Week 12 NFL picks

Week 12 NFL picks against the spread

The last two weeks have made finishing the year with a winning record seem like a pipe dream. I was just 4-9-1 against the spread last week and now sit at 68-84-7 on the year, but there is still lots of football left to be played.

My picks are bolded, outright upsets have an asterisk and all lines are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing. Happy Thanksgiving Everyone.

Thursday

Vikings (-3) at Lions – These teams are tough to wrap your arms around, but this Thanksgiving Day tilt is dripping with playoff implications. The Lions continue to get away with slow starts more often than they should. Matthew Stafford is the only reason for that. They have no balance whatsoever and have not had a 100-yard rusher in four years.

Case Keenum is playing way above his head. He has given the Vikings enough cushion so that they are almost certainly a playoff team. Even so, it is hard to think that he will not eventually come back to earth. For now though, the Vikings play better defense and run the ball better than this week’s opponent. Holding the Rams to seven points was the most impressive outing from a defense all year. Min 24 Det 17

Chargers (-1) at *Cowboys – The Cowboys’ season is on the line here. They have been physically dominated the last two weeks. With the AFC growing more mediocre by the week, the Chargers are also very much in the playoff mix, but they have to travel a fairly long way on a short week. Dallas tends to play well in their traditional Thanksgiving time slot, so they will find a way to win here. Dal 24 LAC 23

*Giants at Redskins (-7) – Washington has been the better team this year, but they lost their best running back last week in addition to their late-game collapse. Whatever playoff hopes they had probably went by the boards too. Given all that, they may check out on the season.

New York’s upset of Kansas City last week should provide incentive for them to keep playing hard. Timing is everything in this matchup and the timing is right for an upset. NYG 23 Was 20

Sunday

Bills at Chiefs (-10) – This is the first of many large spreads this week. Both of these teams are struggling in a big way. They each look miles away from the teams that got off to two of the best starts in the league.

Kansas City is still in firm control of the AFC West despite losing four out of five games. Andy Reid has earned the benefit of the doubt and will likely get his team back on track before long. Alex Smith has regressed from being an MVP candidate in the first part of the season back to being the average Alex Smith that everyone should be used to. The Chiefs still have playmakers all over the field though.

It is hard to have that same confidence in Buffalo right now. Mercifully, the Nathan Peterman experiment ended after one disastrous half against the Chargers last week. The Bills are still very much in the AFC Wild Card mix. However, even with Tyrod Taylor back under center, Sean McDermott may have already lost this team.

Buffalo has given up 135 combined points during its current losing streak. Yet, they tinkered with the quarterback rather than the defense? It is absolutely mystifying, and it must feel that way for some of the players too. The walls are closing in on Buffalo. A trip to Kansas City will not make it any better. KC 24 Buf 13

Panthers (-4.5) at Jets – After being picked to go winless by many before the season, the Jets have fought the good fight all year long. But at 4-6, reality is starting to set in. Carolina has won three in a row and are finally figuring out how to use the young talent they drafted to help Cam Newton, who is also finding consistency. These two teams are headed in opposite directions. The Panthers keep rolling. The Jets keep fading. Car 28 NYJ 20

Bears at Eagles (-13.5) – The Eagles are showing no signs of slowing down. Carson Wentz is really good, and it seems like he gets help from different offensive weapons every week.

Meanwhile, Chicago has not been winning games consistently since rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky took over. They have been playing teams like Detroit, New Orleans and Minnesota right to the wire though. The Bears run the ball and play defense well enough to hang around with anybody in this league. Additionally, they do not even have to keep this one all that close to be a winning bet here. Phi 28 Chi 17

Browns at Bengals (-8) – Believe it or not, the Bengals are just a single game out of an AFC playoff spot. The winless Browns are still mathematically alive for a playoff spot as well. Take your pick as to which of those two facts is more unbelievable.

Week 12 NFL picks

Photo from USA Today

The Browns keep losing, but have played well in patches over the last handful of weeks. Moreover, the Bengals never blow anyone out, especially when they are supposed to. Look no further than the Indianapolis game from about a month ago. A.J. Green will make a big play late to help Cincinnati avoid disaster. Cin 16 Cle 13

Dolphins at Patriots (-16.5) – As usual, New England is the class of the AFC and Miami is far from it. Even so, 16.5 points in any NFL game is too many to give up. In a game between division rivals, it feels like stealing. NE 31 Mia 17

Buccaneers at Falcons (-10) – The Falcons are getting a little too much credit here. The win in Seattle was massive and impressive. Even so, Atlanta has been chasing consistency all year. After dismantling the Aaron Rodgers led Packers, they lost home games to Buffalo and Miami. Thus, it is hard to see them blowing out a Tampa Bay team that is suddenly playing much better with veteran backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick at the controls. Falcon fans will have to bite their nails late in this game. Atl 27 TB 24

Titans (-3) at *Colts – Indianapolis is not very good, but Jacoby Brissett has had them in almost every game since taking over the starting quarterback job. This includes a meeting earlier this year with Tennessee where the Colts led heading into the fourth quarter before collapsing.

The Titans offense has just become stagnant in recent weeks. They are either in a low-scoring battle or getting blown out every week. It is fair to wonder whether or not Mike Mullarkey is the right coach to get Marcus Mariota to the next level. Brissett makes a play late, Mariota does not. Ind 28 Ten 24

Seahawks (-7) at 49ers – It is foolish to sell your Seahawks stock. Yes, the defense is injured and aging. However, in their last two losses, they have missed four combined field goals and had a bizarre attempt at a fake. If even one of those plays is different, no one is panicking about the Seahawks right now.

As long as Russell Wilson stays healthy, this team will be in every game and win most of them. San Francisco is scrappy, but undermanned here. They are the perfect team for Seattle to play right now. Sea 27 SF 13

Broncos at Raiders (-5) – These bitter AFC West rivals had legitimate playoff aspirations at the start of the year and are now a mess. They almost seem to be trying to match each other’s dysfunction. Denver fired its offensive coordinator this week. The Raiders sent their defensive coordinator packing.

Week 12 NFL picks

Photo from clutchpoints.com

Paxton Lynch will finally get a legitimate crack at being the long-term quarterback answer in Denver starting with this game. With everything going on, this had to be a tough game for Vegas to put a line on. Anything could happen here. Even though Denver already shut him down once this year, Derek Carr is still better than anything the Broncos have on offense at the moment. Oak 21 Den 14

Jaguars (-4.5) at Cardinals – Jacksonville is a lot like Minnesota. They have a really good defense and some nice skill players, but their limitations at quarterback will eventually doom them in or before the playoffs. They are fortunate to be playing against quarterback Blaine Gabbert this week. Despite playing well in defeat last week, the former Jaguars first-round pick is just the kind of quarterback that Jacksonville’s sack and turnover happy defense has feasted on all year long. Jac 24 Ari 14

*Saints at Rams (-2.5) – The Rams are still very much a factor in the NFC, but they were humbled by a very good Vikings defense last week. This week is just a bad matchup. No one has ran the ball better than New Orleans over the last month. The Rams are in the bottom third of the league in rush defense. The new style of the Saints does not revolve solely around Drew Brees, and it travels very well. NO 24 LAR 21

Packers at Steelers (-14) – Swallowing this many points in an NFL game is normally foolish, but there is no reason not to do it here. The Pittsburgh offense is almost always going to produce regardless of the opponent.

It is the defense that has been a fairly well kept secret on their current five-game winning streak. They have not allowed more than 17 points in any game during the streak. The Packers have scored more than 20 points just once since Brett Hundley stepped in for injured Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay was shutout last week. It is hard to see a much different scenario in this one. Pit 35 GB 17

Monday Night

Texans at Ravens (-7) – The Texans were finally able to scrape together a win with Tom Savage at quarterback last week. It was more than likely too little too late though. Sometimes all you have to do is say it out loud. Savage is going on the road to face Baltimore defense that has shutout two of its last three opponents. This is going to get ugly. Bal 24 Hou 10

 

Featured image from forbes.com

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Is Devin Funchess a number one fantasy wide receiver?

Is Devin Funchess a No. 1 fantasy wide receiver?

At the trade deadline, the Carolina Panthers made the surprising move of trading away No. 1 receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Nobody expected the Panthers to make this move, and some people highly disagreed with the decision. This left Devin Funchess as the new No. 1 receiver on the roster, but the question for fantasy owners remains: Is Devin Funchess a No. 1 fantasy wide receiver?

The case for Funchess as a No. 1

Fantasy owners who have rostered Funchess saw exactly what they wanted to see Monday night against the Miami Dolphins. In his first game as the top receiver, Funchess had five receptions for 92 receiving yards and two touchdowns. The thing that stands out is the touchdowns that Funchess has.

He’s been consistent all season with his receiving yards, but without Benjamin on the outside, those numbers should increase. He didn’t get as many targets as fantasy owners would’ve liked, but he proved his reliability by catching five of his six targets as Cam Newton looked to spread the ball.

With many unproven receivers on the roster, who have been dropping passes the last few weeks, Newton may look to increase his targets to Funchess to ensure passes are caught. With the probable return of Greg Olsen and emergence of Christian McCaffrey, don’t expect Funchess to et double-teamed too much.

The Panthers may not have many credible receivers on the roster, but they have two tight ends who are very capable of catching passes and a rookie running back who is emerging as one of, if not the best, receiver from his draft class. This is going to draw defenses away from doubling Funchess, which will allow him to flourish to his best capability with a one-on-one matchup along the outside.

The case against Funchess as a no. 1

Now let’s not move to fast and call Funchess a top ten fantasy receiver every week. He had a great game Monday night, but it was against a poor Dolphins secondary.

As the games get harder and the competition increases, these numbers won’t sustain. The Panthers still have to go up against the stout defenses of the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints. This may cause matchup problems for Funchess.

Devin Funchess fantasy

Photo from http://img.bleacherreport.net

Nothing is guaranteed for Funchess, as Benjamin played two and a half seasons as the No. 1 receiver in Carolina and at best was a low-tier WR1. Benjamin never found the fantasy success that fantasy owners hoped he would, but that doesn’t exactly mean the same for Funchess. It seems through one week without Benjamin that Funchess has had great chemistry with Newton and great things may come.

Funchess also requires Newton to be on top of his game to succeed for fantasy owners. If Newton can continue his strong play as of late, then that bodes well for Funchess and fantasy owners. He is always a risky play because of how Newton’s play can fluctuate week to week. Funchess needs to make a name for himself in the red zone to become that No. 1 fantasy receiver. Against the Dolphins, we saw the Panthers utilize Ed Dickson and McCaffrey more than Funchess.

Funchess probably won’t boost right to a No. 1 receiver for fantasy owners quite yet. However, if more targets are sent his way over time, then he’ll be more likely to put up WR1 numbers.

 

Feature Image courtesy of https://s3media.247sports.com

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Stack your money Sundays: Week 10

Week 9 Review (1-1-1) Overall: 16-9-2

Los Angeles Rams (-3.5) @ New York Giants

Los Angeles Rams 51 New York Giants 17

What a romping. Once New York gave up a 52-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-33, this game was over. The Rams continue to run the ball with ease, and had their second game of the season in which they did not turn the ball over. Jared Goff threw for over 300 yards, his first time eclipsing 300 passing yards since week one. This was also Goff’s first career four-touchdown game. Los Angeles’ offensive line continues to dominate, as they did not allow a sack.

Not sure if this game was more about the Rams dominance or the Giants struggling. Ben McAdoo might lose his job, and Eli Manning will most likely be gone after next season. If the Giants continue their poor play, they will be in line for a top pick in next year’s draft, in which they could draft a future quarterback. No offense to Davis Webb, but I don’t see him as the future of this team.

Atlanta Falcons (-2) @ Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers 20 Atlanta Falcons 17

This is now two weeks in a row in which the Falcons have failed us. Atlanta is suffering from a serious Super Bowl hangover. A team that finished fifth in rushing yards a season ago, ran for a grand total of 53 yards against Carolina. The Falcons offense struggled on third down, and were unable to convert on all three of their fourth down conversion attempts.

MJ or Cam Newton? (SB Nation)

Cam Newton had a beautiful rushing touchdown in which he pulled off his inner MJ and dunked the ball as he crossed the goal line. However, this win was more about Carolina’s defense. They completely shut down the run, and now have the number one ranked defense in terms of yards allowed. They are allowing the fourth fewest points, second fewest rushing yards and sixth fewest passing yards. In other words, Carolina’s defense is elite.

Tennessee Titans (-3) @ Baltimore Ravens

Tennessee Titans 20 Baltimore Ravens 17

Our second push of the season. It really looked like the Titans had the cover in the bag until they gave up a last-minute touchdown, which cut their lead down to three. Going into this game, the Ravens were allowing over 130 yards on the ground, and all of a sudden, they limited the Titans, a powerful run team, to only 71 yards. Just shows how hard it is to predict some of these teams.

Solid win for Tennessee, as they move to 5-3 and are tied for first place in the AFC South. If they want to make some noise, the Titans defense needs to defend the pass better, and Mariota needs to step up his play.

WEEK 10 PICKS

Time to get back on track!

Minnesota Vikings (-1) @ Washington Redskins

PICK: VIKINGS TO COVER

WHY THE VIKINGS WILL SUCCEED

Case Keenum, average but efficient (Houston Chronicle)

  • Coming off a bye, extra week to prepare
  • Sixth in the league in third down conversions
  • Defense is legit: third fewest points per game allowed, fourth fewest yards, second fewest yards per play, second in opposing third down conversion percentage.
  • Allowing the fewest touchdowns per game, also rank third in opposing red zone scoring percentage on drives ending in a touchdown
  • Defend the run well, third fewest rushing yards allowed per game
  • Offense is efficient, seventh in completion percentage, fourth fewest turnovers.
  • Kai Forbath: 21/22 on FGA

WHY THE REDSKINS WILL STRUGGLE

  • 24th in opponent points per game
  • 19th in opposing third down conversions
  • Allow 4.2 yards per carry on the ground
  • Allow 6.7 yards per pass (20th in the NFL)

 

New England Patriots (-7.5) @ Denver Broncos

PICK: PATRIOTS TO COVER

WHY THE PATRIOTS WILL SUCCEED

  • Extra week to prepare because of bye
  • 12-5 under Belichick in game after a bye (Outscoring opponents 436-285 in those games)
  • seventh in points per game
  • third in the league in third down conversions
  • third in the league in yards per pass
  • fifth in completion percentage
  • Second fewest turnovers in the NFL

WHY THE BRONCOS WILL STRUGGLE

  • They don’t have a QB
  • Defense is 25th in points allowed per game
  • 22nd in points per game, 27th in completion percentage
  • 25th in yards
  • Second most turnovers in the league

 

New York Jets @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+2.5)

PICK: BUCCANEERS TO COVER

WHY THE BUCCANEERS WILL SUCCEED

  • Ryan Fitzpatrick has higher completion percentage, and higher QBR than Jameis Winston.
  • Tampa Bay ranks eighth in yards per play
  • second in passing yards per game
  • third fewest penalty yards per game

WHY THE JETS WILL STRUGGLE

  • 22nd in opponent yards per play
  • 24th in opponents yards per game
  • 30th in opponent touchdowns per game
  • 22nd in yards per game
  • Second most penalty yards per game

 

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Chicago Bears

The one NFL team no playoff contender wants to play

With the ninth week of regular season play already started, separation is starting to take place  in the NFL when it comes to who will be fighting for a playoff spot late in the season and who will just be playing for pride. There is one team out there that no playoff contender should want to deal with.

While stranger things have certainly happened, the playoffs are probably out of reach for the Chicago Bears who sit at 3-5 as they enjoy their bye week. However, this team is among the most improved since the start of the season. Here is why they are poised to at the very least play spoiler as we roll towards this season’s stretch run.

They finally have an identity on offense:

Are the Bears limited on offense with rookie Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback? Of course. The second overall pick has not completed more than 14 passes in any of his four starts. Despite that, knowing your limitations and playing to your strengths can count for a lot in this league. Bears head coach John Fox knows this better than most coaches. He won a playoff game with Tim Tebow at quarterback.

The best thing about the Bears offense was always the Jordan Howard led ground game. Turning to a rookie quarterback, forced Chicago to become more reliant on that. For some reason, the Bears were intent on throwing the ball all over the place with Mike Glennon under center to start the season. Granted, the Bears were trailing a lot, but averaging 35 pass attempts per game with a quarterback like Glennon is not a formula for consistent winning. A quarterback change caused a light bulb to come on for the entire organization,

Howard has had fewer than 20 carries just once in Trubisky’s four starts. Rookie Tarik Cohen has come from nowhere to give the Bears one of the best backfield combos in football. Chicago now has the fourth ranked rushing offense in the NFL.

It is also important to remember that the modern NFL is a pass happy league where even average quarterbacks like Kirk Cousins throw for 4,000 yards. Thus, when a run based team like the Bears comes along, it is a difficult style for defenses to adapt to. Jacksonville is having some success this year with a similar formula. This style is not flashy, some may even call it boring, but it has given opponents fits for the last month.

Another thing a run heavy offense has allowed the Bears to do is limit turnovers. Looking at just the quarterback position, Glennon was responsible for six turnovers in the first four games of the year. In the last four, Trubisky has accounted for just two.

Turnovers are not the only negative plays Trubisky is helping to avoid, he is far more mobile than the much older and taller Glennon. He has been able to create something out of nothing and scamper to avoid sacks. Sometimes, an incomplete pass is not so bad. Apart from a terrible throw at the end of the game in his first start, the added element of Trubisky’s mobility has served him and the team well.

Having played only a handful of games in college, Trubisky is still prone to rookie mistakes, but there are things like bootlegs in the clip below from the NFL YouTube channel. Those were not in the playbook with Glennon.

 

The defense is playing well:

When healthy, the Bears defense has played well the last three years under Fox, but that has been rare. So far so good for the Bears defense in 2017. They rank 12th in rush defense. Over the last two games, Drew Brees and Cam Newton led offenses have been held to 23 combined points. In fact, Chicago defeated the Panthers on the strength of two defensive touchdowns by rookie Eddie Jackson.

Eddie Jackson

Photo: Chicago Tribune

There are very few things that are always true when it comes to NFL football. However, if you run the football, stop the run on defense, and limit turnovers, you will always have a chance to win. The Bears have a .500 record in Trubisky’s four starts. The two losses are by one possession. All but two of Chicago’s remaining games feature opponents that are realistically in the playoff hunt. As long as the Bears keep doing the three things mentioned in this paragraph well, contending teams should be very worried about playing them.

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NFL Week 9

Stack your money Sunday’s: Week 9

Teams against the spread through Week 8

Buffalo 5-1-1

Kansas City 6-2

Philadelphia 6-2

NY Jets 5-2-1

Houston 5-2

New Orleans 5-2

Houston 5-2

Chicago 5-3

Minnesota 5-3

Pittsburgh 5-3

Jacksonville 4-3

Dallas 4-3

LA Rams 4-3

Indianapolis 4-4

San Francisco 4-4

Miami 3-3-1

Carolina 4-4

New England 4-4

Baltimore 4-4

NY Giants 3-4

Seattle 3-4

Cincinnati 3-4

LA Chargers 3-4-1

Green Bay 3-4

Tennessee 3-4

Detroit 3-4

Oakland 3-5

Denver 2-4-1

Atlanta 2-5

Washington 2-5

Cleveland 2-6

Tampa Bay 1-5-1

Arizona 1-6

 

Week 8 Review (1-2) Overall: 15-8-1

Pittsburgh Steelers (-3) @ Detroit Lions

Pittsburgh Steelers 20 Detroit Lions 15

NFL Week 9

The Steelers sit atop the AFC. (Photo from FanRag Sports)

JuJu on that beat! With Martavis Bryant suspended, Smith-Schuster, the wideout from USC, had seven receptions for 193 yards, including a 97-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger during the third quarter. Pittsburgh’s defense was phenomenal, forcing two turnovers and not allowing Detroit to score a touchdown.

It appeared the Lions still had a shot when they were down one in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, Matt Stafford was sacked on fourth down. On third and fourth down, the Lions were a combined 2-14. The turnover on downs led to the big JuJu touchdown.

Matt Prater did not disappoint fantasy teams, as he knocked in a total of five field goals.

Atlanta Falcons (-6) @ New York Jets

Atlanta Falcons 25 New York Jets 20

Two points away from covering. Close but no cigar. The Jets looked like they were going to pull off the upset heading into halftime with a 17-13 lead.

A Matt Bryant field goal and a Mohamed Sanu touchdown put the Falcons ahead with less than 13 minutes to play. The Jets were unable to score a touchdown in the second half, and Atlanta squeaked out a close one.

The Falcons, who have an average run defense, shutdown New York, allowing only 43 yards on 22 carries. They also limited the Jets to a mere 15 first downs, which is tied for their best performance of the year.

Atlanta looks to continue their success this week, going on the road to face Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.

Oakland Raiders (+2.5) @ Buffalo Bills

Buffalo Bills 34 Oakland Raiders 14

The Raiders are truly the most unpredictable team in the league. They went into this game following an emotional win over Kansas City, and appeared to be the better team. That was until the game actually started. Oakland turned the ball over not once, twice, or even three times, but four times, including a pair of interceptions by Derek Carr. They have now lost five games, which is already more than last season.

Give credit to the Bills, who look like a legitimate playoff team, even though they just got smacked by the Jets. Tyrod Taylor continues to not turn the ball over, and LeSean McCoy is playing like vintage Shady McCoy. McCoy had a 48-yard touchdown run and added a little spice, holding the ball out from 10 yards out to taunt the pitiful Oakland defense.

At this point, I think it is safe to say the Bills are more likely to play in the playoffs than the Raiders.

WEEK 9 PICKS

Los Angeles Rams (-3.5) @ New York Giants

PICK: RAMS TO COVER

The Rams are coming off a bye, which means they had an extra week to prepare for this one-win Giants team. Quite frankly, the Rams are just the better team. They are second in scoring, sixth in yards per play and eighth in first downs. Their defense also ranks ninth against the pass.

On the other hand, the Giants, on both sides of the ball, have been a mess. New York ranks 24th in yards per play on both offense and defense. Eli Manning has his team at 29th in plays per drive and last in first downs. Their defense ranks 23rd in rushing yards allowed, which is not great considering the Rams are the sixth best rushing team, largely due to Todd Gurley.

New York just isn’t scoring, as they rank 29th in percentage of offensive drives ending in a score. The Rams rank third in that department, which is clearly a major difference.

This game could end up in a double-digit victory for the Rams. The Giants cannot run the football, so if Eli struggles, watch out.

Also, the Rams love to score right off the bat, ranking fourth in first quarter points per game. On the flip side, the Giants are 31st. As for third down conversions, the Rams are first in the league, while New York ranks 29th.

Numbers don’t tell the whole story, but I think it’s clear that the Giants are not very good at the moment. Keep in mind Janoris Jenkins will not be playing this week either.

Atlanta Falcons (-2) @ Carolina Panthers

PICK: FALCONS TO COVER

Not only did Cam Newton lose his best friend on the team, Kelvin Benjamin, but he lost his best receiver. Newton has publicly expressed that he is not a fan of the move, so expect a shaky start for the former MVP.

Carolina has lost two out of their last three games, and currently rank 23rd in points. Newton is not playing like an MVP, as he already has 11 interceptions.

Although it is somewhat of a disappointing start for Atlanta, they are still very solid. Their offense ranks fifth in yards, fourth in yards per rushing attempt, and fifth in first downs. Atlanta has the 11th ranked defense, which is the second best defense the Panthers have seen this year. The Falcons also rank second in yards per drive, while Carolina is 20th.

Matt Ryan has been somewhat average and has thrown more interceptions than usual. Luckily, the Panthers do not force many turnovers, as they rank 27th in that department.

If it comes down to the wire, Carolina is 27th in fourth quarter points per game, which cannot be trusted. Take the Falcons on the road.

Baltimore Ravens @ Tennessee Titans (-3)

PICK: TITANS TO COVER

NFL Week 9

Expect big numbers from the Titans’ backfield. (Photo from Titans Online)

Like the Rams, the Titans are also coming off of a bye week. They sit atop the AFC South, tied with the Jags for a share of first place, so a home game like this is a must win.

When the Titans rush the ball for over 100 yards, they are 3-0. Baltimore ranks 30th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game, letting up almost 133 yards per contest.

As long as the Titans stick to the run, they will be fine. Even after the Ravens 40-0 win over Miami, they still rank dead last in passing yards, and second to last in overall yards. Their running game has been decent, but Tennessee defends the run well, and sits fifth in opponent rushing yards per attempt.

Expect Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry to run wild, and for Joe Flacco to continue to look bad, especially after nearly being concussed a week ago.

 

Featured image by myAJC.com

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Top rookie quarterback seasons

Top rookie quarterback seasons of the 2000s

Although Deshaun Watson lost in a shootout to Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks, the rookie quarterback from Clemson has been nothing short of spectacular for the Houston Texans. After a four-touchdown performance on Sunday, Watson now has the record for most touchdown passes in a player’s first seven NFL games with 19. We are only halfway through the season, and Watson already has the rookie record for most three-passing touchdown games in a season with four.

How was this man the third quarterback taken in the draft? How did the Browns not grab him first overall? More importantly, how was Tom Savage the original starter for the Texans? Nonetheless, Watson looks like a franchise quarterback, something that Houston has never seen before.

Will Watson finish his rookie season better than these standouts? Here, we have developed a list of rookie quarterbacks from the 2000s, who had stellar first seasons.

Ben Roethlisberger (2004)

13 starts: 13-0, 18 total TDs, 11 INTs, 66.4 comp. pct., 2,621 yards

It would be almost impossible for anyone to top what Big Ben did to start his professional career. Originally, Roethlisberger was the third quarterback on the depth chart, but the backup, Charlie Batch, went down with an injury in the preseason. Then Tommy Maddox suffered an injury in Week 2, giving the 11th overall pick from Miami (OH) a shot earlier than expected. After almost bringing the Steelers back in their Week 2 loss to Baltimore, Roethlisberger remained the starter for the rest of the season.

Big Ben wound up finishing the regular season with a 13-0 record as a starter. He helped end the New England Patriots record 21-game winning streak by throwing a pair of touchdowns and no turnovers in a 34-20 victory. The following game, Roethlisberger and the Steelers defeated the Philadelphia Eagles, who were 7-0 at the time. At the end of the season, Roethlisberger was unanimously selected as the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Pittsburgh ended up losing to the Patriots, 41-27 in the AFC Championship Game. While Roethlisberger struggled and threw three interceptions, the Steelers had found their quarterback for years to come.

Vince Young (2006)

13 starts: 8-5, 19 total TDs, 13 INTs, 552 rushing yards, 2,199 passing yards

Top rookie quarterback seasons

The comeback kid, Vince Young (Photo from NYDailyNews)

Unlike Roethlisberger, who played with an all-time great defense, Young joined a four-win Titans team after being selected third overall in the 2006 NFL Draft. After Kerry Collins was benched because of an 0-3 start, Young took over and excelled.

He went on to win eight of his thirteen games. Four of those eight wins were fourth-quarter comebacks, including the Titans 24-21 victory over Eli Manning and the Giants. After being down 21-0, Young rallied the troops and statistically had the best game of his career. He finished with 249 passing yards, two touchdowns, 69 rushing yards, and a passer rating of 107.9.

The following week against Eli’s brother Peyton, who had his Colts sitting at 10-1, Young led another come-from-behind win over Indianapolis. This was the first time in NFL history that a rookie quarterback led two 14-point or more comeback wins in the same season.

Due to a Philip Rivers injury, Young was named to the 2007 Pro Bowl. He would also go on to win the NFL Rookie of the Year.

Matt Ryan (2008) 

16 starts: 11-5, 17 total TDs, 11 INTs, 61.1 comp. pct., 3,440 passing yards

The year before Ryan was selected, Atlanta finished 4-12. As a rookie, Ryan led the Falcons to an 11-5 record, which was good enough for a spot in the playoffs.

His first NFL pass resulted in a 62-yard touchdown to Michael Jenkins. He went on to become the first Falcons rookie quarterback to throw for over 3,000 yards in a season. In the history of the NFL, only 12 quarterbacks have thrown for over 3,000 yards in their rookie season.

In his first playoff start, Ryan was up against Kurt Warner, who is 15 years older than Ryan. While Ryan threw a pair of touchdowns, the Falcons ultimately fell to Warner’s Cardinals 30-24. For his stellar regular season, Ryan was named AP NFL Rookie of the Year.

Cam Newton (2011)

16 starts: 6-10, 35 total TDs, 17 INTs, 60.0 comp. pct., 4,051 passing yards

Top rookie quarterback seasons

Super-Cam (Photo from IMG Academy)

Although Newton and the Carolina Panthers only managed to win six games, the Auburn star showed the world why he was the first overall pick in his draft class.

Right off the bat, he became the first rookie to throw for over 400 yards in his first career game. Newton also became the first rookie quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards.

“Superman” Cam was named the NFL Rookie of the Year, and was also an alternate, and later a member of the NFC Pro Bowl team.

 

 

Andrew Luck (2012)

16 starts: 11-5, 28 total TDs, 18 INTs, 4,374 passing yards

Just like Newton, Luck was selected first overall, and was immediately called on to start. The successor to Peyton Manning led the Colts into a Wild Card game, which they ended up losing to the Ravens.

During the season, Luck and the Colts upset Aaron Rodgers’ Packers on a game-winning touchdown pass, in which Luck found Reggie Wayne with 35 seconds left. In Week 9 against Miami, Luck threw for 433 yards, which became the new record for most yards in a game by a rookie quarterback. In a late December game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Luck broke the record for most passing yards in a season.

Russell Wilson (2012)

16 starts: 11-5, 30 total TDs, 10 INTs, 64.1 comp. pct., 3,118 passing yards, 489 rushing yards

Even after the addition of Matt Flynn, Russell Wilson was named the starting quarterback in August. Wilson helped the Seahawks reach 11 regular-season wins and earned his first playoff victory by defeating the Redskins 24-14 in come-from-behind fashion. In the divisional round, Wilson threw for 385 yards, but Seattle fell to Atlanta, 30-28.

Wilson finished the regular season with a passer rating of 100.0, which was good for fourth in the league. His 26 passing touchdowns tied Peyton Manning’s record for most touchdowns thrown by a rookie.

Robert Griffin III (2012)

15 starts: 9-6, 27 total TDs, 5 INTs, 65.6 comp. pct., 3,200 passing yards, 815 rushing yards

Top rookie quarterback seasons

RG3 had a miraculous rookie season. (Photo fromBleacher Report)

As a rookie, RG3 looked like the real deal. In his starting debut, Griffin threw for 320 yards and two touchdowns in a victory over the New Orleans Saints. He became the first rookie quarterback to be named NFC Offensive Player of the Week in a debut game. Griffin was also named September’s Offensive Rookie of the Month.

Following a bye week in November, the Redskins voted RG3 an offensive co-captain. After the nomination, in a game against the Eagles, Griffin became the first rookie in NFL history to throw for 200 yards, pass for four touchdowns, and rush for over 75 yards in a single game.

A lingering knee injury caused Griffin to slow down, and ultimately led to the end of the Redskins season, as Washington was defeated by Seattle in a Wild Card game. He would undergo surgery, and as we know, nothing was the same.

Still, Griffin was selected to the Pro Bowl, and also won the 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

Dak Prescott (2016)

16 starts: 13-3, 29 total TDs, 4 INTs, 67.8 comp. pct, 3,667 passing yards, 104.9 quarterback rating

Tony Romo’s preseason injury changed Dallas forever. Romo now works for CBS, and Prescott is busy leading America’s team.

Last year, Prescott set the records for highest passer rating by a rookie quarterback (104.9) and highest touchdown to interception ratio (5.75:1). His 67.8 completion percentage was good for fourth in the league. Prescott was a major contributor to Dallas’ 11-game winning streak, spanning from Week 2-13.

The Cowboys won the NFC East, but were defeated by the Packers in the divisional round. In that loss to Green Bay, Prescott threw for 302 yards and had a quarterback rating of 103.2. His incredible season made him the obvious choice for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. He edged out his teammate, Ezekiel Elliott, by seven votes.

 

Featured image from Bleacher Report

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Odell Beckham Jr. fantasy injury

Fantasy reaction: Odell Beckham Jr.’s injury

The New York Giants had a rough week 5 on Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers. Not only did they not get their first win, but they also suffered multiple injuries at one position.

The team lost four receivers on Sunday. They lost Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard to ankle injuries within a span of four plays in the second quarter. Then they lost Dwayne Harris to a foot fracture and is out for the remainder of the 2017 season.

But the bigger name is their star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. The Giants announced after the game that Beckham fractured his ankle and is expected to miss the rest of the season. This is of course a big blow to the Giants offense and to fantasy owners.

Fantasy players know that they can fix this, even if it’s a high-caliber player like Beckham.

The Giants situation

Granted the Giants had other options, but they don’t have someone to replace a talent like Beckham. Now they face the problem of who will replace the other receivers. According to ESPN, Shapard could miss a couple of weeks, and Marshall’s injury is unknown, but being carted off isn’t a good sign.

Odell Beckham Jr. fantasy injury

Odell Beckham Jr. (Photo by: nytimes.com)

The only wide receiver healthy as of Sunday on the roster is Roger Lewis Jr., who had a 29-yard touchdown catch on Sunday. The Giants made a couple of moves on Monday, promoting Travis Rudolph from their practice squad and re-signing Tavarres King, who played the last three seasons with the Giants. They also have tight end Evan Engram, who is more of a receiver tight end and will likely become Eli Manning’s top target. Also expect running back Shane Vereen to have a bigger role in the passing game.

It will be hard to be rely on these new faces especially with their matchup this week against the Broncos at Denver. Even with a poor offensive line, don’t expect the Giants’ offense to offer reliable fantasy options.  The only players to give a look at especially in deeper leagues are Lewis and Engram and then Vereen only in PPR.

Wavier Wire

The first option is to look at the wavier wire and look at streamable players from this point on. Of course none of these receivers are anything close to Beckham, but they could help you week-in and week-out especially if you need players with good matchups.

The first is to look at Lewis of the Giants. He’s the next man up after the Giants lost four receivers on Sunday. He had a 29-yard touchdown catch. It may not look like much, but with Beckham out and Marshall and Shepard expected to miss time, he could be the new No. 1 receiver for Big Blue. However, his next two matchups are Denver and Seattle, who will both be coming off byes. He might not be the first choice, but shouldn’t be ignored if you’re desperate.

Odell Beckham Jr. fantasy injury

Roger Lewis Jr. (Photo by: sanluisobispo.com)

A streamable receiver to look at is Carolina Panthers receiver Devin Funchess. Since they lost tight end Greg Olsen in week 2, he has seen 27 targets over the last three weeks. Funchess also has crossed the goal line on three occasions over the last two games.

Part of his success is his quarterback Cam Newton playing sensational the past two games. His 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame makes him a natural red-zone target.

The Panthers face the Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the next three weeks. These three teams are ranked inside the top-10 in fantasy points allowed to opposing wide receivers. Funchess also missed practice on Monday with a knee injury, and should be watched closely if he doesn’t play on Thursday.

Other receivers to look at are Jermaine Kearse of the Jets, Mike Wallace of the Ravens, Nelson Agholor of the Eagles and Kendall Wright of the Bears.

Look at trades

If no one in free agency interests you, maybe it’s time to find a trade. Personally I’m not a big fan of trades unless I’m the one receiving the trade, but if times are desperate, then a trade could be in the cards.

One big name that is having a good start to the season is New England Patriots receiver Chris Hogan. Sure he may cost you, but if you have assets, he’s worth it. He may be 31st in the league in targets, but he is a touchdown machine. Hogan has turned four of his last 26 targets into trips to the end zone. They may have lots of mouths to feed in New England, but he has been consistent since week 2 and is continuing to play at a high pace.

Now there’s players to look at who are having down years. Names like Amari Cooper, Terrelle Pryor, Sammy Watkins and Golden Tate could be valuable down the stretch if they turn it around. Some fantasy owners might give up these players for the right price, and it might not take much to land these players. Even with their struggles, they are top receivers on their teams. Their targets will remain consistent, and the plan here is to hope for a bounce back.

Now if you’re one of those players that want to land a star to replace a star then look at Julio Jones. He has struggled out of the gate with no touchdowns, but coming off a bye could be what Jones needs to get going. If you have assets and want to make the swing to the fences, this a trade you want to try.

Best bet: Look for the hot hand

In the end, the best bet is to look at players that are hot. Running backs, wide receivers and tight ends that are playing consistent are the best way to replace Beckham without getting rid of your whole team. There’s no clear way to replace Beckham, but we all can relate to losing the star of your team. Hopefully to most they can overcome this, but continue to make moves for the hot hand if there’s no clear long-term replacement.

 

Featured image from sportingnews.com.

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Week five DFS don’ts: Report card

Well, as fun as week five was, it was not nearly as kind to me as week four. My DFS profitability reached a season high; however, my individual player picks were not as good. I’d like to move on to week six as soon as possible, so lets get into the report card edition of week five DFS don’ts.

Quarterback: 2/5

Thank goodness my top two quarterbacks came up big. Aaron Rodgers and Dak Prescott anchored my cash game lineups. With 24 and 30 points respectively, they made up for some of the stragglers in my lineups. Sadly, I was totally wrong about Cam Newton and Tyrod Taylor.

However, I’m the most upset about Carson Palmer. He somehow managed to double his $7,200 price tag and did it without Larry Fitzgerald or Jaron Brown scoring a touchdown. Carson Palmer might be my least favorite player in the NFL after this Sunday.

Runningback: 2/4

Since Ty Montgomery didn’t play, I will not be counting him as a win. I just thought it was worth noting in my DFS don’ts series because of the unclear picture provided by the Packers earlier this week. Le’Veon Bell, along with Marshawn Lynch came up small. On the bright side, Leonard Fournette came up huge for my tournament lineups, since he was owned in the single digits, and Bilal Powell busted.

Wide Receiver: 0/6

I’m so sorry if any of you chose to listen to me and fade any receiver on my week five DFS don’ts. While the Giants and Steelers lost in demoralizing fashion, Odell Beckham and Antonio Brown played incredibly well. Devin Funchess also managed to double his value with a score against Detroit.

At least everyone was wrong with me on Jordy Nelson and Dez Bryant. They had okay games, but neither produced to the level that their price tags dictated. And of course, my Jaron Brown call proved to be more embarrassing than Jay Cutler’s wildcat performance against the Saints.

Tight End: 3/4

This would have been a perfect four for four if Charles Clay didn’t get injured against the Bengals. It’s clear that offense will struggle if he cannot return quickly. I told you Tyler Kroft wouldn’t get it done in my tight end edition of week five DFS don’ts. And, I took pure joy in watching Darren Fells, not Eric Ebron, score two touchdowns against the Panthers. Austin-Seferian Jenkins also came through by doubling his value with a touchdown.

Defense: 2/2

If there’s one thing we nail on the Suck My DFS Podcast, it’s the special teams portions of the roster. We were all on the Dolphins defense as soon as the Titans signed Brandon Weeden. They were a huge reason why we were able to cash this weekend, despite injuries and poor performances. And, the Rams defense failed to double their value, so that’s a win.

Kicker: 2/2

We nailed the kicker position as well. I outlined exactly why you needed to fade Greg Zuerlein. I hope you listened. We also talked on the podcast value kickers that would produce. My choice was Harrison Butker, and he delivered.

Overall Score: 11/23

Like I said in the opening paragraph, I’m ready to move on to week six. My week five DFS don’ts predictions were some of the worst of the season. However, we will start over tomorrow with the defense and kicker edition of week six DFS don’ts.

 

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week five DFS don'ts

Week five DFS don’ts: Quarterback

Week five is shaping up to be tough on DFS players from a quarterback selection standpoint. This is the first time we’ve had to deal with scheduled bye weeks. We don’t have access to Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Kirk Cousins or Trevor Siemian. Given the dearth of options at the position, we must identify who to avoid at all costs. Let’s find out who we need to steer clear of with the quarterback edition of week five DFS don’ts.

Cam Newton: FanDuel Price $7,800

This is a classic let down game for Cam Newton. It took the worst defense in the NFL to finally turn Newton back into the player we have come to know and love. As good as he looked against the Patriots, he won’t play near as well this Sunday.

Newton and the Panthers had success against the Patriots because they were able to gain yards in chunks. Of their nine possessions, only two included double digit plays. Now, both of those drives resulted in points. However, outside of those two drives, they averaged 5.85 plays and 50 yards per drive. That equates to a staggering 8.54 yards per play.

The Lions have been one of the leagues stingiest defenses thus far. Against the Falcons, who are a far superior offense to Carolina, averaged 6.09 plays per drive and only 6.44 yards per play. The Lions only allowed two drives that consisted of double digit plays. Meaning, teams aren’t getting big plays against the Lions. They have to move the ball methodically, and to this point, the Panthers haven’t proved they can do that. On another note, it’s been reported that Panthers’ left tackle, Ryan Kalil, injured his groin in Thursday’s practice. As of now, his status for Sunday is uncertain. As talented as Newton is, this matchup lands him on my week five DFS don’ts.

Carson Palmer: FanDuel Price $7,200

week five DFS don'ts

Carson Palmer will have a great chance to prove this Sunday that he is still a top 15 quarterback (Courtesy of; Baltimore Sun).

This is it for Carson Palmer. He’s had a good career, but it’s time to hang up the cleats at the conclusion of this season. I don’t think I’ve seen the erosion of a quarterback’s awareness like I’ve seen with Palmer this year. It’s as if he totally forgot everything that coaches have taught him over his career.

He has lost all sense of the pocket. Palmer can no longer feel if pressure is coming, or from where, or where to go to properly avoid it. Instead, Palmer is holding on to the ball too long and is taking way to many sacks.

It’s unfortunate to see this happen because he has one of the best matchups of the weekend against Philadelphia. This Eagles team cannot stop the pass, and with a player like Larry Fitzgerald, this should be a prime spot to play Palmer.

Sadly, we can’t even count on him to deliver the ball to Fitzgerald, as he’ll fluctuate between games of single and double digit targets. However, I’m still playing Fitzgerald in my cash games, and, I’m taking a hard look at Jaron Brown as well. I believe the receivers can still be productive, even with a below average Carson Palmer.

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week five DFS don'ts

Week five DFS don’ts: Wide receiver

Last week was the first time I hit on all three of my DFS don’ts at the wide receiver position. It’s nothing groundbreaking, it’s just proof that this position is all about the week-to-week matchup.

We know there are defenses that take away a team’s number one wide receiver. That would include teams like the Vikings, Lions and Cardinals. All of those teams have a great cover corner that shadows the opposition’s best receiver. So, let’s go beyond the obvious plays to avoid in the wide receiver edition of week five DFS don’ts.

Odell Beckham Jr: FanDuel Price $8,900

I’m sure you’ve heard the cliche “the best ability is availability”. I hate it too, but most cliches have elements of truth. Odell Beckham Jr. entered this season with an ankle injury. Now, he’s dealing with an injured finger on his right hand. Normally, this wouldn’t bother me. However, I saw that this injury caused him to miss multiple goal line snaps against Tampa Bay.

For any receiver, goal line targets are DFS gold. It’s the only reason I’m willing to pay up for Jordy Nelson each week. Since the Giants have one of the worst running games in the NFL, Odell is the primary target on every down, especially near the goal line. But, if he’s not healthy, I want very little exposure given his gaudy price tag.

Injury circumstances aside, the Chargers have Casey Hayward, who is an above average corner. The Chargers also have an elite pass rush with Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. More importantly, Hayward played shadow coverage for the first time since week one last week. According to Pro Football Focus, on the 74 percent of routes that Hayward shadowed Alshon Jeffery, Jeffery had one catch on four targets for 13 yards. If you want to take the risk on Odell this weekend, be my guest. I’ll happily take your money.

Antonio brown: FanDuel Price $8,800

week five DFS don'ts: wide receiver

Antonio Brown is one of the few players to appear twice on my DFS don’ts list (Courtesy of; The Source Magazine).

What? How is Antonio Brown on my DFS don’ts list for the second time this season? I’m glad you asked. It’s all about the matchup.

Last Sunday, the Jaguars deployed shadow coverage for the first time all season. According to Pro Football Focus, Ramsey shadowed Jermaine Kearse on 64 percent of the snaps. During that time, Ramsey allowed two catches on four targets for 14 yards.

Now, the Jets are by no means the Steelers. However, it’s important to take this trend into consideration. On the other 36 percent of the snaps, Brown will likely see A.J. Bouye, who has played very well since becoming a Jaguar. Overall, you need to consider fading Brown this week.

If you want to pay up, consider cheaper options like Jordy Nelson, Dez Bryant or DeAndre Hopkins. Those players are in great matchups and will allow you to fit in at least one of this week’s elite running backs.

Devin Funchess: FanDuel Price $6,300

Every week I have to include a player who had a breakout game on this list. Devin Funchess, like Bengals tight end Tyler Kroft, had a great situation on Sunday. Like Kroft, great opportunity and great matchup aligned.

Please don’t chase the points here. The Patriots have solidified themselves as the worst defense in the NFL. They are actually on pace to be worse than the 2012 Saints, who are statistically considered to be the worst defense in NFL history.

Let’s just use common sense. Funchess has never been a consistent fantasy producer. Yes, you may have watched every snap of that game. Yes, he was impressive. But guess what? The Detroit Lions are watching that same game film and see Funchess destroying the Patriots. They will no doubt have a strategy to contain the Panthers’ passing game.

Also, if you take Funchess, you’re betting on Cam Newton to come through again. Funchess is the classic example of point chasing, thus, he’s joins Beckham and Brown on my week five DFS don’ts list.

 

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Featured Image Courtesy of Sports Illustrated

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