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Fantasy Football Week 8 Rankings

By Neema Hodjat

Stars of Week 7

QB: Peyton Manning, DEN: 22-26, 318 yards, 4 TDs

RB: DeMarco Murray, DAL: 28 carries, 128 yards, 1 TD

WR: Demaryius Thomas, DAL: 8 catches, 178 yards, 2 TDs

TE: Antonio Gates, SD: 3 catches, 61 yards, 1 TD

With apologies to Russell Wilson and his brilliant performance against the Rams (especially from a fantasy perspective), Peyton Manning gets the nod as the top QB this week. Manning now leads the NFL in all-time TD passes, and makes the thought of 600 TDs appear as a realistic possibility. All four guys mentioned here have also made the weekly honor roll earlier this season (in some cases more than once prior), so not much to add about them other than to say that you should be thankful if you have them on your roster. 

Week 7 Takeaways – A Closer Look 

Each week we take a closer look at a handful of performances and sort out what such performances mean going forward.

- Russell Wilson, QB - SEA:23-36, 313 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs (7 carries, 106 yards, 1 TD)

Analysis: After observing the Seahawks’ performance for their first six games, it’s become clear that the team has fallen off a bit from last year. Not a shock, as once you sit on the mountaintop, there’s only one direction to go. So how does this affect Russell Wilson’s fantasy value? Well, bad news for Seahawks’ fans is great news for Russell Wilson’s owners – Wilson will be cut loose much more this season out of necessity. Entering the season, Wilson straddled the QB1/QB2 line, and now he should be viewed as a must start QB1. With the Seahawks D down this season compared to last year, Wilson will need to do more to help the Hawks win games. Thus, more value for his fantasy owners. 

- Tre Mason, RB – STL: 18 carries, 85 yards, 1 TD

Analysis: Last week I suggested Tre Mason as an RB to pick up off the wire. Hopefully you made the move! He will likely be the number one player for waiver claims this week, and with good reason. Mason was among the lottery-ticket group I had mentioned in my draft guide, and now his owners are about to cash in on the prize. Ironically, he’s likely to be this year’s Zac Stacy. From watching the film, Mason simply has more talent than Stacy, and it’s becoming clear that Jeff Fisher and his staff are well aware of this. Look for Mason to hold onto the top RB spot, with Stacy and Cunningham mixing in for carries as well. But Mason has the most value of this group, and he’s the one to own. He should be viewed as an RB2 until further notice.

- Ronnie Hillman, RB - DEN: 14 carries, 74 yards, 2 TDs

Analysis: Hillman was covered in this spot last week, and due to a second straight strong performance, this time against the 49ers, we need to take another look at where things stand. In addition to securing the lion’s share of the carries for the Broncos, Hillman continues to be a weapon in the passing game as well. At this point, Hillman needs to be elevated into clear RB2 status, and he should remain ahead of Montee Ball on the depth chart even when Ball returns.

- Denard Robinson, RB - JAC: 22 carries, 127 yards, 1 TD           

Analysis: Musical chairs for the Jaguars’ RB spot continued this weekend against the Browns, with Denard Robinson getting his turn. Unlike his predecessors, Robinson actually did something with his chance, clearing the 100 yard plateau with ease. While Robinson’s performance was encouraging, I would still advise you to remain cautious with expectations. The Jags’ still have a putrid O-line, and that won’t change over the course of this season. I have Mason clearly ranked as the better add, but Robinson should also be added in all leagues. As of now, view Robinson as an RB3/flex option, with potential to move up if future performance merits such a bump. His upcoming matchup with the Dolphins will be a tough one, however.

- Doug Baldwin, WR - SEA: 7 catches, 123 yards, 1 TD

Analysis: The out-of-nowhere Percy Harvin trade last week sent shockwaves throughout the NFL, while also through the fantasy world to a lesser extent. Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the trade is Doug Baldwin. He assumes the role of top WR for the Seahawks, and with the Hawks returning to a more traditional offense (like they ran last season), Baldwin’s role will trend upwards. Expectations for Baldwin should be somewhere in the WR3 range for the rest of the season. If he’s somehow available in your league, grab him now.

- Sammy Watkins, WR - BUF: 9 catches, 122 yards, 2 TDs

Analysis: Sammy Watkins had a fantastic game against the Vikings this past Sunday, which included catching the game winning TD with only seconds remaining. I wrote earlier in the season that you should be careful to rely too much on rookie WRs, and Watkins so far has hammered this point home. To illustrate the point, let’s take a look at his yardage totals each week (with the week in parentheses): (1) 31 yards, (2) 117 yards, (3) 19 yards, (4) 30 yards, (5) 87 yards, (6) 27 yards and (7) 122 yards. Sure, we can expand the analysis to look at TDs and targets, but we refrain from doing so for simplicity (but note that adding TDs and targets would not change the analysis here). The point here is that Watkins will continue to have great games, mixed in with quiet games and a handful which would rank in between. As the season goes on, Watkins should get a bit more consistent, but as talented as he is, we’re still talking about a rookie. In a nutshell, Watkins should be viewed as a WR3. Next season, he’ll move up from there. 

Rapid Fire Pickups 

Each week we throw out potential free agent pickups from each position for deeper leagues, in each case 1) someone who has NOT been referenced above, and 2) a player available in most leagues. 

QB:                  Ryan Tannehill, MIA

RB:                  Bryce Brown, BUF (he’s the better option than Anthony Dixon)

RB:                  Isaiah Crowell, CLE

WR:                 Davante Adams, GB

WR:                 Martavis Bryant, PIT

TE:                  Tim Wright, NE

Week 8 Rankings


1. Peyton Manning

2. Aaron Rodgers

3. Russell Wilson

4. Andrew Luck

5. Drew Brees

6. Tom Brady

7. Philip Rivers

8. Nick Foles

9. Tony Romo

10. Jay Cutler

11. Carson Palmer

12. Matthew Stafford

13. Cam Newton

14. Alex Smith

15. Joe Flacco

16. Ryan Tannehill

17. Matt Ryan

18. Ben Roethlisberger

19. Brian Hoyer

20. Kyle Orton

Running Backs

1. DeMarco Murray

2. Marshawn Lynch

3. Arian Foster

4. Matt Forte

5. Jamaal Charles

6. Le'Veon Bell

7. LeSean McCoy

8. Andre Ellington

9. Eddie Lacy

10. Ben Tate

11. Lamar Miller

12. Justin Forsett

13. Giovani Bernard

14. Ahmad Bradshaw

15. Joique Bell

16. Ronnie Hillman

17. Branden Oliver

18. Shane Vereen

19. Jerick McKinnon

20. Mark Ingram

21. Alfred Morris

22. Tre Mason

23. Darren McFadden

24. Doug Martin

25. Chris Ivory

26. Denard Robinson

27. Trent Richardson

28. Darren Sproles

29. Steven Jackson

30. Bishop Sankey

31. Reggie Bush

32. James Starks

33. Isaiah Crowell

34. Anthony Dixon

35. Khiry Robinson

Wide Receivers

1. Demaryius Thomas

2. Jordy Nelson

3. Antonio Brown

4. Dez Bryant

5. Randall Cobb

6. Golden Tate

7. Jeremy Maclin

8. A.J. Green

9. Julio Jones

10. T.Y. Hilton

11. Emmanuel Sanders

12. Brandon Marshall

13. Mike Wallace

14. Alshon Jeffery

15. Julian Edelman

16. Andre Johnson

17. Kelvin Benjamin

18. Steve Smith Sr.

19. Michael Floyd

20. DeSean Jackson

21. Vincent Jackson

22. Sammy Watkins

23. Terrance Williams

24. Doug Baldwin

25. Pierre Garcon

26. DeAndre Hopkins

27. Percy Harvin

28. Roddy White

29. Torrey Smith

30. Keenan Allen

31. Brandin Cooks

32. Kendall Wright

33. Andre Holmes

34. Brian Quick

35. Larry Fitzgerald

Tight Ends

1. Julius Thomas

2. Rob Gronkowski

3. Greg Olsen

4. Antonio Gates

5. Jimmy Graham

6. Martellus Bennett

7. Delanie Walker

8. Jordan Reed

9. Dwayne Allen

10. Travis Kelce

11. Jordan Cameron

12. Owen Daniels

13. Zach Ertz

14. Jason Witten

15. Heath Miller

- Neema Hodjat is the fantasy sports expert for RealGM.  He can be reached via email at nhodjat@gmail.com and followed on twitter at @NeemaHodjat.

NFL Team Rankings, Week 7

By Christopher Reina

Our NFL Team Rankings are based entirely on the The Trench Counter, which is an objective formula measuring average yards per pass and run on both offense and defense, along with first downs registered and given up, turnovers for and against, and total penalty yards. 

Over time, The Trench Counter rankings begin to closely resemble the standings but goes even further to determine which teams are truly the best when on the line of scrimmage. 

The chief aim of the Trench Counter is to take the subjective out of the equation and even the somewhat fluky nature of teams actually scoring points, which is of course the whole point on a game-by-game basis.

The Baltimore Ravens held onto the top slot in the rankings after another blowout win against an NFC South team, while the Miami Dolphins recorded a convincing win at the Chicago Bears and now rank No. 2.

The Denver Broncos and Dallas Cowboys, meanwhile, jumped up to No. 5 and No. 6 from No. 11 and No. 8 respectively.

The Indianapolis Colts continue their winning streak and now rank No. 7 after coming in at No. 14 last week.

Week 7 Rankings

1. Baltimore Ravens: 7.4
2. Miami Dolphins: 6.0
3. Green Bay Packers: 4.8
4. San Diego Chargers: 4.8
5. Denver Broncos: 4.5
6. Dallas Cowboys: 4.5
7. Indianapolis Colts: 4.1
8. Arizona Cardinals: 3.6
9. New Orleans Saints: 3.5
10. Seattle Seahawks: 3.0
11. Detroit Lions: 2.9
12. Chicago Bears: 2.7
13. San Francisco 49ers: 2.7
14. Cincinnati Bengals: 1.1
15. Philadelphia Eagles: 0.7
16. Washington: 0.3
17. Kansas City Chiefs: 0.3
18. New England Patriots: 0.2
19. Cleveland Browns: -0.6
20. Houston Texans: -0.7
21. Pittsburgh Steelers: -1.9
22. New York Giants: -2.1
23. Buffalo Bills: -2.3
24. Minnesota Vikings: -3.0
25. Carolina Panthers: -3.6
26. Tennessee Titans: -4.1
27. Atlanta Falcons: -4.3
28. Jacksonville Jaguars: -4.9
29. New York Jets: -6.2
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: -7.2
31. Oakland Raiders: -8.0
32. St. Louis Rams: -8.5

$.10 After NFL Week 7

By Jeff Risdon

$.01--The Dallas Cowboys avoided the dreaded emotional letdown in holding off the rival New York Giants 31-21. A week after surprising pretty much everyone by winning at Seattle, it was easy to see Dallas falling back to reality and losing a game against the dangerous Giants.

Instead, Dallas showed real determination and headiness in improving to 6-1 for the first time since 2007. It wasn’t always pretty, and it was often quite chippy. Yet the Cowboys didn’t deviate from their winning course they’ve followed so adeptly this season.

DeMarco Murray ran effectively once again, topping 100 yards for the seventh straight game to start the season. That’s a feat no one has ever done before. Tony Romo was sharp once again, notably on third downs; Dallas converted 9-of-14 and several came courtesy of Romo surveying the field and finding the right option with poise and confidence.

Eli Manning was also good for the Giants, notably in a masterful second quarter. This time it was his supporting cast letting him down, notably Larry Donnell with two critical fumbles down the stretch. The first was a beautiful strip by safety Barry Church, a candidate for most improved player in the league.

That play was the defining moment of the game. The Giants were down by a touchdown and poised for a comeback. Church’s strip set up the dagger three plays later when Romo found Dez Bryant for an impressive touchdown, which was correctly validated upon further review.

Those are the kind of game-changing plays that have come against Dallas so often in recent times, particularly in NFC East games. These Cowboys are making those plays this year. In the postgame, coach Jason Garrett talked about fighting and being the tougher team both physically and mentally. The former quality certainly helps, but it’s the latter that is helping them win so many games. Finally. 

$.02--Seattle did not respond well to their loss last week. Instead of bouncing back and taking out their frustration on the inferior Rams, the Seahawks got surprised in St. Louis 28-26.

The Rams scored three times from the middle of the 1st and the middle of the 2nd quarters, including a deceptive punt return that left the Seahawks befuddled and Seattle coach Pete Carroll angry. With everyone--including Fox’s cameras--focused on Tavon Austin to the left side of the field, Stedman Bailey fielded the punt on the other side and ran nearly unencumbered 90 yards for a shocking touchdown.

If Carroll didn’t like that, imagine how he felt about being schooled on special teams once again later on. This time it was Rams punter Johnny Hekker completing a pass to an uncovered Bennie Cunningham from his own 18 on a fake punt late in the game to essentially ice the shocking win. It caught the Seahawks completely unaware.

The ending was not without controversy. There was a clear fumble by Rams rookie RB Tre Mason, and it sure looked like the Seahawks recovered. The NFL officials did not agree and their leader, Dean Blandino, said shortly after the game that the ball was still loose and then went into the pile.

All of the sudden the mighty Seahawks are 3-3 and two games behind in the NFC Wild Card chase, as well as two games behind the 5-1 Arizona Cardinals in the competitive NFC West. Their defense once again struggled to stop the run, as Mason broke out for his first career touchdown while netting 85 yards on just 18 carries. Seattle’s defensive line was often easily blocked.

St. Louis’ much-hyped defensive line didn’t have that problem. They got three sacks on Russell Wilson and consistently pressured the agile quarterback. Wilson did run for over 100 yards, much of which came on a 52-yard scamper and another 19-yard touchdown as the Seahawks desperately tried to rally from the 21-3 deficit. Seattle’s running backs managed just 65 yards on 22 carries and their offensive line was routinely blasted backwards.

It took two once-a-season special teams tricks to pull off the win, but the Rams will take it. Now 2-4, beating the defending champs might be the apex of their long season. But it’s an awfully sweet win nonetheless. 

$.03--Speaking of sweet wins, congratulations to the Jacksonville Jaguars for notching their first victory of the season. The Jaguars pounced on a shaky, overconfident Browns team 24-6.

As with the Rams, it took some unusual machinations to achieve the elusive victory. Wide receiver Denard Robinson, a converted quarterback, started at running back and scooted for 127 yards. He had 160 career rushing yards in 22 games coming in. They forced three Cleveland turnovers, one more than the Browns had given up in their first six games.

It was a nightmare for the Browns. Forced to throw, Brian Hoyer was overmatched despite facing one of the worst pass defenses in recent memory. Hoyer sprayed incompletions all over the field, completing just 16 of his 41 attempts on the day. It left some fans wondering about a certain Mr. Football.

Blake Bortles wasn’t a lot better, netting just 159 yards on 17-for-31 passing. He also threw one of the worst interceptions you’ll ever see, one of his three on the day as the rookie continues to get his feet wet. He’s an impressive talent that is only going to get better, and he’s got a promising young corps of receivers around him with Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Robinson and Clay Harbor. If their defense, which hasn’t allowed a TD pass in the last 10 quarters and appears to be congealing, can keep holding teams under 20 points these Jaguars can notch a couple more wins this season.

Jacksonville’s win leaves the Oakland Raiders as the league’s only winless team. Guess who they play next week? That’s right, the Raiders head to Cleveland in what might be their best chance to win until after Thanksgiving. If Cleveland’s passing offense cannot prove more capable than it has the last two weeks, Oakland absolutely can win there.

$.04--If you were looking for a potential Super Bowl preview in the Sunday night game between Denver and San Francisco, you were probably quite disappointed. The Broncos blew out the visiting 49ers 42-17 in a laugher. The final margin was made more palatable by a garbage time TD throw by Blaine Gabbert, of all people.

The game was overshadowed by a record-setting event. Just before halftime, Peyton Manning broke Brett Favre’s NFL record for most career TD passes. It was his 509th when he found Demaryius Thomas in the front corner of the end zone to put the Broncos up 21-3.

Manning wasn’t done. His next TD was pure artwork, firing a perfect downfield strike to Thomas one play after his defense picked off Colin Kaepernick. Just for good measure Manning tacked on one more, this one to Julius Thomas. He probably could have had more, but John Fox opted to put in backup Brock Osweiler after the start of the fourth quarter.

For San Francisco, the injuries continue to mount. Already playing without stud guard Mike Iupati, the Niners lost center Daniel Kilgore to what appears to be a nasty leg injury. His backup, Dillon Farrell, was also hurt during the game. The defense was toothless with no Patrick Willis in the middle or Chris Culliver outside. It was a tough loss, dropping them to 4-3 and abruptly ending their impressive 3-game winning streak. On Manning’s record-setting night, they never really had a chance.

$.05--Thursday finally got another interesting game, as the New York Jets scared the razor blades out of Gillette Stadium and the Patriots. It took a blocked field goal on the final play to ensure a 27-25 win for heavily favored New England.

The key here is “heavily favored”. For some reason the Patriots always seem to struggle when they are a double-digit favorite. Even though this game closed as low as 9 points, it was still a divisional game with a wide margin. And once again the Patriots came up short of the dominating victory they should have had.

The Jets always play the Pats close, and this was no exception. Having a chance to win should probably serve as a moral victory, but at 1-6 it’s little consolation. This was a year where the Jets believed they could catch the Patriots and win the AFC East. Instead they have lost 6 in a row and have to answer relentless questions about job security of everyone on the team, from Rex Ryan to GM John Idzik to Geno Smith.

On the New England side, don’t read too much into another close shave. That is what the Patriots do, playing close games against seemingly inferior teams. It’s what they always do. When they play better teams like the Bengals, they elevate their play. Their next six games are a real meat grinder of talented, and diverse, opponents: Chicago, Denver, bye, at Indianapolis, Detroit, at Green Bay and at San Diego. The Pats who played on Thursday night won’t win more than one of those games, but I’ll bet you right now these Patriots wind up winning at least three. 

$.06--There was an unusual incident on Friday, one which should be a lot more common. Two NFL teams actually executed a trade during the season.

The Seahawks dealt enigmatic wideout Percy Harvin to the Jets for a conditional pick. The return will be between a second and a fourth rounder depending on his production in New York.

This a very tacit acknowledgement by the Seahawks they made a huge mistake in dealing for Harvin before the 2013 season. It cost them a first round pick in ’13, a seventh rounder in that same year and a third rounder this past draft. Recurring injuries and “issues” prevented Harvin from ever really living up to his billing in Seattle. Or Minnesota.

It will be the same story in New York. Harvin has a long history of disappointing despite tantalizing athletic ability. From migraines to a bum hip to lacking practice habits to never really finding a defined role, it’s always something, to quote Donald Duck. The last straw for Seattle was apparently Harvin’s refusal to re-enter last week’s game.

Teams have known about these problems for years. During his draft process in 2009, one team had him in for a visit. Five minutes after he left from his two-plus hour visit, they threw the magnet with his name on it off the board and into the trash. Even before that, he was actually banned from all high school sports in Virginia. It quickly came out that Harvin initiated a fight with teammate Golden Tate just before the Super Bowl last year, too.

It’s a worthwhile gamble for the Jets even with all of Harvin’s baggage. New York desperately needs speed and playmaking ability to help spark the lackluster attack. Geno Smith must have more help, and Harvin can help. In the short term this move might actually pay off handsomely. But if the Jets are banking on Harvin to solve their problems beyond this season, they’ve got another thing coming.

$.07--It was an interesting Sunday in the NFC North.

My Lions authored an amazing comeback victory over the Saints, winning 24-23 despite being the inferior team for all but the final four minutes of the game. Detroit is now 5-2 and 2-0 without Calvin Johnson, finding ways to win games they have found ways to lose for years. Scoring two TDs in the final four minutes to secure the win was a stunning victory.

Minnesota lost 17-16 to Buffalo on a furious comeback drive by the Bills, capped by a great catch from rookie Sammy Watkins. The Vikings did get the first career TD pass from Teddy Bridgewater, finding Cordarrelle Patterson in what had to be a vision of real promise for the future. Things will get better, though the short term is not pretty.

Green Bay capped off an outstanding month of football by waxing the Panthers 38-17. Aaron Rodgers, clearly relaxed, put the finishing touches on what has to be Offensive Player of the Month. Check his numbers over the last four weeks: 77-of-109, 977 yards, 13 TDs, 0 INTs, QB Rating of 137.9 and a 4-0 record. That’s how you rebound from a 1-2 start, folks…

Then there’s Chicago. The Bears got waxed 27-14 at home by Miami, then followed it up with a locker room brouhaha nicely documented by CBS Sports. My summer pick to win the division, Chicago is now 3-4 and reeling in the throes of injury woes and internal discord. When the kicker is intimately involved in postgame locker room consternation, that’s a very bad sign. Nice of Kyle Long to insult the fans too, even though he was technically correct and speaking out of frustration.

$.08--NFL Quickies

--A week after Lions fans were subjected to amateur hour at the mic, Detroit had to put up with ridiculously poor production from FOX’s broadcast of their game against New Orleans. From being late coming back from breaks to scant replays to poor camera angle choices to confusion between Chris Myers and Ronde Barber about who should be talking, it was an embarrassment by NFL standards.

--In a game that wasn’t even on DirecTV’s 8-game mix, Washington edged past Tennessee thanks to Colt McCoy. The journeyman threw a 70-yard TD on his first pass for the Ethnic Slurs. Never mind the pass was a short one followed by a long run from Pierre Garcon; it wasn’t an interception, and that immediately elevates McCoy over Kirk Cousins in the competition to replace the injured RG3.

--Looking for a reason why the Cardinals are 5-1?


--If fan reaction is any guide, Mike Smith is a dead man walking as coach of the Falcons. From callers on talk radio to scathing social media takes, he’s worn out his welcome as the milquetoast coach of an underachieving unit that doesn’t develop young talent well. There are talks that he will get the Dennis Allen treatment and get fired on the plane ride home from London if Atlanta doesn’t beat Detroit there next week.

--Cincinnati had just 47 yards on their first 38 plays while being shut out by the Colts. What the heck happened to the Bengals who hit their bye week 3-0? They haven’t won since. Not having A.J. Green hurts, but this takes humiliating to another level.

--Kudos to Chiefs kicker Cairo Saintos, as the tiny (he’s 5’8”) Brazilian rookie nailed a game-winner in a critical KC win over the San Diego Chargers. It keeps the 3-3 Chiefs very much in the AFC playoff race and even still breathing in the AFC West. A loss there would have put them 3 games behind both Denver and San Diego. Santos was my #2 kicker in the last draft coming out of Tulane, and he has an intriguing back story.

$.09--College/Draft Quickies

I spent Saturday watching football at the Park Tavern in Rosemont IL with two of my favorite NFL draft figures, Justin Higdon and Bill Carroll. Here are some observations from my 12 hours on a barstool.

--West Virginia WR Kevin White might be the most talented wideout in this draft. Higdon noted a stylistic, and hirsute, comparison to Larry Fitzgerald with his physicality, route running and concentration to make difficult catches. His one-handed TD stab in the corner over tight coverage is the kind of play that will sell NFL coaches to pound the table for him in the top 20.

--Minnesota RB David Cobb continues to reliably churn out tough yards with very good forward lean and smart vision. He’s never going to be a star, perhaps not even a starter at the next level, but Cobb has viable NFL skills and belongs in the conversation in the 90-120 overall range. The Gophers barely squeaked past a suddenly competitive Purdue, a team that wouldn’t win 3 games in the MAC, to stay in first place in the B1G West.  Golden Gophers TE Maxx Williams will be no worse than the #2 player at his position for all three of us.

--We all agreed that Stanford QB Kevin Hogan is simply not an NFL prospect with his long, low windup and delivery.

--Texas A&M tackle Cedric Ogbuehi was the subject of a lengthy discourse. I’m infatuated with his footwork and body coordination, seeing an elite athlete for the position. Yet I had to agree with Higdon and his serious reservations about Ogbuehi’s lack of power and pathetic initial punch. There isn’t any aggression behind his blows. It’s coachable but rather disturbing that it has to be coached to an offensive lineman.

--After breaking down Ogbuehi we moved to Stanford LT Andrus Peat. None of us see a first round-caliber talent, but we all begrudgingly concede he’s likely to be one of the first 15 picks because of his reputation and potential. I offered my “Stanford hype” test and it really fits with Peat; if he played for Indiana and not Stanford, would his skills still merit a high draft profile? In Peat’s case we all agreed with a resounding “hell no!” Caveat draftor.

--Kansas State CB Danzel McDaniel continues to impress. I touted him before the Wildcats’ upset over Oklahoma, and the JUCO transfer delivered with an easy pick-six. He’s a very impressive lockdown corner and athlete. I’ve now seen him in three games and he sure looks like a first-round talent. Keep an eye on his rising star throughout the draft process…if he opts to come out.

--One later-round prospect we all agreed deserves more attention is Old Dominion QB Tyler Heinicki. Though he’s smaller than ideal at 6’ and lacks a big arm, he’s got outstanding accuracy and command of the offense. Heinicki roughly compares as a more athletic Kellen Moore with a better--but still lacking--downfield arm. We are all hoping to see him at the Shrine Game in January.

$.10--I was once a huge baseball fan. Growing up it was a lifeblood to me, from fervently collecting Topps cards (I still have complete sets from 1979-83) to religiously watching This Week in Baseball. I studied everything I could about the game, relishing the history of the game. I even took Baseball History (319A) at Ohio University as a freshman, under the tutelage of Dr. Charles Alexander, the noted author of biographies of Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker.

During the 1990s I was caught up with the rest of my hometown in the ascendancy of the Cleveland Indians. It was a magical time, an entire city uniting around a team that had been so bad for so long. I will never forget in 1995 Tony Pena hitting a walkoff home run off Zane Smith of the Red Sox in the 13th inning of Cleveland’s first playoff game since 1954. I was still a student at Ohio U. and joyous crowds poured onto Court Street in wild celebration.

My all-time favorite sports moment where I’ve been in attendance came the next year in the 1996 ALDS. Albert Belle hit a grand slam off Armando Benitez to give the Tribe a huge win to stay alive. I’ve been to all kinds of events and venues and nothing has ever matched the collective roar of that crowd, strangers hugging and screaming.

Yet the game gradually lost me. I moved from Cleveland in 1999 and that buzz died. The steroid era ended, and most of the players I knew from when they were minor leaguers moved on from the game. I bounced from Richmond to Grand Rapids, minor league cities where baseball ranks well behind other sports (NASCAR and college hoops in Richmond, hockey and college football in GR) and baseball just sort of faded away.

Moving to Houston coincided with the Astros being the worst team in major league history over the three years I lived there. Yet it wasn’t just the home team being awful.

It was the Tony La Russa effect. The multiple pitching changes in each of the 6th-8th innings. The 11 throws to first base to hold on a runner with zero intent of stealing. The batter either striking out or walking more than half the time. The snobbish turn towards advanced stats that turn the players into culprits for not complying with the computer simulation those folks want the game to be.

So imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon the Kansas City Royals in this year’s playoffs. They leave pitchers in too long. They run like every player is Rickey Henderson, one of my all-time favorite athletes. They play defense. They act like they enjoy playing the game with one another, a far cry from the high-priced conglomerations of individual entities that dominated the game over the last 20 years for the most part.

Okay baseball, you’ve got me back for this World Series. I’ll be rooting for the Royals, but also for something to keep the rekindled spark burning. Don’t blow it with overwrought blowhard analysis, or innings lasting longer than football quarters, or at-bats lasting long enough for me to make a plate of chicken fajita nachos. Go Royals, but go baseball too. 

Football Meteorology For NFL Week 7

The Broncos host the 49ers in the matchup of the week, while other intriguing games include Lions/Saints, Bengals/Colts, Bears/Dolphins, Chargers/Chiefs and Cowboys/Giants.

Fantasy Football Week 7 Rankings

On Joe Flacco, Ronnie Hillman, Andre Holmes, Mohamed Sanu, Jace Amaro and the positional rankings for Week 7.

NFL Team Rankings, Week 6

The Chargers and 49ers moved into the top-3 behind the Ravens, while the Cowboys' big win moved them into the top-10 and dropped Seattle from No. 1 to No. 9.

$.10 After NFL Week 6

Sunday provided one of the more entertaining days of NFL action in a long time. Several games came down to final possessions, including one where neither team won.

Football Meteorology For NFL Week 6

This weekend's slate features a host of home underdogs, making this a challenging forecast. It's getting to the time of the season where teams have either refuted or confirmed preseason expectations, and it's time to put those summer concepts aside.

Fantasy Football Week 6 Rankings

Demaryius Thomas got back on track after a bye and we examine whether the same will happen with Drew Brees, along with key roster adds and Week 6 rankings.