Super Bowl 53 Predictions

GettyImages-1091266218_0Just like that, it all comes down to this Sunday. From the time confetti fell down on the Eagles last February, discussion had already started about who would be playing in Super Bowl 53. Now, it’s less than 48 hours away and two teams that were popular contenders preseason are fighting for the title. The Patriots as always, were rightfully a popular pick. After years of struggling to make the playoffs, the Rams emerged last year with then new head coach Sean McVay, and their former top pick Jared Goff. Smartly, the Rams used this window with the young quarterback to go “all in” and try to win instantly.

While the teams were constructed differently, I’m suspecting this to be a closely contested game with offensive fireworks to thrill viewers all over the world. Here is my x-factor for each team followed by my game prediction.

Patriots x-factor: The starting offensive interior linemen: In this case, it’s more than one person for the Patriots. Specifically, it’s three of them. They are the two guardsĀ  Joe Thuney, Shaq Mason and center David Andrews. These three players will not only be tasked with protecting Tom Brady, but they’ll have to limit Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh in the process. Donald is arguably the most dominant player in the entire sport, but with the quick developing plays you in a sense can “take him out” of a game.

Per Pro Football Focus, the Patriots trio should be able to negate this strength of the Rams. While the Donald/Suh tandem was destructive rushing quarterbacks, the Patriots line was among the league’s best at limiting interior pass rushers. This “battle in the trenches” will be a fascinating one to watch come Sunday.

Rams x-factor: Cory Littleton, Linebacker: The Patriots like quick developing pass plays, and in many cases, that leads to running backs as the primary target. James White is the Patriots passing down specialist, and has constantly shown he’s not afraid of the big moments. Littleton this season was one of the premier coverage linebackers in football per Pro Football Focus. Assuming the Patriots are passing early and often, Littleton limiting White’s impact would be a huge boost.

Prediction: While the Rams have some key ingredients we’ve seen in beating the Patriots, the Patriots match up well against the Rams’ strengths per Pro Football Focus. Along with defending interior pressure well, the Patriots can bring pressure at a high level. Now is the time to mention that Jared Goff has a drastic efficiency drop off when facing pressure as opposed to a clean pocket. On top of that, the Patriots secondary performs well against three receiver sets (which is the base offense for the Rams). My prediction is Patriots 28 Rams (+2.5) 24

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Championship Sunday Predictions

137acf073a70040b6ec42f2c131b24a6For a lot of fans, the best day of the football season is less than 48 hours away. As fans, we get two games featuring the two best teams each conference has to offer. Last year, the common trend of the finalists was defense. Three of the four teams had premier defenses, and the Patriots had Tom Brady. Brady once again is involved, but this year the teams all have high scoring offenses in common. There were no surprise teams either, as both games are 1 vs 2 seeding matchups.

As we saw in the head coach hiring cycle, the offensive model is something teams will be attempting to duplicate. It was clear many were looking for the next young innovative offensive mind, but how that plays out is unsure. In these games however, you have one of the greatest coaches ever across all sports, two premier offensive minds, and the other appears to be at the forefront of the latest offensive wave. With my preseason Super Bowl pick still on the table, I figured that’s my pick and I’ll stick with it when predicting these games.

Straight up: 4-0, Postseason: 6-2

Against the spread: 2-2, Postseason: 6-2

 

Rams 28 Saints (-3.5) 33: When we last saw these teams face off, it resulted in one of the most exciting games of the regular season. Now a few months later, we have a rematch in the same location. The biggest factors in this one could end up being the Rams defense, and if McVay continues to emphasize the power running game that worked so well last week.

The loss of Sheldon Rankins along the defensive interior hurts the Saints, but they’ve still been one of the league’s premier run stopping teams in various advanced metrics. While C.J. Anderson will continue to get touches, Todd Gurley’s biggest impact could come in the passing game. If the Rams fall behind, some plays to get Gurley in space could pay dividends as despite his recent injury, he looked back to normal last week.

Like they did in the previous meeting, look for Jared Goff to exploit the favorable matchups he’ll have in the slot. Robert Woods runs the majority of his routes there, but Brandin Cooks could run some additional inside just to get away from Marshon Lattimore. In a game against his former team, don’t be surprised if Cooks rises to the occasion. His speed on the fast track of a dome just makes it harder for opposing corners to keep up.

Drew Brees takes his game to another level in the SuperDome, and now faces a Rams defense that’s been shaky against the pass. Like last week, Brees figures to look Michael Thomas’ way early and often. The last time we saw Thomas against the Rams, he was dominant having his way with any corner the Rams threw at him. Aqib Talib was out injured that week, but Thomas will likely play in the slot more to avoid the matchup (as we know they’re willing to test Marcus Peters). Thomas was one of the league’s most productive receivers from the slot in 2018. On top of that, at 6’3″ 212, he’ll have a size advantage over Nickell Robey-Coleman who’s listed at 5’8″ and 180 pounds.

While the Rams did a great job shutting down the Cowboys rushing attack last week, this is a tougher test. The Saints have a healthier interior offensive line, and daring Brees to throw isn’t a wise decision. Both Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram should be involved, but Kamara figures to see more touches as he’s usually on the field more in close games. There should be plenty of offensive fireworks on both sides, but the Saints at home just seem to be too much to handle.

Patriots 27 Chiefs (-3.5) 24: Like the NFC matchup, we saw these teams play earlier in the regular season in a very entertaining game. The Patriots pulled it out late, but the forecast for the game could change drastically. References to an “Arctic Blast” weren’t references to a new Gatorade or Slurpee flavor, but rather a worst case weather scenario for this game. Fortunately that seems unlikely at this moment, but sub-30 degree weather seems likely.

The cold could impact betting lines for the over, but there should still be plenty of offense on display. Now a game from the Super Bowl, Patrick Mahomes has his toughest test to date with Bill Belichick scheming against him, and the Patriots strength being their secondary. While there’s not much a defense can do to limit some of Mahomes’ throws, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Patriots game plan is to keep him in the pocket. Doing so could limit big plays that come from Mahomes’ improvisational skills, forcing the Chiefs to take what they’re given offensively.

That could allow running room for Damien Williams and the now healthy Spencer Ware, if the Patriots sellout to stop the pass. Considering Belichick usually goes out of his way to limit an opposing teams top weapon, it will be fascinating to see who he chooses between Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. With the emphasis Belichick has put on having dominant tight ends in the past, Kelce would be my guess. With his speed, there isn’t much an individual corner can do to stop Tyreek Hill. There’s a chance Hill has a monster game in this matchup.

Despite talking themselves as the underdog, I don’t think there’s anyone out there saying the Patriots can’t actually win the game. Given the Chiefs strengths and weaknesses defensively, an offensive game plan similar to last week’s could work. While the defense has played better at Arrowhead, the Chiefs defense is allowing five yards a carry, and over 50 receiving yards a game to opposing running backs. Once again, this could lead to big workloads for both Sony Michel and James White. Per Pro Football Focus, the Patriots have also had one of the league’s top run blocking grades for the season. On the other hand, the Chiefs team grade in run defense ranks 31st.

Facing a tough pass rush, there’s little doubt Tom Brady will be throwing the ball quickly. This could once again lead to a big game for Julian Edelman, who has a solid matchup against Kendall Fuller who in recent weeks has had some struggles. If we were to see one last signature Rob Gronkowski game (if this is his last season), this could be the place. The Chiefs have allowed more than 65 yards a game to opposing tight ends, and even the threat of Gronkowski running down the seam can great openings for others. Given that my prediction is still alive to go along with their playoff pedigree, the Patriots are my pick here.

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Divisional Round Predictions

355hm6ghwze3bm7kru4bkjijhuLast week’s wildcard round was a fascinating one with three of the four road teams (and underdogs) winning their matchups. Not surprisingly, all four lower seeded teams covered against the spread as well. Unlike last season, only one of the divisional round games serves as a regular season rematch. That game was particularly one sided, but things can change in a month. At the least, this should be a very exciting weekend of playoff football.

Wild card weekend results:

Straight up: 2-2

Against the spread: 4-0

Colts 27 Chiefs (-5.5) 31: Between their performance last week and the Chiefs recent playoff history, the Colts have been a trendy upset pick here. Patrick Mahomes has not played in those losses, and can now create his own playoff narrative. To date Mahomes has performed well against teams that primarily play zone such as the Colts.

In that zone, the Colts have limited passing plays coming off throws of 20 plus yards. That means a tough test for Tyreek Hill, and how he fares could determine the outcome. Travis Kelce has a nice matchup against a Colts defense that’s been susceptible to tight ends, but a complementary pass catcher might have to step up for the Chiefs.

The focal point for the Colts offense in this one could very well be Marlon Mack. To take the crowd out of the game, the Colts with their strong offensive line might want to set the tempo early. Mack is going against a defense allowing nearly five yards a carry, and has seen his snap counts rise of late. With Andrew Luck at the helm this game certainly carries shootout potential, so it could very well come down to which team has the ball last.

Cowboys 21 Rams (-7.5) 24: The Cowboys have the makings of an upset pick as their strengths could lead to a tough matchup for the Rams. As we know, the Cowboys will prioritize running the ball, and getting Ezekiel Elliott touches. The Rams have allowed nearly 4.9 yards a carry, and the gameplan if working keeps Jared Goff and company off the field.

The Cowboys gameplan will ultimately come down to Dak Prescott. Assuming they don’t want a shootout, Prescott will need to make just enough throws to help move the offense. Amari Cooper has noted he’s familiar with the Rams’ outside corners from his time with the Raiders, so how he performs will crucial.

This matchup is interesting for Jared Goff as he’s much better at home, but stats indicate he’s struggled against zone defenses. Against a Cowboy secondary that’s been vulnerable lately, Goff’s performance in his second playoff game could drive the “hot take” machine come Monday. At the least, the return of Todd Gurley will help provide balance to Sean McVay’s offense. Considering how many coaching hires have given off “find the next Sean McVay” vibes, it will be fascinating to see the response after the Rams performance.

Chargers 20 Patriots (-4.5) 26: While he’s easily one of the premier quarterbacks of his era, a win on Sunday could be a “defining” one for Philip Rivers. Unfortunately, his recent starts show that he might be going into a late season tailspin that has become a theme. Given the success the Patriots have had stopping wideouts with similar skillsets to Keenan Allen, Melvin Gordon could be the Chargers focal point offensively. While Gordon goes in banged up to this one, the matchup is promising for Charger backs through the air or ground.

Given the Chargers pass rush, I’m expecting the Patriots to embrace quick hitting pass plays. We’ve seen Tom Brady do this before, moving up the field with 6, 7, 8, yard gains ensuing long drives, and tiring opposing defenses. Given this strategy, James White and Julian Edelman would project to be the biggest beneficiaries. Now healthy, Rex Burkhead could see some work in the passing game as well. It’s not the sexiest way to win, but I’ve seen the Patriots do it too many times to bet against it.

Eagles 24 Saints (-8.5) 28: A few months ago when they last played in the Superdome, the Saints drubbed the Eagles. While the Eagles have still had the injuries to the secondary, the return of Nick Foles has worked its magic again. Not only do they have their Super Bowl swagger back, but the little things just fall into place when he’s under center. While the Bears were a tough test, this one is a whole other animal. Not only do the Saints have the potent offense, a defense that’s come on of late, but one of if not the best homefield advantages is working in their favor.

While they’ve performed admirably given the circumstance, the Eagles secondary is extremely thin at the moment. On paper, this projects very well for Drew Brees and company. The Saints receivers should have advantages on the perimeter, and Alvin Kamara should benefit against a defense allowing nearly 55 receiving yards a game to running backs. Seeing the Eagles reemerge has been a lot of fun, but I’m skeptical of their ability to win a potential shootout in this environment.

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Wildcard Weekend Predictions

seahawks_vs._cowboys_ap1_t715After a memorable regular season flew by, the playoffs are now upon us. The wildcard weekend is always fun, and the “win or go home” factor makes for high drama. In football more so than other major sports, it’s harder for the most “talented” team to always win. Usually over a five or seven game series, those can sort themselves out. Given the NFL’s postseason format, any team can get hot late in the year and ride that to a Super Bowl victory. We’ve seen it done before, and this weekend could very well be the stepping stone for the Super Bowl LIII champion.

Last week: 12-4, Season: 163-93

Last week against the spread: 11-5, Season: 117-139

Colts 26 Texans (-2.5) 23: After winning nine of their final ten games, the Colts enter this one red hot. We all know Andrew Luck is healthy now, but the biggest surprise has been the Colts offensive line. A unit that had been a weakness for Luck’s entire career, the line has been strong in pass protection and opening holes for the ground game. For that reason, Colts center Ryan Kelly could be a huge factor in this one.

Despite a neck injury, Kelly expects to suit up and the Colts running game has been much more efficient with him in the lineup. Up against the Texans run defense that’s tops in the AFC, an effective performance from Marlon Mack and company would give the Colts a spark.

While it’s Deshaun Watson’s first career playoff game, we know he’s not afraid of the bright lights (or in this case, the inevitable 4:30 PM Saturday time slot). The Colts have limited running quarterbacks, but Watson and DeAndre Hopkins are going to get theirs. Ultimately, this game for the Texans will likely come down to their shaky offensive line and secondary. If Watson has a clean pocket to throw from and the older corners can contain T.Y. Hilton, it would be a huge boost to the Texans’ chances.

Seahawks 21 Cowboys (-2.5) 17: While these two teams met in week three, the Cowboys drastically improved since that meeting. Considering both teams have placed an emphasis on running the ball and defense, this likely comes down to which quarterback has more success.

Stats show Dak Prescott to this point has struggled against zone coverage schemes. He didn’t have Amari Cooper at his disposal in the earlier meeting, so that should open things up. Surprisingly, it was the Cowboys not the Seahawks pass protection that has struggled this season. While he’s not accustomed to it, that has to be music to Russell Wilson’s ears.

The Cowboys defense is very talented, but Wilson will be able to attack a nice matchup in the slot. Anthony Brown has been playing through injury there and has struggled. That should open things up for both Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett who are frequently lined up inside. With a heavy dose of Chris Carson and Mike Davis, the Seahawks are in prime position for an upset here.

Chargers 21 Ravens (-2.5) 23: The Chargers are also squaring off against their body clocks on Sunday in a game that starts 10:05 AM Pacific time. For the team, the positive is they’ve won on the road before. Heck, playing in a 30 some thousand seat stadium the past two years, the case could be made they haven’t had a “homefield”advantage in that time anyway. Given the Ravens game plan, the deciding factor in this one will be if the Chargers offense can find a rhythm.

When these teams played a few weeks ago, Philip Rivers and company couldn’t do it. That resulted in quick drives, followed by the Ravens chewing up six to eight minutes of clock at a time. The good news for the Chargers is Melvin Gordon will give it a go in this meeting, but he’s still under 100 percent. The bad news is, the Ravens defense is one of the league’s best, and this offensive philosophy keeps them fresh. Allowing 4.30 yards a rush attempt in their last five with numerous injuries to linebackers, this talented Charger defense could have their hands full.

Is this style of play sustainable for Lamar Jackson’s entire NFL career? Probably not, but for now it’s winning and helped him get acclimated to the league. Making his first career postseason start, Jackson won’t have to display phenomenal passing ability throughout. However there will be three or four times he will need to rise to the occasion and make big throws. Other than that, it should be a full load for Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon in this one.

Eagles 20 Bears (-6.5) 23: Do you believe in destiny? If so the Eagles might be your pick to win it all. Despite bleak odds, the team overcame them with Nick Foles replacing an injured Carson Wentz to sneak in as the final wildcard. Foles’ reward is to play the league’s top defense on the road, while playing through bruised ribs. The safety valve of the Eagles passing attack seems to change depending on what quarterback is there.

With Wentz under center, that guy seems to be Zach Ertz. When Foles take the reigns, it’s Alshon Jeffery’s time to shine. Jeffery has 80 plus yards and/or a touchdown in six of his eight career games with Foles starting. Even against a tough secondary, Jeffery’s “go up and get it” style could lead to double digit targets. With the Bears missing their impressive slot corner Bryce Callahan, this could be a nice spot for Nelson Agholor. That provides a favorable matchup for Golden Tate as well, but it’s Agholor who has run more routes from the slot in Foles’ last three starts.

Another quarterback making his first playoff start, Mitchell Trubisky is a bit of an enigma with some drastic home vs road splits. The good news is, the Eagles have struggled against dual threat quarterbacks, and their secondary is banged up. With his established role, Jordan Howard should see around 20 touches in this game. The Eagles had been gashed on the ground late in the year, but have bounced back the past few weeks.

Tarik Cohen will once again be the X-factor for the Bears offensively. The Eagles were vulnerable to pass catching backs, and there are few who are as dangerous as Cohen after the catch. Against a smaller secondary, this could be a favorable matchup for Allen Robinson who has shown he’s more than capable of winning “50/50” balls. The new quarterback/head coach going against a team that just won the Super Bowl last year has the makings of a potential upset. However, there’s enough going in the Bears’ favor that they should pull out the win here.

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2018 Fantasy Disappointments

351042bd-7fd6-4b79-8a51-fb138161af2f-SI_20181111_cja_ad4_23The majority of fantasy leagues finished last week, and in recent years it has led to good deeds taking place online. Fans have been thanking their top or clutch fantasy performers by donating portions of their winnings to a charity they work with. Those players and the key waiver wire moves will be in the good graces of fans forever. But what about the biggest fantasy underachievers? These are the players that seemed like good picks at the time, but due to injury or other circumstances didn’t work out.

Players like Delanie Walker who were lost to a season ending injury in week one are exempt. Kareem Hunt is exempt from this as well. While the reason for his release is much worse than your fantasy outcome, many fantasy owners still used Hunt’s performance to at least make the playoffs. Le’Veon Bell despite holding out the entire year is also exempt. If your draft was the week before the season and you still spent a first round pick on Bell, that’s your fault as it was known calculated risk. Due to lack of depth and injury at the tight end position, I’ll be having a “flex” spot in its place. All preseason rankings and scoring totals are from ESPN in PPR format.

QB: Matthew Stafford, Lions: For the better part of the decade, Stafford has been a solid fantasy option. Drafting him, you knew you were getting well over 4,000 passing yards and around 25 touchdowns. Checking in as the 11th ranked QB before the season, he appeared to be a bargain on the surface. It had the makings of a rough year for the Lions, and they’d need to get in shootouts to win. On top of that, Stafford had an extremely talented trio of receivers at his disposal.

The only thing that came to fruition was that the Lions would struggle. With one game remaining, Stafford is the 20th highest scoring fantasy quarterback. He currently has just over 3,500 yards for the season and 19 touchdown passes (three in his last six games). Granted, the situation hasn’t helped. That receiver trio is down to one after Golden Tate was traded, and Marvin Jones was placed on IR. Kerryon Johnson’s emergence in the run game didn’t help matters either, as Stafford has had just two games with 20 plus fantasy points. Depending on how the Lions offseason goes, he could be a nice bounce back target in 2019.

RB: Leonard Fournette, Jaguars: Both the Jaguars and fantasy owners were banking on Fournette’s volume to lead them to postseason appearances in 2018. Spending a high draft pick on a back with the reputation of being injury prone didn’t work for either side this year. Ranked the tenth rated back entering the year, Fournette is 39th among backs through 16 weeks. Missing six games didn’t help, but Fournette also didn’t break any of the long runs we saw during his rookie season. The injury risk will remain, but the cost to draft Fournette to your fantasy team will be lower in 2019.

RB: LeSean McCoy, Bills: Considering Dalvin Cook was the 7th ranked back in preseason, he was in play here. However, Cook has rattled off 13.8 or more fantasy points in each of the past five weeks for players that were able to wait for his return. That gives McCoy the “honor” here. Playing with a rookie quarterback, McCoy was expected to see plenty of touches and was rated as the 14th running back prior to the season. Through 16 weeks he’s the 40th rated running back, which includes two weeks where he was worth 0.1 points.

The usually consistent McCoy played through injury, but the lack of efficiency with his touches was alarming. There’s a chance the Bills don’t bring him back in 2019, so he’s a player whose situation is worth following this offseason.

WR: Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals: Considering he played through injury and dealt with Mike McCoy’s play calling early on, Fitzgerald is here due to his preseason ranking rather than his performance. Going into the year, the future hall of famer checked in as the 11th ranked wideout. Considering he’d been a lock for 100 catches, 1,000 plus yards and half a dozen touchdowns, it made sense for PPR. He’s shown as much lately checking in at 28th thanks to a stretch of 10 or more points (including five touchdown catches, and one touchdown pass) in eight of his last nine games.

The reason he’s here is due to the receivers that were ranked behind him. Notable receivers ranked behind him this preseason (in ranking order) were T.Y. Hilton, Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Depending on your draft slot, selecting Fitzgerald very well cost you a chance at drafting one of those guys. While roster formats vary, he ended up becoming a solid WR3 or flex option. That’s nice to have, just not a great return on a third round investment.

WR: Chris Hogan, Patriots: Considering this was before the Josh Gordon trade, fantasy owners were optimistic about Hogan entering 2018. Given his production when healthy with Tom Brady in 2017, and slated to be the primary outside receiver in a potent offense he checked in as the 26th ranked receiver. Through 16 weeks, he is 74th at the position in fantasy points scored. After scoring two touchdowns in week two, Hogan didn’t score another until week 15. he also has gone four games without a catch.

There were no shortage of noticeable receivers ranked behind Hogan, including his teammate Julian Edelman (most likely due to the four game suspension). Others behind Hogan included Cooper Kupp, Kenny Golladay, Robby Anderson and Tyler Lockett. The good news is, if you took Hogan, you still could have ended up with one of those wideouts on your team. The bad news is you would have received little production from what could have been a 5th through 7th round pick.

Flex: Royce Freeman, Broncos: There are few things fantasy players love more thanĀ  finding a rookie running back to take your team to the promise land. Many thought that guy was going to be Freeman with no clear cut lead back in Denver. Fantasy owners were right about the Broncos’ situation, they just didn’t pick the right rookie. Ranked 20th entering the year, Freeman is 56th among backs in fantasy points scored through 16 weeks. His teammate and fellow rookie, the undrafted (in reality and many fantasy leagues) Phillip Lindsay checked in 12th.

Lack of involvement in the passing game didn’t help Freeman either, hauling in just six passes to this point. Not surprisingly, plenty of backs that made big impacts were behind him in the initial rankings. Most notably were James Conner (despite the Bell situation), Tarik Cohen and James White. Others ranked behind him include Derrick Henry (though it took some monster weeks) and Adrian Peterson. The Broncos backfield could end up being a timeshare again in 2019, though the cost to draft Freeman will be much lower.

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Week 17 Predictions

txtusr6mu5b9suajk5ciDespite the tougher circumstances, week 16 was actually a solid one for my predictions. This week the outlook looks bleak as in the 1 PM slate alone, only two teams have any postseason implications on the line. There are games in the later window where we don’t know teams will play them. For instance, if you’re the Bears do you play your backups to avoid having to play the suddenly red hot Eagles? In the event “scoreboard watching” comes into play, do the Chargers yank their starters if the Chiefs jump out to an early lead? A lot of questions remain, but there’s sure to be plenty of chaos this Sunday as a result.

Last week: 12-4, Season: 151-89

Last week against the spread: 8-8, Season: 106-134

Game of the weak: Dolphins vs Bills: Now this is the type of week 17 game with only pride to play for. The Dolphins are hoping for a .500 season, but for the Bills it’s the chance of more in game reps for Josh Allen. There’s already talk about the Dolphins making front office changes this offseason, but what they do with Ryan Tannehill is the biggest question.

Tannehill had a cap of around $8.7 million this year, but that escalates up to $26.6 million in 2019. At this time next April’s draft doesn’t have many clear cut first rounders at quarterback. Do you bring in a veteran? Brand 2019 as a “rebuilding year” and target the 2020 draft? Either way if the Dolphins release Tannehill, it would result in dead money on the cap. With both the Jets and Bills having who they hope are their “franchise quarterbacks”, it will be fascinating to see how the Dolphins address it. Dolphins 16 Bills (-4.5) 21

Game of the week: Browns vs Ravens: Yes, Colts/Titans is a true “win and get in” game, but this would have been my choice for the Sunday night game. The Ravens are one of the scariest teams in the AFC currently, but can only get in the playoffs with a win which would clinch the division. Meanwhile, showing the Browns in their “playoff game” would highlight an upstart team, and sell the idea of hope which the league does so well.

Sitting 5-2 since Gregg Williams took over as the interim head coach, how the Browns handle filling the role will be fascinating. Williams has been about 4 WAHJ (wins above Hue Jackson), and we’ve seen that parlay into head coaching gigs before. Doug Marrone turned his WAGB (wins above Gus Bradley) into the permanent role and coached the AFC title game last year. The Browns job I’d imagine is much more coveted than the Jaguars solely due to the quarterback. Baker Mayfield has shown some special traits, and with him and so many key players on rookie deals, there’s a lot to work with. At the least, Browns fans have the right to be very excited for the future ahead. Browns 20 Ravens (-5.5) 24

Jets 23 Patriots (-13.5) 34

Panthers 16 Saints (-7.5) 24

Lions 17 Packers (-8.5) 26

Jaguars 14 Texans (-6.5) 23

Cowboys 17 Giants (-6.5) 24

Falcons 26 Buccaneers (+1.5) 23

Chargers 27 Broncos (+6.5) 20

Raiders 21 Chiefs (-13.5) 35

49ers 20 Rams (-10.5) 31

Bears 20 Vikings (-4.5) 23

Bengals 21 Steelers (-14.5) 35

Cardinals 13 Seahawks (-13.5) 28

Eagles 28 Redskins (+7.5) 20

Colts 26 Titans (-3.5) 17

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Week 16 Fantasy Surprises

gettyimages-1050838358-e1538937479654Last week was a solid one for my fantasy surprises. The Falcons defense had a huge day, Brandon McManus came up large and Josh Reynolds ended up having a productive day. Despite those plays, last week was a brutal one for fantasy players. If you’ve played long enough, we all know the big name players are due for a dud once in a while. Very rarely does it happen with so many all in the same week.

This just goes to show that for fantasy, the real skill is getting to the playoffs in itself. At that point, your drafting and waiver wire moves made you a top four (or six) team depending on format. However, when you get to the playoffs anything can happen and much of that is out of the fantasy players control. I feel bad for those who lost their games that way, but hopefully this leads to a new way for players to determine fantasy success. With this being the championship round in many leagues, odds are most rosters are set. For that reason, I’ll have an emphasis on daily fantasy surprises this week.

QB: Taylor Heinicke vs Falcons: On FanDuel, Heinicke comes in at the lowest possible pricing for a quarterback. Due to openings for roster construction, that’s worth considering regardless, but Heinicke’s matchup isn’t bad either. The Falcons have been a favorable matchup for opposing quarterbacks throughout the year. Plus, along with the inevitable checkdowns to Christian McCaffrey, Heinicke will be able to test the intermediate to deep passing game more than Cam Newton could these past few weeks. Expect around 250 total yards and two touchdowns.

RB: Alfred Blue vs Eagles: With Lamar Miller already ruled out, Blue could be a chalky option, but he’ll allow you to pay up for other players in your lineup. The Eagles have been a middle of the pack fantasy defense against opposing backs, so the matchup isn’t bad either. Aside from one game, Blue hasn’t been used much as a pass catcher, but the projected volume makes him an enticing option. Expect around 70 total yards and a touchdown.

WR: Robby Anderson vs Packers: Don’t look now, but Anderson has cleared 75+ yards and recorded a touchdown in each of the past two weeks. Despite that, he still checks in at under $6,000 in FanDuel pricing. With Sam Darnold looking his way often of late, and the Jets potentially being in comeback mode, Anderson could pay off in a huge way this week. Expect around 80 yards and a touchdown.

TE: David Njoku vs Bengals: Njoku’s been an underwhelming fantasy option of late, but that’s why he’s currently the 12th highest priced tight end on FanDuel. The matchup is extremely enticing this week against a Bengals defense that has struggled against the position. This could end up being a chalky play, but the potential reward is there. Expect around 60 yards and a touchdown.

K: Jason Sanders vs Jaguars: Kickers aren’t used as frequently in DFS now, but I figured since I’ve been doing it all season, I’ll make one final suggestion. The Dolphins should be able to get in scoring position against the Jaguars on a few occasions, but how they score is the question. Sanders could be counted on multiple times for field goals in this one, making him an intriguing fantasy streamer. Expect around three field goals and two extra points.

DST: Cowboys vs Buccaneers: Defenses can be chalky, and a bit of a crapshoot for DFS but the Cowboys could be a decent contrarian play. Coming off a rough week, the Cowboys are the 12th highest priced defense on FanDuel this Sunday. Considering the offense will control the clock, the ability of the defensive line and Jameis Winston still being prone to some poor decisions, they could be a nice value there. Expect around three sacks, and an interception.

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