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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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.

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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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Names to know-College Football

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​We are three weeks through the college football season and there are plenty of players catching fans’ attention. While everybody was focused on Texas A&M vs. Alabama last weekend, Johnny Manziel and A.J. McCarron weren’t the only players to shine.  This week we’ll take a look on some lesser-known players whose name you should know by now and look forward to watching for the rest of the year.

Jameis Winston-Florida St

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​Before this season began, the only reason I had heard of Jameis Winston were because of his ridiculous quotes. Sure, he had some absurd athletic talent, but his sound bits were hilarious. He said to reporters, “if I get Manziel disease, I want everyone of you to get your mics and start slapping me on the head.” The Florida State QB is known to have a love of cheese balls and when asked if he would give up a national championship for a lifetime supply of cheese balls he had to think about but then said, “I would not, BUT I’m gonna get some cheese balls anyway.” A championship may not seem too far-fetched as the Seminoles are currently ranked No. 10 in the AP poll.
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To call Winston efficient would be an understatement. The kid is damn near perfect. In his two games as starter he has completed 40 of 45 passes for 570 yards. That’s an 88.9% completion percentage, or the percentage of fucks to total words in Bo Pelini’s leaked audiotape. He has a 234.8 passer rating and has scored eight touchdowns. If you didn’t notice, he has more touchdowns than incompletions. If you somehow have not heard of Winston yet, you better start paying attention. He’s dove headfirst into the Heisman conversation and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. You shouldn’t feel uncomfortable with putting Winston on a pedestal after two games. In Jameis’ own words, “I could make you [a white reporter] feel at home in a black church.” The guy is hard to not like, and impossible to ignore.

Brett Hundley-UCLA

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​Brett Hundley may not be a stranger to fans of schools in the Pac-12, but he’s starting to become more known on the national stage. UCLA’s comeback against Nebraska on national television gave him the stage to make his name known. Hundley threw for 294 yards and three touchdowns and has UCLA ranked No. 13 in the AP poll. Hundley has 124 yards rushing this season with two touchdowns to go along with his 585 passing yards and five touchdowns.
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He’s not busting into the Heisman conversation, but he is making a name for himself. Hundley has achieved something that seemed impossible a few years ago — he has UCLA considered the better Los Angeles football team. As a USC fan, that’s what hurts the most.

Blake Bell-Oklahoma

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Texas A&M vs Oklahoma
​He had never started a game and Blake Bell made sure that it would be hard to not let him start another. The 6-foot-6, 252-pounder started Oklahoma’s game against Tulsa after starter Trevor Knight was injured. Bell laid a beating down on Tulsa, giving the Sooners a 51-20 victory. Although previously thought of as a bruiser and dual-threat quarterback, Bell looked at home in the pocket. Bell completed 27 of 37 passes for 413 yards and four touchdowns.
Blake Bell
Bell had lost the quarterback competition against the freshman Knight during the offseason, but he seems to have gotten it back with his performance. Bell will be the starting QB when Oklahoma goes against Notre Dame this weekend giving him another chance to make his name known to college football fans.

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USA vs. Mexico WCQ Primer and Lineup Prediction

Jurgen Klinsmann

USA vs. Mexico WCQ Primer and Lineup Prediction

 Pick any cliché you want: All good things must come to an end; teams learn more from losing than from winning; it was just one game, or any number of possible options; the US Men’s National Team and coach Jürgen Klinsmann learned some harsh and valuable lessons in their game against Costa Rica in San Jose that should help prepare them for tonight’s clash against hated rival Mexico.

First, the depth they thought they had does not exist. Sure, they have more talent on the team than they have in recent history or maybe ever, but they do not truly have depth. They are like that really good high school varsity football team that is moving up in the state rankings, but has one or two completely irreplaceable players who really carry the team, rather than the true powerhouses who aren’t affected by injuries to even their best players. Michael Bradley is without a doubt the most important player for the US, and they were not nearly the same team without him on the field. They looked completely lost for the first 25 minutes. They had no link between defense and attack, and no one to calm things down and maintain possession to stop Costa Rica’s momentum. The players’ demeanor suggested that without Bradley they were in trouble. Geoff Cameron is a solid Premier League defender and defensive midfielder, but he lacks the passing, playmaking, and overall confidence on the ball that Bradley brings. Bradley has been ruled out for the Mexico game with the sprained ankle he sustained in warm-ups before the Costa Rica match, and Cameron is suspended for yellow card accumulation, leaving Klinsmann with another big decision to make at center midfield for tonight’s game.

Second, the Michael Orozco experiment at right-back was a complete disaster. Costa Rica exposed him all night and he was caught out of position several times. This has been a gaping hole for the US while Steve Cherundolo has been out with numerous injuries. Brad Evans was a steady stop-gap for the time being but he is also out with an injury. Which begs the question; will Klinsmann please explain what Timmy Chandler did to deserve this exile? The US worked hard to get him to commit, he finally did, and now they are leaving him in Germany for every significant game they play when they are desperate for quality at his position. He’s a Bundesliga right back with size, skill, and speed, and the US needs him. Michael Parkhurst is likely to start at right back tonight against El Tri after a solid showing at the Gold Cup, though he has rarely seen the field for his club team in Germany. Recent call-up Brad Davis could also slide back and fill-in, but Parkhurst is the clear choice after Orozco’s fiasco last week.

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Lastly, with Jozy Altidore starting on the bench due to injury, Klinsmann saw that his team must start with an established striker up front from here on out. The US employed what’s known as a “False 9”, meaning they are playing without a true striker while one of the midfielders at random drifts forward and acts as the striker. Clint Dempsey is an excellent forward, but he is not a true striker capable of playing alone up top. He is at his best as a playmaker behind the striker; same with Landon Donovan. Ahead of the match excitement was building because the US was supposed to start their first game with a full “A” team, yet with Altidore starting on the bench, arguably their two best in-form players were not on the field (Bradley being the other after a strong start with Roma in Serie A). Why did Klinsmann choose to go with Graham Zusi or Donovan instead of Eddie Johnson or Aron Johannsson, both of whom are established strikers with a nose for goal? We may never know, Klinsmann is a mad scientist who rarely explains his decisions, but expect to see Klinsmann’s standard 4-2-3-1 lineup against Mexico tonight following another failed experiment with a 4-2-4.

During the 12-match winning streak it seemed like every odd decision Klinsmann made paid off, but in Costa Rica the magic ran out against a talented team with a chip on its shoulder. Mexico is desperate coming into this game. They need to escape with at least a draw to keep hope alive of getting into the third place spot in CONCACAF, qualifying automatically for the World Cup, and avoiding a two-legged playoff against New Zealand with a birth in Brazil on the line. He needs to have the team prepared for the intensity they will face, they absolutely cannot come out flat like they did against the Ticos, and he has to be sure of his lineup decisions. That being said, here is my prediction for the US lineup tonight against El Tri:

GK: Tim Howard

LB: DaMarcus Beasley

CB: Omar Gonzalez, Clarence Goodson

RB: Michael Parkhurst

CM: Kyle Beckerman, Jermaine Jones

LAM: Fabian Johnson

CAM: Clint Dempsey

RAM: Landon Donovan

ST: Aron Johannsson

Starting from the back, Klinsmann called in Goodson after Cameron and Matt Besler were suspended for yellow card accumulation. With John Anthony Brooks being sent back to his club team Hertha Berlin, Goodson is the best choice over Orozco at this point. Had Brooks stayed, I would have made him the favorite to start, which would have permanently cap-tied him to the United States over Germany. Goodson had a solid Gold Cup for the US and carries a wealth of international experience, plus he is a force in the air on set-pieces. I have Parkhurst starting at right back for the reasons stated earlier, and Beasley remaining at left back due to his experience even though he had a rough outing against the Ticos last week.

For center midfield, I will admit I am not the biggest fan of Kyle Beckerman’s game. He is not a flashy player, but he is steady and gives Jones the freedom to push forward. They both have a knack for picking out a long pass and are capable distributors in attack. Though neither contain the goal-scoring prowess of Bradley, this is the best combination Klinsmann has available, with Beckerman more likely to stay back and assist with defensive duties. Mix Diskerud is another option here if Klinsmann chooses to go for a more attacking player in Bradley’s absence.

The only change I see in the attacking midfield is dropping Zusi to the bench and moving Dempsey back into his more natural center attacking midfield role. Yes, Zusi played a great pass to Fabian to set up the US penalty kick opportunity, but he was virtually invisible the rest of the time he was on the field and his corner kicks were downright awful, seeing Donovan replace him in that role to start the second half. With Fabian Johnson’s speed, playmaking, and recent form with the team, there is no way Klinsmann will bench him in this game. Out of all the German-American imports he has convinced to play for the US, Johnson has been the best by far and exactly what the team needs on the wing. Donovan and Dempsey showed how well they can work together during the second half of the Costa Rica game, so I don’t see Klinsmann splitting them up. That leaves Zusi as the odd man out for the team to bring in a true striker.

Speaking of that true striker, Aron Johannsson, the Kevin Bacon doppelganger nicknamed the Iceman, looks primed to start this game with Altidore out due to yellow card accumulation after his moronic act near the end of the Costa Rica match. I believe I speak for several US fans when I say I want to see this man in action for a full 90 minutes. Iceland was livid that he chose the United States over them, and it hasn’t taken long to see why. He has five goals in seven matches for his club team AZ Alkmaar, and was impressive during his time on the field against Bosnia-Herzegovina last month in his US debut. Eddie Johnson is the only other possibility here, and may get the nod based on his experience against Mexico and CONCACAF opponents, but I really see Klinsmann going with Johannsson here due to his form, skill, and Mexico’s lack-of familiarity with him. He’s unlike any other current US player and may be the spark they need in this game. He has seemingly infinite energy and he has a hunger to score goals.

Off the bench, I expect to see Alejandro Bedoya get his chance in this game. He has been impressive for Nantes in Ligue 1 (France), especially against European power PSG. He could come on for Donovan or Dempsey in the second half if the US wants more action on the right wing to provide more width to their play. Edgar Castillo could also see action at left back or left wing with his experience playing in Liga MX (Mexico) while providing more speed than Beasley is capable of at this point in his career. The final potential substitute will depend on how the match goes. Diskerud provides more attack in the midfield than Beckerman, Jose Torres is a steady midfielder who can string passes together to kill clock at the end of a match, or Eddie Johnson could come on if the team needs a goal late.

Regardless of who Klinsmann puts out there, the United States must make a good showing in their biggest game of the year against their fiercest border rival. Hype around the team has never been this high, and if they want to keep some of their new fans around, a win on National television in primetime will go a long way to building even more momentum ahead of next summer’s World Cup in Brazil. Check out the game tonight 8 pm ET/5 pm PT on ESPN.

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Fantasy “Start Em Or Sit Em”

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Ahh it’s time to offer up some “Start em Sit em” advice and though its not as epic as offering pre draft insight it’s still fun. The obvious weekly basis starts  (Brees, Peterson, Megatron, Graham etc.) will not be mentioned.

 

– Note: This was done before the Thursday Game but did not run on the site !

 

Start em

QB

Matt Ryan: Matty Ice is playing in New Orleans. I repeat, Matty Ice will be going up against the Saints defense. Expect a shootout between him and Brees. ‘Nuff Said.

Andrew Luck: Luck’s starting his sophomore season off against Oakland at home. You can expect him to try and get ahead of the Sophomore slump whispers and the opportunity to take advantage of what will most likely be a lack luster defense, is only going to help.

 

RB – I think outside the obvious RB 1’s there are some sweet starts to either plug into that RB2 or your flex slot.

Shane Vereen: At Buffalo you can expect the Patriots to do two things offensively. Run the ball, and get Tom Brady on page with his new weapons. I think Vereen will get a few carries, more receptions, and close to 100 total yards and a TD.

Daryl Richardson: Going up against Arizona DRich isn’t exactly a safe bet, but look for the Rams to split him out wide. He’s the Rams starting RB. I think he comes out and shows he deserves that role. I bet you he catches 50 passes this year as a nice little bonus for PPR owners.Ben Tate: If you’re searching for a nice RB 2 or flex option Ben Tate is another worthy start.  Adrian’s not getting a full workload the first game according to Gary Zubiak. Tate’s gonna get more touches than usual, and he runs really well in that zone run system.Ahmad Bradshaw: I like his chances against Oakland. I like anyone’s chances against Oakland but Ahmad is a good back. Indy will always look to establish the run whether its with Bradshaw or Ballard is a different story. This week I like Bradshaw.

 

WR

Hakeem Nicks: Nicks hasn’t been getting the love he deserves in drafts, many owners have him as their 3rd WR and/or flex guy. Nicks is in a contract year and football players like getting paid. He’ll want to start well and despite common belief, Nicks is Eli’s favorite target especially in the red zone.

Danny Amendola: His value really shot up by the time owners were drafting so he may be a WR1 in most cases inevitably making him an obvious start making him a guy who should go unmentioned. I don’t care some got him as their WR2 and some guys even have him as their flex. So here it is. Start Amendola, he may not play a full 16 game season judging by his injury history. But he’s playing this game, and he’s going to score points.

Kenbrell Thompkins: Another Patriot receiver. The hype is oh so real. Start the man if your flex is still up in there, just play him. I’m thinking he’s a sure bet for 6-8 receptions and maybe more. PPR gold as I’ve said before. TDs may be his only downside due to the Pats love of the play action pass to the TE. But he’ll score a few.

Greg Jennings: This is a bit of a weird one. I find it funny he’s somewhat of a no name fantasy receiver this year. Jennings can play, his QB is horrible but the Vikings’ intentions are clear. They desperately need to make defenses respect the deep ball even if its just a little bit. Giving Adrian a little more room will pay off big time, they drafted Patterson who I think will be involved, but Jennings is the proven receiver. I think they’ll try to get him the ball deep right off the bat in week 1 to get it on tape for opposing defenses coming later in the year. I think he catches a TD in this game, and a long one.

 

TE

Zachary Sudfeld: While I’m not exactly sold on this guys hype despite my bias being a Pats fan I think if you’re going to play him, nows a pretty good time. Ron Gronkowski isn’t expected to play and any time that’s the case Sudfeld should probably make your lineup.

Julius Thomas: Again I’m trying to stay away from obvious guys to play. I think if you have a choice between say Greg Olsen and Julius Thomas you should start Thomas this week. Olsen is playing Seattle and Thomas has been drafted as a backup pretty consistently in fantasy drafts this year. If not check your waiver wire and get him. More on Olsen in the sit em part of this spectacular article.

 

Defense/Special Teams

New England: They’re playing Buffalo and though they’ll struggle with Spiller like any defense they should have fun with the EJ Manuel experiment.

Tampa Bay: Tampa for two reasons. Darrell Revis gets his revenge on the Jets and Geno Smith is absolutely horrible and is starting for NY. This should be a ridiculous year. Play any defense playing the Jets every week!

 

Kicker

No one should have backup kickers! Play who you got sonny!

You never see specific predictions like this! Cover 4 baby.

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Sit em

QB

Both Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton will have their worst weeks this season in week 1. But you really can’t sit Rodgers and in many cases you can’t sit Cam either. Both are playing the best defenses in the league (Rodgers @SF, Cam has SEA at home) so if you have excellent backups with good match ups then I don’t blame you. I’m scared for Rodgers’ life going against the best pass rusher in the game in Aldon Smith with a rookie left tackle to boot, and Cam well, he likes to run so he’ll be taking hits from a very physical Seattle defense no matter what. Scary stuff. If you drafted right you start whomever you took first at the QB position however these are two guys to look at.

 

RB

Arian Foster: Head coach Gary Zubiak has said they will gradually get him involved in week 1 considering he didn’t play a snap in the preseason. Ben Tate may be getting more carries in this one or the Texans may be bluffing. I like Tate more than Arian week 1.

DeAngelo Williams: Please don’t play this guy against Seattle, please don’t.

Eddie Lacy: Welcome to the NFL rook, have fun against San Fran, Pat Willis and company.

Isaac Redman: If you don’t have to I wouldn’t. He is going to start for PIT for awhile while Bell is out but he’s a fill in at best. That’s something you shouldn’t have to worry about week 1.

 

WR

Wes Welker: I’m not so sure Peyton is impressed and I think he’d probably even rather have Stokely I’m the slot considering he’s worked with him for so long. Give Welker time to get accustomed to what Peyton wants from him I don’t think you’ll get much from Wes early.

Steve Smith: Smith is facing one of the better cornerback tandems in the league in Browner and Sherman. They are massive compared to Smith and just as fast. He’ll struggle. If you’re sensing a theme you’re getting it, stay away from Carolina guys this week with Seattle in town.

Cecil Shorts: Love the guy but he’s simply not as talented as Blackmon and Gabbert is awful. Play KC’s defense is very underrated and should have some fun playing Jacksonville.

Anquan Boldin: I hope you didn’t draft this guy to start him. Don’t think you’ll be happy this year. He’s a big physical guy who will help block for the run game. He’s very similar to the type of player Hines Ward was.

 

TE

Greg Olsen: Carolina guy taking on Seattle. Olsen is far from a safe bet. However I do think if anybody scores on Carolina not named Cam Newton, it’ll be this guy.

Owen Daniels: I’m so over this guy as a legit starting TE for fantasy teams. He’s so boring.  Never anything spectacular you’re better off going for someone with high upside like a Sudfeld or Pettigrew. Maybe even Rob Housler from Arizona.

 

Defense/Special Teams:

Buffalo: I think they’ll be improved this year but they have Tom Brady in week one. If they’re defensive line shows up they’ll do alright.

Atlanta: Enter Drew Brees.

 

Kickers

Enough with the kickers already!

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Fantasy Football Preview: A Guide to Win Your League

Presentation1

Who to Target, Who to Avoid

Round 1:

Yes, you’re going to want to go RB here, big surprise.  The only non-RB I’m targeting is Calvin Johnson.  Outside of Megatron, I’m taking a top-12 back to help sure up that position.

Who to Target:

CJ Spiller:  Spiller’s going to have a monster year.  Barring injury I’m willing to put my fantasy credibility on the line and say he’s a legitimate candidate to rack up 2000 total yards. He’s my No. 2 pick after Adrian Peterson.

Doug Martin: Dougie has my attention.  I think he’s worth the third pick considering he’s got an elite offensive line clearing holes for him and Greg Schiano said the Bucs will be leaning on him.  If he and his line stay healthy, look for his numbers to improve even after a stellar year last season.

Ray Rice: I’ve seen Rice fall out of the top 5.  At six it’s a no-brainer. Many are afraid of him due to the slight emergence of his backup, Bernard Pierce.  Pierce is an added bonus in my eyes.  John Harbaugh has said Rice will be lined up in the slot when Pierce is in the backfield which sounds like PPR gold to me.  Pierce can also keep Rice fresh throughout the year which could bring a welcomed consistency to Rice’s fantasy performance. Draft Pierce as an insurance policy.

Calvin Johnson: If I don’t get AP, Spiller, Martin or Rice and I’m sitting at six with Megatron on the board, I’m taking him.  He’s a monster in PPR leagues and I think his TD numbers will be up a whole lot from last year.  Calvin owners from last year won their league 25 percent of the time, the highest winning percentage by any player outside of AP. Expect to get Stevan Ridley and Darren Sproles as your first and second backs and I’d recommend going after a Shane Vereen or Daryl Richardson as well.  Either way you’ll want to pay attention to the RB position later in your draft.

Al Morris/Matt Forte: These two are going at the end of round one and in some drafts, the beginning of round two.  If you have the last pick this year there’s a good chance you end up with both of these guys.  You gotta love that.  When it comes back around you can focus on snagging a couple high-end WRs.  You could take one WR and an elite TE or QB such as Jason Witten or Drew Brees/Aaron Rodgers, a really solid draft strategy.

Who to Avoid:

Jamal Charles: I had a terrible experience with Charles, taking him with the No. 2 overall pick the year he tore his ACL. I may be biased on this guy, but I’m not convinced he’s who I want to count on as my No. 1 RB.  I look for reliability with the first RB I take enabling me to take risks on high upside guys later.  If you must take Charles, look to follow him with a pick like Ridley.  I like Ridley’s ability to remain consistent.

Arian Foster: I love Arian Foster, I took him first overall last year and won my league thanks in large part to him.  There are so many questions surrounding Foster this year I’m almost sure I’m avoiding him completely.  The only chance I’m taking Foster is if he falls to me at six or later and Megatron isn’t available.  I don’t think that will happen in most drafts.  If you take him, Ben Tate is a must-draft later on.

Marshawn Lynch: Why did the Seahawks take a RB in the second round in this year’s NFL draft?  On top of that Christine Michael has really impressed in camp and in preseason games.  He could steal a few carries.  Plus Lynch doesn’t really catch the ball.  I’d take him if it was between him and Morris at the end of the first, but that seems unlikely.

Jimmy Graham/Dez Bryant: Expect huge years for these guys.  I want them both on my team.  But  I’m not spending a first-round pick on either.

 

5 Sleeper WRs to Keep Your Eye On:

Justin Blackmon:  Blackmon isn’t that under the radar; however he’s still going extremely late in drafts for some reason.  Even with the four-game suspension he’s worth it because by the time he falls in drafts teams already have their starting WRs as well as a backup or even two.  You can’t go wrong with Blackmon. I’m sure he’ll produce even with the QB situation in Jacksonville.  The old Phil Simms quote applies here, “even when he isn’t open, he’s open.” I could get this guy the ball.

Kembrell Thompkins:  Another guy who the secret is out on.  Thompkins is going to start alongside Danny Amendola and we don’t see Amendola playing a full 16-game season so Thompkins may be the No. 1 in some weeks.  This kid is going a round or two after Blackmon, so when you take him it’s most likely you’ll already have 4 WRs.  You have to take him if that’s the case. He could be a 75-plus reception guy as he’s run both the deep routes and the Wes Welker-style routes for the Pats.

Markus Wheaton:  Wheaton can absolutely fly.  Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown are the starters for the Steelers but expect Wheaton to be on the field a whole lot for Pittsburgh.  The Steelers could cause some problems for defenses with both Brown and Wheaton out there. That’s a serious amount of speed.

Kenny Stills: He’s the third WR for New Orleans and he’s a talent for sure. Drew Brees has already shown a lot of trust in the rookie in just a few preseason games.  He’ll go undrafted without a doubt, so pick him up if you don’t like how your WR corps looks immediately after your draft.  After 70 yards and a TD in Week 1 it will be a race to waiver wire for him anyway.

Brandon LaFell:  LaFell showed he can contribute as a No. 2 receiver for Carolina.  Cam Newton has found him in the red zone a few times as he’s much bigger than Steve Smith.  If you need a fill in, you could get a TD out of him.

5 Sleeper RBs to Keep Your Eye On:

LaMichael James: The 49ers began to get him involved last year and this year he should see even more action.  James possesses big play ability and is the young guy knocking on the old veteran’s door.  I remember a similar situation last year in San Fran involving a former No. 1 overall pick and some guy name Colin Kaepernick.  Hmm.

Christine Michael:  This kid fits right into the “beast mode” mentality in Seattle.  Michael is a physical runner who punishes defenders with every attempted tackle.  The Seahawks drafted him in the second round with no apparent need at RB, so we ask… Why?

Knowshon Moreno:  Still can picture him leaping over defenders in that Georgia uniform.  He’s a talented player who came on strong after Willis McGahee went down last season.  He is probably the most seasoned RB the Broncos have when you factor in pass protection, ball protection and receiving ability.  He’s worth the late pick it costs to get him.

Kenjon Barner: Jonathan Stewart’s been placed on the PUP list and even after he gets back I feel the tiny Oregon product, Barner, can show he deserves his touches. If he outplays DeAngelo Williams in the first six weeks, look out.

Isaac Redman: Went undrafted in my 12-team PPR high stakes league.  I scooped him off the waiver wire because LeVeon Bell’s out for awhile and sure enough Pittsburgh named him the interim starter. Nothing special here but he’ll carry the ball more than anyone on his team. There are only 32 of those guys out there ya know.

 

The Trick to Adding Depth and My Famous Jason Witten Pick
Year after year my favorite player to draft is Jason Witten. For the past two or three years explosive guys like Jimmy Graham and Vernon Davis garner all the attention and it’s made it even easier for me to go under the radar and snag Witten in the fifth round. At that point I have my starting RBs and WRs, and while people are “adding depth” at those positions, I’m stealing a 20-30 point player (referring to points per game) giving me an edge every week at the TE position.
The only matchup I’m losing is Witten vs. Graham (or Witten vs. a healthy Rob Gronkowski) and even then I’m competing with them, scoring enough at the position to allow my other players win me the week. Graham goes in the mid-to-late second round and scores a little more than Witten. Witten goes three rounds later and really gives you an edge since you took a stud RB or WR in the same round that Graham was picked.
With the next two picks you add either another RB and WR, or one of the two and an elite QB who’s fallen right to you. I find myself in this position every draft, a possible top-three guy like Tom Brady or Tony Romo falling right in my lap in the seventh round holding a big sign saying, “Draft Me!” So through seven rounds all starting positions (outside of DEF/ST and kicker) are filled and everyone of those guys flat out score points. Plus, you have the luxury of not having to worry about a finding a QB who can get you 20 points weekly or a TE who’ll get you 10. Why? Because you stole both Witten and Brady/Romo, who can be counted on to score a substantial amount of points throughout the year.
Now you can focus on depth.  You already know you’re getting points from your workhorses. Now is the time to take risks and target sleepers or undervalued guys. Snatch up guys like Kenny Britt or Lance Moore, DeAngelo Williams or Daryl Richardson adding more starters for their respective teams and late at that. Then take your risks like Kenbrell Thompkins or Justin Blackmon.  Then add a solid defense and kicker one round earlier than most in an attempt to get a leg up on those positions knowing you can get Kenny Stills or Isaac Redman (who have been going undrafted) with your last pick. A good defense and kicker to target just a tad early would be New England and Sebastian Janikowski. Try it out in mocks and see if you like your team.  I always do.

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Christian Stinchfield
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The Cover 4 Fantasy Football: Time to win your league

070831015358_Fantasy Football

Here at The Cover 4 we pride ourselves on the fact our primary goal isn’t to provide readers with a daily update on the underwear Tim Tebow has decided to roll with that particular day.  Nor do we spend time focusing on the recession of LeBron’s hairline.  We don’t care that Brett Favre texted a picture of his man region to an attractive lady reporter, in fact I think I speak for everyone here at The Cover 4 when I say I hope it worked out for him (it didn’t).  It is my honor to apply this philosophy to fantasy sports.  I’m from Boston, I promise to work “wicked hahd.”

With the start of the 2013 NFL season, fantasy owners everywhere are discussing projections and draft strategies religiously.  At this point drafts are taking place and it’s the perfect time.  The third weekend of preseason games is prime for draft day.  Imagine if you drafted before the first game of the preseason and wound up with Danario Alexander, an exciting sleeper option at WR a few weeks ago, only to learn he suffered an ACL tear and his season is over.

We promise not to list 200 players and call it a day.  Instead we’d like to offer a more in-depth approach to preparing for your draft.  You can expect round-by-round pointers and analysis as well as a very important undervalued and overvalued player portion ensuring you fully understand what you’re paying for and whether it’s worth it.  Each player you add to your team costs a draft pick, so spend wisely fellas. (To all female fantasy football owners, we love you, but you are a precious few.  Call me.)

                I want to quickly touch on scoring settings.  Please don’t get cute and go with two QB leagues or have passing TDs earn you six points each.  The traditional PPR (point per reception) scoring settings are in place for a reason.  They offer the most realistic experience possible.  Fantasy owners have full reign over their respective teams.  You are Jerry Jones or Bill Belichick to your team.  When you win, you get the credit. When you lose, you are to blame.  At least have it be as real as possible.  Fantasy football has become a way of life, a hobby to some, an investment to others.  Six points per passing TD makes Drew Brees a fire-breathing dragon who needs be the first overall pick in every draft, whereas four points levels the playing field considering QBs touch the ball on every offensive play. These “cute” leagues as I have become accustomed to calling them are the Miller Lite or Natural Ice of fantasy football.  They’re light, cheap, and no matter what anyone says, they are not enjoyable.  The traditional PPR is your craft beer. It’s full bodied, packs a punch, just a beautiful thing.  It only takes one to have you hooked.  Your taste is altered, your perception is changed.  Everything not is not that simply falls short. Take my word for it and give in to the temptation.  You’ll probably lose your marriage over it.  It’s perfect.

                In the weeks leading up to your draft you are a man on a mission.  This season you’re winning the money, the bragging rights, the shiva, whatever the prize may be, this is the year you are taking it.  During the season each week brings the latest story, a tragic injury placing you a RB short of two full-time starters or a welcomed injury where all of a sudden a RB who hasn’t left your bench all year is now the guy getting all the carries on his team.  Players come out of nowhere and it’s a race to the waiver wire to bid on an undrafted free agent.  Maybe your backup QB is facing the worst passing defense in the league and you’re pondering starting him over your mainstay who’s been great for you all year.  So many possible circumstances, so many possible outcomes, you don’t want to be kicking yourself after the draft or after you started a WR who didn’t end up playing.

Cover 4 will have you feeling confident going into your draft and sure of your weekly lineup adjustments.  That’s why we’re here.  That’s why a lot of services are here.  So far no one has separated themselves from the pack.  It’s all the same.  There isn’t a website that has truly broken down the draft process and showed you recommended strategies bringing you maximum values with all your picks.  We refuse to rank players and not explain why.  We refuse to tell you a player is a sleeper and have him cost you a fourth-round pick.  You will not be wasting your third pick on a “sleeper.”  You want to score more points than the other guy, and you want to do it every week.  We’re the PPR league, we’re the craft beer.  Cover 4 is going to level the playing field.  We’re going to change your perception.  The 2013 NFL season is here gentlemen, another year of epic fantasy football action. Let’s go.

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Christian Stinchfield
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The Betting Corner: NBA Finals Game 6 Jun 18, 2013

San Antonio Spurs @ Miami Heat 9PM (ET) ABC

(San Antonio Leads 3-2)

945206_10151571486403463_897263452_nWith the Spurs on the cusp of finals glory, the Miami Heat must pull out all the stops if they want to send this series to a game 7. Currently the Heat are an astonishing 7-0 on games after a loss. Lebron and Co. seem to know how to get it done when its all on the line. The real question though is if the Heat can win back to back games, something they haven’t done this postseason.Although these stats look very good from afar, don’t count out the veteran Spurs. With the insert of Ginobili into the starting lineup, the Spurs have add the extra offensive spark they need to keep the Heat guessing on defense. If the Heat want to tie up the series they must play with the same physical pressure and heart as they did in game 4 otherwise the Spurs franchise will be a perfect 5-0 in the NBA finals. For the Spurs, keep the offensive pressure up for 4 qtrs with Green, Parker, and Ginobili as well as find a way to limit the big 3 to mediocre performances. Finally, this game will come down to, as it has every game in this series, defensive intensity and “superstar” play. With the current trend pointing to Miami now and the 7-0 post loss stat, I am going against my typical behavior and reflecting back on games 1 and 2 where the high spread favored the dog and taking the points.

Play:
Spurs +7.5
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Alex Plumb
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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.

Battle: Los Angeles

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Two former Cy Young winners, two former MVPs, two teams and one city suddenly exploding with baseball talent. The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim recently broke the bank to snare the best free agents available on the market. With the financial backing of Magic Johnson and Guggenheim Baseball Management, the Dodgers continued their spending spree and bolstered their starting pitching by signing Zack Greinke to a six-year, $147 million contract. The spending spree appeared to be contagious. The Angels and Arte Moreno signed division rival slugger Josh Hamilton to a 5-year, $125 million contract just a few days later. Eyes are turning towards the gold rush going on out west and both the Dodgers and Angels enter the 2013 season with high expectations. The high payrolls and amount of talent on each team, invoke playoff expectations and World Series hopes. Most exciting for Southern Californians (unless you need to take I-5 to get somewhere quick in late October), it creates the potential for a Freeway World Series in the years to come.

With the Dodgers’ gross expenditure and addition of talent, anything less than a World Series berth can be called a failure of a season. The Los Angeles Dodgers have become the Yankees of the west. When you carry the highest payroll in baseball, you’re paying for championships. Good seasons and playoff berths simply won’t cut it.  Magic’s mountain of cash has raised Dodger fans’ expectations high, but will free-fall if the Dodgers fail to win. One of the largest hurdles for the 2013 Dodgers will be to overcome the world champion San Francisco Giants and win the NL West crown. The off-season acquisitions of Greinke and South Korean pitcher Ryu Hyun-Jin bolsters the starting pitching of a team that already includes the best left-hander in the NL, Clayton Kershaw. While the starting rotation seems solid, the Dodgers will need more to match expectations. Dodger fans will need to hope for the health of all-star Matt Kemp and that the late acquisitions from the Boston Red Sox trade will perform better than last year. If Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier’s bats can be as big as their names and contracts, the Dodger’s lineup can have solid output in 2013.

While the Dodgers become a contender, Arte Moreno is making sure that Los Angeles is not solely a sea of Dodger blue. Even with the Angels’ addition of Los Angeles to their name, the city has always been Dodgertown. The Angels have been unable to penetrate the market to the degree that Moreno hoped. The Angels stole the spotlight by inking Albert Pujols last year, and again captured the nation’s attention by signing Josh Hamilton this offseason. The Angels have created a lineup that is not only terrifying to opposing pitchers, but also arguably the most marketable in baseball. Featuring Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Mark Trumbo, the line-up resembles the Fantastic Four rather than reality. It’s only a matter of time until Trout, Pujols and Hamilton are plastered amongst billboards along I-5 and commercials throughout Los Angeles in a Moreno marketing campaign. In addition, he may want to make sure his star pitcher gets some coverage as Jered Weaver figures to have another great season. While Weaver can be relied upon to perform well, the starting rotation lacks some depth. C.J. Wilson is certainly solid but the rotation of Tommy Hanson, Joe Blanton and Jason Vargas leaves something to be desired. Regardless, the Angels can be expected to be more than just hype in the coming season.

Baseball’s Battle: Los Angeles transcends the traditional freeway series or a possible World Series. Wins and losses are not the only things that the Angels and Dodgers are competing for; there is immense competition for the Los Angeles market. With the ever-increasing growth of television deals and the enormous market of Los Angeles, both the Angels and Dodgers want to soak the market. Los Angeles has long been considered a city of fair-weather fans, with popularity correlating directly to wins. While recent signings by both teams show an emphasis to ‘win now’, the Angels’ additions display Moreno’s desire to expand their market. By signing Pujols and Hamilton to long-term deals, the Angels paid big money for big names and big bats. Moreno knows that guys like this get national attention.  Surely Moreno hopes that their popularity will creep beyond Anaheim and Orange County, and into the profitable Los Angeles and national markets.

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Tye Masters
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All We Want for Christmas is Hockey: Top 10 Most Missed Players

Henrick Lundqvist makes a beauty of a save! Where is he on our top 10?

Henrick Lundqvist makes a beauty of a save! Where is he on our top 10?

It is now mid-December and the NHL and NHLPA not only have yet to strike deal for a new collective bargaining agreement, but seem to be taking steps backwards as some of the biggest egos in professional sports continue to make this lockout about themselves and not the game. We are all frustrated as hell, and are sick to death of the daily public relations battles taking place in the media. So today, I’ve put together a list of the Top 10 players I miss watching play on a nightly basis.

10. Jordan Eberle – forward, Edmonton Oilers

Jordan Eberle is a fantastic young player and the captain-In-waiting for the young upstart Edmonton Oilers. The 22-year-old winger has put up some pretty good numbers throughout his brief NHL career, playing in 147 games and posting 52 goals and 67 assists for 119 points. More impressive than his stat line is actually watching this kid play. He is truly one of the smartest hockey players in the league today. I have said it once, and I will say it a thousand more times, Eberle is going to give the Crosby- Malkin- Ovechkin- Stamkos – Giroux group a run for their money as best player in the world sooner rather than later. Eberle has a knack for scoring big goals and always seems to be one step ahead of the play. His on-ice demeanor is reminiscent of Steve Yzerman…. perhaps one of the best compliments you can pay to a player.

9. Shea Weber – defenseman, Nashville Predators

If I am starting a franchise tomorrow, Weber would be the first defenseman I pick up if I have the chance. He is one of those players who dominates in nearly every facet of the game. He is big, strong, fast and skilled. Weber is the type of player that you create on your favorite video game to just dominate everyone. Weber has a supersonic shot, a snarly style of physicality and deservedly-so wears the “C” on his sweater in Nashville. He IS their franchise, especially since signing that massive blockbuster free agency deal in the offseason. You pretty much have to have the NHL Center Ice package to ever see him play as Nashville is the NHL equivalent to the Sacramento Kings of the NBA. They’re the team you always forget exists because they are never on TV and national newsworthy news rarely comes out of there, but Shea Weber is reason enough to tune in to Preds games if you have the opportunity. He is the prototypical defenseman in the league today, and the measuring stick for all others at his position

8. Pavel Datsyuk – forward, Detroit Red Wings

Entering the twilight era of his career, Datsyuk is still a treat to watch. By far the slickest player in the NHL, his hands are a gift from the hockey gods. I miss seeing Pavel trapped in a corner and tiptoe out through the defenders by putting a couple quick moves on his man, turning them inside out, then proceeding to generate a prime scoring chance.Lets face it, he finishes the play more times than not. The creativity with the puck that Datsyuk shows in one-on-one situations and shootouts is unparalleled in the league today. Quite honestly, he makes some of the best defenders and goalies in the league look ridiculous. Datsyuk and fellow Red Wing Henrik Zetterberg are the reigning faces of Hockeytown, which is reason enough to tune in to watch them play. But the flash that Datsyuk has mixed with his flare for showing how skilled he is should make any hockey fan miss watching him. In addition to the skill, he is often times nominated for the Lady Byng trophy for most gentlemanly player, so you don’t have to deal with a Sidney Crosby-esque yapping at the officials or Sean Avery-esque shenanigans.

7. Alex Ovechkin – forward, Washington Capitals

Despite The Great 8’s drop in production over the last couple seasons, there are few players as fun to watch as Ovechkin. His combination of size, speed and skill is truly unique. He has a laser beam of a shot that has the accuracy of Bruce Lee’s nunchucks and can be one of the most in-your-face players in the league. He is one of the few players in the league that keeps the crowd on the edge of their seat, no matter what arena in which he’s playing. Another aspect of Ovechkin’s game that makes him fun to watch is how physically involved he gets in games, which is rare for a star player of his caliber. He does not back down from anyone and can even take on the role of agitator, just ask Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Scott Hartnell. Ovechkin at his best is the most entertaining player to watch in the league but unfortunately over the past few seasons, Ovi at his best seems to come out only occasionally and he has had trouble consistently playing at a level that saw him pot 60 goals in a season.

6. Erik Karlsson – defenseman, Ottawa Senators

The smooth-skating Karlsson is another member of the up-and-comers club in the NHL and is coming off of his breakout season. The 22-year-old Swede finished third in the 2011-2012 season in assists with 59, and tenth in the NHL in points with 78 points in 81 games. His efforts were acknowledged with a Norris Trophy nomination for best defenseman in the league. Karlsson is a treat to watch because of his skating. He can move up and down the rink nearly effortlessly. Karlsson also has a mad offensive prowess and is a nightmare for penalty killers to defend on the power play. His shot won’t overwhelm goalies but his accuracy is surgeon-like. He can put a pass on his teammates tape from 150 feet away, or he can skate the puck out of trouble if needed. Although he is not physically dominant in his own zone, he sees the game well enough to play sound positional defense. When this youngster is playing, he jumps out at you and is a standout on a nightly basis.

5. Zdeno Chara – defenseman, Boston Bruins

“Big Z”, as he is known to teammates and friends, is a monster in multiple ways. Towering above the league at 6 feet 9 and 255 pounds, Chara is an imposing force on the back end for the Bruins. A full display of his physical strength was on display when he nearly killed Montreal’s Max Pacioretty when he checked him into the stanchion between the two teams’ benches. In addition to his freakish physical specs, Chara is a dangerous player and fun to watch because of his skill. He has the hardest slap shot in the league and he uses it quite often. He is an anchor on the Bruins power play and has the numbers to justify all the ice time he gets. I also enjoy watching Chara skate up and down the ice. With his long swooping strides, he may not be the most graceful player, but he certainly is effective.

4. Henrik and Daniel Sedin – forwards, Vancouver Canucks

The twins have been running the show in Vancouver ever since they were drafted second and third overall in the 1999 entry draft. For those of you who have never had a chance to watch these two play together, do yourself a favor and hit up YouTube and watch the mastery that the twins have in the offensive zone. Perhaps as a duo, the Sedins are the most creative and inventive playmakers in the league, tending to leave defenders befuddled and looking foolish. The two have been playing on the same line their ENTIRE life and it shows. They know where each other are at all times on the ice and together generate at least a couple tic-tac-toe or give-and-go plays per game. The Canucks pushed Boston to Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final before falling to the Bruins, so in their 40-year existence , the Canucks have yet to capture a Cup. The brothers are in starting the downside of their careers, even though one of the brothers is always in the hunt for a scoring title and any hopes that Vancouver has rests on the shoulders of the Sedins and whichever goalie is in-between the pipes. I really wish we could watch them on their quest for glory in North America instead of the Swedish Elite League.

3. Claude Giroux – forward, Philadelphia Flyers

Giroux is coming off a fantastic season in which he emerged as one of the true superstars in this league, finishing third overall in scoring with 93 points, despite missing five games with a concussion last season. Giroux was partly responsible for the re-emergence of former superstar Jaromir Jagr when he played with Giroux and Scott Hartnell last season. Philadelphia is perhaps one of the most hostile environments in all of sports and Giroux flourishes there. He brings the mob to their feet on a nightly basis with his incredible display of skill and brains. Over the past couple seasons, Giroux has emerged as Philadelphia’s heart and soul, and a great antithesis to Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Giroux can play with those guys and once the puck drops again on an NHL season, Giroux will once again insert himself into the conversation of world’s best player, as long as the Crosby-like concussion issue that he currently is dealing with clears up. Having been injured playing in Germany during the lockout, Giroux has returned to the States to seek similar treatment as Crosby had with his well-documented concussion issues.

2. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin – forwards, Pittsburgh Penguins

Two of the games utmost elite talents, entering the prime of their careers and both having played the best hockey of their careers recently, what’s not to love about these two? We all remember the other-worldly tear that Sidney Crosby was on before his concussion problems derailed the better part of the next two seasons. We also remember Evgeni Malkin putting on GameShark for the 2009 playoffs and leading the Penguins to the Stanley Cup. Last season, Malkin had the goal of the year (which was one of 50 that he scored all year) and won the scoring title and MVP. At the ages of 25 and 26, Crosby and Malkin have won every noteworthy award between the two of them; Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe, Rocket Richard Trophy, Lester B. Pearson award and so on and so forth. Pundits of the game have had one of these two as the best player in the game for the past three seasons or so. Both are one of a kind talents and bring different aspects to each game for the Penguins. Malkin has a blistering shot and has won the accuracy shooting at the All Star game, while Crosby is a cerebral assassin, and uses his brain as a weapon, always seeming to be in the right spot. These two are separately worth the price of admission each night, but together, it is the best deal in hockey.

  1. Henrik Lundqvist – goaltender, New York Rangers

King Henrik, for my money, is the most exciting player to watch in the NHL. He plays the toughest position in professional sports, in one of the toughest and most historic arenas in history, for one of the most demanding coaches in the league and he excels. Fresh off his Vezina Trophy victory last season for best goaltender in the league, Lundqvist will be looking to get off to a hot start next season. His play last season was truly MVP-worthy and his dominance in the playoffs helped the Rangers push the Devils to six games in the Eastern Conference Finals, only being bested by the best netminder of my generation, Martin Brodeur. There is nothing in the game more fun to watch than a goaltender put on a brilliant display in a game, and Lundqvist does it nightly. The Rangers are an Original Six team having had many great players throughout their existence, and Lundqvist is surely up there with some of the best. Henrik is one of those rare goalies that could easily be his teams captain, and garners the respect of his coaches, teammates, fans and media alike.

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Pat Davis
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