Chiefs Patriots fantasy football

What we learned about the Chiefs and Patriots in fantasy

We saw the unexpected on the opening night of the NFL season. The Kansas City Chiefs exploded in the second half and won 42-27 against the defending champion New England Patriots.

From a fantasy football perspective, we saw quarterback Alex Smith and rookie running back Kareem Hunt go out on a tear along with wide receiver Tyreek Hill. While this gives hope for fantasy owners to start Chiefs offensive players more then they did in the preseason, I warn those owners not to expect this on a weekly basis. For those who are worried about the Patriots offense, don’t panic.

Patriots Defense most of the Blame

As I say again, the Patriots were looking like the typical Patriots in the first half. Then things changed in the second half. Part of that is because of the Patriots defense.

Chiefs Patriots fantasy football

Tom Brady (Photo by: usatoday.com)

Their defense isn’t anything special, unlike their offense. They finished 19th in fantasy points in 2016.

They added cornerback Stephon Gilmore this offseason to play alongside Malcolm Butler. They also have Dont’a Hightower at linebacker. It’s not a great defense, it’s a good defense.

They were liked by many this week because of the matchup. The Chiefs aren’t known for an explosive offense, especially in the passing game, which finished 19th in yards per game.

They had a rookie running back starting the game. The Pats made defensive plays in the first half getting a fumble recovery. Then the Chiefs made big plays, including two deep passes for touchdowns. This made the offense play catch up with a group Brady hasn’t played with much.

Don’t panic about the patriots offensive players

I don’t think the Patriots playing catch up is the reason for some of the struggles. They did it down 28-3 in the Super Bowl. I think some of it is because of Brady having different targets he’s not used to yet.

He didn’t have Julian Edelman, someone he relies on. Brady did have Rob Gronkowski, who was a non-factor with two catches for 33 yards. He did do well with Danny Amendola, who had six catches for 100 yards and Brandin Cooks caught three passes for 88 yards. Cooks proved he can be a dependable WR1. As for Amendola, he suffered a concussion, which seems repetitive because he does well and gets hurt all the time.

Chiefs Patriots fantasy football

Mike Gillislee (Photo by: bostonherald.com)

As for the running backs, Mike Gillislee was the man, scoring three times on 45 yards. Rex Burkhead got the first two snaps, but he only played eight more snaps the rest of the game. James White had a decent performance, rushing the ball 10 times for 38 yards while hauling in three of his five targets for 30 yards.

All in all, four running backs combined for 34 touches in Week 1, and that could be reality all season. Gillislee is the one to own, but White should be a must-own too, especially after getting 10 rushing attempts.

Keep in mind they have a guy named Bill Belichick. The genius will find a way for this not to happen again. I also stress the fact they did play a defense who finished second in fantasy points for defense/special teams.

Don’t expect this from the Chiefs offensive fantasy players every week

I think this is understood, saying the Chiefs won’t play like this every week. But let’s give credit where it’s due. Smith, Hunt and Hill were dominant this week. Again, don’t expect this week in and week out.

Smith may have had the best game I’ve seen a quarterback have against the Patriots in a while. He completed 28 of 35 passes for 368 yards and four touchdowns in Thursday’s win. He also completed two 70-plus-yard touchdown passes and rarely seemed flustered the entire night.

This doesn’t make Smith a must-start every week, so don’t get your hopes up. All you need from players is one good week and he gets more looks. This makes receivers like Hill and Travis Kelce more dependable given Smith’s play. Given the right matchup, he could be a start for teams with quarterback troubles.

Chiefs Patriots fantasy football

Kareem Hunt (Photo by: sbnation.com)

Hunt owners were frighted when he fumbled on his first run, something he didn’t do at all in college. He didn’t let that rattle him like many other rookies though. He went on a tear and racked up 246 yards of total offense: 148 rushing yards on 17 carries with a touchdown and 98 receiving yards with two more scores on five receptions.

It’s safe to say running back by committee is toned down a bit. This is his job now. Though this might end up Hunt’s best game of the season, so we shouldn’t overreact and expect him to be an elite back just yet. Hunt should be a high flex play or RB2 play for weeks to come.

Hill had seven receptions on eight targets for 133 yards and a touchdown on Thursday. He also carried the ball twice for five yards. It’s safe to say Hill exploded in the first game. He looked impressive, burning corners to get open deep down the field and hauling in passes in traffic. Hill is a solid WR1 for now as he has silenced his critics for the time being.

It’s just Week 1

In conclusion, it’s just week 1. We see players who we expect to do well struggle and the unexpected from some players. Don’t read too much into what you saw from Thursday’s game. There’s many weeks still to go.

There’s many things still to come for the 2017 fantasy season. One bit of advice that I can give is enjoy it.

 

Featured image from si.com.

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Why The Patriots Will Go Undefeated in 2017

Here come many unhappy fans after reading this, unless you’re from New England, of course. The Patriots are coming off yet another Super Bowl win, and it’s safe to say they’ll be going back to the same place this upcoming season.

After making several big changes to their roster, the Patriots look for a very successful year. Just when you thought they couldn’t get better, the Patriots proved everyone wrong, yet again.

Here’s why New England will hang up their sixth Super Bowl banner, without losing a game.

Tom Brady Returns

Tom “The G.O.A.T” Brady is back for his 18th season with the New England Patriots, and according to him, he is in the best shape of his life at age 39.

New England Patriots undefeated 2017

Photo Courtesy of bleacherreport.com

Many are aware of the comeback, arguably the best Super Bowl game in history, where Tom did the impossible. Being down 25 points, 28-3, with a little under two minutes left in the third, Brady and the Patriots rallied back to finish 34-28 and celebrate their fifth Super Bowl Ring.

Coming into this upcoming season, Brady is ranked No. 1 for the NFL’s Top 100 Players of 2017. Is this a surprise? Not at all.

Patriots’ wide receiver Julian Edelman, finds it “unbelievable to see a 39-year-old (Tom Brady) play like he’s 29,” according to Bleacher Report. Fortunately for New England, it seems as Tom Brady is getting stronger year-by-year.

The Patriots will hold a lethal roster this upcoming season, mainly behind the leadership of Tom Brady. Brady’s ability to involve his whole offense is one of the reasons why they dominate year-by-year.

Patriots acquire Wide RECEIVER Brandin Cooks

On March 11, 2017, the Patriots announced they acquired Brandin Cooks from the New Orleans Saints. The Patriots agreed to trade their 2017 first-round draft pick as well as the third-round pick for the speedy wide receiver and a fourth-round pick.

New England Patriots undefeated 2017

Photo Courtesy of youtube.com

Last season with the Saints, Brandin Cooks posted 1,173 yards on 78 receptions with eight touchdowns.

Cooks was truly an ideal target for Drew Brees, who also works in a pass-first offense like Brady.

The Patriots will work Cooks into their passing offense. Cooks posted a 4.33 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Clearly, speed is one of Cook’s strongest talents. This is something Brady will use to his advantage.

Cooks will join receivers Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola and Malcolm Mitchell, making this team even better at receiving. As the Pats add Cooks, Brady will have more open targets, something that we thought could not peak any further.

Watch out for Brandin Cooks this upcoming season, as he joins forces with the best quarterback in NFL history.

Patriots acquire Tight End Dwayne Allen

On March 9, 2017, the Patriots announced the official trade with the Indianapolis Colts, involving tight end Dwayne Allen and future draft picks.

Martellus Bennett was open to free agency, and he signed with Green Bay, leaving Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.

New England Patriots undefeated 2017

Photo Courtesy of fantasylabs.com

The Patriots quickly jumped on the phone, and formed a trade to receive Allen, a multi-purpose tight end.

Last season, Dwayne Allen posted six touchdowns on 35 receptions. However, Allen had an on-going ankle injury that limited him to playing time.

Dwayne Allen will join Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski, inevitably strengthening this offense with tight end power.

With the newly added tight end, Tom Brady will have two deadly tight ends for targets and protection. Dwayne Allen will fit into the Patriots offense very smoothly.

Bill Belichick

Bill Belichick is entering his 18th season as the head coach of the New England Patriots. Throughout his journey with the organization, he has captured all five rings as the head coach.

It is clear that Belichick is the best coach in his era, and an obvious contender in all time history. What can we expect Belichick to do this upcoming season?

New England Patriots undefeated 2017

Photo Courtesy of startribune.com

He is going to continue to develop unknown players into big names. Malcolm Butler is a great example. Two years ago, you probably had no idea who this guy was, until Butler made the end-zone interception to raise their fourth Super Bowl banner. One year later, Butler is being ranked as a top five cornerback in the NFL.

Honestly, that’s Bilichick’s main strength besides winning games. He is a risk-taker. He scouts these young players who would usually go late in the draft, and makes them veteran caliber players in the NFL.

Malcolm Butler was signed as rookie free agent in May of 2014. Now look, he’s an all star cornerback playing for the strongest team in the league.

Don’t be surprised if you see a unknown player develop into a team leader this upcoming season. It’s obvious that Belichick is good at what he does.

The Patriots are fully capable of going undefeated (again), like previous years. This team will exceed the boundaries and bring home its sixth Super Bowl trophy.

 

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Featured Image Courtesy of Getty Images.

2017 fantasy football wide receiver rankings: 30-21

Running backs are going to go quick and early in fantasy drafts this year, so this list of receivers can fall to you later than they should.

30. Jamison Crowder (Washington Redskins): Jamison Crowder broke out in a big way in 2016. He had 847 receiving yards and seven touchdowns as the number two receiver for the Washington Redskins. Now that DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon left and the Redskins only added Terrelle Pryor, Crowder is in line for more targets and a bigger workload. Last season lining up in the slot, Crowder found tons of success. He lined up in the slot on 56 percent of snaps per game. In a bigger role, expect Crowder to have more production and a better season.

29. Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona Cardinals): If anyone can beat father time its Larry Fitz. After back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, it doesn’t look like Fitzgerald is slowing down any time soon. Injuries haven’t been a problem for Larry Fitzgerald as he’s played in all 16 games in every season since 2008 except 2014 when he played in 14. Fitzgerald is also still consistent in terms of yards after catch. Over the last two seasons, he had at least 350 yards after the catch and there’s no reason why that number should decrease. Without Michael Floyd in the mix, Fitzgerald should be even better than last year.

28. Golden Tate (Detroit Lions): Golden Tate had a bounce back season for the Detroit Lions last year. In his first season as the number one receiver for the Lions, Tate lived up to expectations. He had 1,077 yards and four touchdowns. What people don’t know is how Golden Tate was a top-tier receiver in terms of production.

Tate ranked first in yards after the catch with 676 and tenth in receptions with 91. With Anquan Boldin still a free agent, it looks like Tate could be in line for more targets. Don’t be surprised if Tate ends up a top-15 wide receiver this year.

2017 wide receiver rankings: 30-21

http://jp2hs.org

27. Donte Moncrief (Indianapolis Colts): The hype that surrounded Moncrief last offseason ended when he only played in nine games. In a disappointing season, Moncrief only had 307 receiving yards. What was a nice surprise was how he ended his season with seven touchdowns.

Playing alongside Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton, Moncrief still has great upside. Currently being drafted as the 29th receiver and 67th player overall, Moncrief is going after he should be. He’s currently being drafted as a WR3 but has WR2 upside.

26. Tyreek Hill (Kansas City Chiefs): Rookie sensation Tyreek Hill put on a show for fans last season in Kansas City. With a combined 860 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns, Hill had an impressive season as a running back, receiver and a kick returner. He has big shoes to fill this season however.

With the departure of Jeremy Maclin, Hill is stepping into the lead receiver role for the Chiefs. An interesting quality of Hill was that he was the second best receiver in terms of fantasy points per target with 2.42. Now with the added targets and more experience in the NFL, Hill has the chance to be a legit WR2 this year.

25. Julian Edelman (New England Patriots): Reigning Super Bowl champ Julian Edelman is an interesting fantasy candidate this year. The yardage is consistently there for Edelman (1,106 yards last season), but the touchdowns are irrelevant. Last season he had three touchdowns which turns a lot of fantasy owners off.

One of the most productive receivers, Edelman ranked fourth in receptions, fourth in yards after catch and 12th in receiving yards. With the addition of Brandin Cooks, expect a decrease in yards but still a lot of production as a WR2.

2017 wide receiver rankings: 30-21

https://cdn.vox-cdn.com

 

24. Martavis Bryant (Pittsburgh Steelers)- There’s not much to write about surrounding last season for Bryant considering he didn’t play at all. The talent and skillset that Bryant has is rare in the league today. His off the field actions is the only thing that is holding him back.

Standing at 6-foot-4, 211 pounds, Martavis Bryant has the size and catching ability to be a WR1 for the Steelers this season. If he can stay on the field and out of trouble, him and Antonio Brown will form a killer duo in this league.

23. Jarvis Landry (Miami Dolphins): Juice is loose in Miami. Landry enjoyed another outstanding season for the Dolphins in 2016. In back-to-back years, Jarvis Landry had 1,100-plus yards and four touchdowns.

Jarvis Landry was more productive than we expected in the slot. He ranked third in slot rate, seventh in receptions and second in yards after catch. Juice has the talent and surrounding cast to continue to succeed in this league. If he can produce more in the red zone, he’ll be a WR1.

22. Emmanuel Sanders (Denver Broncos): The quarterback situation in Denver is the only reason Sanders isn’t higher on this list. Even with that, Sanders has eclipsed 1,000 yards every season he’s been in Denver even with a hobbled Peyton Manning and Trevor Siemian.

Last season, Sanders ranked 17th in fantasy points per game, receptions and receiving yards. Lining up in the slot and on the outside, Sanders has been as reliable as anyone recently and we should expect that to continue. If the quarterback play increases, then Sanders can be a fringe WR1.

2017 wide receiver rankings: 30-21

http://content.newsinc.com

21. Michael Crabtree (Oakland Raiders): Crabtree is in a perfect situation to succeed again for Oakland this season. He is the second receiver on a high-powered offense in Oakland. After eclipsing 1,000 yards and catching eight touchdowns, Crabtree can take the next step this season.

Playing alongside Amari Cooper, Crabtree ranked 14th in fantasy points per game and 13th in receptions. Currently being drafted as the 21st ranked wide receiver, Crabtree is right where he should be. Don’t draft him too early but if he falls to you he’s a solid WR2.

 

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It’s on the Haus: J.D. Martinez traded, Carlos Correa injury, Julian Edelman has one less hater and Kyrie’s 2K rating

It’s on the Haus is a daily installment of sports news from the past day. Rather than waiting an entire hour to see the big news on a television program or come to multiple stories on multiple websites to get your sports fix, It’s on the Haus gives you the biggest sports happenings all in one place. You may feel guilty for reading this concise article that gives you everything you need to know, but don’t worry, It’s on the Haus. The SEO focus keyphrase for your viewing pleasure: J.D. Martinez trade Carlos Correa injury Julian Edelman Kyrie Irving

Yesterday’s edition: Zeke was wildin’, players react to Panthers GM firing, NBA Summer League sucks, Jeremy Lin to be drug tested

J.D. Martinez shipped to Arizona

Yesterday evening, the Detroit Tigers traded outfielder J.D. Martinez to the Arizona Diamondbacks for three prospects. The most notable prospect the Tigers picked up is Dawel Lugo, the fourth-best prospect in Arizona’s farm system.

Lugo is a 22-year-old prospect who’s currently playing at the Double-A level. He’s amassed seven dingers and 43 RBIs with a .282 batting average.

Martinez didn’t play his first game of the season until May 12, but he’s produced like the All-Star he is since he’s season debut. In 57 games, he’s hit .305 with 16 home runs and 39 RBIs.

Martinez is the first Tiger to be traded from the Motor City, with more players expected to be given away. This newest Diamondback is #blessed, as he’s now a member of one of the brightest franchises in the MLB, and no longer a member of an upside-down trash truck that crashed into Lake Erie.

Carlos Correa is latest loss the Astros have suffered

J.D. Martinez trade Carlos Correa injury Julian Edelman Kyrie Irving

Carlos Correa will be absent from the best team in the AL for up to two months (Photo: AP).

The Houston Astros placed All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa on the disabled list yesterday due to a torn ligament in his thumb. Correa injured it on a swing in the Astros’ 9-7 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Monday. Correa is expected to be out for 6-8 weeks and will go under the knife, but a surgery date has not been set.

The 2015 AL Rookie of the Year is hitting .320 with 20 home runs and 67 RBIs this season, all good for at least second-best in the MLB among shortstops. Correa also has the second-best offensive WAR in the MLB at 4.74, only trailing his teammate Jose Altuve.

The Astros have clearly had strokes of bad luck in the past couple days. Not only do they lose Correa, but Carlos Beltran’s glove was also laid to rest two days ago. Beltran hasn’t played in the field since May, so Brian McCann and George Springer led a memorial service for the team’s fallen friend.

Beltran is hitting .235 this season with 12 home runs and 37 RBIs and has only played nine games in the field compared to 66 games at designated hitter. With the loss of Correa and Beltran’s glove, Houston may only get 100 wins rather than the 108 wins they’re on pace for.

Godspeed to the entire organization during this tough season.

julian Edelman has one less hater

It’s no secret that Julian Edelman has had to battle various obstacles on his journey to becoming one of the most well-respected wide receivers in the NFL. Coming from a small school in Kent State, playing quarterback in college, being a seventh-round draft pick and moving to full-time wide receiver in the NFL all added up to him being a longshot for success in the NFL.

Apparently his English prof from the College of San Mateo (CA) was one of the many #haters Edelman has had over his career.

I find it quite odd that this prof didn’t believe in Edelman’s dream, yet still had the audacity to call Edelman by his nickname, Jules. I mean, where does this guy get off thinking he can smash the dreams of the NFL’s most squirrely player yet send him a small note to apologize. Mind you, this isn’t even a hand-written note. Again, where does this guy get off?

We all know that Edelman is part of a system offense led by a system quarterback in Tom Brady, and that’s a fact (oh, sarcasm doesn’t translate over text, you say?). But nevertheless, Edelman’s numbers have surpassed even the most optimistic expectations, and for that, Edelman deserves all the kudos in the world, I guess.

Kyrie Irving’s 2K rating is just disrespectful

J.D. Martinez trade Carlos Correa injury Julian Edelman kyrie irving

Kyrie Irving is a baller and everyone expect for 2K knows it (Photo: bleacherreport.com).

The #haters have been having a rough go of it lately. Not only did I beat the haters by getting an Instagram account, but even Julian Edelman’s haters are suffering.

However, we live on a spinning sphere that no one truly understands, and each day we live here, we are hurled toward another great awakening that pushes our spineless world one step closer to forgetting that The Office is the greatest phenomenon to ever happen to us.

Kyrie Irving, NBA 2K18’s cover athlete, was given a 90 overall rating for 2K’s newest edition. Despite our best efforts, the haters are alive and well, folks.

Irving is the freaking cover athlete. Did 2K really think it’s OK to give Irving, the undisputed greatest all-around point guard in the NBA (undisputed by me, at least), a rating that’s only four points better than Devin Booker, or God help me Joel freaking Embiid? That’s super cute, but if Irving were to go one-on-one with Booker, Irving would win 21-2. This is an abomination.

I don’t care if 2K names Gilbert Arenas the cover athlete for next year’s game. Whoever gets the nod should be rated at least a 94. Kyrie deserves at least a 96, and he is well aware of it.

If NBA Live didn’t suck, I wouldn’t be throwing my money at 2K for yet another year for this tomfoolery. Mark my words: 2K will rue the day for this mistake, and there’s no denying that.

 

Feature image: Tom Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images

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2017 NFL Draft Day 3

2017 NFL Draft Day 3: Future Stars

The first two days and three rounds of the NFL draft have finished. The third day of the draft is rounds four through seven. These players drafted on day three sometimes do not even make the roster. So what players remaining, after day two, have a chance to become stars in the NFL? Here are some who may answer that question.

Chad Kelly, QB, Ole Miss

2017 NFL Draft Day 3

(Photo Credit: Chuck Cook, USA TODAY Sports)

Chad Kelly is flying high under the radar. Kelly is the nephew of Buffalo Bills legend Jim Kelly. Chad Kelly had a pretty solid career while at Ole Miss. Going 14-8 as a starter and even notched a win against Alabama. Kelly threw for 6,858 yards, 50 touchdowns, and just 21 interceptions. He also added 958 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground in his career.

Kelly had a lot of problems off the field that have derailed his career. He was kicked off the team at Clemson for actions against the coaching staff. Once he left Clemson he landed at East Mississippi Community College, more commonly known as Last Chance U. There Kelly led EMCC to a 12-0 season and an NJCAA National Football Championship.

If Kelly has learned from his past mistakes and can be a model citizen off the field then there is a chance he can become a star in the NFL. He has great arm strength and can make NFL throws. Kelly has played primarily in the shotgun and will need to work on his under center mechanics. Also he has great touch passing skills and is much better when moving outside the pocket and throwing. If a team takes a risk in the sixth or seventh round there is a good chance Kelly becomes an NFL starter one day.

Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma

Dede Westbrook was one of the top five receivers in all of college football last season. Some would argue he was the best. Last season he had 80 receptions, 1,524 yards, and 17 touchdowns. Westbrook is an excellent route runner with big play capability. In the open field, Westbrook is explosive and turns a lot of good plays into big plays. Some say his size is an issue but make no mistake, Westbrook could be a scary playmaker in the NFL.

 

Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego St.

Donnel Pumphrey is only still available because of his size, 5-foot-8 and 176 pounds.. The Las Vegas product is the all-time leading rusher in NCAA history. NFL tacklers will be able to arm tackling him but that is only if they can catch him. He is so quick and fast that when he sees a hole he hits it without a second thought.  Pumphrey may not become an every-down back in the NFL but he can create momentum-changing plays. One NFL team will be very happy one day because of the risk they took on him.

 

Malachi Dupre, WR, LSU

Malachi Dupre has fallen mostly because LSU has not had a quarterback capable of helping any receiver. LSU has had some of the worst quarterback play in the country which is why Dupre only put up 98 receptions, 1,609 yards, and 14 touchdowns in his three years at LSU. If you throw the ball in Dupre’s direction there is a good chance he will catch it. He has one of the best catch radii of all the prospects. He will have to work on his route running but with a solid quarterback Dupre could break out as the next great LSU wideout to turn pro.

Ryan Switzer, WR, North Carolina

2017 NFL Draft Day 3

(Photo Credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OC3Yp4T7KI)

Ryan Switzer may be the most underrated, underappreciated player in this draft. Similar to Dede Westbrook and Donnel Pumphrey, size is the only reason for that. In his senior season at North Carolina, Switzer snagged 96 receptions for 1,112 yards, and six touchdowns. He has also proven to be a great return man who returned seven punts for touchdowns in his collegiate career. Switzer can be a Wes Welker or Julian Edelman type playmaker in the NFL and that is a reason teams should draft him as soon as possible.

Connor Harris, LB, Lindenwood

Connor Harris could have been a first round pick. He has it all, the size, the speed, and the intangibles. Teams seem to be holding it against him that he played in division II but Harris is a tackling machine. Harris holds the record at 633 career tackles. He has the ability to drop in coverage and has shown impressive ball-hawking skills as well. Any team that drafts him is getting a player who doesn’t have to come off the field and is a prototypical, old-school linebacker.

Jake Butt, TE, Michigan

Jake Butt is the victim of a bad injury at the worst time. Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffery got a lot of heat for skipping their bowl games but had Jake Butt done the same then he wouldn’t have torn his ACL for the second time in his career. Butt would have been a second round pick without the injury but now teams are scared. He averaged 11.9 yards per reception for his career and is a guaranteed first down waiting to happen. Every team in the NFL needs a tight end that can get them out of a jam like that. If Butt can become healthy and get a shot, he has a great chance of being a top 10 tight end in the league.

 

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Applying Vegas Statistics – Implied Team Total

There are almost infinite factors that can influence your DFS lineups. Some you should pay attention to, others you should not. For example, when ESPN says that “X” player has scored a touchdown when playing on the road, after a bye, with a wind speed less than 11 mph, you shouldn’t care. However, when a point spread or implied team total changes in Vegas, you should take notice.

Interpreting Implied Team Total

Implied Team Total is the amount of points each team is expected to score. For example, according to Rotogrinders, Arizona has the highest Implied Team Total with 30.75. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as they host San Francisco this Sunday. But how does this impact your DFS lineup?

Take a team’s Implied Team Total into account when selecting Wide Receivers, especially when choosing your second and third pass catcher. Last Thursday, the Falcons had an Implied Team Total of 27 points and Julio Jones did not disappoint. Jones recorded eight catches for 111 yards and a touchdown; however, three other Falcons managed to haul in a receiving touchdown. The higher the Implied Team Total, the more likely that second and third Wide Receivers will have a productive fantasy day.

Maybe using Julio Jones isn’t the best way to verify this theory, as the only person who can stop him from producing is Matt Ryan. However, this Vegas category is still a viable determinant for Wide Receivers. In week nine, the teams with the five highest Implied Team Totals were Green Bay (29.75), New Orleans (28.75), Dallas (28.25), San Diego (25.75), and Kansas City (25). The top four teams had at least one pass catcher score at least 16 points. Of those four teams, three of them had two pass catchers record double digit points.

Using Implied team total for Week 10

Here are the top five teams with the highest Implied Team Total on Sunday according to Vegas.

  • Arizona Cardinals – 30.75
  • New England Patriots – 28.5
  • San Diego Chargers – 26
  • Pittsburgh Steelers – 26
  • Green Bay Packers – 25.75

Given these numbers, here are the pass catchers to roster on each of these teams.

  • Larry Fitzgerald ($7,200)
    • At this price, Fitzgerald is going to be a popular play, but for good reason. Fitzgerald has seen at least seven targets in every game this year and has scored at least 7.9 points in every game. Expect him to deliver against the woeful San Francisco 49ers.
  • Julian Edelman ($6,000)
    • Edelman has not had a great showing since Brady’s return, but look for that to change. The last time New England played Seattle was in Super Bowl 49, a game in which Edelman had nine catches on 12 targets for 109 yards and one touchdown. Stay away from Chris Hogan. His production is dependent on long-yardage receptions, which he will not get against Seattle.
Julian Edelman will try to duplicate his performance in the Super Bowl against the Seahawks this Sunday.

Julian Edelman will try to duplicate his performance in the Super Bowl against the Seahawks this Sunday.

  • Tyrell Williams ($5,900)
    • Williams had a solid outing against Tennessee, in which he turned seven targets into six catches for 65 yards and a touchdown. Game logs show that Williams has been feast or famine from week to week, but, his worst games were both against Denver. Against defenses ranked 16th or worse, Williams has scored a minimum of 6.5 points and seen at least five targets. Williams is prime to replace Michael Thomas as the best value at the Wide Receiver position.
  • Antonio Brown ($8,600)
    • I don’t have to make much of an argument for Antonio Brown this week. Brown has an ability to produce when Ben Roethlisberger isn’t playing at a high level, or isn’t playing at all. Brown scored 15.4 points versus New England without Ben, and 18 points versus Baltimore with a less than stellar Quarterback performance. What makes Brown a good play this week is that ownership for Julio Jones and Mike Evans will be high. Brown will be a smart pivot from those plays in DFS tournaments.
  • Jordy Nelson ($7,700)
    • As Aaron Rodgers’ number one Wide Receiver, Nelson should look to be rostered in every lineup. His price tag makes him the best option for the 1pm EST main slate in the second tier of Wide Receivers. Nelson was targeted at least nine times for the fifth time this year. Wide Receives in his price range like Demaryius Thomas and DeAndre Hopkins only have four games in which they saw at least nine targets. Nelson has been targeted at least 13 times twice compared to zero games and one game respectively for Thomas and Hopkins.

I am in no way saying that you should only roster players on these teams. I have plenty of lineups including Wide Receivers on teams with lower Implied Team Totals. This Vegas statistic is great to use as s starting point for your DFS research. Like most statistics, Implied Team Total is not the end all be all, but it does play an important role in determining what players to stay away from on Sunday.

 

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2016 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings

Top 20 Quarterbacks: Young quarterbacks fill out top 15

Top 20 Running Backs: Veteran rusher is number one, with young guns rising in rankings

All rankings are PPR rankings. Although some of my colleagues here at The Game Haus disagree, PPR is the way to go. I believe it, and you, the fans, believe it too (according to our Twitter poll). Here’s your 2016 fantasy football wide receiver rankings.

1. Antonio Brown

2016 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings

AB is the best wide receiver in the NFL. (Photo: Getty Images)

From Surefire Wide Receviers: “Antonio Brown is the number one overall player in fantasy football. If the owner of the number one pick in your draft doesn’t take Brown, deliver a swift backhand to said owner’s jaw. There’s no reason to be cute about it. AB is far and away better than all other receivers and players since 2013.

Numbers make arguments better, so let’s talk about numbers. Antonio Brown caught 136(!) passes last season, good for second-most in a single season in the history of the NFL. Brown played in all 16 games in each of his last three seasons, proving he’s nothing short of incredibly durable.

Brown’s numbers are already huge, but what if his quarterback would’ve played all 16 games? Ben Roethlisberger missed four games last season, which took Brown out of his normal rhythm. Had Big Ben played each game last season, Brown would’ve been on pace to finish with 158 catches for 2,128 yards and 13 touchdowns. The receptions and yards would’ve broken their NFL single season records.

Again, don’t be cute about taking anyone over Brown. He’s the best receiver in football, bar none. If he gets Ben Roethlisberger for all 16 games this season, Brown could break records. He’s the biggest stud in PPR leagues ever. Now, make him the biggest stud on your team by doing all you can to draft him.”

2. Julio Jones

From Surefire Wide Receivers: ”

Remember that time I told you AB caught 136 passes, which was the second-best in a single season? Well, Jones tied Brown’s mark with 136 receptions of his own. For the first three games in 2015, it looked like Julio Jones would overtake Antonio Brown as the best wideout in the league. His game log below shows exactly why.

Game 1 9 catches, 141 yards, 2 touchdowns
Game 2 13 catches, 135 yards
Game 3 12 catches, 164 yards, 2 touchdowns

Jones would cool off for the next two games, yet finished the season with four total games under 90 yards receiving. One of those games saw Jones reel in seven passes for 88 yards, two yards shy of the mark of 90 yards.

Antonio Brown is the best wide receiver in the NFL, but Julio Jones is the clear number two option. He demands targets from Matt Ryan, receiving 203 of them to lead the NFL last season. Jones also averaged 116.9 yards per game, good for first in the league. Draft Jones as the a distinguished WR1, as no player will top Brown or Jones’ production this season.”

3. Keenan Allen

From Surefire Wide Receivers: “Keenan Allen’s 2015 season was as successful of a half-season as we’ve seen. Allen suffered a lacerated kidney which promptly ended his season. Allen’s first eight games had him on pace for 134 receptions for 1,450 yards and 8 touchdowns. He was also on pace for 194 points, which would’ve been good enough for sixth among wide receivers.

The most intriguing aspect of Allen’s 2016 outlook is the fact that he owns targets in San Diego. Allen played in just half the games for the Chargers, yet he still finished with 89 targets (on pace for 178), which was second on the team. That number is just crazy. When Philip Rivers likes a receiver, he absolutely makes sure that receiver gets plenty of targets (see Antonio Gates/Vincent Jackson). Allen will dominate the targets this season, with Antonio Gates on his way out and no other viable receiver in the offense.

Danny Woodhead led the team in targets last season- as a running back. That shows the state of San Diego’s passing offense. I expect Allen to contend with Green to be at the top of the second tier at the wide receiver position. There’s nothing really to worry about with Allen. I really can’t see the UC-Berkeley product finishing outside the top-five of receivers this season.”

4. Odell Beckham Jr.

Odell Beckham Jr. seems to be a unanimous decision to be nothing less than a top three wide receiver this season. I’ve got him at number four, so I guess that’s close enough. With 93 targets reeled in for 1,450 yards and 13 touchdowns, OBJ is a fantastic wide receiver. He is Eli Manning’s favorite target, which adds to his allure. I do think he’s overrated in part due to one play. The catch he made was one of the #GOAT, but since then people have treated him like he’s the best athlete on the planet. I get the hype for Beckham, but I will never take him at his asking price right now, and neither should you. Regardless, the LSU product is one of the best wide receivers in football, and I’d take him in the latter half of the first round.

5. Allen Robinson

ARob is elite this season, there’s no question. He had eight straight games with five or more catches last season, including a 10/153/3 game against Tennessee. Blake Bortles is part of the next generation of great quarterbacks, and the Jacksonville offense as a whole is improving. I love Allen Robinson this season, and you should too.

6. Brandon Marshall

Brandon Marshall bet Antonio Brown his car that he’d have more receiving yards. That’s enough for me to know Brandon Marshall still feels good at age 32. Marshall can and will replicate his success in 2016. He was the number three wide receiver in all of fantasy football last season, racking up a 109/1,502/14 statline. Marshall is by far Ryan Fitzpatrick’s favorite target, and I’m very confident Marshall has all the tools to be a WR1 again this season.

7. A.J. Green

2016 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings

A.J. Green is on track to have a revamped 2016 season. (Photo: Go-Bengals.com)

From Surefire Wide Receivers: “Once Brown, Jones, and Odell Beckham Jr. are drafted, the fourth-best wide receiver to be drafted is a toss up. Players like A.J. Green, Dez Bryant, and DeAndre Hopkins all will be taken after the top three in many drafts this season.

Frustrating as he may be, A.J. Green is in for a career year this season. Green’s root of inconsistency in 2015 is attributed to his lack of targets. With breakout star Tyler Eifert, two different but useful running backs in Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill, and two other receivers (Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones), vying for targets, Green became just another player in Cincinnati’s potent offense a season ago.

Wide receivers don’t like to share, and Green is no different. For the first time since his rookie season, the Georgia product saw less than 30% of the team’s targets go his way. This season, Green will see an uptick in targets. 39 percent of Bengals targets is now gone with the departure of Jones and Sanu. Brandon Lafell is expected to line up opposite of Green, but he simply will not demand much attention from Andy Dalton. Rookie wideout Tyler Boyd also joins the team to fill in as a slot receiver, but still won’t contend with Green for the most targets on the team.

Green’s only problem last season was a lack of attention from Andy Dalton. This season, it will be a Dalton to Green love affair. I’m not drafting Green with my first pick, but I’m very happy with him as my second pick in the middle of the second round.”

8. Jordy Nelson

I’ve got Aaron Rodgers as my number one quarterback, and Jordy Nelson is his favorite target. Nelson was the number two wideout in 2014, and didn’t play last season due to a torn ACL he suffered in the preseason. He’s on track to play in week one, and he will pick up where he left off in 2014. Nelson had 98 catches and 13 touchdowns in 2014, so the production was clearly there. People may be afraid of Nelson’s durability, and I get that. Still, I’m taking Nelson as a low WR1 this season.

9. DeAndre Hopkins

With no quarterback to catch footballs from last season, DeAndre Hopkins still managed to go bonkers. In 2015, he caught 111 passes for 1,521 yards and 11 scores. He was the number four wideout last season, finishing just below Brandon Marshall. Brock Osweiler is no savior, but he is a step up from the tumultuous quarterbacks Hopkins dealt with last season. The only downside with Hopkins is that the Texans signed Lamar Miller during free agency. Miller is a durable back that will consistently produce for the Texans, meaning the load will be taken off Hopkins at least a little. Hopkins is still a huge game waiting to happen, so he’ll be no lower than a low WR1 this season.

10. Dez Bryant

As mentioned in the quarterback rankings, Tony Romo can’t stay healthy behind the best offensive line in the NFL. Dez Bryant also failed to stay healthy last season, paving way for a terrible year in Dallas. Bryant is back to full health in 2016, as is Romo. This points to a recharged season for Bryant, who will be the primary target for Tony Romo once again. Bryant is as sturdy as they come, so taking him as a WR2 is gold.

I had a heck of a time ranking the next four players. Consider Alshon Jeffery, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Julian Edelman 11A, 11B, 11C, and 11 D, respectively.

11. Alshon Jeffery

When he stays healthy, Alshon Jeffery is a talent not many cornerbacks in the NFL can contain. He played in all 16 games in 2013 and 2014, but played just nine last season. I trust that he’s ready to go this season, and will stay healthy. The great news on Jeffery is that the top two pass catchers behind Jeffery have departed. Tight end Martellus Bennett is now a member of the New England Patriots, while running back Matt Forte has taken his talents to the New York Jets. Jeffery averaged 87 receptions for 1,277 yards and nine touchdowns in the two seasons he played every game. Sure, Kevin White has hype, but that’s all he has. Until he does something, I’m riding with Jeffery as my WR1, especially with him being the top pass catcher by far in Chicago.

12. Demaryius Thomas

Demaryius Thomas was a borderline WR1 last season, even though he caught passes from Denver quarterbacks with a collective passer rating of 76.3. That rating is second-worst in the entire NFL. It doesn’t matter who plays quarterback, and at what level- Demaryius Thomas will put up huge numbers regardless. Let other owners sulk on Thomas due to Mark Sanchez throwing to him. Oh well, Sanchez can’t be as bad as the play last season, so Thomas will absolutely be at the lowest a high WR2 this season.

13. Eric Decker

One of the more consistent wide receivers since 2012, Eric Decker is vastly underrated. His ADP may not say so, but to the general public, Decker is just the other receiver in New York. Decker posted 80/1,027/12 last season, his second in the Jets’ offense. It’s clear the Minnesota product is becoming more and more comfortable in the New York system. The forecast in New York is not changing. Matt Forte has been added, but most of the core remains. With Ryan Fitzpatrick now signed, roll with Decker as a huge WR2.

14. Julian Edelman

Julian Edelman is quite simply a PPR monster. In 2013, he caught 105 passes, and in 2014 he reeled in 92. Last season, he was on pace for a career mark of 107 catches. One thing is certain with Edelman: New England will feed him the ball with the use of screens and quick hitters, give Edelman ample opportunities to make plays. Due to the face that he’ll be catching passes from Jimmy Garoppolo for the first four weeks of the season, I had to put Edelman behind the three that are in virtual ties ahead of him. Martellus Bennett will also take some targets, but not a crucial amount. No matter what, the Patriots will find ways to get the former quarterback the football.

2016 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings

Brandin Cooks is one of the next stars of the NFL. (Photo: Brynn Anderson/Associated Press)

15. Brandin Cooks

I am quite high on Brandin Cooks this season. After chalking up 1,138 yards on 84 catches last season, Cooks will be even better this season. Entering his third season, the Oregon State product is primed for his best season ever. Willie Snead, Michael Thomas, and Coby Fleener are good enough to distract defenses, yet not take away targets from Cooks. I expect this season to be the last season Cooks is ranked less than a WR1.

16. Jarvis Landry

What I love about Jarvis Landry is that he was the ninth-best wide receiver last season, even without being touchdown dependent. With just four trips to paydirt last season, Landry has huge potential to rise in rankings as the season goes on. My problem with Landry is that there’s a lot of potential great young wide receivers in Miami. Couple that with Jay Ajayi receiving rave reviews, and Landry could see his target share go down in 2016. Still, Landry should be consistent enough to find himself as a quality WR2.

17. Mike Evans

Mike Evans has huge upside just like the aforementioned Landry thanks to his independence of touchdowns. Evans scored just three times last season, yet he still was the number 23 wide receiver last season. Evans’ stock drops in PPR formats, which is why he is number 17 for me this season. However, Jameis Winston is getting better, and so is the entire team in Tampa Bay. With 1,206 yards on just 74 catches last season, Evans is a big play machine. Provided he’s able to haul in 12 or more catches this season, Evans will be considered a hard WR2.

18. Amari Cooper

Rookie wide receivers very rarely produce productive fantasy numbers, but Cooper tried to break that mold last season. Although he wasn’t Derek Carr’s favorite target, Cooper still accounted for 1,070 yards on 72 receptions in his rookie campaign. Cooper will simply be a better NFL receiver this year, as one year of experience in an NFL offense can go a long way. There’s no reason to believe Cooper will decline this season, so trust him to be your WR2 all season.

19. Doug Baldwin

Doug Baldwin exploded for 14 touchdowns last season. Baldwin was at his best in the second half of the season, and Pete Carroll has already said he will employ a similar style of offense for this season. Baldwin will lose some targets to Jimmy Graham and Tyler Lockett, but overall, I expect him to be a WR2. He’s touchdown dependent, which is really worrisome. Expect his touchdown numbers to decrease, as it’d be very hard to maintain 14 scores again this season.

2016 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings

Sammy Watkins is able to stay on the field better than many think, so trust him as your WR2, or get hyped if he’s your WR3. (Photo: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

20. Sammy Watkins

For some reason, Sammy Watkins is known for being injury prone, and that always hurts his draft stock. However, Watkins started all 16 games in his rookie season, and started in 13 games last season. He’s only missed three games in his entire career, yet some owners still don’t like him. I understand that Watkins finds his way on the injury report more than we’d like to see, but he still plays on nearly every Sunday. Watkins is more valuable in standard leagues, but he’s still a WR2 in any format. Provided Watkins can steadily raise his 60 reception total from last season, he will be known as a concrete WR2 by the end of the season.

21. Kelvin Benjamin

After putting up a solid 2014 rookie season, Kelvin Benjamin’s 2015 ended before it began after tearing his ACL. Now in 2015, Benjamin is on fantasy football owners’ radar once again. He’ll be a solid receiver, and the number one wideout for the Panthers. However, I expect Greg Olsen to take the most targets and receptions in Carolina, which will hurt Benjamin’s stock. Regardless, his 73/1,008/9 clip from 2014 provides signs of promise for 2016.

22. T.Y. Hilton

I really wanted to rank T.Y. Hilton higher. While charting wide receivers, I had him in the 11-19 crop. However, after doing some digging, I had to drop Hilton lower due to shear production alone. However, Andrew Luck attempted 88 deep passes in 2014, which led the NFL (PFF). Hilton was a top five wideout when it came to deep balls in 2014 (also PFF), which paves way for Hilton to be a classic boom or bust candidate. There will be weeks where Hilton is a WR1, but there will also be weeks where Hilton can’t score double digits. Be cautious with Hilton in 2016.

23. Jeremy Maclin

I wasn’t high on Jeremy Maclin in 2015, but I think he’ll be an asset to your team in 2016. Maclin was the hope to rebuild the Kansas City wide receiver corps last season, and he did just that. The Missouri product produced 87 catches for 1,088 yards and eight touchdowns last season. I think his numbers will rise in 2016 as he gets more comfortable with his role. Maclin is a WR3 for me now, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him reach WR2 numbers multiple times this season.

24. Michael Crabtree

Michael Crabtree is the definition of a possession receiver. He hogged 15 red zone targets in 2015, and earned 151 targets, 17 more than Amari Cooper. Reeling in 85 passes for 922 yards is impressive- I think. Anyway you slice it, you can trust Crabtree as a strong PPR option. He’s got limited upside, but expect Crabtree to be a solid WR2 this season.

25. John Brown

2016 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings

Emmanuel Sanders is a great backup option for your team. (Photo: denverbroncos.com)

John Brown was one of the most consistent wide receivers in the league last year. In nine of the 15 games he played last season, he recorded in between four and seven catches. He also had two other games with seven and 10 receptions. In eight games last season, Brown had 60 receiving yards or more. In 11 games in 2015, he had 12 fantasy points or more. With more than 12 points in all 16 games this season, Brown could see himself around 240 points, which would put him as a WR2 this season. Draft Brown as the premier playmaker in Arizona, and watch him win you a fantasy championship.

26. Emmanuel Sanders

As said with Demaryius Thomas, it doesn’t matter who plays quarterback for Denver. The quarterback quality can’t be as bad as it was last year. That said, Emmanuel Sanders still racked up 1,135 receptions on 76 receptions. There’s no reason to think his targets will go down, so trust Sanders as a WR2/WR3 mix.

27. Tyler Lockett

Maybe I’m crazy for this, but I like Tyler Locket- a lot. Tyler Lockett is the confirmed starting wide receiver paired with Doug Baldwin. He’s made “significant strides” in his game according to reports out of Seattle. Again, Pete Carroll has confirmed he will be rolling out the same style of offense as was implemented in the second half of last season, which is exactly when Lockett’s numbers surged. I’m taking Lockett, and expecting him to blow his ADP out of the water.

28. Donte Moncrief

Pegged as a sleeper last season, Donte Moncrief finished as a middling WR3. I expect him to improve upon his 64/733/6 stat line from last season, and begin to take away targets from T.Y. Hilton. Andre Johnson is now gone, making Moncreif the number two wideout in Indy. Stashing Moncrief could pay dividends, as he caught 80 percent of his red zone targets (8 of 10), and tied for more red zone receptions among returning players for the Colts.

29. Larry Fitzgerald

Larry Fitzgerald will always see playing time thanks to his ability to run block. He’ll see targets due to being in an explosive offense. I still think Fitzgerald’s play takes a dip this season with David Johnson and John Brown emerging as stars.

30. Randall Cobb

Randall Cobb will play second fiddle to Jordy Nelson. Although I still think Cobb is a good wide receiver, his inconsistency worries me. Cobb should still find around 75 catches, 900 yards, and around five touchdowns. Draft Cobb as your WR3, with upside to be a low WR2.

Surprise NFL Teams in 2016-2017

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 29: Defensive players Mitch Unrein #96, outside linebacker Von Miller #58, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton #94, defensive end Robert Ayers #91 and defensive end Malik Jackson #97 of the Denver Broncos look on from the sidelines against the Arizona Cardinals during preseason action at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on August 29, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

DENVER, CO – AUGUST 29: Defensive players Mitch Unrein #96, outside linebacker Von Miller #58, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton #94, defensive end Robert Ayers #91 and defensive end Malik Jackson #97 of the Denver Broncos look on from the sidelines against the Arizona Cardinals during preseason action at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on August 29, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

A surprise is usually thought of as a good thing, but we all have had surprises that turned out to be bad as well. I know it is early but if you’re like me you are itching for football to start again. The first training camps will open up in approximately three weeks. Last year four teams made the playoffs after missing the playoffs in the previous year. It is never to early to start talking about which teams may surprise the NFL this year by making the playoffs. Some teams may even surprise us and miss the playoffs.  This list will have both good and bad surprises for how a few teams will perform this upcoming NFL season.

Minor Surprise:

San Fransisco 49ers: Better than expected

There are low expectations for the 49ers this season. They play in a tough division with the Seahawks and Cardinals. Also, it will be Chip Kelly’s first season as the head coach. They seem to be in a rebuilding phase but they will finish second in the NFC west, behind the Seahawks. This is a surprise because many expect the Cardinals to be a playoff team and it would be a shocker for the 49ers to surpass them. It will also mean they will possibly in the hunt for a wild card.

Chip Kelly has a bad reputation in the NFL but in his first season he took the previously 4-12 Eagles to a 10-6 record. That 10-6 record resulted in a division title. He finished with an identical record in his second season, although they missed the playoffs. In his first two season he was a combined 20-12. He was fired in his third year after going 6-9, but has proven he can win games in the NFL. It will be fun to see Colin Kaepernick in his offense and it should result in more wins in the bay than most expect.

Playoffs??

Jacksonville Jaguars: Make the playoffs

The Jaguars are young and hungry to make the playoffs.  They are in the midst of their longest playoff drought in franchise history which sits at eight years. The Jaguars only won three games last season so mentioning the playoffs seems kind of crazy. The reason the Jags will make the playoffs though is because they already have an above average defense and the offense is catching up. Blake Bortles will have a good year because he has been surrounded by a great receiving core with Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and tight end Julius Thomas. The AFC south is also a rather weak division and it is time for the Jaguars to take the next step and make the playoffs.

Buffalo Bills: Playoff drought over

Just like the Jaguars the Bills are in the midst of their longest playoff drought in franchise history. Their drought sits at 16 years and they haven’t won a playoff game in 20 years. Rob Ryan has been told he will be fired if he doesn’t make the playoffs. He will no doubt have one of the best defenses in the NFL but for the Bills to grow Tyrod Taylor must take the next step at quarterback. It will be his second season as an NFL starter and he will lead the Bills to the playoffs as a wild card team. Winning a playoff game is an entirely different story but making the playoffs would be a huge step.

New York Giants: Division champions

I truly believe Kirk Cousins is entirely overrated. Last season the Redskins were a one hit wonder.  That leaves the NFC East open for a new winner. Philadelphia is in rebuild mode and will be starting a rookie quarterback by week eight or nine. The Cowboys defense is below average and Tony Romo has broken his collarbone three times. It is safe to say he is injury prone. This leaves the Giants, who will have a very solid passing game, with a chance to win the division. Look for Sterling Shepard to have a huge rookie season alongside Odell Beckham Jr. who will command most of the attention from defensive coordinators. The Giants also made splashes defensively in free agency signing Oliver Vernon, Damon Harrison, and Janoris Jenkins. They will win 10 or 11 games and will win the division.

Oakland Raiders: Divison champions

Photo: Steven Senne, STF / Associated Press

Photo: Steven Senne, STF / Associated Press

People are going to call me absolutely crazy for this one. Yes, the Raiders are improving, but division champs? With the defending Super Bowl champions in their division? Yes, the Raiders have finally made the right moves over the past two and a half seasons.  They have suffered a playoff drought for long enough. Derek Carr will continue to blossom into a great NFL quarterback. Amari Cooper will help him to improve the offense. The Raiders defense is on its way to becoming nasty and is led by the first ever All-Pro at two positions, Khalil Mack. Mack is arguably the best defensive player in the NFL. The Raiders will surprise the league and win the AFC West this year thanks to being led by the young stars on both offense and defense.

Fishing Early

Denver Broncos: Miss the playoffs

The defending champs will be fishing early this year. Losing Peyton Manning, no matter his age or diminishing ability, is a huge loss. Being able to fix minor mistakes, or make adjustments mid game will prove to be a huge difference. Mark Sanchez is an accident waiting to happen. Paxton Lynch played in the American Athletic Conference. It will take him quite some time to adjust to the next level. The defense will still be a top five defense but it will only carry them so far. With the Raiders on the come up and the Chiefs staying competitive I just see the Broncos suffering from a Super Bowl hangover. Sorry Denver, last year was your year.

Cincinnati Bengals: Miss playoffs

The Bengals have made the playoffs for five straight season. In those five straight seasons they lost their first playoff game. The Bengals need a new voice at head coach but still have Marvin Lewis. He is the only coach who can stay with the same team 13 years without a single playoff victory. He sits at 0-7 in the playoffs. Any other coach would have been fired. They have had a great defense for a long time but it is starting to fade a bit since Mike Zimmer left for Minnesota.

To further hinder the Bengals, the Steelers will be the best team in the division barring injuries. The Ravens will be better than they were last year too. This is already a very tough division and I think the Browns will surprise some people this year and win somewhere around seven games. At the end of the season the Steelers will win the division and the Bengals will finish second or third. They won’t compile enough wins for a wild card birth. The Bengals had five straight years to win a playoff game, they won’t have a sixth.

A Surprise Champion?

Minnesota Vikings: Super Bowl contenders

I am sure a lot of people see the Vikings on this list and are asking themselves, how can they be a surprise team? They already surprised the NFL last year by winning the NFC North. Most people know they are a young, talented team on the rise.  The reason they will be a surprise  in the NFL this season is because they will be a dangerous Super Bowl contender. So dangerous in fact, they might just win the Lombardi Trophy.

Mike Zimmer will be entering his third year as the head coach of the Vikings and each year his defense has improved vastly. In 2014 the Vikings ranked 11th in scoring defense and last season ranked fifth. It is very possible that the Vikings will have the best defense in the NFL this year. Pair that with the best running back in the NFL with a vastly improved offensive line and the Vikings should be one of the best teams in the league.

Watch Them While You Can

Denver Broncos v Dallas Cowboys

(Peyton Manning will be missed by many when he’s gone, Courtesy Getty Images)

I’ve started to notice the emotion that players are feeling as they approach the end of their times playing for fans. Eric Weddle has been a notable example. With San Diego rumored to relocate, Weddle has been outwardly emotional with fans and the organization. He has stayed after to sign autographs and just spend more time at Qualcomm.

Charles Woodson is one of those players who I’ve noticed has become more sentimental as the season progresses. One of the best players from my generation, Woodson is finishing his career where it all began in Oakland, California. As a legendary Raider and Packer, Woodson has been one of the best defensive players of all time. This season, news organizations all over have paid close attention to the swan song season of his.

So now I’m thinking. This is the first time it has dawned on me that some guys that have been playing for the entirety of my NFL fandom are starting to retire or decline. Some of these guys I am more emotionally attached to than others.

Sure I’ve seen all-time greats retire before like Brett Favre, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Terrell Owens. I’ve seen guys who may not be the best ever but who will always stick in my mind. Guys like Brian Urlacher, Torry Holt, Bob Sanders, and Tedy Bruschi. I can name loads more but that list will expand.

Sure us younger sportswriters may not have seen Joe Montana or Lawrence Taylor in their careers but every era has its household names.

There are plenty of guys still in the NFL as of the 2015 regular season, that will have be remembered for at least the next few years. I’d like to take a look at some of them and what they have meant to me.

The Quarterbacks:

There is a whole slew of quarterbacks playing in the NFL right now who will slowly, one after the other be leaving the league.

The obvious first one is Peyton Manning who has followed the sad decline that we have seen with Tiger Woods in the world of golf. Manning has one Super Bowl ring on his hand when he beat the Chicago Bears in 2007. Peyton helped to create legendary receivers in Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison. He has been a face of the league since the late 90’s.

Peyton Manning will be in the conversation for top 5 quarterback all time for years to come but truthfully, he needs to leave. He has never been a particularly thrilling quarterback off the field and is more noticeably advertised in recent years with Papa John’s and Nationwide. As for his on-field abilities, he has cozied up to Denver’s fans but Brock Osweiler is sneaking in to become the short-term franchise guy.

Following Manning will be the cluster that I have adored for so long. Drew Brees. Tom Brady. Tony Romo. Carson Palmer….

Fortunately these guys have been playing at such a high level, they may be around longer than we expect. There is a distinct difference between these four and the Matt Hasselbecks and Ryan Fitzpatricks who we have seen for the last decade or so but are not in the elite category that houses the big guys.

Carson Palmer is playing lights-out and arguably better this year than he ever did with Cincinnati (even ’05).

Tony Romo had a short season due to injury this year but has been one of the most underrated quarterbacks of the last decade.

He has gotten media flak for most of his career. Given the attention his buddy Terrell Owens got for the duration of his time in Dallas (and really everywhere), I’m confused how Romo was so hated. He still has a few years left in him but it’s a name that has always been there and was never given enough credit. When he’s gone you might not notice for a while, but it’ll be odd not hearing his name.

Drew Brees is a guy who I really respect and was one of the players that brought me into football. As I have mentioned a few times, I am a Saints fan and I started getting into football around 2004/2005 which was the end of the Aaron Brooks era in New Orleans. Brees was one of the first passers to consistently post huge passing yard numbers and has also won the Super Bowl once in his career (against Peyton’s Colts no less).

Watching Drew Brees play has been truly a gift and hopefully he keeps his word and continues to produce when he says he can play until he’s 45.

Lastly, Tom Terrific. I am stunned that Marvel Comics hasn’t made a series dedicated to the man who I believe currently stands as the best quarterback, maybe best player, of all time.

He has played with dozens of rotations of offensive skill players. From the best of the best in Randy Moss and Rob Gronkowski to the reception magnets of Wes Welker and Julian Edelman, Tom Brady has been the guy to beat throughout his entire career.

Four Super Bowl victories and 12 playoff appearances help Brady’s continued success in the NFL. Tom Brady holds the record for most wins with a single team with 172 and has dozens of accolades to his name throughout his football career.

One of the most interesting things about Tom Brady is the way he is vilified by the media. He has hit a point of success that is unmatched and thus the New England Patriots have been under a microscope for years. If Tom Brady ever slips up everyone is all over him. He has achieved stardom that is up there with any other icon.

When Brady retires, we can only hope another quarterback will rise up and run the NFL in a similar manner, but boy are those tough shoes to fill.

The Innovators

Enough about quarterbacks. I apologize if this article is too quarterback heavy but those are the big name guys. Here are a few that I think deserve to be brought up because of what they have given fans in their careers.

The ground-and-pound running back has always been a viable asset to good offenses in football. In recent times, however, the dual-threat back has seen a rise in value with guys who can run and catch.

However, in his lower 30s and maybe gone before we know it is one of the premier triple-threat running backs. Darren Sproles has been a bit of a journeyman in his career and never was a featured back.

He began in San Diego where he played in the backfield with LT. He then went to New Orleans to fill the gap left by Reggie Bush. Now Sproles is part of a confusing committee in Philadelphia.

Throughout his career, he has represented a pass-catching back that offers a returning threat as well. If he plays for one more team before he retires, that’ll give that fan base the opportunity to experience the unique talent that is, Darren Sproles.

Offense wins games, defense wins championships. What does special teams do? Well Special teams can make or break a game.

When you think of the best return man of all time, there is a good chance two names come up. One of those is defensive superstar and return legend Deion Sanders. The other is 21st century return specialist who doubled as a wide receiver… Devin Hester.

Hester played most of his career with the Chicago Bears. He was a kick returner, punt returner, and wide receiver for the Bears for many seasons before recently becoming a Falcon.

His best season came in 2007 when he had 6 return touchdowns and caught his first career offensive TD. Hester was a very important role in the Bears aforementioned Super Bowl run. Hester also holds many NFL and franchise records in all sorts of return category.

Devin Hester has been one of the best special teams players of all time and although he is in Atlanta, Chicago locals along with NFL fans will surely miss 23 when he retires.

Another guy who has done wonders for the special teams unit in his time is Adam Vinatieri. Vinatieri scored the winning points in Super Bowl XXXVI and XXXVIII with the Patriots becoming the first player to ever do so. He also holds many postseason points and field goal records.

Vinatieri brought attention the kicker position after his continued Super Bowl successes with the Pats and Colts. He represented an X factor that was often forgotten when comparing opposing teams.

The Honorable Mentions

Finally, a couple of guys I remember watching growing up that I’m not going to go into too much detail on because they weren’t quite as revolutionary..

Dwight Freeney- Defensive lineman for the Colts and an anchor of their defense through the mid-2000s

Antonio Gates- Chargers tight end who was one of the first breakout tight ends of the 21st century

Greg Jennings- Packers wide receiver through the Favre and Rodgers eras.

DeAngelo Williams- Panthers running back who never really seemed to slow down

 

Have any players that are hitting the tail end of their careers and you want to reminisce on? Feel free to contact me in the forums or on Twitter @CoachKochman.