Bears

Mega NFL Kickoff

The NFL is finally back! Celebrate good times people. Each week on the Millennial Man we’ll be giving our thoughts on the season, both fantasy and reality. Including games to bet on, fantasy studs and duds, game winners, and funniest moments of the week.

Let’s kick things off with a little free advice, never do two fantasy football drafts in the same night. It is too much, a fantasy overload. I learned this the hard way last night as my attempt to defend two titles against college buddies and west coast league got off to a rocky start. Both are keeper leagues, but one is an auction draft and the other is a snake. My preparation for the two slacked off in the last week or so and it showed come draft time.

The auction draft was first and I committed the ultimate auction sin of being timid. Agressiveness pays in auction drafts, especially in keeper leagues when so many top players are off the board. I like to save my money for the end to scoop up all the sleepers I’m high on, but I had so much money left that I ended up overbidding on them and thus damaging their keeper value.

After the exhausting auction draft, which includes video chatting with everyone throughout the draft, it was a short turnaround to gear up for my west coast league. Since I kept my first and second round picks and traded my third round pick I did not draft in the first three rounds. For the first time in my career I decided to make a Big Board pre-draft, Mel Kiper style, which backfired on me in a big way. First off, I was tired and loopy from the beers I consumed in my first draft and couldn’t keep up with the players that were selected, so when it came time to my pick the guy next up on my board turned out to not be available. This lead to a lot of panicked, last second picks and in the end a very shitty draft. It is a long season and the draft is just one part of the championship equation, but projecting out the season it appears that my college buddies’ league will get far more of my attention. Just look at the two rosters.

College League                                                                  West Coast League                                                    

QB: Russel Wilson                                                                   QB: Jay Cutler

RB1: Shady McCoy                                                                   RB1: Matt Forte

RB2: Zac Stacy                                                                          RB2: Stevan Ridley

WR1: Alshon Jeffery                                                                WR1: Calvin Johnson

WR2: Larry Fitzgerald                                                             WR2: Anquan Boldin

TE: Jordan Cameron                                                                TE: Julius Thomas

W/T: Coradelle Patterson                                                       W/T: Justin Hunter

Flex: Rashard Jennings                                                           Flex: Kenbrell Thompkins

D: Browns                                                                                    D: Browns

K: Who gives a fuck                                                                    K: Who Gives A Fuck 2, Electric Boogaloo

BE: Justin Hunter, Brandin Cooks,                                        BE: Russel Wilson, Lamar Miller,

Ryan Tannehill, Kyle Rudolph                                                  Andre Williams, Christine Michael,

Tavon Austin

Sleeper Fantasy Studs

  • Justin Hunter/Coradelle Patterson – One, if not both, are this year’s Alshon Jeffery breakout receiver. They are both physically dominant freaks that can both run past and jump over defenders. They both also received the gifts of new offensive schemes from proven, successful offensive minds. Ken Whisehunt is a good coach whose undoing in Arizona came down to the inability of the front office to find a quarterback. The Titans is my pick to win the AFC South this year. I like what they have on offense. Everyone seemed down on them sticking with Jake Locker, but before he got hurt he was having a hell of a season. Whisehunt’s ground game expertise combined with Kendall Wright on the other side should provide a lot of big play opportunities for Hunter. As for Patterson, he gets the best deep route schemer in the NFL in an offense that will face a lot of loaded boxes. Yes, having either Matt Cassel or a rookie throw him the ball is a bit concerning, but Turner knows how to use speedy receivers like him in his offense.
  • Russell Wilson – The ultimate game manager, not anymore. This is the year Wilson takes the leap and becomes a playmaker in this offense. Marshawn Lynch is getting older and despite losing Golden Tate, the Seahawks receiving core is the most underrated in the NFL. There is a slight stipulation of getting a mostly healthy year out of Percy Harvin, but either way except Wilson to carry more of the load this year. 3,842 yards, 65.4%, 33 TDs, 12 INT, 7 rushing TDs 
  • Tom Brady – Father time may be undefeated, but he’ll have to wait on defeating Touchdown Tommy for at least another year. Manning vs Brady, the best individual rivalry in football over the last decade plus. Brady is stewing after seeing what Manning did last year and will be determined to match him. While 55 TDs are out of the question, he will have a big year regardless if Gronk stays healthy or not. All his young receivers will be improved this season and the depth at that position as well as running back will give him a lot of fresh options. 4,767 yards,  64.6%, 38 TDs, 10 INTs
  • Carlos Hyde – Every season a rookie running back breaks out into a top 10 fantasy back. Figuring out whom that back will be is a tricky task, but I’ve got my finger on Hyde. He’s on a team that knows how to run the ball, played college ball with a mobile quarterback, and has a veteran back in front of him. Hyde may carry on a new tradition of 49er running backs.

NFL Division Predictions

AFC North 

1. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7) – The Steelers finished strong last year and if it wasn’t for a Kansas City missed field goal that allowed the Chargers to make the playoffs they would’ve been a scary wild card team. The days of the Steel Curtain D are long gone, but the offense is going to be a juggernaut that will be enough to carry them in a weak division in the weaker conference.

2. Cincinnati Bengals (9-7) – The Bengals received a lot of criticism for the contract extension they gave Andy Dalton. Count me as a Red Rifle supporter still. In our ADD generation we expect instant results, but forget that it takes failure to find success. MJ had to get through the Pistons before rattling off six straight titles. Plus, just look at the eerily similar numbers for Dalton and Peyton Manning thru three seasons. 

3. Baltimore Ravens (8-8) – Big Dick Joe comeback season falls just short. The Ravens have a lot of distractions, but the one positive from this is that it is distracting people from the lack of talent.

4. Cleveland Browns (4-12) – Better luck next year Johnny Clipboard.

AFC East

1. New England (11-5) – Death, taxes, and the Patriots winning the AFC East.

2. Miami Dolphins (8-8) – The new high octane offense will take a little getting used to, but it could yield some very positive results. I fluctuated between 10-6 and 6-10, so just decided to split the difference. But Ryan Tannehill will have a breakout season and pass RG3 in his QB class.

3. New York Jets (7-9) – Rex Ryan has entered the Lovie Smith Zone. His players love him so much that they try hard every game and it is impossible for them to bottom out, even though management probably desperately wants to.

4. Buffalo Bills (3-13) – Poor Buffalo. This season has disaster written all over it and even worse Jameis Winston will most likely stay another season at Florida State in order to play baseball.

AFC South 

1. Tennessee Titans (10-6) – As mentioned above, I love this Titans team. A sneaky offensive juggernaut and an upper half defense this shitty division is theirs for the taking.

2. Indianapolis Colts (9-7) – The team should change its name to Andrew Luck cause he is the team. It feels like the front office from the 2004-2010 Cleveland Caviliers has infiltrated the Colts and left the playbook for making life as hard as possible on a dominant star athlete.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10) – A year away, but this team is on the rise and whenever they finally give the reigns to Blake Bortles it will be a threat to win this division.

4. Houston Texans (5-11) – I just don’t buy in to Bill O’Brien. He’s going to ruin this team and what could be a dominant defense.

AFC West 

1. San Diego Chargers (11-5) – I am very high on the Chargers. Phillip Rivers is an elite quarterback when healthy and given time in the pocket. Mike McCoy has helped out with both by using shorter routes and getting the ball out of Rivers hands quickly. The return of Malcolm Floyd bolsters a receiving core that already includes Keenan Allen, Vincent Brown, Antonio Gates, and Ladarius Green.

2. Denver Broncos (11-5) – A difficult schedule combined with some regression from the best offensive season in NFL history will knock the Broncos down at least two wins this season and losing a tie-breaker with the Chargers will put them in Wild Card weekend.

3. Kansas City (6-10) – The fact that everyone and their mother is picking the Chiefs to regress in a big way almost scares me into thinking they’ll stay where they are, but a much harder schedule and thinner talent pool means that it is destined to drop.

4. Oakland Radiers (4-10) – The Raiders were my pick for the worst record in the league until it announced Derek Carr as its Week 1 starter. A bag of balls or even Jake Delhomme would be upgrades over Matt Schaub, but Carr has flashed some real potential. However, playing the NFC West means it will be a struggle regardless.

NFC East

1. Philadelphia Eagles (11-5) – The streak is over, a team finally repeats as NFC East Champs. I believe in Chip Kelly, he just seems destined to become the new Belichick and be the smartest guy in any room.

2. New York Giants (8-8) – Tom Coughlin will not let this team bottom out.

3. Washington Redskins (6-10) – The RG3 vs Kirk Cousins debate will heat up this year and after a disastrous start to the season Cousins will eventually win this starting job, going 5-3 and giving fans some false hope for next season.

4. Dallas Cowboys (4-12) – This feels like the season. The season when the wheels finally fall off the Dallas Cowboys and 8-8 suddenly looks good to them.

NFC South 

1. New Orleans Saints (12-4) – The offense is re-loaded with some young, speedy receivers that Sean Payton will be sure to put to good use. Rob Ryan’s aggressive defense will do enough to let the offense outscore opponents.

2. Atlanta Falcons (7-9) – A healthy Julio Jones is good for two or three wins on his own, but after watching Hard Knocks it is impossible for me to pick this team to return to playoff glory.

3. Carolina Panthers (6-10) – Riverboat Ron suffers a setback as karma for reverting to his true conservative self in the playoff game agains the Niners last year. Tisk, tisk Riverboat Ron.

4. Tampa Bay Bucs (5-11) – A trendy pick by many experts that makes zero sense to me. Josh McCown was a product of Marc Trestman’s QB friendly system last year and will not be nearly as effective this season. Lovie’s defense is out of date. This team will struggle.

NFC West 

1. Seattle Seahawks (13-3) – It seems like every expert has said the same thing, “I want to pick the Seahawks, but team’s struggle to repeat.” What a dumb excuse to bet against this juggernaut on the verge of a dominant dynasty. They lost so few key pieces and have watched the teams in its division disintegrate due to injury or suspensions.

2. San Francisco (9-7) – For awhile I felt that this team was due for a disastrous season that saw it miss the playoffs for the first time in the Jim Harbaugh era, but then I thought some more and realized there is no way Harbaugh would let that happen. They will be 3-6 and he’ll rally the troops and rattle off 6 wins in the final 7 games to make the playoffs.

3. St. Louis Rams (8-8) – The team I wanted to replace the Niners with as it will have a much better defense this year. But the offense is a huge question mark. Can Zac Stacy repeat his rookie year? Do any of these speedy receivers have the discipline to run good routes? Can Shaun Hill lead this – wait what the fuck? Shaun Hill is still in the league? And he is starting for the Rams? My God this team is doomed.

4. Arizona Cardinals (7-9) – Carson Palmer staying healthy for an entire season seems impossible from here. Andre Ellington is explosive, but can he handle 20+ touches every game? This team has a lot of question marks as well and not as good of a defense as the Rams.

NFC North 

1. Green Bay Packers (11-5) – As much as it pains me to pick them, I have to go with my brain over my gut. Aaron Rodgers has been an elite QB without ever having much of a running game. This year he has one and there is no telling how good that will make him.

2. Chicago Bears (9-7) – My mind has done more loops than a roller coaster trying to predict how the Bears season will go. It has ranged from winning the division, earning a bye, and losing a hard fought NFC Championship in Seattle to falling apart, going 4-12, and having to start from scratch. Ultimately, as I tend to do, my pick falls in the middle. It was 8-8 for awhile as I’m worried we’re the new Dallas Cowboys, but I believe in Trestman and Cutler to find a way to get one more win and make the playoffs.

3. Detroit Lions (7-9) – The Lions have made some nice moves to bolster the offense, but have ignored a defense that will be on the same level as the Bears. Detroit and Chicago have eerily similar teams, but I trust Stafford and Jim Caldwell much less.

4. Minnesota Vikings (6-10) – A feisty team that will lose a lot of close games in a tough conference. The Vikings are on the rise, but they need to hope it happens quickly before Father Time finally catches up to Adrian Peterson.

Playoffs

AFC Byes: 1. Patriots 2. Chargers

Wild Card Weekend: 

3. Titans over 6. Bengals – The angry mob against Andy Dalton continues to grow as he loses his fourth straight playoff game.

5. Broncos over 4. Steelers – A classic matchup comes down to the wire and Peyton adds to his brilliant resume as he makes the plays that Big Ben can’t down the stretch.

Divisional Round: 

2. Chargers over 3. Tennessee – Jake Locker magic finally runs out as Phillip Rivers grows determined to add a Lombardi to his trophy case.

1. Patriots over 5. Broncos – Touchdown Tommy gets his revenge and proves his superiority over Manning once again. A devastated Peyton is left to stew and consider retirement.

Championship Weekend: 

2. Chargers over Patriots – In a stunning upset, the clean trash talking QB shocks Belichick and Touchdown Tommy on their home field to reach his first Super Bowl.

NFC Byes: 1. Seahawks 2. Saints

Wild Card Weekend

3. Eagles over 6. Niners – Chip Kelly gets some revenge for Oregon as he defeats Harbaugh in the best Wild Card Weekend game ever.

5. Bears over 4. Packers – Cutler finally gets one over on Rodgers. It doesn’t make up for the 2011 Conference Championship game, but it still feels good none the less.

Divisional Round

1. Seahawks over 5. Bears – Anyone that watched the pre-season game between these two knows the gap is too far to close by the time January rolls around. Bears make it competitive for a 2.5 quarters before the Seahawks pull away.

3. Eagles over 2. Saints – Kelly avenges last season’s playoff loss in what will be far from the last matchup between these two offensive masterminds.

Conference Championship

1. Seahawks over 3. Eagles – The Seahawks are too damn good at home for anyone to have a chance.

Super Bowl:

Seahawks over Chargers – Again, the prevailing logic behind no picking the Seahawks is that teams don’t repeat, which is true of most teams, but it has only been 10 years since the Patriots repeated and no team since has come close to matching Belichick and Brady, till now. The Seahawks are the next great dynasty and will seal it by repeating.

 

 

Pick Five Against the Spread

Each week Billy and I will be picking five games against the spread and keeping track of our records. The winner seizes control of Millennial Man, while the loser is forced to wear a baby bonnet till football season returns. Here’s my picks this week, winners in bold.

Seahawks (-6) over Green Bay – The Seahawks at home at night are money. They blow people out and are determined to get the title defense off to a rousing start.

Jets (-5.5) over Raiders – Two betting corollaries in this one. Rex Ryan against a rookie QB making his first start and a west coast team traveling across the country for a 10am PT kickoff.

Bears (-7) over Bills – The Bills are a disaster and the Bears dominate on home openers. The last time they lost was in 2008 and they covered the spread in all of those wins.

Vikings (+3.5) over Rams – Mike Zimmer will want to make a statement in this game. It will be a hard fought, defensive battle and that half a point makes a huge difference.

Dolphins (+5) over Patriots – The Dolphins play the Pats tough at home and with the Gronk’s status still up in the air I’ll take the Dolphins and the points.

 

 

 

 

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Chicago’s Real Baseball Team

Opening Day is upon us. Wait, the Dodgers have already played three games? Two outside of this country. What the H? Dodger crazy LA might have been robbed of a traditional Opening Day, but for the many transients living in this suburban city the day of hope has arrived. For one day we can all believe our team has a chance. A chance to win a pennant, a chance to go 162-0, a chance to bring home a World Series. And for many of us that hope will be squashed before April showers has a chance to bring May flowers, so it is important to enjoy it while it lasts.

Before they give you their pick to clicks you at home select yours. I've got Adam Eaton today.

Before they give you their pick to clicks you at home select yours. I’ve got Adam Eaton today.

As a north suburban Chicago White Sox fan I dealt with a lot of slack from all my Cubs’ fan friends. It would egotistical and brash  to describe it as an Israeli living in Palestine, but let’s do it anyway. My mother raised me a Sox fan and it stuck. Perhaps because of some deep seeded Freudian Oedipus complex or just the mere fact she was one of only like four people I could recognize for the first four years of my life. Who knows, my Sox fandom never wavered. I grew up on The Big Hurt, Black Jack McDowell, the One Dog Lance Johnson, Jim Abbott, Robin Ventura, Ray Durham, Wilson Alvarez, and the voice of it all Ken “The Hawk” Harrelson. Really I grew up on Hawk and Wimpy, aka Tom Paciorek, whom five year old me that it was hilarious that his name was Wimpy. 

Those players forged my baseball fandom. To this day, I’ll argue that Frank Thomas was the greatest hitter of the 90s and there is nothing anyone can say to change my mind. Don’t believe me, check out the stats for yourself.  Take away the outlier that was 1998 and find me a guy who for 9 of 10 seasons can bat over .300 – making out at .347. Can hit at least 30 homers, tops at 43, drive in at least 100 runs, and have a OBP of over .400 with a max of .487. All of this without a hint of steroid use, best hitter of the 90s. The Big Hurt is a major reason why I’ve never wavered in my White Sox fandom, but that does not mean that I’ve never cheered for the Chicago’s other baseball team.

Why is he smiling? Because he's the best hitter of the 90s.

Why is he smiling? Because he’s the best hitter of the 90s.

Two times in my life have I openly rooted for the Cubs. The first was in the great home run race of 1998 when baseball became cool all of a sudden. As a 9 year old I was drawn by the flash of one Samuel Sosa. Slammin’ Samuel’s flashiness drew a lot of attention and as my friends in elementary school went Cubs crazy it was hard not to get caught up in the wonder. Again, Thomas was having a bizarrely down year and the White Sox were coming off the previous year’s “White Flag trade” and in the middle of a rebuilding process that would yield a Central division crown in 2000.

The second time I openly rooted for the Cubs was my freshman year in high school when they made their now infamous playoff run in 2003. As a teenager that gave into peer pressure easily and desperately wanted people to like him I was not going miss a bonding opportunity with all these new people I’d be spending the next four years of my life with.

I had no qualms in rooting for the Cubs in these situations. It has never sat well with me that Chicago, such a great sports town, has two baseball teams. I’m not sure if one team would become more important to the city than the Bears, but I think it would be close. Chicagoans love the summer and I’ll never waver from the belief that it is the best summer time city in the U.S. The rooftops, the lake, the joy of being able to walk outside without freezing your nuts off, the Taste, Lolla, and so much more. One baseball team with the backing of the entire city would have a raucous home field crowd that could not be matched anywhere else.

It might be too late at this point to eliminate a team, but lets say that proposal came up and one team had to go. Which one is it going to be? Sure, the obvious answer would be keep the Cubs because it has more fans and the best neighborhood for a baseball stadium. But the easy answer is not always the correct one. The White Sox better represent the city of Chicago and our attitudes. Chicagoans are proud people. We’re proud of our city and the people who come from it. A fact we’re never shy of sharing with anyone whether they want to listen of not. We’ve got a chip on our shoulder, which we wear proudly with the moniker Second City. We truly believe our city is better than any other and hate how much attention that cities like New York and Los Angeles get around the world. What team better represents this attitude than the team that is Second in the Second City. White Sox fans are Chicagoans on steroids. The chip on the shoulder is replaced by a gaping crevice.White Sox

Why do the Cubs, a team that has not won the World Series since 1908 get so much love and attention? It feels very flashy, more of a LA thing to admire flash and show over substance. The loveable losers moniker has never felt right for Chicago. We like our blue collar, rough and tumble, take no prisoners, us against the world type players and teams. The Monsters of the Midway, MJ and Pippens absurd competitiveness, “The Serious One” Captain Johnathan Toews, and “Our Guy” Joakim Noah. The attitude is certainly changing in the Cubs organization, but for too long the Cubs were satisfied with putting buts in the seats with the draw of the oldest stadium in the majors and all the drunken fun that happens in Wrigleyville. The organization did not seem so interested in winning as it did in selling a brand of fun, loveable losers. It just does not feel very Chicago.

We might not have the success of a Yankees organization, but damn it if we’re not going to go down swinging. It might not be the most popular decision, but it is the right one for Chicago. We need a team that better fits the image of our city and that is the Chicago White Sox. I know it will be sad to cut short Theo Epstein’s rebuilding process, but never fear the White Sox have an intelligent GM with great foresight of his own, Rick Hahn. He has put together a very sneaky good start to a rebuilding process of his own and in one and a half seasons has turned the worst farm system in the majors into a respectable one. Plus has infused a lot of youth into the Opening Day lineup. Only time will tell which rebuilding process will get done sooner, but here’s hoping for a Red Line series in the near future and perhaps that can be used to decide which team will be Chicago’s real baseball team.

Chicago Cubs Pitchers and Catchers Report: The Cubbie Gene

As I get older, I like baseball less and less. It’s boring to watch. Games take forever. The season is too long. Baseball announcers and reporters are a bunch of boring, unoriginal old men. The league’s past refusal to use modern technology and implement replay was stubborn, and flat-out stupid. I’m sick of hearing about steroids; that era happened and it’s over.

The most painful part about baseball is that my favorite team is usually out of playoff contention by April.

Like Lady Gaga said, "I was born this way."

Like Lady Gaga said, “I was born this way.”

But there’s something about pitchers and catchers reporting in February that lights the tiniest flicker of hope in my cold, dark Cubby blue heart. An echo starts to bounce off the walls of that barren baseball corner of my heart, and it grows louder and louder until it reaches the sensible side of my brain and meddles with any form of logic I formally owned.

That echo always says, “Maybe this is the year the Cubs will win it all. Maybe this is that elusive next year.”

No matter how hard I try to cover my ears and block out that mysterious, hopeful voice, I can’t. I was born at Prentice Hospital on Chicago’s Near North Side with that pesky, ringing sentiment in my heart. I can’t get it out of me. It’s inoperable. You can’t take the Cubs fandom out of a Cubs fan.

Logic says that the young Cubs aren’t ready to win. The current roster is like a train station where has-beens, never-weres, and fresh-faced, new-to-the-city minor leaguers mix, neither group knowing which train to board. The front office has fixed certain trouble spots like the bullpen, but they still don’t have enough pitching to win. Travis Wood and Jeff Samardzja are nice young guns, but they’re not the cream of the crop – at least not yet. Edwin Jackson sucked last year. Who knows if Jake Arrieta will turn out to be a steal from that Feldman trade last year? And a fifth starter? Don’t get me started.

Furthermore, Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro both need to have bounce back years. After that, our next best players are in the minors: Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora, Kyle Hendricks, and a hundred more. Most experts are saying these guys aren’t quite ready for the majors.

We're ready for ya, Mr. Bryant.

We’re ready for ya, Mr. Bryant.

Ugh. So when will we be ready to win, then? What if these prospects don’t pan out? What if Theo and Jed’s master plan was a bunch of smoke and mirrors? Wouldn’t it just be easier to say, “Fuck the Cubs. I’m riding the Blackhawks train. The Bulls compete thanks to Joakim’s balls. And da Bears are getting better with dat Trestman guy who looks like a scientist.”

Yeah, that would be easy. But it wouldn’t be true to who I am – or who most Cubs fans are. A lot of outsiders like to think we’re a bunch of drunks who only see Wrigley Field as the biggest outdoor bar in America. We don’t truly love the Cubs or understand baseball; we just enjoy the party surrounding Wrigleyville.

You’d be wrong to think that. We love the Cubs because there always is a next year, and we always hope against all goats that this year is that year. We know enough about baseball to know that statistics matter. We also understand that the most important stat is championships won. So make fun of us all you want for not filling that portion of the stat sheet up. We can take it.

But don’t make fun of us for not loving our team, because, frankly, we don’t have a choice. Whether or not you know it, a Cubs fan is born that way. Yeah, sure, a peson’s mom and dad’s love for the Cubs influenced him growing up. But there’s this blue and red gene inside of him that fires on the first time he goes to Wrigley and smells Connie’s Pizza and Old Style blend together, gets his heart broken in the playoffs, or feels himself thinking, “Shit, we might actually pull this out.” That Cubbie gene is activated when his mom, dad, sister, brother, or friend explain, “It’s okay. We’re going to win. It’s just not our year.” That gene cannot be turned off.

F the goat. Let's win.

F the goat. Let’s win.

There will come a time in my life when the Cubs win a World Series. I hope we turn into perennial winners like the Red Sox did. I don’t think any Cubs fan doesn’t want that. He or she isn’t a real Cubs fan if he/she doesn’t. We won’t lose our identity when we win, either. We’ll just shed the “losers” part in the “lovable losers” nametag. I’m fine with just being “lovable,” aren’t you?

Logic says that this isn’t the year we win it all. Logic is probably right. But if we operated on only logic, we’d be robots. And I’m no robot. I’m a Chicago Cubs fan, and I can’t help it.