NFC Championship Game Preview: Packers at Seahawks

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Source: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images North America

Green Bay Packers @ Seattle Seahawks
Sunday January 18, 2015. 3:05 p.m. EST, FOX

Packers’ fans are riding high after knocking off the polarizing Cowboys and silencing their always mouthy fan base. A combination of a one legged QB and fast acting karma doomed Dallas and propelled Green Bay to victory. Aaron Rodgers was visibly hobbled in the game but stepped up when it mattered most. He shined in the fourth quarter and looked like the MVP he will inevitably become at the end of this month. Meanwhile, in Seattle, the Seahawks just continued chugging along, dominating everything in their path. Let’s be honest, the Panthers never really had a chance. Let’s be honest again, neither do the Packers. Not in Seattle, not with a hobbled QB. The Seahawks front seven is going to get at Rodgers and The Legion of Boom will eat them alive. Last time these teams faced off on opening night Rodgers didn’t even throw at Richard Sherman once. More importantly, it’s the last time Rodgers looked really bad. If he was 100-percent, they would have a very slight chance in Seattle. With Rodgers at about 80-percent, no chance. Seattle will get a chance to defend their title in Arizona.

Green Bay Packers: What to look for

Quarterbacks
Believe it or not, Rodgers is the cheapest starting QB on DraftKings.com. If you think that’s crazy, what’s even crazier is the fact that you should go nowhere near him. At $7,800 he is $200 cheaper than next cheapest QB Russell Wilson and $700 cheaper than top QB Tom Brady. Along with Andrew Luck, all three QBs are better options this week than your next NFL MVP. He is playing in Seattle with a tear in his calf. No QB can overcome those odds. [Read more…]

Sunday Divisional Round Preview: Colts at Broncos

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Indianapolis Colts @ Denver Broncos
Sunday January 11, 2015. 4:40 p.m. EST, CBS

Surprisingly this game has really been swept under the rug this week. If you would have said a few weeks ago that Peyton Manning will be taking on the Colts and Andrew Luck in a playoff game, I would have thought the storylines and coverage would be exploited to the point of being unbearable. Turns out it seems like it has third billing. The Cowboys have top billing because they divide fans so much. Then shockingly the Pats-Ravens rivalry has a lot more steam than at least I personally realized.

However, this is an extremely intriguing game. I really don’t care about Manning facing his old team or Luck taking the torch. What’s interesting is the matchup itself. Luck really struggled down the stretch behind a miserable O-Line and rushing attack. Manning was even worse. Age has caught up with him to the point that he struggles pushing the ball down field and can barely even muster up the velocity to throw a tight spiral. Nonetheless, it wouldn’t shock anybody if this turned out to be a shootout and biggest fantasy game of the week. Neither team garners a ton of confidence right now. Surprisingly it may be decided by the rushing game and defense. This is by far the toughest game this week to predict the outcome. Honestly I believe if the game is close, Luck finds a way to win. However, if it’s a blowout, Denver will be the ones to run away with it.

Indianapolis Colts: What to look for

Quarterbacks
About a month ago Luck would have been a lock for a great choice this week. Now, not so much. He could come out and have a great game, but he could also not nearly live up to his $8,700 price tag on DraftKings.com. The Colts’ offensive line has deteriorated and the running game hasn’t been the same since Ahmad Bradshaw went down. While T.Y. Hilton continues to play like a future star despite a few drops last week, Reggie Wayne is really beginning to show his age and dealing with a tricep injury on top of it. Still, no one would be shocked if Luck came out this week and put up 30-plus fantasy points. He’s just not the safe pick he was in early December. He is a bit pricey for me, but no one would blame you if you plugged him in. Especially in a game that has major shootout potential. [Read more…]

Sunday Divisional Round Preview: Cowboys at Packers

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Dallas Cowboys @ Green Bay Packers
Sunday January 11, 2015. 1:05 p.m. EST, FOX

This is by far the most hyped game of the weekend. It’s a bit surprising how much it has trumped Peyton Manning taking on Andrew Luck and the Colts, but I guess the Cowboys are very polarizing thanks to their lovely and always intelligent fan base (not including our brilliant editor who actually grew up in Texas). The Cowboys have had a storybook season. The storybook was aided by nightmarishly bad somewhat questionable officiating, but a storybook tale nonetheless. This week they head to Lambeau Field to take on the man who will most likely be named the league MVP at the end of this month. If the Cowboys have any chance of winning this one, they will need DeMarco Murray to have a monster game. It doesn’t seem feasible that a very average Cowboys’ defense will shut down Green Bay’s high-octane attack. But the Packers may be able to slow down Tony Romo, which is why Murray will be the key to their unlikely success. With all that being said, this game certainly isn’t a lock, but the Cowboys are significant underdogs.

Dallas Cowboys: What to look for

Quarterbacks
Romo is surprisingly somewhat cheap this week on DraftKings.com with a price tag of only $7,600. That’s sixth out of eight starters. It would not be surprising to see him be the most owned QB this week. The issue Romo may have is that the Packers’ strength on defense is pressuring the QB and forcing mistakes. They are awful against the run. So Dallas may lean heavily on Murray and limit Romo this week. While his downside always scares us, he does have a ton of value this week. Unfortunately, for Romo’s fantasy owners, this game probably won’t be a blowout by Green Bay. They should be able to stick with their game plan for at least most of the game and avoid must pass situations. [Read more…]

Saturday Divisional Round Preview: Panthers at Seahawks

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Carolina Panthers @ Seattle Seahawks
Saturday January 10, 2015. 8:15 p.m. EST, FOX

This should be the biggest mismatch of the entire playoffs. You have the sub-.500 NFC South champions heading to Seattle to take on the defending champs on their home field. The Seahawks have a historically great defense, a budding superstar at QB, BeastMode in the backfield and just to pile on, the best home field advantage in the NFL. The Panthers pretty much made the playoffs by default and beat arguably the worst QB to ever start a playoff game in the first round. They had been playing better down the stretch, however, knocking off the champs appears to be extremely unlikely. If somehow Cam Newton can go in to Seattle and beat the Seahawks, it will be a career changing moment. This is his chance to take that next step. Unfortunately, odds are he’ll just go down like most everybody does. There isn’t even really a key matchup in this game. Seattle is pretty much just better at every aspect of the game. What Carolina needs is Newton to somehow play the game of his life. The type of game that turns mere mortals into legends. Unless that happens, this probably isn’t going to be a classic.

Carolina Panthers: What to look for

Quarterbacks
Newton is the cheapest of the eight starting QBs this week on DraftKings.com and with good reason. He is in Seattle taking on the Legion of Boom. In all honesty, Aaron Rodgers would be a bad play in the same situation. I love Newton but he’s certainly not Rodgers. It’s not just him. There really isn’t anybody, at any position, that’s a great start in Seattle. Find someone else to start this week. [Read more…]

Saturday Divisional Round Preview: Ravens at Patriots

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Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots
Saturday January 10, 2015, 4:35 p.m. EST, NBC

At this point is seems like these teams face off every year in the playoffs. Surprisingly, Joe Flacco has gotten the better of Tom Brady up to this point. Something happens to Flacco and the Ravens come playoff time. They just seem to elevate to a different level. Baltimore’s defense played great last week against a short-handed Steelers offense, however, this week may be a whole different story. The Ravens pass rush is what fueled their defense last week. They will have to be very careful that Brady does not pick them apart with underneath routes to Shane Vereen, Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. On the other side of the ball, the Ravens will have to lean on their rushing attack to have success on offense. Darrelle Revis will most likely take away Torrey Smith and the rest of the secondary isn’t too shabby either. If Flacco doesn’t play out of his mind, like he is capable of in the playoffs, it may be a long day for the Ravens’ passing game. Especially if Eugene Monroe is not healthy on the Ravens’ O-line. That could allow Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich to wreak havoc and disrupt everything the Ravens want to do.

Baltimore Ravens: What to look for

Quarterbacks
We all know how well Flacco has played in the playoffs throughout his career, nevertheless, he comes cheap this week. That’s for a good reason. On DraftKings.com, he cost only $6,900. That’s seventh cheapest out of the eight starters this week. Only $200 more than Cam Newton, who is in Seattle. Flacco hasn’t exactly been elite this season and is going up against one of the best secondaries in the NFL. While the Smith’s (Torrey and Steve Smith) are solid options, they are no match for the Patriot corners. At least not at this point in Steve’s career. So it will be up to Flacco to really excel. That’s tough to count on this week. The one positive is that odds are Flacco won’t make a ton of mistakes. He rarely turns the ball over in the playoffs. Just don’t expect huge numbers either. [Read more…]

2014 Fantasy Football: Potential Wide Receiver Sleepers To Target In Your Drafts, Revisited

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Prior to the 2014 fantasy football season, TheFantasyFix.com released a few articles on potential sleepers to target in your drafts or auctions. Now that the 2014 fantasy football season is officially in the books, I figured it would be a fair exercise to look back at the recommended “sleepers” to see if they did indeed pan out for those who invested in them this season.

You can find an excerpt of our “Potential Wide Receiver Sleepers to Target” article here that was featured in our 2014 Fantasy Football Draft Guide written by Jake Ciely.

And while many writers and outlets use the term “sleeper” in a variety of ways, for this exercise, I was simply looking to identify pass catchers who looked like a good bet to outperform their average draft position and earn those who drafted said skill players a profit by season’s end.

Final rankings taken from the Yahoo! game in a half-point per reception league.

Wide Receivers:

Wes Welker | Preseason ADP: 62 | Final Ranking: 254

The veteran presence of Welker on a Broncos’ pass-heavy offense with Peyton Manning under center seemed like a good recipe for the real Broncos and your fake football team. But an off-season that included a four-game suspension — that was eventually overturned — some injuries and the addition of wideout Emmanuel Sanders seemed to contribute to Welker’s down season. Welker hauled in just 49 receptions on 64 targets for 464 yards and two touchdowns in 14 games — the fewest in each of those categories in his entire career. Comparatively speaking, Sanders hauled in 101 passes on 140 targets for 1,409 yards and nine touchdowns while Julius Thomas scored 12 touchdowns on just 43 receptions and 60 targets. It’s hard to say someone whiffed on a sleeper call without knowing about a PED suspension and/or predicting injuries, but this pick just didn’t pan out. [Read more…]

2014 Fantasy Football: Potential Running Back Sleepers To Target In Your Draft, Revisited

Andre Brown

Prior to the 2014 fantasy football season, TheFantasyFix.com released a few articles on potential sleepers to target in your drafts or auctions. Now that the 2014 fantasy football season is officially in the books, I figured it would be a fair exercise to look back at the recommended “sleepers” to see if they did indeed pan out for those who invested in them this season.

You can find an excerpt of our “Potential Running Back Sleepers to Target” article here that was featured in our 2014 Fantasy Football Draft Guide. We’ll follow this running back piece with a review of our wide reciever sleepers shortly.

And while many writers and outlets use the term “sleeper” in a variety of ways, for this exercise, I was simply looking to identify ball carriers who looked like a good bet to outperform their average draft position and earn those who drafted said skill players a profit by season’s end.

Final rankings taken from the Yahoo! game in a half-point per reception league.

Running Backs:

Andre Ellington | Preseason ADP: 31 | Final Ranking: 80

Well after this article published, reports surfaced regarding Ellington’s health heading into the 2015 season. The Cardinals’ back appeared hampered by a foot injury, but started the season despite some suggesting he was not at 100%. Ellington played in each of Arizona’s first 13 games, but accumulated just 663 yards on 201 carries and found the endzone only three times. Through the air, Ellington hauled in 46 passes on 62 targets for two additional scores. So although Ellington exceeded his touchdown total from previous season, his lack of playing time towards the end of the season due to health and total yardage from scrimmage clearly hurt his value. But the fault isn’t all Ellington’s; Arizona’s offensive line ranked 25th in the league in adjusted line yards and 30th in the league in open field yards, according to Football Outsiders. I still believe in Ellington’s skill-set, so I will once again be targeting him in 2015 fantasy football drafts when he may be a nice value on draft day.

Pierre Thomas | Preseason ADP: 90 | Final Ranking: 182

Even upon reflection it’s hard to imagine the Saints’ having the “down year” that they did. And along with the down year for the team came a down year for our potential sleeper, Pierre Thomas. But the down year for Pierre Thomas didn’t have as much to do with the quality of performance when he was on the field, it had more to do with Thomas having a tough time staying healthy, which obviously impacted the volume work he received over the course of the year. Thomas’ earned just 90 touches in ten 10 games in ‘14, down from 224 touches in 16 games in ‘13. Additionally, he found the end zone just three times this campaign compared to the five scores last season. But when he had the ball in his hands this year, he did a bit more with it. Both Thomas’ yards per carry (4.9) and yards per reception (8.4) in 2014 were up from his 2013 (3.7 y/c and 6.7 y/r, respectively) and career (4.6 y/c and 8.0 y/r, respectively) averages.

Carlos Hyde | Preseason ADP: 141 | Final Ranking: 238

A combination of skills and an aging Frank Gore sparked me to peg Carlos Hyde as a back to return value for investors prior to the year. But Frank Gore stayed healthy, limiting the rookie’s touches to just 95 for the 49ers. In 14 games, Hyde carried the ball 83 times for 333 yards (4.0 y/c) and four touchdowns. Additionally, Hyde reeled in 12 passes on 16 targets for 68 yards (5.7 y/r). Not an awful rookie year based on the volume of touches Hyde earned, but hopefully you passed on him and selected the likes of Jeremy Hill, Tre Mason or C.J. Anderson — who all had lower average draft positions — among other rookies on draft day who significantly outperformed the former Buckeye.

Andre Williams | Preseason ADP: 166 | Final Ranking: 82

Like Carlos Hyde, Andre Williams found his way into the sleeper column due to the unfortunate career-ending injury to David Wilson and me not fully buying into Rashad Jenning’s ability to stay healthy or handle a full season worth of work. Williams ended the season with 216 carries for 720 yards (3.3 y/c) and seven touchdowns and added 18 receptions on 28 targets for 130 yards (7.2 y/r) through the air. Williams’ work on the ground may have been a bit disappointing this year, but the Giants’ offensive line ranking of 22nd in adjusted line yards and 28th in open field yards per Football Outsiders sure didn’t help.

Latavius Murray | Preseason ADP: 238 | Final Ranking: 210

Murray earned a slight profit for those who invested in the Raiders’ back late in their 2014 fantasy football drafts. He carried the rock 82 times for 424 yards and two touchdowns while catching 17 passes for 143 yards. Murray broke four runs of 20 yards or more (23, 25, 25, 90), indicating the potential big play ability is there. Like some of the others listed here, the problem was lack of volume. Murray appeared in 11 games, but earned less than 10 snaps in four of those contests. The Raiders’ running back will be one of my favorite targets heading into the 2015 season.

Wild Card Sunday Preview: Lions at Cowboys

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Detroit Lions @ Dallas Cowboys
January 4, 2015. 4:40 p.m. EST, FOX

This is a very intriguing game and neither team’s history warrants a whole lot of faith in their ability to step up in a big game. It’s nice for Tony Romo that he got his December woes out of the way. January is a whole other monster, and I really hate this matchup for them. They have been impressive this season, but this is as bad a matchup as they could have had in the first round. The Lions have the league’s top ranked rush defense and let’s be honest, the Cowboys playoff success hinges on DeMarco Murray’s ability to run the ball. If he can’t get going the Cowboys are in big trouble. Detroit has playmakers on every level of the defense.

Then on the other side of the ball, who stops Calvin Johnson? Then again everyone has that problem. Joique Bell will be key to their success just like Murray will be for Dallas. If the Lions get their running game going, that may spell the end for the Cowboys. Because Megatron and Golden Tate aren’t going to be shutdown. Still, the Cowboys are the favorites and with good reason. They were a tiebreaker away from being the top overall seed in the NFC. This should be a great matchup for two franchises that are extremely hungry for a deep playoff run.

Detroit Lions: What to look for

Quarterbacks
Matthew Stafford was a major disappointment this year for fantasy owners expecting him to take that next step in to the ranks of elite fantasy QBs. Many of his weapons were disappointments as well and it was more their fault than Stafford’s. Megatron dealt with injuries this season as did all of the Detroit TEs. Eric Ebron had a very disappointing rookie campaign. Reggie Bush is also all but done. Tate, Bell and Theo Riddick are the only Lions on the offensive side of the ball to live up to expectations this season. Still with Johnson and Tate on the outside, the upside will always be there for their QB. Not to mention Bell’s ability to run should draw enough attention to open things up. While Stafford is a candidate to flop against an inexplicably solid Cowboys’ defense, at $7,200 on DraftKings.com, he is a very good value pick. He is a difference maker and could win or lose you a lot of money. [Read more…]

Wild Card Sunday Preview: Bengals at Colts

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Source: Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America

Cincinnati Bengals @ Indianapolis Colts
January 4, 2015. 1:05 p.m. EST, CBS

We kick off Sunday afternoon with what should be (on paper) the highest scoring game of the weekend. The Colts’ offense has been sputtering of late but is still high-powered. It will be interesting to see how the Bengals defense matches up with them. Despite the possible absence of A.J. Green, the Bengals should still be able to put up points on a very pedestrian Colts’ defense. Their poor run defense is likely to see a heavy dose of Jeremy Hill. This is a really tough game to predict. The Colts have been terrible down the stretch and the Bengals are terrible in big games. You have to trust Andrew Luck a lot more than Andy Dalton, but the Colts really don’t have much outside of Luck. The Bengals best chance is to run it down their throats, control the clock and get enough stops on defense while the Colts will need Luck in full superhero mode. This one promises to be intriguing if nothing else.

Cincinnati Bengals: What to look for

Quarterbacks
It is very difficult to trust Dalton in a playoff game, especially if Green cannot pass concussion protocol. While Dalton comes cheap at only $6,100 on DraftKings.com, we still would not advise you go anywhere near him. He is a disaster waiting to happen. If you are strapped for cash you should make cap room for Joe Flacco who costs only $600 more. It would be less than shocking to see Dalton pull another no-show and score single-digit fantasy points. My guess is Hue Jackson will rely heavily on his rushing-attack and take the ball out of Dalton’s hands. Green’s availability could make a huge difference in both Dalton’s value and the Bengals game plan. [Read more…]

Wild Card Saturday Preview: Ravens at Steelers

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Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers
January 3, 2015. 8:15 p.m. EST, NBC

The late game on Saturday is a clash of bitter AFC North rivals and perennial contenders. The Ravens were edged out ofa  division championship by the Steelers, forcing them to travel to Heinz Field for the first round of this year’s playoffs. These games are usually low-scoring, win in the trenches kind of games that end 13-12. However, these are not the same teams of year’s past. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are long gone in Baltimore and the players left from the great Steelers defense are well past their prime. This could very well turn into a battle of field goals and field position because that’s just what these teams do against each other, particularly in the playoffs. But all signs point to a high-scoring shootout this week. Ben Roethlisberger already has a six TD game against the Ravens this year and with Le’Veon Bell looking unlikely to go with a hyperextended knee, expect a high flying offensive attack from Pittsburgh. The Ravens would probably prefer to lean on their rushing attack if they keep the game close. Odds are this game will come down to the last drive of the game or close to it. Because with these two teams, it always does.

Baltimore Ravens: What to look for

Quarterbacks
Joe Flacco has a history of stepping up huge in the playoffs. He is one of the best playoff QBs of this generation and he has a Super Bowl MVP and a contract that far outweighs his talent. He cost only $6,700 this week on DraftKings. His price tag is only higher than Andy Dalton’s and Ryan Lindley’s. This could make him a great value pick, especially against a subpar Steelers’ defense that is allowing the sixth-most points to opposing QBs this season. Flacco may be a sneaky good play. [Read more…]