NHL EZ Pick Preview 03/28/19
Take a look at the matchups set for this Thursday’s EZ Pick.
Alex Ovechkin (vs CAR) or Patrick Kane (vs SJS)
Alex Ovechkin posted his NHL-high 49th goal of the season and he added an assist and plus-3 rating in Tuesday’s 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes. Ovechkin’s league lead in goals shrunk to four after John Tavares buried four goals in Monday’s game against the Panthers. He answered back with one of his patented Ovie goals on an absolute bomb from between the faceoff circles. Ovie has equaled his total from a season ago, and he needs just one more tally to post his eighth 50-goal campaign. It was also his 656th NHL goal, tying Brendan Shanahan for 13th place on the all-time list.
Patrick Kane has been held off the scoresheet in six of his last 12 games. Kane hasn’t picked up a point in the past two contests and he has one goal during that 12-game stretch. He carried the offense for so long, but his slump at the end could prove costly. Chicago is falling behind the pack in the playoff race.
Jamie Benn (vs EDM) or Artemi Panarin (vs MTL)
Forward Jamie Benn has 52 points (27 goals, 25 assists). He’s one of three offensive catalysts in Dallas along with Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov.
Artemi Panarin found the back of the net during Tuesday’s 4-0 win over the New York Islanders. Panarin put an end to his 12-game goal drought when he scored a breakaway goal early in the third period to make it 2-0 for his team. That was the Russian forward’s only shot on goal in the game. The 27-year-old now has 26 goals and 78 points in 73 games this season. Even though he’s struggled lately, Panarin has still put up great numbers all year.
Blake Wheeler (vs NYI) or Evgenii Dadonov (vs OTT)
The Jets are 25-10-4 at home. Winnipeg is the top team in the Western Conference with 5.7 assists per game, led by Blake Wheeler averaging 0.9.
Evgenii Dadonov has registered 14 points (three goals, 11 assists) over his last 11 games. The 30-year-old winger ranks third on the team in goals (25), while also sitting fourth in assists (38) and points (63). Since 2017-18, he has recorded a team-leading 39 even-strength goals.
Mark Scheifele (vs NYI) or Jack Eichel (vs DET)
Mark Scheifele leads the Jets with 35 goals and has recorded 80 points.
Jack Eichel enters Thursday night’s game with 99 career goals. Eichel is second on the team with 26 goals in 71 games but sits on the doorstep of his first real big career milestone. Once Eichel tallies his 100th goal, he will become only the 31st Sabres player in franchise history to crack the century mark with the team.
Joe Pavelski (vs CHI) or Aleksander Barkov (vs OTT)
Joe Pavelski (lower body) will miss Thursday’s game. Pavelski is close enough that the Sharks considered putting him back in the lineup, but ultimately they’re erring on the side of caution. With the playoffs just around the corner, the Sharks’ top priority has to be making sure he’ll be healthy for the first round.
Aleksander Barkov leads the Panthers with 88 points (34 goals, 54 assists), needing just six more to match Pavel Bure’s franchise record for points in a single season (94). The 23-year-old centers paces the NHL in scoring since Feb. 17, posting 15 goals and 20 assists in 21 games.
Here’s a look at all matchups set for the Sweet Sixteen.
ACC foes meet for the second time this season with a spot in the Elite Eight on the line
A month ago, the Virginia Tech Hokies pulled off a 77-72 upset of the Duke Blue Devils. A lot has changed since the two teams met on Feb. 26 as they will play one another in the NCAA Tournament East Region semifinals on Friday night at Capital One Arena in Washington D.C.
Of course, Duke fans will be quick to mention freshman forward Zion Williamson, the ACC”s Freshman and Player of the Year, did not play in that loss in Blacksburg. However, Virginia Tech senior guard Justin Robinson also missed the game. Both Williamson and Robinson are expected to play on Friday.
The Blue Devils (31-5), who are the tournament’s overall No. 1 seed, barely escaped their second-round matchup against UCF 77-76. Williamson scored 32 points and collected a game-high 11 rebounds in the victory.
The Hokies (26-8), are in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1962 and just the second time in program history. On Sunday, No. 4 seed Virginia Tech defeated No. 12 Liberty 67-58 out in San Jose, California, to advance to the regional semifinals. Robinson had 13 points in the victory, one of four Hokies in double figures, as Virginia Tech outscored the Flames by 12 in the second half to overcome a three-point halftime deficit.
Streaking Ducks look to knock off top-seeded Cavaliers in Louisville
Virginia is finally living up to expectations in the postseason. Can the Cavaliers keep it going while facing an Oregon team that is embracing a rare underdog role? That’s a question that doesn’t offer an easy answer.
The Ducks aren’t your typical No. 12 seed. Injuries dropped Oregon from a preseason Top 25 ranking. Now healthy again, the Ducks have ripped off 10 straight wins and dominated Wisconsin and UC Irvine to get to the Sweet 16. They have won their first two NCAA Tournament games by an average of 18.5 points while holding their opponents below 40 percent shooting from the field.
Virginia seems capable of taking the next step forward after reaching the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2016. The Cavaliers overcame a shaky first half to dispatch Gardner-Webb and were never really threatened by Oklahoma in the second round. They are winning with trademark smothering defense and patient offense.
Virginia and Oregon played a home-and-home series in 2010 and ’11. The Cavaliers won both games by an average margin of 14 points.
Seminoles, Bulldogs meet in Sweet 16 in West Regional for second straight year
The unofficial theme of the 2019 West Regional at Honda Center in Anaheim? Goin’ Back to Cali.
A year ago, Sweet 16 participants Florida State, Gonzaga and Michigan played in Los Angeles for the right to advance to the Final Four. The same three are back in Southern California, not far down the freeway in Anaheim. For Florida State and Gonzaga in particular, Thursday’s matchup is a case of deja vu. The two played in last year’s Sweet 16, with Florida State surprisingly dominant in a 75-60 win.
After coming one possession short of its first Final Four in almost a half-century, Florida State will look to rectify last year’s near-miss, starting with a redux of the 2018 Regional semifinal. For Gonzaga, the dream of a second Final Four this decade is still attainable.
A stark contrast in styles highlights this Sweet 16 rematch. Florida State comes in ranked No. 10 in adjusted defensive efficiency per KenPom.com. Gonzaga, on the other hand, is No. 1 in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency.
Tigers, Tar Heels meet in a matchup of two explosive offenses that like to pick up the pace
Auburn has proved its run through the SEC Tournament was no fluke. North Carolina has lived up to its billing and dominated as a No. 1 seed. Now the two clash in what could be one of the best Sweet 16 games we see on either Thursday or Friday.
The fifth-seeded Tigers have ripped off 10 straight wins to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2003. Auburn hasn’t reached the Elite Eight since 1986. The Tigers have never reached a Final Four in their history.
The Tar Heels are looking to reach the Final Four for the third time in four years. North Carolina has had a great track record in Sweet 16 games under head coach Roy Williams. The Tar Heels have advanced to the Elite Eight eight times under Williams and have lost just once in the Sweet 16, falling to Wisconsin in 2015.
This is the second time these two teams have met in the NCAA Tournament. Auburn and North Carolina also clashed in the Sweet 16 in 1985. The Tar Heels won 62-56.
Tigers and Spartans clash in Washington D.C. with Elite Eight berth on the line
Four teams enter the nation’s capital fresh off a pair of NCAA Tournament wins. They haven’t all been pretty, they haven’t all been blowouts. But they’ve been wins, and in a time appropriately dubbed as “madness,” wins are simply the most important commodity to collect.
LSU makes its 10th appearance in the Sweet 16 and first since 2006. It has been a topsy-turvy ride for the third-seeded Tigers — who lost in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament to Florida — and have squeaked by in their first two NCAA Tournament wins by a combined seven points. Despite nearly blowing a double-digit lead to No. 6 Maryland, LSU pulled out the 69-67 win thanks to four players scoring in double figures, led by Skylar Mays’ 16 and Naz Reid’s 13.
In order to reach their first Elite Eight since 2006, the Tigers will have to contend with Michigan State, the Big Ten’s regular-season and tournament champion. The Spartans received a scare from No. 15 Bradley in the opening round, but they dispatched fellow Big Ten foe (and No. 10) Minnesota by 20 points in the Round of 32. The Spartans dominated the Gophers in most areas — including shooting 57 percent from the field (compared to Minnesota’s 30.5) and outrebounding them 45-19.
However, MSU committed 22 turnovers, its second-highest single-game total and just the third game this season with at least 20. If the Spartans want to make the most of their first Sweet 16 trip since 2015 (when the program also reached the Final Four), they will need to clean up that part of their game.
The two point guards squaring off might be some of the smallest players on the court, but they carry the biggest impact into this game. LSU’s Tremont Waters (5-11) led the SEC (and is third in Division I) with 2.97 steals per game, as the Tigers are a top-10 team in that category. On the other side, Michigan State’s Cassius Winston (6-1) is one of the best distributors in the sport. He’s dished out 7.5 assists per game — which tops the Big Ten and ranks third in Division I — and only Murray State standout Ja Morant (331 total assists this season) has more than Winston’s 271.
Boilermakers, Volunteers meet for the second straight season, this time for a spot in the Elite Eight
Purdue vs. Tennessee is not just one of the few Sweet 16 matchups that I correctly picked in my bracket this year. It also one could set the tone for the remainder of the NCAA Tournament.
Both the Boilermakers (25-9) and Volunteers (31-5) have more than held their own in one of the more competitive Tournament fields in recent memory. Purdue made short work of Old Dominion in the first round, then the Big Ten regular-season champs put the hammer down on defending national champion Villanova in the second round, beating the Wildcats by 26 points.
Tennessee, on the other hand, had to surge past a pesky Colgate team in the first round, then needed overtime to put away the Iowa Hawkeyes and not end up on the wrong end of a historic comeback. The Volunteers led by 25 with a little more than four minutes remaining in the first half and were up by 21 at halftime before Iowa stormed back. But Tennessee did what teams are supposed to do — survive and advance.
So now the question is can Purdue continue its Tournament domination, or will Tennessee find a way to outshoot and outscore another tough opponent? After facing Iowa, the Volunteers have an idea of what to expect against another Big Ten squad. This is UT’s first Sweet 16 appearance since 2014 and they don’t want to waste it. This is the third straight Sweet 16 berth for the Boilermakers but they haven’t been able to make it past this round. These two teams faced each other last season in late November, a game the Volunteers won in overtime (78-75) on the road.
Two of the nation’s best defensive teams collide in Orange County
Michigan’s run to the national championship game a season ago went through Southern California. The Wolverines return, this time opening the West Regional against an opponent that fell short of its Final Four dreams a year ago, Texas Tech.
This clash of Big Ten and Big 12 teams features two of the very best defensive squads college basketball has to offer, with two of the game’s premier coaches on the sideline. For Michigan’s John Beilein, 2019 marks the seventh Sweet 16 appearance of his illustrious coaching career and fifth such trip at Michigan. The well-tenured Beilein has implemented a fluid brand of unselfish offensive basketball that complements the Wolverines’ No. 2-ranked adjusted defensive efficiency.
Beard’s overall track record is much shorter, but the 2019 Tournament is the third in four years in which Beard has coached a team winning at least one game. He led Arkansas-Little Rock to an upset of Purdue in 2016, and now in just his third season at Texas Tech has led the Red Raiders to consecutive Sweet 16s.
The next step for Texas Tech is to advance to the Final Four, while Michigan pursues its third appearance in the last six years.
Teams’ first-ever meeting on the court is for a spot in the Elite Eight
The NCAA Tournament has brought about many first-time matchups through the years, and we’ll get another one on Friday night when the Houston Cougars take on the Kentucky Wildcats with an Elite Eight berth on the line. The Cougars under Kelvin Sampson are enjoying their first 30-win campaign since the “Phi Slama Jama” era of the early 1980s, while the Wildcats have been constant championship contenders under head coach John Calipari. And when these two forces collide it could be a historic occasion.
Houston (33-3) took out both Georgia State and Ohio State in the previous two rounds, winning by a total of 44 points. Kentucky (29-6) made short work of Abilene Christian in the first round, then survived a close game with Wofford last Saturday. This is the eighth Sweet 16 appearance for UK in the Calipari era, while the Cougars are playing in this round for the first time since 1984 when the team led by Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler went on to lose to Georgetown in the national championship game.
This will be the second SEC team that Houston has played this season. The Cougars beat fellow Sweet 16 participant LSU at home back in December. As for Kentucky, this will be the Wildcats’ first matchup with a team from the American Athletic Conference (AAC) since defeating Cincinnati in the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament. This also will be the schools’ first-ever meeting.
A quarterback change for Cleveland could lead to more opportunities for Duke Johnson
Week 3’s Daily Fantasy Football (DFS) picks produced another week in the green, albeit barely, but profit is profit. Kenyan Drake was the weakest link of all of the picks while Julio Jones’ trademark lack of touchdowns was exacerbated by rookie Calvin Ridley’s breakout performance.
For Week 4 we have some decent game score projections, although not as high as last week, but it still is a solid week to try some game stacks.
Bengals at Falcons with a game total of 51
Saints at Giants with a game total of 50
Browns at Raiders with a game total of 45
These games should have loads of fantasy goodness so I would consider getting players from these games as much as possible.
So, now that my synopsis is out of the way let’s get into my Week 4 DFS Picks shall we?
Teams on bye: Carolina, Washington
Week 4 Core Plays
These will be my top plays for the Sunday-Monday slate of games. These are players who I will try to have in as many lineups of mine as possible. If I can, I will use three or all four in one lineup. A reminder that for cash games going with an elite quarterback is typically recommended. If you go value at quarterback he MUST meet value for your loaded lineup to be worth it.
QB: Deshaun Watson, Houston at Indianapolis
Watson has had a nice few weeks after his rocky Week 1 start in his return from a torn ACL. If the youngster can reduce his mistakes and continue throwing the ball to his two amazingly talented wide receivers (DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller) to put together 300-yard passing games then he will become a must-start fantasy QB once again. This week is one of those where he is facing an appealing defense, as the Colts are allowing more than 240 yards per game through the air. Tom Brady is poised for a better matchup (vs. Miami), but he is more expensive. Watson also has more mobility which results in more possibility to score some points on the ground (yards, TDs).
RB: Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas vs. Detroit
Elliott is tied for the league lead in rushing with 274 yards through three weeks. This week he faces a defense that has been getting shredded on the ground so far this season. Elliott is getting fed the ball plenty and that should continue. Zeke’s price is right given the volume, and there’s added upside of getting some red-zone carries this week. The concern is that the Lions get ahead early, but the Cowboys need Elliott too much to remove him entirely from the game plan, even when playing from behind.
WR: Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants vs. Saints
The Saints are a high-flying and high-scoring offense, but on the other side they have one of the worst pass defenses in the league this season, allowing a whopping 246 yards through the air in the early going. Beckham has yet to find the end zone this season, but he is averaging 10 targets per game and the production with those has been there. Beckham’s breakout game is coming and this is the week it could happen. This could be a trap week where a teammate like Sterling Shephard has the big game (a la Calvin Ridley last week). I think Beckham is worth the price though this week. If Beckham feels too risky for cash contests, go ahead and pay up for Michael Thomas this week.
WR: Jarvis Landry, Cleveland at Oakland
Landry will have an entire week to continue developing a connection with his new starting quarterback, Baker Mayfield. Landry should be the focal point of the passing game and Mayfield’s top target. I would fully expect Landry to keep seeing 15-plus targets as he has twice this year already, and Mayfield showed last Thursday night that he’s pretty accurate with his throws. Yes it’s an incredibly small sample size, but the early signs are very promising. If this continues, expect better numbers from Landry.
TE: Eric Ebron, Indianapolis vs. Houston
Ebron has already developed a nice rapport with Andrew Luck, something that has been helped by Jack Doyle’s injury issues. Ebron already has caught two touchdown passes in three games compared to four in 16 games with Detroit last season. Drops are still an issue (five catches on 11 targets thus far), but as long as Doyle is out/limited, the volume should be there, especially in the red zone. All of that and he’s available at a fair price too.
Value Plays of the Week
QB: Josh Allen, Buffalo at Green Bay
Allen had a spectacular debut against the Vikings in what was one of the most surprising upsets in recent memory. Allen looked poised, mobile and most importantly, accurate. He also had plenty of catchable balls dropped by Kelvin Benjamin. Green Bay’s defense is not better than Minnesota’s, even given the struggles the Vikings had last week. Allen will not likely duplicate his Week 3 production, these still are the Bills, but he should be able to meet value in relation to his cheap price, especially if Buffalo falls behind early (as expected). In GPP using Allen and loading up at WR or RB is not a terrible idea.
RB: Duke Johnson, Cleveland at Oakland
Johnson has not been involved nearly as much as fantasy owners had hoped this season. Carlos Hyde is taking the feature back role and, well, running with it. This week though I can certainly see a back like Johnson being utilized more as a safety valve with Baker Mayfield taking over at quarterback. This price means Johnson only needs to get to eight points to double his value. There hasn’t been much foreshadowing this year for Johnson, but at this price I am taking a leap of faith.
WR: Sterling Shepard, New York Giants vs. Saints
Remember I mentioned a potential Calvin Ridley-esque performance happening in this game because of the presence of Odell Beckham Jr.? Well, why not cover our bases with this receiver stack this week? If you have more money to spend you also could add Eli Manning and make it a full stack. For all of the reasons I mentioned earlier Shepard is a nice play as well.
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NFL Football 2017-18 Season
AFC North Division Preview
With the days and weeks of summer ticking by, the arrival of a new NFL season continues to approach. Fans still have to wait until September 7th for Kansas City and New England to kick off in Gillette Stadium, but they don’t have to wait much longer for pre-season football starting August 3rd at FanPicks. To get you ready for the new season, here’s the outlook of AFC North teams.
The Ravens’ front office vowed to get quarterback Joe Flacco help this offseason. Yet they didn’t sign or draft a top receiver to replace the retiring Steve Smith Sr., and they did little to solidify an offensive line that no longer has starting center Jeremy Zuttah and right tackle Rick Wagner. Through the first two months of free agency, the Ravens’ only offensive addition was veteran running back Danny Woodhead, who is essentially a replacement for versatile fullback Kyle Juszczyk.
One of the lowest-ranked passers in the league last year, Flacco should at least be healthy again. He rushed back from the torn left ACL and MCL he suffered in November 2015 and was on the field for the first day of training camp last July. However, Flacco never looked completely comfortable, and the lack of chemistry with several of his pass catchers was evident throughout the season.
Wideouts Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman and Chris Moore provide plenty of outside speed, but it’s up to the strong-armed Flacco to rediscover his touch on the deep ball and get in sync with his receivers. Jeremy Maclin, a cap casualty in Kansas City, was signed as a free agent in June. He is coming off an injury-plagued 44-catch season, but if healthy he could take advantage of all the attention drawn by the Ravens’ deep threats.
With injury prone tight end Dennis Pitta released this offseason, the team will look to Benjamin Watson, Crockett Gillmore, Darren Waller, Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle in hopes of identifying a complementary target who will work the middle of the field and make contested catches.
The Ravens ran the ball the third-fewest times in the NFL last year. Head coach John Harbaugh has promised a greater commitment to the running game. Although, that’s not been offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg’s trademark as a play caller. Terrance West, Kenneth Dixon(suspended for the first four games) and Danny Woodhead are all capable backs. The Ravens will have to grind it out, because none is a home run threat.
Andy Dalton has never been regarded as a top-tier NFL quarterback, but the former second-round pick out of TCU continues to put up quality numbers. In 2016, he threw for 4,206 yards (87 shy of his career high) and completed 64.7 percent of his passes. His best quality might be his durability; in six seasons, he has missed only three starts.
Wide receiver A.J. Green missed out on his sixth straight 1,000-yard season due a hamstring injury that forced him to miss six games. He still caught 66 passes for 964 yards — but had only four touchdowns, the fewest of his career.
The Bengals added to their outstanding group of skill position players in the draft, selecting wide receiver John Ross and controversial but talented running back Joe Mixon. Ross ran the fastest 40-yard dash time ever at the Scouting Combine.
Dalton expects to have a healthy Tyler Eifert, who has dominated in the red zone when healthy but hasn’t been able to stay on the field. Receiver Tyler Boyd enters his second season. He made significant strides in route running and aggressive play in the slot over the final half of 2016. With veteran backs Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill as part of a rotation also, there will be no shortage of weapons.
Robert Griffin III was released after getting hurt and never inspiring much confidence last season. His exit leaves 2016 third-round pick Cody Kessler atop the depth chart headed into a training camp quarterback competition. The spring pecking order was Kessler, Brock Osweiler and then 2017 second-round draft pick DeShone Kizer, but that could change if Kessler falters or Kizer progresses quickly. Osweiler also could end up being the starter; a year after the Texans outbid the Broncos to get him, they gave up a second-round pick to the Browns to take him and the remaining $16 million in guaranteed money on his contract off their hands. Osweiler is just 26 and has made 21 career starts, so he shouldn’t be totally dismissed.
Isaiah Crowell is the lead running back, and he’ll have a chance to build on an impressive 2016. Crowell is a powerful runner who showed improved speed and vision last season. He separated himself from Duke Johnson, who was probably the favorite to become the starting running back last summer. Johnson remains a valuable third-down back and can contribute for a Browns team that needs playmakers.
It’s puzzling to know that the Browns let Terrelle Pryor walk in free agency last March. Pryor went over 1,000 yards receiving last season in his first full season as a wide receiver. His size/speed combo made him a difficult matchup for many cornerbacks. The Browns signed veteran Kenny Britt to fill Pryor’s spot in the depth chart. More than anything, though, the receivers and the offense as a whole need 2016 first-round pick Corey Coleman to take a significant leap. Coleman had one big game as a rookie and showed he could become a deep threat, but missing time both in training camp and during the season slowed his overall development. The Browns hope this season that he can be a downfield threat and that Britt can help move the chains. First-round tight end David Njoku should continue to progress and eventually become top passing-game options.
The Steelers have arguably the best running back in football with Le’Veon Bell, the best wide receiver with Antonio Brown, plenty of supplementary playmakers and a solid offensive line, but they’ll only go as far as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is able to carry them. The past two years have been tough on the 35-year-old veteran, who missed stretches of 2015 and 2016 with various injuries. Though most assumed he’d be back for his 14th season, Roethlisberger waited until early April to make it official. Clearly, he’s on the back end of a Hall of Fame career, but he’s still one of the best quarterbacks in the league, completely healthy or not. The Steelers are 28–13 with Roethlisberger under center over the past three seasons — a stretch that has seen him post three of his four highest passing yards-per-game averages.
Roethlisberger is the driving force behind an offense that should be nothing short of a top-five unit in 2017. A player of Bell’s caliber is poised for another big season after averaging more than 100 rushing yards and 50 receiving yards in 2016, a suspension-shortened campaign that was so dazzling that some dubbed him an MVP candidate. Entering his fifth season, Bell is in the heart of his prime and will have no shortage of motivation while playing on the franchise tag. His security blanket of the past two seasons, veteran DeAngelo Williams, is no longer with the Steelers, but rookie James Conner is expected to provide short-yardage thump that should nicely complement Bell’s patient running style.
The Steelers did just fine through the air last season without Martavis Bryant, who was suspended from start to finish. Now with Bryant back in the fold, the Steelers present one of the league’s most dangerous one-two punches at wide receiver. Bryant’s blazing speed and ability to take the top off the defense not only makes him a dangerous deep threat, but also opens up the field for Brown, who has been the constant target of double-teams and bracket coverage over the past few seasons. And if Bryant can’t stay on the straight and narrow, the Steelers are prepared. On top of returning receivers Eli Rogers and Darrius Heyward-Bey, Pittsburgh added the well-traveled Justin Hunter in free agency and used a second-round pick on USC’s JuJu Smith-Schuster, who could make an immediate impact in the slot.
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Temple Owls vs Navy Midshipmen
Temple is riding a dominant defensive stretch and 20th-ranked Navy is running roughshod over opposing defenses. This should makes for an intriguing matchup in Saturday’s American Athletic Conference title game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium (Enter Contest). The Owls have won six straight games. They held their last four opponents to a total of 23 points. Temple will look to rebound after losing to Houston in last year’s AAC championship.
Temple led the AAC in scoring defense (17.8 points) and total defense (273.4 yards, which is third in the country), while Navy ranked second in the conference in scoring (41.7) behind the nation’s second-ranked rushing attack (342 yards). The Midshipmen revolve around quarterback Will Worth, the nation’s leader with 25 rushing touchdowns, while the Owls ride a balanced offense behind senior quarterback Phillip Walker (2,700 yards, 18 touchdown passes). Walker is questionable with a foot issue but expects to play.
ABOUT TEMPLE (9-3, 7-1 AAC)
With Walker’s status uncertain, the squad must also be prepared to go to battle without the services of sophomore running back Ryquell Armstead. He’s one of two players with more than 800 yards on the ground. The absence of Armstead, who had two TDs in last week’s 37-10 win over East Carolina, will cede more carries to leading rusher Jahad Thomas (856 yards, 12 TDs). Walker’s top target, sophomore Ventell Bryant is expected to be ready despite an arm issue. He averaged 93.3 yards over his final six games. Defensive linesman Haason Reddick led the AAC in tackles-for-loss with 21.5 and ranked second in sacks with 9.5.
ABOUT NAVY (9-2, 7-1 AAC)
Worth needs six rushing TDs to tie former Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds’ NCAA record of 31 in a season. He has topped 100 yards on the ground in seven consecutive contests and scored multiple rushing TDs in six straight. This offensive outburst is part of a stretch run that has seen the Midshipmen top the 40-point mark in six of the last seven outings. Navy’s triple-option attack has been rolling along at a historic rate. They have piled up 480 rushing yards against East Carolina two weeks ago and then 496 in last Saturday’s 75-31 drubbing of SMU. It was the 10th-most accumulated rushing yards in program history. The Midshipmen won homefield advantage by virtue of their entry into the College Football Playoff rankings. They will be trying to extend a 15-game home winning streak, tied for the longest in the country.
NBA Free Agency & Trades
NBA free agency and the trades this week have been on a full swing. With hundreds of millions of dollars being currently spent, there’s still a lot more to come with moving parts to board. FanPicks (click to play) breakdowns this week’s madness in Free Agency signings and Trades in the NBA!
Kevin Durant joins the Golden State Warriors
One of the biggest off season and trade frenzy question was answered Monday morning when Kevin Durant announced that he was leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder to arch Western Conference rivals Golden State Warriors. Durant’s formal introduction at Oracle Arena Thursday confirmed OKC’s fans’ nightmare as the face of their franchise moved on.
The MVP of the 2013-2014 season and 4 time NBA scoring leader joined the team of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. This is a gigantic earthquake that has shaken the NBA this week! A few weeks after losing in seven games against the Warriors, Kevin Durant decided to join them!
Dwayne Wade joins the Chicago Bulls
A leap in the salary cap has caused teams to hand out record amounts of money for players this time of the year in the NBA Free Agency Frenzy.
Dwyane Wade chose to leave the Miami Heat to join the Chicago Bulls. Wade, 34, was upset the lack of consideration of the Heat’s management. With this deal worth $47.5 million for 2 years, it will be interesting how the Bulls will cope with Wade’s experience and leadership after losing stars Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.
He has been with the team since 2003 and won 3 NBA Championships during his amazing run.
Joakim Noah joins the New York Knicks
The French-American became officially a player of the New York Knicks after serving 9 seasons with the Chicago Bulls.
Noah, 31, signed a four-year contract with the famous New York franchise, valued at $70 million. He was apparently on the list of players that they’ve been wanting to recruit for a long time.
He will be alongside his former teammate Derrick Rose and close friend Carmelo Anthony.
With Pau Gasol leaving the Bulls for the San Antonio Spurs last week, many other top free agents are up for grabs.
Don’t forget to check our blog for the latest news on this NBA Free Agent Frenzy with the market still hot after this frantic week in the NBA.
Fantasy NBA Playoffs
Western Conference Finals Preview
With many fans in the basketball world questioning Golden State Warriors’ title defense without their MVP Stephen Curry full form. However, most of these doubts have been put aside following their commanding route of the Trail Blazers last week in Curry’s heroic 40 pts comeback performance. But one of the main questions all year long was clearly on the capability of San Antonio or OKC’s depth to take on the Warriors in postseason. With the Thunder disposing of the Spurs, all those questions will be answered within the next 2 weeks. This Fantasy NBA Playoffs preview of the Western Conference finals is brought to you by FanPicks. Come play Fantasy Basketball during the NBA playoffs with tons of prizes up for grabs.
This will be only the 3rd time that OKC and Warriors meet in the playoffs but never in recent years. But this series is special and you could see it when both teams played back in February 27th in a game that can be referred as the game of the year.
The stakes are completely different now with the Thunder hungrier than ever and the Warriors absolutely wanting to defend their title after a record winning regular season.
Oklahoma has been showing some signs of growth and confidence that we haven’t seen since their 2011-2012 road to the finals before losing to the Heat. This is actually their 4th trip in 6 years to the Conference finals but only made it out to the finals that year.
Golden State swept the Thunder this season 3-0 and with a healthy Curry, it will be extremely difficult for them to upset the defending champions.
With all the last 3 MVPs and NBA scoring champions featuring in this series, all eyes will be set on them to outperform one another. The only difference is that this time, compare to the prior matchups, the Thunder will be having consistent help from Enes Kanter and Steven Adams. Their help in offensive rebounding and solid front court play gave them an edge on the Spurs.
With both of those players playing together 5 minutes against 66 during the semi finals, look out for them to put up some awesome Fantasy points on the board.
Of course the Warriors have Draymond Green and Klay Thompson that could do damage offensively from almost anywhere with Curry’s play making. Andre Iguodala will be a huge defensive piece of the defense puzzle to slow down Durant who averages 36.3 pts against Western Conference opponets.
Fantasy Playoffs Basketball Preview
Pacers vs Raptors Game 7
In this must win highly anticipated matchup between the Indiana Pacers and the Toronto Raptors, a lot of emotions will be running in both camps at the Air Canada Center. This Fantasy Playoffs Basketball Preview is brought you by FanPicks. Come PLAY in our Daily Fantasy Basketball contests and get a free chance to win $1 Million dollars!
The Raptors have been disappointing this 1st round of playoffs and come in this game pumped, hoping to snap their first round series losing streak. They’re on verge of getting knocked out for the 4th straight time in the first round of NBA playoffs basketball, and it would be such of shame after this record winning regular season and talented squad’s efforts. Unfortunately for the Raptors, their two top players DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are struggling at the worst potential time. Even though they’ve received some extra surprising efforts from Bismack Biyombo who’s 8 or more boards per game in 4 straight contests could help their resurgence. Defense has been a key indicator in every wins in this series, as the winning team has always scored at least 100 Pts. The Raptors are favorite in this one statically speaking and on paper, however we’ve seen them have ridiculous issues in previous Game 7 matchups.
Indiana has really surprised everyone and rocked the odds in this series. They took care of business on home court and have been playing exceptionally well in defense. A matter fact, they were able to hold Toronto to only 37% shooting from the field and a mere 39 pts in last game’s 2nd half. All of their starters were in double digit scoring figures in their win. Paul George’s playoff comeback has been very effective and his peers Monta Ellis, Myles Turner and George Hill have all stepped up in their nothing to lose approach to the game.
Fantasy Basketball Thunder vs Spurs
Game 1 Preview
The Oklahoma City Thunder will travel to the tough AT&T Center to face the San Antonio Spurs in the first game of this highly anticipated rivalry between 2 of the top teams in the league and potential championship contenders. This Fantasy Basketball Thunder vs Spurs Game 1 Preview is brought you by Fanpicks. Come PLAY in our Daily Fantasy Basketball contests at FanPicks and get a free chance to win $1 Million dollars!
The 2nd ranked San Antonio pretty much swept the Grizzlies in a commanding fashion as expected. They’re coming off a full week of rest and ready to head back into back after posting their 7th series swept in 9 years. The league’s Defensive Player of the Year, Kawhi Leonard had a tremendous first round. He was not only a threat offensively but was also impressive in the rebounding section, constantly making him a fantasy lineup sure shot. His French peer, Tony Parker was also solid from the field with his mix of speed and dribbling. their big man LaMarcus Aldridge ended up the series on a double-double note and averages 14.5 pts with 8 boards a game. It seems like he’s found his Trail Blazers’ rhythm and fits right in with the Spurs. This could be extremely menacing for the Thunder as well as the defending champions, Golden State Warriors.
The Thunder finished off the Dallas Mavericks this past Monday to end the series in 5 games. This will be the first time that Oklahoma City advances to the Semifinals in 2 years. Russell Westbrook has been putting up MVP numbers this year and even in the series against the Mavs. His sidekick, Kevin Durant is as consistent as it gets. Westbrook finished off Monday with 36 pts, 12 boards and 9 assists and frequently posts near triple double numbers. Durant finished with 33 pts on monday with 7 boards. Durant and Westbrook are ranked 4th and 5th in the postseason scoring race with each averaging around 26 pts. They’ve had some help as well from Steven Adam who recorded a double double too. This will be the first time that both teams meet since 2014 when they lost the series 4-2 against the Spurs in the Conference Finals. The season series is split at 2-2 and this series will be one hell of a show.
Daily Fantasy NBA Basketball Projections
Courtside Watch – April 24th
The NBA playoffs continues with 2 Western conference Game fours and 2 Eastern conference. The Spurs and the Cavs can sweep their series while defending champions Golden State and the Atlanta Hawks can take a commanding 3-1 lead in their series and head home for the game 5. The first matchup sets the record breaking San Antonio Spurs against the Memphis Grizzlies followed by another Western Conference matchup with the Houston Rockets hosting the Warriors. At 5PM, the Atlanta Hawks will be battling the Boston Celtics and hoping to go 3-1 up before Lebron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers will try to sweep the Detroit Pistons. FanPicks is proud to bring you these daily fantasy NBA basketball projections. The top 20 best performers of all 4 games are featured in these fantasy basketball projections, giving you an edge in all our fantasy basketball contests.
No surprise here when we see Kawhi Leonard taking top spot in this list. He’s been extremely dominant this post season and really carrying with expectations, his San Antonio Spurs. James Harden has the most solid average out of everyone in this list mainly due to the fact that if the Rockets want to remain slightly competitive against the Warriors, Harden will need to show up with his A game every contest, and he’s delivered. Lebron’s consistency is keeping up there in this list as he’s following his typical first round route of any opponents in his lane. James is dominating the 1st round of NBA Playoffs like no NBA player has ever done. He’s yet to lose a game since May 2012 and has never lost a 1st round series! The real stunners of this list are Donatas Motiejunas and Jonas Jerebko. Motiejunas’s game has been quite impressive and complementing Harden’s hard work with Dwight Howard’s seemingly lacking offensive presence. The Lithuanian’s double double last game gave the Rockets many options. On another note, Jerebko’s versatile defense helped spark his teammate Isaiah Thomas’s career high 42 pts and mostly, make this series quite interesting.
Fantasy Football NFL Draft Preview
We’re less than a week away from the highly anticipated NFL Draft and it’s time to monitor what improvements the teams can do with some critical acquisition. FanPick will be providing a special draft contest for you starting on April 28th 2016. This Fantasy Football NFL Draft preview is brought you by FanPicks.com.
The Chicago Bears will need to get stronger in defense if they want to close in on their NFC North rivals this upcoming season. Their head coach John Fox as well as their defensive coordinator Vic Fangio hope to find a pass rusher that they’ll be able to pair with Pernell McPhee. This is most likely their most important priority. So far, they’ve upgraded their front 7 through free agency with the signing of Danny Trevathan, Jerrell Freeman and Akiem Hicks. It’s also likely that they recruit at the corner back position.
Top 3 round picks: 11th and 41st, 72nd selections.
Detroit are in the need of serious play maker. Riley Reiff was built to become a right tackle or a guard. They will also need a tone-setter in the middle of the defense. They will also try finding a book-end pass rusher a priority.
Top 3 round picks: 16th and 46th, 77th selections.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers have played Clay Matthews all over the field but they must recruit another big man like him either in the inside or outside. Offensively speaking, they’re fine but should still look for a swing tackle that can play on either side. Green Bay are always looking for a good tight end.
Top 3 round picks: 27th and 57th, 88th selections.
The Vikings are quietly emerging in the NFC as a contender a large part due to their awesome running game and super athletic defensive players. In order to close out that gap between the heavyweight in the conference, they will need to solidify their receiver position. A top of the line receiver would be ideal to complement Teddy Bridgewater and take them to the next level.
Top 3 round picks: 23rd and 54th, 86th selections.
DFS NFL Draft
With the upcoming NFL Draft, it’s the time of year where we take a look at the weaknesses that could be fix with some new blood. We’ll take a look at what improvements could be made by each team during the draft. FanPick will be providing a special draft contest for you, starting on April 28th 2016. Now let’s see what the NFC East teams want for the forthcoming DFS NFL Draft.
Kirk Cousins has provided a nice boost at the QB position for the Redskins, finally solving the problem that had been lingering for a while. It’s not sure though that Cousins may be the long-term solution. Washington will need to find the players to protect him for the time being, stuffing the offensive line with some young talents. A center could be an early round possibility for them. The front-end of their defense could need some fine-tuning as well.
Top 2 round picks: 21st and 53rd selections.
Chip Kelly has left his mark on the Eagles, unfortunately it’s been for the wrong reasons. It was a mess of a 2015 season after he took charge of the team’s entire football operations. They will need to rebuilt from the ground up, starting with the DFS NFL Draft. First and foremost, the team will need to find a wide-receiver. Philadelphia once possessed a remarkable O-line. Well now it’s in need of an upgrade at both guard, despite the addition of RG Brandon Brooks, and at tackle positions also. But most of all, their biggest need is for a reliable tailback to pair up with fellow running mate Ryan Matthews.
Top 2 round picks: 2nd selection.
New York Giants
The Giants addressed it’s primary offseason need at defensive end, resigning Jason Pierre-Paul and adding Olivier Vernon. Now they need to find their boss man at middle linebacker. Adding another reliable target to take the heat off Odell Beckham is not out of the equation. Landon Collins works one of the safety position, they could find another in this draft. A dual-threat safety who can handle himself in coverage would be preferable.
Top 2 round picks: 10th and 40th selections.
Dallas could go for a bell cow type of player in the back-end of the attack. It could improve the rushing game, like the way it used to with DeMarco Murray. Tony Romo just keeps getting hurt, as-fact from his season-ending injury. A new heir to his long stand as Cowboys quarteback may be a higher priority now than it as ever been before. ”America’s team” has a solid offensive line, but his defensive one may be in need of an upgrade, especially at defensive tackle.
Top 2 round picks: 4th and 34th selections.
NBA Playoffs Fantasy Basketball
Houston Rockets vs Golden State Warriors: Game 2
The Houston Rockets will continue their uphill battle in this near impossible series to win against the reigning champions, Golden State Warriors in this Western Conference 1st round playoffs battle Monday at the Oracle Arena. This NBA Playoffs Fantasy Basketball Preview is brought you by Fanpicks. Come PLAY in our Daily Fantasy Basketball contests at FanPicks and get a free chance to win $1 Million dollars!
The Rockets can be extremely frustrated at times and the first game was a prime example why. They basically dug themselves in a 27 pts deficit by half which was clearly impossible to climb. They shot for only 36% in that loss and committed a ridiculous 24 turnovers. Their only good news is that Steph Curry had to leave the game because of an ankle injury. If the NBA MVP misses game 2, the Rockets may be able to build some momentum and keep it competitive but even at that, they will need to take much better care of the ball and shoot the lights out from 3 pt range to even consider an upset win.
Golden State actually didn’t even play their best basketball in game 1 but somehow hammered the Rockets by 26 pts. That’s just how good they are and can dominate you in an off night. The big questions and elephant in the room is their star, Stephen Curry’s ankle situation. If this ankle becomes a serious injury like it did in the past, the Warriors may be in serious trouble for the next rounds. With that being said, they are still large favorites to win it all and t would even be surprising if the Rockets pull off a game away from Golden State in this series. They’re a double digit favorite in this one and most likely, in every game this series…. if Steph is healthy.