The Kings of Extra Innings

Extra frames, free baseball, extra innings, however you want to call it. It is a truly hard test to overcome. You have to worry about your bullpen, mental errors that can happen due to fatigue/injury, and about missing the one pitch that could end your game, or in this time of the year, your season. So how is it that the Boston Red Sox just don’t lose in extra innings?

This season when the Sox go into extras, they have a 15-3 record (which leads the majors) and their bullpen has a combined ERA of just 1.34 in 52 2/3 innings of extra baseball. With Addison Reed, Fernando Abad, and even Brandon Workman helping out from the pen, while their outfield and positional players are helping them exceed as well.

With great defensive plays from Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, and rookie sensation Andrew Benintendi, the team has been shutting opposing offenses down after the 9th inning. The offense isn’t lacking either.

Clutch players produce clutch hits. With the team as a whole putting in their fair share of work at the dish, it really is hard to be an opposing pitcher against these guys in extras. Even recent call ups Sam Travis, Tzu-Wei Lin, and Blake Swihart are having great at bats and getting on base.

While gaining some key players from the DL, David Price, Joe Kelley and JBJ can help the team not only with playoff depth, but the knowledge for any game scenario. While Price will see time as a long reliever in the postseason, he looked great in his first outing. He went two innings, while giving up 0 hits and striking out 2 on 21 pitches. His velocity was hanging around 94 miles per hour.

No matter the scenario, I have complete trust that the Red Sox can win any game in the regular or postseason in extra innings. This gives them a deadly game, and where every game matters, all eyes will be on Boston if the situation occurs during October.

 

Photo Credits:  NYDN
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Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Targets (Week 3)

Waiver wire pickups are crucial to make a championship run in any fantasy football league, especially in the first few weeks. This week offers less explosive players than last, but it is still important to be quick to add these players. They can offer a great bridge player until someone returns from injury, or their season could take off and they could earn a full time starting spot. Below are 6 players to target this week on the waiver wire.

1. Chris Thompson, RB, Washington Redskins

Chris Thompson has produced well this season, especially for his limited touches (13). He has three touchdowns, 81 rushing yards, and 81 receiving yards, all on just 13 touches! With starter Robert Kelley going down with a potential broken rib, Thompson is going to see a lot more opportunity. If he can keep up his level of production, he will put up scary fantasy numbers. (Percent owned: 6.1 NFL, 65.1 ESPN)

2. Chris Ivory, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

At first glance, picking up a backup running back on a bad offense seems like a bad idea. However, for anyone that has the starter, Leonard Fournette, he is the ultimate stash player. Fournette is being used on a whopping 45 touches through two games. If he happens to go down with an injury, Chris Ivory would see much more playing time. (Percent owned: 1.8 NFL, 0.6 ESPN)

3. Trevor Siemian, QB, Denver Broncos

Trevor Siemian is anything but a household name. However, he is performing like one. He has posted top five fantasy numbers through the first two games. For people with a under performing quarterback, or an injury that has hurt them, Siemian is a great add. He could even prove valuable as a backup quarterback to stash. (Percent owned: 7.0 NFL, 3.7 ESPN)

4. Ben Watson, TE, Baltimore Ravens

Ben Watson was a top option at tight end last week, catching eight passes for 91 yards. He looked to be recovered from his torn achilles and could be poised for a stellar season. He should keep up this level of targets and production because Joe Flacco loves throwing to his tight ends. Last season he targeted Dennis Pitta 121 times. (Percent owned: 0.5 NFL, 0.3 ESPN)

5. Mohamed Sanu, WR, Atlanta Falcons

It is clear that in Atlanta, Julio Jones is the number one option. However, Mohamed Sanu led the team in targets week one, and was second last week. He is performing well for his number of targets and could produce some very good numbers with all of the attention that Julio commands. Sanu could be a good fill player if someone like Brandon Marshall is destroying your lineup each week. (Percent owned: 13.6 NFL, 16.2 ESPN)

6. Chris Carson, RB, Seattle Seahawks

Chris Carson has impressed during his time in Seattle. He was supposed to backup Thomas Rawls, but saw significantly more plays than him last week (16 to 48). Whomever the Seahawks starting running back is, he has always been a coveted player to target. If the starter moving forward is Carson, then that makes him a valuable commodity. (Percent owned: 7.3 NFL, 3.6 ESPN)

 

Photo Credits: Washington Redskins

The Timberwolves with 3 All-Stars is Likely

The Minnesota Timberwolves had zero All-Star participants last season. Although, there is an argument that Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns were both plenty deserving of a nod. However, their record was the key reason that these two were snubbed.

Karl-Anthony Towns is now in his third season and he may be the best center in basketball. Andrew Wiggins is a top 10 shooting guard and can really score with the best of them. The addition of Jimmy Butler will take away from both Towns and Wiggins in terms of points per game, but Towns will still be a double double machine. I still believe that both he and Wiggins will score over 20 per game again.

Jimmy Butler was an All-Star starter last season in the East, and fans can expect him back in the game next season. All three of the Timberwolves young stars will be all around improved players this coming season. I would expect Wiggins’ assists, rebounds, and steals averages to improve, while Towns’ assists and blocks will improve thanks to the new look Timberwolves improved defense all around.

Jimmy Butler will be the focal point of the offense, but his defense will push Towns, Wiggins and company to the next level as better all around basketball players. I anticipate all three of these young stars to be reserves in this coming season’s All Star game. I expect their improved record to be the reason why Towns and Wiggins do not get snubbed again in 2017-2018. Butler will be a force no matter where he plays because of his aggressive demeanor, but Wiggins I expect to get better looks this coming year because Butler will be guarded by the best wing defenders. Wiggins will get the second best defender each game. Towns will get more garbage points than in years past because the Wolves’ offense will be more guard concentrated. However, Towns averaging 20 and 10 is almost certain again this coming year, which should be enough for him to receive an All-Star nod, while being recognized as more dominant and versatile than fans and players may even realize

The T-Wolves are going to be great this season, but they have not yet reached their full potential. Having three All-Stars in 2017-2018 can do a lot for their confidence, but they must remember to keep their egos aside and play as a team. If this team can improve defensively and in crunch time situations, Minnesota can expect a trip to the NBA Finals possibly in the near future.

 

Photo Credits: My Fantasy Sports Talk

Familiar Faces Meet Atop the College Football World

College football did not take long to place two familiar faces at the top of the current standings. The Alabama Crimson Tide and Clemson Tigers, who have battled it out for the past two national championships, find themselves at #1 and #2 in the national standings yet again. The first Playoff standings of the year have yet to be released, but the consistent dominance of these two programs is hard to ignore.

The Tigers jumped, now #3, Oklahoma after an impressive win that saw their talented defense stifle reigning Heisman trophy winner Lamar Jackson and the Louisville Cardinals on the road. The game marked quarterback Kelly Bryant‘s first road start for the Tigers, but that proved little challenge for the new signal caller. Clemson’s next big test will come in two weeks, when the team travels to Blacksburg for a showdown with #13 Virginia Tech.

The Tide have a highly impressive victory already this season as well, steamrolling ACC power Florida State in the opening week to set the tone for yet another dominant season for Saban and company. Alabama has since improved to 3-0 and now looks to roll through the SEC gauntlet, as they have become accustomed to doing. Alabama ends the year with three out of four games coming against ranked opponents, including a trip to #15 Auburn for Rivalry Week in November.

Not to be left out are the Oklahoma Sooners, who come into the week ranked #3 in the country and have a major statement win of their own. The Sooners look poised to make the Playoff for the second time in the four seasons of the Playoff format. Traveling to Columbus and all but taking over Buckeye Stadium two weeks ago, certainly proved that the Sooners are more contender than pretender. Boomer Sooner would surely like another shot at the Tigers, who snuffed out Oklahoma’s initial Playoff run in 2015.

Although it is still early in the season, it appears that the three usual favorites have demonstrated they are in a class of their own. There are four Playoff spots up for grabs and several teams are looking to dethrone the top tier, while making a case for a National Championship of their own. The pressure and excitement can only grow from here and the nation’s best battle it out across the remainder of the season.

 

Photo Credits: SI

NFL Week 2: Who Impressed, Who Did Not

As I sat in my room watching Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers go back and forth on Sunday night, I kept thinking about the impressive, and equally unimpressive performances that took place earlier in the day. Normally when All-Time Greats like Aaron Rodgers are televised during primetime, I am glued in and hoping to be amazed by what guys like himself can do. Not tonight. All I was thinking about Sunday night was the teams who did, and didn’t impress me in week 2.

The first team that you have to start with, when talking about impressive performances from Week 2, is the Denver Broncos. We all know about the vaunted defense led by pass rush extraordinaire Von Miller, and shutdown corner Aqib Talib. What you may not know as much about though is the Broncos’ offense. For the past few years they have had a solid ground game that consisted mainly of C.J. Anderson, and a little Devontae Booker. This past off-season though, they added the injury prone Jamaal Charles for a little more explosiveness. So far, he has been a nice addition, but he isn’t the reason they are off to a 2-0 start. The reason for the Broncos’ success thus far should be attributed to the man under center, Trevor Siemian.

Since Peyton Manning‘s incredible 2014 season, QB play has been a problem for the Broncos. I think they have found the solution to those problems in this 7th rounder. I’m no football scout, but from what I have seen over the past two games, Siemian looks like a guy who is exactly what the Broncos’ need. Someone who doesn’t turn the ball over too much, will get the ball into the hands of his playmakers and will rely on his defense. I think if he continues to play like he did today, in their 42-17 rout of the Cowboys, the Broncos could make a deep run in the postseason.

Just as the Broncos impressed me, there was a team that was equally unimpressive. That team was the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers, who fell to the impressive Broncos last week on Monday Night Football, were on the losing end again. However, this time to the Jay Cutler led Dolphins. Coming into the year, the Chargers offense was supposed to be explosive. They have weapons all over the field. The run game is very good with Melvin Gordon and a serviceable offensive line. The pass game is pretty good with Philip Rivers and some dangerous pass catchers. On the defensive side of the ball, they have arguably the best duo of pass rushers in the league, and a good young secondary. So where exactly is the problem?

The problem lies on the offensive side of the ball. In week 1, the defense gave up 24 to a Broncos’ offense that looks to be pretty good. Then, in week 2, they gave up 19. If I was a Chargers fan, I would be happy with those numbers. The offense for some reason, though, is just not clicking. In week 1 they scored 21, and in week 2 only 17. I personally think that they are trying too hard to get everyone their touches. They need to start letting the offense come to them. If the run game is working, keep feeding Melvin Gordon. If Rivers is on fire, keep letting him sling it. They can’t keep worrying about how many targets Keenan Allen is getting, or how many attempts Melvin Gordon is getting. This offense has way to many weapons to be held to 21 and 17 points.

For Chargers fans, realize that it is only week 2. You don’t have to panic yet. I would definitely be worried, but don’t give up on the season, yet. A week 3 matchup at home against Kansas City awaits. I would say this game is a must win for you. For the Broncos, be happy with your 2-0 start. Don’t start making Super Bowl plans just yet though. Your quarterback has been good, but he is inexperienced. He needs to keep playing turnover free football, and relying on that incredible defense. His next test is in Buffalo, to take on the Bills in week 3.

 

Photo Credits: The Denver Post

What is going to happen to Brian Cushing?

Brian Cushing is a Middle Linebacker for the Houston Texans, who was drafted in the first round of the 2009 draft out of USC. He was drafted 15th overall by the Texans that year, and he went on to have one of the best rookie seasons by a defensive player in NFL history. Cushing finished his rookie season with 133 total tackles, 4 sacks, 4 interceptions, 10 pass deflections, and 2 forced fumbles. Cushing was a master at batting down balls before J.J. Watt came to Houston. In his rookie year, Cushing was selected to the 2010 Pro Bowl as a starter, along with 2 other rookies to make the Pro Bowl in their first year.

Cushing went on to win Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2010 and immediately become a fan favorite in Houston. However, just before the start of training camp before the 2010 season, it was reported and confirmed that Brian Cushing was suspended for the first 4 games of the 2010 season after testing positive for a banned substance in the NFL and violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.  This was a major blow to Cushing and set him back for a bit, but he rebounded from that suspension and came back strong again that year.

During the 2012 season, during an early-season game against the Jets on a Monday night in early October, Cushing left the game with a knee injury. After they did tests on the injury, it turned out to be a torn ACL and Cushing was placed on IR, cutting his 2012 season very short. Cushing came back in 2013, and signed a big extension with the Texans, as they gave him a 6-year deal worth $58.6 million, $31 million of it guaranteed!  Sadly, in that same 2013 season in a late October game against the Chiefs, Cushing broke his fibula and fibular collateral ligament and was out for the season again due to injury.

Coming back from the 2012 and 2013 injury-plagued seasons, Cushing was decent in 2014. He recorded 110 tackles in 2015, bouncing back from the injuries he sustained early in his career. Cushing has still been a leader on the defense since his rookie season and even his injury seasons after his rookie season. However, the Texans have added depth to the position at Linebacker with drafting Whitney Mercilus and specifically another middle Linebacker, Benardrick McKinney, a couple years removed after drafting Cushing in 2009. When healthy and playing, Cushing has helped both those guys a lot, but you can tell now that the Texans’ Defense is going to be run mainly by J.J. and McKinney along with Mercilus.  Cushing is on the back end of his career as he is 30 years old, all these injuries are adding up, and what I’m about to get into next.

On September 13, 2017, it was reported by the NFL and confirmed by the Houston Texans that Brain Cushing was suspended 10 games after testing positive again for a banned substance in the NFL and violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.  Since this was his second offense, he received a 10 game suspension without pay as his punishment. If Cushing were to test positive again for the third time, he will be suspended for 2 years or thrown out of the league. So that is my question, what is going to happen to Brian Cushing? A second positive test, despite what he says and claims isn’t true, he was caught twice.  It’s just sad, as a fan, to see it happen again because I know how loved Cushing is in Houston and he has been a Defensive Captain for years.  McKinney and rookie Zach Cunningham, as well as undrafted rookie free agent Dylan Coe, will lock down the middle without Cushing. while he is out and serving his suspension.

When Cushing comes back, is he going to play or start? What is going to happen to Cushing this off-season after all of this is over and the season is over? The Texans are very strict with having their players be very disciplined and being very professional as they don’t have many off-field issues with their guys. Hold-outs are bound to happen because the NFL is a business, but the Texans really have laid-back stars on their team that do right and don’t stay in the headlines for bad reasons. Cushing being caught twice for PEDs, or whatever he claims it wasn’t, that in itself is going to make Rick Smith and the ownership really evaluate if Cushing is worth keeping or not. I honestly feel Cushing will be let go off in the off-season, if not traded.  It’s sad because Cushing has meant a lot to the Texans over the years, but as the second violation looms in the darkness, we honestly don’t know what’s going to happen to Brian Cushing.

CY Young Favorite Corey Kluber Named AL Player of the Week

It seems that in Cleveland, the rich only get richer. Fresh off his key role in the Indians historic 22 game winning streak, ace pitcher Corey Kluber was named AL Player of the Week. The honor should only bolster Kluber’s chances of winning his second CY Young Award at the end of the regular season, an award he is more than deserving of. Kluber won the weekly award following two wins in two starts, one of which was a complete game shutout. He improved to 17-4 on the year and holds an AL-leading 2.35 ERA.

Boston’s Chris Sale appears to be Kluber’s only competition for the award, which is given to the top pitcher in each league after the regular season. Clayton Kershaw of the LA Dodgers has all but locked up the NL CY Young himself, which would make things very interesting if Kluber were to win himself. Kershaw and Kluber would be a dynamic potential World Series match up, as each of their respective teams seem to be the favorites to battle it out in the championship series.

Kluber’s next start is not until Sunday September 24, when he will duel it out with Seattle’s Mike Leake. The upcoming rotation for the Tribe features a start for the injury-plagued Danny Salazar. This would allow extra rest for Kluber before the team embarks on another postseason run.