Sunday, Nov. 9, produced an interesting finish at the HSBC Championship in Shangai. Heading into the championship round, U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer and Masters champion Bubba Watson were gaining momentum.
After the third round on Saturday, Graeme McDowell barely held onto the lead as Kaymer, Watson, and a Japanese journeyman Hiroshi Iwata rounded out the leaderboard.
Sunday tested Watson’s patience and nerves as he stayed strong in the championship. At the 16th hole, Watson hung with a two-shot lead. At the 17th hole, he had to shake off a one-shot deficit in a five players tie for the lead.
On the 18th hole, Watson blasted the ball out of the bunker 60 yards on the par-5 and watched it roll 25 feet where it dropped for an eagle. Later, Watson finished it off with a 20-foot birdie putt in the playoff to beat Tim Clark for the first championship of the 2014-2015.
Following the win, Watson moved up in the rankings to third in the world and the highest rated American.
Following the tournament, the White House announced Charlie Sifford, the first African-American to earn a PGA Tour card in 1961, will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Sifford is one of 19 recipients to receive the award and the third golfer ever to receive the honor.
Following his stint as a caddy, Sifford won 6 National Negro Opens before the PGA Tour revoked their “Caucasian-only” clause in 1961.
During his career, Sifford won two PGA Tour titles, the 1967 Greater Hartford Open and 1969 Los Angeles Open. In 2004, he became the first African-American inducted into the Pro Golf Hall of Fame.
In 2011, Los Angeles Times reporter Bill Plaschke reported Sifford’s struggles on the tour with spectators kicking his ball into the rough, burying it under trash and once filling his cup with feces before he reached the pin.
As Sifford fought through these challenges and other forms of harassment, he never gave up. His courage earned him this honor, but Sifford made a change to the PGA Tour for the better.
No more waiting with bated breath, I am back. Last week, similar to six NFL teams, I took my bye week (although I took mine because of midterms). But fear not, your fantasy expert has returned with one of the more important articles of the year.
The fantasy playoffs are suddenly creeping up on us. For most leagues, you’ve only got 3 weeks left to either make a run or make an exit. Now for some, you may already be looking towards the playoffs. Maybe you’re sitting at 8-2 and have already clinched a spot, or maybe you’re 7-3 just looking for one more win to punch your ticket. Whatever circumstance you find yourself in, it’s time to look at players with an eye for the playoffs. So in today’s article I want to take a look at a couple players at each position that could be the difference between making the playoffs and being a championship contender. Now you may feel it’s a little early to start looking ahead but remember the key to fantasy football success: being ahead of the curve. Beat your league rivals to the waiver wire and reap the benefits on your way to the trophy.
For the purposes of this exercise, we’ll assume your playoffs run from weeks 14 through 17…
AND DON’T FORGET: You can always email me at FantasyDecisions@gmail.com with any weekly questions, trade help or anything you need. I’m the “expert” with the answers.
Favorable Playoff Schedules
The Baylor project may just have the most favorable down the stretch schedule of any QB in the league. In weeks 14-16 he faces the Rams, Giants, and Eagles. Or in other words, the seventh, ninth, and third worst against the pass, respectively. It’s hard to find a more passing-friendly stretch of matchups. If he’s somehow available in your league’s waiver wire, stop reading this article and go grab him. I also think you could get him for very little in a trade if your deadline hasn’t passed. While you’re not starting him over any of the top three-six guys, he could easily slide in to the second tier of QBs.
It’s no coincidence that, like RG3, Romo plays in the NFC East. For such a consistently competitive division, the passing defense among the four teams is lacking, to put it lightly. Romo may even have a better schedule then the aforementioned Griffin. In weeks 14, 15, and 17 Romo plays three of the four worst passing defenses in the NFL! The juiciest matchup obviously being the Bears in week 14. (Did you catch what happened when Aaron Rodgers took a turn at them in week 10? Yeah, I want anyone and everyone on the offense playing Da Bears)
Some may be considering “selling high” on Ingram with the Saints running backs getting healthy and coming back to steal carries. If that’s the case in your league, please go send whatever it takes to get the Alabama stud on your team. It’s no fluke that Ingram has AVERAGED 27 carries the last three weeks. He has been an absolute bellcow in an offense that hasn’t had one in a long, long time. And his schedule just gets easier and easier. He’s facing 3 of the 10 worst rush defenses in the playoff weeks. Including maybe the very best matchup of any position down the stretch, a week 16 home game against the Falcons, the league’s worst rushing defense. His numbers aren’t a fluke. Sean Payton trusts him and so too should you.
This week may be your last chance to buy in on the Ivory market. After a bye this week, Ivory’s schedule is almost full proof (minus a tough week 12 matchup in Buffalo). In weeks 14-16, Ivory faces the 24th, 25th, and 26th ranked rushing defenses, respectively. The Jets RB is the perfect, under the radar tailback that could easily be a RB2 on a championship team. Not to mention, it shouldn’t take much to get him after two tough weeks and this week’s bye. Buy in on him now and be prepared to use him to crush your league-mates.
· Andre Johnson
My homer-ism may be strong here but my boy Dre has a shot to be a top 10 WR come playoff time. Two matchups against Jacksonville certainly don’t hurt with that prediction. Not to mention a meeting with the Ravens who lost Jimmy Smith, their top cornerback, for the year to a foot injury. Mallett and Andre are known to have a special bond, more so than Fitz had with Dre. By the time we get to the fantasy playoffs, Mallett will have had 3 games under his belt and will be looking for the trustworthiest hands in the NFL. A hall of fame receiver will be looking like his old self as he tears up the Jags in route to a huge end to the season.
· Kelvin Benjamin
The huge red zone target has been absolutely massive for Newton this season. His acclimation to the NFL has had its bumps but there’s no questioning his talent, which has led to him being the 10th best receiver in fantasy this year. I’m loving the week 14 and 15 back to back against the Saints and Bucs, the 4th and 1st worst passing defenses in the league. With a bye in week 12, Benjamin may be gettable in your league. Make it happen and smile as the Florida State kid tears up some weak secondaries.
The young TE has finally returned to practice after going through foot surgery following week three. Teddy Bridgewater needs a reliable target in Minny and I think Rudolph provides that for the young QB down the stretch. He had 5 targets in all three games to start the season and returns to a team desperate for a better passing offense. Rudolph has a great sandwich of the Jets awful secondary in week 14 and a week 17 meeting with Da Bears. Now that’s some favorable white bread on your sandwich. Just today I actually dropped Vernon Davis for the young TE. I’m all in and I think you should be too.
Just remember, this defense put up 20 points in the only game of the year in which JJ Watt, Brian Cushing, and JD Clowney played together. This unit has had a bye week to get healthy and it’s time to store them away for the playoffs. If nothing more than for the week 14 and 17 matchups against the woeful Jaguars. A stiff D against the Jags in the last week of your championship? Yeah I’ll take that everyday of the week.
After ten weeks of regular season play, it is time to start predicting who will win what awards in the NFL.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Sammy Watkins, Wide Receiver, Buffalo Bills
Many may argue that Carolina Panther’s wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin is the clear offensive rookie of the year since he has caught seven touchdowns compared to Watkins’ five. However, Watkins provides more of an impact to his team. Anytime Watkins hauls in over 80 receiving yards in a game, the Bills are 4-0. When he records less than 80 yards in a game, the Bills are 1-4. Watkins and Benjamin have put up similar numbers but Watkins’ impact to his team is undeniable.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Kyle Fuller, Cornerback, Chicago Bears
Despite dropping off the radar the last couple of weeks due to injury, Kyle Fuller is still in contention for defensive rookie of the year. Fuller’s performance this season should have Bears fans excited about their heir to Charles Tillman. As the first player in 20 years to record three picks and two forced fumbles in his first three NFL games, Fuller’s play indicates he will easily fill in Tillman’s big shoes. Fuller currently has three forced fumbles and three interceptions on the season. Regardless of Fuller’s impressive play, if the Bear’s defense keeps giving up 50 points per game, there is no way Fuller wins this award.
Comeback Player of the Year: Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback, Green Bay Packers
After breaking his collarbone last year in a contest with the Chicago Bears, Aaron Rodgers has sought out revenge against Chicago and is playing some of the best football of his career. Rodgers has torched Chicago this season throwing for ten touchdowns against them in two games, including a six down touchdown performance in the first half alone against the Bears this past Sunday. Rodgers isn’t only performing well against Chicago, as he is third in the league with 25 touchdowns and only three interceptions. What’s amazing is that Rodgers has thrown for 25 touchdowns on only 277 passing attempts. In comparison, touchdown leaders Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck have compiled passing attempts of 353 and 393, respectively. Rodgers is officially back.
Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals
Bruce Arians is the clear-cut coach of the year. Through Week 10, the Arizona Cardinals are 8-1 and hold the best record in the league after defeating the St. Louis Rams 31-14 in Week 9. Arians’ performance this season has been especially impressive since he has lost many key players on both sides of the ball, but the Cardinals somehow continue to win games. However, it will be tough for the Cardinals to recover after losing quarterback Carson Palmer for the season due to an ACL tear, but if Arians is able to get the Cardinals to win the NFC West with Drew Stanton under center, Arians should win the award unanimously.
Offensive Player of the Year: DeMarco Murray, Running Back, Dallas Cowboys
DeMarco Murray has been everything and more that the Cowboys have asked for this season. Murray started the season rushing for 100 yards in each of his first eight games. Perhaps the reason for these amazing numbers is that his workload is insane. He has carried the ball a total of 244 times and has rushed for a league high 1,233 yards. If Murray stays healthy, he is on pace to break the 2,000 rushing yard mark and possibly Eric Dickerson’s regular season rushing yard record of 2,105 yards. The only blemish on Murray’s resume is that he has fumbled the ball five times this season. Murray’s performance this season is one of the key reasons why the Cowboys are playing so well.
Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, Defensive end, Houston Texans
Watt’s dominant performance this season has not only put him ahead in the defensive player of the year discussion but also in the NFL MVP conversation. In addition to three touchdowns, Watt also has 39 tackles, eight and a half sacks, three fumble recoveries, and one forced fumble. Since 1957, the NFL MVP has been awarded to the best player who is thought to be the most valuable to his team. The award is almost always won by a quarterback or a running back and has only been awarded to a defensive player twice. Lawrence Taylor, linebacker of the New York Giants, last won the award back in 1986. Watt is with no doubt going to win the defensive player of the year award, the real question is, will he be the first defensive player to win the MVP award since Lawrence Taylor?
Most Valuable Player: Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts
There are many candidates for MVP in the NFL this year including Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and J.J. Watt but, through Week 10, Indianapolis Colts starting quarterback Andrew Luck is the frontrunner for the award. With a league leading 3,085 passing yards through nine games, Luck is on pace to break Peyton Manning’s record of 5,477 passing yards in a season. Luck’s completion percentage (63.6%) and average yards per attempt (7.85) are significantly higher than his first two seasons in the NFL. Luck and the Colts are also on pace to win the AFC South for the third straight year and could possibly clinch a first round bye in the postseason. Even with similar numbers to Brady and Manning, Luck might be given the award simply because he has never won it before.
Last weekend helped to decide the fate of the majority of the Big 12. Baylor showed signs of life on the road against Oklahoma, rolling over the Sooners 48-14 while TCU hosted the Kansas State Wildcats and won by a large margin as well, 41-20.
Now, the Big 12 finds itself in a three-way tie with only four weeks remaining in this year’s college football season. Kansas State, Baylor, and TCU each find themselves with only one conference loss.
An examination of the current Big 12 standings would reveal an equal 5-1 conference record between the three schools. Even though they are tied at the moment, the Baylor Bears sit firmly in the driver’s seat.
The Bears will host Kansas State at home to end the Big 12 season. Having already beaten TCU earlier in the year, the Bears would secure the Big 12 Championship if they win their remaining three games (Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Kansas State).
The Kansas State game will present its challenges, but the Wildcats have looked flat lately. After a win over Oklahoma and shutting out Texas, they lost by 20 to TCU on the road.
Both of those two wins came in Manhattan while their loss to TCU came on the road. A win at Baylor won’t come easy for the Wildcats. I doubt the ability of Jake Waters and the K-State offense to keep up with Petty and the Bears.
Baylor is expected to dominate the rest of its remaining schedule, as will TCU (only having Kansas and Texas left). But the interesting part will come when the College Football Playoff Committee makes their final decisions after the Baylor vs. Kansas State game. As of now the Horned Frogs are in the top four teams in the country, but that could change once Baylor gets another big win under its belt.
Longhorns basketball Coach Rick Barnes made waves last year when he landed five-star recruit from the Class of 2014, Myles Turner. Turner, the seven-foot center from Trinity High School in Bedford chose the Longhorns over Ohio State, Kansas, Duke, Arizona, and Kentucky. Considering the lengthy historical success of the aforementioned programs -- as well as their standing as traditional college basketball powers -- many viewed the commitment of Turner to Texas to be a surprise.
Barnes continued his strong recruiting efforts this year, as thus far he has snagged four-star guards Eric Davis and Kerwin Roach from the Class of 2015 and looks to bring fellow guard Admon Gilder to the Longhorns program as well.
While the recruitments of Turner and Davis were to some unexpected, when looking at Barnes’ recruiting track record, they are from an anomaly. Barnes holds one of the more impressive resumes in all of college basketball when it comes to producing pro prospects, and in his time at Texas, Barnes has amassed an astounding list of players that have come through the Longhorn program to make it to the NBA.
The 2014-2015 season will be Barnes’ 17th season with the Longhorns, and in that time Barnes has had 17 players drafted into the NBA. There are ten Longhorns currently active on NBA rosters, the eighth highest of any program in the country, and second in the Big 12, trailing only Kansas.
Most notable of the NBA players to come out of Texas is Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant. This upcoming season will be Durant’s eighth year in the league, and in that time Thunder star won one MVP award for his play during the 2013-2014 season, and has already won the scoring title four times, trailing only Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan.
During Barnes’ tenure as the Longhorns head coach, he has produced players with a laundry list of accomplishments. Among the players to come through the Longhorns program under Barnes are nine first-round draft picks, five top-ten picks, two NBA champions in Dexter Pittman and Cory Joseph, two NBA All-Stars in Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge and one NBA MVP in Kevin Durant.
As a recruiter, Barnes plays to his strengths. While the Texas program may not have as much history as Kansas or as much NCAA tournament success as Duke, it has proved time and again that it is capable of producing quality NBA talent. If Barnes is able to continue his run of getting players to the NBA, the recruits will keep coming, and the Longhorns program will remain a collegiate basketball power.