(Updated August 18th,2016)
NFL pre-season games are underway and before you know it the regular season will be upon us. The same goes for Fantasy Football.
Yes, Fantasyland fans, it’s time once again to gather with friends and draft the NFL’s very best to battle for a championship, cash prizes, and whatever else your league does.
In preparation for the upcoming fantasy season, I wanted to provide newcomers and veterans alike with a survival guide to success for 2016.
So without further ado, I give you 10 Fantasy Football Guidelines:
1. Mock, Mock, and Mock Some More
Fantasy mock draft lobbies have been open since May of this year and it’s now primetime for draft day practice.
To fantasy veterans this is old news, but to newbies reading this, mocking is by and large the best way to prepare yourself for fantasy success.
You can mock right now at any of these lobbies listed below:
**Pro-Tip: Mock as often as possible for your respective league (Standard, PPR, Two-QB, Dynasty, etc.) leading up to your live draft.
(For Two-QB leagues: Fantasy Pros and Fantasy Football Calculator offers customization options for a simulated mock. But you will likely mock against computer based picks, which may or may not prepare you for tendencies of actual mockers)**
2. Make Your First Two Picks Count
Over the last few years, first and second round draft strategy has seen quite the transformation.
Pre-2015 a fantasy owner may have been inclined to draft RB-RB, last year the tendency may have leaned towards RB-WR (or vice versa). This year you will likely see some owners go WR-WR (unless it’s a Two-QB league).
I’m not here to tell you which strategy you should apply. I’m simply stating that you need to pick the best two players available when on the clock.
You’re picking eighth in a 10-team standard league and the following first round players are available:
DeAndre Hopkins, Rob Gronkowski, Adrian Peterson.
Your second round pick comes quickly and Dez Bryant, Jamaal Charles, Allen Robinson are available.
Who do you pick?
It all depends on how you want to anchor your roster.
If you want at least one player who is the best at his position, draft Gronkowski with confidence and pick your poison between Bryant, Charles, or Robinson.
If you aren’t worried about a TE and want at least one elite player at another position, choose Hopkins or Peterson and then decide if you want to go with another RB or WR (or reach for a QB).
3. Don’t Panic Pick
Panic picking happens when a fantasy owner anticipates selecting a specific player and right before they go on the clock said player is taken by someone right in front of them.
As a result, the owner frantically picks a player based on positional ranking or name familiarity.
It’s round four and you are looking to snag Thomas Rawls.
You watch as the picks before you’re on the clock dwindles down to three and Rawls is still there.
Then the unthinkable happens – the owner picking just before you takes Rawls! Shocked, you pick Matt Jones.
One panic pick can wreck the rest of your draft strategy as you may overreach on your next pick or undervalue other players later in the draft.
So, how can you avoid this?
Most fantasy draft formats offer some sort of player queue. You’ll want to utilize this feature throughout the draft, as it allows you to have a prepared list of players you desire.
By placing players in the queue, you have a quick and easy point of reference in case a desired player flies off the board earlier than expected.
The importance of this guideline can’t be stressed enough.
4. Be Conscious of Your Draft Position
This guideline goes hand-in-hand with making sure not to panic pick. Understanding where you will be picking each round is essential to your draft day success.
Most standard drafts use a snake style as shown below:
Round 1: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12 Round 2: 12-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 Round 3: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12 and this order repeats throughout.
To put this into perspective (this also ties back into making those first picks count), if you pick last in a 12-team league there will be 22 picks made after your first two selections.
This means if you go the WR-WR route, you risk watching elite RB1’s and a QB or two fall off the board. This translates into settling for an RB2-type as your first of two RB roster spots.
Then again, if you pick Dez Bryant and Allen Robinson with your WR-WR strategy, that combo may make you a tough matchup in your league. Having missed out on a Devonta Freeman or Jamaal Charles may not hurt you at all.
Nevertheless, being mindful of who will be available when you’re on the clock will allow you to reach properly for a player you want and steal others away.
**Pro-Tip: You’ll want to take into consideration players who are suspended to start the season or still recovering from injury.**
5. Know Which Running Backs Need Handcuffed
Handcuffing in fantasy football refers to an owner who drafts an RB1 caliber running back early and then selects that RB’s backup later on as insurance (in case of injury or a lengthy suspension).
This strategy, however, is not one that should be applied to every RB1.
Below are examples of RB1’s that you should or should not handcuff:
RB1’s To Handcuff:
Le’Veon Bell (recently suspended four games for violating the NFL drug testing policy) Handcuff With: DeAngelo Williams (2015’s Ultimate Handcuff)
Devonta Freeman (breakout running back from 2015 who could flame out in 2016) Handcuff With: Tevin Coleman
Jamaal Charles (a top five fantasy RB when healthy) due to health issues Handcuff With: Spencer Ware/Charcandrick West
Doug Martin (Arguably one of the best running backs in fantasy last year and when healthy is a solid RB1 producer) Handcuff With: Charles Sims
LeSean McCoy (Can be a top 10 fantasy RB when healthy, possibly top five if he returns to his old form) Handcuff With: Karlos Williams/Reggie Bush
Honorable Mention: Matt Forte (Handcuff: Bilal Powell), DeMarco Murray (Derrick Henry), Chris Ivory (Handcuff: T.J. Yeldon).
RB1’s Not To Handcuff:
Adrian Peterson (All-Day is still the man in Minnesota and you can likely pick up Jerick McKinnon off the waiver-wire)
Todd Gurley (Turned in a fine rookie season and appears to be the second coming of Steven Jackson for the Rams, his backups can be found on the wire)
David Johnson (After a breakout 2015 campaign DJ appears to be Arizona’s bell cow, plus you can probably find Chris Johnson on the wire if need be)
Lamar Miller (According to most fantasy experts, Miller is in line for a monster season via Houston head coach Bill O’Brien’s run-heavy offensive scheme . As a result Alfred Blue should go undrafted)
Ezekiel Elliott (It might be a stretch to include Elliot here, but the Cowboys clearly plan on using him as the every down back making Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris waiver wire material)
Honorable Mention: Mark Ingram, Carlos Hyde, Latavius Murray.
**Pro-Tip: With this strategy, handcuffing an RB means potentially sacrificing a roster spot that you could fill with a sleeper pick instead.**
6. Beware The Bye Weeks (5,8,9,10)
When drafting your fantasy football team you will want to be cautious of certain bye weeks this season.
Having a team full of players with similar bye weeks could find you with a potential loss or two at some point in the season.
While two losses may not sound like much, it could be the difference between making or missing the playoffs. All it would take is stumbling out of the gate or dealing with the injury bug, and those two losses could easily turn into five or more.
This is not to say you shouldn’t draft Dez Bryant and Cam Newton because they share the same bye week (wk.7), but it doesn’t mean you should take a risk drafting an entire team of players with identical bye weeks either.
Allow me to provide you with ALL of the bye weeks this year and highlight the ones to pay very close attention:
Week 4- Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles
Notable Fantasy Players Impacted (NFPI):
GB: Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, Jeff Janis, James Starks, Packers D/ST, Mason Crosby.
PHI: Jordan Matthews, Ryan Mathews, Nelson Agholor, Sam Bradford, Eagles D/ST, Wendell Smallwood, Darren Sproles.
Week 5- Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks
JAX: Allen Robinson, Blake Bortles, Allen Hurns, Chris Ivory, T.J. Yeldon, Julius Thomas, Jaguars D/ST
KC: Jamaal Charles, Jeremy Maclin, Travis Kelce, Chiefs D/ST, Charcandrick West, Cairo Santos, Alex Smith.
NOLA: Mark Ingram, Drew Brees, Brandin Cooks, Colby Fleener, Willie Snead, Michael Thomas.
SEA: Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Thomas Rawls, Tyler Lockett, Seahawks D/ST, Jimmy Graham, Steven Hauschka, C.J. Prosise.
Week 6- Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
MIN: Adrian Peterson, Stefon Diggs, Teddy Bridgewater, Laquon Treadwell, Minnesota D/ST, Kyle Rudolph, Blair Walsh.
TB: Doug Martin, Mike Evans, Jameis Winston, Vincent Jackson, Charles Sims, Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, Buccaneers D/ST, Roberto Aguayo
Week 7- Carolina Panthers, Dallas Cowboys
CAR: Cam Newton, Kelvin Benjamin, Greg Olsen, Johnathan Stewart, Ted Ginn Jr., Panthers D/ST, Graham Gano, Mike Tolbert, Devin Funchess.
DAL: Dez Bryant, Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Romo, Terrance Williams, Jason Witten, Dan Bailey.
Week 8- Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Rams, Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers
BAL: Joe Flacco, Kamar Aiken, Mike Wallace, Justin Forsett, Kenneth Dixon, Justin Tucker, Benjamin Watson, Ravens D/ST.
LA: Todd Gurley, Tavon Austin, Kenny Britt, Rams D/ST, Jared Goff, Pharoh Cooper, Greg Zuerlein.
MIA: Jarvis Landry, Jay Ajayi, DeVante Parker, Ryan Tannehill, Arian Foster, Dolphins D/ST, Jordan Cameron.
NYG: Odell Beckham Jr., Eli Manning, Reshad Jennings, Sterling Shepard, Giants D/ST, Paul Perkins, Larry Donnell, Will Tye, Josh Brown.
PIT: Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, Ben Roethlisberger, DeAngelo Williams, Markus Wheaton, Steelers D/ST, Ladarius Green, Chris Boswell, Sammie Coates.
SF: Carlos Hyde, Torrey Smith, Colin Kaepernick, Vance McDonald, Bruce Ellington.
Week 9- Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans, New England Patriots, Washington Redskins
ARI: David Johnson, Carson Palmer, Michael Floyd, Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, Cardinals D/ST, Chandler Catanzaro.
CHI: Alshon Jeffrey, Jeremy Langford, Kevin White, Jay Cutler, Bears D/ST, Zach Miller, Ka’Deem Carey, Jordan Howard, Robbie Gould.
CIN: A.J. Green, Jeremy Hill, Tyler Eifert, Andy Dalton, Giovani Bernard, Bengals D/ST, Brandon LaFell.
HOU: DeAndre Hopkins, Lamar Miller, Brock Osweiler, Texans D/ST, Will Fuller.
NE: Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Tom Brady, Dion Lewis, Patriots D/ST, Stephen Gostkowski, LaGarrette Blount, Martellus Bennett.
WAS: Jordan Reed, DeSean Jackson, Matt Jones, Kirk Cousins, Josh Doctson, Jae Crowder, Redskins D/ST.
Week 10- Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, Indianapolis Colts, Oakland Raiders
BUF: LeSean McCoy, Sammy Watkins, Tyrod Taylor, Bills D/ST, Karlos Williams, Charles Clay, Robert Woods.
DET: Golden Tate, Ameer Abdullah, Matthew Stafford, Marvin Jones, Eric Ebron, Theo Riddick.
IND: Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Frank Gore, Dwayne Allen, Phillip Dorsett, Adam Vinatieri.
OAK: Amari Cooper, Latavius Murray, Derek Carr, Michael Crabtree, Raiders D/ST, Sebastian Janikowski, Clive Walford.
Week 11- Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos, New York Jets, San Diego Chargers
ATL: Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, Matt Ryan, Tevin Coleman, Mohamed Sanu, Matt Bryant.
DEN: Demaryius Thomas, C.J. Anderson, Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos D/ST, Brandon McManus, Devontae Booker.
NYJ: Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte, Eric Decker, Jets D/ST, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bilal Powell, Nick Folk.
SD: Keenan Allen, Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon, Danny Woodhead, Antonio Gates, Stevie Johnson, Travis Benjamin, Josh Lambo.
Week 13- Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans
CLE: Gary Barnridge, Duke Johnson Jr., Isiah Crowell, Corey Coleman, Andrew Hawkins.
TEN: DeMarco Murray, Delanie Walker, Marcus Mariota, Kendall Wright, Dorial Green-Beckham, Derrick Henry.
** Pro-Tip: Bye weeks eight and nine are tied for the most teams/players out of action with six each.**
7. When Drafting For TE, K, Or D/ST It’s THE Best Or Bust
As stated above, unless you’re drafting Gronk, Greg Olsen, Stephen Gostkowski, Graham Gano, or Seattle/Denver’s D/ST you can wait it out.
Sure you can go after Jordan Reed in round three or four, but keep in mind you’re taking him over top 10 QB’s, WR’s, and possibly top 15 candidate RB’s.
Instead of reaching for Reed, you can sure up your QB, WR1 or WR2, or RB2 roster spot and still snag Travis Kelce, Delanie Walker, or Tyler Eifert in rounds five or six.
You can even pass on all of those guys and grab a Gary Barnridge, Antonio Gates, Colby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, or Ladarius Green type in rounds seven or eight.
Heck if you really want to wait Jimmy Graham, Zach Miller, Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, Jared Cook, Vance McDonald, Clive Walford, and others will be available beyond round 10.
As for drafting for a K and D/ST, my policy is usually to pick both last and stream when necessary. However, if a Justin Tucker or Steven Hauschka and decent defenses like the Jets and Vikings are available after round 10, feel free to snatch one of each up in round 11 and 12.
8. Become A Waiver Wire Hawk
If you follow all of those draft guidelines your team is likely looking pretty good. There’s a nice balance of talent and breakout candidates among your starters, the bench consists of solid sleeper picks, and bye weeks shouldn’t cause you too much of a headache.
Now that the team is assembled pay close, if not immediate, attention to the waiver wire.
Think of the waiver wire as your one stop shopping market, or in some cases a second chance at salvaging your fantasy season.
It never fails, every year a handful or more of players come out of nowhere and turn Fantasyland on it’s head. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to swoop in before anyone else in your league does and grab at least one of these players.
**Pro-Tip: Pay attention to your waiver wire order. When a player is dropped by an owner he will be on waivers for a 48-72 hour period. Based on where you rank in the waiver wire order (1-10, 1-12, etc.) you’ll want to place a waiver claim accordingly.
Be cautious with your claim though, especially if you are high up in the waiver wire order (#5 or higher). If you pickup a hot player who fizzles back out in two weeks, you will fall to last place on the waiver wire order and likely miss out on the next rising star. Timing and choosing wisely is everything with the wire**
9. Make A Trade
Making a trade is not only a fun way to feel like a real GM, but depending on the deal it could propel your team to a championship.
Personally, I make at least one trade every year, but it’s certainly not a requirement nor a guaranteed method for success. Nevertheless, there are two types of traders in the fantasy football market:
The Con Artist- veterans are all too familiar with who this guy is. The con artist will typically trade with newer league members and offer what seems like a good deal on the surface, but is ultimately ripping said owner off.
Con offers Derek Carr, DeAngelo Williams in exchange for Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Forte in week five
Why this deal is potentially unfair: When healthy Roethlisberger is a potential top five fantasy QB and Forte is a consistent fantasy producer. Meanwhile Carr could crack the top five this year with an incredible season, however, he has the toughest passing defense schedule after week four and Williams loses fantasy relevance as Le’Veon Bell is due back by week five (and the Con owns Bell).
The Mutual Benefactor- This is an owner who wants to shake things up regarding their lineup and believes in offering only a fair trade to another owner. The Mutual Benefactor will usually trade more than once and typically can be negotiated with.
Mutual Benefactor offers Latavius Murray, Michael Floyd in exchange for Thomas Rawls, Erick Decker in week seven.
Why this is a win-win situation: Murray and Rawls are interchangeable as solid RB2’s with RB1 potential and similarly for Floyd and Decker as both are solid fantasy producers.
**Pro-Tip: Do your homework if offered a trade this year and make sure you’re getting a good deal. Compare projected statistics, bye weeks, health history, and so on before you hit the accept button.**
10. Have A Manageable Number Of Fantasy Teams/Leagues
Look, I love fantasy sports as much as the next person, but as with most anything moderation is key.
Some of you reading this currently have a fantasy baseball team/league or two (or more) going on (and will likely through October).
So, if you decide to join/lead four to five fantasy football leagues, you will be responsible for six or more teams instead of two or three (and that’s not including fantasy basketball or hockey!).
The trouble with having a large number of fantasy teams is that eventually your players all start to blend together. It then becomes easy to forget setting each lineup. This usually leads to losses in multiple leagues that are completely avoidable by simply showing a little fantasy control.
In short, if you’re going to fantasy this year, fantasy responsibly.
In case you don’t have time to do your homework for this year’s fantasy season, here’s a Cheat Sheet courtesy of ESPN.com.
I can’t guarentee following these guidelines will earn you a fantasy championship, but I can promise your chances of making the playoffs will be better than going blindly into the 2016 fantasy season.
Happy drafting and best of luck to all.
5 Fantasy Players To Roll the Dice On Week 1
Fantasy football is all about staying healthy, match-ups and a little bit of luck if you want to win your league. Remember, nobody at work wants to hear about who you drafted in the 8th round, (fantasy players included). One thing you can control however is doing your research and trying to take advantage of match-ups.
It is a given that guys like Laveon Bell, D. Johnson and Odell Beckham are going to be must starts every week. It is the tier two guys you really want to maximize. With that being said here are 5 players you might want to have active this week for your fantasy lineup.
Ben Roethlisburger, Pittsburgh Quarterback – Match-up: @ Cleveland Browns
Big Ben has the best receiver in the league as well as Le’Veon Bell back in the fold and they are going up against a Cleveland defense who just traded away their best player in the secondary. You can count on the usual suspects to eat but if you grabbed Ben in those later rounds he might be a sneaky play week 1 against a defense that will be less than stellar.
Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Running Back – Match-up: @ New England Patriots
New England will most likely win this game but look for Hunt to have every opportunity to make plays for the Chiefs. He is Andy Reid’s guy for now and in the past guys like LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles have benefited from being the guy for Reid. He can catch out the backfield which makes him a duel threat even in a PPR league. He’s got a low center of gravity which makes him hard to take down. Put Hunt in your lineup this week.
Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Tight End – Match-up: vs New Orleans Saints
Last year Rudolph had 128 targets and ranked top four in receptions, yards, touchdowns and end zone targets (11). Rudolph finished second at the position in fantasy points. He is going up against a weak New Orleans secondary so do be surprised if Rudolph grabs a touchdown or two.
Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Wide Receiver – Match-up: vs New Orleans Saints
Last season the Saints had the worst pass defense in the entire NFL (yes there seems to be a pattern here). Diggs is the #1 guy at receiver coming out of camp so look for him to have plenty of targets against a less than stellar secondary. He does have big play potential and two 13 catch games on his resume from last year. I would rate Diggs as a must start this week.
Los Angeles Rams – Match-up vs Indianapolis Colts
Without googling tell who is going to be at QB for the Colts this Sunday? … Exactly. We don’t know either. Furthermore, no disrespect to Frank Gore but is the starting tailback for this offense and this is year 13 for him. The numbers don’t really look good for this Colts offense. So yes, this post isn’t so much about the Rams defense as it is the lack of Colts offense. Defenses are a dime a dozen, pick the Rams up and see what the do for you this weekend.
Fantasy Football Mock Draft: 12 Team PPR
It is almost time for the Fantasy Football drafts to take place and many players are reading articles and doing mock drafts to develop their strategy.
We decided to do a mock draft and give you some insight as to some of the strategy that we use.
We decided to do a 12 team PPR mock draft.
If you are a beginner PPR simply means players get points per reception when they add up the scoring.
Every strategy is different based on where you are drafting and we randomly got selected to pick 12th.
Picking at the end of the first round is both a blessing and a curse because you get two picks back to back but after that it seems like you have to wait an eternity to pick again.
If you find out that you have the 12th and 13th picks your first two selections better hit.
You can’t afford to miss on either two.
Round 1 & 2 … Strategy: Best player available
At this position you can forget about Laveon Bell, David Johnson, Antonio Brown or any of those top 10 guys. Fill your que with players that are typically available around that area. (Jordy Nelson, Devonte Freeman, Melvin Gordon, AJ Green, Ty Hilton).
My pick: Demarco Murray … Jay Ajayi
I decided to go ahead and grab both my starting RB’s. There was still some good pass catchers available but if I focus on that the next round I should still be able to get some quality.
Round 2/3 … Strategy: Best Pass Catcher available.
In the meantime since I have to wait for the snake to come all the way back I’m looking at my targets and filling my que.
Never just wait for the time to go by, always be working the draft pool.
My picks: Golden Tate .. Jordan Reed
I was hoping Brandin Cooks would be here but he got snatched up right before my pick.
Tate is in a very pass happy offense and caught 91 balls last year. In a PPR league such as this he is a good pick for a WR1.
Reed was a top 3 tight end and grabbing a guy like him is just as good as having a WR2 at this spot.
Round 3/4 … Strategy: Best player available.
My picks: Matt Ryan … Brandon Marshall
I typically wait to draft my QB but guys like Brady, Rodgers, and Brees if they are still there in the 3rd or 4th round I don’t think it’s a bad idea to jump for them.
Brandon Marshall will be opposite Beckham in New York but he is proven vet and as a WR2 he seems to be a solid pick.
Round 5/6 … Strategy: Finish out starters / look for depth or handcuffs.
My picks: D.McFadden … Randall Cobb
McFadden will be a starter for the best O-line for the first few weeks of the season.
He should make a good RB3 or even a flex if he gets hot.
Cobb is coming off a 60 catch 4 TD season. If the match-up is right he might be a good flex play on a given week.
Round 6/7 … Strategy: Depth
My picks: Doug Martin … Cameron Brate
Ok these are my homer picks. Admittedly I am a Bucs fan but I think these are quality picks for this round.
Martin will miss the first three games but if he gets that starting job back and holds on to it then I just grabbed a starting running back in the 6th round. Brate will be a solid TE2 this year.
I don’t expect another 8 TD’s but if he gives you 6 that will be good quality at that position.
Round 8/9 … Strategy: Depth
My picks: Phillip Rivers … A. Bolden
Rivers is as about as solid a backup as you can ask for. He is as consistent as they come. Bolden is a bit old but he should still be a serviceable WR.
With Sammy Watkins gone in Buffalo there might be plenty of opportunity for him.
Round 10/11 … Strategy: Best player available
My picks: J. Whitten .. Mohammad Sanu
These are just picks for depth. At this point you just want football players that you wouldn’t mind sticking in on a bye week.
Round 12/13 .. Strategy: Kicker/Defense
I’m a believer of you always save your last two spots for your defense and your kicker. Reason is because nobody ever said that their kicker and defensive team carried them to a fantasy football championship.
My picks: Rams D/ST …. S. Janikowski
I don’t put much research into kickers or defense but I know the Rams have some playmakers and Janikowski has always had a strong leg. That’s good enough for me.
So to recap here is what my starting roster should look like day 1.
QB – Matt Ryan
RB – Demarco Murray
RB – J. Ajayi
WR – Golden Tate
WR – Brandon Marshall
TE – Jordan Reed
FLEX- D. McFadden / R. Cobb / D. Martin (depending on the weekly matchup)
D/ST – Rams
K – Janikowski
QB – P. Rivers
WR – A. Boldin
TE – J. Whitten
WR – M.Sanu
2016 NFL Season Week 17 Pick ‘Em
We are finally here. Week 17. The end of the NFL season and the beginning of the playoffs.
In many ways, other than week 1, week 17 is the hardest to predict. With many of the playoff positions already determined many teams will be featuring backups or young talent in an effort to preserve their stars for the playoffs or to hasten the impending rebuild.
In fact, only a few games this week have any intrinsic value, and those will be highlighted further in the article. So without further ado, let us take a look at how this season is going to wrap up.
Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals
Baltimore just got eliminated from the playoffs by their arch-rivals and Cincinnati is desperate for this lost season to come to an end. Neither team has anything to play for, neither are going for the playoffs, nor are they jostling for a high draft pick. Both of these teams are in a hellish middle ground that drives sports fans up the wall.
So what this game comes down to is coaching. Who will get their team better prepared and better motivated to finish the season strong. In that case I will take John Harbaugh over Marvin Lewis. I actually am a big fan of Lewis, but Harbaugh is simply better at getting his players to always play hard and play smart.
I like the Ravens to finish the season strong.
Houston Texans @ Tennessee Titans
This game is very important to exactly one man: Tom Savage. Savage is not only trying to give his team momentum entering the playoffs, but he is also auditioning for a starting job next season. Brock Osweiler is obviously not the answer and the Texans are not about to sign another high-priced free agent at quarterback. So the Texans have two options: 1) draft a quarterback for the future, or 2) go all in with Savage. The problem is that Savage has yet to show any real leadership ability or offensive flare. The best that can be said is that he is competent.
Unfortunately, the Titans are in worse shape. Their entire offense is predicated on a strong run game supplemented by an accurate passer who minimizes mistakes. Neither of those two descriptors apply to Matt Cassel.
In the end this game will come down to defensive prowess and the Texans have the better defense.
Carolina Panthers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Cam Newton wants this season to end…desperately. I do not care who the Panthers’ face, a Cam Newton without motivation will not be winning many games; especially behind that awful offensive line.
To make matters worse, the Bucs actually do have something to play for. If the Bucs win and the Lions and Redskins lose, then they would make the playoffs as the last wildcard (if my playoff math is correct). But even without playoff implications, Tampa Bay made some great strides this year and the team as a whole will want to keep that momentum going no matter if it is to the playoffs or to next season.
I like the Buccaneers to take this one.
Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers
So the Browns got a win. Makes the rest of the season kind of pointless doesn’t it? If you are going to suck that bad, then make history and be the worst ever. But leave it to the Browns to even screw that up. The Steelers do not have much to play for since they have locked up their spot in the postseason.
With all of that being said, Mike Tomlin has never been the type of coach to lay back. He is very aggressive, and in the words of Herm Edwards, plays to win the game. Because of that mentality the Steelers will win, since they are an infinitely better team at this point in time.
Dallas Cowboys @ Philadelphia Eagles
Yet another game with nothing to play for. The Cowboys have locked up the #1 seed along with the first round bye. The funny thing here is that even if the Cowboys decide to rest Dak Prescott, then that means Tony Romo will get the start. For the Eagles it is damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
I do not think Dallas will rest its guys, but even if they do, the Cowboys will still win.
Buffalo Bills @ New York Jets
Oh dear God, are they honestly allowing this game on TV? The Bills fired the brother Ryan and the Jets at this point in time may be the worst team in the league. The problem with the Jets is not talent or even coaching…it’s heart. It is a team full of individuals. There does not seem to be a unity of purpose and it becomes incumbent on the coach and GM to fix that problem.
The Bills’ problem is a much different one. They suffered a rash of injuries at the outset. Personally I felt that Rex Ryan deserved one more year (not Rob Ryan though). But be that as it may, both of these teams are entering the offseason with a lot of questions.
But as for this game, I will take heart over talent every time. Bills get one more feel good win.
Chicago Bears @ Minnesota Vikings
A major battle between two majorly disappointing teams. The Vikings started 5-0 and then spiraled out of control as the lack of offensive line help and the absence of a run game sunk what was a promising season for Minnesota.
On the flip side, many in Chicago were looking forward to the team’s progression under John Fox. While very few realistically expected a deep playoff run, many were hoping for at least a winning season with momentum heading into the heart of this rebuild.
Obviously that did not come true for the Bears who with a loss, would complete the worst season in Chicago history for a 16-game schedule.
The Vikings have won games based on defense and special teams and this Bears team is completely incapable of countering either of those. Matt Barkley just threw 5 interceptions last week and the Bears’ special teams are amongst the worst in the league.
The Vikings should win this one walking away.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Indianapolis Colts
Do not let last week’s performance fool you…the Jaguars still sucks. Even a blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut and after four years Blake Bortles finally put together a decent 4th quarter. The sad thing is that even with the inspired play by Bortles, had Mariota not been injured the Jaguars still likely would have lost.
I would not be surprised to see Jacksonville take a quarterback in the 3rd or 4th round of the draft as an insurance policy. Indianapolis has not been very good either, but they at least have a reliable quarterback and in this game that is all they are going to need.
I like the Colts to get the W against the lowly Jags.
New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins
Both teams have not only clinched a playoff spot, but both are locked into their positions as well. But here’s the rub: New England is notorious for resting starters. It was not that long ago that Bill Belichick started Doug Flutie in week 17 against the Dolphins and let Flutie do a drop kick.
Conversely, Adam Gase is changing the culture in Miami and is unlikely to rest anyone. I think Gase feels the team has momentum and wants to keep it going into the playoffs.
I expect the Dolphins to play hard and the Patriots to treat it like a preseason game; therefore I am picking the Dolphins to win this one.
Kansas City Chiefs @ San Diego Chargers
There is a lot at stake for the Chiefs here. If the Chiefs win and the Raiders lose, then the Chiefs will be the 2nd seed and get a first round bye. That is huge motivation, especially for a team that has some seasoned veterans on their defense. Kansas City will be fighting hard for that bye.
The Chargers technically have nothing to play for, however; it may be the last game they ever play in San Diego. While southern California is not known for the ferocity of their sports fandom, I have a feeling there will be a good crowd there to send this team off. Furthermore, Philip Rivers loves San Diego and was outspoken in his opposition to the team moving to L.A. and I have a feeling he will come out slinging.
It won’t matter though. I have said repeatedly that the Chiefs may be the most well-rounded team in the NFL and with the motivation to win that they have I can not imagine them losing here.
Arizona Cardinals @ Los Angeles Rams
Are the Cardinals good enough to score points? Yes, they are? Then they are good enough to beat the worst offense in the league. The Rams offense is an absolute joke and the GM should be on the street right along with their former coach.
Cardinals win in what may be the last game of Larry Fitzgerald’s career.
Oakland Raiders @ Denver Broncos
The poor Raiders. They looked like a legitimate contender for the Super Bowl, until Derek Carr had his leg broken. Now their hopes land on the shoulder of either Matt McGloin or Connor Cook. It does not look good.
The Broncos’ offense has been terrible, but they are at home and they have that great defense.
I have no faith in that Raider offense without Carr and their defense is not good enough to win them games. I like the Broncos to win here and cost the Raiders that 1st round bye.
New York Giants @ Washington Redskins
The Giants are a better team and if they really want to make a push, then I think they would take this game. That being said, the Redskins can still make the playoffs and I have a feeling that the Giants will be conservative and sit some players, leaving it wide open for the Redskins.
Redskins sneak into the playoffs.
Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers
The Seahawks should rest Russell Wilson and that bad wheel of his, but even if they do the 49ers are not a match for the Seahawks. San Francisco has been horrid this year. Despite the “brilliance” of Chip Kelly they have been one of the worst offenses in the NFL and make no mistake they will be looking for a new quarterback this offseason.
When the only splash you have made all season is your quarterback’s pregame ritual, then you have a lot of work to do. Seahawks win and ease into the playoffs.
New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons are competing for a bye and have the home field advantage. The Saints are playing for nothing. Drew Brees is a great competitor who will go out and do everything he can to win, but in the end he is leading a team without a defense and a head coach that is seemingly checked out.
The Falcons have been the best offense in the NFL all year long and they shouldn’t have much trouble against the Saints defense. Falcons win.
Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions
This is the game of the week. This game is practically win or go home. The winner is crowned NFC North Champion and the loser will likely be eliminated unless some other teams help them out.
Both of these teams have suspect defenses and are completely dependant on the play of their respective quarterbacks. Matthew Stafford has been incredible, constantly leading his team from behind in the final minutes of games. Whether it be throwing down field or lowering his head and taking on linebackers while running for the first down.
Aaron Rodgers’ accomplishments speak for themselves and over the Packers’ 5-game win streak there has not been a better quarterback in the NFL. This game should be a shootout and should be a great game.
Personally, I am rooting for the Lions, but I honestly think the Packers will win. You can’t bet against a team on a hot streak and there is no team hotter than the Green Bay Packers.
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