Thanksgiving Edition of Previews and Predictions for Week 13

By: Jon

Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions:

The Packers need to slow the Lions in order to win the game
The Packers need to slow the Lions in order to win the game

The Packers and the Lions will be fighting for their playoff lives, when the two teams meet on Turkey Day in Detroit. Lately, the Packers have been dominating the Lions, 15 of the last 16 games and five straight, but the Packers do not have Aaron Rodgers for this contest. Instead of Rodgers, the Pack will be starting Matt Flynn at quarterback. Although Flynn has been horrible with other teams, he has experienced success with the Packers. The Packers have been reeling lately, after they lost Aaron Rodgers with a broken collar bone. Before their game against the Vikings, the Packers have lost three straight games, which has put them in their current position. The Packers were on set to lose another last week, until Flynn replaced Scott Tolzien and led the Packers to a tie. After the Packers replaced Tolzien, Flynn threw for over two hundred yards and one touchdown. After Flynn returned off the bench, the Packers offense totally revitalized and Eddie Lacy returned to his former self. Lacy rushed for over 100 yards for the first time in the last three games because the Vikings could not load the box with Flynn at quarterback. With the offensive support, the Packers’ defense had new life and played great during the second half of the game and overtime. While the Packers look like are improving, the Lions have looked horrible over the last two games. After reaching 6-3, the Lions have been horrible over the last two weeks, losing to the Bucs and the Steelers. The main problems with the Lions have been their defense and knack for committing turnovers. Over the past two games, the Lions have not been able to establish a pass rush, which has allowed them to allow 30 points per game. Along with the porous defense, the Lions have committed 8 turnovers over the past two games and Stafford has thrown 5 interceptions. Although the Lions have been piling up yards, they have found ways to lose games. This rivalry has improved over the past few seasons because the two teams have added talent. This game should be close, but the Lions will probably win the game at the end of the day. The Pack have played well against the Lions, which should give them confidence during the game. The game will be high scoring, if Flynn plays well, because neither have a great defense.

Prediction: Lions win 34-31

Oakland Raiders at Dallas Cowboys:

Dallas are trying to take the next leap and make the playoffs
Dallas are trying to take the next leap and make the playoffs

Like every Thanksgivings Day, the Cowboys will be playing at home. The Raiders have been playing horribly as of late and have lost three of their last four games. The Raiders’ offense has been atrocious over the last few games. Since Terrelle Pryor was injured a few games ago, Matt McGloin has been radically inconsistent. Matt McGloin has averaged 171 passing yards and has completed only 55% of his passes over the past few games. Although McGloin has not thrown interceptions like Pryor, he does not have the explosiveness or dual threat ability like Pryor. Although McGloin has not lost games for the Raiders, he does not improve the team. Along with McGloin unable to lead a passing game, the running game has not been effective as well, since the loss of Darren McFadden. The lone bright spot of the Raiders offense has been Rashad Jennings. Over the past four games, Jennings had rushed for 100 yards twice and 410 total yards over the four games. While the offense has been bad, the Raiders defense has been horrendous as well. Since the Oakland defense has been horrible, it is unlikely that they will be able to stop Tony Romo and the Dallas offense. After a huge win against the Giants, the Cowboys have a great chance of making the playoffs. However, Dallas has been open to losing trap games and this game is a trap game. If the Boys are going to win this game, they must not over look the matchup and play as well as they did against the Giants. Tony Romo must not throw interceptions and continue finding his big play receivers and tight end. Along with the Cowboys success on offense, the Cowboys have been great at forcing turnovers on defense. Although the Cowboys can give up lots of yards, they should be able to build off of their strong performance from last game and shut down the Raiders’ offense. The Cowboys will probably be able to force a few turnovers against the Raiders and blow out the Raiders at home. On offense, the Cowboys should be able to score at will because they are fully healthy and the team is finally meshing. The Cowboys should be able to win by double digits in this game on Turkey Day.

Prediction: Cowboys win 31-20

Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens:

Brown has stepped up and will be a big factor in this game
Brown has stepped up and will be a big factor in this game

The Ravens and Steelers will meet again on Thanksgiving and the winner should be in position to make the playoffs as the last wild card position. Although the Steelers started the season 0-4, they have played great since their bye and have won 5 of their last seven games. During their streak, they have won their past three games and are playing like a playoff quality team. The Steelers have won their previous meeting against the Ravens and hope that they can go 2-0 against their rivals. The Steelers have played well because their defense has been playing great and Ben Roethlisberger is playing like the two time Super Bowl Champion. Besides for the Lions 24 point outburst in the second quarter, the Steelers have allowed only 24 points over the past three games, while scoring 87 points. Over the past three games, Ben has thrown for over 800 yards and 7 touchdowns, while only throwing one interceptions. Although the running game has been stuttering over the past few weeks, Antonio Brown has stepped up and has looked like a number one receiver. During the past three weeks , Brown has recorded 350 yards and 4 touchdowns. Along with Brown, Jerricho Cotchery has been great in the red zone and has made great clutch catches on third down. The Steelers hope that Ben Roethlisberger will continue his success against the tough Ravens defense. The Ravens have flipped flopped over the last few games, but played very well last week against the Jets, especially the defense. Although the Ravens offense have not posted great numbers, they have switched their offensive philosophy, which will help their team in the future. The Ravens have started to run the ball more often over the past few games. Although they did not have success running on the Jets, like many teams, the threat of running the ball with Ray Rice enabled the wide receivers to speed past the cornerbacks and catch the ball for big yardage. Last season the Ravens took advantage of Flacco’s huge arm and Rice’s legs. Along with the Ravens offense, the defense has improved over the last few games.  Although the Ravens are improving, the Steelers have been playing great football. The defense has improved greatly and will be able to stop the Ravens, like the Jets. On offense, the Steelers will score on the Ravens defense. However, the game should be close and a classic.

Prediction: Steelers win 21-19

Jacksonville Jaguars at Cleveland Browns:

MJD must lead the Jags to a win
MJD must lead the Jags to a win

After starting the season 0-8, the Jaguars have won two of their last three games and are playing inspired and quality football the past few weeks. The improvement for the Jaguars has been due to their ability to force turnovers on defense, while limiting the turnovers on offense. Over the past few weeks on offense, the Jaguars have kept their offense simple for Chad Henne at quarterback. The Jaguars offense has been predicated upon Maurice Jones Drew so Chad Henne is not asked to do too much and lead the offense by himself. Over the past three games, MJD has scored a touchdown in each of the past games. Along with the emergence of MJD, Denard Robinson has been given more touches because of his dynamic ability and his ability to change the game offensively. While the offense is improving, the defense has taken great strides. The defense has been able to stop the run, which has made the opponents one dimensional on offense. Since the Jaguars have been playing poor quarterbacks and will be playing another this weekend, their plan to stop the run and force quarterbacks to beat them should lead them to success. While the Jags have been playing better, the Browns have been playing badly since the loss of Brian Hoyer. The Cleveland offense has been horrible and has averaged only 15 points per game over the last two games. Besides Josh Gordon on offense, the Browns have no play makers that can stress the defense and threaten defenses. Brandon Weeden cannot throw four good passes in a row, which makes it difficult for the Browns to sustain a drive. Along with Weeden, the running game for the Browns have been atrocious, which has destructed their team. Although the Browns have one of the worst offenses in the league, their defense is one of the top defenses in the league. Although they have had trouble in recent games, they are ranked top 6 in the league in passing and rushing defense. Although the Browns do not have a great pass rusher, their great secondary has given the rushers more time to reach the quarterback. The Browns have been successful in the secondary because they have Joe Haden. Haden has the ability to be like Darrelle Revis and stop the opposing offense’s best receiving threat. Although Haden can shut down a receiver, the Jags do not have a top wide receiver that they must throw to. The Jags should be the favorite in the game because they have been playing well and are a better road team than home team. MJD will lead the Jags on offense and their defense should be able to stop the Browns and win the game.

Prediction: Jaguars win 24-17

Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts:

Luck is trying to rush the Colts into the playoffs
Luck is trying to rush the Colts into the playoffs

The Colts and Titans are both fighting for their playoff lives this weekend. Although the Colts have a great chance to make the playoffs, they have not been playing well, especially at the start of games. The Colts should have lost their last four games, but Andrew Luck has been great at returning his team out of a big hole. Last week, the Colts played their worst game of the season at the Cardianls, 40-11 loss. The problem with the Colts has been their defense. Although they played great defense and had a great pass rush at the beginning of the season, they have allowed, on average, 33 points per game during the last four games. The defense has added pressure to Andrew Luck, which has forced him to throw more interceptions. Along with a poor defense, the Colts’ lack of running game has forced Luck to throw a lot of passes. Also, teams have been able to drop multiple men back in coverage and wait for Luck to throw the ball to his wide receivers. To make matters worse, the Colts lost their top receiver and leader Reggie Wayne for the season with an ACL. Without Wayne, the Colts do not have a number one wide receiver and TY Hilton is not a legitimate number one recover in this league. While the Colts have been playing inconsistently, the Titans have been poorly, as well. Since Muhammed Wilkerson wretched Jake Locker in week 4, the Titans have not been the same football team. While the defense has been consistent, the offense cannot score points with regularity. Ryan Fitzpatrick is not a good enough quarterback to lead a team to the playoffs. Although Fitzpatrick can play well against poor defenses, Fitzpatrick cannot lead an offense against a quality defense, without throwing numerous interceptions.  In the game against the Colts two weeks ago, the Colts won the game 30-27. In the game, Fitzpatrick did not throw a touchdown. Chris Johnson had the best game of the season. The Colts will be looking to stop Johnson, since Ryan Fitzpatrick cannot lead the Titans past the Colts. The Colts had success last time on the ground, which would make the Colts indefeasible. The Colts are playing at home, this game, which should give them added determination to win the game. The game should be close, but the Colts will likely be close. Andrew Luck’s ability to find receivers in close games will be the reason why the Cots win this week.

Prediction: Colts win 31-24

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings:

Matt Forte has achieved big games against the Vikes
Matt Forte has achieved big games against the Vikes

The Bears are tied for first in the NFC North and hope that they can reach the playoffs for the first time in three years. Although Jay Cutler has missed the past few games with any injury, Josh McCown has been great for the Bears over the past few games. The Bears have been 2-2 since the lost of Cutler, but they are still tied with the Lions in the NFC North. The Bears have been great on offense because McCown has been solid and they have great talent on offense. McCown life has been better because he has Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte, and Martellus Bennett. In the past four games he started, Josh has thrown for over 200 yards in each of the games and has only thrown one interception while completing 7 touchdown passes. Along with the wide receivers, Matt Forte is a great running back for McCown because he can run effectively and catch passes out of the backfield, when others are covered. Forte has compiled 1250 total yards from scrimmage this season. While the Bears offense is dynamic, the defense has been struggling of late because they cannot stop the run. Since they have lost many people to injuries, the defensive line and linebacking core is depleted and they do not have the depth maintain decency. Over the past four games, the Bears have allowed at least 145 yards on the ground. This week, the Bears will be in trouble because they are playing the best running back in the league, Adrian Peterson. This season has been an absolute disaster for the Vikings because they have had unstable quarterback performance. The Vikings have found that Christian Ponder is not the quarterback for the future. Along with a horrible quarterback, the Vikings do not have any quality wide receivers to help Ponder grow and improve as a quarterback. The lack of performance in the passing game has made Adrian Peterson’s life incredibly difficult. Although Peterson is a great back and will rush for about 1500 yards this season, the offensive line does not provide holes for Peterson. Along with the lack of holes, Peterson has been hampered by nagging injuries the whole season. In this game, the Bears will need to stop the run, in order to win the game. However, the Bears will make sure that Peterson does not have a huge game and blow the game open. On defense, the Vikings do not have any options for the Bears and they talented play makers. In their previous game in week 2, the Bears exploded for 31 points and the Vikings were unable to stop the Bears passing attack. The game should be close, but the Bears should be able to win.

Prediction: Bears win 24-20

Arizona Cardinals at Philadelphia Eagles:

In the battle of the Birds, the Cards need to win to stay in the playoff picture
In the battle of the Birds, the Cards need to win to stay in the playoff picture

Although this game seemed like a bad game int he beginning of the season, the Eagles and Cardinals are two teams over .500 and have chances of making the playoffs. Since Foles over took Michael Vick in the Giants game, he has been great in every game, except against the Cowboys. On the season, Foles has thrown 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions while leading the Eagles back into the NFC East division standings. Although Foles has been good, the offense as a whole has been clicking on all cylinders, since the defeat at the Cowboys. In the past three games, the Eagles are 3-0 and have scored 33 points per game. Much of Foles’ success this season can be attributed to the wide receivers of the Philadelphia Eagles. DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper have played great football and have given Foles open targets deep down the field. Along with the passing game, Shady McCoy has led the number one rushing attack in the NFL. McCoy is great because he can run with power, make people miss, and catch the ball out of the backfield. Along with the offense, the Eagles defense has improved, but they will be tested this weekend against the Cardinals. While the Eagles have been a surprise, the Cardinals are the best kept secret in the league. Although the Cardinals were thought to have another down season, they are currently tied with the 49ers for the 6th place in the NFC. The Cardinals have won four straight games, including a blow out win against the Colts last week. In the past few games, Carson Palmer has played quality football. Over the last two games, Palmer has looked like the quarterback that led the Bengals to the playoffs nearly a decade ago, while throwing for a total of 733 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. The development of Malcolm Floyd as a number two wide receiver has given Palmer another option, besides Larry Fitzgerald. In the past few games, the Cardinals’ running game and the combination of Rashard Mendenhall and Andre Ellington have started to strike fear into opponents and have forced defenses to honor the running game. Besides the Cardinals offense, the Cardinals defense has given up 15.5 points per game in their last four games, while they have been scoring 30 points per game. In this game, the Cardinals and Eagles should post a lot of points. However, the Cardinals will likely win the game because they are playing better defense. Although the Eagles should play better at home, they play better on the road so the home field is not really an advantage.

Prediction: Cardinals win 38-31

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers:

The offense lines will be important so they can run effectively
The offense lines will be important so they can run effectively

The Bucs are heading into Carolina on a three game winning streak. The Bucs are playing their best football of the season and have surprised many during their wins against the Dolphins, Falcons, and Lions. The Bucs have been playing better because Mike Glennon has steadily improved throughout the season. Glennon has found a magic connection with Vincent Jackson, which has enabled them to move down the field and score points with regularity. Along with the improved passing game, the running game has been consistent, although they lost Doug Martin for the season. Although Bobby Rainey did not have a quality game, he drew attention from the Lions’ defense, which enabled Glennon to find his big play receiver. Besides the improved offense, the defense has been great over the past few games. The opponents have allowed 23 points per game during the past three games. The good defense can be attributed to the success of the secondary, which has plenty of star power. The Tampa secondary held Stafford to less than 300 yards, while throwing four interceptions. The Tampa defense, especially Darrelle Revis, when he was playing in the first half, was able to hold Calvin Johnson to only 119 and no touchdowns, which is fantastic, considering current games. While the Bucs are playing well, the Panthers may be the hottest team in the league. The Panthers’ success is due to their great defense. The Panthers” have won seven straight games because the defense has no given up more than 20 points in any game, during the streak. The Panthers have allowed less than 13 points per game this season. Along with the great defense, Cam Newton has provided clutch play, which has vaulted them above other quality teams during their streak. Although Cam is not a game manager, he does not take many chances because he knows that opponents cannot go the whole field against his defense. Newton is the best dual threat quarterback in the league so teams must be ready for his speed and size. Newton’s ability to run sets up open passes to Steve Smith and Greg Olsen. In this game, the score will be low scoring because they both possess ferocious defenses. However, Carolina should be the favorite because they are a better team with more fire power and have been more clutch than the Bucs.

Prediction: Carolina wins 27-20

Other game Predictions:

Miami Dolphins at New York Jets:

Prediction: Dolphins win 17-13

New England Patriots at Houston Texans:

Prediction: Patriots win 31-17

Atlanta Falcons at Buffalo Bills:

Prediction: Bills win 30-20

St. Louis Rams at San Francisco 49ers:

Prediction: 49ers win 27-13

Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs:

Prediction: Broncos win 27-23

Cincinnati Bengals at San Diego Chargers:

Prediction: Chargers win 34-30

New York Giants at Washington Redskins:

Prediction: Giants win 20-13

New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks:

Prediction: Seahawks win 30-24

Pics and Stats from ESPN.com

2014 MLB Top Free Agents and Predictions

By: Jon

1) Robinson Cano

Cano is looking to be paid for his success
Cano is looking to be paid for his success

The top free agent this offseason is one of the best baseball players in the league, which should allow him to net one of the largest deals in MLB history. Earlier this offseason, Cano and his free agent, Jay-Z, made a request for a $310 million contract over ten years, which would make him the highest paid player in the history of baseball. However, the Yankees countered with a 7 year $160 million deal, which would make him one of the highest paid players in the league and the highest paid second baseman of all time. The 31 year old has been one of the most consistent and valuable players over the last few seasons. In the last four years, Cano has averaged 160 games per season, 195 hits, 28 home runs, .310 average, 105 RBI, and .530 slugging percentage. Cano has finished inside the top six in MVP voting the last four seasons, won five silver sluggers, earned two gold gloves, and has went to 5 All-Star Games. Although people are afraid about giving major deals to free agents past the age of 30 because of past history, Fielder, Rodriguez, Pujols, and Teixeira, Cano will be given a huge money deal by some team. During the first 3-4 years of the deal, Cano will probably play like a player that will earn $25 million per season. However, teams should be wary of giving him more than 7 years because eventually he will be unable to continue his production. Cano has been a great hitter because of his strong quick wrists, but eventually Father Time will slow his speed and diminish his results. Cano needs another team, besides the Yankees, to bid for his services, if he is going to garner a $200 million deal, like Fielder and Votto. However, it is unlikely that another team will be able to pay his contract. Teams, such as the Tigers, Mets, Mariners and Nationals, will attempt to increase the Yankees offer, but the teams do not have the resources or need to give $25+ million to one player. Before the Kinsler deal, the Tigers had a need at second base, but they will need to save money for Cabrera and Scherzer. The Nationals may be the dark horse, but it is unlikely that they will sign another 100 million dollar deal after the Jayson Werth experiment. The Mets and Mariners have already dictated that they do not want to spend a lot of money on one play, but rather buy a few players to fill their holes.

Prediction: Cano signs with Yankees for 7 years and $180 million

2) Jacoby Ellsbury

Jacoby Ellsbury has the speed and talent to be a 100 million dollar player
Jacoby Ellsbury has the speed and talent to be a 100 million dollar player

The speedy outfielder has probably played his last game for the Boston Red Sox. Ellsbury wants a big money deal and the Red Sox want to give their young stars a chance to play at the ned level. Although talented, Ellsbury will not be able to net a deal over $120 million because their are too many questions about his health. During Ellsbury 7 year career, the center fielder has played in 145 games only three times. Also many teams are wondering if his speed will deteriorate as he ages and loses his legs. However, Ellsbury has top flight agent, Scott Boras, who will sell him as a player similar to Carl Crawford, who was given a $142 million deal from the Red Sox. Ellsbury will be demand this offseason because he is one of the best lead off hitters in a league, which has a few quality lead off hitters. Also, Ellsbury has shown that he can hit for power. During his best season in 2011, Ellsbury hit 32 home runs and drove in 105 RBI. However, Ellsbury has not hit more than 10 home runs in any other season so the 2011 campaign seems like a fluke. However, Ellsbury’s stolen base numbers have been consistent during his healthy seasons. In the four seasons where he played in more than 13o games, Ellsbury has averaged 55 steals, .295 average, 8 triples, 100 runs, and .350 on base percentage. Along with his ability to hit and run, his speed enables him to become one of the best outfielders in the league. Ellsbury has the ability to cover a lot of ground, which he has shown in one of the biggest center fields in baseball. This offseason, Ellsbury will be pursued by the Mariners, Mets, Cubs, Astros, and Yankees. However, Ellsbury would best fit in Seattle. Ellsbury is originally from Seattle and has noted that he would love to play for his home town team. Also, the Mariners desperately need outfield help and some offensive fire power on the team.

Prediction: Ellsbury signs with Mariners for 6 years $105 million

3) Shin Soo Choo

Choo's ability to reach base should make him a rich man this season
Choo’s ability to reach base should make him a rich man this season

Choo is another leadoff hitter that will be paid handsomely this offseason because of his ability to hit at the top of the order. After playing in Cleveland for seven seasons, Choo was traded to the Reds and had one of the best seasons of his career. Since Choo has become a regular starter midway through the 2008 season, he has been extremely durable and consistent, besides for one season. Choo has displayed the ability to bat for average as well as power from the top of the order, which is unique in today’s game. Over the past few seasons, Choo has averaged 20 home runs, .295 average, 20 steals, 75 RBI, and 95 runs. However, Choo’s biggest asset is his ability to reach base. Over the past few seasons, Choo has averaged an on base percentage of .400, which is extraordinarily high for a player, who does not strike out frequently. Choo is a versatile player that can play any position in the outfield. Choo does not have great speed, but is a smart defender and has a great arm in the outfield. Choo’s arm enables him to gun down base runners and play center and right field. During the offseason, Boras will display Choo as a player similar to Jayson Werth. Choo and Werth are similar players, but as the Nationals have realized, Werth is not worth a $126 million deal. Luckily for Choo, he expects to have a lot of interest from different teams, such as the Rangers, Yankees, Mariners, Tigers, Mets, and White Sox. Choo will probably end up with the Texas Rangers. The Rangers have recently traded for Prince Fielder and want to win in the American League. Also, the Rangers must replace the production of Nelson Cruz, who is leaving this offseason in free agency. Choo will fit nicely into the number one hole for the Rangers because they just traded their lead off hitter, Ian Kinsler, to the Tigers for Prince Fielder. Choo’s ability to reach base will give Fielder and Beltre more opportunities to collect RBI. Although other teams will make a run at Choo, Texas is willing to spend a lot of money for his services and will probably out bid the other competitors

Prediction: Choo signs with Rangers for 6 year $100 million

4) Masahiro Tanaka

The Japanese phenom hopes to have the success like Yu Darvish
The Japanese phenom hopes to have the success like Yu Darvish

The Japanese superstar and ace has received a lot of hype this offseason because of his past success. Over the past few seasons, Tanaka has risen in the ranks in Japan because of his recent success and progression. Last season, Tanaka had one of the best seasons in Japanese history. Last season, Tanaka was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA and 183 strikeouts. Many believe that Tanaka is one of the best Japanese pitchers in history and feel that his stuff will translate to success in Major League Baseball. Tanaka’s stock has risen because of the success to Yu Darvish. Although Tanaka does not have the stuff and talent like Darvish, Tanaka should be a possible number one or a very good number two in a pitching staff. Tanaka has success because he has a good fastball, slider, and splitter. The closest MLB resemblance to Tanaka is Hiroki Kuroda. Besides for their Japanese decent, they both love to throw fastballs, sliders, and splitters. The Japanese pitchers have experienced success recently because they are one of the few pitchers that throw splitters and sliders. Tanaka is similar to Kuroda because they both throw in the low to mid 90s with their fastballs and occasionally throw into the high 90s. This offseason, Major League teams must pay a posting fee before talking with Tanaka. Many believe that the posting fee for Tanaka could reach $75 million, but it will probably be closer to $65 million. Since the posting fee does not affect a team’s luxury tax situation, teams, such as the Yankees and Dodgers, will be more encouraged to pay for Tanaka’s posting privileges. After paying the posting fee, teams must pay Tanaka’s contract, which will be around $50-60 million. Since the fee will cost around $120-130 million, Tanaka’s services will be limited to the big market clubs. Since most of Tanaka’s money will not count against the luxury tax, the Yankees will sign Tanaka. The Yankees are desperate for top end young pitching and Tanaka will fill these needs for the Yankees. After the Haren signing, the Dodgers have six starting pitchers and will be reluctant to sign another expensive starting pitcher.

Prediction: Tanaka signs with the Yankees for 4 years $60 million with a posting price of $70 million

5) Matt Garza

Garza hopes to be paid like a number 2 starter, although his injury history
Garza hopes to be paid like a number 2 starter, although his injury history

The free agent right hander is in line for a big pay day this offseason. Most people believe that Garza is the best American pitcher in free agency because of his past success a few seasons ago. When healthy, Garza has been one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball. Although Garza is not a number one or two on a championship team, he can be a reliable number three. Since his first full season in 2008, Garza has not pitched over a 4.00 ERA and was an innings eater during his healthy seasons. During the middle of his career with the Rays and first year with the Cubs, Garza average 200 innings, 175 strikeout, and 3.70 ERA. However, the past two seasons have been a nightmare for Garza because of his injury history. If Garza did not have an injury history, he probably could command a contract, like the AJ Burnett and Anibal Sanchez deal. However, teams will be wary, which will take years and money off of his contract. Also, American League teams may worry because of trouble he experienced with the Rangers during the latter part of last season, 4.37 ERA. This offseason, Garza will attempt to earn a deal similar to Anibal Sanchez, but it is unlikely that he will obtain success. Although Garza will not have the same contract, he should attract a lot of suitors this offseason, especially if Tanaka cannot come to America. Teams, such as the Royals, Astros, Phillies, Blue Jays, Twins, Nationals, and Yankees, will be competing for his services. However, the Blue Jays are probably most likely to land the right hander. Garza was originally a Twin before he was traded to the Rays and has shown a desire to return to the AL East. Also, the Blue Jays have stated that they would like to sign a big name free agent pitcher because their pitching was atrocious last season. Although the AL East is a difficult division to pitch in, Garza has achieved success with the Rays and has the confidence to succeed once again. Garza will probably sign a contract for around 75-80 million dollars over 5-6 seasons. Also, Garza is not connect to a draft pick so the team that signs him will not have to lose a pick

Prediction: Garza signs with the Blue Jays for 5 years $75 million

6) Ervin Santana

Santana wants to turn his big year into a hefty contract
Santana wants to turn his big year into a hefty contract

The 30 year old right hander is coming off the best season of his career and will be paid handsomely because of his success. Although Santana did not post a winning season, he recorded an outstanding 3.24 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 211 innings, and 161 strikeouts. Santana is similar to Garza because they both have the ability to pitch 200+ effective innings, but are occasionally injured or ineffective. Like Garza, Santana projects to be a number three on a playoff team or a number two on an average team. Over his career, Santana’s biggest asset has been his ability to log innings. In four of his last six seasons, Santana has pitched over 210 innings with an ERA under 4.oo and a WHIP under 1.33, which are quality numbers. However, in the other two seasons Santana was absolutely awful, allowing an ERA of over 5.00 and pitching under 180 innings. If Santana can translate his success from this season to his new club, his club will be receiving a steal. Like Garza, Santana will be attempting to receive a $100 million deal, but it is unlikely that he will obtain that figure. The teams, Yankees, Marlins, Phillies, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Astros, and Nationals that are going after Garza will be looking at Santana as well because of the strikingly close similarities. However, the Nationals will probably be the winners of the Santana sweepstakes. After winning the NL East two seasons ago, the Nationals had a horrible season because they could not hit or pitch well enough to win games. However, they have the finances and desire to make the playoffs again this season. The addition of Santana will relieve some of the pressure on Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, who moderately underperformed last year. Santana should be able to net a deal close to Garza and Sanchez.

Prediction: Santana signs the Nationals for 5 years and $82.5 million

7) Hiroki Kuroda

Kuroda looks like he will return with the Yanks this season
Kuroda looks like he will return with the Yanks this season

The veteran right handed pitcher has been the best pitcher for the Yankees over the past two seasons. The 38 year old Japanese pitcher has been more than the Yankees could have expected, when he signed with them two seasons ago. Over the past two seasons, Kuroda has averaged a 3.32 ERA, 210 innings, 1.16 WHIP, and 160 strikeouts. Although Kuroda has been consistent and very good, he did not pitch well toward the end of last season. Unfortunately, Kuroda may have a dead arm, which could affect his performance this season. Although it is uncertain if Kuroda will re-sign with the Yankees or retire from MLB, it has been reported that Kuroda is leaning toward returning for another season in pinstripes. If the Yankees are able to monitor his innings closer, Kuroda should have the arm strength to pitch consistently and effectively for the entire season. Kuroda is a ground ball pitcher with a good fastball and slider combination. Even during his troubles, Kuroda was able to pitch in the low to mid 90s with his fastball. The Yankees will attempt to sign Kuroda by offering a large one year contract, similar to the last two seasons. Kuroda will be asking for about $18-20 million, but it is unlikely that the Yankees will oblige because of the struggles he experienced toward the end of the season. However, Kuroda may have some leverage because the Yankees are desperate for starting pitching. Currently the Yankees have only two starting pitchers, but CC and Ivan Nova both have questions that must be answered, if the Yankees are going to return to the playoffs. Eventually Kuroda will probably re-sign with the Yankees for a one year deal around $15-18 million. Besides the Yankees, it is unlikely that Kuroda will pitch for another MLB team because he has expressed discontent in moving. If their is a dark horse for Kuroda, it will be the Angels because he has pitched in California and they have the money to spend on starting pitching, which they desperately desire.

Prediction: Kuroda signs with the Yankees for 1 year $17 million

8) AJ Burnett

Burnett hopes his worse days are behind him
Burnett hopes his worse days are behind him

After three disastrous years with the Yankees, Burnett was traded to the Pirates and has experienced great success over the last two seasons. The 15 year veteran has been able to resurrect his career in Pittsburgh, which will enable him to score a good deal. Over the past two seasons, Burnett has been the ace of the staff, recorded averaged a 3.40 ERA, 195 innings, 200 strikeouts, and 1.22 WHIP. Even though he was unable to pitch in the media intense environment of New York, the small media market of Pittsburgh was great for Burnett’s mental health and confidence. Although the Pirates would love to re-sign Burnett this offseason, he has expressed interest in retiring. However, it seems unlikely that the Pirates will be unable to convince Burnett to return because of the money they can offer him. Also, the Bucs have a good chance at having another good season. The Pirates need Burnett because of the leadership and innings that he can provide for a young pitching staff. The Bucs will be putting young players into their rotation and the young players will have innings limits. Burnett seems very content with Pittsburgh, but a few dark horse teams that may attempt to sign Burnett are the Astros, Royals, or Brewers. However, Burnett will ultimately re-sign with the Bucs and lead their young, talented staff. If Burnett wants to sign a long term deal, he could probably get a 3 year 40 million dollar deal, but he probably wants to take it one or two seasons at a time until he retires.

Prediction: Burnett signs with Pirates for 2 years and $30 million

9) Carlos Beltran

The greatest postseason hitter of all time hopes to reach his second WS
The greatest postseason hitter of all time hopes to reach his second WS

The veteran free agent is likely to join his sixth team of his career. Over his career, Beltran has been one of the best players of his generation and has  chance of making the Hall of Fame. Although Beltran has never won a World Series championship, he is arguably the best postseason hitter of all time because he has hit for power and a high average. Although he is known for his postseason success, Beltran is still playing at an All-Star level in the outfielder. Over the past two seasons with the Cardinals, Beltran has averaged .285 average, 81 Runs, 28 Home Runs, 90 RBI, and .493 slugging percentage. Even though Beltran is 36, he still has the ability to play quality defense in right field. Although Beltran can still play the outfield, it would behoove him and his future team, if he goes to the American League and plays some DH. The DH could save Beltran’s legs and enable him to continue hitting for a few more seasons at a high level. Although it is unlikely, Beltran has been asking teams for a four year deal, which would allow him to play until he is forty years old. However, recent reporters have reported that teams are only willing to offer Beltran a two year deal. Currently, teams such as the Yankees, Red Sox, Royals, Rangers, Orioles, Pirates, and Cardinals, are bidding for his services. However, it is most likely that the Yankees will be signing Beltran this offseason. The Yankees have made Beltran their number one priority, since they are waiting on Cano and Tanaka. The Yankees need another outfielder/DH and Beltran would definitely fit the mold. Also, Beltran has the ability to hit in the postseason, which would make him an instant favorite among Yankee fans. Beltran has stated that he would like o play with the Yankees.

Prediction: Beltran signs with Yankees for 2 years and $33 million

10) Mike Napoli

Napoli wants to keep his beard in Bean town
Napoli wants to keep his beard in Bean town

The power hitting first baseman was a great addition for the Red Sox, last season. If the Red Sox did not find Napoli’s medical problems, he would have signed a 3 year $39 million deal, during the past offseason. Instead, Napoli signed a one year five million dollar deal, which was an absolute bargain for the Sox. Although Napoli has posted quality numbers, he has missed a lot of games during every season of his career. Napoli has played over 115 games only twice in his career, but has recorded over 20 home runs for the past six seasons. Although Napoli is a good power hitter, he does not hit for average. Besides for his 2011 season where he hit .320, Napoli has never hit over .273 in a season. Last season, Napoli posted his second best season of his career, which should enable him to net a multiyear deal this offseason. Napoli hit .259, 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 79 runs, and .360 on base percentage. Although Napoli does not play great defenses, he is a clutch player and racked up numerous big hits while leading the Red Sox to the World Series title. However, last season, Napoli had his best defensive campaign of his career at first base. This offseason, Napoli will be wanting a deal similar to the deal he received last season, before failing the physical. Besides the Red Sox, the Orioles, Royals, Rangers, Mariners, and Twins have expressed interest in Napoli because of the offense he can provide to a team. However, it is likely that Napoli will remain with the Red Sox because he fits their needs. Since the Red Sox will be losing Jacoby Ellsbury, they need to find and retain offense, in order to repeat next season. Napoli’s right handed bat is perfect for Fenway Park, so they should be able to repeat his numbers from last season. Others will try to pry Napoli, but he loved his season with the Red Sox and his beard will perfectly with the other players.

Prediction: Napoli signs with the Red Sox for 3 years and $45 million

Info from MLBtraderumor, mlbbaseballreference, and espn.

Allen Iverson: The Voice of a Generation

By: Prad

Initially, when Allen Iverson retired about three weeks ago, I didn’t think it was necessary to write about it since he hasn’t been on an NBA team in the last three seasons. His season in the Turkish professional league served as an indicator of the end of his playing days. Yet, his announcement is important. His retirement officially ends any chance of a return to the NBA. It gives his millions of fans some closure and some sort of acceptance to the fact that revolutionary players can’t stay revolutionary forever.

The Answer was as famous for his tattoos, cornrows, and bling as much as his on-court presence Courtesy of Zimbio
The Answer was as famous for his tattoos, cornrows, and bling as much as his on-court presence
Courtesy of Zimbio

Iverson became a polarizing figure the moment he began to receive any media coverage. His personality and physical characteristics evoke a certain sense of divide. His tattoos, cornrows, and sense of confidence make for a figure who is never rattled by criticism. He never felt deterred to be himself despite all the other scrutiny he came under for his off-court antics including David Stern implementing a dress code for all NBA players because of Iverson’s wardrobe.

The first indication of this enigmatic athlete came when Iverson was a 17 year old star in 1993 in Hampton, Virginia. He and a group of friends went to a bowling alley and created a “raucous.” A verbal argument escalated into far more when punches began being thrown. The altercation is believed to have been stemmed by the use of pejorative and racist remarks directed towards Iverson and his group. This event made national headlines for two reasons. First, it was a racial altercation and second, at the time Iverson was the best high school basketball player in the country. Though the real reason will never be known for the fight, Iverson was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his part in that fight on that February night. The fact that only Iverson and his group of black friends were arrested is noteworthy and was very controversial at the time of the court proceedings. Fortunately, Iverson only had to spend four months in jail before the governor of Virginia pardoned him.

Allen Iverson was one of the best college basketball players in the country in 1996 Courtesy of Bleacher Report
Allen Iverson was one of the best college basketball players in the country in 1996
Courtesy of Bleacher Report 

Despite his prison term, head coach John Thompson was willing to offer him a spot at Georgetown. During this time in college, NBA scouts discovered Iverson’s brilliance as a game changer. For Iverson, two years of college basketball was enough to prove to NBA teams that he could play amongst all the talent in the NBA. As a Hoya, he won the Big East Rookie of the Year, First Team All American, and set the team record for scoring average, a record that still stands. Everything he accomplished on the basketball court was done with a sense of swagger though. His fashion sense became trendy. His Georgetown Hoya uniform and Jordan sneakers became an iconic image of basketball throughout the 1990s.

Iverson became the first 6’0 player to be drafted #1 overall when he was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1996 from a talented pool filled with Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant, and Steve Nash. This draft class would later be responsible for a grand total of four MVP awards and numerous records. Critics of his called this pick a terrible one because of the lack of maturity on Iverson’s part. He was now a professional athlete, he needed to start acting like one. But, this idea of successfully transitioning into a more mature media character never came to fruition for Iverson. It didn’t matter though, because this “bad ass” attitude was thought of as cool and something which was responsible for Iverson’s popularity amongst all young players.

The Iverson Era was one of the most successful periods of basketball in Philadelphia's history Courtesy of ESPN
The Iverson Era was one of the most successful periods of basketball in Philadelphia’s history
Courtesy of ESPN

During the first 10 full seasons of his career, Iverson led the 76ers to six playoff appearances including the 2001 NBA Finals against the Shaquille O’Neal led Los Angeles Lakers. He broke out for 48 points in Game 1 of that series, which ended with Philadelphia victorious. The 76ers lost the next four games despite a collective 130 point effort in those games from Iverson. He went on to win the league’s MVP award at season’s end. During those 10 full years in Philly, Iverson led the league in minutes per game six times, points per game four times, and steals per game three times. Also of note, is the fact that during that 10 year span, Iverson averaged more than 30 points per game an astonishing five times including 33 PPG in the 2005-2006 season. Although his on-court play was sensation, it too drew much criticism. His skeptics cited the fact that Iverson was the most selfish player in the NBA. With Philly, his field goal percentage never elevated above 45% with the exception of one season. Clearly, that did not matter as his 76ers had one of the most successful periods of winning in the franchise’s history during this “Iverson Era.” All good teams need a player like Iverson who is willing to take charge and do whatever it takes to win even if it means that he has to hoist up 25 shot each night. He had enough offensive talent to score a basket on anybody who defended him including the famous Jordan double crossover mid range jumper. His offensive prowess is unparalleled to any other barely six footer the league has ever witnessed.

I kept on mentioning the term “full” in the previous paragraph since in his 11th season, Iverson was traded to the Denver Nuggets. After his first and only full season in Denver, the 2007-2008 campaign, Iverson’s number began to gradually decline. He was traded to the Detroit Pistons and then signed with the Memphis Grizzlies during the next offseason. Then, he was traded back to the 76ers during the 2009-2010 season. He began and ended his career in the city of “brotherly love.” His “bad ass” attitude could partially be attributed to the city of Philadelphia as well. During the 1980s and 1990s, Philadelphia became a major pop culture hub in the United States. Prior to Iverson even joining the 76ers, he was seen as an basketball off-court icon to kids around the country. Adding Philly to the mix, made it an even more extreme combo.

Iverson was fearless and willing to drive on anybody including Shaq, who was noted for his dominant interior presence Courtesy of Sports Illustarted
Iverson was fearless and willing to drive on anybody including Shaq, who was noted for his dominant interior presence
Courtesy of Sports Illustrated

In a league that has had many of these polarizing figures throughout its history, Iverson stands out. Iverson’s on-court presence was so unique. Rarely, do we find such an athletic player who is willing to drive as hard as possible against men who tower almost a foot taller. He was willing to sacrifice everything for basketball as long as he achieved glory and the W’s in the result column. Perhaps, sometimes he might have put too much on the line. Off the court, Iverson had some memorable moments including the infamous practice rant and his aforementioned wardrobe, which included baggy shorts, chains, and sideways caps. Because of him, players  had to begin conducting themselves in a more appropriate manner with their attire during press conferences, arriving and leaving an arena, and while on the bench. That is certainly not the only way he transformed the league. He leaves an indelible mark on the NBA. He transcended the Point Guard position. With him came an evolution towards a more score-first Point Guard position which we see so widespread today in Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, and Kyrie Irving to name a few.

The original A.I. played a critical role in the transformation of the NBA from the beginning of his career. People will remember him for his scoring as much as his heart. He may be the shortest player ever to win the scoring title, a feat he accomplished four times, but was able to do so because he had the greatest desire to push forward. He may have logged the fourth most minutes on average per game in NBA history, but he’ll also be remembered for his pitchman prowess as an endorser for Reebok. His stellar perimeter defense will be remembered as much as his trend setting ways with the shooting sleeve, which is now worn by almost all superstars in the NBA. His electrifying nature cannot simply stop the moment he retired. Rather, the legend of Allen Iverson will live on as long as the Point Guard position is still in existence.