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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New England led 3-0 after one quarter.

Posted in NFL

NFL Super Bowl 51 Preview

Atlanta Falcons vs New England Patriots

With the Falcons’ 44–21 beating of the Packers, and the Patriots’ 36–17 destruction of the Steelers in Sunday’s conference championship games, the country has seen just two competitive playoff games out of the 10 played to this point. Will the Houston Super Bowl on February 5th be any different? For that answer, let’s get an early look at the factors that will determine the winner of Super Bowl 51 (Play at FanPicks).

It’s all about the quarterbacks

Just about any way you slice it, this is a matchup between the top two passers in the league. Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and New England’s Tom Brady ended up No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in pretty much every efficient stats rankings. They are masters of their craft, have plenty of weapons around them, and have two of the best playcallers (Kyle Shanahan and Josh McDaniels) at their disposal. To beat Brady, you have to disguise and change up both the pressure and coverage looks on just about every snap. The Falcons, to this point, have not shown the ability to do that. That will be an important factor in the game. Ryan has trouble with tight, disciplined coverage. With Malcolm Butler locking up either Julio Jones or Mohamed Sanu, and Logan Ryan on the other with safety help, Ryan may have to make a living throwing to the running backs and tight end’s Levine Toilolo and Austin Hooper. The Patriots have had more issues with supporting actors than those in starring roles. The Falcons have the ability to exploit that.

Running backs will be a huge factor

Sure, the quarterbacks may get all the attention, but the running backs from each team are used to taking advantage of the shortcomings on opposing defenses. The Falcons have one of the most talented duos in Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Freeman is the better runner, but Shanahan loves to use both to exploit mismatches in the pass game. McDaniels likes to use Dion Lewis and James White in a similar fashion via the pass, and Lewis has taken over as the every-down running back. LeGarrette Blount is the short yardage and finish-the-game bruiser.

What’s in common?

The Falcons and Patriots each had five common opponents (Denver, Seattle, Arizona, Los Angeles and San Francisco) and went 4–1 (each team lost to the Seahawks, with Atlanta losing on the road and the Patriots at home). The cumulative scores were 168–88 for Atlanta; 119–82 for New England. The Falcons had an average margin of victory of 20.5 points, and the Patriots were at 11.0. The Patriots didn’t have Tom Brady in their two-point victory over the Cardinals, a team the Falcons beat by 19.

Atlanta’s offense is exceptional

Under the spotlight of the Super Bowl, this Falcons offense may finally get its due. We’re talking about a unit that can rival the Greatest Show on Turf Rams for explosiveness. They scored 540 points this season, which is tied for eighth all time with those 2000 Rams. Sure, the team is uber-talented with wideout’s Jones, Sanu and Taylor Gabriel, and running backs’s Freeman and Coleman, but don’t underestimate the job coordinator Shanahan has done. At this point, everyone thinks it’s all about the talent. But remember, Sanu was an underachieving No. 2 with the Bengals and Gabriel was a Browns castoff before this season. Freeman and Coleman were thought to be nice players, but not game changers. That all changed this season because of the way Shanahan designs plays and attacks defenses. There are few better at taking an opponent’s tendencies and using them against them.

The Patriots defense will have a say

New England’s defense certainly proved its “best scoring defense” was no fluke in the win over the Steelers. And remember who put an end to those 2000s Rams teams (Spoiler Alert: It was the 2001 Patriots). New England may not have many big names on defense (Dont’a Hightower, Devin McCourty and Malcolm Butler are about it), but the sum is better than the parts. Certainly the Falcons will be a huge challenge, but everyone knows Bill Belichick and his staff can defend anything with two weeks to prepare.

The Patriots’ offensive line should have an advantage

After a shaky outing against the Texans, the Patriots’ offensive line completely dominated the Steelers. The Falcons’ unit is certainly solid but it’s not quite as good as the Patriots. The Patriots have the edge at left tackle (Nate Solder), right guard (Shaq Mason) and right tackle (Marcus Cannon), while the Falcons have an advantage at center (Alex Mack) and left guard (Andy Levitre).

Experience doesn’t matter

Expect a lot to be made this week about how this is Matt Ryan’s first Super Bowl appearance versus Tom Brady’s seventh (with four victories). Certainly the disparity is notable, but it ignores the fact that several passers have beaten those with more experience in recent years. Some of those on the list: Russell Wilson over Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers over Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning over Brady and Brady over Kurt Warner.

You have to stop more than one guy

Each quarterback has a security blanket. For the Patriots, it’s Julian Edelman (158 targets in the regular season). Atlanta has Jones (129). Certainly a lot of attention needs to paid to each of those players, but both quarterbacks are deft at distributing the ball. The Patriots had seven players catch at least three touchdowns (tight end Martellus Bennett led with seven), and so did the Falcons (Jones and Gabriel tied with six). In the postseason, both Sanu (Falcons) and Chris Hogan (Patriots) had two touchdowns receiving.

Where’s the pressure?

It looks like the opening over/under line for the Super Bowl is an astounding 59 points. No shock there, considering these two offenses. But it also says something about the defenses, which were both great on Sunday but don’t exactly get a lot of pressure on the quarterbacks. The Patriots didn’t affect Roethlisberger that much and don’t have a dominating rusher, although Trey Flowers is solid. And the Falcons’ only true pass rushing threat is Vic Beasley. The game may very well be determined by which team is able to dial up the most pressure and make that top quarterback move off his spot in the pocket.

Posted in NFL

NFL Playoffs Conference Championships

A road team was finally victorious in the post-season, but that doesn’t mean the results of last week’s divisional round have taken away any of the appeal to either of the NFL playoffs conference championships matchups (Enter contest). In fact, the outcomes have left us with a pair of regular-season rematches featuring the league’s two hottest teams taking on its two most dominant teams in the regular season for the right to play in Super Bowl LI.

NFC Championship

The NFC Championship Game features Green Bay, winners of eight in a row, against Atlanta. The Packers are coming off of a thrilling, last-second 34-31 win in Dallas over the top-seeded Cowboys, while the Falcons are fresh off of a 36-20 dismantling of the Seahawks. Aaron Rodgers (21 TDs, 1 INT over last eight games) has been playing at an MVP level the past two months, but the award could end up going to Matt Ryan. The first-team All-Pro threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s win over Seattle, and he hasn’t been intercepted since early December.

AFC Championship

New England had little trouble dispatching of Houston 34-16 last week and Sunday will be Tom Brady’s 11th conference championship game, the most of any player in NFL history. To make it to a record-breaking seventh Super Bowl, Brady and the Patriots will need to beat a red-hot Pittsburgh team that has already won in a hostile environment. The Steelers made it nine wins in a row after outlasting Kansas City 18-16 in Arrowhead Stadium last week. Le’Veon Bell has been a beast (NFL-record 337 rushing yards in first two career playoff games) thus far, but Pittsburgh will need Ben Roethlisberger (8:9 TD-to-INT ratio since Week 13) to play better than he has lately.

Overview

These teams already have some familiarity with each other, as Atlanta beat Green Bay 33-32 in Week 8 at home on a late touchdown pass from Ryan to Mohamed Sanu. Ryan and Rodgers combined for 534 passing yards and seven scores in the high-scoring affair. New England defeated Pittsburgh 27-16 at Heinz Field in Week 7, behind a 127 rushing yards and two touchdowns from LeGarrette Blount. However, Roethlisberger didn’t play because of a knee injury and the Patriots’ leading receiver that day was Rob Gronkowski, who went on injured reserve (back) in December.

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Monday Night Football Preview

New England Patriots vs Baltimore Ravens

The New England Patriots did not even have to take the field to seize control of their postseason destiny and they can solidify the front-running status when they host the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night (Enter Contest). Oakland’s loss to Kansas City on Thursday night put the Patriots one-half game up for the No. 1 seed in the AFC entering the final quarter of the season.

New England has won three in a row and are inching closer to an NFL record eight consecutive division title in the AFC East. The Patriots own a deceptive 7-1 regular-season record in the series against the Ravens, who have been a major nemesis for New England and quarterback Tom Brady. Four of the last six meetings (playoffs included) have been decided by four points or fewer and Baltimore owns a pair of postseason victories over the Patriots in Foxborough. The stakes are equally high for the Ravens, who are in a battle with Pittsburgh for the top AFC North spot. Steelers won their game on monday to take the temporary lead. Pressure is now on the Ravens to tie-it back up, especially with the fact that they hold the tiebreaker over the Black-and-Yellows.

ABOUT THE RAVENS (7-5)

Baltimore improved to 4-1 in its last five games following its most impressive victory of the season, a 38-6 demolition of Miami last week that snapped the Dolphins’ six-game winning streak. Muddling through a season of mediocrity to that point, quarterback Joe Flacco established season highs with 381 yards passing and four touchdowns while setting a franchise record with 36 completions. Tight end Dennis Pitta had nine catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns, part of a unit that features veteran Steve Smith, speedster Mike Wallace and promising Breshad Perriman at wide receiver. The Ravens have the league’s top-ranked defense (296.1 yards per game) and rank No. 1 against the run (73.8 yards).

ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (10-2)

New England has won three in a row, although the combined record of those opponents entering Week 13 is 8-28. Brady has 19 touchdown passes versus only one interception since returning from his four-game suspension, but he is without his No. 1 receiving target in tight end Rob Gronkowski and has 12 scoring passes versus 11 picks in 10 career games (playoffs included) versus Baltimore. Rookie Malcolm Mitchell continues to emerge as a bigger threat in the passing game with a season-high eight receptions in last week’s 26-10 win over Los Angeles while LeGarrette Blount is 43 yards shy of his second 1,000-yard season. The Patriots’ defense is tied with Baltimore with 17.3 points allowed, which is ranked second in the NFL. With Danny Amendola (ankle) out, the Patriots signed fellow WR/PR Griff Whalen.

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Patriots (5-1) vs Steelers (4-2)

What was shaping up as one of the marquee matchups of the season lost some of its luster when Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suffered a torn meniscus last weekend. With Roethlisberger sidelined after undergoing surgery, the Steelers will host the New England Patriots in a matchup of division leaders on Sunday (Enter Contests).

The Patriots weathered a four-game suspension to quarterback Tom Brady, so they realize Pittsburgh still presents an imposing obstacle. They will be playing playing their third consecutive AFC North opponent, having dispatched Cincinnati and Cleveland by a combined 68-30 over the past two weeks. Likewise, the Steelers are facing a third straight team from the AFC East, following a rout of the New York Jets with a 30-15 loss at Miami last weekend.

ABOUT THE PATRIOTS

Sitting out the first month had no apparent negative effect on Brady, who has thrown for 782 yards with six touchdowns and zero interceptions while completing 76 percent of his passes in the first two games. He’s 6-2 against Pittsburgh with 22 scoring passes and three interceptions. Tight end Rob Gronkowski, hobbled by a hamstring injury that forced him to sit out two games, has come alive with a pair of 100-yard games since the return of Brady. He collected seven receptions for a career-high 162 yards and a touchdown in last week’s 35-17 win over Cincinnati. New England’s linebacker corps is riddled with injuries, although Dont’a Hightower was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week.

ABOUT THE STEELERS

Backup quarterback Landry Jones, who appeared in seven games last season and struggled in a start at Kansas City, will be surrounded by plenty of talent. Among them are star wideout Antonio Brown and do-everything running back Le’Veon Bell. Brown tied for the league lead with 136 receptions last season and has 376 catches from 2013-15, but he has failed to find the end zone in 11 games without Roethlisberger. He possess a touchdown catch in all three career meetings against New England. Bell is averaging 5.5 yards per carry and has 20 receptions in his three games since returning from suspension and will likely carry a heavy workload. Pittsburgh’s defense ranks 30th against the pass (293.7 yards per game). The Steelers have won seven in a row at home.

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Bills(1-2) vs Patriots  (3-0)

Coming off what could have been a season-saving victory, Rex Ryan prepares to match wits with his biggest rival when he leads the Buffalo Bills into a matchup against Bill Belichick and the host New England Patriots on Sunday (Enter Contest). Despite the absence of quarterback Tom Brady due to a four-game suspension, the unbeaten Patriots are in a familiar perch atop the AFC East.

About the Patriots

It’s unclear if Jimmy Garoppolo or rookie Jacoby Brissett, who are both dealing with injuries, will be under center for New England. They have not missed a beat since the beginning of the season. The team improved to 3-0 with a 27-0 demolition of Houston on Sept. 22. They’ve won 21 of their last 22 division home games.

Both Garoppolo (shoulder) and Brissett were limited in drills during Thursday’s practice. The prognosis of the offense was further muddled by the limited status of star tight end Rob Gronkowski (hamstring). Although he did not have a catch in his season debut against the Texans, Gronkowski is expected to be more involved against Buffalo. Running back LeGarrette Blount, who leads the NFL with 298 yards rushing and has scored four touchdowns, was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Month on Thursday. Wide receiver Danny Amendola had nine receptions for 117 yards in the last meeting against Buffalo.

New England’s defense is ranked in the middle of the pack. They’ve allowed an average of 90.3 yards rushing and 15.0 points per game. The Patriots won 23 of the past 25 meetings between the longtime division rivals, including a season sweep a year ago.

About the Bills

Buffalo rebounded from a pair of six-point losses with a dominating 33-18 victory over Arizona on Sunday. It was six days after Ryan fired offensive coordinator Greg Roman. The absence of star wideout Sammy Watkins forced Buffalo to rely on a ground game that produced 208 yards rushing versus Arizona. LeSean McCoy nearly matched his total from the first two weeks combined by rushing for 110 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He rushed for more than 80 yards in both matchups against New England last season.

Watkins was placed on injured reserve Friday, officially ruling him out for at least the next eight weeks. McCoy will be in line for another heavy workload. Buffalo’s defense came alive last week by registering five sacks and four interceptions. Ryan’s teams are 4-18 following a win since 2012.

Posted in NFL

Thursday Night Football

HOUSTON TEXANS (2-0) vs NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (2-0)

Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien likely isn’t going to sob over the predicaments of former boss in New England Bill Belichick ahead of their matchup for Thursday Night Football game (Enter Contests) at Foxborough. The Patriots are expected to start third-round rookie Jacoby Brissett in spite of Tom Brady’s suspension and Jimmy Garoppolo’s shoulder injury. Brissett completed 6-of-9 passes for 92 yards in Sunday’s 31-24 victory over Miami, after Garoppolo went down.

Team’s Breakdown

All-star tight-end Rob Gronkowski has yet to make his season debut. He’s still bothered by a hamstring injury, but could be making his return to the lineup Thursday. Acquired from Chicago in March, Martellus Bennett has done a good job in place of Gronkowski. The nine-year veteran has played on all but two offensive snaps during the season’s initial two games. He reeled in a 20-yard touchdown on Sunday against Miami. Bruising running back LeGarrette Blount collected 193 yards and two touchdowns this season. He’ll look to stay healthy, especially against the team that landed him on the injured reserve last season.

 

After enduring the round and round of their own quarterback carousel last year, the Texans have welcomed the stability afforded by their expensive offseason acquisition Brock Osweiler. Signed to a four-year, $72 million contract, Osweiler was able build good chemistry with Pro Bowl selection DeAndre Hopkins and first-round rookie Will Fuller. While Hopkins leads the team with 12 receptions and two touchdowns, Fuller became the third wideout to start his NFL career with two straight 100-yard receiving games.

Running back Lamar Miller provides O’Brien with a constant presence in the backfield, as the offseason acquisition’s 53 carries are second only to Pittsburgh’s DeAngelo Williams (58) for most in the league. Defense has been the name of the game for Houston, which surrendered just 26 points (NFL third-best), 274.5 yards allowed (third-best) and 178.5 passing yards (fourth-best). Three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt earned 1.5 sacks in a 19-12 triumph over Kansas City last Sunday, while linebacker Whitney Mercilus has had two of them this season and 17 in his last 14 games overall.

Posted in NFL

NFL Season Preview:

 2016 AFC East Fantasy Football Season Preview

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

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

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

 

New England Patriots

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

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

New York Jets

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

 

Buffalo Bills

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

 

Miami Dolphins

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

Posted in NFL

NFL Fantasy Football News

FanPicks NFL (click & play here) all-time best QB Peyton Manning can finally see his legacy fulfilled after month of being shrouded with controversy.

Peyton Manning is innocent.

After a 7 month NFL investigation on whether former pro-football quarterback Peyton Manning did or did not take performance enhancers, the conclusion announced on Monday that he played the game clean. He did not use any drugs restricted by the league, according to the reports. Taking up on retirement a month after winning his second Superbowl last February, the future Hall of Famer saw his legacy potentially tarnished by a documentary televised by the american broadcast of Al-Jazeera. The program listed out a number of professional athletes around different sport that would have consumed steroids. The name of the former Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos QB was included among them. The NFL found no credible evidence to confirm that the Al-Jazeera claim was valid. The investigation included an examination of Manning’s medical file.

Issue across every sports

Baseball players Ryan Zimmerman and Ryan Howard, who were mentioned on the list of doped athletes, will sue Al-Jazeera America for libel. Manning has, on the other hand, decided not to file suits against them. Green Bay Packers linebackers, Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews, as well as James Harrison from the Pittsburgh Steelers will need to submit explanation to the NFL. Mike Neal, former Packers and currently free agent, has also been summoned by the American Football magna.

Manning illustrious career

Manning had a prestigious career in the NFL. Number 18 wore the Colts colors until 2011. That year, he got sidelined for the season due to a neck injury. In 2012, he joined the Denver Broncos. He holds most of the NFL passing records, like the most touchdown passes (539 TD) and the most passing yards (71,940 yards). Invited 14 times in the Pro Bowl and 7 times within All-Pro First-Team, Manning mainly distinguished himself in 2013. He collected 55 touchdowns during that year, breaking the previous record of 50 held by Tom Brady since 2007 (which Brady broke from Manning’s 49 in 2004). The right-handed quarterback also led the season in passing yards with 5,477 yards. He completed a total of 6,125 of his 9,380 passes in the regular season, while committing 303 interceptions.

Posted in NFL

NFL Fantasy News

Tom Brady’s Suspension

With so much happening already this week in the National Football League with the NFL Draft, the football world was stunned when a 3 judge panel overturned Tom Brady’s NFL appeal of his 4 game suspension. This was certainly a huge victory for Roger Goodell, the most powerful man in professional football. Tom Brady’s suspension in the so-called Deflategate case not only captivated the nation this week but also sent a message to other top players and all organizations. This recap of the most recent events surrounding the controversy is brought to you by FanPicks.com.

Tom Brady's Suspension

Over the years, the top sports leagues battled against some of their elite players in different aspects surrounding the integrity of their sport. Look at the MLB’s issues with Barry Bonds or Alex Rodriguez that were extremely publicized. However, a showdown between questionably the most decorated quarterback of all time and the NFL around the manipulation of the air pressure ever happened.

This controversy even drew analysis from physicists that believed Goodell’s judgment was inadequate and raised a lot of questions about the fairness of the game.

It did not only impact Tom Brady’s career but also the Patriots’ organization as well as their owner, Robert Kraft who used to be great friends with the commissioner. The Patriots not only were penalized with a $1 million fine but also lost draft picks.

Lawyers even challenged the decision at the highest judicial level and argued that Brady was definitely unfairly suspended. With the league allowing him to finish the entire 2015 season including the playoffs, the NFL ruled that they were actually not severe enough with the Brady case.

The two Patriots employees that deflated the balls below the legal limit were not penalized at all unlike what the public opinion is suggesting.

This incident, stemming back from January 2015, will surely have bookmakers reassessing their odds for the start of their season and perhaps, the results of the next campaign since the Patriots’ 15 year domination may come to an halt this fall.

 

Posted in NFL

Conference Championship Round Daily Fantasy Football Review

The Conference Championship round tasted bittersweet on multiple levels. As a fan of traditional Fantasy Football, Cam Newton’s 382 total yards and 4 touchdowns put the icing on his 2015 breakout cake, virtually guarantying SuperCam will be over drafted next season. I’ll be waiting on Quarterback once again next year, watching Cam, Russell Wilson and others being taken a round or two early, finding value in the later rounds.

The New England Patriots fan in me couldn’t help but notice the glaring weakness in both the running game and downfield passing game. James White did his best James White impression, looking good enough to contribute as a Daily Fantasy Football value player but requiring a big play or TD in order to help his team win in both an NFL and DFS matchup. White, who finished with a respectable 56 total yards and 5 receptions, allowed several downfield throws from Brady slip through his arms that may have changed the outcome for owners.

The NFL fan side of things couldn’t help but appreciate the drama of this season’s Peyton Manning journey coming to a head with a 2 touchdown, zero interception performance vs. his long time rival. Manning connected with the DFS value play of the day, Owen Daniels on both scores. Daniels presented owners with a cheap option at the TE position, enabling to spend up elsewhere.

As an avid DFS player and fan of sites like Fanpicks.com, Rob Gronkowski certainly returned value for me as the Chuck Norris of the NFL world hauled in 8 passes for 144 yards and a crucial touchdown late in the game. Gronk and Daily Fantasy Football fans have experienced a roller coaster relationship this season but he was without question the top Tight End going into the weekend and didn’t disappoint.

C.J. Anderson broke a 30 yard run in the second half which enabled him to slightly return value with his 90 total yards and 3 receptions. (Remember Ronnie Hillman?) Julian Edelman and Emmanuel Sanders both did just enough to not personally cost you your matchup but neither performed to the level DFS owners have come to expect. Edelman finished with 7 for 53 while Sanders hauled in 5 for 62.

The Greg Olsen and Cam stack has been a smart DFS play all year and this weekend it paid off yet again as Olsen came away with 6 receptions and 113 yards. The DFS tournament play of the week came in the form of, not former Arizona Cardinal Ted Ginn Jr. but of fellow wide out Corey Brown. Brown, aided by an 86 yarder, totaled 113 yards and a touchdown on 4 receptions.

Surprise Performances

Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals

Palmer was absolutely dreadful on the day, reverting back to the player whom once upon a time was so easy to bet against. Palmer had the best season of his career in 2015 but for Arizona fans and DFS owners who placed faith in the quasi ginger, any positive memories we had disappeared like a fart in the wind as Palmer threw interception after interception, finishing with 4 in total.

David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals

Johnson was widely considered to be a safe play this weekend due to volume but more than delivered on that label, especially in PPR formats. Johnson finished with 9 receptions and a touchdown to go along with his 128 total yards as he finished a clear number one at the RB position this weekend. The Panthers defense was enough of a threat to consider fading Johnson in tournaments but that strategy failed, miserably, just like our next group.

The Arizona Cardinals Wide Receivers

Terrible.

Posted in NFL

AFC Conference Championship Recap –

New England Patriots vs Denver Broncos

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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