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: Alshon Jeffery

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.

Alshon Jeffery – WR, Philadelphia Eagles

Nobody was really surprised when Alshon Jeffery signed with the Philadelphia Eagles after he was linked to signing with either them or the Tennessee Titans before free agency opened. What was a surprise was the length of the contract, a single year at $9.5 million. I expected there to be some built-in insulation against Jeffery’s past injuries concerns but he still deserved at least some long term commitment. This contract suggests that either there was not as big a market for receivers as many would have thought or the offers were too low for Jeffery’s comfort and he settled for a “prove it” deal to try and cash in next offseason.

Fantasy players seem perplexed also in how to value Jeffery fairly. Nobody is questioning his talent but they are concerned with the consistency issues that separate the first tier of receivers from all others.

Seasons Games Played Rec/GM Yds/GM TDs/GM FP/Game
2013-2014 100% 5.4 79.8 0.5 16.6
2015-2016 66% 5.0 77.5 0.3 14.5

Over the last two seasons, Jeffery has played in 21 of a potential 32 games but played for a full two seasons in 2013 and 2014. So he is capable of being available. Even last year his four games missed were because of a failed PED test rather than an injury. But his per game production has dipped ever so slightly. Some may attribute this to games that he played in but was not fully healthy, or the lack of QB play that he has been paired with in Chicago. Either way, he’s in Fresh Prince Country now and he needs to step up if he is going to get paid in 2018.

So what does this mean for Eagles players?

The Eagles brought in not only Jeffery but Torrey Smith to go along with Jordan Matthews, Dorial Green-Beckham, and Nelson Agholor. There are rumors also that the Eagles could take a receiver early in the draft, with John Ross being the common name given.

Carson Wentz definitely will not have the “lack of talent” excuse that many were affording him during his rookie campaign. He threw for over 600 attempts last season (5th in the NFL) which many are not expecting him to repeat. Coach Doug Pederson would like to have a more balanced offense if he can either find a better back in the draft or get more out of Ryan Mathews. Still with this boost to the talent around him his efficiency (62.4% completion rate) and touchdowns (16) should increase. He will be a solid bye week and matchup-based starter in 1QB leagues and a great second option in 2QB (especially on his rookie deal).

The receiving core will be greater than the sum of its parts, with inconsistency being a fantasy nightmare some weeks. Likely Jeffery is used as the primary receiver both on the outside and in the end zone which should hopefully boost his touchdown totals. Those who have or bought into Jordan Matthews should finally see him move to the slot where he should have always been playing. The lack of talent around him the past two seasons forced him to have to be the primary outside receiver. Target volume and yards after the catch will be his key to success. These two should have between 100 and 130 targets along with Zach Ertz who surprisingly had 106 targets last season. He will be a nice low-end TE1 option in most leagues.

Outside of Matthews and Jeffery, it will be hard for another receiver to carve out a consistent fantasy role on a weekly basis. If you are looking for a cheap option that could get an increased role should Jeffery get injured Green-Beckham would fill his role as the big X receiver. Please, just drop Nelson Agholor already. He’s a spot on your roster and dollars in your pocket that could be spent elsewhere.

Boo! Nelson Agholor

So what is Jeffery’s value?

Before his signing with the Eagles, I moved Jeffery for the 1.07 in the upcoming draft. While that was lower than what I thought I could get from him I was glad to get out from his remaining 2 year/$60M deal. That owner subsequently flipped Jeffery and the 2.06 for Isaiah Crowell, Jeremy Maclin, and a 2018 2nd. Based on these moves and conversation about acquiring costs in other leagues Jeffery seems to be a hold for now. The community is split on whether Jeffery still belongs in that WR1 conversation and his future is still technically unknown as he could be on the move again next season. It is unlikely that owners would be willing to part with more than a late 1st for him. If you want to risk it he could pay dividends to a contender that needs another good receiver.

So what does it mean for Bears Players?

We haven’t talked much about the Bears yet but mostly because the options are limited. Cameron Meredith is a hot take that many fantasy enthusiasts have been propping up as a great 2017 sleeper receiver. Even Markus Wheaton has seen a modest uptick in his ADP by coming over. The Bears could also take another high receiver in the draft but they will likely want to see what they can get out of Kevin White for one more season before hitting the reset button on the position again.  The problem is that none of these players command double coverage which could also hurt Jordan Howard’s value with negative game script and stacked boxes. It will mostly come down to what Mike Glennon can and can’t do in the offense. His ball velocity is one of the weakest in the league and he was a typical game manager during his starts early in his career. One of these receivers will be at least a decent option for deep starter leagues and heavy bye weeks but guessing who that is in April is difficult. Don’t get caught up in a bidding war trying to acquire either Meredith or Wheaton’s services before we learn more in training camp.

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

The Unstable Stable

Updated: November 3rd 2016

Dynasty football and redraft football are nothing alike. What do I mean by that? Well, if we think of fantasy football in meteorological terms we can compare redraft to the Weather, a constantly changing natural phenomenon that so-called “experts” seem to predict no better than you and I. It can be summarized perfectly in this tweet by @CommishTalkBlog. Does this sound like a familiar situation to some of your teams?

Bad RB Tweet

Now if we look at dynasty, it’s more like the Climate, where it takes time to change but there definitely a change nevertheless. Two years ago everyone was SURE Eddy Lacy was a top 5 running back for years to come. Now he might not even make it to a second contract; even if he does it’s not likely with the Packers. People always talk about players and their values as if it’s something that will remain the same year over year. I’ve been playing long enough to notice a one year wonder when I see one.

**Full disclosure I was once the guy in my draft that took Zac Stacy in the 3rd round of my 2014 redraft league**

I’ll admit when I make a mistake, Mr. David Johnson I’m sorry, but I would rather invest in something I know IS good versus paying for something that MIGHT BE great. RSO dynasty emphasizes these mistakes even more by having salaries attached to players. If you miss in a redraft you find a new guy next week on the wire. Miss in RSO, oh boy, you could have a very expensive placeholder on your bench for multiple years.

So here we are midway through the 2016 season and we’ve already had some new and old faces push their way into the fantasy limelight. But we need to think about the long term and with a decent class of talent coming in the way of rookies next year who can we expect to hold a grip on their team and who could be this year’s Zac Stacy? I’m going to go through five (5) teams that I think are likely to draft a running back early next year. I’m not going to list the obvious teams (Patriots and Colts) instead focusing on teams with RB situations that seem stable now but could be very different come May next year.

  • Miami DolphinsMiami Dolphins – Jay Ajayi

Wait what? Nothing says stability like a guy who gets 200 rushing yards in back to back games right? Remember that before the season started this was the same team that tried to sign away C.J. Anderson from the Broncos before he was brought back. Then they went and drafted Kenyan Drake in the 4th round and then added a broken Arian Foster because they still weren’t sure of their starting running back. Ajayi had severe knee issues coming into the league and it was a concern about how long of a career he could have (which is why he fell all the way to the 5th round). He may have hit his max return value right now and if you can sell him for any number of more proven RBs I would be smashing that “accept” button. It would not surprise me if they took an RB before the end of day 2 of the draft in 2017.

  • Minnesota VikingsMinnesota – Adrian Peterson, Jerrick McKinnon

While it wouldn’t be a surprise to see AP moving on after the end of the season people are ready to move McKinnon right into the starting role for 2017. As someone who both owns and owned McKinnon in RSO, I was high on what he could do as the pass catching threat next to AP. Sadly, he still hasn’t been able to shake off Matt Asiata for the lead role after AP’s injury so what makes you think that he could keep an incoming rookie off the pedestal? The Vikings have one of the best defenses in the league and therefore I could easily see them being one of the first teams to take a running back off the board. Honestly, if they get their hands on any of the top four in the class (Fournette, Chubbs, Cook, or McCaffrey) that’s my early prediction for the 1.01 next year.

  • Philadelphia EaglesPhiladelphia Eagles – Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood

Doug Pederson found himself a quarterback in 2016. Many questioned his move up to number two for an unknown project player in Carson Wentz. Nobody is questioning him anymore but what Pederson really thrives with is a smart, shifty running back that can move the ball on the group and through the air. You look at his previous backs and you see shapeshifters like Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy and even all the way back to Brian Westbrook. Darren Sproles is the guy closest to those guys right now but he’s 33 years old and not in their long term plan. Smallwood seems more like a special teams player at this point and we can’t rely on Mathews to be healthy year over year. We could see a similar scenario with Mathews as his former running mate Demarco Murray is right now where they draft someone younger (Henry) and groom him behind the veteran before giving him the full load.

  • Pittsburgh SteelersPittsburgh Steelers – Le’Veon Bell

This one is less based on talent and more on circumstances. One of the best running backs in the league, Bell sure does come with his baggage. Suspended each of the last two seasons for substance abuse he is walking a very thin line in what is quickly becoming known as the “No Fun League”. Skeptics will be quick to remind me of the same problems that were clouding Ben Roethlisberger early in his career and he seems to have turned it around nicely under the management of the Rooney family. However, we’ve already seen glimpses of what Bell is expecting to be paid when his contract expires and while some teams may be more lenient to offer a troubled superstar a boatload of cash I don’t see the proud Steelers franchise being bullied into a contract. They did it when they let Mike Wallace walk to the Dolphins. Maybe they double down on their principles and draft an RB that could be leading the Steelers in the 2018 season.

  • Oakland RaidersOakland Raiders – Latavius Murray, DeAndre Washington

Some people might say that this is an obvious choice to be selecting a running back. But those are also likely the same people that said Murray was going to lose the job this year and Washington was going to be the starter by midseason. Well, we’re halfway through the season and save for a couple of games that he was injured Murray has held a strong lead in the depth chart rankings. That is not to say that it will remain the same next year. This year’s class of RBs had an obvious lack of depth behind Elliot, Henry and maybe now Booker. But next year is a whole different ball game and there may also be a couple of free agents (looking at Lacy) that could be available for the right price. If the Raiders are indeed moving to Las Vegas they may be looking to do the same as the Rams did and make a big splash before moving. They already have the young budding QB to WR combo. Jack Del Rio may be looking to add that final piece to his triumvirate.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

Fantasy Impact Sam Bradford Trade

Updated: October 7th 2016

In a trade that changes the direction of two NFL franchises, the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings agreed to a blockbuster deal on the morning of Saturday, September 3rd.  It had been clear for months that Sam Bradford‘s days in Philadelphia were numbered, but there wasn’t a market for him after QB-needy teams made other plans during the 2016 NFL Draft. That all changed when the Vikings promising QB Teddy Bridgewater suffered a devastating injury that will cause him to miss at least the 2016 season.  Acquiring Bradford keeps Minnesota’s 2016 hopes alive as they fancy themselves a Super Bowl competitor.  This move also clears the way for Philadelphia to hand the reigns over to rookie QB Carson Wentz.

With these two teams changing starting quarterbacks, the fantasy values of other skill position players in each offense will be impacted.

Let’s start with the Eagles

  • Carson Wentz slots in as my #21 QB in redraft leagues. His ability to extend plays in the pocket and execute read-option plays should make him relevant during his rookie a season as a possible streamer.  Long-term, he’s my favorite quarterback of the 2016 class and seems to be way ahead of Rams #1 overall pick Jared Goff.
  • The Eagles running game, and most importantly Ryan Mathews, should be largely unaffected by this move. I’m very high on Mathews in 2016 as he’s my #12 RB in redraft.  He should see plenty of carries behind the 7th best offensive line according to Pro Football Focus.
  • Jordan Matthews & Dorial Green-Beckham are the only receivers worth considering in fantasy. I’m lower on Matthews than most, but can’t deny that he’ll have plenty of opportunities.  DGB could be a contributor as a reserve wide receiver in fantasy that fills in during bye weeks and gives you a chance at a TD every week. After a poor preseason, Nelson Agholor should be left on waivers in all but the deepest of leagues.  Contrary to the popular narrative, tight ends actually do not see an increased target share with rookie QBs according to an excellent study by TJ Hernandez.  That said, Zach Ertz remains a top 8 TE in 2016.

Moving on to the Vikings

  • Sam Bradford joins a Minnesota Vikings team that features better skill position talent than the Eagles. His value receives a slight boost from this trade, but he’s still not a top 20 QB in 2016.
  • Adrian Peterson‘s value returned to where it was several weeks ago, before the injury to Bridgewater. I’m concerned about his age and lack of involvement on 3rd downs.  I’d rather be out one year too early than one year too late so he won’t be on any of my rosters this year.  If you’re more optimistic, this trade should benefit Peterson as he would have likely seen many more eight man boxes if Shaun Hill was the QB.
  • Vikings pass catchers could be a bit more productive with Bradford than they may have even been with Bridgewater. Let’s not forget that Bradford finished 2015 playing his best football in a long time, while Bridgewater has only thrown for 14 passing touchdowns in each of the last two years.  In redraft, Stefon Diggs is the only WR worth rostering.  He’s my #38 wide receiver.  Laquon Treadwell projects to be better in the long run, but it may be some time before he contributes in a meaningful way.

While this trade doesn’t have major fantasy implications, fantasy leagues are often won by the smallest of margins.  Garnering a very slight edge in trades and free agent acquisitions repeatedly is how great teams are built and RSO dynasties are formed.

Let me know how you think the Bradford trade will impact the Eagles and Vikings by reaching out to me on Twitter @DaveSanders_RSO!


Bio: An avid fan of all things NFL, Dave has been playing fantasy football since 1999.  Though Dave participates in all types of fantasy football including redraft and daily, he prefers keeper and dynasty leagues as talent evaluation and scouting are integral components of each.  Follow him on Twitter @DaveSanders_RSO

More Analysis by Dave Sanders

Should We Retire D/ST Position?

Updated: July 8th 2016

#NoMoreDefST

Where did the D/ST position come from? I understand that, like prop bets, it’s fun to have action on every aspect of a football game, but I believe the D/ST increases the randomness of weekly contests and makes fantasy football a less fun and skillful hobby. I’ve long believed the scoring outputs are too matchup and touchdown dependent, and are often aided by fluke, unpredictable plays. The quality of the defense matters less than it does at any other position. This has been a theory of mine for years, but I wanted to dive into the data and see if my theory was actually true.

There has been a movement to get rid of the kicker position, which has even been adopted by DraftKings and MyFantasyLeague. Why isn’t there much of a push to retire the D/ST position? Let’s examine why there should be #NoMoreDefST.

Weekly Matchups Impact D/ST Outputs More Than Any Other Position

Through analyzing ESPN’s 2015 Points Against Data, I discovered that defenses (D/ST) were affected more dramatically by weekly matchups than any other positions. Defenses facing the Tennessee Titans‘ offense averaged 11.5 fantasy points per game. Cleveland‘s offense was just behind Tennessee at 10.4 fppg. Ranking as the 32nd best matchup, defenses facing the Arizona Cardinals‘ offense averaged only 1.6 fppg. Teams facing the best matchup, Tennessee, scored 719% more points than those facing Arizona, the worst matchup. Looking at that same metric, it’s clear that other positions are far less affected by weekly matchups – QBs 197%, RBs 216%, WRs 196%, and TEs 260%. As unpredictable as the NFL, do we really want our weekly contests being decided by whichever defense is lucky enough to face a team like Tennessee or Cleveland?

How Does The Season Schedule Impact The D/ST Scoring Leaders?

Since we’ve found that weekly matchups matter greatly to fantasy D/STs, I wanted to determine if the frequency of good matchups dramatically impact the season long scoring leaders. To test this theory, I tallied how many top 10 matchups (using the aforementioned ESPN Points Against Data) each of the top 10 and bottom 10 fantasy scoring defenses faced in 2015. Teams that finished in the top 10 in scoring, according to ESPN’s 2015 Scoring Leaders, averaged 5.8 top 10 matchups during the season, while bottom 10 teams averaged only 4.1 top 10 matchups. A difference in nearly 2 top 10 matchups per team appears to have impacted the standings. This isn’t to say the quality of the D/ST doesn’t matter, but to explain that factors outside of their control impact their scoring outputs more than any other position.

Are TDs Too Heavily Weighted For D/STs?

The Philadelphia D/ST scored 7 TDs in 2015, tied for the most of any team. This aided the Eagles D/ST into becoming a defense that warranted consideration from many fantasy owners. On the season, Philadelphia finished 16th after a poor final month. Of the top 23 D/STs in 2015 scoring, no D/ST had more zero or negative point games than Philadelphia. Philadelphia had 5 such games. 7 plays  –Darren Sproles return TDs, a blocked punt, a fumble, and several interceptions caused the Eagles to swing several matchups in 2015. I’d argue that the randomness and unpredictability of these TDs required little preparation and skill from their fantasy owners.

Verdict

Fantasy football has never been more popular than it is right now. Major networks such as ESPN, Yahoo, CBS, and NFL Network now produce weekly shows to help fantasy owners set lineups before kickoff every Sunday. Fantasy football platforms with unique offerings like Reality Sports Online are rapidly growing in popularity. With all of this growth in the industry, the widely accepted standard roster positions and scoring have mostly remained intact. With more resources for preparation and news information available than we have time to read, we should also aim to optimizing the experience on Sundays. Nothing is more frustrating than watching your season end as a defensive lineman runs into the endzone for a TD on a recovered fumble. You saw that coming? Me neither.

Join me in retiring the D/ST position on Twitter (@DaveSanders_RSO) by using the hashtag #NoMoreDefST!


Bio: An avid fan of all things NFL, Dave has been playing fantasy football since 1999.  Though Dave participates in all types of fantasy football including redraft and daily, he prefers keeper and dynasty leagues as talent evaluation and scouting are integral components of each. 

More Analysis by Dave Sanders

Will DeMarco Murray Thrive in TEN?

Updated: March 28th 2016

DeMarco Murray, a Tennessee Titan?  That will take a few preseason games to get used to.  Will the polarizing running back now thrive away from Chip Kelly?

Scheme-fit

MurrayThe popular narrative surrounding DeMarco Murray’s dreadful 2015 was that he was misused by the Eagles coaching staff as he turned out to be a poor scheme fit for Chip Kelly’s offense.  Utilized out of shotgun on nearly 85% of his runs, Murray stumbled in Philadelphia – averaging 3.6 yards per carry out of the shotgun, after averaging 5.3  yards per carry on just over 100 carries out of the shotgun in Dallas according to Mike Clay of ESPN.  His declining performance eventually led to Murray being phased out of the offense as the season progressed.  After letting go of Chip Kelly, Eagles Interim Head Coach Pat Shurmur ran Murray frequently under center in the Eagles Week 17 win over the New York Giants.  Aside from a 54 yard touchdown run where Murray ran untouched straight through the Giants defense, Murray only gained 15 yards on the other 11 carries.  Excluding the long run on a missed assignment, Murray wasn’t effective in this game even with Bradford under center.

DeMarco Murray should see a more consistent workload in Tennessee

DeMarco Murray should see a more consistent workload in Tennessee

In Murray’s introductory press conference, Titans head coach Mike Mularkey stated that Mariota will be under center more than he was last year, likely more frequently than in shotgun.   At first glance, that would appear to be good news for Murray as nearly 91% of his 2014 carries came with the quarterback under center.  Mularkey’s strategy runs contrary to the league wide trend of increasing shotgun snaps every year since 2011.  Across the NFL, 62% of snaps in the 2015 season came out of shotgun, a number that’s grown every year since 2011 when only 41% of snaps came under center according to Jared Dubin of CBS Sports.  The reasoning for this makes perfect sense as shotgun snaps have resulted in between 0.9 to 1 MORE yards per play EACH SEASON than snaps under center.  Moving under center more frequently could hurt the Titans offense enough to limit his workload due to negative game flow.

Impact of 2014 Workload

DeMarco Murray record 497 touches for Dallas in 2014

DeMarco Murray recorded 497 touches for Dallas in 2014

497 – That’s the number of touches DeMarco Murray had in 2014.  Coming into 2015, many wondered what toll this workload would take on the then 27 year-old running back.  Aside from not adapting well to the Eagles’ offensive scheme, Murray looked like a player in decline as he lacked explosiveness, seemed a step slow, and wasn’t able to cut upfield when there was an opening in the Eagles’ zone read attack.  His decline is best quantified through Pro Football Focus’ running back grades.  According to Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus, Murray went from the 2nd best running back in 2014 to the 2nd worst running back in 2015.  Murray also broke significantly fewer tackles in 2015 as he averaged one broken tackle per 8 carries in 2015 vs. 5 carries in 2014, according to John Breitenbach of Pro Football Focus.  After weeks of low production, Murray slipped significantly on the depth chart, even at times falling behind journeyman Kenjon Barner.

Expected Workload in Tennessee

This is where the outlook turns positive for Murray.  He should clearly be the lead back in a Tennessee backfield that desperately lacked production in 2015.  After taking on his sizable contract, the Titans will be plenty motivated to feed DeMarco and make their investment worth-while, especially as they attempt to lower the burden on second year quarterback Marcus Mariota.  Mike Mularkey’s history, as both an offensive coordinator and head coach, also points to a heavy workload for Murray, as he has a history of leaning heavily on star running backs like Jerome Bettis, Willis McGahee, and Ronnie Brown.  This is best exemplified by his use of Michael Turner from 2008 to 2011 in Atlanta.  Turner averaged 21 carries per game over these 4 years with Mularkey as Atlanta’s OC.  21 carries per game for 16 games projects to 334 carries per season.  In a league where two and three-headed running back committees are becoming more common in today’s NFL, Murray’s projected workload definitely boosts his fantasy value in Tennessee.  There will be very few running backs projected for more carries in 2016.  How productive he will be remains to be seen, but efficiency only matters in fantasy football if it leads to a declining workload which likely won’t be the case in Tennessee.  A consistent workload should put DeMarco Murray back in the RB2 (RB ranked 11-20) discussion, strictly due to volume.  Projected 2016 Stats: 275 carries – 1045 yards – 9 TDs; 41 receptions – 291 yards – 0 TD

Implications for RSO Leagues

After signing with the Eagles in the 2015 off-season, Murray was an attractive player in RSO auctions.  Across all 2015 RSO auctions, he received an average contract of approximately $20.2 million per year for nearly 3 seasons.  Rolling these contracts forward to today, many owners still have Murray contracted for 2 or more seasons at a rate of over $20 million a year.  I cannot recommend owning Murray on any contract longer than one season as I’m terrified that he won’t be as productive as the Titans are expecting, which could lead to a more limited role in 2017.  For anyone who owns Murray on a multi-year contract, I’d rush to place him on the trading block and start fielding offers today.  There likely are a few owners in your league who expect big things out of him in Tennessee for years to come and I’d be willing to dump him for second round rookie pick value, which I believe you could get.

Time will tell on how DeMarco Murray fairs in Tennessee, but I certainly don’t want to be the owner paying more than $20 million for Murray in 2017 and beyond.

More Analysis by Dave Sanders