week two DFS Dont's

NFL Week two DFS don’ts: Report card

Week two turned out to be more predictable than week one. But that doesn’t mean that no one disappointed their seasonal or DFS owners. While my winning percentage wasn’t as good as week one, my volume of winnings was much better. So, let’s close up week two DFS don’ts with my report card.

Quarterback: 5/5

On the Suck My DFS Podcast, the three quarterbacks I liked were Drew Brees, Carson Palmer and Phillip Rivers. I’m counting all three of these guys as wins since they produced just more than double their value. Palmer was the lowest with 16.88 points, then Rivers with 17.24 and then Brees with 22.24 points.

On the other hand, I nailed my quarterbacks on the week two DFS don’ts list. Kirk Cousins and Jay Cutler failed to produce given their value. Washington established the run which negated the Rams’ consistent pass rush and also limited his ability to throw the ball. Cutler looked good in his debut, and I’ll definitely consider him moving forward. But, I’m thankful I left him off my lineup this week.

Running Back: 2/6

I should do myself a favor and never talk about running backs who I think won’t succeed because inevitably they will. Todd Gurley, C.J. Andersen and Carlos freaking Hyde all had productive showings. I’ll leave it at that.

I also sadly loved Ezekiel Elliott against Denver. That was awful. Thankfully, my picks of Melvin Gordon and Ty Montgomery paid off as they scored 17.3 and 26 points respectively. So, if you’re following my articles and the podcast, just ignore who I pick at running back for the most part.

Wide Receiver: 2/6

It was rough predicting this position. I was right on with Antonio Brown, but was so wrong about Brandin Cooks. Similarly, I was right about DeVante Parker, but wrong about Adam Thielen.

The late Sam Bradford just crushed Thielen and Diggs’ values. I was totally wrong about Alshon Jefferey, and sadly, Kelvin Benjamin couldn’t find a way to get into the end zone.

Tight End: 2/4

I’m actually happy I was wrong about Jack Doyle this week. I drafted him everywhere in my seasonal fantasy leagues, so I don’t mind taking the loss this week. I’m also very happy to have picked Austin Hooper to bust completely, and he did.

Zach Ertz produced as usual. No real surprise there. Unfortunately, Jared Cook didn’t find a way to get into the end zone. Cook met everything we want from a tight end in a matchup. His team was a large home favorite, with a big implied team total, and he saw between 8-15 percent target market share in week one.

Kicker: 1/2

Pretty straight forward here. Adam Vinaetieri put up a whopping four points. And please, don’t tell me I shouldn’t have bothered to write about him this week because it was so obvious. Well, I saw him 9 percent ownership in one of my 50/50 leagues this weekend so clearly it wasn’t as obvious as you think. Blair Walsh, and Seattle in general, were bad, as Walsh only scored six points.

Defense: 2/3

The Rams were an easy pick to regress back towards the mean this week. I guess that’s what happens when you play a legitimate NFL quarterback as opposed to Scott Tolzien. Hopefully you listened and didn’t get stuck with a putrid two points.

I’m torn about Arizona. They only scored 10 points against the Colts. However, they were the one of eight defenses to score in double digits. So, I’m counting that as a win. Denver tied for the third highest scoring defense on Sunday, so that’s a loss for me.

Overall Score: 14/26

I’m not happy with 54 percent, but it’s much better than my week one score. Like most things, you get better the more you do it.

You can check out all of my week two DFS dont’s articles here. We’ll start with week three tomorrow as we break down what kicker and defenses you should avoid.

 

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week two DFS Don'ts

Week Two DFS Don’ts – Running Back

I’m just going to say it, David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell were the biggest disappointments of week one. No one predicted such a sharp decline in production from these players. Thankfully LeSean McCoy, Todd Gurley and Leonard Fournette picked up the slack. But, were they a product of a good match up, or, can we count on them as dependable DFS backs? Without further adieu, let’s get right into which running backs are on my week two DFS Don’ts list.

Todd Gurley: FanDuel Price $7,700

Todd Gurley and the Rams benefited from playing the worst team in the NFL at home week one. Yes, the Colts with Scott Tolzien are worse than the Jets. Gurley benefited from a big workload and an awful defense. However, let’s dig deeper into Gurley’s production and evaluate it’s sustainability moving forward.

Gurley’s final stat line was 19 carries for 40 yards on the ground, with 56 yards on five catches. So, against a talent-less defensive front, Gurley averaged a frightening 2.1 yards per carry. That’s atrocious for someone who is considered a top 12 running back. Of the 16 week one running backs who had at least 15 carries, 13 of them had a higher yards per carry than Todd Gurley. Running backs on that list in front of Gurley include: Terrence West, Javorious Allen, CJ Anderson and Ty Montgomery. It’s safe to say that Gurley is more talented then all of those players. So, with more talent and potentially the best week one match up, he was one of the least efficient backs.

This weekend, Gurley will face Washington’s 3-4 defense. In 2016 against a 3-4, Gurley averaged 2.74 yards per carry and .33 touch downs per game. I seriously doubt he’ll see enough carries to reach 100 yards rushing with his low yards per carry because the Rams won’t be running out the clock in this game. Shockingly, they are facing quality NFL quarterback in Kirk Cousins, so there will actually be pressure on the Rams’ offense to score points. I don’t trust Gurley at all. If he, with his talent, can’t average more than 2.1 yards per carry against the Colts, it’s likely he wont be DFS relevant for most of the season. Gurley was an easy pick for my week two DFS Don’ts.

C.J. Anderson: FanDuel Price $7,000

week two DFS Don'ts

C.J. Anderson is no doubt the feature back in Denver, but will his workload be enough to satisfy fantasy owners this Sunday? (Courtesy of; Dynasty Football Warehouse)

I’ve never been a fan of C.J. Anderson, but, I can’t argue with his workload. Any running back with 20 carries will always warrant consideration from me because he will at least have the opportunity to score points. However, I don’t like his match up for a unique reason, pace of play.

Pace of play is an interesting stat by Football Outsiders. It measures how much time, on average, it takes for a team to run a play. After week one, Dallas is 11th in pace with 27.39 seconds and Denver is is 22nd with 29.74 seconds. So, Denver has established themselves as one of the slower teams in the NFL. However, in the second half specifically, these teams take significantly longer to run plays. In the second half, Dallas falls from 11th to 25th in pace and Denver shifts from 22nd to 24th.

So what does this mean? It means that the number of snaps as a whole for the Denver offense will decrease. And, if they are trailing, they’ll pivot away from Anderson because of how slow both teams operate. This presents a problem. Anderson is not known as an explosive back, meaning, he needs volume to produce points. If you take away his volume, you severely limit his ability to produce. Given the pace and potential game flow of this match up, C.J. Anderson is firmly on my week two DFS Don’ts list.

Carlos Hyde: FanDuel Price $6,400

Carlos Hyde is a must avoid this week. Hyde had a rough outing in week one. He only say nine carries, but, he did draw six catches on six targets. I have so many problems with Hyde this Sunday I don’t know where to start. First, Hyde and the 49ers are a 14 point underdog at Seattle. Playing running backs on teams that are huge underdogs is a great way to not guarantee production.

Second, Seattle is angry. Seattle felt like they got robbed last weekend in Green Bay. This defense is more talented on the defensive line than Carolina, and they dominated the 49ers offensive line. Things will only get worse for this 49ers offensive unit this Sunday.

Third, their history in Seattle is not good. Seattle hasn’t lost to the 49ers in Seattle since 2011. In those games they lost, it’s been by an average of 17.6 points. I like Carlos Hyde. I think he’s a versatile, talented running back. But please, please don’t play him this week. I know there isn’t any analytical reasoning here, but it’s not necessary. Stay away from Hyde this week.

 

Like what you read? Tune into the Suck My DFS Podcast this Friday and find out who TGH fantasy experts will be playing in their DFS lineups this week. You can find the link to our podcast on the Podcast page.

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week two DFS Dont's

Week One DFS Dont’s: Report Card

With the first Sunday in the books, it’s time to review week one and my predictions. I’ll be reviewing my picks from last week’s DFS Dont’s article series, as well as the picks I made on the Suck My DFS Podcast. Picks aside, I started off the year right by finishing in the money in all 36 of my FanDuel contests. Without further adieu, here is the report card edition of my week one DFS Dont’s.

Quarterback: 1/5

Last week, I stated that Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Stafford should stay off your DFS lineups. I was feeling great about my Stafford prediction after the first quarter, but that feeling quickly subsided. Stafford finished with 28.08 points. Roethlisberger didn’t set the world on fire, but I’ll chalk his 16.72 points up as a loss for me.

On the Suck My DFS Podcast, I chose three quarterbacks I liked in cash games and GPP’s: Russell Wilson, Carson Wentz and Brian Hoyer. Both Wilson and Hoyer scored single digit points. On the bright side, Wilson didn’t cost me in my cash games. Thankfully, Carson Wentz paid dividends on his $7,100 price tag, as he scored 19.88 points.

I ended up playing three quarterbacks in my cash lineups: Russell Wilson, Derek Carr and Carson Wentz. I couldn’t find a good combination for my GPP contests, so I decided to pull my money out this week and just play cash games. I’m not regretting that decision.

Running Back: 3/6

In my running back DFS Dont’s piece, I advised that you stay away from Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette and Marshawn Lynch. I had know idea the Jacksonville Jaguars would dominate the Houston Texans in such dramatic fashion. I look forward to cashing in on Fournette in the future as he scored 19.9 points in his debut. Elliott’s $8,700 price tag isn’t usually worth 16.5 points; however, I’ll mark it as a loss since that’s much better than how David Johnson or Le’Veon Bell produced. I told you to stay away from Lynch until we know exactly how his workload will look, hopefully you did, as he scored a whopping 9.7 points.

On the podcast, I gushed over LeSean McCoy and Todd Gurley. They scored 18.4 and 18.1 points each. Sadly, I also loved Bilal Powell, who produced a disappointing single digit performance. Once again, I lucked out with my Powell prediction since I didn’t partake in any GPP contests in week one.

Wide Receiver: 1/5

My week one DFS Dont’s at this position included Dez Bryant, Golden Tate and Jarvis Landry. I was dead on about Bryant and his personal match up against Janoris Jenkins, as he scored a disappointing 5.3 points. However, I was totally wrong about Golden Tate. He, unlike Dez, found a way to overcome a tough match up and produced 16.4 points. Jarvis Landry had an unexpected bye, so I won’t be counting that prediction at all.

In my podcast picks, I pounded the table on AJ Green, Doug Baldwin and Martavis Bryant. I was wrong on all three as they severely under produced.

Tight End: 3/5

Eric Ebron was awful, so that gives me a mark in the win column. Yet again, my other prediction was set to play in the rescheduled Miami vs Tampa Bay game, so throw out O.J. Howard this week.

The tight ends I liked were Delanie Walker, Zach Ertz, Jack Dolye and Zach Miller. Walker and Ertz finished in the top six among tight ends in week one. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough volume for Doyle or Miller to get a chance to be productive or else they would have hit as well. I’ll take the two losses on Doyle and Miller.

Kicker: 2/2

It’s pretty straight forward, stop paying up for kickers. The position is way too dependent on coaching decisions, weather and offensive competency. Nine kickers scored double digit points in week one, and Justin Tucker was not one of them.

On the other hand, my podcast pick clicked, Ryan Succop. It wasn’t rocket science. Here’s the criteria for which I pick my kicker. Is he less than $4,800? Is he at home? Is he favored? Is the weather good? Succop met all of these requirements.

Defense: 2/4

In my first ever DFS Dont’s piece, I made the case not to play the Pittsburgh or Buffalo defense. Neither one of them paid off like most had hoped, but, neither imploded like I had hoped. Given your defense starts with 10 points, I’ll say I was wrong about the Steelers, since they scored 12, and was right about the Bills, since they only scored nine.

We crushed our defensive picks to click. Both Will and I were all in on Los Angeles in week one and they did not disappoint. On the other hand, I offered the Arizona defense as a potential GPP pivot from the Rams, and they only scored eight points.

Week One DFS Dont’s Report Card: 12/27

On a percentage basis, I was not good. I only connected on 44% of my picks in week one. By my standards, and at almost any academic institution, 44% is a failure. Now, no one gets 100% of their predictions right, but, I need to operate in the 60-70 percentile to feel like it was a good week. You can check out all of my week one DFS Dont’s articles here. We’ll start with week two tomorrow as we break down what kicker and defenses you should avoid.

 

Like what you read? Tune into the Suck My DFS Podcast this Friday and find out who TGH fantasy experts will be playing in their DFS lineups this week. You can find the link to our podcast on the Podcast page.

 

You can “Like” The Game Haus on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter for more sports and Esports articles written by other great TGH writers along with Braxton!

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Fantasy Football Bold Predictions NFC West

Fantasy football bold predictions: NFC West

The preseason is here and so is fantasy football. We have seen endless articles making bold predictions on players, numbers and who are sleepers. This article and many coming are my 2017 fantasy football bold predictions starting with the the NFC West.

Arizona Cardinals: Carson Palmer will Bounce Back in 2017

Headlined as a fantasy sleeper, Carson Palmer is a QB20 and picked towards the end of drafts.

Fantasy Football Bold Predictions NFC West

Carson Palmer (Photo by: si.com)

In 2015, Palmer had one of the best seasons of his career. He finished in the top-five among quarterbacks in 2015 with 35 touchdowns and 4,600-plus yard season. He had receivers like Larry Fitzgerald, and the emergence of John Brown and Michael Floyd really helped Palmer.

But 2016 was the opposite. Even though he was 36 that season, the departure of Michael Floyd and the recurring illnesses of John Brown were not helpful. Besides that, Palmer hit a wall with efficiency.

His 8.7 yards per attempt in 2015 dropped down to 7.1. Another big part of the struggle was the breakout of David Johnson. But Palmer did have a good end of the season with at least 20 fantasy points in a standard leagues in six of his final nine games, and no outing with fewer than 17 points.

But in 2017 Palmer is back and fully focused. Brown is finally healthy and the emergence of J.J. Nelson to complement Larry Fitzgerald and with David Johnson in the backfield should help Palmer have a season like 2015.

Los Angeles Rams: Sammy Watkins will play a full season, but will not have over five touchdowns

Sammy Watkins was traded to the Los Angeles Rams on Aug. 11. There’s no worse situation to be in than the Rams. He is ranked as the 21st wide receiver and selected around the fourth to fifth round.

Fantasy Football Bold Predictions NFC West

Sammy Watkins (Photo by: dailynews.com)

Watkins has missed 11 games over his last two seasons including eight in 2016 because of a foot injury that required multiple surgeries. The good news is that he’s healthy now. He should get the time to rest and learn the offense this preseason.

The bad news is now he’s with the LA Rams. Fantasy owners cringe now because of the situation. His quarterback is Jared Goff who was on the lower end of quarterbacks in 2016. Even though a rookie, he completed a miserable 54.5 percent of his passes, had a 5-to-7 TD/INT ratio and averaged 5.3 yards per attempt.

But for Watkins, he has averaged 0.46 touchdowns per game over his career. And while there’s hope for Goff, he has to learn a new offense and that doesn’t look good for either Goff or Watkins. Look for running back Todd Gurley to have a big role in Los Angeles.

Seattle Seahawks: Doug Baldwin will break into the top-five for wide receivers

Doug Baldwin checks in as the WR10 and ranked 29th overall among fantasy players. Baldwin hasn’t received a whole lot of love from a fantasy perspective. Maybe that’s because Seattle isn’t known as a passing team, but they have done better over the past two seasons. Last year, they ranked tied for 18th with 567 pass attempts. This was the first year Russell Wilson has thrown over 500 pass attempts.

Fantasy Football Bold Predictions NFC West

Doug Baldwin (Photo by: ftw.usatoday.com)

But back to Baldwin. His target share in the last three years has been steady at 22, 21, and 22 percent respectively. He’s blossomed in his new No. 1 wide receiver role, delivering back-to-back top-10 fantasy finishes in both standard and PPR formats. Baldwin’s eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving in consecutive years, and he set a new single-season high of 1,128 yards last year.

His touchdown total however, dipped from 14 in 2015 to seven last year. But 21 touchdowns over the past two seasons is an impressive stat. With guys like Dez Bryant, T.Y. Hilton, DeAndre Hopkins, Demaryius Thomas and Amari Cooper ranked right around Baldwin, his touchdowns over the past two seasons rank best out of all of them.

A key stat for Baldwin is in 2015, 95 percent of Baldwin’s yardage (1,011) and 93 percent of his touchdowns (13) came from the slot, per Next Gen Stats. In 2016, those percentages fell to 59 for yardage (662) and 57 for touchdowns (four). Baldwin proved he could win outside, posting a 78 percent catch rate and 15.36 yards per catch average when lined up out wide.

He has proven to be a top target for Seattle and I expect him to continue his dominance with the run game still in question. His only threat to take targets away is Jimmy Graham but that didn’t stop him in 2016.

San Francisco 49ers: Carlos Hyde will run for over 1,000 yards

Carlos Hyde as of right now is being selected right around the third to fourth round. He is ranked as the 15th running back.

Fantasy Football Bold Predictions NFC West

Carlos Hyde (Photo by: sfgate.com)

Hyde has had some problems staying healthy (14 games missed in three seasons). But when he’s on the field he’s one of the better backs in the league. He averaged a career-best 4.6 YPC on 217 carries last season and has ranked among the top 10 in the NFL in YAC each of the past two years.

He has been the best running back on his team in terms of success rate every year he’s been in the league, and just last season, only 10 running backs had more top-24 PPR performances and only 7 had more top-12 ones.

Hyde will be in a new offense in 2017 under Kyle Shanahan. He will fit his offense around the skillset of his personnel. With Cleveland in 2014, the team ran for five more touchdowns than they threw for. With the Atlanta Falcons, we saw Shanahan turn Devonta Freeman into a top fantasy running back in 2015. Granted in a better offense, Shanahan works well with running backs when the offense molds together.

Hyde finished 2016 ranked 18th in fantasy points in only 13 games, posting five top-10 weeks and nine touchdowns. He just missed 1,000 yards by 12 yards. There’s been a lot of hype around the backup Joe Williams. But he has been dominating training camp and Jon Lynch liked the shape Hyde was in as recently as late July.

 

Featured image from calvinayre.com.

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Five 2017 bounce back candidates for fantasy football

There’s always those players in fantasy football that you draft early and have high hopes for that end up costing your team a shot at the playoffs and maybe even the championship. The players on this list are some examples of those players and have a chance to bounce back and actually lead your team in the right direction this year.

5. Allen Robinson (Jacksonville Jaguars): In his second year in the league, Allen Robinson had himself a career year. He had 1,400 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns.

bounce back candidates fantasy football

(Jim Steve-USA TODAY Sports)

Let’s just say that Robinson didn’t put up the same numbers last year. Instead of WR1 numbers, Robinson put up WR3 numbers while begin drafted as a WR1. He had 883 receiving yards and six touchdowns.

Most of that decrease in play had to do with the horrid play of quarterback Blake Bortles. Bortles had 500 less throwing yards and 12 less touchdowns than 2015. When Blake Bortles was a QB1, Robinson was A WR1.

With the addition of Leonard Fournette, the Jags are going to have a more balanced offense and there’s no where to go but up for Robinson. If the offense clicks, Robinsons could be a WR1 again.

4. Todd Gurley (Los Angeles Rams): Talk about a sophomore slump. Todd Gurley was amazing in his rookie year with 1,106 yards and ten touchdowns. With an increased workload last season, Gurley’s numbers decreased to 885 rushing yards and six touchdowns.

Defenses adapted and crowded the box against Gurley. He couldn’t adapt to that and his numbers changed drastically. Now Gurley is in line for a big year in L.A. While the Rams added some muscle on their offensive line, with players like Andrew Whitworth, the improved quarterback play is the key for Gurley’s success.

If Jared Goff can breakout and preform like the number one overall pick he is, then Gurley will have a great year.

3. Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers): From the QB1 in fantasy to the QB18, Cam Newton had himself a down year. It might’ve been because he played with a torn rotator cuff or because of the horrid play of his offensive line.

The Panthers addressed that in the offseason but we don’t know how it’s going to play out. The big contract they gave Matt Kalil may give them nightmares one day but he’s definitely an upgrade from last year. They also drafted the monstrous Taylor Moton who can give them some balance and depth on the o-line.

In terms of his weapons, Cam Newton gained Curtis Samuel and college stud Christian McCaffrey. Samuel and McCaffrey will give the opposing defenses tough matchups and give the Panthers opportunities to protect Cam and give him more options. If the offensive line holds up, Cam can be the QB1 again.

2. C.J. Anderson (Denver Broncos): C.J. Anderson has a chance to be a RB2 in Denver this year. He’s stated that he’s in the best shape he has been in this past offseason and that he’s ready to play all 16 games after his season got cut short from a torn meniscus.

The Broncos’ backfield is wide open and whoever gets the ball has an opportunity to succeed after offseason improvements in Denver.

bounce back candidates fantasy football

Brandon Marshall (Photo by:giants.com)

Let’s not forget that Anderson has 4.55 yards per carry over the last three years and can handle a workhorse load. If all goes well for C.J. Anderson, he can regain status as a RB2.

1. Brandon Marshall (New York Giants): From one New York team to the next, Brandon Marshall finds himself in the best position to succeed in the NFL today. Playing alongside Odell Beckham Jr. and Eli Manning, Marshall has the opportunity for double digit touchdowns and 900+ yards this year.

There’s not much to talk about in terms of Marshall’s play from last year because of the terrible situation he had with the Jets. We can only address his upside for the 2017 season.

Manning is the best quarterback that Marshall has ever had but don’t expect him to put up exact numbers as his career year in 2015. Sterling Shepard will take away receptions and yards from Marshall and Odell is still the clear number one, but Marshall can easily regain WR2 numbers this year.

Feature Image Courtesy of, blogs.buffalobills.com

 

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Super Bowl series 2017: NFC West

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC West

Football is right around the corner and The Game Haus is going to get you ready for the 2017-18 NFL season. The Super Bowl series is going to explain how every team in the NFL can win Super Bowl LII. The Super Bowl series will be divided into eight editions, one for each division. This is the seventh edition, Super Bowl series: NFC West.

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks are coming off a 10-5-1 season in which they lost in the playoffs to the NFC champion Atlanta Falcons. This franchise has become one of the most consistent in the NFL, making the playoffs for five straight seasons and six of the last seven.

Winning Super Bowl LII is not as daunting of a task as it may be for other teams. There are some issues the Seahawks need to fix though in order to win the Super Bowl.

Seattle is led by its defense and everyone knows it. The Seahawks finished the season giving up just 18.2 points per game, which ranked third in the NFL. They also finished in the top 10 in rush defense (seventh, 92.9 yards per game), pass defense (eighth, 225.8 yards per game) and total defense (fifth, 319.6 yards per game).

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC West

(Photo Credit: https://www.richardsherman25.com)

In the 2017-18 season, Seattle’s defense should be even better. Up front, they drafted defensive tackle Malik McDowell from Michigan State to play along side Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and even Frank Clark. Seattle also has one of the best linebacking corps led by Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. The Seahawks’ front seven will be extremely talented which will allow the Legion of Boom to continue their dominance.

Speaking of the Legion of Boom, the unit will get some much-needed help back at safety. Earl Thomas will be returning from his leg injury and that couldn’t be better news for this secondary. Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor have proven to be great players, but Earl Thomas may just be the heart and soul of this defense.

Before Thomas went down with a broken leg, the Seahawks were only allowing 16.2 points per game. After Thomas went down, that number jumped to 23.3, an entire touchdown more per game. As long as this secondary can remain healthy, it will be safe to assume that Seattle will have a top five defense capable of leading this team to a Super Bowl berth.

The offensive side of the ball is where fans should worry. Getting back to the Super Bowl is going to require going back to their original identity. The Seahawks were known as a defensive team that could run the ball. Last season, that changed dramatically.

Seattle only ran the ball 40.7 percent of the time. They also ranked 20th in rushing attempts per game at 25.2. That number dropped from 2014 when they averaged 31.8 attempts per game, and from 2015 in which they averaged 31.2 attempts per game. Running the ball less resulted in the 21st ranked rushing attack in the NFL at just 103.8 yards per game.

The Seahawks made many moves to address their running game. Seattle’s offensive line was pretty awful last season in both run and pass protection. This led to the signing of Luke Joeckel and the selection of center/guard Ethan Pocic from LSU in the NFL Draft. They also signed running back Eddie Lacy from Green Bay.

The Seahawks hope these additions will bring back the identity that led them to two straight Super Bowl appearances.

If Seattle can become a dominant rushing team again, then they will continue making deep playoff runs. The Seahawks also need to earn home-field advantage. Over the past five seasons, Seattle has gone 39-6 at home, including the playoffs. They must also become more disciplined as a team. Seattle had the seventh most penalties per game at 7.3. As long as Seattle does these things, then the Seahawks can once again become Super Bowl champions.

Arizona Cardinals

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC West

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The Arizona Cardinals may be the most overlooked team in the NFL. They did finish second in the NFC West last season at 7-8-1 but missed the playoffs. Carson Palmer looked old, yet the offense was still able to be successful. Defensively, the Cardinals dropped off a bit from previous years. So, what is it going to take to see Arizona win its first Lombardi Trophy?

Answering that question takes us back to the saying that defense wins championships. Carson Palmer can’t lead this team to a Super Bowl at the age of 37, but the defense can. Arizona’s defense is going to hurt from the losses of Calais Campbell and Tony Jefferson.

They are hoping that rookies Haason Reddick and Budda Baker can fill these holes, but that will be a tough task. Rookies don’t always make immediate impacts so the Cardinals made moves in free agency to help with these departures as well. Arizona signed Jarvis Jones, Karlos Dansby and Antoine Bethea.

In order to win a Super Bowl, these roster changes must improve on the 22.6 points allowed per game last season. Arizona struggled to stop opponents mostly in the second half of games, allowing the 21st most points per second half at 11.8 per game. Not every area of the Cardinals defense was bad. They only gave up 305.2 total yards per game last season which was second-best in the NFL.

If Arizona’s defense can turn these small yardage totals into fewer point totals, then they can easily make the playoffs and possibly the Super Bowl. But as is the case for every team, they need some help from their counterpart.

Arizona must balance out their offense. The Cardinals only ran the ball 36.7 percent of the time last season. They have to put the ball in David Johnson’s hands and take it out of Carson Palmer’s in order to make a deep playoff run. 24.9 rushing attempts for 108.2 rushing yards per game will not be enough in the NFL. The best teams in the NFL still run the ball well even though it is a passing league.

Although they pass the ball too frequently, it has led to a lot of points. Arizona averaged the sixth-most points in the NFL at 26.1 per game. The offense has been really good but balance will be the key. If the Cardinals do this and can improve on allowing fewer points per game, then Arizona will be the next Super Bowl champions.

Los Angeles Rams

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC West

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

The Los Angeles Rams are going to need a miracle season to win Super Bowl LII. After going 4-12, there have been many changes within the organization.

Head coach Jeff Fisher was rightfully fired in favor of Sean McVay. McVay has brought in new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur and well-known defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. There is optimism in L.A. that a new coaching staff can send this team in the right direction and it all starts with that loaded defense.

Wade Phillips will be taking over a defense that was much better than it looked on paper. The Rams gave up 24.6 points per game, which ranked 23rd in the NFL. Despite giving up so many points, they only gave up an average of 337 yards per game which was ninth-best.

The defense was constantly in tough situations. Los Angeles tied for 26th in the NFL with 1.8 giveaways per game. Despite all this, the Rams defense can become elite.

The reason this defense has a chance to become the best in the NFL is the combination of talent and their new coordinator. The defensive line is headlined by superstar Aaron Donald and defensive end Robert Quinn. Other top defenders on this team include Connor Barwin, Michael Brockers, Alec Ogletree, Mark Barron, Trumaine Johnson and Lamarcus Joyner.

Phillips will transition the Rams to a 3-4 scheme and his track record as a coordinator is impressive. Since 2011, Phillips’ defenses have ranked eighth, 24th and fourth (twice) in points allowed. They have also ranked second, seventh (twice), first and fourth since 2011 in yards. Phillips and the Rams are a match made in heaven that will turn this already talented defense into being Super Bowl elite.

The biggest question mark for the Rams is their offense and how Jared Goff will fair in his first season as full-time starter. Goff looked bad in his minimal action during his rookie campaign. He had a 54.6 completion percentage and threw for 1,089 yards, five touchdowns and seven interceptions in seven games.

Overall, the Rams ranked in the bottom of almost every offensive category. They ranked 31st in all of the following: points in third quarter (1.6 per game), points in first half (7.8 per game), points in second half (6.2 per game), plays (60 per game), rushing yards (78.2 per game) and passing yards (184.4 per game).

They also ranked 32nd in the following: points (14 per game), second quarter points (3.3 per game), total yards (262.7 per game), yard per play (4.4), third down conversion (31.5 percent) and first downs per game (15).

As you can see, the offense was horrible. The good news is Goff can’t get any worse. Los Angeles also signed center John Sullivan and offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth to help their struggling offensive line. The Rams hope these additions will allow talented running back Todd Gurley to run for more than 3.2 yards per carry like he did last year.

The Rams also did plenty to help their passing game in the offseason. They signed Robert Woods and drafted other receivers in Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds. Los Angeles also drafted tight end Gerald Everett. There is nowhere to go but up and these additions should help improve the Rams’ offense.

It is going to take everything falling into place perfectly for the Rams to bring a Super Bowl victory to L.A. Wade Phillips must turn this defense into an elite defense similar to the ones he had in Houston and Denver. Todd Gurley is going to have to win the rushing title as well. If the Rams do both of these things and Jared Goff begins to show the talent of a number one overall pick, then the Rams can miraculously win Super Bowl LII, just don’t bet on it.

San FRANCISCO 49ers

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC West

(Photo Credit: http://www.49ers.com/)

It was hard trying to find reasons the Rams could win the Super Bowl so finding reasons for the 49ers is like asking a dog to meow, but this is what the Super Bowl series is all about.

San Francisco had a horrible season, finishing 2-14. It was one of the worst seasons in franchise history. This year they will be looking to bounce back under new general manager John Lynch and new head coach Kyle Shanahan.

Finding themselves in the playoffs means fixing the worst rush defense in the NFL. San Fransisco gave up 165.9 rushing yards per game last season. Running backs would see the 49ers on their schedule and smile as if it was Christmas. This caused Lynch to focus hard on the defensive side of the ball this offseason.

San Francisco added defensive end Elvis Dumervill and linebacker Malcolm Smith in free agency. They also used their first two picks of the draft on defense. The 49ers selected defensive end Soloman Thomas and linebacker Rueben Foster.

The 49ers weren’t just bad against the run, they were just bad all around. San Francisco ranked 32nd in points allowing 30 per game. The bulk of the points came at the end of halves. They allowed 9.5 points per second quarter and 8.2 points per fourth quarter. These numbers will have to come down drastically if the 49ers are to make a run towards the playoffs. Their pass defense was average, giving up 240.5 yards through the air per game, which ranked 14th.

Similar to the Rams offense, the 49ers’ defense can’t get much worse. Improving over time will happen but becoming a top 15 defense is what it will take to get to the Super Bowl.

Offensively, the 49ers did have an identity under Chip Kelly and that was running the ball. Since Chip Kelly is no longer around, it will be interesting to see if Shanahan will continue to build off that foundation. The 49ers averaged 126.4 yards on the ground, which was fourth in the NFL.

Despite running the ball well, the 49ers struggled to open up the passing attack and converting on third down. San Francisco only managed to throw for 181.9 yards per game. They also only converted on third down 35 percent of the time. Struggling in these two areas caused the Niners to average 19.3 points per game.

Adding to their offensive woes, the Niners only managed to convert points in the red zone 68 percent of the time. All of these handicaps must improve in order for the 49ers to win the Super Bowl. That and hoping the rest of the league forfeits their season but hey, this was worth a shot.

 

Thank you for checking out the Super Bowl series: NFC West. Stay tuned the final edition of the Super Bowl series and check out the previous editions of the Super Bowl series here.

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Featured image courtesy of http://www.steelcityunderground.com/2016/09/09/2016-nfl-predictions-nfc-west/

2017 fantasy football running back rankings: 10-1

Here it is, the final list of my running back rankings. This list mainly consists of first round and early second round picks that will be the backbone of your fantasy football team this year. Here it is, 2017 fantasy football running back rankings: 10-1.

 

10. Todd Gurley (Los Angeles Rams): Todd Gurley is the perfect example of a sophomore slump. The touches are still there for Gurley, as he averaged 17.4 attempts per game last year. He ranked fifth in carries and 12th in targets but the Rams offense just fell apart. He rushed for 885 yards on a terrible 3.2 yards per attempt.

The main reason for Gurley’s disappointing season is the poor play at quarterback for the Rams. If Jared Goff can be more successful and have a much better second year, he can take the pressure off of Gurley. The Rams did bolster their offensive line by adding tackle Andrew Whitworth. If Goff plays better and the offensive line holds up this season, we can expect a bounce back season for Gurley.

fantasy football running back rankings

(http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/todd-gurley-wins-offensive-rookie-of-the-year-has-message-for-rams-fans/)

9. Jay Ajayi (Miami Dolphins): Jay Ajayi broke out in a big way in 2016. Ajayi became the fourth running back in NFL history to rush for 200 yards in three games in a season. Ajayi found himself to be one of the most efficient backs last season, ranking third in yards after contact with 484 yards and sixth in yards after contact per touch with 1.7.

With the addition of Julius Thomas, the Dolphins could be in line for more of a passing offense in 2017, especially with Thomas’ poor blocking ability. But along with the addition of Thomas, the Dolphins added a high end blocker in Anthony Fasano. The Dolphins offense is in its prime right now and Ajayi is a prime piece in the offense, expect another good season from him.

8. Devonta Freeman (Atlanta Falcons): The other half of the two-headed monster in Atlanta has made his appearance on this list. Devonta Freeman has been very consistent over the past two years with 11 rushing touchdowns and at least 1,000 yards.

We did see Freeman’s rushing touches decrease last year, with 40 less attempts and 20 less receptions than he had in 2015. Freeman still had 462 receiving yards and two touchdowns last year. He is also a top ten running back in terms of efficiency, as he ranked eighth in yards after contact.

The only concern with Freeman is how the Falcons use Tevin Coleman. Coleman is the most important backup running back in football and he can put up flex/RB2 numbers any week. Draft Freeman and expect a nice season, just handcuff Coleman if you do.

fantasy football running back rankings

DeMarco Murray’s time in Philly came to an accelerated ending after tensions arose in 2015. (Photo by Philly Influencer)

7. Demarco Murray (Tennessee Titans): Murray returned to RB1 status in 2016. In his first year in Tennessee, he rushed for 1,287 yards and nine touchdowns. The Titans elite offensive line helped him out as the smashmouth approach worked well for the Titans last season.

Murray found little competition from Derrick Henry last season, as he ranked third in snap share and sixth in the league for total team running back touches. Draft Murray as a late first or early second round pick this year.

6. Jordan Howard (Chicago Bears): People don’t realize that last season, Jordan Howard was the second-best rusher in the NFL. He rushed for 1,313 yards, only second to Ezekiel Elliot last season. He is the focal point of the Bears offense now that Alshon Jeffery is gone.

The only problem with Howard is his lack of touchdowns. Chicago ranked 23rd in the NFL in red zone scoring (touchdowns only) by scoring touchdowns on 51% of their opportunities last season. Howard may see an increase in his receiving yards this season in his first full season as the lead back, but definitely expect another great rushing season for him in Chicago.

5. Melvin Gordon (Los Angeles Chargers): Melvin Gordon found success in his second season in the NFL. He was three yards away from 1,000 yards while only playing in 13 games. He hasn’t played a full season in the NFL yet, missing three games last season and two the year before, but that shouldn’t stop you from drafting him.

With the departure of Danny Woodhead, Gordon should see an increase in his role as a passing back and he can develop into a full-time three down back this year. The thing that is very intriguing about Gordon is his touchdowns. Last season he had ten touchdowns in 13 games and that number should increase if he plays a full season.

4. LeSean McCoy (Buffalo Bills): McCoy had a bounce back year with the Bills last season, finishing the season as the No. 3 ranked running back. He rushed for 1,267 yards and 13 touchdowns while averaging 5.4 yards per carry. The Bills rushing attack falls on McCoy’s back now that they didn’t match the offer sheet for Mike Gillislee and he should have an ample amount of carries this upcoming season.

The problem with McCoy is that the Bills spent their offseason acquiring Mike Tolbert and Patrick DiMarco. They have the ability to take many goalline touches from McCoy. McCoy should be a first round pick this season, with the rushing yards continuing to be there but a decrease in touchdowns.

fantasy football running back rankings

(http://www.espn.com/nfl/player/_/id/12514/lesean-mccoy)

3. Ezekiel Elliott (Dallas Cowboys): The rookie phenomenon proved he was the real deal in 2016. Elliott had 1,631 yards (first in the NFL) and 15 touchdowns last season. Elliott tore up opposing defenses last year and he should do the same this upcoming season.

Not only was he the No. 1 running back in terms of rushing yards and carries, he was also one of the most efficient backs. He ranked second in breakaway runs and third in evaded tackles, while finishing the season as the fourth-best running back in terms of yards after contact. Zeke shouldn’t fall past the third pick in any draft this year.

2. David Johnson (Arizona Cardinals): If you had David Johnson on your fantasy team last year, congratulations. DJ was insanely effective in the passing game and as a runner, rushing for 1,239 yards and twelve touchdowns and 879 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He is the definition of a dual-threat back.

He was the most productive back in the receiving game, as he was ranked first in receptions, receiving yards and total touchdowns among running backs. David Johnson is the center of the Cardinals offense and should enjoy another amazing season as the first or second pick in fantasy this year.

1. Le’Veon Bell (Pittsburgh Steelers)- Bell’s running style of cuts and hesitation running has found immediate success in the NFL. Last season, he had 1,268 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. He is key on the Steelers high-powered offense and should continue to see 20+ touches a game. He missed four games last season and still finished as the number four fantasy running back.

fantasy football running back rankings

(http://www.espn.com/nfl/player/_/id/15825/leveon-bell)

Not only is he used as a rusher, but he is used immensely in the passing game for Big Ben. He had 75 receptions for 616 yards and two touchdowns last season and there’s no indication that those numbers should decrease.

The problem with Bell is his injuries and off the field antics. Last season he was kept out of the first three games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy and he’s gone through multiple major knee injuries in his career. If he can stay on the field, and not have any problems off of it, he can be the No. 1 ranked running back in fantasy next year, and that’s exactly where he should be drafted.

 

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Dak Prescott

NFL quarterbacks under the most pressure in 2017

In recent years, it has become increasingly obvious that quarterback is the most important position in NFL football. While the goal of leading the team to wins is the same for all 32 starters in the league, the circumstances and context under which they play are all very different. Here are some NFL quarterbacks under pressure to produce heading into the 2017 season.

Andy Dalton– Dalton’s impact on the Bengals franchise has been largely positive. Last year, he and the Bengals missed the playoffs for the first time in Dalton’s still relatively young career. He has thrown almost twice as many touchdowns as interceptions.

However, the reality is until he delivers this franchise a long-awaited playoff win, he will show up on any list like this. There is one additional detail that complicates Dalton’s situation for the upcoming season. Backup quarterback A.J. McCarron’s contract situation is murky, but he may be available via free agency after the 2017 season.

NFL quarterbacks under pressure

Photo: cincyjungle.com

The former Alabama signal caller has proven to be very capable when filling in for Dalton. He got closer than Dalton ever did to a playoff win two years ago against the Steelers. Several quarterback-needy teams would be interested should he become available.

As a native Cincinnatian, I can tell you that the Bengals’ resistance to making coach and player changes is the subject of a lot of comedy around town.

Even so, should Dalton and the team struggle again like they did last year, the threat of McCarron leaving may force Cincinnati into choosing one of the two quarterbacks. If Cincinnati gets off to a rough start, the coaching staff taking an extended look at McCarron as the starter is not unrealistic.

Jared Goff- You can pick whatever metric you want. The fact is Goff was flat-out atrocious when finally given the chance to start during his rookie season. While it is very true he did not have much talent around him, a completion percentage of under 55 and more interceptions than touchdowns speaks for itself.

NFL quarterbacks under pressure

Photo: turfshowtimes.com

In some cases, those numbers for a rookie quarterback on a bad team might not be too worrisome. However, virtually the entire front office and coaching regime that traded up to pick Goff first overall has been fired.

The new management has no attachment to Goff and is well aware that the Rams must show significant improvement in their second year back in Los Angeles. The franchise is struggling to become relevant again in the crowded Los Angeles sports scene.

With Wade Phillips now coordinating what was already a playoff-caliber defense, Goff must step up to the plate and at least be a serviceable quarterback this year.

Life is not always fair in the NFL. If Goff does not improve dramatically this year, he is likely headed down the path of guys like David Carr and JaMarcus Russell.

Goff still does not have much to work with on the offensive side of the ball. Running back Todd Gurley was neutralized last year because the Rams had no passing offense to speak of. The addition of young offensive guru Sean McVay as head coach is a wildcard. It will be up to him to turn this offense into something that looks like it belongs on an NFL field. It all starts and ends with Goff, one way or the other.

Cam Newton– Is he the MVP that ran rough shot over the league until running into the 2015 Broncos in Super Bowl 50? Or is he the inaccurate turnover machine that became a bit of a problem child late last season? 2017 is a big swing year for Cam Newton.

NFL quarterbacks under pressure

Photo: charlottestories.com

It should be noted that Newton had surgery to repair a partial rotator cuff tear following last season. Only he knows how much that affected him, but it certainly could not have helped matters.

The versatility of rookie running back Christian McCaffrey should be a big help to the charismatic signal caller. Improvement in the secondary will also be key to the Panthers ability to bounce back from last year’s hugely disappointing six-win campaign.

Much like every other quarterback on this list though, Newton will get all the credit or all blame. That is just the way it works in the NFL today.

Dak Prescott– Prescott was the inspiration for this article. The pressure on him for 2017 almost cannot be put into words. He is now the unquestioned starter for one of the most recognizable franchises in sports. His spectacular rookie season is perhaps the single biggest reason why borderline Hall of Famer Tony Romo is now a broadcaster.

We know the Ezekiel Elliott led running game and offensive line are fantastic, but Prescott in year two is a massive question mark. From Robert Griffin III to the option and wildcat offenses, we have seen so many things set the league on fire one year only to fade away the next. The defensive coaches in this league usually adapt over time.

Only time will tell if Prescott is different. For me, it is the most fascinating story of the upcoming season. There are two other factors to keep in mind for Prescott and the Cowboys. First, because of winning the division they will play a much tougher schedule than last year. Also, even in a year where he could seemingly do no wrong, Prescott was unable to get the Cowboys any closer to a Super Bowl than Romo ever did.

 

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Franchise Analysis – Los Angeles Rams

The 2016 preseason was full of compelling story lines. How would the Patriots deal with Tom Brady’s suspension? Could the Cowboys still compete with Dak Prescott? While they were interesting, neither narrative compared to the return of the Los Angeles Rams. The city and fan base was swirling with excitement and hope about their long lost franchise coming home. Sadly, it wasn’t a story book ending for the Rams this year. Once again, Los Angeles Rams fans have hope approaching the 2017 season with the hiring of Sean McVay. Will it be enough to overcome the many problems that currently plague this franchise?

2016 EVALUATION – OFFENSE

If you watched any Rams game this year, it’s not hard to identify what this team is lacking. Their offensive production in terms of points and yards were both last in the NFL. That’s easy to see, but let’s dive deeper into the Rams offensive woes.

I’m sure you’ve heard coaches and analysts say that you build a team from inside out. They’re right. The best way to build a balanced, productive offense is to have consistent play from the offensive line. While the Rams are not the worst group, they certainly have room to improve. I like to use Pro Football Focus ratings as a means to objectively evaluate players and compare them to others at their position group. Here is a snapshot of the Rams’ line and their ratings.

Each player is graded on a 0-100 scale and is assigned a color based on the range they fall in. For the most part, this is an average offensive line. What absolutely hamstrings this unit’s effectiveness is that their worst player plays the most critical position: left tackle. This season, 73 other players were better than Greg Robinson at tackle. Robinson is a liability in pass protection and struggles as a run blocker, given his 36.1 run-block rating. While his poor play contributed to the offensive struggles, he is by no means the only one to blame.

The Rams wanted to be a run-first team. With Todd Gurley in the backfield, that’s totally understandable. However, when the opposition knows stopping Gurley means beating the Rams, the burden is placed on the passing game. In this particular instance, the blame falls on the offensive staff, but more on that later.

2016 EVALUATION – DEFENSE

Conversely, the Los Angeles Rams have proved that they can draft and develop defensive players. Their end of the year rankings are somewhat deceiving. The Rams finished 23rd in terms of points allowed and ninth in yards allowed. Their ranking as the 23rd best scoring defense is misleading. This defense had to deal with constantly being on the field, below average field position, and their own offense scoring points for the other team via turnovers.

Robert Quinn had yet another injury filled season. The former Pro-Bowler will play a key role in making the Rams’ defensive line among the best in the NFL again (Courtesy; NFL.com).

On strictly a personnel basis, this defense is built to dominate the line of scrimmage. With All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald alongside quality defenders like Michael Brockers, William Hayes, and Robert Quinn, this team will be getting after the quarterback for years to come. Sadly, Robert Quinn was sidelined for four games this season and played on a limited basis after week six.

Other notable defensive players include: Alec Ogletree, who had a productive year bouncing back from injury, Trumaine Johnson, and Maurice Alexander. As a whole, what is keeping this defense from ascending into the top-five or top-three realm is their offense. If this defense can just stay healthy and possibly upgrade their second corner position, they will easily be among the top 12 in major statistical categories.

 

 

DIVISIONAL ANALYSIS

The NFC West was once considered the best division in football, but with the flailing 49ers, struggling Rams, and regressed Cardinals, it is anything but the best. So what do the Rams need to challenge Seattle for the division crown?

Sean McVay will have his hands full as he will be tasked with turning the Los Angeles Rams around in 2017 (Courtesy of; Czabe.com).

First and foremost, they need a competent offensive coaching staff. The new hire of Sean McVay is a step in the right direction. Yes, by now everyone knows he’s the youngest coach in NFL history. However, do not automatically assume that inexperienced equals incompetence. McVay has clearly impressed enough people in the NFL just to warrant an interview at his age. McVay’s biggest challenge will be winning over the veteran players. Not to mention, he won’t be coaching Kirk Cousins, Jordan Reed, or DeSean Jackson. Hopefully McVay isn’t afraid to let coaches who are currently on the staff go. In order for this to work, he has to have an entire staff that truly believes in him as well as his system.

Second, the Rams need to address the left tackle position. Yes, I know they need a quarterback, but with no first or third-round pick in 2017 and the history of free agents at that position failing, it’s not happening this year. It’s also unfair to say absolutely that Goff isn’t capable of playing well after not even playing a full season. Greg Robinson just simply hasn’t worked. Robinson has never played like the second overall pick in the draft and the Rams need to actively search for someone else. When you have to face Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Calais Campbell, Markus Golden, and the emerging DeForest Buckner twice a year, you need a reliable left tackle.

Outside of addressing depth on the defense, the third biggest need of this team is a receiving tight end. Here me out. The Cardinals and the Seahawks have elite talent at cornerback. Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, despite their greatness, are still susceptible to getting beat in man to man coverage. Therefore, the best way to attack these defenses is 10-20 yards down the middle of the defense.

Now let’s shift our attention to McVay, who had Jordan Reed when he was in Washington. Reed provided Cousins with a red zone threat, a safety outlet against pressure, and he drew coverage away from Desean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. Finally, let’s look at Philadelphia. Carson Wentz has a similar situation to Goff as far as offensive weapons. He has very little outside of Jordan Matthews, but he has Zach Ertz. Having a tight end that was able to work the middle of the field allowed Wentz to move the ball without great playmakers on offense. Both Goff and McVay could benefit tremendously if they can acquire a receiving tight end for the 2017 season.

PostSeason Prospects

When it comes to predicting postseason success, some metrics are more important than others. Here are the following offensive and defensive statistics that best determine postseason viability and where the Rams stack up.

Clearly there’s room to improve. I do think Sean McVay will have an immediate impact on these different metrics given his offensive background. I also think that Jared Goff will inevitably be better than he was this year. The important point is, the Rams don’t have to be top five or top 10 in these categories to have success. They just can’t be meddling at the bottom of the league. All of the current playoff teams are top 15 or better in at least two of these offensive categories.

As stated earlier, Los Angeles is tremendously talented on defense. We talked earlier about how the terrible offense is contributing to below average defensive rankings. For example, it’s hard for the Rams to record sacks when they are losing by two possessions in the third and fourth quarter, as the opposition is looking to run the clock. This same logic can be applied to points allowed and turnovers. In the two categories that the defense alone controls, they are top 10.

Overall, the offense has to make significant strides this offseason in order for the Rams to have a chance to compete in the postseason.

2017 Predictions

The future of the Los Angeles Rams is bright and hopeful, but not the immediate future. Last year’s acquisition of the number one pick from the Tennessee Titans leaves the Rams without a first or third-round pick this year. I don’t see them being able to acquire many impact players through the draft. It’s logical to think they will want to address depth on both sides of the ball. This way, they aren’t relying on late-round picks to start.

It’s also hard to predict how active the Rams will be in free agency given the new head coach. The Rams will be better next year, but not by much. They won’t be able to get impact players like Cam Robinson, Mike McGlinchey, or O.J. Howard to immediately boost the talent level on offense. I think the Rams will finish 5-12 in 2017, tied with the 49ers, but will lose the divisional tiebreaker. Los Angeles just doesn’t have enough resources available to catapult them from a four win team to a nine win team.

 

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Fluke or For Real – Rostering Players the Week After

Whether it’s DFS or season long leagues, everyone has been burned by that fantasy fluke or flop. If you played against Le’Veon Bell last week, you have my most sincere condolences. He posted the best fantasy performance of the year; however, you can’t be angry. Everyone knows that any given week, Bell can accumulate upwards of 25 points. On the other hand, if you played against Bilal Powell, you have every right to complain. The perfect storm of circumstances came together to create a career fantasy day for Powell. Given their performances, you’ll likely consider them for your lineups this week. The trick is to know when someone’s production is sustainable or fluky. Here are two ways you can determine if a player’s increased or lack of production was fleeting or for real.

Previous Performance

It’s a simple idea. Examine a player’s history to determine their future. This process is different for each position. At wide receiver, you want to look at a player’s targets, specifically when they were productive. For example, Dontrelle Inman finished as the fifth best Wide Receiver in Week 4 as he posted 21.5 points against the Saints. As I said earlier, you’ll want to look at his targets to determine if the points he scored are worth chasing the following week. Leading up to that game, Inman was never targeted more than four times; he was targeted 11 times against the Saints. Inman’s performance can clearly be characterized as a fluke.

inman

Dontrelle Inman got off to a rocky start, but has proven to be a staple in this Chargers passing attack. (Courtesy of; Chargers.com)

This should automatically be a red flag. While you can keep him on your fantasy radar, the massive increase in targets is not sustainable. The week after his top-five performance, Inman scored less than one point and was only targeted three times. Other cases like Inman include Sammie Coates in Week 5, JJ Nelson in Week 8, and Rishard Matthews in Week 9.

There are players like Kenny Britt and Davante Adams who could be thrown into this group, but only at first glance. Britt exploded in Week 6, but it was not because of an unexplained increase in targets. Leading up to that game, he had been targeted at least six times in all but one of his games. That included a game where he was targeted 10 times.

Thus, playing Britt after his big game would be okay based on his track record. It would still be foolish to think he can post the same number of points. However, he received the same amount of targets the following week. The opportunities were there for Britt, he just didn’t make the most of them. Britt finding the end zone twice could be labeled as a fluke, but not the targets he received.

Game Flow

Also referred to as game script, game flow is when the play calling or game plan is altered based on what has already happened. For example, the Rams fumbled their opening kickoff and then threw an interception on their next possession. After quickly being down 14 points, the Rams would no longer be able to pound Todd Gurley 15-25 times. This kind of situation would obviously hurt running backs, but it would help quarterbacks and wide receivers.

Similar to examining previous production, look at the game flow of a player who over or underproduced. Did a running back have decreased attempts because of a blow out? Did a wide receiver or quarterback rack up points in garbage time? These are important questions that can help determine wether or not you should roster a player with irregular production.

Using Bell as an example, he tremendously benefited from game flow. With 5:28 left in the third quarter, the Steelers took a 21-7 lead. This was positive game flow for Bell, as the Steelers wanted to keep the clock running and the ball in Bell’s hands. This allowed Bell to fill up the stat sheet and rack up fantasy points. This week against the Bengals, I expect a more competitive game and better weather. Therefore, Bell won’t be able to duplicate his effort on the ground. As talented as Bell is, accumulating over 200 rushing yards was a fluke and should not be expected for the rest of the year.

Conversely, a large deficit in the third or fourth quarter is beneficial to wide receivers and quarterbacks. If the weather had been better, there’s no doubt Tyrod Taylor and Sammy Watkins would have scored more points. Because of the snow, LeSean McCoy had a more involved role in the passing game.

One Step Ahead

Yes, I’m aware how simple both these strategies are. However, it must be talked about because inexperienced DFS players fall into this trap weekly. How do I know? Ownership percentages of a player increase the week after they do well. Sometimes it’s justified like Jamison Crowder, and other times it isn’t, like Cameron Meredith. As long as you do your homework, you won’t fall victim to a fluke performance by an unknown player. Now as the DFS season comes to a close, here are three players you can be a week early on, and take advantage of their great performance.

3. Alex Smith – $6,800

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 03: Alex Smith #11 of the Kansas City Chiefs looks to pass against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on November 3, 2013 in Orchard Park, New York. Kansas City won 23-13. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

Alex Smith has one of the best Fantasy match ups of the week vs. Tennessee.(Courtesy of; Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

  • With only one game above 15 points in his last six starts, Smith is due for a big game.
  • He faces one of the worst pass defenses in Tennessee, who allowed Trevor Siemian to score 17.4 points.
  • For once, Smith has targets to throw to. Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill have both scored at least eight points in their last four games.

2. Jermaine Gresham – $4,500 

  • Gresham has received an enlarged role in the Cardinals’ passing game, seeing at least six targets and scoring at least seven points in his last three games.
  • With Michael Floyd’s DUI, there will be more targets to go around, and no doubt Gresham will benefit in the intermediate passing game.
  • Gresham faces the Saints secondary at home this week, one that is in the bottom third in the NFL.

1. Sammy Watkins – $6,100

  • For those who have taken the wait and see approach, we’ve seen everything we’ve needed to, as Watkins was on the field for virtually every snap versus the Steelers.
  • The weather held Watkins back from breaking out last week, as he was only targeted six times.
  • Watkins gets to play the 0-13 Browns this Sunday…I’m predicting that Watkins will finish as a top five Wide Receiver this week and eclipse 15 points for the first time this season.

 

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