- The Season's Over -

Degenerate Gambler Weekly: Week 9 NFL Picks Against the Spread

November 3, 2011

Michael Turner of the Atlanta Falcons

By Brian Spencer

How We Did Last Week

We went 4-3, and are still glaring in the direction of the Saints, last week’s Best Bet, for that shitshow in St. Louis. We also missed on the Browns, who got 9.5 points–they lost by 10–and the favored Chargers, who lost in overtime at Kansas City after Philip Rivers threw for 369 yards, but couldn’t find the endzone but threw 2 INTs, took 3 sacks, and lost a fumble.

Good times.

Having kicked this column off in Week 6, our record now stands at 11-10. Not so hot, but stick with us: we’ll help you earn back that dog food money yet.

Best Bet

Atlanta Falcons (-6.5) at Indianapolis Colts: Pass-rushing demons Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are the only factors that give us slight pause, particularly with Falcons’ starting LT Sam Baker out. What else do the Colts have going for them right now?

They’ve lost their last 3 games by an average of 27 points–okay, that includes that 55-point laugher against the Saints 2 weeks ago, but still–and they’re at or very close to the bottom of the league in most major offensive and defensive categories. Their coach is squarely on the hot seat. We’re not sure what kind of home-field advantage an 0-8 team has, either.

The Falcons have been underwhelming, and certainly not resembled the Super Bowl-contending team many predicted they would be, but they’re coming off two straight wins (and a bye, last week) and should have no trouble ramming Michael Turner down the Colts’ throats. We see no reason why the Falcons shouldn’t win this one by at least 10 points. PICK: Falcons Cover

Strong Bets

Green Bay Packers (-5.5) at San Diego Chargers: Following their frustrating performance and non-cover on Monday, I swore we wouldn’t pick the Chargers game this week, regardless of the spread. They’re too unpredictable, and already feel like that team that’s going to fuck you on a weekly basis, covering when you bet against them and not covering when you bet with them. There’s one wild card every year.

I’d be lying, then, if I said I was totally comfortable with this because I’m not. Yes, the Packers are clearly the NFL’s best team right now and just spent a week resting up on bye. They’re 4-0 on the road. On the other side, the Chargers have only had 5 days to focus on the Packers and are pretty banged up, particularly in the backfield with starter Ryan Matthews and third-stringer Curtis Brinkley both likely out. Mike Tolbert is expected to carry the load, but keep in mind he was out last week and isn’t 100% either.

They still have big-time playmakers, though, in WRs Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd and TE Antonio Gates. You have to think Rivers is going to have a breakout game at some point, but then again, maybe not. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the Packers should cover this, and we think they will cover this, but wouldn’t be shocked if they don’t.
Pick: Packers Cover

San Francisco 49ers Defense

Tennessee Titans (-3.5) vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Just as we were suspicious of the low 3.5 points the Steelers were only favored by a few weeks ago in Arizona (they won by 12), we’re similarly leery that Vegas knows something we don’t here.

It’s fair to say that the 5-2 Bengals have enjoyed a fairly easy schedule thus far, with their wins coming against teams with a combined record of 12-25; take the Bills out and it’s 7-23. As we discussed last week, however, that defense is legit, ranked 4th overall in both points allowed and yards allowed, 2nd in rushing yards allowed, and 9th in passing yards allowed.

Rookie QB Andy Dalton is clicking with fellow rookie A.J. Green (33 receptions, 516 yards, 5 TDs), and though he’s not the league’s most exciting starting RB, Cedric Benson is back from a one-game suspension and is still an upgrade on backup Bernard Scott.

In short, this is much more complete team than the one Tennessee is fielding, and with two tough games apiece looming against the Steelers and Ravens, the Bengals know they need to take care of business against middling teams like the Titans. If they lose, it’ll be by a slim margin. PICK: Bengals Cover

San Francisco 49ers (-3.5) at Washington Redskins: Was anybody out there sad to see Mike Shanahan get shut out for the first time in his NFL head-coaching career last week? Didn’t think so. A week removed from an ugly 23-0 thrashing at the hands of the Buffalo Bills (9 sacks allowed, 2 turnovers, 178 total yards) and in the midst of a three-game slide, a visit by the brutally efficient 6-1 ‘Niners is, well, it’s not good.

The 49ers have rattled five consecutive wins, including three on the road against playoff-caliber teams (Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Detroit). We’ll never be fans of QB Alex Smith, but will give him some credit: he’s playing within himself and the offense’s modest game plan and not doing anything to put his team in a bad position. He is, indeed, right now the league’s best Game Manager. I know how depressing that sounds.

More importantly, that defense is dominating. Check out these per-game allowances: 15.3 points (1st), 73.4 rushing yards (1st), 3.5 rushing yards/attempt (4th), passing yards/attempt (12th). Good luck, John Beck. PICK: 49ers Cover

Just Trust Us

Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.5) vs. Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens trashed Pittsburgh in Week 1 to the tune of 35-7. Great win for them. A few fun facts though:

+ The Steelers turned the ball over seven times in that game. That won’t happen this time.
+ The Ravens were at home–this is a vastly different team on the road (See Week 7 at Jacksonville.)
+ The Steelers’ offensive line–really, their whole offense–was in shambles to start the season. It’s still not a dominant line, but the reintroduction of Max Starks at LT has worked wonders.
+ The Steelers are 6-1 since that opening day loss and are coming off an impressive 25-17 win over the New England Patriots.
+ Ravens QB Joe Flacco has a career 2-5 record against the Steelers; at PIT, his average QB Rating is 61.3.
Pick: Steelers Cover

Kansas City Chiefs (-5.5) vs. Miami Dolphins: A few weeks ago I said that the KC Chiefs were terrible. Can I take it back? They’re not terrible. In fact, kudos to the Chiefs for bouncing back from a 0-3 start to win four in a row, including a huge (and improbable) overtime win Monday night over the San Diego Chargers. Considering all the injuries they’ve dealt with, and the fact that they’re still starting Matt Cassel at quarterback, being tied for first place in the up-for-grabs AFC West is impressive.

The Miami Dolphins, bless their little hearts, are still winless but have kept the final outcome close for two consecutive weeks, losing somewhat of a heartbreaker 20-17 on the road against the NY Giants last week, and feeling the wrath of Tebow’s God two weeks ago 18-15 against Denver. Couple that with a growing sense of desperation, and the 5.5 spread makes sense.

The Chiefs are playing with abundant confidence right now, though, and we all know that Arrowhead Stadium is up there with CenturyLink Field in Seattle and Ford Field in Detroit (this season, at least) as one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL. Rookie first-round WR Jonathan Baldwin finally broke out last week (5 catches, 82 yards, 1 TD): that’s a huge development for this offense if he can sustain relevance. PICK: Chiefs Cover

Dallas Cowboys (-12.5) vs. Seattle Seahawks: The Cowboys are clearly the better team here, but what have they done thus far in their 3-4 season to warrant a double-digit spread like this? Oh, they absolutely could blow out the Seahawks, who are 1-3 on the road and coming off a 22-point home loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. They’re missing their top two corners, are near the bottom of the league in points per (15.6), and rank 31st overall in both team rushing yards/per (77.7) and total yards per (284).

There’s (a little) more to the story of the Seahawks’ thus-far forgettable season, though. Last week’s game against the Bengals was actually a close 5-point game with 4:50 left in the fourth quarter: late TDs from Brandon Tate (56-yard punt return TD) and Reggie Nelson (75-yard INT) blew things open. They also nearly upset the Atlanta Falcons in Week 4, and stunned the New York Giants on the road 36-25 a week later. The offense may be terrible overall, but they’re certainly much better with Tarvaris Jackson behind center: he’s thrown for 300+ yards in 2 of his past 3 games.

The Cowboys have been tough against the run (4th overall), but their best linebacker, Sean Lee, is out, as is starting CB Mike Jenkins. We think the Seahawks’ somewhat underrated defense and middling offense will make enough plays–or maybe it’s that the Cowboys won’t make enough plays–to keep the final score within 10 points. PICK: Seahawks Cover

Michael Turner and San Francisco 49ers Defense Photo Credits: Icon SMI

1 CommentPosted by Brian Spencer on Nov. 3, 2011 at 5:35pm in ETB Articles, NFL

Degenerate Gambler Weekly: Week 8 NFL Picks Against the Spread

October 27, 2011

Drew Brees

By Brian Spencer

How We Did Last Week

Meh. It wasn’t a total disaster, but our 3-4 record for Week 7 was disappointing. We swung and missed on the favored Titans and Raiders covering–both were handily blown out–but few saw that coming.

What rankles us more is the Browns failing to cover -3.5 in the biggest Toilet Bowl game so far, a mind-numbing 6-3 win over the Seattle Seahawks. Most of our ire is directed at Seahawks DT Red Bryant, who not only blocked two Phil Dawson field-goal attempts but also prevented a third one late in the fourth quarter. From the good people at ProFootballTalk:

After the Seahawks sacked Browns quarterback Colt McCoy on third down with about a minute to go, Bryant head-butted Browns tight end Alex Smith. That personal foul got Bryant ejected and gave the Browns an automatic first down, and all they had to do was kneel down twice to run out the clock.


The Vikings’ inspired effort against the Green Bay Packers wasn’t good enough for a win, but 1.5 points good enough to cover the 7.5 spread in their 33-27 loss. We thought that one was in the bag, particularly with Aaron Rodgers shredding the Minny secondary and staking his team to a healthy 33-17 lead after three quarters. Hey, that’s football.

Best Bet

Cincinnati Bengals (-2.5) at Seattle Seahawks: The 2-4 Seahawks return to Seattle for just their third home game following that riveting loss at Cleveland… and they’re still in second place in the NFC West! Exciting! This team has a well-known (and earned) reputation for overachieving at home in what’s always a rowdy atmosphere, but we wonder if that home-field advantage is strong enough in this matchup against the streaking Cincinnati Bengals to warrant this low spread: they’re otherwise overmatched in almost every category.

The 4-2 Bengals look like a playoff team. Led by unglamorous-but-effective rookie QB Andy Dalton and explosive rookie WR A.J. Green, the Bengals offense is capable, though not unstoppable, but it’s their rock-solid defense that’ll largely determine the team’s fate going forward. They’re yielding just 18.5 points/per (4th overall), and are 5th overall in both passing and rushing yards allowed. That’s bad news for a stinky Seahawks offense putting up just 16.2 points and 262.8 total yards per. QB Tarvaris Jackson looks like he’ll return to the starting lineup, but he’s really not been much better than Charlie Whitehurst. Cringe.

The home-field advantage is not insignificant, but neither is Seattle’s loss of starting CBs Marcus Trufant and Walter Thurmond. Look for Dalton to hook up with Green for another score and for the Bengals DEF to cause a few key sacks and turnovers. PICK: Bengals Cover

Strong Bets

New Orleans Saints (-11.5) at St. Louis Rams: Heading into a tangle with a defense that’s giving up 28.5 points/per, the Saints are averaging a league-best 34.1 points/per, a number significantly aided by the 62 smackers they laid on the Colts in primetime last week. Coincidentally, the Colts defense is the only one that’s been more generous than the Rams’. Happy Late-October, Drew Brees.

Brees is again leading a prolific attack that’s 2nd in total yards, 2nd in passing yards, and 9th in rushing yards. New Orleans is relatively healthy on both sides of the ball (though rookie RB Mark Ingram is likely out), they’re motivated, and… enough about the Saints. This one’s about the winless Rams.

Sam Bradford will likely sit again, which means the league’s worst offense, the only one averaging less than 10 points/per (9.3, to be precise), will again be led by A.J. Feeley. Get psyched, Rams fans! The question isn’t if the Rams can pull an upset here–they absolutely cannot–but whether they can cover that hefty 11.5 spread. Their last two games have been a 27-point loss to the Cowboys and a 21-point loss to the Packers, so here’s your answer.
PICK: Saints Cover

Tim Tebow

San Diego Chargers (-3.5) at Kansas City Chiefs: He can deny it all he wants, but something’s not right with San Diego’s bolt-thrower Philip Rivers. One of the league’s best and most consistent regular-season QBs for the past 3 years, Rivers has looked out of sorts from the get-go and is on track for a career-worst season through 6 games. He’s thrown more picks (9) than TDs (7), and based on what he saw in DirecTV’s “Short Cuts” version of last week’s Chargers/Jets game, my colleague Mr. Thell is convinced Rivers is hiding some sort of injury.

You’ll recall that the last time Rivers and the Chargers ventured to Arrowhead Stadium, in Week 1 last season, they left with an unexpected 21-14 loss to a Chiefs team that unexpectedly went on to the playoffs. Last year was last year, however, and though the Chargers’ four wins have come against teams with a combined 6-19 record–including a narrow 20-17 win over these Chiefs in Week 3–we have a hunch Ryan Matthews and Mike Tolbert are in for big games against a KC defense allowing 125.5 yards rushing/per; Matthews had 149 yards from scrimmage and 2 TDs in their first matchup. Beyond Dwayne Bowe, the Chiefs offense simply has nothing to counter-punch with. PICK: Chargers Cover

Detroit Lions (-3.5) at Denver Broncos: You knew it was going to happen, right? (Of course you did, it was predicted in Corinthians 16:22.) You knew Tim Tebow, after logging 56 minutes of some of the worst quarterback play I’ve ever seen on a NFL field (4-14, 40 yards), would bounce back and comandeer a come-from-behind victory against the winless Miami Dolphins. There’s simply no way our Lord would let the bad guys win and fail to deliver the good guys into the victorious promised land.

Lost in the “excitement” of Denver’s 18-15 overtime over the putrid Dolphins is the fact that those were both very, very bad teams… and that the Dolphins were actually the better one, arguably by far, for all but the last 4 minutes of regulation. Fantasy production aside, Tebow was God awful (ahem), somehow actually worse than expected. At one point “he sailed one pass maybe 15 yards over the head of a wide-open receiver, prompting play-by-play guy Kevin Harlan to say softly, almost to himself, ‘But there’s no wind,’ as if ruminating over a Zen koan,” noted Deadspin’s Tommy Craggs. He was sacked 7 times.

There’s been a lot of media backlash against the 5-2 Detroit Lions this week following two straight home losses to playoff-contending teams, and that’s reflected in this paltry 3.5 spread (now down to 2.5). Let the suckers take Tebow’s Broncos: we’ll take the far better team that’s thus far 3-0 on the road, sports the NFL’s 9th-ranked pass defense, and will unleash the NFL’s best WR on an aging Broncos secondary. Expect another dominant performance from Megatron, regardless of who’s behind center. I smell a double-digit win for the visitors and 3 Tebow INTs. Pick: Lions Cover

Just Trust Us

San Francisco 49ers (-9.5) vs. Cleveland Browns: With Jim Harbaugh and his 5-1 49ers done jacking themselves off during the bye week after their impressive 25-19 win at Detroit in Week 6, they welcome an uninspiring Browns team whose offense littered Cleveland Browns Stadium with pellet-sized turds last week against the Seattle Seahawks. There’s just little to nothing to see on that side of the ball in Cleveland, save for promising WR Greg Little–somebody please get that guy a legitimate quarterback.

The Browns defense is another story. Led by unheralded CB Joe Haden, the Browns are surprisingly fielding the league’s top-ranked pass defense and are in the top 10 in points allowed. If they can contain a resurgent Frank Gore (393 yards rushing, 3 TDs in last 3 games) and force QB Alex Smith, quite possibly the league’s most accomplished checkdown artist, to try and make plays, they have a chance to keep it close. In a game pitting two teams who both rely heavily on their defenses to hide middling offenses, we’ll take the points in what figures to be a slugfest. Pick: Browns Cover

Houston Texans (-10.5) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: I can’t imagine what the ratings would have been for the second half of the Jags’ unwatchable 12-7 win over the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football if not for fantasy football. Both defenses came to play, but that doesn’t excuse the brutal offensive performances, particularly on the Ravens’ side as 10.5-point favorites (7 first-half passing yards, no first downs until 5:26 left in the third quarter, 146 total yards).

Jacksonville travels to Houston as 10.5 dogs, again, to take on a 4-3 Texans team that thumped the directionless Tennessee Titans 41-7 on the road last week behind 219 yards combined rushing from Arian Foster and Ben Tate, arguably the best 1-2 backfield combo in the league. They figure to rely heavily on them again with WR Andre Johnson likely out or at best very limited, which will be a good test for an underrated Jags defense ranked 8th in points allowed and 10th against the run. They also don’t give up many passing plays over 20 yards, which doesn’t bode well for Texans QB Matt Schaub, who sports a career 1-5 record against Jacksonville.

Jaguars rookie QB Blaine Gabbert may have a future in this league, but we’ve seen enough through six games to know he doesn’t have much of a present, particularly with that piss-poor receiving corps and a mostly listless Marcedes Lewis. The recipe for Jags success, or at least for staying in the game, is a steady diet of the venerable Maurice Jones-Drew, who toted the rock 30 times against Baltimore and now has 22+ carries in 4 of 7 games. Amazing stat considering, as Mr. Thell pointed out last night over microbrews at Barcade, the man is coming off a serious knee surgery.

Despite all this–the strong defense, the elite running back, the shocking win over the Baltimore Ravens–the Jaguars are still a pretty bad 2-5 team that could walk in here and get blown out. We don’t think the Texans have two consecutive blow-out efforts in ‘em right now though. Pick: Jaguars Cover

Carolina Panthers (-3.5) vs. Minnesota Vikings: Mired on a 1-6 team struggling through a transistion (read: rebuilding) season, Vikings RB Adrian “All Day” Peterson has quietly pounded his way to the top of the league’s rushing pack with 712 yards (4.9 YPC) and 8 TDs. On the heels of a blockbuster performance against a stout Green Bay Packers’ run defense (24 carries for 175 yards, 1 TD), AP draws a hospitable Panthers unit ranked 29th overall against the run and one that’s allowed the most long-gainers and TDs to opposing RBs in the league. Any guesses as to the Vikings offensive game plan on Sunday?

Wins will continue to be hard to come by with a somewhat brutal schedule looming after next week’s bye: @ GB, OAK, @ ATL, DEN, @ DET, NO, @ WSH, CHI. Still, we don’t see Peterson, Jared Allen, and the rest of this team packing it in like some teams have. Rookie QB Christian Ponder will be one to watch as the season progresses; he’s already helped wash away the bad taste Donovan McNabb left in Vikings Nation’s collective mouth. (I know how that sounds; get your head out of the gutter.) PICK: Vikings Cover

Drew Brees & Tim Tebow Prayer Circle Photo Credits: Icon SMI

No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Oct. 27, 2011 at 1:29pm in ETB Articles, NFL

Degenerate Gambler Weekly: Week 7 NFL Picks Against the Spread

October 20, 2011

Pittsburgh Steelers

By Brian Spencer

How We Did Last Week

It was a good-not-great debut for Degenerate Gambler Weekly as ETB went 4-3 on our Week 6 picks against the spread. If you wagered an equal amount of paycheck points across the board on all seven picks, you still came out on top.

The high point was the Jets clubbing the Dolphins 24-6 in a thrilling MNF matchup; as you recall, I predicted a 23-6 final score. MNF gets another clunker this week when the Baltimore Ravens, a team that around here we find mostly unwatchable, visit the Jacksonville Jaguars, who for some unbeknownst reason make two MNF appearances this year. Sunday night’s primetime game on the Fuddy-Duddy Network isn’t much better as the 14-point favorite New Orleans Saints host the Indianapolis Colts. Isn’t it time to put flex scheduling–for SNF and MNF–in play all season long to avoid this?

Despite going 4-3, we did miss our Best Bet (Saints didn’t cover and lost to the Bucs… booooo!) and one of our Strong Bets (Lions didn’t cover and lost to the 49ers… hissssss!). We’ve been in the film room all week, however, and promise to get that fixed for Week 7.

Best Bet

Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.5) at Arizona Cardinals: Amazing what a decent left tackle can do for your offense, eh? After an uninspiring 2-2 start to the season in which Ben Roethlisberger looked every bit the part of Rob “Robo-Sack” Johnson behind a decimated offensive line, ex-LT Max Starks rejoined the team and helped shore up the Steelers’ most glaring weakness.

Let’s not pin their two-week offensive resurgence solely on Starks’ arrival, but Roethlisberger has clearly looked more comfortable (36-57, 428 yards, 6 TDs, 1 INT) and the running game has taken off (11 carries, 107 yards for Jonathan Dwyer in Week 5; 23 carries, 146 yards, 1 TD for Rashard Mendenhall in Week 6) since then. This week the surging Steelers offense matches up with a mediocre-at-best Cardinals defense allowing just over 24 points and 258 passing yards/per. They’re also near the bottom of the league in total sacks (11) and interceptions (4).

You know things are bad when you lose by 24 points to the 1-5 Minnesota Vikings; you know they’re really bad when your starting quarterback is named Kevin Kolb, who in his past three games has a combined 61.4 QB Rating while tossing 5 picks and just 1 touchdown. The Cards are always tougher at home (read: luckier), but Kolb will struggle against the Steelers’ top-rated pass defense and strong pass rush.

The spread seems suspiciously low, which gives us pause, but we’re still confident everything adds up to a 10+ point win for the visitors. PICK: Steelers Cover

Strong Bets

Green Bay Packers (-7.5) at Minnesota Vikings: Not only are the Packers the only undefeated team left in the NFL, they’re clearly the best one. Aaron Rodgers has been scary good and is well on his way to a career season, with 2,037 yards passing (70% completions), 17 TDs, 3 INTs, 2 rushing TDs, and a league-leading 122.4 QB Rating; by comparison, Tom Brady is second with 104.8. Wow.

The thankfully short-lived Donovan McNabb Era in Minnesota ends after just 6 games (even his mom couldn’t watch anymore), with jaunty first-round pick Christian Ponder taking over. He had over a month to watch McNabb get knocked around behind one of the league’s worst offensive lines, so we presume he’s lobbying heavily for a game plan centered on Adrian Peterson getting 30+ carries.

The Vikings’ ferocious pass rush, perhaps the team’s lone saving grace in what’s already a forgettable season, figures to give the Packers’ O-line some fits, but not as many as the Packers’ well-rounded wrecking crew will deal to Ponder & Co. PICK: Packers Cover

Oakland Raiders

Oakland Raiders (-3.5) vs. Kansas City Chiefs: A week after all-world punter Shane “I Want to Have Your Babies” Lechler was the best quarterback on the field for the Raiders (1-1, 35 yards, 1 TD on a fake field goal), the recently acquired and previously “retired” Carson Palmer projects to start ahead of warm body Kyle Boller.

Isn’t the dearth of playable quarterbacks in a quarterback-driven league amazing? The Raiders are more comfortable starting a guy who hasn’t played a snap of football since last season, and has been with the team less than a week, than one who’s been with them since last year… and, honestly, Palmer probably does give them a better chance to win than Boller does. There are some exceptions, but most teams are essentially fucked if their starter goes down because the guy behind him is more often than not incapable and a worst-case scenario.

Anyway, we like this 4-2 Raiders team, particularly at home, though the visiting Chiefs have beaten them there three out of their past four matchups. Important fact about your 2011 Chiefs, though: they’re terrible. Despite Dwayne Bowe’s best efforts (23 catches, 420 yards, 4 TDs), the Jamaal Charles-less offense is averaging just 15.4 points/per (29th overall) and the defense, well, they’re the worst in the NFL in allowing an even 30/per. Don’t expect an against-the-grain performance this week. PICK: Raiders Cover

Carolina Panthers (-2.5) vs. Washington Redskins: He’s been a better fantasy player than real-life player so far (fourth-ranked QB based on ETB’s scoring), but Cam Newton has at least kept his otherwise poor Panthers in the game into the fourth quarter and given them a chance to win. Last week’s 31-17 loss at Atlanta represented their biggest end-game deficit: the other four losses have been by an average of 5.5 points.

Newton’s 9 interceptions in those 5 losses hasn’t helped, but he’s arguably made up for at least half of them with his ability to extend the play, turn negative yardage into positive gains, and connect with a rejuvenated Steve Smith (32 catches, 675 yards, 3 TDs). The real problem here is the Panthers’ anemic defense, which is yielding a generous 27.2 points/per (tied 29th overall) and a whopping 140 yards/per on the ground (31st) in the wake of starting MLB and leading tackler Jon Beason’s season-ending torn Achilles in Week 1. Michael Turner burned them for 139 yards and 2 TDs last week, and Matt Forte hung a career-best 205 yards on them in Week 4.

The Redskins, now led by QB John Beck, fortunately employ nobody nearly as explosive as Turner or Forte. Following a week of bye-week hype for Ryan Torain, he and the rest of the ‘Skins offense laid a vomitous turd on Fed Ex Field against the previously matchup-friendly Philadelphia Eagles. Aided by four Rex Grossman interceptions, Torain rushed 10 times for just 22 yards and Roy Helu 2 times for 6 yards; Beck was actually the most effective running threat with 2 carries for 14 yards and a score.

Beck is no worse than Grossman, and give the Redskins a (huge) advantage on defense, but Newton and Smith will concoct enough magic to win and cover what’s almost a pick-em spread at home. PICK: Panthers Cover

Just Trust Us

Miami Dolphins (-3.5) vs. Denver Broncos: Glory, Glory, Hallelujah! Forgive us our sins, oh Lord, and may we never again doubt the Mile High Messiah, who like Moses will soon divide the AFC West Ocean and lead his Broncos to the Blessed Land of Milk & Honey & Touchdowns. We faithfully put our fantasy fates and billfold contents in the saintly hands of Brother Tebow, dear Lord. Deliver us from failure, oh Lord, and may God bless those Broncos. PICK: Broncos Cover

Cleveland Browns (-3.5) vs. Seattle Seahawks: Two evenly matched teams in that they’re both in the league’s bottom half in points allowed, bottom third in scoring, and bottom tenth in watchability.

The Browns are sorting through issues with a 30th-ranked rushing “attack” that’s been hampered by an ineffective, unhealthy, and perhaps tuned-out Peyton Hillis (52.8 yards/per, 3.5 YPC). The Seahawks are right there with ‘em, averaging just 1.6 yards more per game than the Browns on the back of Marshawn Lynch, whose predictably poor season was somewhat disguised in Week 5 by an anamolous effort against a bumbling Giants defense (12 carries, 98 yards, 1 TD). Lynch has otherwise racked up 141 yards (2.7 YPC) and 1 TD in the ‘Hawks other games, but is still enjoying a free pass thanks to his beastly run in last year’s playoffs.

When two blah 2-3 teams collide with a toss-up spread like this one, logic usually says take the points. We’ll take the home team and the one not starting “Checkdown” Charlie Whitehurst at QB. PICK: Browns Cover

Tennessee Titans (-3.5) vs. Houston Texans: We’re not sure what to make of the Titans. They looked legit during a three-game win streak that included a 26-13 spanking of the Ravens at home, but were flattened in Week 5 at Pittsburgh 38-17. This week’s tilt with the division rival Houston Texans is the first of three consecutive post-bye home games that are all winnable, starting with this one against a Texans team missing two of its top impact players in WR Andre Johnson and DE/LB Mario Williams.

We’d feel more comfortable with -2.5 points, but don’t like what we’ve seen from the battered Texans the last 2 weeks and think Chris Johnson has a good shot at the breakout game we’ve been waiting for. PICK: Titans Cover

Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders Photo Credits: Icon SMI

No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Oct. 20, 2011 at 2:20pm in ETB Articles, NFL

Degenerate Gambler Weekly: Week 6 NFL Picks Against the Spread

October 14, 2011

Darryl Gamble

By Brian Spencer

Hey, kids, look! Empty the Bench is back, and this time they’re gambling away their paychecks to degenerate low lifes and stinky Hacidics! Yay!

Degenerate Gambler Weekly is a new weekly ETB column–no, seriously, we’re going to follow through on this one… honest–in which we, your lovable NFL Sunday Degenerates, share the seven NFL picks we’ve made against the spread for our weekly pool at the local watering hole. Don’t worry, Mom, it’s just for points, not money: 100 points entrance fee and 11 points a week.

Why should you bother following and trusting our picks? Because most of the time we know our shit, even if we don’t always get into (not)witty nitty-gritty stat nerdom in our explanations of why these are our picks. Just trust us: we have a proven track record, which from here on out we’ll keep track of here. The last few weeks have been particularly good: 16-5 against the spread. Of course, that means these will all be wrong.

Okay, you get it. Welcome, my degenerate brethren, and may your wallets prosper with points.

Best Bet

New Orleans Saints (-4.5) at Tampa Bay Bucs: In a week without many spreads screaming “Bet on me!”, this one looks like the most likely gimme. The road team has won the past four matchups between these NFC South rivals: in fact, the past two games in Tampa have a combined score of 69-13 in the Saints’ favor. It’s a new year with different players, but we don’t have any reservations about the Saints’ ability to go into Tampa and stomp the Bucs… and stomp them they really should.

Though both defenses have been porous in allowing 25/per through five games, the Saints offense is averaging 14 points more than the Bucs mostly because, well, they employ a top-threeish QB named Drew Brees and a cadre of playmakers, while the Bucs have a good, solid young QB in Josh Freeman and a dearth of playmakers. This week that dearth gets deeper with leading rusher LeGarrette Blount joining DT Gerald McCoy on the inactive list.

The Bus are not as bad as the 48-3 thrashing they suffered last week in San Francisco, but not as good as their 3-2 record, which was padded with (narrow) wins over Donovan McNabb’s Minnesota Vikings and Curtis Painter’s Indianapolis Colts. The Saints are the Saints, and after trading scores with the Bucs early will pull away in the second half and win this one by double digits. PICK: Saints Cover

Strong Bets

Philadelphia Eagles (-2) at Washington Redskins: The ‘Skins are at the top of the NFC East standings, while the Eagles are buried at the bottom heading into their first matchup of the season: that’s football for you. Hey, we don’t like the Eagles anymore than you do, but despite their improvements across the board we’re not sold on the Redskins either.

Despite the festering warts (on Vick’s… sorry, couldn’t help it) that have marred the Iggles first quarter of the season–poor quarterback play, poor offensive line play, poor rushing defense, turnovers–this team still has more raw talent than the Redskins and, frankly, at 1-4 they need this game more than the Redskins do. Yes, the Redskins are 3-1, their defense is ranked third overall in the NFL in points allowed, they sport an eighth-ranked rushing attack, and they’re at home and rested coming off a bye. They’re also the Redskins.
PICK: Eagles Cover

Ndamukong Suh

Detroit Lions (-4) vs. San Francisco 49ers: Am I the only one who’s tired of hearing about Alex Smith as “game manager”? We’re now into the sixth fucking year of it for the former first-overall pick, who in the course of his sub-mediocre career has never thrown for more than 18 TD passes, never hit 3,000 yards passing, or finished with a QB Rating north of 82 points. Seriously, 49ers, enough already.

It’s nice that he’s off to a good start (104.1 QB Rating, 66% completion percentage, 7 TDs, 1 INT) and hasn’t yet earned his annual benching, but I just don’t buy it and, hence, don’t buy this San Francisco 49ers offense either, which is somehow averaging 28.4/per (7th in NFL). They’re due to come back down to earth before getting back to playing pattycake with the rest of the NFC West (the Rams, Seahawks, and Cardinals are a combined 3-11).

Raucous Ford Field seems like a likely place for it to happen. In the midst of a three-game homestand that began with a rowdy 24-13 win over the Chicago Bears on MNF, the undefeated Detroit Lions are playing as confidently as any team in the league. Their plan and personnel are clicking on both sides of the ball–and both sides have been tested by quality opponents. Only four teams are averaging more than their 31.8/per, and while the 49ers’ hard-nosed defense is definitely legit and rank second in the league in points allowed with 15.4/per, the Lions DEF is just three spots behind with 17.8.

Kudos to first-year HC Jim Harbaugh on the early returns, for coaching in and benefitting from the NFL’s worst division, and, of course, for massaging Alex Smith into an even duller and less-dynamic game manager than he was. Exciting. Wooooooo. Woooo!
PICK: Lions Cover

Oakland Raiders (-6.5) vs. Cleveland Browns: There might be nothing more exciting in the NFL than the Raiders’ kicking game. Sebastian Janikowski, who matched the NFL record for longest field goal in Week 1, and Shane Lechler, whose weekly punting exhibitions border on erotica, on the same team? Are you fucking kidding me? It’s not fair.

The Raiders return to Oakland for their first home game since Al Davis’ passing, so expect the atmosphere to be even more jacked up than usual. The 2-2 Browns are coming off a bye, but will be missing top CB Joe Haden and are trotting out a rush defense allowing nearly 125 yards on the ground per (though only 1 TD overall). That’s a problem Darren McFadden, the league’s leading rusher, is happy they have–he’ll exploit it, and the Raiders will roll.
PICK: Oakland Covers

Just Trust Us

New England Patriots (-6.5) vs. Dallas Cowboys: Say it with me: the Dallas Cowboys are not a great team, at least right now. I’m not interested in talking about the reasons why, or about Tony Romo, or the return of Miles Austin, or the underrated pass rush because, hell, you’re as tired of hearing about this perenially underachieving franchise as I am.

The Patriots, on the other hand, are a very good team in spite of their cringeworthy defense, though to be fair part of the reason they’re giving up a league-worst 433 passing yards/per (yikes) is Tom Brady and his league-best 366 yards/per. The ‘Boys will hang some points on the Pats, but we have little to no faith in their ability to keep up for four quarters and not shoot themselves in both feet. PICK: Patriots Cover

Cincinnati Bengals (-7) vs. Indianapolis Colts: I have trouble trusting the Bengals, but my other half on ETB has been a stalwart supporter the past few weeks. Loves their defense, cites the addition of difference-making rookie WR AJ Green (24 catches, 402 yards, 3 TDs in first five games), and this week points out something even I can’t dispute: they’re playing Curtis Painter’s Colts at home. PICK: Bengals Cover

New York Jets (-7) vs. Miami Dolphins: The winless Dolphins, who’ll debut the first episode of their new Sunday afternoon sitcom called Matt Moore, Starting Quarterback, have beaten the Jets three of the past four times they’ve met, including two consecutive wins in New York. The Jets have lost three consecutive games, haven’t been able to run the ball with disappointing Shonn Greene behind a meh offensive line (76.2/per, second worst in NFL), can’t rush the passer, and are starting to point fingers at each other. Just a hunch, but I see something like Jets 23, Dolphins 6. PICK: Jets Cover

Darryl Gamble and Ndamukong Suh Photo Credits: Icon SMI

1 CommentPosted by Brian Spencer on Oct. 14, 2011 at 9:04pm in ETB Articles, NFL

Great Fantasy Expectations of Tim Hightower

September 7, 2011

Tim Hightower

By Brian Spencer

Foreskins head coach Mike Shanahan has a long, well-documented history of turning most any running back he touches into a 1,000-yard rusher. In his first season with the ‘Skins, though, even he couldn’t polish the turds that were Clinton Portis, Ryan Torain, and Keiland Williams into anything remotely resembling a respectable rushing attack: only the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals averaged less than the team’s 91.3 rushing yards/per last season.

Somewhat ironic, then, that Shanahan turns to Tim Hightower, who helped “lead the charge” for the Cards’ league-worst rushing attack last season, as the guy to get things back on track. A fourth-year back out of Richmond, Hightower was last seen stumbling his way to 736 yards rushing and fumbling the ball away four times in 15 timeshare appearances with Beanie Wells. Save for an anamolous burst in Week 14 against the ghastly Denver Broncos (18 carries, 148 yards, 2 TDs), his play was as uninspired as the last three seasons of NBC’s The Office (okay, that’s not fair–he wasn’t that bad).

The limp two-headed penis of Wells and Hightower was thankfully circumcised in the offseason, however, and both have been rewarded for their sub-acceptable efforts with full-time starting gigs… and it wouldn’t be shocking if both flourished with 1,000-yard seasons. Hightower, perhaps more than any starting back, may benefit most from a “right place, right time” situation in Washington, whose rushing philosophy is well-suited to Hightower’s not inconsiderable talents as a cut-and-go runner. He certainly looked the part of stud in limited preseason action, averaging 6.8 YPC while scoring twice, which was enough to titillate fantasy nation and muscle his way into legitimate RB3 and WR/RB flex territory.

Are we going overboard here, though, in expecting much more than what we’ve already seen in three middling campaigns in Arizona, or will a change of scenery–and scheme–truly do the trick?

Hightower’s career has been solidly mediocre so far. He’s topped 100 yards rushing just four times in 47 games, sports a combined 3.9 YPC, and has lost 8 fumbles in the past two seasons. It’s not like he’s joining a high-octane offense in Washington with complimentary parts surrounding him, either. Sexy Rexy Grossman (or John Beck, for that matter) and his WR cast of Ughs and I Can’t Looks strike fear into nobody but the Redskins marketing department, so Hightower will likely see stacked boxes early and often.

If the fumbles continue, he’ll quickly find his way into Shanahan’s doghouse and, likely, back onto fantasy waivers before too long. Don’t go running to bet on his production just yet, but I’m tentatively bullish on his chances to at least do some damage over the ‘Skins first seven games, a stretch which includes matchups against a number of questionable rush defenses (Carolina, Buffalo, New York Giants, St. Louis… Arizona). If he does post big numbers, consider selling high after the Buffalo game in Week 8, after which the schedule gets considerably tougher, at least on preseason paper.

As the defending champ in both of my fantasy leagues (ahem), I’m heading into one season with Hightower penciled into my W/R flex slot–and, on the same team, Wells in my RB2 slot. I didn’t plan it that way, but am now one owner who’s hoping the circumcision was a success.

Tim Hightower Photo Credit: Icon SMI

1 CommentPosted by Brian Spencer on Sep. 7, 2011 at 10:10pm in NFL, NFL Fantasy News

Texas Rangers Bolster Bullpen with Stellar Koji Uehara and Mike Adams

August 2, 2011

Mike Adams Traded to Texas Rangers

Mike Adams photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

By Andrew Thell
The Orioles give Koji Uehara to the Rangers for Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter; The Padres give up Mike Adams to the Rangers for Joe Wieland and Robbie Erlin.

Let’s just get this out of the way first: this really sucks for everybody who owns shares in Mike Adams this season and beyond. I feel for you, I’ve been holding onto Adams in my keeper league for months assuming he would be the closer today. Not only does he get traded instead of Heath Bell and get shafted for the closer’s job in San Diego, Adams also goes from a pitcher’s paradise and a manager who ran a crisp bullpen to a hitter’s haven and a manager who struggles to keep his sock drawer in order. It makes no sense to me from the Friars’ perspective either: Adams is better than Bell, he’s younger than Bell and he’s under team control for a year longer than Bell. Boo-urns.

Let’s also say this: kudos to the Texas Rangers for landing two absolutely dominant and underrated relievers. This is how you shore up a bullpen at the trade deadline. On a per-inning basis, Uehara and Adams are now the Rangers best two pitchers. Hell, they might be the best one-two punch this side of Johnny Venters and Craig Kimbrel. Paired with 2010 AL ROY Neftali Feliz they should allow Texas to go into absolute lockdown mode after the 6th inning. That’s a scary thought paired with this team’s elite offense and decent starting pitching.

If I was gambling on either Adams or Uehara against Neftali I’d take either of the former to be closing out games by the end of the month. I don’t know what’s up with him, but with a 4.66 BB/9, 6.28 K/9 (only 6 Ks versus righties all year!) and 4.73 xFIP on the season Neftali is not closer material right now. The problem is, Texas got Adams and Uehara, and I have no idea which one will take over for Feliz if he continues to falter as I expect. In his second season in the MLB Koji Uehara has has posted an otherworldly set of numbers: 1.69 ERA, 0.69 WHIP, 12.00 K/9, 1.50 BB/9. Damn. Still, he’s been a bit lucky with a .192 BABIP and 97.6% LOB this year and his track record isn’t lengthy with just 99 career appearances. In 271 appearances Mike Adams boasts a 2.11 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 9.29 K/9 – and over the last three years he’s been even better. With both under Rangers’ control for 2012, it’s that experience gap in favor of Adams and and old-school manager in Ron Washington that leads me to think Adams should have the inside track for the job if/when Felix falters.

There’s also one interesting piece on the Baltimore side of the equation. Chris Davis has made a name for himself as a prototypical quad-A player, and I don’t have anything to dispel that notion baseball fan, but he makes headlines once again. As per his usual, Davis has crushed minor league pitching this season to the tune of 24 HRs with a .405 OBP and .824 SLG (!). We’ve seen this picture before, though. Stellar in the minors, strikeout machine in the majors. Maybe the change of scenery helps, maybe it doesn’t. He’s not moving into a better lineup or park, and Texas doesn’t exactly discourage offense. A speculative play on Davis isn’t crazy given his prodigious power and gaudy minor-league totals and the fact that he should get all the playing time he can handle, I made the move in one deep league, but there’s no reason to have much faith in a career turnaround at this point.

1 CommentPosted by Andrew Thell on Aug. 2, 2011 at 2:16am in MLB, MLB Fantasy News

Colby Rasmus Traded to Toronto Blue Jays; Edwin Jackson to St. Louis Cardinals

August 2, 2011

Colby Rasmus to the Blue Jays

Colby Rasmus photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

By Andrew Thell

The White Sox trade Mark Teahen and Edwin Jackson to Toronto for Jason Frasor and Zach Stewart; the Blue Jays send Jackson, Octavio Dotel, Corey Patterson and Marc Rzepczynski to the Cardinals for Colby Rasmus, Trever Miller, Brian Tallet and P.J. Walters.

I’m a Rasmus fan, I think that kid has all the tools to be an impact player and All-Star calibre contributor on both offense and defense as he enters his prime the next few seasons. After a blistering start to April in which it looked like the 24-year-old center fielder was poised to cash in on all his promise, Rasmus’ OPS has gone dramatically south in each successive month, falling to an unsightly .684 in June and abysmal .544 mark in July. You hate to see him leave a lineup with protection built in like Pujols, Holliday and Berkman, but with the youngster privately and publicly clashing with Tony La Russa over the last two seasons there’s no doubt in my mind a change of scenery was needed. The kid goes into a better hitters park, a more offensive-oriented division, joins a hitting coach that has seriously tapped into the power of his students and should be in line for everyday playing time from here on out. I think this is a big win, and could be the spark Rasmus needed to rouse him from the mid-season doldrums he’s been caught up in.

On the other side, the Cards pick up the talented-but-perpetually-frustrating Edwin Jackson. The stuff is there, and Jackson has shown plenty of “flahses” to inspire confidence in his abilities, but I think we’ve gotten to a point where he can safely be labeled a head case with bad control. I never like relying on that kind of arm. Still, Jackson moves to a decent pitcher’s park and will now study under the immortal Dave Duncan, who could probably still turn Carlos Silva into a decent 4th starter. There’s reason for optimism here, but I’m done relying on Jackson. He’s the kind of guy who will consistently tease you and post peripherals that grab your attention only to break your heart every Friday night.

The mover is potentially bad news for Rajai Davis, Eric Thames, and Travis Snider – all of whom have fantasy relevance and all of whom figure to get squeezed out of playing time in the near future. My money is on Thames being sent back down (he’s younger), Rajai being used as a defensive and base-running replacement (he’s been successful as such) and Snider being given a long look in left as long as he can continue to hit. There were also a number of relief pitchers and unexciting prospects involved in the deal. I don’t really feel like talking about them, but I do think Marc Rzepczynski is a decent young lefty to keep an eye on in Holds leagues – he qualifies at SP in Yahoo! leagues, which is always nice. Deep leaguers might also want to add Jon Jay to the Watch List, but I wouldn’t expect much in the way of roto value; he doesn’t really have much category juice.

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Aug. 2, 2011 at 1:54am in MLB, MLB Fantasy News

The Cleveland Indians Nab Ubaldo Jimenez

August 2, 2011

Ubaldo Jimenez to the Cleveland Indians

Ubaldo Jimenez photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

By Andrew Thell

The Rockies send Ubaldo Jimenez to the Indians for prospects Drew Pomeranz, Alex White, Joe Gardner and Matt McBride.

The Indians flipped a couple of solid pitching prospects for the name-brand Ubaldo, but the move really doesn’t move the needle much for me. I know Jimenez was the odds-on favorite for the NL Cy Young at this point last year, but a quick look at his peripherals even then showed he was playing over his head. Since then we’ve seen him collapse in the second half of 2010 and then perform like a thoroughly mediocre starter in 2011. It’s looking more and more like that first half of 2010 was the outlier in his career, and with Ubaldo losing a few ticks of velocity this season I’m not hopeful for a dramatic turnaround.

Most people point to his departure from Coors Field as a reason for optimism, and it is, Coors field is still brutal, but that is largely mitigated by going to the AL in my book. On top of that the Indians field a less capable defense behind Jiminez and their offense isn’t any better than Colorado’s. I think his value pretty much stays the same.

I feel like the Indians paid for the name and not the numbers here, giving up two very solid pitching prospects in the Drew Pomeranz and Alex White. White is a solid groundball pitcher who could plug a rotation spot, while Pomeranz may take some more seasoning but has flashed front-of-the-rotation talent in the minors. They were the consensus top lefty and righty, respectively, in the Indians system. Both figure to take a hit going forward pitching in that thin air of Colorado.

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Aug. 2, 2011 at 1:45am in MLB, MLB Fantasy News

Bedard Brings his Curve Back to the AL East

August 2, 2011

Erik Bedard to Red Sox

Erik Bedard photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

By Andrew Thell

Bedard and Josh Fields traded to the Boston Red Sox for Trayvon Robinson and Chih-Hsien Chiang as part of a three team deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Consider me conflicted on this one. I actually love Bedard’s talent, and I’m glad to see him finally put it together and stay reasonably healthy after so many years of injury woes. I know the guy is a noted curmudgeon, but so am I. We have a kinship. On top of that, Bedard has one of my favorite curveball-changeup combos of the last decade. The guy can make people look downright foolish when he’s on and it’s fun to watch. Health will always be a concern, but when he’s on the mound Bedard can be a difference-maker in fantasy and a pennant race.

The hasty analysis is to say this kills Bedard’s value as he moves from a pitcher’s haven in Safeco to a pitcher’s nightmare in Fenway, and that’s true, but let’s also note this: Bedard has been just fine on the road this season. In fact, he’s been significantly better than he’s been at home: 3 Wins, 2.16 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, .203 BAA and 41 Ks in 41.2 innings on the road against 1 Win, 4.53 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, .245 BAA and 46 Ks in 49.2 innings at home. So his spacious home ballpark has not exactly been a crutch for Bedard. Still, Safeco has been the 4th hardest place to score runs this year and Fenway has been the 3rd easiest. So yeah, the numbers may take a hit and fantasy owners are going to be benching Bedard a few more times against tough AL East offenses at home. But Bedard also goes from the worst run support in the league to the best. The Red Sox have scored 140 more runs than the Mariners this year, and that should easily translate into a couple more Ws down the stretch.

All is not lost, Bedard owners.

Trayvon Robinson is the big get in Seattle side of the trade. He’s a prototypical “toolsy” outfielder who brings some pretty decent speed and mediocre plate-discipline and on-base skills to the table, but he doesn’t register on the fantasy radar just yet. After a few years down on the farm working with the pitching machines he could end up being an impact top-of-the-order type of bat for the Mariners though, which isn’t bad considering Bedard was ready to walk after this season. It seems like a win-win situation for Seattle and Boston and no fantasy owners are left out in the cold either.

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Aug. 2, 2011 at 1:28am in MLB, MLB Fantasy News

Floatsam and Jetsam: Miscellanea from the 2011 MLB Non-Waiver Trade Deadline

August 2, 2011

Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes

Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images North America

By Andrew Thell

Those of us who get excited for trade season are usually left crestfallen as trade deadlines come and go with little fanfare. 2011 wasn’t too shabby though, I give it a 6 (on a scale that doesn’t really have any meaning, but let’s say it goes to, oh, 10). I’m not going to say the non-waiver trade deadline that passed on Sunday was some kind of wild, raucous, landscape-altering affair, but there were definitely some doin’s a’ transpirin’ in the MLB over the last week and there are plenty of implications in both real life and fantasy that deserve our attention. We might not have seen a high volume of superstars trade places, but the proceedings were many and they will have an impact on pennant races and imaginary trophies alike. I’m doing a small series of posts on the biggest moves, but let’s take a few minutes and break down the second-tier headlines as succinctly as possible:

Carlos Beltran Makes a Move to the Bay

The Mets send Carlos Beltran to the Giants for pitching prospect Zach Wheeler.

It’s a major move in real life, but we can still keep this brief: Carlos Beltran moves from a shitty NL hitting environment with an injury-bitten, mediocre offense around him to a shitty NL hitting environment with an injury-bitten, downright-bad offense around him. Zach Wheeler is a major coup for the Mets: he’s a top-50 pitching prospect with good groundball and strikeout numbers who should be great in Citi Field in two years.

The Giants needed to add a big bat, and Beltran is certainly that. He’s proving he has plenty left in the tank with 15 HRs, 67 RBIs, an excellent .904 OPS and a league-leading 30 doubles thus far. The Giants have a fantastic pitching staff and could make noise with that alone in the postseason, but they know they still need to score some runs to hold onto the NL West and be serious competitors. Beltran should keep doing what he’s doing and instantly becomes the Giants’ best offensive player, but there’s not going to be any Jose Reyes to knock in every time he sends a ball to the outfield and teams will be even more inclined to pitch around Carlos. It seems like a minor downgrade to me. Back in the NYC, Lucas Duda figures to see regular playing time in right. I have no sympathy for you if you click that add button.

The Phightin’ Phillies Bag Hunter Pence

The Astros ship Hunter Pence to the Phillies for Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singleton, Josh Zeid and a PTBNL.

I like Hunter Pence, but I can’t help but think the guy is a little overrated. Made the centerpiece of the Astros offense going into the season Pence has been decent, but his 11 HRs and .828 OPS don’t scream “star” to me. That’s what Houston advertised him as though, and in a market that was desperate for offense he generated plenty of interest. The Phils gave up a couple of middling prospects and Jarred Cosart, who has the stuff to pitch near the top of a rotation someday. That seems fair to me. I’m just not sure Pence is a huge upgrade over Dominic Brown, who Philly sent down to make room for Pence in the lineup. That makes Dom Brown and his owners the real losers in this deal. Que sera. He’ll be back soon enough. Pence has been a bit lucky in the BABIP dept this year, he no longer runs much, his power is just OK and the Philly lineup isn’t anything special these days, so while he should be a solid outfielder for the Phillies I’m not expecting anything dramatic in the second half.

Bourn to Braves and Ludwick to Pittsburgh, after the jump …

Read the rest of this article »

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Aug. 2, 2011 at 1:00am in MLB, MLB Fantasy News

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