Fantasy Football: Picks and Tips for the 2014 NFL Season

The NFL Season is almost upon us and with preseason already underway, the focus of the NFL fan is fixed on fantasy football. To get you ready for the upcoming season, here are some picks to consider when drafting your team.

QB: Drew Brees

You can’t go wrong with either one of the “Big Three” quarterbacks, i.e. Brees, Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers, but Brees is the best bet. Manning is older than both and faces a much tougher schedule, while Brees’ schedule is much easier than Rodgers. You can’t botch the pick, but for me Brees is the best bet.

RB: Bishop Sankey

Rookies always carry risk, but Sankey could be a good value pick in the mid-late rounds. He could enter the year dividing carries with Shone Greene. A strong performance or two could vault him past the former Jet.  The Titans aren’t going to be world beaters. That much is true, so it could reach a point where the team gives more reps to the younger players. If Sankey is already in a time-share situation with Greene and the Titans tank, Sankey could receive the lion’s share of the carries, giving him some decent relative value.

WR: Percy Harvin

Last year I gambled on a lot of Seahawks having big years. I reached for the defense/special team, took Marshawn Lynch high and bet big on Russell Wilson. This by-and-large worked out, but the one Hawks’ weapon I struck out on was Percy Harvin, who barely played in the regular season. Everyone saw his impact in the Super Bowl, and while he won’t be returning kicks for touchdowns every week, he’ll make plenty of big plays. Pete Carroll will make sure he’s involved. Whether it is with screens or end arounds, the former Vikings star will have the ball in his hands and do what he does best, be a playmaker.

D/ST: Seattle Seahawks

A QB turning in a mediocre/sub-par showing against Seattle has become commonplace. Just ask Colin Kaepernick. The Seahawks don’t have the easiest schedule in the world in terms of opposing offenses, but their defense is that good. Reaching for it isn’t unheard of. The champs made, among others, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Kaepernick and Eli Manning look foolish last year and also held the likes of Cam Newton and Matt Ryan in check. Even with Peyton, Aaron Rodgers, Newton, Kaepernick and Nick Foles on the slate, expect the champs to put up more big numbers, and fantasy points.

 

Tips:

Don’t fall in love with the end of your bench.

Injuries and ineffectiveness happen, so you’re probably going to have to cut somebody at some point. But breakouts happen as well. Every year a player comes out of nowhere to register a stretch of monster games. We saw it last year with Jordan Cameron and Keenan Allen. Don’t miss out on the breakout stars because you’re keeping an injured handcuff running back from your favorite team on your bench. The logic also applies if someone in your league inexplicably cuts a player who could be a solid contributor for you. Don’t fall in love with your bench.

Avoid reaching on a backup QB.

If you draft a Drew Brees or an Aaron Rodgers in the early rounds, don’t reach on Russell Wilson or Matt Ryan in the middle rounds. Barring an injury, only look for a backup QB with a good matchup when your starter has a bye week. The well of quality flex options (running back, wide receiver, tight end) dries up quickly. Don’t reach for a backup QB when you’re only going to realistically play them one week.

What tips do you have for the upcoming fantasy season?

What We Learned From the Seahawks Win, Plus a Playoff Preview and the Great NFL Coaching Purge

Will the record holder for most touchdown passes in a rookie season please stand up?

Russell Wilson continued to scribble out portions of the Seahawks’ record book, and the NFL’s for that matter, and write himself in. Wilson now has tied Peyton Manning for the most touchdown passes thrown in a rookie season. Not something people would have expected for a Quarterback who was selected after five other QBs, one of whom isn’t even starting (Brock Oswiler is Manning’s backup.)

It Doesn’t Come Cheap

(That sounds nothing like any kind of title, it’s mainly there to make my other bolded title look better by default.)

The Seahawks demolished the Cardinals, Bills and 49ers in recent weeks. Maybe you heard. Point is that another blowout probably wasn’t going to be beneficial, at least for the playoffs. The Seahawks had to work for this win. That will be nice when the playoffs roll around and teams won’t be losing by astronomical amounts.

Playoffs

“Playoffs? Don’t talk about—playoffs?! You kidding me?! Playoffs?!”

That would be Jim Mora talking about, you guessed it, the playoffs. Yes, the glorious playoffs are here. We all get to wait and see who delivers the play of the postseason. Last season it might have been Kyle Williams’ muffed special-team handling, maybe Mario Manningham’s Super Bowl catch. The year before that, gave us Marshawn Lynch’s brilliant touchdown run against the Saints. Hopefully this year someone will provide us with a play that belongs in the same breath as the Lynch run or David Tyree’s catch. Because frankly, as much as I just amped up the Manningham catch and Williams’ trouble holding onto the ball, those plays are summed up in one word: anticlimactic.

The playoffs are a different animal this year in the NFC and almost the same relative animal in the AFC. The “National” Conference returns only Green Bay, Atlanta and San Francisco from last years’ playoffs with Seattle, Washington and Minnesota as the newcomers. The AFC meanwhile has the exact same lineup (Houston and Cincinnati played in the 3-6 game last year and will do the same this weekend, they must love playing each other) with the sole difference being Indianapolis taking Pittsburgh’s slot.

In the first round of the playoffs, I think Andrew Luck is going to win many a playoff game in his career, but I can’t see the Ravens losing this game. Not with it being a home game, not with it potentially being Ray Lewis’ last game, not with it being possibly Lewis’ last home game period, win or lose. The Ravens will beat the Colts 33-21.

The Bengals will definitely be more competitive than in last year’s 31-10 romp. That being said, I don’t think the Bengals can keep up with the Texans top-ten ranked offense and defense. Houston wins 24-14 over Cincinnati.

Over in the NFC I like the Vikings to beat the Packers. The Vikings won last week over Green Bay, and nothing says momentum like beating a team and then playing them again. Adrian Peterson could very well have another field day. It will be a surefire win if the Vikings’ 9th-ranked pass defense can bottle up Aaron Rodgers, Bahia Verde’s (that’s Spanish for “Green Bay” for all you folks at home) 20th-ranked run offense could stick out like Clay Bennett in Seattle. Minnesota wins 27-21.

The Great Coaching Purge: NFL

It’s being dubbed “Black Monday,” but the day that a good portion of the league lost coaches was mainly due to lack of quarterbacks. Arizona, Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Kansas City, San Diego and Philadelphia all made changes. All of those teams, with the exception of Chicago (Lovie Smith probably got fired for not getting it done in the postseason, or even getting there) and maybe San Diego, have serious long-term questions at the quarterback position.

I’ll check in next week with the divisional round preview. See you then.

What We Learned from the Seahawks 50-17 Win Besides the Fact that Buffalo is Also Pitiful

It’s really not a joke. The Seahawks aren’t pulling the wool over the eyes of everyone who seems to miss their games (i.e. everyone who lives outside of the great state of Washington.) Yes, Buffalo is a bad team, and Arizona was/is too, but you can’t ignore 50-plus points in consecutive games.

  • The Record Book just won’t go away. Russell Wilson continues to take records and break them as if he was eating a sandwich for lunch. After strong play last week, Wilson now holds the record for most rushing touchdowns in a game for the Seahawks. Something he did in the first half with three rushing scores. No Seahawks QB has ever rushed for that many touchdowns in an entire game.
  • Read Option. The Seahawks continually used the “Read Option” to their advantage on Sunday. On the play, Wilson receives the snap with Marshawn Lynch to his right in the backfield. If it looks better for Wilson to run it himself, then he fakes the handoff to Lynch and goes behind Lynch with the ball. If the play looks like the team would get more out of it if Lynch ran it, then Wilson simply hands off the ball. The point of the play is that the QB makes the split-second decision on what would work best. Hence it being called the “Read Option.” The Seahawks used this play to continually rip off huge gains versus a porous Bills’ defense.
  • Passing Dan Marino. Last week I told you with one more touchdown Russell Wilson would pass Dan Marino in terms of number of passing touchdowns in a rookie season. With his TD pass to Zach Miller, Wilson moved his total to 21, passing Marino’s 20.
  • Win and You’re In. The Seahawks can clinch at least a wild card berth with a win on Sunday against San Francisco. The Seahawks would clinch the number two seed in the playoffs, and receive the first round bye that comes with it, if they beat the Niners and Rams to close out the year. And, if the 49ers lose both of their remaining games, and if Green Bay loses one of its last two games. Plus, they would get home field advantage at home in the divisional round (they’re 6-0 at the Clink this year.)
  •  50-50. The Seahawks are now one of three teams in NFL history to score at least 50 points in two straight games. This feat hasn’t been accomplished since the 50’s. This is fantastic for a team who was 28th in the league in total offense last year. Other quarterbacks who have yet to accomplish this or haven’t: Tom Brady (very surprising,) Peyton Manning (equally surprising,) Dan Marino, Brett Favre, Steve Young, Joe Montana, John Elway ( I think you see my point.)
  • Winning. The Seahawks now have tied their highest win total since 2006, the year before they went to the Super Bowl. That team was 9-7.

Super Bowl Worthy? I posed this question last week, and now it should be a given. The Seahawks are Super Bowl worthy. Finally.

The Best in World of Sports: An Atlas of Atlases

In Greek mythology there is a Titan named Atlas who held up the world, or held up the sky so that it didn’t crash down on the Earth.

In the world of sports, each team has its own “Atlas” who keeps the team from falling flat.

Some of the best “Atlases” in recent sports memory:

  1. LeBron James- Cleveland Cavaliers. During LeBron’s tenure the Cavaliers were essentially James and a never-ending roll call of role players. Shaquille O’Neal and Ben Wallace were the only really good players who James played with in Cleveland. And at that point both were in the respective twilights of their careers, and Wallace wasn’t scoring much (as per usual). Cleveland was so bad without “King James” that they set an NBA record for the longest losing streak: 26 games after he made the decision to go to South Beach.
  2. Derrick Rose- Chicago Bulls. A small sample size, but while Rose dominated Game One of the first round of the playoffs versus Philly, he tore his ACL towards the end of the game. After holding on for the win in that game the Bulls went on to lose the series 4-2 to the eight-seeded 76ers. As a follow up, this year with Rose out for an extended amount of time, most pundits and talking heads have Chicago in the 6-8 seed range in the playoffs. Quite a drop-off for the team who had the best record in the East last season.
  3. Luis Suarez- Liverpool. If you take away Suarez’s fantastic production, the Reds would likely be in the relegation zone if not in last.
  4. Dwight Howard- Orlando Magic. Orlando is so bad without Howard it compelled me to write an entire piece on it, you can see that here. Orlando is going nowhere fast.
  5. Steve Nash- Phoenix Suns. Obviously earlier on in Nash’s career he had Amare Stoudamire and friends, so the team wouldn’t be that bad off without him. However, the Suns of the past couple years have needed Nash to help them stay out of the cellar. With him they were camped on the stairs going to the cellar; now they’re the cellar’s likely tenants.
  6. Mike Trout- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Trout supporters love overusing the stat about the visible improvement of the Angels’ record with him, as opposed to their record without him. Take away Trout and a lineup that includes Albert Pujols, Kendrys Morales, Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells goes nowhere offensively. Continue reading

Peyton Manning and the Tim Tebow Mess

Peyton Manning is a Bronco. Tim Tebow might be a Jet. In other words, how’s the rock you’ve been living under?

Manning picked Denver over other options such as the Tennessee Titans, Arizona Cardinals and Dark Horse X.

Tebow meanwhile has solidified himself as an asset for Denver. Before the Manning arrival, Tebow was their QB. Everyone had Tebowmania. (That was all the rage until something called Linsanity showed up, which has also faded into the rear view mirror it seems.) He was more of an asset in the sense that he not only sold tickets, but also played well in the fourth quarter.

Now he has moved on to “trade asset”, and it seems that the Broncos leaped at, what they felt, was the best offer: a trade of the former Gator and a seventh rounder to the Jets for a fourth and sixth rounder.

Or at least that’s the word on the street.

The word on the street has shifted to something that reads like this- “Jet-Broncos swap hits something of a snag.”

After presumably being displaced by Manning, where then is Tebow a good fit?

In the past, Tebow thrived at Florida in a 2 QB offense, as well as an offense that was tailored to him and his style of play. The same tailoring happened in Denver.

Tebow is a good fit somewhere where the team will commit to him and run an offense designed for him.

Would anyone make that big of a commitment?

Here are the teams in the offseason who, according to media outlets, looked into quarterbacks. Or teams who in fact signed one-

Seattle Seahawks

Arizona Cardinals

Tennessee Titans

Denver Broncos

Washington Redskins

Indianapolis Colts

San Francisco 49ers

Miami Dolphins

Now, let’s re-examine the list again. Seattle signed Matt Flynn to compete with Tavaris Jackson. Arizona made a substantial financial commitment to Kevin Kolb. Tennessee wouldn’t go from the present-future duo of Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker to Tebow. Denver picked up Manning. Some combination of RG3 and Andrew Luck will go to Indianapolis and our nation’s capitol. The 49ers re-upped Alex Smith’s contract.

And then there’s Miami. Tim Tebow back in Florida? Tebow in the same town as LeBron James?

Now  throw all that out. From a purely football standpoint, it might make sense for the Dolphins.

The current situation at signal caller for Miami is, pending any moves, Matt Moore, David Garrard, JP Losman and Pat Devlin.

(Read- Tebow is an obvious choice.)

Miami’s previous “future” QB was one Chad Henne, who stayed in Florida after signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Which is my corny transition to… the Jaguars.

There were rumors about the Jags trading to get him on draft night when he was a rookie. Obviously that didn’t happen, and the Broncos (under previous leadership) moved up to get him.

The Jaguars currently have recent-lottery-pick Blaine Gabbert at QB as well as established backup Luke McCown.

The Gabbert-Tebow conundrum would certainly be an interesting one. But either way, should the situation come to pass, a recent first-round pick is going to be kicked to the curb.

Now to address the Jets rumors/failed deal. Tebow in New York would certainly be a coo from an advertisement/branding standpoint, but from a football standpoint, it’s a mess.

Tebow isn’t starting in the Big Apple. The Jets wiped out any long-term issues they had with current QB Mark Sanchez by dropping a 40 million contract in his lap. So because of that, the Jets aren’t going to have a QB controversy/competition. Maybe if Sanchez was playing on a cheaper contract, then maybe it’s a battle between the two, but that’s not the case.

The Peyton Manning-To-Seattle Proposition

I’m probably not the first to write about this, nor will I be the last, because to put it plainly, Peyton Manning is a free agent. PEYTON FREAKING MANNING IS A FREE AGENT.

As noted, everyone is writing about this. From teams who need a quarterback like the New York Jets or Arizona Cardinals, or teams who don’t and would like to see him as a backup so their team doesn’t have to play against him (cough New England cough).

Maybe this is a pipe dream at best, and Peyton Manning might be considering only AFC teams or whatever the case may be. But the underlying theme here is that he would be a good fit in Seattle.

For that matter any of the NFC West teams with Manning probably jump to division favorites. (With the exception of maybe St. Louis, sorry Rams fans.) That being said, it would seem like the NFC West would make sense in the fact that Peyton could probably win right away, where as in a place like Miami, there could be issues with facing Tom Brady as well as the Jets defense a combined four times a year.

But Seattle looks like the best fit, at least from my position. The Seahawks have some promising bullet points for Manning to consider:

  • One, the Seahawks have a running game that Peyton didn’t have recently in Indianapolis. (Not that Peyton Manning needs a running game to lean on. He’s Peyton FREAKING Manning.)
  • Two, the Seahawks defense is a piece (read pass rusher) away from being a top-10 and/or elite defense.
  • Three, and this may surprise people, but the weapons are there in Seattle. The receiving core is an underrated one. Sydney Rice thrived with Brett Favre and even Tavaris Jackson before he was hit with injuries. Think of the potential with Peyton throwing to him. Doug Baldwin was quietly one of the better rookie receivers in the league last season. Zach Miller will look to be more of a pass catching threat after spending bulks of playing time helping the pass protection area. Mike Williams also thrived with a good QB (read Matt Hasselbeck) and could regain that form if Peyton comes to Seattle. John Carlson will be back from injury if the team chooses to re-sign him (they should look into it.) Leon Washington is a game changer, plain and simple.
  • Four, the offensive line. The Seahawks have a really good young offensive line. The whole line, with the exception of Robert Gallery, has less than four years of experience in the league. While that may be a downside to some, it’s a plus here. The Hawks line is going to be good for a long time. The other key to the QB’s protection here is that the O-Line is surprisingly deep. Breno Giocamini, Paul McQuistain and Lemuel Jeanpierre provided and still provide Pete Carroll with invaluable depth up front.
  • Lastly, win now. The Seahawks, despite the 7­-9 mark, are going to compete. The aforementioned defense is there. So is the running game. So are the receivers. Look, San Francisco isn’t going to go 13-3 again. (If they do, jokes on me.)  Things are going to be more level this year. Even more so than last year. Now obviously Peyton Manning makes just about every team a winner, but to have a team that’s on the cusp of being a very good team, and add one of the best QBs ever. It makes for a very nice dilemma to have.

By process of elimination to get to Seattle, here are places where Peyton isn’t a good fit:

  • Miami- Lack of established running game could make for iffy situation. Then again he succeeded in Indy.
  • New York Jets- Media circus and uncertainty with team might be disastrous. Also lack of weapons and locker room questions.
  • Washington- Redskins don’t have much in the offensive weapons department outside of Santana Moss, Jabar Gaffney and Chris Cooley. Also an equally tough division to play in.
  • Arizona- Larry Fitzgerald and a closed arena. There are the only draws in Zona. Good luck selling it outside of that.

So there you have it, Seattle and Peyton Manning, makes a lot of sense.