Le’Veon Bell

Since the 2001 season, the New England Patriots have been dominating the AFC East. Will it be more of the same in 2019? What are the other teams looking like as we get set for a new season? Let’s take a look and find out.

Buffalo Bills

2018 Record: 6-10

A year after a surprising playoff berth, the Bills took a step back in 2018. The team would enter the offseason with a clear idea of where improvement was needed. Buffalo managed to check off all the boxes.

Josh Allen has new weapons and better protection. The club has found a potential anchor on defense via the draft in Ed Oliver. Things are looking up for the Bills, but oddsmakers still aren’t expecting all that much in the way of improvement.

Key Departures
John Miller (G), Charles Clay (TE)

Key Additions
Ed Oliver (DL), Cole Beasley (WR), John Brown (WR), Mitch Morse (C)

Prediction: 9-7
The Bills looked awful in the first-half of 2018, but it was a different story down the stretch. The tweaks the team has made should lead to improvement. We’ll gladly take the Over on regular season wins and keep our eyes peeled for value in September game lines.

Fantasy Radar: Cole Beasley
Allen now has some much needed weapons in the passing attack. Beasley steps into the safety blanket role for the second-year pro, and he should see plenty of targets. He’s an intriguing player to keep in mind for the mid to late rounds.

Miami Dolphins

2018 Record: 7-9

A rebuild is on the menu in Miami. The Adam Gase era is over, and Brian Flores will be tasked with putting the franchise back together again. Based on the offseason moves, the club is taking a build from the inside out approach.

That could work in the long run, but there will be growing pains along the way. It’s unclear if Josh Allen will be the long-term answer at QB, but it looks this club is going to be in line for an early pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Key Departures
Ja’Wuan James (RT), Cameron Wake (DE)

Key Additions
Christian Wilkins (DL), Josh Allen (QB) Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB)

Prediction: 3-13
The Dolphins have done all but waive the white flag heading into 2019. That doesn’t bolster enthusiasm for much more than a 3-win campaign. We’re not expecting to see them favored often, if at all.

Fantasy Radar: DeVante Parker
Miami should be behind often in the coming year. That means Allen or Ryan Fitzpatrick should be slinging the rock a lot. Parker has disappointed thus far. There’s simply no excuse if he doesn’t rack up some serious yardage this year.

New England Patriots

2018 Record: 11-5

The defending Super Bowl champions weren’t being taken seriously by a number of observers heading into the playoffs. That proved to be a bad call. Another trophy is now in the case, and the club enters 2019 as a favorite to do it again.

There’s always turnover for the Patriots to deal with, and it’s the same this year. There will likely be a bad loss somewhere along the way in 2019. We’ll patiently await the warnings that the sky is falling in on New England afterwards and check back in for the postseason.

Key Departures
Trey Flowers (DE), Rob Gronkowski (TE), Trent Brown (RT)

Key Additions
N’Keal Harry (WR), Mike Pennel (DE), Jamie Collins (LB)

Prediction: 12-4
Barring something catastrophic, the Patriots will contend for another ring in 2019. We can’t promise that everything will go swimmingly along the way, but we also don’t feel the need to try and call a shot on an end to a dynasty which has no intention of going away.

Fantasy Radar: Sony Michel
The backfield in New England is traditionally frustrating for fantasy owners. Michel showed a lot in his rookie campaign and earned the trust of coaches. That’s enough to rely on him as a reliable fantasy asset for the new season.

New York Jets

2018 Record: 4-12

Gase proved to be the wrong guy in Miami, but Jets brass thinks he’ll do just fine. The club was quite active in the offseason, and there is a chance that the moves will bear fruit. Le’Veon Bell changes the offense, while Quinnen Williams and C.J. Mosley can help bolster a defense which already had solid pieces in place.

On the down side, dysfunction reared its head in New York once again when GM Mike Maccagnan was shown the door. This happened after he was entrusted with spending a boatload of cash. We can’t guarantee that will impact the product on the field, but it certainly doesn’t help.

Key Departures
James Carpenter (G), Buster Skrine (CB

Key Additions
C.J. Mosley (LB), Le’Veon Bell (RB), Ryan Kalil (OC), Quinnen Williams (DT)

Prediction: 6-10
We’re optimistic that the Jets will improve on both sides of the ball this year. However, that’s tempered by the behind the scenes drama and a seemingly lackluster hire at head coach. New DC Gregg Williams will make the defense better, but we’ll see what Gase can do with Sam Darnold and company.

Fantasy Radar: Robby Anderson
While most of the attention will go to Bell in fantasy circles, the Jets passing game should also improve as a result of his addition. Anderson has wheels and can do some damage. He should find even more room to get open this season to boot.

Posted in NFL, Top Fantasy Picks

Photo: Tom Brady
Source: Maddie Meyer / Getty Image North America

The top two seeds come together for a rematch of their 43-40 thriller earlier this season

It’s hard to look at this year’s AFC Championship between the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs as anything other than a potential changing of the guard. Tom Brady, 41, will be eyeing an unprecedented ninth Super Bowl appearance; to do it, he’ll need to rise to the challenge of 23-year-old emerging superstar Patrick Mahomes. Perhaps the greatest ever to play the sport at his position will be pitted against the man who may define it for the next generation.

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But the rivalry runs far deeper than just those two men. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is looking to erase his record of playoff futility by finally beating the game’s best on the other sideline in Bill Belichick. Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce hopes to displace an aging, injury-prone Rob Gronkowski as the AFC’s best at the position. And despite the Patriots’ undefeated home record this season (9-0) it’s the Chiefs’ fans at Arrowhead who have one last opportunity to prove what home-field advantage in the postseason is all about.

Their last matchup, a 43-40 Patriots victory in Foxborough, was easily one of the best in the NFL this season. Expect Sunday’s game to bring the same amount of offensive firepower and late-game drama with a berth in Super Bowl LIII on the line.

AFC Championship: New England at Kansas City

Kickoff: Sunday, Jan. 20 at 6:40 p.m. ET

TV: CBS

Spread: Chiefs -3

Three Things to Watch

1. Can Mahomes keep from making mistakes?

In this type of game, it’s fairly clear what you’ll get from the Patriots’ Tom Brady. A roller-coaster regular season was put to rest last week against the Chargers; 343 passing yards and no turnovers meant the outcome was never in doubt. The Chiefs can’t expect to capitalize on his mistakes although Brady did have a lost fumble in their matchup earlier this season.

The real focus is on whether Patrick Mahomes can keep it together. On paper, he had one of the best statistical seasons in history with 50 touchdowns and nearly 5,100 passing yards. He did nothing to cost his team in a cruise control-type performance against the Colts in Arrowhead last week.

But the Patriots in the playoffs are a different story altogether. The Chiefs were mortally wounded in their regular-season matchup through multiple mistakes by Mahomes early on. Two interceptions led to seven Patriots points and cost the Chiefs seven more at the end of the first half. It’s enough to make the difference in a game where we’ll count the number of punts on one hand.

“We didn’t feel good,” Mahomes said this week about the Patriots’ loss earlier this year. “We didn’t play our best, especially early in the game. And when you play teams of this caliber, with this much history of knowing how to win and capitalizing on people’s mistakes, you can’t come back and win games like that.”

“For us, we have to learn from that, know we can’t make those mistakes. It’s going to be a dogfight for the entire game.”

Can he outduel the Patriots’ secondary this time? Philip Rivers never looked comfortable last week and New England’s defensive unit heads in with momentum. The Patriots know how to create takeaways in the playoffs. It’s imperative Mahomes puts those demons behind them by striking early and often in the first half.

2. Can Sony Michel outduel Damien Williams?

You might be surprised to know all four of the Chiefs’ touchdowns last week came on the ground. After releasing Kareem Hunt last month, many felt their rushing game would struggle but Williams has proven up to the task. The fifth-year player has stepped in admirably, posting a higher yards per carry average than Hunt (5.1 to 4.6) and two 100-yard rushing efforts. (That included 129 yards against the Colts last week). Hunt, by comparison, had just one 100-yard rushing game this year despite his speed and explosiveness.

Is that more because of the Chiefs’ offensive line or is it Williams himself? The answer is a little bit of both. But the Patriots’ defense will offer a stiffer test than the Colts’ front line. New England held Pro Bowl running back Melvin Gordon to just 15 rushing yards and the Chargers to 19 total. Ranked 11th against the run, allowing 112.3 rushing yards per game over the course of a full season that number drops to 65.0 when you include just the last three weeks.

Kansas City, meanwhile, has a rushing defense that ranked 27th in the NFL. It provides a make-or-break opportunity for rookie Sony Michel to put up some big numbers once again after a masterful 129-yard, three-touchdown performance last week. Michel, who lost part of his season due to injury, has been left in the shadows while other rookies like Baker Mayfield and Saquon Barkley have taken center stage. But they’re not playing this late into January. Michel might be the most important person on the field for a Patriots offense that finally appeared to loosen up with the chains constantly moving on the ground.

3. All Tyreek, all the time

Tyreek Hill was unhinged the last time these teams played. Seven catches, 142 yards and three touchdowns almost singlehandedly kept the Chiefs in the game. Last week’s postseason contest was a bit more pedestrian (eight catches, 72 yards) but a bounce-back performance should be expected.

Travis Kelce may be the Chiefs’ most reliable receiver but Hill is the one who can score at any given moment. The fastest player on the field can get more yards after the catch than anyone else in this game when given space and he’s already proved he can outrun the Patriots’ secondary.

This 75-yard touchdown play from the first matchup truly highlights the explosiveness of the Chiefs’ offense when both he and Mahomes are on the same page. It’s why the Patriots can’t fall behind in this game but the Chiefs will never feel like they’re out of it.

X-Factor: Kicking Game

Stephen Gostkowski is one of the game’s most reliable kickers. But a 27-for-32 season obscured the fact he was just six-for-11 on kicks over 40 yards in length.

During a year where long field goals have become the norm, not the exception, that may give the edge to another changing-of-the-guard figure: 23-year-old Harrison Butker. Butker was eight-for-11 on kicks 40 yards and longer while nailing a 54-yarder just a few weeks ago against Seattle. He also has the advantage of kicking within his own stadium during a night where the wind will make a difference (forecast to be 10-15 mph).

One miss from either kicker could be all that’s needed to determine the outcome.

Final Analysis

Conventional wisdom says the Chiefs should come out on top in this one. It’s a youthful team playing at home and hungry for revenge after their national stub-a-toe moment against the Patriots earlier this year. Andy Reid, 1-4 in championship games is too good a head coach to get shut out of the Super Bowl with this team.

And yet. The Patriots, labeled as rare underdogs have embraced that mentality with a bear hug. Julian Edelman’s Twitter posted a hype video followed by T-Shirts fans could order with the hashtag BETAGAINSTUS. It’s the type of us against the world mentality that plays well within a Bill Belichick locker room and the same type of emotional boost the Eagles used against them in Super Bowl LII (with great success, I might add).

Add in Tom Brady, who seems to be playing with a chip on his shoulder amid criticism his play has slipped at 41 and it’s hard to count the Patriots out. They need everything to break right for them to pull this out but we’ve seen that type before from them in the postseason, haven’t we?

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Posted in NFL, Top Fantasy Picks

Photo: Patrick Mahomes
Source: David Eulitt / Getty Image North America

Top-seeded Chiefs will have to fend off the surging Colts to secure their first home playoff win in 25 years

The Kansas City Chiefs will host the Indianapolis Colts in Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday to kick off the AFC Divisional Round of the 2019 NFL Playoffs. These teams last met in the postseason in 2014, resulting in one of the greatest comebacks in playoff history.

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The slightly favored Colts managed to erase a 28-point second-half deficit in that game to score a dramatic 45-44 victory over the visiting Chiefs. Saturday’s matchup is setting up to be another high-scoring affair with two high-powered offenses poised to put plenty of points on the scoreboard. Only this time around, the Chiefs are the favored home team, and the expectation is a closely contested shootout for four quarters.

The Chiefs (12-4) capped off a dominant regular season in similar fashion with a 35-3 victory over the Raiders to secure the AFC West title and No. 1 seed in the playoffs. They also earned the luxury of sitting out last week’s Wild Card Round with a bye. That should pay dividends for the well-rested home team. It also bodes well that Andy Reid is 20-4 all-time as a head coach when coming off a bye week. What doesn’t bode well is Reid’s 11-13 record all-time in the postseason, including a 1-4 with the Chiefs.

After a 1-5 start, the resurgent Colts enter Saturday’s game with a record of 11-6. Under first-year head coach Frank Reich, Indianapolis has won five in a row and 10 of its last 11, including a 21-7 road victory over AFC South rival (and champion) Houston in the wild-card game. The Colts now look to carry that momentum against Kansas City, who is 7-1 at home this season. Indianapolis is just 5-4 on the road, although the Colts have won their past three such contests, beating the Texans (twice) and Titans. More importantly, the Colts are 4-0 against the Chiefs in the postseason and Kansas City’s is in the midst of a six-game home losing streak in the playoffs, a stretch that goes back to 1996.

AFC Divisional Playoff: Indianapolis at Kansas City

Kickoff: Saturday, Jan. 12 at 4:35 p.m. ET

TV: NBC

Spread: Chiefs -5.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City’s explosive passing game

It’s no secret why the Chiefs led the NFL in total yards (425.6 ypg) and scoring (35.3 ppg) during the regular season. Mahomes has been a force to be reckoned with, and in 2018 no NFL player has been more fun to watch. In addition to Mahomes’ 5,097 passing yards, the MVP front-runner and first-team All-Pro selection became just the third player in NFL history to throw for 50 touchdowns. And he’s doing this in his just second season, first as the starter, in the NFL. Of course, it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of a standout receiving corps, led by fellow first-team All-Pro selections Travis Kelce (103 rec., 1,336 yds., 10 TDs) and Tyreek Hill (87, 1,479 yds., 12).

On Saturday, Mahomes and company will be paired against a young Indianapolis defense that has come a long way since the beginning of the season, thanks in large part to the emergence of All-Pro rookie linebacker Darius Leonard (league-leading 163 tackles). Leonard and the Colts limited a dangerous Houston offense to just seven points and 322 yards last week. But they have a much bigger challenge in front of them — trying to slow down Mahomes and the Chiefs’ high-octane passing attack.

Indianapolis finished the regular season in the middle of the pick in pass defense, allowing 237.8 yards per game. The Colts also gave up more yards (1,194) to opposing tight ends than any other defense in the league. And they have not faced a tight end better than Kelce all season. In addition to the already daunting task of keeping tabs on Kelce and Hill, Indianapolis’ secondary may also have to contend with the return of speedy wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who has missed the last six games because of a foot injury. That’s a tall order.

2. Indianapolis’ running game

Most of the hype surrounding the Colts’ offense heading into Saturday’s playoff game centers around Andrew Luck and a potent passing game. And for good reason as Indianapolis boasts the seventh-ranked passing attack in the league (278.8 ypg), and Luck’s 39 touchdown passes in the regular season were good for second behind only Mahomes’ 50. However, it could be the running game that pays the biggest dividends against Kansas City.

Despite ranking just 20th at 107.4 rushing yards per game, the Colts’ ground game has been hitting on all cylinders of late. Last week, they ran for 200 yards against Houston’s third-ranked rushing defense, led by a franchise playoff-record 148 rushing yards from running back Marlon Mack. It marked Mack’s third 100-yard game in the last four weeks, two of which came against the aforementioned Texans and the Cowboys (fifth in the NFL in rushing defense).

The Chiefs finished 27th in that department, giving up 132.1 yards and an NFL-worst five yards per carry. This certainly bodes well for Indianapolis. Another reason the Colts need to have success running the ball is that it would them to control the clock and limit the number of possessions for Mahomes and Kansas City’s quick-strike offense.

3. Kansas City’s pass rush vs. Indianapolis’ offensive line

No one can argue that the Chiefs’ defense is good. However, they have shined in one area on that side of the ball. No other defense in the NFL had more sacks during the regular season than Kansas City’s 52. That effort was spearheaded by defensive end Chris Jones’ 15.5 sacks, with Pro Bowl linebacker Dee Ford (13), and Justin Houston (9 in 12 games) also getting in on the action.

Meanwhile, no offensive line has fared better in pass protection than the Colts’, which is a welcome sight after this being a persistent issue throughout Luck’s time in Indianapolis. A standout line led by All-Pro rookie guard Quenton Nelson has surrendered a league-low 18 sacks in 17 games. That includes last week’s dominant effort in shutting out J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and the rest of the Texans last week.

There are plenty of intriguing matchups worth paying close attention to in Saturday’s playoff showdown, but none are more compelling than the matchup between the Chiefs’ pass rush and the Colts’ offensive line. One of these groups will have to come out on top, and It could be a major factor in determining the outcome.

Final Analysis

There are a few reasons to like the underdog Colts on Saturday. For starters, history is not exactly on the Chiefs’ side in this matchup. They are 0-4 all-time in playoff games against the Colts, they are an abysmal 0-6 in home playoff games over the last 25 years, and their head coach has a long history of coming up short in the postseason. We also can take into consideration that the Chiefs are just 3-2 since releasing star running back Kareem Hunt, and that two of those wins came against the lowly Raiders. And last, but certainly not least, is Kansas City’s much-maligned defense, whose only saving grace is a stellar pass rush that might just meet its match in the form of an equally talented Indianapolis offensive line.

But this will mark the Colts’ third straight road game while the Chiefs are coming off of a bye. Arrowhead Stadium is one of the top home-field advantages in the NFL, and Kansas City took full advantage of that, going 7-1 in the regular season. And despite Kansas City’s (and Andy Reid’s) past struggles in the postseason, the Chiefs now have something, or should we say someone, they didn’t previously — Patrick Mahomes as a starting quarterback.

Indianapolis should keep it interesting with Andrew Luck leading a well-balanced offensive attack to go along with a much-improved defense. However, the Colts’ offense will be hard-pressed to keep pace with Mahomes and company. Andy Reid and the Chiefs should finally get over the playoff hump at home to advance to the AFC Championship Game courtesy of a close, hard-fought, victory.

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Posted in NFL, Top Fantasy Picks

There is no one the New England Patriots would rather have with the ball in his hands when a game is on the line than Tom Brady, even when his hands are battered and bruised.

Although questionable for the Sunday game against the Jacksonville Jaguars due to a right hand injury, the ageless 40-year-old quarterback proved his mettle again while orchestrating yet another game-winning drive to send New England back to the Super Bowl.

Brady’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Danny Amendola with 2:48 remaining put the Patriots ahead for good in a 24-20 victory against the Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium.

New England will meet the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Feb. 4.

All week long, Brady ducked questions from the media about his hand, which required stitches after he was hurt on the practice field Wednesday when he accidentally struck teammate Rex Burkhead’s helmet.

“Well, I said, ‘We’ll see (if I play),'” Brady said while accepting the Lamar Hunt Trophy, awarded to the AFC champion, at midfield after the game. “So how’d it go?”

Following the Patriots’ go-ahead score, Jacksonville faced a fourth-and-15 after driving to the New England 43-yard-line. However, Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles’ deep toss down the sideline to Dede Westbrook was broken up by Stephon Gilmore.

“We had a two-minute drive at the end of the game to win the AFC championship, so there’s not a whole lot more you can ask for than that,” a reflective Bortles said.

Amendola finished with seven catches for 84 yards and two scores for the Patriots, who extended their own NFL record with an unprecedented 10th trip to the Super Bowl.

“You cherish these moments and opportunities, and I know we’ve had quite a few of them, which we’ve been very blessed to do,” said Brady, who completed 26 of 38 passes for 290 yards and two TDs. “It’s just been an unbelievable run, and I think everyone should be really proud of what we accomplished.”

Last year, New England erased a 28-3 Super Bowl deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime and claim their fifth championship.

“This is what I dreamt about as a fan in the stands just like all of you, and now we have to go to Minnesota and finish the job,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who purchased the Patriots 24 years ago to the day Sunday, told the crowd during the trophy ceremony.

“It’s just been a great year,” Brady added. “It’d be really great if we take care of business in a couple weeks, so we’ll see.”

Bortles threw for 293 yards (23 of 36) and a touchdown, and Leonard Fournette rushed for 76 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries to lead the Jaguars.

Jacksonville was playing in its third-ever AFC title game and its first since 1999.

“(Our locker) room fully expected to win this game, and I think everybody is shocked, disappointed and upset,” Bortles said.

Josh Lambo’s 54-yard field goal with 10:23 left in the third quarter and another from 43 yards seconds into the fourth bumped Jacksonville’s lead to 20-10.

Brady led New England down the field quickly and hit Amendola for a 9-yard touchdown with 8:44 to go to bring the Pats within three.

Bortles marched the Jaguars down the field 76 yards and found a wide-open Marcedes Lewis for a 4-yard touchdown pass at 14:15 of the second quarter, making it 7-3.

With 7:06 to play in the quarter, Fournette’s 4-yard rushing score capped a 77-yard drive to extend Jacksonville’s lead to 14-3.

“We were able to get the lead. Then we did not make enough plays to keep the lead. We had an opportunity at the end of the game to win it, and we did not do that,” Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said.

Rob Gronkowski’s 21-yard catch on the second play of ensuing drive moved him past Dallas Clark into first place on the NFL’s all-time postseason receiving yardage list for a tight end.

Minutes later, Gronkowski left the game with a head injury after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit from Jaguars safety Barry Church at the Jacksonville 40-yard line with 1:23 remaining before halftime.

Although Gronkowski was deemed questionable to return, he never did.

“It’s hard when you lose such a critical part of your team and offense, and hopefully he’s OK,” Brady said of Gronkowski. “It was a tough shot he took, and he’s as tough as they come.”

Church was flagged for unnecessary roughness, helping to set up a 1-yard TD run by James White three plays later to bring the Patriots within four at the break.

New England led 3-0 after one quarter.

Posted in NFL

NFL Football 2017-18 Season

AFC East Division Preview

NFL training camps just opened, which signals the official countdown to the start of the 2017 season. As usual, there is no lack of storylines to keep an eye on as we get closer to Week 1, with the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots at the forefront.

The Pats are among the Super Bowl favorites nearly every year, but this season it appears they are more likely than usual to add another Lombardi Trophy to the collection. There is veteran leadership, young talent and the elite coaching that most teams aspire to. That said, the roadblocks along the way can’t be easily dismissed. The Dolphins appear to be on the precipice of becoming a worthy divisional foil. Let’s take a look at what can deliver the AFC East teams this season. And don’t forget that it all begins September 7th. Join Fanpicks now to enter all of NFL’s Week 1 contests.

Buffalo Bills

The Bills will look to improve on a unit that is lacking stars but ranked first in rushing offense and tied for 10th in scoring last season.

With few appealing options on the free-agent market, the Bills had little choice but to bring back quarterback Tyrod Taylor for a third year under a more cap-friendly contract. It was a prudent move as Buffalo’s new coaching staff under coordinator Rick Dennison will not have to waste valuable months staging a competition, and young prospects Cardale Jones and rookie Nathan Peterman can develop without any pressure. The Bills signed veteran T.J. Yates in case neither Jones nor Peterman can secure the backup job.

Taylor will need a full season out of wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who had two foot surgeries last year and was limited to 28 catches. Second-round pick Zay Jones, who caught an FBS record 399 passes for East Carolina, should be a nice complement to Watkins, along with veteran free agent Philly Brown. Tight end Charles Clay, who led Buffalo with 57 catches for 552 yards, is also begging to be used more. Watkins’ health is everything, though. The No. 4 pick in 2014 is at a crossroads of his career if he can’t stay on the field.

Taking some of the pressure off Taylor is a rushing attack that has led the NFL two years running. LeSean McCoy is still an elite cut-back runner who topped the 1,200-yard mark for the fourth time in his career. He had 50 catches and earned his fifth Pro Bowl nod. Losing top backup Mike Gillislee (5.7 yards per carry) to New England as a restricted free agent has opened a spot for second-year man Jonathan Williams.

Miami Dolphins

When quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s season ended in Week 14, Miami’s hopes for a deep playoff run were dashed as well. After a rough start partially caused by growing pains in coach Adam Gase’s system, Tannehill rebounded to enjoy the best season of his career. Tannehill’s biggest improvement came on the deep ball. He tied for the NFL lead with seven completions of 50-plus yards, and his 7.7 yards-per-completion average was a personal best.

Behind the scenes, Gase pushed heavily for Dolphins management to re-sign wide receiver Kenny Stills. Those words carried heavy weight. Stills caught a career-high nine touchdown passes and averaged 17.3 yards per reception, which ranked third in the league. Jarvis Landry should be the next Dolphins wideout to cash in. Heading into a contract year, Landry remains Tannehill’s most trusted target. He was among the league leaders in third-down grabs while becoming the sixth receiver in Dolphins history with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Miami is counting on DeVante Parker to make more of an impact entering his third NFL season. If he doesn’t, the Dolphins may pass on exercising the fifth-year option in his rookie contract.

At tight end, Julius Thomas should provide Tannehill with a boost in the passing game provided he avoids the injury problems that made him a high-priced free-agent bust in Jacksonville. Anthony Fasano, who played in Miami from 2008-12, returns primarily as a blocker with Dion Sims having left for Chicago.

The running game progressed from a concern in the preseason to a strength by the end of the year. Jay Ajayi, who was left at home for the Week 1 opener because of a bad attitude, changed his tune and quickly surpassed Arian Foster as Miami’s lead back. Ajayi finished with 1,272 yards. The next step for Ajayi is consistency. He finished with 79 or fewer yards in 12 games, including Miami’s first-round playoff loss to Pittsburgh.

New England Patriots

The stirring MVP performance that Tom Brady gave in the Super Bowl win over the Falcons tells you everything you need to know about his lasting ability to play the position even as he begins the 2017 season at 40 years old. He won’t go on forever, but that’s why the team retained backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo despite reportedly receiving repeated overtures from the Browns to trade him away. In so doing, the Patriots will be starting an all-time great at the most important position on the field while having an insurance policy who they believe can carry them to the promised land if Brady gets hurt.

On top of that, the Pats significantly upgraded Brady’s wide receiving corps when they dealt the No. 32 pick in the draft for ex-Saint Brandin Cooks. With the speedy Cooks in the fold, the Pats add the valuable element of a deep threat to an already potent unit. Cooks can also line up in the slot and be effective in traffic, something he will do more in New England than he did in New Orleans.

There is some uncertainty around the tight end position. Rob Gronkowski will be coming off back surgery, and the increasingly injury-prone star is becoming less and less reliable in terms of his availability. The Pats acquired Dwayne Allen to fill the void left by Martellus Bennett, who left for the Packers in free agency, but Allen has his own injury history.

The questions surrounding the running back position are of a different nature. The team swiped restricted free agent Mike Gillislee from the Buffalo Bills, and he could be the lead back in a deep rotation. But Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis also can be effective in multiple facets, and third-down back James White seems like he will hold down that spot after receiving a contract extension in April. Rather than settle on a consistent rotation, the Patriots could use the backs based on game-plan need and leave opponents guessing as to which one they’ll have to worry about from week to week. That kind of personnel flexibility is something head coach Bill Belichick likes.

New York Jets

The main focus for the Jets in 2017 will be on the quarterback position. The Jets didn’t draft a QB, so they’re rolling with journeyman Josh McCown and youngsters Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty. This is a prove-it year for Hackenberg, whom the Jets drafted in Round 2 last year.

The Jets are also trying to incorporate younger wide receivers, now that Brandon Marshall is playing for the Giants and Eric Decker is with the Titans. Can Quincy Enunwa prove himself as a potential No. 1 threat, rather than just a hybrid receiver/tight end? What do the Jets have in Robby Anderson, who flashed last year as an undrafted rookie?

While the Jets drafted two receivers (ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen), they also selected tight end Jordan Leggett to bolster a position that was nonexistent under offensive coordinator Chan Gailey. Gailey retired, and the Jets replaced him with John Morton.

The running game was respectable — the Jets ranked 12th in the league — but Matt Forté averaged only 3.7 yards per carry, his lowest number since 2009.

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Posted in NFL

NFL Divisional Playoff Preview

The NFL Divisional Playoff match-ups are set and every game will be a rematch from the regular season.

NFC Matchups

In the NFC, it’s the Packers visiting the Cowboys, and the Seahawks on the road to face the Falcons. The often overlooked Falcons have quietly gone about their business this season and clinched the No. 2 seed in the NFC.  They differ from previous years in that it seems they may finally have a reliable defence to go along with their potent offence.  If the Falcons want to make others take note and earn respect they will have to get past the Seahawks. Seattle coming off a less than stellar regular season did manage to win the NFC West with relatively easily by beating the Lions 26-6 in the NFC Wild Card Game.  The big question here is whether Russell Wilson can find consistency in his game, and can the Seahawks defence get past its injury issues and stop the high flying Falcons offense?

The Green Bay Packers are the hottest team in the NFL right now after winning their seventh consecutive game Sunday, defeating the New York Giants 38-13 in the Wild Card.  After a slow start, the Packers offence got going in the second half after ending the first half on a hail mary touchdown from Aaron Rodgers to Randall Cobb.  The Packers hope to continue their hot play and upset the top-seeded Cowboys next Sunday.  The Cowboys are favorites, but they are going to have to depend on rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott to beat the Packers and advance to the NFC Championship game.

AFC Matchups

In the AFC, it’s the Texans looking to play the roll of spoiler as they travel to Gillette Stadium to face the favored Patriots. The Patriots begin their run toward a fifth Super Bowl title with a home game Saturday night.  Not many seems to think the Texans can even keep this game close, let alone come up with the upset. After all, lets not forget that the Patriots blasted the Texans 27-0 earlier this year with their third string QB.  Now with a healthy, rested and focused Brady back under center it is hard to fathom anything but a lop sided Patriots win.

Many believe the Steelers may be the most dangerous team in the postseason, and they will get a chance to prove it Sunday at Arrowhead when they face the Chiefs.  Earlier this year the Steelers punished the Chiefs 43-14.  Will the Steelers defenseThe  continue to shine, and will big Ben’s ankle be ready for the Chiefs pass rush?

Which teams will prevail to play in the Conference Championships on January 22nd?  Make sure to jump in on all the NFL Divisional Playoff action at Fanpicks.com where we always offer you multiple ways to win.

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NFL Wild Card Weekend

Miami Dolphins vs Pittsburgh Steelers Preview

The Pittsburgh Steelers enter the playoffs on a seven-game winning streak. They tied for the most postseason victories (34) in league history. They are not focused on their string of successes though. Instead, the Steelers will be looking to atone for one of their worst performances of the season when they host the Miami Dolphins on Sunday in an AFC wild card weekend matchup (Enter contest).

Pittsburgh secured the AFC North title and the No. 3 seed in the conference with its strong finishing run, which partly was necessitated by a four-game losing streak that started with a 30-15 drubbing in Miami on October 15. The Steelers will be at home in the rematch and temperatures are expected to peak at a frosty 20 degrees on Sunday.

The Dolphins won nine of 10 prior to a loss to New England in the regular-season finale to nail down their first postseason berth since 2008, but they lost starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill to injury in Week 14 and will be forced to go with veteran Matt Moore versus Pittsburgh. Moore will be making his first career postseason start.

ABOUT THE DOLPHINS (10-6)

No matter who is under center, Miami’s game plan figures to follow the blueprint of the mid-October matchup. Running back Jay Ajayi tore through Pittsburgh’s defense for 204 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. It was the first of three 200-yard rushing performances this season by Ajayi. Quarterback Matt Moore, who had just 30 pass attempts in his previous four seasons with the Dolphins, put up solid numbers in his three starts (674 yards, eight TDs, three interceptions). He has a trio of talented wide receivers in Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills. Miami’s defense ranked 30th against the run (140.4 yards per game). They did limit the Steelers rushers to 53 yards in the first matchup.

ABOUT THE STEELERS (11-5)

Le’Veon Bell ran a season-low 10 times against Miami, but he recorded at least 20 carries in each of his last six games before sitting out Week 17. He was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Month for December/January after rushing for 569 yards and four touchdowns while catching 18 passes in four games. Bell is one of two elite weapons for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The quarteback has two Super Bowl championships on his resume. He also has one of the league’s top wideouts in Antonio Brown. Brown is the conference leader with 12 touchdown receptions. He surpassed 100 catches for the fourth straight season and totaled 481 receptions during that time. It’s the highest reception total in any four-year span in NFL history. Roethlisberger is 11-6 in the playoffs, tied for the seventh-best all-time winning percentage. Pittsburgh’s defense led the league with 21 sacks from Weeks 11-16.

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NFL Season Preview:

 2016 AFC East Fantasy Football Season Preview

While the start of the season is quickly approaching, we’ll be providing insights and predictions on each NFL divisions in the league. We’ll begin by the AFC East first, a Patriot’s total domination for the past decade. FanPicks will be providing  you this 2016 AFC East Fantasy Football Season Preview, exclusive from FanPicks, home of the cross sports fantasy contest.

The patriots have been AFC East champions for 7 years in a row now and have occupied the 1st spot for 12 of the last 13 years. But will this domination remain this year with their superstar QB Tom Brady being suspected for the first four games of the

For the past seven seasons — and 12 of the last 13 — the Patriots have finished in first place. But will they be able to keep up despite their superstar QB Tom Brady  missing the first four games of the season?

 

New England Patriots

Brady will only be back in Week 5 due to the four games suspension he will serve for the Deflatgate at the start of the season. The Pats will remain favourites and could easily go 3-1 or worst 2-2 during that period. We’ve seen what an angry Tom Brady can do and he could definitely come back and dominate like he did last year.

Definitely expect the Pats to make another Super Bowl push and get their revenge on a “Manning-less’’ Denver Broncos team.

New York Jets

The Jets were the only winning record team in the NFL that did not make playoffs last year. Their talent can definitely shake things up in the division and expect them to win close to 10 games once more. They were already one of the most improved team last year. We can say that there’s reason to believe in the Jets. The future is pretty bright for this team.

 

Buffalo Bills

With not much of a change expected in the standing’s order, it may be another year for the Bills to add to the longest active playoff drought by any team in major professional sports. Let’s face it, they’re far from the Patriots, not as good as the Jets but much better than the Dolphins.  Expect Buffalo to finish with a 7-9 or 8-8 record.

 

Miami Dolphins

Unfortunately the Dolphins, they haven’t made the playoffs in 7 years. They’ve only finished 2nd 4 times during the 14-year span period. They have a pretty big uphill battle in front of them and the the drought may be continuing until they get busy with Free Agency and Trade deadlines.

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AFC Conference Championship Recap –

New England Patriots vs Denver Broncos

 

The defending Super Bowl champs came to Denver this weekend with almost a full receiving staff after being hampered by injuries early in the year. However, their run game was severely lacking after losing main starters Dion Lewis and Legarette Blount early in the year. Denver, with arguably the strongest pass defense in the league, was ready for this passing front of the Patriots and were able to shut down the attack.

 

Tom Brady had a very uncharacteristic poor QBR of only 22 going 27/56 and throwing 2 interceptions. He managed 310 passing yards and a passing touchdown, generating decent fantasy value of 17 fantasy points. However, in a two game slate like this weekend, if you are going to win your daily fantasy tournament, you have to make all the right picks, and Tom Brady did not have a spot on that winning lineup.

 

However, that doesn’t mean all the Pats should have been avoided. Rob Gronkowski led the list of tight ends for the week with 8 receptions for 144 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown (a key touchdown late in the game). This brought his fantasy point total to 31.4 fantasy points.

 

He was not the only tight end to put up big numbers. On the other side of the ball, Owen Daniels caught 2 passes for 33 yards and 2 touchdowns. Although his total was only 17.3 fantasy points, he costs you far less than Gronk, actually delivering more value.

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New England Patriots vs Denver Broncos 1/24/16 Preview & Picks

  • At 3:05 pm, Tom Brady and his New England Patriots will face-off with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. 

Tom Brady is one of the greatest, if not the greatest quarterback of all-time. Peyton Manning is one of the greatest, if not the greatest quarterback of all-time. Tom Brady is in the running for 2015 league MVP. Peyton Manning is starting for the second consecutive week after taking the job back from Brock Osweiler. My Point? The Patriots will go as far as Brady takes them. The Broncos will go as far as their defense takes them.

While I don’t expect Julian Edelman or Brandon LaFell to beat those long, rangy Denver CBs over the top, Edelman has the potential to catch a ton of short, underneath passes. He’s definitely a WR1,  as Brady could easily target him 12+ times in such an important game. Something along the lines of 10 catches for 110 yards and a TD could be what you’re looking at in return of the high price tag. It would be a surprise to me if LaFell can muster up anything DFS relevant in his matchup against Harris Jr. (though battling an injury) and Talib.

Danny Amendola working the slot has a much better shot at putting up a big game than the Patriots official #2 wideout. Though he only caught two balls on three targets last week and has been limited in practice due to a knee injury all week, he provides the same kind of quick twitch inside ability as Edelman does, which is how you want to attack this stout defense.

Finally, the man you all want to hear about: Rob Grrrrronkowski. Gronk could have a MONSTER game here. With the ferocious pass-rushing ability that the Broncos possess, Bill Belichick will want to feature his star TE up the seam to take the pressure off Tom Brady. There is no better way to keep the linebackers at home than to force them to drop into coverage because the Gronk is just destroying you. Maybe he won’t have monster yardage, but I’m banking on two TDs on Sunday.

Steven Jackson definitely won’t be a DFS factor, so James White is the Pats back to own. His pass-caching ability on swings, screens and checkdowns will also be instrumental in slowing down Demarcus Ware, Von Miller and co. He should have his fair share of chances to make plays.

 

On the home team’s side, the Sheriff Peyton Manning will need to execute flawlessly to lead his Broncos to the Super Bowl contest. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders will need to bust out some major YAC’s to spearhead this attack, while CJ Anderson and Ronnie Hillman churn out chunks on the ground.

Demaryius Thomas will face a big matchup with Patriots CB Logan Ryan. Ryan shut him down in Week 12, with three pass breakups and as Brock Osweiler went 1-of-8 for 36 yards when targeting Thomas. He is a big target and constant red-zone threat, but isn’t always the dominant factor you’re looking for.

Sanders most likely will be face-to-face with Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler on Sunday. The very same Butler that he beat deep in November when he piled up 113 yards. His work in tight and quickness allow him to get separation against a tight Patriots D, and he works hard to run after the catch and eat up yardage.

CJ Anderson and Hillman are always a toss up, but Anderson had his best game of the year against New England with 113 yards of his own and two TDs. The run game can be inconsistent, but the Broncos need it to be on point on Sunday.

Advice: Brady, Gronkowski, Sanders, Edelman, and Anderson should be the top performers. Of course that comes with a hefty price tag, so discounts like James White could be the key to your DFS victory.

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