|Scouting report: What you need to know about Chiefs-Patriots||01.15.16 at 11:48 am ET|
Here’s everything you need to know for Saturday’s divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium between the Chiefs and Patriots:
WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN THE BALL
Let’s be honest here. In this one, New England’s fortunes aren’t going to rise or fall on the running game. Steven Jackson (21 carries, 50 yards, 1 TD in two games with the Patriots) now is the primary between-the-tackles back, and while he was able to get some good yardage in his chances at the end of the regular season, no one is expecting a LeGarrette Blount-type postseason performance out of the veteran. He’ll run the ball just enough to keep the Kansas City defense honest — in an ideal world, that’s somewhere around 15 carries a game, tops. Meanwhile, expect the Patriots to lean on Brandon Bolden (63 carries, 207 yards) in a relief role, as needed. (James White is now a running back in name only, as his 22 regular-season carries trailed even quarterback Tom Brady.) Overall, the Patriots ended the regular season 30th in the league in rushing offense, averaging a total of 87.8 yards per game on the ground. On the other side of the ball, the Chiefs finished the regular season eighth in the league in run defense, having yielded an average of 98.2 rushing yards per game. The educated guess here is that when it comes to the New England offense, the run-pass splits won’t be as dramatic as last year’s AFC divisional playoff game against the Ravens (when the Patriots ran the ball 13 times and attempted 51 passes), but they’ll still skew sharply toward the passing game.
|Tim Hasselbeck on D&C: Chiefs ‘a very, very dangerous team’||01.11.16 at 8:40 am ET|
ESPN’s Tim Hasselbeck made his weekly appearance on Dennis & Callahan with Minihane on Monday morning to discuss the NFL playoffs and explain why the Chiefs are a tough matchup for the Patriots. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Following Saturday’s 30-0 victory over the Texans, the Chiefs head to Foxboro having won 11 consecutive games.
“They’re a unique team,” Hasselbeck said. “They’re not your standard team that you kind of have similar issues in terms of defending them, how you get ready for them. One of the things that’s probably really widely unnoticed is how well this group is coached. Andy Reid was run out of Philadelphia, and a lot of people try to beat him up about clock management and things that are viewed as blunders throughout his career as a head coach. But I can tell you, and I was with him for just under two years, the guy is an amazing football coach. And the other thing he does is he surrounds himself with tremendous assistants.”
Added Hasselbeck: “Alex Smith — you can say what you want about Alex Smith, but he basically, playing for Andy Reid, throws 20 touchdowns, throws less than 10 picks, and he’s insanely efficient, and extends a lot of drives running the football. So I think they’re a very, very dangerous team. It’s hard to argue with the success they’ve had on this run they’ve been on.”
Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin injured his ankle Saturday and it’s not clear if he’ll be able to play against the Patriots. However, Hasselbeck said it won’t be as difficult to make up for his absence based on the way the Chiefs play — and based on the presence of talented tight end Travis Kelce, who has drawn comparisons to Rob Gronkowski.
“It’s a number of different ways that they get to this stuff,” Hasselbeck said. “So if Maclin’s out, what you’ll see is somebody like Albert Wilson, who’s a decent returner, or Frankie Hammond, who’s a decent returner as well, finding ways to manufacture those guys getting touches where they’re not running an in-cut, where they’re not running a comeback. Like, finding ways to get guys the football in ways that they’re comfortable getting it, and you have the ability to get it to them. So I think that ends up being the tricky part about defending them.
“As it relates to Kelce, he in a way is a little bit like Gronk in a sense that you have a hard time figuring out how you’re going to really defend him, because he’s lined up as an in-line tight end, and they’ve got an extra offensive lineman in there with him, and so you think, ‘Am I defending the run here? Am I doubling Kelce? What am I doing off of this?’ So I think it presents some troubles kind of formationally and personnel-wise in terms of how you defend a guy that’s good in the running game but then also has got very good speed once he gets rolling. That ends up being the trick with Kelce.”
|5 early thoughts on Chiefs-Patriots divisional matchup||01.10.16 at 2:30 pm ET|
1. If Jeremy Maclin can’t go — or is even slowed — it’ll be big.
The No. 1 option in the Kansas City passing game (he had 87 catches for 1,088 yards and eight touchdowns in the regular season, leading the Chiefs in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns) went down with a knee injury in the second half of Saturday’s win over the Texans. His status for the divisional round is unclear at this point — we know that it isn’t an ACL injury, but a high ankle sprain (per Adam Schefter) — but his impact on the Kansas City offense is undeniable. Already without their No. 1 option on the ground (running back Jamaal Charles went down in October with a torn ACL and was lost for the year), Maclin stepped up big in his absence. If he’s hobbled at all, it’ll force the Chiefs to get a little creative with their passing game.
2. The health of pass rusher Justin Houston will also have an impact.
Houston is one of the best young pass rushers in the league, but he missed the last five game of the regular season because of a knee issue. The 6-foot-3, 260-pounder, who led the league with 22 sacks in 2014, had 7.5 this past season. His first action back came against the Texans — he started at outside linebacker and he looked as well as could be expected, finishing with three tackles and a quarterback hit. If he’s able to get even healthier over the course of this week, he will certainly be a handful for the New England offensive line to consider. Tamba Hali (6.5 sacks) and Jaye Howard (5.5 sacks) add to a pass rush that finished the regular-season with 47 sacks, good for fourth in the league. But in many ways up front, it starts and ends with Houston. On the back end, cornerback Marcus Peters has had a dynamite year — the 6-foot, 198-pounder out of Washington finished the season with eight picks, tied for tops in the league.
3. The Chiefs are really good at protecting the football and taking it away.
Their knack for takeaways was on full display Saturday against the Texans when they came away with four picks on Brian Hoyer, but the simple fact is that they’ve been really good at taking the ball away all year long. (Per Ryan Hannable, in the Chiefs’ 11-game win streak, they’ve forced 28 turnovers, while only turning the ball over eight times themselves.) Peters had eight picks, Ron Parker had three and five different defenders had two each, including Eric Berry and Houston. Conversely, the Chiefs are also really good at taking care of the ball. The knock of Alex Smith is that he probably doesn’t take enough chances with the football, and that’s borne out in his stats: during the regular-season, he completed 65 percent of his passes, had 3,486 passing yards, with 20 touchdowns and just seven picks. For some perspective, his seven interceptions was tied with Tom Brady for one of the fewest totals for any quarterback who started all 16 regular-season games in 2015. Bottom line? Don’t look for a lot of turnovers Saturday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.
|Fantasy Football: Week 15 starts, sits||12.18.15 at 11:05 am ET|
Welcome to week 15! For most of you, your league’s bowl game is one win away. It’s all at once exciting and stressful, so keep your head on straight. This is no time to tilt and start grab-bagging. Below you will find some strong plays for this weekend, but if none of your players are represented, you can head over to Rotobahn and check out my free lineup rankings.
I will also be hosting a Sunday chat at 11 a.m., so bring whatever lineup questions you may have and I’ll do my best to give you some clarity. Speaking of Sunday morning, there will be a fresh episode of the Fantasy Football Hour at 8 a.m., and we’ll have it up on the site for you to enjoy if you sleep in. Jim Hackett and I will be discussing all of the big Week 15 topics and taking some of your texts. Join us!
Alex Smith, Chiefs at Ravens
He’s a steal on DraftKings at $5,100 and he can be of help in seasonal leagues if you are in a bind. Maybe you had Tony Romo and Andy Dalton as your quarterbacks. If so, Smith is a solid one-week cure, as the Ravens are ripe for the taking in pass defense.
Derek Carr, Raiders vs. Packers
Not the greatest matchup by the numbers, but it’s a much better situation than we found Carr in last week at Denver. He’s not a lock QB1, but he is a solid option if you need him.
A.J. McCarron, Bengals at 49ers
Using a quarterback with no professional starts in your fantasy playoffs is far from ideal, but there are worse options out there — about 13 of them by my count. So if you play in a deep league and just lost Dalton, McCarron is a reasonable way to punch your way out of a tough spot. He’s got QB1 upside because his weapons are so strong and the 49ers defense is so weak.
|Fantasy Football: Week 15 waiver wire||12.15.15 at 10:36 am ET|
Welcome to Week 15 where the air is fresh and clean. If you play in a good league that uses a 16-week schedule, you now are in the final four and one win away from the big game. Congratulations! I’m heavily focused on matchups at this point, and I will be adding each player’s remaining schedule when I post the expanded waiver wire over at Rotobahn Tuesday afternoon. Head over if you play in a deep format as I will be adding more options throughout the day as I continue to work through the Week 14 game film.
The injuries continued to mount in Week 14. We saw Andy Dalton, Tyler Eifert, Thomas Rawls and Vincent Jackson go down and that’s just to name a few. We’ll be watching the fallout all week as some will possibly return and some will miss extended time. We already know that Rawls is done for the season.
I will be back with full lineup rankings at Rotobahn later this week plus the the usual starts and sits right here on Friday. If you need any lineup help come Sunday, I will be hosting a Week 15 chat at 11 a.m. as usual.
The ownership rates listed for each player were obtained at Yahoo!
Alex Smith, Chiefs, 32 percent
He may be the guy to go after now because his matchups are outstanding. Smith is at the Ravens this week and he hosts the Browns in Week 16. It doesn’t get much better than that. Smith should be owned in all leagues for the next two weeks.
Tyrod Taylor, Bills, 55 percent
Another solid effort in Week 14 and his team is in a must-win situation to have any faint chance of making the playoffs. They really don’t, but Rex Ryan will have them fired up and Taylor now has a true game-breaking weapon with a healthy Sammy Watkins. He can help you this week or next if you are a Andy Dalton owner in need.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jets, 47 percent
He’s at Dallas this week and home against the Patriots next week. Fitzpatrick should be owned in all leagues as he is a solid though not spectacular play the next two weeks.
|Fantasy Football: Week 8 starts, sits||10.30.15 at 8:53 am ET|
It’s another good week to be a Patriots fan. With a nice blowout divisional win in the books, you can focus on your fantasy fortunes and look forward to next week’s inevitable win against Washington. Good times. As usual, I have done my best to try to find some worthwhile recommendations. And if you need some advice on players not listed in this space, check out my full lineup rankings at Rotobahn.
I will be here Sunday at 11 a.m. for our weekly chat. Bring your lineup questions and I’ll do my best to help. And don’t forget to tune in to the Fantasy Football Hour this Sunday at 8 a.m. when Jim Hackett and I will discuss the trending Week 8 topics and crucial game day information.
Jay Cutler, Bears vs. Vikings
He’s fully armed again with Alshon Jeffery back in the fold. Cutler can help you as a starter this week if you need him. The Vikings are no pushover, but it’s a home game and Cutler should give you serviceable numbers when all is said and done.
Teddy Bridgewater, Vikings at Bears
Bridgewater, like Cutler, can be plucked off the waiver wire in a great many leagues. He’s been playing better ball the last few weeks with the emergence of his top weapon, Stefon Diggs, and this is a very nice road matchup.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jets at Raiders
Nobody is ever happy about starting Ryan Fitzpatrick. He often ends up looking like fool’s gold at the end of the day and he is not aesthetically pleasing in any way. That said, he has weapons and a good matchup this week. If you play in a deep league, and Fitzpatrick is on the waiver wire, you have an out at least. He can keep you competitive.
Alex Smith, Chiefs vs. Lions
I no longer trust Smith without Jamaal Charles. There’s just not enough play-making ability. The upside is no longer there. Out of 2QB formats and desperate situations, I am avoiding Smith right now.
Colin Kaepernick, 49ers at Rams
He always has upside for fantasy because of his wheels and his ability to hit the long ball, but I am not rolling the dice with Kaepernick on the road against such a nasty front seven. None for me, thanks.
|Fantasy Football: Week 5 waiver wire||10.06.15 at 9:48 am ET|
Is it really Week 5 already? The NFL moves fast and as a fantasy GM, you need to keep up. I’ll endeavor to put some wind in your fantasy sails with today’s waiver wire. And remember, this morning’s addition is not the end of it. As a dedicated film geek, I watch every NFL snap every week. As soon as I post this, I will get back to the games. So head over to my free site, Rotobahn, this afternoon for my expanded wire. It will feature more players for deeper leagues and some matchup defenses for Week 5.
I’ll be back on Friday with the starts and sits, plus another DraftKings bonus article on Saturday that will delve into the best values for DraftKings lineups in Week 5. Also, check out the Fantasy Football Hour if you haven’t already. Jim Hackett and I are live every Sunday morning from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m and to keep pace with all my fantasy football content, follow me on Twitter.
The rates of ownership listed below are sourced from Yahoo!.
Marcus Mariota, Titans, 68 percent
Sam Bradford, Eagles, 63 percent
Neither should be available, but they are in some leagues. Both can be weekly options in 12-team leagues or matchup plays in 10-team leagues.
Jameis Winston, Buccaneers, 23 percent
His numbers for fantasy are not that bad and they are going to get better the rest of the way as he settles in. Winston’s remaining schedule is very favorable and he has the weapons to put up big numbers.
Alex Smith, Chiefs, 25 percent
He has a nice home matchup with the Bears this week so he’s a solid short-term pickup. Smith is doing his thing. He gets the ball out of his hand and lets his playmakers make plays. He’s a functional bye week replacement in any league.
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