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

The Saints are slight favorites to take the Vince Lombardi Trophy

The cream has risen to the top. This weekend’s conference championship games feature perhaps the most loaded final four in NFL history. The quarterbacks alone provide a truckload of storylines: Tom Brady attempts to put a stranglehold on the GOAT label by making his ninth Super Bowl; MVP favorite Patrick Mahomes tries to extend his historic season for one more game; Drew Brees seeks to put an exclamation point on his Hall of Fame career as a newly minted 40-year-old; and Jared Goff seeks to take the next step into superstardom.

Here’s a look at the latest Vegas odds heading into the weekend, as the NFL’s final four eye Super Bowl LIII. 

Super Bowl Odds

New Orleans Saints 7/4

The Saints remain the slight Vegas favorites. But before we give them the nod over the Rams thanks to their Dome-field advantage, let’s remember that two of their three losses this season came at home. 

Kansas City Chiefs 13/5

KC has painted a masterpiece this season thanks to the wizardry of Mahomes and his array of weapons, including the electrifying Tyreek Hill. Andy Reid could exorcise a career’s worth of postseason demons with two more wins.

New England Patriots 7/2

Of the four teams left standing, the Patriots have the most losses, with five. But does anyone have the courage to bet against Old Man Brady after his flawless performance against the Chargers?  

Los Angeles Rams 7/2

It’s strange to call a dominant three-loss team an underdog, but that’s where we are with the Rams, who feature the NFC’s top offense as well as the Defensive Player of the Year in the unblockable Aaron Donald.  

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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

Photo: Patrick Mahomes – Source: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Image North America

Preview: Chargers at Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs have a chance to take a huge step toward tightening their grip on the top overall seed and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs when they host the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday night. However, the Chiefs could see control of the conference as well as the AFC West diminish in a showdown for division supremacy against Los Angeles.

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History is on the side of Kansas City (11-2), which has won nine in a row over the Chargers (10-3) and extended the streak with a 38-28 victory in Los Angeles in the season opener. “The Chargers are a good team — a team that’s on a hot streak right now — and you’re basically playing for the AFC West title,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. “You have to go out there and try to get yourself ready to go — physically and mentally – to win a football game.” Los Angeles has won three in a row overall and can clinch a playoff spot with a victory Thursday, but its last win over Kansas City was in 2013 — the last time the franchise advanced to the postseason. “The nine in a row is one thing, but personally I’m 0-3 against this team, and that’s too many,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “We’re doing everything we can to try to break that streak. We’ve got to go out and play relaxed and very confident. That’s when this team plays its best football.”

TV: 8:20 p.m. ET, FOX, NFL Network. LINE: Chiefs -3.5. O/U: 53

ABOUT THE CHARGERS (10-3): Los Angeles could again be without star running back Melvin Gordon, who has 13 total touchdowns despite missing the past two games and told reporters Tuesday that he expects to be a game-day decision. Backup Austin Ekeler sustained a neck injury and concussion in Sunday’s win over Cincinnati and is expected to sit out, leaving the possibility that rookies Justin Jackson and Detrez Newsome will carry the ground game. Philip Rivers, who is third in the league in passer rating (114.5) and has thrown for 29 touchdowns against six interceptions, has connected with wideout Keenan Allen with a scoring pass in five straight games. Joey Bosa has four sacks in four games since returning to the lineup.

ABOUT THE CHIEFS (11-2): Kansas City has withstood a pair of close calls the past two weeks since running back Kareem Hunt was abruptly released, but Mahomes supplied a late touchdown pass in each game and enters Thursday’s matchup with a league-leading 43 scoring strikes. Injuries are also a major concern for the Chiefs, who are uncertain about the status of wide receiver Tyreek Hill (foot) and expect to be without running back Spencer Ware (shoulder/hamstring). Hill torched the Chargers in the season opener with a 91-yard punt return for a touchdown and two scoring passes from Mahomes, who also has passed for an NFL-high 4,300 yards. Kansas City’s defense ranks 30th in total yards and is last against the pass (281.8 yards).

EXTRA POINTS

1. Chiefs DE Chris Jones has at least one sack in nine consecutive games, the longest single-season streak since 1982.

2. Allen had eight catches for 108 yards and a TD in the Week 1 matchup.

3. Chiefs WR Kelvin Benjamin, claimed off waivers last week, is expected to make his Kansas City debut.

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Posted in NFL, Top Fantasy Picks

Preview: Chiefs at Rams

The Los Angeles Rams saw their perfect record come to an end two weeks ago in New Orleans in a marquee showdown between the two highest-scoring teams in the NFC. Another high-octane matchup is on desk for the Rams, who will face a test against the best team in the AFC when quarterback Pat Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs pay them a visit on Monday night.

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The teams enter Monday’s game – initially scheduled to be played in Mexico City – with identical 9-1 records, marking only the fifth time since the 1970 merger that two clubs squared off in Week 11 with fewer than two losses each. “It’s fun if you’re watching as a football fan; it’s not fun when you’re watching it getting ready to play them,” Los Angeles coach Sean McVay told reporters of facing Kansas City, which is averaging 35.3 points and features the league’s passing yards leader in Mahomes. Chiefs coach Andy Reid understands the challenge of trying to match up with the Rams, who have league-leading rusher Todd Gurley and quarterback Jared Goff – who is second to Mahomes in passing yards. “You have to be disciplined,” Reid told reporters. “They’re a disciplined offense, so you have to be disciplined from a defensive standpoint. Then practice that way and then you go play.”

TV: 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Rams -3.5. O/U: 63

ABOUT THE CHIEFS (9-1): Mahomes had his streak of eight straight 300-yard performances halted in last week’s 26-14 win over Arizona, but he threw a pair of scoring passes to give him the franchise’s single-season record of 31 with only seven interceptions. Mahomes has a bevy of weapons at his disposal that includes game-breaking wide receiver Tyreek Hill (nine touchdowns) and tight end Travis Kelce, who leads the team with 57 catches to go along with six scores. Running back Kareem Hunt also is a dangerous two-way threat with 13 total TDs on 754 yards rushing and 23 receptions. Kansas City ranks 29th overall in defense with an average of 410.7 yards allowed but is tied for second in the league in sacks with 31.

ABOUT THE RAMS (9-1): Gurley, the NFL’s runaway leader in both rushing and touchdowns, needs only 12 yards to reach 1,000 and has scored 17 times – two shy of his total from last year. Goff has 22 scoring passes versus six interceptions and has recorded four straight games with a passer rating of at least 111.0. Cooper Kupp had a team-high six touchdown receptions before he was lost for the season with a torn ACL, but Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks have 55 and 51 catches, respectively, and three scores apiece. Los Angeles features the league’s sacks leader in star defensive tackle Aaron Donald (12.5) and yields only 233.1 passing yards per game, although the Saints put up 346 on them.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Mahomes has thrown 18 TD passes and three interceptions for a passer rating of 125.9 in five road games this season.

2. Goff has amassed 1,015 passing yards with seven scores and one interception in his last three home contests.

3. Gurley and Hunt are the only two running backs with more than 2,000 rushing yards since the start of the 2017 campaign.

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Posted in NFL, Top Fantasy Picks

Complete AFC West Preview

Here is a look at what you can expect from the Broncos, Raiders, Chargers and Chiefs this season…

Los Angeles Chargers

It seems like it happens every season: The Chargers get hot late in the year, and some pundit somewhere says, “Boy, I wouldn’t want to face the Chargers in the playoffs.” And then just like that, the Chargers miss the playoffs. And every year, the Chargers can painfully point to one or two games, or even one or two plays, that cost them a postseason berth.

Last year it was an ugly 0-4 start that ultimately doomed the Chargers, with kicking woes costing them dearly. But there was also the mind-numbing 20-17 overtime loss at Jacksonville in which the Chargers intercepted Blake Bortles twice inside of the final two minutes and still lost thanks to a penalty, a turnover of their own and then a game-winning kick by former teammate Josh Lambo.

So while winning six of their last seven games still gave them playoff hopes, they missed the postseason because they didn’t control their own destiny. That’s got to be foremost in QB Philip Rivers’ mind, as he’s seen that picture before and doesn’t want to repeat it yet again as his career winds down. That’s why winning the AFC West is paramount, with its guaranteed playoff berth, rather than putting their fate in the hands of the always-wild scramble for a Wild Card berth.

Kansas City Chiefs

Coming off consecutive AFC West titles for the first time in franchise history, the Chiefs remain contenders to win the division, but the rest of the division is looking stronger. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes has to prove he can manage an NFL offense — protect the football, make good decisions and master coach Andy Reid’s verbiage-intense playbook — as well as Alex Smith did for five seasons. The Chargers, Broncos and Raiders all improved significantly on paper. With a first-year starter at quarterback and a retooled defense, the Chiefs face plenty of questions entering 2018. It remains a hopeful time for the Chiefs Kingdom, but Mahomes has a long way to go to live up to the hype.

Oakland Raiders

The Raiders still have most of the key players who helped the team finish 12–4 two seasons ago. If QB Derek Carr gets back on track and new head coach Jon Gruden quickly gets back up to NFL coaching speed, then the Raiders should be able to contend for a playoff spot. Tennessee and Buffalo earned AFC Wild Card berths last season with nine wins apiece, giving the Raiders a reasonable goal to shoot for.

Denver Broncos

Can this team return to prominence, win an AFC West road game for the first time since Peyton Manning retired and finally boast a reliable offense? The key remains for offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave ability to design an attack around QB Case Keenum’s skill set, keeping it simple with doses of creativity. Keenum has shown he can make big plays, but not if he’s throwing 30 times per game. Denver scares no one offensively, but that could change if the team becomes more physical up front and keeps its quarterback upright.

The body language of the defense slumped after every offensive turnover last season — 34 in all. The Broncos expect that figure to be sliced in half, or close to it.

Even with Keenum stabilizing the quarterback spot and the defense deeper, the Broncos face an uphill climb to .500. The sense of urgency is real, though. Every week will be a referendum on head coach Vance Joseph’s job and Keenum’s future.

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Posted in NFL

Fantasy Football Draft

AFC West

We are almost there, the day before the NFL draft. Things have been crazy with predictions on whom will be picked during the draft. But one thing is for sure, and that’s the fact that both the city of San Diego and Oakland will live to see another draft pick coming to play in their home stadiums. The AFC West Chargers had an unsuccessful 2015 season and will select early in this draft (3rd pick), unlike their divisional rivals and Superbowl champion Denver Broncos. The Manning-less team will be the last team to choose in the first-round, due to their post-season conquest. FanPicks gives you the chance to win $100,000 with their 2016 NFL Fantasy Football Draft Frenzy contest. Click on the link and follow the instruction to be part of the biggest NFL event of the summer.

Denver Broncos

Things doesn’t look as smooth with no Peyton Manning, and even Brock Osweiler in the Broncos lineup. They have yet to fill a starter for next season in that spot. Well, there no place like any to start looking than at the draft. Denver could look to add-in some help at guard and tackle within the initial four rounds. The losses of DT Malik Jackson and LB Danny Trevathan should be something to look at as well.

Top 2 round picks: 31st and 63rd selections.

Kansas City Chiefs

The re-signing of Tamba Hali allows the Chiefs to maintain a solid asset at linebacker position. But the future still needs to be addressed and a perfect fit could come knocking on Hali’s door. Another high-end defensive linesman could be useful K.C. The loss of Chase Daniels as the backup QB will need to be taking care of.

Top 2 round picks: 28th and 59th selections.

Oakland Raiders

Adding Kelechi Osemele to their ranks will certainly fortify the interior Raiders O-line. Yet, they will still need to improve at the tackle spot. Stabilizing the back-end with another tailback shouldn’t be hard to find in this draft. Okland will need to replace CB Sean Smith and S Charles Woodson. Bruce Irvin will add even more juice to the Raiders’ pass rush, but a little help at middle linebacker could be looked at in the middle-rounds.

Top 2 round picks: 14th and 44th selections.

San Diego Chargers

Philip Rivers can count on his fingers how many receivers he threw to over the last few year. One of his main target is NFL 13-years veteran Antonio Gates. In fact, they hold the NFL record for most TD’s between a quarterback to tight end. Unfortunately for them, this union has run his course and it could be time to find Gate’s replacement. The Chargers added safety Dwight Lowery to replace the departed Eric Weddle. Is that enough though? For the rest, San Diego will need to upgrade their offensive and defensive line for this season.

Top 2 round picks: 3rd and 35th selections.

Posted in NFL

Kansas City Chiefs versus New England Patriots NFL Playoffs Real Money Fantasy Picks 1-16-2016

 

The NFL Divisional Round of the playoffs get underway on Saturday as the AFC conference is featured when the New England Patriots host the Kansas City Chiefs. Fantasy football draft GM’s can tune to CBS TV on January 16th at 4:35PM Eastern Time from New England to track the scoring results of their one day leagues.

 

Kansas City was in action for the AFC Wildcard game last week while the Patriots got a much needed week of rest to get healthy with a bye week. The Chiefs carry an 11 game win streak as they blew out the Houston Texans 30-0. KC has put up some weak passing numbers this season and have gotten enough production from their run game to sit 9th in scoring offense by averaging 25.3 points per game. It has been the defense that has been outstanding for Kansas City They are seventh in total defense and sit third in the NFL in scoring defense by giving up only 17.9 points per game. In their victory against the Texans last week the Chiefs held the Texans to only 226 yards of offense and forced five turnovers by picking off Brian Hoyer four times.

 

New England has been hit hard on the injury front to their playmakers in the passing game. The good news is the team has upgraded Julian Edelman to probable on Sunday. Tom Brady had a high ankle sprain in Week 17 and reports are he is improving and will play. The point total for New England has sank in recent games as they have put up a total of 30 points total in their past two games at the Jets and Dolphins. They are 2-4 entering the playoffs.

 

Kansas City Chiefs QB

 

Alex Smith

 

It’s amazing during the passing era that Alex Smith has not thrown for 200 yards or greater in six straight games all resulting in wins. He has passed for multiple touchdown throws in four of his past seven games.

 

Kansas City Chiefs RB

 

Charcandrick West

 

West is the leading rusher for the Chiefs but it is running back by committee in KC and there is no value in picking one of their running backs in daily or head to head leagues.

 

Kansas City Chiefs WR

 

Jeremy Maclin

 

The former Philadelphia Eagle leads the Chiefs with 87 catches for 1088 yards and eight touchdowns. Problem is Maclin has a high ankle sprain and is questionable.

 

Kansas City Chiefs TE:

 

Travis Kelce

 

Kelce came up big for the Chiefs in their win at Houston. The tight end caught eight balls for 128 yards last week in the AFC Wildcard game. He averaged 16.0 yards per catch in the win. But with Maclin hurt expect the Patriots to game plan to contain Kelce in this spot which leaves Alex Smith few options in the passing game.

 

New England Patriots QB

 

Tom Brady

 

Interesting to see how his high ankle sprain will impact Brady’s ability to throw deep in this game. He has thrown for 231 yards or fewer in three of his past four games and faces a strong defense in the Chiefs.

 

New England Patriots RB

 

Brandon Bolden

 

With numerous injuries in the Patriots backfield Bolden has seen time in the backfield for the Patriots. But he is not trusted to get enough carries in this game to add to a roster.

 

New England Patriots TE:

 

Rob Gronkowski

 

The Patriots veteran tight end leads the team with 72 catches for 1176 yards and 11 touchdowns. Look for Gronkowski to be heavily targeted in this game like he always is. Teams know that Gronk will get passes yet opposing defenses have trouble defending the big man.

 

New England Patriots K

 

Stephen Gostkowski

 

Gostkowski has been money for New England on the year. He is a perfect 52 of 52 on extra points and has been successful in 33 of 36 field goal tries. The Patriots place kicker figures to get many chances in this game because of the high quality of play from the KC defense this year.

 

NFL Playoffs Football Fantasy League Picks

 

QB: Tom Brady (Patriots)

TE: Rob Gronkowski (Patriots)

K: Stephen Gostkowski (Patriots)

Posted in NFL

NFL Divisional Round Stacks to look out for

 

Its hard to pick your stacks in the divisional round as almost all of the 8 teams remaining has a top 8 defense.  The matchup in the divisional round are

 

Kansas City @ New England

 

Green Bay @ Arizona

 

Seattle @ Carolina

 

Pittsburgh @ Denver

 

The weak link as far as pass defenses goes is clearly Pittsburgh.  The only reason they have made it this far is by relying on their offense with most of their games being very high scoring shootouts.  Last time Denver played Pittsburgh this year Emmanuel Sanders caught 10 passes for 181 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown while Demaryius Thomas had 5 catches for 61 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns.  And this was with Brock Osweiller at quarterback and not Peyton Manning, who will be back and starting in their Divisional Playoff.  Peyton, Sanders, and Thomas is the most predicable value stack of the weekend, which like always risks high ownership.

 

However, Denver still lost this game as Antonio Brown had a gigantic fantasy day with 16 catches for 189 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns.  Pittsburgh has a lot of question marks with health going into this game with Deangelo Williams out, Big Ben questionable with a shoulder injury, and Antonio Brown with a concussion.  Despite the strength of the Denver defense, if Ben and Brown are healthy going into this game, they always have the potential for huge fantasy value.

 

In my opinion, anything could happen with the Seattle Carolina game.  This is a matchup of the two top ranked teams in the playoff and is one most would probably like to see wait until the Superbowl.  While arguably the top 2 defenses, their offenses are just as explosive.  A Wilson/Baldwin or Newton/Ginn(Questionable)/Olsen stack is a nice contrarian stack that may end up profitable in a NFL Daily fantasy tournament.

 

The Patriots and the Chiefs game should be a low scoring victory for the Patriots, although Tom Brady may put up some big numbers.  However, it is always a crapshoot who to stack Brady with since he spreads the ball out so much (the same could be said about Rodgers or Manning this week).  That leaves Carson Palmer, who may be able to have a big day considering Kirk Cousins was able to put up over 300 passing yards in their loss against the Packers in the wild card round.

 

The top stacks are Manning/Sanders, Newton/Olsen, Wilson/Baldwin, and Palmer/Fitzgerald.  The edge in my mind goes to Palmer and Fitz but anything can happen in the playoffs, and Palmer has less experience here than many of the other Quarterbacks (Brady, Rodgers, Manning, Wilson, Roethlisberger)

Posted in NFL

NFL Weekend Recap

 

Kansas City Defense Dominates

 

The Chief’s started the game by sending a message with a 106 yard kickoff return touchdown and that would have been enough for the Chiefs to win the game without their offense ever needing to take the field.  Hoyer didn’t do much to make things difficult for the Chief throwing 4 interceptions, giving Kansas City’s defense a total of 34 fantasy points with the kickoff return touchdown, 4 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery, 3 sacks, and 0 points allowed.

 

Besides the Chiefs defense, there was not much other fantasy value from this game.  Travis Kelce had a big receiving game with 8 receptions for 128 receiving yards giving him 20.8 fantasy points.  Spencer Ware ran for 67 rushing yards and had a rushing touchdown giving him 12.7 fantasy points on the day.

 

 

Steelers win a scrappy game

 

This was an ugly game in terms of injuries.  At one time or another each Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard, and AJ Green all left the field with no guarantee of returning.  Furthermore, it wasn’t the usual shootout type game we see with the Steelers.  However there were some areas where fantasy value could be found.

 

Jeremy Hill had 50 rushing yards, a rushing touchdown, 3 receptions, and 27 receiving yards totaling 16.7 fantasy points.  Fitzgerald Toussaint (filling the role at running back after the list of injured steelers running backs we’ve seen this year) had 58 rushing yards, 4 receptions, and 60 receiving yards totaling 15.8 fantasy points, despite his dirt cheap fantasy salary.  While far short of his normal value, Antonio Brown had 7 receptions for 119 receiving yards totaling 21.9 fantasy points.  Lastly, AJ Green snuck in a touchdown in the end, along with his 71 receiving yards and 5 receptions he totaled 18.1 fantasy points.

 

 

 

Cold weather halts offensive attacks

 

This game began with -6 degrees and -26 windchill up in Minneapolis.  It looked early like the Seahawks were out of their element with a scoreless first half.  However, the Vikings seemed equally hampered by the cold as they generated only 204 total offensive yards (Seattle had an equally unimpressive 239 total offensive yards).

 

As far as fantasy value, both quarterbacks had very abysmal games, rushing was very poor, and only Doug Baldwin put up relatively decent numbers 5 receptions for 42 yards and a touchdown (15.2 fantasy points).

 

 

 

Packers find their groove just in time

 

This season has been very disappointing for the Packers so far, barely making it to the playoffs.  However, they seem to be coming around just in time with the best offensive performance of the weekend.  Despite less total offensive yardage than the Redskins (GB 351 vs WSH 413), the Packers had a decisive victory.

 

For the Packers, fantasy value was spread out all over between Lacy, Starks, Jones, Adams, and Cobb with all of them scoring just over 10 fantasy points.  For the Skins however, it was all Jordan Reed and Chris Thompson as Jordan Reed had 9 receptions for 120 receiving yards a touchdown (28 fantasy points) and Chris Thompson had 25 rushing yards, 8 receptions, and 89 receiving yards for 19.4 fantasy points.  Kirk Cousins was by far the highest scorer at quarterback with 329 passing yards, 1 passing touchdown, and a rushing touchdown.  That brought Cousins total to 26 fantasy points.

Posted in NFL

NFL Wild Card Value Picks

Quarterback

With a small slate of games this weekend you’re quarterback choices are limited. So let’s run through the matchups. Houston and Kansas City has all the makings of a low scoring game. These are two defensive dominated teams and this matchup should be low scoring and slow paced, not places of high value for Fantasy NFL contests. Same can be said about Minnesota and Seattle. While Seattle’s offense is explosive, we saw what they did against the strong defensive front of the Cardinals last weekend, I’m saving my quarterback pick for an easier matchup.

The weakest pass defense of the weekend is by far the Steelers, but with the Bengals current quarterback situation, its hard to say anything for sure. In all likelihood AJ McCarron will be taking the field, but there is the small chance Andy Dalton will return for the game. Either way, they both should be able to provide great value with this matchup, just make sure you keep your eye on the injury report and you get the right one in.

Although the Bengals have a strong pass defense, it seems like nobody is able to stop Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown this year. I expect them to have a big game, but I also expect ownership to be very high on these two, so I’m playing the contrarian strategy and avoiding the Steelers stack.

Last we have Washington and Green Bay. This has all the makings for a classic shootout and I think there will be value on both sides of the ball. Aaron Rodgers has been very subpar this entire season, but he has been to the playoffs before and I think he will perform. Kirk Cousins on the other hand has been red hot and putting up big numbers, and that does not look to be stopping anytime soon. You’re probably going to find lower ownership with Rodgers so I’ll give him the edge in a tournament, but based on his performance this year, that may be a risky play.

Running Back

Our premium running backs for the week are Adrian Peterson, Deangelo Williams, Marshawn Lynch, Jeremy Hill, Characandrick West, and Eddie Lacy. As of now Williams looks to be out for this weekend so lets rule him out now (even if he were playing I don’t love the matchup). Marshawn Lynch will be returning but with the offensive efficiency of the Seahawks lately, its hard to say they will need to make much use of him so I am staying away from Beast mode as well. The Vikings may find it hard to pass against the dominating defense and will certainly run the ball a lot to Peterson, but he has not been as dominant this year as in years past and the Seahawks may shut him down. West as well is facing a tough defense, especially recently, so my recommendation is stay away from any Chiefs back.

So we are left with Hill and Lacy, both on the cheap end as far as premium running backs go. The way the Bengals use Hill and Bernard is very dependent on the matchup. They utilize Hill to run the ball up the middle while Bernard is valued more highly for his speed in screen passes and short drops. This matchup may be better for Bernard than Hill, and Bernard comes at a much cheaper price. Not a bad pick for this week. Lacy is the only premium back I like for this week. Like Hill, he could take a backseat position to Starks but I think Lacy has asserted himself as the primary back after early struggles in the season.

If you are looking for value at Running back however, there is a lot to be found. Starks and Bernard, as previously mentioned, will both only cost you less that $4000 on Fanpicks. Alfred Morris and Pierre Thomas both are a threat to accumulate fantasy value with their run and pass threat. The real value pick of the week is Jonathan Grimes, who put together a big game last weekend and comes at only $2700.

Wide Receiver

The same analysis on Quarterbacks applies to receivers as well. We want to stick with the good matchups: Steelers/Bengals and Packers/Redskins. Skipping out on Antonio Brown may just cost you a win, but I think there is more upside potential on fading Brown, especially for NFL Daily Fantasy Tournaments type contests. AJ Green should be able to put up some big numbers this week regardless of who gets the starting position at Quarterback.

I also like Desean Jackson or Pierre Garcon if you are looking to save a little money at the position. We know Cousins is going to throw the ball and we know he is going to throw it a lot. He may throw a couple interceptions but that doesn’t hurt his fantasy value too bad. It all just depends on which receiver can manage to get open between these two and Reed.

A good contrarian stack is Rodgers and either Cobb or Jones. They haven’t done much this year and are not on many people radar, but like I said before, the Packers know the playoffs. Cobb should get more targets but Jones is more of a long threat. The choice is up to you, I’m going Cobb.

Tight End

For me, the viable tight ends for this week are Jordan Reed and Tyler Eifert. While you can make the argument for Heath Miller and Richard Rodgers, I think you will find much more value with Eifert and Reed. Reed is an obvious pick as he has had some very big games lately and is arguably the top tight end in the league. However, that also means he is going to come with a high ownership level, bad news for a tournament play.

That’s why I’m going with Eifert. I can’t stress enough how weak Pittsburgh is against the pass as all of their games end up turning into a shootout. Eifert will especially benefit if Dalton returns this weekend as there is usually great synergy between the two.

Posted in NFL

Fanpicks.com NFL Playoff Saturday AFC Wildcard

Fantasy Football Picks

 

On Saturday January 9th the NFL Playoffs kick off with the AFC Wildcard game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston TexansFanpicks.com is proud to announce its RotoPicker free to use tool, which allows you to create winning line ups and dominate your fantasy football competition.  Play the most exciting contest, including the newest $10K Grand Action and Point Spread contests only at Fanpicks.com the premiere daily fantasy football site.

 

The AFC Wildcard game will be broadcast on ESPN TV at 4:35 EST.  In their initial faceoff way back in Week 1 of the NFL Season; the Kansas Chiefs posted a 27-20 victory over the Texans.  The Texans trailed 27-9 through the first three quarters and then came together to dominate the fourth quarter. Despite their valiant effort, the Chiefs Alex Smith connected for 243 passing yards for three touchdowns.  On the other hand Brian Hoyer had 236 yards with a touchdown and an interception.  The chiefs were able to capitalize on a +2 turnover margin.

 

The Chiefs have started their after burners winning ten straight games on the road to this AFC Wildcard game.  Recently, the Chiefs beat Pittsburgh by 10 points and won over Denver by 16 points.  One of the reasons the Chiefs have been on a winning run is due in part to their defence; who has been limiting scoring to under 18 points per game.  The Chief’s offence leaves much to be desired as Alex Smith is a dink and dunk passer who has leveraged the resurgence in the Chiefs running game.

While the Houston Texans showed doubt and struggle out of the gates, they nonetheless took control of the AFC South division by winning three straight and seven of their past nine games. This is another team that has been carried by a very good defense. Houston is third in total defense and third against the pass. The Las Vegas oddsmaker projects this to be a very low scoring game with an over under of 40 points.

The Texans defense has played very well down the stretch. They have allowed a total of 22 points over their past three games. Alex Smith struggled last week in their home win against the Raiders and could have issues with his confidence as he is a quarterback with very little success in the post season.

Play Houston Texan Defense

 

Posted in NFL

Kansas City Chiefs versus Houston Texans Real Money NFL Playoffs Fantasy Picks 1-9-2016

The Wildcard round of the NFL playoffs get underway with the Houston Texans hosting the Kansas City Chiefs. One day fantasy league GM’s can tune to ESPN TV on Saturday January 9th at 4:35PM Eastern Time to track the results of their real money roster picks.

 

These teams have a history during the 2015 campaign as they met in Week 1 with Kansas City earning the 27-20 victory on the road. Houston did outgain the Chiefs and that was due in part to a pick six interception return for the Chiefs. KC built up a 27-9 halftime lead and was held scoreless in the second half. Alex Smith passed for 243 yards and three touchdowns in the victory. Brian Hoyer was benched in this game. He threw for 236 yards hitting on 18 of 34 passes with a touchdown and pick.

 

Kansas City has closed the season strongly winning ten straight games. This came before a five game losing streak as the Chiefs opened the year at 1-5 as their offense sputtered. The Chiefs have the 30th ranked passing attack and are sixth in rushing offense. The defense has carried Kansas City as they rank third in the NFL in scoring defense by allowing 17.9 points per game.

 

Houston was the winner of a weak AFC South division. They closed the year with three straight victories including a clutch 16-10 road win at Indianapolis which put the Texans in control of the division. The Texans rank near the middle in most offensive categories. The defense has been outstanding down the stretch for the Texans that it moved the team to number three in yardage allowed by giving up 310 yards per game.

 

Kansas City Chiefs QB:

 

Alex Smith

 

Known as a dink and dunk passer who is reluctant going deep downfield with passes. The veteran signal caller has completed 65.3% of his throws this year for 3486 yards with 20 touchdowns and seven picks. He threw two picks last week in the win against Oakland. His passing numbers have been futile in recent weeks. Smith has thrown for 191 yards or fewer over his past five games all against losing teams. Alex Smith has not had success in the post season.

 

Kansas City Chiefs RB:

 

Charcandrick West

 

With a season ending injury to Jamaal Charles the Chiefs were scrambling to find a replacement at running back. Second year man Charcandrick West stood out from the backups as he has rushed for 634 yards on 160 carries with four touchdowns. He averaged just 4 yards a carry and contributed in the passing game with 20 catches for 214 yards and a touchdown. He struggled last week with 34 rushing yards on 13 carries.

 

Kansas City Chiefs WR:

 

Jeremy Maclin

 

The veteran wide receiver was a good acquisition for KC in the offseason. He caught 87 passes for 1088 yards with eight touchdowns. Last year Kansas City did not complete a touchdown to a wide receiver. Maclin has a touchdown reception in three straight and five of his past six games.

 

Houston Texans QB:

 

Brian Hoyer

 

The Texans signal caller has completed 60.7% of his passes for 2606 yards with 19 touchdowns and 7 picks. He returned to the lineup last week in the win against Jacksonville as he threw for 249 yards with a touchdown and pick. He missed two games with a concussion. Hoyer has thrown for multiple touchdown throws in seven of his past ten games.

 

Houston Texans RB:

 

Alfred Blue

 

With the season long injury to Arian Foster it was Alfred Blue getting the majority of the carries this year. Blue has rushed for 698 yards on 183 carries and two touchdowns. He rushed for 102 yards on 21 carries on Jacksonville. In their huge win at Indy the running back had 107 rushing yards on 20 carries in Week 15.

 

Houston Texans WR:

 

DeAndre Hopkins

 

The third year pro had his best numbers in 2015 with 111 catches for 1521 yards with 11 touchdowns. He is averaging 13.7 yards per catch. He has caught seven or greater passes in three straight games.

 

NFL Playoff Football Fantasy League Picks

 

 

QB: Brian Hoyer (Texans)

WR: DeAndre Hopkins (Texans)

RB: Charcandrick West (Chiefs)

Posted in NFL