Tag Archives: Justin Herbert

Week 15 Primetime Moneymakers: An AFL Throwback

Entering Week 15 we must remember that every NFL season is full of “flukey” moments, sure. But this year has stood out for its wackiness. From the lack of a training camp and then preseason to the expansion of rosters and rescheduling of games. Nothing is as it usually is in the NFL and that has made picking games especially difficult. We had no baseline and just when we started to get a handle on things, coaching staffs across the league have made their typical adjustments. We just have to get back one step ahead.

If you listen closely, you can hear the fantasy gods stomping a mudhole in our ticket from last week. 0-3 is obviously as bad as gets but to have the Browns blow it for us in the fashion they did was just brutal. So much so that many sportsbooks refunded bets or gave site credit to the many bettors who almost had it. Nonetheless, there is still money to be won and if anybody is going to win it, it should be us. Fingers crossed, sheesh!

A Classic AFL Clash Leads Week 15 Primetime Moneymakers

Los Angeles Chargers (4-9) at Las Vegas (7-6)

Spread: Raiders -3

O/U: 53

It’s been an interesting season for the Los Angeles Chargers (6-7 ATS). They’ve had seven games decided by one score (eight points or less). They’ve only won two of those games. Such is life with a rookie quarterback as Justin Herbert has thrown an interception in all but three of his starts. And if it weren’t for a late field goal against the implosion specialist Atlanta Falcons they would be in the midst of another three-game skid. It was much needed after they were shutout 45-0 by the New England Patriots at home a couple of weeks ago.

The Las Vegas Raiders (7-6 ATS) are having a successful inaugural season in Sin City. But they’ve gone 1-3 over the last month with a 46-3 loss on the road to the Atlanta Falcons sticking out. Their lone win was a 31-28 edging of the winless New York Jets. Kansas City bottled up Josh Jacobs who hurt his ankle the following week against Atlanta and the running game has subsequently failed to hit the 100-yard mark in a month. Rushing stats are usually an indicator of winning. For the Raiders it the other way around. If they won it’s likely because they ran.

Neither of these teams has been a safe bet these last four weeks. L.A. hadn’t covered since Week 3 before last week. Vegas hasn’t covered since Nov 22. The specter of a possible coaching change for the Chargers can manifest in any number of ways, such as their late-game rally in Week 14. Las Vegas won this matchup last time thanks to an overturned touchdown call. It’s hard to sweep an opponent but taking the Raiders (minus the points) still feels like the smart call given the Chargers propensity for late-game collapses. Also going over here just because.

Cleveland Browns (9-4) at New York Giants (5-8)

Spread: Giants +4.5

O/U: 45

Even with all the hype they received in the preseason, this matchup looked like a snoozer in the preseason. Now, the Cleveland Browns (5-8 ATS) are in a position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Their harrowing defeat at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens last Monday night snapped a four-game winning streak. That streak included a 41-35 manhandling of the Tennessee Titans. Cleveland is third in the NFL in rushing and 25th in passing, but Baker Mayfield has completed over 66 percent of his passes for 935 yards with eight touchdowns to just one interception over the last three weeks.

The New York Giants (8-5 ATS) had a four-game winning streak ended last week too. Theirs was a 26-7 drubbing at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals but was due in no small part to quarterback Daniel Jones trying to play on a bad hamstring. That means Colt McCoy, who got the start and a win in Week 13, could be back under center. Still, their victory and defensive dominance over the Seattle Seahawks highlighted what has been a tremendous mid-season turnaround after they started the season 1-4.

Back-to-back big games are usually a recipe for a letdown the following week. Especially against a battered opponent. But the way the game ended last week can’t sit well with the Browns. It’s hard to see any way they let this team beat them. It has also been a safer bet to take the Giants to cover. But we cannot ignore Jones’ injury and what it does in a spot where New York would be an underdog regardless. Browns laying the points it is as the Giants have covered a spread of fewer than five points just once. We are also riding the under, but only if Jones sits.

Pittsburgh Steelers (11-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (2-10-1)

Spread: Bengals +13

O/U: 40.5

For weeks many talking heads have been pointing out the fluke nature of the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5 ATS) record. Over the last two weeks, the rest of us have seen that all bear out. Dropping back-to-back games is bad enough. But one of those came against a team from the feeble NFC East at Heinz Field. Last week’s loss to the Bills is more understandable except for Ben Roethlisberger and the offense’s struggles. Pittsburgh is still first in defense DVOA but they are dragging along the 20th-ranked offense. Perhaps they try to get the ground game going this week.

If we are being completely honest, this is the season the Cincinnati Bengals (7-6 ATS) needed as a franchise. Despite the season-ending knee injury, they appear to have their franchise quarterback in Joe Burrow. Now, they’ll be able to keep putting top-tier talent around him thanks to having a putrid record. Cincinnati is 31st in total DVOA (30th in offense, 29th in defense) and 30th in scoring offense. They are 22nd in scoring defense, though, for whatever that’s worth. This one could get ugly and that would be totally acceptable.

They should bring relegation to the NFL should Pittsburgh lose this game. Beating up on weak teams then losing to the sneakily competitive Washington Football team is one thing. A loss to these Bengals would be catastrophic. Pittsburgh needs to get their offense back in order and this looks like a get-right spot. But 13 points is a big number. The Steelers haven’t had, let alone covered, a spread that large this season while the Bengals have lost by double-digits six times this year. Just two of those were by more than 12 points. Pittsburgh will win but by how much? The under might be the safest play.

All line information courtesy of Covers.com

2020 Fantasy Football Regular Season Awards

Finally, we are through the grueling fantasy football regular season. Well, not in leagues everywhere. But most of them for sure. If you were skilled enough (and had the right amount of luck) to make the playoffs, congratulations! Now the real, work begins.

But before we do that, we should take a look back at this season and recognize the players that got us where we are today. For some, that means appreciation. In regards to others, though, it will be a show of contempt for the disappointment.

Awards for 2020 Fantasy Football Standouts

Most Valuable Player

Kyler Murray

2020 has been a bit up-and-down for Kyler Murray; our preseason pick for league MVP. In his sophomore season, the diminutive passer has improved his completion percentage, touchdown rate, and is on pace to shatter his passing yardage total from last season. He’s even upped his rushing production.

What matters most for our purposes is that he went from 10th in overall fantasy scoring to first in a year. The QB5 with an ADP of 56 in the preseason, Murray gave you MVP-level production with an emphasis on the ‘value’.

We cannot do this without acknowledging the players who came closest to winning this. Patrick Mahomes, who missed out by five points, stands out as obvious, as would most any other top quarterback named. But of the four players to round out the top-10, none was a quarterback.

Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook, Tyreek Hill, and Davante Adams outscored the likes of Ryan Tannehill, Tom Brady, Lamar Jackson, and many others this year. Kamara has been without Drew Brees for the last three weeks while Cook and Adams both missed at least one game.

Bust of the Year

Saquon Barkley

Now the “winner” may be Saquon Barkley, but this one could have gone any number of ways. Some might consider Dak Prescott since he was the league’s leading passer when he went down in Week 5. Or maybe you say it’s his teammate, Ezekiel Elliott. He hasn’t missed a game but is the RB7 after being drafted as the RB3 with an ADP of third-overall. Or is it Christian McCaffrey?

No, it’s Barkley who lasted one full week before going down with just four touches in Week 2 against the Chicago Bears. Much was expected from the former second-overall pick. It’s the second year in a row he’s failed to come close to his ADP. Last year he was the first overall pick and finished as the RB17 (82nd overall). He was drafted second overall on average this season. Oof.

Rookie of the Year

Justins

Ok, so we’re breaking the rules a bit here and, no, that isn’t an error in the heading. Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers is the easy choice. A quarterback and the highest-scoring rookie in the NFL. But we don’t do ‘easy’ around here and so we have co-Rookies of the Year in Herbert and fellow-Justin, Justin Jefferson, wide receiver for the Minnesota Vikings.

The latter has made a strong case for winning the award in real life too. Herbert’s case would be stronger with more winning and fewer critical turnovers. Still, he is the QB9 after going undrafted due to starting the year as a backup. Jefferson, drafted as the WR48 only to finish the regular schedule as the WR7. A tip of the cap, rooks.

Waiver Add of the Year

James Robinson

Herbert could have qualified for this award since he was a hot commodity on waiver wires after Tyrod Taylor was injured. But it’s another player that walks away with this esteemed distinction. The waiver wire is critical to any successful season and missing out on your preferred target is a different kind of pain. You probably didn’t have that problem with James Robinson.

After Jacksonville cut Leonard Fournette the discussion around this backfield was simple: Avoid. Most wrote that any potential production was negligible. Most of that was because without a preseason we didn’t know who the backup was or how they would perform. All Robinson did was finish the regular season eighth among non-quarterbacks and 20th overall in fantasy points. The undrafted rookie out of Illinois State is third in the NFL in rushing attempts and yards.

Comeback Player of the Year

Ben Roethlisberger

One of the beautifully weird things about fantasy football is how different the perception of a player may be compared to real life. Ben Roethlisberger is having a good season by most standards; over 66 percent completion and 27 touchdowns to just seven interceptions. But he’s just 12th in passing yards and his interception last week against the Washington Football Team proved to be costly.

Yet, after missing all but two games last year with an elbow injury, and contemplating retirement, Roethlisberger sits 16 overall in fantasy points and is the QB11 (better than his QB14 ADP). Imagine if he was operating a typical Steelers offense.

Most Improved Player

Davante Adams

Aaron Rodgers is an MVP candidate thanks in no small part to stellar wideout Davante Adams. The former Fresno State Bulldog is fourth in catches, sixth in yards, but is tied for first with 13 receiving touchdowns. Mind you, he’s missed two full games and part of a third this season. He missed four games last season and had 83 grabs for 997 yards and five scores.

All of those numbers, racked up in 12 games, are fewer than Adams has compiled through 10. Being in the second year of the offensive system has helped all of the Green Bay Packers and the connection between Rodgers and Adams appears stronger than ever. Adams was the WR32 and 87th player overall last year. He is 2020’s WR2 and 10th overall player through the regular season.

DST of the Year

Miami Dolphins

In real life, we acknowledge the best player on defense with the Defensive Player of the Year award. In most cases, fantasy football only has entire units. As such, we have to bestow this great honor to the Miami Dolphins. Yup, we’re breaking the rules again. It’s actually the Pittsburgh Steelers DST that leads the way in scoring.

With an ADP as the DST2, their production is only “mildly” impressive. Miami, however, was ranked dead last on average in the preseason. Now? They are ranked second. That’s a stunning turnaround from a unit that finished last season just as they were projected before this one.

All rankings and ADP information courtesy of Fantasypros.com

Quarterbacks (Unsurprisingly) Dominating Off-Season Headlines

All of you “defense wins championships” folks will hate to read this but, the 2020 NFL off-season is just another dominated by quarterbacks. They’ve dominated the headlines and are the object around which NFL general managers formulate their off-season plans. Even the ones who are trying to build their defenses do so with the intent of negating opposing quarterbacks.

Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs just gave us our most recent example of this playing out. A stout San Francisco 49ers defense (2nd in yards per game allowed) couldn’t hold the third-year, former MVP down for an entire four quarters. In a league that has shifted so far towards favoring offenses, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Quarterback Talk Will Dominate Headlines Again

Background

Since the league went to 32 teams, the NFL has seen its average pass completions per game jump from 20.1 in 2002 to 22.1 in 2019. It should also be noted that the 2002 number was a relative outlier. The average was around 19.3 and lower the six years prior and four years after the ‘02 season. But all this proves is that teams are passing that much more, right?

Wrong! In this same period, pass attempts have gone from 33.8 18 years ago to 34.9 this past season. That’s an increase of nearly three completions per game but only 1.1 more attempts. Put simply, quarterbacks got more accurate as displayed in the average completion percentage rising nearly four points from 59.6 percent to 63.5 percent.

Any number of metrics can back this up, but we only need to look at the headlines to see the trend. Mahomes winning Super Bowl MVP aside, the next biggest talking point has been about where Tom Brady will play in 2020. He’s 42 years old and didn’t have his best season (statistically or via the eye test) but that hasn’t stopped the rumor mill from churning.

Pro-Style

Among the many hypothesized destinations have been the newly-dubbed Las Vegas Raiders, the Los Angeles Chargers, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In addition to the potential drawbacks to making a large commitment to a quarterback who is less than a decade away from AARP eligibility, all of these teams have quarterbacks either in place or in limbo.

Those incumbents have also been the subjects of trade rumors in their own rights. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers recently moved (a la Brady) to Florida turning up the volume on speculation he could be elsewhere in 2020. Cam Newton has been tabbed by speculators to replace him in L.A. after his Carolina Panthers hired a new head coach and general manager.

It isn’t just the big-name guys getting all the headlines either. Cincinnati Bengals free-agent quarterback Andy Dalton, an average starting quarterback by most metrics, has been spoken of as a possible savior for teams viewed by many as being a “quarterback away” from being true contenders. Even perceived busts like Marcus Mariota of the Tennessee Titans have been given new life by the rumor mill.

Incoming

The NFL Draft is in April and guess what position the presumed first pick, Joe Burrow, plays. Yep, quarterback. A draft that is thought to be strong at wide receiver and other skill positions could have five passers go in the first round. Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa is one of those prospects and he is recovering from a serious hip injury just to illustrate.

Ohio State defensive end Chase Young at the top of a lot of big boards and the Bengals have a significant need for a pass rusher. But that is dwarfed by their need to upgrade the quarterback position. This illustrates the shift in ideology. Rather than build from the trenches, Cincinnati is set to pick Burrow based on one (historic) season.

Even supposed projects or guys missing something are getting first-round love. Justin Herbert was buzzing last year but needed the Senior Bowl to solidify his spot near the top of the draft. The Jacob Easons and Jordan Loves of the world, though, are first-rounders based more on potential than production.

Face Facts

This isn’t some earth-shattering revelation. The transition to a quarterback-driven league has been advertised and vocalized to the point that it’s almost fait accompli you’ll hear “it’s a quarterback-driven league” after a play. The announcers and pundits know it. The fans know it.

Even the league knows it. After revamping the protections on quarterbacks and receivers some years back, the NFL did so again recently. The most heavily debated being challenging pass interference. It’s a change that can and has aided defenses but was clearly developed with offenses in mind.

This might not even just apply to current and future quarterbacks either. It’s fair to wonder if the controversial Colin Kaepernick would be such a lightning rod if he played any other position. His very vocal supporter and former teammate Eric Reid did sign a multi-year deal last February.

Headlines Were Made for Quarterbacks

Again, this isn’t exactly new or revolutionary, we’ve always idolized the quarterback position.  But it has become more intentional along with the devaluation of the running back has been the elevation of the quarterback. Super Bowl Sunday was just a reminder that while defense wins (conference) championships, it is quarterbacks that win Super Bowls.