As you may have noticed, both the NBA and NFL have had their share of controversies. The NBA has dealt with two racist owners, former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson, and the NFL is continuing to deal with a storm of incompetence and player misdeeds. However, the NHL has kept its nose clean. Basically, what I'm saying is that, if you want a guilt-free sports entertainment experience, watch and follow the NHL. But, of course there are more reasons why you should divert your attention from the controversial NBA and NFL and instead pay attention to the NHL.
First of all, the sport is absolutely insane. Thanks to 45 second shifts for players, an average speed of 23 mph for skaters (compared to 16 mph for an average NFL running back), and a hard, rubber puck flying around, there is plenty of pandemonium to be in awe of. All game long, mobs of players crash the nets attempting to get the puck out of trouble or into the net. All game long, skaters are looking to grab the puck on a breakaway after a failed line change. And, all game long, fans are kept at the edge of their seats. For the fan who is bored by constant commercials in the NFL and never-ending timeouts and fouls at the end of NBA games, the NHL is definitely the sport for you. There is beauty in the chaos.
Another reason to like hockey? Canadians are nice. That sounds weird, but hockey is Canada’s gift to the world and its players are incredibly likable. Take for example, superstar player Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins. After being named the EA Sports NHL 15 cover athlete, he still went home to Quebec in the summer to raise $100,000 for children in his native city. So, while he could have basked in the glow of his achievements, he instead chose to give back to the community. This example of Patrice Bergeron is not an isolated case, but one that exemplifies the effort hockey players give off the ice.
The biggest reason to like hockey has to be the playoffs and the chase for the best trophy in sports, the Stanley Cup. As soon as the regular season ends, players on playoff teams start growing their beards and getting ready for the most intense playoff experience in sports. Players play differently in the playoffs, as they are more aggressive offensively, defend more tightly, and hit more often. The NHL playoffs are most definitely an intense experience. And this doesn’t even take into account the anxiety and emotion fans feel as their team bears down in the final minutes of an elimination game that has gone into overtime. Oh, and don’t forget about that Stanley Cup. It’s huge, weighs about 35 pounds, and players cannot wait to put it above their head in triumph after a hard-fought playoff run. Ordinary players are made heroes when their names are engraved into the trophy after winning it all. The Cup is everything.
If any of this sounds good (and it should), you’re in luck. You can start the NHL season fresh as it returns in a few weeks on Oct. 8.
This time next year, I will have been married for 4 months. Yeah I’m that kid: the one who gets married halfway through college. She’s a beautiful nursing student who, thankfully, will be graduating in December of 2015. But until then, as Alan Jackson puts it, we’ll be “living on love”…and very little else. Being newlyweds will be exciting as we learn more about each other everyday and experience a brand new life together. We’ll be two college students joined in wedded bliss.
Now you’re not reading this to know about my personal life, you’re waiting to get to the fantasy analysis. Well, I challenge you to look back at the wonderful football marriages that took place this offseason and the beautiful impact they’re now having on your fantasy lineup. Remember when Gary Kubiak and Steve Smith were brought together as one? Yeah we’re not talking about marriage in the traditional sense, we’re talking about the ever-important marriage of new offensive coordinators and their new toys. Let’s take a quick look at just how big of an impact three new offensive coordinators are having on your roster.
· Gary Kubiak and WR Steve Smith
o When Kubiak was let go by the Texans this past offseason, teams around the league quickly inquired about the former offensive coordinator. He was always more of an offensive mind in Houston, leaving the defense up to his staff. Now in Baltimore, there may be no one happier than former Panther wide receiver Steve Smith. Upon leaving Carolina, Smith quickly became the ‘X factor’ receiver in Kubiak’s offense. For years, none other than Texan star receiver Andre Johnson held this prominent role. During his time in Houston, Kubiak made Johnson the first, second, and third option in the passing game. Secondary receivers weren’t important because they weren’t utilized. Kubiak had one receiver he cared about and that was going to be his guy through thick and thin. All this to say, we should have seen this breakout coming from Smith. Through three weeks, the former Panther has been targeted a staggering 32 times and has reeled in 18 of them. The next most targeted receiver is Torrey Smith, targeted only 18 times (or almost less than half of Smith). If an owner in your league is letting Smith ride the pine, see what kind of deal you can put together to grab him while he’s still available. As long as he holds down the ‘X’ spot, Smith is a viable WR2 in most formats.
· Hue Jackson and RB Giovani Bernard
o Hue Jackson is in a much different situation then Kubiak. Rather than moving teams, Jackson was promoted from Bengals running backs coach to offensive coordinator upon Jay Gruden’s exit to Washington. Having coached the team’s running backs, Jackson was smart enough to know what he had in the dynamic Gio Bernard. In 2013, Gruden was still focused on splitting the carries between Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. But today, Green-Ellis finds himself a free agent looking for a job while Bernard shines in Cincy. This fantasy marriage has done wonders for the young back. Last season, Bernard had more than 13 carries in just two games. This year, he’s already surpassed that number, averaging more than 18 carries a game. This doesn’t even include his role in the passing game, having already accumulated 19 targets through 3 weeks. Gio is the real deal and his owners are grateful for this marriage of coordinator and star running back.
· Ben McAdoo and RB Rashad Jennings
o In the last of our three marriages, we look at the beautiful chemistry between former Packers assistant McAdoo and Giants running back Rashad Jennings. McAdoo was brought into New York to spark life in an offense that ended in the bottom-five in offense last season. Having run the West Coast offense while in Green Bay, the coordinator quickly transformed the Giants into this system. West Coast offenses are known for short passes near the line of scrimmage and a hurry-up mentality. The Giants brass hired McAdoo hoping he could raise Eli Manning’s career 58.5% completion rate (hasn’t topped 60% in a season since 2011). What they didn’t expect was the massive role Jennings would play in the new scheme. Through week 3, Jennings has carried the rock 68 times for nearly 300 yards. In the current age of football, it’s hard to find many bell cow running backs. You need not look any further to find one. Having ceded just 19 carries to backup Andre Williams, this backfield is all Jennings. Expect more of the same in the coming weeks as McAdoo and Jennings take their marriage and turn it into wedded bliss (in the form of many, many fantasy points).
Week 4 Rankings:
Here are my week 4 rankings broken down by position. I’ve also included my top 50 flex for those who can’t decide if they need to start a RB, WR, or TE in that flex spot. On to the rankings….