|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.
|Thrown to the wolves: What recent mid-round rookie QBs starting this early say about Patriots’ chances with Jacoby Brissett||09.21.16 at 6:00 am ET|
The first two weeks of this season aside, a fine goal for pretty much any quarterback coming into the league is to be Russell Wilson. The 2012 third-round pick started from Week 1 of his rookie year and averaged 28 total touchdowns over his first three seasons before breaking out with 35 last season (34 passing, one rushing).
As it relates to the Patriots’ quarterback situation, it isn’t Wilson’s entire body of work that matters, but the very beginning of his career. Entering this season, Wilson was the last quarterback drafted in the third round or later to start a game in the first three weeks of his rookie season, a task that has since been undertaken by Cowboys 2016 fourth-rounder Dak Prescott.
Barring an acquisition or some terrific news on Jimmy Garoppolo, Patriots rookie Jacoby Brissett, whom the team drafted in the third round in April, will face the same challenge Thursday. Though mid-round rookie QBs starting this early in the season has historically been a major rarity in the NFL, this season has been something of a when-it-rains-it-pours phenomenon, as Cody Kessler, chosen two spots after Brissett in the late third round, will start for the Browns in Week 3 as well.
While Wilson and Prescott provide precedent for such an occurrence, their situations can’t really compare to Brissett’s. Wilson was given a shot at the starting gig in training camp of his rookie year, something he seized by beating out free agent signing Matt Flynn and former-good-player-whom-I’d-completely-forgotten-started-the-previous-season-for-Seattle Tarvaris Jackson. When Wilson started his first pro game, he’d had a camp and a preseason worth of taking ample snaps with the first-teamers.
Though he had the offseason to learn the playbook, Brissett hasn’t been brought along the way Wilson and Prescott were. With the Patriots giving the soon-to-be-suspended Tom Brady ample reps in training camp along with Garoppolo, Brissett was left to take third-and-fourth-team reps in training camp and preseason games, playing with and against lesser quality players than a team would use to prepare a quarterback for regular-season play. Brissett didn’t throw the ball much in the preseason until the fourth and final exhibition game, when he went 13-for-21 for 152 passing yards.
|Fantasy Football: High-value targets||08.25.16 at 11:17 am ET|
This article is all about getting players who have the potential to return big value. As I have said repeatedly on the Fantasy Football Podcast, I want guys who can outperform their draft position. I want to target players who can perform a few rounds above where I select them. That’s how you end up being better than the other teams in your league.
For insight into how I apply this article to my drafts, check out my 2016 Draft Plan and Draft Plan Podcast. Both are available for free on Rotobahn, as is the Rotobahn 500 and our cheat sheets. If you need to get ready fast, we have your back.
A word on average draft position (ADP): As I say over and over, it is simply crucial that you use ADP sourced from the site your league drafts on. You will find links to many ADP sources in my Draft Plan article. The ADP in this article is sourced from Fantasypros.
For a deeper take on this article, check out this week’s podcast on WEEI. Jim Hackett and I will be recording that Friday. To keep pace with all of my fantasy content, including my weekly Draftkings rankings, follow me @Rotobahn.
All right, let’s get into the targets.
Russell Wilson, Seahawks, 36
He’s going as the third overall quarterback and much later than Cam Newton (19) and Aaron Rodgers (25), so if you are thinking of going after an elite quarterback, Wilson is the one I would be targeting.
Tony Romo, Cowboys, 107
Romo is the 13th quarterback off the board, and he has a nice profile for the upcoming season. He’s an elite fantasy scorer and he has an elite weapon to work with. Romo also plays behind one of the best offensive lines, if not the best. The Cowboys also play a highly favorable schedule. Romo is cheap enough where I can easily spend another pick on a strong backup.
Kirk Cousins, Washington, 112
He’s the 14th quarterback being taken, and you can usually get him in the 10th round of 12-team drafts. Cousins makes a very nice QB1 if you wait out the starter run. He has as much upside as a lot of the guys being taken ahead of him, and you can draft him late enough to afford taking another strong option right after him.
Marcus Mariota, Titans, 139
He’s the 19th quarterback taken on average, and I’m willing to roll with him as my starter. Mariota has a deep though unspectacular array of weapons and he has a solid backfield to lean on. He proved that he belonged last year, and his coaches sound like they want him to use his legs more this season. That will lead to more fantasy points. Mariota is a highly explosive athlete for the position. He’s capable of game-breaking runs.
|Al Michaels on his call at end of Super Bowl XLIX: ‘I reacted like a fan’||05.18.16 at 3:08 pm ET|
Al Michaels stopped by “The Dan Patrick Show” on Wednesday and talked about a handful of topics, including his call of Malcolm Butler’s interception of Russell Wilson at the end of Super Bowl XLIX. In that one, he said he reacted to the end of the game “like a fan,” and added that he was lucky enough to have been able to recall Butler’s name quickly because the cornerback was involved in a big play only moments before.
Michaels also recalled the infamous decision to throw the ball instead of handing it to Marshawn Lynch.
“It wasn’t so much that Wilson threw it, but the actual play itself — over the middle,” recalled Michaels. “In retrospect, you go back to, ‘Russell Wilson, mobile. He could run it into the end zone himself. Get him out on the edge (and) have him throw it to the corner of the end zone.’ If it’s incomplete, it stops the clock and you still have two more plays. I wasn’t of a mind that said Lynch had to carry the ball. No. I understood maybe throwing it. But not throwing it over the middle to (Ricardo) Lockett.”
|Russell Wilson references Super Bowl XLIX interception against Patriots in commencement speech||05.15.16 at 2:54 pm ET|
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson can poke fun at himself.
Wilson, who was the commencement speaker at the University of Wisconsin on Saturday, passed along some worthwhile advice to the graduates during his speech. At one point, he harkened back to his Super Bowl XLIX defeat to the Patriots, a loss that was sealed when Malcolm Butler picked off a pass on the goal line.
“If you’re playing the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, and you got 26 seconds left and you’re down by four and you’re second-and-goal on their 1-yard line, try not to throw an interception,” he said with a smile.
Turns out Wilson is also no fan of former N.C. State and Boston College coach Tom O’Brien. Wilson, recalled his interaction with O’Brien when the two were together at North Carolina State. Wilson said O’Brien — who was the head coach at Boston College from 1997 to 2006 before leaving to take over the Wolfpack program in 2007 — wanted to move him to safety before the start of his freshman season.
“Excuse my country voice here, but he says, ‘Son, I’m switching your position. I’m moving you to safety.’ He’s not asking me. He’s telling me,” Wilson recounted. “I could have just gone along with it, and maybe I should have just gone along with it. But for whatever reason, I wasn’t ready to take no for an answer.”
Wilson also remembered a conversation he had with O’Brien right before he ended up transferring to Wisconsin.
“The summer before my senior year of college, I’m playing minor-league baseball. I called my football coach at NC State and said, ‘Hey coach, I’d like to come back for my senior year.’ He told me I wasn’t coming back,” he said. “He said, ‘Listen son, you’re never going to play in the National Football League. You’re too small. There’s no chance. You’ve got no shot. Give it up.’ Of course, I’m on this side of the phone saying, ‘So you’re telling me I’m not coming back to NC State? I won’t see the field?’ He said, ‘No son, you won’t see the field.’”
Of course, Wilson would go on to become a third-round pick of the Seahawks, and lead Seattle to back-to-back appearances in the Super Bowl.
|Panthers hold off Seahawks, will host Cardinals in NFC championship||01.17.16 at 4:22 pm ET|
Jonathan Stewart ran for 106 yards and two touchdowns while Cam Newton threw for another as the Carolina Panthers held off a furious second-half rally by the Seattle Seahawks to claim a 31-24 win in an NFC divisional game Sunday in Charlotte.
Steven Hauschka converted a 36-yard field goal with 1:12 left in the fourth quarter to draw the Seahawks within a touchdown. But Thomas Davis Sr. caught the onside kick to seal the win for the Panthers, who led at the half, 31-0.
The win sets up a matchup between the No. 1 seeded Panthers (16-1) and the No. 2 Cardinals (14-3) in the NFC championship next Sunday in Charlotte.
The Panthers broke out on top early in the first quarter, taking their opening drive down the field for a score. That drive was highlighted by a 59-yard run up the middle by Stewart, who became the first player to run for over 100 yards against the Seahawks since Jamaal Charles on Nov. 16, 2014.
Russell Wilson had a nightmarish first half, which included a pick-6 by Luke Kuechly moments after the Stewart touchdown run to open scoring. Wilson finished 31-for-48 for 366 yards and three touchdowns. Two of those touchdowns went to Jermaine Kearse, who finished with 11 catches for 110 yards.
The Seahawks had a chance to get on the board late in the second quarter but Pete Carroll turned down a short field goal try to go for it on 4th-and-5. The Seahawks missed that chance and a 55-yard field goal attempt right before half.
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|Seahawks hold off Vikings, advance to face Panthers, Packers rout Redskins, face Cardinals||01.10.16 at 5:11 pm ET|
The former Bengals defensive coordinator, in his second season as Vikings head coach, needed only for kicker Blair Walsh to convert his fourth field goal of the day from 27 yards out to give him a win his his first playoff try.
Instead, Walsh hooked the attempt wide left with 22 seconds remaining, giving the Seahawks a 10-9 win over Zimmer’s Vikings on a Sunday afternoon in their wild-card playoff game at the University of Minnesota.
The game was played in sub-zero weather that tied for the third-coldest NFL game on record.
The win propels Pete Carroll‘s No. 6 Seahawks to the NFC Division round next weekend against the No. 1 seed Carolina Panthers next Sunday in Charlotte. Carolina (15-1) beat the Seahawks in Week 6, 27-23, in Seattle.
Until his fateful miss, Walsh had been spot on all day, converting three field goals that staked the upstart Vikings to a 9-0 lead heading into the fourth quarter. But the Seahawks came back with a three-yard TD pass from Russell Wilson to Doug Baldwin and a 46-yard field goal from Steven Hauschka to take a 10-9 lead.
As Seattle burned all of their timeouts, the Vikings drove down to the Seattle 9 with 26 seconds left in the game and seemed destined to win before Walsh hooked his kick.
In the late afternoon game, Aaron Rodgers threw a pair of touchdown passes while Eddie Lacy and James Starks each ran for a score to help the No. 5 Packers beat the No. 4 Redskins, 35-18. The Packers move on to play the No. 2 Arizona Cardinals next Saturday evening in the NFC divisional round at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals embarrassed the Packers in Week 16, 38-8, at the same venue.
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