|Handicapping a weird NFL MVP race: Does Tom Brady actually have a shot?||10.20.16 at 11:19 am ET|
This is shaping up to be one of those year’s with no slam-dunk MVP candidate. So after six weeks, who has the best shot at the title? In no particular order, here’s our current top 10.
Quarterback Tom Brady: Despite the fact that he missed the first four games, the quarterback has suddenly injected himself into the MVP discussion with a dynamite pair of games, the likes of which we haven’t seen from him before.
Tom Brady has a passer rating of 135.5 after his first 2 games of 2016, his highest rating after 2 games of any career season #Patriots
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) October 16, 2016
As strange as it sounds, even after his four-game exile to start the season. he’s as good a candidate as anyone at this point on the calendar. Overall, Brady has completed 76 percent of his passes and thrown for 782 yards, to go along with six touchdowns and no interceptions. Unless someone on a high-profile team gets hot and separates himself from the rest of the pack (like a 20-sack season from Von Miller, for example), he should be able to stick around and be a part of the conversation, provided he stays healthy. (At least the oddsmakers like his chances.)
Linebacker Von Miller: You can certainly make a case for the best defensive player on the best defense in the league, especially (as we said) if he’s able to break out with some sort of big numbers. He’s on his way with a league-best 7.5 sacks in six games. From this viewpoint, as long as the Broncos remain in the race, Miller will get plenty of votes.
Running back Ezekiel Elliott: Why not? The Elliott/Dak Prescott combo has injected new life into the Dallas offense. Elliott has 703 rushing yards through six games, and a 2,000-yard season and postseason berth for the Cowboys would certainly get him MVP consideration. He could end up splitting votes with Prescott — who will be the default Dallas candidate, especially if he continues to play well — but from this viewpoint, we’d be more inclined to cast our ballot for Elliott.
Quarterback Matt Ryan: The Falcons are a surprising 4-2, and the 31-year-old Ryan is a big reason why. The former BC product has completed 68 percent of his passes for 2,075 yards, with 15 touchdowns, three interceptions, and a passer rating of 117.9 (best in the NFL among starters). It might not be sustainable, but he’s made as good a case as anyone to be consider the first ex-Boston College player to win an NFL MVP award.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger: Roethlisberger is out for this week’s game against the Patriots, but through the first six games, he’s led the Steelers to a 4-2 starts, and has been right there when it comes to statistical totals. The Steelers’ signal-caller is at or near the top of the league in most major passing categories, including completion rate (64 percent), total passing yards (1,685), touchdowns (16), just six picks and a passer rating of 99.2.
Quarterback Russell Wilson: Wilson will never overwhelm you with crazy numbers, but his ability to keep his head in big games as the quarterback for one of the best teams in the league wins him a spot on this list. The Seahawks are 4-1, while Wilson is clicking with a 66 percent completion rate, 1,334 passing yards, five touchdowns, one interception and a passer rating of 97. Again, not overwhelming, but his performance as the centerpiece of one of the best team’s in the league should be enough to keep him in the conversation.
|Fantasy Football: Week 3 starts, sits||09.23.16 at 11:47 am ET|
Good morning, Patriots fans. Feeling good? Thought so. It’s Friday, so it’s time for some starts and sits as you enjoy the afterglow of a big win. 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. It’s also a good idea to cross-reference these recommendations against my full lineup rankings that are up at Rotobahn and will be fully updated by Saturday evening.
Don’t forget to tune in to the Fantasy Football Hour this Sunday at 8 a.m. when Jim Hackett and I will discuss trending Week 3 topics and crucial game day information.
Matt Ryan, Falcons at Saints, $7,400
I will gladly pay that price to get him in my DraftKings lineup, but I need to know that Julio Jones is playing. Ryan, armed with a healthy Jones, is a great play against a weak Saints defense. It’s also a plus that the Saints probably will score a lot of points. Vegas has this game scoring more points (53.5 over/under) than any other Week 3 tilt.
Derek Carr, Raiders at Titans, $6,900
Carr has looked even better than he did in 2015. He’s cool in the pocket and can extend plays with his feet when necessary. This is good because he’s got quality receivers who work the various levels of the field well. He’s got Michael Crabtree working the intermediate routes, but he’s also got Amari Cooper, who can stretch the field and cause havoc for defenses. He’s also got a good young tight end and a deep backfield. Carr should give you solid numbers this weekend at the Titans. He’s startable in all leagues and very playable in tournaments on DraftKings. I’m looking to stack him with Cooper.
Blake Bortles, Jaguars vs. Ravens, $6,500
He’s struggled so far, but only in real football terms. The fantasy digits have been there because Bortles is surrounded by high-end playmakers. Garbage time is almost always productive for the Jaguars and it allows Bortles to backfill his game stats for his fantasy owners. He should end up with respectable to strong numbers this week as the Ravens are not that good on the back end. I’d be stacking Bortles with either Allen Robinson or Julius Thomas on DraftKings — depending on what my budget looks like.
Carson Wentz, Eagles vs. Steelers, $5,500
The price is nice. Wentz has not played like a rookie so far, and you throw to beat the Steelers. Pittsburgh plays the run well and has a leaky secondary. Meanwhile, Wentz has underrated playmakers and he can augment his passing numbers with his feet a la Jacoby Brissett. He’s a compelling play at such a low price. I’d stack him with Jordan Matthews in tournaments, but he is too risky for cash games at this point.
|Fantasy Football: DraftKings Week 2||09.19.15 at 8:57 am ET|
I hope you all had a good Week 1 with your DraftKings lineups. I know I did, and I am fired up for this week’s games. If you are looking for a deeper take or are looking to create your own Draftings board for Week 2, feel free to download my DraftKings worksheet over at Rotobahn. It’s a good look at all the players you might want to consider without all the deadwood you have to sift through on the DraftKings site.
Don’t forget to tune in to 93.7 on Sunday at 8 a.m. for this week’s edition of the Fantasy Football Hour, with my good buddy Jim Hackett.
Like last week, I have broken this week’s recommendations down into three cost levels.
BIG-MONEY OPTIONS ($7,000 and up)
The Giants have no answer for Jones. None. They can’t cover him, and they can’t put much pressure on Matt Ryan to limit downfield opportunities. This is the way I want to spend my big money in Week 2. And what’s great is that Atlanta will have some issues stopping New York, so Jones could be heavily involved for four quarters.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings vs. Lions, $7,700
The Vikings somehow, almost inexplicably, got away from Peterson in Week 1 and their offense sputtered. I can only assume that feeding Peterson will be a huge priority this week against a team he has run over many times in the past. It’s also worth mentioning that Ndamukong Suh now is a Dolphin and star linebacker DeAndre Levy is unlikely to play this week. The table is set.
Matty Ice has a sweet matchup this Sunday against the hapless Giants defense. A bad game seems almost impossible, and the odds of a big game seem very strong. Yes, he is pricey at 7,400 units, but I think you will get what you pay for and perhaps considerably more.
Jordan Matthews, WR, Eagles vs. Cowboys, $7,100
He clearly is the lead target in the Eagles passing attack and he has a chance to go off in this game. Matthews played 85 percent of the offensive snaps last week, and that is a serious increase over what we saw most of last season. Just for some perspective, Jeremy Maclin played 87 percent of the team’s offensive snaps in 2014. Matthews played on 65 percent. The point is that you may want to start Matthews now, before his price goes up even higher. He will be in a lot of my lineups this week.
|Fantasy Football: Week 14 starts, sits||12.05.14 at 8:53 am ET|
Welcome to the Week 14 starts and sits! It’s win-or-go-home time in most fantasy football leagues, so lineup decisions potentially are crucial. If you are looking for a second opinion on players not listed in this article, head over to my site, Rotobahn, and check out our full lineup rankings for Week 14.
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.
Matt Ryan, Falcons at Packers
The Falcons are going to trail in this game, and it should happen fast. They will go into this game knowing that they’ll have to score a lot of points to win. They will try to get Steven Jackson going to set up some play-action for Ryan to work off of, but in the end, the Falcons have to throw to have any chance at all. Ryan should post solid fantasy statistics based on volume of attempts, and he’s got big-game potential if he gets some pass protection.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers at Bengals
It’s hard to see Roethlisberger not making some plays in this game. He’s got a lot of places to throw the football, and his team will need the points based on the way the Steelers have played defense recently. He’s playable if you need him.
He’s a viable option in deeper leagues if you are in need. The Titans are an easy mark, and Manning has enough weapons to get the job done, most notably Odell Beckham. It might not always be pretty, but Manning should have decent numbers by the end of the day. Remember, the Giants need to develop their offense as much as they need to win. New York’s season ended weeks ago. The remaining games are about establishing things that can carry over to 2015. Expect plenty of pass attempts.
Joe Flacco, Ravens at Dolphins
His receivers are an issue, with Steve Smith slowing down and Torrey Smith nursing a sore knee. The Dolphins defense represents a tough road matchup, so this is a situation to avoid. I’ve got at least 16 quarterbacks ranked higher than Flacco this week.
|Fantasy Football: Week 7 starts, sits||10.17.14 at 1:35 pm ET|
All right, Patriots fans, after Thursday night’s big win, your heads should be clear and ready to focus on your fantasy fortunes. I’ve got the Week 7 recommendations ready for you and there’s more to come. As always, I will be available this Sunday at 11 a.m. to take all your last-minute lineup questions. Get them in early!
If you have questions about any players not listed in this space, head over to my free site, Rotobahn, and dig into my full Week 7 lineup rankings. And don’t forget to tune in Sunday morning for another episode of the Fantasy Football Hour with my buddy Jim Hackett, who will be in a good mood after the Patriots’ third straight victory. If you want to keep track of all my fantasy football content, both here and at Rotobahn, follow me on Twitter. I send out links to all fresh content.
Carson Palmer, Cardinals at Raiders
He’s back and we expect his arm strength to improve week to week. Palmer has a healthy offense around him and he has a nice matchup with Oakland. Start him if you need him in all formats.
Joe Flacco, Ravens vs. Falcons
He lit up Tampa last week and he could do the same thing to the Falcons when the Ravens visit Baltimore this weekend. The Ravens receivers are in a groove and so is Flacco. He’s a viable play in all leagues this week.
Matt Ryan, Falcons at Ravens
He’s not screaming “Start me” this week after light output in Week 6, but Ryan has enough weapons in addition to Julio Jones, who is a monster. He should have to throw the ball for most of the day to keep pace with the Ravens. Ryan is playable in all formats.
Blake Bortles, Jaguars vs. Browns
Need an option in a deep league? Bortles can help because he grinds out points with his arm and with his feet. The Browns should get a lead and force the Jaguars to throw and open up the offense. Bortles might throw a pick or two, but the numbers should be there in the end. A good play in big formats if you are in need.
|Which QB does best job spreading ball around in passing game?||02.18.14 at 6:00 am ET|
Piggybacking on a column we did last year about Tom Brady‘s ability to work in new receivers and spread the ball around — and with another full season in the books — we figured we should take another look at some of the league wide numbers when it comes to ball distribution in the passing game.
Using the 250-catch barometer as the mark for involvement, three over-30 veterans continue to set the standard when it comes to getting everyone involved in the passing game, as Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees have managed to make stars out a variety of pass catchers on the way to record-setting seasons.
Using numbers culled from Pro Football Reference — which utilizes stats dating back to 1999 — the three are head and shoulders above the rest of the quarterbacking field when it comes to finding equilibrium in the passing game:
– Since 2001, Brady has completed at least 250 passes in the regular season to four different pass catchers over the course of his 13-year career as a starter: Wes Welker (563), Deion Branch (328), Troy Brown (323) and Kevin Faulk (310). Providing they stay healthy — and, in the case of Julian Edelman, return for 2013 — two more receivers could be added to the mix: Rob Gronkowski had 39 catches in an injury-shortened 2013 season, bringing his total of receptions via Brady to 223. And his 105 catches in 2013 boosted Edelman to 166 career receptions from Brady.
For those of you asking about guys who just missed out on the 250-catch mark with Brady, two jump off the page: one, Randy Moss caught 192 passes from Brady while the two were together in New England, including 98 catches in 2007 and 83 in 2009. And two, Aaron Hernandez finished with 166.
– In that same span, Manning has completed at least 250 passes to three different receivers: Reggie Wayne (779), Marvin Harrison (677) and Dallas Clark (387). Depending on how long he plays, Denver’s Demaryius Thomas could also be part of that group as well — he has 185 catches from Manning over the last two seasons, and could reach 250 in 2014 if he and the quarterback can both stay healthy.
To be fair to Manning, that time frame of 2001-2013 does cut off the first three seasons — from 1998 through 2000 — of his career. As a result, some of his early numbers aren’t included, particularly the formative years with Harrison, who had 276 regular-season catches with the Colts in that span. Our cutoff also means the work of an excellent pass-catching back like Edgerrin James goes unrewarded. He caught 230 passes from Manning from 2001-2005 before he departed Indy for the Cardinals. In all, James ended up catching a total of 355 passes from Manning while the two were together from 1999-2005.
– While Brady and Manning have impressive totals, when it comes to finding a variety of targets, they’re nowhere near Brees. When you combine his work in San Diego and New Orleans, the 35-year-old has complied at least 250 passes to six different receivers: Marques Colston (605), Lance Moore (346), Jimmy Graham (298 over the last four seasons), Reggie Bush (294), Pierre Thomas (284) and LaDainian Tomlinson (254). And a seventh — Darren Sproles — can hit 250 receptions from Brees in 2014. He’s already at 235 catches and counting.
When it comes to the next generation, it appears unlikely that anyone will be able to connect with six different pass catchers for at least 250 receptions. Among the quarterbacks who have been in the league for 7-10 seasons, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers has Greg Jennings (324) and Jordy Nelson (252), but just missed out when Donald Driver (241) called it a career. However, his two wild cards are free agents James Jones (216) and Jermichael Finley (214) — if they both return and are healthy, Rodgers is seemingly a lock to get four pass-catchers to 250-plus receptions.
Ben Roethlisberger also has a good chance of getting to four — he’s completed at least 250 passes to three different receivers: Hines Ward (513), Heath Miller (420) and Antonio Brown (250), and could make it four if free agent Emmanuel Sanders (146) ends up sticking around Pittsburgh. Meanwhile Atlanta’s Matt Ryan has three, having connected for 250-plus with Roddy White (520), Tony Gonzalez (383) and Harry Douglas (205). And New York‘s Eli Manning has Hakeem Nicks (306) and Victor Cruz (241) — he appears to have just missed with Plaxico Burress (244) and Steve Smith (213).
As for the quarterbacks who have between two and five full years in the league, Detroit’s Matthew Stafford has found tremendous success with Calvin Johnson (353 catches from Stafford), but Brandon Pettigrew (215) and Nate Burleson (154) are also within hailing distance of the 250-catch mark, providing Burleson somehow makes it back to Detroit. In addition, Indy’s Andrew Luck has Wayne (145), T.Y. Hilton (133) and Coby Fleener (78), while Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton has benefitted from working with AJ Green (256), Jermaine Gresham (165) and Andrew Hawkins (85).
|Fantasy Football: Week 15 starts, sits||12.13.13 at 10:35 am ET|
Welcome to the Week 15 starts and sits! If you are reading this, then congratulations are probably in order. It’s semifinal week in most leagues, so you are one win away from a bowl appearance and a shot at glory. Hopefully these recommendations will help you maximize your lineup, but if you need more, then head over to Rotobahn and check out our full lineup rankings. Additionally, you can attend our weekly Sunday chat right here at WEEI. You’ll find a link to the chat Sunday on the home page under ‘This Just In.’ I hope to see you all there.
Matt Stafford, Lions vs. Ravens
Stafford had a rough Week 14 due to the weather, but if you survived the storm, you should stick with him. He’ll be much better at home, even in a tough matchup. The Lions probably will lose, but Stafford will get his stats.
Andrew Luck, Colts vs. Texans
He’ll be solid this week at home vs. a pretty good defense. Luck now has enough weapons to get the job done. Da’Rick Rogers is a big upgrade over Darrius Heyward-Bey. Luck may not give you a big number, but he’ll produce like a top-10 quarterback.
Tom Brady, Patriots at Dolphins
Brady owners must feel cursed at this point. The rug got pulled out from under them this past Sunday when Rob Gronkowski was lost again, with perhaps his worst injury so far, and that is saying something. Giving up on Brady is a logical move, but I think even with significant missing parts, the Patriots offense as a unit is clicking now. Brady should be good for a few scores and 250-plus yards.
Jay Cutler, Bears at Browns
He should be the starter, but just to be clear, this recommendation goes for whomever starts for the Bears this week. If Cutler has another setback, go ahead and start Josh McCown, who has been astoundingly good this year in Marc Trestman‘s offense.
Matt Ryan, Falcons vs. Redskins
Yes, the Falcons already are toast, but they have most of their offense back on the field and probably will cut through the Washington defense like a hot knife through butter. Ryan is a viable option this week in any format.
Jason Campbell, Browns vs. Bears
The one thing to keep on top of here is the weather. There is some snow in the forecast, and if it gets really ugly, you’ll want to have a backup plan. Still, Campbell can help you if you are in a jam. The Bears have few answers for what the Browns will be throwing at them, namely Josh Gordon. The second-year receiver has been a one-man wrecking crew lately.
Latest from Bleacher Report
- Rob Gronkowski Keeps Rolling as the Patriots' Offensive Pillar
- Patriots vs. Steelers: Full Report Card Grades for New England
- NFL Power Rankings: Breaking Down Sunday's Action Ahead of Week 7
- Patriots vs. Bengals: Full Report Card Grades for New England
- Rob Gronkowski Illness: Updates on Patriots TE's Status and Return
- Tom Brady Elects Not to Comment When Asked About Donald Trump's Leaked...
- Cincinnati Bengals vs. New England Patriots Betting Odds, Analysis, NFL...