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

Preview: Saints at Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys have cobbled together three straight wins to alter the complexion of their season and vault into a share of first place in the mediocre NFC East. The Cowboys will encounter quite the litmus test on Thursday when they host the surging New Orleans Saints, who have won a staggering 10 in a row since their season-opening loss to Tampa Bay.

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Ezekiel Elliott leads the NFL with 1,074 rushing yards and has amassed 531 scrimmage yards (394 rushing, 137 receiving) and four touchdowns in his last three games, including 143 (121 rushing, 22 receiving) with a 16-yard scoring run in Dallas’ 31-23 win over Washington on Thanksgiving Day. The 23-year-old Elliott likely would need a similar performance against New Orleans’ top-ranked rush defense (73.2 yards) as a means to control the clock and keep NFL MVP candidate Drew Brees (league-best 76.4 completion percentage) on the sideline. With Brees under center, the high-octane Saints have scored an NFL-best 37.2 points per game and are fifth in yards (416.6). New Orleans had no issue continuing its frenetic pace last Thursday, as Brees tossed four touchdown passes in a 31-17 win over Atlanta and has 11 scoring strikes against one interception in his last four meetings with the Cowboys.

TV: 8:20 p.m. ET, FOX, NFL Network. LINE: Saints -7.5. O/U: 53

ABOUT THE SAINTS (10-1): The electric Alvin Kamara has shown no signs of slowing down with 575 scrimmage yards and nine touchdowns (six rushing, three receiving) in his past six games. Fellow running back Mark Ingram has three scores in his last three outings and Michael Thomas has proven to be Brees’ most trusted target with an NFL second-best 86 receptions. While the offense receives its fair share of headlines, the defense is getting plenty of press too, as it forced four turnovers, registered a season-high six sacks and held Falcons running backs Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith to just six rushing yards on 10 carries last week. “We all know what Dallas is gonna want to do — hand it to Zeke as many times as they can and try to pound out a win,” defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said. “So it’s gonna be fun.”

ABOUT THE COWBOYS (6-5): Louisiana native Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper look to exploit New Orleans’ 30th-ranked pass defense after the pair hooked up for two long touchdown passes against the Redskins. Prescott has a rushing score in each of his last three games while Cooper joined Kansas City speedster Tyreek Hill in recording his second 180-yard, two-touchdown performance in the last two seasons with his sterling effort versus Washington. Cooper has seen eight-plus targets in three of four games since being acquired from Oakland, giving Dallas a new version of a familiar three-pronged attack made famous by “The Triplets” of Pro Football Hall of Famers Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. “I think the sky’s the limit,” the 24-year-old Cooper said. “Obviously we’ll have to wait and see, but Dak is a great player. Zeke is a great player. So who knows?”

EXTRA POINTS

1. New Orleans WR Tre’Quan Smith was limited in practice on Tuesday as he attempts to return from a one-game absence due to a foot injury.

2. Dallas DE Demarcus Lawrence has three of his team-leading 8.5 sacks in the last four games.

3. The Saints have a league low-tying nine turnovers, one fewer than the Cowboys.

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Posted in NFL, Top Fantasy Picks

The red-hot Saints host the Falcons for a primetime Thanksgiving rematch between division rivals

The New Orleans Saints needed overtime to fend off the Atlanta Falcons in a 43-37 shootout back in Week 3. But much has changed since Sept. 23, as the Saints get set to face the rival Falcons for the second time this season Thanksgiving night inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

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New Orleans (9-1) has parlayed a league-best 38 points per game into nine consecutive victories and the NFL’s longest winning streak. The Saints’ most recent conquests include ending the Rams’ perfect season with a 45-35 victory in Week 9, followed by blowout wins against the Bengals (51-14) and the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles (48-7).

Things have taken a turn for the worse for the Falcons (4-6), who have now dropped two games in a row after reeling off three consecutive wins. Their most recent defeat came in the form of a heartbreaking 22-19 home loss to the Cowboys on Sunday. Atlanta now finds itself in must-win mode, sitting in third place in the NFC South. The Falcons will likely need to run the table to have any chance of securing a playoff spot. That lofty endeavor begins on Thursday night, as the desperate Falcons attempt to spoil Thanksgiving for the red-hot Saints by exacting revenge with a huge upset victory.

The Falcons lead the all-time series against the Saints by a slight 52-47 margin. The Saints have won each of the last two games in the rivalry.

Atlanta at New Orleans

Kickoff: Thursday, Nov. 22 at 8:20 p.m. ET

TV: NBC

Spread: Saints -13

Three Things to Watch

1. A surging New Orleans pass defense

Matt Ryan led an all-out aerial assault against an easily exploitable Saints’ pass defense when these teams met back in Week 3. It resulted in a career-best outing for the former NFL MVP quarterback, who completed 74 percent of his passes for 374 yards with five touchdowns and zero interceptions. Rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley also took advantage with a monster performance of his own (7 catches for 146 yards and 3 touchdowns).

While New Orleans still ranks just 27th in the NFL against the pass (280 ypg) heading into the Thanksgiving rematch, the Saints have been anything but vulnerable against opposing passing games of late. They have allowed just 154 passing yards per game and one TD pass over their last two games, tallying five interceptions and seven sacks in the process. Can the Saints keep it going against a high-powered passing attack that has already torched them once this season?

The Saints’ chief objective will be a difficult one — shut down the Matt Ryan to Julio Jones/Ridley connection. Jones leads the NFL with 1,158 receiving yards, and the elite wideout is currently in the midst of a streak that includes 100-plus yards in each of his last five contests, with a touchdown in three consecutive games. But Jones hasn’t had much luck finding the end zone against the Saints, registering just one touchdown catch in his last nine games against them. And Ridley may have trouble filling the void this time around after going relatively quiet since that breakout performance in Week 3.

2. Can the Falcons slow down the Saints offense?

They certainly didn’t accomplish that goal the first time, as New Orleans racked up 43 points and 534 yards against them. And much better defenses have tried and failed since that time. The good news is that the Atlanta defense, which allows 405 yards per game on average (29th in the NFL), could get a big boost on Thursday night if Pro Bowl linebacker Deion Jones is able to make his long-awaited return from injury. Jones has been particularly effective against the Saints in four career games, recording an impressive 38 tackles, five tackles for a loss and three interceptions. But even with Jones, it is still going to be a very tall order for the Falcons to contain the blazing Saints offense.

New Orleans has been virtually unstoppable on that side of the football over the last three weeks, averaging an NFL-best 514 yards and 48 points per game during that stretch. Drew Brees, who accounted for more than 400 yards and five touchdowns (2 rushing) in the Week 3 victory over the Falcons, continues to play at a nearly flawless level. And the same can be said for offensive standouts Michael Thomas (82 catches, 1,042 receiving yards, 8 TDs) and Alvin Kamara (1,185 all-purpose yards, 15 TDs). Mark Ingram, who was suspended for the first meeting, adds to an already difficult challenge for the Falcons’ defense this time around.

3. Atlanta run game vs. New Orleans’ run defense

Atlanta produced a season-low 48 rushing yards against the Saints in the first matchup, which was a big factor in the Falcons losing that game. They will most likely suffer the same fate if they fail to find some semblance of success with the run game on Thursday night. It will be paramount for Atlanta to control the clock and keep the Saints’ potent offense off the field as much as possible to have a chance.

Of course, that is easier said than done, especially for an Atlanta run game that is averaging only 88.8 rushing yards per game (29th in the NFL) in the absence of star running back Devonta Freeman. That task is further compounded by a Saints run defense that allows only 77.9 rushing yards per game (No. 2 in the NFL). Atlanta running backs, Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith, will have their work cut out for them.

Final Analysis

The Falcons are one of the few teams that have been able to give the Saints a run for their money this season. However, it took a career-best performance from Matt Ryan to make that possible. And these two teams have gone in vastly different directions since Week 3. Even if Atlanta plays the best game it can possibly play on Thursday night, it’s unlikely that it will be enough to pull off the Thanksgiving upset against the surging Saints on the road. New Orleans is simply on a different level right now.

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Posted in NFL, Top Fantasy Picks

Preview: Saints at Vikings

The New Orleans Saints will not soon forget their last visit to Minnesota, a game that ended in one of the most dramatic finishes in league history and denied them a trip to the NFC Championship Game. The Saints have a chance for a little payback in a rematch against the Vikings, taking a five-game winning streak into Sunday night’s matchup.

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New Orleans coach Sean Payton attempted to play down the revenge angle from last season’s “Minneapolis Miracle” — when Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs scored on a 61-yard touchdown pass as time expired for a stunning 29-24 victory. “It wasn’t like there was bad blood when the game was over or anything like that,” Payton said. “Two teams fought hard and made a play at the end that ended up costing us the game. … This is a new team playing this ‘18 season and for different reasons.” Minnesota has overcome a slow start to rattle off three consecutive wins to move atop a tightly bunched NFC North, but is understandably wary of Saints quarterback Drew Brees. “This guy’s amazing,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “I always thought when you talk about Hall of Fame quarterbacks, obviously he’s going to be one, but he’s very cerebral, accurate.”

TV: 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC. LINE: Pick. O/U: 52

ABOUT THE SAINTS (5-1): Brees reached a pair of major milestones this season, becoming the NFL’s all-time leading passer and the third quarterback to throw for 500 touchdowns. Brees has 13 scoring passes and zero interceptions for a league-leading passer rating (121.6) and has a special connection with wide receiver Michael Thomas, who is tied for third in the league with 53 catches for 588 yards and four touchdowns. Running back Alvin Kamara is a dangerous two-way threat for New Orleans, rushing for 363 yards and six scores while adding 40 catches and a touchdown. The Saints, who have the league’s top-ranked rushing defense (72.3 yards), acquired cornerback Eli Apple from the Giants this week.

ABOUT THE VIKINGS (4-2-1): Dalvin Cook has missed much of the season but Minnesota finally got its ground game untracked over the past two games as Latavius Murray rushed for 224 yards and all three of his touchdowns. That has taken some of the onus off quarterback Kirk Cousins, but it hasn’t prevented wide receiver Adam Thielen from joining Charley Hennigan as the only players in league history to have at least 100 yards in each of the first seven games of the season. Thielen, the league leader in yards (822) and catches (67), and Diggs (48 receptions) provide a 1-2 punch for Cousins, who has thrown for 14 TDs and three interceptions. Minnesota’s defense ranks 16th against the pass (256.1 yards).

EXTRA POINTS

1. Cousins has passed for 646 yards and seven TDs in two meetings against New Orleans.

2. Brees has nine touchdown passes and zero interceptions in his last four games against Minnesota.

3. Vikings DE Danielle Hunter is tied for the NFL lead with 8.0 sacks.

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Posted in NFL, Top Fantasy Picks

Complete NFC South Preview

Here is a look at what you can expect from the Falcons, Saints, Panthers and Bucs this season…

New Orleans Saints

The Saints are the class of the NFC South and ready to compete with the Eagles, Vikings, Rams and Packers for NFC supremacy. The offense remains one of the most dynamic in the NFL, and the talented young defense should only be better with experience. The Saints face a brutal schedule and will do well to equal last year’s 11-5 record, but they’ll again be a factor in the NFC playoff race and are a solid sleeper pick to go all the way.

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons are never the flashy arrival to the ball, but they stand to be one of the more competitive teams in the NFL this season. The addition of wide receiver Calvin Ridley to the offense could be a stroke of genius to get back to their high-scoring ways. Rookie Isaiah Oliver might be the final piece to what could be a dominant secondary, and the youth on the defensive line could give the team some extra push in the pass rush and run support. Still, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian’s maturity into a capable play caller is the story to watch going forward and could be what separates a good Falcons team from a great one.

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers don’t look that much different on paper from the team that finished 15-1 in 2015 and made it to the Super Bowl. Many of the core players from that memorable squad remain. But it is fair for Panthers fans to wonder if the team is wasting QB Cam Newton and MLB Luke Kuechly prime years. Personnel holes and various injuries in the secondary, at wide receiver and in the offensive line have hamstrung much of the past two seasons — and Newton has never totally regained his NFL MVP form of 2015, either.

This team could go a long way, but a lot of things have to break right. Kuechly and Newton have to stay healthy and play at an elite level. Another legitimate receiving threat must emerge. The secondary has to be better. Running back Christian McCaffrey has to take another step forward.

If all of that happens, the Panthers could win it all. More likely, this is a team that will remain in the postseason picture in the increasingly difficult NFC South.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Coach Dirk Koetter and general manager Jason Licht are on the hot seat. Licht is well aware that his reshaped roster needs to produce. And he’s confident the right moves have been made.

“Last year, there’s no sugar-coating the disappointment,’’ he says of a season in which the Bucs were 3-7 in one-score games. “I feel like we were a much better team than our record suggested, and we’ve talked over and over about the close games that we were in and the ones that we couldn’t find a way to finish. I feel like we’ve added some really quality players that have been in those situations. Not that that’s always the answer, but I just love this locker room. I love the heartbeat of this locker room. I love the vibe, and I think we’re a lot closer than some people think. I think we have a chance to do something really good.”

Quarterback Jameis Winston needs to re-establish himself as a quarterback capable of getting his team to the postseason. The schedule is much tougher, especially in September. If the rebuilt defense is successful and running back Ronald Jones II restores balance to the offense, the Bucs will be contenders again in a tight division. If not, they could easily repeat their last-place finish.

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NFL Season Preview

 2016 NFC South Fantasy Football Season Preview

With the NFL season kicking off in 4 weeks, the excitement is electrifying for this upcoming campaign and FanPicks will be previewing all eight divisions these upcoming days, continuing by the NFL’s NFC South. Take advantage of our MLB and NFL Cross Sports contests, unique in the fantasy industry but first enjoy this 2016 NFC South Fantasy Football Season Preview article brought you by Fanpicks.

 2016 NFC South Fantasy Football Season Preview

Atlanta Falcons

Just when Devonta Freeman looks like a good Fantasy pick, the Falcons schedule hits you like a ton of bricks. Four road games in the first six weeks include back-to-back games at Denver and at a rested Seattle team. They also play at Tampa on a short week and at Carolina in Week 16. Home games include the Chargers, Packers, Cardinals and Chiefs — not easy games. Freeman’s going to have to get a lot done in the passing game.

 

Key Additions:  C Alex Mack, DE Derrick Shelby, WR Mohamed Sanu

Key Losses: DT Paul Soliai, DE O’Brien Schofield, DE Kroy Biermann, G Chris Chester, WR Roddy White

 

Carolina Panthers

It’s a tougher slate than what they had in 2015 but it’s not a dangerous gauntlet. Maybe the biggest issue is that there’s no stretch where they can dominate offensively for five or six weeks at a time. Leading off at Denver, then taking on the Vikings in Week 3, then a showdown with the Cardinals in Week 8 is an example. Back-to-back West Coast games are brutal. Cam Newton should remain productive but don’t expect a year like the one he just had.

 

Key Additions: Di Paul Soliai, C Gino Gradkowski

Key Losses:  ED Jared Allen (Retired), WR Jerricho Cotchery, P Brad Nortman

 

New Orleans Saints

Drew Brees’ arm is going to fall off. The matchups are either sweet for the Saints passing game or will require the Saints to put up a ton of points to keep up. Then again, is that really different than normal? Check out this horrid six-game stretch starting in Week 6: at Carolina, at Kansas City, Seattle, at San Francisco, Denver and at Carolina on a Thursday. That stretch could be an eyesore for Mark Ingram.

 

Key Additions: TE Coby Fleener, LB James Laurinaitis, LB Nathan Stupar

Key Losses: WR Marques Colston, TE Ben Watson, CB Brandon Browner, HB Khiry Robinson, G Jahri Evans


 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

t’s a tough start for the Buccaneers — they play at Arizona, vs. Los Angeles, vs. Denver and at Carolina in Weeks 2 through 5. But after their Week 6 bye they have a lot of good-looking matchups including a potential foursome of shootouts in Weeks 13 through 16 (at San Diego, vs. New Orleans, at Dallas, at New Orleans). Draft the Bucs and be patient with them.

 

Key Additions:  ED Robert Ayers, G J.R. Sweezy, LB Daryl Smith, CB Brent Grimes, CB Josh Robinson

Key Losses: G Logan Mankins (retired), LB Bruce Carter, LB Danny Lansanah

 

Posted in NFL

NFC South

NFL Fantasy Draft Needs Preview

While the first wave of free agency is settling quietly, draft needs are clearer. Only a few days until the 2016 NFL Draft and the next 72 hours will be extremely busy strategically. With so many speculations going on in the league, FanPicks will be providing a special  draft contest for you starting on April 28th 2016. This NFL Fantasy Draft Needs preview is brought you by FanPicks.com.

Atlanta Falcons

With only 5 picks this draft, the Falcon’s priority should lie in getting more pass rush to pair up Vic Beasley off the edge. On top of that, their back end of their secondary could use a little help if their willing to get a safety. The question is however, how early in the draft would they make that movie? They need some kind of leader in defense to reminisce the last few years when they had some of the most talented linebacking corps in the league. They’ve been attempting to upgrade their offensive line aggressively but there’s still some room to improve in that sector.

Top 3 round picks: 17th and 50th, 81th selections.

Carolina Panthers

With Josh Norman gone and rescinding his franchise tag, this leaves a huge gap to fill at the cornerback position. Their GM is sure that their pass rush can make any cornerback look good, explaining his move on letting go Norman. They need to replace Charles Johnson in the long run at defensive end and will definitely try to get the best available player left at that position.

Top 3 round picks: 30th and 62nd, 93rd selections.

New Orleans Saints

New Orleans has had trouble stopping passing teams and despite 3rd round CB P.J. Williams being on the injured reserve list, they should try to find more talent for that position. They’ve had a track record of stockpiling picks but this year for the first time since 1997, will be trading down. As they tried to rebuild their base, they went from 9 picks in 2015 to only 6 picks this year to work with. Not only they need to strengthen defensively, but a big guy that could blow some holes for Mark Ingram and guard Drew Brees could put them back as threats in the league.

Top 3 round picks: 12th and 47th, 78th selections.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucks need to focus on defense since they just drafted one single defensive player the past 2 years. They should look for an athletic young replacement for Gosder Cherilus, something we may see in the first 2 or 3 rounds. Robert Ayers’s arrival may help at defensive end, but Tampa Bay could use more competition in the CB and Safety positions. Look out for them to really go full out on D this draft.

Top 3 round picks: 9th and 39th, 74th selections.

Posted in NFL

NFL Week 17 Stacks to look out for

Choosing your stack in week 17 is a difficult thing to do. Most playoff implications are already determined so a Cam Newton/Ted Ginn stack will not be beneficial, even against the Bucs. The other side is true as well, even against the Saints defense, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones may not bring full effort with nothing on the line.

Stafford and Johnson Stack

While Calvin Johnson has been very unproductive lately, catching only one pass in each week 14 and 15, he has since turned things around with 6 catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. While not huge fantasy value, this is a good sign going into week 17 against the Bears. While neither team has much to play for, Stafford and Johnson may be able to load up on the garbage time points.

Eli Manning and Odell Beckham

While the Giants don’t have anything on the line this week against the Eagles, Odell could be looking to have a big game after his week 16 suspension. The Eli Manning and Odell Beckham connection is one of the most dangerous in the NFL, and facing the Eagles poor secondary, they will connect for more than a couple long balls.

Kirk Cousins and Jordan Reed

After two consecutive high scoring weeks between these two, it may be too much to ask for another one. Reed has shown to be the Redskins top receiver scoring 4 touchdowns in the past 2 weeks. Although they have locked up their spot in the playoffs, they may come out strong against the Cowboys before starting to rest up starters.

Matt Ryan and Julio Jones

This stack is somewhat risky with both of these two showing poor performances as of late. After a strong start to the season, the Falcons seem to be falling apart. They however did upset the undefeated Panthers last week, moving in a positive direction for these two players. We all know how valuable this stack can be when they are both on their game. Plus, with the Saints secondary on pass coverage, Julio should not have much opposition.

Posted in NFL

NFL Week 16 Review

Washington Shows up when it Counts

The Redskins won a “must-win” game against the Eagles on Saturday night locking up their playoff position. Kirk Cousins continues on his hot streak. He threw for 365 passing yards and 4 passing touchdowns totaling 32.2 fantasy points. He connected with the weekend leading tight end, Jordan Reed 9 times for 129 receiving yards and 2 receiving touchdowns for 36.9 fantasy points.

Big upsets around the League

This week saw losses from the top teams all over the league. These teams are already locks in the playoffs though so who knows if they were playing at the full level. The first loss was the Patriots overtime loss against the Jets. Brady played the whole game and produced very poor numbers: 231 passing yards, 1 passing touchdowns, and an interception for only 14.8 fantasy points. Fitzpatrick for the Jets provided some good fantasy value with 3 passing touchdowns (2 to Marshall and 1 to Decker), with 296 passing yards for 26.9 fantasy points.

The next big upset was the Falcons taking down the undefeated Panthers. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones got back in sync with Ryan totaling 306 passing yards and a touchdown (19.2 fantasy points) while Julio had 178 yards and a touchdown on 9 catches (35.8 fantasy points). Cam Newton threw for only 142 passing yards, no touchdowns.

Lastly, the Seahawks, who have been red hot over the past 4 weeks, fail to generate much offense against the Rams. Doug Baldwin, who totals 10 receiving touchdowns over the previous 4 weeks scored only 1 this weekend for 1 of 2 passing touchdowns by Wilson.

Johnny Football plays Running Back

Manziel put up the worst game of the weekend as far as passing stats but he helped save a little fantasy value by running the ball. While passing only 136 yards and 1 interception, he ran for 108 rushing yards on 11 attempts. This brought his total score to 17 fantasy points.

Megatron gets some attention

Calvin Johnson put up a decent game this week after catching only 1 pass in each of the previous 2 weeks. He caught 6 passes for 77 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown. This made 19.7 fantasy points. Far from the 3 touchdown game he put up on Thanksgiving, but an improvement.

Brees and Bortles Shootout

The Jaguars and Saints had a high scoring shootout game, which is no surprise with those aggressive quarterbacks and weak secondaries. Although injured, Brees threw for 412 passing yards and 3 passing touchdowns in the win, totaling 31.5 fantasy points. One was a long 71 yard touchdown pass to Cooks, giving him a 5 catch, 123 yard, 1 touchdown game (26.3 fantasy points)

Bortles was less effective throwing 2 interceptions, but with 368 passing yards and 4 passing touchdowns, he stayed close to Brees with 32 fantasy points.

Steelers finally stopped

Big Ben and Antonio Brown seemed unstoppable after putting up big numbers against the Broncos defense last weekend. They were finally stopped this weekend however by the likes of Baltimore. Roethlisberger only there for 215 yards and 2 interceptions, a measly 10.6 fantasy points. Brown had a touchdown get called back and ended the day with 7 receptions for 61 receiving yards and 13.1 fantasy points.

Cardinals and Vikings prove contenders

The Cardinals had a big 38 to 8 win over the Packers. Carson Palmer and the Cardinals prove to be serious contenders, especially with the other big teams showing poor results. There was no huge individual fantasy value in this game, only team contentions.

The Vikings won a blowout of their own winning 49 to 17 against the Giants. Minnesota was very effective running the ball with Peterson rushing 104 yards with a touchdown and McKinnon rushing 89 yards with 2 touchdowns.

Some Premium Receivers Deliver

Brandon Marshall caught 8 passes for 115 receiving yards and 2 receiving touchdowns. 31.5 fantasy points.

Deandre Hopkins caught 7 passes for 117 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown. 24.7 fantasy points.

Julio Jones caught 7 passes for 178 receiving yards and a touchdown. 35.8 fantasy points.

Allen Robinson caught 6 passes for 151 receiving yards and a touchdown. 30 fantasy points.

Posted in NFL

Week 16 Value Picks

Quarterback

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The shootout of the weekend should be between Jacksonville and New Orleans, assuming Drew Brees is healthy enough to take the field after tearing his plantar last week (the same injury Peyton Manning is struggling with). These two quarterbacks love to throw the ball and their defenses love to let the ball be thrown. I give Bortles the fantasy edge though since the Saints defense is more flawed fundamentally and Bortles just loves to throw the ball way down the field.

Kirk Cousins could be a great value pick this weekend as well. He has been on fire lately and we see the weapons he has in Jordan Reed and DeSean Jackson (even Alfred Morris as well). Thats not even considering the fact that the Eagles secondary is great at making any quarterback look like Tom Brady out there.

Running Back

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As you can see from the above, there are not many great options at running back this week with the highest projected running back as Doug Martin (CHI @ TB) with only 20.6 projected points. You can spend the money at Running back if you wish and go with the likes of Doug Martin (CHI @ TB) and Matt Forte (CHI @ TB) in what should be a run off, or you can save your money for the higher value at the Receiver position and go for the bargain picks of Darren Sproles (WAS @ PHI), Tim Hightower (JAX @ NO), Christine Michael (STL @ SEA), or Ameer Abdullah (SF @ DET).

Wide Receiver

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The stack of the week should be Allen Robinson and Blake Bortles against the Saints. There is no denying that the Big Ben and Antonio Brown connection has been unstoppable this year, no matter what the matchup. He is going to cost you a pretty penny but fading Antonio Brown may just kill your chances of winning big, as it has plenty of weekends this year already.

Or you can go with Doug Baldwin who has scored over 10 touchdowns in the past 4 weeks. Can he keep this streak going against the Rams? I’m saying yes, not that he will score another 3 touchdowns, but he should be able to haul in 1 or 2 providing some good fantasy value. Seattle doesn’t seem to be stopping this charge until the season ends.

If you are trying to find a cheap value receiver to fill that last spot in your lineup with limited funds, you can look to Jeremy Maclin (CLE @ KC), John Brown (GB @ ARI), Michael Floyd (GB @ ARI), Willie Snead (JAX @ NO), Bradon Cooks (JAX @ NO), or Golden Tate (SF @ DET).

Tight End

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The tight end decision has been made easier in the previous couple weeks with Gronk out. Up until then the decision was go for Gronk, accept the 50+% ownership and $7000+ price tag and hope its his week, or choose from the list of alternative tight ends. The Gronk versus the field decision is back. This week it is easy though.

Gronk has not shown his dominance of previous years this season and is only projected about 1 point higher than the Saints‘ Benjamin Watson. The value picks here are Ebron and Kelce. Kelce has been stagnated slightly since his explosive start to the season and his salary reflects that decline. However, he has high end potential against the Browns, which is what you are going to need to win any big NFL Daily Fantasy Tournament. Ebron as well has shown brilliance at times this year and is getting more action lately with Calvin Johnson all of the sudden becoming obsolete in their offense. Ebron comes much cheaper than the other highly projected options and allows you to spend the cash where you want this week, with the receivers.

Posted in NFL

NFL Week 16 Stacks to look out for

Blake Bortles and Allen Robinson

In terms of how he generates fantasy value, Bortles focuses on Quality over Quantity. By this I mean, he tends to only throw passes of 10 yards or more, and often far more. Looking at Jacksonville’s last game against the Falcons, he threw at least one 20+ yard pass to each of 5 different receivers. Robinson had a rare off game, only catching 3 passes for 57 yards, but he remains Bortles favorite target down the field. Jacksonville is facing the Saints, who although their pass defense has improved as of late, they still rank 3rd on the list of passing yards allowed with 278 passing yards per game.

Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown

If the Broncos can’t stop this dynamic duo, its hard to imagine anyone will be able to. Even against arguably the strongest defense in the NFL, Roethlisberger was able to total 380 passing yards, with Brown catching 16 passes for 189 yards and 2 touchdowns, leading the charts in week 15. Baltimore ranks 12th on the list of most passing yards allowed with 248 passing yards per game, compared to Denver who only allowed 188 passing yards per game (leading the NFL) going into week 15 where they were dominated by the Steelers.

Jimmy Clausen and Kamar Aiken

However, as strong as the Steelers’ offense is, they still are not a dominant team due to the weakness on the defensive side. They rank second in most passing yards allowed with 279 per game and if you are looking for a lower ownership, high risk stack, the Clausen and Aiken may be the stack for you. If you overlook the 2 interceptions Clausen threw last weekend, he put up some quality numbers (281 passing yards and 2 passing touchdowns) against a strong Chiefs defense. Aiken had 8 receptions for 73 receiving yards and a touchdown last week as well.

Kirk Cousins and DeSean Jackson

I probably don’t need to tell you how weak the Eagles secondary is and how disadvantaged they are to the long ball. Kirk Cousins should have a big game against the Eagles, my only debate here was which receiver to stack him with. Looking at the season as a whole, Jordan Reed is his favorite target but the Eagles’ weakness lies more in the secondary, which is where DeSean Jackson seems to dominate. Against the Bills last week he racked up 153 receiving yards on only 6 catches, averaging 25.5 yards per catch.

Posted in NFL

Detroit Lions versus New Orleans Saints Monday Night Football Fantasy Picks 12-21-2015

The New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football will host the Detroit Lions. NFL fantasy GMs can tune to ESPN TV at 8:30PM Eastern Time on December 21st to follow the scoring resorts of their one day league fantasy roster picks.

Following the results of the action of Sunday the New Orleans Saints are eliminated from the playoffs with the victories by the Vikings and Seahawks. The Lions were eliminated last week. The Saints are 5-8 and broke a four game losing streak with a road win at Tampa Bay 24-17. The 17 points allowed last week were the lowest the team has allowed all season. The Saints are 32nd in the NFL in scoring defense by allowing 30.5 points per game. They rank near the bottom of the NFL in rush and pass defense. On the other side of the football the Saints are the number three offense in the NFL as they average 395 yards per game despite losing many weapons the past few seasons.

The Detroit Lions are going through another down season with a record of 4-9. They are losers of two straight after dropping a 21-14 road decision at the St Louis Rams. The defense has dipped down to 28th in the league in scoring defense by allowing 25.8 points per game. The Lions offense has underperformed. They are 23rd in total and scoring offense as they put up just 20.5 points per game. The run game has not done much as the Lions are 32nd and last in the league running for 79.3 yards per game.

Detroit Lions QB:

Matthew Stafford

The seven year veteran quarterback has completed 65% of his throws this season with 24 touchdowns and 13 picks. Last week in the loss at the Rams, Stafford hit on 65% of his passes for 245 yards with two touchdowns and a pick. Stafford is on a three game run where he has thrown multiple touchdown passes. He has a total of nine touchdown passes over his past three games. Stafford will be throwing passes to a bad defensive team.

Detroit Lions RB:

Ameer Abdullah

The rookie running back has rushed for 437 yards on 116 carries with a touchdown. He does have a receiving touchdown on the campaign. The Lions have run poorly and Abdullah has rushed for just 3.8 yards per carry on the year. He had seven carries for 23 yards last week. Abdullah has not rushed for 100 yards on the campaign and his best rushing performance was at home against Philadelphia where he ran for 63 yards on 16 carries.

Detroit Lions WR:

Calvin Johnson

Johnson leads the Lions with 71 catches for 981 yard with seven touchdowns. He is averaging a career low 13.8 yards per catch average on the season which is four yards below his career best 17.8 yards per reception he had in 2013. Last week against the Rams Johnson had a season low one catch for 16 yards. The injury report indicates that Johnson is probable for this team as he has an ankle injury.

Detroit Lions Defense

It is hard to make a case for the Lions as they sit 28th in the league in scoring defense. They are defending a very good offensive team on the road in the Superdome who plays well when they are in the spotlight.

New Orleans Saints QB:

Drew Brees

The veteran quarterback has completed 67.8% of his throws for 3794 yards with 25 touchdowns and 11 picks. He has two touchdowns hitting 75% of his throws last week in the win at Tampa Bay and two weeks ago he threw for 3 touchdowns at home to Carolina. Brees has thrown for multiple touchdowns in five of his past six games.

New Orleans Saints RB:

Tim Hightower

With the running back position suffering injuries its Tim Hightower getting the start. He had 28 carries last week at Tampa Bay and ran for 85 yards.

New Orleans Saints WR:

Brandin Cooks

The second year wide out leads the Saints with 64 catches for 869 yards with seven touchdowns. He 13.6 yards per catch average is over three yards greater than his numbers in his rookie campaign.

NFL Monday Night Football Real Money Fantasy League Picks

QB: Drew Brees (Saints)

WR: Brandin Cooks (Saints)

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