|Devin McCourty ready for daredevil Joe Flacco, Steve Smith and Ravens ‘West Coast’ offense||12.07.16 at 8:27 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The last time Devin McCourty went up against Joe Flacco and the Ravens, the end result was great. But the journey to a 35-31 win in the AFC divisional round was like pulling teeth.
Even with an interception in the game, it wasn’t an experience that McCourty tries to recall all that often, partially because Flacco and the Ravens were able to score at will on the Patriots secondary, a secondary that also featured Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner.
Flacco threw four touchdown passes to four different receivers and Baltimore had leads of 14-0 and 28-14.
“We won. That’s it. I mean it was a tough game,” McCourty recalled Wednesday. “We were down 14 twice but just kept playing. [We were] able to make some plays offensively and defensively that really decided that game, but a little bit different teams on both sides personnel-wise, so we’ll see if that even has any bearing on this one.”
That was the game McCourty picked off Flacco, the first playoff interception of Flacco’s career. In that game, Steve Smith caught the first of four touchdown passes from Flacco. What has made 37-year-old Steve Smith so good for so long?
“I don’t know him personally but I would probably guess his work ethic,” McCourty said. “To still play at a high level I think one thing is obviously he’s very competitive. He goes out there and competes his butt off every game for 60 minutes. To keep getting older and keep getting better you have to probably have a tremendous work ethic and he obviously has that and he [has been] a tough matchup for years in this league.”
Smith is also one of the biggest trash talkers in modern NFL history.
“I don’t even think I need to say anything. I mean guys are competitive,” McCourty said Wednesday. “You’ve just got to go out there and play. You know, each week you’ve got guys that talk and obviously he’s elite at it, definitely. You’ve watched him do it for years. But I think it starts with going out there and playing well.”
The Ravens have gone through several offensive coordinators in the last several seasons. In 2012, on their way to Super Bowl XLVII, they fired Cam Cameron and replaced him with Jim Caldwell. In 2014, Gary Kubiak replaced Caldwell. This year, they fired Marc Trestman after a loss to the Redskins and promoted Marty Mornhinweg.
“If we do those things then we don’t have to worry about anything that’s being said out there and just have to focus on what we’re doing,” McCourty added. “I think just from a total team standpoint and aspect, we understand how important that is to do what’s best for the team out there on the field and we’ve talked about that numerous times as players, and coaches tell us. So I don’t think that will be an issue for us.”
|Chris Long: Joe Flacco is an elite quarterback||at 3:05 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Is Joe Flacco elite?
That is a question that has been asked for years, and not only in just football circles, including most recently at presidential debates.
One person who does believe Flacco is elite is Patriots defensive end Chris Long.
“He’s smart, he can move around a lot better than people give him credit for in the pocket,” Long said. “He does a lot of things that make him an elite quarterback.”
Long was also asked about how physically tough the Ravens are and he found a way to mention Flacco being elite.
“As far as I can remember, Baltimore has been one of the most physical teams in the league,” Long said. “Of course, Coach [John] Harbaugh does a great job with that. They’ve got guys up front, they have good skill guys and obviously Joe, being an elite quarterback, is a big challenge.”
While Bill Belchick didn’t say Flacco was elite, on a conference call with the Baltimore media, Belichick praised the Ravens quarterback.
“We’ve played him quite a bit,” he said. “It seems like he always plays well against us, so I have a lot of respect for him. He’s a good football player and he’s been pretty good. Don’t forget, he took them to the Super Bowl championship.”
Flacco is completing 64.6 percent of his passes this season for 3,258 yards with 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
|5 things to know about Ravens: Stout run defense helping carry Baltimore down stretch drive||12.06.16 at 7:50 pm ET|
Five things you have to know about Ravens (7-5), who will travel to meet the Patriots (10-2) in a key AFC clash Monday night in Foxboro.
They’re OK at throwing the ball. Veteran quarterback Joe Flacco (321-for-497, 65 percent, 3,258 yards, 15 TDs, 11 INTs) leads a better-than-average passing attack that is currently 12th in the league (258 yards per game). Flacco does a nice job spreading things around in the passing game — six different offensive skill position players have 20 catches or more on the season, led by tight end Dennis Pitta (61 catches, 87 targets, 529 yards, 2 TDs), wide receiver Mike Wallace (57 catches, 92 targets, 851 yards, 4 TDs) and the ageless Steve Smith (54 catches, 76 targets, 589 yards, 3 TDs). The depth of the Baltimore passing game will be a good test for a New England secondary that has been tweaked a bit over the last few months.
They will occasionally have issues when it comes to pass defense. The Ravens are seventh in the league in passing yards allowed, having yielded an average of 222.3 yards per game. (Kirk Cousins, Eli Manning, Dak Prescott and Andy Dalton all had 250 or more passing yards against Baltimore.) The defense is pretty good when it comes to takeaways, as the Ravens have 14 interceptions and eight fumble recoveries. (The 22 takeaways are tied for fourth in the league.) Safety Eric Weddle and linebacker C.J. Mosley are tied for the team lead with three interceptions each, while Terrell Suggs is tops on the team with eight sacks. One more note: former New England defensive coordinator Dean Pees has been Baltimore’s DC since 2012. In four career games vs. Pees’ Baltimore defenses, quarterback Tom Brady is 2-2, and has gone 104-for-171 (61 percent) for 1,194 yards, with five touchdowns and three interceptions. Not bad, but not great either. With Baltimore’s run defense so stout and Rob Gronkowski on the shelf, Monday will be a sizable challenge for Brady and the Patriots’ passing game.
They’re really good at stopping the run. From a statistical standpoint, this is the best run defense the Patriots will face all season. The Ravens allow a paltry 73.8 rushing yards per game and 3.4 yards per carry, both of which are the best total in the league. In nine of the 12 games they’ve played, they’ve held opponents to 65 yards or less on the ground. Only two backs (Matt Forte and Isaiah Crowell) have hit the 100-yard mark all year against them. Bottom line? Don’t look for the Patriots to run the ball a lot on Monday.
As good as they are at stopping the run, they struggle to run the ball as a team. If there’s a weakness to the Ravens, it’s probably their lack of a ground game. Baltimore averages 89.7 rushing yards per game, 28th in the league, while the 3.7 yards per carry is good for 26th overall. Terrance West (163 carries, 650 yards, 5 TDs) is the closest thing they have to a lead back, while Kenneth Dixon (46 carries, 206 yards, 18 catches, 100 yards) is their answer as a third-down/change-up guy. While the Ravens occasionally been able to get the running game cranked up — they had 130 yards in an October loss to the Raiders — they’re pretty much a one-dimensional offense.
Kicker Justin Tucker is one of the best in the league. Tucker is the only regular kicker in the league who has been perfect when it comes to field goal attempts this season; the Texas product is 28-for-28 from the field (including 8-for-8 from 50-plus) and 20-for-20 on extra points. Punter Sam Koch is pretty good as well, as his 46 yards per punt average is 12th in the league and his 39.4 net is 21st. The Ravens have used a few different returners, but right now, veteran Devin Hester appears to be getting the majority of reps at both spots. Hester gas 24 punt returns for an average of 7 yards per chance and 17 kick returns for an average of 25.1 yards per opportunity. Good numbers, but nowhere near as impactful as he was earlier in his career. They do not have a return for touchdown, but yielded a punt return for a touchdown earlier in the season.
|Fantasy Football: Week 1 waiver wire||09.13.16 at 10:52 am ET|
Welcome back to the fantasy grind! Week 1 was action-packed with plenty of fallout, both good and bad. If you are a Keenan Allen owner like myself, I feel your pain. I won’t lie to you. It’s a tough loss to recover from, but if you drafted a deep team, you still can do plenty of damage … if you make the right moves going forward. That task starts right now.
If you are unfamiliar with how I work, here’s the way to use my waiver wire. I spend much of my Mondays watching game film before I put this article together for early Tuesday publication. Once I get it finished, I get right back to the games and watch what’s left. I also continue to comb through all the available snap totals. Once I am finished, I post my expanded waiver wire over at Rotobahn. That usually will go up in the early afternoon and, this season, it will be accompanied by a brief podcast. So, if you play in a deep format, I strongly suggest checking out the expanded Rotobahn content as well. It’s all totally free of charge with no registration requirements or the like.
Before we get to the players to target, let me just list a few more highly owned players who you obviously would go after on the off chance they are available.
Spencer Ware, Chiefs
Ameer Abdullah, Lions
Danny Woodhead, Chargers (must be owned in PPR)
T.J. Yeldon, Jaguars
Travis Benjamin, Chargers
DeVante Parker, Dolphins
Corey Coleman, Browns
Tyler Eifert, Bengals (stash him for a few weeks)
The listed ownership rates have been sourced from Yahoo. The snaps counts are approximate and are, as yet, unofficial.
Carson Wentz, Eagles, 7 percent
He was announced as the starter after a lot of leagues held their drafts, and he is the guy to go after this week if you need upside at the position. Wentz may prove to be more of a matchup play, but his ability to score with his arm and his feet cannot be denied. And, for the most part, his matchups are quite good. I’d go get this guy, especially in bigger formats. Do it for the upside, especially of you lack punch at the position. I’m talking to you, Alex Smith owners.
Jimmy Garoppolo, Patriots, 7 percent
I was a little worried going into a road game without Rob Gronkowski and with issues on the offensive line, but Garoppolo was very good. Now we have ourselves a commodity, albeit a commodity with a three-week shelf life. The Patriots are at home for the rest of his three starts and they are all against beatable opponents. Garropolo can help those waiting for Brady or Russell Wilson, if he happens to miss a week.
Joe Flacco, Ravens, 18 percent
He has a friendly short-term schedule, and if you are a concerned Russell Wilson owner, that’s good information. Flacco has a solid overall schedule as well, so he is a nice add as a QB2. His receivers all looked pretty good last week, and that was an area of concern going in.
|Fantasy Football: Week 10 starts, sits||11.13.15 at 9:35 am ET|
It’s Friday, and that means it’s time for the Week 10 starts and sits. As always, I have done my best to avoid the painfully obvious stuff. If you are looking for additional clarity or rankings on players not included in this space, go to Rotobahn and consult my full Week 10 lineup rankings. I will be updating all of them on Saturday. It’s a good idea to use the rankings to cross reference the recommendations in this article — just to make sure you are using the highest-ranked player at all times.
As always, 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 10 topics and crucial game day information.
Derek Carr, Raiders vs. Vikings
You don’t need me to tell you this if you own Carr, but the second-year quarterback is on fire lately. The thing is, by the numbers, one in five of you still can get Carr for free on the waiver wire. He’s unowned in 20 percent of Yahoo! leagues. The Vikings play pretty good defense, but Carr has gotten it done in tougher situations and should be trusted as a QB1 for Week 10.
Blake Bortles, Jaguars at Ravens
Bortles hasn’t been quite as hot as Carr, but he’s been pretty good and has a sweet matchup with the Ravens on Sunday. He also has a great closing schedule if you are looking for a relatively cheap solution at quarterback.
Sam Bradford, Eagles vs. Dolphins
The Dolphins are a sweet home matchup right now with a depleted defense and pass rush. Bradford looked a little better last week and should post solid numbers in this game. He’s got healthy talent all around him now and could get Nelson Agholor back as well. I like Miami’s chances of scoring points, and that should allow Bradford to throw for four quarters. This projects to be a high-scoring game.
|Fantasy Football: Week 10 waiver wire||11.10.15 at 8:54 am ET|
It’s crunch time in seasonal fantasy leagues. Week 10 will go a long way to deciding the fate of many of our teams. And, let’s face it, this is a season when almost everybody is scrambling to compensate for lost talent, whether it be Arian Foster, Le’Veon Bell, Jamaal Charles or maybe a quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger. Times are tough all over.
As always, I will be watching game film throughout the day and I will be adding talent to the expanded waiver wire at Rotobahn. If you play in a more robust format and need more obscure player recommendations, head over this afternoon. I’ll also be adding a few matchup defenses for Week 10.
The ownership rates listed for each player were obtained at Yahoo!
Derek Carr, Raiders, 67 percent
Carr is producing like a fantasy starter, and with the talent around him he should continue to do so. He’s just worked though the toughest part of his schedule and he did so while posting big numbers. Carr needs to be owned in all leagues.
Blake Bortles, Jaguars, 52 percent
He’s a top-10 quarterback by the numbers and his schedule lightens up nicely going forward. There are no scary matchups left on his docket and he has the weapons to keep posting startable numbers. Bortles should be owned in all leagues.
Jameis Winston, Bucs, 28 percent
Here’s yet another young passer with a favorable closing schedule. Winston only needs to get his targets back on the field. If Vincent Jackson and Austin Seferian-Jenkins come back this week, the No. 1 overall selection becomes a very playable commodity in all leagues. The amazing thing is that he’s been very good the last three weeks without them.
Tyrod Taylor, Bills, 50 percent
He’s been a godsend for Rex Ryan and the Bills and he’s got plenty of fantasy appeal but the key is the health of his weapons. Taylor was great last week, but he had both of his running backs healthy and he had Sammy Watkins eating up coverage and making plays downfield. Taylor will be playable on Thursday, against the Jets, if he has Watkins and LeSean McCoy. He’s a good play the rest of the way as long as those skill guys, particularly Watkins, are on the field.
Joe Flacco, Ravens, 53 percent
He’s playable when the matchup is right, and this is one of those weeks as the Jaguars are in town. Flacco’s solid play is impressive when you consider that he’s done it without much healthy talent around him. Of course, that’s not changing. He’s not Winston — waiting for the healthy guys. His players come back next year for the most part. The one exception is rookie Breshad Perriman. He could be back for the final month.
|Fantasy Football: Week 7 waiver wire||10.20.15 at 1:43 pm ET|
It’s time to take a look at pickups for Week 7. There are some very good options out there and I have done my best to break them down for you. It’s a significant bye week, with four teams on their bye. There will be plenty of competition for talent, so be aggressive with waiver claims and bids.
As usual, I will be posting an expanded waiver wire this afternoon over at Rotobahn. If you play in a league with 12 or more teams, you will find more players who are actually available to add. This article is geared a little bit more to typically sized leagues.
The ownership rates listed for each player were obtained at Yahoo!.
Blake Bortles, Jaguars, 43 percent
As I have said the last few weeks, Bortles is getting the job done for fantasy owners. He has a somewhat tough matchup this week with the Bills and then he goes into his bye week. Coming out of the bye week, Bortles has a tough matchup with the Jets, but things ease up nicely from Week 10 right through the end of the fantasy season. He’s a solid investment in deep leagues.
Joe Flacco, Ravens, 60 percent
Flacco has had two absolutely brutal weeks. They occurred on Week 1 and Week 4, but apart from those two games, his fantasy numbers have been very good. With a relatively strong schedule going forward, Flacco is worth owning or at least considering as a streaming option on most weeks.
Colin Kaepernick, 49ers, 52 percent
Don’t look now, but Kaepernick is a top 11 fantasy quarterback. Sure, he’s got a serious lack of consistency, but he also has a lot of weekly point potential. He’s a DraftKings play almost every week in tournaments due to his low cost. In fact, he’s still at the price floor for quarterbacks on DraftKings this week at home against a struggling Seahawks team.
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