|WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 10: Cam Newton leads Panthers into No. 2 spot behind Patriots||11.12.15 at 5:31 pm ET|
We’re down to three unbeaten teams at the halfway point in the 2015 season. If you want to get a little crazy, it’s feasible that the Patriots, the Panthers and Bengals all finish 16-0, since none of those teams play each other. The Patriots hold the top spot with a dominant win on Sunday, but they paid the price with two major injuries in the process. Cam Newton and Panthers have a two-game lead in the conference and should host a pair of playoff games in January. Andy Dalton and the Bengals round out the top three, as they look unstoppable but have a pair of tough games left on the schedule.
Denver tumbles to seventh after an embarrassing loss in Indianapolis. Patriots fans can revel in the rapid decline of rival QB Peyton Manning. Throughout his career, Manning has struggled in cold-weather games while excelling in the comforts of the RCA Dome and Lucas Oil Stadium. Even if the Broncos can attain a first-round bye, the city of Denver’s average temperature in January 2014 was 33 degrees. It also snowed nearly 16 inches that month. If Denver loses again, the AFCCG will be in Foxboro or Cincinnati, and Manning will have to win in a game in the elements, or rely on his defense, as he’s done many times this season.
The Giants and Jets clawed back into the top 10 with wins over the Buccaneers and Jags, respectively. Both teams have played mediocre football all season, but have benefited from less-than mediocre NFL competition. Two teams I’ll be looking at during the second half of the season are the Eagles and Raiders. Both would be out of the playoffs if the season ended today but have been improving each week. The Eagles are more likely to win the NFC East if the Giants falter down the stretch, and the Raiders could replace the Steelers, who just lost Ben Roethlisberger again, as the second wild card in the AFC.
1. (1 last week) Patriots (8-0) — A blowout win over Washington came at a heavy price, as Dion Lewis is lost for the season and Sebastian Vollmer suffered a concussion. As dynamic as Lewis was, Vollmer’s injury is the more ominous one. The lack of depth on the O-line will force Dave DeGuglielmo to get creative.
2. (4) Panthers (8-0) — A win over Green Bay could give Carolina home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Cam Newton gets better as the game progresses and is the second-most valuable player in the NFL.
3. (3) Bengals (8-0) — As if the Bengals didn’t have enough offensive weapons, Tyler Eifert’s red zone presence creates yet another wrinkle for opposing defensive coordinators to consider. They’ve got 10 days to prepare for the Texans, and then in Week 11, their first big test comes against the Cardinals on Sunday night.
|Fantasy Football: Week 1 starts, sits||09.11.15 at 11:11 am ET|
In the afterglow of a Patriots victory, it’s time to look at some starts and sits for Week 1. As always, I’ve tried to avoid the obvious choices and I’ve found some players who could be on the edge of lineups depending on your league’s size and requirements. If you have questions about players not listed in this space, check out my lineup rankings at Rotobahn. I update them every Saturday with a quick take or “skinny” on most of the significant players.
I’ll be back Saturday with a look at this week’s best plays on DraftKings. On Sunday, Jim Hackett and I will host the year’s first regular-season version of the Fantasy Football Hour. We kick off things at 8 a.m. Sunday morning on 93.7. Join us!
If you do not already, follow @Rotobahn on Twitter to keep track of all new content and rankings updates.
Sam Bradford, Eagles at Falcons
Yes, I have my doubts about Bradford completing a season. Heck, I have my doubts about Bradford getting through September. Still, I’m willing to bet on him for 60 minutes in a sweet matchup. Bradford should post QB1 numbers in all formats this week. He’s in a great offense, and the Falcons have a lot to prove defensively.
Cam Newton, Panthers at Jaguars
Newton has issues with his receivers after the loss of Kelvin Benjamin for the season, but I like him in this matchup. The Jaguars are nothing special defensively, and Newton will take yards with his feet as he always does. By the end of the day, the numbers should be there. He can start for you this week if you need him.
Carson Palmer, Cardinals vs. Saints
He’s at home and it’s a solid matchup. Like Bradford, Palmer is a shaky bet to remain healthy for 16 games, but I like his chances on Sunday in a game that should feature a fair amount of points. The Cardinals should have their big three receivers healthy and ready to go, but they have the depth to play without Michael Floyd (hand) if need be. Palmer can start for you in 12-team leagues and give you QB1-type production.
|7 things we’re looking for in Friday’s Patriots-Panthers preseason game||08.28.15 at 12:23 am ET|
Here are seven things we’ll be looking for Friday night when the Patriots meet the Panthers in the third preseason game for both teams:
1. How the reps are split at quarterback:
Nine of the last 10 times the Patriots took the field for the third preseason game of the summer, Tom Brady was at quarterback deep into the contest. (He sat out the third preseason game in 2008 entirely.) For the record, over those nine appearances, he finished with an average line of 15-for-22, 179 yards, 1.4 TDs, .33 INT and 40.5 snaps, with the bulk of the work coming over the first two-plus quarters. But with Brady’s status for the regular-season opener still unclear, there has to be some thought given to the idea of having Jimmy Garoppolo get more snaps than usual Friday with an eye toward making sure he’s ready for opening night against the Steelers if need be. From this viewpoint, the cautious play would be to have Brady start the game, but yield at roughly the 30-snap mark, depending on the offensive rhythm at that point in the evening. That way, Brady still gets in his needed work, but Garoppolo gets a little more activity than usual in advance of the regular-season opener.
For the record, here’s Brady’s workload and production in the third preseason game over the last 10 years:
2014: 17-for-21, 204 yards, two touchdowns, 42 snaps vs. Panthers
2013: 16-for-24, 185 yards, one interception, two sacks, 46 snaps vs. Lions
2012: 13-for-20, 127 yards, one touchdown, one interception, two sacks, 45 snaps vs. Bucs
2011: 12-for-22, 145 yards, one touchdown, one interception, two sacks, 37 snaps vs. Lions
2010: 18-for-22, 273 yards, three touchdowns, 30 snaps vs. Rams
2009: 12-for-19 for 150 yards, two touchdowns, one sack, 29 snaps vs. Redskins
2007: 17-for-22, 167 yards, two touchdowns, 47 snaps vs. Panthers
2006: 17-for-30, 231 yards, one touchdown, 49 snaps vs. Redskins
2005: 12-for-21, 127 yards, one touchdown, one sack, 40 snaps vs. Packers
2. The third-down back competition:
This has been one of the best summer positional battles the Patriots have had in the last decade or so. Over the course of camp, the smart money appeared to be on Travaris Cadet, but he suffered an injury before the preseason schedule opened, and wasn’t heard from for a couple weeks. With that void, after Week 1 of the preseason, James White appeared to have the best shot at the job with a really nice outing against the Packers. But last week against the Saints, Dion Lewis really flashed positively, so much so that he looked to be in command. Now, who knows? Cadet needs to stay healthy if he wants to stay in the race, but it was hard not to look at the White/Lewis duo over the first two weeks of the preseason and imagine a combo role while White grows into the job on a full-time basis a year or two down the road, a la Shane Vereen.
|Fantasy Football: Quarterback rankings||08.07.15 at 3:43 pm ET|
Fantasy football preparation is in full swing, and I’m kicking off my positional ranking articles with the quarterbacks. And why not? After all, the NFL is a quarterback-driven league. I’ve broken them down into tiers for you, and you have viable options all the way through with the exception of the last tier, which should be avoided like discounted seafood. Still, even without the final tier, you have more quarterback depth than I have ever seen. The benefits of waiting to draft your quarterback have never been greater. As we move through August, there will be changes to these rankings. To keep pace with these changes, you can always go to Rotobahn. It’s 100 percent free and its updated on a daily basis.
If you missed Thursday’s article on players who can drastically outperform their draft-day cost, you can access it here.
I’ll be back next week with a look at the running backs and receivers. And, be sure to tune in this Sunday at 8 a.m., when Jim Hackett and I will be live on 93.7 with this season’s first edition of WEEI’s Fantasy Football Hour. Please join us! We’ll make it worth your while.
The elite are easy to spot this year. Luck and Rodgers stand alone atop the quarterback rankings. While they have as much upside as anybody out there, it’s their strong floors that make them such good bets. Both of these guys could have relative down years and still finish as QB1s. Injury is really the only concern I have for either of these studs, and I have more concern in that area with Rodgers, who has been banged up in both of the last two seasons. That’s why Luck gets the top spot.
Here we have three excellent stat producers who all got new toys this offseason. Cam Newton finally has respectable weapons in the passing game. And, what’s better is that his weapons are all tall targets. This works to minimize one of Newton’s biggest weaknesses — leaving too many passes up high. Roethlisberger is surrounded by outstanding skill talent, and that includes one of the best receiving running backs in Le’Veon Bell. The newest weapon, Sammie Coates, may not even be able to get on the field in 2015. That’s how incredibly deep Pittsburgh is when it comes to the skill positions. Russell Wilson has a lot of good young receivers, but the key addition obviously is tight end Jimmy Graham, who gives Wilson the kind of red zone weapon he’s sorely lacked throughout his young career. All three of these guys have up-pointing arrows. They are strong reasons to not go too early on a quarterback.
|Cam Newton gets in Deflategate dig at Tom Brady||06.22.15 at 11:53 am ET|
|Panthers top Cardinals to open NFL postseason play||01.03.15 at 7:52 pm ET|
In what was a sloppy game to open the NFL postseason (six turnovers), the Panthers capitalized on three Cardinals’ turnovers to win 27-16 at home. The Panthers entered the game 7-8-1, but were able to win the NFC South to earn the No. 4 seed in the NFC.
Carolina led 10-0, but went into the locker room trailing 14-13 because of some bad turnovers late in the first half. The home team responded with 14 points in the third quarter to take command of the game. The only points Arizona scored in the second half were on a safety the Panthers took with three seconds left in the game.
Fozzy Whittaker caught a 39-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Cam Newton with 5:49 left in the third quarter, and then following a fumble on the kickoff, the Panthers scored just over a minute later on a Mike Tolbert 1-yard touchdown catch to extend their lead to 27-14.
Newton finished the game 18-for-32 with 198 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. It was his first career playoff win. Running back Jonathan Stewart rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. The Carolina defense played very well limiting Arizona to just 77 yards of total offense, and eight first downs. Cardinals quarterback (third string) Ryan Lindley was just 16-for-28 with 81 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He was sacked four times.
The Panthers will now await the result of tomorrow’s Lions-Cowboys game to know who they will play next. If the Lions were to win, the Panthers would travel to Green Bay. If the Cowboys were to win, the Panthers would travel to Seattle.
For more Patriots and NFL playoff coverage, visit weei.com/patriots.
|Fantasy Football: Week 17 starts, sits||12.26.14 at 10:56 am ET|
Welcome to the Week 17 starts and sits! It’s a tough week to predict when you look at the teams with nothing to play for, so when given the choice, you want to focus on players who are in need-to-win situations. Using Patriots players this week is inherently risky, and the same goes for the Broncos, Colts and Cowboys.
I’ve isolated some players in good situations for your consideration. Don’t forget to tune in Sunday morning for another episode of the Fantasy Football Hour with my co-host Jim Hackett. If you have last-minute lineup concerns, you should check out my Sunday chat. It takes place right here at WEEI.com and it runs from 11 a.m. to noon.
If you want to keep track of all our fantasy football content, both here and at Rotobahn, follow me on Twitter. I send out links to all fresh articles and chats as well, including our full Week 17 lineup rankings. I’ll be back next week with playoff pool cheat sheets and strategies.
Cam Newton, Panthers at Falcons
He got his feet wet last week, but I expect the Panthers to unleash Newton in this game because there is a playoff berth at stake.
He has a receiver who tilts the field in Odell Beckham, and it’s made a big difference lately. Manning should finish 2015 strong, and I like his chances of being a QB1 next season if the Giants address the offensive line better than they did in 2014.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers vs. Bengals
He has a lot to play for here with the division title in the balance, so expect four quarters of action and QB1 results when all is said and done.
Andrew Luck, Colts at Titans
They went to backup Matt Hasselbeck early last week, and I am not betting on a longer outing for Luck this week — not with so much at stake. The Colts are locked into the fourth seed no matter what happens this week.