This Year’s Fantasy Traps

by Nicholas Cicale (@nickcicale)

In fantasy sports, one of most intriguing things I look at every offseason is the draft recaps from previous years. Every few months thought the season I’ll see how my draft is stacking up to others, and in the offseason as I’m making my rankings I go through again to gather valuable and underutilized  information.

What was my strategy going into the draft? Where did I go right and where did I screw up? Where did I really reach for players and which players do I regret not going after? How can I capitalize on the tendencies of my league?  When looking at old drafts, you can answer a bunch of questions, but ultimately, it all tries to answer the same thing: What can I do differently this year to make sure my draft is more efficient?

In analyzing past drafts, there’s one very obvious thing that pops up time and time again, tripping up fantasy owners each after year.  People reach waaaay too early for players who have extremely high upsides and project really well, but who aren’t the least bit proven. Whether it’s a player on a new team, or in a new role, or one who broke out for a few weeks late the previous season, the early rounds are littered with shiny players that wind up being traps in the end.

(Some recent examples include Shonn Greene, CJ Spiller, Doug Martin, Montee Ball, Trent Richardson, David Wilson…the list goes on, especially for running backs, but could be extended to guys like Matt Stafford in 2012, and Cordarrelle Patterson and Percy Harvin just last year )

But not only do owners take these players with premium draft picks, they pick them when there are countless other great players still on the board, guys that are already sure-fire stars or are much more proven over their careers. People are more likely to try and grab “the next big thing,” to outsmart their competition, when there are plenty of already great players for the taking.

In the end, when looking through their old draft, the most common and frustrating thought to people who fall for the traps is usually “How the heck did I take Upside Player X when Proven Player Y was still on the board? What was I thinking?”

One strategy owners can use to combat this issue is to approach their drafts/rankings as if they were reevaluating their picks four months in the future, at the end of the season. Meaning, even if I’m projecting a hype or high upside guy to get a few more points, if there’s a proven player around I’ll tend to stick with the player I know. Owners have to take all projections with a grain of salt. What common sense is telling you is sometimes much more important.

Making some high-upside plays are an important part of constructing a fantasy roster, but they’re, by nature, the most risky picks in every draft. That’s why, despite what projections on high-upside guys might hint at, players like this shouldn’t really be drafted in the first few rounds.

CJ Anderson is a prime example of this kind of high-upside player. I currently project Anderson to be the 8th best RB this season with 252 points, and he’s getting drafted as such, going in the first round of ESPN leagues (eighth overall).  He played really well in the second half of last season, ran away with the starting gig, and is in the right situation as a back with Peyton Manning at the helm of a Gary Kubiak run-heavy offense. All signs point to a HUGE season, which makes him extremely tempting to take with the other elite options in fantasy.

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