Today’s Ultimate NFL Fantasy Picks from QB to Defense.

QB – Jared Goff – Los Angeles Rams

UT – Robert Woods – Los Angeles Rams

UT – Cooper Kupp – Los Angeles Rams

UT – Darrell Henderson Jr – Los Angeles Rams

UT – Rob Gronkowski – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

D – Los Angeles Rams

Honorable mention

UT – Josh Reynolds – Los Angeles Rams

Happy drafting!

Posted in NFL, 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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Posted in NFL, Top Fantasy Picks

Source: 2019 NFL Super Bowl 53 logo. (AP)

The New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams will meet in Super Bowl LIII (aka Super Bowl 53, or 2019 Super Bowl) on Sunday, Feb. 3 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. This will be the seventh time the Super Bowl features a rematch. These two teams met in Super Bowl XXXVI back in 2002 as Bill Belichick and Tom Brady won their first Lombardi Trophy by knocking off the heavily favored Rams (then in St. Louis) and the “Greatest Show on Turf” 20-17 in the Superdome in New Orleans.

Much has changed since then, as Belichick and Brady are now making their ninth Super Bowl appearance and the 11th in Patriots’ franchise history. A win would tie New England with Pittsburgh for the most Lombardi Trophies (six).

For the Rams, it’s their fourth Super Bowl appearance, but the first for a team from Los Angeles since the Raiders beat the Redskins in Super Bowl XVIII way back in 1984. A victory for the Rams would even their Super Bowl record at 2-2 while exacting a bit of revenge for what happened 17 years ago.

While the teams and many other details have yet to be determined, it’s never too early to start making your Super Sunday plans. Draft your fantasy team for Super Bowl 53 NOW at FanPicks.com. Check out links to the contests below

WHEN, WHERE AND HOW TO WATCH

Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta)

Date: Feb. 3, 2019

Time: 6:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS (20th Super Bowl, breaks tie with NBC for the most); ESPN Deportes (Spanish language)

Broadcast Team: Jim Nantz (play-by-play), Tony Romo (color commentary), Tracy Wolfson and Evan Washburn (sideline reporters)

Radio Network: Westwood One

Halftime Performance: Maroon 5, Travis Scott, Big Boi

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Posted in NFL, Top Fantasy Picks

Photo: Todd Gurley
Source: Harry How / Getty Image North America

A rematch of heavyweights set to brawl in the Big Easy for a ticket to Super Bowl LIII

The Los Angeles Rams make their second trip to the Crescent City to battle the New Orleans Saints this season as the top two seeds meet in the NFC Championship game on Sunday. The Rams (14-3) and Saints (14-3) find themselves one victory away from a spot in Super Bowl LIII after taking care of business at home last week in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

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Los Angeles trampled Dallas 30-22 out on the West Coast last Saturday. The Rams’ tandem of C.J. Anderson and Todd Gurley piled up 238 rushing yards and three touchdowns while averaging more than six yards per carry (on 39 total attempts). Los Angeles controlled both sides of the line of scrimmage, limiting Dallas to just 50 rushing yards, and dominated time of possession (36:13 to 23:47).

New Orleans stumbled through the first quarter of its game this past Sunday against Philadelphia. Drew Brees threw an interception on the first play from scrimmage and the Eagles jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead. But a Marshon Lattimore pick of Nick Foles started to turn the tide, as the Saints’ offense found its footing and the defense shut Philadelphia out the rest of the way. After a shaky start, the Brees-to-Michael Thomas connection got going as New Orleans went on to score the final 20 points of the game.

These two teams met in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome back in Week 9 as the Saints won a high-scoring affair 45-35. The offenses combined for 970 yards with Brees (346 yards, 4 TDs) and Jared Goff (391, 3) both filling up the stat sheet. Thomas (211 yards) also made his presence felt as New Orleans handed the Rams their first loss of the season. That game ended up being the tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

NFC Championship: Los Angeles at New Orleans

Kickoff: Sunday, Jan. 20 at 3:05 p.m. ET

TV: FOX

Spread: Saints -3.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Michael Thomas vs. Rams’ secondary

Last week against Philadelphia, Thomas hauled in 12 catches for 171 yards and a touchdown. The receptions were his highest since Week 9 when he went for 211 and a score on 12 grabs against the Rams. Will the All-Pro continue to have success against Los Angeles’ defense?

The Rams’ secondary will include a key component who was missing from the teams’ previous matchup. Starting cornerback Aqib Talib will start this Sunday after missing half of the regular season (Weeks 4-12) because of an ankle injury.

How much of a difference will Talib make? In the nine games (including last week’s playoff win) Talib has played this season, Los Angeles is giving up 206.3 passing yards and 17.7 points per game. Without him, those numbers jump to 272.6 and 30.8.

Additionally, no one should forget about the on-going squabble between Rams’ cornerback Marcus Peters and Saints’ head coach Sean Payton. Those two bantered during the first meeting in November. The feisty rhetoric continued this week. Despite what Peters mentioned, it seems unlikely that these two will sit down together to enjoy some gumbo. Will the Saints’ receivers go out and back up their coach’s trash talk?

2. Todd Gurley/C.J. Anderson vs. Saints’ front seven

Gurley’s production dipped toward the end of the regular season as he dealt with a knee injury that caused him to miss the last two games. Before that he failed to gain 50 rushing yards in Weeks 14 or 15, but he did remain a factor in the passing game (combined 13 catches for 106 yards).

But the positive for the Rams was that Gurley’s absence opened up an opportunity for C.J. Anderson, who the team signed following his release by Carolina. The former 1,000-yard rusher showed he was still capable of carrying the load, as he went for nearly 300 yards in the final two games of the regular season and then led the team with 123 in the Divisional Round win over Dallas. Not to be outdone, Gurley showed he was plenty healthy by going for 115 and averaging a robust 7.2 yards per carry against the Cowboys.

The duo will look to keep things going against a New Orleans defense that finished second in the regular season vs. the run (80.2 ypg). In the first meeting, the Rams managed 92 rushing yards and a touchdown on 19 carries with Gurley responsible for most of the damage (68 yards, TD, 5.2 ypc). Anderson wasn’t with Los Angeles then but you can pretty much expect head coach Sean McVay will call on both of his backs on Sunday.

3. Saints’ offensive line vs. Rams’ defensive line

New Orleans has done a superb job of keeping Drew Brees upright. He took all but a small percentage of the snaps from center in 15 games during the regular season with opponents registering a total of 17 sacks. No other quarterback started as many games yet was sacked so few times this season. To put it another way, he was sacked during just 3.4 percent of his pass attempts. That’s the second-lowest rate in the NFL even though Brees attempted nearly 500 passes (489, 16th).

Los Angeles has a formidable trio that anchors its defensive line. It starts with Aaron Donald, the All-Pro who is the front-runner to win NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors for the second straight year after racking up 20.5 sacks, 25 tackles for a loss, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in the regular season. Ndamukong Suh has done his part clogging things in the middle while Michael Brockers chips in as the other starting defensive end. These three have started all 17 games together and are tasked with making plays behind the line of scrimmage and getting pressure on Brees, even if it doesn’t result in a sack. Their effectiveness will dictate how the linebackers are used by veteran defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.

Can the Saints’ offensive line hold up against the Rams’ fearsome threesome? Three Saints’ linemen were flagged for holding versus the Eagles. Andrus Peat struggled in particular, with two holding calls against him. He is expected to play Sunday in spite of his broken hand, which clearly hampered him last week. Considering that Donald leads the NFL in sacks and tackles for a loss, New Orleans cannot let him dominate a the point of attack and take over the game, even if that means double-teaming him.

Final Analysis

The NFC bracket held to form to give us a No. 1 vs. No. 2 championship game. As a result, fans will witness two evenly matched teams that are tied for the best records in the NFL. If the regular-season matchup foreshadows what will happen in this one, another high-scoring contest awaits.

But this game appears headed for a closer finish than what transpired back in November. The Saints had a 21-point lead late in the first half before a field goal made it 35-17. The Rams battled all the way back to tie the game with less than 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter only to watch New Orleans score the next 10 points over a three-minute span. Sunday’s matchup figures to stay tight for the duration and may even need overtime to decide the winner.

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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: Nick Foles – 
Source: Corey Perrine/Getty Images North America

A potential NFC Championship Game preview has turned into potential rout as Eagles’ injury woes mount

Earlier this season, the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams had this date circled on the calendar as a potential NFC Championship Game preview. These two teams with exciting offenses and two of the best young quarterbacks in the game appeared on a collision course to battle over conference supremacy for years to come.

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But as the 2018 season wore on, they’ve moved in decidedly different directions. The Eagles, reigning Super Bowl champions, didn’t even get Carson Wentz back from a torn ACL until Week 3. An up-and-down season followed, with major injuries, close losses and key mistakes on offense leaving the team scratching their heads. This week, the Eagles finally found out why their leader has been a step behind, at least. A broken vertebra, one Wentz has been dealing with quietly for weeks, will likely shut down their franchise player for the rest of 2018.

That puts Nick Foles up against his former Rams team with the Eagles needing a miracle. At 6-7, three wins would likely earn them the six seed in the NFC playoff race but they’ll need to beat the 11-2 Rams in L.A., the 9-4 Houston Texans, and the 6-7 Washington Redskins on the road in order to qualify. It’s a daunting task for the team even if they were at 100 percent; instead, the odds are stacked against the Eagles even mounting a Super Bowl defense.

They’ll run into an angry Rams team looking to prove themselves after an ugly loss to the Chicago Bears on the road last Sunday night. It cost them control of their own destiny as the team seeks home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. In order to have a chance, they’ll likely need to sweep their final three games with the Eagles their only serious obstacle. After that looms two opponents, the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers, with a combined record of 6-20.

Can the Rams take care of business? Or will Foles rise up to create another edition of the Philly special as he auditions for a role elsewhere in 2019?

Philadelphia at Los Angeles

Kickoff: Sunday, Dec. 16 at 8:20 p.m. ET

TV: NBC

Spread: Rams -11.5

Three Things To Watch

1. Can a ragtag bunch of substitute Eagles overcome a slew of injuries?

The Eagles have plenty of reasons they’ve fallen far behind the Rams in 2018. But one of them was left completely to the football gods. Just check this week’s injury report, where not a single Ram is listed with a physical problem as of Thursday’s writing. They’ve had a few setbacks, most notably wide receiver Cooper Kupp out for the year after tearing his ACL, but have most of their top-tier players in mint condition 14 weeks into the year.

Compare that to the Eagles, who had 10 players (nine for physical reasons) listed on Thursday’s report. They also have a number of key contributors out for the year: running back Jay Ajayi (ACL), free agent pickup wide receiver Mike Wallace (fibula), and starting cornerback Ronald Darby (ACL), to name a few. The Eagles have over a dozen(!) players on injured reserve, forcing relative unknowns or practice squad players to play major roles.

That lack of depth was evident last week against the Cowboys, when Amari Cooper torched the secondary for more than 200 yards and three touchdowns. Cre’Von Leblanc, while putting in a yeoman’s effort, is not going to keep up with the likes of Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, and even Josh Reynolds. If running back Todd Gurley opens up the passing game, Jared Goff has a chance for a field day against this weakened defense.

Just last week, Dak Prescott threw for a career-best 455 yards. And according to the injury report, the Eagles are likely to be down another player in the secondary as Sidney Jones aggravated his hamstring injury in that Cowboys game and hasn’t practiced all week.

2. Can the Rams’ offense get back on track?

Goff had arguably the worst game of his career against the Bears. A career-high four interceptions combined with a season-low 180 passing yards as he was picked apart at Soldier Field. A team that scores 32.7 points per game, third in the NFL behind the Chiefs and Saints, was limited to just six points.

One of the issues for the Rams during that game was an inability to commit to the run. Todd Gurley had just 11 carries for 28 yards, averaging a season-low 2.5 yards per carry. Second in the NFL with 1,203 rushing yards, you can’t expect Gurley to stay down for long. He now faces an Eagles defense that’s allowed the following to top-tier running backs:

Last week vs. Ezekiel Elliott: 113 yards, 4.0 yards per carry, 79 receiving yards

Two weeks ago vs. Adrian Peterson: A 90-yard touchdown run (98 rushing yards overall)

Three weeks ago vs. Saquon Barkley: 101 yards, 7.8 yards per carry, 41 receiving yards, two total touchdowns

There’s a clear pattern here. It’s a golden opportunity for Gurley to reestablish himself after the Cowboys’ comeback has Elliott threatening to take home the rushing title. And if Gurley does get going… this one could get ugly, early considering the Eagles’ inability to score in the first quarter. The Rams average 5.9 points to start the first 15 minutes, third in the NFL while the Eagles are dead last at 2.2.

3. How will Nick Foles do?

Foles will certainly be motivated to face his former team, especially with a 2019 job on the line. It’s likely he’ll move on to be a starter elsewhere after agreeing to back up an ailing Wentz for one last season. How could the Super Bowl MVP stay a backup the rest of his career?

That said, Foles has work to do to impress potential suitors. He hasn’t played since Week 2 against the Buccaneers and his stats this season are unimpressive: 451 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a pedestrian quarterback rating of 78.9. Foles did nothing to lose those games for the Eagles but he did little to win them; and back then, they had a full-fledged run game with Jay Ajayi and arguably similar receiving options surrounding him.

One benefactor of Foles’ emergence back onto the field: Nelson Agholor. Agholor had 16 catches the first two games; he hasn’t had more than six grabs since. A backup always changes the complexion of the offense and with Foles, look for a few deep plays to Agholor and potentially Golden Tate as the Philly offense should take a few more chances. At this point, they have nothing to lose.

You wonder how head coach Doug Pederson thinks heading into this weekend, by the way, after watching the Chargers go for two in the closing minute against the Chiefs and winning the game on “Thursday Night Football?” Pederson passed on the opportunity last week against the Cowboys, ended up losing in overtime and now he’s about to lose a shot at the playoffs.

Final Analysis

Nick Foles did an admirable job last season of keeping this Eagles team in the game against the Rams and hanging on after Carson Wentz suffered his ACL injury. But that thrilling, 43-35 victory in Los Angeles also came with a decidedly different team around him.

The Rams are hungry to avenge that defeat and healthy compared to an Eagles team just seven days removed from watching the NFC East (and potentially their Super Bowl defense) fully evaporate in overtime. It’s hard to see them recovering with the loss of their leader the cherry on top of an utterly disappointing 2018.

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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

Can the Vikings recover from Sunday’s historic collapse?

The Minnesota Vikings enter this Thursday night’s matchup against the undefeated Los Angeles Rams as heavy underdogs. But they shouldn’t be discouraged; after all, this team knows firsthand how quickly the tables can turn in the NFL.

Just last week, the Vikings, as 17-point favorites, were embarrassed by the Buffalo Bills at home. It was the first time since 1995 (span of 47 games) where a team favored by that large a margin wound up losing an NFL game. The last time it happened, the Dallas Cowboys fell to the Washington Redskins in the same year they wound up winning the Super Bowl. So for Vikings fans still thinking the team can go a few steps further than last year’s NFC Championship Game, there’s hope.

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They’ll run up against a Rams team looking every bit like the Super Bowl contender they were envisioned to be at the start of the season. The only undefeated team left in the NFC, the league’s third-best offense is riding high behind the play of their No. 1 draft pick, quarterback Jared Goff. He and running back Todd Gurley have formed the most dynamic young offensive duo at those positions since Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott electrified the Cowboys two years ago.

Can the Rams keep their early-season momentum going? Or will the Vikings’ defense deliver after a dreadful performance at home?

Minnesota at Los Angeles

Kickoff: Thursday, Sept. 27 at 8:20 p.m. ET

TV: FOX/NFL Network

Spread: Rams -6.5

Three Things to Watch

1. The free agent signee vs. the homegrown young star

Jared Goff has simply continued to improve each week with the Rams. His yards per attempt ranks fourth in the NFL (9.3) while his QB rating (111.1) ranks sixth. While flashy Patrick Mahomes has dominated defenses with the Chiefs, throwing 13 touchdown passes without an interception, Goff has diversified his game. The third-year pro can slide easily between a game plan of deep throws and simple screens; he’s also good at managing the offense when Gurley gets hot. Goff hasn’t had a game with more than one interception since Oct. 8, 2017 against Seattle. He’s not going to cost you the game and doesn’t get enough pub beside fellow 2016 draftee Carson Wentz.

Cousins, meanwhile had an impressive early 2018 with the Vikings wiped out against the Bills. He fumbled on the team’s first two possessions and now has three for the season; that’s tied for fourth in the NFL, which is not what this team paid millions for. By the time he was able to go an entire series without turning the ball over, the Vikings trailed 17-0 and were down for the count. The performance might arguably have been the worst of his career.

Now, Cousins is anxious to put that loss behind him along with the rest of the Vikings. Their quick turnaround may be a good thing; there’s no time to dwell on the litany of mistakes that cost them Sunday. Going throw-for-throw against Goff, if Cousins is at his best, will be a must-watch, top-tier matchup.

2. Can the Vikings’ run defense stop Todd Gurley?

It’s been a weird start for one of the NFL’s best defenses. Through three games, the Vikings haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher but are still at 105.3 yards allowed per game, only 14th best in the league. (Last year, they were second.)

Those yards have come against some inferior rushing competition: Matt Breida, Chris Ivory and Jamaal Williams aren’t exactly household names. Now, a group that hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher since mid-December against Carolina is facing one of the most explosive backs in the league. Gurley’s four touchdowns through three games is tied for the NFL lead and he remains the Rams’ most dangerous threat on offense. What’s more, one could argue he hasn’t even been at his best so far, averaging just 4.1 yards per carry. There’s plenty of room for improvement and if he pierces the Vikings’ defense early, watch out. He’s due for a 70-yard explosive run.

3. Nuts and bolts

The Vikings, like many teams this season, have suffered through placekicking problems. After Daniel Carlson blew a game-winning opportunity against Green Bay, he was replaced by longtime Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey. But Bailey has yet to be tested in the clutch; the Bills blowout kept him on the sideline without a field goal attempt.

The Rams aren’t in great shape either. Greg Zuerlein, coming off his first All-Pro season, has been sidelined with a groin injury the last two weeks. Replacement Sam Ficken has just two made field goals in his career and has yet to connect in 2018. A close game could come down to some white-knuckle moments for fans when these two get out on the field.

One area where the Rams have excelled is turnovers. They have just three giveaways this season, producing a plus-three turnover margin compared to the Vikings’ minus-one. The Rams just have so many offensive weapons, from deep threats Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp to Goff to Gurley to possession receiver Robert Woods. None of them make many mistakes and they just keeping marching down the field on defenses. Only the Saints and Chiefs have scored more points this season than the Rams (102). Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer tends to call a more conservative game plan and that will be tested if the Rams make this a track meet by scoring 30-plus points.

Final Analysis

The Vikings are eager to put Sunday behind them. But a short week against the Rams, who didn’t have to leave LA after an intracity battle against the Chargers, is a tough opponent. The young Rams are eager to knock off a potential playoff rival, earning the head-to-head victory for tiebreaking purposes and establishing themselves as the unquestioned leader of the NFC.

Consider that with a win, the Rams could be three games ahead after four weeks in a NFC West that already has two wounded teams: the 49ers sans Jimmy Garoppolo and a winless, 0-3 Arizona Cardinals team starting rookie Josh Rosen. The division would appear firmly within their grasp with one of the NFL’s easiest schedules looming. It wouldn’t be outrageous to say they’d have a commanding edge on the conference’s top seed after just four games.

The Vikings, meanwhile, need Cousins to step up. But even his A game might not be enough playing against an offense with many more weapons. This time, the Vikings will watch their own glass slipper break.

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Posted in NFL, Top Fantasy Picks

Complete NFC West Preview

Here is a look at what you can expect from the Rams, Seahawks, 49ers and Cards this season…

Los Angeles Rams

There’s no other way to interpret the Rams’ aggressive offseason: L.A. is aiming for the Super Bowl. A once-middling defense now might boast the best interior rush and secondary in the NFL. An explosive offense replaced one Pro Bowl vertical threat with another, better weapon and still has a 2,000-yard MVP candidate in the backfield. All signs point to the Rams continuing their NFC West supremacy and pushing toward a deep playoff run. But do they have enough for a Super Bowl run? In an insanely deep NFC race, they’re going to need all the weapons they can muster.

San Francisco 49ers

If the 49ers’ season-ending five-game winning streak wasn’t a mirage, they could contend for a playoff spot, assuming QB Jimmy Garoppolo stays healthy. The 49ers haven’t made the playoffs or had a winning record since going 12-4 and reaching the NFC title game in 2013, former coach Jim Harbaugh’s next-to-last season with the team.

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks lost far too much talent in one offseason to improve their situation. They conducted a major housecleaning that proved disconcerting to both fans and returning players. A glory era ended. “Every year it’s not fun when guys leave, but this hurt pretty bad,” outside linebacker K.J. Wright says. Realistically, a team revamp as extensive as this is going to take a few seasons — and more moves — to take hold. Expect Seattle to hover around .500 and be home during the playoffs again.

Arizona Cardinals

A healthy Sam Bradford at quarterback might be enough to make even the most skeptical critics rethink their conclusions about the Cardinals, but history isn’t on Bradford’s side, and with the departures of so many key players across the board, it’s difficult to believe this is a credible playoff team. If Arizona’s defense can keep the team in games and Johnson once again threatens 1,000 yards as both a rusher and a pass catcher, then maybe there’s a chance of a winning record. The wild card could be Josh Rosen. If the rookie quarterback gets thrust into the spotlight early, a lot of things could change.

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Posted in NFL

NFL Draft Fantasy League

NFC West

One day, that is all that separate us from the 2016 NFL Draft, and it has yet to be determined who will go number one this year. There’s plenty of candidates, but there’s only one team with that significant pick. The Rams are in the midst of a major change. They will be relocating from St.Louis to Los Angeles starting next season. In fact, they will be making their return to the city of angels for the first time since 1994. This will increase their fanbase significantly. With a much higher population count, a wealthier metropolis and being the neighborhood of stardom, the Rams should do just fine there. They’ve already doubled in value from $1.5 billions to $2.9 billions, catapulting them in third place for the most expensive teams in the league. The number one pick, whoever that will turn out to be, will have an immediate popularity that will follow him in L.A. Does that mean that the other NFC West teams should be worried about this new franchise? What should they do? To maximize your selections for the NFL Draft Fantasy League contest, let’s find out what the NFC West teams needs are!

Arizona Cardinals

Arizona will have to be on the lookout for a high-pressure pass rusher. It would be time to look for younger option at defensive end rather than to bank on Frostee Rucker and Cory Redding for another few years. A young and talented middle linebacker with good size needs to be addressed as well. While Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu are already receiving much of the defensive backfield play time, adding an additional playmaker who’s formidable against the pass could definitely help the Cards.

Top 2 round picks: 29th selection.

Seattle Seahawks

Entering the draft, the Seahawks should covets playmaking secondary players. It would also be a possibility that they could look for some cornerback talents. Since moving Justin Britt to inside guard, Seattle needs to figure out who should helm the tackle spot opposite Russell Okung. The middle of the D-line looks empty since the loss of Brandon Mebane, and Bruce Irvin’s speed will also be missed off the edge of the second-tier. The Seahawks have made a tremendous job at building their defense through the draft, they are expected to do so again.

Top 2 round picks: 26th and 56th selections.

San Francisco 49ers

What to say about the saga that is Colin Kaepernick! New coach Chip Kelly as likely already set up a plan to grab a quarterback in the first-round. The offensive line woes will have to be attended to in the following rounds. The 49ers should also target some wide receivers to fit into Kelly’s offensive scheme. On the defensive side, linebackers would be needed.

Top 2 round picks: 7th and 37th selections.

Los Angeles Rams

Yet another draft where the Rams have to find a premium wide receiver, where they can build their passing game around. And even if they can find a true number one wide receiver, they will first need a quarterback. Finding some more cornerback and safety should help the team, especially with the departures of Rodney McLeod and Janoris Jenkins.

Top 2 round picks: 1st selection.

Posted in NFL

NFL Draft

LA Rams acquire first overall pick from Titans

Talk about respect.

Making a trade for the first overall pick in the NFL Draft is usually the biggest news in the sports world. But, the Rams even held off announcing the move until they deemed fit.

What could possibly be more important than announcing Los Angeles had just acquired the first overall pick?

Well, Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher was quoted as saying “the night belonged to Kobe”.

Respect.

Now that the cat’s out of the bag, let’s break down the momentous move.

laramstrade

The Titans received picks number 15 (1st), 43 (2nd), 45 (2nd), 76 (3rd), and 2017 1st and 3rd rounders. They already hold the 33rd overall pick (second pick in 2nd round), and 64th (first in 3rd round). The Rams received the first overall pick, pick 113 (4th), and 177 (6th).

The Titans now own six of the first 76 picks in the 2016 NFL Draft, enough ammo to rebuild any franchise let alone one with a few solid building blocks already in place. Namely, a (potential) franchise quarterback in Marcus Mariota.

We knew Tennessee wasn’t in love with consensus top pick OT Laremy Tunsil, but that wasn’t enough to pull the trigger just yet. New GM Jon Robinson played his cards just right, and optimized the return for a position he didn’t need to be in. Word is they like the next set of best available OL, and taking Tunsil at number one didn’t necessarily optimize their needs. The Titans and Jack Conklin apparently have mutual admiration, news that surfaced yesterday sparking trade talk among fans and media alike.

When asked if any NFL Head Coaches have made an impact on him through the draft process he responded with “One [NFL head coach] that’s really stood out to me is Mike Mularkey. I really liked him because I see a lot of similarities between him and [Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio]. That really intrigues me because that is somebody that I trust and thrived under.”

While there it’s no sure thing that the Titans draft an offensive-lineman, their strategy was spot on. More importantly than the 15th overall pick, is perhaps the three second-rounders they now own. The 2016 draft is the kind you want to own a plethora of early to mid-round picks. A number of potential stars will be plucked between numbers 32 and 98.

A young running back to groom behind Demarco Murray, a talented wide receiver to pair with the developing Dorial Green-Beckham, and an athletic tight-end are all needs on the offensive side of the ball. While a youth infusion is needed on defense, as their linebacking core and secondary could use a serious upgrade after letting a few veterans go via free agency.

The Rams logic was simple. Get a franchise quarterback, now!

I’ve heard whispers that projected number two overall pick Carson Wentz will now go one, but I think Cal’s Jeff Goff will be the man.

Goff was the consensus top QB all season long, and the only reason Wentz name has been glued to the Browns is because new Head Coach Hue Jackson is enamored by the North Dakota State QB. He’s a great fit in Cleveland, as the more steady, blue-collar type. If in fact, the Browns opt to select him at number two, he would become the highest-drafted non-FBS quarterback in NFL history.

In my opinion the hometown Goff is a perfect fit for the Rams, as his gunslinger style is made for the lovely people of California. The fans will be able to deal with his growing pains, and by handing the ball off to Todd Gurley the team can limit his responsibilities early-on.  A luxury the Cleveland Browns certainly do not possess.

No matter who goes where, the draft process has been especially exciting this year and it can only get better the closer we inch to draft day.

Posted in NFL