Sports Week in 30 minutes

Quick takes on a little bit of everything sports

I give my thoughts on MLB playoffs, NBA preview and the weekend’s football picks. Short and sweet, but a lot of ground covered. Would love to here what you think or debate with y’all. Enjoy the weekend and best of luck!

Picks:

NCAA:

Wazzu -15.5

GaTech +6.5

SDSU -7

A&M +3

Minnesota +4.5

 

NFL:

Falcons -13

Packers -3

Rams +2.5

Ravens -6.5

Broncos -12

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NFL Strength of Schedule Projections

Evaluating teams’ remaining slates

Football is unpredictable–even at the NFL level–for a lot of reasons. There’s all your cliches: it’s a game of inches, games aren’t played on paper, etc. There are match-up peculiarities, small sample sizes and just plain luck. Yet, sometimes the ‘unpredictability’ is because, especially early in the season, a lot of what we predict is based on projections tied to previous years. Now, every team has at least a quarter of its season played and several teams are 5 games in. So the 2017 season can really start to mean something in and of itself for projecting ahead.

One way to capitalize on this is to look at the schedule ahead for each team. Before the season, most strength of schedule metrics are measured by opponents’ prior year win percentage. That yielded this list: Continue reading “NFL Strength of Schedule Projections”

NFL Week 5 Best Bets

Austin Robins and I go over our favorite picks for Sunday

Austin Robins  and I give out our best bets of the week and dive into some NFL thoughts. We get into the Jets and Patriots defying preseason expectations, the Giants’ woes, the Raiders receiving corps and the Texans-Chiefs Sunday night game. Best of luck!

Fantasy Football with Jon Butler

Pro Sports Fandom’s fantasy guru give his take on all things fantasy football

Jon Butler of Pro Sports Fandom  drops by to to dive into the Fantasy football season so far. We talk about his favorite league traditions and look into two cool fantasy resources he mentions. Then we dive into waiver/trade talk and we end with some talks on our favorite players this week and a few sleepers we like.

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MLB Playoff Predictions

Two takes on how October will unfold

Nick Yusko and I join forces again to let you know how we see the MLB postseason playing out. We wrote this before both Wildcard games, but the editor (ahem…myself) took a little time getting it off the presses. Here’s what we thing is going to happen. Let us know what you think.

AL Wild Card:
Josh:
My thoughts on Twins have been documented. But, as I said, I’m picking the Yankees

Nick:
Remarkable season for the Twins as they take on a young Yankees squad. The Twins have a very good team but I have a hard time seeing their lineup do much against young fireballer Luis Severino. Yankees bats come alive early at home against Ervin Santana and their dominant bullpen closes out the Twins.
Yankees over Twins

NL Wild Card:
Josh:
I’ve always had a soft spot for the Rockies and have enjoyed the ride their MVP candidates (Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon) have taken fans on, but they don’t have an arm near the caliber of Zach Greinke.
Diamondbacks over Rockies

Nick:
Another surprising matchup here in the NL Wild Card game with the Rockies at the Diamondbacks. The Rockies boasted a potent lineup for the past few years, but often lacked in the pitching department. Quite simply, that’s still a problem. Zack Greinke is better than John Gray and the Diamondbacks lineup itself is nothing to be ashamed of, plus this game isn’t at Coors.
Diamondbacks over Rockies

ALDS:
Josh:
The Indians have been the darling of the second half, but I think they peaked a bit too early. This Yankees team has the lineup to give the Indians’ deep staff trouble and a bullpen to rival any in the league. Cleveland lets this one slip away. All rise.
Yankees over Indians in 4

Nick:
The Indians have been the most dominant team in baseball for the second half of the season. Their remarkable run to end the season netted them home field advantage in the American League. In the postseason, you often see a lot of low scoring pitching duels. No starting rotation has been better than the Indians lately and the Yankees won’t have Severino right off the bat. Indians’ arms dominate this series and they breeze past a young Yankees squad that will be contenders in the coming years.
Indians over Yankees in 3

Josh:
The Red Sox don’t have much besides Chris Sale and the Astros lineup may be the deepest in the playoffs. Altuve, Correa and Springer finally get their postseason moment–aided greatly by the arms of Verlander and Keuchel.
Astros over Red Sox in 4

Nick:
The Astros hit a lull towards the middle of the season. However, they acquired an experienced ace in Justin Verlander and have been playing some of their best baseball as of late. Despite injuries taking some key cogs out of their lineup, the Astros still led the majors in runs scored and batting average. With David Price limited to bullpen duties, the Red Sox do not have anyone in their rotation that scares you outside of Chris Sale. He may take game one, but the Astros are a superior team and win this series.
Astros over Red Sox in 4

NLDS:
Nick:
The Dodgers put together an incredible regular season. Outside of one unexplainable losing stretch, they have been dominant. However, the Diamondbacks have had their number. The D-backs swept a pair of late season series from their division foes. Clayton Kershaw has been the best regular season of this generation, however he has yet to exorcise his postseason demons. He also has not looked all too sharp in his return from the disabled list. The acquisition of JD Martinez continues to pay dividends and an underrated rotation of Ray, Godley, Walker (don’t forget about Greinke!) has me leaning towards the snakes in a hard-fought series.
Diamondbacks over Dodgers in 4

Josh:
The Dodgers have struggled all year with the Diamondbacks, but will break out when it matters. Not having Greinke to match up with Kershaw will cost Arizona and Kenley Jansen will put the clamps on the D-backs in pressure situations. The Dodgers get this one easier than expected.
Dodgers over Diamondbacks in 3

Nick:
The Nationals got a big scare in Max Scherzer’s last start as he exited with a potential hamstring injury. The potential Cy Young winner not being at 100% is a huge blow to the Nationals rotation. On the offensive side, the Nationals lineup is phenomenal, featuring a lineup as fierce as anyone with Murphy, Zimmerman, Rendon, Harper (though he seldom played the last 2 months of the season). Meanwhile, the defending champs enter after a ho-hum season that saw the Cubs get out to a slow start before they turned it on to have the second-best record in the MLB in the second half. The starting staff has some questions, but a key pickup in Jose Quintana could prove huge. On the offensive side, the Cubs boast a lineup that equally has as much depth as the Nationals and one that can wear out starting pitchers. I think the Cubs are being slept on for how well they played in the second half and take care of Dusty Baker (who is notorious for leaving his starting pitchers in too long) and the Nationals.
Cubs over Nationals in 4

Josh:
The Cubs did well to get here, but have not looked right all year. They have gotten better in recent months, but the Nationals have the lineup to hang with Rizzo, Bryant and co. Plus, the Nats have two starters (in Scherzer and Strasburg) better than anything the Cubs will trot out. Unless Scherzer is really hurt, the NAtionals finally get past the NLDS. These Cubs will be back.
Nationals over Cubs in 5

 

ALCS:
Josh:
The Astros will have the edge in the rotation and the deeper lineup. However, if the Yankees can get in front, their bullpen will be hard to crack. Houston will have an emotional city behind them and will ultimately prove to have too much firepower for New York. Houston heads to just its second world series.
Astros over Yankees in 5

Nick:
In what I expect to be a spectacular series between the two best teams in baseball (in my opinion), I simply think the Indians experience and bitterness from last season wins out in the end. While the hitting metrics side slightly with Altuve, Correa, Springer, and co both of these teams have huge offensive firepower. The Indians themselves have Lindor, Ramirez, Encarnacion, and Jay Bruce. The old adage is “good pitching beats good hitting” and I think that holds true here. I like the Indians pitching staff a little more than the Astros plus the home field advantage will be key. I like the series to go the distance, with the Indians winning at home in game seven.
Indians over Astros in 7

NLCS:
Josh:
Dodgers and Nationals will be a familiar series. Kershaw shut the door on the Nationals last year, but won’t be enough this time. The Nationals have been under-the-radar much of the year, but ride their high-powered lineup and get enough from their starters to get past a Dodgers squad that will be left with a lot of questions. Washington will need to avoid a game 7 in LA, but I think they get the job done.
Nationals over Dodgers in 6

Nick:
Based on their regular season matchups, I expect this to be a bit of a higher scoring series than typical postseason baseball. While I think the Diamondbacks come into the playoffs hot, the Cubs have still been better over the entire second half. Additionally, the Cubs already got a bit of taste of a playoff atmosphere with two late season series against the Brewers and Cardinals. I think that experience on top of last year’s run to the World Series makes the difference here. In what ends as a great turnaround season for the Diamondbacks, we get a World Series rematch.
Cubs over Diamondbacks in 5

World Series:

Nick:
I think it is fitting after last season’s World Series classic, it is only fitting we get a rematch. The Indians are back and look better than ever. The Cubs are the young but experienced squad that has played a lot of baseball games the past few years. Throw in the boosts to their lineup and the fully healthy rotation and I think the Indians are better than this year’s Cubs. I think the games will be close and tightly contested, but I like Francona as a game manager more than Maddon. Unfortunately, I also see this series being rather run-of-the-mill in comparison to last year’s, but it feels like justice for the Indians to come back and end their long drought against the team that ended their own the year before at the Indians’ expense.
Indians over Cubs in 5

Josh:
I picked this matchup at the beginning of the season so am sticking with it (hold the applause because I picked it last year too…). I think this matchup features two teams due for October glory, two loaded lineups and impressive pitching. Dusty Baker finally getting to the World Series is another great storyline and the #HoustonStrong would be on full display. Ultimately, The Astros have been the better team all year long and combining that with home field pushes them over the top.
Astros over Nats in 5

This weekend’s football picks

Looking to bounce back after last weekend

The first step is acceptance. Last week was bad. 1-4 in NCAA games, with 3 blowout losses. 2-3 in the NFL and lucky to get the Atlanta victory. It’s going to happen early in the season, but would like to limit the damage. So, this week trying to get back on track. Consulted with more people on these, dug a little deeper on research and re-examined some of my gut feelings on teams. I’m excited for the slate of games this week and think the picks will get better results. Follow or fade, but enjoy the weekend. Best of luck!

 

NCAA:
Minnesota -13 v. Maryland
Third string quarterback on the road against a team I like. Row the boat.

Washington -27 @ Oregon St.
I was down on Washington, but clearly put too much stock in their first half of the year against an improved Rutgers team. Jake Browning and co. have looked strong since then and were effective against a pretty good Colorado defense. Add that to the fact Oregon State is awful and I’m okay laying all the points.

Alabama -27.5 v. Ole Miss
Ole Miss is a program in a deep mess and they have some key injuries to their offensive weapons. They already lost to Cal by double digits and Bama is better than Cal (hot take). Alabama looked as good as ever last week and I think the Tide keep the dominance rolling. It’s a big spread, but Alabama covers another one.

Clemson -7.5 @ Virginia Tech
If anything, I would stay away from this game, because I can’t take the Hokies. Not only because of the Louisville pick a couple of weeks ago, but because the Tigers have looked to good to feel good going against. Tech’s defense is better than Louisville and they can move the ball, but I think Clemson rises to the challenge in Lane Stadium and pulls away.

Cal +14 @ Oregon
I think this is a shootout and Cal will at least get the cover. The Golden Bears hung tough against USC and the Ducks fell to Arizona State, so I struggle to see Oregon blow this one open even in Eugene.

Last Week: 1-4
Season: 8-7-1

NFL:
Ravens+3 v. Steelers
The Ravens are a much better team at home and I think their debacle in London was an anomaly. The Steelers struggle on the road and have looked sluggish in general. These games are always close and I lean Ravens outright so I’ll take the points.

Texans+2 v. Titans
Texans offense looked much better in New England and I think Tennessee benefited from a Seahawks defense worn down by off the field distractions, as they just faded in the second half. The Titans were locked in a close one with Jacksonville until turnovers helped them pull away. If the Texans can hold on to the ball, I like Houston at home

Patriots -9 v. Panthers
This a clash of strength on strength and weakness on weakness. The Pats’ offense and the Panthers defense should be fun to watch, but the other side will be two struggling units. I have faith in Brady to win his match up and I think Belichick figures out how to do enough on the defensive side of the ball. When picks are struggling, seems smart to lean on Brady and Belichick.

Buccaneers -3 vs. Giants
I’m scared of a desperate Giants team that seemed to put together something of an offense late against the Eagles. I’m not scared that Tampa Bay is as bad as they looked last week. The Vikings are a good team and the Bucs were dealing with the travel and emotional roller coaster that has been associated with Irma. The defense is still banged up, but another week should help the staff figure out better fixes. I think the line should be higher so like getting it at -3 and I think the Giants fall to 0-4.

49ers +7 @ Arizona
The 49ers look ready to get in the win column and Arizona has looked lost. The Cardinals looked a little better against Dallas, but I don’t think Palmer is as big advantage over Hoyer as the names make it sound. Shanahan should have San Francisco moving the ball and even if Arians’ squad claws out a win, I like the Niners to cover.

Last Week: 2-3
Season: 4-5-1

Race, Politics and Sports

Discussing long-standing issues fueling current events

Jas Smith, fellow Notre Dame alum, was a manger with the women’s basketball team and a leader of the Black Student Association during our time on campus. She speaks on her experience with activism in sports and provides insight on recent events and next steps.