Fantasy Football Week 13: Players to Stash for the Playoffs

We’re coming down to the wire in fantasy football. With most leagues starting their playoffs in week 15, it’s probably starting to become clear whether your team will make the playoffs or not.

The best fantasy managers are those that continue to stay active as the season winds down, preparing for future weeks and discarding the useless players on their roster. These are some of the best players to consider picking up for the playoffs.

Quarterback: Baker Mayfield, Tampa Bay Buccaneers   

Baker Mayfield has quietly been very steady this season in Tampa Bay. He is the 16th ranked quarterback on the season, and somebody that should be a target for somebody that doesn’t have a top flight quarterback on their roster. The good thing with Mayfield is that he has some exploitable matchups in week 14 (Atlanta) as well as week 16 (Jacksonville).

Running Back: Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco 49ers

With superstar Christian McCaffrey in front of him on the depth chart, I won’t blame you for leaving Mitchell out on the waiver wire. However, there may not be a handcuff running back with more potential. Last Sunday was a reminder that he’s still a good player, taking his 7 carries for 39 yards. It could be worth holding Mitchell for the week 14 and 15 matchups (vs. Seattle and Arizona), as those seem like prime matchups for the team to lean on it’s running backs. Especially against Arizona, it could be a game where they allow McCaffrey to rest up and instead ride Mitchell.

Wide Receiver: Jameson Williams, Detroit Lions

Williams has yet to burst onto the scene as many thought he would after being drafted in 2022. Initially recovering from a torn ACL, and then a suspension for gambling, Williams has been a little used weapon for the Lions. This could be on the verge of changing, as the former Alabama-product has seen his snap counts rise each of the past three weeks. It might be wise to pick him up now, since everybody and their cousin Vinny would be lining up to grab him if he has a big game this week.

Tight End: Flip a coin

Seriously, if you’re looking for a tight end to pick up at this point of the year, there isn’t really anybody that offers much upside. As its been for several seasons now, the tight end position group is top heavy, with a massive drop off thereafter. The best idea might be to pick up a tight end from a good passing offense (Noah Gray? Isaiah Likely? Donald Parham Jr.?) and pray that they score a touchdown.

Defense: Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars are a hot pickup around fantasy football, with their enviable matchup against the Joe Burrow-less Bengals this week, followed by a juicy matchup against the Carolina Panthers during championship week (week 17).

The Jaguars have had a few spike weeks this year, but starting them would mostly be about taking advantage of the opponent’s offense.

Jackson Chourio’s extension could be a new trend in MLB

The Milwaukee Brewers recently locked up their top prospect Jackson Chourio to an 8-year contract worth $80 million, despite not yet playing in the Major Leagues. Chourio is the latest prospect to sign a long term deal, as more and more savvy general managers get creative with roster construction.

Major League Baseball has a unique free agency, as teams are able to control a player for much longer than in other sports. However, players are able to become arbitration eligible after 3 years, while becoming an official free agent after 6 seasons. One way that teams have attempted to buy out a player’s arbitration years is to offer a long term contract at a young age. The Atlanta Braves have been the most aggressive in these kinds of deals.

Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos has inked a number of long term deals with young players, including Ronald Acuna (8 years, $100 million), Ozzie Albies (7 years, $35 million), Spencer Strider (6 years, $75 million), and Michael Harris (8 years, $72 million). Instead of potentially losing these players to free agency when their stock increases, Anthopoulos has opted to bank on their potential in their first couple of Major League seasons, saving money in the long term. The best example would be Ronald Acuna, who just won NL MVP. His $100 million contract looks like an absolute bargain now, as the Venezuelan could have waited a couple of years and signed for upwards of $300 million.

The Diamondbacks also made a savvy move, locking up future NL Rookie of the Year winner Corbin Carroll to an 8 year, $111 million deal before the 2023 season. After establishing himself as a superstar, the Diamondbacks appear to have saved themselves a lot of money in future years.

There have been a few misses as well, albeit on a smaller scale. The Phillies gave a 6 year, $24 million deal to Scott Kingery, who spent only a couple of underwhelming years with the team. Other deals that didn’t work out include Evan White (6 years, $24 million) and Jon Singleton (5 years $10 million).

Signing Chourio to an 8-year deal may be the boldest extension that we’ve seen in quite a while, since he’s only played 6 games above Double-A. The Brewers are definitely sold on his potential, as MLB’s #2 ranked prospect now seems poised to start the season in Milwaukee’s everyday lineup.

Is there a chance that Chourio struggles in the Major Leagues? Of course there is. However, for a team that doesn’t have a huge payroll, taking a gamble on their top prospect may end up being a wise one.

A Deep Dive on Mascots in Sports, Part Three: Funniest Mascot Moments

The mascot is an ingrained part of sports. Pretty much every professional team, minor league team, and school team has a guy who dresses up in a ridiculous costume to hype up their team’s fans. Some of these mascots are fun and generally pleasant to be around, while others are absolutely insufferable.

Check out part one looking at some of the more iconic mascots, and part two exploring the more ridiculous ones to emerge over the years.

Mascots usually become renowned for their hilarious antics, with many different situations unfolding over the years. What are some of the most memorable moments in mascot history?

Dodgers Manager gets Expos Mascot Ejected

The Montreal Expos were established in 1969, relocating to Washington and rebranding as the Nationals in 2004. The Expos had one of the more memorable mascots in sports, Youppi!, a cousin of the Philly Phanatic.

In a marathon 22 inning game against the Dodgers in 1989, Youppi! donned a pair of pajamas and laid on top of the Dodgers dugout. This infuriated manager Tommy Lasorda, who ended up stopping the game and having him thrown out. This ended up being pure comedy, and is an absolute must watch. It remains the only time in professional sports history where a mascot has been thrown out of a game.

Mascots vs Youth Football Players

What could be funnier than a bunch of mascots lining up for a game against some peewee football players? A tradition that happens every year at certain NFL half time shows, this had led to all kinds of funny moments and bloopers.

I think it’s hilarious that this is simply adults going against kids, but since they are in costumes, it’s somehow okay. Some of the huge hits and hilarious attempts at tackles make this an awesome watch for anybody. Take a look at this ten minute highlight video of all the best moments from over the years.

Jazz Bear Lays the Hammer on Opposing Fan

The Utah Jazz’s mascot has had a number of funny moments over the years, from bailing on a surfboard while riding down the lower bowl area, to landing backflips on the court. One of the more memorable moments came when he got in a fight with an opposing fan.

Jazz Bear reportedly called the man a loser while he was being taken off the court by security. This prompted the man to break loose and run after the mascot, who stood his ground and laid a bone-jarring hit. The man learned the hard way that it may not be the best idea to pick a fight with someone when you can’t see what they look like.

A Deep Dive on Mascots in Sports, Part Two: What Were They Thinking?

The mascot is an ingrained part of sports. Pretty much every professional team, minor league team, and school team has a guy who dresses up in a ridiculous costume to hype up their team’s fans. Some of these mascots are fun and generally pleasant to be around, while others are absolutely insufferable.

In part one, we looked at those mascots that have successfully pulled off an iconic look. Since mascots are inherently a bit goofy, it’s inevitable that there would be some terrible mascots. Some of the worst mascots are those that have nothing to do with the team or city whatsoever, or are without any distinguishing features that set themselves apart.

Let’s take a look at a few of the more random mascots across the sporting world.

KC Wolf, Kansas City Chiefs

KC Wolf has to be one of the more obscure mascots in professional sports. He took over as the team’s mascot in 1989, succeeding Warpaint, a man in an Indian headdress riding a horse that was understandably replaced.

The team chose the Wolf as a shout-out to the Wolfpack, a group of diehard fans who frequented games until 1971 at the team’s former digs, Municipal Stadium. The idea to honour the team’s fans isn’t a bad one, but the result is horrific. Most people find it baffling that a wolf is the mascot, especially since he looks so damn silly. His eyes are all googly, which makes him look like a bit of a joke. The team could have done much better had they designed a more menacing wolf.

Philly Phanatic, Philadelphia Phillies

If you’re on the hunt for the biggest goon in the mascot world, look no further than the Philly Phanatic. Now listen, some people would consider the Phanatic to be one of the best mascots in sports, but he rubs me the wrong way. However, I will give some credit for establishing a notable brand for himself and link to the team he works for.

However, the Phanatic has a bit too many lame pranks for my liking. Pouring popcorn on broadcasters, dispensing silly string, and putting a ‘hex’ on opposing players is a bit ridiculous. Most of all, the worst thing about the Phanatic has got to be his obscure appearance. As a large flightless bird, it’s not exactly clear what he is, or what he’s up to. I always thought he was a bit shady, so it was no surprise when he became entangled in a legal battle in 2021.

Twinkie the Loon, Minnesota Twins

I had to go back in the history books for this one, pulling this unfathomable mascot from the early 1980’s. Twinkie is truly an example of what can happen when you flop hard on a mascot design. I mean have you seen this thing? This has got to be one of the least visually appealing mascots ever constructed. Pay no attention to the obscure decision to go with a loon as your mascot.

To make matters funnier, Twinkie the Loon’s main thing that he did was juggle. I have to be honest, I love the idea of a juggling loon, because why not? However, the stupid look of this bird ruined any chance of it surviving. The mediocre T.C. Bear took over in 2000, and has been the teams mascot ever since.

A Deep Dive on Mascots in Sports, Part One: The Most Iconic Looks

The mascot is an ingrained part of sports. Pretty much every professional team, minor league team, and school team has a guy who dresses up in a ridiculous costume to hype up their team’s fans. Some of these mascots are fun and generally pleasant to be around, while others are absolutely insufferable.

What makes a good mascot? For one, they’ve got to have a cool look. A perfect mascot must be right in the sweet spot where adults and children can both enjoy their presence at games. It also doesn’t hurt for them to have some sort of unique thing that they do. Whether that’s some kind of dance, comedic bit, or controversy, it’s important that the team’s ambassador finds a way to stand out from the crowd.

Let’s start with some mascots that have separated themselves with their unique look.

Brutus, Ohio State Buckeyes 

Brutus has been representing the Ohio State University since 1965, with a simple yet iconic look that has become legendary over the years. Brutus can be seen punking on the rival Michigan Wolverines, appearing in commercials with Richard Simmons, and representing the school at several mascot competitions over the year.

One of the funnier cameos that Brutus had was getting eaten by a giant squirrel on The Daily Show in 2016, a joke based on him being a nut. He’s probably the most identifiable mascot in college football, and will likely be around for years to come.

The Raptor, Toronto Raptors

If you want to find the absolute perfect mascot, look no further than the only Canadian NBA team’s spokesman. Despite an incredibly lazy name, The Raptor has a fun look that makes it easy to root for him. He’s been the Raptors mascot since 1995, missing the 2013-2014 season due to a backflipping injury. He also has been in the news for some interesting antics over the years.

The Raptor had a hilarious fued with visiting player Robin Lopez, angering him so much that he pushed him to the ground after being mocked in a game in 2015. He also appears to have some game. He was seen pulling out all the stops to court Canadian actress Rachel McAdams, brazenly giving her flowers and gifts during a game in 2016.

Lou Seal, San Francisco Giants

Is there a swaggier mascot in Major League Baseball right now? I’m not sure that there’s another spectacled mascot in pro sports, as Lou Seal successfully pulls off a gnarly pair of goggles. Pay no attention to the fact that seals don’t need goggles to see underwater, it’s still cool.

Lou Seal is a great example of a great idea based on location, and an homage to a past team. If you’ve ever been to San Francisco, you know that there are oodles of opportunities to see this animal, most notably in Ano Nuevo State Park. Especially considering that the Giants’ stadium famously lends itself to home run balls reaching the bay, going with a seal was a great call. The idea was also in reference to the San Francisco Seals, a team that played in the Pacific Coast League until 1957.

 

A way-too-early look at the Hart Trophy frontrunners

We’re past the quarter mark of the NHL season, and it seems like an appropriate time to look at the players leading the charge for the Hart Trophy, and how likely they are to continue their pace.

A skater has won the award for the last 8 seasons. Unless a goalie really goes gangbusters for the rest of the season, the winner will likely be a forward, as they tend to put up gaudier numbers than defensemen.

Reigning winner Connor McDavid will be in the running every year, but a breakout star may be on the verge of dethroning the Edmonton Oilers star. There hasn’t been a back to back Hart Trophy winner since Alexander Ovechkin did it in the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 seasons.

Without further ado, here are the top 3 frontrunners thus far.

3. Connor McDavid, Center, Edmonton Oilers | 20 games, 28 points (8 goals, 21 assists)

The Oilers are in the midst of a terrible start to the season (9-12-1), but could easily turn things on as the season carries on. It might be tough for McDavid to take home this trophy again if the Oilers miss the playoffs, as voters typically value team success at least a little bit when electing the Hart winner.

If McDavid can get back to scoring at a rate like he did last year (153 points in 82 games), he has as good a shot as any to take home this trophy again. However, he may need to play exceptionally well to hold off one of the new candidates.

2. Elias Petterson, Centre, Vancouver Canucks | 24 games, 30 points (9 goals, 21 assists)

Could Petterson become the first Canucks player and Swede to win the award since Henrik Sedin did so in 2009-2010? If he can get past the 100 point mark again, he’s got a chance. As mentioned earlier, voters love the opportunity to give the award to a new player, and Petterson may be in position to take advantage.

The Vancouver Canucks have been one of the feel good stories of the season, with the 3rd best record (15-8-1) in the Western Conference. If they continue their strong play, we might have more of a reason for Petterson to win the award.

3. Jack Hughes, Centre, New Jersey Devils | 16 games, 29 points (8 goals, 21 assists)

Hughes has gone absolutely bananas this season, ranking 9th in league scoring despite missing 5 games due to injury. The Orlando, Florida native has been carrying the Devils, and appears poised to eclipse the 100 point plateau after reaching 99 last year.

Hughes winning this award would make it two American winners in three years, after Auston Matthews won it in 2021-2022. In what seems to be a wide open race, Hughes may be leading the charge.

 

What are the best sports video games of all time?

I’ve always been big into sports video games, from Madden to NHL. I don’t care about playing online, and typically just play with friends or play a franchise mode occasionally.  I don’t play any other video games for that matter, as I could care less about running around shooting people or whatever people like to do.

I’d argue that sports video gamers are completely different than typical gamers. I think fans of shooting games are true gamers, while sports video gamers are not nearly as intense. Perhaps on a related note, sports games have seemingly been trending downward in recent years, making me yearn for the heyday of my childhood. What are the best sports games of all time? We’ve got to go back quite a bit to find the true gems.

#3: Madden 2005 

As a big time Madden fan, I’ve been incredibly disappointed at the lazy attempts at improvements that the franchise has made over the years. I truly believe that this 2005 game is as fun as anything that has come out since. The main reason that this game makes this list is due to the amazing improvements that were made in comparison to the previous year’s games. They included an amazing story mode that had a lot more complexity than in previous iterations. They also had cool aspects like mini games that they have since taken out, for some reason. The Madden franchise would be wise to bring back some elements from this game for next year’s game.

#2: NCAA Football 14

College football lends itself quite well to video games, due to the sheer number of teams and the awesome solo player mode, called Road to Glory. Taking a player over as a freshman and trying to win a Heisman trophy or National Championship before they graduate can be a lot of fun. This game received phenomenal reviews, but EA Sports unfortunately lost the licensing rights to make another NCAA game. Thankfully, after a 10 year absence, the series will likely make its triumphant return in 2024. This is a massive win for sports video gamers everywhere.

#1: MVP Baseball 2005

2005 was quite the year, eh? This game was an absolute jewel, as baseball fans still rejoice about how incredible the gameplay was. Similar to NCAA Football, EA Sports lost licensing rights for all MLB games after this year, leading to the MLB 2K series and The Show being the only baseball games now produced. These games are simply no where near the same level as MVP, with all kinds of gameplay glitches, even in recent years. Baseball nerds figured out years ago that MVP Baseball is a very hackable game, meaning that people will release visual improvements and roster updates every year. This means that there really isn’t a good reason to play any other baseball game, possibly ever again.

The best cold-weather comfort foods to gobble up

As the weather continues to drop in Vancouver, we’re all increasingly in need of something delicious to chow down on. There are many options to choose from to warm up on a chilly day, but I’ve managed to narrow it down to three.

#3: Grilled Cheese and Soup 

Starting this list off is an absolute staple. There’s nothing quite like the simplicity of a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of soup to dunk it in. The best part of this meal is that there are many variations you can toy with. You can easily change up the type of cheese or bread on your sandwich, or change up the soup as well. Tomato soup is a staple to pair with grilled cheese, but French onion soup also works really well. Do you want a soup that’s a bit heartier? Try this cream potato soup that will leave you feeling completely satisfied.

#2: Mac n’ Cheese

I’d be remiss not to mention this cold-weather staple. Mac and cheese is such a satisfying dish that I always seem to forget about. I only really have it once or twice a year, but it always seems to hit just right. There are of course many different variations that you can try. Gruyere is a cheese that is traditionally used, but your supermarket may not always carry it. More often than not, I make this dish with gouda cheese, and add some hot sauce to give it a little zing. Another nice touch is to chop up some pieces of bacon and disperse them throughout your dish.

#1: Chili

Alright, we’ve come to the granddaddy of them all. Chili is a can’t miss option that is sure to warm you up on the chilliest of days. Even more so then with the previous two entries, there are endless ways that you can make chili. I don’t think I’ve ever made the same dish twice, as I frequently toss in new ingredients each time to see how it turns out. The best part of chili might be the leftovers that come out of it. Chances are, you’re probably going to make a big pot of it, and it seems to only get better the next day. If you have a couple days worth of leftovers, you can have your chili on top of pasta the first day, and on rice the day after. Either way, you’ll sure to be the envy of anyone you’re eating lunch with that’s eating something other than chili.

Chris’ Official Lower Mainland Brewery Reviews: Black Kettle Brewing

Welcome to the fourth Official Lower Mainland Brewery Review, focusing on some of the lesser talked about establishments to grab a drink. You can find the first, second, and third installments here. Today we’re talking about Black Kettle Brewing in North Vancouver.

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Nuts and Bolts

This brewery is a fairly unassuming establishment, located in an obscure industrial area on Copping street. I don’t blame you if you don’t know where the hell Copping street is, but I’m sure you could figure out how to search for the brewery on Google Maps.

Opening in 2014, Black Kettle offers a much different experience than every other brewery in North Van. This place has more of a pub feel, offering up some interesting food specials alongside their brews. There’s basically nothing else around this place, so there are very few people stumbling upon it. You’ll see a fair share of regulars sitting at the bar, as most people outside of North Van probably don’t really know about it.

The Beers

Black Kettle offers a nice mix of core beers with seasonal options. I had a white IPA that was simply scrumptious. They also had a jalapeno IPA, which I don’t think I’ve ever heard of before. I found it to be a little too much jalapeno and too little IPA, but I appreciated the attempt. I also like that they had an array of canned beers that were completely different than what they had on tap. This isn’t always a good thing, since you may be out of luck to find take home beers if you really like one. However, for someone looking to try as many beers as possible, having a flight or two in the taproom and taking home a four pack is always a good idea.

The Taproom

The second I walked into this brewery for the first time, I immediately knew I loved this place. It had such an unassuming feel, and truly seemed like a neighborhood pub. Some breweries come off a bit pretentious, but this place seems super friendly and welcoming. They also have some awesome artwork on their walls, which act as the designs for their canned beers.

The coolest thing that Black Kettle has going for them is their food, and more specifically, their food deals. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a brewery in the Lower Mainland have wings, but Black Kettle has 89 cent wing nights every Wednesday. Oddly enough, they only have two flavours (salted and hot), but both are solid. The best deal that this brewery has happens on Tuesday nights. They offer a $10 deal for a beer and smash burger. Isn’t that wild? $10 gets you dinner and a beer. At most places, the beer alone will cost you that.

I love these food deals because it reminds me of suburban Ontario bars where I grew up. It doesn’t seem like these kind of cheap food deals are as common in the Lower Mainland, especially at a brewery.

Final Word

Black Kettle gets major points for an awesome taproom and insane food deals. The beers are also solid, and they aren’t afraid to push the envelope. The random location might be the only drawback, although this also adds to the charm.

I’m giving Black Kettle 9.5 fermented sodas out of 10.

Chris’ Official Lower Mainland Brewery Reviews: Steamworks Brewery

Welcome to the third Official Lower Mainland Brewery Review, focusing on some of the lesser talked about establishments to grab a drink. Today we’re talking about Steamworks Brewery in Burnaby.

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Nuts and Bolts

Steamworks’ main brewery is in a quiet neighborhood in North Burnaby, away from the hustle and bustle of Hastings Street. This establishment is not to be confused with the brewpub located near Waterfront Station in downtown Vancouver. The two locations definitely differ in a lot of ways. The brewpub is definitely much bigger and represents more of a restaurant than a brewery. However, the Burnaby digs has a true brewery feel to it.

The Beers

Steamworks has a few beers that have been on the menu for years, while also leaving a little bit of room for experimentation. One of the breweries flagship beers is their, well, Flagship IPA. This beer is a true hazy IPA, succeeding in coming off as a dank, musty option. Other beers that you will always see on tap here are the Lions Gate Lager, as well as a pilsner and pale ale. I wouldn’t say that any of these beers really move the needle a whole lot, but are lighter options for people that don’t really drink craft beer.

Every now and again, you’ll see some new beers come out, but I think it’s fair to say that this brewery may be resting on its laurels a little bit. One of the only new ones I’ve seen in the last few months has been the John Oliver Lager, which yielded a collective ‘meh’ from my friends and I when we tried it.

Taproom

Steamworks gets major points for their awesome taproom. With a big space and interesting seating, this brewery is great both for parties as well as small get togethers. They also have a few picnic tables outside for the summer months, although they could probably establish a bit more a patio. The taproom is also in an unassuming location, meaning that you probably would never find this brewery unless you lived in the area. You don’t often see a brewery in a residential area, so this ends up being a pretty cool thing.

Final Word

Look, Steamworks’ beers are pretty good, and you know what you’re going to get with them. That being said, you could probably visit once a year and not really miss any new releases. However, this brewery’s spacious taproom in a unique location make it worth checking out for any beer lover.

I’m giving Steamworks Brewing 7.5 fermented sodas out of 10.