Improving Football’s Concussion Crisis Through Proper Diagnosis and Management

The game of football is a beloved game in the United States of America, and many would argue, has become America’s most popular sport and national pastime. The National Football League (NFL) is the professional organization where only the best football players in the nation are given the opportunity to showcase their talents. Today, The NFL is booming in popularity. Along with the success and high-profile nature of the NFL, comes the obligation of being the gold standard for all things regarding character, honor, and safety. Although the NFL has been in the spotlight recently for all the wrong reasons regarding the decisions of players off the field, an even darker cloud is looming and has been for some time now. Hits to the head occur repeatedly over and over again during every football game (Nowinski, 2007). Concussions are going to occur in football because that is just the nature of the game (Nowinski, 2007). Therefore, it is vital that the proper diagnosis and treatment of these concussions and head injuries is occurring so that secondary and tertiary concussions can be reduced and in a more perfect world, eliminated.

The NFL has appointed a NFL, Head, Neck, and Spine Committee that has developed numerous protocols regarding the diagnosis and management of concussions in NFL players. It is important to note that NFL players are not the only football players at risk of receiving these types of serious brain injuries. On the contrary, any person that plays tackle football is at risk for these types of injuries, even children playing at the peewee level. This paper will focus on the program of the NFL and its protocol for a few reasons. The NFL is the gold standard of the sport of football. Therefore, the NFL is the leader when it comes to all things football. The programs and protocols that the NFL have implemented and utilized are going to be adapted by other organizations and levels of the sport of football eventually, if they have not already. If the NFL is not treating concussions in football as an extremely serious health issue, who will? Also, football players in the NFL, for the most part, have been playing the game the longest. Therefore, these are the players that are generally subjected to the most hits to the head because they have likely already taken thousands of these hits at the peewee, high school, and collegiate levels.

When dealing with concussions, we are dealing with a player’s health, their well-being, and their overall quality of life. Therefore, this is no small issue. Research has shown that there seems to be a cumulative effect of multiple concussions and repeated hits to the head (Nowinski, 2007). Multiple head injuries seem to increase long-term issues in a person’s life (Nowinski, 2007). Also, studies have shown connections between multiple head injuries and the earlier onset of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease (Nowinski, 2007). Research has also shown that NFL players are far more likely than the general population to develop brain damage that is very severe (Nowinski, 2007). Long term effects of multiple concussions and repeated “blows to the head” can consist of memory issues, irrational mood swings, depression, anger, anxiety, stress, erratic behavior, fixations, cognitive impairment, issues planning, and issues organizing (Nowinski, 2007).

Concussions cannot be treated until they are diagnosed and the hard truth is that not all concussions are diagnosed. Concussions are basically an invisible injury. They are hard to identify with the naked eye. Also, concussions are very hard to see in structural neuroimaging studies such as CT scans and MRIs because they are not a structural injury; they are more of a functional disturbance in the brain (Nowinski, 2007). Sometimes symptoms of a concussion do not present immediately and rather, evolve over a period of time (Nowinski, 2007). Thus, if the player has already passed a concussion assessment and is back on the field playing, major issues could arise. Furthermore, the symptoms are largely subjective and in the hands of the players to report them (Nowinski, 2007). Over fifty percent of concussed athletes are suspected of failing to report their symptoms (Gregory, 2010). Players do not want be labeled as not tough by their teammates, coaches, family members, and fans (Nowinski, 2007). Players are highly competitive and they do not want to sit on the bench (Nowinski, 2007). Players put in a lot of hard work to be able to play and they want to be out on the field to help their teammates (Nowinski, 2007). This is troublesome because players need to report their symptoms to help the team physician and medical staff out. This is especially important because players are hidden by their helmets, facemasks, and the large area of the football field and arena, making it harder for team physicians and medical staffs to recognize concussion symptoms (Nowinski, 2007). Players also get used to the concussion test that is given (Nowinski, 2007). They can pass it by knowing what to say, but still have a concussion (Nowinski, 2007). This is a major area of concern when dealing with preventing secondary and tertiary concussions.

Football has the worst ratio of games played to hard work put in (Nowinski, 2007). There is only one game a week. The regular season in the NFL only consists of sixteen games a year for each team. This increases the outside pressure put on players, not to mention the internal pressure they put on themselves, to return to play as quickly as possible. This conundrum raises more issues because every concussion is different (Nowinski, 2007). Some players will recover from a concussion faster than others (Nowinski, 2007). There are no set guidelines for time off after a concussion (Nowinski, 2007). Players are allowed to return to the field after their specific individual symptoms have subsided (Nowinski, 2007). This may be hard for players to understand. Overall, players are not thinking about their futures and their lives down the road. Instead, they are caught up in the heat of the battle. They are focused on the game going on and the next play that is going to take place. Protocols absolutely are necessary to take the decision out of the player’s and even sometimes, the coach’s hands.

A study by the NFL found that retired NFL players over the age of fifty were five times more likely than the rest of the population to receive a memory-related disease diagnosis (Gregory, 2010). Furthermore, “The Center for the Study of Retired Athletes found that the rate of depression among retired NFL players reporting three or more concussions was more than triple the rate of those without concussions (Gregory, 2010).” These statistics further demonstrate the severity of this issue. These long-term effects that many people suffer from playing the game that they so dearly love can be quite demoralizing. Thus, they need to be minimized as much as humanly possible. That is where the protocols created by the NFL Head, Neck, and Spine Committee come into play.

The NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee has created protocols regarding diagnosis, management, and return to participation of and following concussions. These protocols include strict guidelines that must be followed and completed. There is no doubt that the creation of these protocols required a lot of planning. However, it was extremely difficult to find anything regarding how the NFL came up with their protocols. The protocol regarding diagnosis and management of concussions defines a concussion, includes observable concussion symptoms as well as concussion symptoms that only the individual player can report, and defines the guidelines of the NFL sideline concussion assessment (“NFL,” 2014 b). The sideline assessment is based on the Standardized Concussion Assessment Tool 3 published in 2013 by the Concussion in Sport Group (“NFL,” 2014 b). The Team Physician assesses the player in person during the game and thus, is the one that is responsible for determining if a player has a concussion (“NFL,” 2014 b). The Team Physician compares the results of the sideline test to baseline information (“NFL,” 2014 b). Each player is required to have a baseline neuropsychological test done before the season starts (“NFL,” 2014 b). Also, this protocol requires preseason education of players and team personnel regarding concussions (“NFL,” 2014 b).

The protocol regarding a player’s return to participation following a concussion states that the decision to return a player to action is made by the Head Team Physician and must be confirmed by the Independent Neurological Consultant assigned to that specific team (“NFL,” 2014 c). This protocol consists of a five-step process to return a player back to action following a concussion (“NFL,” 2014 c). A player can move on to the next step in the process only after showing tolerance of all activities in the current step without recurrence of any symptoms (“NFL,” 2014 c). Thus, only once a player is at his baseline level of signs, symptoms, and neurological examination, can he be cleared to proceed to the next step in the process (“NFL,” 2014 c). If the activities of a step in the process cause recurrence of any signs or symptoms, those activities are to be stopped and the player is to be returned to the prior step in the protocol (“NFL,” 2014 c). The five-step process goes as follows: rest and recovery, light aerobic exercise, continued aerobic exercise and introduction of strength training, football specific activities, and full football activity/clearance (“NFL,” 2014 c).

A plan states the activities expected of the members of an organization (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012). These protocols define what is expected of players, teams, and team physicians. A plan establishes the criteria for the decision making of its members (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012). These protocols establish criteria for the Team Physicians and Independent Neurological Consultants to make their decisions. A good plan permits evaluation (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012). However, evaluation is not possible without comparisons to some standard (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012). The baseline test of every NFL player completed before the season starts creates the standard that allows for evaluation.

Comprehensive planning should be used to solve problems that occur over and over, or when the decision is critical for a particular reason (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012). Concussions continue to occur over and over and they are critical because we are dealing with an individual’s long-term quality of life. Planning needs to address day-to-day operations and decisions that are aimed at solving specific problems (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012). Football practices and games occur on a daily basis. Thus, these protocols created by the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee have seemingly required some very good planning to address the specific problem of concussions occurring in the NFL.

The commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell, recently appointed John Madden and Ronnie Lott as the co-chairs of a new panel formed to explore ways of improving player safety (“Safety,” 2013). Panel members include former players, coaches and NFL executives (“Safety,” 2013). The Panel’s goal is to make the game safer long-term (“Safety,” 2013). Basically, the panel is using genius forecasting. Genius forecasting is where a group of people speculates about a program’s future environment (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012). Genius forecasting is based on the knowledge, intuition, and hunches, of individuals with experience in a particular field (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012). This panel should also use trend extrapolation. Trend extrapolation assumes that the future will repeat the past, and variables that have caused changes will continue to cause changes (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012). This panel would be wise to view concussions in these terms and proceed accordingly.

A major objective of the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee was to complete the protocols discussed earlier in this paper, so that team medical staffs had a process for diagnosing and managing concussions (“NFL,” 2014 a). That way, the main goals and priorities of the committee could hopefully be addressed. The goals of the committee are to raise the awareness of concussions and the effects that they can have, diagnose concussions more successfully than in the past by giving players the best and most effective treatment, reduce the amount of concussions a player receives in his career, and to minimize secondary and tertiary concussions occurring before an initial concussion has healed. The priorities of the committee are to protect the overall and long-term health of every NFL player, protect the brain of every player, and minimize life-long effects that concussions could have on players that would reduce their overall quality of life.

The NFL is a multi-billion dollar industry. The NFL made over nine billion dollars in revenue in the year 2013 (“How the National,” 2013). The funding of this revenue comes from television rights deals, ticket sales, and merchandise sales just to name a few (“How the National,” 2013). Therefore, the NFL has more than enough money to fund the necessary medical staff to diagnose and manage every concussion suffered in the NFL in the best and most effective way possible. The NFL basically uses a PERT chart when implementing the concussion protocol regarding a player’s return to participation. A PERT chart defines a project’s final objective that works on a particular problem (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012). PERT charts are intended to improve the management of time and resources to an end (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012). Before an activity on a given PERT line can begin, all activities before it must have been completed (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012). The final objective of the NFL committee is player’s health, the particular problem is concussions, and the linear aspect of a PERT chart correlates seamlessly with a player’s progression through the concussion protocol discussed above. Just as with a PERT chart, a player cannot begin the next step in the concussion protocol until all activities before it have been completed without any issues.

“The systems theory model includes a premise that the system is made up of interdependent subsystems that cannot be acted upon independently without affecting the other subsystems and the organization as a whole (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012).” Therefore, there are inputs, throughputs, and outputs correlated with the NFL that are interconnected and all play a role in the concussion crisis. The inputs of the NFL’s committee can be divided into supports and demands (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012). The supports are continued raised awareness of the health effects of concussions in the short and long term as well as the revenue the NFL brings in every year. The demands are for players to be able to play from the players themselves, coaches, fans, and teammates as well as the time demand of all of those people wanting the player to be cleared through the concussion protocol as quickly as possible. Also, there is a demand for the protection of player health. This player health demand is reflected in the NFL protocols already discussed and can also be protected by the law.

Regarding throughputs, effective managers must constantly assess their environments and actively search the market for new opportunities (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012). The NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee must be constantly searching for ways to improve their protocols, taking into consideration the environment that surrounds the NFL. Throughputs regarding the NFL include environmental factors such as lawsuits from former players. “More than 4,500 former players have filed a concussion lawsuit against the NFL, some accusing the league of fraud for its handling of concussions (“NFL,” 2014 a).” Another throughput is the culture of the NFL and America regarding how concussions are looked at and thought of. For too long, concussions were thought of as a minor issue and not taken seriously. The culture is beginning to change to reflect the severity of concussions but the NFL must keep being proactive regarding this matter.

The outputs of the NFL’s committee can provide services and regulations for all those involved (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012). The direct output lowers the amount of concussions by holding the player out until their brain has healed or at least returned to baseline level. The second-order output lowers the level of short and long-term effects a concussion can have on a player by properly diagnosing and treating the concussion. Thus, increasing the quality of life for that player so that they can lead a somewhat normal life even into their later years.

Now that numerous components of the NFL protocols have been identified, it is time to evaluate the program. The evaluation will help to determine just how effective the program is currently being, as well as how effective it will be in the future. An evaluation is critical in determining whether a program is accomplishing the defined goals or not. Therefore, an evaluation ultimately helps in determining whether a program is a success or a failure.

The evaluator and program staff must turn theoretical goals into quantifiable program goals before an outcome evaluation can begin (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012). Quantifiable program goals are the outcomes that the program staff would like to see occur. These outcomes include keeping all players safe and giving them the necessary medical treatment. These outcomes, among others, are desired because of the numerous issues that concussions can cause. Therefore, the concussion issue must be evaluated.

The evaluation process starts with problem identification (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012). There are three different approaches that the committee will use to help identify the problems at hand. A written survey will be provided to players in training camp before the season starts. It is critical to hear concerns directly from the players. The survey will utilize the exact same criteria for each player completing it. It will be anonymous so the player can be as open and honest as they want to be without fear of their answers affecting their career. There will also be an open-ended piece at the end of the survey that will allow the player to clarify their responses, as well as raise other issues or concerns. The survey will provide a direct insight from the players on concussions and how they view the effects that can stem from them.

The participant-observer approach allows the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee to observe individuals as they go about their daily activities while trying to blend in as much as possible (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012). The participant-observer approach will be completed for one game a season in which a concussion occurs, with the team physician of every NFL team. This approach will allow the committee to observe every team physician’s handling of the concussion protocol to determine whether there are any issues with the way a specific physician implements the protocol.

Lastly, the committee will complete interactive managerial audits by reviewing the medical files of randomized players and discussing these files with the team medical personnel. This approach will allow the committee to check for insufficiencies to determine whether there are any issues with documentation of concussions.

The next step in the evaluation process is solution development (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012). Solution development involves forming a task force to develop solutions in the short term and overseeing implementation in the long term (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012). The NFL is ahead of the curve on this as they have already formed the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee as well as the NFL player safety advisory panel.

Then there is the implementation of a system to help facilitate change (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012). The implementation of an employee development work group allows for training to reeducate staff within the program on policies and procedures (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012). The NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee will hire a team of independent physicians and neurologists to train the NFL head team physicians every offseason. These trainings will be comprised of emphasizing the already existing information and procedures as well as teaching the team physicians new information that has come out within the past year. Also, a quality assurance work group will be used to find ways to correct procedural deficiencies by reviewing player’s charts on a weekly basis. Furthermore, a project-coordinating group will be used to compile and report evaluation data. The head of the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee will meet with the coordinating group regularly to see if things are proceeding as planned.

The target outcomes of the program are comprised of both primary and secondary outcomes (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012). Primary outcomes directly impact a program (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012). The target primary outcomes of the program that the committee desires are an increase in concussion diagnoses, an increase in player’s self-reporting of concussion symptoms, and a reduction in the occurrence of secondary and tertiary concussions; especially before the initial concussion has healed. Secondary outcomes are effects that a program can have on the people involved (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012). The target secondary outcomes of the program that the committee desired were an increase in quality of life of all players and a reduction of long-term health issues.

The committee’s program has validity concerns. History is a validity concern because concussions were not always documented and tracked like they are today. Another validity concern is maturation due to the hits to the head NFL players take on a consistent basis. The cumulative effect of those repeated hits can change the players over time. The best way to account for history and maturation is to compare the results of the program to a control group of like persons who did not take part in the program (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012). The control group could be the professional football players of the Canadian Football League since both groups live similar lifestyles. However, this raises external validity concerns because the Canadian Football League has its own protocols and regulations that they follow regarding concussions. It also raises internal validity concerns since there may be different characteristics between the group that are not accounted for, but could alter the results. Therefore, it is tough to use inference in this instance.

Testing effects is another validity concern because pretesting individuals can alter their performances on tests in the future (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012). Players know that they take a baseline test before the season and they know that during concussion protocol, if their results differ from the pretest, they may have to sit out. Players also get used to the sideline concussion assessment and learn what to say and what not to say. Therefore, they lie so that they can continue playing. Using multiple sideline concussion assessments and training the team physicians to constantly be looking for observable concussion symptoms can address the validity concerns of testing effects. Another validity concern is instrumentation, as findings can vary as a result of different people performing the evaluations (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012). Concussion findings rely on team physicians from every team and each physician might add some subjectivity into the way that they do things, relationships with players being a specific concern. Instrumentation can be addressed by the trainings every offseason for team physicians as well as emphasizing the strict protocol guidelines.

Cost-Effectiveness is the design selection of this concussion program for a few reasons. First, cost-effectiveness is done for long-term projects, which helps the necessary assessment of the long-term health of NFL players (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012). Also, this analysis involves intangible effects, meaning impacts that are not economic in nature such as saving and improving lives (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012). This analysis works under the assumption that rational people work to improve their personal well-being (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012). However, NFL players hardly think this way.

Welfare economics explains that the only thing that matters in the society is the well-being of the people in it (Sylvia & Sylvia, 2012). In order to apply this principle, the committee first needs to know what is important to the players. Therefore, on the survey passed out in training camp, there will also be an open-ended question on it asking the players what matters most to them in their lives.

Due to the survey being anonymous, players were able to open up and overwhelmingly showed concerns about their long-term health regarding concussions. Players reported, on average, suffering 2.3 diagnosed concussions in their playing careers and an additional 4.6 times where they believe they may have suffered a concussion even though it was never officially diagnosed. The data collected from reviewing player’s medical files, for the most part, agreed with the player’s reports regarding concussions that were diagnosed.

Within the open-ended aspect of the survey, most players reported that they want to be able to live long, happy, and healthy lives so that they can be there for their families and enjoy all of the experiences and time spent with them. Over half of the players expressed at least some concern about their ability to do these things later on in life once their playing careers are over.

Using these findings, one could argue that NFL player’s long-term health outweighs the amount that it costs to bring these players the best treatment and care possible. However, when the copious amounts of money the NFL makes and already has are taken into consideration, it tips the scales. The NFL can withstand the high price it costs to protect its players, especially when that price helps the NFL’s former players live healthier, longer, and happier lives. There are no excuses. Therefore, the NFL’s effectiveness of protecting the health of its players by reducing concussions through strict implementation of the protocol greatly outweighs the cost.

The implications of the findings in this study show that these concussion protocols need to continue to be strictly implemented and improved upon whenever possible in order to diagnose many of these concussions that seemingly are going unnoticed, properly treat the concussions that are diagnosed, and also to reduce the amount of concussions being suffered as a whole by keeping players off the field whenever it is deemed necessary.

There were some limitations of this study. First, even though the survey was anonymous, there was still no way to tell if the players were being completely honest or not. Second, there most likely was some recall bias effecting the player’s answers on the survey. Players could have forgotten the amount of diagnosed concussions they had had, forgotten times when they may have suffered concussion symptoms, overestimated the amount of diagnosed concussions they had had, or overestimated times when they may have suffered concussion symptoms. Lastly, medical files are not usually filled out with research in mind. Therefore, the medical files reviewed could have been incomplete or had incorrect information documented within them.

The results of this study can be applied to any level of the sport of football. This is because the game of football is played basically the same way regardless of the specific league or even age of the players. Obviously, it can be assumed that the older the football players are, the more they are going to weigh. However, regardless of the age or weight of the players, it is still the game of football. Therefore, all players are taking repeated hits to the head. Now, obviously there are some limitations to the applicability of this study. Many of which have already been highlighted in this paper. However, in its simplest form, the findings of the amount of concussions suffered and concern of the players regarding these concussions can be applied to any football player.

My suggestions for the NFL are to continue to learn more and more about the issues of concussions and repeated hits to the head in the sport of football. Also, to educate all involved with the NFL and even the general public on these continued findings as well as the issues and concerns that we are already aware of. Furthermore, developing and creating safer football helmets for all players should constantly be a major goal of the NFL and all other football leagues. In regards to collecting data for future analysis, football helmets should have a computer chip in them that tracks and records the amount of hits that a player takes as well as the severity of each hit. Those findings would allow for specific data collection rather than trying to rely on subjective information reported by the NFL players. NFL players need to be treated as the human beings they are rather than just commodities in the sport of football. After all, the NFL needs their players to be healthy in order to put out the best product possible for their consumers on a consistent basis.

Bibliography

Forbes. (2013). How the National football league can reach $25 billion in annual revenues. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/monteburke/2013/08/17/how-the-national-football-league-can-reach-25-billion-in-annual-revenues/

Gregory, S. (2010, February 8). The problem with football. Our favorite sport is too dangerous. How to make the game safer. Time, 175, 36-42.

Lipsky, M. (2010). Street-level bureaucracy: Dilemmas of the individual in public services. New York, New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

National Football League. (2014). Federal judges approves NFL concussion settlement. Retrieved from http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap2000000363672/article/federal-judge-approves-nfl-concussion-settlement

National Football League. (2014). National football league head, neck and spine committee’s protocols regarding diagnosis and management of concussion. Retrieved from http://static.nfl.com/static/content/public/photo/2013/10/01/0ap2000000254002.pdf

National Football League. (2014). National football league head, neck and spine committee’s protocols regarding return to participation following concussion. Retrieved from http://static.nfl.com/static/content/public/photo/2014/08/21/0ap3000000381608.pdf

National Football League. (2013). Safety rules & regulations. Retrieved from http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap1000000228345/article/safety-rules-regulations

Nowinski, C. (2007). Head games: Football’s concussion crisis. East Bridgewater, Massachusetts: The Drummond Publishing Group.

Sylvia, R. D., & Sylvia, K. M. (2012). Program planning and evaluation for the public manager. Long Grove, Illinois: Waveland Press, Inc.

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Improving Football’s Concussion Crisis Through Proper Diagnosis and Management

DIVISIONAL ROUND DFS: TOM BRADY WILL DO TOM BRADY THINGS

Game Predictions:

Patriots 24 Chiefs 17
Cardinals 27 Packers 17
Seahawks 27 Panthers 24
Broncos 31 Steelers 17

QBs

1) Tom Brady at home vs. Chiefs

The Chiefs have maybe been the best defense in the entire NFL during their current 11 game win streak. Thing is: I don’t care. Tom Brady is the best QB of all time. There is no defense that is good enough to stop Tom Brady. Just ask those that thought the Seahawks defense would slow him down last February. The Chiefs’ win streak is going to end eventually. I think it ends this weekend as Tom Brady adds another postseason victory to his resume. Brady already boasts a 21-8 playoff record. Better yet, he is 14-3 in the playoffs at home. If the Patriots are going to win this weekend, which I believe they will, it clearly will be because of the arm of Tom Brady. How else are they going to win? By handing the ball off to Steven Jackson 20 times? Absolutely not. I believe that playing Tom Brady in daily fantasy this weekend guarantees you volume. I’d be shocked if Brady doesn’t throw the ball at least 40 times and I’d still be pretty surprised if he doesn’t throw it at least 50. That many throws, even against a great defense like the Kansas City Chiefs, will eventually add up to a solid fantasy outing. Now, I am aware that just last week in this very same daily blog I wrote that in the playoffs, I prefer a QB in a balanced offense to one that is forced to be one dimensional in the playoffs. I still believe that. However, I strongly believe that there is one HUGE exception to this rule. That would not only be Tom Brady, but also the genius minds of head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Giving these guys two weeks to come up with an offensive game plan should be absolutely criminal. I think that Tom Brady throws for over 300 yards and 3 TDs in this game, being absolutely surgical in the process hitting all types of WR quick screens, RB screens, and throws down the middle of the field. I don’t think there will be a ton of deep passes, but I think the large quantity of short throws eventually pushes Tom Brady over 300 yards passing. I’m pretty much to the point where I’ll be surprised if the Patriots don’t go empty set 4 WR + Gronk (if he plays – I think he will) on the first play of the game.

How am I so confident that Brady will throw the ball so much you ask? Over the last year or so, there have been a few games that I would like to highlight where the Patriots went against a very strong run defense. Let’s look at Brady’s numbers in those games shall we:

Divisional Round of the playoffs in 2014 Patriots vs. Ravens
Tom Brady: 33/50 for 367 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT + 1 rush TD
Total Number of Pats carries other than Brady: 7 for 14 yards, 0 TDs

Last years Super Bowl Patriots vs. Seahawks
Tom Brady: 37/50 for 328 yards, 4 TDs, 2 INTs
Total Number of Pats carries other than Brady: 19 for 60 yards, 0 TDs

Week 2 of 2015 season Patriots vs. Bills
Tom Brady: 38/59 for 466 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs
Total Number of Pats carries other than Brady: 12 for 60 yards, 1 TD
*Dion Lewis was healthy for this game and had 7 carries for 40 yards and the lone Pats RB rush TD. He is out for the year and won’t play on Saturday*

Week 7 of 2015 season Patriots vs. Jets
Tom Brady: 34/54 for 355 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs + 15 rush yards and 1 rush TD
Total Number of Pats carries other than Brady: 5 for 1 yard (Yes, you read that correctly)

And just one more for fun even though the Dolphins didn’t have a good run D this year:
Week 8 of 2015 season Patriots vs. Dolphins
Tom Brady: 26/38 for 356 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs
Total Number of Pats carries other than Brady: 25 for 94 yards, 0 TDs

My point is this: All of Brady’s weapons were healthy and on the field for all the games highlighted above just like they will be on Saturday (I expect both Edelman and Gronk to play). With the exception of the Dolphins game, all of those games were against very good run defenses. The Chiefs finished the regular season ranked 8th against the run this year. As you can see, Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels have NO problem WHATSOEVER creating an offensive game plan that revolves around the greatest football player of all time. They understand that the Chiefs defense is very good just like they understood the Ravens, Seahawks, Bills, and Jets defenses were very good. They understand that they’re not going to beat the Chiefs by running their average RBs into that solid defensive line. That would be playing right into the Chiefs hands because they would be playing the exact same style of offense that the Chiefs like to run. Therefore, they would be risking losing a 17-13 type of game. I respect the hell out of Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels because in a game like this, they understand that any play where the ball is taken out of Tom Brady’s hands is basically a wasted play.

Now, here’s the kicker. Like I have previously said, I USUALLY prefer a QB in a balanced offense during the playoffs. Why? Because when you’re in the playoffs, playing against the best, I believe that a balanced offense generally gives you a better chance of winning the game. However, the Patriots won every single game that I highlighted above. That list included two playoff games from just last year! The combination of Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and Josh McDaniels is so good that they can win meaningful playoff games, even the Super Bowl for crying out loud, with a one dimensional passing offense. I think they do it again on Saturday.

Tom Brady’s overall numbers during the second half of this season were not Tom Brady-like. However, the Patriots offense was very banged up. It sounds like Brady will get all of his weapons back on Saturday. Brady gets his main man Julian Edelman back. I don’t expect Edelman to be 100% on Saturday. However, I don’t think it will matter. Edelman has looked good in the practice footage that I have seen this week. Over the course of this year, the Patriots went 9-0 with Edelman in the lineup and 3-4 without him. He is going to make a huge impact in this game. I wouldn’t be surprised if he catches double digit passes. I’m thinking he has the same type of impact that Terrell Owens had with the Eagles when he came back from his broken leg to play against the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

Oh, and what about that 14-41 drubbing the Chiefs put on the Patriots just last year you ask? I’m not all that worried. That game was in Kansas City, one of the toughest places to play in the NFL. The game is in New England this time around. Tom Brady only thew the ball 23 times in that first matchup. I expect him to throw it at least 50 times this weekend. To me, that means very good things will happen for the Patriots.

*Playing Devil’s Advocate For Just A Second*

As you can see, I’m confident in Tom Brady this weekend. However, there are a few things that could cause my stance to blow up in my face. The biggest concern I have is Rob Gronkowski, who reportedly received treatment on his injured right knee at a hospital on Thursday (Just two days before their game this Saturday). He apparently also has a back injury listed on the injury report. However, Gronk is reportedly going to play. After missing week 13 of this year with a knee injury, Gronk came back in week 14 at less than 100% and put 4 for 87 yards and TD on the Texans. As long as Gronk is active and on the field on Saturday, I expect him to have a good game. However, I’d be lying if I told you that multiple injuries popping up seemingly out of nowhere (after he was removed from the injury report towards the end of the regular season AND having a first round bye in the playoffs) didn’t concern me. The other concern you have to at least give some consideration to is the Kansas City pass rush. The Chiefs finished the regular season with 47 sacks, 4th most in the NFL. Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, and Dee Ford can all really get after the QB. I expect all three to play on Saturday. However, Houston and Hali are listed as questionable which suggests that they are a little banged up themselves. Even though the Chiefs pass rush is a concern (see Brady’s first Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants for some context), I expect the Patriots’ offensive game plan to utilize the quick/short passing game to neutralize that pass rush the majority of the time. I’m expecting a lot of three step drops from Brady and once he plants that back foot, the ball will be out immediately.

2) Peyton Manning at home vs. Steelers

Peyton Manning is well rested, just about as healthy as he is ever going to be on a football field again, and gets by far the best matchup of any QB this weekend. The Steelers finished the regular season ranked 30th against the pass. I expect the Broncos to try to stay balanced on offense. However, I don’t see them having all that much success against the Steelers 5th ranked run defense from the regular season. I expect the Broncos to win this game. Therefore, I think they win it off of the arm of Peyton Manning. Yes, his arm has broken down a little bit. No, he can’t make every throw anymore. However, I don’t think that matters much on Sunday, especially against that 30th ranked Steelers pass defense. I don’t think the Steelers have a single guy on their roster that can cover Emmanuel Sanders or Demaryius Thomas which is why their names will come up again in the WR section.

3) Carson Palmer at home vs. Packers

What a year Carson Palmer had. Now Bruce Arians has had two weeks to come up with an offensive game plan? That should also be criminal. I expect the Cardinals offense to have plenty of success on Saturday. Palmer is ranked 3rd behind Brady and Manning because I see the Cardinals winning this game fairly easily. I don’t expect the Packers offense to put too much pressure on Palmer to have to keep throwing the ball deep into the game. Now, I absolutely expect this game to be more competitive than the Cardinals 38-8 win over the Packers just a few weeks ago back in week 16. Still, I think the Cardinals find enough success on the ground against the Packers 21st ranked run defense during the regular season, that Palmer’s numbers at the end of this game will end up being good, but not great. The Packers did finish the regular season ranked 6th against the pass and all signs point to their best CB, Sam Shields clearing concussion protocol and getting back onto the field this weekend.

4) Russell Wilson on the road vs. Panthers

Even with Marshawn Lynch expected back this weekend, I don’t think the Seahawks offense changes much, if at all. Not in this game. The Carolina Panthers finished the regular season ranked 4th against the run. However, the Panthers only finished the regular season ranked 11th against the pass. While still a high ranking, I bring it up because the Panthers will be without their #2 and #3 CBs on Sunday. Both Charles Tillman and Bene Benwikere will not play. Look for the Seahawks offensive game plan to utilize Russell Wilson’s arm quite a bit in this one as Carolina’s secondary is clearly the weaker link on their defense at this point in the season, especially when the injuries are factored in. Even better, Josh Norman, Carolina’s best CB and one of the best in the entire NFL, very rarely covers the slot. The slot is obviously where red hot Doug Baldwin lines up on most of his routes.

5) Cam Newton at home vs. Seahawks

Cam is the no-brainer MVP of the league this year. Of course I have to rank him. You know he’s going to try to put the team on his back this weekend. I just can’t find a way to rank him any higher. Not against the Seahawks 2nd ranked regular season pass defense. The Seahawks gave up the fewest points in the entire league this year and they seem to be clicking on all cylinders heading into Sunday’s game.

RBs

1) David Johnson at home vs. Packers

Lock David Johnson into your lineup and don’t think twice about it. Bruce Arians has had two weeks to prepare for this game. I expect the Cardinals offense to have plenty of success on Saturday. David Johnson gets a good matchup as the Packers finished the regular season ranked 21st against the run. Johnson is fresh, he’s dynamic, he catches passes, and he has a guaranteed work load in one of the best offenses in the NFL.

2) James White at home vs. Chiefs

I have already stated that I think Brady throws the ball 50 times on Saturday. That means plenty of opportunities for his pass catchers. I don’t envision a ton of deep shots from the Patriots passing attack. Rather, I see a ton of screens and short passes as the Patriots methodically work their way down the field. That should help James White finish with a respectable stat line since most daily sites are PPR. If your daily site gives one whole point PPR, even better. James White stepped in and performed pretty well as the Patriots pass catching RB after Dion Lewis was lost for the season. I think he will be needed on Saturday. Just know, with Brandon Bolden still seeing snaps, White isn’t a guarantee. Still, White’s potential is mouthwatering. He had 10 catches for 115 yards and 1 TD back in week 13 against the Eagles. In last years Super Bowl as the Patriots’ pass catching RB, Shane Vereen had 11 catches for 64 yards against the Seahawks. I see Saturday’s game playing out in a similar fashion.

LOCK David Johnson and James White into your lineup and be done with it. There is a huge gap between those two and the rest of the RB field in my opinion.

3) Christine Michael on the road vs. Panthers

*IF for some reason Marshawn Lynch decides Sunday morning that he’s not going to play*

If Marshawn Lynch sits out again, Christine Michael has a guaranteed workload on a team that I think wins this weekend. Michael touched the ball 22 times last week. Fred Jackson had 1 touch. Bryce Brown never touched the ball.

4) Jonathan Stewart at home vs. Seahawks

Jonathan Stewart has practiced all week. Head coach Ron Rivera told the media that Stewart has no limitations and he is full go. Backup Fozzy Whitaker looks unlikely to suit up this weekend. Jonathan Stewart should have a guaranteed workload. He’s ranked 4th because the Seahawks finished the regular season ranked 1st against the run and he has to share carries with the inevitable MVP of this season, Cam Newton.

5) Marshawn Lynch on the road vs. Panthers

It sounds like Marshawn Lynch is going to play this week. He reportedly texted ESPN’s Kenny Mayne “I’m Ready.” That’s cool and all, but after Lynch practiced all last week in full and then basically decided on his own that he wasn’t ready to play, I almost want nothing to do with him. Since I think some will share a similar thought process, one could argue that Lynch becomes a very intriguing GPP play this weekend. I expect the Seahawks to win the game which should help Lynch with game flow. However, I’m actually glad that Lynch is going to play because there will be enough people that can’t resist plugging Beast Mode into their lineups. What those people will conveniently forget, is that Christine Michael looked very good last week. I expect it to be more of a timeshare between Lynch and Michael than some may realize, especially considering Lynch’s shenanigans last week.

WRs

1) Julian Edelman at home vs. Chiefs

I mean first of all, Edelman posted this hype video to youtube on Friday. Do you even need any analysis after watching that? Here is some, just in case:

Edelman is listed as questionable for Saturday’s game, which i love for GPP purposes because there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that he is going to play. I don’t expect him to be 100%. However, I don’t think it will matter. Edelman has looked good in the practice footage that I have seen this week. Over the course of this year, the Patriots went 9-0 with Edelman in the lineup and 3-4 without him. Edelman is Brady’s go to guy and man is he a great player. He is going to make a huge impact in this game. I expect Brady to throw it 50 times on Saturday and I expect Julian Edelman to be Brady’s most targeted pass catcher. I wouldn’t be surprised if he catches double digit passes. I’m thinking he has the same type of impact that Terrell Owens had with the Eagles when he came back from his broken leg to play against the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

2) Emmanuel Sanders at home vs. Steelers

Emmanuel Sanders is so good at football. There is no one on the Steelers 30th ranked pass defense that can cover him. Sanders put up 10 for 181 and a TD on his old team back in week 15. I expect him to have a very good game again this weekend. If Manning can FINALLY hit him in stride on one of their deep ball attempts, and there will be multiple, watch out.

3) Demaryius Thomas at home vs. Steelers

Just like with Emmanuel Sanders, there is no one on the Steelers 30th ranked pass defense that can cover Demaryius Thomas. I expect Peyton Manning to have a very good game on Sunday. The Broncos pass catchers are fairly easy to predict as there really is no viable 3rd WR on the team that eats up a lot of targets. Owen Daniels and Vernon Davis have been splitting the TE targets as of late. The TEs will see some targets, but I expect both Sanders and Thomas to be peppered with targets on Sunday.

* NARRATIVE STREET OF THE YEAR ALERT *

If you don’t know Demaryius Thomas’ story by now, shame on you. Educate yourself right now by clicking right here. But basically, Thomas’ mother and grandmother were the original trap queens. His mom has never seen him play a meaningful football game live. Now she is out of prison, can travel, and is going to see him play live for the first time ever in the NFL in a playoff game!? This story is just too good. He can’t not ball out, right?

4) Michael Floyd at home vs. Packers

Michael Floyd somewhat quietly became the Cardinals #1 WR over the second half of the season. He got off to a slow start this year after injuring his hand during training camp. Once completely healthy, starting in week 6, Floyd started to go on a tear. Other than a hamstring injury suffered at the end of the week 10 game against the Seahawks, which caused him to miss week 11 and stay quiet in his week 12 return, Floyd basically balled out the rest of the season. He also didn’t do much in week 17, but you know, it was week 17. Michael Floyd has had over 100 receiving yards in 5 of the last 8 games he’s played. He is extremely talented and that talent finally seems to consistently be showing on the field. Floyd put up 6 for 111 against the Packers just a few weeks ago back in week 16. Granted, that was without Sam Shields in the lineup for the Packers. All signs point to Shields playing this week. Still, I don’t see Floyd being slowed down all that much in this matchup.

5) John Brown at home vs. Packers

John Brown is one of my favorite players in the NFL. The dude has the speed to take the top off of a defense on any given play. Brown makes for a very interesting GPP play. His longest catch over the last three weeks of the regular season went for 19 yards. Recency bias will cause many to fade Brown because he hasn’t hit a big play in over a month. However, in week 13 he caught a 68 yarder, and in week 14 he caught a 65 yarder. Again, Brown has that big play potential on every single play. He scored three weeks in a row from weeks 14-16. If he takes one of those deep throws to the house, you’ll be drinking happily on Saturday night.

6) Doug Baldwin on the road vs. Panthers

Josh Norman very rarely covers the slot. The slot is obviously where red hot Doug Baldwin lines up on most of his routes. The Panthers will be without their #2 and #3 CBs on Sunday. Both Charles Tillman and Bene Benwikere will not play. Look for the Seahawks offensive game plan to utilize Russell Wilson’s arm quite a bit in this one as Carolina’s secondary is clearly the weaker link on their defense at this point in the season, especially when the injuries are factored in. Mike Clay does phenomenal work over at Pro Football Focus. Here is some of what he said regarding Baldwin/Norman:

“The big potential curveball in this game could come as a result of Carolina’s beat up cornerback unit behind Norman. Bene Benwikere and Charles Tillman are both out for the season. Finnegan is the new slot corner and Robert McClain replaced Tillman in the lineup in Week 17. Both players figure to be heavily exploited by Wilson. If there was ever a time for Carolina to put Norman full time on a slot receiver, this would be it. Baldwin lines up inside on 83 percent of his routes. That said, I don’t expect Norman to shadow. He will work exclusively on the perimeter, which means he’ll see plenty of both Lockett and Kearse. Neither needs to be downgraded as a result since both will see plenty of McClain, as well. Baldwin is safe to utilize against Finnegan.”

You can read his entire matchup article for this weekend’s games right here.

If Baldwin does end up seeing a lot of Cortland Finnegan this weekend, perhaps I’m too low on him.

7) Danny Amendola at home vs. Chiefs

I have already stated that I think Brady throws the ball 50 times on Saturday. That means plenty of opportunities for his pass catchers. I don’t envision a ton of deep shots from the Patriots passing attack. Rather, I see a ton of screens and short passes as the Patriots methodically work their way down the field. Amendola should see his fair share of targets, even with Edelman back in the lineup.

8) James Jones and Randall Cobb on the road vs. Cardinals

Davante Adams has been ruled out for this weekend’s game. The expectation is that Jared Abbrederis will see most of the snaps that would’ve gone to Adams. Per Mike Clay on twitter, when Randall Cobb and Abbrederis share the field together, Abbrederis primarily works the slot and Cobb works on the outside. There has been speculation throughout the week that both James Jones and Randall Cobb will see plenty of coverage from Patrick Peterson this weekend. I honestly don’t know who Peterson will cover the majority of the time. If you can figure out who won’t see much Peterson coverage, they’re worth a look since I think the Packers are going to lose and Rodgers will have to throw the majority of the game.

9) Jared Abbrederis on the road vs. Cardinals

Davante Adams has been ruled out for this weekend’s game. The expectation is that Jared Abbrederis will see most of the snaps that would’ve gone to Adams. Per Mike Clay on twitter, when Randall Cobb and Abbrederis share the field together, Abbrederis primarily works the slot and Cobb works on the outside. That means Abbrederis won’t see much, if any, coverage from Patrick Peterson. The Cardinals sacked the Packers 9 times back in week 16. I think Rodgers will be throwing a lot in this game. He’s going to have to get the ball out quick, which should suit Abbrederis’ skill set quite nicely. Plus, there’s also this story from back in December: Aaron Rodgers on Jared Abbrederis: ‘He needs to be on the field more’.

TEs

1) Greg Olsen at home vs. Seahawks

I think there will be more points scored in this game than some may think. I got the Seahawks winning 27-24. Cam Newton is certainly going to make his fair share of plays in this game. This is the playoffs. It is win or go home. To me, I just think that Greg Olsen is by far the best offensive weapon on the Panthers’ roster. He is such a vital piece to the Panthers’ hopes of success. Yes, I believe the Seahawks know this as well and will do their best to slow him down. However, I just think that Olsen will be so heavily targeted on Sunday, that his stat line will end up looking pretty nice when it’s all said and done, one way or the other. Back in week 6, Olsen put up 7 for 131 and a TD against the Seahawks in Seattle.

2) Rob Gronkowski at home vs. Chiefs

If Gronk is active and on the field on Saturday, I expect him to have a good game. I fully expect him to play. However, his knee and back issues that have popped up on the injury report seemingly out of nowhere this week have me concerned enough to rank him behind Greg Olsen. He is listed as questionable for Saturday’s game, so make sure you check the active/inactive list before game time. The Patriots play the first game of the weekend though, making things much less difficult to figure out before the divisional round kicks off.

3) Richard Rodgers on the road vs. Cardinals

Richard Rodgers isn’t the sexiest of plays this weekend. He caught 2 passes for 11 yards last week and only had 1 catch for 2 yards against the Cardinals back in week 16. However, it seems like, at times, Richard Rodgers does more in games where the Packers offense doesn’t go according to plan. Back in week 13 against the Lions, Rodgers had 7 catches even before his hail mary TD catch. In week 17, the Packers lost to the Vikings, but Rodgers finished with 7 catches for 59 yards and a TD. With Davante Adams ruled out for Saturday’s game, Richard Rodgers could see a few more targets coming his way. Richard Rodgers is strictly a GPP play, but with Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball, there’s always that chance.

DSTs

1) Denver Broncos at home vs. Steelers

Look, I never thought it would come to this. In fact, when the Broncos and Steelers played each other back in week 15, I recommended playing the Steelers DST in that matchup. However, times have changed. Antonio Brown is the best WR in football. He has been ruled out for Sunday’s game. The Steelers offense loses so much play making ability without Brown in the lineup. If that wasn’t enough, DeAngelo Williams has also been ruled out for a second straight week. Big Ben isn’t even a guarantee to play although I’d be absolutely shocked if he didn’t. Still, with Big Ben less than 100% and missing some of his playmakers, I like the Broncos 3rd ranked regular season run defense and 1st ranked regular season pass defense to get the job done. The Broncos’ defense also finished the regular season with the most sacks in the entire league, with 52.

2) New England Patriots at home vs. Chiefs

First of all, Chiefs’ offensive coordinator, Doug Pederson, has basically already accepted the Philadelphia Eagles’ head coaching job. I’m not a fan of coaches interviewing for coaching positions while their current team is still alive in the playoffs. I absolutely hate coaches accepting head coaching jobs on other teams while their current team is still alive in the playoffs. Will Doug Pederson be all in on Saturday? I have reason to doubt that. Chiefs’ star WR Jeremy Maclin is listed as questionable for Saturday’s game. Even if he plays, he will not be 100%. Bill Belichick has known that all week, giving him plenty of time to design a defensive game plan around stopping the only other Chiefs offensive weapon that scares me, Travis Kelce. I expect the Patriots to minimize Kelce’s impact and I think Maclin’s impact will already be minimized due to his injury. The Patriots’ defense finished the regular season ranked 2nd in sacks behind only the Broncos. Once the Patriots get ahead in this game off of the arm of Tom Brady, I expect the Patriots to get after Alex Smith. There should be plenty of opportunities, since I think Smith will be forced to throw more than he regularly does during the regular season.

3) Arizona Cardinals at home vs. Packers

I’m not really feeling the Cardinals’ DST that much this week but it would be silly of me not to mention that when the Cardinals faced the Packers back in week 16, they registered 9 sacks in that contest. However, it looks like the Packers will finally get back starting LT David Bakhtiari this week, which should help. The Packers will also come into this game better prepared, you just know they will.

Stack of the weekend:

Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, and James White

DIVISIONAL ROUND DFS: TOM BRADY WILL DO TOM BRADY THINGS

Wild Card Weekend DFS: Packers Stacks Will Rise To The Top

This is the playoffs people! That means predictions are a must! I swear I wasn’t trying to pick all four road teams…it kind of just happened…

Chiefs 20 Texans 10
Steelers 23 Bengals 16
Seahawks 17 Vikings 13
Packers 31 Redskins 27

QBs

1) Aaron Rodgers on the road vs. Redskins

I will admit it took me a few days to break through the “Rodgers is having a bad year” stereotype. However, let’s break this down. Rodgers quietly threw for 31 TD passes and only 8 INTs this year. Aaron Rodgers is so great at football, ask anyone and they will tell you that was a down year for him. 31 TD passes and only 8 INTs! Rodgers also ran a TD in. Therefore, he totaled 32 TDs on the year. In 16 games, that averages out to 2 TDs a game.

Let’s compare Rodgers’ numbers to those of Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben got hurt in the STL game, but he also came in and played for most of the Browns game after Landry Jones went down with an injury. Roethlisberger played in a total of 12 games this year. However, since he missed portions of 2 different games, for our purposes today we will say he only played in 11 games. Now, ask anybody who the better fantasy QB is right now, and I’m willing to bet that most people will tell you it’s Ben Roethlisberger. That’s the public perception. However, Big Ben threw for 21 TDs and did not run for any scores. In 11 games, that averages out to 1.9 TDs a game. Roethlisberger also threw 16 INTs in 11 games. Rodgers only threw 8 INTs in 16 games.

Does that tell the whole story? Absolutely not. However, it is a helpful exercise to put the “Rodgers is having a bad year” stereotype into perspective. Obviously this is important because to win big money in a large GPP you cannot just think like everybody else.

Now that we have addressed that stereotype, let’s break down Rodgers’ matchup specifically. Out of the three QBs I’ll be considering this week (Rodgers, Big Ben, and Kirk Cousins), Aaron Rodgers gets the most favorable matchup on paper. The Redskins finished the regular season ranked 25th against the pass. They also gave up 30 passing TDs, tied for 9th most in the NFL. The Redskins are so confident in their secondary, they just signed Cary Williams off the STREET on TUESDAY, only FIVE days before they try to slow down Aaron Rodgers in a PLAYOFF game! Why are the Redskins in this position? Rookie 6th round draft pick, CB Kyshoen Jarrett, has already been ruled out for the game on Sunday with a nerve injury he suffered in week 17. Now, I will admit to not knowing anything about Kyshoen Jarrett, however it isn’t all that hard to connect the dots. Per Master Tesfatsion of the Washington Post in an article published on Monday, “Jarrett was a vital piece in the Redskins’ secondary, with his ability to serve as a nickel cornerback and safety in the nickel and dime packages.” Head coach Jay Gruden also had this to say, “It has an effect, it really does, because he’s so versatile. Coach [Joe] Barry and Coach [Perry] Fewell are out there right now coming up with a plan of who is going to play where and how.” You can read the article in its entirety right here. Reserve CB Dashaun Phillips was also injured last week and there is no guarantee he will play either. Bottom line, you have a bad secondary being shuffled around a little bit and scrambling to put a game plan together.

I expect Rodgers to put up good numbers on Sunday because I expect the entire Packers offense to have success. The Redskins finished the regular season ranked 26th against the run. Mike McCarthy is calling plays again in Green Bay and he loves to try to keep his offense as balanced as possible. I think the Packers will easily run for over 100 yards as a team which is why you’ll find both Eddie Lacy and James Starks in the RB section. I believe this will help Aaron Rodgers on Sunday because it will make his play action and screen game more lethal, and ultimately his entire game more efficient.

This Packers/Redskins game is also my favorite fantasy game of the weekend as I expect Kirk Cousins to put up solid numbers as well, keeping the heat on Rodgers and the Packers’ offense, ultimately causing Rodgers’ numbers to end up looking much better than you would expect from a QB running a balanced attack. As you have already noticed, in the playoffs, I don’t necessarily look at a balanced offense being a bad thing.

Aaron Rodgers is my favorite GPP QB play of the weekend because I expect him to be lower owned than Ben Roethlisberger and possibly even Kirk Cousins since Cousins has been lighting it up lately.

2) Kirk Cousins at home vs. Packers

The Packers/Redskins game is my favorite fantasy game of the weekend. Kirk Cousins has been lighting it up recently, especially at home. Don’t overlook how crucial it is that this game is in Washington. Here are Kirk Cousins’ numbers this year in 8 games at home: 74.7 completion percent, 2,170 passing yards, 16 TD passes, and only 2 INTs. Furthermore, this being Cousins’ first full time year as the starter, it has been obvious that Cousins has become more comfortable leading the offense and more confident with each game that has gone by. A few stats help tell that story a little bit.

Cousins’ passer rating by month:
September: 81.3
October: 87.5
November: 105.9
December: 121.0

Cousins’ TD : INT ratio by month:
September: 3 TD: 4 INT
October: 6 TD : 4 INT
November: 7 TD : 2 INT
December: 10 TD : 1 INT

I think this game ends up being a close one with the Packers ultimately winning it at the end. However, I think the Redskins remain extremely competitive in this game in large part due to the arm of Kirk Cousins. This offense has mostly run through Kirk Cousins, especially during the last month of the regular season. I don’t expect that to change on Sunday. I like Kirk Cousins’ outlook from a fantasy perspective in this game. However, playoff football is a completely different beast than the regular season. With this being Kirk Cousins’ first full time year as an NFL starter and his first ever playoff start coming on Sunday, I look for the more talented Packers to end up having more success and getting the W. The Packers also had the 6th ranked pass defense in the regular season. For those reasons, I like Aaron Rodgers more than Kirk Cousins in my favorite fantasy game of the weekend.

3) Ben Roethlisberger on the road vs. Bengals

Deangelo Williams is out. Look for the Steelers’ offense to run through Big Ben this week. There are two separate viewpoints that one could have about that: 1) More passes will equal more fantasy points since you obviously need the opportunity to throw the ball to score fantasy points OR 2) The lack of a legitimate running game will force the Steelers to be more one dimensional which will ultimately make the entire offense less efficient. I’m looking at this more from viewpoint #2, especially with this being the third time that these two teams will face each other this year. The Steelers and the Bengals know each other very well since they play in the same division. If this game was in Pittsburgh, I’d be feeling more optimistic.

Now, I absolutely believe Roethlisberger will throw enough to finish with a good fantasy day. It doesn’t hurt that he throws to the best WR in football or that the Bengals ranked 20th against the pass during the regular season. However, the Bengals are at home and have only allowed 18 passing TDs on the year opposed to 21 INTs. For these reasons, I like Rodgers and Cousins more in the wild card round.

RBs

1) Eddie Lacy on the road vs. Redskins

Now, I will admit that this backfield is somewhat of a timeshare. I expect both Lacy and Starks to see a good amount of handoffs on Sunday. However, I’m comfortable with playing Lacy because I’m not a big fan of hardly any other running backs and the situations they are in on the entire slate of games this weekend. I’ve always been a big fan of Eddie Lacy. He’s run for 100 yards in 3 of his last 7 games. He hardly played in one of those games due to missing curfew. You have to make tough decisions in order to finish at the top of a large GPP. I’m willing to bet that he runs for 100 yards on Sunday. It’s the playoffs. It’s Eddie Lacy time. I think the coaches know this as well as Lacy has touched the ball more than Starks lately. The Redskins ranked 26th against the run in the regular season. Mike McCarthy is calling plays again and he loves to stay balanced on offense. With the Redskins also finishing the regular season ranked 25th against the pass, I expect the Packers’ balanced offensive approach to be successful on Sunday, despite their regular season struggles. I also expect the Packers to win this game, which means more Lacy carries in the 4th quarter.

2) Marshawn Lynch on the road vs. Vikings

I will admit that I was not as optimistic about playing Beast Mode earlier in the week. However, Lynch has fully participated in practice all week. He was not listed as “limited” in practice even once. Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell has already come out and said that he expects a full workload from Marshawn Lynch. Asked Wednesday whether Lynch could have 20 or more carries at Minnesota on Sunday, Bevell said, “If he’s going, that’s what I would expect. I’d expect him to be full-go, full speed and just do like we normally do.” That quote came from a Pro Football Talk article that was posted by Mike Florio on Thursday. You can read the rest of that article right here.

Yes, Lynch is somewhat of a risky play since he’s missed the last seven games due to an abdomen injury. However, I think it’s wiser to look at Lynch’s time off as a positive. We all know how good Beast Mode is. However, he never seemed to be fully healthy this year when he was on the field. When you look at how many touches Lynch has had during his time in Seattle (385 last year alone including the postseason), injuries finally catching up to him should not have surprised you. However, Lynch’s two months off should have helped his body heal up some of the nagging injuries that he had been dealing with. Look for him to look fresh and well rested on Sunday.

With Marshawn Lynch out of the picture over the past two months, we did see somewhat of a shift in the Seahawks’ offense. Russell Wilson ran the show and finished the season with historic numbers, most of them being accumulated with Lynch on the sideline. Many will think back to the Seahawks week 13 38-7 drubbing of the Vikings in Minnesota when Russell Wilson threw for 274 yards and 3 TDs and mistakingly think that the same thing will happen again. People forget that DT Linval Joseph did not play in that game and LB Anthony Barr as well as S Harrison Smith both left the game due to injuries during the second defensive series of the game. Those are three of the Vikings’ best defensive players. With all three looking likely to play on Sunday, look for Wilson to struggle finding as much success against the Vikings’ 12th ranked pass defense as he did at the end of the regular season. Because of this, look for the offense to quickly funnel back towards the running game. I expect the Seahawks to win this game. With Marshawn Lynch healthy and weather that is calling for near zero degrees without even including wind chill, it sounds like it’s Beast Mode time to me. The Vikings defense finished the regular season ranked 17th against the run which doesn’t excite you, but it doesn’t scare you either.

NARRATIVE STREET ALERT

Adrian Peterson just had to open his mouth again didn’t he!? Peterson reportedly told reporters on Thursday that Marshawn Lynch is probably the second best back in the NFL. I wonder who he thinks is #1??? Just more bulletin board material for Beast Mode! Read the whole story right here.

3) Pierre Thomas at home vs. Packers

My favorite GPP play of the entire weekend, look for Thomas to be 5% owned tops in large GPPs. If Thomas has a good game, he could be the ticket you need to rise to the top of your tournament leaderboard. Thomas becomes even more enticing to me since the RB plays this week are few and far between. Nobody will be playing Thomas seeing as how he was just signed by the Redskins about a month ago. While Thomas’ short time with the Redskins might not make you salivate, we do know that he has plenty of playoff experience as he has won a Super Bowl with the New Orleans Saints. Enough small talk though, let’s get to the real reasons I like Pierre Thomas this weekend.

Matt Jones has a hip injury and his chances of playing on Sunday do not look good. Head coach, Jay Gruden, has already come out and said that if Jones’ health does not improve before game day, there is a good chance that he will be inactive. You’ll want to check the active/inactive list before kickoff, admittedly a tough thing to do since this is the last game of the weekend. However, all signs point to the inactive running back on Sunday being either Matt Jones or Chris Thompson. Both guys have been banged up lately.

We all know that Alfred Morris does not catch passes. Therefore, the Redskins running back that secures the pass catching role in the backfield is definitely someone that you will want to consider, especially if your daily site gives you one whole point PPR. Remember, everybody’s value increases when there are only four games to choose players from. Again, you have to make tough decisions to rise to the top of a large GPP. My money is on Pierre Thomas getting the majority of the snaps when the Redskins bring in their pass catching RB.

I expect the Packers/Redskins game to be the best fantasy game of the weekend. I am predicting the Packers win 31-27. That means fantasy points are to be had on both sides of the ball. With this being Kirk Cousins’ first ever playoff start, look for him to struggle a little bit more than he did at the end of the regular season. I still absolutely expect him to have success. However, I think we will see more check downs and screen passes to the RBs on Sunday. If Pierre Thomas manages to catch 7 passes, just like he did two weeks ago (when the Redskins offense took their foot off the gas pedal and basically ran the ball the entire 4th quarter because they were beating the Eagles so badly), that’s more valuable than your RB scoring a TD if your daily site is one whole point PPR. If Pierre Thomas takes a screen pass in for a TD and gets some handoffs sprinkled in as well, you could very easily be watching your ranking continue to rise up the leaderboard come Sunday night. Just imagine it now, Redskins down four with one final drive to go. You’re a few points away from winning huge money. Pierre Thomas catches 4 passes on that final drive, each catch winning you thousands of dollars. OK, now I’m just getting greedy.

4) James Starks on the road vs. Redskins

I’m predicting the Packers RB to own this weekend is Eddie Lacy. However, we have seen games this year where Starks was successful and Lacy wasn’t. We have also seen games this year where they both were successful. Tough backfield to crack. If you predict it correctly, you could be that much closer to winning money on Sunday.

5) Adrian Peterson at home vs. Seahawks

I feel obligated to put his name down since he is Adrian Peterson. However, I don’t think the Vikings win this weekend and I hate Peterson’s matchup. The Seahawks finished the regular season with the best run defense in the NFL. I’m staying away from Peterson in GPPs.

6) Chris Thompson at home vs. Packers

I would be silly to not point out that there is at least a chance that Chris Thompson could see the majority of the snaps when the Redskins bring in their pass catching RB. Thompson missed weeks 14 and 15 due to injury. He came back in week 16, and in the very same game that Pierre Thomas caught 7 passes, Thompson only caught 1, but he took it all the way to the house for a 12 yard TD. Of course, there is a chance that Chris Thompson doesn’t even suit up for this game. Jay Gruden has said that the inactive RB on Sunday will likely either be Matt Jones or Chris Thompson. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for either guy.

WRs

1) Antonio Brown on the road vs. Bengals

DeAngelo Williams is out. That means this offense is going to funnel through the arm of Ben Roethlisberger. More targets for the best WR in the NFL? Yes please.

2) James Jones on the road vs. Redskins

Per Adam Levitan on twitter: Packers targets since Mike McCarthy took back playcalling duties four games ago: James Jones 40, Randall Cobb 30, Davante Adams 23, Richard Rodgers 17. I expect Rodgers to have success against the Redskins 25th ranked pass defense. It only makes sense that his number one target over the past four weeks by a wide margin will also have a good game.

3) Martavis Bryant on the road vs. Bengals

DeAngelo Williams is out. That means this offense is going to funnel through the arm of Ben Roethlisberger. I don’t care at all about Bryant’s 2 catches for 6 yards over the past two weeks. Week 16 was an outlier. Bryant hurt his neck in week 17 and didn’t play much in that game. Big Ben just called out Martavis Bryant in the media. Why? With DeAngelo Williams out, he knows he is going to NEED Bryant. I expect Bryant to be peppered with targets on Saturday.

4) Randall Cobb on the road vs. Redskins

I realize that this is no longer a popular opinion, and rightfully so, but I continue to believe that Randall Cobb has a big game in him in any given week. I expect the Packers’ running game to find success on Sunday. I believe that will force the Redskins 25th ranked pass defense to keep guessing what play they will have to defend. I think that will help Cobb find openings in the middle of the field. He certainly has struggled with separation and getting open this year. I just don’t necessarily see that being a huge problem for him on Sunday. I’m in the prediction business and I love trying to identify something that might happen that not many other people are considering. Cobb hasn’t caught a TD pass since week 11. That streak can’t go on forever. Could he break it on Sunday? I think so.

5) Desean Jackson at home vs. Packers

Arguably the Packers’ best CB, Sam Shields, is still in the concussion protocol. It is safe to assume that he will not play on Sunday. Shields missed the last three games of the regular season. They faced the Vikings in week 17 who do not have a potent passing attack. However, with Shields out, the Packers gave up 6 for 120 and 2 TDs to Amari Cooper in week 15 and 6 for 111 to Michael Floyd (who could’ve probably put up bigger numbers if the game wasn’t a blowout) in week 16. I expect the Packers/Redskins game to be the best fantasy game of the weekend with both Rodgers and Cousins having success. Outside of Jordan Reed and Kirk Cousins, I feel pretty confident in saying that head coach Jay Gruden knows there’s nobody more important to the Redskins’ chances of winning on Sunday than Desean Jackson. I expect him to be a big part of their game plan.

6) AJ Green at home vs. Steelers

I don’t love playing AJ Green this week because his QB is AJ McCarron. I like McCarron but not in his first playoff game in only his 4th start of his NFL career. However, AJ Green did put up 6 for 132 and a TD against the Steelers back in week 14, most of that coming with McCarron at QB. The Steelers finished the regular season ranked 30th against the pass and you know McCarron is going to throw the ball deep a couple of times and give Green a chance to run under it.

7) Davante Adams on the road vs. Redskins

I expect Aaron Rodgers to have a very good game on Sunday. That means Davante Adams always has a chance. James Jones, Randall Cobb, and Davante Adams were the only WRs to play in the Packers’ week 17 game against the Vikings. That means there is less competition for targets in Green Bay than there are on some other teams. Adams is a GPP play only.

8) Pierre Garcon at home vs. Packers

Pierre Garcon has been coming on lately. He has scored a TD in three straight games. He is also a GPP play since he plays in what I believe will be the best fantasy game of the weekend.

TEs

1) Jordan Reed at home vs. Packers

Jordan Reed finished the regular season with the 2nd most fantasy points amongst TEs in standard scoring leagues. He missed two games due to injury. He’s been a stud all year. The Redskins are at home and I expect the Packers/Redskins game to be the best fantasy game of the weekend. I expect Reed to be peppered with targets on Sunday.

2) Heath Miller on the road vs. Bengals

DeAngelo Williams is out. That means this offense is going to funnel through the arm of Ben Roethlisberger. With the running game struggling without Williams, expect Roethlisberger to look for Heath Miller more in the middle of the field. Miller has caught 10 passes in each of his two games against the Bengals already this year. His season high in games not against the Bengals? 8 catches back in week 1. After that? Only 5 catches. I don’t know what it is the Steelers like about utilizing Heath Miller against the Bengals, but I’d bet it continues this weekend, especially with Roethlisberger likely throwing around 40 passes with DeAngelo Williams out.

DSTs

1) Kansas City Chiefs on the road vs. Texans

The Chiefs were one of the best defenses in the NFL over the second half of the season. That defense is a major reason why the Chiefs are currently on a 10 game win streak. I expect that streak to extend to 11 wins this weekend. The Texans offense, led by Brian Hoyer, does not scare me at all. Their starting LT, Duane Brown, just got hurt last week and will not play in this game. That injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Texans. Justin Houston, one of the best pass rushers in the entire NFL, returns this week from injury. Per Adam Levitan on twitter, the Chiefs have 17 sacks in their last 5 games. All those games were without Justin Houston, who has 29.5 sacks in his last 27 games. The Chiefs defense finished the regular season ranked 8th against the run and 9th against the pass. They are good all across the board on that side of the ball and they are my favorite DST play of the weekend.

2) Seattle Seahawks on the road vs. Vikings

The Seahawks defense finished the regular season ranked 1st against the pass and 2nd against the run. The Seahawks, as a team, are playing unbelievable football right now. I expect them to get the win this weekend. The Vikings offense has been extremely run heavy this year. The Seahawks know that, and I expect them to shut down Adrian Peterson on Sunday. They’re going to force Teddy Bridgewater to beat them. I like Bridgewater, but he’s not going to be able to get it done against this Seahawks defense. The Vikings just don’t have the pass catching weapons that are needed to win against Seattle’s secondary.

Stack of the weekend:
Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, James Jones, and Randall Cobb

Bonus Stack:
Marshawn Lynch and Seattle Seahawks DST

Wild Card Weekend DFS: Packers Stacks Will Rise To The Top

Week 17 DFS: Eli and ODB give Tom Coughlin one final show

ELI ODB

QBs

The Landscape of the Position: There is no obvious play at the QB position this week. Don’t worry about own percent in GPPs when it comes to your QB. Just focus on picking the guy that is going to blow up. You’ll be able to diversify your lineup enough at other positions.

Eli Manning at home vs. Eagles

Eli Manning had a brutal matchup last week on the road against the Vikings very good pass defense. Without Odell Beckham in the lineup, it got ugly very fast. However, this week the beast that is Odell Beckham returns to the lineup. Not only does Eli get the most prolific WR of all time through his first 25 games back, but he also gets a home matchup against the Eagles 26th ranked pass defense. The Eagles have given up 34 passing TDs, 2nd worst in the league. NARRATIVE STREET: Throw in the fact that this very well could be Tom Coughlin’s last game as the head coach of the Giants, and you know Eli is going to come to play for his coach.

Cam Newton at home vs. Bucs

After last week’s loss to the free-falling Falcons, you just know Cam is going to come to play. Needing a win to guarantee the #1 seed in the NFC, look for Cam to do it all in week 17. He has all the motivation he needs to produce a monster stat line. The Bucs rank 17th against the pass and have given up 29 passing TDs, tied for 6th most in the league. Also, Jonathan Stewart and Fozzy Whitaker are ruled out for Sunday. Cam always has multiple rush TD upside. I’d be surprised if he didn’t get at least one with both Stewart and Whitaker out.

Ben Roethlisberger on the road vs. Browns

Last week’s stinker aside, Big Ben roasted this Browns secondary for 379 yards and 3 TDs without even starting the game back in week 10. The Browns rank 19th against the pass and have given up 31 passing TDs, tied for 4th most in the league. Big Ben throws to Antonio Brown, the best WR in football. We all know how explosive this offense can be in any given week.

RBs

The Landscape of the Position: There are a lot of options at RB this week. This seems like a week where you might want to go cheap with one or maybe even both RB spots to free up salary cap so that you can go after the big money WRs and maybe even Gronk. Give the cheap RBs some consideration.

DeAngelo Williams on the road vs. Browns

Dude has no competition for touches on one of the best offenses in football. He gets the Browns dead last ranked run defense this week. You know what to do.

David Johnson at home against the Seahawks

The Cardinals still have a chance to get the #1 seed in the NFC and lock up home field advantage throughout the playoffs if they win and the Panthers lose. The Cardinals and the Panthers both play at the same time. Thus, the Cardinals cannot rest any of their starters since the result of their game could carry extreme significance. David Johnson is fresh, he’s dynamic, he catches passes, and he has a guaranteed work load in one of the best offenses in the NFL. Last week, because they blew out the Packers, Johnson only touched the ball 12 times before he was rested. He still put up 127 total yards and a touchdown. The matchup isn’t great, as he faces the Seahawks 3rd ranked run defense. However, I believe all of the other factors listed above trump any matchup that David Johnson will face. I expect David Johnson’s own percent to be fairly low because of his matchup. Because of that, David Johnson makes for great GPP play in week 17.

Devonta Freeman at home vs. Saints

Freeman is back to receiving a huge work load as he touched the ball 25 times last week. Now he gets the Saints 31st ranked run defense this week at home. The Falcons look to be relevant again as they finally got back on track by knocking off the previously unbeaten Panthers. They also usually put up a good amount of points when they face the Saints.

Tim Hightower on the road vs. Falcons

Hightower has basically no competition for touches on a good offense. CJ Spiller is on Injured Reserve. The Saints just signed Travaris Cadet last week. Tim Hightower touched the ball 30 times last week. That is unheard of in today’s NFL. Game flow really helped Hightower last week. If you think the Saints are going to beat the Falcons on the road this week, than Hightower is someone that you really want to consider getting into your DFS lineup. Regardless, I expect this game to be fairly high scoring and it even has some bonanza potential as long as both teams haven’t checked out since neither have any hopes of making the playoffs. The matchup is pretty nice for Hightower as the Falcons have given up 19 rushing TDs, tied for most in the league.

James White on the road vs. Dolphins

The Patriots’ backfield is still somewhat of a mystery. James White only touched the ball 7 times last week. I don’t like to play guys that share touches in a backfield in DFS. However, if your site is one whole point PPR, James White is someone that you can consider since he has the pass catching role in the Patriots backfield locked up. White has 26 catches in his last 4 games and has scored a TD in all of them. The Dolphins rank 24th against the pass. They have given up 31 passing TDs, tied for 4th most in the league. Unlike last week against the Jets, the Patriots are going to be able to do whatever they want against the Dolphins. Julian Edelman is out again this week. Danny Amendola missed last weeks game and has been limited in practice this week. Somebody on the Patriots is going to have a great day. It could very well be White.

Chris Ivory on the road vs. Bills

Bilal Powell is questionable and looks unlikely to play on Sunday. If that is the case, Chris Ivory becomes extremely relevant again. Per Evan Silva on twitter, Chris Ivory’s touch totals with Bilal Powell out are 19, 18, 26, and 20. Ivory totaled 135 yards against Buffalo in Week 10. The Bills rank 15th against the run this year. However, ever since starting defensive tackle Kyle Williams was placed on injured reserve earlier in the season, the middle of their defense has been suspect. If Powell is out, Ivory should have a pretty nice guaranteed touch total. Just keep in mind that Stevan Ridley is back from his torn ACL and received 7 carries last week. He could absorb some of those touches that would have gone to Powell.

Rashad Jennings at home vs. Eagles

The Giants finally seem to have abandoned their four RB rotation. Rashad Jennings has been the clear lead back for the Giants over the past three weeks, receiving 57 touches over that span. Jennings’ carry totals over the last three games have been 22, 16, and 14. Before that three game stretch, the highest carry total Jennings had all season was 13. Jennings’ rushing yard totals over the last three games have been 81, 107, and 74. Before that three game stretch, Jennings biggest rushing yard performance of the entire year was 63 yards. Jennings even performed well last week on the road against a good Vikings defense when they were blown out. This week, Jennings gets the Eagles 29th ranked run defense.

Tre Mason on the road vs. 49ers

Todd Gurley is doubtful to play on Sunday. If Gurley misses week 17, Tre Mason becomes a very interesting punt play. His cheap salary would free you up to spend big at other positions. Plus you would know you are playing a guy with a guaranteed work load. Per Adam Levitan on twitter, Mason averaged 15.8 carries and 1.3 catches in 11 games last year as the Rams featured back. The matchup also is appetizing as Mason faces the 49ers 28th ranked run defense. The 49ers have given up 19 rushing TDs, tied for most in the league.

WRs

The Landscape of the Position: If there was any week to pay up for the big money WRs, this would probably be it. Beckham, Jones, and Antonio Brown all have great matchups this week. Try your best to get at least two of them into your lineup.

Odell Beckham at home vs. the Eagles

I will not make a single daily team without Odell Beckham on it this week. Odell Beckham is my favorite player in the NFL. He’s the second best WR in football behind only Antonio Brown. Due to the negative publicity that came from Odell Beckham’s suspension, and the fact that he missed last week’s game, I expect Odell Beckham to be lower owned than he should be in week 17. Odell Beckham apologized and said all the right things after his transgressions with Josh Norman. Now it’s time for him to start proving it with his actions. He can start by torching the Eagles 26th ranked pass defense. The Eagles have given up 34 passing TDs, 2nd worst in the league. Beckham put up 7 catches for 61 yards and a touchdown on the road against the Eagles earlier this year. Even sweeter, in week 17 of last season, Beckham roasted the Eagles for 12 catches, 185 yards and a touchdown at home. This game is also at home. NARRATIVE STREET: Throw in the fact that this very well could be Tom Coughlin’s last game as the head coach of the Giants, and you know Eli and Odell are going to come to play for their coach. I expect Beckham to blow up in week 17.

Julio Jones at home vs. Saints

Julio Jones leads the NFL in both catches (127) and receiving yards (1,722). It has been an absolutely unbelievable season for Julio. Look for him to keep it rolling for one more week as he faces the Saints 31st ranked pass defense. The Saints have given up 43 passing TDs, by far the most in the league.

Antonio Brown on the road vs. Browns

Antonio Brown is the best WR in football. Do you really need any analysis?

Martavis Bryant on the road vs. Browns

Martavis Bryant is listed as questionable for week 17 with an illness. You’ll have to monitor the active/inactive reports on Sunday morning but if Bryant plays, he has a chance to go off against the Browns 19th ranked pass defense. The Browns have given up 31 passing TDs, tied for 4th most in the NFL. Bryant put up 6 catches for 178 yards and a TD against the Browns back in week 10. We all know he has the ability to explode in any given week. After last weeks 1 catch for 6 yard performance, Bryant makes for a very intriguing GPP play if he is active in week 17. Bryant’s worst game all year before last week was a 4 catch for 49 yards performance back in week 8, making last weeks performance clearly an outlier.

Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker on the road vs. Bills

The Jets have no reliable 3rd WR or TE. This offense runs through Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. The next reliable passing weapon on the Jets has been Bilal Powell. Bilal Powell is questionable and looks unlikely to play on Sunday. With the Jets needing to win to make the playoffs, look for targets to funnel to Marshall and Decker. The matchup is also nice as the Bills rank 23rd against the pass.

Jeremy Maclin at home vs. Raiders

Per Matt Harmon with NFL.com, Jeremy Maclin owns a 38% share of the Chiefs targets since week 11. You know Maclin will get the targets. He also has a good matchup as he gets the Raiders 27th ranked pass defense.

Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead on the road vs. Falcons

This game has bonanza potential. Drew Brees is playing very well right now despite the foot injury. The Falcons pass defense is average as it ranks 15th in the league. Marques Colston will miss Sunday’s game. Expect most of Brees’ targets to go to Cooks and Snead. Both are intriguing GPP plays.

TEs

The Landscape of the Position: If there ever was a week to play Gronk, this would probably be it. Try to find a way to get him into your daily lineup.

Rob Gronkowski on the road vs. Dolphins

Julian Edelman won’t suit up for the Patriots until the playoffs. Danny Amendola missed last weeks game and has been limited in practice this week. The Dolphins as a team have been absolutely awful as of late. Their pass defense, specifically, ranks 24th in the NFL. They have given up 31 passing TDs, tied for 4th most in the league. Unlike last week against the Jets, the Patriots are going to be able to do whatever they want against the Dolphins. Gronk hasn’t had a multi-TD game since week 1. Call it a hunch, but I think there’s a good chance Gronk absolutely explodes in week 17 with the Patriots needing to win to lock up the #1 seed in the AFC and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Gronk has also scored a TD the last three times he has played against the Dolphins dating back to 2014.

Greg Olsen at home vs. Bucs

We all know Greg Olsen is one of the best TEs in the NFL. With Ted Ginn doubtful to play on Sunday, that should boost Olsen’s value even more in week 17.

Zach Miller at home vs. Lions

Zach Miller is another guy listed as questionable for Sunday. You’ll have to monitor the active/inactive reports on Sunday morning but if Miller plays, he should see plenty of targets. Alshon Jeffery won’t play this week. Eddie Royal is listed as doubtful. Miller saw 8 targets from Cutler last week, the most on the team. He also has a good matchup as the Lions have given up the 4th most fantasy points to TEs this year.

Zach Ertz on the road vs. Giants

My one fear with playing Zach Ertz is what, if anything, will change with the Eagles offense now that Chip Kelly has been fired. However, per Evan Silva on twitter, Ertz has led the Eagles in targets for three straight weeks now. Ertz received 17 targets just last week. Evan Silva also pointed out that the Giants have allowed the 2nd most receiving yards and the 5th most TDs to tight ends this year. I love the Eli/ODB stack this week. Ertz is an easy way for me to get some Eagles exposure as well in the hopes that it is a high scoring game. Vegas seems to think so as the over/under is set at 51 points.

Travis Kelce at home vs. Raiders

Travis Kelce is always a nice GPP option as we know he has the potential to go bonkers in any given week. This week he gets the Raiders 27th ranked pass defense at home.

DSTs

The Landscape of the Position: There is no obvious DST play this week. Don’t worry about own percent in GPPs when it comes to your DST. You’ll be able to diversify your lineup enough at other positions.

Patriots on the road vs. Dolphins

The Dolphins as a team have been absolutely awful as of late. They only managed to score 12 points against the Colts last week. The Patriots’ defense has plenty of motivation as they need to win to lock up the #1 seed in the AFC and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Patriots defense ranks 2nd in the NFL in sacks with 48, only one behind the Broncos league leading 49.

Chiefs at home vs Raiders

The Chiefs are plenty motivated as they are playing to win the AFC West. They play great at home and they have the 2nd most interceptions in the NFL with 21.

Broncos at home vs. Chargers

The Broncos are also playing to win the AFC West. Leading the league in sacks, the Broncos get a depleted Chargers offense at home to finish out the regular season.

Bengals at home vs. Ravens

The Bengals still have a shot to get the #2 seed in the AFC and a bye in the playoffs. They finish out the regular season at home against the depleted Ravens offense.

Colts at home vs. Titans

Titans starting LT Taylor Lewan and starting WR Kendall Wright have both been ruled out for Sunday. Zach Mettenberger is finishing the season as the Titans starting QB with Marcus Mariota injured. Mettenberger has turned the ball over four times in the past two weeks. If you need a cheap DST this week, consider the Colts. Just know that either Josh Freeman or Ryan Lindley likely will be starting at QB for the Colts, which could result in the Titans getting some short fields to work with.

Stack of the week: Eli Manning and Odell Beckham

Image

Week 15 DFS: The Return of 2014 Randall Cobb

QBs

The Landscape of the Position: There are a lot of good options this week. That should drive down the own percent on any one player at the position. Don’t worry about own percent in GPPs when it comes to your QB. Just focus on picking the guy that is going to light it up. You’ll be able to diversify your lineup enough at other positions.

Russell Wilson at home vs. Browns

Pour one out for Thomas Rawls. Dude was looking like he was going to win a lot of people fantasy championships. He was running so well. When Rawls went down, DuJuan Harris handled 18 carries. The Seahawks were so impressed by Harris, they cut him earlier this week. They have signed both Bryce Brown and Christine Michael who will most likely share carries on Sunday. Both guys have been cut by numerous teams just this year alone. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for either guy. The only RB that has been on the roster for more than a few days, Fred Jackson, remained in his third down role even after Rawls got hurt last week. Look for Jackson to see a few more touches moving forward. Still, reports have Jackson continuing as the third down back. Now, with both Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls out of the picture, there is no doubt whose offense and even team this is. Russell Wilson has been lighting it up over the past month. With no viable RB available for the Seahawks to use this week, Russell Wilson’s stock increases even more. The hottest QB in the game gets a home matchup against the Browns 22nd ranked pass defense. Help is not on the way for the Browns, as Joe Haden was recently put on injured reserve. The only thing missing from this matchup was a walk down narrative street. Mike Pettine, head coach of the Browns, gave us just that on Wednesday when he told the media that Russell Wilson was not a top-tier QB. Regardless of whether he is right or wrong, it doesn’t matter for fantasy purposes. Russell Wilson just gained even more motivation for Sundays game.

Tom Brady at home vs. Titans

Tom Brady at home against the Titans? Yes please! The loss of Blount should cause the Patriots to throw the ball a little bit more. Rob Gronkowski is healthy again and the Titans have given up 28 passing TDs this year, tied for third most in the NFL. Just keep an eye on the injury report as Tom Brady is listed as questionable with an illness. Sounds like he will play though.

Drew Brees at home vs. Lions

This game has the potential to become a bonanza. This is the Saints first game back in the Superdome without Mark Ingram. Tim Hightower filled in nicely for Mark Ingram last week. I expect him to be productive again in week 15. Still, look for the Saints horrendous defense and the lack of Ingram to force Drew Brees to put it in the air a lot on Monday Night Football. Brees has thrown at least 3 TD passes in each of his last three home games. One of those games was his 7 TD performance against the Giants back in week 8. We know he has the ceiling to finish as the best QB of the week if the matchup is right. The potential looks to be there in this one. The Lions do rank a very respectable 10th against the pass. I’m not paying too much attention to that ranking in this one though. Two weeks ago, Brees threw for 282 yards and 3 TDs against the Panthers. The Lions are not the Panthers.

Carson Palmer on the road vs. Eagles

The Eagles have put together two pretty respectable defensive performances in a row against the banged up Patriots and the Bills. Still, I’m not forgetting the two week stretch in weeks 11 and 12 where they gave up 5 TD passes to both Jameis Winston and Matthew Stafford. The Eagles rank 24th against the pass this year. They have given up 29 passing TDs, the second most in the entire NFL. Carson Palmer has played great football all year, probably the best of his entire career. He’s even in the discussion for MVP. He has the weapons to explode in any given week. The matchup looks pretty appetizing in this one.

Aaron Rodgers on the road vs. Raiders

I haven’t spoken about this topic all year but I never agreed with Mike McCarthy giving up play calling duties before this season. I have always believed that McCarthy is one of the best play callers in the NFL. Last week McCarthy took back control and started calling the plays again. Aaron Rodgers’ value increases with this news. We saw the numbers Rodgers produced last year with McCarthy calling the plays all season. Rodgers is absolutely a GPP play in week 15 as almost nobody will be considering what the change in play callers could produce. The matchup looks favorable as the Raiders rank 28th against the pass and this game also has sneaky shootout potential as well.

Matthew Stafford on the road vs. Saints

You know the deal by now. The Saints rank 30th against the pass. They’ve given up 36 pass TDs this year, by far the most in the NFL. This game has the potential to become a bonanza with Drew Brees on the other side of the ball. Look for Matt Stafford to have plenty of success himself.

RBs

The Landscape of the Position: This looks like a week where there are only a few top RB plays. Adrian Peterson, David Johnson, and Denard Robinson are your automatic plays. Lock them in your lineup and find a way to diversify at other positions. I will discuss a few other RB options as well if you’re looking to fade the obvious plays that are sure to be somewhat high owned in GPPs.

AUTOMATIC PLAYS

Adrian Peterson at home vs. Bears

Martellus Bennett and Marquess Wilson are on IR. Alshon Jeffery and Zach Miller are both questionable to play on Sunday. The Bears are banged up. With so many weapons missing or playing hurt for the Bears, don’t expect them to light up the scoreboard on Sunday. Game flow should be in Adrian Peterson’s favor in this one. You know whose touching the ball when the Vikings have possession. Peterson touched it 24 times last week. With the Bears ranking 26th against the run this year, look for Peterson to do damage with his touches on Sunday. Furthermore, a home playoff game is within the Vikings reach if they can somehow beat out the Packers in the NFC North. They’re only one game back entering week 15. With the Vikings still battling to win the division, look for Peterson to possibly receive even more touches this week.

David Johnson on the road vs. Eagles

Andre Ellington is a game-time decision. If Ellington plays, it could limit Johnson’s upside a bit. With this game being played on Sunday night, it makes things a little tricky. However, I’m not going to worry about Ellington all that much. Even before Ellington’s most recent injury, he wasn’t seeing very many touches in the Cardinals offense. Remember, there’s a chance Ellington doesn’t even suit up. With Chris Johnson and Ellington out of the picture the last two weeks, David Johnson has received 24 touches in both games. Johnson is fresh, he’s dynamic, he catches passes, and plays in one of the best offenses in the NFL. I expect his workload to remain around, if not over 20 touches this week. If it does, look for him to make plays against the Eagles 28th ranked run defense.

Denard Robinson at home vs. Falcons

TJ Yeldon is doubtful to play on Sunday. Obviously, this is a situation that needs to continue to be monitored. However, I expect Yeldon to miss the game. If he does, Denard Robinson becomes a great play. Toby Gerhart and Bernard Pierce were both placed on IR earlier this year. With Yeldon out of the picture, the only other competition for touches in the Jaguars backfield would be Jonas Gray, who was just signed by the team earlier this week. After Yeldon got hurt last week, Denard Robinson was the only other Jaguars RB to touch the ball. In limited time, he totaled 87 yards and a TD on 15 touches. Now, with the backfield all to himself, look for those numbers to possibly increase. Robinson was productive at times last year, is fresh, and gets the free-falling Falcons at home this week. The Falcons have given up 17 rushing TDs this year, which is the second most in the entire league.

RB OPTIONS YOU MAY WANT TO TAKE A FLYER ON

Tim Hightower at home vs. Lions

Tim Hightower touched the ball 29 times last week with Mark Ingram now out for the season. We now know that this is Hightower’s backfield, as the coaches just don’t seem willing to give CJ Spiller very many opportunities. Reports surfaced last Sunday morning that CJ Spiller’s change of pace role was going to remain unchanged. That is exactly what happened, as Spiller got just 6 touches in week 14. Even though I doubt Hightower sees 29 touches again, it seems likely that he would get around 20 in this one. This game has the potential to become a bonanza. If it does, that could potentially boost Hightower’s value even more. The Lions rank 21st against the run this year and have given up 18 rushing TDs, the most in the entire league.

Deangelo Williams at home vs. Broncos

This is not a good matchup for Williams. The Broncos rank 3rd against the run. However, Williams has looked great this year, has no competition for touches in the Steelers backfield, catches passes, and plays in one of the best offenses in the NFL. Williams has muli-TD upside every single week. Just keep an eye on the injury report, as Williams missed practice Thursday due to an illness.

Danny Woodhead at home vs. Dolphins

I don’t like playing RBs in daily fantasy that share touches in their own backfield. Woodhead shares touches with Melvin Gordon. Woodhead is not a great play because of the other options listed above with guaranteed workloads. However, I like Woodhead as the deepest of GPP plays this weekend. He’s really only an option if your DFS site gives you one whole point per reception. If it does, Woodhead is someone you can consider. Even though Woodhead shares touches with Melvin Gordon, he stills receives a decent amount of targets each week. Nobody will be on Woodhead this weekend with how poorly the Chargers have played recently. However, I expect Philip Rivers to play pretty well in this one. The Chargers pass catchers are banged up. Keenan Allen is on IR. Stevie Johnson is doubtful and Ladarius Green is questionable for week 15. Rivers has to throw to someone and it could be Woodhead. Don’t be surprised if he catches a TD pass. The Dolphins rank 26th against the pass, have given up 28 passing TDs (tied for third most in the league), and were just lit up on Monday Night Football by Eli Manning. This also very well could be the Chargers last game in San Diego. The Rams played very well and won on Thursday night in what could’ve possibly been their last game in St. Louis. Just like the Rams, I see good karma also playing in the Chargers favor this weekend.

WRs

The Landscape of the Position: There are tons of viable WR options to choose from every week. This is the position that you should be spending the most time on when you’re making your daily lineups. Most weeks there is at least one WR that goes bonkers. You have to get it right. Let’s try to figure this out.

Randall Cobb on the road vs. Raiders

I never agreed with Mike McCarthy giving up play calling duties before this season. I have always believed that McCarthy is one of the best play callers in the NFL. Last week McCarthy took back control and started calling the plays again. Randall Cobb saw his highest target (12) and reception (8) totals of the entire season in McCarthy’s first game back as the Packers play caller. Coincidence? I think not. Get Randall Cobb in your lineups while the majority of people still have a negative perception of Cobb this year. The national media will get ahold of this story soon. Play Cobb before that happens. The matchup looks favorable as the Raiders rank 28th against the pass and this game also has sneaky shootout potential as well.

Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett and Jermaine Kearse at home vs. Browns

It’s not all that hard to see why these three are suddenly demanding the ball in the passing game for the Seahawks. Jimmy Graham, Ricardo Lockette, and Paul Richardson were all lost for the season and placed on IR. Chris Matthews was cut. Marshawn Lynch and Thomas Rawls are both out with injuries. Baldwin, Lockett, and Kearse are just about the only three guys left standing. With no viable RB available for the Seahawks, look for them to move the ball through the air a lot in week 15. Joe Haden, the Browns best CB, is on IR. The Browns are ranked 22nd against the pass. The hottest passing offense in the NFL over the past month will most likely not cool off in this one. Take your pick with these WRs. We saw what the duo of Baldwin and Lockett could do last week, as they combined for a total of 5 TD catches. Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett are the safe plays. Baldwin has 8 TD catches in his last three games. If you’re only looking to start one of these guys, its Baldwin. However, don’t forget about Jermaine Kearse. Kearse actually saw one more target than Tyler Lockett did last week. Back in week 12, it was Kearse and not Lockett that caught 2 of Wilson’s 5 TD passes. Then, the very next week, he did not catch a single pass. Kearse is an extremely volatile play. Don’t discount him for that. In GPP formats, many times you need to embrace volatility in order to finish at the top.

Julio Jones on the road vs. Jaguars

Playing Julio Jones in DFS has lost some of its appeal lately with how poorly the Falcons and Matt Ryan have been playing. However, let us not forget that Julio Jones leads the entire NFL in catches and receiving yards. Jones isn’t being shadowed by the best cover corner in the NFL this week and gets the Jaguars 25th ranked passing defense. Jones hasn’t scored in five straight games. I think there’s a good chance that streak ends on Sunday.

Danny Amendola at home vs. Titans

Julian Edelman is coming back soon, just probably not this week. Edelman is listed as doubtful for week 15. Amendola should continue to receive plenty of targets in the Patriots offense until Edelman returns. The Titans have given up 28 passing TDs this year, tied for third most in the NFL. I think there’s a good chance Amendola scores a TD in this one. Just keep an eye on the injury report as Tom Brady is listed as questionable with an illness. If for some reason Brady were to miss the game, obviously Amendola would no longer be a consideration for week 15 DFS. If Brady plays and Julian Edelman does not, fire up Amendola.

Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate on the road vs. Saints

The Saints rank 30th against the pass. They’ve given up 36 pass TDs this year, by far the most in the NFL. This game has the potential to become a bonanza. If it does, Johnson and Tate’s value should both increase. We all know what Calvin Johnson is capable of. He’s an interesting GPP play and bounce back candidate this week after posting a 1 catch for 16 yards line a week ago, especially with such a juicy matchup. As for Golden Tate, he is actually averaging more targets per game (9.7) than Calvin Johnson (9.0) over the last four weeks. Plan accordingly. Just keep in mind that #3 WR Lance Moore will be back this week after missing the past two games with injury. Moore also gets his former team in the Saints, so there is a narrative here that could downgrade Johnson and Tate, if that’s something you pay attention to. Narrative does belong in fantasy football, but not necessarily when we’re talking about a player that isn’t all that involved in the offense to begin with.

Antonio Brown at home vs. Broncos

Travis Benjamin and Marquess Wilson are the only two receivers to have over 100 receiving yards on the Broncos this year. Seth Roberts and Mike Wallace are the only two receivers to score on the Broncos this year. What do these receivers have in common? They’re speed guys. Antonio Brown is more than just a speed receiver, he’s the best WR in the NFL. I have no data to back this up, but I just have a hunch that Antonio Brown becomes the third WR to top 100 yards against the Broncos. I won’t be surprised if he scores as well. The Broncos are first in pass defense. They have two of the best cover corners in the NFL. Expect Brown to see a lot of Chris Harris, one of the best in the game, on Sunday. Still, Brown is a very interesting GPP play this weekend with the majority of the field likely fading him.

Deandre Hopkins on the road vs. Colts

I’m not a big fan of this matchup. I don’t even know if I will play Hopkins in DFS myself. However, it’s still important to note that Hopkins lit the Colts up for 11 catches and 169 yards back in week 5. Plus, the only full game that Hopkins and TJ Yates have played together this season, Hopkins caught 5 balls for 118 yards and 2 TDs against the Jets and Darrelle Revis back in week 11. Hopkins is one of the best WRs in the game and has the chance to go bonkers in any given week. We saw that play out against Revis. He could do it again this week, even if it Vontae Davis is covering him at times.

John Brown on the road vs. Eagles and Brandin Cooks at home vs. Lions

Just a friendly reminder that any given week these guys have the potential to go off. They have GPP winning upside, especially if you stack them with their QB. If you really like Carson Palmer or Drew Brees this week, give strong consideration to stacking them with Brown or Cooks. I like the spots that both the Cardinals and Saints find themselves in this week.

TEs

The Landscape of the Position: With Tyler Eifert out this week, the decision basically becomes pay up for Gronk or save some money and add some uniqueness to your lineup. Tough choice. Let’s break it down.

Antonio Gates at home vs. Dolphins

Ladarius Green is questionable and Stevie Johnson is doubtful to play this week. I think Rivers has a good game. So who will be the biggest beneficiary? Antonio Gates. Remember, this could be the Chargers last game in San Diego. It only seems right that if it is, Rivers and Gates hook up for another one of their many TDs in San Diego at least one more time. The Dolphins rank 26th against the pass, have given up 28 passing TDs (tied for third most in the league), and were just lit up on Monday Night Football by Eli Manning.

Rob Gronkowski at home vs. Titans

Rob Gronkowski has 64 TDs in 77 career games. The Titans have given up 28 passing TDs in 13 games this season. You do the math.

Ben Watson at home vs. Lions

Mark Ingram is out, there is potential for this game to become a bonanza, and Detroit has given up the 5th most fantasy points to TEs this season.

Jordan Reed at home vs. Bills

Jordan Reed has been an absolute monster this season when he has been on the field. The matchup is nice as Reed gets the Bills 22nd ranked pass defense at home this week. Reed is by far Washington’s best weapon in the passing game. No wonder they keep throwing him the ball.

DSTs

The Landscape of the Position: There’s a no-brainer defensive play this week that I will be plugging into most, if not all of my lineups.

AUTOMATIC PLAY

Chiefs on the road vs. Ravens

The no-brainer play? The Chiefs. Matt Schaub is probable to play this week. All aboard the pick 6 express everybody! The Chiefs defense has been one of the best in all of football over the past two months. That has translated into a lot of fantasy points. Now they get an offense that is decimated by injuries and quarterbacked by Matt Schaub? Lock it in.

DST OPTIONS YOU MAY WANT TO TAKE A FLYER ON

Steelers at home vs. Broncos

I expect the Steelers to beat the Broncos by double digits on Sunday. The weakness of the Steelers defense is their secondary. Do we expect Brock Osweiler to take advantage of that? We shouldn’t. It’s been 23 drives since Brock Osweiler has led the Broncos offense to a TD. Per pro football focus, Osweiler is only 21 of 49 (42.8%) on passes thrown beyond 9 yards downfield. The strength of the Steelers defense is their front 7. They can really get after the passer. The Broncos offensive line just looks horrible right now. Per Ed Werder, no quarterback has been sacked more often since Week 10 than Osweiler (17 sacks in 5 games). Once the Steelers get ahead in this game, it could become sack and turnover city for their defense.

Seahawks at home vs. Browns

Johnny Manziel isn’t going to give up. He has been playing pretty well when given his chance this year. He is going to make some plays on Sunday. The problem for the Browns is, he will also make some mistakes. That could come in the form of multiple sacks and turnovers for this Seahawks defense.

Cardinals on the road vs. Eagles

I don’t trust Sam Bradford and this Eagles offense. The Cardinals are an aggressive defense. As long as they stay aggressive, even with the fast pace of the Eagles offense, I like the Cardinals chances of forcing some turnovers. With Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu in the Cardinals secondary, there’s always a chance they could take one back to the house.

Stacks of the week:

Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin

Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, and Tyler Lockett

Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb

Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski

Tom Brady and Danny Amendola

Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Danny Amendola

Week 15 DFS: The Return of 2014 Randall Cobb

Get Frank Gore in your week 14 DFS lineup

QBs

The Landscape of the Position: There is no clear-cut stud at the QB position this week. This seems like a week where you can easily go cheap at QB. Therefore, look for large portions of your GPP fields to own Jameis Winston. Jameis’ matchup with New Orleans is too obvious.”The Saints’ defense is horrible” narrative has been all over the media, and rightfully so. It has become the second half of the season version of “Play your TEs against Oakland.” Everybody in your GPP field knows that the Saints defense is horrible.

Jameis Winston at home vs. Saints

See The Landscape of the Position above. Furthermore, Jameis now has all of his weapons back and healthy. Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson, and Austin-Sefarian Jenkins all are capable of making big plays. Jameis also gets the horrible Saints defense at home. I am a big fan of playing QBs at home.

Andy Dalton at home vs. Steelers

This game has fantasy bonanza potential. It could easily be a shootout. The Steelers defense ranks 29th against the pass in terms of yards per game allowed this season. They have also given up 23 passing TDs this year. That puts them tied for 23rd in that category. Tyler Eifert is probable. It looks like he is going to play which means Dalton will also have all of his weapons available for this matchup. Think back to what Russell Wilson did two weeks ago. He got this exact same Pittsburgh Steelers defense at home. His numbers: 345 passing yards and 5 passing TDs. Dalton checks all the boxes. He’s at home, is in a good offense, has a very good matchup, and will have to continue to score points the entire game since the Steelers offense is showing no signs of slowing down.

Ben Roethlisberger on the road vs. Bengals

This game has fantasy bonanza potential. It could easily be a shootout. The Pittsburgh Steelers are probably the best offense in the NFL right now, especially for fantasy football purposes. The last four games that the Steelers have played, they have put up 38, 30, 30, and 45 points. Ben Roethlisberger has been lighting it up. Antonio Brown is the best WR in football. With Martavis Bryant, DeAngelo Williams, and even Markus Wheaton playing good football as of late, the sky is the limit for Ben’s fantasy ceiling. Helping Ben’s cause, Heath Miller is also probable for this contest while Bengals starting CB Adam Jones looks unlikely to play.

Ryan Tannehill at home vs. Giants

Ryan Tannehill only threw the ball 19 times in week 13. He didn’t have to throw because the Dolphins controlled the game for basically the entire 60 minutes with Matt Schaub doing Matt Schaub things (throwing another pick 6). Look for Eli Manning and the Giants to put up much more of a fight. Thus, look for Tannehill to take to the air a lot more in week 14. When he does, look for him to have success. The New York Giants rank dead last in passing yards allowed per game this season. They have given up 22 passing TDs this year, which is tied for 18th in the league. Tannehill is a very sneaky GPP play in week 14.

Cam Newton at home vs. Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons are free falling. We all know that Cam has one of the highest fantasy ceilings at the QB position. Plus, I’m just going to leave this here.

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Blake Bortles at home vs. Colts

We all saw what the Steelers offense did to this Colts defense last week. On the year, the Colts defense ranks 30th against the pass in terms of yards per game allowed this season. They have also given up 24 passing TDs this year, which is tied for 25th in the league. Bortles is at home, has a good matchup, and also gains another weapon as Allen Hurns is probable to play this week.

RBs

The Landscape of the Position: The plays at the RB position are not as obvious this week as they have been at other times this year. There are many good options to choose from. This could be a week to play a RB in your flex if your daily site uses one. You are looking for RBs with opportunity (guaranteed touches) and good situations. Let’s get to it.

Lesean Mccoy on the road vs. Eagles

Narrative belongs in fantasy football people. Lesean Mccoy has been extremely vocal this week regarding Chip Kelly and the entire situation involving his departure from Philadelphia. There is little doubt that he is highly motivated for this contest. Further adding to the juiciness of this matchup, Karlos Williams has been ruled out and will not play. This backfield belongs to Lesean Mccoy and Lesean Mccoy only for week 14. With Karlos Williams out last week, Mccoy touched the ball 21 times, and he even missed a portion of that game while being evaluated for a potential concussion. After seemingly getting over the injury issues that plagued him earlier in the season, Mccoy has looked extremely explosive over the course of the past month. Just to put the cherry on top, the Eagles rank 27th in rush yards allowed per game this season. Find a way to get Lesean Mccoy into your daily lineups.

Frank Gore on the road vs. Jaguars

This is absolutely not a sexy pick. However, Ahmad Bradshaw was put on IR before week 13. Daniel Herron and Zurlon Tipton only totaled 7 touches last week, many of those in garbage time when the game had already been decided. This is Frank Gore’s backfield. It doesn’t look like the Colts have much trust in any other RB. This week the Colts play against a much easier opponent. Granted, the Jaguars rank 13th in rush yards allowed per game this season. However, the Jaguars defense is not all that good as a whole, as they rank 23rd in total defense (yards per game allowed). Furthermore, the Jaguars starting MLB, Paul Posluszny, is out for this game. Posluszny ranks 6th in total tackles in the entire NFL this season. At the beginning of December, Colts head coach Chuck Pagano told the media that Gore was “beat to crap.” Ideally, the Colts would probably like to get Gore some rest. Fortunately for fantasy football owners, the Colts don’t have that luxury. They are tied for the lead in the AFC South with the Texans. They both have records of 6-6. Most likely, the winner of the AFC South will be the only team from the division that makes the playoffs. It would make sense for the Colts to basically be in playoff mode starting this week. Frank Gore confirmed that belief when he told the media earlier this week, “Now we have to win. We can look at it like it’s playoff time now starting this week.” Matt Hasselbeck is 40 years old. He starts his 6th game of the year on Sunday. The Colts have run the ball more ever since Pep Hamilton was fired and Rob Chudzinski replaced him as the Offensive Coordinator. Frank Gore looked impressive last week when he did touch the ball. Look for Gore to touch the ball a lot this week. Take advantage of the public reading the Gore is “beat to crap” story earlier this month. Take advantage of the negative thought process surrounding the Colts as a team this week after the whole world watched them get beat down by the Steelers last Sunday night. Gore is the sneakiest of sneaky GPP plays, especially with Posluszny missing the game.

Shaun Draughn on the road vs. Browns

Two weeks ago, Shaun Draughn played 100% of the offensive snaps. That is unheard of. Last week that percentage dipped to 79%. Still, this is Shaun Draughn’s backfield. Opportunity is what you’re looking for in daily fantasy and that is just what Draughn is receiving. Speaking of receiving, Draughn also caught 5 passes from Blaine Gabbert last week. Vance McDonald had actually been coming on at the TE position lately, but was injured last week and will also miss the contest in week 14. The pass catchers that will suit up for the 49ers aren’t scaring anybody. Shaun Draughn should continue to see plenty of opportunities in the passing game as well. I never thought I would ever type these words, but Blaine Gabbert has actually been somewhat impressive during his time as the 49ers starter this year. He should continue to at least keep the offense on schedule. Furthermore, Draughn gets the Browns this week, who rank 31st in rush yards allowed per game this season.

Thomas Rawls on the road vs. Ravens

The Seahawks offense has been one of the hottest units in the league over the past two weeks. Thomas Rawls has looked great, and basically has no competition for touches in this backfield. The matchup for Rawls on paper does not look all that great. The Ravens rank 10th in rush yards allowed per game this season. They have only given up 6 rushing TDs on the year. However, hot and cold Lamar Miller was able to run for 118 yards on this unit last week. This is a lost season for the Ravens. Due to injuries, their offense is one of the worst in the league at this point. Look for the Seahawks to control this game. They should have the ball on offense plenty on Sunday. Thus, game flow should allow for Rawls to get plenty of work and have the opportunity to do plenty of damage.

Deangelo Williams on the road vs. Bengals

I am not a huge fan of Deangelo’s matchup this week. The Bengals rank 9th in rush yards allowed per game this season. They have only given up 4 rushing TDs on the year. However, I have already expressed my belief that this game has fantasy bonanza potential. If it does become a shootout, everybody’s value increases, especially Deangelo’s due to his guaranteed workload. Deangelo has no competition for touches in the Steelers backfield. He touched the ball 31 times last week. He has looked great this year, also catches passes, and plays in one of the best offenses in the NFL.

Doug Martin at home vs. Saints

Doug Martin has a mouthwatering matchup this week at home against the Saints, who rank dead last in rush yards allowed per game this season. Martin is having a career year. My only concern is that he does not have this backfield all to himself. Charles Sims remains an important part of the Buccaneers offense. He touched the ball 9 times last week. Still though, Martin got 26 touches. I usually try to play running backs in daily fantasy that have no competition for touches in their backfield. However, this matchup is most likely too good to pass up. As long as you are willing to accept the potential, however minimal it is, that Sims could outproduce Martin (See week 9 for evidence), this matchup could produce fantasy gold.

Matt Forte at home vs. Redskins

Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey totaled 19 touches last week. Carey also scored a TD. Their involvement in the Bears offense will most likely scare me away from playing Forte this week. However, it is important to note that Forte still touched the ball 26 times a week ago, in just his second game back from injury. That means that Bears RBs touched the ball a total of 45 times last week. This game is at home and it is a good matchup for Forte. The Redskins rank 25th in rush yards allowed per game this season. If John Fox and Adam Gase stick with a run first game plan in week 14, Forte could receive enough touches to propel owners to the top of the leaderboard in GPPs.

Lamar Miller at home vs. Giants

The Dolphins fired Offensive Coordinator Bill Lazor after their week 12 loss to the New York Jets. With Lazor out as the play caller, Lamar Miller saw 21 touches and racked up 118 total yards in week 13. This week, Miller faces the Giants 19th ranked run defense in terms of rush yards allowed per game this season. If the Dolphins new offensive game plan stays run friendly, which as we have seen this year has been a bit of a gamble, Miller could have a big game. Just remember that Jay Ajayi is lurking in that backfield and could potentially take touches away from Miller.

WRs

The Landscape of the Position: You’ve heard it before. The NFL is a passing league now. There are tons of viable WR options to choose from every week. This is the position that you should be spending the most time on when you are deciding on your daily plays. Most weeks there is at least one WR that goes bonkers. You have to get it right. Let’s try to figure this out.

WE NOW INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM TO TAKE ANOTHER WALK DOWN NARRATIVE STREET MY FRIENDS

The case for Odell Beckham Jr. AND Jarvis Landry

Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry have been great friends since high school. They played together at LSU. This is the first time that the two will be playing on the same field in the NFL. They will be trying to outplay each other all game, guaranteed. This game being under the bright lights of Monday Night Football almost seems too perfect. Even better, both defenses in this game are pretty bad. I see this being one of the most fantasy friendly games of the week. Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry are two of my favorite players in the NFL. They are my favorite two WR plays of the week. They make for one of the more interesting and unique stacks of week 14.

Odell Beckham Jr. on the road vs. Dolphins

Odell Beckham playing on Monday Night Football!? YES PLEASE! The Dolphins rank 25th in passing yards allowed per game this season. They have given up 24 passing TDs this year, which is tied for 25th in the league. I see this being one of the most fantasy friendly games of the week.

Jarvis Landry at home vs. Giants

Jarvis Landry is dealing with a knee injury. However, he is probable to play on Monday Night. Landry posted a disgusting stat line of only 2 catches for 5 yards last week. Many will fade Landry with that awful fantasy performance fresh on their minds. However, the Dolphins only threw the ball 19 times in week 13. They didn’t have to throw because they controlled the game for basically the entire 60 minutes with Matt Schaub doing Matt Schaub things (throwing another pick 6). Look for Eli Manning and the Giants to put up much more of a fight. Thus, look for Ryan Tannehill to take to the air a lot more in week 14. When he does, look for him to have success. The New York Giants rank dead last in passing yards allowed per game this season. They have given up 22 passing TDs this year, which is tied for 18th in the league. Landry still absorbed 26.3% of the teams targets last week. I expect Landry to get plenty of opportunities to make plays this week. He is a very sneaky GPP play in week 14. I see this being one of the most fantasy friendly games of the week.

Antonio Brown on the road vs. Bengals

Antonio Brown is the best WR in football. He is matchup proof. Bengals starting CB, Adam Jones, is unlikely to play. This game has fantasy bonanza potential. It could easily be a shootout. If it does, look for Antonio Brown to go bonkers again in week 14. Either way, he should put up another great stat line. Every week, I try to find a way to put Odell Beckham and Antonio Brown on at least one daily team together.

AJ Green at home vs. Steelers

If this game becomes a shootout, look for AJ Green to go bonkers as well. The Steelers defense ranks 29th against the pass in terms of yards per game allowed this season. They have also given up 23 passing TDs this year. That puts them tied for 23rd in that category. The Steelers have nobody that can cover Green. Look for him to stay hot after his 128 yard 1 TD performance last week.

Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker at home vs. Titans

The Jets offense is one of the easiest to predict in fantasy football. It is pretty much Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. They don’t have a relevant TE or third WR to steal significant targets. Marshall and Decker both receive enough targets most weeks to have good fantasy games. This week they get the Titans at home. The Titans can’t cover anybody right now. Just ask Allen Robinson. They have given up 25 passing TDs this year, which is tied for 29th in the league.

Tyler Lockett on the road vs. Ravens

Tyler Lockett is heating up. In the last three weeks, Russell Wilson is 14 of 15 for 176 yards when targeting him. Last week, Lockett caught all 7 of his targets for 90 yards. Look for the Seahawks to control this game. They should have the ball on offense plenty on Sunday. Lockett is so explosive, we know that all it takes is one big play for him to have a good day. On Sunday, he should have plenty of opportunities to hit a big one. Due to Doug Baldwin’s performances over the past two weeks, everybody will be inserting Baldwin into their lineups when playing a Seattle WR. However, both Baldwin and Lockett saw the exact same amount of targets in week 13. If this is the week that Lockett goes off, you could win big. Lockett also returns punts, which gives you an additional opportunity for points if he returns one for a TD. Stacking Lockett with the Seahawks DST is a very intriguing option.

TEs

The Landscape of the Position: Rob Gronkowski is questionable to play on Sunday night. You’ll have to check the updates on Sunday. If he plays, he actually becomes a great contrarian play if you can find a way to get him in your lineup. I’m assuming that he is not going to play. Therefore, with Gronk out of the picture, it makes it easier to go cheap at the position.

Tyler Eifert at home vs. Steelers

Players that miss time with injuries are always lower owned in large GPPs when they return than they would’ve been had they stayed healthy. That is just the way it is. If Gronk doesn’t play this week, Tyler Eifert becomes the best player at the position. He has been the best redzone weapon in the entire NFL in 2015. This game has shootout potential. Tyler Eifert has the chance to go bonkers. Pittsburgh has given up the 7th most fantasy points to Tight Ends this season. The fact that Eifert will most likely be somewhat of a contrarian play due to his recent injury makes playing him even more enticing.

Ben Watson on the road vs. Buccaneers

Mark Ingram was placed on IR earlier this week. The Buccaneers have quietly had one of the best run defenses in the NFL this year. Look for Drew Brees to throw the ball a lot this week. I think the loss of Mark Ingram boosts Watson’s value. He will see more targets in the middle of the field as the Saints turn those would’ve been handoffs to Mark Ingram into short passes to guys like Watson.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins at home vs. Saints

Austin Seferian-Jenkins returned last week after a lengthy absence due to injury. In his first week back, he saw 6 targets and absorbed 22.2% of the Buccaneers target share. That was more than Vincent Jackson saw. Jameis Winston has long loved throwing to his TE. Cameron Brate was even fantasy relevant while ASJ was out with injury. The Saints defense is ranked 31st against the pass in terms of yards per game allowed this season. They have also given up 35 passing TDs this year, which ranks dead last. This is a juicy matchup for ASJ.

DSTs

The Landscape of the Position: I believe the defensive plays this week are pretty obvious.

Chiefs DST at home vs. Chargers

The Chiefs have been playing great defense lately. They get an amazing matchup this week against the free falling Chargers. Philip Rivers is losing pass catchers left and right. Stevie Johnson and Dontrelle Inman are out this week. Malcolm Floyd is playing with an injured shoulder. Rivers himself was added to the injury report with a foot injury earlier in the week. Now, the Chargers have signed a third QB to their active roster as Rivers is reportedly dealing with an illness. The Chargers also have no run game to speak of whatsoever. The only negative to speak of is that Chiefs pass rusher Justin Houston will miss his second straight game on Sunday.

Seahawks DST on the road vs. Ravens

The Seahawks are one of the best defenses in the NFL. The Ravens offense is in shambles. Matt Schaub is questionable to play. Regardless of whether Schaub or Jimmy Clausen gets the start at QB for the Ravens, the Seahawks should be a very good play this week.

STACK OF THE WEEK: Ryan Tannehill and Jarvis Landry

 

Get Frank Gore in your week 14 DFS lineup

The Bonanza: Week 14

One of the easiest ways to win life changing cash in daily fantasy is identifying the bonanza. You know the bonanza, where points come in bunches and your ranking in a large GPP continues to rise up the ranks. What an amazing feeling that is. Most, if not all of us, play daily fantasy specifically for that moment. However, identifying the bonanza is much easier said than done. Although identifying the bonanza is a very difficult thing to do, it is not impossible. Each week provides us with its own story. If we pay enough attention, we can start to connect the dots based on the material we have gathered from a week to week basis to at least lead us in the direction of a potential bonanza.

I believe there are two kinds of bonanzas:

1. Identifying a game that is high scoring on both sides of the ball. You are usually looking to identify two good (or at least capable) offenses going against two bad (or horrible) defenses.
Example: Week 8 – Giants 49 Saints 52
Game flow: This game went back and forth and players on both offenses put up fantasy points in bunches.

2. Identifying an elite offense with a favorable overall matchup (Bad offense and defense on the other side of the ball). You are looking for an offense that will put up points in bunches when they have the ball, but because the other offense is futile, will also have the ball for the majority of the game.
Example: Week 13 – Colts 10 Steelers 45
Game flow: The Colts offense was unable to get much going with a 40 year old backup QB. Thus, the Steelers potent offense had the ball for most of the game. Fantasy points for pretty much the entire Steelers’ offense came in waves.

Bonanzas do not happen every week. However, If you are able to successfully identify a bonanza, all that is left to do is pick the right players in that game that are going to go off. Again, easier said than done. Regardless, it is in your best interest to study the schedule every week to see if the possibility of a bonanza exists.

Now, let’s apply this thought process to week 14. Bonanza scenario #2 is extremely rare. I do not see it happening in week 14. The Buccaneers would be the team with probably the best chance since they are at home against the horrible Saints defense. However, I do not see the Buccaneers as an elite offense. Also, even without Mark Ingram and potentially Brandin Cooks, Drew Brees and the Saints’ offense should still be successful enough on offense to eliminate this possibility.
Due to the Saints missing important pieces on offense and playing away from home where they regularly underperform, this game does not meet my criteria for bonanza scenario #1 either.

Most bonanzas will come in the form of scenario #1. Looking at week 14, I do see this scenario potentially playing out. I present to you, my game of the week.

Fantasy Game of the Week: Steelers at Bengals

The Pittsburgh Steelers are probably the best offense in the NFL right now. Especially for fantasy football purposes. The only other offense that I would put in the Steelers’ class at the moment are the Arizona Cardinals. The last four games that the Steelers have played, they have put up 38, 30, 30, and 45 points. Remember, Ben Roethlisberger missed the end of the Oakland game and the beginning of the Cleveland game with another foot injury and they still averaged 35.75 points over that span. That is absurd.

The Bengals have a pretty good defense. They are ranked 9th against the run and 13th against the pass in terms of yards per game allowed this season. Those stats alone usually tell me there is no chance for a bonanza. However, the Steelers offense is so good, it doesn’t matter.

Coming off of their week 11 bye, Ben Roethlisberger has looked completely healthy again and is playing lights out. Antonio Brown is the best WR in football. With Martavis Bryant, DeAngelo Williams, and even Markus Wheaton playing good football as of late, the sky is the limit for this offense. Heath Miller is also probable for this contest. They are going to continue to score points in bunches. Helping the Steelers’ cause even more, Bengals starting CB Adam Jones looks unlikely to play.

The last time anybody laid eyes on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense, they looked like the best defense in the league. Playing at home against a 40 year old backup QB will do that sometimes. That game was on Sunday Night Football for the whole world to see. Therefore, most of the general public will not be all that excited about the Cincinnati Bengals offense this week. After all, there is still a stigma attached to the name Andy Dalton.

What most will forget, is that the Steelers defense ranks 29th against the pass in terms of yards per game allowed this season. That means only three teams are worse in the entire NFL folks. They have also given up 23 passing TDs this year. That puts them tied for 23rd in that category. Now, the Steelers are much better against the run, ranking 6th in terms of yards per game allowed. However, the Bengals RB situation has been a mess all season. Be glad that we don’t have to worry about it this week.

I always try to play a QB at home in daily fantasy. Andy Dalton checks all the boxes. He’s at home, is in a good offense, has a very good matchup, and will have to continue to score points the entire game since the Steelers offense is showing no signs of slowing down. Tyler Eifert is probable. It looks like he is going to play which means Dalton will also have all of his weapons available for this matchup. Think back to what Russell Wilson did two weeks ago. He got this exact same Pittsburgh Steelers defense at home. His numbers: 345 passing yards and 5 passing TDs.

Now, this is an AFC North rivalry game late in the season between two teams that know each other extremely well. There is also evidence out there that points to Andy Dalton not performing very well against a common opponent (playing a team twice in the same calendar year). There is absolutely no guarantee that this game turns into a fantasy bonanza. However, I believe that the potential is there. I won’t be tying too much of my bankroll up into this belief, but I will absolutely be making one, if not two lineups with players on both sides of the ball involved.

All players on both passing offenses should at least receive some consideration for this week. The potential for a bonanza boosts all of their values. Any combination of Andy Dalton, AJ Green, Tyler Eifert, Marvin Jones, Giovanni Bernard, Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton, Heath Miller, and Deangelo Williams could potentially push you to the top of the leaderboard in a GPP.

The Bonanza: Week 14