Tomorrow’s Ultimate NFL Fantasy Picks from QB to Flex – Under $50,000

QB – Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions (vs ARI) / $6,300

RB – Chris Carson – Seattle Seahawks (vs DAL) / $6,400

RB – Miles Sanders – Philadelphia Eagles (vs CIN) / $6,800

WR – Terry McLaurin – Washington (vs CLE) / $5,100

WR – Darius Slayton – New York Giants (vs SF) / $5,200

WR – Calvin Ridley – Atlanta Falcons (vs CHI) / $8,000

TE – Tyler Higbee – Los Angeles Rams (vs BUF) / $5,400

Flex – James Conner – Pittsburgh Steelers (vs HOU) / $4,500

DEF – Indianapolis Colts (vs NYJ) / $2,000

Salary Cap remaining ($50,000): $300

Happy drafting!

Posted in NFL, Top Fantasy Picks

College Football Top Fantasy Team from Saturday’s Week 4 games

QB – Sam Ehlinger – Texas (vs TTU)

QB – D’Eriq King – Miami (vs FSU)

RB – Zamir White – Georgia (vs ARK)

RB – Pooka Williams – Kansas (vs BAY)

WR – Tarik Black – Texas (vs TTU)

WR – Taj Harris – Syracuse (vs GT)

WR – Tylan Wallace – Oklahoma State (vs WVU)

TE – Brevin Jordan – Miami (vs FSU)

FLEX – Najee Harris – Alabama (vs MIZ)

Happy drafting!

Posted in CFB, Top Fantasy Picks

College Football Top Fantasy Team from Middle Tennessee vs UTSA game

QB – Frank Harris – UTSA Roadrunners

RB – Sincere McCormick – UTSA Roadrunners

WR – Joshua Cephus – UTSA Roadrunners

WR – Jarrin Pierce – Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

WR – Brennon Dingle – UTSA Roadrunners

WR – De’Corian Clark – UTSA Roadrunners

Happy drafting!

Posted in CFB, Top Fantasy Picks

College Football Top Fantasy Picks from UAB vs South Alabama Game

QB – Bryson Lucero – UAB Blazers

RB – Spencer Brown – UAB Blazers

RB – Carlos Davis – South Alabama Jaguars

WR – Myron Mitchell – UAB Blazers

WR – Jalen Tolbert – South Alabama Jaguars

TE – Gerrit Prince – UAB Blazers

Happy drafting!

Posted in CFB, Top Fantasy Picks

NFL Top Fantasy Picks from Dolphins vs Jaguars Game

QB – Gardner Minshew II – Jacksonville Jaguars

RB – James Robinson – Jacksonville Jaguars

WR – DeVante Parker – Miami Dolphins

WR – DJ Chark Jr – Jacksonville Jaguars

WR – Keelan Cole – Jacksonville Jaguars

TE – Mike Gesicki – Miami Dolphins

Happy drafting!

Posted in NFL, Top Fantasy Picks

UAB vs Miami

QB: D’Eriq King – Miami

UT: Austin Watkins Jr – UAB

UT: Brevin Jordan – Miami

UT: Cam’Ron Harris – Miami

UT: Spencer Brown – UAB

UT: Myron Mitchell – UAB

Happy Drafting!

Posted in CFB, Top Fantasy Picks

  1. Shane Buechele – SMU Mustangs
  2. Damonte Coxie – Memphis Tigers
  3. Reggie Roberson Jr – SMU Mustangs
  4. Brady White – Memphis Tigers
  5. Asher O’Hara – Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
  6. Jonathan Adams – Arkansas State Red Wolves
  7. Kylen Granson – SMU Mustangs
  8. Logan Bonner – Arkansas State Red Wolves
  9. Sandon McCoy – Army Black Knights
  10. T.J. McDaniels – SMU Mustangs
  11. Marcel Murray – Arkansas State Red Wolves

Happy drafting!!!

Posted in CFB, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Kepa Arrizabalaga
Source: Bryn Lennon / Getty Images Europe

Tottenham Hotspur-Chelsea Preview

If drama was a category in the Premier League table, Chelsea would be runaway winners this term.

After an outlandish moment in the Carabao Cup finals in which Kepa Arrizabalaga defied manager Maurizio Sarri and refused to be substituted, the question ahead of Wednesday’s derby at Stamford Bridge against Tottenham Hotspur is whether the world’s most expensive goalkeeper will be between the sticks.

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Arrizabalaga had been battling a hamstring problem that made him a question mark for Sunday’s match against Manchester City, and it appeared he had aggravated the injury making a save in the final minutes of extra time and even sought out medical attention. Sarri, with an eye on the impending penalty kicks in the scoreless match, told backup Willy Caballero to get ready to enter the game.

The fourth official held up the board to signal the substitution, only for Arrizabalaga – signed by Chelsea for £72 million before the start of the season – to refuse to come off the pitch. Captain Cesar Azpilicueta did not intervene, and only David Luiz made any movement in his keeper’s direction. After a back-and-forth between Arrizabalaga and the Chelsea bench, the keeper remained in the match and sent Sarri into a furious rage while Caballero stewed in embarrassment.

In the interim between the end of extra time and the penalty kicks, Sarri had to be restrained by defender Antonio Rudiger from confronting Arrizabalaga and had barely any interaction with his side before they lined up for penalties. Arrizabalaga made a valiant effort to redeem himself in the spot kicks, nearly stopping Sergio Aguero’s attempt in the second round and successfully punching away Leroy Sane’s shot in the next round to give Chelsea a lifeline.

Luiz, though, cannoned the next attempt off the woodwork, and that was enough daylight for Manchester City to produce a victory, with Arrizabalaga guessing wrong on Raheem Sterling’s match-winning attempt. With Sarri denied his first trophy at any level as a manager in such dramatic and bewildering fashion, all of the post-match talk centered around whether Sarri has lost the dressing room and if there would be any repercussions for Arrizabalaga going forward.

Both used the word “misunderstanding” in separate statements in explaining themselves, and Chelsea fined Arrizabalaga one week’s worth of wages for his insubordination. In his statement, Sarri said his keeper “realises he made a big mistake in the way he reacted” and added “he has apologised to me, his team-mates and the club.”

The apology, though, offers no insight into whether Arrizabalaga will be in goal for this contest. Football media throughout England have been sent into overdrive because of the incident, with some publications talking of dressing-room rifts with players in support of Caballero and the club desperate to avoid another bust-up similar to the one between Antonio Conte and Diego Costa that ultimately contributed to Conte’s demise at Stamford Bridge and Sarri’s arrival.

In the Premier League picture, Chelsea (15-5-6) are sixth in the table on 50 points, three points behind fourth-place Manchester United with a match in hand. The Pensioners are also still vying for a back-door entry into the Champions League via the Europa League, having progressed to the round of 16 opposite Dynamo Kyiv.

Chelsea’s 3-0 second-leg win over Malmo that preceded Sunday’s loss took away some of the sting of their 6-0 battering by City a fortnight ago that prompted a fresh round of inquest regarding Sarri’s future. Those questions will continue until the final whistle of Chelsea’s final match, with the club’s ban on signings the next two transfer windows also playing a key role in the club’s future.

Less than 25 kilometres to the north, Tottenham Hotspur (20-0-7) look to regroup from a lost opportunity to draw closer in the title race. Owning a match in hand on Manchester City last weekend, the Spurs squandered it with a 2-1 defeat at Burnley on Saturday. The loss, coupled with Liverpool’s draw at Manchester United, dropped the Lilywhites six points behind the table-topping Reds with 11 matches to play and five adrift of City for second.

Harry Kane made an instant impact on his return from an eight-game absence due to an ankle injury, scoring a contentious second-half equalizer, but a late breakdown led to a controversial goal for the hosts and an incandescent Mauricio Pochettino blasting referee Mike Dean post-match.

“It’s very disappointing,” Kane told Spurs’ official website. “It was one of those games, a tough battle, a dry pitch, we know how Burnley play, especially at home and it was physical. We did well to get back into it at 1-1 but we couldn’t find the next level to push on and get the win and then unfortunately we conceded again.

“It’s a game we should be winning. We had time off, so we were fresh and we expected to come here and step it up a level and give it a massive push for the rest of the season. Now it puts us behind and in a tough position. It’s a big week to come and we have to move on as best we can.”

Pochettino admitted afterwards he “crossed a line” in confronting Dean, and the FA agreed as it handed down two charges of improper conduct at the Argentine boss on Monday. The charges could bring a touchline ban after this match for Pochettino, who is about to embark on the biggest week of the season for Spurs as they play back-to-back derbies – Tottenham host Arsenal in the third north London grudge match – ahead of their second-leg round of 16 Champions League tie at Borussia Dortmund in which they will try to protect a 3-0 lead earned at Wembley earned a fortnight ago.

One minor point for this match is Dean was taken off fourth official duties for this match due to his tete-a-tete with Pochettino. Dean was moved to the Manchester City-West Ham United match, and Andre Marriner was tabbed as his replacement.

This is the fourth match between the sides this term, with Spurs looking for a measure of revenge after being bounced on penalties after the second leg of the Carabao Cup semifinals at Stamford Bridge on Jan. 24 after failing to protect a one-goal lead from the first leg.

Despite Spurs claiming victories in two of the three matches, the only one they showed clear superiority was in their 3-1 win at Wembley in November when Pochettino opted for a diamond midfield that isolated Jorginho and exploited the Italian in Sarri’s 4-3-3 set-up. In the last match, though, Chelsea claimed a 2-1 victory through goals by N’Golo Kante and Eden Hazard. Fernando Llorente’s goal for Spurs created a 2-2 aggregate that resulted in penalties to decide the match.

Last season, Tottenham recorded their first Premier League win in 26 tries (1-9-16) at Stamford Bridge with a 3-1 victory thanks to a brace by Dele Alli.

Posted in EPL/MLS, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Paulo Dybala (center) & Cristiano Ronaldo (right)
Source: Getty Images Europe

Atletico ‘inspired’ by possibility of home final

Atletico Madrid and Juventus go head-to-head in the Champions League knock-outs for the first time on Wednesday night.

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The pair both hold unwanted European Cup records – Juventus have finished as runners-up seven times, more than any other team in the competition’s history, while Atletico are the only team to reach three finals without ever winning the tournament.

For the Spanish side though, there is an extra inspiration for victory at the Wanda Metropolitano on Wednesday; should they make it to the final, they will be back in their home stadium which will host the showpiece game for the first time.

“Of course we are inspired by playing a final in our own stadium, in our own city, in front of our own fans,” said manager Diego Simeone. “But it is pointless only to imagine it. The reality will be what we deserve.”

Juventus are running away with Serie A as they chase an eighth straight domestic title, and their 13-point lead over Napoli may well prove unassailable.

That has left their focus strongly on the Champions League – and Paulo Dybala, whose five goals in the competition so far have helped the club to their fifth last-16 clash in a row, thinks they can put that focus to good use and go all the way.

He said: “We’ve got a great squad with some top professionals, who have gained a lot of experience over the course of these years.

“We’re clearly contenders, but we have to go out there and prove it.”

Team news

Diego Costa is in contention to play having returned to action in Atletico’s win at Rayo Vallecano last weekend. But Lucas Hernandez missed that game, and looks unlikely to recover in time for Wednesday.

Juan Cuadrado is missing having been absent with injury since December. Alex Sandro, who missed their last game with Frosinone, may return having trained on Tuesday.

Stats

Atlético Madrid have met Juventus seven times previously in European competition, although five of those matches were played in the Fairs Cup in the 1960s. In fact, Juventus’ last victory against Atlético Madrid dates back to June 1965 in a Fairs Cup semi-final second-leg replay (3-1)

Atlético Madrid and Juventus’ only previous Champions League encounter was in the 2014/15 group stages. Only one goal was scored in the two matches, an Arda Turan winner for Atlético at their home stadium of Vicente Calderón

Atlético Madrid are unbeaten in the Champions League against Italian opposition under manager Diego Simeone (W4 D2). In those six games, they have only conceded one goal, by Kaká in a 4-1 win against AC Milan in March 2014

Atlético Madrid have reached the Champions League knockout stages in five of their six campaigns under manager Diego Simeone. The only exception was last season when they finished third in their Champions League group and went on to win the Europa League

Atlético Madrid are unbeaten in their last 12 home games in the Champions League knockout stages (W7 D5). In fact, they’ve only conceded one goal in their last 10 matches at home in the knockout phase, an Isco strike for Real Madrid in May 2017

Only Atlético Madrid (6) have conceded fewer shots on target from inside their own box than Juventus (9) in this season’s Champions League

Juventus have won four of their last five away games in the knockout stages of the Champions League (D1). Their last defeat dates back to March 2016 in the last-16 second leg against Bayern Munich

Antoine Griezmann has scored or assisted a goal in each of his six Champions League games at the Wanda Metropolitano (6 goals, 3 assists). This season, he’s been directly involved in six of Atlético Madrid’s nine Champions League goals (67%), with four goals and two assists – that’s the highest ratio among the 16 teams left in the competition

Paulo Dybala has scored six goals in his last seven Champions League appearances, that’s more than in his previous 24 appearances in the competition with Juventus (5 goals). All 11 of his goals in the competition have come with his left foot

Juventus’s Cristiano Ronaldo has scored only one goal in his last eight Champions League games; he’d found the net 11 times in his eight previous games. He has failed to score in four of his last five UCL games against Atlético Madrid.

Massimiliano Allegri has reached the knockout stages in each of his nine campaigns as manager in the Champions League. He was a beaten finalist in two of the last four seasons with Juventus.

Prediction

This is another belter. Cristiano Ronaldo is back in Madrid but Atletico don’t give too much away and it will be physical. I must admit that I don’t like watching Atletico Madrid play but I respect them. You could see them getting to 1-0 and then shutting up shop and blocking off Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala and sneaking a result with Antoine Griezmann getting the winner to keep his reputation floating along.

Posted in EPL/MLS, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Kevin De Bruyne
Source: Alex Livesey / Getty Image Europe

This is it. The UEFA Champions League kicks back off this week as the knockout rounds are here.

With all four Premier League teams competing in the last 16, three of them (Man City, Liverpool, Tottenham) face Bundesliga opponents over two legs in the coming weeks, while Manchester United square off with Paris Saint-Germain.

Huge clashes between Ajax and Real Madrid, plus Atletico Madrid v. Juventus, Roma v. Porto and Barcelona against Lyon make up a mouthwatering first knockout round.

Below is a prediction of how each of the eight last 16 clashes will go, as Liverpool, Man City, Man United and Spurs all eye deep runs in the competition.

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AS Roma v. FC Porto
First leg: Feb. 12 at Stadio Olimpico
Second leg: Mar. 6 at Dragao
Score prediction – Roma will have too much going forward for Porto and their experience will count here. 4-2 aggregate win to Roma.


Manchester United v. Paris Saint Germain
First leg: Feb. 12 at Old Trafford
Second leg: Mar. 6 at Parc des Princes

Score prediction – Injuries to PSG’s key players is a huge help for United. 3-3 draw on aggregate, United to go through on away goals.


Tottenham Hotspur v. Borussia Dortmund
First leg: Feb. 13, at Wembley
Second leg: Mar. 5 at Signal Iduna Park

Score prediction – Not having Harry Kane and Dele Alli for the first leg hurts, but Spurs will fancy their chances with the duo back for the second leg. Tottenham to win 5-4 on aggregate.


Ajax v. Real Madrid
First leg: Feb. 13, at Johan Cruyff Arena
Second leg: Mar. 5 at Santiago Bernabeu
Score prediction – Given their wobbles all season long, Ajax will aim to end Real’s dominance in the UCL. I just can’t see it happening. 4-1 win on aggregate to Real Madrid.


Liverpool v. Bayern Munich

First leg: Feb. 19 at Anfield
Second leg: Mar. 13 at Allianz Arena
Score prediction – Such a tough tie for Jurgen Klopp‘s men against an improving, and experienced, Bayern. Everyone expects Liverpool to win, but this is so close to call. 4-4 on aggregate, Bayern to win on penalties.


Lyon v. Barcelona
First leg: Feb. 19 at Groupama Stadium

Second leg: Mar. 13 at Nou Camp
Score prediction – Over the past few years Lyon’s youngsters have punched above their weight, but Barcelona look hungry. Messi and Co. will take care of business. 6-2 aggregate win for Barca.


Schalke v. Manchester City
First leg: Feb. 20 at Veltins-Arena
Second leg: Mar. 12 at Etihad Stadium
Score prediction – A tricky test for Pep Guardiola‘s men who are the heavy favorites. Schalke sit in midtable in the Bundesliga and their full attention will be on these games. City’s attack will have too much for them. 5-3 win on aggregate to Man City.


Atletico Madrid v. Juventus
First leg: Feb. 20 at Wanda Metropolitano
Second leg: Mar. 12 at Allianz Stadium
Score prediction – What a tie this promises to be. Two teams used to making deep runs in this competition and Ronaldo returning to try and haunt Atletico again. Diego Simeone’s men have stumbled a few times this season. Juve will get the job done at home in the second leg. 3-2 to Juventus on aggregate.

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Posted in EPL/MLS, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Tom Brady (left) & Jared Goff (right)
Source: Zuma Press

Breaking down Sunday’s big game.

Back in 2002, the Los Angeles Rams lived in St. Louis, seeking their second Super Bowl title in three years against an upstart New England Patriots team. It was a group of no-name players from the AFC seemingly sent to be sacrificed against one of the best NFC teams fielded this century.

The Patriots’ head coach, Bill Belichick, was a prodigy who’d failed to deliver in six previous NFL seasons. He had as many playoff victories, one, that equaled what he was really known for: days as head coach of the New York Jets before quitting the job. His quarterback, Tom Brady, was a sixth-round draft pick who had thrown a total of three career NFL passes entering the year; he was pressed into service when longtime starter Drew Bledsoe got hurt.

That left the AFC champs as heavy underdogs against the “Greatest Show On Turf,” a Rams group who had cruised to a 14-2 record and the NFC’s top seed. The offensive juggernaut was favored by 14 points; Kurt Warner and Rams head coach Mike Martz were the ones fit to be football kings.

But something happened on the way to their coronation; the Patriots refused to cede the crown. A late drive by Brady led to a game-winning field goal, producing a 20-17 upset that snuffed out the Rams’ dynasty and started his. Seven more Super Bowls would follow, producing four more wins and turning the Patriots into arguably the greatest NFL team of all time.

So here we are, 17 years later, with the script flipped on Brady and Belichick. It’s a group of young upstarts in the Rams who aren’t supposed to be here yet, led by the league’s youngest head coach, 33-year-old Sean McVay. The quarterback is 24-year-old Jared Goff; he was in second grade when Brady won his first Super Bowl. The Rams come in as the second seed, like the Patriots in 2002, peaking at the right time while persevering through a few lucky breaks. A timely interception preserved a victory against the Eagles, the league’s defending Super Bowl champs. One week later, a no-call on pass interference boosted the Rams in an upset of the NFC’s top seed, the New Orleans Saints.

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Now back in Los Angeles, the Rams have a chance to bring the city their first Super Bowl victory since 1984. The Patriots and Brady, meanwhile, are looking to cement their legendary status. A 6-3 record in Super Bowls looks a whole lot better than 5-4; a win also would tie Brady with Michael Jordan’s six NBA titles and break one with Charles Haley for the most rings ever won by an NFL player.

Historically, it would also put a bow on a Brady career most believed would never still be active at age 41. He is the only player remaining from that game on the Patriots, outlasting everyone who stepped foot on the field in Super Bowl XXXVI except kicker Adam Vinatieri. It’s a quarterback that gutted it out on that fateful night, willed his team to the win and hasn’t looked back… for 17 years.

Will Brady refuse to give up, yet again? Or can the Rams usher in a new generation through their collection of young talent?

Super Bowl 53: New England Patriots vs Los Angeles Rams

Kickoff: Sunday, Feb. 3 at 6:30 p.m. ET

Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome (Atlanta)

TV: CBS

Spread: Patriots -2.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Brady’s big game experience vs. Goff’s biggest moment

There’s not much to say about Tom Brady that hasn’t already been said. His postseason experience includes more playoff wins (29) than Jared Goff’s actual age (24). He enters his ninth Super Bowl with the highest playoff completion percentage of his NFL career (71.1) through two games and a healthy 7.7 yards per attempt. And his three straight third-down conversions on a touchdown-winning overtime drive against the Chiefs? Yet another chapter in a book growing too large for your shelf at home. If you’re looking for Brady to slip Sunday, don’t; it’s a man who’s as battle-tested as they come.

Instead, this Super Bowl becomes all about Goff and his ability to carry the Rams. The first pick in the 2016 NFL Draft took a major step toward stardom this season. His 8.4 yards per attempt ranked fourth in the NFL; a 101.1 QB rating ranked eighth, four notches higher than Brady. And only Patrick Mahomes, Ben Roethlisberger, and Matt Ryan threw for more yards than Goff (4,688).

For much of the year, Goff lurked in the shadows behind young Mahomes, who set the league on fire with 5,097 passing yards and 50 touchdowns. But Goff has had success of his own, in particular in big games. He outdueled Mahomes in a 54-51 win for the Rams in the regular season, throwing for 413 yards, four touchdowns and no picks. He also calmly led the Rams on both the game-tying and game-winning drives last week in the NFC Championship, succeeding in one of the sport’s most hostile road environments: the Superdome.

Through it all, Goff maintained a calm, even-keeled demeanor that’s drawn comparisons to his Super Bowl rival. The question is whether he can continue that in the biggest game of his NFL career. He’s shown inconsistency late in the year, in particular after the loss of slot receiver Cooper Kupp to a torn ACL. He’s failed to throw a touchdown in three of the last five games and had a career-worst four interceptions against the Bears last month.

You shouldn’t expect that many turnovers against the Patriots. But all it takes is one fumble or a pick-six and suddenly momentum turns against you. Goff can’t make that type of mistake against this opponent.

2. Is Todd Gurley healthy? If not, who becomes the star of the Rams’ offense?

Gurley remains the biggest x-factor in a running game that’s been carried most of the postseason by C.J. Anderson. Anderson isn’t a full-time back for a reason; he averaged just 2.8 yards per carry in the NFC Championship against the Saints.

But despite Anderson’s ineffectiveness and claims that Gurley was healthy, the Pro Bowl running back rarely spent time in the backfield. Just four carries for 10 yards have everyone scratching their head as to how much time Gurley will play on Super Bowl Sunday.

He was on the field for less than half the snaps, touching the ball just five times for his lowest output of the season. Even worse, the first pass targeted his way bounced right through his hands and into the arms of a Saints defender for an interception. That’s not the way you’d expect a guy who has a league-leading 3,924 yards from scrimmage the last two seasons to perform in your biggest game.

So is a knee injury suffered back in December hobbling Gurley?

“C’mon man,” he said to reporters Friday, adamantly denying it. “If there was an issue with my knee, it would be on the injury report. I’m at practice. I’m playing.”

“You just have to feed off what we are doing, and C.J. was running the ball well,” added Goff to FOX’s Chris Myers after the NFC Championship. “I expect Todd to have a hell of a game in the Super Bowl.”

But will he play well? The Patriots have allowed just 30 rushing yards per game in the postseason, redeeming themselves after an inconsistent regular season. It’s difficult to see Gurley breaking through if he’s less than 100 percent, putting even more pressure on both Anderson and Goff. Gurley’s reduced presence could also hurt in the passing game; he had 59 receptions for 580 yards during the regular season, good for third on the team.

Compare Gurley’s ailment to Sony Michel’s accomplishments over the past two weeks. He’s posted 242 yards and five touchdowns on the ground in the postseason, averaging 4.6 yards per carry and allowing the Patriots to spread the field and open up passing windows for Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. Rams All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald must take charge here and stop Michel or Rex Burkhead from establishing a rhythm.

3. Trench warfare

The Patriots’ offensive line has been the unsung heroes of these playoffs. With a 41-year-old quarterback who’s not as mobile they’ve given up a grand total of zero sacks. The offensive line of the Rams is close behind; just one sack in two games.

So what now? Both teams have used defensive penetration to their advantage; they’ve racked up nine sacks between the two of them. Something’s got to give, somewhere and you have to figure the Patriots have the edge despite the Rams’ Donald. Kyle Van Noy and Trey Flowers have formed an effective 1-2 punch with two sacks apiece. Dont’a Hightower, despite just four tackles in the postseason, has proved generally disruptive.

The key for the Rams is simply to get Donald going. He has just four tackles during the postseason and no major plays of note, at least on paper. Can those three postseason quarterback hits turn into sacks? Contact is more likely to hobble Brady based on his age and current mobility. Getting to Brady is key to getting the Lombardi trophy.

X-Factor: A tale of two coaches

Bill Belichick has done it all. Sean McVay? He’s just getting started. But both coaches benefit from unconventional styles and a penchant for doing things their own way.

The two men met at the NFL Scouting Combine and have texted since, with Belichick taking his time to congratulate McVay after games. The normally tight-lipped Patriots head coach was even willing to compliment the prodigy half his age during Super Bowl media festivities.

“I have a ton of respect for Sean,” he said. “He’s done a great job in the two years he’s been with the Rams. His teams have performed at an extremely high level. They’re very consistent. They’re well-coached. The players execute on a consistent basis on a very high level.”

But for all the confidence Belichick shows in McVay, he also has the experience earned from Super Bowl victories. The Patriots are also coming off a Super Bowl in which the aggressive, youngish coaching style of Doug Pederson kept them off guard. He pushed down on the accelerator and never relented, taking high-risk approaches and offensive gambles that paid off.

One thing about great coaches, they don’t get fooled by the same method twice. Expect Belichick to have learned from that experience and for McVay to be the innocent victim of last year’s frustration.

Final Analysis

This year’s Super Bowl line opened with the Rams favored by one. But as game time inches closer, the Patriots have edged back on top and seem to be regaining respect. They’re presenting themselves as a healthy, loose team in position to avenge their narrow loss to the Eagles a season ago.

The Rams, meanwhile, have seen some clouds roll in. The news stories surrounding the pass interference call won’t die; a local New Orleans car dealership has bought billboards all over Atlanta claiming the Saints got robbed. Calls have come from their owner, other NFL players and even Congress itself to change the rules going forward. (Had the penalty been called, the Saints would have run down the clock and attempted a chip shot field goal for the win.)

It leaves the Rams, well, a bit off balance while the Patriots enter the Super Bowl playing at their peak. A motivated Brady is on a mission; one year after losing a step from his MVP status at age 40, he’s out to reinforce his top-tier status at age 41. Add in another week of rest for Gronkowski, the emergence of a rushing star in Michel and it makes the Patriots’ offense seemingly impossible to beat.

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Posted in NFL, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Aaron Donald
Source: Getty Image North America

Aaron Donald and the Rams’ defense have dominated the line of scrimmage in their two playoff victories

The Rams are back! While this isn’t exactly “The Greatest Show on Turf,” the Rams are back in the Super Bowl after knocking off the top-seeded Saints 26-23 in overtime in the NFC Championship on Sunday in New Orleans. The win not only marked the franchise’s first conference title since 2001 (back when they were in St. Louis), it also means that for the first time in more than 30 years, the city of Los Angeles will be represented in the Super Bowl.

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Even though there was some questionable officiating on Sunday, credit goes to the Rams who overcame a 13-0 first-quarter deficit to fight back, force overtime, and hand the Saints just their third home loss this season. Next up is a date on Feb. 3 in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium to face the seemingly unstoppable New England Patriots. Los Angeles has already been installed as the underdog, which should came as no surprise since New England will be making its third straight appearance and fourth in five years.

And most of us remember when these two teams met in the Super Bowl nearly 20 years ago when Bill Belichick/Tom Brady were leading the upstart team against the heavy favorites. Obviously much has changed since then but it seems the roles have been reversed. So can the Rams slay the NFL’s current giant and this time take care of business in Atlanta? Here are five reasons to expect the NFC champion to be the victorious team by the end of Super Sunday.

5 Reasons Why the Los Angeles Rams Will Win Super Bowl LIII

1. The Rams’ emerging pass rush

Even with a stout defensive line led by the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year in Aaron Donald, Los Angeles finished the regular season in the middle of the pack with 41 sacks (15th). But that has changed during the playoffs where the pass rush has already made an impact.

In their wins over the Cowboys and Saints, the Rams have collected three sacks and nine quarterback hits and also have recorded 12.5 tackles for a loss. On Sunday, Dante Fowler Jr. was the one who was able to put enough pressure on Drew Brees to hit his arm which resulted in the interception that gave the ball to Los Angeles near midfield and resulted in the game-winning field goal by Greg Zuerlein.

In the AFC Championship, Kansas City not only didn’t record a sack of Tom Brady, the Chiefs had just one quarterback hit and were flagged for roughing the passer in a key spot. They did have two interceptions but in the end, Brady still threw for 348 yards in leading his team to victory in overtime. Brady is similar to Brees in that he’s not the most mobile of quarterbacks but he gets rid of the ball quickly and the Patriots’ offensive line has done a good job protecting him. The Rams need to keep bringing the heat with Donald, Fowler, Ndamukong Suh, Michael Brockers and other rushers so Brady doesn’t pick them apart from the pocket. Consistent pressure also can force Brady to have happy feet and potentially force some throws or make mistakes.

2. Keep it on the ground

Another thing that Los Angeles has done well in January is run the ball, even if Todd Gurley hasn’t been his usual explosive self. The Rams have put up 350 rushing yards and four touchdowns in their two playoff wins, with most of that damage coming against Dallas in the Divisional Round. C.J. Anderson (167 yards, 2 TDs) has come up huge since signing with the team a month ago, and Gurley will get a little more time to let his knee recover from the injury that caused him to miss the last two games of the regular season.

New England was OK against the run in the regular season (112.7 ypg) but has been very good in the playoffs, holding the Chargers and Chiefs to a total of 60 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Game script had a lot to do with this as both teams were playing from behind for most of their games, but Sean McVay knows he can’t simply abandon the run as much as he may want to air it out with Jared Goff. With two solid options to run the ball with, some old-school football could work in Los Angeles’ favor.

3. The Rams can also stop the run

While Wade Phillips’ defense gave up five yards per carry during the regular season, the unit has tightened things up considerably in the playoffs. Dallas and New Orleans managed a total of 98 rushing yards while averaging just 2.3 yards per carry. The longest running play the Rams have surrendered in the postseason is 16 yards.

For New England, rookie Sony Michel was come up huge in the Patriots’ two playoff victories, as he’s piled up 242 yards and five touchdowns on a whopping 53 carries. He averaged a healthy 5.5 yards per attempt against Kansas City and his effectiveness opened up opportunities for fellow running back Rex Burkhead (2 TDs including game-winner vs. Kansas City in overtime) as well as the passing game (Brady completed passes to eight different Patriots in win over Chiefs).

Brady has proven in years past that he can beat teams even without a strong running game but if Los Angeles can make things easier on itself on defense if the Rams can somehow make Michel a non-factor.

4. The offensive line has stood its ground

Not only have the boys up front cleared a path for the rushing attack, they’ve also kept the pocket mostly clean for Goff in recent weeks. He’s been sacked just once in the two playoff victories and the six hits the Saints got on him in the NFC Championship were the most since the Eagles got seven back in Week 15. Goff also has been sharp with his throws and decision-making with just two interceptions over his last five games.

The Patriots’ defense has wreaked havoc this postseason by collecting six sacks and 17 quarterback hits. Even though New England has able to harass Patrick Mahomes on Sunday, it still took overtime to beat a pesky Chiefs team. If the Rams’ offensive line can do its job and give Goff the time he needs to find his receivers downfield, Los Angeles should be able to move the ball against he Patriots.

5. The Rams have made their presence felt in Atlanta through the years

When the Rams won Super Bowl XXXIV at the conclusion of the 1999 season, they’re only Super Bowl title thus far, they did so in Atlanta. Since then the Rams have made six trips to Georgia’s biggest city where they’ve won twice and have scored 161 total points. Those games, however, were in the since-demolished Georgia Dome. This will be the Rams’ first appearance in Mercedes-Benz Stadium where they hope to create some more history.

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Pictured: Tom Brady
Source: Kevin C. Cox / Getty Image North America

Will the ninth time be the charm for an unprecedented sixth Super Bowl ring for Belichick and Brady?

Love them or hate them, the New England Patriots have established an NFL dynasty that may never be matched in the salary cap era. Defeating the Kansas City Chiefs on the road Sunday earned them a fourth Super Bowl bid in the past five seasons and the team’s ninth with Bill Belichick as head coach. Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady will now go for their sixth Super Bowl ring 17 years to the day after they earned their first, coming against the same team they’ll face a second time down in Atlanta.

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Of course, the Rams are hardly the same in terms of personnel since that fateful Super Bowl in 2002; they don’t even play in the same city anymore. Not a single player that played for the franchise then remains on the Rams; head coach Sean McVay was in high school when that game happened. Rams quarterback Jared Goff? He was in second grade.

That type of longevity is what makes these Patriots, Belichick and Brady one of the game’s all-time greats. It’s also experience that leaves them well-positioned to win the Super Bowl, yet again, in a game where they’ve opened as 1.5-point favorites.

5 Reasons Why The New England Patriots Will Win Super Bowl LIII

1. A resurgent running game

Saquon Barkley may be getting all the buzz as the best new running back this season but Sony Michel made a case of his own during these playoffs. Michel just trampled over the Chiefs in the first half of the AFC Championship, finishing with 113 rushing yards and two touchdowns despite inexplicably sitting unused for much of the fourth quarter and overtime. (It was Rex Burkhead, not Michel, who scored the game-winning touchdown and had a number of key runs in the Patriots’ final two offensive drives.)

But the fact the Patriots could switch out Burkhead and get the same effectiveness shows you the state of their run game. Michel has now put together back-to-back 100-yard performances against two AFC playoff teams; he has three 100-yard games in his last four. (That puts him one behind Barkley’s 2018 benchmark of four straight.)

While the Rams have buckled down in the playoffs this is still the same defense that ranked just 23rd overall during the regular season. On offense, their own rushing attack is questionable with the health of Todd Gurley II a major concern after he was used sparingly in the NFC Championship.

2. An unheralded offensive line

The Patriots’ line paved the way for a 41-year-old Tom Brady to make magic in the late stages of their comeback win against the Chiefs. During two postseason games, Brady has yet to be sacked. That’s right; zero sacks from a Chiefs defense that tied for the league lead with 52 during the regular season.

Not one of these linemen were selected to the Pro Bowl but rising from virtual anonymity is how the Patriots have done it all these years. The group of David Andrews, Marcus Cannon, Joe Thuney, Shaq Mason and Trent Brown have an average of just 4.6 years of experience between them. But this quintet is growing up at the right time and provided Brady some extra comfort to make key throws down the stretch, especially on third downs.

3. Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman

Speaking of third downs, both Gronkowski and Edelman were money when it mattered, although the latter dodged one potential, game-changing mistake. Two key throws to Edelman kept alive the overtime drive before Gronkowski stepped in to set up the Patriots near the goal line. That duo appears to be all the Patriots need, although Chris Hogan had a key third-down catch himself in the fourth quarter.

Edelman was stopped just short of 100 yards in the AFC Championship one week after going for nine catches and 151 yards in the convincing win over the Chargers. He’s Brady’s most reliable target and has had a chip on his shoulder after his four-game suspension reminiscent of his quarterback’s time away a few years ago. Edelman did get a mulligan when an apparent fumble on a muffed punt return about midway through the fourth quarter was overturned on replay. Brady threw an interception two plays later on a ball that, ironically, bounced off of Edelman’s fingertips.

But otherwise as a receiver Edelman came through, hauling in seven of his 10 targets. And when No. 11 was covered? Gronk lined up on the outside and delivered after a season that increasingly appears to be his last. But a creaky, hobbled tight end from years of injuries pulled one out of the hat in the AFC Championship. Seemingly every one of his six catches was a game-changer but it was his blocking that was the real secret weapon, opening up even more running lanes for Michel, Burkhead and James White.

Once again, a Rams defense that allowed 23 points to the Saints’ many talented offensive pieces will struggle to stop a “healthier” Gronk. And if it’s the tight end’s last game ever? He won’t hold back.

4. A defense that pressures the quarterback

The Rams’ offensive line has been almost as good as the Patriots’; Jared Goff has been sacked just once during the postseason. But it’s hard to see that number staying low with the Pats’ numbers against the speedy NFL MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes. Their four sacks of the young quarterback included one that pushed them out of field goal range late in the first half, a score that would have potentially made the difference.

Weirdly enough, the Rams and Patriots have the same turnover margin during the postseason, coming out even. But who do you trust heading to Atlanta? The 24-year-old Goff, playing in his first Super Bowl without two major weapons at 100 percent? (Gurley and deep threat Cooper Kupp, out for the season with a torn ACL?) Or do you trust the guy in Brady that’s been there more times (nine) than Goff’s age (seven) when Brady won his first ring?

That leads us to…

5. Belichick-Brady

This duo got beat at their own game last year, Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles using the underdog mantra and dog masks to waltz their way to an epic Super Bowl victory. It’s the first time Belichick-Brady has been beaten in the big game by a team other than Eli Manning and the New York Giants.

Since then, it’s felt like the Patriots have had the odds stacked against them. A bizarre, game-ending miracle play against the Miami Dolphins robbed them of home-field advantage. Eleven wins were their fewest since 2009; inconsistent play dogged both sides of the ball. It all added up to the Patriots being labeled an underdog on the road in the AFC Championship for the first time in what felt like forever.

But that’s when the mastery of Brady and Belichick turned on. The underdog mantra became a rallying cry in the locker room, most famously by Edelman and his Hashtag BetAgainstUs shirts. Then, both quarterback and coach came to play. Belichick and his coaches had perhaps their most inspiring performance during the postseason in years Sunday; the variety and gustiness of play-calling kept the Chiefs’ defense off guard all night. Remember, the staff was so aggressive they tried to win the game through a flea-flicker with time ticking down in the fourth quarter! Who does that?

Through it all, there was the steady hand of Brady. Sure, he’s had his rough moments this year; an interception in the end zone was the type of mistake he typically doesn’t make (and might have put the game away in the first half). But when it mattered, with the game on the line Brady brought that team down three straight times and scored. His stat line on those drives (taking away the one kneel down to force overtime): 5-for-6 on third down, no sacks taken, 21 points scored. That’s all that matters.

And it’s the type of gritty performance that offers a storybook ending to the 41-year-old 17 years after his first ring. Perhaps the real question is, if the Patriots win again, will Brady choose to retire with the storybook seemingly as complete as it can possibly be?

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