Tom Brady: Anthony J. Causi/Icon SMI
I never joined the circus or acted in a Broadway play before (not even George Costanza's "off, off Broadway" production of La Cocina), so I hardly know that feeling trapeze artists or theatre actors get when performing "without a net." But I am a fantasy writer who enjoys making bold preseason predictions -- the kind that astute readers will surely use against me when/if Rashard Mendenhall, my personal pick for NFL Rookie of the Year, is languishing as the Steelers' No. 3 running back come November. Nevertheless, SI.com presents an expert-panel list of educated guesses for the coming season ... starting with the AFC.
|NFL 2008 preseason predictions|
Do you want a convenient, mostly hassle-free chance at unearthing the NFL's next hidden gem? Check out SI.com's revealing list of the 10 top pass-catchers with the best combination of Catches and Yards Per Catch (YPC) this preseason (also featuring established stars like Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall). We're essentially talking talented no-names here (as of now) with minimums of eight receptions and 10.6 yards per catch:
1. Billy McMullen, Redskins, (16 catches, 12.3 YPC)
2. DeSean Jackson, Eagles (16 catches, 11.8 YPC)
3. David Clowney, Jets (8 catches, 27.8 YPC)
4. Robert Meachem, Saints (9 catches, 23.4 YPC)
5. Calvin Johnson, Lions (9 catches, 18.9 YPC)
6. Josh Morgan, 49ers (9 catches, 13.2 YPC)
7. Dominique Ziegler, 49ers (14 catches, 10.6 YPC)
8. Kevin Walter, Texans (13 catches, 12.8 YPC)
9. Brandon Marshall, Broncos (10 catches, 13.9 YPC)
10. David Anderson, Texans (11 catches, 13.3 YPC)
If you're unfamiliar with the skills/backgrounds of Johnson, Marshall, first-rounders DeSean Jackson (Philly, 2008) and Robert Meachem (New Orleans, '07) or even veteran Kevin Walter (the Texans' dependable No. 2 wideout) ... perhaps you shouldn't be playing fantasy anyway (in paid leagues, at least). But what about the other five guys listed above? Are they potential diamonds in the rough ... or the preseason equivalents to Frisman Jackson, a one-hit wonder from '05 who posted eight catches for 128 yards and 1 TD for the Browns in Week 1 (prompting short-sighted fantasy owners everywhere to grab him off the waiver wire the following week)? Here are some video highlights on Anderson, McMullen, Clowney (part I and part II), Ziegler and Josh Morgan (my preferred hidden gem for 2008). Do they look like future NFL studs? You make the call!
A few weeks ago, I charted the cold-weather/warm-weather schedules for the consensus top-8 quarterbacks, analyzing the all-important Weeks 11 though 16 in fantasyland. (You can click here to see that chart.) In the interest of balance, here are the cold-weather/warm-weather schedules for 10 more highly rated QBs:
|Quarterback/Weather Volatility Chart Weeks 11-16|
|1 point -- awarded for playing in ideal weather/field conditions|
0 points -- awarded for playing in decent weather/field conditions
-1 point -- awarded for playing in likely brutal weather/field conditions
It's not that I despise Arizona's Kurt Warner as a No. 1 QB in fantasyland -- far from it. In his post-Rams existence, Warner (3,417 passing yards and 27 TDs in limited action last year) has largely been stellar against bad teams and proficient against good ones, especially at home. But you know that queasy feeling one gets when starting Fred Taylor in the RB1 slot on LaDainian Tomlinson and Ryan Grant's bye weeks? ... Well, that's how I feel about Warner whenever he dons that lone black glove for indoor games. Still, the man does good work. So, if the reports of taking over the Cardinals full-time are true, here are the recommended weeks for starting him over any QB whose surname isn't Brady, Manning, Romo or Brees.
Sept. 14 vs. Miami
Nov. 2 @ St. Louis
Nov. 10 vs. San Francisco
Dec. 7 vs. St. Louis (fantasy playoffs)
Dec. 14 vs. Minnesota (fantasy playoffs)
Cliff Lee: AP
Switching gears to baseball ... and poor Cliff Lee. He earns his AL-high 19th victory on Tuesday, and yet, gets seventh billing on the SI.com baseball section. Of course, news surrounding playoff contenders and pre-trade-deadline scuttlebutt take precedent over mediocre teams like the Tribe (although they've won nine straight). But Lee's buried billing simply underscores how quiet his super season has been -- until now. Here's how he stacks up against some of the greatest single-season performers of the last 40 years:
Lee (2008): 19-2, 2.43 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 145/27 K-to-BB ratio
Ron Guidry (1978): 25-3, 16 CG, 1.74 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 248/72 K-to-BB
Roger Clemens (1986): 24-4, 10 CG, 2.48 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 238/67 K-to-BB
Dwight Gooden (1985): 24-4, 16 CG, 1.53 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 268/69 K-to-BB
Steve Carlton (1972): 27-10, 30 CG, 1.97 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 310/87 K-to-BB
Bob Gibson (1968): 22-9, 28 CG, 1.12 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 268/62 K-to-BB
Bob Welch (1990): 27-6, 2 CG, 2.95 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 127/77 K-to-BB
Denny McLain (1968): 31-6, 28 CG, 1.96 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 280/63 K-to-BB
Raise your hand if you thought Rocco Baldelli would be back in the lineup this season -- after hearing reports of chronic fatigue, or something like that, after normal workouts. And of those with hands raised, keep 'em up if you thought his comeback would include 3 HRs, 3 RBIs, 3 runs and 6 hits in his first six games. And for the non-Baldelli family members still raising their hands, does Rocco deserve a spot on the Rays' playoff roster? (And please, spare me the emails about jinxing the team's postseason chances. They're in ... like Flynn!)
Credit this one to Fox Sports Net's Tuesday broadcast of Twins-Mariners: Which hitter has the best career batting average against left-handed pitching since 1974? (minimum: 300 at-bats) Scroll down for the answer.
In search of an unheralded Wednesday spot starter for your fantasy lineup, one who may bring glory in wins, ERA and WHIP -- if for just one night? It's been a tough road lately with these picks (see David Purcey and/or Brandon Backe) ... but I have an easy choice tonight: Minnesota pitcher Glen Perkins. First of all, Perkins' Twins (74-58) are smack-dab in the middle of a division and/or wild-card race, guaranteeing that his focus will be razor-sharp. Secondly, Perkins (11-3, 3.90 ERA) has thrown eight innings of shutout ball in two of his last three outings -- including a 5-hit gem against the Angels on Aug. 22. Lastly, Perkins has a home date with the sad-sack Mariners -- the same club that's been stifled by such low-regarded hurlers as Chicago's Clayton Richard, Oakland's Dana Eveland and Oakland's Greg Smith in the last 10 days.
Ichiro Suzuki and Albert Pujols share the best batting average against lefties since 1974 -- at .345.
Not that I need outside validation for my Rays-in-the-playoffs guarantee from above, but the good people at AccuScore.com have fired up The Big Computer ... and determined the Red Sox will outlast the Twins in the hotly contested race for the AL Wild Card -- obviously leaving the Rays (East), Angels (West) and White Sox (Central) as division champs. The hard-luck Twins, who suffered a gut-wrenching 3-2 loss to the M's on Tuesday, don't make the playoffs in Accuscore's estimates but finish well ahead of also-rans like the Jays, Yankees, Rangers and Indians. In fact, here are the final projected standings:
1. Angels (98-64)
2. Rays (96-66)
3. White Sox (92-70)
4. Red Sox (93-69)
The Rest: Twins (91-71), Jays (85-77), Yanks (84-78), Rangers (78-84), Indians (79-83)
That, if your fantasy football league allows pre-draft slot trading ... I highly recommend waiting until the very last second to pull the trigger. Case in point: In my favorite PPR league last week, I stupidly, stubbornly traded out of the Nos. 10 and 11 slots (getting a slew of choices in Rounds 3, 4 and 5) before the draft -- assuming that Frank Gore and Terrell Owens would be grabbed in picks 1-9. So, you can only imagine my shock and horror to see both guys available at 10 and 11 ... ugh! The lesson here: Never assume the guys/gals in your draft circle are smart enough to make value picks. Great talent always falls through the cracks ... and right into the hands of a prepared fantasy owner.
Ever dreamt of playing fantasy football against a Hall of Fame safety, Sports Illustrated football writer, Major League Baseball general manager, world-renowned swimsuit model, professional poker player or best-selling author -- to name a few? SI.com, in conjunction with Facebook, will welcome someone into its 2008 Celebrity Fantasy League where one lucky fan matches weekly wits, from Draft Day to the Fantasy Bowl, with Ronnie Lott, Peter King, Oakland A's GM Billy Beane, supermodel Brooklyn Decker, poker great Phil Gordon and Michael Lewis, author of the sabremetrician-friendly book, Moneyball. Time's running out, though, so click here and register today! As a consolation prize for the contest non-winners, you can create new leagues and develop newer rivals on the new SI/Facebook fantasy game.
At long last, SI.com has a fantasy football game, complete with all of the drafts, waiver wires, stats and analysis you need. Take the grand tour here and sign up a league. Heck, sign up two leagues if you want. We'll be waiting.