Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Under the Gun

This week I chose the Killers B-side Under the Gun because that's just what it is like out on the field now that fall sports are underway. Also I'll be under the gun tonight as I have my fantasy football draft tonight.

As defending champion of my league, I'll have a lot of pressure (and wisecracks) slung on my back.

Last week I had the pleasure of covering a Bottineau/Westhope-Newburg-Glenburn football game. I also spent most of my Saturday at the BHS gym covering the earlybird volleyball tournament. I had only a slight break when I traveled to Westhope to cover the Sioux's game against Stanley-Powers Lake.

This week I have only one game, and that is the Dakota College at Bottineau Jacks opening football game against Mayville State.

Anywho, plenty of pictures from this past week's events:

Bottineau junior Harrison Aide lines up on offense last Tuesday against the Sioux.

Braves quarterback Tanner Bickford delivers a pass last Tuesday.

Trevor Wettlaufer scampers for a touchdown in the second quarter.

Sioux junior Hunter Braaten hurls a pass.

Braaten tries to escape the clutches of Braves lineman Dalton Sivertson.

Aide gets forced out of bounds by Chase Conway of the Sioux.

Lane Berentson await Aide's move off the line last Tuesday.

Kodie Hancock gets wrapped up by Wettlaufer.

Braaten barks out the signal.

Karlie Hancock punts the football.

Aide attempts to juke Kodie Hancock.

Devin Korynta and Braaten try and drag down Wettlaufer on a run play.

Wettlaufer lays a big hit on Kodie Hancock.

Bickford prepares to throw.

The Eagles Lauren Mach blocks a Katryna Hahn hit.

Eagles senior Hadlee Schell smacks a shot over the net last Saturday in Bottineau.

Eagles setter Molly Lodoen passes a ball toward the net.

Logan Hermes goes low on a Blue Jays rusher, while Korynta looks to put on a big hit.

Braaten eludes a defender.

Braaten cuts toward the sideline.

Kodie Hancock hits the hole.

Kodie runs the ball.

Braaten and Karlie Hancock chase Blue Jays quarterback Sam Footh.

Hahn hammers home a point.

Junior Courtney Gallagher serves during a match last Saturday.

Hahn again goes for a kill.

Karlee McCloud (left) and Hahn (right) attempt to block.

Gallagher tips one over the net.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Last, Child

I chose to go with a variation of the Aerosmith song Last Child this week. By putting in the comma it is signifying that this is the last week of lack of photos on this blog, and probably the last week that I'm going to get much rest.

I did four previews last week and covered the races. This week I have a football game tonight and one on Saturday. Also there is a volleyball tournament on Saturday. The fall season is upon us, which I'm quite happy for, because that means that fantasy football is about to start.

Week 4: the expendables

This final week, as everyone is preparing for drafts, I leave you with a few rankings and a little advice. We end the fantasy advice series with tight ends, kickers and team defenses.

Tight ends are a curious bunch. Though they play important and vital roles on the field, they aren't much of a factor when it comes to fantasy, that is, until last year. Rob Gronkowski and Jimmie Graham made tight ends relevant again. However, the rest of the sorry pack really weren't all that impressive, most of them couldn't out score a fourth or fifth running back, but I'll give my top five anyway.

1. Rob Gronkowski
Gronk is a freak athlete, and he has one of the best quarterbacks in the league throwing at him. I'd have to imagine that, due to his freakish size, strength and ability, he has to be one of the hardest receivers tight end or otherwise to cover, and that gives him an advantage. He is a clear lock for the top tight end spot, but there is one problem--Madden curse. So choose wisely, if you believe in that sort of thing.

2. Jimmie Graham
Graham nearly held his own with Gronk last season, and also had a stud arm firing balls his way. He too has great ability and size, and has proven a favorite target of Brees. Chances are his numbers will be as good, if not better than last year. Draft him in the second or third round if possible.

3. Jermichael Finley
When healthy Finley is nearly on the level of Gronkowski and Graham, but that's the problem, he tends to get nicked up. He has a strong upside, which is something I normally don't put stock in, however, with tight ends that is really all that can be hoped for. He might be worth a shot in the end, he does have Rodgers throwing to him after all.

4. Antonio Gates
There is about a 50/50 shot that Gates returns to form in 2012. Though I wouldn't risk a super-high pick on Gates, a seventh or eighth round stab for him could be warranted. He's battled injury the past couple of years, but Gates is still at a fighting age (32), when a similarly skilled tight end (Tony Gonzalez) was 32, (and he is still playing by the way) he scored 165 fantasy points and also had 96 receptions. So, it isn't over for Gates just yet.

5. Brandon Pettigrew
The biggest positive for Pettigrew is that he gets targeted a lot (15th most of all receivers, higher than Gronk), but the problem is he doesn't always catch it (seven drops, rank 10). However, if he figures it out and Stafford keeps chucking him the ball in the red zone, lets just say, don't be surprised to see double digit touchdowns at minimum for Pettigrew this year.

As for kickers, there isn't any real intricate way to put this, they don't matter. Some might do better than others one year, and worse the next. Over the years I've tried to rank and predict kickers, with little to no success. I don't think there is really anyway that their season can be predicted. Sputtering offenses or a tough schedule could maybe help, but to be honest, I think it's mostly a crap shoot. Draft a kicker in the second-to-last round or pick one up right before week one. If he gets hurt or under performs pick up another.

Defenses are even more worthless than kickers, apart from some oddball leagues that buff defensive statistics. The typical fantasy football league defenses can be taken or left. One thing is for sure, do not take a defense until the last pick. There is absolutely no reason to take the Steelers defense before the Cardinals defense, they won't finish too far between them. My personal favorite way to do defenses is to stream them. Streaming is when one looks at the free agent defenses, picks the one that is going up against the worst offense, or the worst quarterback and starts them. Repeat the process the every week. It might cost a little extra in transaction fees (if the league has them), but it could be the extra couple-point advantage that can get a win.

I hope that any of these columns have helped prepare those who will be drafting this fall. They hopefully provide some of the basics for those to draft. Obviously many more players will be taken, and many more decisions will be testing the rankings, but it's better than nothing, right? Good luck in 2012.

With that out of the way, here are a couple race pictures:
The 181 car of Dustin Sackenrueter gets a little wide coming out of turn four last Sunday.

Chris Romfo takes the checkered flag, one of three for him on the night.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ready to Go

In preparation for the upcoming fall sports season, I chose the song Ready to Go by Panic! At The Disco, because well, I'm ready for it. I love fall sports. Football is my favorite sport to watch and photograph, and volleyball is pretty impressive, when played at a high level.

I don't have any pictures this week, as I was doing a feature, a news story and a couple of previews.

However, I do have part three of four in my fantasy football preview series. It's on wide receivers.

Part three: wide world of wideouts

A wide receiver is the most unique position in fantasy football because NFL teams could have two and even three potential fantasy starters playing at the position. All the other positions mostly have one, or in the case of a running back by committee situation, two.

What this means is that wide receiver is usually a very deep position with 40 to 60 ball snaggers (or more) that could be inserted into a fantasy lineup each week. The best strategy in a draft is to snag three or four of those startable receivers in the first eight or nine rounds and base starting them on match ups. Other receivers will emerge during the season as well, so remember to keep an eye on the waiver wire when a starter goes down, or someone else is on the rise. Waivers can be key on wide receivers as Victor Cruz proved last year, and as I always say, the draft is only 40 percent of the fantasy season.

Without further ado, here is my list of top 10 wide receivers for the 2012 season. As with last week the PPR rank will be in parentheses behind them and the replacement will be stated if that player is outside of the top 10. One note, the top three wide receivers appear to be pretty clear cut to me, but after that there is a bunch of guys who either put up big numbers and might slip, or guys that put up decent numbers and look to improve this year. After three, as a drafter, one must just evaluate the offense or the potential of the receiver.

1. Calvin Johnson (1)
No matter the league settings, Megatron should sit on the top of the heap of wide outs with no question. After the monster season that he had in 2011, one would be a fool not to put him there. It would be hard to believe that he could improve on last season, but I wouldn't be surprised if he went after Moss' touchdown record.
2. Larry Fitzgerald (4)
Despite playing with an inexperienced quarterback (John Skelton) and one that was injury-riddled and didn't know the system well (Kevin Kolb), Fitzgerald put up strong numbers last season. Although he is nearing the waning years of his prime, Fitzgerald should put up even better numbers this year with a healthy Kolb (who now should know the system) slinging balls his way.
3. Roddy White (2)
A target hog (league leading 181 in 2011), White gets a lot of receptions and is often targeted in the red zone. With a great rapport between himself and Matt Ryan, White is in his prime and should be a strong, early draft pick this year.
4. A.J. Green (<10)
A strong deep threat on a team that doesn't have any other great targets now that Jerome Simpson is gone, Green could be poised to have a great year in 2012. Andy Dalton proved to be a reliable arm last season, and often looked the way of Green. Although any of the receivers from four to almost 20 are nearly interchangeable, I think that Green has a real chance to break out.
5. Julio Jones (<10)
Jones is nearly an identical threat as Green, but with more talent. He had a couple nagging injuries last year, which slowed him down, but his biggest drawback is that he has to share the field with Roddy White (and the targets). However, that could be a good thing, since White garners a lot of attention from opposing defenses, and almost always draws the top corner.
6. Greg Jennings (<10)
Jennings again put up great numbers last year, despite missing three games. He should come back strong, and with a throw-first offense and the best quarterback in the league tossing him the ball, should be a lock for 12+touchdowns and more than 1,200 yards. Plus, nobody expects Jordy Nelson to snag 15 touchdowns again, do they?
7. Brandon Marshall (5)
Marshall, though an egotistical head case, is a supremely talented wide receiver. He is reunited with former teammate Jay Cutler this season, and the last time they played together Marshall had a career high 104 receptions. Cutler has evolved as a quarterback since and the two should have a good go of it this season.
8. Victor Cruz (6)
A surprise to everyone last season, Victor Cruz emerged as one of the top wide outs in all of fantasy. Although expecting numbers as good as last season would be unwise, do expect Cruz to again benefit from a confident Eli Manning, coming off the super bowl win.
9. Wes Welker (3)
The second-most targeted receiver in the NFL last season, Welker is another of the guys that gets a lot of catches, and makes a lot of plays. He might not be the most prolific touchdown scorer, and he has to worry about new arrival Brandon Lloyd cutting into those targets, but expect Welker to surpass 100 receptions easy, and get at least eight touchdowns.
10. Marques Colston (7)
One can't expect me to leave the best of Drew Brees' receivers off the top 10 list, right? Brees did break the single season passing record after all, and along with Jimmy Graham, Colston benefited. With little to no running game, expect the Saints to air it out again this season, and expect Colston to reap the benefits.
Rest of the PPR guys: 8. Percy Harvin. 9. Dwayne Bowe. 10. Steve Smith.

Keep reading next week as I close out the fantasy preparedness seminar with a discussion on tight ends, kickers and defenses.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Aptly named, the song Survival by Muse is the Official song of the 2012 London Olympics. It is apt, because sport, and especially Olympic sport, is about being the fittest and best athlete. And everyone knows that Darwin proposed 'survival of the fittest.'

Anyway, not a lot in the way of news this week. I do have a few pictures from the races last Sunday. I also have another fantasy football column. This week I'm focusing on running backs, a tough position to predict.

Week 2: The mighty backs

This week I'm taking a look at a very tough position this year--running backs. With the rise of running back by committee, running backs have been a very vital and volatile position. It usually manages to have a few steady backs on top, a few surprises and lots of decline and injury. This year, as I mentioned last week, I'm looking to pick up steady, strong and proven players, and trying and shy away from injury risk and hype. While many fantasy "experts" put a lot of stock in a player's upside, I will put much more in what they've been able to do in the past.
Also I will have two sets of rankings for those whose leagues are non-standard and might be PPR or points per reception leagues. Having grown up in a PPR league, I tend to favor them, but playing my main league as standard, I will base my rankings on that. PPR rank will be in parentheses (<10, means outside of the top 10 in PPR). 
The rankings:

1. Arian Foster (1):
Foster is the undisputed top back this season, and for good reason. Despite fighting past injury and playing only part of the season, Foster picked up right where he left off in 2010. Some worry that a with a talented Ben Tate behind him, that Foster might be a risk, but I wouldn't rather have my eggs in any other basket at running back this year. I predicted his rise in 2010, and I would love to have a solid and proven back like Foster to anchor my team in both PPR and non-PPR leagues.
2. Ray Rice (2)
Having now proven that his size and touchdown-scoring abilities are no longer a concern, Rice is most definitely deserving of a very high ranking. His ability to be dangerous out of multiple formations and especially as a receiver out of the backfield make Rice a huge asset to any fantasy team. While he might not put up the touchdown numbers of a Foster or McCoy, Rice will make up for it yards and in PPR--receptions.
3. LeSean McCoy (3)
McCoy is in a great position to thrive again in 2012. Last season he broke out (as I suspected, in trading for him early last season) and became a premiere back, and a very steady one. He scored 17 touchdowns and had more than 1,600 total yards, even with a couple weeks without Mike Vick at the helm. His situation will be solid again this year as the spotlight will remain on Vick and loudmouth receiver DeSean Jackson. Exepect another strong season from McCoy, 1,500 yards and 15+ touchdowns would not be surprising.
4. Maurice Jones-Drew (4)
Having been a force in fantasy for the past three seasons, and having three strong seasons before that, Maurice Jones-Drew or MJD should be waning at this point in his career. However, thanks to a light workload his first few seasons MJD has proven to be a durable and strong staple at the running back position. I see him as solid again this season, while 1,600 yards on the ground may be a stretch this year, 1,200-1,300 with 10 touchdowns is a more reasonable expectation. How much longer can he keep that up? That's unsure, but this year, he is still solid.
5. Matt Forte (5)
Where many fantasy writers will place someone like Trent Richardson or Ryan Mathews, I place Matt Forte. With a return off of an injury that really wasn't that serious, and domination prior to said injury, Forte should be put up in this category. He is in a great situation offensively as well.
6. Michael Turner (<10 No. 6 in PPR- Fred Jackson)
Michael Turner, or as I refer to him "Turner the Earner" has been putting up solid numbers for the past four years, ever since he became the feature back in Atlanta. While I don't seem him putting up numbers like in 2008, expect around 1,200 yards and a dozen touchdowns.
7. Frank Gore (<10 No. 7  in PPR- Darren Sproles)
While Gore might be considered an injury risk (he has only played all 16 games twice in six years) he still produces when he isn't injured. If he manages to stay healthy, and especially in the postseason when needed, Gore is a strong veteran, who puts up proven numbers.
8. DeMarco Murray (<10 NO. 8 in PPR- Ryan Mathews)
Murray burst on to the scene for the Cowboys last season, running for a strong 253 yards in his first start in the stead of Felix Jones. With Murray expected to be the starter this season, there is no doubt that he can be a solid starting back in fantasy this season.
9. Marshawn Lynch (<10 No. 10 in PPR- Reggie Bush)
Lynch seemingly came out of nowhere to have a strong fantasy season with 1,200+ yards and 12 touchdowns last year. Since he is really the only threat in Seattle, that might hurt him, but with a guarantee of a ton of touches, Lynch could also stay steady. I'll take the latter.
10. Jamaal Charles (9)
People tend to forget the season that Charles (age 25) put up in 2010. In only a limited role, Charles averaged 6.4 yards per carry, racking up nearly 1,500 yards on the ground, add nearly another 500 receiving and he had a spectacular year. If he returns to form, it could be a great pick in the second or maybe even third round. 

Hang around next week I as discuss receivers, the deepest and perhaps most difficult position to predict.

Sport stock racers try and avoid a spin out by Pat Smith last Sunday at Thunder Mountain Speedway north of Bottineau.

The 12x car, driven by Bob Nostdahl, crosses the finish first in the trophy dash.

Nostdahl tosses candy to awaiting kids.

TMS' flag men relax as they wait for the next race to begin.

The 08 car of Cody  Smith gets a little loose off of turn four and scrapes the wall.

Erik Blada (left) and Frank Smith (right) collide beginning a series of crashes that end with Smith's car rolling.

Matt Hunter of Bottineau crosses the finish first in the 20-lap feature race.