Tuesday, November 21, 2017

2017 NFL Power Rankings: Week 12

()=last week's ranking

1.(1) Philadelphia Eagles (9-1) Week 12 opponent: Chicago Bears
2.(2) New England Patriots (8-2) Week 12 opponent: Miami Dolphins
3.(3) New Orleans Saints (8-2) Week 12 opponent: Los Angeles Rams
4.(4) Pittsburgh Steelers (8-2) Week 12 opponent: Green Bay Packers
5.(6) Minnesota Vikings (8-2) Week 12 opponent: Detroit Lions
6.(5) Los Angeles Rams (7-3) Week 12 opponent: New Orleans Saints
7.(10) Jacksonville Jaguars (7-3) Week 12 opponent: Arizona Cardinals
8.(9) Carolina Panthers (7-3) Week 12 opponent: New York Jets
9.(13) Atlanta Falcons (6-4) Week 12 opponent: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
10.(11) Detroit Lions (6-4) Week 12 opponent: Minnesota Vikings
11.(8) Seattle Seahawks (6-4) Week 12 opponent: San Francisco 49ers
12.(7) Kansas City Chiefs (6-4) Week 12 opponent: Buffalo Bills
13.(12) Tennessee Titans (6-4) Week 12 opponent: Indianapolis Colts
14.(18) Baltimore Ravens (5-5) Week 12 opponent: Houston Texans
15.(21) Los Angeles Chargers (4-6) Week 12 opponent: Dallas Cowboys
16.(14) Dallas Cowboys (5-5) Week 12 opponent: Los Angeles Chargers
17.(16) Washington Redskins (4-6) Week 12 opponent: New York Giants
18.(15) Oakland Raiders (4-6) Week 12 opponent: Denver Broncos
19.(20) New York Jets (4-6) Week 12 opponent: Carolina Panthers
20.(23) Cincinnati Bengals (4-6) Week 12 opponent: Cleveland Browns
21.(24) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-6) Week 12 opponent: Atlanta Falcons
22.(19) Green Bay Packers (5-5) Week 12 opponent: Pittsburgh Steelers
23.(17) Buffalo Bills (5-5) Week 12 opponent: Kansas City Chiefs
24.(28) Houston Texans (4-6) Week 12 opponent: Baltimore Ravens
25.(22) Arizona Cardinals (4-6) Week 12 opponent: Jacksonville Jaguars
26.(25) Miami Dolphins (4-6) Week 12 opponent: New England Patriots
27.(26) Chicago Bears (3-7) Week 12 opponent: Philadelphia Eagles
28.(27) Indianapolis Colts (3-7) Week 12 opponent: Tennessee Titans
29.(31) New York Giants (2-8) Week 12 opponent: Washington Redskins
30.(29) Denver Broncos (3-7) Week 12 opponent: Oakland Raiders
31.(30) San Francisco 49ers (1-9) Week 12 opponent: Seattle Seahawks
32.(32) Cleveland Browns (0-10) Week 12 opponent: Cincinnati Bengals

Week 11 Fantasy Football Winners and Losers

Quarterback
MVP: Russell Wilson (Seahawks) 
After a quiet (by his standards) Week 10, Russell Wilson returned to his fantasy MVP status in Week 11. Despite a pair of back-breaking turnovers that helped put the Seahawks in a deep hole in the 1st half, Wilson ended up putting together a spectacular performance (334 total YDS, 3 TD, 1 2-PT Conversion) in a narrow loss against the Falcons on Monday night. Wilson will have redemption on the brain in Week 12 when he squares off against a weak 49ers secondary that he struggled against back in Week 2.
Honorable Mentions: Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers), Kirk Cousins (Redskins), Tom Brady (Patriots)

LVP: Dak Prescott (Cowboys) 
Thoughts and prayers if you put Dak Prescott in your lineup this week. The Cowboys quarterback put together an all-time stinker on Sunday night against the Eagles, turning the ball over 4 times (3 INT's and a lost fumble) while amassing just 155 total YDS and failing to reach the endzone for only the 2nd time this season. Prescott has been awful since Ezekiel Elliott started serving his suspension and if star left tackle Tyron Smith is out of the lineup for the Cowboys Thanksgiving Showdown with the Chargers, don't hesitate to bench him.  
Dishonorable Mentions: Alex Smith (Chiefs), Jared Goff (Rams), Eli Manning (Giants)

Running Back
MVP: LeSean McCoy (Bills)
LeSean McCoy proved to be the lone bright spot on a hellish afternoon for the Bills. Shady accounted for 126 YDS (114 rushing, 12 receiving) and a pair of scores in a turnover-plagued 54-24 loss to the Chargers. Even with the Bills currently imploding in spectacular fashion after their excellent 5-2 start, McCoy should remain a mid-tier RB1.
Honorable Mentions: Latavaius Murray (Vikings), Mark Ingram (Saints), Alvin Kamara (Saints)

LVP: Doug Martin (Buccaneers)
I think that it's safe to say that the days of Doug Martin being a viable NFL running back are over. Martin was wildly ineffective (38 YDS on 19 carries) against a Dolphins run D that had gotten blown up by the likes of Jonathan Stewart, Alex Collins and 31-year old Marshawn Lynch in the last 3 weeks. Even with the heavy volume of touches he's been receiving with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center the past 2 weeks, the back formerly known as The Muscle Hamster won't be worth playing in any non-emergency situation for the Bucs week 12 tilt versus the Falcons middling rush defense.  
Dishonorable Mentions: DeMarco Murray (Titans), Adrian Peterson (Cardinals), Kenyan Drake (Dolphins)

Wide Receiver
MVP: Antonio Brown (Steelers)
In a turn of events that surprised absolutely no one, Antonio Brown followed up a lackluster game with an absolutely monstrous one. Brown sliced and diced his way through the Titans below-average secondary all night long (144 YDS and 3 TD's on 10 receptions) as the Steelers rolled to a 40-17 win. The league's best WR has another plus matchup in Week 12 against a weak Packers secondary that has allowed the 6th most fantasy points to opposing receivers this season.   
Honorable Mentions: Keenan Allen (Chargers), Brandin Cooks (Patriots), Adam Thielen (Vikings)

LVP: DeVante Parker (Dolphins) 
Unlike his peers on the Dolphins anemic offense, DeVante Parker had miraculously managed to avoid putting up a true fantasy dud in any of the 6 games he'd appeared in this season. That solid run of competency came to an end in Week 11. Parker fell bellow his high floor (60+ YDS and/or a TD), securing just 4 receptions for 26 YDS against the Buccaneers suspect secondary. With Jay Cutler's status up in the air as of today, Parker will be a risky WR3 play against an improving Patriots secondary in Week 12. 
Dishonorable Mentions: Golden Tate (Lions), Emmanuel Sanders (Broncos), Stefon Diggs (Vikings)

Tight End
MVP: Jimmy Graham (Seahawks)
Jimmy Graham the Touchdown God strikes again!!! Graham reeled in his 7th TD of the season and put together another solid all-around performance (7 REC/58 YDS/1 2-Point Conversion) in the 'Hawks tough loss to the suddenly rejuvenated Falcons. Graham will look to score for the 8th time in 7 games this week against a 49ers D that has surrendered a TD to TE's in 4 straight games. 
Honorable Mentions: Travis Kelce (Chiefs), Delanie Walker (Titans), Tyler Kroft (Bengals)

LVP: Zach Ertz (Eagles)
Even the most stable guys are bound to put up duds every once in a while. After posting at least 8.1 fantasy points in his previous 7 games, Zach Ertz was a complete non-factor (2 REC, 8 YDS) on a night where the Eagles didn't really need their passing attack to beat the brakes off of the Zeke-and-Tyron Smith-less Cowboys. Ertz, whose appears to still be battling the hamstring injury that kept him out of the Eagles pre-Bye Week showdown with the Broncos on November 6th, should be a decent play against a solid yet beatable Bears secondary in Week 12.    
Dishonorable Mentions: Evan Engram (Giants), Cameron Brate (Buccaneers), Jason Witten (Cowboys)

Defense/Special Teams
MVP: Baltimore Ravens
For the 3rd time this season, the Ravens D flat-out dominated their opponents in a shutout. Baltimore swarmed and suffocated the Brett Hundley-led Packers offense for 4 quarters, picking up 6 sacks and 5 takeaways (3 INT, 2 FUM REC) in an impressive victory for the de facto AFC Wild Card contenders. With their relatively favorable schedule throughout the fantasy playoffs, the Ravens could very well end up unseating the Jaguars as the top fantasy defense by season's end. 
Honorable Mentions: Los Angeles Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Pittsburgh Steelers

LVP: New Orleans Saints
After racking up a string of impressive performances, the Saints D finally displayed some flaws for the first time since their Week 6 shootout with the Lions. Despite their key stops in the 4th quarter and overtime, Dennis Allen's troops mustered just 2 sacks and 0 takeaways in their remarkable 34-31 comeback win over the Redskins. Even if top corner Marshon Lattimore ends up being good to go following the ankle injury he suffered on Sunday afternoon, the Saints are unlikely to return to their form against the Rams explosive and mistake-averse offense in Week 12.  
Dishonorable Mentions: Arizona Cardinals, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Best and Worst of Ben Mendelsohn

The "Best and Worst" series profiles the best and worst work of an actor starring in one of the week's new theatrical releases. This week I take a look at the filmography of "Darkest Hour" star Ben Mendelsohn.

Films starring Ben Mendelsohn that I've seen:
Killer Elite
The Dark Knight Rises
Killing Them Softly
The Place Beyond the Pines
Starred Up
Exodus: Gods and Kings
Slow West
Mississippi Grind
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Best Performance: Mississippi Grind (2015)
Atmospheric indie drama Mississippi Grind marks the only time I've ever been really impressed with Mendlesohn, who I find to be one of the most overrated actors in Hollywood right now, as an actor. His performance as a degenerate gambler who decides to embarks on a road trip with a down-on-his-luck poker player (Ryan Reynolds) he meets at an Iowa casino accurately captures the soaring highs, devastating rock bottoms and endless desperation of a person that's dealing with addiction.    

Worst Performance: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Mendlesohn's work in Rogue One is a classic case of when overacting goes horribly wrong. His cartoonish turn as primary villain Orson Krennic seem like it came out of a completely different film than the overwhelmingly grim one everyone else in the cast (with the exception of the equally over-the-top Forest Whitaker and Donnie Yen) was in.  

Best Film: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
While Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy is arguably the most celebrated movie franchise in recent history, I think that the final chapter doesn't get the love it deserves. A compelling story, tremendous action sequences and an apporoatiely epic scope helped this influential series of superhero films end on a near-perfect note.

Worst Film: Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)
Ridley Scott is a cinema icon whose career is still in hyperdrive as he approaches his 80th birthday. After being exposed to the bloated biblical epic Exodus: Gods and Kings when it hit home video in early 2015, I (briefly) wished the legendry director had already retired. Exodus is the type of film that works better as a torture mechanism than a piece of entertainment. This large and particularly rank pile of shit is painfully dull, hilariously overacted and completely devoid of anything worthwhile. Thankfully Scott followed-up this unholy disaster with an excellent film (The Martian) that demonstrated he's still capable of blessing the world with solid art in his twilight years.    

Thank you for reading this week's installment of "The Best and Worst of". Next week, I'll take a look at the best and worst work of "Wonder Wheel" star Kate Winslet.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

2017-18 NBA Power Rankings: Early Season Edition

The first month of the NBA season has been one of the wilder ones in recent memory. If you had told anyone on opening night that in 30 days time the Cavs and Thunder would be outside the top eight in their respective conferences, the Gordon Hayward-less Celtics would rip off a double-digit win streak and the Pistons, who have missed the playoffs five of the last six seasons, would have the second best record in the East, they would've questioned your sanity and/or asked if you were on drugs. Using these questionable first impressions as a backdrop, I proudly present my first batch of power rankings for the 2017-18 season.

1.Golden State Warriors (11-3)
2.Boston Celtics (13-2)
3.Houston Rockets (11-4)
4.Washington Wizards (9-5)
5.Detroit Pistons (10-4)
6.Toronto Raptors (9-5)
7.San Antonio Spurs (9-6)
8.Minnesota Timberwolves (9-5)
9.Cleveland Cavaliers (8-7)
10.Milwaukee Bucks (8-6)
11.Denver Nuggets (8-6)
12.Philadelphia 76ers (8-6)
13.New Orleans Pelicans (8-6)
14.Portland Trail Blazers (8-6)
15.Memphis Grizzlies (7-7)
16.Oklahoma City Thunder (7-7)
17.Orlando Magic (8-7)
18.New York Knicks (8-6)
19.Miami Heat (6-8)
20.Los Angeles Clippers (5-8)
21.Indiana Pacers (7-8)
22.Utah Jazz (6-9)
23.Charlotte Hornets (5-8)
24.Los Angeles Lakers (6-9)
25.Brooklyn Nets (5-9)'
26.Phoenix Suns (5-10)
27.Atlanta Hawks (3-12)
28.Dallas Mavericks (2-13)
29.Sacramento Kings (3-11)
30.Chicago Bulls (2-10)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Best and Worst of Willem Dafoe

The "Best and Worst" series profiles the best and worst work of an actor starring in one of the week's new theatrical releases. This week I take a look at the filmography of "Justice League" star Willem Dafoe

Films starring Willem Dafoe that I've seen:
The Boondock Saints
American Psycho
Spider-Man
Finding Nemo
Once Upon a Time in Mexico
Spider-Man 2
The Aviator
xXx: State of the Union
Inside Man
Spider-Man 3
Daybreakers
The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day
John Carter
Out of the Furnace
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Fault in Our Stars
John Wick
Finding Dory
The Great Wall

Best Performance: The Boondock Saints (1999)
Name a more badass big-screen FBI agent than Paul Smecker. I'll wait. Dafoe is an insane, fiery- monologue-delivering tour-de-force whose presence played a major role in elevating Troy Duffy's brutal vigilante flick to classic status.  

Worst Performance: The Great Wall (2017)
Dafoe is the type of veteran character actor that shows up to play regardless of the genre or amount of time that he appears on screen. The only time I've seen him come close to stumbling came in this year's uneven yet somewhat entertaining B-movie The Great Wall. His brief appearance as a mysterious teacher from an unknown European country that's being held prisoner by a group of elite, dragon-fighting Chinese warriors felt kind of half-assed and straight-faced for a film with such an absurd concept. 

Best Film: The Boondock Saints (1999)
My name is Chris Maitland and I'm a stereotypical 25-year white dude from the Boston-area that thinks The Boondock Saints is one of the greatest movies ever made. The Citizen Kane of badass vigilante movies features a beautiful collection of charismatic characters, hilarious dialogue and over-the-top violence that I could spend hours gushing about. Now excuse me while I go write a letter to Mayor Walsh and Governor Baker demanding that this gets put in the Museum of Fine Arts ASAP.   

Worst Film: John Carter (2012)
Before Disney went out and acquired the rights to Star Wars in December 2012, they tried to launch their own epic space opera trilogy and let's just say that it didn't go too well. Not only did John Carter go down as a massive flop for Hollywood's most successful studio, it also happens to be one  of the biggest pieces of shit to grace the big screen in recent years. There's enough convoluted storytelling, wooden acting and general tedium in this 132-minute cinematic garbage disposal to fill all 89 Avatar sequels James Cameron's planning on making over the next two decades. Halting the development of the John Carter franchise is a rare win for mankind and hopefully we'll be able to unite as a species to stop another awful franchise from getting off the ground sometime in the near future.  

Thank you for reading this week's installment of "The Best and Worst of". Next week, I'll take a look at the best and worst work of "Darkest Hour" star Ben Mendelsohn.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

2017 NFL Power Rankings: Week 11

()=last week's ranking

1.(1) Philadelphia Eagles (8-1) Week 11 opponent: Dallas Cowboys
2.(2) New England Patriots (7-2) Week 11 opponent: Oakland Raiders
3.(5) New Orleans Saints (7-2) Week 11 opponent: Washington Redskins
4.(3) Pittsburgh Steelers (7-2) Week 11 opponent: Tennessee Titans
5.(4) Los Angeles Rams (7-2) Week 11 opponent: Minnesota Vikings
6.(7) Minnesota Vikings (7-2) Week 11 opponent: Los Angeles Rams
7.(6) Kansas City Chiefs (6-3) Week 11 opponent: New York Giants
8.(8) Seattle Seahawks (6-3) Week 11 opponent: Atlanta Falcons
9.(9) Carolina Panthers (7-3) Week 11 opponent: Bye Week
10.(10) Jacksonville Jaguars (6-3) Week 11 opponent: Cleveland Browns
11.(13) Detroit Lions (5-4) Week 11 opponent: Chicago Bears
12.(14) Tennessee Titans (6-3) Week 11 opponent: Pittsburgh Steelers
13.(16) Atlanta Falcons (5-4) Week 11 opponent: Seattle Seahawks
14.(11) Dallas Cowboys (5-4) Week 11 opponent: Philadelphia Eagles
15.(17) Oakland Raiders (4-5) Week 11 opponent: New England Patriots
16.(15) Washington Redskins (4-5) Week 11 opponent: New Orleans Saints
17.(12) Buffalo Bills (5-4) Week 11 opponent: Los Angeles Chargers
18.(19) Baltimore Ravens (4-5) Week 11 opponent: Green Bay Packers
19.(25) Green Bay Packers (5-4) Week 11 opponent: Baltimore Ravens
20.(18) New York Jets (4-6) Week 11 opponent: Bye Week
21.(21) Los Angeles Chargers (3-6) Week 11 opponent: Buffalo Bills
22.(22) Arizona Cardinals (4-5) Week 11 opponent: Houston Texans
23.(24) Cincinnati Bengals (3-6) Week 11 opponent: Denver Broncos
24.(28) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-6) Week 11 opponent: Miami Dolphins
25.(23) Miami Dolphins (4-5) Week 11 opponent: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
26.(26) Chicago Bears (3-6) Week 11 opponent: Detroit Lions
27.(27) Indianapolis Colts (3-7) Week 11 opponent: Bye Week
28.(20) Houston Texans (3-6) Week 11 opponent: Arizona Cardinals
29.(29) Denver Broncos (3-6) Week 11 opponent: Cincinnati Bengals
30.(31) San Francisco 49ers (1-9) Week 11 opponent: Bye Week
31.(30) New York Giants (1-8) Week 11 opponent: Kansas City Chiefs
32.(32) Cleveland Browns (0-9) Week 11 opponent: Jacksonville Jaguars

Week 10 Fantasy Football Winners and Losers

Quarterback
MVP: Cam Newton (Panthers)
Anyone that was courageous enough to throw Cam Newton into their lineups was rewarded with a vintage monster performance by the Panthers starting QB. Newton displayed a level of dual-threat dominance that has pretty much alluded him since he won MVP in 2015 by gouging the Dolphins sputtering defense for 349 total YDS (254 passing, 95 rushing) and 4 TD's through the air. 2017 has been a rollercoaster ride for Newton and there's nothing to suggest that's going to change when the Panthers return from bye in Week 12.
Honorable Mentions: Kirk Cousins (Redskins), Jared Goff (Rams), Case Keenum (Vikings) 

LVP: Tyrod Taylor (Bills)
One of fantasy's most steady, reliable QB options imploded in a big way in Week 10. Tyrod Taylor couldn't get anything going against the Saints defense, picking up a laughable 83 total yards (56 passing, 27 rushing), 0 TD and throwing a rare INT (3rd on the year and 1st since Week 5). Taylor will be a so-so play for the Bills Week 11 matchup versus the Chargers underrated secondary. 
Dishonorable Mentions: Josh McCown (Jets), Dak Prescott (Cowboys), Drew Brees (Saints)

Running Back
MVP: Mark Ingram (Saints)
Despite being held without a catch for the 1st time this season, Mark Ingram managed to post his best fantasy line of the season in Week 10. The Saints lead back slashed through the Bills rapidly-crumbling defense with ease, picking up 131 YDS and 3 TD's on 21 carries. Ingram has been getting consistent work out of the backfield since Adrian Peterson got traded last month and should remain a solid RB1 as long as Sean Payton keeps rolling with a run-heavy attack. 
Honorable Mentions: DeMarco Murray (Titans), Alvin Kamara (Saints), Christian McCaffery (Panthers)

LVP: Leonard Fournette (Jaguars)
Leonard Fournette returned to the field after a 2-week absence with a resounding thud. The highly-touted rookie running back struggled mightily (33 YDS on 17 CAR) against the Chargers lowly run defense on an afternoon where the Jags strong play on defense and special teams once again led them to victory. Guaranteed volume will keep Fournette on the RB1 radar for this week's matchup against the Browns 3rd-ranked rush defense.  
Dishonorable Mentions: Bilal Powell (Jets), Melvin Gordon (Chargers), Jordan Howard (Bears)

Wide Receiver 
MVP: Robert Woods (Rams)
Robert Woods mania continues to take over Los Angeles. Woods followed up his strong 2 TD outing against the Giants in Week 9 with an absolutely exceptional performance (8 REC, 171 YDS, 2 TD) versus the Texans injury-depleted defense. While he won't continue to put up ridiculous lines like this on a weekly basis, Woods is easily the most reliable receiver on the upstart Rams offense and should be locked into fantasy lineups any time he isn't facing an elite pass defense.
Honorable Mentions: Adam Thielen (Vikings), Devin Funchess (Panthers), A.J. Green (Bengals)

LVP: Antonio Brown (Steelers)
Antonio Brown's consistent production over the past 5 seasons has elevated him to a higher standard in fantasy football than any other receiver in the league and he simply didn't live up to that this week. Despite being blessed with a prime matchup against the Colts league-worst pass defense, Brown managed just 3 receptions for 47 YDS in yet another ugly win for the Black and Yellow. AB has a prime chance to redeem himself this Thursday night against a vulnerable Titans secondary in the friendly confines of Heinz Field.  
Dishonorable Mentions: Dez Bryant (Cowboys), Marvin Jones Jr. (Lions), T.Y Hilton (Colts)

Tight End
MVP: Jimmy Graham (Seahawks)
This is a classic case of someone TD-vulturing their way to the top of the fantasy leaderboards. A pair of redzone scores salvaged Jimmy Graham's pedestrian statline (6 REC, 27 YDS) and helped the Seahawks secure a relatively easy win versus the geriatric Cardinals. Graham has put his early season struggles behind him by finding the endzone 6 times in his last 5 games and will remain an uncontested starting option at the paper-thin TE position as the fantasy playoff race intensifies. 
Honorable Mentions: Austin Hooper (Falcons), Eric Ebron (Lions), Evan Engram (Giants)

LVP: Cameron Brate (Buccaneers)
Like everybody else on the Bucs not named Chris Godwin and DeSean Jackson, Ryan Fitzpatrick's struggles destroyed Cameron Brate's chances of thriving this week. Brate failed to take advantage of Mike Evans' absence by hauling in just 1 catch for 10 YDS in a solid matchup versus the Jets on Sunday afternoon. Despite posting back-to-back duds and having to deal with the always erratic Fitzmagic under center, Brate will be worth starting in Week 11 against the Dolphins struggling defense. 
Dishonorable Mentions: Jack Doyle (Colts), Hunter Henry (Chargers), Tyler Kroft (Bengals)

Defense/Special Teams
MVP: Los Angeles Rams
Tom Savage is the gift that keeps on giving for opposing defenses. The Rams D scooped up 3 sacks and 4 takeaways (2 INT's, 2 fumble recoveries) in an easy 32-7 win over the Savage-led Texans. Wade Phillips' troops will face a much stiffer test in Week 11 when they hit the road to face a Vikings squad that has allowed the 4th least fantasy points to opposing defenses this season.
Honorable Mentions: Detroit Lions, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks

LVP: Minnesota Vikings
I don't what the hell happened to the Vikings defense on Sunday. The Norsemen only managed 1 sack, an INT and surrendered 30 points to a Redskins offense that was missing 4 of their 5 starting offensive lineman for the 2nd consecutive week. This often underwhelming fantasy defense should be benched against the Rams turnover-and-sack averse offense this week.  
Dishonorable Mentions: Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos, Chicago Bears