|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 17 starts, sits||01.01.16 at 12:57 pm ET|
Happy New Year, and welcome to Week 17 and the Week 17 starts and sits. There are no words to describe how much I despise playing meaningful seasonal fantasy games on Week 17. All good seasonal fantasy football leagues should hold their league’s championship on Week 16. We’ve seen the reasons for this year after year, and the 2015 season is no different.
Before we get going on some specific players, let’s look at some teams we have concerns about.
- Washington is at the top of the list as it cannot do anything to affect its seeding.
- The Patriots need a win to ensure they have home field throughout the AFC playoffs. Where things could get tricky is if the Dolphins lay down, as they certainly could. Once the game is settled, you could see Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski on the sidelines with their helmets off.
- The Seahawks are another team that could decide to rest players as they are locked into a wild card slot and a first-round road game.
- The Cardinals have motivation to earn the top seed in the NFC, but they need help, and a blowout win by the Panthers against the Buccaneers could conceivably lead to the Cardinals closing up shop a quarter or so early. The same could be true in reverse with Carolina. If the Cardinals somehow get way behind, the Panthers could ease up and take Cam Newton out. The fact that these teams both are playing in late games helps a lot. I doubt either one is mailing it in early.
So, as you can see, there are some potential issues out there. What follows are some recommended plays for Week 17 and a few guys to avoid. As always, I strongly suggest cross referencing these recommendations against my weekly rankings over at Rotobahn, which will be updated Saturday evening.
I also will be hosting a Sunday morning chat if you still have questions. And be sure to tune in at 8 a.m. on Sunday morning for the last live edition of the Fantasy Football Hour with my good buddy and partner in crime Jim Hackett.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jets at Bills
He will be going hard for 60 minutes, and he has the weapons to post solid numbers. There’s no guarantee that the Jets plays well. They are the Jets, after all. There’s historical precedence here, and Rex Ryan plays a big role as well. If he can get his team up to play, the Jets could wilt. Still, even in a losing scenario, Fitzpatrick has great upside because the Jets would be throwing right up until the end.
The Giants should be up for this game because it projects to be the last for coach Tom Coughlin. It also will be the return game for Odell Beckham, and he will be playing hard to shut down some of the criticism he’s been facing since his Week 15 meltdown against the Panthers and Josh Norman. The Eagles defense is vulnerable to the pass, so this matchup is looking very good overall.
He may not be the best option, but he is playing for a new contract and he’s been posting good numbers lately. And you have the Giants, who are giving up tons of production through the air.
|Fantasy Football: Week 17 waiver wire||12.29.15 at 11:01 am ET|
Welcome to Week 17! It’s your championship week, and the waiver wire definitely is a little thin. Hopefully the fact that you are still playing means you already have a deep team and are ready to match up with your opponent. The good news is that most NFL teams have something to play for. Not very many stars are going to be yanked after a few series as we often see this time of year.
I will be posting an update to this week’s waiver wire over at Rotobahn on Thursday to account for any evolving value that may pop up over the next few days. It’s certainly possible that the midweek pickups will be as compelling as what we are looking at right now.
As always, I will be adding some talent Tuesday afternoon when I post the expanded wire over at Rotobahn. If you play in a deep league, head on over. It’s still completely free. I will be back here at WEEI this Friday with the Week 17 starts and sits.
The ownership rates listed for each player were obtained at Yahoo!
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jets, 51 percent
Fitzpatrick has been getting it done for the most part and he has a matchup with a Bills team that has little to play for save for some revenge against Rex Ryan‘s former team. Granted, Ryan has a gift for getting teams up for meaningless games and he’ll be doing all he can to slow down the red-hot Jets. Still, Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall are playing at a very high level right now and the Jets have everything to play for. If you need a quarterback this week, Fitzpatrick certainly is a guy to go after.
Sam Bradford, Eagles, 35 percent
Do I want to get involved with the Eagles offense in my biggest game of the season? Not really. Having said that, Bradford has been hot for fantasy purposes and he gets his best matchup in weeks against an ultra-light Giants secondary. He can help you if you are in need.
|Scouting Report: What you have to know about Eagles-Patriots||12.05.15 at 1:20 pm ET|
Here’s what you have to know when it comes to Sunday’s game between the Eagles (4-7) and Patriots (10-1) at Gillette Stadium:
WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN THE BALL
As we stated here and here, if there’s a week for the occasionally inconsistent New England running game to get back on track, it’s Sunday against the Eagles. After an OK start, Philly has really struggled to hold back opposing ballcarriers over the last five games. In that stretch, the Eagles have allowed an average of 165.6 rushing yards per contest. That includes two games where opponents ran for more than 200 yards on Philly (Tampa Bay had 283 yards on the ground, while Carolina had 204 rushing yards). On the other side of the ball, the Patriots have failed to hit 100 yards on the ground as a team in any of their 11 games, and have averaged 78.9 rushing yards per game in the last six weeks. As a team, the Patriots are 29th in the league for the season, averaging 87.2 rushing yards per game. LeGarrette Blount (142 carries, 596 rushing yards, 6 TDs), Brandon Bolden (16 carries, 37 yards) and James White (13 carries, 35 yards) will likely see the bulk of the work, with Trey Williams working his way into the mix if he gets up to speed fast enough. Through 11 games, the Patriots are on pace to have their least-productive season when it comes to running the ball since 2000. A strong game against a woeful Philly run defense from the likes of Blount and Bolden will get things pointed in the right direction.
WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS THE BALL
There’s still some uncertainty about just who is going to be available to Tom Brady (65 percent completion rate, 3,600 yards, 28 TDs, 4 INTs, 106.7 passer rating) and the Patriots passing game on Sunday. We know Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman remain sidelined, but it sounds like Danny Amendola (49 catches, 60 targets, 520 yards, 2 TDs) is at least going to try and give it a go. That would mean a combination of Amendola, Brandon LaFell (21 catches, 47 targets, 342 yards) and Scott Chandler (19 catches, 34 targets, 198 yards, 3 TDs) would comprise the primary targets for Brady in the passing game, with the likes of Bolden (9 catches, 13 targets, 125 yards, 2 TDs), White (12 catches, 19 targets, 195 yards) and Keshawn Martin (7 catches, 8 targets, 103 yards, 1 TD) all mixed in offering support. The Eagles have been average at best when it comes to slowing the pass, having allowed an average of 253 passing yards per game (20th in the league). According to Football Outsiders, Philly has been poor at slowing No. 1 receivers (the Eagles are 31st in the league), while its defense against running backs in the passing game is one of the best around (fourth-best in the NFL). If the Patriots can lean on Amendola avoid any more injuries to their skill position players, he might be in line for a healthy amount of work Sunday against Philly. (One more thing: expect Brady to look for Eagles rookie cornerback Eric Rowe, who will get the start with Nolan Carroll out with an ankle injury. Rowe was flambeed on Thanksgiving against Calvin Johnson, who had a pair of touchdowns in Detroit’s win.)
|5 things you have to know about Eagles: Chip Kelly on the hot seat as Philly comes to town||12.01.15 at 3:58 pm ET|
Five things you have to know about the Eagles, who visit Foxboro Sunday for a date with the Patriots.
1. Head coach Chip Kelly is feeling the heat.
It’s been tough sledding the last month-plus for Kelly, who has seen his team lose four of their last five, with the last three defeats by a combined score of 110-50 against three teams that won’t come anywhere near the playoffs. (If it weren’t for the free-falling Cowboys, the 4-7 Eagles would be basement-dwellers in the pathetic NFC East.) As a result, it’s easy to see why the coach is under fire. Even after buying himself some goodwill with back-to-back 10-6 seasons in his first two years at the helm in Philly, the mess that the 2015 season has become for him and his team have people calling for his removal. Part of that is that after winning control of personnel decisions in the offseason and adding the likes of Sam Bradford, Kiko Alonso, Byron Maxwell and Miles Austin, the majority of his additions have had bad years. As a result, it’s not premature to say that, starting with this weekend against the Patriots, Kelly begins a five-game stretch where he could very well be coaching for his job.
2. No one is sure what the Eagles are going to do at quarterback right now.
The Philadelphia quarterback situation is up in the air: there’s a school of thought that after suffering a concussion and a sprained AC joint in his throwing shoulder earlier in the year against the Dolphins, Sam Bradford (64 percent completion rate, 2,297 passing yards, 11 TDs, 10 INTs, passer rating of 82.4) has rehabbed enough to a point where he would return to the starting lineup against the Patriots. (Early reports out of Philly seem to indicate that Bradford will be a go against New England.) Bradford hasn’t been a Pro Bowler, but there was some improvement shown over the course of the season until the injury against Miami. With Bradford on the sidelines, backup Mark Sanchez (65 percent completion rate, 616 passing yards, 4 TDs, 4 INTs, passer rating of 80.7) has struggled mightily, turning the ball over five times and throwing only four touchdowns. Whoever has been the quarterback hasn’t gotten much help from the ground game: DeMarco Murray (155 carries, 545 rushing yards, 4 TDs, 3.5 yards per carry) has been underwhelming at best for the Eagles in his first season in Philly. Meanwhile, Ryan Matthews (75 carries, 427 rushing yards, 5 TDs, 5.7 YPC) and third-down back Darren Sproles (47 carries, 168 rushing yards, 1 TD, 3.6 YPC) offer some support out of the backfield.
3. On paper, they appear to have a deep passing game.
It’s debatable who has the capability to get the ball to them, but the fact that the Eagles have six guys with 20 or more catches is worth noting. It’s a group led by wide receiver Jordan Matthews (58 catches, 89 targets, 625 yards, 3 TDs), but it’s a collection that also gets a ton of help from backs and tight ends. Murray (39 catches, 295 receiving yards, 1 TD) and Sproles (36 catches, 58 targets, 258 receiving yards, 1 TD) have proven to be effective at times out of the backfield, while tight ends Zach Ertz (38 catches, 62 targets, 394 receiving yards) and Brent Celek (20 catches, 27 targets, 294 receiving yards, 3 TDs) are also part of a nice package of pass catchers.
|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 9 starts, sits||11.06.15 at 11:35 am ET|
It’s Friday, and that means it’s time for some starts and sits. As always, I have done my best to avoid the obvious stuff. If you are looking for information or rankings on players not included in this space, go to Rotobahn and consult my full Week 9 lineup rankings. I will be updating all of the rankings on Saturday and may make some Sunday morning adjustments as well.
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 provide some clarity. And don’t forget to tune in to the Fantasy Football Hour this Sunday at 8 a.m. when Greg Dickerson and I will discuss the trending Week 9 topics and crucial game day information.
Derek Carr, Raiders at Steelers
Carr has been impressive in his second season. The Raiders went out and got him some new weapons in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, and the results have been very good so far. Carr has produced against some good defenses and had a big game against the Jets last week. He is spreading the ball around and taking plenty of shots downfield. He’s a top-10 start this week.
He can slow down significantly off of last week and still post QB1 numbers. Then again, he might not regress all that much against a Bucs defense that has not been getting the job done. Oh, and Manning has that Odell Beckham guy. That helps.
He has more receivers and tight ends than the Colts can cover effectively. And Manning may have a running game if last week’s success is any indication of future performance. I expect Manning to make get some big plays by throwing to the receiver who isn’t being covered by Vontae Davis. He’s been getting solid yardage totals on most weeks, and I think he adds a few touchdowns against his old team.
Sam Bradford, Eagles at Cowboys
He’s been bad. There’s no way around it. That being said, Bradford has had a few strong games and finally has a healthy group of receivers to work with. The Eagles are coming off of a well-timed bye week and I think it serves them well against the Cowboys. Bradford may not be a stud option right now, but I think he’s playable if you need him. I also think he has a good chance to finish the season strong.
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