The Rival Sports Podcast Episode 22: The Bakery is Open!

The Rival Sports Podcast is back for Episode 22 and we’re talking more NFL football. The good teams are losing, the bad teams are winning, and nothing seems to make sense anymore in this wildly unpredictable league.

In Episode 22 Adam and Al are in shambles after their teams, the Vikings and Packers, can’t seem to figure it out, ceding the early divisional lead to the Chicago Bears. New England and Jacksonville follow the NFC North’s suit and let a long-shot team take the divisional lead after two shocking losses, and Greg gives a rundown of the Week 4 edition of #3InOut – who to bring IN and who to kick OUT of your Fantasy Football lineup.

Listen to “Episode 22: The Bakery is open” #Bakeryisopen on Spreaker here!
Want to hear more? Subscribe on iTunes, listen on Google Play, and be sure to check our archives.
This episode includes:

  • Baker Mayfield impressions and expectations moving forward as the starter and savior in Cleveland
  • Green Bay and Minnesota forgetting that they’re good teams
  • Pats losing to the Lions, inviting more questions about the team’s quality, while the Jags go toothless in field goal loss to the Titans
  • Saquan Barkley is good
  • Fitzmagic keeps his job
  • and finally, the AFC North is an unpredictable mess… and we love it!

The Rival Sports Podcast will be posting new NFL episodes on a weekly basis. Please subscribe on iTunes and Google Play to keep up to date on all of our podcasts!

Be sure to follow us on Twitter:
@therivalsports
@HollandGregJ
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@Alex_the_rival

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#3InOut – Week 4 Edition

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3 IN

+ CLE WRs Rashard Higgins/Antonio Callaway
Now I won’t normally be naming 2 players from the same team, (and assuming never, ever again from the Browns), but what Baker Mayfield showed us last week fired me up enough to try something crazy. Not only is Mayfield a better option to open things up here for Browns WR’s, being thrust into a situation like that and equipped with an opportunity like he had, it makes it all the more impressive and comforts me to the point I think getting EITHER ONE of these guys is a good idea. They’ve shown the ability to stretch the field and make the catches (when the throw is on target), and being as Cleveland has a semblance of a running game with Carlos Hyde, this offense has a chance to move now that they’ve got the ‘L’ monkey off their back. If anything, I might even say I’m excited to watch the Browns now.

+ ARI WR Christian Kirk
Coming off a pre-season in which he showed the coaching staff what he was capable of, (8 catches, 59 yards, 1 TD), the speedy slot receiver has since fallen victim to Sam Bradford’s inability to throw a football. Part of the hesitance around picking Kirk up earlier was the question on his usage, as Larry Fitz usually occupies the slot. It now appears it’s solely the QB situation, and now that Josh Rosen has been named the starter, it’s safe to roster up Christian Kirk. I’m not promising booming results right away, but it won’t take long.

+ CIN WR Tyler Boyd
In the ADD I feel may get the most push-back I say – YES to Tyler Boyd. The entire fantasy world remained unconvinced after his Week 2 performance of 6 rec on 9 targets for 91 yards & 1 TD, but he came back and surprised absolutely everyone with 6 rec on 7 for 132 yards and another TD. As receivers generally go hand in hand with their QB’s performance, it’s important to note that Dalton did throw 4 INT’s Week 3, but he still went for 352 & 2 TD’s. Dalton looks like he’s taken a step forward this season. Another thing to watch out for that could help increase Boyd’s target share is if AJ Green were to miss any time with the injury he left the last game with. Either way – he’s a pickup this week and available in 83% of Yahoo leagues.

3OUT

Every 49er.
The arrival of Marquise Goodwin on the Week 3 scene (3 rec, 30 yards, TD), is not tantalizing enough to overcome the loss of Jimmy G, it’s as simple as that. The only offensive players worth rostering at this point are RB Matt Breida and maybe even TE George Kittle. C.J. Beathard under center is not ideal to replace Jimmy in a generally underwhelming offence. Just stay away from them, and if you can find someone who doesn’t read our stuff, (good luck), try and sell high-ish on Goodwin.

NYJ WR Robby Anderson
3rd time unlucky for Anderson. A guy who last year flashed pretty consistent brilliance, (with Fitzpatrick coincidentally), has come smashing back to earth with only 6 catches in the first 3 weeks, putting up 90 yards and a TD. The one TD looks okay, but knowing it came on his only catch of Week 1, its put into perspective. Anderson may be worth keeping an eye on as Darnold gets more comfortable throwing to someone outside of Enunwa, but right now there’s just too many better options available.

SEA RB Rashaad Penny
Well, I hate to say I told you so, but the Chris Carson show has officially begun in Seattle. With a paltry 43 yards on 20 attempts, it’s safe to say Penny hasn’t had the start he wanted. While it may not be a real reflection on his abilities personally, the inability to overcome Seattle’s offensive line deficiency as well as Carson has done has made expendable. Like Anderson, this situation is worth monitoring in dynasty leagues, but there are many more productive streamers available.

Mahomes: He is Real

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Since waking up on the Monday after Week 1, I have been crying inside. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has made me cry tears of sadness.

Now you may be asking yourself why would this be? Why would I be crying in the midst of a record breaking performance? Because this guy was my guy. He was stashed on my bench last year in the hopes Alex Smith would be gone for 2018 and he’d get the starting job. As it turned out, I needed a roster spot for a running back and had to drop him.

To paraphrase Eminem, “last year he was a nobody, this year he’s breaking records…”

He is the story of his NFL season through 2 weeks.
2 GS – 582 YDS – 10 TD’s – 0 INT – 143.3 RTG

This start has placed him in the history books, passing Peyton Manning and Drew Brees for most TD passes through the first 2 games of a season. Not only has he bested two legends of the game, he did in his FIRST TWO games as an undisputed starter.

The 6’3” 230 lb quarterback out of Texas Tech is enjoying success in his 2nd season alongside the NFL’s most explosive offense that includes fellow sophomore RB Kareem Hunt (who led the NFL in rushing last season as a rookie), Pro Bowler TE Travis Kelce, and elite playmaker WR Tyreek “the freak” Hill.
Combine the skill in this lineup with the mind and play-calling of head coach Andy Reid, and that is just scary good. This team will score a lot, and can do so in any possible way.

Mahomes is not only in possession of a canon for an arm, he’s been known to do some work with his legs as well.

In 2015, as a sophomore, he rushed 131 times for 456 yards and 10 (TEN!) touchdowns. The following year on another 131 attempts, he only went for 285 yards but eclipsed the previous year’s mark with 12 (YES, TWELVE!) rushing touchdowns. These aren’t eye-popping numbers by any means as far as yards-per-carry goes, but those TD’s show us he can in fact get the job done two ways.

I for one am going to have to settle for owning Mahomes in only 2 of 3 fantasy leagues, but I will be watching him play and loving it from here on out.

What the Pacioretty trade means for both teams

Written by: Liam Holland @LiamPattyHol

Since it was stated there would be no contract negotiations between the Canadiens and their Captain Max Pacioretty, there has been speculation about whether Pacioretty would make it to free agency next summer, be a rental for a playoff team or be traded before the season starts.

Well, the latter happened.

On Monday September 10th, 2018 the Montreal Canadiens traded Captain Max Pacioretty to the Vegas Golden Knights for Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki and a 2019 2nd round pick.

For the Golden Knights it appears that they have found an upgrade for James Neal as he’d left for Calgary in FA. That upgrade is Max Pacioretty, who will undoubtedly make the Knights offence even more potent as he’ll likely play with notable playmaker Paul Stastny.

With a new place to play and less media attention than in Montreal I think Knights fans have much to look forward to this season from Pacioretty. As Captain of a storied franchise, though, if he’s called to be a leader he’s more than capable to fill that role.

Coming off a difficult season with the Canadiens, Pacioretty will no doubt want to bounce back after scoring only 17 goals in 64 games – which is much less than the elite goal scorer is used to over the course of his career. Given that the Knights gave up a prospect its no surprise they signed Pacioretty to a very nice $28 million deal over 4 years. Now with a new system under head coach Gerard Gallant we’ll see what the former Habs captain can achieve as a Golden Knight.

The Canadiens acquisitions are interesting as they were able to attain a hopeful center prospect in Nick Suzuki who scored 100 points for the Owen Sound Attack this past season. Acquiring Suzuki puts the Canadiens prospect pool in good standing with 3rd overall pick Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and 2017 25th overall pick Ryan Poehling. All three of them centers, giving the Canadiens fans a surge of hope for the center core in the future. Suzuki is no doubt what make or breaks this trade for the Canadiens as he looks to be a promising center who can skate well with the puck and be the scoring center the Habs haven’t had in years.

Acquiring Tomas Tatar is a good pickup with the departure of Pacioretty so Habs fans can look forward to Tatar as a possible second line left wing this season maybe third line. Tater is under contract for the next three seasons. I’m sure most Habs fans would expect 20 goal seasons from Tatar. The 2nd round pick we’ll see what comes of it.

The Golden Knights fans have much to look forward to this year with Pacioretty’s addition bringing his great shot and leadership, the knights will continue to be contenders this year. As the Canadiens have started to realize their place in the league looking to rebuild starting with their biggest weakness being at center.

Russell Martin Should Be The Jays Player-Manager in 2019

The Toronto Blue Jays are a team in flux. 2018 has served as a brutal reminder of what the rich teams can accomplish especially within the Blue Jays own division. 2019 and the prospects that populate the farm system do suggest a bright future, but should the Jays enact a near-ancient phenomenon to usher in this new generation?

Okay, “near-ancient” is a bit of a stretch, but not since Pete Rose from 1984-1986 has there been a player-manager in the MLB and I think the Blue Jays should revive the position here in Toronto. It would be a risky move with a team poised to be full of young, developing prospects but a club veteran player could be the move at manager.

My nomination is Russell Martin. Martin is a student of the game and 13-year veteran of the MLB. His accolades aren’t too shabby either: four-time All-Star, Gold Glover, Silver Slugger, 9th in Rookie of the Year voting, and MVP consideration in three seasons.

Besides his awards, Matin has substantial in-game experience across the MLB. He plays now as a catcher for Toronto in the American League but has spent time in the National League with the Dodgers and Pirates, too. He also has experience playing as an infielder as Toronto fans are well aware of. In 96 games played this season 71 are at catcher, 21 at 3B, 3 at SS, and 1 in LF.

The reason why Martin would be a choice for player-manager relies on his experience as a catcher first and foremost. Yes, him spending time across the diamond is important to understand the game from the perspective of other positions, but as a catcher you have the responsibility of organizing the team and your teams game from behind the plate.

This is why you see former catchers transition into manager roles post-playing careers because they are comfortable reading a game and setting up a dynamic game plan during play. Mike Scioscia, Ned Yost, Joe Girardi, and yes even John Gibbons are examples of former catchers who have made the transition to catcher.

Russell Martin is also a prime choice for player-manager due to the depth of catchers the Blue Jays currently have at their disposal. Danny Jansen is all but a lock to step into a major league role next season after having a solid start to his MLB career this season. Likewise, Reese McGuire who was called up with the expanded roster is poised to stake a claim at a job too after an impressive season in the minors.

This leaves Russell Martin and Luke Maile as the veteran catchers left to fight for two positions on the roster. With Martin’s $20 million contract for 2019 still on the books, it is likely he’ll stay with the team making Maile moveable in the offseason. Logically you don’t want 3-4 catchers on your roster with a young and unpredictable pitching rotation so moving one out makes sense.

Martin knows the MLB, he knows how to call a game, and maybe most importantly he knows how to work with young pitchers. Martin has handled countless pitchers over his tenure as an MLB catcher and would not only positively affect the likes of Borucki’s and Reid-Foley’s development, he would demand more out of the catching prospects below him to maximize all of his pitchers’ skills.

Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro are not likable characters in Toronto and hardly stray from their plans when it comes to drafting and developing talent. They probably have a manager in mind to bring in and act as a stop-gap between now and whenever the Jays are a contending team again, so Martin as a player-manager may not be a situation we see in the near future.

Despite these facts, it’s an interesting idea to play around with. Martin has to be the best candidate on the team for the job, plus he could chip in at catcher or really anywhere across the diamond should he need too. It would be nice to for once see a manager actually use those crisp uniforms they don in the dugout night after night, right?

It’s unlikely, but if the Blue Jays ever had an opportunity to reopen a long forgotten MLB practice 2019 and Russell Martin is the perfect combination for the first player-manager in 32 years.

Aaron Rodgers Is Worth The Money, And Then Some.

Aaron Rodgers is entering the 2018 season as the highest paid player in the NFL, and deservedly so. The contract he signed is a 4 year $134 million deal with the potential to reach $180 million if he hits incentive bonuses. In a salary cap world, there will always be a debate on whether a player is worth his cap space. Being over paid can hinder a team from competing, so obviously the highest cap in the league is worth analyzing.

There are a couple different reasons why Aaron Rodgers is absolutely worth this deal, and could actually be a steal for Green Bay.

First and most importantly, Rodgers simply deserves to be the highest paid player based on factual statistics. Not only is he statistically the best QB in the game right now, he’s the best statistically of all time. He boasts the highest QB rating ever for a starting QB, and the lowest interception percentage. That is insane. We can debate all day about whether that puts him in the conversation of best ever, but those facts cannot be disputed. Statistics aside, anyone who has been following the NFL for the last decade can tell you Rodgers is an extremely special player. He’s carried Green Bay through some rough years, and brought them to playoffs for all but his second year as a starter. He’s not only known for his pin point accuracy, but also his mobility, his decision making, and his clutchness tossing ridiculous Hail Marys to win games. In other words, he’s elite at everything.

Secondly, it is important to remember that the salary cap is always rising, and the cost to retain franchise QB’s will continue to rise with it. Aaron himself is a perfect example of this. When he signed his last contract, he was the highest paid player in the league, but it wasn’t long before this was overtaken in the coming years by contracts given to EIGHT other quarterbacks, including Joe Flacco, Alex Smith, Derek Carr, Matthew Stafford and Jimmy Garoppolo. Look at this list. Even barely above average QB’s are costing an arm and a leg to keep. So with that said, it won’t be long before Rodgers contract will look like a complete steal (which is only $3 million more per year than Kirk Cousins for comparison).

And finally, this is the time for Green Bay to go for it all. Rodgers isn’t exactly young anymore. Randall Cobb and Jimmy Graham probably only have a few more years of consistent productivity. And while the defense does have some promising young talent, particularly at the DB position, the team lives and dies by Aaron’s arm. I can’t say how long he will decide to play football for, but you can be sure that his replacement is extremely unlikely to replicate his impact on the team. Give him as much money as he wants now and go for gold.

The only possible downside here is the idea of Rodgers being injury prone and potentially wasting a ton of money. It’s not a concern without warranted discussion, however all I can say is that all football players get hurt. If you haven’t missed parts of a season this far into your career, you are extremely lucky. At the end of the day, Rodgers has played 15 or more games in 8 out of 10 seasons as a starter. The entire idea of him being injury prone is completely blown out of proportion.

Three Things to get Excited About for the 2018/19 Maple Leafs

Its just over a month away, but the Toronto Maple Leafs are already getting their fans excited for the upcoming season. First round playoff exits over the past two seasons have been disappointing, however, the sustained success is promising and should be built on over this season and for the foreseeable future.

Here are the FIRST three things Leaf fans can get excited about for the upcoming season:

Pinch yourself, John Tavares is a Maple Leaf:

Maybe the most discusses topic of the offseason thus far, and maybe one of the biggest free agent signings in NHL history, John Tavares being a Maple Leaf is something to get excited about. His playmaking and impressive stats speak for themselves:

2017/18:
GP: 82
Goals: 37
Assists: 47
TOI: 19:56 minutes
Shots: 257
Faceoff Percentage: 52.9%
Selke and Lady Byng votes.

Will all these stats aside what may be most intriguing about John Tavares is what he’ll do to the makeup of the Maple Leafs roster. Will Marner play on his wing? Will his 23 even strength goals make Toronto that much more of a 5on5 threat in the league? Will he make Nazem Kadri a more effective player by pushing him down the lineup? How many more powerplay points will he have over his 51 from last season?

It should be a symbiotic relationship for John Tavares and the Toronto Maple Leafs, adding a franchise talent to an already contending playoff team, while providing an upgrade in personnel for that player to succeed.

The Leafs are going to scare the opposition:

Having center depth is a hallmark of any Cup contending team, having a franchise level player is necessary for a team to build around, having a mobile d-core is something the elite teams have, having young, creative wingers is a must in today’s NHL. Check all four boxes for the Maple Leafs as they stack up against anybody in the NHL on paper to be a Stanley Cup contender.

Line matching is something Mike Babcock likes to make the most of when coaching at home and losing this ability in the playoffs when visiting Boston saw the Leaf’s struggle when the Bergeron-Pasternak- Marchand line came over the boards against Matthews or Bozak. The addition of John Tavares offers another dominant center to the group who can play hardnose, gritty minutes in the corners offering another layer of insulation to Auston Matthews.

The center depth should also help in tempering new NHLers into the league on the fourth line. Tavares averaged 19:56 TOI, Auston Matthews averaged 18:08 minutes, and Kadri averaged 16:46, leaving just over five minutes of ice time left for a fourth line centerman to have. This will probably swell with powerplay time, but it isn’t going to be a lot of ice time for someone to make their own which is why players like Josh Jooris and Par Lindholm will need to earn their well-insulated spot this season.

The Leafs also boast Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner, and John Tavares as franchise level players to build around. Some teams are lucky enough to have one of this caliber of player to build around, and playoff teams usually have two or maybe even three – the Leafs have four, which again is intimidating to stack up against.

While not necessarily elite, the Leaf’s d-core is mobile, young(ish), and doesn’t have a lot of holes in it structurally. Morgan Reilly leads the pack and is as close to being an elite number one defenseman as you can get without being one of the big names in the league (Doughty, Karlsson, Burns, etc.). He is a leader on the ice and is integral to the team’s success this season.

Gardiner is polarizing but with the Leafs betting on a strong contract year for their offensive defenseman we might as well support him, right? He seems to provide more than he gives away, can chip in a good deal on the power play, and can skate the puck out of his own zone with relative ease. Ideally, he slots in on the second pairing, reducing his minutes and letting him be that powerplay specialist.

The rest of the d-core is fairly regular. Hainsey is the stay at home, defensive defenseman who will have less 5on5 minutes to let him kill entire penalties. Zaitsev is looking to bounce back after a poor second half to last season following injury and illness. Travis Dermott will aim to be Reilly’s top defensive pairing partner and should succeed in that chase. Ozhiganov is looking to step into the NHL with his booming shot and physical 6’2, 210lb frame. And Connor Carrick is set to challenge for that final defensive spot with anyone who has early game hiccups.

Wingers are another area of strength for Toronto who has eight starting wingers who all offer different play styles. The most important are the top six wingers who will impact the scoresheet regularly. Marner has worldclass vision and playmaking. He’s coming into his own as a legit NHL stud and is also getting more comfortable shooting the puck, too.

Nylander is the classic European sniper. He is quick down the boards, drives you nuts with his two-way games, and electrifies you with a snipe that somehow finds a hole the exact size of a puck. He is an elite shooter and being pinned beside Matthews for the start of his career has proved to be mutually beneficial.

Marleau has that veteran experience that sees him in the right place at the right time more often than not. He is a leader on the team on and off the ice, adding stability to a youthful franchise. Hyman is like a dog on a bone – willing to do whatever it takes to get the puck and make a play. His centers love him and so does his coach.

The final two spots will be duked out between Andreas Johnsson, Connor Brown, and Kasperi Kapanen. All three have shown their skill and ability throughout the last two season, and it is a toss up on who will slot in as the wingers on Kadri’s line. This is the epitome of a good problem to have for the Leafs.

The Leafs are years ahead of their rivals:

Remember how intense the Battle of Ontario, the Battle of the QEW, or the Original Six matchup used to be for Toronto and their respective rivals? Well, those years are gone as Toronto has eclipsed Ottawa, Buffalo, and Montreal in team development.

Ottawa is currently in the process of losing one of the best players their team has ever had and one of the elite defenseman in the league, Erik Karlsson. Karlsson’s imminent departure has seen the team stuck in limbo – trading Mike Hoffman for PR reason, promoting youth for starting positions, lowballing their offensive leader Mark Stone in arbitration, and basically being stuck between rebuilding and existing.

Likewise in Montreal, the Habs are a team with no identity. They’ve done well self-destructing over the past few seasons, opening the door for the Maple Leafs to lap them. Trading the young, energetic, and talented Subban for an odorously large contract in Shea Weber should have been enough to get Bergevin fired, but they’ve stuck with him and now will be losing their captain Pacioretty sometime this season as he’s been thrown under the bus by the overhyped GM.

Buffalo continues to have little brother syndrome with the Maple Leafs – always wanting what their older sibling has. You want Babcock? Well, he’s coming here, so enjoy Bylsma a now unproven Phil Housley. You want front office stability? Well too bad, you’re stuck with Tim Murray and his transitions lenses and now Jason Botterill. You want the best young American star? Well enjoy Jack Eichel and wherever he lands on that list because Matthews is taken.

The Sabre’s are closest to challenge the Maple Leafs and have done well this offseason. Additions of Sheary, Sobotka, Berglund, Hutton, Sislo, Skinner, and of course Dahlin have made them a better team. However, adding a forward on a do-nothing team like Skinner, players from perennial underperformer St. Louis, a career backup goalie, and a rookie defenseman doesn’t add up to an immediate elite level contender.

So there it is the FIRST of many things to be excited about as a Maple Leaf fan headed into the 2018/19 season. Safe to say it’ll be one hell of a ride for fans across Leafs Nation.