National Food Days in December

It’s hard not to love this time of year. Holidays, decorations, an excuse to watch Elf and Love Actually without judgement…

To Me You Are Perfect

It’s also an excellent month for food! You already have the dates circled for family traditions on your calendar. Now you can break out the marker once more and plan ahead for some more exciting National Food Days!

As you participate in each National Food Day, designated by a committee comprised of the federal government and corporate sponsors, feel free to share your photos with me on Facebook or Twitter

December 8th

National Brownie Day

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Did you know…

…that the brownie was actually invented in Chicago? At the behest of Bertha Palmer, whose husband owned the Palmer House, a “ladies dessert” was created to be served at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition held in Chicago from the Women’s Pavilion. The first printed use of the word “brownie” to describe it wouldn’t happen until 1896 Boston Cooking-School Cook Book by Fannie Farmer

On this day, the modern Palmer House Hilton is handing out free brownies to commemorate the birth of quite possibly my favorite sweet and the National Holiday. If you’re in Chicago, swing by 17 E. Monroe St. after 11:30 AM CT to get your complimentary brownie.

December 9th

National Pastry Day

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In case brownies aren’t your style, you get to pick up your favorite baked dessert the next day! Otherwise, you have an excuse to stop by the bakery two days in a row…Not the worst thing.

As mentioned in my Food Truck Challenge, I personally recommend the Chicago Cupcake  truck. Seriously unlike any kind of cupcake I’ve tried before . They also have store fronts in Wicker Park, if you’re not willing to hunt down the truck for adventure.

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December 11th

National “Have a Bagel” Day

New York Bagels

Bagels may sound like an everyday thing to most, but this seems like the perfect occasion to get creative and get something awesome. Every now and then, I get a craving for New York style bagels and luckily there’s an NYC Bagel Deli in Chicago with NY style pizza slices as well.

But if you want to be adventurous, I recommend Brobagel in the Wicker Park/Bucktown area, just next door to Piece Pizza and Brewery. Amazing bagel sandwiches and people with matching personalities to make them so.

 

December 14th

 

National Biscuits and Gravy Day

Biscuits and Gravy

Some folks tell me that they or their moms make the best biscuits and gravy…If you are one of these people, please invite me over to try them because I LOVE BISCUITS AND GRAVY.

Whenever I go out for breakfast, my eyes usually search for biscuits and gravy right off the bat because my stomach has complete control of them. I have to say that in recent memory, the best biscuits and gravy I’ve had in Chicago is from a place with the perfect name…Brunch. They also have a perfect selection of mimosas to pair nicely.

 

December 16th

National Chocolate Covered Anything Day

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Nothing will be running through my head more than Gene Wilder serenading a tour of the Wonka Factory on that day…

 

This also happens anytime I walk into the Confectionery in downtown Long Grove. There’s a little old woman in a corner glass screen room, doing nothing but dipping strawberries in chocolate. From what I’m told, she has dipped over 2 billion strawberries in her time there…and they make an amazing gift as well.

 

December 20th

National Sangria Day

Sangria

The bottom 3rd of the month is all about drinks.

12/24 (Christmas Eve) is National Egg Nog day. 12/31 (New Year’s Eve) is National Champagne Day. Those are pretty easy to remember and adhere to. However, why not kick the final stretch of the year off with a drink just as, if not more delicious than both.

I actually have out-of-town company coming in for the holidays, so I plan on treating them the way I normally do for most of my guests…with great food and booze.

My parents threw a party and put me in charge of booze and pizza. They delegated wisely…

A photo posted by piffnainteasy (@piffnainteasy) on

 

For more National Food Holidays this month, check out the calendar on Foodimentary. If you’d like to team up for some food adventures, or just want to share your food porn, let me know on Facebook or Twitter.  

First Day of December and MLB Is Already Winning Twitter

Professional sports have caught up with social media and any team not having fun is just doing it wrong.

Major League baseball just started an excellent Twitter thread that will brighten your day if you need it. It began with a happy greeting and an Anthony Rizzo grinning gif…

 

…then the Indians…

 

…and the Red Sox…

 

…and then…

 

…it took on a life of its own.

 

Braves

 

Phillies

 

Tigers

 

Diamondbacks

 

Padres

 

Rockies. They were late, apparently…

 

…but had a decent excuse.

 

The DBacks allowed it.

 

Hey Blue Jays…

 

…welcome to the party.

 

…and the Defending NL Champs

 

[UPDATED]

 

The Cubs had thoughts…

 

…to which MLB happily replied.

 

 

We’ll update this post as more teams jump in on the thread. For more, follow along on Facebook and Twitter

My Reason To Watch the World Series: Juan Uribe

The Fall Classic kicks off in Kansas City tonight on FOX at 7:07 PM CT. The Royals are making back-to-back trips after a nearly 30-year World Series drought. It’s been 15 years since the Mets were in the World Series and they haven’t won since 1986, the year after the Royals last did. Fun Fact: Neither team has ever won Game 1 of the World Series. Combined both teams are 0-7 in that regard. Also, Joe Buck will have the call and everyone will be convinced he hates their team. Both Royals and Mets fans are readying their angry tweets.

Both teams are very exciting for the objective baseball fan. The Mets have an incredible starting rotation and the Royals have the best bullpen. Daniel Murphy is doing video game things hitting 7 home runs in the playoffs and Ned Yost doesn’t give two shits about your baseball sensibilities when it comes to bunting and running. I, however, don’t care for either team.

As a fan with illogical and irrational feelings, I hate the Royals the most. I’m a White Sox fan and while people in Chicago struggle with my lack of Cub-hate, I target my frustration and dislike to the other teams in the AL Central. Whichever team is preventing the White Sox from making the playoffs the most (besides themselves), that’s who gets the majority of my distain. The Detroit Tigers used to be that team, but now the Royals carry the torch for my White Sox rivalry rage.

Sox Fight Gif

The Mets receive a different brand of loathing from me. Having grown up around Chicago, there’s natural detest in me and many for that giant east coast city, their tough-guy accents and pizza arrogance. For the record, I love New York but love when my teams face theirs way more. However, there’s one player who was just named to the Mets playoff roster who I can’t say a single bad thing about. His name is…

Uribe Puppies

Juan Uribe.

Juan Uribe is everything that is good about baseball. He has fun. His teammates love him. He’s also no stranger to the big moment. Over his 15-year career, this will be Uribe’s 3rd appearance in a World Series. He made the final throw-out to win it all for the 2005 White Sox, homered for the Giants in another winning effort in 2010, and now he’s back to keep the 5-year trend alive.

Uribe makes the Mets’ World Series roster wearing his third different uniform this year alone. He joined the Mets in a trade with Kelly Johnson from the Atlanta Braves, and started the season as a Los Angeles Dodger. Uribe actually ended the 2014 regular season as acting manager of the Dodgers, while also paying tribute to Don Mattingly and Tommy Lasorda.

As a manager, Uribe has a 1.000 winning percentage and a Gatorade shower as well.

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Now Uribe can end this season with his third World Series ring. He has a chance to become the 4th player in MLB’s expansion era to win 3 world championships with 3 different teams, after Jack Morris, Dave Stewart, and Lonnie Smith. His Mets tenure hasn’t been particularly special, batting .219 with 6 home runs and 20 RBIs in 128 at-bats (Murphy has matched that production in these playoffs alone), but it’s hard not to root for the guy.

Of course my White Sox sentiments have a heavy influence on my admiration for Uribe. In the 10th anniversary year of their World Series win, at least one of the players from the roster are competing for it again. He’s one of 5 players from the 2005 White Sox roster who were still active in 2005 (AJ Pierzynski/ATL, Mark Beuhrle/TOR, Neal Cotts/MIN, Brandon McCarthy/LAD). Uribe also gave me one of my favorite baseball memories, catching a ball in the stands during the World Series that I’ll contend was better than Derek Jeter’s famous dive…somewhat irrationally, I’ll.

A year ago, I actively avoided the World Series. I had seen the Giants thing before and you already know my feelings about the Royals. This year, I’ve got Juan Uribe and will happily buy his jersey if he gets to light victory cigars again.

Uribe WS

Who are you rooting for to win the World Series? Let me know on either Facebook or Twitter

#TBT Year in Review: 1998

Two years before Y2K, yet everyone was talking about it…and these things.

  • Bill Clinton dominated the headlines and SNL for his “off the field” issues.
  • Before teaching you how to survive EVERYTHING, Bear Grylls became the youngest person to scale Mount Everest at 23. 
  • Microsoft released Windows 98…some of you still use it.
  • The Winter Olympics were held in Nagano, Japan.
  • Will Smith’s son Jaden was born and former Hall of Fame Bears quarterback Sid Luckman passed away at the age of 81.

And this is what we saw in the worlds of Movies, Music and Sports!

Movies

Comedy

The Truman Show, There’s Something About Mary, Rushmore, Can’t Hardly Wait, Patch Adams, You’ve Got Mail, Dr. Dolittle, The Waterboy, The Wedding Singer, Baseketball, Night at the Roxbury, Almost Heroes, Waking Ned Devine, Bulworth, Sliding Doors, Blues Brothers 2000, How Stella Got Her Groove Back AND…

The Big Lebowski

Action/Thriller

Ronin, Enemy of the State, Fallen, U.S. Marshals, The Negotiator, Mercury Rising, Lethal Weapon 4, Wild Things, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, Godzilla, Rush Hour, The Siege, Psycho, Snake Eyes, The Faculty, A Perfect Murder, Out of Sight, The X-Files, Hard Rain, Lost in Space, The Mask of Zorro, Dark City, Sphere, Small Soldiers, John Carpenter’s Vampires, The Big Hit, Phantoms, Black Dog, Halloween: H20, Desperate Measures, Blade, Deep Impact AND…

Armageddon

Drama

Saving Private Ryan, American History X, Meet Joe Black, What Dreams May Come, Elizabeth, A Civil Action, The Thin Red Line, City of Angels, Shakespeare In Love, Ever After, Another Day in Paradise, 54, Rounders, He Got Game, Stepmom, Les Miserables, The Adventures of Sebastian Cole, Great Expectations AND…

Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas

Animated

Mulan, The Prince of Egypt, The Rugrats Movie, Antz, AND…

A Bug’s Life

The 71st Oscars Nominees/Winners

Best Actor

Nick Nolte, Affliction

            Edward Norton, American History X

            Tom Hanks, Saving Private Ryan

            Ian McKellen, Gods and Monsters 

            Roberto Benigni, Life Is Beautiful – Winner

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Robert Duvall, A Civil Action

            Ed Harris, The Truman Show

            Geoffery Rush, Shakespeare in Love

            Billy Bob Thornton, A Simple Plan

            James Coburn, Affliction – Winner

Best Actress

 

            Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth

            Fernanda Montenegro, Central Station

            Meryl Streep, One True Thing

            Emily Watson, Hilary and Jackie

            Gwyneth Paltrow, Shakespeare in Love – Winner

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

 

            Lynn, Redgrave, Gods and Monsters

            Kathy Bates, Primary Colors

            Brenda Blethyn, Little Voice

            Rachel Griffiths, Hilary and Jackie

            Judie Dench, Shakespeare in Love – Winner 

Best Picture

 

            Elizabeth

            Life is Beautiful

            Saving Private Ryan

            The Thin Red Line

            Shakespeare in Love – Winner

Music

Rock Albums

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Hip-Hop

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Pop Albums

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Billboard Year-End Hot 100

  1. “Too Close” – Next
  2. “The Boy Is Mine” – Brandy and Monica
  3. “You’re Still the One” – Shania Twain
  4. “Truly Madly Deeply” – Savage Garden
  5. “How Do I Live” – LeAnn Rimes
  6. “Together Again” – Janet
  7. “All My Life” – K-Ci & JoJo
  8. “Candle in the Wind 1997” – Elton John
  9. “Nice and Slow” – Usher
  10. “I Don’t Wait to Wait” – Paula Cole
  11. “How’s It Going to Be” – Third Eye Blind
  12. “No, No, No” – Destiny’s Child
  13. “My Heart Will Go On” – Celine Dion
  14. “Getting’ Jiggy wit It” – Will Smith
  15. “You Make Me Wanna” – Usher
  16. “My Way” – Usher
  17. “My All” – Mariah Carey
  18. “The First Night” – Monica
  19. “Been Around the World” – Puff Daddy feat. Mase and Notorious B.I.G
  20. “Adia” – Sarah McLachlan

Sports

Baseball 

Offensive Leaders:

Average: Larry Walker (COL) – .363

Hits: Dante Bichette (COL) – 219

Home Runs: Mark McGwire (STL) – 70

RBI: Sammy Sosa (CHC) – 158

OPS: Mark McGwire (STL) – 1.222

Stolen Bases: Rickey Henderson (OAK) – 66

Pitching:

Wins: Roger Clemens (TOR), Rick Helling (TEX), David Cone (NYY), Tom Glavine (ATL) – 20

ERA: Greg Maddux (ATL) – 2.22

Strikeouts: Randy Johnson (SEA/HOU) – 329

Complete Games: Curt Schilling (PHI) – 15

Shutouts: Randy Johnson – 6

Saves: Trevor Hoffman (SD) – 53 

MVP:

AL: Juan Gonzalez (TEX)

NL: Sammy Sosa (CHC)

CY Young:

AL: Roger Clemens (TOR)

NL: Tom Glavine (ATL)

Rookie of the Year:

AL: Ben Grieve (OAK)

NL: Kerry Wood (CHC)

World Series: New York Yankees over San Diego Padres (4-0)

Basketball

NCAA

Final Four:

(2) Kentucky, (3) Utah, (3) Stanford, and (1) North Carolina

National Championship:

(2) Kentucky over (3) Utah 78-69

NBA

League Leaders:

Points Per Game: Michael Jordan (CHI) – 28.7

Rebounds Per Game: Dennis Rodman (CHI) – 15.0

Assists Per Game: Rod Strickland (WAS) – 10.5 

All-NBA Team:

Tim Duncan (SA)

Michael Jordan (CHI)

Karl Malone (UTAH)

Shaquille O’Neal (LAL)

Gary Payton (SEA) 

MVP: Michael Jordan (CHI)

Rookie of the Year: Tim Duncan (SA)

NBA Finals: Chicago Bulls over Utah Jazz (4-2)

Football

NCAA

Heisman Trophy Winner:

Ricky Williams, University of Texas

National Championship:

Tennessee over Florida State (23-16) in the Fiesta Bowl 

NFL

League Leaders:

Passing Yards: Brett Favre (GB) – 4,212

Passing Touchdowns: Steve Young (SF) – 36

Passer Rating: Randall Cunningham (MIN) – 106.0

Rushing Yards: Terrell Davis (DEN) – 2,008

Rushing Touchdowns: Terrell Davis (DEN) – 21

Receptions: O.J. McDuffie (MIA) – 90

Receiving Yards: Antonio Freeman (GB) – 1,424

Receiving Touchdowns: Randy Moss (MIN) – 17

AP MVP:

Terrell Davis (DEN)

Super Bowl:

Denver Broncos over Atlanta Falcons (34-19)

Super Bowl MVP:

John Elway 

John Elway SB 33

Hockey

League Leaders:

Goals: Peter Bondra (WSH) & Teemu Selanne (ANA) – 52

Assists: Wayne Gretzky (NYR) & Jaromir Jagr (PIT) – 67

Points: Jaromir Jagr (PIT) – 102

Hart Memorial Trophy:

Dominik Hasek (BUF) 

Stanley Cup:

Detroit Redwings over Washington Capitals (4-0)

Did I miss anything? Let me know on Twitter @Mike_PiFF03.

Fantasy Football Preview: NFC EAST

The beauty of Fantasy Football is that it forces you to pay attention to the rest of the league, no matter how casual a fan you may be. You could be wearing a Bears jersey at a bar somewhere, but deep down you want them to put on the Patriots game to see who Tom Brady is throwing to on his next 80 yard drive. Very likely, there are plenty of others in the same vicinity with the same concerns. Fantasy Football brings people together like that.

It is that time of year again. Most sports news publications and outlets are releasing their NFL season previews before kickoff, September 4th between the Green Bay Packers and defending champion Seattle Seahawks. What’s more pressing than that? Your league’s Fantasy Draft! Who do you take when Drew Brees and Peyton Manning come off the board? Can Jamaal Charles repeat last year’s performance? Do you really need a second kicker on your Week 1 roster?

With a series of posts over the next week, I hope to help you answer those questions and many more. We’ll take a look, division by division, at the players you may be targeting on each NFL squad. Coast to coast, we’ll evaluate players by past performances and their current situations with various factors: coaching and personnel changes, health, team philosophies, etc.

 

We’ll begin with the NFC East (ESPN’s FAVORITE!)

The division was about as unpredictable as Tony Romo in the 4th quarter in 2013. While the Dallas Cowboys were 8-8 again, the division’s top two teams in 2012 (Redskins and Giants) became the bottom two in 2013. Rising past the mediocrity were the Philadelphia Eagles and first year NFL coach Chip Kelly going from 4th to 1st in the East.

Throw out the records, we’re talking about Fantasy! The NFC East is a fun mix of sure-thing top end picks, players to be weary of, and some you’ll want to take a flyer on. Lets go!

 

Dallas Cowboys

For 3 seasons under coach Jason Garrett, the Cowboys have just been…meh. Finishing 8-8 each of those seasons doesn’t give those faithful to “America’s Ex-Team” more than cautious confidence for 2014. The Cowboys did rank 6th in scoring last year while having to play catch up with a defense that allowed 27.4 points per game, and for Fantasy owners (who don’t have Dallas’ defense) that’s not a bad thing.

 

QB Tony Romo

31 Touchdowns/10 Interceptions, 3,828 passing yards in 2013

Tony Romo had a bounce back year by the numbers last season. He reprised his same 2011 TD/INT ratio and cut the turnovers down significantly from 2012. However, the fear is that his second back surgery may effect the deep ball which became the bread and butter with home run threat Dez Bryant. Romo showed he can keep up with the best (when right), throwing 5 TDs in a shootout with Detroit. He also never threw more than 2 INTs in a game and only did that twice. Former Lions OC Scott Linehan is now the “passing coordinator” in Dallas and that could mean more throwing for Romo. Matthew Stafford averaged 42 passes per game coached by Linehan while Romo threw just 36 per during those 3 years.

Recommendation: Romo is a reliable QB1, a pick you would make late 2nd round or 3rd if you are targeting RBs or skilled players first.

 

RB DeMarco Murray

1,121 rush yards, 9 TD rushing / 53 receptions, 350 rec yards, 1 TD in 2013

The former heir to Adrian Peterson at Oklahoma is looking to make another big stride in 2014. DeMarco Murray ranked 5th among running backs last season averaging 80.1 ypg and 5.2 per carry. Fighting a knee injury in the middle of the season, Murray played 14 games and the Cowboys want to know if he can go the full 16 before extending him. Linehan’s play-calling may help that, as well as Fantasy owners in PPR leagues. With the potential increase in passing for Romo, Murray will be a key target much like Reggie Bush was last season for Detroit. If Bryant is getting the respect he deserves down field, Murray should find opportunities in underneath routes…and softer fronts to run on.

Recommendations: Murray CAN be a strong RB1 but his injury history worries me just as much as it does the Cowboys front office. Take him in the middle rounds unless RBs are flying off the board early and you’re desperate. 

 

WR Dez Bryant

93 rec, 1,233 yards, 13 TD in 2013

Dez…Bryant…The #1 weapon for Tony Romo last season had as much TV time on the sideline as he did on the field (thanks to FOX Producers). Expect that to continue, as the emotional receiver is now being applauded by his owner for fighting with teammates during training camp. But that’s not why you called…Bryant is coming off back-to-back seasons of 90 receptions, 1,200 yards, and 12 touchdowns. He also scored multiple TDs on 3 different occasions (vs. SD, DEN and DET). Granted they were losses but with the Cowboys defense giving up points, Romo trusts Bryant to score in a hurry. This is also a contract year for Bryant, and you know how pro athletes get when they are looking for that next pay bump…

Recommendation: Bryant is a WR1 and should be one of the first 5 WRs off the board. Early round pick. 

 

TE Jason Witten

73 rec, 851 yards, 8 TDs in 2013

There is a reason Jason Witten is 9 time Pro Bowl tight end. He will likely surpass 900 receptions for his career this season and he was Romo’s most reliable target 7 of the past 8 seasons (110 catches in 2012). The Cowboys saw a drop in his production last season. 3 times, he caught over 100 yards but those games seemed to come randomly. 9 out of his 16 starts, Witten didn’t break 60 yards and only 6 times did he make 5 catches or more. Much like the running backs, the Linehan offense is designed to improve those numbers for tight ends too, especially in the red zone. Lions TEs caught 9 touchdowns last season, and Witten should bounce back with the other options demanding coverage.

Recommendation: Witten is definitely a starting Fantasy TE, but you can get him mid-late rounds. The position has evolved to where there are increasing options ahead of him.

 

K Dan Bailey

Yes, kickers are people too. But don’t expect me to spend too much time on them. Dan Bailey is effective when he plays in a dome regularly, his offense was 6th in scoring last year, and he converted 93% of his FGs. He ranked 12th in FGs made but 4th in extra points kicked. Take the points where you can get them.

Recommendation: You know when to take your kicker. He’ll be there for you after your fellow league-mates start taking them too early.

 

Waiver Watch: (Players to keep an eye out for on the wire)

RB Lance Dunbar

WR Terrance Williams

WR Cole Beasley

 

New York Giants

Starting 0-6 last season didn’t help the Giants. Neither did 23 turnovers during that span. The Giants would win their next 4 and finish the season 7-9, but they’ll have their work cut out for them in 2014. Coach Tom Coughlin brought on former Packers QB coach Ben McAdoo to run his offense and hopes that will help right the ship…and Eli Manning

 

QB Eli Manning

18 TD/27 INT, 3,818 passing yards in 2013

There isn’t a nice way to put it. Eli Manning was bad last year. Really bad. The last time he threw nearly as many INTs (25 in 2010), he at least threw 31 TDs and led the Giants to 10 wins. Manning led the league in INTs by 5 (Flacco with 22). In McAdoo’s system, Manning will be expected to get the ball out quicker and lead an up tempo offense that will keep defenses on their heels, much like San Diego and New England to an extent. Manning will be without TE Brandon Meyers and his 47 catches last season, now in Tampa Bay. The total number of receptions in 2013 by the current group of TEs on the roster (Kellen Davis, Larry Donnell, Adrian Robinson, Daniel Fells and Xavier Gimble) is 7.

Recommendation: If you take Eli Manning, take him late. Would be worth taking the flyer on the 3-time Pro Bowler if he can get back to that form. 

 

RB Rashad Jennings

733 rush yards, 6 TDs / 36 receptions, 292 receiving yards 0 TDs in 2013

The Giants look to Rashad Jennings to handle the top of their depth chart at running back. The team’s leading rusher, Andre Brown (492 yards), is now in Houston. David Wilson has unfortunately retired due to neck problems after 2 seasons in the league. And Jennings has never been a full-time feature back for an entire season. In 8 starts though last season, Jennings took over for the oft-injured Darren McFadden and gained over 1,000 yards of total offense from scrimmage.

Recommendation: Since he is the projected starting running back, Jennings is an RB2 that you can take late in your draft.

 

WR Victor Cruz

73 rec, 998 yds, 4 TDs in 2013

A concussion and a knee injury cut Victor Cruz’s season short last year after 14 games. Going into his 5th season with the Giants, the hope is that Cruz can still take it to the house from anywhere on the field. He will be depended on like Jordy Nelson is in the Packers offense. Quick slants, screens, and the likely handful of bombs downfield that put Cruz and his cha-cha dance on the map will be in the game plan to stretch the field. The plays are designed to utilize Cruz’s burning run after-the-catch ability.

Recommendation: Pair Cruz with one of the Top 15 receivers on the board and you could be sitting pretty. He would be a strong value pick in the middle rounds.

 

Waiver Watch:

RB Peyton Hillis (Note: Dealing with injured foot but listed as 2nd RB)

RB Andre Williams

WR Reuben Randle

WR Odell Beckham Jr.

 

Philadelphia Eagles

One of the most improved teams last season will look to stay a step ahead of opposing defenses in year 2 of the Chip Kelly regime. Kelly’s hurry-up offense had the Eagles 2nd in yards per game (417.2), 4th in points (27.6) and winning a division title after finishing last the year before. While the Eagles released a scoring weapon in DeSeasn Jackson, they add two more playmakers in Darren Sproles via trade and Jeremy Maclin returning from injury.

 

QB Nick Foles

27 TD/2 INT, 2,891 passing yards / 221 rush yards, 3 TD in 2013 (13 games)

In 2 seasons, Nick Foles has 16 starts under his belt. He went 1-5 his rookie year and 8-2 in 2013. Foles also led the league in quarterback rating (119.2). The difference? Maybe Chip Kelly. 2014 will really be the judge of that as defensive coordinators across the league try to slow down Foles and his Eagles targets. Both the running backs are dangerous in the passing game, especially after the catch. And the deep threat tandem of Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin will make safeties nervous. However, an emphasis has been made on better protection of the quarterback which seemed to be an issue that plagued Foles’ predecessor, Michael Vick.

Recommendation: Yes, Foles had incredible numbers last season but it was still a limited sample size. Some believe he deserves the next big contract but I’m not sold yet. Draft your running back and maybe an elite pass catcher before drafting Foles.

 

RB LeSean McCoy

1,607 rush yards, 9 TD / 52 rec. 539 rec yards, 2 TD in 2013

2,000 Yards. Rushing…That’s the bar LeSean McCoy has set for himself this season by tweeting Thursday morning, “This is THE YEAR!!!! My potential is #2000yards. Will I reach it? Stepping up my training and signs point to yes.” He broke the 2,000 yard mark combining his rushing and receiving. Why not do it ALL on the ground? Only 6 other running backs have done it before him: Eric Dickerson, Adrian Peterson, Jamal Lewis, Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis, Chris Johnson, and OJ Simpson. The only concern is staying healthy. Last season was the first time McCoy played all 16 games and he led the league in carries (314).

Recommendation: The argument is between McCoy and Jamaal Charles for top running back, but McCoy should be the first to come off the board. I trust the Eagles offense to move the chains and stay on the field more than Kansas City.

 

RB Darren Sproles

220 rush yards, 2 TD / 71 rec. 604 rec yards / 449 return yards in 2013

Darren Sproles joins the Eagles not just as a complimentary back to McCoy, but also a versatile option at Kelly’s disposal. He’ll catch passes out of the backfield, split wide, and take some handoffs as well. Don’t be surprised to see Sproles get significant time on the field with McCoy when the Eagles are in rhythm…or when Kelly is feeling frisky. 2013 was a down year for Sproles and he fell out of favor with Saints head coach Sean Payton. Keep in mind Sproles set the NFL record for all-purpose yards in a season (2,696) in 2011. He has also caught at least 70 passes in each of the last three seasons.

Recommendation: Sproles has described his role with the Eagles as “dangerous” and I believe it. When RB2’s start going, pick him up to at least be your flex, especially if you’re in a PPR league. Should be counted on for return yards too.

 

WRs Riley Cooper & Jeremy Maclin

Cooper: 47 rec, 835 yards, 8 TD / Maclin: DNP in 2013

Riley Cooper started 15 of the 16 games he played last year and saw his production more than triple from the year before. For that, the Eagles rewarded him with a 5-year $25 million contract. Despite his racist remarks before the 2013 season, the Eagles committed to him and not DeSean Jackson. The majority of Cooper’s production came after Foles was named starter, and during the stretch of weeks 6-10. Some expect Cooper to be counted on to make up for Jackson’s 82 receptions and 1,332 yards from 2013, but I would look to Jeremy Maclin first.

Maclin missed 2013 after tearing his ACL. Before then, he was averaging 863.25 yards per season and played in at least 15 games 3 of those 4 seasons. The 6-foot speedster from Mizzou will look to bounce back and has a more proven track record than Cooper to be a #1 receiver for this Eagles squad.

Recommendation: I wouldn’t look to draft either receiver until later rounds. You can’t depend on potential for something more than a WR2 or Flex player. I also trust Maclin for production ahead of Cooper, recognizing the injury history.

 

Waiver Watch:

TE Zach Ertz

TE Brent Celek

K Alex Henery

 

Washington Redskins

While the Eagles went from 4th to 1st in the division, the Washington Redskins did the complete opposite. Redskins were near the bottom in scoring last year and gave up the second most points in the league. Not a recipe for success. Jay Gruden took over the helm in Washington for Mike Shanahan. The Bengals ranked 6th in total offense last season with Gruden’s play calling and 8th in passing.

 

QB Robert Griffin III

16 TD/12 INT, 3,203 passing yards, 489 rush yards in 2013

2013 was messy for RGIII. He was rusty and a lot less mobile following his knee surgery in the offseason before. After constant clashes with Shanahan, Griffin found himself on the bench for the final 3. Gruden has worked on communication with his quarterback in hopes to replicate the offense he had in Cincinnati along with Griffin’s running ability. Griffin will likely see less zone-read called but will be even better in play-action with a healthy knee and his new toy, DeSean Jackson.

Recommendation: I have a hard time deciding how much of 2013 was on RGIII or Shanahan. Griffin came off very immature off the field, which makes me weary of him on the field and with a first time head coach. Not top tier, but the healthy knee gives him value in the middle rounds.

 

RB Alfred Morris

1,275 rush yards, 7 TD in 2013

Alfred Morris has totaled 2,888 rushing yards in his first two seasons and quietly. In his rookie year, his 1,613 yards were overshadowed by the success of his quarterback, yet ranked 2nd in the league. Morris doesn’t catch passes out of the backfield, but he does run hard. Look for Gruden to depend heavily on Morris at the start of the season while the rest of the offense adjusts to his new playbook.

Recommendation: Alfred Morris is a Top 10 running back right now. No Shanahan also means no platooning either. You can take him by round 3.

 

WR Pierre Garçon

113 receptions, 1,346 yards, 5 TDs

While 2013 wasn’t a good year for Washington, it was a great one for Pierre Garçon. He led the league in receptions and targets, and ranked Top 10 in total yards. That’s a heck of an accomplishment considering the direction the NFL is going in, being a passing league. However, that success didn’t translate into points and part of that blame can be put on Griffin. The addition of another 1,300 yard receiver should open things up nicely for Garçon in 2014 though.

Recommendation: The reception numbers should drop a little with Jackson commanding a chunk of the targets. Still a solid WR2 with WR1 potential.

 

WR DeSean Jackson

82 rec, 1,332 rec. yards 9 TD

Jackson had easily his best statistical season receiving last year, yet the Eagles felt it necessary to release him. The backfire may be letting him sign in the division with a chip on his shoulder. Washington couldn’t be happier. Jackson provides speed that they haven’t had in a long time, and a healthy Griffin is going to have downfield choices between him and Garçon.

Recommendation: Much like Garçon, Jackson is a solid WR2 with WR1 upside. The difference will be his returner capabilities, if Gruden chooses to use them.

 

Waiver Watch:

RB Roy Helu

WR Santana Moss

WR Aldrick Robinson

TE Jordan Reed

K Kai Forbath

 

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