College Football with Chris Chastain

C’mon Vandy!

Chris Chastain from Pro Sports Fandom joins me to go over the season thus far, pick the week’s big games and dive into some potential upsets. At the end, we touch on Chris’ Falcons and the power balance in the NFL.

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NBA: Buy, Sell or Hold

Examining teams by Championship Odds

The NBA season is less than a month away. The offseason chaos is settling into player rankings and other prognostication. Ranking the players is a fun exercise, but the game is ultimately a team sport and championships are won by teams. Star players matter more in the NBA than just about anywhere else, but the team context is still critical. However, picking NBA title favorites is not the most exciting topic as the Warriors seem to have a stranglehold on the league with only Cleveland and Boston lingering (maybe Houston, if you reach). Yet, I want to take stock of the teams as we get ready to launch into the season. Imagine their title odds as stock prices. If the odds will get better during the season: Buy. If they will get worse: Sell. Otherwise: Hold. I’ll look at over-unders in the days ahead, but this will be an early indication of which teams I feel are under or over rated.

Sacramento Kings +100000
I  am cautiously optimistic about the Kings. I believe in De’Aaron Fox think Harry Giles could be interesting value and Bogdan Bogdonavic is an intriguing player. This team will flounder out West, but I’m not sure they are the worst in the conference. If Buddy Hield progresses they have some potential to move up. Buy

Orlando Magic +100000
This team is going to be a rough watch and I’m not sure where they are headed. Aaron Gordon is a promising piece and Jonathan Simmons will get a chance at a bigger role than the Spurs provided, but other there’s not much more. Best case: Mario Hezonja takes a leap forward and gives the future a bit more hope. Sell

Brooklyn Nets +100000
I like Kenny Atkinson at coach and this team has no incentive to tank. Wins will still be hard to come by, but I think this team has a chance to be better than a couple teams in the East. Jeremy Lin was good for them last year when he was healthy so if he can stay on the court they could be a mild surprise. Buy

Phoenix Suns +50000
The pieces are starting to come together. Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker in the back court with Josh Jackson on the wing gives them a lot of talent. They will need Bender or Chriss to step up in the front court to make real progress. Its a team laden with assets that is still a year or two away. Hold

Atlanta Hawks +50000
This is a full-on rebuilding job as most familiar faces are gone. Taurean Prince and Kent Bazemore are interesting wing players, but are not meant to be leading men on a quality team. John Collins could be an interesting rookie, but if this team were not in the East it would be pretty bleak. As is, Budenholzer will probably keep them competitive for stretches of the season. Hold

Indiana Pacers +50000
Paul George put them in a tough spot, but Indiana made it worse with a head-scratching trade. Myles Turner has star potential, but unless Oladipo turns into something he was not in OKC it looks like a tough season. They have talent, but seem lost as an organization and it will be interesting to see the approach they take without Larry Bird at the helm. Sell

New York Knicks +50000
The Knicks continue to be a hot mess–as evidenced by the constant Carmelo Anthony rumors. However, parting ways with Phil Jackson and having Porzingis on the roster give some hope. This team won’t be god, but they may be better than expected if Kristaps’ development is no longer hindered by Jackson. Hold

Chicago Bulls +50000
Dwyane Wade is one of the Bulls better players, but many would be shocked to see him end the season in the Windy City. His skill set does not fit this young, rebuilding team. Bobby Portis has a lot of potential and Denzel Valentine or Lauri Markanen may bloom into something. Yet, this year will likely be a long road for the Bulls. A repeat playoff visit seems highly unlikely. Sell

Charlotte Hornets +50000
I like the pieces here as a playoff team in the East. Kemba, Kidd-Gilchrist and Zeller/Kaminsky/Dwight Howard give them some talent to work with. If Malik Monk has an immediate impact this team might could upset someone in the first round. Steve Clifford is a quality coach and this team will be feisty all season. Buy

Detroit Pistons +50000
This team is stuck. They built around Andre Drummond, but struggle to play him in crunch time. They haven’t really hit on free agents (Reggie Jackson) or draft picks (Stanley Johnson). Steve Van Gundy will likely have them hovering on the brink of the playoffs, but nothing more. Hold

Dallas Mavericks +30000
Dirk Nowitzki and Rick Carlisle will keep this team competitive. I like their first round pick, Dennis Smith and he could be a good pair with Nerlens Noel. This team has dueling interests of development and being competitive. They are a good enough organization to get into the playoffs even in a loaded conference, which may surprise some. Buy

Memphis Grizzlies +25000
The only real change for this team is losing Zach Randolph. Fizzdale is a good coach, but this team is not built for a run in this NBA. If they can stay healthy maybe they can grind out one more year with Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, but health is a concern and the ceiling is already pretty low. Sell

Portland Trail Blazers +20000
If this Blazers team has a healthy Nurkic and plays like they did at the end of last season they have potential to surprise. Yet, this team feels like a known commodity: electric back offensive back court, but  struggles to defend. I like Lillard and McCollum, but not sure how much further they can go together. Hold

Utah Jazz +20000
This team won’t go away just because they lost Gordon Hayward. But…they probably won’t go much higher either. Rubio, Gobert and the Joes (Johnson and Ingles) give the Jazz a well-rounded team, but I struggle to see how they challenge the top of the conference. If Dante Exum has a breakout season maybe their ceiling rises, but that does not look promising. Hold

Denver Nuggets +15000
This team is loaded with assets. Kenneth Faried may get trade at some point, but is still a great contributor. They have young talent in Jamaal Murray and especially Nikola Jokic. They signed a veteran leader in Paul Millsap. This team has its eyes on the playoffs and could be a scary team as its always tough to win in Denver. Buy

Miami Heat +15000
They were one of the best teams in the league down the stretch this season. Its unlikely Dion Waiters will reach the heights of last year, but this team has the pieces–Whiteside, Winslow, Dragic–to make a run in the East. Spoelstra will have this team looking like a second-round threat. Buy

New Orleans Pelicans +15000
I am not buying Anthony Davis and Cousins together. Even if they do put up big numbers, this team does not have the pieces around them to be a threat out West. This team will be a major disappointment and the story lines will be more focused on Cousins’ and Davis’ next moves rather than anything New Orleans achieves. Sell

Los Angeles Clippers +10000
They lose Chris Paul, but that may free up Blake Griffin more. There is definitely some Ewing Theory potential with this team. They won’t be a real threat in the West, but won’t drop off as much as people think. Hold

Los Angeles Lakers +10000
The Lakers are moving in the right direction, but there still a couple years (or a LeBron acquisition) away from being a scary team in the West. It will be a more exciting year for Lakers fans, but the wins will still be slow to come. This could be the last year of a struggling Lakers squad for a while. Sell

Philadelphia 76ers +7500
This is an exciting team, but they will not be a top-5 squad in the East. If healthy, they will have to figure out how to merge a lot of assets together and health is a lot to expect from a team with this history. They may get to the second round sometime in the next two years, but Philly will be happy to see the first round this season. Sell

Toronto Raptors +7500
People are bored of this team, but the talent is still there. It’s rough to watch this team run into the same wall every year, but that wall is still farther than most teams reach. If DeRozan can add the three-point shot to his game, maybe they can improve. Even if they stay the same, not many teams out East should pass them. Hold

Milwaukee Bucks +6600
One team that could pass them is the Bucks. Giannis has received his MVP misssion from Kobe and may have the skills to be in the conversation. I’m not sure the team can stay healthy around him to make a run at the Celtics and Cavs, but Giannis gives them something no one else has. I want to see how Giannis looks early and how healthy the team is before going all-in here, but I am intrigued. Hold

Washington Wizards +5000
Washington took Boston to seven games last year, but is counting on Wall and Beal to majorly develop if they are going to keep up. If the Celtics and Cavs wobble at all, the Wizards have conference finals ability, but they need continued progression from Oubre Jr. and Porter Jr. to give DC fans real hope. Hold

Minnesota Timberwolves +2500
Can Thibodeau put all the pieces together. He got his guy in Jimmy Butler and now must pair him alongside Wiggins and Towns. Plus, they will be reliant on Jeff Teague at the point. I’m nervous results won’t match they hype, but am very excited to see this team take the court. Hold

Oklahoma City Thunder +2500
What will Russ do for an encore? For the Thunder to be a threat in the West he may have to change how he plays–his high usage style is hard to win with. Paul George gives him a new wing man, but I question his fit with Westbrook. I think the duos talent alone can get them to the second round, but I would not be surprised to see them self-com-bust either. Hold

San Antonio Spurs +1200
This is a lot of faith in Pop and Leonard. Pop is one of the best coaches ever and Leonard is a superstar, but this team is old. They will win games in the regular season on the back of their organization’s culture and experience, but it is hard for me to see this team putting any kind of run together unless Leonard goes up to a whole different level. Sell

Houston Rockets +900
Chris Paul and James Harden are both trying to use each other to get where they want to go. This team has a chance to earn Paul’s first trip to the conference finals. I am concerned about their fit and players Paul’s size don’t tend to age well. Yet, Harden and Paul’s ability to create points are up there with anybody. They are in the right spot as the fourth most likely to win the title. Hold

Boston Celtics +750
The Celtics had a helluva an off season and are hoping they’ve cashed in their assets the right way. If Irving can be an explosive offensive player, while Hayward leads a solid, deep supporting cast, the Celtics could be frightening. They could easily repeat as the one-seen in the East. However, the season will be defined by one question: Can they get past LeBron?  Hold

Cleveland Cavaliers +450
It is not looking great. Irving is gone. Isaiah Thomas could be out until February and much of the roster is old. What does Kevin Love have left? Is LeBron leaving? The Cavs have a bit of a mess on their hands. Still, LeBron is playing for them this year and you have to expect an eight straight finals for James. This team was closer to the Warriors than the 4-1 Finals suggested and if one Warrior star goes down they have the best chance to dethrone the champs. The Cavs are king in the East until someone proves they can beat the King. Buy

Golden State Warriors -160
The Warriors are far and away the best team in the league and should cruise to another title if they stay healthy–maybe even if they don’t. However, I am selling for now because I think the media will drive a narrative of turmoil on the team. The seeds are sown with the Curry-Durant Nike v. Under Armour snafu and whatever is going on with Kevin Durant’s social media. I think there will be bumps for this team in the early season so I am selling for now because the odds will get to a better value for a team that seems like a near lock for a championship. Sell

NFL Sentencing

Quick takes on every NFL game

The football went up a notch this week. The Falcons looked dominant, the AFC West is loaded, the Pats are definitely better than the Saints and the Seahawks offense is brutal. It’s too early to draw large conclusions, but each game gave us something to take away. The early season is a learning process–for the teams and making picks. Here’s what we learned this week…

Texans 13, Bengals 9
Texans > Bengals > Thursday Night Football (yuck)

Panthers 9, Bills 3
Carolina’s defense can be great if it stays healthy, the offense is already banged up and may not be that great healthy.

Buccaneers 29, Bears 7
The Winston-Evans combo and an electric defense makes Tampa Bay very dangerous, while Mike Glennon makes the Bears very worthless.

Steelers 26, Vikings 9
Case Keenum is bad at football.

Cardinals 16, Colts 13
Both these teams are in trouble, but the Colts really found a way to lose this one.

Patriots 36, Saints 20
These teams are going opposite directions with aging quarterbacks, reminding us how the franchise as an organization makes such a huge difference (uh…Tom Brady helps too).

Ravens 24, Browns 10
These teams seem pretty set in their identity–the Ravens as a dominant defense and just enough offense and the Browns as improving, but not quite ready.

Chiefs 27, Eagles 20
Kansas City is overwhelmingly balanced and just good.

Titans 37, Jaguars 16
The Jaguars have to get a lead early and hang on and Tennessee needs to find ways to get their weapons going earlier.

Raiders 45, Jets 20
They Jets were more feisty than expected, but the Raiders offense is going to be hard to stop for anybody.

Dolphins 19, Chargers 17
The Chargers are so snake bit that even Jay Cutler is coming back against them.

Broncos 42, Cowboys 17
Trevor Siemian has been the biggest surprise in the NFL, but Denvers defense hasn’t slipped much at all without Wade Philips.

Seahawks 12, 49ers 9
The 49ers are terrible (except Carlos Hyde), which should terrify Seahawks fans.

Redskins 27, Rams 20
Neither of these teams wanted this game, but Washington may have found a better formula in leaning less on Cousins and more on the ground game.

Falcons 34, Packers 23
Green Bay was very banged up, but the Falcons continue to prove the doubters (me included) wrong.

Lions 24, Giants 10
We’ll learn more about the Lions next week against Atlanta, but we know the Giants offense is a mess.

College Football Surprises

The good and the bad I didn’t see coming

USC 27-24 in double overtime. It was an ugly game for about 55 minutes. There was a wild end to the first half with a pick-six and a check-down turned Hail Mary and a crazy end to regulation with Texas going ahead only for Darnold to easily drive the Trojans down the field for the tying field goal. USC survived after stripping Texas at the goal line and it was just a magical game. Nostalgia, tradition, rough edges, dramatic moments–this game was everything we love good and bad about college football. And very few saw it coming.

Not many thought the 2006 Rose Bowl rematch would be close and surprises are what make the sport great. There are several this season. Not every surprise is a positive one, but they are what keep us tuning in on Saturdays.

Good Surprises:
Clemson
We knew they would be good, but I don’t think we expected to see a team so close to–if not exceeding–the level of last year’s championship squad. The defense is dominant and if Kelly Bryant is as good as he looks it could be trouble for everyone else.

Vanderbilt
You could see the Kansas State win coming, but the Commodores look like a threat in the SEC East, Continue reading “College Football Surprises”

NFL Week 2 Picks

Quick pitches for my best bets

If you’re not convinced quickly, it might not be right for you. That’s the approach I’m taking with the picks this week. The NFL is off to a bit of a sluggish start in general so its hard to feel great about a lot of these teams, especially with some of the lines this week. I found five I like and I think I can pitch them all pretty simply. If you want a longer explanation, check out the podcast. If it doesn’t feel right, be careful.

Packers +3 @ Falcons
Revenge. Rodgers is better than Ryan, Packers defense is improved. Falcons looked rough against the Bears. I think the Packers can win so I’ll take the points.

Seahawks -14 v. 49ers
Go with what you know. The 49ers are awful. Seahawks have question marks, but they should not be exposed here.

Raiders-14 v. Jets
Same approach. The Jets are unquestionably bad. More than two touchdowns worse than the Raiders.

Rams -3 v. Redskins
Washington is not good either. I am betting against the teams I really think are terrible. The Rams aren’t as good as they looked last week, but they can handle Washington at home.

Buccs -7 v. Bears
Emotional setting. Buccaneers ready to launch a playoff run and the Bears won’t look as sharp as the did against the Falcons.

Last Week: 2-2-1

Power 5 Sleepers

Week 3 Picks included

Earlier this week, I noted the strength of each conference at the top. Each one has a team well set up for the playoff race and most have more than one. Looking at each conference, you can identify the 2 or 3 favorites:

SEC: Alabama, LSU, Georgia
ACC: Clemson, Louisville, Virginia Tech
Pac-12: USC, Washington, UCLA
Big 12: Oklahoma, Oklahoma St.
Big Ten: Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio St.

Thats not an exhaustive list of favorites, but its a pretty good idea of which teams we expect to hear from at the end of the season. Yet, each conference has a team that, through two weeks, looks like it might be able to unexpectedly get into that conversation. These sleeper teams are ones I see with shots to get to their conference championship games, which will have them in the New Year’s six discussion–if not more.

SEC: Vanderbilt
Derek Mason has improved the Commodores record every year since he took the helm in 2014, getting Vandy to a bowl last season. This year, led by a stout defense and QB Kyle Shurmur (the Vikings’ offensive coordinator’s son), they look ready to make some noise. They already put the clamps on a good Middle Tennessee State team and crushed an FCS foe like they should. It’s tough sledding to have Alabama, @Florida and Georgia in consecutive weeks, but the SEC slate is always difficult. The SEC East is wide open and if they can pull an upset and get to 9-3 they have a shot to get to Atlanta.

This week: I love Vanderbilt +4 against Kansas State. K-State is a tough matchup for anybody, but the game is in Nashville and Vanderbilt is ready to get a big win heading into their Bama game next week. Continue reading “Power 5 Sleepers”