Arses Five Favorites: Week 17 NFL Predictions

Well, I got back on the winning track in Week 16, and while it wasn’t a fantastic four win week like I’m always hoping for, 3-2 brings me to 17-13 during my six week run of free picks. The Falcons, Packers, and Patriots won and covered easily while the Dolphins just failed outright and the Eagles needed a late field goal to win by three. This week seems pretty easy to me. But I’m staying away from those meaningless games that some other people think are gimmies – listen, I know you play hard when you have everything to lose and if the Saints sit all their starters, it should be an easier game for Carolina – but it doesn’t always work out like that, and I’ll pick some games where I’m not relying on a good team to play back-ups. Final regular season week, and here we go, go, go…

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Chicago (-3) @ Detroit: The Bears are an easy pick, so easy that it makes my stomach lurch a little bit – but hey, Vegas can’t be right all the time, right? Right. The Bears need this game, really. They are the only crappy team in the NFL that actually needs wins. Their 1st round pick isn’t theirs, see, they need this one.

The 49ers (-7) @ St. Louis: The Rams are beat up bad, and they aren’t good when healthy. I doubt Steven Jackson gets thrown out there against Patrick Willis and that Niner run D, and without him the Rams are hornless.

Pittsburgh (-3) @ Miami: The Steelers are the better team, and they don’t need magic and religion to get into the playoffs – they need help, don’t get me wrong, but unlike Miami, they don’t need every single team in the NFL to lose on the same day. I see the Steelers, definitely a team that rides ups and downs, flying to their third straight win – but missing the playoffs anyway.

Ravens (-11) @ Oakland Raiders: The Raiders are brutal, and even the Ravens aging secondary should take advantage of that turnover prone passing attack. All the Raiders can do is run, and they can’t stop the run – that’s a bad combo when Baltimore walks into town.

Titans (-5) @ Seattle Seahawks: I can’t wait to see Chris Johnson out-gain the Seahawks on Sunday. The kid is going to go for 400 yards. There will be 12-15 Seahawks playing defense at one time, and he’ll still get his. The Titans should win easily, and Jim Mora should resign due to coaching how to quit.

Arses Five Favorites: Week 16 NFL Preview

Ugh, I lost 4 games for the second week in a row, bringing me to 14-11 over five weeks of free picks. From what I hear, that’s not too bad, but still, it’s bean feast or fart for me in five weeks of picks, two weeks with 4 wins or more, two weeks with a single win, and that one 3-2 week. Anyway, I have to keep rolling, just two more weeks to go, and I like some favorites the public doesn’t seem too fond of and see a couple big public favorites that look good to me as well. Here’s my top 5 favorites for Week 16…

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Atlanta Falcons (-8.5) @ home VS Buffalo: The Bills aren’t explosive enough offensively to stick with Atlanta. Sure, Michael Turner will likely be out again, but Matt Ryan is back, and an Atlanta team taking more chances with receivers like Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White might be a good thing. The Falcons are 5-2 at home – only 40% of the public likes them – count me in that 40%.

Green Bay (-14) @ home VS Seattle: This game is a bit of a joke. The Packers have been playing very aggressively all year offensively, and most of the year defensively. The Hawks are as soft as room temp butter. 35-13.

Dolphins (-3) @ home VS Texans: The Dolphins are solid at home, and they are just more consistent than Houston because of their strong offensive line and efficient rushing attack. Houston is sexier, sure, but Miami can just get it done.

Patriots (-7.5) @ home VS Jacksonville: Please. The Jaguars give choke artists a bad name. Tom Brady isn’t going to keep throwing incomplete passes all the way into the playoffs, I promise, the guy is going to turn it around, why not against a Jaguars secondary that has trouble stopping themselves. And don’t even get me started on Jacksonville’s offense. Does Del-Rio know their best player needs to touch the ball more? Answer, last week, yes, this week? Nope!

Eagles (-7) @ home VS Denver: The Broncos defense has struggled against elite passing attacks, losing and failing to cover against Indy, San Diego, and Pittsburgh so far this season. And to make me hate their chances even more, they lost to the freaking Raiders last week, with their old starter, new #3 QB, JaMarcus Russell, leading the Raiders to victory. C’mon Man!!!

Arses Five Favorites: Week 15 NFL Predictions

After my first losing week all season, a 1-4 performance in Week 13, I fought back with another winner, a 3-2 march in Week 14. It wasn’t 4-1 or 5-0, but it was a winner nonetheless. Week 15 has some nice favorites, and honestly, I had a tough time picking my Top 5. It’s cold up here in Alaska, but with all this darkness, I have plenty of time to do my research – and I expect it to continue it’s showy performance.

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New Orleans (-7) @ home vs. Dallas: Listen when I tell you, the Dallas Cowboys aren’t that good. But a good thing for the Saints is that everyone else thinks the Cowboys are. The Saints have beaten the pee out of top rated foes this year, embarrassing teams like Philly and New England, and well, beating everyone else as well. Let the 14-0 teams continue to roll!

N.Y. Jets (-6) @ home vs. Atlanta: The Jets are favored by 6 over the Falcons for a reason, and that’s because this is a terrible match-up for Atlanta. If people think that Michael Turner and Matt Ryan are all of a sudden going to come in and stop the run, they must be confused. The offense in Atlanta isn’t the problem.

Seattle (-6) @ home vs. Buccaneers: The Bucs are that bad. I hate taking the Hawks as a big favorite, but this game looks like a blowout. If Seattle loses here, I will refer to them as the Seagulls forever.

Vikings (-8.5) @ Carolina:The Vikings will run into, or I guess past the Carolina Panthers – I expect Minnesota to approach 40 rushing attempts this week in something like a 28-10 win over the Panthers, and it won’t feel that close. I don’t know what Carolina can do against the Vikings, but I also don’t know how the Panthers D will slow Minnesota.

N.Y. Giants (-1) @ Washington: How is this? I’m not convinced the Redskins are good just because they haven’t played terrible lately. They aren’t one of the worst teams in the NFL, maybe even better than their record insists, but the Giants are the much better team. In Washington doesn’t scare me.

Arses Five Favorites: Week 14 NFL Picks

Well, I guess I was bound for a bad week – after thinking this stuff was much too easy, I went and got slammed last week, as the Bengals, Patriots, and Chargers all blew late covers and Houston just turned up the suck from the get go. Philly came through to keep me from being winless, but 1-4 wasn’t nearly as happy-go-lucky as my two weeks of 8-1-1… Here’s last week’s Review and this week’s picks:

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Week 13 NFL Picks REVIEW:

(W) – Philly -5 @ Atlanta: This one seemed too easy as the Falcons were without their main offensive stars and continue to play porous defense. It was my first (and only) win of the day.
(L) – Houston -1 @ Jacksonville: The Texans could have used Steve Slaton on Sunday – their offense had no punch, and while the Jaguars didn’t play awesome football, it was good enough to oust Houston.
(L) – Cincinnati (-13) @ home vs. Detroit: The Bengals had this spread covered up, but a couple 4th quarter touchdowns were as potent as a bloodsport punch to the face, and I went down hard.
(L) – Patriots (-3) @ Miami: I couldn’t believe this spread. Halfway through the game, I still couldn’t believe it. When the game ended, I couldn’t believe how bad the Pats offense had to play to lose. Damn.
(L) – Chargers (-13) @ Cleveland: The Chargers had this nice and covered up as well, but a late score got me where it counts, and just like that, 1-4 on the week. Ouch. So this is what losing feels like. I don’t like it.

WEEK 14 NFL Picks:

Saints (-10.5) @ Atlanta: The Falcons are down and out without Matt Ryan and Michael Turner – I don’t think Redman has it in him to keep the Falcons close, and I know that Atlanta defense can’t get it done against Drew Brees and his gaggle of awesome receiving options. The answer to that stupid Saints chant, not the damn Falcons.

Indianapolis Colts (-1) @ home vs. Denver: I just can’t go betting against Peyton. This team is looking for win #13, probably the last time they’ll care about winning before the playoffs start – and I think they do so easily.

Green Bay Packers (-3) @ Chicago: I can’t see the Bears ever beating anybody good ever again. This one seems too easy. I know the Bears are 4-2 at home, but the only teams Chicago has beaten all year have losing records, and the only team even close to .500 is Pittsburgh, and they’ve lost 5 in a row, 3 of which were to terrible teams. Give me the Packers with a smile.

Jets (-3) @ Tampa Bay: The Bucs aren’t good. The Jets defense is too aggressive for a rookie QB- this seems like free money to me.

Cardinals (-2.5) @ San Francisco: The Cardinals are playing lights out and can lock up the division with a win over the 49ers on Monday Night Football. The 49ers have absolutely no run game, and I think that might mean a painful night for Alex Smith. I’ll take the Cards, easy.

Arse's Five Favorites: Week 13 NFL Picks

I’ve got 5 more favorites this week, and you’re lucky, because I’m rocking a 8-1-1 record in the two weeks I’ve done this (check the records), and I’m only doing this because I’ve been winning all season long. It’s bound to end sometimes, but will it fail me this week? We shall see… Here’s my Week 12 review and Week 13’s picks.

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Week 12 NFL Picks REVIEW:

(W) – Indy -3 @ Houston: So what, they fell down 17-0 early, and they did what they do and won anyway – that’s why I’ve been making cash off these little horsies.
(W) – Seattle -6 @ St. Louis: The Rams couldn’t take advantage of the sand all over the Seahawks collective offensive game plan. Oh, and Justin Forsett beat the Rams all by himself.
(W) – Minnesota (-10.5) @ home vs. Chicago: The Bears are a joke and the Vikings are one hell of a team – this favorite picking this seems to be too easy.
(W) – Ravens (-2) @ home vs. Pittsburgh: No Ben Roethlisberger helped, but I almost think the Steelers probably still should have won, if they just didn’t play so careful. Oh well, my luck.
(W) – Saints (-1.5) @ home vs. New England: The Saints were the better team and Tom was off his game. It was easy enough.

WEEK 13 NFL Picks:

Philadelphia (-5) @ Atlanta: I have to take the Eagles here, how can I not? They need this win desperately and they have their starting quarterback playing, a solid defense, and their starting running back has been out all year. I think they win by two touchdowns.

Houston Texans (-1) @ Jacksonville: You can get the Texans as 1 point dogs, but my book has them as a 1 point favorite. I think they are the far-superior team, and that’s enough for me.

Cincinnati Bengals (-13) @ home vs. Detroit: The Lions are terrible and the Bengals are going to pray on that mistake-prone offensive attack. Plus, the secondary is so shaky that I know Palmer will take a couple chances.

New England (-3) @ Miami: I have heard the Patriots always struggle in Miami – I dont’ care – the Patriots will win by at least a touchdown.

San Diego (-13) @ Cleveland: The Chargers score a lot of points, through the air is their ticket to success, and they don’t waste too much time pounding the football. That will kill Cleveland as their only chance to stay close is if their opponent slows down the game.

Arse's Five Favorites: NFL Week 12 Free Football Picks

Hey, what can I say, beginners luck, maybe? I was 3-1-1 and continued my money-making ways with some winning favorites in Week 11. I say beginners luck because it was my first time making public picks, for all to see, and all to judge, and despite one bad call, I did alright. From what I’m told, if I can go 3-1-1 for the rest of my life, I’ll be a very rich man. Sounds good to me. Let’s see if I can just… Here are five more favorites for Week 12.

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Week 11 Review:
(W) – Indy -1 @ Baltimore: Indy barely beat the Colts, but Indy only needed a two point win to cover for me, and they managed exactly that.
(P) – Packers -6 @ San Fran: The Packers were up big and up early, but the 49ers gnawed away at the spread and had me finish as a push. Damn them.
(L) – Jags (-8.5) @ Buffalo: The Jags should have lost this game, but they did just enough to win while failing to cover against a down and out Bills squad. Ugh.
(W) – Pats (-10.5) @ Jets: A late Patriots touchdown got me into a cover scenario, but I deserved it – the Pats dominated this game.
(W) – Eagles (-3) @ Chicago: The Bears might have looked better than the Eagles, but neither team looked good and the Eagles were just the better team, hence the close cover.

Week 12 Picks:

Indianapolis Colts (-3) @ Houston Texans: This guy Peyton Manning is worth betting on when anything a field goal or less is needed for a cover win – write that down.

Seattle Seahawks (-3) @ St. Louis Rams: The Rams are real bad, the Hawks are only real bad half the time. They should be healthier this week, and that’s enough for me, they are a superior talent when healthy.

Minnesota Vikings (-10.5) @ home vs Chicago: Listen, the Bears suck. Double digits may be tough to give a good team, as Lucky says, but the Bears aren’t a good team – the only good team in this match-up is the road guys, and they’ll win by at least 2 TDs.

Baltimore Ravens (-2) @ home vs Pittsburgh: I actually think Baltimore just needs this one more. And the Steelers are hurting. The Ravens will need to throw, but I think they do just enough to squeak this one out.

New Orleans Saints (-1.5) @ home vs New England: The Saints have been the better team, and I think their running game will step it up big, and some key guys will come back from injury to make enough of an impact to get the Saints to 11-0.

Arses Five Favorites: Week 11 NFL Picks

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Okay, so this is my first picks article ever, and while I’ve said many times that this stuff is easy, we’ll just have to see. I’ve done alright on my own card this year, so Lucky asked me to put my thoughts (that were making me money) down to paper. Since I’ve made most of my money taking favorites, I usually bet 3-5 favorites a game, LL told me to just go with what’s working and select my top five favorites per week (plus he says, Papa has the dogs). He told me that it was okay to go opposite him, which makes me even happier (because like I always say, anything worth playing is worth beating your friends at). Here’s what I got for week 11.

Indianapolis Colts (-1) @ Baltimore Ravens: It’s funny, Lucky got these guys as a dog (though just a point) earlier in the week, I get them here as a favorite, and I have to admit, I’m equally happy. I don’t see a point making the difference. There’s no doubt that the Ravens have some confidence, and they love when nobody gives them a chance, giving them a shot in this game. But Peyton has owned the Ravens, and this isn’t even close to Baltimore’s best secondary they’ve had over the years. This one seems easy enough.

Green Bay Packers (-6) @ home vs. San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers have played a lot of close games, and they can run it, but the Packers are definitely a trouble-match-up for San Francisco. They put a lot of pressure on young receivers with their physical corners, and they don’t run the ball that much on offense, so who cares if the 49ers shut down the run well. San Francisco did not play to win last week against Chicago, and they are lucky to hold on against a bad team. I like Green Bay to win by a couple touchdowns.

Jacksonville Jaguars (-8.5) @ home vs. Buffalo Bills: The Jaguars have been great of late, and they are feeding their best player the ball. The Bills are a mess, fired head coach, terrible offense, new quarterback, injury ridden defense – nothing much to like there. Jacksonville is better than given credit for.

New England (-10.5) @ home vs. New York Jets: I just don’t see the Jets hanging in there twice in a row. The Patriots weren’t playing well to start the season while the Jets were playing on cloud 9. That hasn’t continued, on either side. The Pats have been back to domination on offense, their defense has been stout, and the Jets have fallen hard in both areas. Injuries and youth have not served them well. Plus you have the Pats coming out fired up, looking for redemption and to put last week’s last second loss to the Colts out of their minds. I expect a Patriots killing.

Philadelphia Eagles (-3) @ Chicago Bears: Lucky’s right about this one, the Bears just aren’t good. Neither of these teams have been stellar, but the opportunistic Eagles defense against Jay Cutler – lets just say Va-Jay-Jay Cutler will be making that shame face early and often. I’m looking for him to wrap up the passing title this week, passing to opposing teams that is. Gimmie the Eagles.

Week 6 Waiver Wire Watch: Thing 1 and Thing 2

As an elementary PE teacher, I am confronted daily with situations that make me question not only my chosen profession but also the direction of society as a whole.  The notion of socially acceptable behavior is largely unknown among the elementary population and this leads to some rather interesting (and occasionally amusing) situations.  Allow me to turn back the clock a few days and bring you all along for the odyssey that was my Tuesday afternoon kindergarten class.  Things started out well as students came in and exhibited varying levels of awkwardness in a variety of motor skills and movement patterns.  And then … disaster.  About 10 minutes into the lesson one of the more quiet little girls in class raised her hand and simultaneously began to cry.  Our subsequent exchange went something like this:

Me: “Yes, Tabitha? … What’s wrong?”

Tabitha: “I have to go to the bathroom!”

Me: “Of course you may go to the bathroom, let me get you the pass” (turns around to pick up bathroom pass).

Tabitha: Makes unintelligible whining noises while a dark purple stain spreads rapidly on her sweat pants … more crying ensues

Me: (Turns back around to find growing puddle on gym floor) “Oh God”

Tabitha: “I can’t hold it”

Me: Thinks to himself, “yeah, no shit” … says out-loud, “Don’t worry sweetie, it’s OK”

As I rushed Tabitha across the remaining expanse of gym floor (a strategy I immediately realized was deeply flawed as I looked back at the Niagra-like torrent of urine she was leaving behind), I considered the wonderful simplicity of the kindergarten mind.  Tabitha’s singular focus on throwing and catching a yarn ball shut out all other impulses.  Even the imminent call of nature could not distract her from the task at hand.  Imagine what we as fantasy players could achieve if only we didn’t have the distractions of daily life.  Without jobs, appointments, meetings, wives, girlfriends or children we men would be free to eat meat, piss ourselves and dominate our fantasy leagues.  Despite the obvious social and hygienic consequences, there are times when I miss that singular focus that only a kindergartner’s mind can produce.  Without further ado, I give you my waiver suggestions for week 6 … because there is still something to be said for taking a leak on the floor.

Thing 1: This QB took over as the starter following a move to a new city this past offseason.  Over the last two weeks he has completed 71% of his passes for 388 yards and 5 TDs and 1 INT and is owned in 98% of ESPN leagues.

Thing 2: This QB took over as the starter following an injury to the opening day signal-caller.  Over the last two weeks he has completed 71% of his passes for 356 yds and 3 TDs (0 INTs) and is owned in 3% of ESPN leagues.

Reality Check: Thing 1 is Jay Cutler and Thing 2 is Chad Henne.  I was not a big believer in Henne coming out of Michigan but he just may be that rare QB that is a better pro than he was a college player (fellow Wolverine Tom Brady, for example).  Henne has improved his completion percentage, passing yards, touchdowns and QB rating over each of the last three weeks and has some nice matchups come fantasy playoff time (Jax, Ten, Hou).  Cutler is a proven star and I expect him to put up better numbers than Henne the rest of the way, but in weeks 14-16 he faces the Packers at home, the Ravens in Baltimore, and the Vikings at home.  They don’t call Chicago the windy city for nothing and December will be a tough month for Cutler to rack up fantasy points through the air.

Thing 1: This RB has received 27 touches and has totaled 71 yards and 0 TDs over the last two weeks (2.6 ypt).  He is currently the lead option in a RBBC and is owned in 94% of ESPN leagues.

Thing 2: This RB has received just 9 touches over the past two weeks but has totalled 51 yards (5.7 ypt).  He is currently the tail end of a RBBC and is owned in 1% of ESPN leagues.

Reality Check: Thing 1 is Julius Jones and Thing 2 is Justin Forsett.  Jones has averaged barely 2.5 ypc over his last two contests and has shown little playmaking ability or burst in the process.  Although the return of QB Matt Hasselbeck should help open up the running lanes for Jones and recent addition Edgerrin James, Forsett is the only member of this backfield committee that has real big-play potential.  His contributions in the receiving game and returning kicks also add some intrigue to Forsett’s value, especially in PPR leagues.  If one (or both) of his backfield mates misses time with an injury, be sure to pounce on the former Golden Bear and his 6+ ypc average.

Thing 1: In weeks 2-5, this WR has compiled 14 receptions for 203 yards and 0 TDs.  His production has been decent this season but not what his owners had hoped for after a big week 1 showing.  He is owned in 99% of ESPN leagues.

Thing 2: In weeks 2-5, this WR has compiled 13 receptions for 214 yards and 1 TD.  His production has been a pleasant surprise for his team and he is rapidly becoming a fantasy factor.  He is owned in 3% of ESPN leagues.

Reality Check: Thing 1 is Santonio Holmes and Thing 2 is Mike Wallace.  The Steelers have been very pleased with their rookie wideout from Ole Miss.  Wallace has taken a solid hold on the #3 WR spot in Pittsburgh, leap-frogging Limas Sweed in the process.  Ben Roethlisberger is a QB that likes to spread the wealth so although Wallace’s production may not be steady, I expect his role to continue to expand as he has shown the ability to make tough catches in traffic as well as getting behind the defense to make plays down the field.  If you are looking for a bye-week fill-in, Wallace could offer some nice value over the next few weeks beginning with a solid matchup against the Cleveland Browns this weekend.

Thing 1: This veteran TE has reeled in 14 passes for 142 yards and 1 TD over his past three games.  As the season progresses this player should develop more chemistry with his QB.  He is owned in 100% of ESPN leagues.

Thing 2: This young TE has hauled in 10 passes for 184 yards and 1 TD over his past three games.  As the season progresses this player should also develop the chemistry with his QB.  He is owned in 15% of ESPN leagues.

Reality Check: Thing 1 is Tony Gonzalez and Thing 2 is Jermichael Finley.  The 22-year-old Finley has made some dramatic strides in his second full season with the Packers.  Although his blocking is still a work in progress, his playmaking ability is considerable (as evidenced by his huge Monday night performance against the Vikings).  With defenses keying on Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, Finley should continue to find a lot of room to operate in the middle of the field and so far Aaron Rodgers looks like he will take advantage of the mismatches.  There is still some boom-or-bust risk here as Finley was held without a catch in a week 3 matchup with St. Louis, but my advice is to take a chance on the upside while you can.  The Packers had their bye in week 5 so health-permitting Finley is a tight end you can get cheap and plug in for the rest of the season.

Week 5 Waiver Watch: Thing 1 and Thing 2

I am a dog person. I love the way they are happy to see you when you get home despite the fact that you left them alone all day. I love that they go from sleeping lazily on the couch to hyper-play mode in 1.3 seconds at the site of a ball. I love that they always seem to occupy a much larger portion of the bed when you wake up in the morning than they did when you fell asleep last night. I love dogs because of their unyielding loyalty and need to carve out a role in the pack that is your family.  In short, I love dogs because of their strong sense of self: they know what they are, and they know what they aren’t.

However, this general rule does have it’s exceptions.  On some occasions I will take my dog (3-year-old Australian Shepherd) to the “dog park”.  For those of you that are cat people (communists), this is a gathering place for K9s and owners alike.  It is basically a cluster-bomb of crazy dogs, prissy dogs, horny dogs, playful dogs and mean dogs.  It’s a lot like college in that way.  The exception to my dog loving rule comes in the form of the prissy dog.  These overgrown rats with the bulging eyes, twig-like legs and quivering disposition seem to have problems identifying their natural place in the pecking order.  These are the animals which nature is trying it’s best to “select” for removal from the face of the Earth but we humans, we love our genetic mutants.

On several occasions one of these yappers has managed to free themselves from their Frankensteinian owners and has run up to my pup in what can only be described as an attempt to pick a fight.  They will bark at her, growl at her and even try nipping at her in what is a clear fit of envious genetic rage.  Me being a scientific observer, I generally let the drama play out to it’s predictable conclusion before intervening.  Typically my pup will entertain their vocal protests but when that first attempted nip takes place she will take the instigating creature between her jaws and either pin them firmly to the ground or rag-doll them like her favorite chew toy.  She never hurts more than their pride but I can’t help but thinking as I look down at the pint-sized pooch now lathered in my dog’s drool, “what the hell did you think was going to happen?”

That’s why when I heard that NFL wide receiver Braylon Edwards had thrown a punch at LeBron James’ 130-pound buddy outside of a Cleveland night club, my reaction was quite similar … “what the hell did you think was going to happen?”  I have crossed paths with enough prissy dogs and 130-pound yappers in my time to know exactly where Edwards was coming from when he decided enough was enough.  The fact that the featherweight filed a complaint which now looks like it was a false accusation lends further support to my yap-dog theory.  Whatever the case, I applaud Braylon for his willingness to let nature take it’s course and congratulate him on his recent escape from the fantasy hell that is Cleveland, Ohio.  I give you my week 5 waiver tips … because we are all Witnesses.

Thing 1: This WR has totalled 11 catches for 214 yards and 1 TD so far in 2009.  He has disappointed early in the year and now may miss a game or two with an injury.  He is currently owned in 100% of ESPN leagues.

Thing 2: This WR has totalled 17 catches for 271 yards and 0 TDs so far in 2009.  He has come on strong and may be the new favorite target for his respective team.  He is currently owned in 9% of ESPN leagues.

Reality Check: Thing 1 is Roy Williams and Thing 2 is Kenny Britt.  I gave Britt’s teammate Justin Gage some love in an earlier column but the rookie out of Rutgers may have overtaken his fellow wideout for targets.  At 6’3″ and 218 lbs. Britt has the ideal frame of a red zone target despite his lack of scores so far this season.  Nate Washington will make the occasional big play and Gage is still in the mix, but going forward I like Britt a lot if you are looking for consistent weekly production with considerable upside as well.

Thing 1: This TE is off to a slow start this season but has still caught 23 passes for 212 yards and 1 TD.  He is one of the most reliable receiving targets on his team and is currently owned in 100% of ESPN leagues

Thing 2: This TE is off to a nice start this season and has caught 24 passes for 181 yards and 2 TDs.  He is also one of the most reliable receiving targets on his team but is owned in just 18% of ESPN leagues.

Reality Check: Thing 1 is Jason Witten and Thing 2 is Heath Miller.  Miller probably won’t be near Witten in terms of yardage or receptions at season’s end, but he is one of Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite red zone targets and he may be able to haul in 7-8 TDs before all is said and done.  Miller has some of the softest hands in the league and his ability to block means he stays on the field for the majority of Pittsburgh’s plays.  I like for him to finish as a top-10 fantasy TE and he can be had in many leagues for the price of a waiver claim.

Thing 1:  This QB has completed 59.6% of his passes for a bad team.  His sample size is still relatively small but for the most part you know what you are getting here.  He is owned in 83% of ESPN leagues.

Thing 2:  This QB has completed 53.1% of his passes for a bad team.  He recently took over the reigns of this offense and the jury is still out on him.  He is owned in 1% of ESPN leagues.

Reality Check:  Thing 1 is Matt Cassel and Thing 2 is Josh Johnson.  Hear me out on this one.  Presumably you are not starting either of these guys on a regular basis but I am intrigued by Johnson’s upside and in my opinion he has better playmakers around him on offense.  In addition to being a very intelligent passer (among the highest ratings in the country while at USD), Johnson has tremendous athletic ability and can make plays with his legs when the pocket breaks down.  Top pick Josh Freeman is not ready so Johnson will get some leash to play with and has some nice matchups coming up if you are in need of a bye week fill-in.

Thing 1:  This RB has totalled 198 total yards and 1 TD on 54 touches (3.7 ypt).  He is banged up and could miss several weeks before returning to action.  Currently he is owned in 99% of ESPN leagues.

Thing 2: This RB has totalled 249 yards and 2 TDs on 39 touches (6.4 ypt).  He has taken the lead role while his injury-prone backfield mate is nursing an injury.  Currently he is owned in 37% of ESPN leagues.

Reality Check: Thing 1 is Darren McFadden and Thing 2 is Rashard Mendenhall.  Boy does it look like I was wrong on Mendenhall.  Most of his production in the NFL has come in one shining week but for the first time I saw the strong running and determination to hit the hole that made him a #1 pick out of Illinois.  I doubt he will sustain this level of production (especially when Willie Parker returns to share the load), but tasty matchups against the Lions and Browns in the next two weeks mean that Mendenhall should not be available in leagues of any size.  Go get him and enjoy the ride.

Looking Back: Over/Under 2009 AL Baseball Predictions

Well it’s hard to believe but the 2009 Major League Baseball regular season has come and gone.  If you are a regular LuckyLester reader you will remember that prior to the season I laid down 28 bold predictions to help you in your deliberations on draft day.  As this was the first time I had attempted an article of this sort, I limited myself to the American League and decided to choose one pitcher and one position player from each team and then tell you what I thought you could expect in terms of production.  To do this, I threw out a statline and then stated whether I thought that player would exceed or fall short of those expectations.  Now that the season has run it’s course, it’s time for me to take credit for the ones I knocked out of the park and own up to those predictions that were swung on and missed.

Over/Under 25 HR 115 RBI and 15 SB for Nick Markakis: Over – The Greek god of production, Markakis does it all. With Brian Roberts and an improving Adam Jones setting the table, this is a guy you want on your team.

Actual Statline: 18 HR, 101 RBI, 6 SB … Markakis fell under my prediction for all three categories.  Those that drafted him were rewarded with decent all-around production, but Markakis still hasn’t put together that Top-5 season that many have anticipated.  Flyball to the warning track (0-1)

Over/Under 10 wins and 120 Ks for Jeremy Guthrie: Under – The Baltimore ace by default, Guthrie has movement on all his pitches and pounds the strikezone, but in a brutal division he will struggle to match last year’s production.

Actual Statline: 10 wins and 110 Ks … Guthrie finished up 10-17 with a 5.04 ERA and 1.42 WHIP.  He made all of his starts and notched 200 IP for the Orioles, but true to my prediction a killer division took it’s toll.  Hopefully you took my advice and avoided him on draft day.  Groundball single up the middle (1-2)

Over/Under 60 SB and 105 R for Jacoby Ellsbury: Over – If you’re fishing for batting average and power you will be disappointed, but Ellsbury can fly and a (mostly) healthy David Ortiz helps everybody in this lineup.

Actual Statline: 70 SB and 94 R … Wow what a season for the speedster from Oregon State.  Ellsbury exceeded expectations with a .301 BA and swiped enough bases to make up for a shortage of runs scored early in the year.  Bunt basehit down the third baseline (2-3)

Over/Under 200 IP and 15 wins for Josh Beckett: Over – As always, if he pitches his production will be there. I think Beckett has something to prove this year and there there is no nastier pitcher when he has a chip on his shoulder.

Actual Statline: 212.1 IP and 17 wins … A healthy season resulted in good things for the hard throwing righty with the nasty streak.  Beckett not only made 32 starts, he also posted a respectable 3.86 ERA and 1.19 WHIP to go along with 199 Ks.  Line drive double in the gap (3-4)

Over/Under .325 BA and 20 HR for Robinson Cano: Over – It seems like Cano has been around forever though he is only 26.  I think this is the year he puts it all together and becomes a force in the middle of that Yankee lineup.

Actual Statline: .320 BA and 25 HR … Owner that took the chance on Cano were rewarded with a top 2nd baseman in the Utley-Kinsler-Pedroia conversation.  In addition, Cano’s production was extremely consistent, helping those in weekly matchup leagues as well.  Line drive through the 4-hole (4-5)

Over/Under 175 IP and 12 wins for AJ Burnett: Under – When he’s on he’s filthy, but career highs in starts, innings, strikeouts and wins last season have me concerned.  A hot start to the season wouldn’t surprise me … 30 starts would.

Actual Statline: 207 IP and 13 wins … Good for Burnett, he stayed healthy for the full season and put up another strong year complete with 195 Ks.  A higher walk rate resulted in a 1.40 WHIP and 4.04 ERA, but I was wrong to sell AJ short because of his career year in 2008.  Groundout to the third baseman (4-6)

Over/Under 15 HR and 50 SB for Carl Crawford: Over – How quickly we forget … a season removed from All-Star production, the unquestioned leader of the Rays is due for a major bounce-back season in 2009.

Actual Statline: 15 HR and 60 SB … What a year for the All Star MVP.  Crawford stayed healthy and posted a .305 BA and 68 RBI to go along with his huge stolen base numbers and a return to form in the power department.  I took a shot on Crawford and it really paid off.  407 ft. homerun to right-center (5-7)

Over/Under 20 starts for David Price: Over – This is becoming a yearly occurance for the Rays.  Look for them to bring Price along sometime soon ala Evan Longoria last season.  10 wins is not out of the question for the young lefty.

Actual Statline: 23 starts (and 10 wins) … Price’s season unfolded exactly as I predicted it would.  The Rays brought him along in late May and the big lefty was able to take the ball every fifth day the rest of the way.  He finished 10-7 despite a higher ERA (4.42) than I expected.  Line drive over the shortstop’s head (6-8)

Over/Under 20 HR and 80 RBI for Travis Snider: Over – With a depleted pitching staff, the Jays will need to outscore teams with their talented young lineup.  This 21-year-old phenom is one of the few brights spots in Toronto.

Actual Statline: 9 HR and 29 RBI … Ouch, no way to sugar-coat this one.  Snider struggled out of the gates, got sent down, and struggled with is contact rate when he rejoined the big club late in the year.  The power numbers project out, but Snider needs to find more consistency.  Stuck out looking (6-9)

Over/Under 10 wins and 125 Ks for David Purcey: Under – There are a lot of believers in the big lefty in the middle of the Blue Jay rotation.  I am not one of them.  A shaky bullpen situation only hurts Purcey’s value in 2009 … avoid.

Actual Statline: 1 win and 39 Ks … Gross.  I hope you were able to take my advice and steer clear of Purcey on draft day.  The big lefty was ineffective early in the year and was sent down to work on his command.  He finished the season with a 6.19 ERA and 1.75 WHIP.  Triple into the right field corner (7-10)

Over/Under 25 HR and 90 RBI for Alexei Ramirez: Under – The Cuban-born Ramirez won’t sneak up on big league pitchers this season.  That isn’t to say he won’t be a productive player, but temper your expectations.

Actual Statline: 15 HR and 68 RBI … Again I was right on the money with Ramirez.  The 28-year-old second baseman was a trendy sleeper pick coming into 2009 but a strong second half last season didn’t translate into elite production this year as many thought it would.  Line drive up the middle (8-11)

Over/Under 15 wins and a 3.50 ERA for John Danks: Over – The 23-year-old lefty improved his command in his sophomore season.  If the ChiSox can get him some run support the wins will follow, even if his ERA creeps up a bit.

Actual Statline: 13 wins and 3.77 ERA … The young lefty didn’t miss my prediction by much and had several leads blown by a bullpen that was inconsistent at times.  He posted a respectable 13-11 record with a 2-1 K:BB ratio and 1.28 WHIP.  Backhand stab by the shortstop and a great throw for the putout (8-12)

Over/Under 20 HR and 100 RBI for Victor Martinez: Over – Look for the outlier in Martinez’s past five seasons then consider that he is only 30 years old.  Don’t be scared off by his injury-plagued 2008, he will rebound in a big way.

Actual Statline: 23 HR and 108 RBI … Martinez is the type of player that wins fantasy leagues.  An injury-plagued 2008 dropped him off the radar but he rebounded huge in 2009 and contributed a .303 BA to go along with the power numbers.  He also walked more than he struck out.  Opposite field homerun (9-13)

Over/Under 12 wins and 185 IP for Fausto Carmona: Under – Speaking of outliers, Carmona had his in 2007 with his 3.06 ERA.  He simply walks too many batters to be a reliable fantasy pitcher, especially with his lack of strikeouts.

Actual Statline: 5 wins and 125.1 IP … Inflated ERA, awful WHIP, 5-12 record.  All you really need to know about Carmona is that he struck out 79 batters in 2009 and walked 70.  If I was looking for positives, his August and September were slightly better (42 Ks and 25 BBs).  Single through the 6-hole (10-14)

Over/Under 20 HR and 20 SB for Curtis Granderson: Over – The perfect table-setter for this Tiger lineup, look for Granderson to get off to a hot start.  Jimmy Leyland wants Granderson to run more this season as well.

Actual Statline: 30 HR and 20 SB … Granderson is a very good baseball player.  If we’re picking nits his .249 BA was well below his career mark and doesn’t post huge RBI numbers hitting at the top of the order.  That said, his power/speed comination is hard to beat.  Opposite field double in the gap (11-15)

Over/Under 200 IP and 17 wins for Armando Galaraga: Over – He isn’t flashy, but this Venezuelan righty knows how to win ballgames.  With the Tiger’s potent lineup, I think 20 wins is within reach as early as this season.

Actual Statline: 143.2 IP and 6 wins … Thud.  I had high hopes for Galarraga and the Tigers this year but both failed to live up to lofty expectations.  Galarraga’s season got off to a rocky start and he never really recovered and proved to be very hittable in 2009.  Struck out swinging (11-16)

Over/Under 20 HR and a .275 BA for Alex Gordon: Over – Gordon has very quietly made improvements in each of his first two seasons.  He’s not a true breakout candidate yet, but look for the positive trend to continue this season.

Actual Statline: 6 HR and a .232 BA … Injuries derailed Gordon’s 2009 season and ruined any chance he had to take the next step in his development.  Fool me once, shame on you … fool me twice, shame on me.  Fool me a third time? … you must be Alex Gordon.  Dribbler back to the pitcher (11-17)

Over/Under 3.45 ERA and 1.20 WHIP for Zack Greinke: Under – If Greinke can continue to improve his ground ball rate, he could see big returns in the win column this season.  The Royals may surprise some people this year.

Actual Statline: 2.16 ERA and 1.07 WHIP … An amazing season by Greinke could have been even better had he not been spinning it in Kansas City.  The fireballer was still able to post a 16-8 record and strike out 242 to go along with only 51 BB.  The kid deserves the Cy Young and I think he’ll get it.  Inside the park homerun (12-18)

Over/Under 10 HR and 30 SB for Denard Span: Over – Delmon Young gets all the pub, but Span is the Twins OF you want to own.  Another season under his belt and we could be looking at a poor man’s Carl Crawford.

Actual Statline: 8 HR and 23 SB … Span falling short of my predictions does nothing to diminish my opinion of him.  He is the sparkplug of a very good lineup and he does all the little things exceptionally well.  Look for him to fly under the radar next season and remain a very good value pick.  Diving catch by the centerfielder (12-19)

Over/Under 3.75 ERA and 35 BB for Kevin Slowey: Under – This kid isn’t overpowering, but he is an assassin with his command.  Limiting free passes means fewer big innings and more talleys in the win column at seasons end.

Actual Statline: 4.86 ERA and 15 BB … 2009 was a real mixed bag for Slowey.  He started the season on fire despite a higher than average ERA and WHIP.  When a wrist injury brought his season to a close just before the All Star break, Slowey was 10-3 and on pace for just over 30 BB on the season.  Flyout to left (12-20)

Over/Under 500 AB and a .325 BA for Howie Kendrick: Over – Once in a while you just have to go out on a limb.  Sadly for this 25-year-old second baseman, staying healthy for a full season hasn’t happened yet … until now.

Actual Statline: 374 AB and a .291 BA … Kendrick rebounded from a horrendous start to salvage a respectable batting average but still missed a lot of time in small chunks throughout the year.  Sorry, folks … Howie has loads of talent but is not to be trusted.  Grounded into 4-6-3 double play (12-21)

Over/Under 50 starts for Kelvim Escobar, John Lackey and Ervin Santana: Under – The Angels may have their work cut out for them if Joe Saunders remains near the top of their rotation.  As these three go, the halo’s season goes.

Actual Statline: 51 starts … The heavy lifters here were obviously Lackey and Santana.  Escobar made only one start and was a non-factor in the Angels success.  Lackey and Santana stayed healthy and although Santana’s season was very average Lackey had a terrific season.  Barehand play by the third baseman (12-22)

Over/Under 30 HR and 120 RBI for Matt Holliday: Over – The power numbers will be there, but the 28 stolen bases are sure to decrease in Oakland.  No matter, Holliday rakes and in an improved A’s lineup he will have a huge year.

Actual Statline: 24 HR and 109 RBI … This is a tough one as Holliday used a mid-season exodus from Oakland to turn around a season that saw him scuffling out of the gates.  His second half in St. Louis was phenomenal but he still didn’t hit my lofty goals for him this season.  Line drive back to the pitcher (12-23)

Over/Under 20 wins between Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill: Over – They aren’t Hudson, Zito or Mulder, but this pair of youngsters will be called upon this year to bolster the Oakland staff.  I think they will answer the bell.

Actual Statline: 21 wins combined … These two diaper dandies really came on strong in the second half (especially Anderson).  I can’t overstate how hard it is to learn your craft at the major league level but these two both made the jump from AA and will give the A’s something to build around.  Basehit over the first baseman (13-24)

Over/Under 30 HR and 100 RBI for Adrian Beltre: Over – The last time Beltre was in a contract year he exploded.  I wouldn’t expect another 48 homeruns but this rock-solid defensive third baseman can handle the stick as well.

Actual Statline: 8 HR and 44 RBI … Yikes, I really dropped the ball on this one.  Beltre is an easy player to love if you watch him play every day (especially in the field) but this was a lost season before the injuries hit.  Beltre is no longer a reliable fantasy 3-sacker.  Dropped third strike, thrown out at first (13-25)

Over/Under 30 saves for Brandon Morrow: Under – Concerns over his arm landed Morrow back in the bullpen, concerns over his ability to throw strikes has me thinking he may not keep this role once Chad Cordero is healthy.

Actual Statline: 6 saves … Morrow did lose his closer job but it went to David Aardsma rather than Cordero.  After several months toiling in the minors Morrow was transitioned back to the starting rotation with mixed results.  He will be hard to trust until he proves he can be consistent in the strike zone.  Double down the line (14-26)

Over/Under 20 HR and 85 RBI for Hank Blalock: Over – With Michael Young shifting over to third base, Blalock will assume the full-time DH role for the Rangers.  If he stays healthy (and I think he can), his numbers will be there.

Actual Statline: 25 HR and 66 RBI … The power was there for Blalock and he stayed healthy for the most part.  His average (.234) left something to be desired and his RBI opportunities were limited hitting lower in the Ranger’s lineup.  Sometimes you have to take the good with the bad.  Popout to the catcher (14-27)

Over/Under 15 wins and 135 Ks for Kevin Millwood: Under – Millwood eats innings, but the durable righty surrenders too many hits to be counted on for big win production.  Double-digit wins should be within reach, but just barely.

Actual Statline: 13 wins and 123 Ks … Millwood put together a very decent season and produced better than I thought he would.  His 3.67 ERA was evidence that Millwood was less hittable in 2009 than in years past and was a big part of the Ranger’s hot start.  Texas leaguer (of course) into right field (15-28)

So there you have it.  I apologize for big misses on Beltre, Gordon, Galarraga, Snider and Kendrick but five busts out of 28 predictions is pretty damn solid.  Overall I hit on 15-28, good for a .536 batting average and a ticket to the hall of fame.  Owners that trusted my advice hit it big on guys like Ellsbury, Crawford, Beckett, Greinke, Granderson, Price, Cahill/Anderson and Victor Martinez.  I was also very close on several of my misses along the way, including Blalock, Lackey/Santana/Escobar, Holliday, Span, Danks and Markakis.  In general I was very pleased with my first attempt at predicting statistical goodness (and badness) over 162 games but don’t let me have the final word.  Please feel free to leave a comment if you agree or disagree with anything I had to say … I am a man of the people after all.  Thanks for reading, enjoy the playoffs, and look for my AL and NL predictions for the upcoming 2010 season sometime in late February or early March.