The Week 8 NFL Power Rankings

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The Cover 4.com presents you with The Week 8 NFL Power Rankings! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @thecover4 or facebook at theCo VerFour

Well, we are already halfway through the 2013 NFL season. Just like any season in football, it has been filled with pleasant surprises and surprising disappointments. If your favorite team is not playing its best, do not fret because a lot can happen the next eight weeks.

Depending on what you think of commissioner Roger Goodell (probably nothing good), you have to give him credit for keeping this league fair and full of parity through various means. You can basically separate the league into three different tiers based on winning percentage, but even then different teams from different tiers blend together due to strength of schedule and/or good and bad breaks in games (Tampa Bay, as bad it is, should have at least one win).  You’d be hard pressed to find someone who isn’t for parity in professional sports, unless you are me and how it is my job to attempt to rank these teams effectively. Four weeks in, the Denver Broncos seemed to be the clear cut No. 1 team. After the last two weeks, perhaps the gap isn’t as quite as large as we thought. Either way, after I name the team and its rank, in parenthesis will be the amount of spots they climbed or fell from my preseason rankings. This part will be especially funny when we get to TampaBay or the New York Giants. After that, I’ll give a brief explanation on why I put them there, and either me defending why I thought they would be good or me making fun of myself as I pull quotes from my late August column. Let’s get to it.

1. Denver Broncos (+2)

Through four weeks, Peyton Manning and the Broncos were the talk of the town with the most prolific offensive start in the history of the NFL. Armed with so many weapons, Manning looked unstoppable as he was dinking and dunking his way to the record books. The Broncos looked solid on defense even if they were doing it without the second-best defensive player in football, Von Miller, and their best cornerback, Champ Bailey. Well, a loss to the Indianapolis Colts and slow starts against the Washington Racial Slurs (in the first half) and Dallas Cowboys stopped their incredible progress and may have shown a blueprint on how to beat them, by targeting their weak offensive line and playing physical, hard-nosed defense. Using that strategy come December and January, and add in Peyton’s terrible cold temperature record in the playoffs (0-4 in games under 40 degrees), this team will roll through the regular season but might be more exposed than people expect come playoff time.

2. Seattle Seahawks (-1)

This team is probably best fit to beat the Broncos in the postseason (or Super Bowl, considering conference), and not just because it’s ranked second. The Seahawks have the punishing defense whose best asset is their secondary and a coolheaded quarterback who knows the best way to beat Denver is to not let them on the field. This team will always be in the top three, just because they are amazingly well balanced. Great defense, and good distribution of when to throw and when to hand it off to feature back Marshawn Lynch.

3. Kansas City Chiefs (+13)

We have our first double-digit jump! The Chiefs were the sexy pick in preseason to bounce back from a morbid 2-14 season last year, but no one could have predicted an 8-0 start. This team is your best bet to beat Denver in the AFC playoffs, only because it’s a slightly lesser version of the Seahawks. Kansas City’s defense is playing just as well as Seattle’s if not better, but the fall off is on the offensive side of the ball. Say what you want about Andy Reid’s game management (if you give me some time, I can say a lot) but this season he has remained relatively mistake free. Whether that is a fluke, it is nonetheless encouraging. Alex Smith is another great game manager, but just a step below Russell Wilson. He has conference championship experience, and can utilize weapons to overcome his shortcomings. The Chiefs defense, combined with the slow and plodding offense but sudden playmaking ability of Jamaal Charles, presents an underrated challenge to the Broncos.

4. Indianapolis Colts (+14)

The Colts made an even bigger jump than the Chiefs. I wrote about them last week, and how Andrew Luck is a one man regression fighter. In my preseason preview, I said the numbers pointed to the Colts overachieving last season and were bound to come down to earth, but this team is still very good because of who is under center. Well, I was half right. Surely, I didn’t expect them to beat the San Francisco 49ers, Broncos and Seahawks, all of which are incredible wins. One win is a fluke, two you might get lucky, but three wins against three teams in the (spoiler alert) top seven? That demands attention, and respect.

5. New Orleans Saints (+8)

With my initial ranks, the knock against the Saints was never against Drew Brees and his jolly band of bit piece scorers (besides Jimmy Graham) because Marques Colston is taking a fall vacation. I didn’t underestimate the return of Sean Payton either, who now has cemented himself as a top-three coach in the NFL with the dramatic turnaround from last season. Nope, I was dubious of how improved this defense could be under an obese homeless man Rob Ryan. Ryan, compensating for a (still) subpar defense by relentlessly blitzing (without “additional” instructions) has turned the Saints into an overall respectable force for which to be reckoned.

6. San Francisco 49ers (-4)

Through eight weeks, yes, the Saints are better than the 49ers. Colin Kaepernick looks lost without his wingman Michael Crabtree, and Anquan Boldin has not only come back to Earth, but may have tunneled half a mile underground after his hot start in the beginning of the season. Kaepernick is still a good quarterback, although he has been getting a lot of flak for his play, some of it undeserving. The defense has absorbed its fair share of losses, but nothing more significant than any other team. This team can still and will do damage come playoff time, and probably from the wild card spot which presents an interesting dynamic in the NFC playoff picture.

7. Green Bay Packers (-2)

This team moved back two spots just by the detriment of the Chiefs and Colts surprising me. Textbook Aaron Rodgers being Aaron Rodgers, lose your primary tight end (Jermichael Finley) and your main offensive weapon (Randall Cobb), your go to man in offseason (Greg Jennings) and your offense doesn’t miss a beat. The Packers will keep finding random wide receivers to fill in for them until they call me to suit up and I put up a 1,000 yard season. Their defense is average at best, but only needs to do enough to keep it close for Rodgers.

8. Detroit Lions (+14)

Another double-digit jump and we are still in the top 10. I said before the season this team doesn’t jump in my rankings “unless they smarten up on defense” and last time I checked Ndamukong Suh did not try to stomp on anyone’s private parts this season and their head coach hasn’t tried to fight another head coach yet in 2013. Their wins aren’t terribly impressive, but their defense does enough for them to win, which was my primary concern with them (Suh jokes aside).

9. Cincinnati Bengals (+1)

I was particularly high on the Bengals coming in. I still like them, but not as much as I did. They probably would’ve been bumped out of my top 10 (for whatever that’s worth) before Week 8, but then Andy Dalton threw five TD passes and I noticed he has actually strung together a nice set of games recently. If he can sustain his success and build on it, this is probably the fourth-best team coming out of the AFC if you factor in their stingy defense (although losing cornerback Leon Hall hurts).

10. New England Patriots (-4)

The Patriots fall from grace could be easy to blame on the injuries they’ve suffered; namely Jerrod Mayo, Aqib Talib (game to game), Vince Wilfork, Sebastian Vollmer, Danny Amendola, Shane Vereen and Rob Gronkowski. But it started earlier than that, when New England’s calculated risk of letting Wes Welker go ultimately backfired when they surrounded the visibly aging Tom Brady with subpar weapons to work with on offense. Even through eight weeks, this could already be chalked up to a lost season considering their significant losses and Brady’s surprising impotency under center.

11. Baltimore Ravens (-4)

Is it just me, or is this the first Super Bowl champion in the new era of technology to fly under the radar? I feel like I still can’t get a read on this team, nor do I care. Ray Rice got hit with the Shaun Alexander bug, rendering him pretty unthreatening and looking older than his age. His and Flacco’s contracts have hamstrung this team’s cap space, even if they have solid defensive players sprouting up like weeds to plug holes in their defense.

12. Dallas Cowboys (+6)

How ‘bout them Cowboys? I am at the point of feeling bad for them, and in particular Tony Romo. I will not defend Romo here, but the man just can not win. The Cowboys will always be a dangerous team, but I’ve been saying their poor mismanagement of their roster will always drag them down. Luckily, a recent article by Bill Barnwell can explain that much better than I can if you want the real breakdown.

13. Carolina Panthers (+9)

Last year, the Panthers probably lost two or three games due to their incompetent head coach Ron Rivera. Terrible in-game management and failure to pounce on calculated but aggressive decisions, it seemed like this team was already doomed from the start for its 2013 campaign. But Rivera opened his eyes and realized he had the best short yardage back (Cam Newton), despite their very pricey backfield. If the Panthers can add a legit receiving threat and get a worthy starter for their defense, this team has the potential to be dangerous next year.

14. San Diego Chargers (+14)

Boy, what a difference an offensive line does for a quarterback. Philip Rivers is looking good, Ryan Mathews hasn’t exploded into a million little glass pieces and the Chargers might look better than their 4-3 record suggests. They fell apart against Houston, lost to Oakland with that funky 11:30 p.m. Sunday night start time and lost another close game to Tennessee. They are a dark horse to grab a wild card spot.

15. Miami Dolphins (+6)

In the preview, I said both the offense and defense didn’t really improve, but moved more sideways despite them bringing in some well-known names. Although Mike Wallace has yet to answer the call, the Dolphins have been plodding along due to their stingy defense. They have lost four in a row, but wins and losses do not tell the whole story.

16. Tennessee Titans (+10)

I was surprised by the Titans success so far this season. Their last three games before their bye were especially tough; they faced KC, Seattle and San Francisco and managed to keep the first two close contests. That’s pretty much all you can hope for from a middling team.

17. Chicago Bears (-8)

Much like New England, this drop is due more to injuries than anything else. Losing Jay Cutler is obviously huge, but losses to the defensive line and Lance Briggs can not be overlooked, either. If Cutler can return in a timely fashion, this team is poised to make a late season run if the NFC North is still available for the taking, or at worst a wild card spot.

18. Philadelphia Eagles (+6)

I think we know by now that Chip Kelly’s offense is legit. I wrote earlier in the season that the key to their offense is Mike Vick’s health, and right now that situation looks pretty grim. This team is bound to drop in the rankings by the end of the season, just because they are forced to put Matt Barkley and Nick Foles under center. But if Kelly gets a quarterback he wants in this year’s draft that can effectively run his offense, watch out for the Eagles next year.

19. Washington Racial Slurs (-8)

I think it is safe to say that Robert Griffin came back too early. He looks uncomfortable in the pocket, and continually overthrows his receivers. His porous defense lends him no favors, either. Still, we were saying the same thing about the Slurs last season, before they put together a great second-half run to make the playoffs. I am not saying it is out of the realm of possibility, but their remaining games alternate from easy opponents to hard/division opponents. However the NFC East is still somehow open to anyone who wants to take it.

20. New York Jets (+10)

How about Jekyll & Hyde Geno Smith, eh? Some weeks he looks like their new franchise quarterback, and other weeks he looks like a stopgap between trying to find the new franchise quarterback. For the short term however, the Jets are riding or dying with Smith. Luckily, the pressure on him isn’t too intense, Rex Ryan has yet again worked his magic to make the defense a top-five unit in the league. Now only if they can get offensive weapons with which to surround their quarterback.

21. Atlanta Falcons (-17)

Ouch, I definitely did not see this drop coming. Do not let the Julio Jones injury fool you, this team was in rough shape before the devastating injury. Granted, Roddy White and Steven Jackson were hobbled, but given Matt Ryan’s new contract and all the zeroes next to it; you kind of expect him to overcome those types of things. But when Jones went down, their defense giving up 26.3 points per game was just too much for Ryan to overcome. This team is in trouble for years to come.

22. Buffalo (+7)

This team is my darkhorse poised to make a second season run. They have an underrated front seven, and if they don’t end up trading Jarius Byrd, combined with Stephon Gilmore they could possibly make this unit top-five in the league. When EJ Manuel comes back, he will be in the same boat as the aforementioned Geno Smith. He will not be called upon to do much, and even less than Smith because of the weapons around him. Combined with a somewhat soft remaining schedule, consider me in on the Bills to climb to a 7-9 or 8-8 record.

23. Pittsburgh Steelers (-4)

Although injuries are nothing to make light of, I remarked after the Steelers lost Maurkice Pouncey that Pittsburgh was ahead of schedule on losing one critical offensive lineman in the beginning of the season. That being said, this line continually lets Ben Roethlisberger get pummeled. Their defense is rapidly aging at all the wrong places, and it looks like the Steel Curtain is starting to draw to a close on an era.

24. Arizona Cardinals (+1)

The Cardinals continue to frustrate me as they fail to get a quarterback to get Larry Fitzgerald the ball in his prime. No, Carson Palmer does not count. However, even if this team had a competent quarterback, two things would stand in their way of success: their miserable offensive line (half by design, half by injuries) and their tough division. Regardless, they have an opportunity to make a significant move in this year’s draft to snag a good quarterback because their defense is top notch and can pay a lot of attention to the other side of the ball.

25. Cleveland Browns (+2)

Oh, Brandon Weeden. Oh, Cleveland. If Cleveland is fully committed to this draft (the trade of Trent Richardson seems to indicate so) then they should us all a favor and just tank in front of our eyes by putting in Weeden. The Browns, like the Cardinals, can focus on their problems under center because of their solid defense and effective offensive weapons (Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon).

26. Houston Texans (-18)

Oh sweet Lord. Matt Schaub is not having a good year, to say the least. Although I stand by this assessment pre-meltdown, this still looks pretty bad: “Matt Schaub is an above average QB. I’m not sure he can win you a Super Bowl, but he can certainly lead this team to 11-12 wins in a weak AFC South.” Well then. I don’t think the worst case for the Texans could have envisioned Schaub combusting this badly, but that is what happened and now the Texans are an astounding 18 points back from where they started in the beginning of the season of my rankings.

27. New York Giants (-13)

I love to pile on Eli Manning as much as the next guy, but his offensive line has resembled turnstiles, and some of his interceptions have been passes that went through his receivers’ hands. Nevertheless, this team is in a bad place on top of the bad quarterback play. David Wilson has taken a, um, step back and their defense is still pretty bad. Luckily, they play in the NFC East and are still in the playoff race.

28. St. Louis Cardinals (-8)

Admittedly hung with the Seahawks in the past iteration of Monday Night Football, but the long term injury impact of Sam Bradford hurts, even if he has supplanted himself in the “disappointment” category of first-round picks. Their defense isn’t half bad, but the lack of impact from Tavon Austin and their trio of wholly ineffective running backs does not bode well for the future.

29. Oakland Raiders (+3)

Hey how about Terrelle Pryor? He and Geno Smith are the new poor versions of Mike Vick. You ride with the highs and deal with the lows. If Darren McFadden can keep producing and their defense plays at a league-average level, if Pryor is on his game this team can sneak games out against lesser opponents. Still showing some spunk this season while GM Reggie McKenzie plans and builds towards the future is always encouraging.

30. Minnesota Vikings (-13)

Christian Ponder? Nah. Matt Cassell? Nope. Josh Freeman? Not a chance. Poor Adrian Peterson. Much like the situation our friend Larry Fitzgerald, AD is wasting away his prime against nine and sometimes 10 in the box but the Vikes still somehow find a way to eke out victories. The signing of Greg Jennings and drafting of Cordarrelle Patterson were nice, but how good do you expect them to be if no one can get them the ball?

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

“I love this team. Couple reasons: Josh Freeman is in a contract year, and I think he has some serious potential.” I am here for your entertainment, people. This description should stop and end at “Greg Schiano” but I will just add in that their MRSA outbreak, the fact you have the best cover corner in the league in zone coverage and Doug Martin’s disappointing season before it got cut short by his injury don’t help.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars

This team is No. 32 by default, even though it doesn’t even deserve to be ranked. I will spare you all the hilarious stats, like the Denver Broncos two highest scoring games this season have more points than the Jaguars have all season. At this point of the dreadful Blaine Gabbert experiment, even if Jadaveon Clowney is a once in a decade talent, do the Jaguars take Teddy Bridgewater (or ‘best quarterback X’)? Believe it or not, I think they should.

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Mike Devarenne
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Week 8 Start’em Or Sit’em

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The Cover 4.com presents you with Week 8 Start’em Or Sit’em! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @thecover4 or facebook at theCo VerFour

MUST- START

1136729700-e13800534082201. Pittsburgh Steelers RB: Le’Veon Bell

-Le’Veon Bell first burst on to the scene in week 3 versus the Minnesota Vikings when he had 16 carries for 57 yards and two touchdowns. Since then he hasn’t had a game quite like that but still has had solid production with 35 carries for 127 yards rushing and 4 receptions for 28 yards. Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley continues to give the load to Bell and has proven to be the guy for that team as the Steelers cut back up running back Isaac Redman this week. This past Sunday, Bell pounded the football for 93 yards on 19 carries in a 19-16 wing against the Baltimore Ravens who have one of the better defensive  fronts in the league with likes of Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs. Now the Steeler’s face a top run defense that has allows an average of only 99 yards a game and is ranked 9th in the NFL but has a mediocre pass defense consisting  that is ranked the 17th worst in the NFL. Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown and tight end Heath Miller will be able to open up the passing game which will free up running lanes for Bell and he will receive goal line touches. He might not be in your starting lineup this week but he is continuing to heat up and become that premier back that the Steelers have been looking for. Bell is a MUST-START this week!

Terrance-Williams_0754572.  Dallas Cowboys WR: Terrance Williams

-Williams has emerged as one of Tony Romo’s top targets and has even replaced WR Miles Austin for the #2 WR position. He has had a touchdown reception in the last 3 games with 249 receiving yards on 12 receptions. Williams has proven himself to be a reliable fantasy option in weeks to come. With an away game against the Detroit Lions who have a league 5th worst pass defense and will put all of their focus on covering WR Dez Bryant, Williams will have yet another great game against a defense that has allowed 282 passing yards on average to opposing teams this season. Running Back Demarco Murray is coming back from injury this week so expect Head Coach Jason Garrett to take the load off him by going airborne with his passing attack. Williams is a must-start against another league worst defense and is looking to be a solid fantasy option.

brent-celek3. Philadelphia Eagles TE: Brent Celek

-After two weeks only registering two receptions, Brent Celek should be getting back on track this week against the New York Giants team that he scored on two weeks ago in New York. In that game he was able to catch 3 passes for 47 yards from QB Nick Foles. QB Michael Vick looks to be suiting up for this division rival matchup against a struggling New York Giants secondary that let up 70 yards and 2 touchdowns to Cowboys’ TE Jason Witten, 47 yards and a touchdown to Broncos’ TE Julius Thomas, 64 yards to Chiefs’ TE Sean McGrath, 54 yards to Panthers’ TE Greg Olsen and 68 yards to Bears’ TE Martellus Bennett. The New York Giants cannot seem to fix the issues in their secondary and Head Coach Chip Kelly will look to exploit that. Now that Vick is healthy, Celek has a better opportunity to make plays this week and score big for your fantasy team.

 

 

MUST-BENCH

Harry+Douglas1. Atlanta Falcons WR: Harry Douglas

– Harry Douglas faces a stout Cardinals Defense this Sunday that features cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu. Last week Douglas was able to make an impact against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but there are a lot of coaching issues and the defense had a hard time getting on the same page. Cardinals’ Head Coach Bruce Arians won’t let that happen to his defense. Roddy White is ruled out of Sunday’s game again and the Cardinals will look to key in on Harry Douglas on the outside routes. Steven Jackson is said to be set to play and will take the load from the passing attack.

NFL: Preseason-Baltimore Ravens at St. Louis Rams2. St. Louis Rams RB: Zac Stacy

-Zac Stacy has been heating up lately but now with the loss of QB Sam Bradford he is the only source of offense. With a banged up offensive line that is facing the 4th ranked run defense and the “Legion of Boom” Monday night the St. Louis Rams will be shut down. Although it is at home, it won’t be enough to spark an offense led by QB Kellen Clemens or possibly even Brady Quinn. The Seahawks are looking to add another divisional win to their belt and stay on top of the NFC West. They’ve held opposing running backs to 58 total yards and 1 touchdown in two weeks and they will continue to shut them down.

11469891_03. Jacksonville Jaguars WR: Justin Blackmon

-Blackmon has done well coming back from his suspension versus the St. Louis Rams and the Denver Broncos but will now be facing one of the hardest-nosed defenses in the league in London.  The 49ers have the 4th ranked secondary that will look to dominate the Jaguars’ receivers right off the ball. Chad Henne is getting the start this Sunday and will try to get the ball to his star receiver but there won’t be time.  He’s a must bench.

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Jonah Montenegro
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NHL Season Preview Part 4:Metro Division

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The Cover 4.com presents you with the NHL Season Preview Part 4:Metro Division! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @thecover4 or facebook at theCo VerFour

In  the final installment of our season preview, we swing back to the Eastern Conference and take a look at the newly formed and named Metropolitan Division. The Metro is a star-studded division featuring the likes Claude Giroux, Rick Nash, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin.  This division figures to be the most intense, keeping great rivalries such as Flyers-Penguins, Flyers-Rangers and Rangers-Islanders together, while adding new, great divisional rivalries like Flyers-Caps and Pens-Caps. Let’s take a look at how the division figures to break down.

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CAROLINA HURRICANES 

The Hurricanes are one of those teams you look at on paper and wonder just why they were so bad last year? The answer is goaltender Cam Ward. He is the key to this Carolina team and when he went down last year, so did the team. Their top=six forwards are strong, and include two Staals, Eric and Jordan, as well as Jeff Skinner and Alexander Semin. The No. 5 overall pick this summer, Elias Lindholm is also supposed to make the team. Offensively this team should be ok. Where it really went wrong last year was trying to stop the puck from going in the net. In the offseason the Hurricanes lost defensemen Jamie McBain and Joe Corvo, not that they were helping out much with the defense last year, and picked up Mike Komisarek and Andrej Sekera. The Hurricanes allowed the second-most goals last season (159), ranking at the near top of list of teams who faced the most shots. It is easy to see why this team was bad. Tim Gleason, Joni Pitkanen, Jay Harrison and Justin Faulk, all return and are not exactly names that make teams think they are going to be running into a lot of problems. The Hurricanes made some improvements to the blue line, but I don’t see enough of an improvement here to be talking playoffs. The potential to be wrong with that prediction is there, but I feel they did not do enough to help themselves.

Sergei Bobrovsky

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS

Columbus is one of my favorite up-and-coming teams in this league and it has finally found themselves in the Eastern Conference where it belongs.  It has what is essentially the same roster back and barely missed the playoffs last year. It is in a much tougher division this year however, and will need to play its best hockey every night to have a chance at making the playoffs. With that said, the Blue Jackets will need to ride Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky throughout the year to succeed. Bobrovsky was practically given away from the Philadelphia Flyers two years ago and last year blossomed into what he was supposed to all along. He was out to prove many wrong, and he did just that. Their biggest off season signing, Nathan Horton, is recovering from shoulder surgery but his offensive production is expected to help when he returns. Marian Gaborik, who is in a contract year, will look to lead the team offensively, but like always with him, he will need to stay healthy.  Artem Anisimov was re-signed and is also expected to score and be a top-six forward while R.J. Umberger, Nick Foligno and Brandon Dubinsky are also secondary scorers. Jack Johnson, Fedor Tyutin and James Wisniewski are all veterans who can fill big defensive roles for this club. The No. 2 overall pick in 2012, Ryan Murray hopes an injury from last year is behind him, and he is ready to go for this season. If they can replicate everything that went right for them last year, the Blue Jackets should be in the mix for a playoff spot.

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NEW JERSEY DEVILS 

Who exactly is supposed to score goals on this team? Over the last two years it has lost any resemblance of a team that knows how put pucks in the net. The Devils lost Ilya Kovalchuk to his “retirement” to the KHL, David Clarkson to Toronto and Alexei Ponikarovsky, who was never really that great to start with. They added Jaromir Jagr, Ryane Clowe and Michael Ryder doing themselves no favors trying to get younger and still being as equally goal challenged as before. These are hard times for the Devils as they are now owned by the NHL, and Martin Brodeur fades into retirement after this season. Adam Henrique, Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac get the call to light the lamp, but don’t expect staggering numbers. If one thing went right this offseason, it was finding an eventual replacement for Brodeur via Vancouver. Cory Schneider will be the backup, but he should also get a bulk of the starts as well. The Devils likely will have their worst season in years and finish last in the division.

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NEW YORK ISLANDERS

Over the last four years, it may not have looked like it at the time, but the Islanders were building a team with a lot of potential. Last year, that team finally came out. A team built from newly-named captain John Tavares  features the young talent of Matt Moulson, Michael Grabner , Kyle Okposo Josh Bailey, Travis Hamonic, Ryan Strome and soon-to-be NHLer Griffin Reinhart. The Islanders are one of the fastest teams in the NHL and can hang and wear teams down over the course of a game. See the Pittsburgh series from last year’s playoffs. The Islanders should have beaten the Penguins, but go no help from their goaltending. Okposo had an awful year last year scoring just four goals, and will be needed this year to help contribute. The team lost defenseman Mark Streit, which hurts their power play but Lubomir Visnovsky can fill that role. Among their other defensemen, the Islanders are in trouble. There is not much there in terms of overwhelming talent and will be a weakness for them this year.  Evgeni Nabokov is 38 and played OK in the regular season, but his postseason was one to forget. Backup goalie Kevin Poulin provides no hope. Expect the Islanders to be fast and sexy, but I think this team needs some help on defense and in goal before talking playoffs this year.

Henrik Lundqvist

NEW YORK RANGERS

Out is head coach John Tortorella and new bench boss, Alain Vigneault formerly of Vancouver, takes over. Vigneault should be the right coach for this team, finally freeing the players from the defensive-minded vice grip Tortorella had on them. That means Rick Nash, Brad Richards and Derick Brassard have their handcuffs off and should be ready to fire at will at the net.  Ryan Callahan and Derek Stepan, two of the best two-way forwards in the NHL, will also have an easier time playing more to their game, although not much is expected to change with how they produce. New addition Benoit Pouliot is also an ideal third-line player and should be interesting to watch on this team as he can score if paired with the right players. On defense, Marc Staal is recovered from a career-threatening eye injury. It will be interesting see how he approaches stepping in front of a puck now. Also in that group is Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and Michael Del Zotto who are all sound NHL defensemen.  Goaltending, we all know what to expect from Henrik Lundqvist, but with a less defensive sound team now, it will interesting to see how he responds. Expect for the Rangers to compete for the top of the division.

Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Kris Letang

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

We hear it every year, they have the two best players in the world in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The team around them is built to win and score, as the Penguins were NHL’s highest-scoring team at 3.38 goals per game during the regular season. They lost all those shiny new “old” toys in Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray they acquired last year as well as gritty forward and fan favorite Matt Cooke, and Tyler Kennedy to a trade. Instead of going out and signing new players with high upside, they put all of their money into known commodities Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis. The top six will look the same, minus a potential rotating door of Beau Bennett  and Jussi Jokinen on the Malkin and James Neal line. Where the Penguins will really be hurting is the lack of size and grit from their bottom six forwards. Brandon Sutter and newcomer Matt D’Agostini will try to help with lower line scoring. On defense, they kept Kris Letang around, which is huge and signed defenseman Rob Scuderi, an old familiar face, back to the team. The Penguins are beyond loaded with organizational depth on defense and once again it should not be much of an issue (although it was during the playoffs). The biggest question mark is goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who once again fell apart in the playoffs. He saw a sports psychologist during the offseason to help, but this is a make or break year for his career. Backup goaltender Tomas Vokoun is out indefinitely with a blood clot. Vokoun carried the Penguins through the playoffs last year, so Fleury will really need to be on top of his game. Expect this Penguins team to be at the top or finish second in the Metro.

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PHILADELPHIA FLYERS 

When I look at the Flyers, I see a team who has top tier offensive talent, but lacks the overall fear I would normally have in a Flyers team. There is no question their talent at forward is one of the better looking ones in the division.  Claude Giroux is one of the most talented and gifted players in the NHL and will be the team leader in points. Jakub Voracek had a breakout season recording 46 points in a short year while Scott Hartnell will look to bounce back after breaking his foot and only scored 16 points. Wayne Simmonds and Matt Read had nice years, while Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn need to improve after producing well below what was expected of them last year. Newest addition Vincent Lecavalier, who is replacing the departed Danny Briere, should be the second line center and if healthy, he will have a similar role he shared in Tampa over the past few years. On defense, the Flyers had more injures than they could have imagined and were never able to recover. Kimmo Timonen had 29 points on defense and Luke Schenn was nothing special. Their biggest addition was Mark Streit who will ease the pressure of Timonen and become the quarterback of the power play. Health will be a huge determent again as to how well this team does. It’s never the Flyers unless they are having goaltending issues, and always, they are. Gone is head case Ilya Bryzgalov, and a tandem of sub-par goaltending in Steve Mason and Ray Emery will be called upon to play well beyond their better years.  I expect the Flyers to finish either third or fourth in the division.

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WASHINGTON CAPITALS

The Capitals were the Southeast Division winners last year, but this year they join the Wild West run-and-gun Metropolitan Division  where they will need to learn how to defend.  Adam Oates needs more credit for revitalizing Alex Ovechkin’s career, forcing him to right wing where scored a league-high 32 goals and won his third Hart Trophy. Ovechkin seemed lost and many were starting to wonder if this was beginning of the end to his career as an elite player.  But Oates brought out in Ovi what he had been missing for the last two seasons, and Ovi seems to have responded. Mikhail Grabovski was a big pick up and should be the second line center after losing Mike Ribeiro. He has a scoring reputation that the Capitals love and top to the bottom, the Caps have four sound lines. Brooks Laich and Nicklas Backstrom should have no problem putting up their expected point totals for another strong Washington offense. The Capitals defense is a big question this year. The big names; Mike Green, Karl Alzner and John Carlson will be fine, but it is the other three remaining defensemen who bring a lot questions. Green obviously will need to stay healthy, as this has become a re-occurring problem for him. The final three defensemen will be names like John Erskine, Tomas Kundratek and Dmitry Orlov. Erskine is the name that many will recognize and is someone the Capitals will need to perform as bottom type defenseman. The goaltender job is Braden Holtby’s to lose, but seems to have finally answer the call as to who should be starting. He had a strong end to his season, but struggled in the playoffs leading to questions if he was the right goalie. He is, but will need to show it was not a fluke. It can be said the team in front of him did not play well, but this is a team effort and he deserves equal blame.  I predict the Capitals will finish somewhere around third or fourth in the division, competing with Philadelphia for one of those spots.

As you can see, the Metro Division is going to be a tightly contested division, with tons of star power battling for supremacy. The headlines are there, the stars are there, and the excitement will surely be there. For our money, here is who we expect to receive the automatic bids out of the Metro this season:

Pittsburgh

Rangers

Capitals

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NFL Fantasy Player Tracker Buy or Sell

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The Cover 4.com presents you with the NFL Fantasy Player Tracker Buy or Sell! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @thecover4 or facebook at theCo VerFour


Must Buy

#1. Cleveland Browns TE: Jordan Cameron

Cameron has been on my radar since the end of last season. He is another big and physical tight end that has been the primary target for Weeden, and now Hoyer, since Josh Gordon has been gone. Managing to have 5+ receptions in the first three weeks is one thing, but averaging more than 10 yards per reception is another. Head Coach Rob Chudzinski and Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner are getting him more involved with the offense by finding new ways to utilize his catching abilities, as seen in his touchdown reception on a fake field goal. One might think that his fantasy stock has fallen with Wide Receiver Josh Gordon back on the field, but that only helps to take the defense’s focus off of him. He has 4 touchdowns in 3 week. Cameron is a no brainer as top tier (ie Jimmy Graham) fantasy tight ends are hard to come, especially by this season. Trade for Cameron if you are able to as his production should continue for the rest of the season.

#2.  Cincinnati Bengals RB: Giovani Bernard

The running back has finally made use of his reps and has given Head Coach Marvin Lewis a reason to continue to give him more. The Bengals have always been known as a tough, hard-nosed football team but Bernard has brought speed and explosiveness to the team that is now taking focus off the All-Pro wide receiver AJ Green. Bernard has made himself a viable starter in most fantasy leagues at the flex position because of his ability to find ways to get in the end zone. With 4 scores in three weeks I do not see why he’d rot on someone’s bench.

#3. Buffalo Bills QB: EJ Manuel

As a rookie he is showing no signs up backing down to veteran defenders in this league. After being sacked by the New York Jets Defense eight times, Manuel stood strong in the pocket, throwing for 243 yards and 1 touchdown while also making plays happen on his feet (see his 40 yards rushing). He is a versatile player that is continuing to gain chemistry with fellow rookie WR Robert Woods, as well as his #1 receiver Stevie Johnson. There is Russell Wilson type potential in Buffalo; Wilson took the first half of the year to learn and then lit up the league in the final weeks. He might not be your starter yet but he is a strong backup/bye week option and short term replacement for struggling quarterbacks like Colin Kaepernick.

#4. St. Louis Rams WR: Austin Pettis

Although not a household name, yet, Pettis is making himself known as one of the top receivers in St. Louis. He has a sure set of hands and has been quarterback Sam Bradford’s safety blanket and red zone target.  He has great route running skills and finds the windows in the opposing defenses. With 114 yards receiving and two touchdowns, he is not going to have huge games but will certainly find a way to get open. Pettis will have a decent showing Thursday night against a weak 49er secondary. The 49ers’ defense has struggled in past weeks and is plagued by ailing injuries; with ILB Patrick Willis (Groin), DB Carlos Rogers (Knee), Nnadmi Asomugha (knee), DE Justin Smith (Shoulder) all potentially out, look for Pettis to get open and for the Rams to get into the end zone. He is a definite trade worthy receiver for the remainder of the season.

#5. Houston Texans WR: DeAndre Hopkins

Hopkins is a very special rookie that has shown promise dating to the preseason. He might be the #2 receiver behind Andre Johnson but he is looking like a top fantasy wide out more each week. For the past 3 weeks, Hopkins has had 5+ receptions as well as 50+ yards with a touchdown. Hopkins has shown that he can fill in for a hurt Andre Johnson; see week #2 when he had 117 yards receiving and a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans. Quarterback Matt Schaub is really beginning to trust him and his playmaking abilities. With Johnson still hurting, expect Hopkins to get a lot more balls thrown his way the rest of the season. On a side note, Hopkins faces Seattle Seahawks CB Richard Sherman and, although unpopular, I like this matchup for him. We can all flashback to when Falcons’ WR Roddy White torched the Seattle Defense in the 2012-2013 Playoffs.

Must Sell

#1. New York Giants QB: Eli Manning

Elite? Right now it doesn’t look like it. Without an o-line and a running game, it is really hard for a defense to respect Manning. Last week, Manning was sacked 7 times and looked silly against the Panthers D. Eli is a pocket passer, who needs the time to make the right decisions and deliver a completed ball. He is playing with frustrations and that will only force him to make more mistakes. Until Eli steps up and calms down, he is not a starting fantasy quarterback. Moving forward, I don’t see the Giants having a major turnaround.

#2. New England Patriots RB: Stevan Ridley

Right now there is no hope for Ridley as a reliable fantasy number one running back. The Patriots offense does not look like the Patriots offense of the past. With multiple wide receiver and running back options, Ridley looks irrelevant; He has failed to get 50+ yards in any of the three weeks against the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His terrible play has caused him to lose carries to running backs LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden. Until Gronkowski and Amendola make their ways back to the field to take pressure off the running game, Ridley will continue to struggle.

#3. Dallas Cowboys WR: Miles Austin

In a blowout on Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, Miles Austin only pulled in 2 receptions for 22 yards. His production has been on a decline since his decent performance in week 1 where he hauled in 10 receptions for 72 yards. With WR Dez Bryant getting most of the targets and Austin suffering from a hamstring injury, it is hard to say that he will be back up to par soon. Hamstring injuries are nagging injuries that take time to heal before getting back to 100%, just ask Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald.  Somewhere down the line this season once he is healthy, consider him a valuable pick up but as of right now he is not the receiver everyone drafted him to be and he won’t be that guy for the next couple of weeks. Sell now!

#4. New York Giants DST

Unfortunately, the Giants look old and tired. Their defense looks slower than in years past and it seems to me that they are lacking leadership. There is no one on that defense that tries to regroup the defense, not even defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. They’re simply not getting to the quarterback. With only 3 sacks, they are allowing opposing quarterbacks to pick apart their coverages.

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The Cover 4 Greatest Basketball Moments: Miller Time

Reggie_Miller_vs_New_York_KnicksTHE MOMENT

By most accords, this was the most remarkable game-ending comeback in history to date; but if you ask Knicks diehards like movie director Spike Lee, it was the most gruesome game-ending comeback that no one would even dare to dream.

As most spectators began cheering and preparing to file out of MSG in celebration of the Knicks taking Game 1, Reggie Miller hits a 3-pointer with 16.4 seconds left. Nothing too spectacular about that, I mean, it IS Reggie Miller. The next play, Miller steals the inbound pass and quickly jumps to the 3-point line and knocks down another three! Say, WHAT?! Now the game is tied at 105 with 13.3 seconds remaining. This man just scored 6 points in 3.1 seconds!

“We went numb after his second three. We became totally disoriented. It was like a terrible nightmare that you couldn’t wake up from. I still think about it today. I can laugh about it now. I wasn’t laughing then, that’s for sure,” former Knicks forward Anthony Mason recalls.

The Knicks finally get the ball inbounds to John Starks who is fouled immediately to stop the clock. Starks equals money, right? Apparently, we would ALL lose that bet. Starks misses not one, but BOTH attempts (I’m sure Miller thanked the basketball gods for that one).

We begin to see Miller’s arrogance as he begins taunting Lee, who was sitting in the first-row with the “choke” hand gesture. Miller is starting to feel himself as he knocks down two free-throws to give the Pacers a 2-point lead with 7.5 seconds left. In the final drive of the game, Greg Anthony makes one last attempt to save the day, but embarrassingly falls down en route to the basket. Talk about a comedic ending to a story.

Now, the part that headlines across the country displayed the next day, was the moment that Miller stated the claim that the Pacers will sweep the Knicks after being knocked out by New York in the previous two seasons, then proceeded to run down the locker room tunnel singing “CHOKE ARTISTS! CHOKE ARTISTS!,” an axiom that would be painted across the sports pages of the New York tabloids the following morning.

945598_617177698301076_1747288355_nWhat makes this event so memorable is the steal. One thing we’re always taught in basketball to play the ENTIRE 48 minutes, no matter the circumstance. As Mason tried to find an open man, Miller was locking down Anthony. As Mason came closer to reaching his 5-second inbound limit he panicked after not being able to find an open teammate and forced it to a falling Anthony which allowed Miller to intercept and jump back five feet to 3-point land. “What shocked me was that Reggie had the presence of mind to not take a quick two-point shot and instead took one dribble and got back behind the 3-point line to shoot a three,” Larry Brown, the ex-Pacers coach, would say years later. “That takes an amazing athlete to do that, a guy who literally has ice in his veins, a guy who loves the pressure and is willing to face the consequences if he doesn’t make the shot.”

The consequences of Miller’s shot had a numbing impact on the Knicks franchise for several years thereafter:

1) The Knicks-Pacers series goes seven games, and Indiana winds up winning as Patrick Ewing – again – misses the pivotal shot, this time a driving lay-up that would have tied the game in the waning seconds.

2) Knicks head coach Pat Riley, devastated by the Game 1 and Game 7 defeats to Indiana, resigns. He is replaced by Don Nelson, who doesn’t even last a full season, despite having a multi-year contract. The series of events leaves the Knicks in disarray.

Meanwhile, Miller solidifies his reputation as one of history’s most feared long-range shooters, a fella who launches it from 25-30 feet without a hint of doubt.

CHEERS TO REGGIE!

 

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When Harvey Met Sally

Matt Harvey

Meet the Mets. The other New York Baseball team. New York’s version of the Clippers.The Mets have won two World Series over their tenure as a franchise, but their brand name has mostly been synonymous with mediocrity, losing and misfortune. When you think of the Yankees, the names Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, DiMaggio and Jeter roll off the tongue with honor and fame. When you start your list of famous Mets players, the task becomes as hard as finding words that rhyme with the word hungry. The Mets finally have a superstar in Matt Harvey, who this year has emerged as one of baseball’s best pitchers. However, once again, it looks like this cursed team has been hit with another curveball from which they might not recover.

Harvey has taken Major League Baseball by storm. After being called up from the minors last year, he showed signs of greatness at the end of the season. He represented the Mets best prospect since Sidd Finch (See Sports Illustrated’s 1985 April Fools Day hoax). Just like Finch, hitters feel like Harvey throws the ball 168 miles per hour. His off-speed stuff is devastating and breaking pitches make batters want to crawl back to their dugout like Lindsay Lohan after a night on the town. He has taken the torch from David Wright as the face of the Mets franchise, but with this torch comes some intangible misfortune, and it looks like it is taking place.

Matt Harvey has recently been diagnosed with a torn ligament in his right elbow and we all know what famous pitching surgery is to follow. Yes, you add another pitcher to the Tommy John Club. Now some pitchers have underwent Tommy John surgery and come back for the better. Stephen Strasberg experienced this same process and has returned successfully to the big leagues. Whether or not he can now live up to his hype remains to be seen. Bottom Line, surgery is never a good thing or something that players look forward to. This sad stroke of bad luck to this young phenom is nothing knew to the Mets and their fans. They are used to injuries, missed opportunities, and misery.

You would think in the New York market, the Mets would have the finances to bolster a roster worthy of an annual contender. Sure the Yankees might get the big fish, but there are truly plenty of fish in the sea. The problem is that the fish the Mets have gone after have been poor ones. Players like Bobby Bonilla, Mo Vaughn, Oliver Perez are prime examples of free agents who were hot that never panned out. We cannot forget about Carlos Delgado, Livan Hernandez, Tom Glavine or Kaz Matsui. The two biggest ones recently were Johan Santana and Carlos Beltran.

Let’s look at Beltran. Beltran had one of the best playoff runs in baseball history to score himself one of the most lucrative contracts in baseball history, and the Mets were supposed to be the winners. I think not. Beltran played out his contract with mediocre season after mediocre season, with the Mets losing season after season. The ironic part is that during the past two years Beltran is playing some of his best baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals as they contend for the World Series. Maybe it’s just the Cardinals and their winning aura. I propose it is just as much the Cubs-like atmosphere that exists in the heart of Queens. After being freed from the Mets, Beltran is playing like that guy we saw in the playoffs for the Astros.

Santana was the pitching version of Beltran. After many successful seasons playing for the small-market Minnesota Twins, Santana was traded to the Mets and eventually signed a 6-year, $137 million contract. Just like Beltran, he has pitched okay in his regime with the Mets, but nowhere near his form in Minnesota where he earned himself two Cy Young awards. Injuries have been a part of his Mets story, too. He missed the entire 2011 season with shoulder problems. However, last year, Santana became the first Mets pitcher to ever throw a no-hitter. The lack of a no-hitter had been hanging over the franchise for years like a World Series win for those Cubs. He threw a career-high 134 pitches, and some would say that this became the indirect cause of re-injuring his shoulder. He missed the end of last season and all of this season with that shoulder problem, and now Harvey looks to join this infamous club.

Here are some other fun facts about the Mets to add to their infamous list of accomplishments. Most historians are privy to the 1962 Mets. They are the team that a team is compared to when they are having an amazingly poor season. They finished a whopping 40-120, which to this day is the worst every record by a baseball team. Most people are not aware that the New York Mets opted to take Steve Chilcott instead of Reggie Jackson in the 1966 amateur draft. Chilcott never made it to the majors and Jackson, well, he has a month nicknamed after him. Sure there were the Miracle Mets and the 1986 Mets that made Bill Buckner infamous, but this is not commonplace knowledge to the modern-day baseball fan. Most fans associate the New York Mets with injuries, poor choices and apathy.

Just like Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, the New York Mets have had their money stolen by players who have not panned out. And like the Ponzi scheme, it has had a lingering effect on the franchise. A successful baseball season seems to be the exception, not the rule these days. There is no more Mike Piazza. Shea Stadium is gone and has been replaced by Citi Field, but it is too easy to say what that sponsor’s name really sounds like. The Braves-Mets rivalry is no more. Wright is good, but always hurt. Harvey was supposed to take the organization back to the top. He even started the All-Star game this year, which took play at Citi Field presenting some optimism for Mets fans. Unfortunately, with Harvey’s injury, it looks like Mets have once again fallen victim to their own puddle of bad luck. It is sad, but this sports fan accepts it as ordinary for the New York Mets franchise. Change is hard, but for the Mets sake, I hope it happens soon. Best of luck, I guess.

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NFL Power Rankings: The Race for the Lombardi

NFL-Power-Rankings

Well, the NFL season is almost upon us. In 2013, you would have to try really hard to avoid any type of coverage on upcoming season. This season looks to be a doozy (as always) with a bunch of storylines that are both extremely interesting and extremely annoying because it has been replayed over and over again (the Robert Griffin saga and the New York Jets sitcom).  Before I present to you my nfl power rankings, I should mention that the entire team’s preseason play had no effect on their placement. However, I do pay attention to individual performance and think that is something tangible that carries over to the regular season. So without further ado, here we go:

Seattle-Seahawks-Wallpaper1. Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks claim the metaphorical throne of the inaugural 2013 NFL Power Rankings. They may have lost Percy Harvin before he actually got to see real action on the field for them, but almost all of the teams in the top 5 have suffered significant injuries/suspensions before the season even started. Speaking of suspensions, let’s hope the Seahawks stingy defense stays away from the deer antler spray and other performance enhancers. Just blame it on the Adderall, though. That little tangent aside, Russell Wilson should look to improve in his second season at quarterback, even if he might not put up as good of numbers he did in his rookie campaign. This team is solid all the way through.

49ers-Logo-Red2. San Francisco 49ers

What a competitive division. I gave the Seahawks the slight edge because I think their defense is a little bit better well rounded. San Fran lost their safety Dashon Goldson to free agency and cornerback Chris Culliver to injury, depleting their secondary. Additionally, the 49ers are in a similar predicament with their star wideout, Michael Crabtree, who is also out for an extended period of time. I am expecting Colin Kaepernick to develop into a better, more complete quarterback just like Wilson. Don’t get me wrong, the 49ers are an awesome team despite me picking nits with their secondary. On paper Seattle might be the better team, but if these two teams come face to face in the playoffs, it will be a toss up.

download (2)3. Denver Broncos

I thought the Broncos were overrated last season. After having the toughest first five games in the league, they had a ridiculous cupcake-y schedule the rest of the way through. But this is 2013, and I think Denver is going to be really good. No matter how much Wes Welker has left in the tank, that signing was great. Their running game should be better also, because I think Manning knows the ideal times to rush with his amazing ability to read defenses and adapt. If he can make Knowshon Moreno look good, I’m pretty sure Montee Ball/Ronnie Hillman will be fine. The big problem I have with them is their defense. Even if Champ Bailey continues to defy Mother Nature’s aging process, losing the NFL’s second best defender (Von Miller) for six games is a glaring hole; not to mention the whole Elvis Dumervil contract disaster. Even though I like the Kansas City Chiefs as a bounce back team this year, the Broncos have a very easy road to another division title and possible first round bye.

Atlanta-Falcons-Fantasy-Football-Podcast4. Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons just re-signed quarterback Matt Ryan, who is in the prime of his career. Needless to say, their window to win is now. The knock on Atlanta is that they can’t win the big game, which they somewhat proved wrong last year but not completely. People tend to forget San Francisco got just a couple more breaks to go their way to make it to the Super Bowl. Everyone knows how potent and capable this offense is, so I won’t go into that with much detail though I will say I liked the Steven Jackson signing. The offense will have to lead this team to the big game, because the defense certainly will not. They took a step back this year; losing their best pass rusher (John Abraham) and losing a serviceable corner (Dunta Robinson) which depletes their already suspect secondary. Asante Samuel is nice, but he can barely tackle a scarecrow. This team is almost a 100% guaranteed playoff lock, but it will be up to Matt Ryan to see how far they go once they get there.

download (3)5. Green Bay Packers

Notice a trend? The NFC is stacked. The conference has three out of the four most promising young quarterbacks in the game, and they also boast the best one in the league. Aaron Rodgers should look to have another MVP caliber season. Everyone knows Randall Cobb is the new breakout star, softening the blow of losing Greg Jennings to the division rival Minnesota Vikings. They also drafted running back Eddie Lacy, who unfortunately slimmed down after training camp and limited my ability to draw comparisons with my ‘Eddy Curry is overweight’ jokes. No matter, now that they have some semblance of a running game, this offense should be better than their 2012 version. Another NFC trend: great offense, mediocre defense. Of the four teams in the top five, the Packers have it the worst. Who knows if they’ll be able to stop the vaunted read option after sending all their personnel to Texas A&M to be better acquainted with that type of offense. We’ll see if they improve, but this defense doesn’t impress me.

New_England_Patriots6. New England Patriots

Full disclosure: I’m a huge Pats fan. But it should be known that I was trying to decide rankings it was basically a coin flip between them and the Baltimore Ravens, until I realized this was the regular season power rankings. The Ravens always seem to have the Patriots’ number, but I think New England is ultimately the better team. Everyone loves to talk about their offense, so you probably already know the details about it. My two cents: people are overreacting to letting Welker walk, and New England’s offense will adapt as they always do. Their rookie wide receivers will hit a few speed bumps as expected, but with Tom Brady under center they will be just fine. To their defense, real quick: I think they will be better than people expect. The lynchpin of this is Alfonzo Dennard, however. If he misses time due to violating his probation, it moves Devin McCourty to 2nd corner (he’s much better as a safety) and forcing either incompetent Tavon Wilson or unproven rookie Duron Harmon to safety.

download (4)7. Baltimore Ravens

At first glance, you think their defense has taken a big step back. Granted, they let Darnell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger go and the loss of their two defensive leaders Ed Reed and Ray Lewis are obviously huge. But they still have Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata and lost amidst their Super Bowl run was the massive blow of losing Ladarius Webb early in their season. Additionally, the Ravens are known for having bench and situational players step up big when they’re promoted to full time. Know how I know that? Because Kruger and Ellerbe just got a ridiculous amount of money to play for the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins, respectively. For their offense, people are overreacting to the loss of Anquan Boldin. Not taking away from his fantastic postseason, but his regular season was remarkably average. The loss of Dennis Pitta is huge because he was Joe Flacco’s security blanket, but the offense as a whole should be fine assuming there are no significant injuries.

download (5)8. Houston Texans

Again, this is regular season rankings. I like the Texans, but they aren’t going far if Gary Kubiak doesn’t stop being stubborn about sticking to his offensive gameplan regardless of how the game is going. That aside, Houston drafted DeAndre Hopkins who should look to finally compliment All-Pro Andre Johnson lined up across from him. Owen Daniels is a good tight end and Arian Foster is Arian Foster. Matt Schaub is an above average QB. I’m not sure he can win you a Super Bowl, but he can certainly lead this team to 11-12 wins in a weak AFC South. Their defense is still above average, even though they lost Glover Quin. Ed Reed is obviously a big name but it is unknown how much he has left in the tank. JJ Watt will still continue to wreak havoc, which will always make this team dangerous on the defensive end.

download (6)9. Chicago Bears

I like the Bears a lot this year and will be a very strong wild card team (same division as Packers). I think Jay Cutler is primed for a big year this year for a couple reasons. One is that he’s in a contract year, but also he has a new offensive coordinator (and head coach). I’m assuming that means Brandon Marshall won’t be targeted 194 times, which is absurd. Everyone knows how good Chicago’s defense is, even if less intelligent people are convinced they won’t be the same without Brian Urlacher. He was a shell of his former self the last couple years, so it’s not that big of a loss. The biggest question mark of this team is if their offensive line can improve to even be a league-average line.

download (7)10. Cincinnati Bengals

Yep, the Bengals! Did you know they had the 8th best scoring defense last year? You already know they have Geno Atkins (who is threatening to be overrated because of how many people love to call him underrated) but they also have a solid secondary and an underrated linebacker core. However, Andy Dalton needs to step up in a massive way. This organization surrounded him with enough weapons to make it out of the first round of the playoffs at least, and if can’t show he has what it takes, this team isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

The-Washington-Redskins-Whats-In-A-Name11. Washington Redskins

By the time I started writing this, Robert Griffin III is confirmed a go for Week 1. Obviously he is the entire key to this team, so let’s move on. Alfred Morris is a great story, but he is definitely a product of Mike Shanahan’s running scheme. Regardless, that is incredible value at the 6th round. Their defense is average, but they virtually played the entire season with elite pass rusher Brian Orakpo. Paired along side Ryan Kerrigan, this pass rush is one of the best in the league.

Tampa_Bay_Buccaneers12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I love this team. Couple reasons: Josh Freeman is in a contract year, and I think he has some serious potential. An overlooked storyline last year was that Tampa Bay lost their two best lineman early in the season, making Doug Martin’s already impressive rookie year last year even more legitimate. A certainly well discussed storyline was their acquisition of Darrelle Revis, a trade I would make 100 times out of 100. Also they signed Dashon Goldson, albeit at a pretty high clip but give them credit for fixing the weakest spot on their team.

download (9)13. New Orleans Saints

Man, another stacked conference in the NFC. Sean Payton is going to make a huge difference to this team and Drew Brees and all his awesomeness doesn’t need to be rehashed here. This defense is pretty miserable, but I am also pretty confident that their offense will be able to cover for their mistakes and missteps.

 

new_york_giants_wallpaper_by_pasar3-d2xuv6014. New York Giants

The reason this team isn’t higher is because they are not a good a regular season team, historically. Eli Manning will be his normal, hot & cold self. This defense, who has an above average defense line and secondary, also has an atrocious linebacker core that could end up being their Achilles heel.

 

download (8)15. Indianapolis Colts

This team is a popular pick for a regression season, for good reason. They exceeded their Pythagorean expectation by 3.8 wins (you can read more about that here) and should fall into the 8-8, maybe 9-7 category. Pushing stats aside though, this team does have a fight in them, winning numerous close games last year because Andrew Luck is the real deal. Despite the evidence pointing towards a regression, they certainly didn’t help their case by making questionable free agent signings (Erik Walden and the marshmellow man LaRon Landry)

images16. Kansas City Chiefs

Alas, we are halfway through the rankings. Are you surprised by my pick of the Chiefs? Don’t be, I think this team is legit. Everyone points to the Andy Reid signing as a big event, which it is, but I think this is a secondary point. The upgrade from the Matt Cassel/Brady Quinn debacle to slightly above average Alex Smith could be potentially huge (as Bill Barnwell explains). Besides, he has Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe. The defense is really good also, their 2-13 record was more of a product of their quarterback play, or lackthereof.

17. Minnesota Vikings minnesota-vikings

The Vikings season hinges on Christian Ponder. He’s a tough read as a signal caller, considering Minnesota handedly beat Green Bay last year as Ponder scored all their touchdowns that game. And then there’s the other Ponder that we are typically used to. He doesn’t have Percy Harvin this year, who was an early MVP candidate before he got hurt. Adrian Peterson is great, but there is almost no way he replicates his year from last year. For the defense, long time cornerback Antoine Winfield isn’t there anymore, and their linebacking core is spotty. We’ll see if they hold up.

download18. Dallas Cowboys

Ah yes, the Cowboys. What a miserably run franchise. Anywho, let’s push their playoff drought out of our minds for a second and focus on the regular season. Although the new 100 million man Tony Romo led the league in interceptions last year, he also led the league in comebacks in 4th quarter with five. Jason Witten is still his same old All-Pro self, and Dez Bryant is emerging as a legitimate top 5 wideout. Their defense is another story, though. Sean Lee is back, who is an underrated linebacker. DeMarcus Ware is also a premier pass rusher, but that’s where the praise stops. The rest of this defense is bloated with bad contracts and replacement level players at critical positions. I think America’s Team misses the playoffs again this year though.

Pittsburgh-Steelers-Emblem19. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers are one or two seasons away from being a full blown mess. We saw last year how abysmal they can be without Ben Roethlisberger, and even if I believe that Mike Wallace is badly overrated his loss is still big. As of right now, Heath Miller is on the PUP list also; a favorite target of Big Ben’s in the redzone. Can Emmanuel Sanders be a number one receiver? I don’t think so, but Steelers fans should certainly hope so. Even worse than their offense is their rapidly aging defense. Troy Polamalu is a shell of his former self and their once feared linebacker group is also showing its age. Bad times this year, but even worse years in the future for the Steel Curtain.

St_Louis_Rams20. St. Louis Rams

I like the Rams, but they are stuck in a very good division. Tavon Austin is as safe of a bet as you can get for a rookie playmaker, but we know what we’re getting with Sam Bradford: a slightly above average quarterback. Their running game has the chance to be good or be really bad with two young guns platooning.

 

Miami-Dolphins21. Miami Dolphins

Miami went on a big spending spree this offseason, paying big bucks to the previously mentioned Wallace and Ellerbe. Interesting decisions to say the least, because they let Reggie Bush walk to free agency and he was big for them last year. Their defense is better than people give them credit for; Cameron Wake is a beast but they did lose Sean Smith, a pretty reliable cornerback.

DetroitLions22. Detroit Lions

The Lions were absolutely putrid last year for all the talent they have. Obviously we all know about Charles Rogers Roy Williams Mike Williams Calvin Johnson, but they also finally got a running back (Bush) to help out Matt Stafford. Their defensive line is awesome but the rest of their defense is pretty bleak. This team doesn’t move up in the rankings until they smarten up and stop taking dumb unsportsmanlike conduct penalities.

Carolina_Panthers23. Carolina Panthers

This is a tricky team. As always, their success or lack thereof depends on their quarterback, Cam Newton. The talent is there, but the intangibles are not. He’s not a leader on the field, and that inevitably grounds the Panthers from being successful. On top of that, this team is bloated with bad contracts and that hinders them from being more successful. Like Newton, you can see the potential in this team but it isn’t going to come to fruition this year.

download (1)24. Philadelphia Eagles

Oh boy. I don’t necessarily hate the Eagles, but I know a lot of people like to make a hobby out of it. I will admit though they deserve everything they got last year, after that bonehead Vince Young painted a target on his team’s back with the “dynasty talk”. The nightmare of Nnamdi Asomugha is over, but their defense is still awful. Worse yet, that’s not even their Achilles heel. That would be their offensive line; and if it’s not improved this team is going absolutely nowhere. Chip Kelly is probably a good offensive coach, but if the line can’t block it doesn’t matter what offense he has the Eagles run.

arizona-cardinals125. Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals’ record this year will not reflect the talent of this team because the division they are in is so good. But much like the Chiefs, the fact that even a competent quarterback is under center instead of the train wreck of last year is a big jump. However, the Chiefs have a great offensive line while the Cardinals are the complete opposite. Arizona’s defense is top notch, and will keep them in a lot of games and not force Carson Palmer to play above his talent level.

Tennessee_Titans26. Tennessee Titans

As we get to the bottom feeders of the NFL, you start to see a pattern. Much like the Panthers, this team has some bad contracts. Chris Johnson is a good running back, but I can assure you he’s not worth $13 million a year. The Shonn Greene signing was just an atrocious decision, excuse me because I just threw up my lunch thinking about it. I like Jake Locker as a QB, but he’ll never be anything more than a league average signal caller.

Cleveland_Browns_PHelmet27. Cleveland Browns

Surprisingly, Brandon Weeden had a pretty good end of the year last year. I’m not trying to vouch for him, because anytime you can draft a 29 year old quarterback in the first round you have to pull the trigger (kidding). Regardless, they’re under new management and are off to a solid start. They admittedly overpaid for Paul Kruger; but when you are the Browns you don’t have much say in free agents to start rebuilding with.

SanDiegoChargers28. San Diego Chargers

Alright, last five. Philip Rivers fell off the map fast, and the team did as well. Ryan Mathews is a walking porcelain doll, and despite some well known names, the wide receivers produced terribly last year. Their defense is entirely forgettable save for Eric Weddle who is criminally underrated. Thank me later for sparing you a Manti Te’o joke.

 

Buffalo_Bills29. Buffalo Bills

Not much to say here. Their pick of EJ Manuel was curious, but it wasn’t as preposterous as people made it out to be. CJ Spiller is a nice player, but I am dubious of him replicating his great year last year. Their defense has some bright spots (Mario Williams and Jairus Byrd) but as a whole the unit is below average.

 

NewYorkJets30. New York Jets

I hope everyone is as sick of the Jets as I am, so let’s power through this. The Jets are straight up awful. A once respectable defense has lost their top cornerback, and they resigned above average players to salaries that paid them like stars. Now they’re old and slow and overpaid with no end in sight. Obviously it gets worse, because their offense is almost impossible to watch. Everyone loves to bash Mark Sanchez; but seriously can New York throw him a bone and get him some weapons to work with? They’re under the impression that Santonio Holmes is actually good, and Dustin Keller (Sanchez’s security blanket) is gone. This is going to be another miserable season for them.

Jacksonville_Jaguars31. Jacksonville Jaguars

This is Blaine Gabbert’s year. If he’s successful, then it will be his job for the future. If he plays like, well, Blaine Gabbert, then we’ll probably be seeing Teddy Bridgewater suit up for the Jags next season. Besides that little storyline, I can’t think of one other topic involved with this team that warrants a mention.

 

oakland-raiders32. Oakland Raiders

Jadeveon Clowney, step right up! God, where to start? By all accounts Matt Flynn should be charged for robbery because his 480 yards 6 TD passes on the Packers was the biggest fluke of the century. So Terrelle Pryor step right up as the Raiders QB? Sorry you are being subjected to this. All joking aside, GM Reggie McKenzie is doing the best he can, by signing cheap veteran players and rebuilding through the draft which is the right way to do it. This team is going to be bad for a while, but if McKenzie can push all the right buttons, relevance could be in the future for Raider Black.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

So that concludes the 2013 NFL Power Rankings. There was some praise for the top organizations, but definitely more uncalled for jokes about teams. The NFL is the definition of parity so after a couple weeks there could be some major moves either up or down on this list. Anyways, let’s hope this upcoming season is one to remember and thanks for reading.

 

 

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The Betting Corner: NBA Playoffs May 18, 2013

New York @ Indiana 8PM (ET) ESPN

(Pacers 3-2 Knicks Series)

Presentation1

Well in game 5 I thought Indiana would close it out on the road being the better team overall in this series. However, the Knicks fought back at home and kept the series going. With the Injury to George Hill proving to be a bigger lose than expected for the Pacers in game 5, he may be available to return tonight close out the Knicks at home tonight. If he doesn’t I see the Pacers home playoff win streak in this series in jeopardy.

Play:

If Hill returns Pacers -5.5

If no Hill Knicks +5.5

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TheCover4.com is not an online gambling operator, or a gambling site of any kind. We are simply here to provide information about sports betting for entertainment purposes only.

All information regarding gambling is intended to be purely educational from an academic perspective, and not to actually encourage gambling.  We are in no way condoning gambling and are not affiliated with any and all casinos/sports books mentioned.

The Betting Corner: NBA Playoffs May 16, 2013

Indiana @ New York 8PM (ET) TNT

(Pacers 3-1 Knicks Series)

Carmelo Knicks Pacers Game 3

Well the last two days I went against my gut and chose the team where I felt had to win or cover to stay competitive in the series. In all cases, I was turning a blind eye to the age old notion of “Defense wins Championships”. In this series the Pacers have proven to be that team. With Hibbert stout d down low, the pacers have the momentum and the fire power to can the Knicks. With the Knicks shooting less than 28% from 3 point range and the team imploding before our eyes, I have no faith in there play in this game.
Play:
Pacers +5
——————

San Antonio vs Golden State 10.30PM (ET) ESPN

(Spurs 3-2 Warriors Series)

10T9dYO

The Spurs has made all the right adjustments in this series and has for the most part bottled up Curry in this series holding him to just 34.8% shooting in his last 4 games. This has proven to be the X-Factor in this series. San Antonio is the better team here on both sides of the ball and look to end it in enemy territory tonight.
Play:
Spurs -2
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The Betting Corner: MLB Monday, April 22nd, 2013

trumbo_qhn7sorw_ykpgxx4f4-21-13 Recap:

LOSS: 1 Unit – LA Dodgers at Baltimore (-122)

WIN: 1 Unit – Oakland at Tampa Bay (Over 8) (+100)

LOSS: 1 Unit – St Louis at Philadelphia (Under 8.5) (-112)

Season YTD: 26-19 +5.22 Units

MLB Futures Watch:

.5 Units: Pittsburgh Pirates Under 77 (-110) 10-8

1 Unit: Houston Astros Under 59.5 (-110) 5-13

1 Unit: Atlanta Braves Over 87.5 (-110) 13-5

1 Unit: Seattle Mariners Over 77 (-125) 7-13

1.5 Units: Cleveland Indians Over 77 (-110) 7-10

___

Well, Mitchell Boggs did it to us again.  Last time we had the Cards over the Reds and the St Louis bullpen blew up for almost a double digit inning.  Sunday, we had a 2 run leeway going into the bottom of the 8th.  Needless to say, Boggs gave up twice that and we end the week on a losing note.  Onto tomorrow…

___

1 Unit – NY Yankees at Tampa Bay (Over 7)

The Yankees take on the Rays for their first series of the year Monday.  Veteran CC Sabathia faces off against newcomer Matt Moore.  Sabathia has 29 career starts against TB, going 10-9 with a 3.19 ERA.  Matt Moore is 2-2 over 4 starts with a 5.06 ERA.  7 runs is just too low for this game.  Tampa Bay’s offense is on a good run of late and it’s not too much to ask this injury ridden NY offense to score a minimum of 3 runs.  If each team hits that number we’re guaranteed at least a push.  It always seems when the AL east plays one another, starting pitchers have trouble getting into late innings due to pitch counts.  Hopefully that’s the case tomorrow.

___

1 Unit – Cleveland at Chi White Sox

Justin Masterson has had quite a solid start to is 2013 campaign.  Tomorrow, he faces off against the White Sox, a team who he threw a complete game shut out against not two weeks ago.  He’s got a 2.46 ERA against Chi town in his career.  Dylan Axelrod on the other hand has had only one start against Cleveland where he gave up 4 runs in less than 5 innings.  At even money, considering the Indians have scored 24 runs in their last 2 games (Chicago has scored 4), I’ll look for them to make it 3 in a row.

 

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TheCover4.com is not an online gambling operator, or a gambling site of any kind. We are simply here to provide information about sports betting for entertainment purposes only.

All information regarding gambling is intended to be purely educational from an academic perspective, and not to actually encourage gambling.  We are in no way condoning gambling and are not affiliated with any and all casinos/sports books mentioned.

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