Championship Weekend Projections

Updated: January 20th 2018

It is Championship Sunday! What an amazing slate of games last weekend. The Eagles hung on at home in a thrilling victory that stunned a bunch of critics. New England unsurprisingly throttled Tennessee despite the Titans striking first with a score. And then Sunday, in what many thought would be a defensive battle, the Jaguars and the Steelers combined for 87 points with the Jags edging the Steelers by 3 points, sending the Steelers and their fans depressed into the offseason. And then for the finale, Case Keenum to Stefon Diggs in walk-off fashion at home to beat the Saints on what is being called the Minnesota Miracle. Below is a recap of how we have all performed over the past two weeks:

  1. Stephen Wendell: Wildcard Weekend: 3-1 ML & 3-1 ATS / Divisional Weekend: 3-1 ML & 2-2 ATS
  2. Matt Papson: Wildcard Weekend: 2-2 ML & 2-2 ATS / Divisional Weekend: 3-1 ML & 4-0 ATS
  3. Bob Cowper: Wildcard Weekend: 3-1 ML & 1-3 ATS / Divisional Weekend: 3-1 ML & 4-0 ATS
  4. Matt Goodwin: Wildcard Weekend: 1-3 ML & 1-3 ATS / Divisional Weekend: 1-3 ML & 4-0 ATS
  5. Nick Andrews: Wildcard Weekend: 2-2 ML & 0-4 ATS / Divisional Weekend: 2-2 ML & 3-1 ATS
  6. Bernard Faller: Wildcard Weekend: 2-2 ML & 1-3 ATS  / Divisional Weekend: 1-3 ML & 1-3 ATS
  7. Dave Sanders: Wildcard Weekend: No Picks / Divisional Weekend: 1-3 ML & 2-2 ATS

The table is set for an incredible Championship Sunday, and here are our writers’ projections for this weekend:

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars @ New England Patriots (Line NE -7.5): ML – 2 JAX & 4 NE// ATS – 5 JAX & 1 NE
  2. Minnesota Vikings @ Philadelphia Eagles (Line MIN -3.5): ML – 4 MIN & 2 PHI // ATS – 3 MIN & 3 PHI

#3 Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6) @ #1 New England Patriots (13-3) [Line: NE -7.5]

Stephen Wendell: Well I certainly underestimated Jacksonville last week. I have to tip my cap to them as they came into Pittsburgh and played without fear and handed the Steelers a crushing defeat. Even though Tom’s hand may not be 100%, I don’t think the Jag’s miracle run continues, as the Patriots (even if led by Hoyer) find a way to get it done at home where they have won so many games before in January.  Projected Score: Patriots 24 – Jaguars 13.

Matt Papson: At 6-2 ATS, Papson is letting his score predictions speak for themselves this week. Projected Score: Patriots 27 – Jaguars 21.

Robert Cowper: Offense sells tickets, defense wins championships. Defense travels. These may be cliches, but cliches become cliche for a reason. I can’t believe I’ve convinced myself of this but I’m taking the Jags and their defense to overcome the Patriots offense. It’s part contrarian pick but it’s also based on stats. The Patriots are the second best offense when it comes to turnovers; just 6.5% of their drives end in a turnover. The Jags on the other hand are prolific at creating turnovers; they rank third, creating turnovers on 15.8% of drives. Something’s gotta give and I think it’ll be New England losing the turnover margin battle. One area where the Patriots offense is not elite is when it comes to protecting Tom Brady – they rank 15th in sacks allowed and 12th in sacks allowed per pass attempt (which helps control for the fact that they pass more frequently than many teams). Not surprisingly, if you’ve watched any of their games, the Jags are second in both categories on defense. Another reason I think the Jags will have the better turnover margin is that Blake Bortles is being utilized differently in the playoffs. Through the regular season he averaged over 32 attempts per game; so far in the playoffs he has attempted 23 and 26 passes. His attempts are down and so are his interceptions (13 on the season but none in the playoffs). One reason his attempts are down is because he’s running more often: 28% of his 2017 rushing yards came in the two playoff games. Throughout all of December (5 games) Bortles had just 67 yards and so far in January (2 games) he has 123. The Jags need to keep the game plan the same and they will win a close one led by their defense and kicker Josh Lambo. Projected Score: Jaguars 19 – Patriots 11

Matt Goodwin: I’m sure I’m in the extreme minority here, but there’s something about this Jaguars team that seems 2013 Ravens-like and potentially even like the 2014 Seahawks. Both of those teams had to climb their respective conferences after coming just short in season’s past. This Jaguars team, buoyed by key free agent additions on the defensive side like Calais Campbell and the instant success of #4 overall draft pick Leonard Fournette have turned it around in one season. While nobody seems to ever be able to completely neutralize the Patriots offense, this one feels like the Jags have the talent to do just that and their offense has been efficient and confident enough to win different types of games. If the Jags had a weapon like Allen Robinson in this game, I’d be more confident in the pick, but I’m rolling with them nonetheless as I think Telvin Smith can contain Gronk and Jalen Ramsey will do his thing, while receivers like Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook do enough to compliment Fournette’s running and Yeldon catching passes out of the backfield. Give me the Jags in a “shock the world” upset.  Projected Score: Jaguars 23 – Patriots 20.

Nick AndrewsThis is the matchup everyone expected for the AFC Championship, Pittsburgh Steelers Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New England Patriots. Jokes aside, this actually might be a better game than if Pittsburgh had made the trip to Foxborough. There are only two things that have prevented Tom Brady and Bill Belichick from having another handful of Super Bowl rings: 4-man defensive pressure and Tom Coughlin. The Jaguars have both of these which is why I think they have a better shot to make it to the Super Bowl than the Steelers ever did. Belichick and Josh McDaniels will certainly use a different game plan to try and counter the pressure but it definitely will make things interesting. What will be more interesting is which Blake Bortles shows up to play? The Patriots are unlikely to give up as many opportunities as they Steelers afforded him last week so can Bortles make three or four drives that result in touchdowns over field goals? I think that will be the difference in Sunday’s results. Projected Score: Patriots 23 – Jaguars 16.

Bernard Faller: Rookie Leonard Fournette and the Jaguars run game pounded Pittsburg last week. The formula remains the same this week relying on a stout defense and limiting the Patriots offensive touches with the run game. The challenge will be scoring against a New England defense which closed the year strong giving up only 14 points per game in the last 13 contests after a brutal first four weeks of the season. This could be closer than some think but I will bet against New England when Tom Brady retires. Maybe. Projected Score: Patriots 24 – Jaguars 16

#2 Minnesota Vikings (13-3) @ #1 Philadelphia Eagles (13-3) [Line: PHI -3.5]

Stephen Wendell: I was more optimistic than most last week, picking the Eagles to win outright, and I feel the same way this week. Foles showed he can play under immense pressure, and ultimately, I think the home crowd and playing outdoors proves to be the difference this week. The Eagles win on a late 4th quarter touchdown and head to Super 52 for a rematch against their last Super Bowl foe, the Patriots. Projected Score: Eagles 21 – Vikings 17.

Matt Papson: At 6-2 ATS, Papson is letting his score predictions speak for themselves this week. Projected Score: Eagles 19 – Vikings 17. 

Robert Cowper: Meh. That’s how I’m feeling about the Vikings and Eagles matchup. There are some interesting storylines, my favorite being “how did Jeff Fisher manage to be 4-12 with three playoff QBs on the Rams’ roster last year,” but I’m just not into it. We all agree that losing Carson Wentz takes some of the sizzle out of this game. Nick Foles is steady and reliable enough to not be a liability but I don’t see him winning this game for the Eagles because the Vikings defense is first in so many categories that I lost count. I think the game will come down to Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon. He only got 8 carries to Latavius Murray’s 19 last week but with Murray running headlong into Fletcher Cox I think it’s inevitable that they’ll change strategy. I think we’ll see a game similar to the one McKinnon had against the Bengals when he caught 7 balls for 114 yards. Let’s not forget that Minnesota has the added incentive of playing a Super Bowl at home. (did I mention that I’m a Cowboys fan?) Projected Score: Vikings 23 – Eagles 16

Matt Goodwin: I’m really excited about this game and how could anyone not be after Stefon Diggs’ walk-off touchdown last week? One game away from hosting the Super Bowl, the Vikings take on the underdog Eagles in a likely grind-it-out matchup. Since teams can’t really run on the Vikings, it will be imperative that Nick Foles and the Eagles get creative on offense and try to attack the Vikings secondary. Good luck with that as I don’t think Alshon Jeffery gets separation on average DBs, let alone Xavier Rhodes. Beyond Zach Ertz, I think guys like Nelson Agholor, Corey Clement and Trey Burton will have to get going in the passing game for the Eagles to be able to do much on offense. In order to win this game, the Eagles defense will have to make life terrible for Case Keenum with constant pressure. In the end, causing turnovers is the Eagles best shot at getting back to the Super Bowl without Carson Wentz. I think the Eagles’ time will come sooner than later and I’m not just saying this for Matt and Stephen’s benefit (maybe even next season), but I’m taking the Vikings this weekend as they just seem to be a “team of destiny”. Projected Score: Vikings 19 – Eagles 16

Nick AndrewsWow. Wow. Wow! No offense to the Eagles but I think that Saints vs. Vikings might have been the real NFC Championship game. Drew Brees did everything he could to vanquish the best defense in the NFL and the Saints still fell just short. The Eagles also boast a strong defense which should make this a low(er) scoring game. However, I don’t think Nick Foles can rise up to the level that Drew Brees needed to take down this Vikings squad. The Eagles best shot is for their defense to create short fields with turnovers and 3-play drives increasing their scoring opportunities. I don’t see them sustaining many 60+ yard drives. If the Vikings gain a two score lead at any point, this one is over. Projected Score: Vikings 24 – Eagles 10.

Bernard Faller: The Jeff Fisher nightmare continues as two quarterbacks who struggled under Fisher for the Rams over the previous two seasons are playing for the chance to go to the Super Bowl. I can not wait to see two of the best defenses in the league face off. Minnesota gets the slight nod with a slightly more reliable offense in a low scoring contest on the way to a home Super Bowl. Projected Score:  Vikings 17 – Eagles 13.

More Analysis by Stephen Wendell

FA Expectancy: Brandin Cooks

Updated: July 16th 2017

Throughout the offseason, I will be preparing a collection of articles that will focus on free agents and trade candidates. The articles will discuss the player in question, and what the move does to their value, as well as what their landing spot means for their new and old teams.

Brandin Cooks – WR, New England Patriots

The talk so far of free agency didn’t come from a free agent but rather a trade that sent Brandin Cooks from the New Orleans Saints to the New England Patriots. Many people have been touting this as the greatest move the Pats have made since acquiring Randy Moss in 2007. Fantasy fanatics need little reminder of the 23 touchdowns Moss put up in his first year with the team. But should owners expect the same level of production from Cooks in 2017 and beyond?

Those who speak against Cooks have quickly pointed out that he played eight of his games in the dome with New Orleans along with three more games in Tampa, Charlotte, and Atlanta each of the last three seasons. The AFC East, save for sunny Miami, is not a forgiving environment to play in weather wise and people question how Cooks’ blazing speed will translate into the cold and snowy region of Foxborough. Even Michael Fabiano posted a tweet showcasing the split between Cooks’ games indoors and out over the last two seasons.

Fabs Tweet

This is a classic case of throwing out a fact without much context. Yes, the points per game are lower but there’s no understanding as to who the opponents were or who Cooks was matched up against. Cooks actually average more catches outdoors based on this infographic. Needless to say, people are asking the wrong questions about what Cooks means to the Patriots.

So what does Cooks mean to Patriot players?

The Patriots needed a player who could stretch the defense on the outside away from Edelman in the slot and running backs out of the backfield. Having said that I don’t see him being a DeSean Jackson, lid popping, type receiver in the scheme on a frequent basis. Go routes will always be a part of his route tree but I see Josh McDaniels moving him around more to be the intermediate/crossing route receiver; especially on 2nd and mid or 3rd and short downs to pull the safeties away from the middle of the field opening up the underneath for other receivers and backs. Other than Gronk this definitely deflates the number of targets available for other pass catchers. I don’t see Edelman being forgotten this year and he should still put up low WR2/high WR3 points but he could be let go after this season similar to his predecessor Wes Welker. The big hit goes to Malcolm Mitchell owners who are disappointed that they didn’t get a chance to see what he could produce in his second year. Barring a long injury next season to one of the other receivers it will be hard to have Mitchell be anything more than a bye week/flex play.

So what is Cooks’ value?

As painful as it would sound based on what he produced for fantasy purposes last year I see Cooks being in 2017 a slightly better upgrade at what Hogan was in 2016, but with 4.3 speed. The Patriots and specifically Bill Belichick don’t care about your fantasy teams and will use whatever players they think will help them one game at a time. What that means is that there will be games where Cooks will push double digit catch and have multiple touchdowns and then he will be less than stellar for the next two games. The one difference that will save Cooks owners will be that based on the capital the Patriots invested in him his floor will be higher than Hogan’s was on a week-to-week basis with the hope that he replaces Edelman after 2017. If he’s on a decent contract for multiple seasons and is available for a mid-1st or a package for lower picks and players he would be an interesting buy.

So what does it mean for Saints players?

One person leaves so that means more food at the buffet for the rest right? Not exactly. While Cooks did account for 117 targets last season Michael Thomas was actually targeted more with 121 (even Willie Snead got 104). While it is possible that Thomas pushes into the Mike Evans, Odell Beckham and Antonio Brown range of 180 targets it’s more likely that Thomas has a mild increase in 2017 while a new receiver is integrated into the offense with 70-80 targets. Based on this expectation it is probably not worth trying to acquire Thomas who will be at his peak price right now. Instead, scribble in your auction journals to try and acquire Willie Snead on a savvy 2 or 3-year deal. He’s already an early sleeper to push WR2 numbers next season and should have a good couple of years left with Drew Brees. I was lucky to grab Snead in a few of my leagues last year on multi-year deals that would likely cost double this season. As well, keep an eye on any receiver that is brought in either late in free agency or through the draft. Drew Brees loves to spread the ball around and any day two or three drafted receivers that the Saints add could be fed the 70-80 targets previously mentioned. That would be tremendous opportunity value for a player that could be a 3rd round rookie pick this season.


Make sure to continue to read more Free Agency Expectancy articles throughout the offseason to be prepared for your summer Auctions. Have a player that you want me to evaluate? Send me a message on Twitter @naandrews19.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

Preseason Watch List

Updated: September 1st 2016

Preseason games have started and many player hype trains have already left the station. Some names are familiar while others are getting their first exposure as exciting rookies. I have put together a collection of players that are generating buzz in the fantasy community and some suggestions on what you should be doing with them. Because this is RSO and there is a dollar sign attached to every player I will also offer an opinion on whether you should just bid the minimum or offer above.

Christine Michael

Christine MichaelI might as well start with everyone’s favorite preseason darling. The story is the same; a freak athlete who has the potential to be an RB1 on a team that has historically run the ball with authority. The big difference this year is that we have now seen what Michael can do in a meaningful game as he was usable in the final weeks of the regular season and playoffs. He is also in a more open backfield that doesn’t feature Marshawn Lynch. It is, however, a very large backfield that features four capable runners (Rawls, Prosise, Collins, Michael). While I don’t like owning any one of these backs at a large cost, I would take the most cost-effective one  in the hopes that they may become the lead back by mid-season.

Verdict: Add Michael from the waiver wire for the minimum. If already owned don’t offer more than low, conditional picks.

Dak Prescott

Dak PrescottFor all you Cowboys fans and Dez Bryant owners, you must be feeling a whole lot better about the future of the team post Tony Romo. Prescott has done nothing but look like a draft steal the first two games of the preseason with five touchdowns in the air and two on the ground. For those of you that took Prescott as a late 3rd or 4th round selection, you have one serious bargaining chip in your back pocket for trades right now. Unfortunately, for most others, he went undrafted in both your rookie and auction draft and with how RSO is setup you cannot add a waiver player for multiple years. Therefore, there is little value in adding Prescott this season unless Tony Romo goes down with an injury.

Verdict: Hold off on adding Prescott till next year’s auction. If Romo should go down then feel free to offer more than the minimum to him as his mobility at the position could make him a viable QB2 option.

**Editor’s Note** With the recent injury to Tony Romo which will likely sideline him for 8-10 weeks Prescott is now a must add if you are shaky at the QB position or are in a 2QB league. If you have the room to roster him he also may be a short term solution to offer to those with Teddy Bridgewater or Tony Romo going down.

Tajae Sharpe

Tajae SharpeWow, has Sharpe looked, well, sharp! The rookie WR out of UMASS flew under the radar of many drafters in May and June and was likely a flyer pick in the 3rd round. Anybody who wants to cash out right now could probably fetch a 1st before he has even played his first game. The Titans sent away the troubled Green-Beckham making Sharpe and Rishard Matthews the outside receivers with Kendall Wright in the slot. Coaches have said they want to run, run and run the ball, but for a team that only won two games last year the game script may force the Titans to pass more often than not late in games. The problem with Sharpe right now though is just the cost to acquire. If he wasn’t already drafted then he has definitely been added from the waiver wire by now and is therefore rostered by someone in your league.

Verdict: If you drafted Sharpe or won the race to wire pat yourself on the back and just hold him to see what he can actually do. If you are looking to acquire him don’t get carried away with what your offering as he still has yet to play a meaningful NFL game. Moving a 2nd and a WR3 would be at my peak trade value IF he’s locked into a low rookie contract for multiple years.

New England’s Backfield

Patriots BackfieldMany expected the Patriots to add one of the RBs from this year’s class but they passed, maybe deferring to the stronger 2017 class. So where does that leave the backfield for 2016? Dion Lewis was a nice surprise that fit well with Tom Brady’s quick release passing offense last season. James White will look to take the same role in the early parts of this season while Lewis is sidelined after another knee surgery. LeGarrette Blount was brought back (after much delay) for another year as the bulldozing, between the tackles, redzone back. Bolden is still there and Tyler Gaffney has looked okay in preseason work against 2nd and 3rd string players. So is there any value in the Pats backfield, and who’s the guy to own?

Verdict: For now White and Blount are the players to own but don’t expect any consistency in terms of an RB2 floor. The best bet would be to actually hold any RBs that are on the fringe of their own rosters that may be a late preseason trade candidate for the Patriots.

Make sure to keep your eyes on the final two weeks as players are cut (or traded) and depth charts are solidified. If you have any questions or want to ask the RSO team about trades make sure to use #RSOtrades.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews