2017-2018 NFC Division Preview

NFC East

Winner: Dallas Cowboys

The NFC East should be the most exciting division in the NFL. Not only do they have some of the most heated rivalries in the entire sport, they possess four solid teams that could all make the playoffs and win the division. However, the Cowboys are still the favorites even with the loss of Ezekiel Elliott for the first six games. There is no doubt that Zeke is one of the best running backs in the NFL because of his combination of power and speed, but the Cowboys have one of the best offensive lines, which significantly contributed to his success. In addition, Darren McFadden represents a solid backup who should be able to handle the role for the first third of the season. Without Zeke, the Dallas defense, which was underrated last season, and Dak Prescott need to elevate their games and prove that their success from last season can be repeated. If the Boys do not claim the division for the second straight year, the next favorites are the Giants. The Giants have a plethora of talent on both sides and on paper may be the best team in the division. However, their shaky offensive line and injury history are factors that could keep them from matching their talent.

NFC North

Winner: Green Bay Packers

Seemingly every year the Packers are predicted to win the division, but always find a way to either make things interesting or lose the NFC North title. With only Mitchell Trubisky, Matthew Stafford, and Sam Bradford as the other quarterbacks in the division, Aaron Rodgers has a huge leg up on the competition and should win the division every year. The amount of weapons on the Green Bay offense is never questioned, but the offensive line must be able to keep Rodgers up in the pocket for him to exploit his matchups. In addition, their acquisitions on defense, especially in the secondary, should improve a unit that consistently ranks toward the bottom half of the NFL. If the Packers are unable to claim their second straight division crown, it will be due to injuries on the offensive line and defense, improved play from Minnesota’s quarterback whether it be Sam Bradford or Teddy Bridgewater, or significant enhancement of the Lions’ defense to complement Matthew Stafford and his offensive barrage.

NFC South

Winner: New Orleans Saints

Outside of the NFC East, the NFC South has the potential to be one of the most interesting division because of the quarterback depth.  The Saints have been mired in mediocrity for years and Drew Brees is nearing the end of his legendary career.  The Saints’ offense is blessed with multiple options such as former All-Pro Adrian Peterson, Willie Snead, Mark Ingram, and Michael Thomas, while the defense has slowly been improving over the past few years. The Saints are never going to have one of the best defenses in the league, but their great offense and home-field advantage should let them complete for the NFC South. Last season, the Falcons were the undisputed best team in the division and nearly won the Super Bowl, but they are destined for a setback this season. The Panthers recently made the Super Bowl, but they do not have a reliable offensive line to keep Newton upright in the pocket. The Buccaneers are also a team on the rise, but Winston has not shown an ability to lead a team to the playoffs.

NFC West

Winner: Seattle Seahawks

Last year, the NFC West was one of the weakest divisions as the Cardinals did not live up to expectations and the 49ers and Rams were awful. The Seahawks beefed up their team this offseason with the addition of Sheldon Richardson, one of the premier pass rushers in the league. On offense, the team has the potential to be elite if Eddy Lacy and Jimmy Graham can return to form, Russell Wilson continues his progression as an elite quarterback, and the offensive line stays healthy. On defense, they are still one of the best with Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett, Sheldon Richardson, and Cam Chancellor. In addition, the Seahawks still have the best home field advantage in football at CenturyLink Field. The Rams have the chance to step forward, if Goff can make significant improvements in his second year. The Cardinals were a dark horse candidate to win the Super Bowl last season before everything fell apart, but they still have the talent with Carson Palmer, David Johnson, and Larry Fitzgerald to compete for a playoff position.

Fantasy Football Strategies for 2017

Fantasy football has been around for decades and instead of slowing down the whole industry is only heating up. You can turn on your satellite radio, television, or computer and instantly be greeted by fantasy football news and advice. With the 2017 fantasy football season around the corner we are going to be joining the noise in order to bring you some of the best advice you could hope to get. The 2017 fantasy football season is about to begin, drafts are coming, and leagues are ready to be won. Are you ready to hoist the trophy? Listed below you’ll find our tried and trued advice to enjoying a successful 2017 fantasy season.

Diversify Your Leagues
Before you go to the draft you need to take a moment to look at HOW you are drafting. The most common form of fantasy football over the past decade has been the season long format that platforms like ESPN and the NFL have made so popular. In these formats you pick a team and ride with them for a full 14 weeks, or 16 if your league goes the whole year. These leagues are a ton of fun because you get to grow with your team and develop them over the course of the whole year. However, daily fantasy sports are also giving players a unique opportunity. DRAFT is an extremely popular daily fantasy site that gives gamers the chance to use the fantasy draft format in order to play in weekly leagues against players around the world with huge monetary prizes in the middle. Try each league and see which one treats you well!

Research, Research, Research
We don’t expect you to turn into Adam Schefter overnight but if you are going to succeed in fantasy football this season, particularly during the draft, you are going to have to do some major research. Fortunately for us the internet exists and the fantasy football industry is booming. You can find custom tailored Twitter feeds of the latest breaking news related to the NFL. Use this to your advantage. Don’t be the guy selecting Cameron Meredith in the 5th round because you didn’t see him tear his ACL five minutes ago during meaningless pre-season action. Along with social media news you can also find mock drafting rooms, drafting cheat sheets, and average draft position information.

Evaluate Your League
If you are playing fantasy football for the first time then you likely don’t know all of the little twists involved in a fantasy football league’s scoring system. Each system is going to be a little bit different and those differences can add up. If you are in a fantasy league that offers 6 points for passing touchdowns then suddenly quarterbacks are a whole lot more valuable. If you are in a fantasy league that offers PPR settings, which means points per reception, then slot receivers are worth a whole lot more. Analyze your league’s scoring system and then tailor your draft to those rules. You’ll be shocked by the kind of value you can get from your draft by approaching it this way.

Understand Key Positions
Travis Kelce is an elite tight end. He is probably the #2 tight end off the board. Still, don’t pick him until super late in the draft. The top tight end in fantasy football will fail to outscore the #10 wide receiver. The #10 wide receiver will struggle to outscore the #15 running back. Do you see where we are going with this? Focus on elite positions first.

Kyrie Irving-Isaiah Thomas: The biggest trade of the past decade

Deals like this are not supposed to happen. A superstar player who has been to three straight titles, hit one of the biggest shots in NBA history, and helped a city win a title for the first time in 40 years is not supposed to request a trade. Similarly, a star player who was top three in the league in scoring, led a team to the best record in their division, and revived the hopes of one of the league’s hallmark franchises is not supposed to be seen as expendable. Lastly, teams that competed in the conference finals and were prohibitive favorites to meet once again are not supposed to trade pieces let alone superstars, especially at the same position. However, last night one of the biggest trades in NBA history occurred as the Cleveland Cavaliers sent Kyrie Irving to Beantown in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and the 2018 Nets first round pick. Speculation about Kyrie being traded after his trade demand has swirled over the past month as multiple teams such as the Suns, Knicks, Timberwolves, and Spurs were seen as the most likely candidates to acquire the young point guard. At the end of the day, this was the best deal that the Cavaliers could have received as it keeps the team as the conference favorites while protecting their future in case LeBron James decides to leave after the season.

The Cavaliers were in a peculiar position because they are a win-now team and anything besides a title appearance would be seen as a disappointed, but they are also looking toward the future in case of the departure of LeBron. The Cavaliers were able to satisfy both these needs through this trade, which makes this deal a win for the organization. Last season, Thomas was one of the best players in basketball due to his crafty ball-handling and clutch ability to lead the Celtics down the stretch of games. Thomas should be able to easily step in for Irving as his game closely mimics the former Duke guard. Thomas should be more willing to accept a second role behind James as he was never supposed to be a star in the league. Thomas was the last pick in the 2011 NBA draft, started his career as a backup, and has already played for four different teams. Along with Thomas, the Cavs acquired small forward Jae Crowder. Crowder will become a valuable piece for Ty Lue because of his ability to defend multiple different positions and stretch a defense. If the Cavs make the finals and undoubtedly play the Warriors for the fourth straight year, Crowder will be an important cog asked to guard either Thompson, Iguodala, Durant, or Green. In addition, Crowder brings a tough demeanor to the squad as they will look to play a more physical brand of basketball against the more talented Warriors. While these two pieces will help bring Cleveland to their fourth straight Eastern Conference title, the acquisition of the Nets 2018 first round pick should keep them in contention for years to come. Although the Nets have improved their roster with the acquisitions of DeMarre Carroll, DeAngelo Russell, and Timofey Mozgov, they are still one of the worst teams in the league and the Cavs could land the first overall pick.

While the deal does have considerable upside for the Cavs, there are many potential downsides. The biggest risk in the deal is IT’s hip, which required surgery this offseason. Thomas is a skilled player, but without his shiftiness and lateral quickness he is not nearly as valuable a player. If he is unable to perform at a high level offensively, he is a negative on the court as he ranks as one of the worst defensive play makers in the league. In addition, even though Kyrie had his faults, he was undoubtedly one of the best offensive weapons in the league that could score on any team and any player in the league. Over the past two Finals appearances, Kyrie showed an ability to take over a game, which only a handful of players can do in the league. Due to Thomas’s diminutive size, he simply cannot control a game like Irving against the best competition. This fact became evident when the Celtics played the Cavs and were actually a better team without Thomas on the floor. Similarly, how Thomas was unable to defend Irving, he will have no chance at containing Curry. Although Cleveland improved their depth in this deal, they needed more top shelf talent if they want to continue their arms race with one of the greatest teams in NBA history.

Even though NBA rivals across the league are arguing that the Cavs easily won the trade, I do not agree with that sentiment and believe that the Celtics did incredibly in this deal. In today’s NBA landscape, it is imperative to acquire top shelf that has the ability to create baskets for themselves and their teammates. The Celtics acquired a controllable 25-year-old All Star/NBA Champion point guard for the 5’9” player who was going to command a $30 million per year deal next season, a role player, a 20-year-old center who is a project, and a first round pick. Anyone who does not see this as a big plus for the Celtics does not know basketball. Unless Kyrie leaves in two years’ time, the Celtics will be able to establish a big three of Irving, Horford, and Hayward that should be able to compete for the Eastern Conference title for the next 5-10 years. Along with the trio, the team has budding stars such as Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Even if the team falls short of beating the Cavs this season, they will undoubtedly become the prohibitive favorites to win the conference if/when LeBron jumps ship and exits The Land. In addition, under the tutelage of Brad Stevens, Kyrie should be able to elevate his game to an even higher level as he tries to bring himself from superstar to best player on a championship team. Even though it is likely that he will never reach the level of James, Durant, Westbrook, and Curry, if Danny Ainge continues to find the right group of players, this team could win a title in a few years.

While the Celtics and Cavaliers were both seen as winners in the deal, the ultimate winner was the Golden State Warriors. This trade guarantees the Warriors their second straight title and third title in four years. Cleveland showed that the only way to beat the Warriors is if you have at least two players that are literally unstoppable and able to take over and win a Finals game. Currently the NBA has about 5-7 of these players in the league and the Cavs just lost one of these players. Even though IT is great, the Warriors will be able to devise a plan to defend him due to his small size. In addition, Crowder is not a big enough upgrade over Iman Shumpert or JR Smith to make difference against the likes of Durant or Thompson or Green. Obviously injuries could keep the Warriors from fulfilling their destiny, but that is the only thing now standing in between them and history.