|WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 4: Cardinals move into top 3 behind Patriots, Packers||09.29.15 at 11:01 pm ET|
The top five teams all won in Week 3, but the Cardinals and Broncos swapped places in light of Arizona’s dominant performance vs. the 49ers. Everyone expected the Patriots to roll over the Jaguars, and they delivered. We’re only three weeks into the season but the hype machine is rolling through Boston, with many fans anticipating another undefeated regular season. Bill Belichick and the Patriots head into the early bye with almost no injuries, and in Week 5 they will head to Dallas to face a Cowboys team that has lost its starting quarterback and best wide receiver. The Patriots hype won’t be slowing down anytime soon.
The Steelers drop seven spots with the loss of Ben Roethlisberger. Mike Tomlin better hope Michael Vick has been reading the playbook, as he’ll be expected to get the ball to Antonio Brown for the next four to six weeks. Brandon Marshall is pretty much solely responsible for the Jets dropping nine spots after his ill-advised lateral attempt gift-wrapped a turnover for Chip Kelly’s floundering Eagles. Another AFC East team dropped six spots as the Dolphins continue to wait for Ryan Tannehill to progress into a franchise QB. (More on him later.)
The only team I really wanted to move up this week was the Falcons. Coach Dan Quinn made substantial adjustments at halftime, and after allowing 28 points to the Cowboys in the first half, Atlanta allowed none in the second. Bills QB Tyrod Taylor continues to impress with his mobility in the pocket. He just looks comfortable back there, and Rex Ryan‘s defense bounced back after getting throttled by Brady and the Pats in Week 2 to beat the Dolphins. The Colts (begrudgingly) get moved up three spots after a narrow victory over the Titans.
1. (1 last week) Patriots (3-0) — A thrashing of the Jaguars keeps the Patriots on top. After the bye, they play the injury-plagued Cowboys followed by the Colts, Jets, Dolphins, Redskins, Giants and Bills at home before their first real test in Denver against the Broncos. It’s not too early to think about Tom Brady being in the MVP conversation, which is great for the employees at 345 Park Ave.
2. (2) Packers (3-0) — Aaron Rodgers obliterated a (usually) good Chiefs defense. I think last year’s meltdown in the NFC championship game will galvanize the Pack for the entire 2015 season. Cheeseheads should be booking hotels in San Francisco as soon as possible.
3. (4) Cardinals (3-0) — Chris Johnson‘s resurgence with Arizona is a bit of a surprise. His 2,000-yard seasons likely are behind him, but he looks better than he ever did with the Jets. Larry Fitzgerald is staving off Father Time for another season. He’s got 333 receiving yards and five touchdowns in three games.
|Bill Belichick knows Rex Ryan and Jets want to run it down their throats||12.16.14 at 4:21 pm ET|
With a 3-11 record, gone is the cockiness but the desire to find different ways to run the ball is still priority No. 1 with Ryan’s Jets. Whether it’s Chris Ivory, Chris Johnson, Jeremy Kerley or even the newly acquired Percy Harvin, the Jets are trying to compensate for the lack of a passing attack from Geno Smith. But Smith, along with Ivory, Johnson, Kerley and Harvin, is a definite threat to run.
“Well they use a lot of guys. They have a lot of good runners: Ivory probably runs as hard as any player we’ve played against recently. Johnson has a lot of skill; Smith hurt us running in the first game. He’s a good runner, he’s a very athletic guy, can scramble in the passing game,” Belichick said. “They ran a bunch of reverses, Kerley, obviously Harvin. They use a lot of people in their running game to make you defend from sideline to sideline, as well as the inside power-type games and some read-option plays.”
Harvin has 31 carries for 201 yards (6.5 yards/attempt) and a touchdown this season, 21 of those coming with the Jets after he was acquired from Seattle. Ivory leads the Jets with 739 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 4.2 yards per carry. Johnson has 613 yards and a 4.5 yards/carry average with a touchdown. If there’s a way the Patriots could be in trouble Sunday at MetLife, it starts with the Jets getting their running game up to speed.
“They have a very extensive and diverse running game,” Belichick said. “This will probably be the most volume of running game schemes and run game issues that they create that we’ve had in quite a while, certainly all year.
With Smith struggling as a passer, the Jets have turned back to their “Wildcat” to try and take some pressure off the signal caller, sometimes taking Smith off the field altogether.
“I think the Wildcat is, like a lot of things, defensively you just have to be ready for it every week. Wildcat, unbalanced line, empty formation, all those different type of things, if a team has shown them, they’ve shown them,” Belichick said. “But if they haven’t shown them, there’s always a possibility that they could put something like that together as a game plan thing. We always have to be ready for those type of things.
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|Fantasy Football: Week 1 starts, sits||09.05.14 at 2:02 pm ET|
Well, it’s officially Week 1 and it’s time for our first batch of starts and sits. For our newer readers, I do my best to avoid the obvious choices. These are not rankings. Rather, they are takes on specific matchups that make players more or less desirable than they would normally be. Is there a player you want our take on that isn’t mentioned? No problem. For rankings on all the major players, go to Rotobahn and check out our full Week 1 lineup rankings.
This Sunday features the first regular-season airing of the Fantasy Football Hour with my co-host Jim Hackett. We’ll be discussing this article and other Week 1 roster options that will help you to submit your most potent weekly fantasy roster. Tune in to WEEI 93.7-FM at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday game days to check it out. If you’re not an early riser, go to WEEI.com and enjoy it on your own schedule. I’ll be back in this space on Tuesday with our first waiver wire of the year.
Carson Palmer, Cardinals vs. Chargers
He’s got a nice home matchup, so it’s a good week to use him. He should be ready to roll in his second year as the starter in HC Bruce Arians’ offense. If Andre Ellington’s new foot injury proves serious, Palmer will be throwing most of the game.
Derek Carr, Raiders at Jets
He’s far from ideal, but if you are a Cam Newton owner (like me), looking for insurance, you could do worse than the strong-armed Carr vs. a battered Jets secondary.
Geno Smith, Jets vs. Raiders
It’s a great home matchup, so if you need a cheap option in a deep league, Smith can help.
Robert Griffin III, Washington at Texans
If you happen to have another strong option, then this is a week to consider benching Griffin, who will be running a new offense while facing JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney … and the chaos they create.
|5 things we learned at combine Sunday||02.23.14 at 11:22 pm ET|
INDIANAPOLIS – Five things we learned at the combine Sunday:
1. Quarterback Bake Bortles can take advantage of an opportunity
Johnny Manziel didn’t throw (but did look really fast in the 40, as well as the 3-cone), and Teddy Bridgewater didn’t throw or run, and so Bortles was in the spotlight during the throwing drills and he looked impressive, making a variety of impressive connections to a variety of targets on several different routes throughout the session. We still believe that Jadeveon Clowney is the consensus top pick (even though there were some eyebrows raised after he only hit 21 reps in the bench press, a number that was topped by several smaller skill position players), but Bortles certainly made his case to be the first quarterback selected.
2. BC’s Andre Williams helped himself
With a relatively nondescript group of running backs this year, the former Eagle had a chance to make a name for himself when it came to the on-field drills, and the power back (5-foot-11, 230 pounds) had a good outing. He ran a 4.54 and 4.56 in 40 (good times for a bigger back), and had a 38.0 on the vertical jump (fourth in his position group), and went 10-foot-9 on the broad jump (third in his position group). Last year was the first time in 50 years a running back was not selected in the first round, and while the same fate likely awaits Williams and the rest of the backs this year, the BC product is certainly doing his part — he may have gone from a third-day pick to a second-day selection with his work on Sunday. (The best performance for a relatively unknown back went to Kent State’s Dri Archer, who had the best time of the day in the 40 with a 4.26. That just barely missed the 4.24 record set by running back Chris Johnson in 2008, the mark the NFL says is the best 40 by anyone, ever.)
3. The Patriots may not be in the market for an elite-level receiver, but there were several prospects who showed something in the 3-cone drill
New England craves pass catchers who can put up great 3-cone times — the drills showcases footwork, agility and the ability to quickly change direction as opposed to simple straight-line speed. In the past, several of the guys they’ve gone after have popped as collegians in the 3-cone in their Pro Day or at the combine, a group that includes Julian Edelman, Deion Branch, Wes Welker, Chad Jackson and Josh Boyce all excelled in the drill as collegians. This year, 19 different receivers cracked the 7-second barrier, traditionally considered the barometer for a great time in the drill. (In the previously mentioned group, only Welker topped seven seconds.) On Sunday, Top 10 3-cone times for receivers were Louisville‘s Damian Copeland (6.53), Baylor’s Tevin Reese (6.63), Saginaw Valley State’s Jeff Janis (6.64), Tulane’s Ryan Grant (6.68), Alabama’s Kevin Norwood (6.68), LSU’s Odell Beckham (6.69), South Carolina’s Bruce Ellington (6.69), Murray State’s Walt Powell (6.7), Fresno State’s Isaiah Burse (6.74) and Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks (6.76). History tells us that one of these guys has a good chance of landing in Foxboro, either as a draft pick or undrafted free agent.
4. Louis Nix III, Dee Ford and Adam Muema made things interesting in the media workroom
Nix, a defensive lineman out of Notre Dame, had been billed as a terrific quote, and he didn’t disappoint in his session with reporters. Asked about his recent weight loss, he said, “My thighs got a little smaller. I just feel sexier, man.” Asked about his occasionally troublesome knee, he smiled and replied, “It’s fantastic. How’s your knee?” And he admitted to being star-struck when he met Seattle coach Pete Carroll. Meanwhile, Muema, a running back from San Diego State, left the combine without taking part in any drills, saying God told him to. (And apparently, if Muema followed God’s wishes, he’d be taken by the Seahawks. “[God] told me to sit down, be quiet, and enjoy the peace,” he said.) And Ford, a defensive lineman out of Auburn, took a shot at Clowney, saying the South Carolina lineman “plays like a blind dog in a meat market.”
5. Cooks, Beckham and Sammy Watkins are REALLY fast
In addition to his 3-cone time, the 5-10, 189-pound Cooks was the fastest receiver tested with a blazing 4.33 in the 40, while the 6-foot, 194-pound Beckham was close behind him with a 4.46. (For what it’s worth, Beckham showed a nice dependability in the receiving drills, and is a guy who will get a bit of a post-combine bump because of his work on Sunday.) The 6-foot-1, 211-pound Watkins had an amazing burst, and finished with a 4.43 40 that should also give him a bit of a post-combine bump.
|WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 17: Seahawks still No. 1 despite loss||12.24.13 at 8:48 am ET|
The Seahawks stumbled but didn’t fall in the WEEI NFL Power Rankings. Despite suffering a setback in Week 16, Seattle stands pat because of its overall dominance. The 49ers, Panthers, Broncos and Patriots, who all have secured playoff spots, round out the top five.
As we head into the last week of the season, division titles and playoff spots still are up for grabs. Four teams are fighting for one spot in the AFC: the Chargers (11), Ravens (13), Dolphins (15) and Steelers (17). The NFC is wide open, with three divisions and a wild card spot on the line. The Eagles (12) will look to become the 11th consecutive team in the NFL to finish in last place and then go on to win the division the very next year, and it will take a win over the Cowboys (19) on Sunday to accomplish that feat. Philadelphia’s odds of winning the NFC East improved dramatically on Monday after it was reported that Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo will be sidelined due to a back problem.
The conclusion of the 2013 regular season promises to be a wild one. Be sure to check in next week after all is decided for the playoff edition of the Power Rankings.
1. (1) Seahawks (12-3) — The NFC took notice that the Seahawks are vulnerable in Seattle. They lost at home for the first time in two years. Penalties and a struggling passing attack hurt Pete Carroll‘s team Sunday.
2. (2) 49ers (11-4) — They’ve clinched and now have won five straight. The Niners are the type of seasoned, well-balanced team that is capable of going into Seattle and winning if the situation were to arise.
3. (3) Panthers (11-4) — The Panthers have the tools to reach the Super Bowl. Cam Newton has proven this year that the big moment doesn’t negatively affect him. Carolina’s defense forces turnovers, rushes the passer well and allows the fewest points per game in the league.
4. (4) Broncos (11-3) — Much is being made about the loss of Von Miller, but the Broncos won their first six games this season when the Pro Bowl linebacker was suspended. If Denver doesn’t reach the Super Bowl, it won’t be because Miller is out.
|Fantasy Football: Week 16 starts, sits||12.20.13 at 9:09 am ET|
Welcome to the Week 16 starts and sits! I’ve tried to find some good recommendations that aren’t too obvious. I’ve thrown in a few that I just wanted to emphasize, like Chris Johnson and Shane Vereen, who I think should be locked into lineups. Obviously, there is a lot of talent that we do not address in this article, so hit Rotobahn for our full lineup rankings. And on Sunday, stop by WEEI for our Sunday chat at 11 a.m. I’ll be happy to address any last-minute decisions you may have. Good luck to all this week! Bring home the hardware!
Kirk Cousins, Redskins vs. Cowboys
Talk about tricky! There are some very compelling reasons to consider Cousins as your quarterback for Week 16. The obvious one is the matchup at home against the defenseless Cowboys. I know a lot of people are talking about risk. Sure, there always is some uncertainly with an inexperienced quarterback. Then again, there’s risk playing Tom Brady on the road vs. the Ravens. At least there is from a fantasy football perspective. With Cousins, we see a lot more reasons to play him than to sit him. Here’s the most compelling one: Washington is marketing the player. Cousins is an asset that the Redskins need to maximize, as they have holes all over their roster. A lot of football experts see Cousins as a potential NFL starter, and we agree. The Redskins wants draft pick compensation for Cousins, and they are going to throw the football. And, with their defense, they’ll need to do it for four quarters. Cousins can help you if you have a need at quarterback. He’s an obvious choice for those who’ve been using Robert Griffin III.
Andrew Luck, Colts at Chiefs
Quite simply, he is capable in any matchup. I would not hesitate to play Luck in Week 16. Yes, the matchup is tough, but Luck has stepped it up on the road against tough defenses before. Look at what he did to the Bengals a few weeks ago. Luck is a viable option in any format this week. Check out our lineup rankings if you have a strong second option to consider.
Andy Dalton, Bengals vs. Vikings
As with Luck, Dalton falls outside of my top 12 for Week 16 but remains a very solid option with plenty of scoring potential. Dalton can be your starter this week if you need him. He has outstanding receiving options, and most of them are red zone guys.
Alex Smith, Chiefs vs. Colts
It’s often ugly or random, but Smith almost always ends up with good numbers at the end of the day. Another fact worthy of a mention is his success at home, where he’s had only one weak fantasy start all year long. Smith can be your quarterback this week if you need him.
|Fantasy Football: Week 9 starts, sits||11.03.12 at 12:11 pm ET|
Welcome to the Week 9 starts and sits. It’s been a rough week for yours truly and all New Yorkers, but I’m now up in Boston with friends — fully loaded with bandwidth and a large coffee. Let’s get into Week 9, shall we? For those of you looking for full rankings, we will be adding them at Rotobahn.com throughout the day as we play catchup in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. We also will be hosting our weekly Sunday chat right here, so check back Sunday at 11 a.m. if you have any pressing lineup questions.
Cam Newton, Panthers at Redskins
Yes, Newton was a lock starter going into the season, but we’ve received enough e-mails about him to put him here. Newton should step up in this game against Robert Griffin III. The bigger issue is the Washington defense, which is prone to lapses in coverage. Newton is a good play here and he has some upside, too. He’s a good play in any league.
Stick with Freeman this week in a plus matchup at Oakland. His receivers are making plays and now he has ground support with a surging Doug Martin.
Joe Flacco, Ravens at Browns
There’s some risk due to how poorly he’s played lately, but we wouldn’t be afraid of using him here. The Ravens have had two weeks to prepare for this game and they are well coached. They should be ready. Flacco is a viable start in 12-team leagues.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills at Texans
Fitz is a very risky play on the road against a quality opponent. Just look at what he did in Weeks 5 and 6 if you require proof. The Bills most likely will be chasing in the game, so there’s some hope, but we’d strongly consider other options in all leagues.
Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins at Colts
Two big things here: Tannehill is not a lock to play, so even if you are going to roll with him, you need a Plan B. The more important thing is the in-game risk. There’s a solid chance that he could start but not finish, and that’s what worries us most. He’s got an easily aggravated injury. The matchup is a very good one, but we’d look for more secure options in Week 9.