Tag Archives: NFL

Primetime Sports: A Humbling Experience

Eric Willuweit & Luke Stanczyk discuss the Chicago Bears humbling defeat to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football. They also talk about how the NFL and NCAAF are handling the Covid-19 Pandemic (hint – it’s not going well). And the boys talk a little Northwestern football. Thanks for tuning in!

Anchor

PrimeTime Sports November 30th 2020 PrimeTime Sports

Hosts Eric Willuweit & Luke Stanczyk discuss the Chicago Bears humbling defeat to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football. They also talk about how the NFL and NCAAFB are handling the Covid-19 Pandemic(hint – it's not going well). And the boys talk a little Northwestern football. Thanks for tuning in.

Picturing Perfect Playoff Payoffs

You go through an entire sports season (in this case a 16-game, 17 week NFL slate) and get amped up for a thrilling playoff match just to get something with no appeal. Oh, you thought this was about quality of play? Nah. More than likely, if a team is in the playoffs the game will be good. Often the least expected matchups wind up being the most entertaining.

But that does nothing for the personal investment of a storyline that really piqued your interest never coming to fruition. For years the quintessential matchup was Tom Brady and the New England Patriots taking on Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. Or Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Well, Manning is retired now and the other three now reside in the same conference with Brady’s move to Tampa.

Ideal Payoffs For a Long Road to the Playoffs

For the Nostalgia

Some combination of Rodgers versus Brady versus Brees is still very much a possibility. Rodgers is a legitimate MVP candidate with 33 touchdowns to just four interceptions and completing passes at his highest rate since becoming a full-time starter. Brees’ top-seeded Saints are 2-0 with him on the mend from 11 cracked ribs. Brady is bringing up the rear for the trio and his Bucs are still 7-5 with the seventh-ranked scoring offense and the second-highest DVOA of the three defenses, per Football Outsiders.

It wouldn’t matter what leg of the postseason, if any two of these three were to meet it would be must-see tv. Brees-Brady has the most extensive history, despite being in different conferences, with Brees owning a decisive 5-2 edge in their head-to-head matchups, including a sweep of the season series this year. Next is Brees-Rodgers, where the Packers passer holds a 3-2 lead after winning in Week 3 this year. Brady-Rodgers have faced off three times as starters and had taken one apiece before Brady’s Bucs stomped a mudhole in Rodgers’ Packers in Week 6.

Again, all would be great matchups but, given the comparative rare nature of a Brady-Rodgers matchup that might be ideal to some. But if we are going off of the current performance of the principles, Brees-Rodgers 6 would be the one. Both quarterbacks are playing at an extremely high level (or were in Brees’ case). Brady’s team might be the most talented. But the cohesion hasn’t been there and Brady has committed many uncharacteristic mental errors this year.

Air Forces

Conference Championship week has often been referred to as the best round of the playoffs. The two teams are the best of their respective conferences but tend to have a level of familiarity that adds both to the strategery of the game as well as the personal investment. Losing is bad enough, losing to a “rival” is unfathomable. In that vein, is there a more exciting potential meeting than the seemingly inevitable one of the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers and the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs?

It’s really a matchup of Ben Roethlisberger and Patrick Mahomes, though they will never be on the field at the same time save for possibly the coin-toss and the post-game handshake. Still, Roethlisberger versus Mahomes is must-see programming at its finest. Mahomes has thrown 30 touchdowns to just two picks with 3497 yards to go with that. Roethlisberger, with his 26 touchdowns and six interceptions, hasn’t generated the same kind of buzz because his team is so well rounded. But he is still throwing touchdowns at his highest rate since 2012 and throwing interceptions at his lowest rate since 2010.

Home field advantage could play a significant part in this one; both locales are notoriously tough for visitors. That’s with fans though. With empty stadiums, the bigger deciding factor could be the defenses. This is where the Steelers could prove to be the kryptonite to Mahomes and the Chiefs’ Superman. Pittsburgh’s defense is first in DVOA, sacks, and scoring. Kansas City ranks 17th in DVOA and 23rd in sacks. They are sixth in scoring, though, so maybe that squares it.

Micro Machines

Remember those fun, tiny little toy cars where the spokesman in the commercial talked like he was hooked up to a caffeine drip? This is kind of like that. Unconventional as they may be, the Seattle Seahawks Russell Wilson and the Arizona Cardinals Kyler Murray have proven they can hang with the big boys. Both of these players spent time as the MVP favorite this season. Wilson, who has never even received a first-place vote for the award, had a case for longer than Murray, but the latter was a popular preseason pick for MVP.

The season has been filled with ups and downs for both quarterbacks and franchises. Neither escaped the rash of severe injuries that hit the NFL so hard this season with Seattle losing their top-four running backs for different stretches of the season and Arizona losing stud pass-rusher Chandler Jones. The quarterbacks both had hands in their own undoing, with both having three-interception games at one point or another.

These two have split the series both seasons since Murray entered the league, with Seattle taking the most recent duel in primetime. Playing in what might be the toughest division in professional football, these teams have spent much of the season beating up on each other and that has led to many taking both to task for their flaws. But the NFC is wide open and both of these offenses can hang points on you in a hurry. Seattle is third in scoring and Arizona is eighth.

Picture Perfect Playoff Payoffs

There are just some of the potential matchups that would be worth the price of admission. A playoff game between the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins would be a throwback to the ’80s and ’90s. If they were healthy, seeing the San Francisco 49ers take on the Tennessee Titans might not be the Super Bowl the league wants. But seeing the game’s greatest rushing system and its greatest runner go at it for the ultimate glory just feels like an ode to its origins. At any rate, we’ll get to see the actual playoff pairings in just a few weeks. Hopefully, the payoff is worth it.

Week 13 Primetime Moneymakers: Four the Win

A week after having the primetime schedule extended into Wednesday we will do so again in an attempt to get back on track. Week 12’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens took so long to be played that their matchups this week have been pushed back in response. Pittsburgh will play the Washington Football Team on Monday at 5:00 PM ET; technically not in primetime but the unique time lands it on the list. Baltimore will face the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday 8:05 PM ET.

Sitting at 9-14 after a pair of brutal weeks, we finally hit it big going 3-0. We nailed Bears-Packers outright but only got Seahawks-Eagles and Steelers-Ravens covers because the spread changed. So what, we’ll take it at this point. The record now sits at 12-14 with a chance to go above .500 on the year for the first time. It’s been an absolute rollercoaster of bad beats but there’s still money to be made. If anyone is going to make it, it might as well be us!

Picking Four to Win in Week 13 Primetime Moneymakers

Denver Broncos (4-7) at Kansas City Chiefs (10-1)

Spread: Chiefs -14

O/U: 51

Drew Lock should be back under center for the Denver Broncos (6-5 ATS) after they had to face the New Orleans Saints with practice squad receiver Kendall Hinton, a converted college quarterback. It did not go well as they lost 31-3. The Broncos average 22.7 PPG in Lock’s seven starts this season and will need every bit of it with their opponent this week. Defensively they rank 10th in DVOA, per Football Outsiders, and seventh in sacks. That’s a testament to the job head coach Vic Fangio has done without Von Miller this season.

If ‘unbothered’ was a person, that person would be Patrick Mahomes. Undaunted by the reputation of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense (which was largely overblown anyway), he and the Kansas City Chiefs (6-5 ATS) put up 27 fairly easy points on them and held off a late rally to reach double-digit wins for the sixth season in a row and seventh in eight years under Andy Reid (they won nine games the other year).

Perhaps in some alternate universe Lock is developed enough and Miller and Courtland Sutton are healthy so the Broncos can keep up with the Chiefs. In this reality, though, he and the rest of the offense aren’t equipped to take advantage of a Chiefs defense that ranks 17th in DVOA and has just 20 sacks on the season. Good luck to that secondary containing Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce,Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson, and Mecole Hardman. No secondary is that deep. Take the Chiefs but just moneyline. For some reason 14 points feels like too many to lay against a divisional opponent even with such a lopsided matchup.

Washington Football Team (4-7) at Pittsburgh Steelers (11-0)

Spread: Steelers -10

O/U: 42.5

The Washington Football Team (6-5 ATS) have had a surprisingly competitive season. And that’s not just because they play in the worst division in professional football which means they still have a chance to host a playoff game. It’s also because their defense is ranked fifth in DVOA despite the offense being 27th and 24th in scoring. Alex Smith has led the Football Team to back-to-back wins but has just three touchdowns to five interceptions.

By now the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-3 ATS) have to be tired of COVID as much as anyone. On top of having their own problems with the virus, they have had their games moved twice already due to their opponents handling of it. Still, they are undefeated and coming off a disappointing win (per Mike Tomlin) against a depleted division rival. Can their offense (sixth in scoring, 15th in DVOA) take a break and ride the defense (first in scoring and DVOA) to another win?

Some might be questioning the validity of Pittsburgh’s record after watching Ben Roethlisberger and co. struggle against Baltimore but that’s just how those games go. Washington will need them to play as sloppily as they did in Week 12 to have a shot because a shootout guarantees a Steelers victory. Barring that this will make it 12 wins for Tomlin’s team but maybe not by the double-digit margin predicted. The quick turnaround might lead the Steelers to run more with guys still missing in action and that would be just fine with the Football Team. Steelers moneyline seems best as does the under.

Buffalo Bills (8-3) at San Francisco 49ers (5-6)

Spread: 49ers +1

O/U: 48

If it seems like the Buffalo Bills (6-5 ATS) aren’t losing much lately it’s because they aren’t. Since back-to-back losses to the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs they have gone 4-1 with a huge win over the Seattle Seahawks included. Buffalo, led by Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs, is 10th in scoring offense and eighth in offense DVOA despite not having a ground game worth mentioning. Being so one-dimensional can be detrimental to any team, especially when your defense is 16th in DVOA and 18th in scoring.

Don’t look now, but the San Francisco 49ers (5-6 ATS) find themselve very much in the playoff hunt despite all of the games they’ve lost to injury this year. They’ve gotten some key players back in recent weeks including Richard Sherman and Raheem Mostert so maybe they can start stringing wins together. They still rank ninth in defense DVOA but are just 19th offensively. Jimmy Garoppolo (and likely George Kittle) won’t be walking through that door and Nick Mullens caps this team’s ceiling.

Location, location, location. The 49ers might appreciate the change of venue for this one since they’ve allowed 15 touchdowns at home compared to just 10 on the road. Their offense has also scored more on the road. Buffalo sees a drop in their offensive scoring, mostly in rushing scores. But their defense actually improves away from Bills Stadium. Additionally, even though it’s a small spread it’s worth mentioning the 49ers haven’t covered the spread in any game they haven’t won outright this season and that isn’t to be expected here. Take Buffalo and don’t be shocked to see over hit even with San Francisco so undermanned.

Dallas Cowboys (3-8) at Baltimore Ravens (6-5)

Check back soon once the line is set for this game to get the pick!

Week 13 Waiver Wire: ’13’ Reasons Why

What a wild NFL season this has been, in both real life and fantasy. We saw huge games from Will Fuller and Antonio Gibson on Thanksgiving only to have Tyreek Hill and Derrick Henry assert their dominance over the landscape. And while we were without Todd Gurley, Julio Jones, and (many) more, no fantasy-relevant players sustained injuries that should keep them out for an extended period.

We aren’t even done with Week 12 since the Baltimore Ravens game against the Pittsburgh Steelers has been moved several times and is now set for Wednesday afternoon. This week’s waiver wire has at least one QB you probably never thought would be a top add, a running back that’s been there the entire time, and a wide receiver that recently returned from injury to make an impact in primetime.

*Remember, waivers will clear on Friday this week and we have the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers on bye (the last of the season).*

A Pair of ’13’s Headline the Week 13 Waiver Wire

Quarterback

Kirk Cousins

Minnesota Vikings

This wouldn’t have been a thing just a few weeks ago. Kirk Cousins was the QB25 on the season with 12 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. Flash forward to now and Cousins was the QB3 in Week 12, is the QB12 on the season, and is coming off of back-to-back three-touchdown performances and third in four games. It was his fourth-straight game (a stretch in which he was the QB5) and eighth of the season with multiple touchdowns. All of this is even more impressive when you consider Dalvin Cook is second in the league in rushing attempts.

Cousins draws a cushy assignment in Week 13 as the Minnesota Vikings host the floundering Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags just fired their general manager and head coach Doug Marrone will likely follow after the season. But what matters for our purposes is Jacksonville is allowing the third-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks and has given up 23 passing touchdowns, good for second-most. The only thing that could hold Cousins back in this one is if the Vikings get out to a lead large enough that they just ride the running game, leaving fantasy managers to hope his current touchdown explosion lasts at least another week.

Ryan Fitzpatrick

Miami Dolphins

FitzMagic is back, baby! After taking a brief hiatus while Tua Tagovailoa kept his spot warm, Ryan Fitzpatrick was back under center for the Miami Dolphins in Week 12 and led them to a 23-3 victory over the winless New York Jets. He had a modest day, just 257 yards and two touchdowns, but that was good enough to check in as the QB8 through Monday Night Football. In six starts earlier in the year, Fitzpatrick threw for over 1500 yards with 10 touchdowns to seven interceptions (four if you throw out Week 1) and was the QB8.

Truth is Fitzpatrick will start for as long as it takes for Tua’s injured thumb to heal. That should be at least another game and that sets Fitz up to face the Cincinnati Bengals. Cincy is 17th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks but have tied for the third-most passing touchdowns allowed with 22. Miami has thrown more than twice as many touchdowns (18) as they have run in (8). The only concern here, as with Cousins, is the Dolphins (who rank second in scoring defense) get out to such a lead you’re left counting solely on touchdowns.

Running Back

Ito Smith

Atlanta Falcons

We probably should have seen this coming. It’s just how 2020 has gone. When it was announced Gurley would miss Sunday’s game against the Las Vegas Raiders, everyone assumed it would be Brian Hill, who had been spelling Gurley all season, to step into the lead role. Instead, Ito Smith came off the bench to take his 12 carries for 65 yards and a score and ranking as the RB10. Hill, who has out-carried Smith 3-to-1 on the season, took his 13 carries for 55 yards and former out-snapped the latter 39-28.

Smith out-targeted Hill 4-to-1 if you need another way to separate the two given how volatile touchdowns are. Atlanta faces the New Orleans Saints for the second time in three weeks and if Gurley misses another game, Smith needs to be the backfield option you deploy. The Saints are fourth against the run and have given up just three touchdowns on the ground. They’re fifth defending passes to backs too so it will be tough sledding either way. Smith has the easier path to fantasy relevance, albeit ever so slight.

Cam Akers

Los Angeles Rams

We are entering troubling waters, my friends. Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers has received no more than 10 carries since getting 14 in the opener. He has just two games with 40-plus yards and has just one rushing touchdown. He is far and away third in snaps out of the backfield behind both Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown with a less defined role than either. But he keeps popping off for long runs, including the 61-yard scamper that set up his first rushing touchdown of the season on Sunday. He sits ranked as the RB16 (pending Wednesday’s results) in Week 12.

The Rams face the Arizona Cardinals in Week 13 but trusting Akers in lineups is quite the risky proposition. Sunday was literally his first time finishing with double-digit fantasy points. No, this is a move for the future. L.A. has talked of wanting to increase Akers’ workload as the season goes on. Don’t be fooled by Sunday’s loss to the San Francisco 49ers deter you, this offense is still seventh in rushing attempts. Imagine what Akers could do with a larger share of the workload.

Handcuffs

Another week, another reminder that if your stud running back’s backup is sitting out there on the waiver wire you should change that. Unless you are ridiculously deep at running back you need this insurance. Just ask fantasy managers of Christian McCaffrey or Joe Mixon who missed out on Mike Davis and Giovani Bernard if they wish they had been proactive in this regard. This obviously doesn’t apply universally.

Hill is the best example of misreading the room. But in situations like Minnesota where Alexander Mattison is the clear backup to Dalvin Cook or in New Orleans where Latavius Murray has just seven fewer carries and 34 fewer yards than Alvin Kamara even though both have been active all season. Some other names to check the wire for are Devontae Booker, Jamaal Williams, and Boston Scott. These players have more value if you have the starter in front of them but if you have the bench space it’s not a bad idea to use it on a lottery ticket.

Wide Receivers

Gabriel Davis

Buffalo Bills

This was a situation similar to Hill’s as everyone assumed Cole Beasley would see an uptick in work for the Buffalo Bills with John Brown missing time. But Gabriel Davis caught three balls for 79 yards and a score, reverting back to his form of a couple of weeks ago when he caught four passes for 70 yards and a score. It was Davis’ fourth game this season with double-digit (PPR) fantasy points and has him as WR19 as of now but, again, it was second in three weeks.

The Bills take on the San Francisco 49ers in Week 13 but it’s more of a neutral site game as the 49ers cannot play their home games at home and will thus host in Arizona. Who knows what impact that has but Richard Sherman’s return to the 49ers defense helped them keep the Rams in check. Something similar could happen to the Bills but Davis has the benefit of not being Stefon Diggs in that he won’t be the focal point of the defense.

Allen Lazard

Green Bay Packers

Just two weeks back from his core muscle injury that knocked him out for seven games Allen Lazard found the endzone against the division-rival Chicago Bears catching four of his six targets for 23 yards. Don’t get hung up on the yardage output. Despite being woeful for the last month-plus, the Bears defense is still fifth in yards allowed to receivers. Lazard had 18-plus PPR fantasy points in two of his three contests before getting hurt including a six-catch, 146-yard performance that saw him finish as the WR6.

The Green Bay Packers take on the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 13 and we all just saw that secondary get torched by D.K. Metcalf to the tune of 10 catches for 177 yards. This despite shadowing him with top-corner Darius Slay. Davante Adams resides comfortably atop the pecking order for the Packers but Lazard was making headway as the trusted second banana before going down. He could get back to it right in time for the playoffs.

Mohamed Sanu

Detroit Lions

We are playing with fire with this suggestion. There was already a good chance the Detroit Lions would get Kenny Golladay back from a lingering hip injury next week against the Bears. It’s probably all but a given after the Lions fired head coach Matt Patricia. If he does miss, though, Mohamed Sanu filled his role quite capably. Sanu corralled all four of his targets for just 32 yards but he managed to find the endzone. He’s the WR25 ahead of Wednesday.

The dangers are two-fold because Chicago is a tough assignment for receivers and Golladay, itching to prove it was Patricia holding this group back, could find his way back into the lineup. So put in a claim for Sanu at your own risk. It could wind up that those things work together and the Lions hold Golladay out another week so as not to face such a tough opponent fresh off of injury.

Tight End

Kyle Rudolph

Minnesota Vikings

This week’s contestant on “just fall into the end zone”, formally known as the tight end position. We have actually had a good run of suggestions so let’s hope we can keep it going with Kyle Rudolph. He’s the TE8 in Week 12 with seven catches and 68 yards. All of those numbers represent season-highs as Rudolph has lost much of his receiving work in recent years and has ceded even more to Irv Smith this season.

Minnesota faces those Jaguars in Week 13 though. We can attack this matchup with as much fervor as Cousins as Jacksonville ranks 31st in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. They also lead the league in touchdowns allowed to tight ends with nine. Now, Rudolph doesn’t catch many touchdowns, he has just one on the year. But the name of the game is finding a warm body with a chance at falling into six points.

Week 12 Primetime Moneymakers: Staying on Schedule

Week 11 saw the return of significant season-ending injuries and Week 12 is back to screwing with the schedule. After losing Joe Burrow and Rex Burkhead, among others, to injury last week we might lose an entire game due to COVID. An outbreak at the Baltimore Raves facility that has claimed Lamar Jackson and forced a shutdown until at least Monday. This obviously puts their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in even further doubt after the game was already moved from Thursday.

Moving that game may have been for the best. It was another week of taking it on the chin, going 1-3 in Week 11 which was an improvement over the week before. Undeterred, we must forge on with a two-game primetime slate. There’s still plenty of opportunities to make some money this week and if anyone is going to make it, it might as well be us (for a change, sheesh).

Staying on Schedule with Week 12 Primetime Moneymakers

Chicago Bears (5-5) at Green Bay Packers (7-3)

Spread: Packers -9

O/U: 44.5

What a fall from grace it’s been for the Chicago Bears (5-5 ATS) who began the season 5-1. They went into their bye on a four-game losing streak and with a loss to the Minnesota Vikings for the first time since 2017. As usual, their defense is among the best, ranking fourth in defense DVOA, per Football Outsiders and sixth in scoring. But their offense checks in at 29th in DVOA and 31st in scoring. You see the problem. Now, they turn back to opening-day starter Mitchell Trubisky with Nick Foles still on the mend. They also don’t know if Akiem Hicks will be available to stop the run.

The Green Bay Packers (6-4 ATS) should be 8-2. Marquez Valdes-Scantling’s fumble in Packer territory in overtime allowed for a game-winning field goal by the Indianapolis Colts. All three of Green Bay’s losses have been of a confounding nature for various reasons. They still rank ninth in total DVOA and second in offense DVOA. Their (sometimes glaring) weakness is their defense. After making tremendous strides last season, they have regressed some. They still rank 18th in defense DVOA (15th in 2019), but aren’t getting to the quarterback in the same way as before. Still, the trio of Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, and Aaron Jones is as good of an eraser as there is.

There isn’t much mystery here as the Packers have owned the Bears since Bret Favre’s time in Wisconsin with some highly critical games along the way including an NFC Championship. Chicago hasn’t beaten Green Bay since 2018 and, with the current state of both teams as it is, they don’t appear poised to snap that streak in 2020. Trubisky, who was already benched this season, has only thrown four touchdowns (with three interceptions) in five games against the Packers. So it’s unlikely he is the answer to their scoring woes, let alone breaking out of their slump. This game opened at Packer -7.5 and has only grown. Follow that lead and take Green Bay laying the points. We’re leaving totals alone this week for…reasons.

Seattle Seahawks (7-3) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-6-1)

Spread: Eagles +5

O/U: 50

It was around this time last week that we were on the brink of eulogizing the Seattle Seahawks (6-4 ATS) in advance of their matchup with the Arizona Cardinals. “Let Russ Cook” took a backseat as Russell Wilson tied a season-low with 28 pass attempts and set a new season-low with 197 yards. The Seahawks still managed a 28-21 victory in primetime. Seattle is much like Green Bay in that they are carried by their offense. They rank fourth in offense DVOA but 23rd in defense DVOA. So perhaps they can find a happy medium between letting Russ cook and their run-heavy approach of the past two seasons.

Carson Wentz is fighting for his career as a starter with the Philadelphia Eagles (3-7 ATS) while they are fighting for the crown in the worst division in football. With a win, the Eagles would take over first place from the Washington Football team by virtue of having a tie in place of a loss. It’s a dubious honor but a loss could usher in the start of the Jalen Hurts era in Philly. The Eagles defense ranks 30th in DVOA thanks in no small part to Wentz’s league-leading 14 interceptions. But their defense ranks 13th bolstered by their stout run-stopping ability.

The Eagles have lost and failed to cover in each of their last two games and neither contest was against top-tier competition. On the other side, the Seahawks bounced back from implosion but have failed to cover on the road since Week 4 in Miami. Philadelphia is also getting healthier at wide receiver and tight end. Can they offset the juice seemingly added to Seattle’s pass rush by the addition of Carlos Dunlap? This feels like a trap after opening at -2.5, but home dogs have covered over 50 percent of the time making Philly plus the points feel best. Both defenses shut down the run meaning more passing which usually means more points. Pound the over.

Baltimore Ravens (6-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (10-0)

Spread: Steelers -4.5

O/U: 45  

This on-again, off-again affair is back on again for primetime after being moved from Thursday night to Sunday afternoon, now to Tuesday night following an outbreak of COVID among the Baltimore Ravens (4-6 ATS). In the midst of what would be considered a down year offensively, the Ravens will face an undefeated opponent having not been allowed to practice until Monday at the earliest. On top of that, even if they end up playing the game, Baltimore’s 23rd ranked offense (DVOA) will be led by Robert Griffin III as Lamar Jackson has tested positive. They’ll be relying on their defense that ranks seventh in DVOA a little more than usual.

“Undefeated” might as well be a four-letter word as you won’t find many teams that will ever entertain the idea. The same goes for the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-2) who are having an incredible season. They’re third in total DVOA, first in defense DVOA, fourth in scoring offense, and first in scoring defense. This is a well-rounded machine even if it isn’t always well-oiled. Pittsburgh has scored at least 24 points in every game this season while allowing an opponent to score more than that just once.  The Steelers also lead the league in sacks, just one more thing for fill-in RGIII to worry about come (hopefully) Tuesday night.

There is no way the Ravens can be as prepared to play this game as they need to be to have a chance. And that’s before factoring in a backup quarterback. When these two teams met back in Week 8, the Steelers came away with a 28-24 victory on a Ben Roethlisberger touchdown pass to Chase Claypool late in the fourth quarter. It won’t get that close this time with the way this game is shaping up. 4.5 might not be enough for the Ravens to cover the first quarter, take Pittsburgh. And if you’re feeling frisky take the under. Baltimore might have trouble hitting their implied total of 20.5 and Pittsburgh could turn to James Conner and the run early with the Calais Campbell set to miss another game.

Week 12 Waiver Wire: In Gus We Truzz

Just six weeks are left in the regular season and playoff races are in full swing. The resurgence of the injury bug has taken its toll; both in real-life and fantasy football. Cincinnati Bengals rookie quarterback and first-overall pick Joe Burrow suffered a gruesome knee injury that will end his season. Rex Burkhead seems likely to have suffered the same fate. Theirs were the most-significant injuries but not the only. Kyler Murray injured his shoulder way back on Thursday so some may have forgotten. We also saw Julio Jones and JuJu Smith-Schuster both leave their respective games early yet again.

You likely need injury-replacements if anything, as we have a bye week from bye weeks. Still, while always disheartening especially for the individual players, just means more opportunities to work the waiver wire for us. We have a trash-talking quarterback, a pass-catching running back, and a dirty bird wide receiver to fill out your fantasy roster.

Big Truzz for Ravens RB in Week 12’s Waiver Wire

Quarterbacks

Philip Rivers

Indianapolis Colts

Through the first five games of the season Philip Rivers was the QB26 on the season; completing better than 70 percent of his passes, but throwing just four touchdowns to five interceptions, there was no scoring to offset his averaging just 245 yards on 30 attempts per game. Since then, he ranks a modest but improved 17th among fantasy quarterbacks averaging 291 yards on 39 attempts with 10 touchdowns to just three picks.

Rivers has been dealing lately

He’ll draw the Tennessee Titans for the second time in three week in Week 12, a team he just beat 34-17 to regain control over the AFC South. Rivers only threw one touchdown in that game but he did cross the 300-yard threshold for just the third time this season. For their part, the Titans have given up the 10th-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season and had given up at least 249 passing yards in six straight games before facing Lamar Jackson on Sunday.

Daniel Jones

New York Giants

As the old adage goes, “no risk it, no biscuit”. Starting Daniel Jones comes with an insane amount of risk baked in due to his propensity to turn the football over but he checks in a few spots higher than Rivers on the year as the QB23. The rollercoaster has been mostly down for him this season, as he’s had six games with fewer than 15 fantasy points, three games with single-digit outputs, and only two games with 20-plus points (depending on your league’s scoring format).

Sometimes, though, a squishy opponent can allay concerns. The Bengals fall just into that category, ranking 19th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. Before facing the Washington Football team on Sunday, Cincinnati had allowed over 300 yards passing in three of its last four contests and four of its last six. The Bengals have also allowed the third-most passing touchdowns on the season. If Ryan Finley can at least keep the Bengals on the board, Jones should be able to deliver.

Running Backs

Gus Edwards

Baltimore Ravens

Okay we’re breaking a few rules on this one but the circumstances justify it. Typically, you won’t see a player repeated here if they were listed in a prior week as Gus Edwards was in Week 9’s edition. You also wouldn’t see a player who scored fewer than one point that week unless they were on a bye or something injury related. J.K Dobbins was the star in the Baltimore Ravens loss to the Titans on Sunday.

The Ravens Truzz Gus on the goal line

But he and fellow back Mark Ingram were placed on the COVID-restricted list on Monday, leaving Edwards and Justice Hill  as the only backs on a short week.the matchup is far from ideal. The Pittsburgh Steelers are third in fantasy points allowed to backs. Not that it matters much for Edwards, but they are equally as stingy through the air as they are on the ground too. Edwards got 16 carries in Ingram’s absence turning them into 87 yards and a touchdown when these teams met back in Week 8. With no Dobbins or Ingram this time around, it could be a big day for the big back.

James White

New England Patriots

Everybody, say it with me now, “you can’t trust a New England Patriots running back”. Great now that we’ve got the legal disclaimer out of the way, James White could be a very useful piece to your fantasy roster down the stretch. Just the RB46 on the year in PPR, White has just three games with double-digit fantasy points. He also missed two additional contests with the tragic loss of his father. White finished as the RB15 through Sunday.

Burkhead vacates White’s old role as the pass-catching back in the Patriots backfield. That;s significant because neither Damien Harris nor they soon-to-return Sony Michel are utilized much if at all in the passing game. They face the Arizona Cardinals in Week 12. They’ve allowed three receiving touchdowns on the season, eighth-most. Meanwhile the Los Angeles Chargers, who they see in Week 13, have allowed the eighth-most receptions and 10th-most receiving touchdowns to backs.

Handcuffs

As mentioned in last weeks edition, and will be mentioned every week until the playoffs, pick up your running back’s handcuff if you have or can clear the bench space. Nothing is worse than being caught flat-footed in the middle of a playoff chase because you snoozed on a player that was always more valuable to you than others. This is a time to be proactive and not wait for injuries to happen. Every owner could use another starting back. Don’t get caught needing one for some fringe wideout you’d never play.

Wide Receivers

Cole Beasley

Buffalo Bills

Bye weeks can be very useful for fantasy managers. For one thing, when a player has a good game right before their bye, they often go overlooked on the waiver wire. Enter Cole Beasley, who had 11 catches (13 targets) for 109 yards and a touchdown in Week 10 before the Buffalo Bills went on hiatus. It was his first time hitting double-digit PPR fantasy points in three weeks but he’d hit the mark in six straight contests before that.

Beasley left all alone

John Brown looks like he could miss some time with an apparent ankle injury suffered in that Week 10 contest. Beasley has averaged the 16th-most fantasy points per game with Brown out of the lineup. Buffalo also returns to face the Chargers, a defense we told you about earlier. They allow the short passes by design so Beasley could be set up for success regardless of whether or not Brown plays.

Damiere Byrd

New England Patriots

After three weeks of being the number-one guy on the Patriots, Jakobi Meyers ceded the role to Damiere Byrd. Cam Newton’s former teammate with the Carolina Panthers delivered with 26.3 PPR fantasy points, good for WR4 through Sunday. It was a helluva bounceback for Byrd (six catches on seven targets for 132 yards and touchdown) after he was blanked in Week 10. He also carried once for 11 yards. It is a similar three game stretch to the one he had from Weeks 2-4.

The Cardinals roll into Foxboro for Week 12, meaning Meyers will likely see a good deal of Patrick Peterson. That means Byrd should see his fair share of Dre Kirkpatrick. He’s allowing nearly 77 percent of passes thrown at him to be completed at more than a first down per completion. Newton has looked *better* over these past few weeks and maybe that means this offense will start to click more down the stretch. Or at least produce two fantasy viable wideouts.

Olamide Zaccheaus

Atlanta Falcons

We’re breaking one of the rules we broke for Edwards yet again, this time for Atlanta Falcons wideout Olamide Zaccheaus. He only had one catch for 10 measly yards in the Falcons 24-9 whooping at the hands (and legs) of Taysom Hill and the New Orleans Saints. More disappointing that the situation being right, Julio Jones had to leave this one early. Worse yet is Zaccheaus was coming off 4/103/1 day against the Denver Broncos.

Jones’ injured hammy could be enough to keep him out by itself or due to an abundance of caution. Russell Gage had the better game this week, but it was Zaccheaus who stepped up when Jones re-aggravated the same hammy against Green Bay earlier in the year. Zaccheaus had eight catches for 86 yards in that one and looked like an explosive playmaker. The Las Vegas Raiders is 20th in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers. Gage is probably an option too, but his role seems rather locked in.

Tight End

Jordan Akins

Houston Texans

In case you haven’t noticed, tight end is a wasteland for fantasy once again. So much so that we should rightfully be interested in anyone showing a pulse in the previous week as we are more often than not banking on a touchdown anyway. Well, Jordan Akins is your guy. The athletic Houston Texans tight end was the TE8 in Week 11 following his five-catch, 83-yard performance against the Patriots.

Be warned, this was just the second time all season Akins has produced double-digit fantasy points, and that’s in PPR. It was also just the second time he’s caught more than three passes or had more than 50 yards in a game all season. Again, anybody with a pulse. He’ll face a Detroit Lions team that is actually in the top-12 in tight end fantasy points allowed so, again, be warned. Just keep telling yourself, all it takes is a touchdown.

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.