(something to consider when rooting against the “cheating” Patriots)
Here’s some interesting things to consider when watching Championship Sunday:
1. Can the Packers win with zero healthy WRs?- The packers WR core is decimated with injury. Nelson is not suiting up for the second week in a row, Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison were both limited or DNPs at practice this week, which leaves only Randall Cobb as a viable threat for Rodgers at the WR position. They will need to be creative with Montgomery and Cook this week in order to pull off the upset on the road in ATL.
2. Will Bennett feast vs the Steelers?- The Patriots offense looked subpar at best vs a very stingy Houston defense. The Steelers are very talented up front but lack the secondary that Houston has. Gronk has typically demolished the Steelers zone coverage schemes in the past. Gronk has 8 TDs and averages almost 100 yards a game in 5 career games vs the Steelers. Can Martellus Bennett come close to this type of production? If so, I like the Patriots chances this weekend.
3. Falcons D containing Aaron Rodgers- What Rodgers is doing, is nothing short of historic. He is putting up ungodly numbers and almost singlehandedly won the game in Dallas last week. The Falcons D was dominant vs Seattle and Russell Wilson last week. Playing at home, in the last game ever at the Georgia Dome, this defense has an opportunity to show the world that they can play.
4. Can Pittsburgh turnover Brady enough to win in Gillette?- Brady has been good for a turnover a game in the playoffs during his hall of fame career. One turnover will not be enough as it has not been enough for other team in the past (New England is 6-3 when Brady only throws one interception in a playoff game). If they can turn him over more than once, they may be able to keep the Patriots under 30 and have a chance.
5. What will the dumb conspiracy be this year?- Pittsburgh has the flu right now, odds are, someone blames the Patriots for biological warfare this week. Just the way it always goes. Last time the Steelers came to Foxboro, they complained that they were getting the radio broadcast in their headsets (sup zo!). Let’s see what ridiculous excuse the NFL decides to believe is the key to the Patriots success this year!
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(similar to this but not even close to the same)
WINNER: JASON GARRETT!
Not going to lie, it was a CLOSE decision. Andy Reid was up to his usual tricks and screwed up the clock enough at the end of the game where he didn’t have any timeouts and there was zero sense of urgency. Could have easily been him this week but he comes in third.
Also could have been old friend Bill O’Brien! His decision to kick a field goal to stay down 17-16 instead of going for a TD when he has that inept offense deep in the red area was the biggest loser decision ever. He of all people should know that you cannot go into Foxboro and expect to win by kicking field goals in the redzone. It’s just not an option. The second he did that I said, “well that’s dumb, his offense will never be that close again.” Sure enough, they never got in the red area for the rest of the game. Gotta play to win there Bill.
And now to our winner, Jason Garrett. Garrett having his offense spike the ball on First down, with a time out, at the GB 40 yard line with 50 seconds left was the dumbest move of the year. Not only did it leave Rodgers with too much time after kicking the field goal but it took away a down they needed to get the next first down! The play there was for Garrett to take his time out and have 50 seconds to get 5 yards to kick a field goal. 50 seconds is a lot of time to manage. No reason to waste a down with 50 seconds left and you still have a timeout on the edge of Field Goal range! It was maddening. Absolutely the worst coached team this weekend was Dallas. They have a stellar team but with that coach, they will never win anything.
(Let’s hope this year’s Packers v Cowboys game is as entertaining as the one from 2015)
New England over Houston 34-10: Easiest money for the weekend. Patriots not only win easily at home, they probably cover a historically large spread too against the worst team to ever win a playoff game. Make it 7 straight AFC title games for Brady and the Patriots.
Kansas City over Pittsburgh 24-18: Kansas City finally gets over their home playoff hump and keeps Pittsburgh at bay. Their defense/special teams are just too opportunistic. I expect this to be visible as Big Ben has struggled away from Heinz Field this year. Costly turnovers haunt the Steelers in this one as Smith game manages his way to another title game.
Atlanta over Seattle 35-31: The team that kicks the field goal always loses. This time, it’s Seattle. Their offense just won’t be able to keep up and overcome the defensive loss of Earl Thomas. Ryan will finally get over the hump and win a game he’s supposed to at home in the playoffs. Quinn and Shanahan should have a great gameplan in place for this one and barring a Dan Quinn game mismanagement, Atlanta will move on.
Dallas over Green Bay 31-30: Dalla is going to have to put up points and lots of them to win this one. Green Bay is hot but without Jordy, Rodgers has classically struggled. This is a little factor but I’m going to go out on a limb and say Mike Mccarthy has his Grady Little moment in this one. He will leave that one point on the board somewhere whether it’s an ill advised fourth down attempt or bad play calling deep in his own end. He will be the goat in this one as Dallas survives and advances.
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Things to consider when rostering WRs in your million dollar lineups for the divisional round
- Players the target monster is coming for- A few good low priced options this week that pivot off the the many studs still remaining. I’m looking right at Cole Beasley and Taylor Gabriel. First on Beasley. The Packers tipped their hand last week vs the Giants on how they want to defend the big play WR. They were constantly doubling Odell Beckham with a corner up and a safety over the top, meaning the giants had to go to their second and third options. Those options on Dallas are much more effective than Shepard and Cruz. I expect the Packers to keep this tactic and hope their thin secondary can cover Beasley, the Cowboys slot receiver. GB has struggled at this all year. Also, Dallas is likely to be playing from behind and may not be as patient with the run game if they go down early. Look for Beasley to see a lot of action this week.
- Taylor Gabriel- Kind of similar to the Beasley factor but with a twist. Sherman will likely be shadowing Julio as he did at the end of the last matchup between these two teams early on in the year. Gabriel is an interesting tourney play as he may not be the most lucrative option, but at home, in the dome, with no Earl Thomas on the back end for Seattle to keep everything organized, Gabriel could be primed for a big day and see more of the ball than usual. Again, this game looks like a track meet from my perspective so get some explosive exposure on the Falcons side of things.
- Davante Adams- Jordy has just been ruled out. Adams has been Rodgers second go to guy (much to the chagrin of Randall Cobb owners this year like myself). Adams should get some time with the target monster this week in Nelson’s absence. GB has little to no run game and the way to attack Dallas is through the air. Proceed with caution though. Mike Mccarthy is always liable to throw the dampest of wet blankets on your fantasy plans by either letting the Geronimo Allisons or Jeff Janis'(Jani?) of the world steal TDs for no reason.
- Deep (threat) Sleeper option-Jermaine Kearse is a good low price option to get some talented exposure on an offense that should need to score a lot and has a decent matchup.
- The ‘No Duh’ option- Antonio Brown- as we saw last week. Guy can take it the distance no matter where he catches the ball. Need a little exposure of the best WR in the NFL right now. KC pass defense be damned, AB is as matchup proof as anyone.
- The “double dip” player of the week- Tyreek Hill- Not only should the target monster be on him this week but low temps in windy KC mean low punts for him to return. Anything kicked at him this week will be returnable due to the coverage team not having ample time to get down the field because of the low hang times. Hill is a huge double dip candidate and if you’re in a large GPP, I love the Hill, KC D double dip potential. Pittsburgh and Brown is in play for that reason as well. I’m almost willing to guarantee that at least one of these scenarios plays out
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I will never admit to be an expert on anything. I’ve never won thousands on DFS or have been published or have won awards. All I try to do is read as much as I can and watch as much as I can relating to football. Looking at more than stats has gotten me above the cash line in most of my DFS contests this year. There are just some things you can set your watch to that have either simple or no numbers backing them up. My favorite stat to trash is the QB fourth quarter comeback stat. Yes it is true good QBs usually can lead their team to victories when down late in the game when lesser QBs wouldn’t BUT, that same QB probably had something to do with the team being in the hole in the first place. It’s much like a baseball pitcher walking the bases loaded and then getting a strikeout and a double play ball to end the inning. Anyway, here are a few things to keep in mind when creating your million dollar roster for daily fantasy this week.
- Andy Reid off a bye week- It’s no secret but for those that don’t know, Andy Reid is 16-2 coming off a bye week in his coaching career. He normally has his team ready to go in these situations. His players did get the entire week off last week which may become a factor. Questionable decision by Reid to interrupt the team’s routine with so much at stake. This isn’t atypical for coaches to do during the regular season so Reid might be staying consistent in that respect.
- Rookie Starters in DAL- Dallas enters the playoffs as the NFC’s number one seed and has to face a red hot Green Bay Packers team. Many people will be looking at GBs bad defensive numbers and target the Dallas passing game and of course Elliot. It is worth considering that rookie QBs and even RBs can be hard to trust, even at home, in their first playoff games. Dallas as a whole is very inexperienced in these big situations and needed a gift from the officials to win in the playoffs 2 years ago with an arguably more talented team vs a much lesser opponent. Moral of the story is you can roster your Elliot and your DAL passing game but you are putting your faith in extremely unproven commodities against the hottest team in football.
- Blount week in Foxboro- The outcome of the game between HOU and NE isn’t in question this week. Who to target for the Pats is always the hardest thing to determine and this week is no different. After carefully thinking about how this game is going to play out, you can feel good about some Blount exposure this week. Houston comes in with the top ranked defense in the NFL. Houston is a good defense for sure but they are far from a dominant defense. They will give up plenty of points to NE this week. The Pats have limited big play ability and will have plenty of opportunities from in close as they did during the regular season. Expect plenty of goal line touches and clock killing touches from the Patriots heavy hitting back Legarrette Blount. I’m going to be all over him this week.
- The Dan Quinn Factor- I was going to regurgitate the whole rookie factor in playoffs thing with Dan Quinn being the only first time playoff coach left in the playoffs but let’s look at it differently. Dan Quinn is the former defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks. His defense spent it’s time defending Russell Wilson in practice every day for the entire two years he and Russell were there together. In his one previous matchup, the Falcons lost in Seattle by 2 points and scored 21 points in the third quarter. He knows how Pete Carroll would want to attack him. This will make for an interesting scheme game within the football game. Seattle might have more pure talent than the Falcons and Carroll is a professional football coach (he has a clue) so Quinn has his work cut out for him. You can target Falcons passing game with confidence because of the falcons strong knowledge of how Seattle wants to operate. Don’t expect big leads either way so there will be incentive for Ryan to throw. (Insert obligatory Matt Ryan at home or Matt Ryan in playoffs take here).
This column will focus less on the sabermetrics of the football games and more about tangible “football” things you can see with your own two eyes. Coaching for nearly a decade at the high school level has given me perspective other DFS writers may overlook in the interest of statistics. Stats are useful but should not be relied upon. Games are played and coached by humans and not computers. This and following article will give you a look at the game that can sometimes be unquantifiable.
QBs to Target:
This slate only offers us 8 QBs to choose from. Though a small slate, there is tons of value for guys that you may otherwise overlook based on the matchup. Here’s who to go with:
MATT RYAN: Ryan faces a Seattle defense that is traveling across the country on a short week. Matt Ryan at home has been a huge target for DFS players throughout his career even if the matchup dictates otherwise. The Seahawks have the name value going for them but have been extremely mediocre down the stretch since losing Earl Thomas. They have gone .500 without Thomas. They have benefitted from an easy schedule since the injury having only played one team with a winning record since the injury. Expect a lot of short passes to either backs or whomever is at the slot WR this week. This is where the Seahawks can be hurt the most. The only reason to be off him would be his past playoff performance. Different coaches this time around should help. Ryan at home, vs a banged up Seattle team traveling on a short week makes him my top QB.
AARON RODGERS: Shouldn’t need to convince anyone of this. Anyone with eyes knows he is playing lights out right now. The Packers frustrate me more than any other team because of their lack of offensive diversity but Rodgers is McCarthy proof it looks like. Dallas strikes me as similar to the Giants team Rodgers just beat. “Young” defense still looking to prove itself that may keep hold down GB for a quarter before Rodgers starts shredding them. Not having Jordy will hurt and you always have to worry about McCarthy doing something but Rodgers should be good to go vs a relatively inexperienced defense.
Pivots: ALEX SMITH, DAK (TOURNEYS)
AVOID AT ALL COSTS: BEN ROETHLISBERGER: Ben stats got super inflated last week with AB taking two short, easily defendable passes, for long scores. Anyone who watched knows Miami did not show up/had a terrible plan for attacking the Pittsburgh offense. Ben benefitted from very poor secondary play and poor schemes last week. KC will be stingier and better coached at home coming off a bye week in freezing conditions.
OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER:
- GB offensive line play: contrary to what the stats might say for the Giants D last week, Rodgers was very comfortable vs that highly touted DL save for less than a handful of plays. NYG was credited for 5 sacks. 2 came from the secondary on well designed plays where they came free. NYG also only hit Rodgers 5 times, all coming on those sacks. Expect even better play from the GB OL vs a much less talented Dallas front 7.
- Patriots D coordinator Matt Patricia has shown a tendency to be aggressive against non mobile QBs this year. Osweiler should be under fire the entire game. Houston has struggled mightily on the OL this year and the New England athletic front should give them tons of issues in a game where they will be pass protecting for the majority of the game.
Mike Cloud, Patriot legend…for three games in 2003. I was watching the 2003 Pats Superbowl DVD recently in order to forget about the end to this patriots season. While watching the goal line stand in Indy and the 3 Law INTs of Manning in the AFCCG was awesome, one thing stuck out, Mike Cloud. Mike Cloud was a Cult hero for 3 weeks during this season. He only rushed for 118 yards over 5 appearances for the Pats but scored 5 TDs during that time. Scored 2 vs the Titans while rushing for 73 yards on 7 carries. That was his coming out party. The former BC all american RB also rushed for 2 Tds vs Indy that year too. This fill in back for Injured Antwan Smith and Kevin Faulk was a shooting star that captivated New England for a month and then poof was gone in a flash. Here’s to you Cult Hero Mike Cloud
Comment any Boston Cult Heroes of the last decade or hit me on Twitter: @fozberry64