Euro Cup 2016 Group Stage Predictions

I know I’m a bit behind since the Euro Cup 2016 started already, but better than late than never right?

After all it is only the second day and so far, my initial predictions haven’t been affected by the first three games played.

Now, I typically don’t write about soccer on here, but since I just published a list of the best pubs for Euro Cup watching in the ‘Burgh I figured I might as well rope-a-dope my group stage predictions on here before the tournament gets really going.

I’m only doing a list of my picks on how each group will finish. I was going to do a full-on prediction up to the finals, but with Euro’s tricky rules about the advancement of certain third-place teams I decided I’d save myself the headache in math.

Although I’ll be honest this is France and Germany’s tournament to lose. Germany is still the most well-balanced team in the tournament and you cannot count France out on home soil.

Now without further ado, here’s my predicted finishes for each Euro Cup Group.

GROUP A

France

Switzerland

Albania

Romania

As I said, this is France’s tournament to lose. You’d have to go back to the 1930s to find a time France lost as the host nation. Add in the fact this may be the most talented roster Les Blues has had in years it makes for a dangerous combination. Their biggest question will be can a young core with Paul Pogba, Yohan Cabaye, and Kingsley Coman keep their composure all tournament long? Albania is a nice Cinderella story, but the truth is the Swiss have enough firepower and creativity behind Xherdan Shaqiri to nip that fantasy in the butt.

GROUP B

Slovakia

England

Russia

Wales

I know, I know it’s crazy I have Slovakia winning the group. Now I had this picked before this afternoon’s 2-1 loss to Wales, but I’m not going to change it now. Slovakia is a solid group of players who play surprisingly well together. Marek Hamsik is their playmaker in the center of midfield and Vladimir Weiss is a fantastic workhorse on the flank, with a sharp, creative spark (one which he showcased today). Their biggest strength is not relying on any one player – they get goals from everyone. Something they showed during their 3-1 win over Germany in a May friendly. I have England losing today (check Twitter) against Russia 2-1, but the Three Lions always find a way to battle back from an opening match debacle. They have enough talent this year to make it out of this group. Wales will be the heartbreak story. After Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, and Ben Davies the number of skill players on their roster is marginal at best. I expect the July 16 scuffle with England will take the fight out of them and effectively spoil their Euro.

GROUP C

Germany

Northern Ireland

Poland

Ukraine

Another wild pick – Northern Ireland?! I know ESPN loves them some Poland, but truth is after Robert Lewandoski they don’t have much of anything. Not to mention, they routinely find new ways to lose in epic fashion (missed qualifying for the 2014 World Cup because of an own goal). So that leaves Norther Ireland, who have won 11 straight matches. That sort of confidence is a relatively open group is the perfect recipe for a shocker. Plus let’s face it after Denmark in 1992 and Greece in 2004 the Euro has a reputation for surprising story lines.

GROUP D

Croatia

Turkey

Spain

Czech Republic

A tough group, but not quite the Group of Death. Croatia is the arguably the most disrespected team in the tournament. The partnership between Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic is easily the best 1-2 midfield punch in the tournament. Not to mention the big man Mario Mandzukic up top is a proven goal scorer (24 goals for Croatia in 66 appearances). Call me crazy with La Roja finishing third, but I don’t see them being a legit threat in year’s edition. And after that 1-0 loss to Georgia last week I don’t think anyone in this group will be afraid of them. Turkey is my tournament dark horse. They have a superbly young and talented squad built from Turkey’s Super Lig’s best players (12 of their 23 players play for either Fenerbahce, Galatasaray, or Besiktas in Turkey’s domestic league). That sort of unity is hard to come by and very reminiscent of Spain’s memorable 2008-2012 run built largely with players from La Liga’s Real Madrid and Barcelona rosters.

Group E

Italy

Sweden

Belgium

Republic of Ireland

Now friends and co-workers will call me bias for placing my Azzurri at the top of the real Group of Death, but hear me out. Conte’s Italy have not lost a competitive match yet (just a few friendlies along the way) and topped their qualifying group. Even with the constant rotation of players during the qualifying campaign, Italy found ways to win. Plus, with Gigi Buffon in net and the tournament’s best defensive unit it is hard to count them out. After all defense wins’ championships. Now the real shocker here is Sweden over Belgium. I think Belgium is going to lose their opening match to Italy – that isn’t bias that’s just acknowledging the Red Devils have one of the thinnest backlines in the tourney. Without Vincent Kompany their defensive leadership is going to be left wanting. Plus, despite the loads of talent on this squad with the likes of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Radja Nainggolan, and Alex Witsel I have yet to see them play together as a unit. They have loads of potential but just like at the 2014 World Cup they haven’t found a way to put it all together. With the pressure of being a tournament favorite I feel like all the fixings for another early exit is aligned for Belgium. Leaving Sweden to slip in ahead of them.  The Swedes boast one of the world’s best players in Zlatan Ibrahimovic and a roster sprinkled with talent from the Blagult’s recent Under-21 World Championship core. They should not be taken lightly.

GROUP F

Iceland

Portugal

Austria

Hungry

Austria is another team high on the list of ‘dark horses,’ but David Alba – their best player — isn’t the type of player who can elevate an entire squad to European glory. That leaves the always underachieving Portuguese to limp into the knockout rounds. Their squad has more gaps than I can recall in recent memory but with Christiano Ronaldo still in the lineup they’ll will their way out of the group. Iceland is my surprise here. Similar to my logic with Turkey they have a young core with a ton of cohesion amongst the players. They ran a stellar qualifying campaign finishing just two points behind group winner Czech Republic. But what stood out to me was their +11 goal difference during the campaign. The boys can play and in a wide-open group they’ll surprise more than just fans.

 

Photo credit: Nazionale Calcio via Flickr Creative Commons 

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Steelers vs. Bengals and the rest of Wild Card Weekend Predictions

This weekend will mark the beginning of the NFL playoffs along with the Steelers chance to repeat their fabled run ten years ago – can the Steelers work that 6-seed magic one more time? Even without Andy Dalton the Steelers will have a tall order against their AFC North rivals, but how well do the two teams match-up? Their playoff rubber match will decide both teams fate and perhaps the fates of some of the players/coaches involved.

Quaterbacks

AJ McCarron vs. Ben Roethlisberger – Even though he hasn’t looked like himself the last two weeks, you cannot discredit Big Ben in this matchup. If Pittsburgh plans on making a run this year it all starts with Ben. His arm and this offense are more than capable of tearing the roof off any defense in this tournament, but it starts with Ben limiting his turnovers and fixing his recent run of hasty decision making (6:7 TD/INT ratio the last four games). On the flip side, McCarron has filled in nicely for the injured Dalton and considering his superb records in high school and college it can be safe to say the former Crimson Tide star and National Championship winner will be unfazed by the pressure and severity surrounding this game.

Edge – Steelers

 

Running Backs

Hill/Bernard vs. Todman/Toussiant – As of this morning, DeAngelo Williams is officially ruled out of Saturday’s contest, leaving the T-duo of Jordan Todman and Fitzgerald Toussaint as the go-to backs come kickoff. Williams was tied for a NFL-best 11 rushing touchdowns and his 907 rushing yards will surely be missed. With the  Steelers potent passing attack they might be able to squeak by with this rag-tag duo, but clearly Cincinnati has the advantage here. Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill have combined for a lousy 128 yards on the ground against the Steelers during their two seasonal games. However even with that surprising statistical consideration it is tough to bet against a respectable two-punch combo that’s helped lead the Bengals to a AFC North Divisional title against a duo of career backups that have combined for a mere 64 yards this season.

Edge – Bengals 

 

Wide Receivers

A.J. Green vs. Antonio Brown – Two of the best wide receivers in the league will be on display in this game, but only one will have the luxury of having a top-tier quarterback throwing their way. In addition the drop off in talent after Green is significant for the Bengals. Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones are decent slot receivers, but outside the occasional big play the Bengals aerial attack depends on Green (and Eifert). Even with Martavis Byrant’s recent run of poor form the Steelers still have capable possession man Markus Wheaton and the explosive play of Darrius Heyward-Bey to help accent Brown who has clearly elevated his game this season.

Edge – Steelers 

 

Tight Ends

Tyler Eifert vs. Heath Miller – Eifert has been a touchdown machine all year for Cincy (13 total), but he has yet to find the endzone against Pittsburgh this season. Ironically, the veteran Miller has also not been able to find pay dirt in the seasonal series either. The difference here is Miller’s 171 yards on 20 catches in their two contests this year compared to Eifert’s 81 yards on 6 catches.

Edge – Steelers

 

Defensive Line

This is may be the least talked about match-up coming into Saturday’s game, but easily one of the most intriguing ones. Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap have both hit double digit sacks this year (11 and 13.5 respectively). They are the anchors to not only the Bengals D-line, but also their defense – when they’re on, this team is nearly unstoppable. On the other side of the field, the explosive and agile combination of defensive ends,  Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward have produced a combined 13.5 sacks for the Steelers and continue to wreak havoc for offensive lines with their speed. However, for as good as Tuitt and Heyward have been, their combined numbers match the total of just one Carlos Dunlap.

Edge – Bengals 

 

Linebackers

This one is tough to call. Both teams have some studs in the heart of their defense. Vontaze Burfict, A.J. Hawk,  Rey Maualuga, and Vincent Rey are all tackling machines. Meanwhile Lawrence Timmons is the cornerstone to what has been a revolving door of playmakers for Blitzburgh including future HOFer James Harrison, Jarvis Jones, Ryan Shazier, Athur Moats, and 2015 first-rounder Bud Dupree. The Steelers rotation has been effective with each of the listed players recording at least two sacks this season, but this one is still a toss-up. The only thing guaranteed here is some bruising, heavy hits that the AFC North is known for.

Edge – Push

 

Secondary

While this breakdown still heavily favors the Bengals, the actual numbers make it slightly closer than one may think. Cincy finished the season 20th overall in pass defense while the Steelers finished at a lowly 30th in the league. However, the Steelers did manage to produce 17 interceptions compared to Cincy’s 21. Interestingly enough both teams surrendered a 64% completion rate against opposing quarterbacks – only four other teams had a worse rate (San Francisco, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, and New Orleans). In the end the kicker is the average passing yards per game. The Steelers gave up a near league worse 272 passing yards per game (only the New York Giants and New Orleans Saints gave up more yards through the air) compared to Cincinnati’s 249.

Edge – Bengals 

 

Special Teams

Both teams have an identical 83.9% success rate on field goals this season (both went 26/31 on the year). However, the Steelers finished the season with the highest return yards from kickoffs in the NFL with 1,200 yards on 54 returns compared to Cincy’s 1,041 on 46 returns. In a game where field position will certainly play a factor such arbitrary numbers may determine the game. One must also consider the threat of Antonio Brown in the Steelers’ punt return game. And while the Bengals have completed all 27 of their extra point attempts, the Steelers league-best 72.7% (8/11) on two-point conversions may truly be what decides this game. Playing it safe with PATs doesn’t always give your team the best chance to win.

Edge – Steelers

 

Final Prediction – Steelers 26 – Bengals 20

Ultimately it comes down to quarterbacks and coaching. Big Ben is more than capable of taking this game over and will more than likely have to do so, if Pittsburgh wants to advance. Marvin Lewis hasn’t won a playoff game in six appearances whereas Mike Tomlin has consistently found ways to win this season (in addition to a 5-4 playoff record). The Steelers defense lives and dies with the turnover battle, but in a game that will likely go down to the wire – it will be the coaches who decide it. I fancy Tomlin outlasting Lewis, who has yet to survive the pressure of the postseason.

The rest of the Wild Card Game Predictions

Kansas City Chiefs 30 – Houston Texans 17

The Chiefs are easily the hottest team in the AFC right now riding a 10-game winning streak and I just do not see the Texans (even at home) being able to stop them. Brian  Hoyer and DeAndre Hopkins will give the Chiefs some problems, but ultimately the Chiefs D-line will out-muscle and out-hustle the Texans offensive line.

Minnesota Vikings 17 – Seattle Seahawks 14

For as stellar as Russel Wilson has been the second half of this season (21:1 TD/INT ratio since Week 11) I still like the Vikings at home. This is the Vikings first home playoff game since 2009 and you better believe the crowd will factor into this one. The Seahawks have historically been a weaker road team (5-3 this year on the road) and I like a playoff motivated Adrian Peterson over a surging Russel Wilson.

Washington Redskins 38 – Green Bay Packers 28

This one comes down to Kirk Cousins at home over a lackluster Green Bay squad. Despite the common narrative, Rodgers’ isn’t all that great in the postseason posting only a 7-5 record in 12 games. Considering how inconsistent the Packers have been all year I just cannot go against a ‘Captain Kirk’ Cousins at home. Especially not when he’s put up 2,170 yards and a 16:2 TD/INT ratio at FedEx Field this year, including four 300-plus yard games.

 

 

 

 

 

Week 17 Waiver Wire Wonders

So here we are – the last week of the NFL season and for the lucky lot of us, the Fantasy Finals. The rule of thumb in the fantasy playoffs is to always ‘start your studs.’ I certainly cannot disagree with that. You have to trust the guys that got you this far. There are a quite a few difficult matchups this week and there are not many studs left on waivers, but there a few waiver claims that could help you lift the title.

 

**All owning percetange is based off of ESPN Standard Leagues**

 

QB

Johnny Manziel – Cleveland Browns – Owned in 2.0% of leagues

He had a rough game through the air last week against Kansas City, but he still managed to do damage on the ground piling up over a 100 yards on eleven carries. He faces off against a Pittsburgh secondary that he torched 372 yards and score in Week 10. You may have your doubts, but even in a must-win situation a quarterback playing against the Steelers secondary is good news for fantasy. In two-quarterback leagues he’s worth taking a look at.

RB

Isaiah Crowell – Cleveland Browns – Owned in 36.3% of leagues

He’s got a tough matchup against a solid Steelers run defense, but you can’t ignore his numbers over the last three weeks. Since he’s breakout against San Francisco Crowell has compiled 256 yards on 45 carries with three scores; not to mention he’s averaging 5.6 yards be carry. His point total this week may be touchdown dependent, but his current hot streak shouldn’t be ignored.

Donald Brown – San Diego Chargers – Owned in 12.2% of leagues

Brown is a volume-for-value addition. He had a dismal 17 yards on 14 carries last week against Oakland, but with Melvin Gordon out for the season he will be the Chargers’ lead back in their season finale against Denver. Similar to Crowell his fantasy points will very likely hinge on touchdowns this week.

WR

Dontrelle Inman – San Diego Chargers – Owned in 6.4% of leagues

He’s established himself as the go-to receiver in what has been an injury-plagued season for the Chargers’ offense. Despite a very tough match up against Denver’s secondary the plus side is Inman is the number one target on a pass-first offense. Considering he’s on a hot streak – 11 catches, 160 yards, and a score – over the last two games and Denver’s defense has given up 246 yards and 3 touchdowns to number one receivers (AJ Green and Antonio Brown), Inman could be a Week 17 surprise.

Kenny Britt – St. Louis Rams – Owned in 1.8% of leagues

I like Britt simply as a touchdown threat against a weak San Francisco secondary. For leagues that offer bonus points for big-plays, he is certainly worth a flex play. After all, he is the Rams main deep threat.

TE

Zach Ertz – Philadelphia Eagles – Owned in 57% of leagues

I know Ertz isn’t exactly a waiver wire wonder with his owning percentage, but if he is available in your league snag him. He’s one of Bradford’s favorite targets and he is playing against the porous New York Giants secondary. I like his chances for a Week 17 explosion.

 

Tough Matchups to Consider in Week 17

Mike Evans vs. Josh Norman

Evans typically worthy of a WR1 spot, but this week’s matchup against Norman and the Panthers defense may have you reconsidering your options. If you have the depth to bench him, I’d recommend it.

Sammy Watkins vs. Darrelle Revis

The Jets are coming off a big win and Revis has been lights out must of this season. A few number one guys (i.e. DeAndre Hopkins) have been able to blow up Revis’ coverage this year, but examples like that have been few and far between.

San Francisco’s Runningback Situation

With Shaun Draughn’s nagging injury and a stable of so-so backups it will be tough to see what the 49ers do against the Rams in their season finale. It is likely they’ll use a committee approach to see which backs they’ll look at keeping for next season. This is exceedingly the case if Draughn sits, so do not buy the DuJaun Harris’ hype quite yet. I’d avoid 49ers RBs this week.

 

Good luck this week!!

Week 13 Waiver Wire Wonders

It is do-or-die time in the fantasy football world. Most of you out there are in your last week of the regular season, some may have another week (or two) left, but the goals are all the same – win and you’re in. There were a few injuries round the NFL this weekend making for some juicy late-season pick-ups, but for the most part the waivers this week hinge on match ups and necessity.

**Owning percentages are based off of ESPN standard leagues**

 

QB

Alex Smith – Kansas City Chiefs – Owned in 38.7% of leagues

Smith and the Chiefs have been reeling. Smith hasn’t thrown a pick since Week 3 and he’s coming up against a rather soft Oakland secondary. Depending on your QB situation, Smith offers a significant amount of upside especially in two-quarterback leagues.

Kirk Cousins – Washington Redskins – Owned in 26% of leagues

I like Cousins simply because it is a Monday Night match-up at home. In six games at FedEx Field this year Cousins has averaged 272-yards with 11 touchdowns to 2INTS. In five road games he’s averaged 231-yards with 5 touchdowns and 8INTS. Bottom line – he’s been a monster at home this season.

RB

Shaun Draughn – San Fransisco 49ers – Owned in 35.3% of leagues

Let’s face it Carlos Hyde likely isn’t coming back this year and if you’re a Hyde owner you need Draughn. He’s averaged over 86 all-purpose yards the last three weeks against three top defenses (Atlanta, Seattle, Arizona). He’s got a great match-up against Chicago this week and should find pay dirt for the first time since taking over.

David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals – Owned in 23% of leagues

Handcuff and injuries make Johnson a priority. Chris Johnson is done for the regular season, if not the year. Andre Ellington is still banged up leaving Johnson as the likely owner of Arizona’s backfield this week. He’s been a touchdown machine, finding the endzone eight times to date.

Brandon Bolden/James White – New England Patriots – Owned in 4.1% & 32.9% of leagues respectively

Pick your poison. It is tough to decipher which one of these pass-catching backs is better to own, let alone start. However, both are worthy of roster spots especially considering the recent slew of injuries to New England’s receiving core. White played significantly more snaps this past weekend than Bolden, but Bolden made the most of his play-time compared to White. Treat both with caution.

Jay Ajayi –Miami Dolphins – Owned in 14% of leagues

Ajayi is simply a handcuff addition at this point. He has been receiving a bit more action in the Dolphins offense, but he isn’t worthy of starting unless Lamar Miller goes down with an injury.

WR

Anquan Boldin – San Francisco 49ers – Owned in 48.5% of leagues

Back-to-back 93-yard games (5 and 8 catches in those games). It is clear to say that Bolden has a great QB-WR relationship with Blaine Gabbert and should continue to see a steady rise in his numbers the rest of the season.

Dorial Green-Beckhaam – Tennessee Titans – Owned in 12.2% of leagues

He’s a big-play, boom-or-bust type of receiver, but it is very difficult to go against his matchup this week against the Jaguars. They give up loads of fantasy points to wide receivers and DGB could finally see that breakout game we have all been waiting for.

Devin Funchess – Carolina Panthers – Owned in 23.8% of leagues

He’s a touchdown threat going against the hopeless New Orleans defense. Cecil Shorts and Nate Washington just carved up the Saints defense last week and this rookie is significantly more talented than both of those wideouts; expect a big day from Funchess.

TE

Jacob Tamme – Atlanta Falcons – Owned in 23.7% of leagues

Any time a TE leads his team in receiving yards it is always a good sign. Such was the case last week (69 yards). Tamme has established some solid chemistry with quarterback Matt Ryan and could prove to be a viable TE1 going into the fantasy playoffs.

Scott Chandler – New England Patriots – Owned in 2.6% of leagues

The unthinkable happened – Gronk got injured. If you’re a Gronk owner once you recover from that mild heart attack, go ahead and snag Chandler. He’s no Gronk, but Chandler is 6’7’’ and is a huge redzone target. Not to mention, he piled up 58 yards on five catches and score against the stout Denver defense this past weekend.

Vance McDonald – San Francisco 49ers – Owned in .6% of leagues

Worried you’re going to lose the Chandler sweepstakes? Don’t worry McDonald will be available and quite frankly is the better option. He’s the number one TE1 and he’s had back-to-back games with a touchdown; fair to note those games came against Seattle (4 catches, 65 yards) and Arizona (6 catches, 71 yards). Mcdonald has a solid relationship with Gabbert and could provide solid TE1 numbers the rest of the season.

 

 

Week 12 Waiver Wire Wonders

Well were are now in the thick of the fantasy playoff hunt. No more bye weeks left and hopefully your team is slated for a postseason berth. Yet, even with the postseason right around the corner your team can always use more depth and there’s a few guys lurking on the waiver wire poised to have a few breakout performances when your team needs them the most.

**All owning percentages are based on standard ESPN fantasy formats**

 

QB

Brian Hoyer – Houston Texans – Owned in 11% of leagues

Short and sweet analysis here; Hoyer’s healthy and he’s going against the Saints defense – enough said.

Kirk Cousins – Washington Redskins – Owned in 28.3% of leagues

Cousins is a roller-coaster of a fantasy quarterback, capable of producing stellar games and always capable of producing dreadful games like this past weekend’s game against Carolina. The plus side is he typically follows up a terrible week with a quality fantasy-point producing outing. This week he’s up against a soft New York Giants secondary, expect Cousins to bounce back this week with big numbers.

RB

Thomas Rawls – Seattle Seahawks – Owned in 38% of leagues

Rawls is still a handcuff back, but he’s a handcuff you want on your roster. After his eye-opening two touchdown, 209-yard performance this past weekend Rawls should have a spot on your roster going into December. If Marshawn Lynch is still out this week expect another heavy workload from Rawls against the Steelers this weekend.

Javorius Allen – Baltimore Ravens – Owned in 6.2% of leagues

He’s now the lead back on an AFC North team. Injuries to both Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro land him as the starter and sole control over Baltimore’s backfield. With Joe Flacco’s ACL/MCL tear, it will be interesting to see how the Ravens already lackluster offense evolves, but Allen has a chance to be a fantasy goldmine in the closing weeks of the season.

Jonathan Grimes – Houston Texans – Owned in 8% of leagues

It is only a matter of time until Grimes replaces Alfred Blue as the lead back in Houston. He produced his best game of the season last week producing 65-yards from scrimmage with less than a half dozen touches. Blue is still the bell cow for now, but a matchup against the league’s worst defense in New Orleans, might just produce that breakout game for Grimes.

Spencer Ware – Kansas City Chiefs – Owned in .5% of leagues

With Charcandrick West’s hamstring injury Ware should be in line for a much larger role in the Chiefs offense. KC’s whole team is on fire right now and Ware just produced a two score, 90-yard game on just eleven carries this past weekend.

WR

Dontrelle Inman – San Diego Chargers – Owned in 7.7% of leagues

The Chargers have a depleted wide receiving core, but are still a pass-first offense. Inman is coming off a three catch, 51-yard game and has a very intriguing matchup against the Jaguars defense that surrenders a ton of yards through the air.

Cecil Shorts III – Houston Texans – Owned in 6.7% of leagues

Same logic here as the Hoyer pick-up – he’s playing against the New Orleans defense.

Devin Funchess – Carolina Panthers – Owned in 11% of leagues

Funchess is finally seeing a larger role in the Panther’s offense and with Ted Ginn Jr.’s injury, expect things to continue for the rookie. He’s peaking at the right time and could be a December stud.

Brian Hartline – Cleveland Browns – Owned in .6% of leagues

Gary Barnidge and Travis Benjamin are the only other receiving threats on the Browns offense. He’s got a great matchup against a beatable Ravens secondary Monday night and could warrant a spot-start in deeper leagues.

TE

Crockett Gillmore – Baltimore Ravens – Owned in 17% of leagues

He was on my list last week and even with Flacco’s injury he’s staying on it. He had a 5-catch 101-yard game last week against the Rams and even with Matt Schuab under center this week, expect Gillmore to continue to produce. After all, he’s one of the only consistent (and healthy) receiving threats on their offense.

Coby Fleener – Indianapolis Colts – Owned in 34% of leagues

Had a decent game this past weekend, but also was second in the team in targets. As long as Matt Hasselbeck is under center for the Colts, Fleener is a legit TE1 option.

 

 

 

 

Week 11 Waiver Wire Wonders

The fantasy playoff hunt is fully underway. Your bye week fill-ins and flex starts could land you a ticket to the playoff promise land or cost you an early exit. With Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints, the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers all on bye this week a few teams will be in need of some quarterbacks and wide receivers (or a tight end for you Gary Barnidge owners).

**Owning percentages are based off of standard ESPN Fantasy leagues**

QB

Marcus Mariota – Tennessee Titans – Owned in 43% of leagues

Despite everything the rookie quarterback hasn’t had a terrible debut season. He’s had four multi-touchdown games and is facing a Jaguars defense that has given up at least one passing touchdown in its last six contests.

Alex Smith – Kansas City Chiefs – Owned in 35% of leagues

KC is on a hot streak right now. Their running game is back on track and their defense is playing some lights out football right now. Alex Smith should continue to reap the benefits especially against a San Diego secondary that hasn’t stopped anyone all year.

Brock Osweiler – Denver Broncos – Owned in .3% of leagues

Peyton is out and Osweiler is taking over the reigns to a very capable and potent offense. In two-quarterback leagues he’s definitely worth a spot start.

Case Keenum – St. Louis Rams – Owned in 0% of leagues

The journeyman is officially replacing Nick Foles under center for the Rams. With one of the best running backs in the league behind him, who knows, maybe Keenum will be a second-half breakout. Plus, he’s facing a Ravens defense that has been more than generous this weekend. His stock is trending upwards.

RB

Jonathan Grimes – Houston Texans – Owned in 2% of leagues

He’s still the #2 guy in Houston, but that may be changing sooner rather than later. Alfred Blue has been atrocious to say the least, putting up a lowly 22 yards on 12 carries last Monday night. Whereas, Grimes was the Texans leading rusher against a stout Cincinnati defense gaining 33 yards on just six carries. If you have the roster space, snag Grimes up now while his price tag is still low.

Shaun Draughn – San Francisco 49ers – Owned in 9% of leagues

Another #2 guy, but due to Carlos Hyde’s nagging foot injury Draughn is looking to become the feature back for the 49ers the rest of the season. With Hyde’s injury still lurking, Draughn provides some quality upside in deep leagues or running back thirsty teams since he’ll be provided with a number of opportunities over the next couple weeks.

WR

Danny Amendola – New England Patriots – Owned in 22% of leagues

Julian Edelman out, Amendola in – that’s the bottom line. With Edelman’s injury Amendola should be filling in as the go-to slot/slant receiver in New England’s vertical attack. He’s got one the best quarterback’s in the NFL throwing him the football, Amendola is the must-have player on this week’s waiver wire.

Dorial Green-Beckham – Tennessee Titans – Owned in 19.4% of leagues

He was on my watch-list last week and rightfully so. The rookie has a ton of potential, but suffered a very tough match up last week versus Carolina. This week he’s got Jacksonville on Thursday Night, but DGB is worth a flex-play. With Kendall Wright’s knee injury still lingering and Justin Hunter out for the season DGB joins tight end, Delanie Walker as the main receiving options for this offense. Even better, Jacksonville has given up a touchdown pass to a wide receiver their last six games.

TE

Coby Fleener – Indiapolis Colts – Owned in 15% of leagues

Fleener’s stock is relatively worthless with Andrew Luck under center. However, with Luck out for the next few weeks, Fleener gets veteran quarterback Matt Hasselback who loves to throw his way.  Just a little food for thought: Fleener’s biggest game of the year (9 catches for 83 yards and a score) came back in Week 4 when the Hasselback started under center.

Crockett Gillmore – Baltimore Ravens – Owned in 11% of leagues

He’s healthy, playing for an offense that doesn’t boast a ton of receiving threats, and has a heavy check-down throwing quarterback. Gillmore is worth a fill-in for Barnidge, Ben Watson, and Heath Miller owners this week.

 

 

 

Week 10 Waiver Wire Wonders

The week 10 byes may be one of the most troublesome fantasy bye-weeks to date. With Atlanta, Indianapolis, San Diego, and San Francisco all on bye this week that leaves a number of teams without their usual starting quarterbacks (no Ryan, Rivers, or Luck). It also leaves a number of squads without their starting running backs including the touchdown machine known as Devonta Freeman (ATL).  Not to mention Julio owners will be looking for a suitable replacement for their WR1. Fortunately, with recent bye weeks and injuries over the last few weeks there’s a good amount of quality talent out their available to fill-in for your bye week troubles.

 

**Owning percentages are based off of ESPN Fantasy formats**

QB

Derek Carr – Oakland Raiders – Owned in 58.3% of leagues

His stock is soaring and rightfully so. I’ve had him on my list the last few weeks and despite being owned in over half of ESPN leagues I figured it was only appropriate to add him to this week’s list considering three top tier quarterbacks are all on bye this week. At this stage Carr is simply a must-have quarterback. Since the Raiders bye week Carr has posted 923 yards through the air with an 11:1 TD/INT ratio.

Kirk Cousins – Washington Redskins – Owned in 8.8% of leagues

Captain Kirk is looking like a legit fantasy stud this week. He’s going up against the worst passing defense in the NFL. The Saints just surrendered four touchdowns to rookie Marcus Mariota (without Kenny Wright in the lineup) and the week prior Eli Manning carved them up for six scores. Whatever reservations you may have for Cousins’ fantasy value; this is the week to put them aside.

Brian Hoyer – Houston Texans – Owned in 12% of leagues

Yes, Hoyer is going against the undefeated Bengals on Monday Night. And no, that shouldn’t scare you away from this matchup.  Since Hoyer’s taken over under center in Houston he’s piled up 1,345 yards and a 12:2 TD/INT ratio. Considering he’s owned in less than a quarter of leagues, Hoyer is a bargain especially in two-quarterback leagues.  Plus, the Texans are coming off their bye-week, so expect a rejuvenated running game to help complement their potent passing game.

Landry Jones – Pittsburgh Steelers – Owned in .8% of leagues

With Big Ben out, the former Oklahoma product will fill-in as the Steelers’ signal caller. Jones is taking over the reins to a very potent offense with their wide receiving core at full-strength. In two-quarterback leagues Jones is a very viable pickup and should offer some solid fill-in play this week against the less-than stellar Browns defense.

RB

Karlos Williams – Buffalo Bills – Owned in 41.5% of leagues

Plain and simple, Williams is a solid handcuff to have and he also boasts a tremendous amount of upside as a touchdown vulture. He suffered a concussion earlier this year that kept him sidelined for the last few weeks, but bounced back Sunday with a 110-yard 2TD game against Miami. Even with a healthy Shady McCoy, Williams is a player worth owning the rest of the season.

James Starks – Green Bay Packers – Owned in 40.5% of leagues

I’m still not a big Starks fan, but considering how ineffective Eddie Lacy has been this year, it’s difficult to argue against Starks’ fantasy relevance. He’s got a nice matchup against Detroit this weekend and offers significant upside in PPR leagues. Plus it doesn’t hurt he’s coming off a six-catch 83yd performance (with a score) against the formidable Carolina defense.

Marcel Reece – Oakland Raiders – Owned in 2.8% of leagues

With Latavius Murrary’s undergoing the NFL’s concussion protocol, Reece may see an expanded role in the running game. Fellow Raiders’ running back Taiwan Jones (owned in 2.7% of leagues) is worth keeping an eye on as well, but Reece offers a greater upside especially in PPR leagues. If Murrary can’t go this weekend, Reece might be a very nice flex option this weekend.

Joique Bell – Detroit Lions – Owned in 30% of leagues

The Lions recently cleaned house with their management and are coming off their bye week. The rookie sensation Ameer Abdullah seems to have fallen out of favor with the coaching staff leaving Bell to get the lion’s share (pun intended) of backfield touches. This is more of a hunch since Bell is coming off just a 7-carry 56yd performance two weeks ago, but I like Bell emerging as the Lions top running back the rest of the season.

Running backs to keep an eye on:

Shaun Draughn – San Francisco – Owned in 3.4%

Brandon Bolden – New England – Owned in .4%

James White – New England – Owned in 1.7%

Draughn is on bye week, but depending on how the SF injury-plagued running back situation shapes up he may be the new lead back in their offense (he posted 96 all-purpose yards this past weekend). With the Dion Lewis injury, we can all expect a new pass-catching threat to emerge out of the Patriots offense. The question is will it be Bolden or White? Both are worth keeping tabs on this week and as the season progresses.

WR

Marvin Jones – Cincinnati Bengals – Owned in 41% of leagues

Jones has an extremely favorable matchup this weekend against the Houston secondary. Jones has multiple 5-plus catch games, but has failed to break the century mark this season. I’d expect that to change this weekend.

Kamar Aiken – Baltimore Ravens – Owned in 28.7% of leagues

I’ve been big on Aiken since Steve Smith’s injury. Granted, he has not broken out quite yet, but Baltimore is coming off their bye week and if there was ever a time to see how potent the Aiken and Flacco connection can be this is it. They’ll be facing off against a Jaguars secondary that has been considerably generous to wide receivers this year, giving up 5 touchdowns to wideouts over their last three games.

Dorial Green-Beckham – Tennessee Titans – Owned in 9% of leagues

Green-Beckham had a nice 5-catch 77yd game this past weekend against the porous Saints’ defense. With Kenny Wright still nursing a MCL injury, the rookie could emerge as a legit threat in the Titans offense. He’s got a tough matchup against Carolina this week, but has a tremendous amount of upside. If you have the roster space DGB is worth picking up.

TE

Pick your poison

Richard Rodgers – Green Bay Packers – Owned in 29.7% of leagues

Eric Ebron – Detroit Lions – Owned in 28.5% of leagues

Green Bay and Detroit always turns into a fantasy firestorm and I like both tight ends this week to see pay dirt. Rodgers clearly has the better quarterback throwing to him, but Ebron plays a larger role in his team’s offense. This is a juicy matchup for both players and comes down to which player (or team) you fancy more.

The fantasy playoffs are right around the corner. Good luck to all of you out there making a postseason push!