A Quick Guide To: #SpringTraining

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Spring Questions For All 30 Teams:

Will the Cubs live up to the rampant World Series expectations? Are the D-backs for real? Can David Price make his contract worth it? Are the Royals a dynasty in the making? Do the Blue Jays, Astros and Mets have staying power?

Spring Training preview materials will be loaded with these questions and more, but the obvious truth is that Spring Training itself can’t answer those questions. So the goal in this particular preview, mere days away from pitchers and catchers report dates, is to pose an actual, spring-specific question each Major League club is facing on the cusp of camp.

I’m dedicating this column to the memory of my friend and teammate Tom Singer, who suddenly passed away earlier this week. Tom was one of the more inquisitive and creative minds in the business, and I know he was looking forward to showing up at Spring Training camps and asking unique questions of his own.

Here we go….

NL East

Mets: How carefully should the young starters be eased into the season?

For the Mets, it will be a delicate balance between overworking and underworking Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard after they all saw significant innings increases due to the postseason run. Syndergaard jumped 65 2/3 innings from his 2014 total in the Minors, while deGrom and Harvey jumped 37 2/3 apiece. Because of injury, Steven Matz (15 2/3) didn’t see quite as big an increase, though he, like Syndergaard, is entering his first full Major League season, an adjustment in and of itself. These guys need to be properly prepared for the every-five-day grind, but they should also probably see a less rigorous spring workload than the typical big league starter.

Nationals: Is Trea Turner ready for the big leagues?

The Grapefruit League will be a great test of the Nats’ new-look infield. Anthony Rendon is moving back to his natural position at third base — a fine move in isolation (he grades out better defensively there than at second base). But some scouts believe Daniel Murphy would be far better suited at third than at second base and that Rendon is the better defensive option at second. And then, of course, there’s the big question at short, where the Nats’ options come down to a utility guy (Danny Espinosa) who has spent far more of his career at second, a light-hitting free-agent signee (Stephen Drew) and the top prospect (Turner), who has only played 212 games in what has already been a whirlwind pro career (including 27 with the Nats down the stretch in 2015). Lots of questions in this infield.

Marlins: Can Barry Bonds help Marcell Ozuna’s swing?

New manager Don Mattingly and new hitting coach Bonds pleaded with the front office to keep Ozuna despite the rampant trade rumblings and the disconnect between player and organization last season. Ozuna was one of eight players identified as above-average in each of the five-tool categories by Statcast™, so the potential is off the charts. But his decline in production last season — leading to a controversial stay in Triple-A — was as swift as it was stunning, and spring is an important time for Ozuna and Bonds to develop a positive working relationship.

Braves: Will Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn open any eyes with their spring at-bats?

It’s no secret the Braves would love to move one or both of these guys. So they are destined to receive a steady dose of Grapefruit League at-bats as the Braves try to garner enough interest for a salary dump swap. With Freddie Freeman working his way back from a wrist injury, perhaps Swisher will see some time at first base.

Phillies: Is Tyler Goeddel the next Odubel Herrera?

Last year, Herrera arrived as a Rule 5 Draft pickup and wound up leading the Phillies in WAR (and yes, that says as much about the Phils as it does Herrera). Now, Goeddel is the marquee Rule 5 Draft addition (the first overall pick). That he’ll make the big league club is a foregone conclusion, because the Phillies have nothing to lose by keeping him. The question is how much the athletic but unpolished Goeddel will separate himself from Aaron Altherr, Peter Bourjos and Cody Asche in the battle for playing time in Pete Mackanin’s lineup.

AL East

Blue Jays: Will Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion agree to extensions?

In the lead-up to Opening Day, the new-look front office will have to weigh the attraction of satiating the fan base and ensuring stability in the long-term lineup against the obvious risks that come with power hitters in their mid-to-late-30s. These discussions will take place when all parties arrive in Dunedin, Fla., later this month.

Yankees: CC Sabathia or Ivan Nova?

The last rotation spot is the lone source of genuine positional intrigue in Yankees camp. (That said, Starlin Castro’s continued immersion at second base and first-ever trial at third base, where the Yanks might need him as a Chase Headley backup, is interesting). Sabathia is the former Cy Young Award winner coming off a homer-prone year that ended in alcohol rehab. Nova is the Tommy John alum the Yanks tried to trade. General manager Brian Cashman has said Sabathia’s $25 million salary wouldn’t preclude the Yanks from sticking CC in the bullpen if somebody else (Nova is the obvious candidate, though Bryan Mitchell is another) wins the job outright.

Orioles: What’s the outlook for the outfield?

They’re reportedly making progress with Yovani Gallardo to fill a big hole in the rotation, so let’s focus on the outfield here. Big-bodied Hyun-soo Kim, fresh off signing a two-year contract with the O’s, will arrive from South Korea and try to prove he has the range and athleticism to handle the everyday left-field assignment. Adam Jones was tasked with covering a ton of outfield ground last year, and his performance tailed off in the last two months of the season. At the moment, right field likely belongs to Nolan Reimold, though an O’s team familiar with in-spring splashes could still sign somebody to support or replace him.

Rays: Will James Loney, Desmond Jennings or Brandon Guyer be moved?

It’s a question that presumes a healthy camp, of course, but it would solve a logjam. Dealing Loney would allow Logan Morrison and Steve Pearce to share first, Corey Dickerson to spend the bulk of his time at DH and Jennings, Kevin Kiermaier and Steven Souza Jr. to provide dependable defense in the outfield, with Guyer as a bench option vs. lefties. Or the Rays could move Jennings or Guyer and open up more at-bats for Pearce and Morrison. Whatever the case, one presumes the Rays would be seeking relief help in any deal involving their position player depth.

Red Sox: Can Hanley Ramirez handle first base?

The Red Sox don’t have any position battles, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have position issues. Hanley’s position switch last year — from shortstop to left field — wasn’t subjected to any truly challenging plays during the spring schedule, but obviously the ball is going to find him at first. Because they’re paying Ramirez a ton of money, the Red Sox have no choice but to hope this works — and the same goes for Pablo Sandoval at third. The Panda’s physical condition will, naturally, be a spring storyline all its own.

NL Central

Cardinals: What is Yadier Molina’s timetable?

Molina will spend camp’s early days not swinging the bat or catching bullpen sessions, but building strength back up in his left thumb after having a second surgery this winter. Because there’s no telling how long that process will take and how much it will affect his season preparation, it’s hard to know if Molina will be ready by Opening Day. To say getting him back in a timely matter is important for the Cards is, of course, an understatement.

Pirates: How well is Jung Ho Kang progressing?

Because of the division’s demands, the decisions to deal Neil Walker and non-tender Pedro Alvarez, and the lack of additions of bankable depth options, the Pirates can ill-afford any medical setbacks for Kang, who suffered a fractured tibial plateau and torn lateral meniscus on an ugly takeout slide by Chris Coghlan last September. The move to third base (with Jordy Mercer at short and Josh Harrison replacing Walker at second) will limit Kang’s lateral movement when he returns. As of now, the Pirates are expecting him back in April, with Sean Rodriguez (last seen assaulting a water cooler) filling in and Minor League free agent Cole Figueroa competing for a bench job.

Cubs: Can Kyle Schwarber improve in left field?

As much as we love this Cubs lineup, there’s no denying there are defensive concerns in the outfield, where Jorge Soler had some surprising struggles in ’15, Jason Heyward is moving from right to center and, most importantly, Schwarber was a mess during the NLCS. Schwarber has been working on his first step and flexibility this winter, and that work will be put to the test in Arizona. But his efforts in left coincide with his work behind the plate, where he still hopes to remain an option long-term. Combine all of this with Schwarber’s bid for more at-bats against left-handed pitching, and the kid’s got a lot on his plate.

Brewers: How’s Ryan Braun feeling?

Not that the Brewers are making an earnest effort to contend in 2016, but Braun could stillpotentially play himself into a viable trade chip (provided the Brew Crew is willing to eat some cash, of course) if he’s healthy and producing the way he did for much of ’15. Braun had surgery for a herniated disc in the offseason, but he won’t have a clear idea of how well his back is responding until the regular swings that come in the Cactus League.

Reds: Will a market develop for Jay Bruce?

He only remains in Cincinnati as a function of the unusually deep and late-developing free-agent outfield market this winter, because the Reds, now in full-on rebuild mode, were motivated to move him. Most likely, Bruce will start the season with the Reds and try to piece together enough of a bounce-back campaign to become July trade bait. But all it takes is one spring injury elsewhere to suddenly make the idea of dealing for Bruce more palatable for a contending club. The Reds also have to hope Zack Cozart’s grisly knee injury last year hasn’t affected his defense at short, because he, too, could play himself into trade-chip status.

AL Central

Royals: Can Christian Colon steal playing time from Omar Infante?

In the third year of a four-year deal, Infante will make $7.75 million, and there was a time when that fact alone would settle him into a starting spot for this small-market club. But you might have noticed things are a little different in the realm of the Royals these days, and they’re calling this a legitimate position battle between Infante and Colon, who drove in the winning run in the World Series Game 5 clincher. (Top prospect Raul A. Mondesi will also get consideration but is far more likely to start the season in the Minors). Sure, the Royals are paying Infante a good amount of money, but, hey, they took Colon ahead of Matt Harvey in the 2010 Draft! One way or another, they’ll look for better returns on both of these investments.

Twins: Will Miguel Sano stick in right?

Byung Ho Park’s transition to the bigs is also a major matter in Minnesota, but Sano’s defensive work — directly related to Park’s arrival — will be a more pressing spring concern. Torii Hunter will be in camp as a special assistant to work with the 6-foot-4 Sano in the outfield, and the Twins’ lineup alignment demands that this experiment be successful. Sano was tasked with dropping 20 pounds this winter. Citing a desire to maintain his power, he dropped just five. He’s agile for his size, but this is undoubtedly a big test for him.

Indians: Will Michael Brantley continue his rapid recovery?

He’s the key to the whole darn thing for an Indians team projected by FanGraphs to have the best record in the division despite a less-than-dynamic winter. Brantley didn’t have surgery on his lead shoulder until early November, which means you can count him out for Opening Day and likely all or most of April. But because his recovery has progressed so well so far, Brantley must avoid the temptation to do too much too soon, lest he suffer a setback that crushes a Tribe club already prone toward slow starts.

White Sox: What’s up at short?

Tyler Saladino played terrific defense at third base for the Sox down the stretch last season, but his 68 OPS+ detracted from his value. So it’s an open question whether he’s ready for prime time at a prime spot, and he could be pushed in camp by top prospect Tim Anderson. The other, still-lingering question here is whether the Sox will wind up too tempted by Ian Desmond’s reduced price tag to pass him up. With a protected top-10 Draft pick, the White Sox are better positioned to sign Desmond than many others in the market.

Tigers: Can Bruce Rondon work his way into the bullpen plans?

Well, obviously we’ll be playing close attention to the statuses of Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. But they’ve both had a healthy offseason, so, at this point, there’s little reason to doubt they’ll be in the Opening Day lineup and, hopefully, ready to produce. But Rondon’s dismissal from the club due to a lack of effort makes him an interesting figure in camp. The Tigers’ bullpen has a new closer in Francisco Rodriguez and better balance overall, but there’s always room for a motivated flamethrower. We’ll soon learn for sure if Rondon is committed to winning the respect of his teammates.

NL West

Dodgers: Will Hyun-Jin Ryu be ready by Opening Day?

And if so, what does that mean for fellow lefty Alex Wood? The Dodgers have assembled rotation depth to allow Ryu to ease into action, rather than rush back from labrum surgery. So the most likely outcome is that he starts the season in extended Spring Training or on a rehab assignment. But the Dodgers could also be tempted to take advantage of Wood’s ability to be optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Giants: How is Joe Panik’s back?

He’s 25 years old and coming off an All-Star season. But that season was cut short by back woes. Doctors have not discovered any structural damage, so Panik did not have surgery. But only time and performance will dictate whether this will be a persistent problem for a club all too familiar with back issues involving their second basemen (see: Sanchez, Freddy and Scutaro, Marco).

D-backs: Can Yasmany Tomas acquit himself in the outfield?

In their bold bid to take a major competitive step forward, there’s no denying the D-backs sacrificed defense by involving Ender Inciarte in the Shelby Miller swap. The question is how much. Tomas enters the year as an everyday corner outfielder (Arizona is still unsure whether he’ll remain in right or swap spots with left fielder David Peralta) after proving he can’t handle the hot corner. Tomas has indicated he’s more comfortable in right field, though the D-backs might prefer to have the better defender there and use this spring to get Tomas acclimated to left. And oh by the way, Tomas, who had a .707 OPS last season, needs to hit, too.

Padres: Can Andrew Cashner limit walks and neutralize lefties?

Yeah, yeah, the spring results don’t matter. But scouts are in the stands for a reason. Cashner is a guy with ace-quality potential when he’s right — and that’s a big deal for a Padres team either hoping to surprise some people in the NL West or use Cashner as a valuable trade piece midseason (or even sooner). Last year, Cashner’s effectiveness against left-handed hitters spiraled (.383 wOBA vs. a .294 mark a year earlier), and his overall walk rate jumped to 8.2 percent.

Rockies: What will Jose Reyes’ punishment be?

In invoking punishments under the sports’ domestic violence policy for the first time, Commissioner Rob Manfred has big decisions to make with Reyes, Yasiel Puig and Aroldis Chapman. But Reyes is the only member of that group who is facing a criminal procedure. He has pleaded not guilty to domestic abuse charges, and his trial is slated to begin April 4 (Opening Day, of course). Manfred can make his decision independent of those proceedings, and there’s no telling how stiff the penalty will be. Reyes is the Rockies’ highest-paid player and a guy they hoped would rebuild his offensive value (and, ergo, his trade value) at Coors Field. Right now, there’s no way of knowing when or if he’ll be on the field in 2016.

AL West

Rangers: Can Jurickson Profar get back in baseball shape?

We’ll venture away from the obvious intrigue surrounding Yu Darvish’s timetable, because, by all accounts, he’s still on track for a May return. Profar provides intrigue of his own. This is a guy who was once considered the top prospect in the game, but hasn’t played a single inning in the field the last two years because of shoulder issues that eventually required surgery. Profar’s bat action as a designated hitter in the Arizona Fall League caught the attention of scouts, and several teams contacted the Rangers in an attempt to buy low on the middle infielder. The Rangers wisely held onto him, and they’ll ease him back into action in the field this spring. His odds of making the big league club are slim to none, barring injury to somebody else. But the Rangers are about to see if Profar can emerge as an important depth piece in their bid to win the AL West again.

Astros: Will Evan Gattis be ready for Opening Day?

It was revealed this week that Gattis required surgery for a sports hernia, sidelining him for four to six weeks. That’s going to hurt his ability to get his timing back before the end of Grapefruit League play, so the Astros will dole out more playing time to Jon Singleton, Matt Duffy, A.J. Reed, Tyler White and Preston Tucker. While the Astros, in letting Chris Carter walk, might generally be trying to get away from the all-or-nothing approach that was one of their calling cards in ’15, Gattis is still clearly a key cog in this offense. He was also hopeful of increasing his value to the team beyond his DH duties, losing weight and doing catching drills in the offseason.

Angels: What’s Albert Pujols’ timetable?

The Angels are getting crushed in many corners for not doing more to improve their production potential around Mike Trout, opting instead for a more contact-heavy approach. Maybe the Halos have it right, but there’s little denying that their lineup look demands healthy and productivity from Pujols, who is working his way back from November surgery on the plantar plate of his right foot. Pujols is already hitting off a tee but is not expected to resume full baseball activities until March, putting Opening Day in jeopardy. Pujols rushed back to action too quickly in 2013, to the point that it affected his performance, and the Angels don’t want that to happen again.

Mariners: Can James Paxton win a rotation spot?

Technically, it’s Taijuan Walker, Nate Karns and Paxton for two spots, though you’d have to imagine the 29 starts and the progress Walker made as ’15 evolved give him the inside edge on one of those. Karns was Dipoto’s first addition in a busy offseason, but Paxton is the guy who was long lauded as one of the M’s prominent prospects. Injury issues have limited Paxton to 30 career starts over parts of three Major League seasons, but the left-hander has dropped some pounds and will come to camp intent on proving he’s ready to turn his potential into production. Other guys potentially in the mix for that last spot are Mike Montgomery, Joe Wieland and Vidal Nuno. Paxton seemingly has the most upside of those options, but he’s got to earn it.

Athletics: What is the rotation beyond Sonny Gray?

Oakland has probably one of the most — if not the most — unsettled rotation situations in the big leagues. The A’s signed Rich Hill with the intent of inserting him into the rotation, though he hasn’t been a regular starter at this level since 2009. After Gray and Hill, it’s a wide-open competition involving Kendall Graveman, Jesse Hahn, Chris Bassitt, Sean Nolin and possibly even Jarrod Parker (who is attempting to come back from two elbow surgeries) and Sean Manaea (a promising trade acquisition who hasn’t pitched above Double-A but who manager Bob Melvin has called a “wild card” in the rotation battle). Should be fun to watch this evolve.

Source: A Spring Training question for all 30 MLB teams.

Power Ranking All 30 MLB Starting Rotations Entering 2016 Spring Training:

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Rejoice! Spring training is almost upon us, bringing to an end what has been a hectic offseason, one that saw a slew of starting pitchers change uniforms, whether via free agency or trade. Keeping up with what your favorite team’s rotation looks like, much less the competition’s, has been challenging at times.

Read: Power Ranking All 30 MLB Starting Rotations Entering 2016 Spring Training

5 Things To Know: #NFL Tuesday Morning Quarterback

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1.

It’s A Clown-Show Bro!

If you want to hoot with the owls, you have to be able to soar with the eagles – the problem for Manziel is, he’s a turkey.  Allegedly, he was spotted in Vegas.  Allegedly Johnny was wearing a Ric Flair-wig and a Bobby Valentine-mustache and went by the name Billy.  Allegedly he showed up drunk to the Browns facility.  We say allegedly because there is an Instagram of him on Sat.Night with his dogs.  Documenting, that Johnny-Boozeball was home.

We know better.  We are watching the vortex of dumb that is Manziel play out like he is Charlie Sheen and we all get to witness the Adonis DNA, mixed with tiger blood that still cannot read a defense and no one believes that Johnny even cares.  But hey, the Browns have the 2nd pick – ain’t that right Jimmah?!


2.

FanDuel – 2×4’s and Milk

Source: NFL Week 17 Retrospectacle: Peyton Manning’s Return Makes Things Interesting

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QB Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers (32.72 FanDuel points)—He finished as the No. 1 fantasy quarterback with his 293-2 passing and 6-10-2 rushing. Now, he will get WR Kelvin Benjamin (knee) back next season and has turned WR Devin Funchess (7-120-1 Sunday) into a strong sidekick. It is tough to be better than Newton was this season, but his arrow is still pointing way up, even if his price will make him tough to afford this postseason and in 2016.

WR Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers (29.2)—Usually, a strong supporting receiving corps cuts a No. 1’s production from elite to very good or even merely good. The Steelers’ weaponry hardly dents Brown’s status. He is the clear No. 1 fantasy wideout and legitimately in the conversation for the No. 1 overall player in fantasy for 2016. He’s already certain to be the priciest player in FanDuel’s postseason contests after his 13-187-1 monster finish to the regular season.

Houston Texans Defense (29.0)—That was some performance against a red-hot Jacksonville Jaguars offense: eight sacks, four turnovers and a touchdown. This will be an interesting Wild Card Weekend FanDuel play at home against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Seattle Seahawks or Chiefs might be the only others in the conversation for your defensive play.

QB Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers (25.76)—If he could stay upright and healthy for a full season, he might have a chance to average the near 350-3 he put up Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. A healthy Big Ben, Le’Veon Bell (knee), Brown, Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton is a scary proposition. The Cincinnati Bengals better be ready for a shootout, especially since Big Ben hasn’t played well against them this season. Payback might be coming in spades.

QB Kellen Moore, Dallas Cowboys (25.4)—His 435-3 is as surprising as it is worthless for fantasy owners. There is no way he’s a starter in the NFL, but he might have earned himself a solid backup role for 2016.

QB Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (24.92)—Something really started clicking for Stafford and the Lions offensively after the coordinator change. There is likely an offseason of turnover coming, but Stafford (298-3) is smack dab in his prime with his arrow is still pointing up in fantasy for 2016.

WR Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions (24.7)—He is no longer a first- or second-round draft pick, but his 10-137-1 caps a strong finish and makes him a steady 80-1,100-10 candidate at age 31 next season.

RB Rashad Jennings, New York Giants (24.6)—The Giants saved the veteran’s legs in the early season, but his 27-170-1 came too late to help most fantasy owners. The fact he will be 31 next season should preclude him from being slotted as a feature back or even a starter ever again, either.

QB Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins (23.7)—As much as you might not be impressed with Tannehill yet, he is going to be due for a 4,500-30 breakthrough next season with a burgeoning star in WR Jarvis Landry (111-1,159-4) and 2016 breakout threat WR DeVante Parker (5-106-1 Sunday). Here’s to hoping the Dolphins get a gunslinging play-caller as offensive coordinator with their new regime.

WR Brandon Marshall, New York Jets (22.6)—Whether or not you care for the Jets or Marshall, FanDuel players are going to miss having him as an option in postseason contests. The 31-year-old finished 8-126-1 and posted arguably the best season of his strong, but controversial career at 109-1,502-14. You have to crop his 2016 projections down to 80-1,000-10, but he should still outproduce expectations that are set low by the game-manager at quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick.

WR Terrance Williams, Dallas Cowboys (21.3)—He saved his best for last with 8-173-0 and should be a sleeper to go 80-1,000-10 next season at age 27 if the Cowboys can find more health and consistency at quarterback.

QB Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (21.18)—His monster second half, capped by his 197-3 Sunday, puts him in the conversation for one of the top five fantasy quarterbacks for 2016. You might not love his matchup at the Minnesota Vikings next Sunday, but that matchup returned monster production in Week 13. We will be curious to see how the return of Marshawn Lynch (hernia) might affect the Seahawks’ offensive approach, because it took the Lynch injury for Wilson to take off this season.

WR Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia Eagles (20.9)—There is change coming in Philly, but Matthews proved with his strong finish (7-54-2) and season (85-997-8) that he is a No. 1 fantasy wideout no matter who the quarterback is or whom is calling the plays.

QB Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons (20.36)—He has proven he is no longer a star fantasy quarterback, but he will lead the pack of the drafted backups. There are going to be 350-3 performances, but the Falcons need someone to play off WR Julio Jones (136-1,871-8).

WR Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos (20.2)—His 5-117-1 was highlighted by his long catch and run with QB Brock Osweiler in the game, but he is far more intriguing for the second week of the postseason with a healthy Manning under center. We cannot wait to see what his price and matchup are, because there should be some FanDuel value coming our way here.

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QB Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars (5.56)—Despite the 35-touchdown Year 2 breakthrough, he choked in his fantasy finale with two interceptions, a fumble and no touchdowns. This performance proved he’s not ready to be an elite fantasy quarterback. Those are guys immune to tough matchups, which Bortles clearly wasn’t here. It’s a shame after all he has done for us in FanDuel action this season.

QB Tom Brady, New England Patriots (5.26)—Our bitter FanDuel selves might be seeking retribution from Brady and the Pats by watching them regret not putting away the AFC home-field advantage against the lame-duck Dolphins. Just 134 yards and no touchdowns? We haven’t seen a performance like that from Brady since Week 17 of 2014. On second thought, perhaps we should have known better.

RB DeAngelo Williams, Pittsburgh Steelers (3.1)—The matchup against the Browns should have revealed a stud, not a dud. He rushed just five times for eight yards, ruining what was a fantasy MVP-like second half.

WR Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh Steelers (0.5)—One catch for no yards? Come on, dude. This was the Browns, not the ’85 Bears. The only good thing to say about this is Bryant will be a cheap option if he can avoid the injury report this week.

TE Julius Thomas, Jacksonville Jaguars (2.2)—He had some moments with Bortles this season, but his 2015 finished the way it started…in the toilet. Just two catches for 12 yards and another Jags player who proved he is not elite because he is not immune to tough matchups.


3.

Cam Newton And Antonio Brown Co-#DFS-MVP’s

It was good year in Daily Fantasy Football and it is made even better when several people #win big using your reports, along with the Lineup-Analyzer – Straight-Ca$h-Homey!  With that, let’s took a look back with performances from “Eli Manning’s and Drew Brees’s shootout to David Johnson’s clutch performance in the fantasy playoffs,” Michael Beller presents the 12 best performances of the 2015 fantasy football season.


4.

These Times They Are A Changin’

Television is going to change.  It already has for most of us, and just like newspapers, if the cable/satellite companies continue to fail in understanding how people are consuming media – they will find a similar fate.  The first battle is being fought with Major League Baseball and as outlined in the Hollywood Reporter, MLB, its 30 teams, DirecTV and Comcast will have to defend the status quo in a class-action lawsuit that will change how games are distributed.  This could mean that small-market clubs and TV revenues are in danger by cord-cutters.


5.

Ultimate Value Lineup – Week 17

All we want to do is provide you valuable information at a great price.  We’ve already helped hundreds of people learn how to make some extra lettuce playing fantasy sports; so let us Teach You How to #win!

Giving you the Perfect Lineup is easy and we tweet it, post it on Facebook and create an entire post about our RESULTS, so……What about if you had the greatest value lineup of all time?  A Lineup that every player chosen had low ownership, way less, and never cost you more than $6k – well my friends this is the Ultimate Value Lineup – culled directly from the numbers and our reports – look for us on twitter when we post the less than 12% lineup and follow along with the value-madness!!!

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What You Need To Know For Wednesday, Dec. 30 2015

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1.

Degenerate Me

Last weekend was a monster for us junkies, despite what looked like insane violence on many football fields – or is it because of it? (shrugs shoulders)  Only the wetheads worry about blood on the grass during times like these, when the football gets better each week and the money you pillage from suckers, lines your pockets like fine silk.  The best being yet to come, except for maybe place like Cleveland and San Francisco who are more like bloated dead bodies floating along the ethereal abyss.

Playing with House-Money has always been risky – however, last week was swimming with sharks.  Many high-altitude rollers got eaten alive on Sunday – those that survived were clubbed like baby seals, causing an eruption of fear and grief in homesteads from coast to coast.  Strong men wept, and women hurled themselves savagely down dirty stairwells in filthy towns like Boston and Cleveland – Cripes, even in the frozen snow out here in the Rockies.

But me?  My own luck was splendid, as the Marquis used to say, as I repeatedly fleeced and humiliated two of the cruelest and most depraved degenerates in America, the infamous McCutcheon brothers from Pittsburgh.  T’was wonderful.  The arrogant swine got exactly what they deserved – a massive public beating they will never forget.  They came out here with huge wads of ca$h and revenge in their hearts for the losses they suffered last year in the very same bunker – where their doom is a constant companion.  It’s even worse during bowl-season.

2.

C’Ya Chipster

Good luck Chipster – your 1st lesson as a professional was a hard one.  You found out that going 10-6, 10-6 and 6-9 don’t mean much in Philly.  Never you mind that the Eagles have no idea how to win, because they haven’t since…….ummm, hold on, it’s right here in my notes….oh yeah, 1960.  It was 20 years later since they returned to play for a title, and another 24 until the next one – losing both – so it’s likely not until 2024 that they contend anyway.

Besides looking for another job in the #NFL – Tennessee, maybe? – you have to deal with Screamin’A dustin’ off an old narrative; as he did appearing on Mike and Mike this morning telling a classic Screamin’A story about a time he was “stopped on the street” by some Eagles players who came up to him and started talking about Chip Kelly.  Sensationalism!

The point is – you had all the control Chip and made some shaky decisions and never quite won enough to earn the cache you need.  Just remember, Bill was run out of Cleveland and it also took awhile in Foxboro before he became the man he is today – You just keep it 100 Chipster and if it doesn’t work out here, you’ll have your pick of places in college – like Baton Rouge if Les doesn’t change.

+ GOODBYE, MR. CHIP: PHILLY FIRES KELLY – Read More

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3.

(Can’t) Hold That Tiger

The Tigers wrapped up a very memorable, drama-filled football season with a record-setting 56-27 win over Texas Tech in the Advocare Texas Bowl, and it sure does feel good. One could argue that last night’s game doesn’t mean a whole heck of a lot, but after losing three of the previous four bowl games, and enduring a three-game losing streak in the month of November, it’s nice to head into the offseason on a high note. With last night’s win, the Tigers ended the season 9-3, and let’s not forget that this would have almost certainly been a 10-win season had the season-opener against McNeese State been played.

Source: Dandy Don’s LSU Recruiting and Sports News – LSU Football and More!

4.

Today in History

On December 30, 1978, Ohio State University (OSU) makes the decision to fire its 65-year-old football coach, Woody Hayes, one day after Hayes punched a player on the opposing team near the end of the Gator Bowl.

Source: OSU fires coach Woody Hayes for attacking an opposing player – Dec 30, 1978

5.

Out of Chaos Comes Order

Social issues are a minefield for athletes.  Michael Jordan was never going to be confused for Kareem when it came to social justice and attitudes.  No one is, and athletes that came after never wanted to jeopardize their image to their corporate masters – just as players today are more conscious of their “brand” then they are at times with their play.

Yet, Lebron speaks out after advocates ask him to strike games to honor Tamir Rice – is this what we want our athletes to do when every social crisis occurs?  Read more here.

Source: LeBron Speaks Out After Advocates Ask Him To Strike Games To Honor Tamir Rice

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6.

The More You Know

Week 17 – Situational Trends

By Week 17 Vegas knows which teams are truly bad. In the last five years, home underdogs of a touchdown or greater in the last week of the regular season have gone 1-33 SU and 14-20 (41%) ATS.

  • Games Matching this Criteria: Browns (+10) vs. Steelers and Dolphins (+9) vs. Patriots.

The Cardinals and Chiefs are on fire each having won nine straight games. The last 30 teams to win that many games in a row went 22-8 straight-up in their next matchup but 12-17-1 (41%) against-the-spread.

  • Games Matching this Criteria: Chiefs (-6.5) vs. Raiders and Cardinals (-4.5) vs. Seahawks.

Tom Brady and the Patriots don’t lose often but when they do, New England typically wins (40-10 straight-up) and covers (34-16 against-the-spread – 68%) the next week.

  • Games Matching this Criteria: Patriots (-9) at Dolphins.

  • ATL -4 vs. NO The Falcons are 7-3 against-the-spread in their last ten games as home favorites against the Saints.
  • AZ -4.5 vs. SEA Carson Palmer is 7-1-1 against-the-spread at home with Arizona against non-divisional opponents but 3-3 ATS vs. the NFC West.
  • BAL +7 @ CIN In the last five years, AFC North teams that have been underdogs of a touchdown or greater to the Bengals are 0-5 straight-up and 1-3-1 ATS.
  • BUF +3 vs. NYJ The Bills are 8-2 against-the-spread in their last ten home games against the AFC East.
  • CAR -10.5 vs. TB Cam Newton has never lost as a touchdown or greater favorite, he is 11-0 straight-up and 6-5 ATS.
  • CHI -1 vs. DET The Bears are 2-7-1 against-the-spread in their last ten games against the Lions.
  • CIN -7 vs. BAL The Bengals are playing for a bye in the AFC. All-time, teams that have been favored by a touchdown over the Ravens are 5-1 straight-up.
  • CLE +10 vs. PIT Cleveland has lost eight straight as double-digit underdogs against AFC North rivals but the Browns went 5-3 ATS in those games.
  • DAL -3 vs. WAS The Cowboys are 1-5 against-the-spread at home this year and are now 3-11 ATS the last three years when Tony Romo doesn’t start.
  • DEN -7.5 vs. SD Denver is 3-6-1 against-the-spread in its last ten home games as touchdown or greater favorites.
  • DET +1 @ CHI Detroit is 2-18 straight-up in its last 20 games as road dogs against the NFC North, the Lions went 9-10-1 ATS in those games.
  • GB -3 vs. MIN The Packers can clinch the NFC North with a win, Aaron Rodgers is 18-4 straight-up (14-7-1 ATS) vs. the division as a home favorite.
  • HOU -6.5 vs. JAX The Texans clinch the AFC South with a win, Houston is 15-7 straight-up all-time as a home favorite against the division.
  • IND -6 vs. TEN Indy needs a win (plus a lot of help) to make the playoffs. The Colts are just 3-4 straight-up (3-4 ATS) in home games this year.
  • JAX +6.5 @ HOU The Jags have been road dogs in 13 straight games vs. division opponents. Jacksonville went 8-4 ATS in its previous 12 games.
  • KC -6.5 vs. OAK KC has won nine straight (including four in a row vs. the AFC West) and is 7-2 against-the-spread during the winning streak.
  • MIA +9 vs. NE The Dolphins have been underdogs to the Patriots in 25 straight games, Miami went 11-13 ATS in the previous 24 contests.
  • MIN +3 @ GB The Vikings can clinch the NFC North with a win but Minnesota hasn’t won in Green Bay since 2010 and is 1-4-1 ATS in its last six games in Lambeau.
  • NE -9 @ MIA New England clinches home-field advantage with a win, the Pats have won 18 straight as touchdown favorites vs. the AFC East ( but are only 6-10-2 ATS)
  • NO +7 @ ATL This is the fifth straight division game in which the Saints have been underdogs, New Orleans covered the previous four.
  • NYG -3 vs. PHI The Giants are 2-8 ATS in the team’s last ten home games against the Eagles.
  • NYJ -3 @ BUF The Jets can clinch a playoff berth with a win against the Bills but New York has lost and failed to cover in four straight vs. Buffalo.
  • OAK +6.5 @ KC The Raiders are 14-6 against-the-spread in the team’s last 20 road games against division rivals.
  • PHI +3 @ NYG Philly is 8-2 against-the-spread in its last ten road games as underdogs against division opponents.
  • PIT -10 @ CLE Big Ben has been a double-digit road favorite seven times in his career and failed to cover in each game (including losing outright last week).
  • SD +7.5 @ DEN Philip Rivers has won six of his last ten trips to Denver and the Chargers went 7-1-2 against-the-spread in those games.
  • SEA +4.5 @ AZ In Russell Wilson’s career, the Seahawks following a loss in the regular season are 11-6 against-the-spread the next week.
  • SF +3.5 vs. STL The 49ers have been home dogs to the Rams 11 times. San Francisco is 3-8 straight-up and 5-5-1 ATS.
  • STL -3.5 @ SF The Rams aren’t favored on the road often (just 10 times in the last ten years), but when they are St. Louis covers (7-3 ATS).
  • TB +10.5 @ CAR The Bucs have lost six straight as double-digit dogs to divisional rivals but Tampa Bay went 3-3 against-the-spread in those games.
  • TEN +6 @ IND The Titans have failed to cover in seven straight road games against division rivals (1-6 straight-up as well).
  • WAS +3 @ DAL The Washington professional football team is 8-2 ATS in its last ten trips to Dallas.

5 Things To Know: Tuesday Morning Quarterback

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1. TIME TO REBUILD THE SAINTS:

Despite a last-minute surge, the New Orleans Saints dropped their ninth game of the season to the Detroit Lions by a score of 35-27 Monday night. It’s the second straight losing season and will be the third year out of the last four in which they have missed the playoffs.

In truth, the rebuild began last offseason with the trade of tight end Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks for, among other assets, center Max Unger. Then, in November, the team fired underperforming defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, though that didn’t seem to change the fortune of the defense.

Now the Saints face an offseason that will bring difficult decisions. Do they stick with head coach Sean Payton who, despite the recent struggles, has an 85-57 overall record as head coach? A message can get stale after a time, and Payton has been around for nine years (not counting the season he was suspended for Bountygate).

There has been talk of both firing Payton and trading Drew Brees. While the QB has struggled at times the last two seasons, Brees continues to perform well and put together some impressive records, including one set Monday night.

Source: After two straight losing seasons, Saints should rebuild.

Lions roar in the red zone

The Lions scored a touchdown on five of their six red-zone drives in their 35-27 triumph over the Saints on Monday night. Dating back to its Thanksgiving matchup with the Eagles, Detroit reached the end zone 15 times in a span of 16 drives inside its opponents’ 20-yard line (through the first five red-zone trips on Monday night). Over the last seven seasons (since 2009), only three other teams had such a span within one season: the 2013 Broncos, 2013 Bengals, and 2014 Broncos. Each had a conversion rate of 15-for-16.

The Lions rank first in the NFL in red-zone offense this season, having scored a touchdown on 71.4 percent (30-of-42) of drives inside their opponents’ 20-yard line. Over the last 20 seasons (since 1996), they have finished in the top two in that category twice (1996 and 2010, ranking second each time).

+ Stafford stars in Lions’ win

Matthew Stafford completed 12 of 13 passes, including three that went for touchdowns, in the first half of the Lions’ victory. Only four other active quarterbacks threw at least three touchdown passes with one-or-fewer incompletions in the opening half of a game: Aaron Rodgers in October 2010, Tony Romo in November 2011 and December 2014, Matt Ryan in December 2012, and Ryan Tannehill in October this season.

Stafford finished the night completing 88 percent of his passes (22-for-25), the highest rate for any quarterback this season and the second-highest rate in a Monday Night Football game (minimum 20 pass attempts). The Raiders’ Rich Gannon went 34-for-38 (89%) in a Monday night rout of the Broncos in November 2002 (Gannon won the NFL Most Valuable Player award that season). And in third place on that Monday Night Football list? Eli Manning (27-for-31, 87%) last Monday night.

+ Tate stays golden’

Golden Tate caught a pair of touchdown passes (one in the first quarter and another in the second) in the Lions’ win on Monday, after totaling two TD receptions in last week’s matchup with the Rams. Tate is the fourth player with multiple touchdown receptions in each of two straight games this season, joining Doug Baldwin (four straight games, Weeks 12 to 15), Ted Ginn (three, Weeks 13 to 15), and Larry Fitzgerald (two, Weeks 2 and 3). The only other Lions player to do so over the last 10 years is Calvin Johnson, who had two such streaks – a four-game run in September/October 2011 and a two-game streak in November 2013.

2. Not Derrick Henry

Source: Heisman runner-up Christian McCaffrey of Stanford Cardinal is AP top player

Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey is The Associated Press college football player of the year, becoming the first non-Heisman Trophy winner to earn the honor in six years.

McCaffrey was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy to Derrick Henry, but received 29 of 60 votes from the AP Top 25 media panel to edge the Alabama running back.

Henry received 16 votes and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson was third with 11. Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds and Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield each received two votes.


3. You’re the Worst:

The Saints defense isn’t in need of a single statistic to sum up its historically awful season — there’s more than a few readily available. Neither does Brandon Browner, the team’s starting cornerback and captain, who has been at the center of the Saints struggles both on the field and off the field.

But on Monday night, as Matthew Stafford burned the Saints defense for three touchdowns, Browner made NFL history — the kind of history that perfectly represents his first season in New Orleans. On Monday night, Browner broke the NFL’s single-season penalty record.

Source: Brandon Browner sets new low: Most penalized player in an NFL season

4. The Lake-Show

Today in Sports History

On December 22, 1971, the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA) defeat the Baltimore Bullets 127-120 in Baltimore for their 27th straight victory, breaking the previous record for the longest winning streak in professional sports. They had previously been tied with baseball’s 1011-lakers-favorite-526New York Giants, who won 26 games during the 1916 season.

Coached by Bill Sharman and led by future Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Gail Goodrich, the 1971-72 Lakers began their historic run of victories on November 5, 1971 (also over the Bullets). They set a new NBA record with their 21st win on December 11, beating the Atlanta Hawks 104-95 and surpassing the 20-game winning streak of the Milwaukee Bucks the previous year. As Chamberlain told the press on December 22, “We did our celebrating when we won No. 21. That was the big one.”

Source: L.A. Lakers break pro sports winning streak record – Dec 22, 1971

5. Ultimate Value Lineup – Week 13

All we want to do is provide you valuable information at a great price.  We’ve already helped hundreds of people learn how to make some extra lettuce playing fantasy sports; so let us Teach You How to #win!

Giving you the Perfect Lineup is easy and we tweet it, post it on Facebook and create an entire post about our RESULTS, so……What about if you had the greatest value lineup of all time?  A Lineup that every player chosen had low ownership, way less, and never cost you more than $6k – well my friends this is the Ultimate Value Lineup – culled directly from the numbers and our reports – look for us on twitter when we post the less than 12% lineup and follow along with the value-madness!!!

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10 takeaways from #NFL Week 15

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How is that for some drama-filled NFL action?

The New York Giants mounted an amazing comeback attempt against the Carolina Panthers with a backdrop of tempers flaring on both sides.

Meanwhile, the Arizona Cardinals clinched the NFC West title after obliterating the Philadelphia Eagles on the road Sunday night.

In the AFC, the Pittsburgh Steelers may have changed the playoff race on a dime with a 17-point comeback win against the Denver Broncos.

Staying in that conference for a second, a Buffalo Bills loss to the Washington Redskins guaranteed that Rex Ryan’s squad will miss the playoffs for a 17th consecutive season. It also gave Washington a clear path to the NFC East title.

These are among the top 10 takeaways from Sunday’s Week 15 NFL action.

A frustrated Odell Beckham Jr. should face a suspension

It’s understandable that this talented young New York Giants receiver would be frustrated going up against one of the top corners in the NFL in Josh Norman of the Carolina Panthers.

It’s not understandable to react in a manner that shows him in a classless way.

What we do know now is that the NFL believes Beckham Jr. should have been ejected from the game. It remains to be seen what the league office will do during the week, but all options should be considered to be on the table here.

On a micro level, this could end up being really bad news for a Giants squad that needs a ton of help in order to win the NFC East. If it is forced to take on the Minnesota Vikings without its top receiver, that could be the end of the line for New York’s playoff aspirations.

More than this, the spats between Beckham Jr. and Norman, which resulted in five personal foul penalties, was a black eye for a league that has had too many of them in recent months/years.

For that, Beckham Jr. — as the unofficial face of young players around the NFL — should be ashamed.

Time to take the Kansas City Chiefs seriously

Following a blowout 34-14 win over the hapless Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City has now won eight consecutive games. And at 9-5 on the year, the Chiefs find themselves in control of their own destiny as it relates to the fifth seed in the AFC.

This is big for numerous reasons. First off, if the Chiefs are able to maintain this seeding, they would take on the winner of the AFC South in the wild card round of the playoffs.

Considering how bad that division has been, Kansas City might very well have an easy road to the divisional round of the playoffs.

The other thing to look at here is what could be a potential wild card game in the AFC that could see an Andy Dalton-less Cincinnati Bengals host the sixth seed. What’s so big about that is that Kansas City could find itself taking on the Denver Broncos in the divisional round.

Not to put the carriage before the horse, Kansas City still has two games remaining — each against a team that is currently under .500 on the season.

This scenario also includes the possibility that Kansas City could win the AFC West outright should the Denver Broncos do them some favors in the final two weeks of the season.

If the Chiefs are able to take care of business in those two outings, they will head into the playoffs with a 10-game winning streak.

Based solely on what we saw Sunday against Baltimore, there’s a good chance this will happen.

Alex Smith had a workmanlike 21-of-25 day with 171 yards as the Chiefs avoided turning the ball over for the sixth time during this eight-game winning streak. Meanwhile, Kansas City forced two turnovers itself to bring its eight-game differential to plus 18.

Washington Redskins look to be NFC East favorites

Kirk Cousins compiled a perfect quarterback rating en route to a four-touchdown outing against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. It was the team’s sixth win in its past seven home games, a span of games that has seen Cousins throw 19 touchdowns compared to zero interceptions.

Now one game up on both Philadelphia and New York, the Redskins control their own destiny in the division. Though, the team is going to have to find success on the road in order to wrap this mediocre division up. With just one road win on the season, Washington closes out the season in Philadelphia and Dallas.

As it relates to Sunday’s performance, the rest of the team helped Cousins put up a statement against a Bills squad that needed a win in order to remain alive in the AFC playoff race. Alfred Morris and Matt Jones led a rushing attack that went for 123 yards on 27 attempts.

Meanwhile, the defense did just enough to fend off a second half Bills rally that saw the team put up 25 points en route to bringing a 21-point halftime deficit down to 11 at the end of three.

It wasn’t a tremendous performance from Washington’s defense in a 35-25 win, but that unit held on two huge possessions midway through the fourth quarter to put the game away.

Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars blow golden opportunities

Indianapolis lost at home to a Brandon Weeden-led Houston Texans team. It’s highly unlikely you need us to repeat that sentence, but here goes. Indianapolis lost at home to a Brandon Weeden-led Houston Texans team.

That pretty much sums up just how bad the Colts have played this season. It also came in a game that could have sent the team into sole possession of first place in what has been a horrible AFC South this season.

Instead, Indianapolis now finds itself one game back with two remaining. The Colts were also eliminated from wild card contention, meaning the division title is the team’s only path to the playoffs.

With the second season now looking like a long shot, the larger question here is whether Chuck Pagano will be back next year. Based on Sunday’s performance in particular, that also seems like a long shot.

You simply can’t lose at home against a team that was led by a third-string quarterback that found himself picked up off the street just earlier this month. Excuses surrounding Andrew Luck’s injury are one thing. Not coming to play in an important game is a completely different thing.

Taking on an Atlanta Falcons team that had lost six of its past seven heading into Sunday’s action, the Jacksonville Jaguars also blew a golden opportunity.

With a win at home, Gus Bradley’s squad would have found itself one game back in the AFC South with two games remaining.  Instead, it is on the verge of being eliminated from playoff contention following a game it had every opportunity to win.

The biggest play in this one came in the second quarter with the clock winding down to halftime. With Jacksonville driving down to Atlanta’s one-yard line, Blake Bortles threw an ill-time interceptions into the hands of Falcons safety Kemal Ishmael, who proceeded to return the ball 84 yards down to the Jaguars 16.

This came with Atlanta up 14-3 and the Jaguars threatening to make it a one-score game. Instead, the Falcons opened up a 17-3 lead heading into the half and didn’t look back.

As good as Bortles has been this season, these types of mistakes have been too common. It’s also the difference between earning a playoff spot and finishing below .500.

Jacksonville surely does have a bright future, but it doesn’t appear to be there quite yet. That much was evident on Sunday.

Another season without playoff football in Western New York

By virtue of their loss to the Washington Redskins on Sunday, the Buffalo Bills will miss the playoffs for the 17th consecutive year.

It’s a harsh reality for a team that headed into the season with high expectations and a confident mentality under first-year head coach Rex Ryan.

And in reality, there isn’t a whole lot pointing to the Bills finding a way to rebound from this near two-decade long span of mediocrity.

To be sure, there is a ton of talent on this team. Tyrod Taylor has proven himself to be a legitimate starting quarterback in the NFL — something Ryan himself hasn’t had since Mark Sanchez’s first couple seasons in New York.

There is also a ton of talent at wide receiver, especially second-year player Sammy Watkins. Heck, LeSean McCoy has proven himself worthy of a potential Pro Bowl spot at running back this year.

On defense, the Bills boast a really good young secondary and a front four that should continue to perform at a relatively high level.

Still, there seems to be something missing here. The past several weeks were defined by close losses and an uncharacteristically bad defense. Prior to that, the Bills’ struggles were mainly summed up by injuries and a lethal amount of penalties.

The talent is surely here for Buffalo to contend for a playoff spot. But something larger needs to change moving forward. This is something Ryan and Co. will have to figure out prior to taking the field next September.

Ship righted in Minnesota

It took Adrian Peterson leaving the game for a bit due to an ankle injury for Teddy Bridgewater to finally break out of his year-long slump Sunday against the Chicago Bears.

He completed 17-of-20 passes for 231 yards with a career-high four touchdowns in a dominating 38-17 home win.

It was the first time all season that Minnesota’s offense ran through its quarterback rather than the future Hall of Fame running back.

It also tells us a story of an offense that could be looking at more balance heading into the final two weeks of the season — something that will be a necessity when all is said and done. It’s rather simple for the Vikings to get into the playoffs. If they are able to win one of the final two games, they are in.

More than this, Minnesota isn’t completely out of the NFC North race. It takes on the Giants next week before squaring off with the Green Bay Packers to close out the regular season. If the pieces all into place here, Minnesota could very well earn the division title.

Antonio Brown is a freak of nature

Following a 16-catch performance against the Denver Broncos on Sunday, Brown has now caught 245 passes in his past 30 games. Yes folks, that’s an average of over eight catches per game. He’s also caught 70 percent of the whopping 165 passes thrown in his direction this season.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that Brown is playing at a level we have rarely seen as it relates to NFL receivers. On Sunday against a top-ranked Broncos defense, that was magnified to a T.

And in reality, Pittsburgh needed every one of those catches — including a game-clinching first-down reception late in the fourth quarter — to complete what was an amazing 17-point comeback to put his team in a position to control its destiny in the AFC playoff race.

Brown isn’t going to break the single-season reception record unless he finds a way to nab 24 receptions over the final two games. This doesn’t discount the fact that he’s been a historical figure for Pittsburgh over the past two seasons.

It just remains to be seen whether that will be enough to get his team in the playoffs in what has proven to be a remarkably good AFC this season.

Cam Newton: NFL’s MVP

The Carolina Panthers survived an incredible comeback attempt by the New York Giants to remain undefeated on the season. They are now just the fourth team in NFL history to start a year 14-0.

With two more wins, the Panthers will earn a bit of history by being only the second team to go through a 16-game regular season with a perfect record.

To be clear: Newton is the primary reason for what has been one of the most-surprising seasons for a team in the recent history of the league.

With five more touchdown passes on Sunday, Newton has reached that plateau in three of his past five starts and has now compiled 40 total touchdowns compared to just 10 interceptions on the season, including a 19-to-1 split over the past five games.

It’s not a coincidence that Carolina is averaging a league-best 32 points per game, including nearly 40 points over the past four games.

We can talk about Russell Wilson’s recent run of excellence. We can also include New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the conversation. Heck, both J.J. Watt and Josh Norman might deserve some consideration on the defensive side.

None of them have done more with less than Newton. After all, Ted Ginn is his No. 1 receiver on the outside and Michael Oher has been tasked with protecting his blindside.

Despite all this, Newton has his Panthers two games from perfection in a season that seemed to have mediocrity written all over it. That’s the true representation of most valuable.

Carolina needs to watch out for those western teams

Arizona and Seattle have both clinched playoff spots. They are coming off a week of action which saw them outscore their opponents by a combined 40 points.

Arizona has now won eight consecutive games by an average of 11 points per outing. Meanwhile, Seattle has won five consecutive by an average of 20 points since losing to the Cardinals back in Week 10.

Outside of Carolina and Kansas City, these are the two hottest teams in the NFL. They also boast some of the best all-around talent in the league.

While the Panthers will likely avoid having to play Arizona until the NFC Championship game if both teams were to advance that far, they might have to host Seattle in the divisional round of the playoffs. That would be a less-than-ideal scenario for the unbeaten Panthers.

Not that any of this really matters. Cam Newton and Co. know full well that the road to Santa Clara and Super Bowl 50 will run through Carolina.

It’s now all about continuing to take care of business on the field and not worrying about those squads breathing down their backs. If that happens, the Panthers will be just fine when all is said and done.

Playoff picture taking shape

Six spots, two in the AFC and four in the NFC, have been wrapped up heading into Week 15. Outside of one final wild card spot and the NFC East, playoff positioning is the only drama remaining in the NFC.

Meanwhile, it’s possible we could be looking at tiebreakers making the decision as it relates to the two wild card spots in the AFC.

Here’s what we do know right now.

The Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots have all clinched division titles. Meanwhile, the Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks and Cincinnati Bengals have locked up playoff spots.

In the ultra-competitive AFC, the Pittsburgh Steelers hold the tiebreaker over the New York Jets for the sixth and final playoff spot.

Winners of eight in a row, Kansas City has a clear hold on the fifth spot. It can also earn the AFC West title with wins in the team’s final two games and help from the Denver Broncos, who have not clinched a playoff spot themselves quite yet.

There is actually a scenario in play here that could exclude the Broncos from the postseason. This would require the Jets winning out with Pittsburgh finishing in a virtual tie with a Denver team that loses one of its final two games. If that were to happen New York would make it in over the Broncos.

Head spinning yet?

Just wait until Week 16 action. Washington travels to Philadelphia for a chance to wrap up the division against an Eagles team that actually still controls its destiny in the NFC East following its blowout loss to Arizona on Sunday.

The Jets host New England in a game it must win in order to remain viable in the AFC playoff race.

Meanwhile, Green Bay travels to the desert to take on a Cardinals team that’s looking to wrap up a first-round bye. A win here by the Packers and they could in fact remain alive for said first-round bye.

Then on Monday night, Cincinnati heads to Denver to take on the Broncos in a game that could decide the No. 2 seed in the AFC — a game that could also help Kansas City earn what would be one of the most shocking division titles in recent NFL history.

Stay tuned. It’s going to be an absolute blast.

Source: Top 10 takeaways from Sunday’s Week 15 action

5 Things To Know: Tuesday Morning Quarterback

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1. C’Mon Man!:

Is this Odell’s best catch of the year or was it last week against Washington?  Odell had 2 TD’s and 166 yards and the Giants beat the ‘Fins to continue a 3-way atop the NFC (L)east.  If you’re a Patriots fan you hope kryptonite doesn’t make the playoffs – furthermore, if that happens and Eli wins it all – we’ll have to hear about a new category of quarterback – Worst Elite QB of all time.  Seriously, Eli is like a box o’chocolates.

Too much Manning and Beckham for Dolphins

Eli Manning completed 87 percent of his passes on Monday (27 of 31), including an 84-yard, go-ahead touchdown to Odell Beckham in the Giants win in Miami. That’s the highest completion percentage in a regular-season game by a Giants player who threw at least 20 passes, although all Giants fans of a certain age remember Phil Simms completing 88 percent (22 of 25) in the Giants win over the Broncos in Super Bowl XXI.

Manning and Beckham have now connected on three touchdown passes that covered 80 or more yards, the highest total for any duo in Giants history.

2. FanDuel – 2×4’s and Milk

Source: NFL Week 14 Retrospectacle: Another Window of Opportunity Closes

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QB Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (32.28 FanDuel points)—His increased production since Marshawn Lynch (hernia) went down probably shouldn’t be considered a coincidence. The Seahawks have opened it up and Wilson has responded. His matchup at home vs. the Cleveland Browns in Week 15 looks like a dream, too.

WR Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks (29.2)—As much as Wilson has gone off post-Lynch, Baldwin has been bonkers post-Jimmy Graham (knee). The Wilson ($8,800)-Baldwin ($7,400) is still relatively cap-friendly, too.

RB Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland Browns (27.9)—The true takeaway from this performance for one-week fantasy players is not the value of Crowell ($5,700) in a tough road matchup next week at Seattle. That’s minimal. Stacking plays against the lowly San Francisco 49ers is the real lesson here. Hello, Bengals’ Hill ($6,000) and Bernard ($5,600), especially with Dalton (thumb) out.

RB Todd Gurley, St. Louis Rams (27.2)—Forget all that rookie wall talk, eh? The breakout running back of the season was a monster in just 16 rushes and one reception against the Detroit Lions. He should be plenty capable for 20-plus touch effort, carrying the Rams against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night.

QB Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars (25.7)—Most of his Year 2 credit has gone to his receiving corps, but this performance was eye-opening because Allen Robinson ($8,100)managed just one reception for four yards and Bortles still enjoyed a huge day. That matchup at home against the struggling Atlanta Falcons at $7,900 sure looks inviting, particularly with all of his receivers healthy right now.

WR Ted Ginn Jr., Carolina Panthers (25.5)—As consistently excellent the Panthers andCam Newton ($9,400) are, the receivers have been tough to figure. Ginn ($6,600) has five touchdown receptions in three games though, and has a matchup looming against the worst pass defense in football coming off a short week, the New York Giants.

WR Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks (25.4)—The rookie has reeled in 13 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns in his past two games. His $6,000 price, involvement in the offense of late and the re-emergence of Wilson make Lockett an intriguing value play.

QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York Jets (24.82)—If you love the run and price of Bortles, but don’t like following the sheep, perhaps Fitzy is your alternative for Week 15 at $7,800. Him and his two physical receivers Brandon Marshall ($8,500) and Eric Decker ($7,500)are on a roll.

RB James Starks, Green Bay Packers (24.3)—The Packers have shown a commitment to the run, which is not surprising this time of year. Starks ($5,800) will remain involved as the receiving back at the Oakland Raiders next week, too.

WR Golden Tate, Detroit Lions (24.0)—If this performance intrigues you, you will want to load up on Tate ($6,900) and Calvin Johnson ($8,000) for Monday night magic at the New Orleans Saints and their woeful secondary.

QB Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers (23.0)—He deserves the NFL and fantasy MVP awards this season. He turns water into wine every week with his modest supporting cast. Next week against that Giants secondary might send him over 40 FanDuel points.

QB Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans (22.86)—It should be noted he scored up with the NFL Week 14 leaders despite failing to throw a touchdown pass. The run has been an increasingly important part of his game in recent weeks and should keep him productive at $7,300 next Sunday at the New England Patriots—even in a blowout.

TE Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins (22.5)—He was coming off one of his worst performances this season, but this effort proves his importance to the Redskins’ attack. Reed ($6,300) should be a red-zone threat against the Buffalo Bills next Sunday, too.

Carolina Panthers Defense (23.0)—The Panthers rebounded from a disappointing effort against the Saints to enjoy their best performance of the season. A matchup against Eli Manning and the error-prone Giants is next, too.

Jacksonville Jaguars Defense (23.0)—They have been difficult to trust, but three of the past four games at home have been very kind to this unit in terms of fantasy production. The struggling Falcons come to town in Week 15, which makes the Jags an interesting play at a mere $4,400.

K Chris Boswell, Pittsburgh Steelers (18.0)—As much as you have to love the productivity of the Steelers offense and their kicker, a matchup against the Denver Broncos’ defense looms. Boswell looks like a bad buy at $5,000 for that one.

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QB Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13.68)—This wasn’t a complete dud, but the expectations against the Saints defense were sky high. Winston goes down as a FanDuel bum for his failing to torch the Saints.

QB Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals (1.36)—It was a promising day against the suspect Steelers secondary that ended in insults and injury. Dalton not only cost you in Week 14, but he is now down for the fantasy season with a fractured thumb (throwing hand).

RB C.J. Spiller, New Orleans Saints (2.4)—This one should go down as a career dis-stink-tion. Spiller had an opportunity with Mark Ingram (shoulder) done for the season. Instead, Spiller took the opportunity to show fantasy just how truly worthless he is. Tim Hightower ($6,300) is the Saints back to consider.

RB Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals (3.4)—Let’s chalk this bad news up as good news. Hill, who shouldn’t have been used against the rugged Steelers run defense anyway, is down to $6,000 on the FanDuel price list and the ball should be in his hands early and often going forward.

WR Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos (0.7)—You think Brock Osweiler ($6,700)should be anointed as the Broncos’ quarterback for the rest of the season over future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning (foot)? Not so fast. Ask Sanders’ fantasy owners.

WR Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys (1.4)—Just one catch for nine yards. Ugh. FanDuel probably shouldn’t even bother listing him the rest of the season, even if his price is down to $6,900.

WR Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions (2.1)—As disappointing as one catch for 16 yards is, we cannot wait to load up on Johnson ($8,000) for some Monday night FanDuel magic against the Saints in Week 15.

TE Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs (3.3)—The season opened with so much hope and is concluding with so much fantasy disappointment here. He had as many touchdowns in Week 1 as he has had in the 13 weeks thereafter (two). Yuck!


3. Even Year = Giants ru#Win it All – Again:

Cueto is a pretty good consolation prize for a Giants team that missed out on both David Price and Zack Greinke. He’s been one of the best pitchers in the league since 2012, and although he struggled a bit in the second half of last season, $130 million is a good deal for a guy who has the potential to be a true ace.

Source: Giants Sign Johnny Cueto, Make The NL West More Interesting

4. Juice Got Loose, pt.1

Tomorrow in Sports History

 On December 16, 1973, the Buffalo Bills running back Orenthal James “OJ” Simpson becomes the first player in the National Football League (NFL) to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a single season.

After leading the University of Southern California (USC) Trojans to a Rose Bowl victory and winning the Heisman Trophy, Simpson was drafted by Buffalo as the first pick in the 1969 NFL draft. He struggled for several seasons on weak Buffalo teams but first rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 1972, ending the season with a league-leading 1,251. The following year, he totaled 219 rushing yards against the New England Patriots in the next-to-last game of the season, putting his total at 1,803. On December 16, with the Bills facing the New York Jets in New York’s Shea Stadium, Simpson rushed for another 200 yards, for a record-setting total of 2,003.

Source: OJ Simpson rushes record 2,000 yards in a season – Dec 16, 1973

5. Ultimate Value Lineup – Week 13

All we want to do is provide you valuable information at a great price.  We’ve already helped hundreds of people learn how to make some extra lettuce playing fantasy sports; so let us Teach You How to #win!

Giving you the Perfect Lineup is easy and we tweet it, post it on Facebook and create an entire post about our RESULTS, so……What about if you had the greatest value lineup of all time?  A Lineup that every player chosen had low ownership, way less, and never cost you more than $6k – well my friends this is the Ultimate Value Lineup – culled directly from the numbers and our reports – look for us on twitter when we post the less than 12% lineup and follow along with the value-madness!!!

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9 Things To Know – #NFL Weekend Update

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1. Calvin and the Lions

Detroit survived a pair of missed extra points in an 18-16 victory at Green Bay, and a huge mistake from Calvin Johnson. The Lions’ streak of 20 consecutive regular-season losses at Lambeau Field, which began 20 years and one month earlier, was the longest in NFL history by any team at any stadium.

Of course, Green Bay’s dominance at home had extended well beyond its games against Detroit, particularly with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback against struggling teams. Rodgers had won 21 consecutive home games against opponents with a losing record at the time of kickoff, dating back to 2009.

Ironically, Matt Prater, who missed two extra-point conversions for the Lions on Sunday, finished the day as something of a hero, having kicked field goals of 49 and 51 yards in Detroit’s two-point victory. Prater was the first player in NFL history to miss two extra points but kick two field goals of 40 yards or longer in the same game. Only one other player kicked two FGs of 49 yards or longer in the same game at Lambeau Field: longtime Lions kicker Jason Hanson in 2010.

2. What’s Wrong With Aaron?

The Packers have lost three in a row. The good news is that the team built up some margin for error with a 6-0 start. But, that is mostly eroded now, and they need to start playing better immediately for this season to be a meaningful one. Though Green Bay had a chance to steal Sunday’s game against Detroit, a win may have masked some structural deficiencies. Right now, this is an average football team, or worse. Here’s hoping that the team is more aware that major adjustments are necessary than they are letting on publicly……(continue reading)

3. Sunday Was a Bad Day To Be a QB

The NFL’s Week 10 schedule featured some quarterback performances we’d all like to forget about.

Some of the worst showings from the league’s leading men were put forth by the usual suspects, while others were definite surprises.

This upcoming list would be even longer if not for some outstanding late-game efforts by a couple of superstars who pulled themselves and their teams up by the bootstraps after sub-par outings, saving the best for last.

The following quarterbacks would love to have a do-over after poor showings in Week 10……(continue reading)

4. OBJ and the Giants Can’t Close Out The Champs

You can debate all you want whether Odell Beckham Jr. technically “caught” a potential game-winning touchdown Sunday, but he knows there should never have even been any doubt.

The New York Giants wide receiver came close to snagging a go-ahead score with 2:02 remaining and the Giants trailing the New England Patriots 24-23. The superstar wideout had the ball in his grasp and came down in the endzone before Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler knocked the ball loose. The play was reviewed and it was ruled Beckham didn’t complete the catch……(continue reading)

5. All-Day and the Best of Sunday

Week 10 of the NFL season saw Peyton Manning break another passing record, the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers improve to 9-0 and the Detroit Lions win a game in the state of Wisconsin for the first time in almost a quarter century.

Sunday also saw Manning benched during the worst game of his career, the Lions nearly choke away said win and a couple of disastrous defensive performances.

Here is the rest of the best and worst from the NFL’s tenth week……(continue reading)

6. Edelman Broken Foot

Tom Brady looked a little downtrodden when he took the podium after the New England Patriots’ dramatic last-second win over the New York Giants on Sunday.

It seemed a little peculiar to see Brady at anything less than elated given the nature of the incredible comeback victory. But there was good reason for Brady’s lack of exuberance. One, of course, was just straight fatigue, both physical and emotional.

The other reason was Julian Edelman.

The Patriots lost Edelman in the first half……(continue reading)

7. It’s Never Been This Good For The Cardinals

During the “Sunday Night Football” broadcast of the Arizona Cardinals’ wild, breakthrough 39-32 road win over the Seattle Seahawks, television analyst Cris Collinsworth paused for a moment to reflect on what he was seeing. “When you’ve thought about the Arizona Cardinals over the years, you can describe it in one word: Futility.”

You’re telling me, pal.

In my 30-or-so years of being a fan of the Arizona Cardinals, there have been three periods of success. I don’t mean periods of sustained success; there has been no sustained success. I mean one-or-two-year stretches where it has been not been actively……(continue reading)

GettyImages-4972971228. Worst Penalty Ever

The 2015 Baltimore Ravens have shown an incredible knack for losing close games. To be sure, all nine of their games have been decided by one score, yet the team is now essentially finished with a 2-7 record.

How does this happen? The end of Baltimore’s 22-20 loss to the Jaguars Sunday is a good example. Baltimore had the game won when Jags quarterback Blake Bortles was sacked on the Jacksonville half of the field when time expired. The only problem: Ravens linebacker Elvis Dumervil was flagged for a facemask penalty to extend the game by one untimed down……(continue reading)

9. The Rest Of It All

+ Six Super Bowl-winning QBs go down, an NFL firstnull

For the first time in NFL history, six quarterbacks who had previously started and won a Super Bowl lost on the same day: Drew Brees, Joe Flacco, Eli Manning,Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, and Russell Wilson. The previous high on one day was four.

The most shocking performance among those six losing QBs was by Peyton Manning, who completed only five of 20 passes and was intercepted four times in the Broncos’ loss to the Chiefs. Manning was the first player in 29 years to throw as many as four interceptions and complete five or fewer passes in the same game. The last quarterback to do so was Warren Moon with the Houston Oilers in 1986 (5-for-23 with 4 INTs against the Browns).

+ Hurns extends his scoring streaknull

Allen Hurns opened the scoring with a 5-yard touchdown reception in the Jaguars’ 22-20 victory at Baltimore. Hurns has now caught a TD pass in each of his last seven games. It is not certain that Jacksonville (3-6) will finish the season with a losing record. But it’s worth noting that only four players in NFL history caught TD passes in seven straight games for a team that finished the season with more losses than wins: Buddy Dial for the 1960 Steelers (an 8-game streak), Carl Pickens for the 1995 Bengals (7), Santana Moss for the 2003 Jets (7), and T.J. Houshmandzadeh for the 2007 Bengals (8).

+ Cutler and Langford star in Bears’ big winnull

Jeremy Langford scored two touchdowns, including one on an 83-yard screen pass, in the Bears’ 37-13 win at St. Louis. It was the longest TD reception by a Bears rookie since 1991, when Anthony Morgan scored on an 84-yard pass from Jim Harbaugh.

Of course, we may have buried the lead, since Langford’s TD reception wasn’t evenJay Cutler’s longest touchdown pass in the game. Cutler threw a short pass thatZach Miller turned into an 87-yard score. In 89 previous games with the Bears, Cutler had thrown only one TD pass of 70 yards or longer (89 yards to Matt Forte in 2010).