Mel Kiper's Best Available – Prospector Sports Blog

This sports blog is written by some hardcore, opinionated Chicago fans who are not afraid to express their opinions. We’re going to tell you what’s what in the sporting world, who’s doing well and who deserves a beating. This blog will be updated every few days or so, so check back periodically to find out what’s up in the sporting world.
November 4, 2009
Powerhouse team, but is anyone watching?
By Neel Thakkar
Associate Editor-in-Chief
With last week’s lopsided  victory over Carmel, our football program has shown, once again, that they are one of the best teams in the state.  We have a quarterback who is arguably one of the best in the state.  We have an offense that can score in less than a minute – or, like last week, in less than 10 seconds.  We have an opportunistic defense, and, lest we forget, the most state football championships this side of Mt. Carmel.
So it was surprising and more than a little disappointing to see that, with the MSL East championship on the line against Rolling Meadows, we were embarrassed by a superior school.  We weren’t embarrassed on the field – we went toe-to-toe with the Mustangs for almost the entire four quarters – but rather, we were embarrassed in the stands.
At our own home game, Meadows was able to pack the stands with more students than we could.  If it weren’t for the parents, who dutifully make our fan support look stronger than it is week after week, the difference might have been even more glaring.
The same thing happened at the first playoff game.  Granted, I was not expecting us to come close to matching Carmel’s home crowd, but the number of students in attendance numbered just about 50.   It’s a shame, too, since the game was a blast, with a pinpoint defense that stuffed Carmel’s triple-option offense and an offense that ran wild all over the field.
All these numbers reflect poorly on our fan base.  And it seems to me a problem that is largely unique to our school.  Even Hersey, which has become accustomed to regular drubbings on the football field, attracts fans.  During one of the most miserable days to watch a football game we’ve had all season, the Hersey crowd was out in full force and stayed until the very end when the Huskies met the Knights.  I saw more Hersey fans out to watch the game on that awful regular-season game day than I’ve seen at any of our games – including the Homecoming game – despite the fact that they were shut out 40-0.
Luckily, we have another home game coming up on Saturday night.  It’s not too late to hop on the bandwagon.
October 29, 2009
Start ‘Em Sit ‘Em (Week Eight)
By Brian Thomas
Staff Writer
Do you play fantasy football? Do you ever have trouble making decisions about who to start or who to sit? How often do you make the wrong decision? Maybe I can help you make the right decisions about who to start and who to sit. I will reveal some possible sleepers and reveal the busts for week 8. But first things first, the 6 teams that are off due to bye weeks are the Bengals, the Patriots, the Chiefs, the Buccaneers, the Steelers and the Redskins.

Week 7 Recap

Starts that made me look good:
Aaron Rodgers: He threw for 246 yards, and had 3 touchdowns.
Vincent Jackson: He had 142 yards receiving, and a touchdown.
DeAngelo Williams: He had 89 yards rushing, 50 receiving yards, and a touchdown.
Sits that made me look good:
Brett Favre: He threw for 334 yards, had no touchdowns, and had 1 interception and 1 fumble
Any Pittsburgh RB: Parker had 2 yards rushing. Mendenhall had 69 yards rushing and a fumble.
Santonio Holmes: He had 59 receiving yards.
Starts that made me look bad:
Heath Miller: He had 38 yards receiving.
Visanthe Shiancoe: He had 27 yards receiving.
Sits that made me look bad:
DeSean Jackson: He had 67 rushing yards, 69 receiving yards, and 2 touchdowns.
Cardinals D: They had 3 interceptions, a fumble recovery, 3 sacks, and allowed 17 points.
On to this week’s picks:
Start ‘Em
David Garrard
He is playing the Tennessee Titans and their awful secondary. In his first meeting with the Titans, he threw for 3 touchdowns and had 323 passing yards. Expect similar results from Garrard on Sunday.
Jay Cutler
The Cleveland Browns secondary has been torched week after week. As a team Cleveland has given up 20 or more points in 6 out of 7 games this year. Expect Cutler to have a better day than last week and for him to put up big numbers and multiple scores.
Sit ‘Em
Kyle Orton
Orton will have lots of pressure on him this week as he plays the Ravens this week. I expect his timing with his receivers to be off and I think he will make a lot of turnovers and mistakes in this game.
Matt Ryan
He plays a good secondary in the New Orleans Saints. On the year, they have 13 interceptions in six games, leading the league. Matt Ryan will struggle in this game so don’t expect a big day from him.
Start ‘Em
LaDainian Tomlinson
LT really hasn’t shown much this year, but that should change this week. He plays one of the worst defenses in the Oakland Raiders. Also LT’s only rushing touchdown of the year came against the Raiders in the first game of the season.
Steven Jackson
Steven Jackson consistently puts up lots of yards, but he has yet to score a touchdown on the year. If he doesn’t score this week against Detroit, then I don’t know what to tell you. The Lions have a terrible defense and I am expecting Jackson to end his scoreless streak in this game.
Sit ‘Em
Ryan Grant
In a Packer offense that relies on the pass game, I don’t like Grant in this game, especially against the Vikings defense. They have one of the best run defenses as they rank 10th in the league in rush defense.
Knowshon Moreno
Correll Buckhalter is back and he and Moreno are splitting carries again. Moreno is playing the Ravens defense and this is just not a good matchup for him; avoid him if you have better options at running back.
Start ‘Em
Miles Austin
I don’t know if you have heard… but Miles Austin is the number 1 wide receiver in fantasy football. He is quickly becoming Tony Romo’s favorite target and he is the starting wide receiver in Dallas. He also has a favorable matchup against the Seahawks defense this week.
Mike Sims-Walker
He has a great matchup against one of the weakest defenses and secondaries in the Titans. He has good chemistry with David Garrard and is showing he can consistently be a top wide receiver in the league. Not to mention that in his last meeting with the Titans he ended up in the end zone twice.
Sit ‘Em
Brandon Marshall
He is playing Baltimore and should draw a lot of attention from their secondary. Orton will have lots of pressure on him and won’t be in sync with Marshall.
Mario Manningham
Due to the emergence of rookie wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, Manningham’s targets and receptions have decreased. His matchup, against the Eagles is also not a favorable one.
Start ‘Em
Mercedes Lewis
He is playing the Titans and the last time he played the Titans he had the best game of the year, with 70 receiving yards and a touchdown. He should have another good game this week.
Greg Olsen
Playing the Browns is enough reason to start him this week. The Browns have an also-ran secondary and the Bears should have a big day through the air, which means Olsen should have a good day.
Sit ‘Em
Vernon Davis
I’m not completely sold on Vernon Davis despite his career game last week. He plays the Colts this week which is an unfavorable matchup for him as they have not allowed a tight end to score a touchdown this year.
Dustin Keller
The Jets’ offense is based entirely on the run. They pass very little and when they do it seems as if Mark Sanchez has his eyes glued onto Braylon Edwards, making Keller basically useless. Last time he played the Dolphins, he was completely shut out as he didn’t even record a reception.
Start ‘Em
San Diego
They are playing the Oakland Raiders. That alone is reason enough for you to start them. The Raiders offense is completely awful and they don’t seem to know who their quarterback really is. The Chargers should shut down the Raiders this week.
Sit ‘Em
New York Jets
Last time the Jets played the Dolphins, it was a disaster. They were no match for Miami’s Wildcat offense. I don’t expect anything different in this game as we should see the Wildcat quite a bit.
Start ‘Em
Nate Kaeding
The Chargers should score a lot of points and there should be plenty of opportunities for Kaeding to score points this game.
Sit ‘Em
Nick Folk
The Cowboys’ offense should score a lot of touchdowns this week leaving Folk with a bunch of extra points.
October 22, 2009
Start ‘Em Sit ‘Em (Week 7)
By Brian Thomas
Staff Writer
Do you play fantasy football? Do you ever have trouble making decisions about who to start or who to sit? How often do you make the wrong decision? Maybe I can help you make the right decisions about who to start and who to sit. I will reveal some possible sleepers and reveal the busts for week 7.
First things first: the 6 teams that are off due to bye weeks are the Ravens, the Broncos, the Jaguars, the Lions, the Titans, and the Seahawks.
Recap of Week 6
Starts That Made Me Look Good:
Ben Roethlisberger: He threw for 417 yards and 2 touchdowns, but he had a fumble and an interception.
Ryan Grant: He had 90 rushing yards and 17 receiving yards.
Roddy White: He had 56 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Sits That Made Me Look Good:
John Carlson: He had 55 receiving yards.
Titans Defense: Gave up 59 points to the Patriots.
Starts That Made Me Look Bad:
Jake Delhomme: He threw for only 65 yards, a touchdown and had 2 interceptions.
Knowshon Moreno: He only had 44 rushing yards.
Jeremy Maclin: He had 1 catch for 6 yards.
Sits That Made Me Look Bad:
Joe Flacco: He had 385 yards, and 2 touchdowns.
Vincent Jackson: He had 46 yards receiving, and a touchdown.
Owen Daniels: He had 78 yards receiving, and 2 touchdowns.
Now, on to this week’s picks.
Start ‘Em
Aaron Rodgers
He plays in a pass-happy Green Bay offense and has put up double digit fantasy points every week. He is playing Cleveland on Sunday and he should destroy their weak secondary, as Big Ben did last week.
Phillip Rivers
The Chargers are becoming a pass-first offense, which is good news for Rivers. He looks to have a big week this week after a subpar week last week against the Broncos on Monday night. He plays at Kansas City, who has allowed the 6th most passing yards in the league.
Sit ‘Em
Brett Favre
Something tells me this just isn’t going to be Favre’s day. The Steelers have been a solid defense all year, and now they finally have Troy Polamalu back in the lineup. With Polamalu they are a great defense. They can cause pressure and their secondary is much better in coverage.
Kurt Warner
Warner is going to be playing a Giants team coming off an embarrassing loss to New Orleans. The Giants are at home and will bring lots of pressure. I expect the Giants secondary to rebound from last week and perform much better. Don’t be surprised if Warner has a bad game and some turnovers.
Start ‘Em
DeAngelo Williams
The DeAngelo Williams everyone expected this year showed up last week, finding the end zone twice. He also ran for over 150 yards. He is playing Buffalo, who does not have a good run defense. The Panthers do not have a reliable pass game so they will be running the ball for most of the game.
Laurence Maroney
Fred Taylor is out. Sammy Morris is questionable. If he doesn’t play, Maroney is the man, and he should be anyway. Last week he ran for 123 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. This week he is playing the Buccaneers, who were shredded by the Panthers last week. Look for Maroney to have a big day.
Sit ‘Em
Steven Jackson
Even though he is so consistent and puts up about a combined 100 yards rushing and receiving every week, he has yet to score a touchdown. I don’t see why this game would be any different against the Colts. They will just stack the box to make the Rams pass on them.
Any Pittsburgh RB
That means Rashard Mendenhall and Willie Parker and I guess Mewelde Moore. Mendenhall and Parker are splitting carries which is not good for fantasy numbers. They are also going up against the Vikings. I look for the Vikings to take away the running game early and make the Steelers pass to win the game.
Start ‘Em
Wes Welker
Last week against the Titans, it looked like 2007 for the Patriots all over again. They were throwing the ball all over the field, running up the score. Welker found the end zone twice. Expect another huge performance this week from Welker as Brady is back on the right page with his receivers.
Vincent Jackson
I like Rivers playing the Chiefs, so I obviously also like Jackson. He should torch the Chiefs secondary.
Sit ‘Em
DeSean Jackson
Jackson is too inconsistent of a receiver. He either has a huge game or he just flat out doesn’t show up. He plays the Redskins who surprisingly are one of the better teams defending against the pass. So look for a bad game from Jackson.
Santonio Holmes
Can you believe that he has not caught a touchdown since week one against the Titans? Neither can I. Big Ben has found his favorite targets. And Holmes isn’t one of them. His go-to receivers are Hines Ward and Heath Miller. This leaves Holmes out of the picture. His matchup against Minnesota doesn’t help him much either.
Start ‘Em
Heath Miller
Like I said above, Miller is becoming one of Big Ben’s favorite targets, especially in the red zone. I expect Big Ben to hit him often for some big plays. In Miller’s last 3 games he has had 4 touchdowns. Expect a good day from him.
Visanthe Shiancoe
I don’t think Favre will have a great day, but I still think Shiancoe will. He has quickly become one of Favre’s favorite targets. Like Miller, he also has 4 touchdowns in his last 3 games. Look for continued success this week for Shiancoe.
Sit ‘Em
Zach Miller
He had one good game last week against a shaky Eagles team. I don’t expect for him to do anything like what he did last week. Especially against a hungry Jets team who desperately need to get a win.
Chris Cooley
I don’t trust Jason Campbell throwing the ball in that offense. He can’t do it consistently enough making Cooley a bad play. Maybe not letting Zorn call the plays will work out, but I honestly doubt it.
Start ‘Em
All you need to know is that they are playing the Cleveland Browns. That alone makes them a must-start. They are one of the better defenses in the league, but when they play Derek Anderson, who has completed only 11 passes in the last 2 weeks they are going to have a great week.
Sit ‘Em
They travel all the way across the United States only to play the hungry New York Giants who are at home. The Giants are looking to get a big win after getting embarrassed by the Saints a week ago. They are going to put a lot of points on the board and I don’t know if the Cardinals will have any answers for them.
 Start ‘Em
Rian Lindell
The Buffalo offense is just so bad that they cannot score any touchdowns. So if they can move the ball a little bit and get into field goal range, Lindell will have a good day with lots of field goals.
Sit ‘Em
Stephen Gostkowski
If the Patriots are really back to 2007 form, then there will be no field goals to kick. They will just score every time on offense. This leaves Gostkowski with lots of extra points for the day.
If you have any last-minute lineup decisions that are keeping you up at night, post your questions in the comment area at the bottom of this blog, and Brian will post a response before kickoff of the early games on Sunday! If nothing else, this will give you someone else to blame — besides yourself — if you lose this week …
October 15, 2009
Start ‘Em Sit ‘Em: Fantasy football advice
By Brian Thomas
Staff Writer
Do you play fantasy football? Do you ever have trouble making decisions about who to start or who to sit? How often do you make the wrong decision? Maybe I can help you make the right decisions about who to start and who to sit. I will reveal some possible sleepers and reveal the busts for week six.
First things first: the four teams that are off due to bye weeks are the Cowboys, the Colts, the Dolphins and the 49ers.
Start ‘Em
Ben Roethlisberger
Big Ben played the Detroit Lions last week and threw the ball over the field. I don’t see why it should be any different thins week for Ben and the Steelers as they take on the Cleveland Browns, who finally got their first win last week.
Jake Delhomme
Donovan McNabb returned from his injury last week and destroyed the Buccaneers’ secondary all day. If Delhomme is ever going to turn his season around and get things together I see him doing it in this game against one of the worst teams in the NFL.
Sit ‘Em
Brett Favre
Favre had a great week against the Rams and he really has the offense rolling right now. Then again, that was against a poor Rams team and this week he has to play Ray Lewis and that Baltimore defense.
Joe Flacco
Flacco had a poor performance last week against the Bengals defense. He threw two costly interceptions and only had one touchdown. He has to play the Minnesota defense who, on the year, has six interceptions and has had great success pressuring the quarterback, messing up the timing he has with his receivers.
Start ‘Em
Ryan Grant
Grant is coming off of a bye and is well rested. He also gets to play the Detroit Lions this week. Rashard Mendenhall ran all over the Lions early last week and I’m expecting the same from Grant against them this week.
Knowshon Moreno
Moreno looks to be the No. 1 running back in Denver for the second consecutive week. He had a good week last week against New England, despite the fact that he had no touchdowns. He matches up well against the Chargers, who, before going into their bye week, gave up a career game to Rashard Mendenhall.
Sit ‘Em
Cadillac Williams
Being a running back on the Buccaneers is a problem. They are always down a lot of points and can never get the running game started. Derrick Ward is also back and they will be splitting carries.
Tim Hightower
In a pass-first offense in Arizona, Hightower gets very limited opportunities with the ball. They very rarely run the ball as a team, not even to run the clock down at the end of the game. The only way Hightower touches the ball is if Warner throws it to him.
Start ‘Em
Roddy White
White came out of the bye week and looked to be on the same page with Matt Ryan. He torched the 49ers defense all game long with 210 receiving yards and two touchdowns. He plays the Bears at home so look for another big week.
Jeremy Maclin
What a week for the rookie. He had 142 receiving yards as well as two touchdowns. He started last week due to Kevin Curtis’ injury and did he ever take advantage of his opportunity. Look for him to put up big numbers again this week as he might be becoming a favorite target for McNabb. And did I mention that they are playing the Raiders?
Sit ‘Em
Calvin Johnson
Johnson seems to be battling an injury right now and may not play, and even if he plays this week he will not be at full speed. He is also playing the Packers, who have very good coverage corners. I would sit Johnson this week and take a chance on someone else.
Vincent Jackson
Last week the Denver Broncos shut down Randy Moss, holding him to a mere 36 yards receiving. The Broncos will do the same thing to Jackson. He will have trouble getting open, so I am not expecting a big day from him.
Start ‘Em
Antonio Gates
He is off of his bye week and he’s playing the Broncos on Monday night. As I said, the Broncos will shut down Vincent Jackson and that will leave Gates open. As he has shown us, no one can cover him, especially after the performance he had against the Steelers two weeks ago. Look for a big game from Gates.
Kellen Winslow
I was wrong about Winslow last week and he went off in the Buccaneers’ passing game. He was the only bright spot for that mess of an offense as he put up the team’s 14 points. He is their most reliable target in the passing game; it just depends on if quarterback Josh Johnson can get him the ball.
Sit ‘Em
John Carlson
Since week one, Carlson has disappeared from the Seahawks passing game. T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Nate Burleson have emerged as top wide receivers, and they have become Hasselbeck’s favorite targets.
Owen Daniels
Cincinnati shut down Todd Heap last week, holding him to only 41 yards receiving. I see them doing the same thing to Owen Daniels this Sunday.
Start ‘Em
They are playing the Raiders who always struggle to put points on the board. JeMarcus Russell is not getting the job done so look for the Eagles to pick him a couple times. They already have nine interceptions on the year.
Sit ‘Em
The Titans have given up double digits to everyone they have played. They just gave up 31 points to Peyton Manning and the Colts. It doesn’t get easier for the Titans because they have to play Brady and the Patriots. The Patriots are going to put some points on the board. They will look to rebound from their loss to the Broncos and they never lose two games in a row.
Start ‘Em
Nate Kaeding
The Chargers will move the ball against the Broncos all game and if they can’t score a touchdown they will have no problem letting this guy kick a field goal for three points.
Sit ‘Em
Mason Crosby
The Packers are playing the Lions. A great offense playing a poor defense like that will result in touchdowns and very few field goals for Green Bay. It will be a day of extra points for Mason Crosby.
If you have any last-minute lineup decisions that are keeping you up at night, post your questions in the comment area at the bottom of this blog, and Brian will post a response before kickoff of the early games on Sunday! If nothing else, this will give you someone else to blame — besides yourself — if you lose this week …
October 5th, 2009
To be or not to be at the Bears game
By Mike Hammersley
Copy Editor
When my dad told me we’d be going to the Bears’ game Oct. 4, I was ecstatic. As for him, not so much. “Sometimes it’s better to watch the game from home,” he said.
Better? From home? Blasphemy! How could it possibly be better? Going to Soldier Field, the Mecca of Chicago sports, is everyone Bears fan’s dream, right? So I decided to take all factors into account and make a sensible conclusion.
We walked into the admittedly ugly “spaceship,” as one writer called it, that is Soldier Field and I was immediately floored by how many fans were there 45 minutes early like me. You’d think they were handing out free cars to the first 10,000 fans. As we walked into the stadium, we were met by fans who had already done a little tailgating, and by tailgating I of course mean drinking. There were at least three groups of college guys yelling “BEARS!” at every turn, which was obnoxious, but funny at the same time.
I had asked my dad beforehand where our seats were, and he replied, “Right behind the end zone.” I know you’re thinking, “Wow, great seats!” Yeah, me too. Until we walked into the upper-upper deck and went, as Chris Berman would say, “Back back back back back… gone!”
We sat in the second-to-last row.
The game started, and I have to admit, seeing the plays from way up in the sky was pretty cool. You get to see the entire field, so you realize those people at home who scream at their TV saying, “He was wide open!” are idiots, because you see that there was a safety just outside the picture. The scoreboard was almost impossible to see from our seats, and they make the advertising space so big that the actual down and yardage get smushed, making it hard to see. Also, they take forever to update the yardage, which gets annoying.
The atmosphere is surreal. I loved seeing all the characters at the Bears game. From saluting the beer man whose name was literally Major Taylor to harping on the lone Lions fan in the stadium who sat right behind us, I had a good time. There was one man in particular who sat in front of us who really cracked me up. He was one of those long-time Bears fans who has seen so much go wrong with the team that he can’t help but hate some of it. He spent the entire game screaming at Ron Turner, the Bears’ offensive coordinator who is notorious for calling run plays up the middle, every time the Bears kept the ball on the ground. He made sarcastic remarks every time the Bears failed to get a first down, reminiscing of the team’s old offensive woes.
But he was a true Bears fan. He knew what players deserved the credit. Every time they punted, he let out a booming “Best Bear ever!” in honor of Brad Maynard, who lived up to his name by pinning the Lions inside the 20 three times.
The good part about having everyone around you is that the roar of the crowd adds a ton to the game. You don’t really get it from home; all you get is a slight noise increase. But when everyone around you is going nuts, when you’re giving high-fives to people you’ve never met before out of sheer joy, you’re having a great time.
Although being there was great, I felt like a malfunctioning Jack-in-the-box from the amount of times I had to stand up and down for people to come through or for a third down situation. One guy came back and forth five times with two beers in his hand, and I kept wondering how he kept his balance each time and shied away when he passed me, hoping he wouldn’t sway and spill booze on me. Even though it felt like 20 Catholic church services in a row, my legs somehow made it through and I actually enjoyed standing some of the time.
Surprisingly, the food was excellent there. My cheeseburger was above average, my dad’s hot dog was decent and the fries were sublime. Not what I was expecting. I guess you have to make your food good when you only have eight home games per year.
Now on to the other factors. While my experience was great, without the perfect weather it would have been considerably worse. Standing up and down in frigid or rainy weather while listening to the guy in front of me complain every play would have been a bad headache.
The nature of the game was also perfect. The Bears played even with the Lions, going into halftime tied 21-21. They proceeded to pull away in the second half and take the game 48-24. The game was high-scoring, close and a rout all at the same time. Admittedly, there were a few drives in a row where the Bears couldn’t get those 10 yards and punted, leading to another “BEST BEAR EVER” and more defense. That made me angry. So, if the weather is bad and the Bears are failing, I can realize my dad’s biggest fear; the Bears game could be a complete bust.
But, if you are a Bears fan at all, then you MUST go to Soldier Field and see them play at least once in your lifetime. It’s absolutely electric. If you had all the money and means of transportation in the world, I would recommend going to the games up until about late October, when it gets too cold for comfort and too risky a venture to outweigh the benefits of holing up in a cozy basement with some close friends and all the food you could want.