Just a thought (written October 4, 2015)

Posted: 4th October 2015 by Jeff Plattner in Uncategorized
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This past weekend was a busy one in the sports world. While I finished up some projects around the house that had been neglected for the better part of the last year, Major League Baseball wrapped up its regular season, the college football season continued to cause onlookers to scratch their heads, as they tried to determine who in the world will wind up in the four-team playoff, the WNBA Finals began, the NBA preseason kicked off, while the NHL preseason came to a close, and the NFL wrapped up Week 4. As the events of the sports weekend unfolded, many thoughts came to mind, some of which I’d like to share. This is “Just a thought.”

Major League Baseball

The Twins are eliminated from playoff contention on Saturday, with a 5-1 home loss to the Royals. Just a thought: “Honestly a great run by the Twins, didn’t expect them to stay in contention until the last weekend of the season. However, a team that bats .247 and continues trotting Mike Pelfrey out to the mound, in increasingly important games (Pelfrey’s September stats, when the Twins needed him the most, 0-3 with a 6.95 ERA and 1.68 WHIP in five starts.), doesn’t belong in the playoffs anyway.”

The season ends and the top three teams in baseball are the St. Louis Cardinals (100-62), the Pittsburgh Pirates (98-64), and the Chicago Cubs (97-65), all of the NL Central division. The Pirates will host the Cubs in the one-game wild card playoff and none of these three teams will hold home field advantage, should they advance to the World Series. Why not? Because, the American League won this year’s All-Star game. Just a thought: “That’s the dumbest rule in all of sports. These guys play nearly every day for six months; yet home-field advantage is decided by one exhibition game. Also, baseball should go back to two divisions in each league.”

College Football

No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Michigan State survive scares from Indiana and Purdue, while No. 6 Notre Dame, No. 7 UCLA, and No. 8 Georgia all suffer their first loss of the season. Just a thought: “The Buckeyes will probably still run the table, but it’s looking more and more likely that the only other undefeated team will be the winner of the Baylor vs. TCU game. There will likely be several one-loss teams, so with one-loss, would teams such as TCU/Baylor (no conference championship game) and Notre Dame (Independent) be overlooked?”

The Gophers open the Big Ten schedule at No. 16 Northwestern and are blanked 27-0 by the Wildcats. Just a thought: “When does Mitch Leidner graduate? He’s terrible.”

WNBA Finals

The Minnesota Lynx seek their third WNBA title in the last five years, as they reach the WNBA Finals for the fourth time in that same span. Just a thought: “Shouldn’t this be a bigger deal than it is or am I just not hearing anything about it, because I have a nine-month old and don’t watch much TV? I’m on Twitter and haven’t seen much about the Lynx on there. I mean, I get that there are only twelve teams in the WNBA, but when was the last time any other team in this town had anywhere near this much success?”

NBA Preseason

The NBA preseason began over the weekend. Just a thought: “Talk to me when the real season starts and for goodness’ sake, please don’t let any Timberwolves get injured.”

NHL Regular Season

The NHL gears up for the start of the 2015-16 season, which begins on Wednesday. The Wild opens the season on the road, Thursday, at Colorado. Just a thought: “It’s way too soon for hockey; didn’t the Stanley Cup Finals just end a few weeks ago? Hey Wild, this casual fan will hop back on the bandwagon in April, just in time for you to let us all down again!”

NFL Week 4

Once the week is complete, there will be six undefeated teams remaining in the NFL. Just a thought: “Well, I expected the Patriots, Packers, and Broncos to be undefeated at this point, but the Bengals, Panthers, and Falcons? This is depressing, but it’s looking like another trip to the Super Bowl for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.”

Down 23-20, with the game on the line, the Vikings fall short in the final minute, as Teddy Bridgewater is sacked, he fumbles and Denver recovers to secure the victory. Just a thought: “Typical Vikings.”

MLB: 2015 Year in Review (written September 27, 2015)

Posted: 27th September 2015 by Jeff Plattner in MLB
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As I sit down to reflect on the 2015 Major League Baseball season, the Minnesota Twins have just seven games remaining. In the American League Wild Card race, they are a single game back, in the loss column. Who would’ve guessed that six months ago? If you had a chance to read my 2015 MLB preview, I clearly did not, guessing wrong on the Twins. And the Astros and the Cubs and the Mets. Not to mention the Yankees, the Rangers, the Nationals, the Mariners, the Red Sox…ok, I think you get the point!

The 2015 season has been one full of surprises, with young stars all over the league, putting their stamp on the game. Teams that figured to be a year or two away from competing (Astros, Twins, Mets, Cubs) have instead joined the hunt for October, ahead of schedule, led by the likes of Altuve, Correa, Kuechel, Sano, Rosario, Harvey, deGrom, Bryant, and Rizzo; all budding stars in their early to mid twenties. And then there are the New York Yankees, who’s biggest opponent coming into the season, was father time. To this point, the Yankees have proven us wrong. A lineup that averages nearly 34 years of age (not factoring in Derek Jeter’s 25 year old replacement) has been able to stay relatively healthy, while producing solid numbers. There are the trade deadline winners, the Blue Jays who acquired SS Troy Tulowitzki and SP David Price and the Rangers, who obtained SP Cole Hamels in a straight up fleecing of the Phillies. And there are the holdovers from the 2014 postseason (Royals, Cardinals, Pirates, Dodgers, and Angels).

While the Royals are in, as well as the Rangers and Blue Jays (barring a disaster), by Sunday, we’ll know whether the Astros, Angels, or Twins will take on the Yankees in the American League Wild Card game. Over in the National League, the Pirates, Cardinals, Cubs, and Mets are in, as are the Dodgers, assuming they don’t blow a six-game lead in seven days. In the Wild Card, the Cubs will most likely face the Pirates.

As for individual awards, whom can we expect to take home the hardware?

AL MVP: Josh Donaldson 3B – Toronto Blue Jays

With the protection of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion behind him in the Jays lineup, you could say Donaldson has an unfair advantage. His numbers would suggest that as well. In fact, Donaldson, who has a career best 82 extra base hits, has also set career marks in hits (178), home runs (41), runs batted in (122) and runs scored (119), among several other statistical categories. While his 122 RBI are second in the majors, Donaldson’s 41 bombs are tied for third.

Runner Up: Mike Trout CF – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

AL Cy Young: David Price SP – Toronto Blue Jays

On July 29th, the Blue Jays were 51-51 and had just landed Troy Tulowitzki in a trade with the Colorado Rockies. The next morning, they landed Price and haven’t looked back. Now, at 90-65, Toronto strolls into their first postseason since Joe Carter’s 1993 World Series, Game 6 walk-off. While they’re known for their powerful lineup, Price has delivered since joining the Jays rotation, posting a 9-1 record and striking out well better than a batter an inning. Price gives the Blue Jays something they didn’t have prior to his arrival, a true ace and someone they can confidently hand the ball to in a Game 7 situation.

Runner Up: Dallas Kuechel SP – Houston Astros 

AL Rookie of the Year: Miguel Sano DH – Minnesota Twins

All right, all right, all right. This may be a bit of a homer pick, but let’s be honest folks. Without Sano, there’s no chance the Twins are still in the thick of the AL Wild Card race. Since joining the squad on July 2nd, in just 254 at bats, Sano has launched 17 tape measure home runs and driven in 50 runs, while batting .276. Not to pick on Joe Mauer…again, but at Sano’s current clip, had he had the same number of at bats as Mauer this season, he would be sitting on 38 HRs and 112 RBIs. This compared to Mauer’s 9 HRs and 65 RBIs.

Runner Up: Carlos Correa SS – Houston Astros

NL MVP and Cy Young: Jake Arrieta SP – Chicago Cubs

Last season, when Dodgers SP Clayton Kershaw won the NL MVP, it was the first time the NL MVP and NL Cy Young awards had gone to the same player, since Bob Gibson accomplished that feat forty-six years earlier, in 1968. This time around, the wait may be just one year, as you could make the case for not only Arrieta, but also Kershaw’s teammate, Zack Greinke. I would give the awards to Arietta (20-6, 1.82 ERA, 0.88 WHIP) for two reasons; 1) He’s a 20-game winner, who’s healthy and Greinke is neither of those two things. 2) He’s been hot when the Cubs have needed him the most, winning his last nine starts, which includes a no-hitter, a three hit shutout, and a two-hitter.

Runner-Up: Bryce Harper RF – Washington Nationals

NL ROY: Kris Bryant 3B – Chicago Cubs

It’s a clean sweep by the Cubs. Cub’s fans would much rather say that about the World Series, but for now that part will have to wait. Surprisingly, it took Bryant twenty-one games to connect on his first big league home run, but since then, he’s been mostly on fire. Hitting .282 with 26 HRs and 99 RBIs, Bryant has torched opposing pitchers of late. Since August 1st, he’s hitting .342, has 12 HRs, 38 RBIs and oh yeah, he’s not old enough to rent a car for another fifteen months.

Runner-Up: Matt Duffy 3B – San Francisco Giants


2015 NFC PREVIEW (written September 1, 2015)

Posted: 1st September 2015 by Jeff Plattner in NFL
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NFC East

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (Best-case) Oft-injured QB Sam Bradford stays healthy and enjoys a Pro Bowl season as the Eagles run wild, on their way to Chip Kelly’s first playoff win. (Worst-case) Bradford and DeMarco Murray, who Dallas ran ragged last season, both go down with season ending injuries and the Eagles, who started hot, once again miss the playoffs. Prediction: 12-4
  2. Dallas Cowboys (Best-case) RBs Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden combine to admirably fill the shoes of DeMarco Murray. Meanwhile, Tony Romo and Dez Bryant pick up right where they left off last season, leading the Cowboys to their second straight NFC East title. Dallas also gets revenge on Green Bay, beating the Packers to reach the NFC championship game. (Worst-case) The Randle-McFadden duo is a train-wreck and the pass-happy Cowboys become one-dimensional, taking a giant step backwards. Prediction: 11-5
  3. New York Giants (Best-case) Odell Beckham Jr. gives us one heck of an encore to his rookie season in which he set the NFL on fire with 91 receptions for 1,305 yards and 12 TDs despite not playing in the first four games. (Worst-case) DE Jason Pierre-Paul isn’t the same after blowing his hand apart this summer in a firework accident and the Giants defense is even worse than a year ago. Prediction: 9-7
  4. Washington Redskins (Best-case) The Redskins finally admit their mistake and move on from the RGIII debacle. (Worst-case) They hang on to RGIII, who gets hurt and the Redskins owe him $16 million next season, due to an injury-clause in his contract. Prediction: 2-14

NFC North

  1. Green Bay Packers (Best-case) Anything less than a Super Bowl is considered a disappointment for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. After owning the NFC North, Green Bay avenges their NFC championship game meltdown against Seattle, last season. (Worst-case) Without Jordy Nelson, the offense is a little more run oriented and the Packers only beat their opponents by an average of 9.8ppg instead of 16.6ppg. Prediction: 13-3
  2. Minnesota Vikings (Best-case) In his return from suspension, we are reintroduced to the 2012 version of Adrian Peterson, who once again flirts with the NFL single season rushing record, while leading the Vikings back to the playoffs. (Worst-case) A tough schedule is too much for Minnesota to overcome, as they fall short of the playoffs and finish with a losing record for the third straight season. Prediction: 10-6
  3. Detroit Lions (Best-case) Rookie RB Ameer Abdullah has a breakout rookie season and Calvin Johnson finally stays healthy for an entire year. (Worst-case) Calvin is again banged up and QB Matthew Stafford again struggles without his main target. Prediction: 6-10
  4. Chicago Bears (Best-case) Midway through yet another underwhelming season, the Bears new regime pulls the plug on QB Jay Cutler…for good and Chicago can finally start fresh at the position, in the offseason. (Worst-case) Somehow, some still believe in Cutler, who’s never thrown more than 28 TDs in a season and who wins more the less he throws the ball. Prediction: 4-12

NFC South

  1. New Orleans Saints (Best-case) Despite the losses of TE Jimmy Graham, WR Kenny Stills, and RB Pierre Thomas (combined to catch 193 balls for 2,198 yards and 14 TDs in 2014), QB Drew Brees resembles his old self, with new targets Brandin Cooks, C.J. Spiller, and Brandon Coleman replacing a majority of that production. The Saints cruise to their fifth division title in seven years. (Worst-case) A defense that surrendered a horrid 26.5ppg last season is just as bad, Brees struggles to find chemistry with the new guys, and New Orleans misses the playoffs again. Prediction: 11-5
  2. Atlanta Falcons (Best-case) QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones throw the team on their backs, carrying Atlanta to a wild card birth, smashing several franchise records along the way. (Worst-case) Rookie DE Vic Beasley helps bolster a Falcons pass rush that generated the same number of sacks as Kansas City Chiefs LB Justin Houston; 22. However, the defense remains among the leagues worst. Combined with one of the worst offensive lines in the league, the Falcons continue to descend. Prediction: 8-8
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Best-case) After two miserable seasons, RB Doug Martin regains a bit of his rookie season magic. Speaking of rookie season magic, QB Jameis Winston is fabulous, thanks to the help of his towering WRs Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. (Worst-case) A poor Tampa defense spends far too much time on the field, as Winston breaks Peyton Manning’s rookie record for interceptions, with twenty-nine. Prediction: 5-11
  4. Carolina Panthers (Best-case) In the wake of WR Kelvin Benjamin’s season ending ACL tear, rookie WR Devin Funchess emerges as a reliable target for Cam Newton. (Worst-case) Newton spends much of the season on his back, as a porous offensive line is just the beginning of Carolina’s woes. Prediction: 4-12

NFC West

  1. Seattle Seahawks (Best-case) It’s Super Bowl L; 0:26 to go in the game. Seattle has the ball, second and goal on the one yard-line, down by four. The Seahawks hand the ball to RB Marshawn Lynch or to newly acquired RB Fred Jackson. Or heck, they throw a jump ball to TE Jimmy Graham, one of the greatest red zone targets in the game…anything other than throwing a slant to the middle of the field to a WR who entered the game with just 14 receptions on the entire season!! (Worst-case) They indeed hand the ball to Lynch, for the win…but he fumbles and we all criticize Seattle for not throwing the ball. Prediction: 13-3
  2. Arizona Cardinals (Best-case) QB Carson Palmer stays healthy all season. (Worst-case) Palmer goes down again and for the second straight year, the poor Cardinals receivers are forced to catch passes from a QB who’s not much better than I would be. Prediction: 9-7
  3. St. Louis Rams (Best-case) Upon his return from an ACL injury, rookie RB Todd Gurley shows us that he indeed may be the second coming of Adrian Peterson. With a very good defense and the addition of Gurley, St. Louis makes some noise in the NFC West. (Worst-case) Gurley is injured again; his career derailed and fans like you and me are robbed of the opportunity to see how special he could have been. Prediction: 7-9
  4. San Francisco 49ers (Best-case) The 49ers get to host Super Bowl L. Yep, that’ll be San Fran’s highlight of 2015-16. (Worst-case) 0-16 may not be out of the question, although they do get to play Chicago and Cleveland. Prediction: 3-13

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Adrian Peterson – Minnesota Vikings

Defensive Player of the Year: DE Robert Quinn – St. Louis Rams

Offensive Rookie of the Year: WR Nelson Agholor– Philadelphia Eagles

Defensive Rookie of the Year: DE Vic Beasley – Atlanta Falcons

Breakout Candidate: WR Davante Adams – Green Bay Packers

Breakout Candidate: WR Brandin Cooks – New Orleans Saints

NFC Championship: Green Bay Packers over Seattle Seahawks

AFC Championship: New England Patriots over Pittsburgh Steelers

Super Bowl L: New England Patriots over Green Bay Packers

2015 AFC PREVIEW (written August 25, 2015)

Posted: 25th August 2015 by Jeff Plattner in NFL
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AFC East

  1. New England Patriots (Best-case scenario) The ridiculousness called “Deflate Gate” is finally settled, Tom Brady’s suspension is lifted, and he returns in complete screw you mode to everybody who stands in his and the Patriot’s way, leading the team on a season long, pure anger-inspired journey that ends in a second consecutive Super Bowl victory. (Worst-case) Brady’s four-game suspension is upheld. With Jimmy Garoppolo at the reigns, New England stumbles to a 1-4 start and struggles to reach the playoffs. Prediction: 11-5
  2. Miami Dolphins (Best-case) Ryan Tannehill takes another huge step forward and while becoming the franchise QB Miami has been searching for since Dan Marino retired, leads the Dolphins to their first playoff win in fifteen years. (Worst-case) Ndamukong Suh stomps on somebody again and is finally suspended for it. Tannehill continues to struggle completing the deep ball and the Dolphins drag their feet to a .500 or worse record for the seventh year straight, prompting coach Joe Philbin to be canned. Prediction: 11-5
  3. New York Jets (Best-case) Ryan Fitzpatrick performs well enough to prevent the offense from being a complete mess. The revamped Jets defense is among the best in the league and helps lead New York to a wild card birth. (Worst-case) The QB situation continues to be atrocious, leading to ugliness and a divide in the locker room and not even a stout defensive unit can keep the Jets in the playoff hunt. Prediction: 8-8
  4. Buffalo Bills: (Best-case) LeSean McCoy returns to the “Shady” of old, as he’s force fed by a run-happy Rex Ryan all year long, putting the Bills on his shoulders and carrying them to the postseason for the first time since Prince had us partying like it was 1999. (Worst-case) Buffalo realizes just how bad they truly are at QB. Similar to the Jets, they have a stellar defense, but the offense is so anemic it can’t keep them in games. Prediction: 8-8

AFC North

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers: (Best-case) Behind Big Ben and Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers high-powered offense torches defenses all season long, as Pittsburgh wins the AFC North again, this time on their way to the AFC title game. (Worst-case) Bell can’t stay out of trouble and is suspended again, this time, for four games. His loss on the field causes the Steelers to lose hold of a division that should have been theirs. Prediction: 11-5
  2. Cincinnati Bengals: (Best-case) Andy Dalton finally silences the critics, as he and his favorite target A.J. Green enjoy career years, leading the Bengals to their first playoff win since we were all doing the “Ickey Shuffle.” (Worst-case) It doesn’t get any better for Dalton, as he again closes in on throwing 20 INTs and proves he’s not the Bengals future at QB. Prediction: 9-7
  3. Baltimore Ravens: (Best-case) Steve Smith’s farewell tour is a great one and the rookie due of WR Breshad Perriman and TE Maxx Williams (former Golden Gopher) become instant contributors to an offense that’s much better than we expected. (Worst-case) Joe Flacco continues his trend of good year; bad year and the Ravens are unable to rebound from a slow 1-3 start. Prediction: 7-9
  4. Cleveland Browns: (Best-case) This is a stretch, but Johnny Manziel screws his head on straight and becomes the exciting, game-changing QB Cleveland was hoping for when they drafted him 22nd overall in the 2014 NFL Draft. (Worst-case) Cleveland Browns fans endure yet another typical Cleveland Browns season. Prediction: 3-13

AFC South

  1. Indianapolis Colts: (Best-case) The additions of Frank Gore and Andre Johnson pay huge dividends and in his fourth season, things finally fall into place for Andrew Luck. Thanks to the impending Tom Brady suspension, the Colts are able to secure home field throughout the playoffs and reach the franchises first post-Peyton Super Bowl. (Worst-case) Luck has an awful season and the Colts…just kidding, there’s truly no way they don’t at least win the division. Prediction: 14-2
  2. Houston Texans: (Best-case) Either Arian Foster returns from his injury much earlier than expected or J.J. Watt just decides to play QB for the Texans too, since he does everything else for them. (Worst-case) Foster misses the entire year and the Texans QB situation is worse than they thought. However, Watt and the defense are too good for Houston to position themselves to draft one of the top QBs in the 2016 NFL Draft. Prediction: 7-9
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars: (Best-case) The defense improves, Blake Bortles progresses and the Jags realize they’ve hit second round home runs in consecutive drafts, with WRs Allen Robinson and Marquis Lee (2014) and RB T.J. Yeldon (2015). (Worst-case) Former Jags Mark Brunell, Fred Taylor, Jimmy Smith, and Keenan McCardell are still better than what Jacksonville currently has, so that’s no good. Prediction: 3-13
  4. Tennessee Titans: (Best-case) Titans rookie QB Marcus Mariota has an RGIII-like rookie year, winning NFL Rookie of the Year honors and being selected to the Pro Bowl, while leading Tennessee to an improbable wild card birth. (Worst-case) Mariota also has an RGIII-like second year, an RGIII-like third year, and an RGIII-like fourth… Prediction: 3-13

AFC West

  1. Denver Broncos: (Best-case) Before the Broncos and Peyton Manning’s window slams shut, they reach their second Super Bowl of the Peyton Manning era. Under Gary Kubiak the team is more run oriented and the combo of Manning and C.J. Anderson reminds Denver fans of Elway and Terrell Davis. (Worst-case) Father time officially catches up to Manning, as he’s no longer able to endure the rigors of a full NFL season. In the offseason, he retires with fewer Super Bowl rings than brother Eli. Sad, but true. Prediction: 12-4
  2. San Diego Chargers: (Best-case) Rookie Melvin Gordon is a star right from the start and WR Keenan Allen enjoys a huge bounce-back year. San Diego battles Denver for the division crown all the way to their Week 17 showdown in Denver. (Worst-case) Not only no playoffs for San Diego, but no more Chargers, as they’re off to Los Angeles. Prediction: 10-6
  3. Kansas City Chiefs: (Best-case) The Chiefs defense remains healthy this time around and leads them to a wild card birth with the help of Alex Smith’s ball control and the big play ability of RB Jamaal Charles and WR Jeremy Maclin. (Worst-case) For the second year in a row, Kansas City does not throw a TD pass to a WR. Prediction: 7-9
  4. Oakland Raiders: (Best-case) Raiders fans have their next great WR in rookie Amari Cooper. With Cooper, QB Derek Carr, and RB Latavius Murray, the Raiders have young talented players to build around…finally! (Worst-case) They’re still the Raiders, so they’ll find a way to screw it up. Prediction: 4-12

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Andrew Luck – Indianapolis Colts

Defensive Player of the Year: DE J.J. Watt – Houston Texans

Offensive Rookie of the Year: WR Amari Cooper– Oakland Raiders

Defensive Rookie of the Year: DE Leonard Williams – New York Jets

Breakout Candidate: RB C.J. Anderson – Denver Broncos

Breakout Candidate: RB Latavius Murray – Oakland Raiders

Comments Off on 2015 College Football Preview – Part 2 (written August 12, 2015)

After covering the ACC, Big 12, Pac 12, and SEC in Part I of our preview, we’ll turn our attention to the Big Ten, other teams to consider, other players to keep an eye on throughout the 2015 college football season, and of course, the college football playoff; who makes it and who wins it? Let’s get started.

Big Ten

East Champ: Ohio State (12-0) The Buckeyes have three of the best QBs in the nation, one of whom will play WR, the best RB, the best DE, and…well, you get the picture. It’s not looking like a very strong year in the Big Ten, so if Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes can get past Michigan State, at home, on November 21st, there’s no reason they can’t run the table all the way to the college football playoff. Once there, Urban Meyer would have a shot at history. Another title and Meyer would become just the fourth coach in D-I history with four championships and the only coach with two championships at two different schools (he won titles with Florida in 2006 and 2008).

West Champ: Wisconsin (10-2) Believe it or not, the West division could come down to the final week of the season, when the Badgers travel to Minnesota and face the Gophers, who will be looking to take back Paul Bunyan’s Axe for the first time since 2003. Melvin Gordon may be in San Diego, but Paul Chryst has a crisp system and junior RB, Corey Clement should fill Gordon’s shoes nicely. As much as I would love the Gophers to win back the axe and win the West division, this result of this scenario is just too predictable.

Don’t Sleep On: Michigan State – In Connor Cook, the Spartans have one of the most NFL-ready QBs in the country. Michigan State’s two losses in 2014 were to Oregon and Ohio State, who wound up meeting for the national championship. The Spartans will have the opportunity to avenge both of those losses. How they fair in those two contests will have major implications on their playoff fate.

Other Notable Teams

Notre Dame (10-2) For Notre Dame fans, such as myself, the career of QB Everett Golson was a rollercoaster ride from day one. However, with Golson off to Florida State, the job is now Malik Zaire’s and if the Irish can limit their giveaways, they have the talent to compete with anyone in the nation. Three starters return (from injury and academic issues) to a defense that was embarrassed late in 2014, giving up 41.5ppg during a 2-5 stretch, after surrendering just 12ppg over a 5-0 start. Anchoring that defense is All-American LB Jaylon Smith. Offensively, Zaire will have plenty of weapons to choose from, as five returning WRs had more than 20 receptions, with Will Fuller leading the way (76 rec. 1,094 yards, 15 TDs). Notre Dame will know its playoff fate by mid-October, when it will have already faced Georgia Tech, Clemson, and USC.

Boise State (12-0) Gone is stud RB, Jay Ajayi and his 2,358 yards from scrimmage and 32 TDs, but the Broncos return seventeen starters from a team that won the Fiesta Bowl, last year. Boise State’s only problem is they don’t play anybody in the regular season. With the college football playoff in place, it’s time Boise either a) joins a power five conference or b) schedules a gauntlet of a non-conference schedule. Otherwise, coming from the Mountain West Conference, they have no shot at making the playoff, even with an undefeated record. If Boise State joins a power five conference, the Pac-12 and Big-12 are their most likely landing spots.

Unmentioned Heisman Hopefuls


Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett (Ohio State) – Whoever wins the job will undoubtedly be among the Heisman frontrunners. Their combined 2014 numbers were 3,694 yards passing and 41 TDs, as well as 1,234 yards rushing and 12 TDs.

Dak Prescott (Mississippi State) – A duel-threat, Prescott led the Bulldogs to a 9-0 start before dropping three of their final four. He accounted for nearly 4,500 yards and 41 TDs.     

Jared Goff (California) – Cal may not be a great team, but Goff can fling it. He finished 2014 just shy of 4,000 yards passing and 35 TDs.                                                                        

Running Backs

Ezekiel Elliot (Ohio State) – My 2015 Heisman pick, Elliot was unreal, rushing for 696 yards and 8 TDs during the Buckeyes three-game run to the national title, versus Wisconsin, Alabama, and Oregon.

Leonard Fournette (LSU) – As a freshman, he showed flashes of what he can do. This year, Fournette will carry the load. Don’t be surprised if he flirts with doubling his 2014 numbers (1,034 yards, 10 TDs).

Samaje Perine (Oklahoma) – Perine rushed for 427 yards and 5 TDs against Kansas, breaking the single game rushing record. Adrian Peterson’s OU single season record of 1,925 yards could be the next to fall.

James Connor (Pittsburgh) – Connor rushed for 1,765 yards and 26 TDs as a sophomore, good enough for ACC Player of the Year honors. And at 6’2” 240lbs, he’s a load to bring down.

Wide Receivers

Laquon Treadwell (Ole Miss) – His sophomore year came to an abrupt ending, on a gruesome injury, in the final minutes against Auburn. Treadwell was about to cross the goal line for the go-ahead score, when he was yanked to the ground from behind, his leg folding beneath him and he fumbled. Ole Miss was never the same without their star. Expect a big year and don’t YouTube the play, you won’t want to see it.

Tyler Boyd (Pittsburgh) – Boyd is Pitt’s best WR since Larry Fitzgerald. His success will hinge on whether or not anyone emerges as a solid No. 2 option, which would take some attention away him, as he caught over 52% of the Panther’s receiving yards, in 2014.

JuJu Smith (USC) – Smith took a back seat to Nelson Agholor in 2014, but now it’s his year to shine in Pasadena. He could easily double up his 54 receptions, 724 yards, and 5 TDs.

Rashard Higgins (Colorado State) – As a sophomore, Higgins became the Rams’ first All-American since 1995, catching 96 balls for 1,750 yards and 17 TDs.

Final Playoff Rankings

  1. Ohio State             (13-0)
  2. TCU                         (12-0)
  3. Auburn             (12-1)
  4. Clemson             (12-1)
  5. Alabama             (10-2)
  6. Oregon             (11-2)
  7. Notre Dame             (10-2)
  8. USC                         (10-2)
  9. Florida State             (10-2)
  10. Georgia Tech (10-3)

College Football Playoff

No 1. Ohio State over No. 4 Clemson 38-28

No. 3 Auburn over No. 2 TCU 42-39

No. 3 Auburn over No. 1 Ohio State 23-21

Comments Off on 2015 College Football Preview – Part 1 (written August 9, 2015)

Unsurprisingly, last season’s inaugural college football playoff was a smashing success. How will the 2015 college football season compare, what player will take home the Heisman Trophy, who will be among the final four at season’s end, what teams will be the odd ones out, and who will be crowned national champions when it’s all said and done? We’ll take our best shot at answering those questions in this two-part preview of the 2015 college football season.


Predicted Atlantic Champ: Clemson (11-1) The Tigers have an early season test when they take on Notre Dame and Georgia Tech in back to back weeks. But, thankfully both of those contests take place at home, in Death Valley, as does the matchup that will ultimately decide the Atlantic division, versus Florida State, on November 7th. If QB Deshaun Watson is as healthy as he claims he is, the Tigers offense could be scary. Watson’s return to health, coupled with former Seminoles QB, Jameis Winston’s exit to the NFL, is why Clemson will escape against Florida State and thus win the Atlantic division.

Coastal Champ: Georgia Tech (10-2) Junior QB Justin Thomas returns and leads a triple-option offense that’s as fun to watch as any offense in the country. A year ago, the Yellow Jackets led the nation in rushing with 4,789 yards and 47 TDs, including three players with at least 850 yards rushing and 8 TDs.

Don’t Sleep On: Florida State – Sure, they lost 11 players to the NFL Draft, including five in the first two rounds, but this is Florida State. They will simply reload and coach Jimbo Fisher knows how to win.

Big 12

Champ: TCU (12-0) The Horned Frogs are hungry, as they were the odd team out of last year’s playoff. Once again, the Big 12 is essentially a two-team race between TCU and the Baylor Bears. What gives the Frogs the edge? The Heisman hopeful QB, Trevone Boykin, who, Gophers fans, if they don’t recall last season’s 30-7 drubbing, will get to know him very well on opening day, September 3rd. With weapons at his disposal, Boykin looks to improve on over 4,600 combined rushing and passing yards and 41 TDs.

Don’t Sleep On: Baylor – While QB Bryce Petty is gone, the Bears return a ton of talent on the offensive side of the ball. Nearly one-fifth of that, literally, comes in the form of 6’7” 392lb TE, LaQuan McGowan, who is actually lighter than a year ago. WRs KD Cannon, Corey Coleman, and Jay Lee combined for over 2,700 yards and 25 TDs last year and returning RB, Shock Linwood rushed for 1,252 and 16 scores. One of the most entertaining games of the year (if you like offense) should be the day after Thanksgiving, when the Bears take on TCU. Last season, Baylor erased a 58-37 deficit, in the last 11:00, to win 61-58, as time expired! 


North Champ: Oregon (10-2) It’ll be a transition year for the Ducks, as Heisman Trophy winning QB, Marcus Mariota is off to the NFL. However, even in transition, Oregon should be plenty good enough to win the Pac-12 North for the fifth time in seven years. Eastern Washington transfer, Vernon Adams Jr., who’s expected to replace Mariota, will have plenty of holdovers from last season’s squad. Among those returning to Eugene are leading rusher Royce Freeman (1,365 yards, 18TDs) and leading receiver, Byron Marshall (1,003 yards, 6TDs).

South Champ: Arizona (10-2) The SEC West may be the best division in college football, but in 2015 the Pac-12 South shouldn’t be far behind. With four legitimate contenders (USC, UCLA, Arizona State, and Arizona), the Wildcats are probably the long shot of the group, despite winning the division last season. The scheduling gods are working against QB Anu Solomon and the Wildcats, as they will not get a bye week and to make things even more difficult, three of their four biggest matchups come on the road (Stanford, USC, and Arizona State). However, unlike USC and Arizona State, they do not have to face Oregon. Maybe that in itself is worth giving up their bye week! Either way, Solomon’s redshirt freshman season was a success, as he neared 3,800 passing yards and 28TDs, while leading Arizona to the Fiesta Bowl. Anchoring the defense is the best LB in the nation, Scooby Wright, who tallied 163 tackles, 14 sacks, and 29 tackles for loss last season.

Don’t Sleep On: USC – First round NFL draft picks Leonard Williams (DE) and Nelson Agholor (WR) leave big holes to fill, but QB Cody Kessler is as good as it gets and despite a tough schedule, will keep the Trojans in the hunt, until the very end. In his last five wins, Kessler completed 70% of his passes for 357 yards per game and threw 25 TDs against just 2 INTs. As tough as Arizona’s conference schedule looks, USC’s may be worse, with games against Stanford, Arizona State, Arizona, Oregon, and UCLA.


East Champ: Georgia (8-4) In the seven games Todd Gurley missed last season, RB Nick Chubb filled in and the Bulldogs didn’t miss a beat. Chubb averaged 168 yards rushing in those games and scored 10 TDs. With the QB position up in the air, Georgia will rely heavily on their ground attack and Chubbs is sure to earn Heisman consideration. Beginning October 3rd, the Bulldogs’ schedule gets pretty ugly. In consecutive weeks, they host Alabama, travel to Tennessee to play a Volunteers team making plenty of preseason noise, then it’s back home to host reigning SEC East champ, Missouri, and down to Jacksonville, to take on Florida. If that isn’t enough, two of their last three are on the road at Auburn and Georgia Tech.

West Champ: Auburn (11-1) I’m buying the hype on QB Jeremy Johnson. He’s 6’5” 240 lbs, can run and deliver the ball from the pocket. Sound familiar? Johnson may remind some folks of Cam Newton, who led Auburn to a title in 2010. The Tigers struggled last year, but in addition to Johnson, there will be several new faces, via transfer, incoming freshmen, and others returning from injury. Another new face is defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, the former Florida Gators head coach, who is sure to fix what was often a Swiss cheese defensive unit in 2014. Auburn’s season will hinge on whether or not they can survive the first four weeks, in which they face Louisville (at the Georgia Dome), travel to LSU, and host Mississippi State. Make it through that stretch and they’ll have a great chance to make some playoff noise. The last week of the season, they host Alabama, in a game that will likely crown the SEC West champion.

Don’t Sleep On: Alabama – Like many conferences, the SEC West may come down to a head to head meeting. This season, I gave Auburn the nod over Alabama for two reasons. Auburn has the edge at the QB position and they host the Crimson Tide in their only meeting. However, even if ‘Bama falls to the Tigers, they may still have a strong enough resume to sneak into the playoff. Whoever replaces Blake Sims at QB can breath a sigh of relief, knowing that Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake are in the backfield. The defense will again be solid, but the biggest question mark is who will fill WR Amari Cooper’s shoes? Last year, Cooper caught 124 balls for 1,727 yards and 16 TDs.

Don’t miss Part II where we’ll take a look at the Big Ten, see what non-power five conference teams may figure into the college football playoff (Notre Dame), run down players who haven’t been mentioned, but who you should keep an eye on in 2015, and finally make our college football playoff predictions.

Comments Off on Most Memorable Minnesota Sports Moments (written August 2nd, 2015)

By the time last week’s Most Disappointing Minnesota Sports Moments article was written and we were finished reminiscing of the painful near misses by the Timberwolves, Twins, and Vikings, my mood was so somber, there was no other option than to follow it up with something a little more positive. Though they’ve been few and far between, here are my Most Memorable Minnesota Sports Moments.

  1. Golden Gophers football; 2003 and 2004

In consecutive Bowl games, the Gophers defeated the Oregon Ducks and the Alabama Crimson Tide. This is a true story, it happened a long, long time ago, but when you put that into perspective, it may be one of my favorite stats of all-time. The Gophers were a joy to watch these two seasons for exactly two reasons; Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney, who combined for nearly 5,000 yards rushing and 50 TDs over that span. Since their 2003 Sun Bowl loss to Minnesota, the Ducks are 111-32 and have appeared in three Rose Bowls as well as two National Championship games. Since losing to the Gophers in the 2004 Music City Bowl, Alabama is 107-26 and has won three National Championships. Since their rolling of the Tide, the Gophers are 55-71 and have lost seven straight bowl games.

  1. Adrian Peterson breaks the NFL single game rushing record

It helps when you’re in the stands to witness history and that’s exactly where I was on November 4th, 2007. The Vikings may have been 2-5 entering the game and they may have gotten blanked, 34-0 at Lambeau Field the following week. But this Sunday, the dome was rocking…at least in the second half. With just 43 yards rushing at the half, Peterson and the Vikings headed into the locker room having just witnessed NFL history themselves. With the score tied 7-7, Ryan Longwell’s 57-yard field goal to close the first half, came up short. It seemed harmless enough, until Antonio Cromartie caught it, somehow managed to not step out of the back of the end zone, and cruised 109 yards for the longest return in NFL history. It was a crushing way to end the half, but the rest of the game belonged to AP and the Vikings. Peterson rushed for 107 yards in the third quarter, highlighted by a 64-yard scamper off left tackle, for his second TD of the day. Fourth quarter runs of 16, 19, 12, 46, and 35 solidified Peterson’s place in NFL history, as he added a third TD and finished with 296 yards rushing, breaking Jamal Lewis’ record by a single yard. AP’s record still stands today and in the current pass-happy era of the NFL, it could be a while before it’s touched.

  1. Wolves Game 7 win over Sacramento Kings to reach 2004 Western Conference Finals

Lucky enough to be in attendance this night as well, this was the loudest I have ever heard Target Center. It wasn’t the prettiest game of the series, but Minnesota managed to take a 10-point lead into the half, 41-31. But it wouldn’t be the Wolves without handing it right back. As Minnesota endured a 6:04 stretch without a field goal, the Kings jumped in the lead. However, a huge Sam Cassell three gave the Wolves the lead after three quarters of play. In his biggest moment with the Wolves, Kevin Garnett owned the fourth quarter, making big time play after big time play, scoring 15 points, grabbing 5 rebounds, and swatting 3 Kings shots. On his 28th birthday, Garnett finished the game of his life with 32 points, 21 rebounds, 5 blocks, 4 steals, and 2 assists, propelling the Wolves to their first ever Western Conference Finals.

  1. Golden Gophers reach First Final Four in 1997

It has since been vacated due to an academic scandal, but it happened and a banner being removed from a rafter will never erase the amazing memories in my mind. The 1990 Elite Eight team was great, but that was about a year too early for me to truly remember. In 1997 however, I was a basketball junky, who was in his junky-prime and the Golden Gophers were my addiction. They had it all. They were athletic, they were tough, they were cool, and they could play. It all started with Bobby Jackson and Sam Jacobsen, but solid play off the bench from the likes of Quincy Lewis, Charles Thomas, and Courtney James, a smart point guard in Eric Harris, and a strong frontline willing to do the dirty work is what made this Gophers team complete. After waltzing into the Sweet Sixteen, the Gophers were taken to OT by No. 4 seed, Clemson. In the end, Bobby and Sam’s combined 65 points were too much and the Gophers advanced. With a trip to the Final Four on the line, the Gophers beat UCLA, 80-72. Unfortunately, Ron Mercer and the Kentucky Wildcats were waiting and the Gophers would fall 78-69. Regardless of the Kentucky loss and vacated wins, this was easily my favorite Gophers team ever and it’s looking bleak that we’ll see a similarly fantastic tournament run from a Gophers team any time soon.

  1. Kirby Puckett’s Game 6 walk-off home run to force Game 7

“And, we’ll see you tomorrow night!” were the famous words from Hall of Fame play-by-play man, Jack Buck. To me, Game 6 was even more memorable than the Jack Morris gem of Game 7. Why? For a few reasons. Puckett was far and away my favorite Twins player, the Twins were coming off a 14-5 drubbing in Game 5, and in Game 6, outside of Puckett’s 3 for 4, 3 RBI effort, the rest of the team had gone 6-33 with one RBI. Had Kirby not ended the game just as he did, in the bottom of the 11th, I’m not sure the Twins would have extended the game long enough for Puckett to get another chance. But, he did end it and the rest is history!




Comments Off on Most Disappointing Minnesota Sports Moments (written July 26, 2015)

A few weekends ago, on a Saturday evening, after enjoying another picture perfect summer day, I found myself wanting to watch an exciting sporting event. However, being stuck in the mid-summer sports lull, where baseball and WNBA were really my only options, I knew there was no hope of that. Much to my surprise, my excitement on this fine Saturday night would come in a far different form; a first time father’s initial experience with his infant daughter’s projectile vomit! It was one of those, “what in the wide world of sports is happening right now?” moments. Now everything seems to be back to normal, but at the time it was extremely scary. Once she was better and asleep in her crib, I needed some sports therapy, something to take my mind off of what had just transpired. So, after scrolling Twitter for a few minutes, I saw the Twins were leading the New York Yankees 5-4, in the bottom of the 8th. Upon flipping on the game, I was quickly reminded of why I don’t waste my time watching the Twins, at least not until September, if they happen to be in the playoff hunt. The Yankees teed off on Twins closer, Glen Perkins and their 8-5 comeback win got me thinking…what have been the most disappointing Minnesota sports moments of my lifetime? Keep in mind that I was born in 1981, so roughly twenty years of Twins and Vikings moments will miss out on making the cut.

  1. Timberwolves lose in first round of playoffs 7 straight seasons

You may argue the 2004 Western Conference Finals loss to the Lakers was more disappointing, but was it really? Minnesota may have been the No. 1 seed that year, but L.A. had Shaq and Kobe, who had already won three titles together. I didn’t expect the Wolves to win that series and I’m not sure many others did either. The Wolves made the playoffs in Flip Saunders and Kevin Garnett’s first seven seasons together. Their record? 7-22 and just once did they force a series deciding game; much more disappointing than losing to a pair of Hall of Famers, if you ask me.

  1. Twins 2-15 playoff record from 2003-2010

Much like Flip Saunders, Twins manager, Ron Gardenhire enjoyed success early on, but was never able to get over the hump. After a trip to the ALCS that saw them fall to a more complete Angels team, in Gardenhire’s first year of 2002, the Twins would reach the playoffs five more times in the following eight years. It would not be pretty. Three times they were swept and they managed just two wins overall, never pushing a series to the deciding game. Twins fans such as myself became sick and tired of pinstripes, as the New York Yankees bounced us from the playoffs four times.

  1. Vikings lose 2009 NFC Championship game to New Orleans

If you talk to Vikings fans who were around for the Super Bowls of the late 60s/early 70s, they’ll tell you the Super Bowl IV loss to the Kansas City Chiefs was the most painful, as Minnesota was an enormous 12 point favorite to win the game. My final three most disappointing moments somewhat follow that same logic. They are all Vikings NFC Championship game losses and each of them caused me to feel a different kind of pain. The 2009 loss to New Orleans hurt badly, mainly because the Vikings seemingly had the game in the bag. But, what helped get them there, the no-fear attitude and playing style of Brett Favre, also ultimately cost Minnesota in the end, with his across the body, across the field pass intended for Sidney Rice, which was intercepted by Tracy Porter with just thirteen ticks left on the clock. Everyone in Minnesota knows that Favre probably could have gained 5 or 6 yards had he tucked and ran the ball. That would have set the Vikings up for about a 52-yard field goal, for the lead. What ensued in overtime was a 40-yard Saints kick return, two first downs, and a 40-yard field goal to win the game. In the offseason, the NFL changed their overtime rules, preventing a team from winning the game on a first drive field goal. So, at least there’s that!

  1. Vikings lose 2000 NFC Championship game to New York Giants

I’ll never forget this one. Home from college, excited to sit down and watch the Vikings battle for the right to reach their first Super Bowl of my lifetime. Before I could even get comfortable, it was 14-0 Giants, just over two minutes into the game and Minnesota had absolutely no life whatsoever. Cris Carter and Randy Moss, who had combined for 10 receptions, 241 yards, and 3 TDs the previous week, were held in check, grabbing just 5 balls for 42 yards, as Minnesota mustered only 114 total yards of offense to go along with their five turnovers. The Giants owned the game from start to finish, blasting Minnesota 41-0. Given the circumstances, it was the worst effort I’ve ever seen from a Vikings team. Well, maybe that honor would go to the Josh Freeman Monday Night game against the Giants, but you can’t really count that one! Any coaching staff with half a brain would not have started him that night!

  1. Vikings lose 1998 NFC Championship game to Atlanta

Arms at my sides, face planted in the carpet of my parents downstairs living room, in complete and utter disbelief. This is where you could have found the 17-year old version of me for a good 10-15 minutes following the Vikings 30-27 OT loss to Atlanta, in the 1998 NFC Championship game. Maybe it hurts the most because it was the first of the three NFC Championship game losses or maybe it hurts the most because, like Super Bowl IV, the Vikings were such huge favorites in this game as well. 15-1 regular season record, the highest scoring offense in NFL history, Pro-Bowlers everywhere you looked, the home field advantage of the Metrodome. The Vikings were not supposed to lose this game and going into it, that thought never even crossed the minds of Vikings fans. Sure, Atlanta was 14-2, but we were the mighty Vikings; an unstoppable 34.8ppg, the sixth best defense in the league, destroying teams all season long, having won eight games by twenty points or more, an average margin of victory of nearly two TDs and a FG, and twenty-nine combined TDs for Carter and Moss. I mean it just wasn’t fair for the poor teams that got in our way. Bring on Elway and the Broncos! There’s no way we’re losing to a Chris Chandler led team. Chris Chandler, are you kidding me? What has that guy ever done? And how old is he? My goodness, no chance we lose at home to Chris Chandler and the Falcons…We all know how the story goes and if you don’t, just go ask anybody. It still hurts to this day. For me, this is far and away the most disappointing, most painful moment in my lifetime as a Minnesota sports fan. I don’t know about you, but I’m sick to my stomach right now!


NFL Bold Predictions: 15 for ‘15 (written July 19, 2015).

Posted: 19th July 2015 by Jeff Plattner in NFL
Comments Off on NFL Bold Predictions: 15 for ‘15 (written July 19, 2015).

1. Regardless of whether or not Tom Brady receives a suspension for his alleged involvement in Deflate Gate, for the first time since 2002, the Patriots will finish a season with less than 10 wins.

2. Miami will regret paying Ndamukong Suh $114 million (over 6 years) as they fail to not only make the playoffs, but also post a winning record for the seventh straight season.

3. Shockingly, only one, yes just one NFL head coach will be shown the door, following the 2015 season. Who will it be? Miami’s Joe Philbin.

4. The Buffalo Bills will not only make the playoffs for the first time since 1999, but also win their first playoff game since 1995. You may remember their last playoff loss as The Music City Miracle. This time they’ll win with a miraculous ending.

5. One historic record held by a former Los Angeles Ram will be broken in 2015. It will not be Eric Dickerson’s 2,105 rushing yards in a single season. It will be Willie “Flipper” Anderson’s 336 receiving yards in a single game. T.Y. Hilton of the Colts will break the record.

6. Just a few short years ago, Ray Rice and Josh Gordon, were among the brightest young stars in the game. Because of their off field issues, neither will ever play another down in the NFL.

7. For the third time in his career, Adrian Peterson will lead the league in rushing yards. On his way there, he’ll also rush for his 100th career TD (he needs 14) and record a career high in receptions (he needs 44).

8. With both teams finishing 10-6, the Vikings will win a tiebreaker against the Packers, to win the NFC North. They will win the tiebreaker thanks to their first win at Lambeau Field, since 2009.

9. Bears new Head Coach, John Fox, will not be as patient as others have been and the Chicago will finally throw in the towel on Jay Cutler.

10. The Cowboys will not miss DeMarco Murray, as Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden will combine to rush for more than the 1,845 yards Murray posted last season.

11. After five miserable seasons in St. Louis, Eagles QB Sam Bradford, will resurrect his career in Philadelphia, with a Pro Bowl season and playoff appearance.

12. The NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year will not be Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Melvin Gordon, Amari Cooper, or Todd Gurley. Instead, it will be Eagles WR, Nelson Agholor.

13. After selecting RGIII with the second overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, just a few short seasons ago, the Redskins will finish dead last in the league and will again be looking for a franchise QB, this time in the 2016 NFL Draft.

14. The Saints will be just fine without TE Jimmy Graham, finishing 11-5. In his absence, WR Brandin Cooks and RB C.J. Spiller will combine for 150 receptions and 12 TDs.

15. By Week 4, everyone will have forgotten about the rule change that has extra points being kicked from the 15 yard-line now, instead of from the 2 yard-line.

2015 NBA Free Agency (written July 12, 2015)

Posted: 12th July 2015 by Jeff Plattner in NBA
Comments Off on 2015 NBA Free Agency (written July 12, 2015)

The 2015 NBA Free Agency period has been anything but ordinary. To date, a mere one hundred and seven free agents have agreed to deals and at least nineteen trades are either in the works or have been confirmed. Despite the San Antonio Spurs doing everything right and seemingly ensuring their dynasty extends into the future, the biggest story so far has been DeAndre Jordan, who verbally agreed to a deal with the Dallas Mavericks before bailing on them and cowardly returning to the Los Angeles Clippers. With free agency twelve days old, here are a few of the story lines, thus far.

Go Spurs Go!!

Just when it looked like the sun could be setting on the Spurs dynasty, with Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili nearing the end of their careers, they reload at the drop of a hat. The Spurs were able to lock up budding star Kawhi Leonard and, as anticipated, signed the prize of the 2015 free agent class, LaMarcus Aldridge, instantly making them favorites once again, in the West. As if that weren’t enough, they also re-signed Duncan and Danny Green, while convincing David West to leave $12 million on the table, from Indiana and sign a one-year deal for the veteran minimum of $1.4 million. For West, the opportunity to win a championship at this stage of his career, trumped the money and you have to commend him for that. San Antonio has lost key roles players such as Tiago Splitter, Cory Joseph, and Marco Belinelli, but the Spurs will be just fine.

Cavs primed for another run at the title

After a mostly disastrous first season in Cleveland, many thought Kevin Love would bounce and head elsewhere. Well, apparently Love is smarter than some thought and winning means more to him than being the number one option on a bad team. He re-upped for 5 years; $113 million and the Cavs weren’t done there. They also re-signed LeBron, Mike Miller, Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert, are working on a deal to re-sign Tristan Thompson, and added Mo Williams, a very important signing that will give them a legitimate backup point guard. Furthermore, there have been talks of the Cavs working on a deal to acquire Joe Johnson from the Brooklyn Nets. Whether that deal gets done or not, Cleveland will once again be favorites in the East.

The Clippers, oh the Clippers

Wow, what an offseason for these clowns. I can’t think of another team, in any sport, with such a dreadful history, that’s easy to hate, like the Los Angeles Clippers. Usually you hate the teams that always win, not the ones with ten winning seasons in forty-five years, but these whiners keep giving us reasons. I’m not saying what they did, in going to Houston, to steal DeAndre Jordan away from the Dallas Mavericks was wrong. Because, as the rumors go, it was Jordan who initiated the contact, reaching out to Blake Griffin, saying he was having second thoughts about leaving the Clips. But man, if you’re DeAndre, be a man and at least have the decency to pick up the phone and call Mavs owner Mark Cuban, to tell him you’re backing out. Or at the very least, answer one of his texts, phone calls, or emails, instead of hiding out like a criminal. What a coward. On top of re-signing Jordan, the Clippers added Paul Pierce and acquired Lance Stephenson, in a trade that sent Matt Barnes (who was later traded to Memphis) and Spencer Hawes to Charlotte. Unfortunately, the Clippers will be very good again, in 2016.

Fear the Deer?

The Milwaukee Bucks are quietly cementing themselves as one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. With a promising young core of Jabari Parker, Giannis Antetokounmpo (aka, The Greek Freak), Michael Carter-Williams, and Khris Middleton, the Bucks added 15ppg/10rpg center, Greg Monroe, signing him away from Detroit at 3 years, $51 million. They also added backup point guard Grevis Vasquez and with the selection of Minnesota native, Rashad Vaughn, on draft night, Milwaukee and head coach Jason Kidd have built themselves a nice young team that could surprise some people as early as next season. Right now, on paper, the Bucks legitimately look like the fourth or fifth best team in the East.

The Crazy Kings

Is there a bigger joke in professional sports right now, than the Sacramento Kings? What a train-wreck this franchise is. Name a free agent and the Kings, along with their loonatic owner Vivek Ranadive, most likely swung and missed in an attempt to sign him. On draft night, the Kings basically gave away Nic Stauskas and two veteran big men, Carl Landry and Jason Thompson, to Philadelphia, in a cap clearing deal that would allow them to become players in free agency. What did Sacramento get out of it? A one-year deal with Rajon Rondo, that’s assured to have a disastrous ending, the re-signing of Omri Casspi, three years of Marco Belinelli for about $7 million too much, a washed up Caron Butler, and a reported 4 year, $33 million deal for Kosta Koufas, which is actually a very nice signing. The bottom line here is the Kings will win some games because they have a decent amount of talent, but they also now have a locker room that consists of DeMarcus Cousins, Rondo, and Willie Cauley-Stein. Good luck with that.