Jump On Board The Fantasy Football Train

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Although an avid sports fan, for years I shied away from playing fantasy football, because I simply didn’t understand it. Not only did I not understand it, but I truly had no idea what it was. That is until about seven years ago, when I decided to just jump in with both feet and joined a random public league on ESPN. Fantasy football is an interactive competition in which participants (owners) select imaginary teams from among the real players of the NFL and score points according to the actual performance of their players. After the draft, and it’s just as exciting as the real one, actions you can take to manage your team, are adding or dropping a player, trading, and adjusting your roster every week to give you the best chance to win your matchup, or game, of that week. 

In 1997, CBS launched the beta version of the first publicly available free fantasy football website. But there is a great history behind the beginnings of fantasy football, and it all started in Oakland in 1962, offline of course. There are many different sites that offer free fantasy football: Yahoo, ESPN, NFL, CBS, FOX. You can compete in a league just for fun, or one for money. But the goal of this article is just to get more people involved. I am a commissioner in one of the three leagues that I am in this year. I refuse to do more than three. I have found that that just works best for me. I try to recruit newbies and offer my assistance, if needed, so they don’t have to be like I was that first year. I signed up, and I know this is going to sound silly, but I didn’t even know I had a choice in the draft. So my entire team was auto-picked. Then I didn’t know I could adjust my rosters. But even still, I believe that I ended up in the middle of the pack, imagine that. The next year, I vowed to get more knowledgeable about it. I had more fun. I can’t remember if I faired any better, but it was entertainment. And that’s what it’s supposed to be.

Although my league’s draft has already occurred, if you believe that you would be interested in joining it next year, hit me up on Twitter @7millicent. And meanwhile, if you’ve never played before, do like I did and just join a random league on one of the sites I listed above. However, don’t do like I did, actually attempt to manage your team. I hope that this information has been useful, and has taken some of the shadow away from what fantasy football is.

The Big O on Where Carmelo Should Go

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During an interview on Spike Lee’s SirusXM show recently, legendary basketball Hall of Famer, Oscar Robertson said that if he was Carmelo Anthony, he would leave New York today, and head to Houston. (To read why he said that Melo should leave New York, there is a link at the end of this story.) He says that Lebron and KD can’t outshoot Carmelo, and that’s why if he went to Houston, they would win everything. But there’s a big hole in that reasoning. James Harden can outshoot him, and that’s not a good thing. Russell Westbrook putting up just as many shots as Kevin Durant isn’t working out well in Thunderland. And what is Dwight Howard supposed to be doing while Carmelo has the ball in the post or on the wing? Hmmm, you might want to redo the math on that one Oscar. Anyway, no disrespect intended. You are still the only player to have ever averaged a triple-double for an entire NBA season. But I’m going to have to disagree with you on this one.

Now the team that I think he should go to, is the Bulls. And let me just state for the record, that my team is the Bulls. But my opinion is in no way slanted because that’s my team. I will prove just why I feel that Chicago is the best place for Carmelo Anthony if he wants to win a ring, or as the Big O says, “win everything”. Right now, the Bulls are just a scorer away from legitimately competing for a title. And that’s without Derrick Rose. What better scorer to get in this year’s free-agent market, than Carmelo Anthony. But if Derrick Rose can come back and be even half the player he was, they would win a title. There is no doubt in my mind about that!

Oscar Robertson said that Carmelo should go to Houston. But let me just give you this scenario. What is Howard doing while Carmelo has the ball on the elbow, or even in the post? Probably getting in rebounding position. Well I’ll tell you what Joakim Noah is doing. He’ll be at the top of the key, waiting for a pass, to make a pass or if it’s open, drive to the basket. Joe has proven this season, that he is great at both of those. And what is James Harden doing? Begging for the ball to be passed back out to him, that’s if he passed it to Melo in the first place. I don’t know, maybe it would work in Houston. But there couldn’t be any selfish play, which I’ve seen a lot of from Harden. Wherever he goes, I do hope that Carmelo wins a title. I believe that Carmelo is a good player, who has gotten a bad rep from some people. He lead Syracuse to a title. So he already has something that Lebron or KD never will. (source: http://yhoo.it/1f9bFrm)

Written by Pennie Beasley

(Follow me on Twitter @7millicent; and ‘Like’ my Fan Page http://on.fb.me/1dom3aK )

Wrigley Shield

Wrigley Shield

They’re over at Wrigley Field celebrating its 100th anniversary today. That’s all well and good, but folks like Ernie Banks is slowing up progress. Saying that it’s gonna be around for another hundred years. Well I just hope that the Cubs aren’t playing in it for another 100 years! You want a team to win? You give it new facilities, with new locker rooms, and everything else ballplayers need to make them feel comfortable. I’m for destroying & rebuilding. Can you imagine what they’d get for the bricks and seats alone? Enough to help finance the building of the new Wrigley Field right there on Clark & Addison. But I’m afraid, that may never happen, and ole Ernie Banks is probably right. Well then, it’s time to move to Palatine! Turn it into a museum or something.

BEARS SIGN JAY CUTLER TO 7-YR DEAL

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The Bears have re-signed Quarterback Jay Cutler, who become a free-agent after the last game of this season, to a 7-year deal that will keep him in Chicago through the 2020 season. Yeah, seems like a long time. The first three years are guaranteed and rumored to be worth $54 million, or $18 million/per. I thought that with Josh McCown’s great play, the Bears would use that to their advantage in negotiations with Jay. Obviously that didn’t happen. So many clubs are so anxious to say that they have found their “Franchise Quarterback”, that they back the Brinks truck up. In my opinion, they could have gotten him for way less, like $15mil/per. If you haven’t won a Superbowl, your team shouldn’t be paying you as if you have. Paying someone a lot of money isn’t incentive to be great. You’re either great or your not. Money doesn’t improve play, it increases pressure and expectations. I hope you can handle that Jay, it’s what comes with the deal. Just ask Tony Romo. I just hope that this deal doesn’t hinder the Bears ability to go after a couple of impact defensive free-agents. And please, change your number from 6 to 7. It would be befitting now.

(Here is a list of the top paid quarterbacks in the league. Compare for yourself, how does Jay stack up? <http://bit.ly/19Detdy&gt; )

WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE BEARS AND JAY CUTLER

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The Bears should re-sign Jay Cutler. That’s right I said it! Sure you’ve heard me have my doubts about him in the past (read my article “What To Do With Jay Cutler”). But I think that he proved on Sunday, in the NFC North Championship game against the Packers, that he, at age 30, has the right stuff to be our quarterback for the next four to five years, if not beyond. Sure we lost the game, but our offense put up 28 points. And in the days of old, if a Bears team could score 28 points, it was almost assuredly a win. The problem with this Bears team, is the defense. And no play could be more indicative of just how poorly this defense has played all year, than the one where Julius Peppers caused Aaron Rodgers to fumble, and no Bears player went for the ball. They ALL just thought or assumed it was a forward pass. I know longer think it’s crazy looking, when players pick up the ball, even when it’s sorta obvious, and run it back until they hear the refs whistle over and over again.

The Bears lost by 5 points, so that play right there was the difference. James Anderson and a few other Bears players had a chance to pick that ball up. Or at least stop the Packers Jarrett Boykin from doing so. I fumed on Facebook and Twitter immediately, that Mel Tucker needs to be fired, because obviously that is something that isn’t being taught! To scoop up the ball and try to score. To play until the whistle. Maybe that explains all the long runs against this Bears team. Players are not rallying to the ball, figuring it’s enough guys over there to make the tackle. And next thing you know, you see Eddie Lacy or some other running back, breaking out of the pile and bearing down on Chris Conte, who is unfortunately, our last line of defense. As one of my Facebook friends pointed out, to think we could have picked up Ed Reed. I wonder if that thought crossed Phil Emery or Mel Tucker’s mind.

I even wanted to create a “Fire Mel Tucker” fan page on Facebook. But since I wouldn’t ever want to be associated with encouraging someone to be fired, unless they obviously deserved it, I let go of that anger, and decided to see just why this year’s defense was so awful, other than the many injuries. When Mel Tucker was the Defensive Coordinator in Jacksonville, he ran a 3-4 scheme. The Bears have always, I said always ran a 4-3. Now why would you hire a 3-4 scheme coordinator, when your players are used to a 4-3, that was mistake number one. Mel Tucker came in and said, or it was decided, rather than the players adapt their way of playing for me, I will adapt my way of coaching for them. Now that sounded good in training camp, but now it appears it was a terrible mistake.

I’m all for giving Mel Tucker another year to potentially prove his worth. This time, I would want the Bears to do the 3-4 scheme which he is used to coaching. Put Julius Peppers and Corey Wooton on the ends, and Henry Melton in the middle, if he’s healthy. After the injuries to all the interior lineman, Wooton had to move inside, and played out of position, yet still had a very good year. He was always seen hustling to the ball, no matter how downfield it was. On draft night, many analysts questioned the Bears drafting Shea McClellin in the first round. One good thing they did have to say about Shea, is that he has a great motor. Perhaps he can be that 4th linebacker that stands up sometimes and provides an outside rush. Getting a running start, may help him get to the quarterback more. My other criticism of Mel Tucker, is that every pass rush was basic. There was no stunting by the lineman, and even when he blitzed, never were any delayed. You’re making the offensive line’s job easy, as the Bears rarely got to the quarterback this year.

As for Jay Cutler and his contract, I would think, that with Josh McCown’s great play, his bargaining position with the Bears, has been greatly diminished. Every team is always looking for a franchise quarterback. And with a spectacular season, Jay Cutler would have easily been worth $15 million per year, which is what the Lions Matthew Stafford makes. But now, I would say he is worth $12 million, which is Matt Ryan money. It’s only a $2 million per year increase over his previous contract, and I’m sure it’s not what he’s looking for. But it’s the price he pays for the injuries and inconsistencies the team has had to experience with him. Now he is a free-agent, and therefore is free to shop his services to other teams. But if he wants to take a couple million more per year to go someplace else, and start all over again, I wish him well, and the Bears will go on with Josh McCown at a much cheaper rate. I’m thinking less than $5 million.

I don’t know much about salary caps, and I won’t pretend to. But I do know, that whether the Bears re-sign Jay Cutler or not, there will be some money to spend in free-agency. And at the top of my list is a new safety. A veteran safety is what the Bears need, whether it be free or a strong one. They can then, possibly draft the other one. I’ve heard good things about Buffalo Bills free safety Jairus Byrd. So that leaves strong safety. And drafting someone, I would say in the mold of Seattle’s Kam Chancellor, a 6’3″ 232 lb. beast of a man, would go a long way in improving the Bears horrible rush defense. One mock draft that I looked at, has the Bears taking a cornerback in the first round. Soon to be 33, I don’t think the Bears will be re-signing Charles Tillman. Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo will also be a free-agent. He had 10 sacks last year, and that is something the Bears sorely missed. Even though I have every confidence in Jonathan “Boom” Bostic, getting a player of Orakpo’s status, and he’s only 27, couldn’t do anything but help this defense. And as evidenced by this year, they need all the help they can get.

So these are my thoughts on the Bears going forward. And head coach Marc Tressman has some things to learn too. He wasted a 2nd half timeout challenging  whether Alshon Jeffery scored on that long pass play, when you got three downs to punch it in from the half-yard line. Maybe Mel Tucker and the rest of the defense should watch some game film of the ’85 Bears. Not so much for scheme, but to get an idea of the ferociousness and intensity that you must bring, on every play, when playing defense in the NFL. And teaching “The Peanut Punch” wouldn’t hurt.

Written by Pennie Beasley

(Follow me on Twitter @7millicent; and ‘Like’ my Fan Page http://on.fb.me/1dom3aK )

My Thoughts On Derrick Rose And The Bulls

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When I got the alert from ESPN yesterday that Derrick Rose would be out for the season, it felt like I had just been stabbed in the abdomen. We, Chicago Bulls fans, had waited a whole year for him to come back, and now we were gonna have to wait another one. After a terrible 1-4 start, the Bulls had seemingly righted the ship and had recently won 5 straight games. Reason for optimism that they did indeed have the makings of a championship team returned, especially after that Indiana Pacers victory.

I checked the upcoming schedule for the west coast road trip and noticed that they were about to play 4 games in 5 nights. This didn’t feel right to me. I love to see the Bulls play, but after going 3 days sometimes without having a game, this scheduling, two back-to-backs with only one day in between, wasn’t at all good. In the second game of that first back to back, against Portland, that’s when the unthinkable happened. Bulls fans, I for one, had supreme confidence that Derrick Rose’s surgically repaired left knee was as strong as ever. Even when he missed a game in the preseason, I wasn’t concerned. But as he went to make a back cut, on a pass that probably never should have been thrown, other than a lob to the basket, it was his right knee that buckled, when he tried to come back for the ball. Me being the eternal optimist that I am, thought and hoped that it was just a sprain, and that he would be alright. But as everyone on social media was assessing, joking and making comments on the nature of the injury, on the replay I noticed that his leg did what RG3s did, and I knew that couldn’t be a good thing.

During the time spent between Friday night and Saturday morning, waiting for the diagnosis on the Derrick Rose injury, I, and surely all Bulls fans must’ve felt like family members in a waiting room. It was a relief to know that he hadn’t torn his other ACL. It was a torn medial menisucs in his right knee, to which there were two options. Cut it, or a portion of it off and he could be back in a matter of weeks. Or, have the meniscus reattached and he would be out 4-6 months, basically the remainder of the season. My immediate thinking was I wanted to see him return this year. I missed seeing him play, it was starting to become exciting again. With the Bulls playing so well recently, I felt like with him, we could still make a good run of it this year. So long as he didn’t commit a “Brandon Roy”, and try to come back 8 days after surgery, which I knew he wouldn’t, I felt it would be ok. But when I read about Dwayne Wade’s comments on players who have had the first procedure (shorter recovery time) and how it causes more problems later in their career, I knew that I would have to be patient and find something else to enjoy and wait until next year.

Now let’s get down to what the Bulls organization needs do while we wait for Derrick Rose to return again. The first time, last year it was easy. Play as you normally would, everyone improving their game, and the team is that much better when he returns. And it was a good plan and it worked up until he got hurt again. The Bulls were going to let Luol Deng play out this last year of his contract, and probably were not going to re-sign him next summer, letting him become a free-agent. Now, with Derrick Rose out for the year, the Bulls should trade Deng asap to a team that may have a lottery pick in the 2014 draft, if they will part with it. The 2014 draft has been deemed Tankapalooza with the first 4 prospects labeled as “can’t miss!” The 2014 draft class is very deep, and just to get someone’s number one pick, so long as it isn’t at the end of the first round would be good. The Bulls just may get into the draft lottery on their own. In case you haven’t noticed, which it would be hard not to, but it is simply not in head coach Tom Thibodeau’s DNA to tank or even concede one victory, let alone a whole season. But if last night’s loss, against the previously 1-14 Utah Jazz, is any indication, the Bulls may not have to pretend like they are tanking. And next summer, regardless of what we do in the draft, sign a sharp-shooting two-guard, someone that can hit the three on a consistent basis. If at all possible, getting Omer Asik back from Houston would be good. It’s not working out for him there anyway. Maybe if we could trade Carlos Boozer this year, that would free up money to reacquire Asik. The Bulls also have Charlotte’s draft pick, which is lottery protected until 2016. But it looks like they may have use of it this year as the Bobcats are getting better. And Nikola Mirotic, whom the Bulls drafted in 2011, and considered to be the best player in Europe, is expected to join the team in 2014. So the Bulls, while having a few decisions to make, are gonna be ok.

When you are witnessing something happening in sports, social media is a place where you can get up to the minute information and many different prospectives. Unfortunately some people use it as a time to make jokes about a player’s injury. How sick! But it’s an open forum and it’s raw. Trying to sum up and express my feeling, here’s a tweet I sent out that night: “Rose just puts his knees through unneeded duress. I understand u can do the incredible. But 2 think u can do it on evry play, is unrealistic”. I believe that a turning point, for the worst, in that game against Portland, was when Derrick was coming down on a fast break. There were two TrailBlazers back, but he had Joakim on the other side ahead of both of them. Easy play right, lob? Nope. Derrick just barreled into the two players, and got fouled. Something that we’ve seen a lot of in this short season. Sure he had noticeably cut back on it, and that’s why the Bulls were able to go on that 5-game winning streak. But still it was what he tried to do, this time once too often for me and it wasn’t even needed. Anyway, you know what they say, everything happens for a reason. Derrick was playing the game at break neck speeds and very recklessly. I can’t think of another player that did that all the time. It’s impossible and his body just gave way. I heard someone say that coming back from his first surgery, Derrick would probably have to change his game like Chris Paul did following his knee surgery. But he hadn’t. He seemed determined to show that he was not only the same Derrick Rose, but that he was better. And with the way he consistently drove into competitors, he seemed to be competing with and trying to show that he could do the same things that a certain 6’8″ 260lb player could do. First off Derrick, you got to crawl before you can walk. Coming back from a major injury, no one is expecting you to do the things you did prior to the injury right away. And secondly, don’t try to be, or be better than someone else. Be the best you that you can be! And if that’s not enough, then so be it. True Bulls fans, will always think it’s enough. We know how much love you have for Chicago. And let your teammates help. That’s what they are there for. I enjoy a great assist, just as much as I enjoy a slam dunk. Good things come to those who wait. And I for one, am willing to wait. However the Bears loss Sunday didn’t make me feel too good about the immediate Chicago sports scene. Oh well, there is the Cubs Convention coming up. Godspeed Derrick. godspeed.

Follow me on Twitter @7millicent

WHAT TO DO WITH JAY CUTLER?

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After he lead the Bears to a 27-20 victory Monday night over the Green Bay Packers, albeit an Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers, Josh McCown leaves the Bears with a big question, what to do with Jay Cutler who will be a free-agent at the end of the season? In a little less than two games, McCown has completed 36 of his 61 pass attempts, throwing for 476 yards and three touchdowns, and more importantly, no interceptions. And these are not dink-and-dunk type passes. Averaging 13 yards per pass, Bears head coach Marc Tressman has not had to alter the Bears offense one bit for Josh McCown. And while they didn’t win the game against Washington in week 7, the game where Jay Cutler was injured in the second quarter, it was not the fault of the offense. It was more on a defense who couldn’t stop the Redskins at all, and especially, when the game was on the line, on their final drive and the Bears lost 45-41.

So that brings us to the question, with the emergence of Josh McCown at quarterback, should the Bears resign Jay Cutler to a long-term contract in the offseason? I have always defended Jay Cutler. Saying just when he finally gets a good coordinator in Mike Martz, and they ironed out their differences and were able to work together effectively for a little over one season, he gets injured at the end of 2011. And last year Lovie got rid of Martz. So Cutler has never really had a chance, with a good offensive coordinator in place, or he’s healthy, to show what he can do. We’ve been teased enough, with flashes here and there, to know what he is capable of. I will admit, this question didn’t cross my mind, until I saw this tweet last night by @RealSkipBayless “As big a fan as I am of Cutler’s, have to believe some Bears fans wondering if Trestman should stick with McCown.” I replied, no. But later, as I watched the highlights of the game, and McCown’s performance, I really got to thinking about it.

The Bears could use the money they would save by not resigning Cutler, on some of the good defensive free-agents that are gonna be available. In particular, Seattle’s Strong Safety Kam Chancellor. Currently our last line of defense is Chris Conte. Who has gotten boiled over so many times, each time a running back is bearing down on him, it looks like his life is flashing before his eyes. And I would like to think, that with the $15million/per the Bears would save by not resigning Cutler, they could also sign another impact defensive player, maybe a defensive lineman or another safety. I have dubbed Major Wright, major wrong. My friends on Facebook can attest to this! To win a Superbowl, all you need is a sturdy offense (like the one the Bears had Monday night), and a good defense. It’s still a sore spot for many a Bears fan, knowing that the Bears, with it’s great defense, probably could have won that Superbowl in 2007, if Lovie had just stuck with Kyle Orton as our quarterback.

What will be the convincing factor for me, is Josh McCown’s performance this Sunday against Detroit. If he does good, and the Bears win, well then that will cinch it for me, that he is our future. Sorry Jay, sometimes things just don’t work out. I hope no hard feeling. The problem will lie in, how will the coaching staff handle it when Jay Cutler is fully healthy and ready to play. Will they pull a “Jim Harbaugh” and just bench Jay and go with Josh McCown so long as the getting is good? Or will they hand the reigns back over to Jay when he is healthy. All this will be a mute point if McCown lays an egg this Sunday against Detroit, who has a much fiercer pass rush than Green Bay. But if he does good, Marc Tressman has a tough decision to make. Winning in sports is not easy. Sometimes you have to make tough personnel decisions. Chicago fans are familiar with this trade, Charles Oakley for Bill Cartwright, and the three championships that it brought. Anyway, I can’t wait until Sunday. All I want is for the Bears to win, and if our defense can get better, while our offense remains sturdy, so be it.

Follow me on Twitter @7millicent