NBA First Week Insights & Surprises

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The Cover 4.com presents you with NBA First Week Insights & Surprises! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @thecover4 or facebook at theCo VerFour

Aaaannnndddd they’re off! The 2013-14 NBA season has officially tipped off, which means it’s time to see which teams actually took advantage of its resources and built a team worthy of the right to hoist that beautiful championship banner on opening day next year. And my, oh my has this been a start few saw coming.

  1. Michael Carter-Williams is out here letting people know that he’s not to be taken lightly. I loved this kid’s game at Syracuse last year, but was afraid that his tall, lanky frame would not be properly utilized and possibly start warming the bench like Shaun Livingston. However, MCW has shown that his skills are transferable by nearly posting a remarkable quadruple-double against the defending champs (22 points, 12 assists, 7 rebounds, 9 steals, 1 turnover). Do not let the baby face fool you; this guy is the real deal like Holyfield. MCW is only the second rookie in NBA history to be awarded conference Player of the Week honors in the first week of the season (Shaq is the other). The only question is, will MCW have a Jeremy Lin effect and plateau before his prime? Or will he become a first-ballot Hall of Famer? Hmmmm…
  2. Russell Westbrook has found his way back into the lineup a month after surgery. Personally, as a man who has been through MANY knee surgeries in my playing career, I don’t think it’s a good look for Westbrook to return so soon. I love Westbrook, and I want to see him play at his highest level. But I know that his body and trainers unfortunately have a more impactful influence over him than I do. But for the sake of my 2k team, I pray that he doesn’t make it any worse.
  3. While we’re talking about injuries, D errick Rose is starting off slow. I guess it is to be expected after being MIA for an entire season, but the optimism still has the best of many of us and just know that his 10-game winning streak isn’t too far away.
  4. The Brooklyn Nets…well, I’m not going to say much on them because I didn’t really expect much out of them to start with. They have some of my favorite players from back in the day, however, their prime was also back in the day. I just don’t see it happening for this squad. They offered a lot of hope for the BX, but I guess we’ll just have to see how this pans out.
  5. The Suns have new jerseys! And that may be the reason why even though they are placed in last in the NBA 2k14 power rankings, they are starting off with a splash of hope. Gerald Green has finally found a system that loves him running alongside Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic. Miles Plumlee has been posting double-double averages. I’m not going to lie, I never really thought too highly of biggest brother Plumlee from the jump, but man is he giving me something to watch.
  6. Not a surprise, but the Wizards are poopsauce.
  7. Eg-Zah-Vi-Air Henry is putting on a little coming out show of his own in LA. It’s almost making me think that the Lakers have a shot at making the playoffs. Hahahaha, MAYBE! But one thing I will say, it’s time for the great Steve Nash to join the coaching staff. His game has noticeably slowed down, and he know where near as witty with the ball as he used to be. I don’t know, Tony, this one isn’t looking too good though.
  8. Toronto’s Very Own, Anthony Bennett has still yet to make a basket through four games. I thought No. 1 draft picks are supposed to show up and show out? Cleveland can’t take any more disappointments. Get it together, man!

Yes, I know it’s still early in the game, and there’s a whole lot of season left, but I am anticipating this being a GREAT year for the NBA, pending all these injuries slowing down. So, CHEERS to Mr. Carter-Williams on an amazing start to your NBA career, you have a bright future my friend. And the rest of you guys…get your shit together! PEACE!

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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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THE “NEW” QB CONTROVERSY (PART 1, ALEX)

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The Cover 4.com presents you with THE “NEW” QB CONTROVERSY (PART 1, ALEX)! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @thecover4 or facebook at theCo VerFour

An uneducated 49ers fan thinks that the team should have kept Alex Smith because they believe he’s a better quarterback and one that wins games. This same fan has the idea that Colin Kaepernick sucks and his success last year was a fluke.

An unrealistic 49ers fan thinks the opposite ─ although Kaepernick hasn’t looked all that great this year, Smith contributed nothing to the 49ers.

These two schools of though sum up what some 49ers fans believe about the current quarterback situation.  Both of these statements couldn’t be further from reality.

The 

Slow (and painful) Rise

Smith had not lived up to the expectations of being a No. 1 overall draft pick, at least not up until a couple years ago.  In 2011, he began to play more like a first-round pick.  He took the Niners to the 2011 NFC Championship. While San Francisco eventually lost to the Giants in the NFC Championship, the 49ers got to that game after a last-minute scoring drive against the Saints in the week before. That drive, and the ones before it in that crazy fourth quarter, was orchestrated by none other than Smith.  He did his best ‘Joe Cool” impression in that game and in many other games that season.  He was 50 percent  of the way to bound-to-be historic “The Catch 3.″

Jim Harbaugh turned Smith into the quarterback he is today, but Smith still had to become conformable in his role.  There is no arguing that he is a game manager.  This particular game manager led his team to multiple victories in the Harbaugh era.  He won a number of games for the Red and Gold.  He never gave up on the organization or the fanbase that gave him so much hatred at times.

To the Bench He Goes

In 2012, Smith looked primed to manage his team all the way to the Super Bowl.  The team started out great with him at the helm.  They were winning games and Smith was doing what he had to do to win.  Then injury struck Smith in the middle of the season and then Kaepernick made his mark.  The infamous “hot-hand” Harbaugh debacle began.

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Though Smith was healthy after a couple weeks, Kaepnerick obviously had the “hot-hand”.  Whether this was simply an opportunity for Harbaugh to make Kaepnerick the new starter or Harbaugh truly believed he was going to go back to Smith eventually, Kaepernick took over the starting spot.

Some fans that already disliked Smith, and many did, including me, (though I did start to like him a lot more during the 2011 season) were pumped that Kaepnerick was the new starter.  He possessed so much of the big play ability that the Niners have lacked in a quarterback since Jeff Garcia (Wow, did I just credit Garcia?)  Kaepnerick was more exciting than Smith, he seemed to have a better upside, and hell, he was a fresh face.

Because of the unwritten rule that no one should lose a starting position due to injury, you would think

that Smith would be extremely bitter and unresponsive to the coaches and players.  That was not the case at all.

Smith was one of the most helpful coaches that Kaepnerick had during his run to the Super Bowl.  If you look at old game film from last year, Smith was constantly talking with Kaepnerick.  He was pointing out coverages and shifts, helping him with plays and getting him to properly read the defense.  Smith was the reason Kaepnerick grew into the quarterback that he became.  Harbaugh knew it and acknowledged it, and so has Kaepnerick.

Many players would have turned a cold shoulder.  Smith kept preaching that winning is what matters, and Kaepnerick has the tools to add to the win column.

For this reason alone, I have to say that Smith showed so much class.  He helped the 49ers and Kaepernick get to the Super Bowl.  He showed a ton of respect for the organization and Harbaugh’s decision to place him on the bench.  We all know the rest of the story.  Smith is a Chief now, and Kaepnerick isn’t looking like a top-five quarterback this year.

smithkaep

Final Note

Smith gave it 100 percent in his time with the 49ers.  He never gave up and he always tried to make the team better.  He took all the flak from the fans and still remained positive.  Then when his time was up, he respectfully and enthusiastically helped Kaepernick in his transition to become a starting NFL quarterback.

Now that he is gone, 49ers fans should have no true reason to hate Smith.  He always tried to make his team and himself better, even when he had no support.  He helped the 49ers win the games they won, period.

For that reason, the hate toward Smith is completely unwarranted now that he is the quarterback of the past for the Niners. I wish him good luck with the Chiefs, unless of course they make it to the Super Bowl against the Niners.

p.s. If the Chiefs win eight or more games, the Niners get a second round pick, so it is a good thing they are winning.

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NHL Week One:The Good,Bad, & Ugly

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The Cover 4.com presents you with NHL Week One:The Good,Bad, & Ugly! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @thecover4 or facebook at theCo VerFour

NHL Week One:The Good,Bad, & Ugly

Hello hockey fans, and welcome back. The NHL season is FINALLY underway, and there are a bunch of storylines taking place right now. How has the New York-Vancouver coaching swap worked out for both teams? Can the Blackhawks repeat? Can the Sharks get over the hump? Can the Penguins recover from an embarrassing playoff ouster? How will Tim Thomas fare in his comeback? We are about a week and a half into this new season, and we have seen some great hockey so far. Each week this season, The Cover 4 crew will give you a quick rundown of the weeks happenings in “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” Buckle up for the first installment.

The Good

-Alex Ovechkin has come out with guns blazing in this young season. Through three games, Ovi has 4 goals and 2 assists, and has looked like the MVP Ovechkin from the second half of last season. His release is still the most lethal in the game (sorry Steven Stamkos) and he is still finding acres of open ice on the power play. If he can keep up the pace, look for him to be in the mix again for MVP.

-The Colorado Avalanche are off to a 3-0 start this season.  They have a top-10 offense, guiding them to their third win over a previously unbeaten Maple Leafs team. Rookie forward and 2013 No. 1 overall pick Nathan MacKinnon  has been very impressive thus far, and new head coach Patrick Roy has brought a new fire to the team.

-Without a doubt, the biggest story of the early season is young Czech Tomas Hertl of the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks are off to a 3-0 start as well, and Hertl has been a big part of that. In his three career games, Hertl has two multi-goal games, the most recent of which, a 4-goal game against the Rangers, capped by a must-see stick-between-the-legs move. Just sensational.  Despite the flash, the kid is showing he knows where to go to score goals, potting a few from the low slot, high crease area, which is right where you want to go if you want to have a long and productive NHL career.

 

The Bad

-Cory Schneider opened the season in net for the Devils when they visited Pittsburgh last Thursday, leaving Martin Brodeur to ride the pine on opening night for the first time in two decades. While Schneider is deserving of that honor, and the Devils opened with a back-to-back (so Brodeur could start at home), it is just yet another sign that one of the best goalies of all time is on his way out. My guess would be that this is Brodeur’s last season in the league, and with the Devils’ roster, it could be a long one.

-Despite the hot start from captain Alex Ovechkin (6 points through 3 games) the Caps have been less than intimidating. Already, they are the third worst team in the league in goals against, and they have played the horrible Calgary Flames, the mediocre-at-best Dallas Stars, and the defending Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. Through those first three games, the Caps managed just one win, and that was a comeback game against the Flames. The Caps still look to be a one-man show, despite Mikhail Grabovski putting up some numbers early. Luckily for Caps fans, it is still only three games into this young, 82-game season.

-The Philadelphia Flyers have stumbled out of the gates to say the least. Their newly appointed captain Claude Giroux was set back over the offseason by a freak golfing accident (something you thought a Philadelphia Flyer would have mastered by now), but he was ready for the season opener. After a less than impressive preseason and starting 0-3, the Flyers fired head coach Peter Laviolette, making him the first coaching casualty of the season, and promoted assistant coach Craig Berube to head coach. Berube got the Flyers’ their first win of the season to move them to 1-3 on the year, but if the Flyers don’t solve their goaltending issue (change the record on that one), they may be in for another long year in the competitive Metropolitan Division.

 

The Ugly

-Well it didn’t take Patrick Roy long to re-endear himself to the Avalanche faithful. At the end of his first game as bench boss in Colorado, tempers flared as Anaheim Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy appeared to hit Avs rookie Nathan MacKinnon knee-on-knee. MacKinnon was ok, but a fiery Roy got into a verbal altercation with Ducks agitator-extraordinaire Corey Perry, which led to Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau and Roy screaming at each other from the benches. Roy wound up shoving the dividing partition of glass between the benches, breaking it, and nearly pancaking Boudreau with it. “It going to be a long first year for Patrick if that is how he reacts to everything,” Boudreau said after the game.

-It happens to every goalie in their careers, and this week it happened to Jonathan Quick. A disastrous gaffe in the Kings game against the Rangers will keep Quick on hockey blooper reels for some time. After winning a defensive zone faceoff while killing a penalty, the Rangers’ Ryan McDonagh cleared the puck off the glass and down the rink. As the puck headed towards the no-play trapezoid, Quick came out to stop the puck, and then move it back up to his teammates on the power play, a very routine move in the game. About two strides out from his net as he was bending down to get the thick part of his stick on the ice, Quick lost control of his stick right before the puck got to him, and the puck bounced right off of his blocker and went into his net. The shock and disbelief immediately befell Quick as reality set it. Luckily for Quick, he’s arguably the game’s best netminder, and this gaffe will quickly be forgotten.

-On opening night, an incident happened between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens that reignited the fighting debate. During their second fight of the game, Montreal’s George Parros and Toronto’s Colton Orr were squaring off, and being that they are both enforcers for their respective teams, they are no strangers to each other. At one point, Orr lost his balance, and as he was falling, pulled Parros down with him, who ultimately hit his face on the ice, knocking him unconscious and forcing him to be taken off of the ice on a stretcher. With both players involved having limited talent and one clear role on their teams (to be the fighters), the debate was kicked off again as to whether it is time to ban fighting in the game. We won’t have an answer to that question for a while, but it is moments like this that spark the debate.

 

Thank you for joining us for our first installment of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Stop back next week for more.

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The Burning Questions After Four Weeks

The Cover 4.com presents you with The Burning Questions After Four Weeks! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @thecover4 or facebook at theCo VerFour

One fourth of the NFL season is already in the books. Apart from the Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers, each team has played a quarter of their games. Some teams have surprised, while other teams have wholeheartedly disappointed. There have been devastating injuries and surprising players. And god forbid, a blockbuster trade!

Before we get on to the completely arbitrary questions I made up for myself to answer, obviously four games in the NFL is an incredibly small sample size. Even 16 games is somewhat small, the Detroit Lions last year looked like a franchise on the decline at 4-12. Now in 2013, they look like a team that is almost at an elite level that could steal the NFC North from the Chicago Bears and Packers. Basically, what I am saying is all the successes or failures of your favorite teams or players should be taken with a grain of salt, so what I am going to do is try to figure out how big that grain of salt really should be.

How good are the Denver Broncos?

1380585127000-USP-NFL-Philadelphia-Eagles-at-Denver-Broncos-001Really freakin’ good. But not as good as everyone thinks. Before the pitchforks come out, let me explain: For one, their first four games were played against some god awful defenses. How bad? The “best” defense they played this year was the one that kicked off this season, against the Baltimore Ravens. Playing in the shadow of Joe Flacco, Peyton Manning was literally untouchable as he fired seven touchdowns against the defense while effectively ending anyone’s fantasy matchup before they even got to the Sunday games. After four games, the Ravens are ranked as the 11th best defense. Then there is the 16th (Oakland) and the worst two defenses in the league, the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles, respectively. If you’re an advanced metrics kind of guy, it gets even worse. I’ll spare the jargon, but those four teams are even more miserable in defensive DVOA. Denver’s offense is incredible and fun to watch no doubt, but just keep that tidbit in the back of your mind as we progress through the rest of the season

hi-res-158026589_crop_650x440Secondly, the Broncos have had some devastating injuries that haven’t been exposed yet. To start off, they lost their stud left tackle Ryan Clady. Everyone tends to forget that Manning is 37 years old and only a year and a half removed from four neck surgeries. One wrong hit and he’s done for the rest of year, effectively ending the Broncos season. The offensive line thus far has only given up five sacks (sack numbers are admittedly fluky, QB pressures and knockdowns are much more telling but have not been updated as of right now). But like stated before, the defenses Denver will be playing in the future coupled with Clady’s loss is most definitely a cause for concern. On the other side of the ball Broncos fans should be a little more worrisome, as their two most dynamic defensive players still haven’t played. The ongoing Von Miller saga is not very encouraging, as well as Champ Bailey’s injury that seems either more complicated or more worse than Denver originally let on. So far, this defense hasn’t been , but with games coming up against formidable offenses, I am fairly confident this defense will be torn apart sooner rather than later.

What should I make of the Trent Richardson trade?

NFL: Preseason-Cleveland Browns at Indianapolis ColtsThis one surprised everyone, and if someone told you other wise I would be weary of a protruding wooden nose. So, why? Let’s tackle the Cleveland Browns. First, the Dawg Pound are under a new regime. Trent Richardson had Mike Holmgren blood all over his dreadlocks, and new GM Mike Lombardi wanted to start from scratch with the core he wants to keep. If you look up Richardson’s stats they are remarkably unremarkable, especially for a first round pick. So to get a first round pick for a third or fourth round talent? Everyone with a brain would take that. I personally think Richardson is overrated, but if you think he still has potential, than you probably didn’t like the trade; just keep in mind Cleveland’s o-line is above average and Richardson couldn’t do squat. Regardless, the Browns are clearly dumping every valuable asset to tank for Teddy Bridgewater or Jadaveon Clowney, except no one accounted for Brian Hoyer the Destroyer leading them to two wins which seemingly gets them out of contention for the first two picks. This franchise can’t do anything right. But seriously, expect Josh Gordon to be traded by Week 8, also.

On the Indianapolis Colts side, everyone kind of shrugged off Jim Irsay’s frantic tweets about a big deal and just assumed he was crying wolf (two fairy tale references in two paragraphs, mind you). Is it possible for me to be a fan of what both teams ended up with? The Colts are clearly all in, trying to fit as many impact players on this roster while still having an Andrew Luck contract on the books for dirt cheap. Now instead of Trent Richardson being the focus of a defense for them to shut down, he is now an afterthought compared to Luck and emerging weapons TY Hilton, Coby Fleener, and the always dependable Reggie Wayne; Richardson is finally in a place to succeed. We’ll know if he is a legit talent by the end of the season.

Let’s play the Grain of Salt game

This will be a (relatively) condensed version of the Denver Broncos section. Keep in mind, the Grain of Salt game can go both ways. For example, I think the Miami Dolphins are over achieving, so obviously I’m taking their success with a small grain of salt. But I also think the Bengals are under achieving, so I would take their poor record so far with an equally small grain of salt. Oh, you already understand how this rudimentary game works? Sorry, I didn’t mean to insult your intelligence.

new-england-patriots-nfl-training-camp-2013New England Patriots – We’re starting with them because I am an unapologetic homer. This grain of salt is relatively big. Look, I may be a homer but I am realistic. The amount of salt isn’t just because they are 4-0, it is because they are 4-0 without arguably the most dynamic tight end in the game and two rookie wide receivers who are on a crash course of learning the quirks of the NFL with an intense and screaming quarterback that would make a Marine drill sergeant blush. Their defense is stout (6th best scoring defense, 4th best DVOA) but I would be remiss to mention the absolutely devastating loss of Vince Wilfork. The Patriots are still here, but they never really left in the first place.

Cincinnati Bengals – Also mentioned above, all they need is Andy Dalton to step up. He may have gotten the benefit of the doubt by making the playoffs a lot early in his career, but under that red lettuce we’ve come to love and know might actually lay an average quarterback given a great chance to succeed. Like I mentioned in my preview, the Bengals gave him all the weapons to prove himself, and he is also backed with an above average defense to boot. This may be a ride or die season for the Red Rifle.

Jacksonville Jaguars – They would get the biggest grain of salt imaginable if this section were titled ‘The Jadaveon Clowney Grain of Salt Game’. Well, unless this comes to fruition.

Kansas-City-Chiefs-Team-Preview-2013-640x454Kansas City Chiefs – Almost everyone saw a Chiefs resurgence coming, but this team is legitimately good and will most likely snag a wild card spot with their 4-0 start. They have the second best scoring defense, but they have played a couple cupcakes. Alex Smith is doing Alex Smith things, which is not to turn the ball over and forgetting the NFL allows passes to be completed more than 20 yards down the field.

Miami Dolphins – Previously mentioned them, but I am not buying their success (or not buying their grains of salt?). Lamar Miller is a poor man’s Reggie Bush, meaning he is not a serviceable every down back but is more than capable of breaking off a big play. I like Ryan Tannehill more than I hate him, but that isn’t saying much. Their defense is right at league average, and their offense is ranked 8th in DVOA, but they are closer to the 17th best team (Oakland) than the second (Green Bay) so that is misleading at first glance.

What has gotten into Philip Rivers?

NFL: San Diego Chargers at Pittsburgh SteelersAll signs point to Philip Rivers making a trip in the offseason to the Nile River and washing away all evidence of Norv Turner off his body. But in all seriousness, it is safe to say Rivers has always been the same (more or less) he just hasn’t been able to stay upright. So far in 2013, Rivers has been sacked only three times (all against Chicago) while being taken down an egregious 13 times last year through four games. The previously mentioned Norv Turner absence may have injected some much needed faith, but the tangible results point directly to the offensive line’s big improvement.

So there you have it. I tried to keep it short in terms just because of half-season power rankings coming out after Week 8, where I will break down each team’s ascension or decension from my preseason rankings. Making fun of myself will most assuredly be included.

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AND BACK TO .500…OH, HELLO OFFENSE

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The Cover 4.com presents you with AND BACK TO .500…OH, HELLO OFFENSE! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @thecover4 or facebook at theCo VerFour

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams

It all took place in the trenches…..and it all ended in the end zone.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams

Coming of their back to back losses for the first time since Kaep and Harbaugh took the reigns, the Niners were in need of a big win.  Well, they got that done and showed what kind of team they truly are. They got back to their style of dominant defense, but what did the offense show us?

Getting Back to the Basics

In the win against the Rams, the Niners got back to their tried-and -true game plan of giving their HOF back the ball.

Between the four running backs used in the game, there was a total of 40 carries.  LaMichael James made his season debut with three carries that didn’t amount to any yards.  Anthony Dixon got in with three carries of his own, only gaining a total of six yards but did record a touchdown.  Now we get to the feature backs.

Kendall Hunter and Frank Gore combined for 31 carries.  Hunter ended with 11 carries for 49 yards and one touchdown.  The change of pace back kept the defense honest on the outside. This allowed Gore to do what he does best.

Gore got plenty of carries up the gut, which is his specialty.  Gore totaled 20 carries and broke the century-and-a-half mark with 153 yards and one touchdown.  He put his great vision on display for all of the Thursday night viewers and let them know he still has the speed and the power that some may have questioned.  He showed he is still a top-tier running back in the league and he was recognized for his performance.

These numbers are credited to the offensive line as much as they are to Gore.  They played smash-mouth football and asserted their dominance.  This is what the Niners have been know for. As they say, “Numbers never lie.”

The Passing Game Benefitted

When you run the ball, you open up the passing game.  Simple enough.

Colin Kaepernick made a reappearance in the QBR leader board this week.  Though there is still plenty of work to be done, this was a good resurgence game for Kaep and his receivers.

Kaep totaled 163 yards with two touchdowns and no picks.  These numbers are by no means outstanding but after throwing more picks than touchdowns’s in the last two games, its nice to see a zero in that INT category.  Kaep spread the ball around to seven different targets including his newest target, Jon Baldwin, who recorded two receptions for 19 yards.  He could be a big factor down the road.  Watch for it.

Anquan Boldin also was able to make a difference in this game.  He ended with five receptions for 90 yards and one touchdown.  The Show will need this kind of performance from Boldin all year long.  Side-note: he had one of the prettiest scoring dives I have seen.

San Francisco 49ers vs St. Louis Rams

Even the Injured Vernon Davis ended up suiting up and making a difference for the squad with one receiving touchdown of his own, (which was much needed because I took that risk and gave him the start on my fantasy team, thanks bud).

Still Room For Improvement on Offense

The problem here is that no other receiver besides Boldin and Bruce Miller (22 yards) had over 20 yards receiving. This needs to change. It has to if the Niners want their offense to be seen as an equal threat.

Right now it is too easy to game plan against the Niners.  Stop the run and man up the receivers.  Of course this isn’t as easy as that but it has still happened twice this year.  Hopefully with the emergence of Baldwin and Boldin and the health of Davis looking up, The Show can eliminate the consensus that they can’t throw the ball (which seemed to be eliminated in the Packers game but that buzz ended rather quick).

Final Note

With needed improvements aside, the Niners got the W they needed.  Though it was against a less than stellar St. Louis Rams team, it was a good game to get back on track.  Now they have a true test this Sunday at the Stick against that loaded Texans team.  Back to work boys.  I’ll see you there.

And just incase you missed it (if you did I don’t know why or how), here is that beautiful touchdown dive by Q.

http://www.49ers.com/video/videos/Cant-Miss-Play-Boldin-20-yard-TD/171109e8-0790-44b5-a857-94d47b246b7e

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The State Of the Steelers

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The Cover 4.com presents you with the The State Of the Steelers! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @thecover4 or facebook at theCo VerFour

 

Are the Steelers in trouble?  Some might say they are.  There are a lot of positives going on with the Steelers that many may fail — or frankly just not wish — to see.  As of now, it is hard to look past the -9 turnover ratio.  The almost disgusting offensive line.  The countless sacks and hits Ben Roethlisberger has been taking.  The shear lack of a running game.  All are very big negative points that have been lingering around the league about the Steelers.  All of which are true.  However, is it possible that the Steelers can bounce back from an 0-3 start?  Absolutely!  History has proven that that the odds are slim and they very much are, but don’t count them out just yet.  The defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers is still there.  Turnovers will come.  It’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

Veterans like Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor and Brett Keisel will be able to guide the younger guys in the right direction.  The fans have been spoiled in previous years with the way this Dick Lebeau defense created takeaways and stopped every offense it faced.  They will continue to perform despite the lack of offensive success.

Chicago Bears v Pittsburgh SteelersOffensively, everyone always dwells on the sack numbers on Big Ben Roethlisberger.  How many quarterbacks in the league will hold onto the ball for 4, 5, 6 seconds?  Not many.  He never gives up and many times just doesn’t know when to just throw the ball away.  Again, the fans were spoiled with the reciever help he had with Mike Wallace, Nate Washington and Plaxico Burress (in his prime).  All of whom are great backyard receivers.  Now Ben is throwing to a very talented, but young Antonio Brown, Jerricho Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders.  All of them do not understand the concept of improvising their routes.  They will pick it up and help Ben out here in upcoming games.

The running game has nearly been a disaster since the retirement of Jerome Bettis.  Look to see Le’Veon Bell get a lot of carries, with Jonathan Dwyer, Felix Jones and Issac Redman supplementing Bell. The running game will bounce back given the patience of Todd Haley.  If Haley can’t stay patient, then you can kiss the season and his job goodbye.  Ben made a name for himself off of a running game opening up a play action.  Without the play action and a successful running game, you will see more multiple interception games by Roethlisberger.

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Many big games are in the near future.  Pittsburgh has received a blessing in disguise with a week 5 bye.  The season is still wide open.  Only one team per conference has showed and proven that they are indeed a very sound football team.  Denver is going to be tough to the end as will Seattle.  The rest of the league is not even close to decided.  A couple other teams in each conference look tough and will be very possible contenders in the end.  Cincinnati looks like it is starting to prove people wrong.  Chicago, despite the firing of Lovie Smith, looks like it will be giving the NFC North a run for its money.  The 0-3 Steelers have now lost to two of the top six teams in the league according to ESPN’s week 4 power rankings.  Is there a chance of revival? Is there a chance to bring back the old smashmouth D?  Can the offense be as explosive as it’s been in the past?  Only the future weeks can answer these questions.  Don’t stop watching and you may be surprised come January.

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MLB Playoffs:One and Done

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The Cover 4.com presents you with the MLB Playoffs:One and Done! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @thecover4 or facebook at theCo VerFour

The Wild in the WIldCard

The purpose of the playoffs is to provide a forum to establish the best team of the best teams over a course of a year.  As in most sports, there is a regular season to weed out the poor teams and isolate the good teams. In football, they play once a week in a 16 game season. In the NBA, they play three or four times a week in an 82 game season. In baseball, teams play six or seven times a week in a 162 game season. Why do they play that many games? Maybe it is less grueling on the body so they can afford to play almost every day, unlike basketball and especially football. So, if that many games are laid out to determine the best teams over such a large sample size, you would think baseball would have the largest and longest size for their playoffs amongst the main sports. Right? Nope.  It’s laughable. And for the Rangers, Reds, and the Indians, they receive the short end of the stick.

With baseball’s new Wild Card format, they have baseball teams competing in a one, yes I repeat, ONE game playoff to determine who moves on and who is gone. After six long moths of regular season games traveling around the country, they the new format dictates that their postseason fate is determined by one game. Last time I checked my math, this ratio of regular season games to playoff games here is preposterous, and it has me burning more than a summer in Death Valley.

world-series-trophy-rangers-cardinals-baseballBaseball, and Bud Selig especially, thought they would make baseball more meaningful in September by adding an extra playoff spot for a competing team. Instead of three division winners and a wildcard in each league, the new format as of last season includes the three division winners and two wildcard spots. The two wildcard teams however, who have experienced all the twists and turns of a 162 game season, then compete in one solitary game to determine who will play the division winner with the best record in baseball as the true wildcard representative. Give me a break! And I’m not talking about a Kit Kat. How can baseball think this is fair? No wonder Bud Selig recently announced his retirement at the end of next season. No wonder the ratings are down.

In a sport where one pitcher can determine the whole outcome of a game, to have one sudden death game be played is ludicrous. Baseball has the least amount of teams make the playoffs compared to hockey, basketball, and football. How can they truly justify the existence of such a short element in their post-season. A broken clock is right twice a day, but it does not mean that this is the best clock in a clock store. This is the World Series we are talking about, not March Madness, or a clock store.

In basketball, they have 16 teams make the playoffs and every series is best 4 out of 7. Even hockey partakes in this same format. They play half the games baseball does. And in basketball, sure winning game 1 is a good start to winning a series, but not every team that wins game 1 wins the series. This year and last year’s NBA Finals, LeBron James and the Miami Heat lost game 1 both times before moving on to win the series. If it was the baseball wildcard playoff, LeBron would still be known as the “Ringless King.” The reason this does not happen in basketball is because in a competitive sport where parody exists everywhere, the better team is determined over a larger sample sizes. It is not football, and you cannot fairly outline a system where one game determines who wins and goes home after such a long quantitative regular season.

NASCAR races do not determine the winner after 5 laps. Tennis matches do not play best 3 out of 5 games in a set to see who wins the whole match. Majors in Golf are not determined by two round tournaments or 9 hole matches. Soccer matches do not play twenty-minute games in the World Cup. I can go on and one with examples to illustrate my point, but it will not change the format that exists in baseball.  Otherwise, this article would have only been one paragraph long.

Going into the final weekend of the regular season, the National League Wildcard matchup was clear-cut and the American League Wildcard reminded me of the BCS System. The Cardinals, Pirates, and Reds had an exciting battle throughout the final months of the season. The Cardinals, class personified, took the NL Central Crown and the Reds and Pirates battled off for the Wild Card Spot. The Pirates with the better record held the home field and predictably defended their turf, winning 6-2 the re-emerging of Francisco Liriano. Pittsburgh postseason baseball has not taken place since 1992, and this victory against the Reds was a fantastic emotional watch. However, if I am a Reds advocate, I played 82 home games during the regular season to prepare me for the playoffs, qualified for the playoffs, and I do not get even one home playoff game? This is blatantly out of bounds, unnecessary, and insulting. Make it two out of three. Do something Bud. Even the WNBA plays two out of three throughout the playoffs. You cannot justify playing that many regular season games to only have one game determine a team’s fate. Not to this baseball fan. Sorry Reds fans, looks like you had to walk the plank.

In the American League, the Wild Card Playoff berths resembled a hybrid of a Presidential Election Race and the BCS Bowl system. Chaotic, confusing, and most importantly, unfair. If two teams are supposed to play in a one-game playoff for the final wildcard spot, what happens when there is a tie for these final two spots? Well, I guess you can say baseball got its wish. The Rangers and the Rays tied for the second Wild Card spot, while the Indians finished first for the top spot. There were ten different cluttered scenarios that could have happened on the final day of the season. Hypothetically if this happens; then this is the result. In the end, there was a one-game playoff for the one-game playoff, furthering the ridiculousness of this new system.

8811b8d4321303213f0f6a7067001791The Tampa Bay Rays threw their ace David Price against the Texas Rangers in Arlington. And the Rangers pitcher was Yu Darvish, their best pitcher, naturally right? No, incorrect. Martin Perez who? Why, because Yu pitched on the final day of the season to secure their playoff “berth.” Baseball features a dynamic where a pitcher can impact a game more than any player on the field. This is why they typically pitch once every five games. The format did not even allow a team to have their best pitcher throw one pitch. How can this format truly determine the best team? It is very unfair and cruel. Sorry Rangers, you just got stung. By the Rays and more importantly, baseball’s misconception of balance. And what the playoffs represent.

The Rays got to throw their ace against the Rangers and they won. Then they advanced to the real wildcard playoff against the Indians, where they showcased Alex Cobb. Their number two starter Matt Moore could not pitch because he pitched on the final day of the regular season, but is scheduled to start Game 1 against the Red Sox on Friday in the ALDS. And the Indians were unable to throw their hottest pitcher in Ubaldo Jimenez. They had to pitch rookie Danny Salazar. He gave up a couple runs, but the story of the game was that the Indians stranded baserunners left and right. The Indians outhit the Rays but lost 4-0. In a long series, they could have won 4-1 and outhit them every game. We will never know. Neither will the Indians nor their fans. Cleveland sports will have to continue to suffer because of this stupid format. One off-night after a ten game winning streak sends a team home with no second, third or fourth chance.

In the end, the best team is determined in the League Championship Series and World Series. Why? Because it is a best-out-of-seven series. All pitchers can be used, and all assets and liabilities can be used and exposed. But in getting to these final four teams, injustice is incurred along the way. Basketball playoffs take almost two months, where baseball’s takes place in one month, and Baseball plays twice as many games in the regular season. Now I’m no math teacher, but something does not add up. Here is a quick solution: Cut out the final month of the regular season and make the playoffs longer. Simple, make it a 130 game season and make more playoff games.

Yasiel-PuigC’mon baseball! Show us you can adapt. Football adopted its new overtime system because its previous format created a scenario where one team potentially did not get a fair chance. They realized a problem existed and rectified it. Baseball is moving slowly with updates in instant replay because baseball is America’s pastime. Change is hard for them, and the changes they do make are also unfair. They have the All-Star Game winner’s league get home-field advantage in the World Series. There are so many elements of this sport that I love that are broken. Baseball needs to strongly look at itself in the mirror, put on the eye black, and re-evaluate its playoff system, especially the Wild Card format. They are not only robbing the teams, but the fans as well. We all want you to succeed baseball, but you are making it very hard on yourself.

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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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Week 3 Start’em Or Sit’em

QB

Start Em

Eli Manning- Russell Wilson put up 300 passing yards against the Panthers.  Should translate to a little over 400 for Eli.  Plus his receiving core and TE are the strongest he’s ever had.

Andy Dalton- Dalton should have to put the ball in the air a whole lot Sunday against Green Bay.  You know his counterpart Aaron Rodgers will be, should be a good day for both QBs.

Matt Stafford- Stafford will enjoy Washington’s poor excuse for a defense this week.  He’s just about a must start for any owner who drafted him but I wanted to place emphasis on the points you can expect from him this week anyway.

Sit Em

Tom Brady- I’m waiting for Rob Gronkowski to get healthy before I put Brady back in my lineup.  If you have someone like Eli, Vick or Dalton backing him up I highly recommend going in that direction.

Ben Roethlisberger- That offensive line is horrid, 5 new starters after Pouncey went down.  Heath Miller’s return should help a little but bottom line is Ben’s in for a tough year.

RB

Start Em

Knowshon Moreno- Moreno’s coming off a statement game, he’s the guy for now in Denver.  He’ll get the lion share of touches against Oakland and while the Raiders defense has been formidable there’s a good chance Moreno will find the endzone.

Bernard Pierce- The Ravens big bruising backup RB is starting with Rice hurt, even if Rice is active I still like Pierce more.  The Ravens need him this week.

Joique Bell- If Reggie Bush is inactive look out.  Bell is a top 10 play, top 20 even with Bush active.

Giovani Bernard- Bernard came alive last week and in a game with the Packers the passing down RB should see the field a lot.

Sit Em

Maurice Jones-Drew- First off he’s hurt.  Adding to that Jacksonville is playing in Seattle.  Don’t play a single Jaguar this week.

Ray Rice- Rice may be active, but I doubt he gets the time he usually sees battling a hip injury.

Reggie Bush- Reggie may also be active but he’s nursing 3 separate injuries at the moment and I’d advise against playing him.

Fred Jackson- Jackson has scored some points early this year, but CJ Spiller woke up last week and I think he’ll see the majority of touches from here on out.  Plus it’s  a tough matchup against the Jets.

WR

Start Em

Anquan Boldin- Boldin needs a bounce back game after a tough one in Seattle.  Vernon Davis is hurt and will likely not play however even if he does he won’t be 100% making Anquan the 49ers’ number one target.

Julian Edelman- Edelman is a must start as long as Amendola is out and he’ll still be starter quality when he’s back.  He’s a sure bet for 7-8 receptions and most likely 10+.

DeAndre Hopkins- This rookie’s the real deal.  Shaub already in rhythm with the young WR, I expect good production from Hopkins moving forward, especially this week with Andre Johnson active, but banged up.

Michael Floyd- I like Michale Floyd this week.  He’s been so close to big weeks the past 2 so it’s onlyright he gets on the same page with Carson in week 3.  He’ll score.

Sit Em

Antonio Brown- Brown has a tough matchup this week against Chicago.  Whether Tillman or Jennings covers him it’s still a mismatch in the defense’s favor.

Cecil Shorts- Once again don’t start any Jaguars, Shorts is a name many will think about.  In Seattle, I’d go in another direction.

Josh Gordon- This one is tough.  They will be behind and passing a lot.  But it’s his first game back from suspension and Brian Hoyer is his QB.  Who?

Eddie Royal- 5 TDs in his first 2 games had fantasy owners hit the waiver wire like never before.  I don’t see how the Titans let Royal beat them this week, the jury’s out on this guy.

 

TE

Start Em

Jason Witten- Witten was needed to help with pass protection for most of last week’s game.  I expect he bounces back in a big way.

Greg Olsen- Greg Olsen is Newton’s favorite target even over Steve Smith the speedy WR.  Giants always get killed by TEs this week will be no different.

Sit Em

Fred Davis- Davis is disappearing this year.  It looks as though his job has been won over by rookie Jordan Reed.

Brandon Pettigrew- This is another talented TE who has virtually disappeared this year.  In a pass heavy offense he looked to catch about 70 balls coming into this year.  He’d be lucky to catch 40 at this point.

 

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