Tag Archives: Jared Goff

Week 14 Primetime Monemakers: Lights, Cam-era, Action

Don’t look now, or quote us on this, but it appears we are back to a regular schedule in Week 14 in the NFL. We’re talking complete with Thursday Night Football and all. Just a week after having two games played at non-traditional times due to positive COVID tests with the Baltimore Ravens delaying their matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers from Thanksgiving night to the following Wednesday. Baltimore was the big mover. Others had positives along the way too though. It’s a position we saw the Tennessee Titans in earlier in the year, which also impacted Pittsburgh.

Last week was solid as we went 2-1. We ended up leaving the Baltimore-Dallas game alone. That was due to the uncertainty up until kickoff when they still had Dez Bryant test positive. In fact, the only thing that kept it from being great was the Washington Football Team upsetting the Pittsburgh Steelers. Our record sits at (an unacceptable) 11-15 even with the good week. But last week was just the start of our winning streak to close out the year. As always, there’s money to be made. If anyone is going to make it, it might as well be us.

Pats @ Rams Leads Week 14’s Primetime Moneymakers

New England Patriots (6-6) at Los Angeles Rams (8-4)

Spread: Rams -4.5

O/U: 44

Quiet as kept, the New England Patriots (6-6 ATS) have won two in a row and four of their last five. Cam Newton, averaging less than 200 passing yards per game, has cleaned up his act of late. He’s still well under 200 yards per and has thrown three touchdowns and just two interceptions. Major improvement after he threw seven interceptions but just two touchdowns over his first six games. His offense is 23rd in DVOA, per Football Outsiders. But it’s gone from averaging just over 19 points per game to more than 27 PPG in that same span. The defense, also 23rd in DVOA, has made a similarly positive switch. It’s gone from allowing 23 PPG to 17 PPG (the shutout helped).

Not to be outdone, the Los Angeles Rams (7-5 ATS) have won three of four since their bye. They’ve beaten Seattle, Tampa Bay, and Arizona in that span but did drop one to San Francisco. Still, they’re fourth in offense DVOA and fifth in defense DVOA. They’ve been mediocre scoring points, ranking just 17th despite them being third in yards. But their defense has been stingy, ranking fifth in points and second in yards allowed. Jared Goff has completed better than 73 percent of his passes. That’s a stretch of accuracy only outdone by his performance from Weeks 2 to 5. But he has thrown four touchdowns to four interceptions and has lost two fumbles in that time.

Both of these teams are 3-1 ATS the last four weeks, making this more complicated than it should be. They last met in Super Bowl LIII, a game the Patriots won 13-3. This one shapes up as another defensive showdown so the under is probably the most appealing play. The Rams are 4-1 at home but their (small) record against the Patriots doesn’t lend much confidence to backing them straight up. Can you talk yourself into taking the Pats given what we know about both teams over the last month? It’s tough, but take the Pats plus points. They’ve failed to cover a spread less than a touchdown just twice and haven’t lost to L.A. since 2001.

Pittsburgh Steelers (11-1) at Buffalo Bills (9-3)

Spread: Bills -2

O/U: 48.5

In a loss that was equal parts surprising and a long time coming, the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-4 ATS) fell to the Washington Football Team in Week 13. As Chase Young and Monte Sweat mused after the game though, Baltimore had exposed some things the week prior. Pittsburgh has also failed to hit the century mark as a team on the ground in six of the last seven games. They’ve failed to crack 50 yards as a team in four of them. That’s a large part of why their offense is 17th in offense DVOA. Their defense is still first in DVOA but they just gave up 273 passing yards to the Football Team, the most they’ve allowed all season.

The Buffalo Bills (7-5 ATS) started 4-0 but went 3-3 over their next six games, including a loss to Arizona right before the bye. They’ve gone 2-0 since returning with wins over the Chargers and 49ers so it’s hard to say if they’ve truly regained their form from earlier in the year. They are 3-2 against teams currently in the playoffs. But their last such win came back in Week 9 at home against the Seahawks, who have gone 2-2 since. Buffalo, is seventh in offense DVOA and 16th in defense DVOA. They’ve been reliant on the passing game, hitting 100 team rushing yards in just five games (90-plus in two others) despite the threat of Josh Allen. Defense is the opposite.

Buffalo is 4-0 ATS the last four weeks while Pittsburgh is in the midst of a 0-2 skid. And while the Steelers still the analytics darling defensively, the Bills passing game certainly passes the eye test. Of course, there is something to be said for your head coach calling you out to to the media for your effort. It’s very possible for the Steelers to come out clicking at a level we haven’t seen for weeks. That puts the over squarely in play in a matchup of top-10 scoring outfits. It’s been mostly unders in Steelers games this year but they haven’t faced many offenses like the Bills. However, the Bills haven’t seen many pass rushes like the Steelers. Pittsburgh plus the points.

Baltimore Ravens (7-5) at Cleveland Browns (9-3)

Spread: Browns +3

O/U: 47

This will be a good test of whether the Baltimore Ravens (6-6 ATS) really turned a corner last week or if they just beat up on a bad team in Dallas. Conventional wisdom might point to the latter being the case as they had lost three straight before that. But they were missing several key players due to injury and COVID issues so maybe the last month is just the side-effect of that. The defense is carrying the Ravens. It ranks seventh in DVOA while the offense ranks just 21st. Baltimore also has just one win against a playoff team all season; against the Colts back in Week 9. 

It’s a new day in Cleveland as the Browns (5-7 ATS) are will have a winning season for the first time since 2007. That’s amazing not only for that reason but also when considering how the talk around the team sounded just a few weeks ago when losses to the Steelers and Raiders had folks talking about the Browns beating up on weak teams. Flash forward and Cleveland’s current four-game streak seemed doomed for the same type of talk before they took the Titans to the woodshed in Week 13. Cleveland is 23rd in total DVOA making them the second-lowest ranked playoff team behind the Giants.

So which team would be beating up on a weaker opponent here? If it was in the preseason the easy answer would be the Ravens are the bully. But the last few weeks they’ve struggled to beat bad or similarly-struggling squads. That doesn’t bode well against a Browns squad that is feeling itself in the run-up to its first playoff appearance in over a decade. Cleveland has the worse record against the number. But a home dog against a questionable opponent seems too good pass on. The difference could be injuries along the defensive front for Baltimore. This game will be decided on the ground. That could also make the under attractive.

All line information courtesy of Covers.com.

Week 11 Primetime Moneymakers: Like Looking Into a Mirror

After weeks of having at least one stinker on the primetime NFL slate, we finally get treated to great matchups across the board in Week 11. All six teams are in the playoff hunt and two of the games feature divisional opponents. We also have no fewer than four MVP candidates and a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. You could say it’s pretty loaded.

Week 10 was a rough one. We committed a cardinal sin in betting: betting with the heart and not with the mind (looking at you, Chicago Bears), resulting in an 0-3 week. It’s the first winless week of the year and it stings. The record now stands at 8-11. Yuck. It is what it is and we won’t be dissuaded. As usual, there’s money to be made and if anyone is going to make it, it might as well be us!

Primetime Moneymakers: Like Looking in a Mirror

Arizona Cardinals (6-3) at Seattle Seahawks (6-3)

Spread: Seahawks -3

O/U: 57.5

Arizona Cardinal’s (5-4 ATS) Kyler Murray Hail Mary’ed himself back into the MVP race with his late-game heroics in Week 10. A 43-yard heave found stud wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in the end zone in the middle of three Buffalo Bills defenders. After starting the season 2-2, the Cardinals have won four of their last five to pull into a tie with their opponent in this very game. Arizona leads the league in total yards, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns. They’re also seventh in points per game. And they’re far from one-sided, ranking ninth in scoring defense and have allowed just 23 touchdowns, four off the league-lead.

Russell Wilson has seen his MVP stock dip in recent weeks. He threw 19 touchdowns to just three interceptions through the first five weeks. He’s thrown nine scores to seven picks and lost three fumbles in the four games since. The Seattle Seahawks (5-3 ATS) need Wilson to play perfectly because their defense is as porous as they come. Seattle ranks 32nd in total yards and passing yards allowed. They’re a respectable fourth against the run but are 28th in scoring defense. It’s why they’ve lost three of their last four after starting off 5-0. Letting Russ cook has led to them getting burned.

This is the matchup that started the recent woes for the Seahawks. Tyler Lockett was dominant and D.K. Metcalf famously hawked safety Budda Baker but the Cardinals won 37-34 in overtime.  A Wilson interception essentially sealed that one too. Arizona has won the last two meetings between these two squads after losing the previous three. These two teams are trending in different directions heading into this battle for a leg up in the chase for the NFC West crown. Ride the heater and take the Cardinals plus the points. Speaking of points, expect a lot of them. Arizona has allowed an average of 32.6 PPG over its last three contests while Seattle has allowed 32.7 in their last four.

 

Kansas City Chiefs (8-1) at Las Vegas Raiders (6-3)

Spread: Raiders +8

O/U: 56.5

Led by MVP-frontrunner Patrick Mahomes, the Kansas City Chiefs (6-3 ATS) sit just behind the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers for the best record in the NFL. The Chiefs are first in offense DVOA, per Football Outsiders, tied for first in points per game, and fifth in total yards. Mahomes is third in the NFL with 25 touchdown passes to just one interception. Kansas City may also get wide receiver Sammy Watkins back this week as well. He hasn’t played since Week 5 when these teams last met. They will be without tackle Mitchell Schwartz, however. Their defense is no slouch either. While they rank 14th in defense DVOA, they are sixth in scoring defense, allowing just over 20 PPG.

It’s been about as good of an inaugural season in Sin City as the Las Vegas Raiders (6-3 ATS) are off to their best start since 2016. They finished that season 12-4 but lost to the Houston Texans in the Wild Card round. Derek Carr was an MVP candidate that season but suffered a broken leg in Week 15. Flash forward and Carr is having the best statistical season of his career while the Raiders offense is eighth in scoring, ninth in DVOA, and 13th in total yards. Their defense is ungood so they rely on a run game ranked fifth in rushing attempts and touchdowns, and seventh in rushing yards to keep them looking average statistically.

Las Vegas pulled off the shocker last time these two met, walking out of] Kansas City with a 40-32 victory over the defending Super Bowl champs. The Raiders are 3-1 since that game and have averaged 34 PPG over their last two contests. Too bad for them they are facing an Andy Reid team. His record coming off of extra rest is the stuff of legend. Add in the extra incentive of revenge and this could be a recipe for disaster if, unlike last time, the Raiders fail to establish the run. Look for the Chiefs to be aggressive early to eliminate that threat and protect their 27th ranked (30th in DVOA) run defense. Take K.C. but just moneyline as the Las Vegas ground game could keep this one close. That also makes the under appealing.

Los Angeles Rams (6-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3)

Spread: Bucs -4

O/U: 48

It’s been a bit of a mixed bag for the Los Angeles Rams ( 5-4 ATS) of late. Despite coming off their bye week to beat the Seahawks, they’re just 2-2 in their last four games after starting the season 4-1 with road losses to the San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins. Jared Goff is 12th in passing attempts and 11th in passing yards but has just 13 touchdowns (and six picks) to show for it. L.A. is eighth in rushing and their 14 rushing touchdowns rank second but they’re only 18th in scoring. The Rams defense is second in total yards, third against the pass, and fourth in stopping the run.

Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5) are second in total DVOA while he leads the league in pass attempts and sits fourth in pass attempts. This is the Bucs best start since 2010 when they also started 7-3. They finished 10-6 that season but still missed the playoffs. That shouldn’t be an issue this year as they sit behind the 7-2 New Orleans Saints in the NFC South but Drew Brees just went on IR and Taysom Hill is starting his first-ever game in the NFL. The Bucs could easily find themselves in the catbird seat with a win. Tampa also boasts the number one defense in DVOA, though the unit has allowed 26 PPG over the last four games; nearly four points higher than their season average.

L.A. is looking for just its third win this season over a team with a winning record after beating the Chicago Bears a few weeks back in addition to the Seahawks last week. Tampa is still seeking its first. If we look at the season, all three of the Buccaneers losses have been against teams in the top-five in DVOA. Their only win against a team in the top half of the league in defense DVOA is against the Denver Broncos. The Rams are eighth. But Los Angeles is just 2-3 on the road this season while Tampa Bay’s lone loss at home was to the Saints. Both teams are just 2-2 ATS over their last four, so we revert back to home-field advantage (and Goff’s disadvantage). That makes the Bucs the preferred play and with these defenses, hit the under.

Week 10 Waiver Wire: Coastal Elite

Hopefully, you were on the giving end of one of the explosive performances from this weekend in the NFL. If you had Dalvin Cook or Davante Adams this weekend there’s a really good chance you walked away with a ‘W’. Unless, of course, the rest of your lineup proceeded to wet the bed (*dries tears*). Basically, there were several stars performing like stars this week.

There were also some surprises, confirmations, and a few other happenings. So this week’s wire will include a quarterback back from the brink, a running back that might finally get his chance, and a receiver that keeps popping up with big games in relief. That’s big with the Atlanta Falcons and Kansas City Chiefs joining the Dallas Cowboys and New York Jets on bye. As usual, most if not all of these players fall below 50% ownership.

Rams and Patriots Headline the Week 10 Waiver wire

Quarterbacks

Jared Goff

Los Angeles Rams

Quick, who is the QB13 on the season? If your answer wasn’t one Jared Goff, thanks for playing. Goff and the Los Angeles Rams are coming off of their bye and he didn’t have a great game before the break. But he does have a couple of appearances in the weekly top-10 and several others in the top-18. Los Angeles is run-heavy this year, but this game presents an interesting challenge.

Goff draws the Seattle Seahawks in Week 10. They’ve allowed the second-most fantasy points to quarterbacks including the QB2 performance of Josh Allen in Week 9. Kyler Murray was the QB2 against them in Week 7. Seattle even let Nick Mullens finish as the QB16 in Week 8. The bottom line is, they are a sieve against the pass and fairly sturdy against the run. Fire up Goff, and all of his weapons for that matter, with confidence.

Nick Foles

Chicago Bears

This is where there is a clear delineation of real-life football from fantasy. In no world (in any way shape, or form) would Nick Foles be a recommended starting quarterback for your real team. But in fantasy, we don’t care how you rack up points, just rack ‘em up. Foles has one of the best defenses in the league behind him but his unit fails to move the ball most of the game; ranking 28th or worse in scoring and on third and fourth downs.

Since his first start in Week 4, however, Foles is actually QB17 on the season. He’s ahead of names like Ben Roethlisberger and Matthew Stafford. Not elite fantasy quarterbacks by any stretch but all very serviceable. With a date against the Minnesota Vikings (who’ve allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to quarterbacks) on deck for Week 10, this might be a hold your nose situation.

Running Backs

Malcolm Brown

Los Angeles Rams

We just got done talking about how good Goff’s outlook was in Week 10 and now we’re going to tell you why Malcolm Brown could be useful in lineups. The Rams are still going to try establishing the run and Brown is just 20 carries and 144 yards behind team-leader Darrell Henderson. They both have three rushing scores. All of that without drawing one start for L.A. Henderson got banged up before the bye though he is expected to be fine. But that shouldn’t deter you from deploying Brown this week.

He’s gotten double-digit carries four times this season and Henderson was active for all of them. But in a game with such a high point expectancy, you want to get any viable piece of the action that you can. You’re probably still hoping he finds the end zone; only Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison surpassed 60 yards against the Seahawks. But again, double-digit carries. You aren’t finding that in many back-up running backs across the league. And don’t let the Rams get out to a lead like the Bills did.

Kalen Ballage

Los Angeles Chargers

Injuries suck no matter when they occur. But fantasy owners of Los Angeles Chargers running back Justin Jackson got a big fat goose egg in their lineups when he hurt his knee on the first play of the game against the Las Vegas Raiders. He played two more snaps but didn’t record a touch. It was a blow but Kalen Ballage stepped up in real life and might have a shot to do so for your fantasy team in Week 10.

Los Angeles hosts the upstart Miami Dolphins. They aren’t a cakewalk but they aren’t to be avoided either. Ballage, who was traded by the Dolphins to the Jets this preseason, out-carried rookie Joshua Kelley 15-9. While the latter got more action through the air, the former still managed to haul in two of his three targets for 15 yards, adding to his profile for Week 10. Of course, this depends on whether or not Jackson recovers, but if he misses time, Ballage could help you stay afloat.

Rex Burkhead

New England Patriots

Speaking of wasting entire spiels, we included Damien Harris in our Week 9 write-up. Now Harris is dealing with a chest injury. But that allowed Rex Burkhead to re-emerge as a viable option. Burkhead finished as the RB8 in Week 9, rushing 12 times for 56 yards and three passes for 11 yards. He also scored two touchdowns, one each via the air and ground. It was Burkhead’s second appearance in the top-10. He was RB2 way back in Week 3.

The New England Patriots will face a tough matchup in Week 10, hosting the tough Baltimore Ravens. They’re allowing the fewest points to running backs this season but only the Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans backs in Weeks 1 and 2, respectively, and the Colts backs in Week 9 failed to crack the top-20 against them. James White is still around and Cam Newton is always a threat to vulture at the goal line. But Burkhead’s versatility will serve him well in what is sure to be a hard-fought battle in Week 10.

Wide Receivers

Jakobi Meyers

Sticking with the Patriots, if you watched Monday Night Football in Week 9, first I’m sorry. But second, you certainly noticed one Jakobi Meyers, Week 9’s WR4. The second-year former quarterback out of N.C. State was easily Newton’s favorite target on the night, garnering 14 looks and catching 12 for 169 yards. He was repeatedly open in the middle of the field as the New York Jets wanted Newton to throw down the field. He and Meyers picked them apart instead.

Baltimore is just as tough on wide receivers as back so this is going to be tough sledding for Meyers. The Ravens have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to receivers this season. They have, however, given up top-10 performances to Travis Fulgham and Terry McLaurin, and Tyreek Hill was WR12 in Week 3. Fulgham and McLaurin are probably better comps as target hogs on bad teams. That bodes well for Meyers.

Curtis Samuel

Carolina Panthers

There is some inherent risk in playing Carolina Panthers receiver Curtis Samuel, though admittedly less so than normal. Samuel had buzz coming into the season as a versatile playmaker and the coaching staff even talked him up as such. But he failed to even score double-digit fantasy points in any of the first four games this season. He’s flipped that over his last four contests, recording increasing point totals every week culminating with being the WR7. He’s also scored in each of the last three games. Samuel is the WR12 since Week 5 and is the WR6 (!!!) over the last three weeks.

Carolina draws an almost certainly pissed off Buccaneers team down in Tampa in Week 10. They’re 12th in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers and only four receivers have finished in the top-20 for the week against them. Fortunately for Carolina, two of the receivers were Panthers. Both D.J. Moore (WR10) and Robby Anderson (WR12) did it in Week 2. Perhaps Samuel, who will be in the mix for carries if Christian McCaffrey misses more time.

KJ Hamler

Denver Broncos

This is our first rookie of the week after previous listings often had several at a time. But KJ Hamler might be emerging as a reliable option for the Denver Broncos at the right time. Drew Lock (who made last week’s article) has thrown five touchdowns over his last two starts. Hamler has nine catches, 88 yards, and a touchdown in that same span. He also finished as the WR29 in Week 9.

There are a few hurdles for Hamler to clear to maintain relevance. First, he is competing with fellow rookie Jerry Jeudy and Tim Patrick for targets. In his favor, Noah Fant and Albert Okwuegbunam are both banged up, freeing up space (and targets) in the middle of the field should one or both miss time. Denver faces the Raiders in Week 10. They are 17th in fantasy points allowed to receivers.

Tight End

Irv Smith Jr

Minnesota Vikings

It’s one thing to ignore a one-off, TE4 performance. It’s another thing entirely to ignore Irv Smith Jr. having several top-12 performances. Or that he is the TE15 on the year despite having just three starts and playing behind Kyle Rudolph most of the season. In fact, Smith has out-snapped Rudolph in each of the last two games. The Minnesota Vikings aren’t the defensive force they once were so Smith has been a revelation.

Minnesota travels to Chicago in Week 10 to take on the reeling Bears. They have one of the best defenses in the NFL but there are weak spots. They effectively lock down the perimeter but have shown to be vulnerable to backs and tight ends at times. Chicago is 28th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends and have given up six touchdowns to the position. Smith has been a weapon for the Vikings and that should continue in Week 10.

NFL Week 6 Primetime Moneymakers

In the age of COVID, NFL games are constantly subject to being rescheduled. We have already seen the Tennessee Titans, New England Patriots, and several other teams have their seasons rearranged already and it’s a safe bet there will be more to come. We’ve already had this week’s Thursday night matchup moved to Monday afternoon since the Buffalo Bills had to play on Tuesday.

We went 1-2 on our picks last week and missed on our weekly prop of Rob Gronkowski scoring a touchdown. Woof. Alas, there is more money to be made. And if anyone is going to make it, it should be us, right? With that let’s dive into three games to eye this week for their earning potential.

Road Teams Dominate in ‘NFL Week 6 Primetime Moneymakers’

Los Angeles Rams (4-1) -3 vs San Francisco 49ers (2-3)

Are the Los Angeles Rams good again, or at least, as good as their record says they are? Who knows, but they have been getting the job done against the spread this season (3-2 ATS) including last week’s 30-10 drubbing of the Washington Football Team. San Francisco isn’t as bad as Washington, but they are plenty banged up, especially on defense. L.A., averaging 27.2 points per game, should be able to score almost at will after the Miami Dolphins hung 43 on the 49ers defense.

San Francisco is 0-3 at home and 2-3 against the spread and just had their starting quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, benched for throwing two picks and taking several sacks. In his defense, it was his first start since suffering an ankle injury. Working against him is the Rams defense is worlds better than Miami’s surprising bunch. An early Rams lead could spell quick doom for a 49ers team undoubtedly looking to run it a lot in this one.

One team has looked playoff-ready most of the season and are laying just 3.5 points to a team that has looked disjointed and is certainly in diminished form. San Francisco looked decent against the New York Giants a couple of weeks ago but the Miami game is probably closer to what we should expect from their defense. That spells trouble against Los Angeles. The over has been hitting for the Rams but the expected emphasis on the run from the 49ers could suppress the score so the under looks more attractive here.

Kansas City Chiefs (4-1) -4 vs Buffalo Bills (4-1)

These two teams should come into this one pissed off. Both suffered embarrassing losses in Week 5. The Kansas City Chiefs watched the Las Vegas Raiders beat them 40-32 in Arrowhead playing their own game as Derek Carr threw touchdowns of 59 and 72 yards. Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills got shellacked by the Tennessee Titans on Tuesday. Perhaps they wouldn’t have won the game anyway, but losing 42-16 wasn’t in anyone’s forecast.

Allen was the clubhouse leader for MVP but his performance surely allowed Russell Wilson to at least close the gap. More concerning is how simple he was rendered ineffective by the Titans. Playing a bunch of zone coverage, they limited Buffalo’s ability to stretch the field with Stefon Diggs and kept Allen from breaking off any big runs. Patrick Mahomes was harassed all game by the Raiders so Buffalo will have to pressure him better than they did Ryan Tannehill or they’ll suffer the same fate.

Both teams have the same records straight up (4-1) and against the spread (3-2) so nothing immediately jumps to mind. If it simply comes down to who do you have more faith in, it’s hard to vote against the guy who already won an MVP against a guy chasing his first. To be honest the only thing we might have any comfort in is the under hitting; 57.5 is fairly high.

Arizona Cardinals (3-2) -1.5 vs Dallas Cowboys (2-3)

The Arizona Cardinals are still a team in transition. They have victories over the lowly New York Jets and Washington Football team one top of their surprise win over the 49ers in the opener. Their losses have come against the Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers, teams whose offensive talent is closer to that of the Dallas Cowboys than any of the opponents Arizona beat. The x-factor in this one will be Andy Dalton who takes over for the Cowboys at quarterback following Dak Prescott’s ankle injury.

Kyler Murray was the preseason favorite in this space for MVP but he has been inconsistent. and turnover prone. He’s thrown a pick in all but one game this season and threw three against the Lions in Week 3. Dalton steps into a role that had Dak breaking records for passing yards to start the season. There aren’t many better backups in the NFL, as evidenced by his completing nearly 82 percent of his passes in a comeback win against the Giants last week.

Dallas laying any points (+1.5) at home is funny when you think of where we thought this team would be. But Arizona is a challenging foe capable of taking advantage of a suspect Cowboys defense that’s allowed no fewer than 24 points in any game this season. Dalton should have time in the pocket after the Cardinals lost Chandler Jones for the season, but will he be as effective as most think he can be in this offense? It’s hard to confidently bet on a team switching quarterbacks, especially with Dallas 0-5 against the spread this season at full strength. It still feels like people are undervaluing the rest of the talent on the Cowboys and overvaluing the Cardinals. Take Dallas plus the points even if you expect Arizona to win outright.

Free Agency Best and Worst: NFC West

All good things must come to an end and, thus, we have reached that point with our Best and Worst series. Our final installment takes on the NFC West. There hasn’t been too much change at the top, but a cellar-dweller seems poised to make some noise in 2021 and a former contender suddenly has a need to retool.

AFC: North | South | East | West

NFC: North | South | East

Best and Worst of Free Agency: NFC West

Arizona Cardinals

Best Move: Nuking the Competition

The best trade of the offseason may be up for debate. Rob Gronkowski to Tampa has made it interesting. But the Arizona Cardinals trade (see: fleecing) with the Houston Texans for stud wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins might take the cake. Not only did they get arguably the best receiver in the game today, but they also moved the massive contract of running back David Johnson.

Murray, the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, got through last season with the ageless Larry Fitzgerald as his top option. Fitz is a Hall of Famer without a doubt, but at this point, Hopkins is undoubtedly the better receiver. At least one writer thought Kyler Murray would be the MVP next season. That number is sure to rise now.

Worst Move: Not Protecting the Franchise

It just wouldn’t be a Best and Worst installment without lamenting an organization’s failure to address a porous offensive line. Murray tied with Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson for the league-lead with 48 sacks taken. Sure, some of that could be attributed to rookie struggles. But the Cards line was just as much of an issue in 2018 with Josh Rosen.

Murray mobile to say the least so it’s also not a stretch to say he covered up some of the deficiencies of the line. Arizona re-signed Marcus Gilbert, who didn’t see the field in 2019, and has starting center A.Q. Shipley sitting in limbo. He’s started every game for the last three years. With four picks in the first four rounds (but no second-rounder) watch for a couple of linemen to land in the desert.

Next Move: Stop…Anybody

Arizona’s offense should be very formidable next season. Murray, Fitz, Nuk, and the re-signed Kenyan Drake can be as good as any other group in the division. But the defense needs a LOT of work. They finished 2019 ranked 24th in rushing yards allowed and 31st in passing yards allowed.

They were in the top-10 in ESPN’s Pass Rush Win-Rate metric and had Chandler Jones’ 19.5 sacks (2nd) so the issue isn’t the pass rush, though Jones could use a running mate. Rookie cornerback Byron Murphy had a rough season opposite Patrick Peterson who was involved in trade rumors last season. The biggest issue is a lack of playmakers; Arizona ranked 27th in takeaways.

Los Angeles Rams

Best Move: Ummm…

This offseason has been…interesting for the Los Angeles Rams with not much of it being in a good way. They’ve had to cut their high-priced running back due to injury concerns. Cap issues have forced them to watch pass rusher Dante Fowler (who had 11.5 sacks) head to Atlanta. They also managed to retain Michael Brockers after his deal with Baltimore fell through.

Los Angeles did add A’Shawn Robinson from Detroit and Leonard Floyd from Chicago. So maybe that’s the best thing for the Rams this offseason. That they were able to add anyone (they’re currently $6 million over the cap) is remarkable. They even took advantage of the halt in physicals to keep Brockers and Floyd on hold while deciding who to keep or how to keep both.

Worst Move: Lack of Foresight

This might be the most obvious of all the sections so far. The Rams were a sub-.500 team just four years ago and deserve credit for their quick turnaround from that to appearing in Super Bowl LIII. But the cost has been immense and the bill has finally come due. Now they will have to navigate the next couple seasons with financial constrictions and no first-round picks.

Bears fans will tell you how much that lack of picks in the first round hurts. You can’t readily remedy a poor selection from the year before. And if you do, you have to hamstring yourself in future drafts; if you survive, that is. Luckily for L.A. they still have talent on the roster and who they believe is the franchise in Jared Goff under center.

Next Move: Practice Patience

Patience might as well be a four-letter word in the sports world. Almost no one is in favor of slow, drawn-out processes and the Rams were no different. Their mortgaging of the future paid off with that Super Bowl berth. Now, though, they might need to shift their focus. They were able to take advantage of Goff’s rookie deal and his extension has tightened the purse strings.

That isn’t a bad thing, or at least it doesn’t have to be. They should use this time, and the lowered expectations, to figure out who they really are. Most teams will look good when stacked like the Rams were. But when the onus has to be on the quarterback (second contract status), you get to see the truth. Goff is flawed and benefitted heavily from his head coach. They have to see if he can be more.

San Francisco 49ers

Best Move: Adding Another 1st

Trading away a key member from a unit that was your biggest strength is rarely a good idea but that’s where the San Francisco 49ers find themselves after flipping defensive lineman DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts for a first-round pick. Buckner and linemate Arik Armstead were reminiscent of John Henderson and Marcus Stroud in their heyday.

Buckner’s trade aided the Niners in retaining Armstead, who just re-signed for five years and $85 million with $48.5 million guaranteed. But more important, San Francisco didn’t get jobbed like many of the deals we saw go down; Arizona’s robbing of Houston comes to mind. Not only did they get a good deal, getting a first-rounder back moves this deal to ‘great’ territory.

Worst Move: Not Getting WR2

The not-so-subtle implication here is that the 49ers already have a top option at the wide receiver position. That option would be Deebo Samuel who, as a rookie, caught 57 balls for 802 yards. He showed versatility, too, toting the rock 14 times for 159 yards. He had 6 total touchdowns. But after him, the 49ers are banking on a lot of unrealized potential.

Emmanuel Sanders (36 receptions, 502 yards) is now in New Orleans. Kendrick Bourne had just six fewer catches than Sanders and only had 358 yards. They all fall in behind tight end George Kittle, but that doesn’t mean ignore the position altogether. Teams will be better prepared for the run game in 2020 and Jimmy Garoppolo will be forced to answer the challenge. Make it easier for him, San Francisco.

Next Move: Plan for the Future

Aside from another receiving threat and offensive line depth, the 49ers offense is largely set. And despite their defensive dominance, that side of the ball could be worth a look. They will likely replace Buckner with an incumbent and/or draft pick, but they might need to look at EDGE too with rumors they were looking to move pass rusher Dee Ford and linebacker Kwon Alexander.

But their biggest need might be cornerback. Richard Sherman is a three-time All-Pro, five-time Pro Bowler, and Super Bowl Champ. He’s also on the wrong side of 30 and had a poor game in Super Bowl LIV, reminding everyone of his struggles with speedy receivers. Well, receivers won’t be getting slower and Sherm isn’t getting any younger. The 49ers should be proactive in finding his successor.

Seattle Seahawks

Best Move: Letting the Market Play Out

It wouldn’t have shocked anyone if the Seattle Seahawks ponied up and paid Jadeveon Clowney. They didn’t give up much for him, but the three-time Pro Bowler was thought to be one of the premier pass-rushing threats in free agency, if not the entire NFL. Seattle, not exactly flush with cap space, didn’t move too quickly and might benefit from that.

We are less than two days away from the NFL Draft and Clowney is still a free agent. This despite being linked to multiple teams in rumors. Perhaps his extensive medical history played a role as teams are wary of paying big money for an injury risk without the ability to conduct a physical. But Clowney only had three sacks last season. That wee production could be to Seattle’s benefit.

Worst Move: Living DangeRuss

Is it possible the Seahawks offensive line got worse? A group that is far better executing the run game than the passing attack. Seattle also lost Germain Ifedi (16 starts) and George Fant (seven starts) to free agency. They did retain Mike Iupati and added Cedric Ogbuehi and B.J. Finney. Ifedi and Fant weren’t setting the world on fire, but Ogbuehi and Finney had all of four starts in 2019, all by Finney.

Wilson is a wizard at the quarterback position. His ability to extend plays and improvise when the play breaks down is unmatched. But Seattle has never protected him commensurate to his value. That has to change and the draft is a great place to do so. They have tackle Duane Brown but he, along with Iupati, is on the older side. By any measure, the Seahawks need to address this.

Next Move: Find the Pass Rush

The Seahawks tied for 31st in sacks in 2019 with 28. That is the lowest ranking and total in the Pete Caroll era. Their top sack artist, Rasheem Green, had a grand total of four. This is part of the reason why letting Clowney (and Ezekiel Ansah for that matter) sit in limbo while they weigh their options. There isn’t a ton of production on the line.

That isn’t to say they wouldn’t welcome either back, just at the right price. But there is also the avenue of the draft. Some mocks have them targeting Yetur Gross-Matos of Penn State in the first round. That would be a good start but don’t be surprised to see them double down on the position. They need all the help they can get with or without Clowney and Ansah.