Super Bowl Projections

Updated: February 2nd 2018

Super Bowl Weekend is upon us! And for many of us who are diehard Eagles fans (remember RSO was literally born in the Eagles front office when Matt and I worked together there in 2010-2011), this weekend takes on even more importance. It is basically a David vs. Goliath scenario as Tom Brady is starting his 37th playoff game whereas Nick Foles has made 39 regular season NFL starts in his career. That being said, Foles looked like one of the best QBs in the league two weeks ago against a tough Vikings defense. The Patriots are certainly not the best they have ever been, but they have continued to find ways to win games throughout this season, and when the game is on the line in the 4th quarter, there is nobody better than Tom Brady. Everyone seems to think this is going to be a close one, and I tend to agree. Read below for our writer’s predictions and see how they have fared thus far throughout the playoffs:

  1. Stephen Wendell: Wildcard Weekend: 3-1 ML & 3-1 ATS / Divisional Weekend: 3-1 ML & 2-2 ATS / Championship Weekend: 2-0 ML & 1-1 ATS (8-2 ML & 6-4 ATS)
  2. Matt Papson: Wildcard Weekend: 2-2 ML & 2-2 ATS / Divisional Weekend: 3-1 ML & 4-0 ATS / Championship Weekend: 2-0 ML & 2-0 ATS (7-3 ML & 8-2 ATS)
  3. Bob Cowper: Wildcard Weekend: 3-1 ML & 1-3 ATS / Divisional Weekend: 3-1 ML & 4-0 ATS / Championship Weekend: 0-2 ML & 1-1 ATS (6-4 ML & 6-4 ATS)
  4. Matt Goodwin: Wildcard Weekend: 1-3 ML & 1-3 ATS / Divisional Weekend: 1-3 ML & 4-0 ATS / Championship Weekend: 0-2 ML & 2-0 ATS (2-8 ML & 7-3 ATS)
  5. Nick Andrews: Wildcard Weekend: 2-2 ML & 0-4 ATS / Divisional Weekend: 2-2 ML & 3-1 ATS / Championship Weekend: 1-1 ML & 1-1 ATS (5-5 ML & 4-6 ATS)
  6. Bernard Faller: Wildcard Weekend: 2-2 ML & 1-3 ATS  / Divisional Weekend: 1-3 ML & 1-3 ATS / Championship Weekend: 1-1 ML & 0-2 ATS (4-6 ML & 2-8 ATS)
  7. Dave Sanders: Wildcard Weekend: No Picks / Divisional Weekend: 1-3 ML & 2-2 ATS / Championship Weekend: No Picks (N/A)

#1 Philadelphia Eagles (13-3) vs. #1 New England Patriots (13-3) [Line: NE -4.5]

Stephen Wendell: Matt and I will not have much to say on this game. It is impossible to take your own bias out of the equation. We would never even predict (much less bet) against our own team. Bottom line, Birds get it done some way somehow. Projected Score: Eagles 24 – Patriots 20.

Matt Papson: See what Stephen said. Projected Score: Eagles 24 – Patriots 23.

Robert Cowper: Much of the talk surrounding the Super Bowl will be about the big stars so I wanted to look in a different direction for interesting stats: Stephen Gostkowski.  Patriots K Stephen Gostkowski will be a huge part of the game but not just as a field goal kicker like one would assume.  Of course his leg will be valuable if drives are stalling near the red zone, he was a perfect 25-25 this season on field goals less than 40 yards, but he’s worth even more to the team than that.  I came across something intriguing that I expect to make a difference: the Patriots’ superior ability to force bad starting field position.  New England forced teams to start, on average, at their 24.3 yard line.  They were the only special teams unit to force the opposition inside the 25 yard line (i.e. where a touchback from a kickoff starts).  In 2016 they were also the league best with an even 25.0.  For comparison, the Eagles ranked a respectable 13th this season, forcing an average start of the 28.0 yard line for their opposition.  It may not sound like much but four yards could ultimately be the difference, especially when the team is on the verge of field goal range.  Do they decide to go for it on fourth down or punt or try a long field goal?  If the Patriots are starting their drives four yards further up field they’ll win the battle of attrition because more of those drives will convert.  According to the kickoff stats compiled by www.footballdb.com, Gostkowski has had 58 kickoffs returned this season.  The next closest kicker had 44 returned.  In 2015, less than a third of Gostkowski’s kickoffs were returned (i.e. when a touchback only brought the ball to the 20 yard line); in 2016 after the rule change, about 45% of his kickoffs were returned; in 2017, it was nearly 60%.  At first glance this feels counter-intuitive, but it seems that the Patriots have figured out that they can regularly cover kicks well enough to get better field position by letting the kickoffs be returned.  It should be mentioned here that the Eagles ranked 27th in the league this season, averaging just 19.7 yards per return.  Expect the Eagles to start a number of their drives inside the twenty.  The ability of Gostkowski to angle and pin returners in the corners will be key.  It sounds crazy but the Eagles best shot at a late game-winning drive may hinge on whether Gostkowski is willing to risk a kickoff out of bounds to make it even harder on the returner. Projected Score: Patriots 25 – Eagles 19

Matt Goodwin: This is a tough one for me as I’m not a huge fan of either fan base. With the exception of the RSO guys, I’ve barely met an Eagles fan I can tolerate. I’ve been wrong most of the playoffs (especially on the Eagles). As I mentioned on Twitter this week, I’m more excited about the shift to the NFL offseason because of RSO implications and the Alex Smith trade jump-started that for me. The Giants are the only blueprint for the Eagles to follow in terms of winning a Super Bowl against the Patriots. Luckily for the Eagles, their defensive front is built like the Giants and can have success if they get consistent, unrelenting pressure on Tom Brady. Unlike what Atlanta abandoned in the second half of last year’s Super Bowl, the Eagles will also have to commit deeply to the run in an attempt to control the clock. I think that the Eagles have a big enough stable of versatile, different-styled running backs to have success against the Patriots and the right mix in the passing game with guys like Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz. As much as picking against Tom Brady seems counterintuitive to me, there’s something about this Patriots team that seems a little more awry than in year’s past. In the end, Matt and Stephen are belting “Fly Eagles Fly” at the top of their lungs as Jake Elliott’s leg is the difference, connecting on 4 field goals.  Projected Score: Eagles 19 – Patriots 17.

Nick Andrews: New England Super Bowls have a tendency to be tight contests, with late game dramatics and one crazy catch. Here are my predictions for what will happen in the big game. 1) The Patriots will score a point in the first quarter, something they haven’t done in their previous 7 under Belichick and Brady. 2) The Eagles will have 4+ sacks. 3) Rob Gronkowski makes a one-handed catch over linebacker Mychal Kendricks for a TD. 4) Patriots never trail in the fourth quarter. Projected Score: Patriots 28 – Eagles 24.

Bernard Faller: Philadelphia possesses the tools for an upset of New England.  Philadelphia’s defensive and offensive lines are fully capable of dominating the line of scrimmage.  The Eagle’s defense has not allowed more than 10 points in any contest over the last four weeks.  Nick Foles played lights out in the NFC championship game.  I am still picking New England.  The Patriots’ O-line is playing well enough to produce in the run game and allow Tom Brady enough time for adjustments against whatever defensive scheme is thrown at them.  Projected Score: Patriots 27 – Eagles 24.

Dave SandersMaybe this is the Eagles fan in me talking, but I really think the birds have a chance on Sunday. I’d expect Ajayi and Blount to be heavily featured and combined for 35+ carries as the Eagles will try to control the clock and keep Brady and Co. off the field.  To counter the Eagles strong rotation of defensive lineman that have pressured QBs all year, I’d expect the Patriots run an extensive amount of no huddle and target Lewis, Burkhead and White frequently out of the backfield. If the Eagles can’t get pressure on Brady or Foles struggled, this could be over in a hurry. That said, I think it’s a close game and believe the Eagles will do just enough to pull it out. Projected Score: Eagles 27 – Patriots 24.

 

More Analysis by Stephen Wendell

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

Divisional Round Predictions

Updated: January 12th 2018

Well, the underdogs were the story of last week, covering all four games, and winning two of them outright with the Titans pulling off a miracle at Arrowhead and the Falcons dominating the Rams. All in all, the games were highly entertaining save for the Jags/Bills game which was one of the worst games in the history of football in my unfettered hyperbolic opinion. Here is how our writers performed last week (only one of us with a winning record ATS 🙂 ): 

  1. Stephen Wendell: 3-1 ML & 3-1 ATS
  2. Matt Papson: 2-2 ML & 2-2 ATS
  3. Bob Cowper: 3-1 ML & 1-3 ATS
  4. Matt Goodwin: 1-3 ML & 1-3 ATS 
  5. Nick Andrews: 2-2 ML & 0-4 ATS
  6. Bernard Faller: 2-2 ML & 1-3 ATS 

A quick summary of the picks for this week are below in case you don’t want to read each writer’s analysis…but you should because there are some great nuggets of information down there:

  1. Atlanta Falcons @ Philadelphia Eagles (Line ATL -2.5): ML – 4 ATL & 3 PHI// ATS – 3 ATL & 4 PHI
  2. Tennessee Titans @ New England Patriots (Line NE -13.5): ML – 0 TEN & 7 NE // ATS – 3 TEN & 4 NE
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars @ Pittsburgh Steelers (Line PIT -7.5): ML – 1 JAX & 6 PIT // ATS – 4 JAX & 3 PIT
  4. New Orleans Saints @ Minnesota Vikings (Line MIN -4.5): ML – 4 NO & 3 MIN // ATS – 7 NO & 0 MIN

#6 Atlanta Falcons (10-6) @ #1 Philadelphia Eagles (13-3) [Line: ATL -2.5]

Stephen Wendell: As a Birds fan, I am very nervous, but I think Foles and the defense do enough to get this one done, narrowly escaping defeat and setting up an exciting NFC Championship game at home hosting the Vikings featuring two backup quarterbacks!  Projected Score: Eagles 28 – Falcons 27.

Matt Papson: It’s a Falcons line but I can’t bring myself to pick against the Birds. It’s a home game. Nick Foles is capable of putting together two good games, which is enough to get them to the super bowl. Will he? I’ll bet on at least 1. Projected Score: Eagles 24 – Falcons 23.

Robert Cowper: Jury duty got a hold of Bob this week (good thing college is done) so he was just able to send his projected scores. Projected Score: Eagles 25 – Falcons 19.

Matt Goodwin: Going with experienced QB play in each game as that is the key to the divisional round in my opinion. Projected Score: Falcons 23 – Eagles 20.

Nick AndrewsThe Eagles have been sliding down the power rankings ever since Carson Wentz was lost for the season. In their final three games, the Eagles looked on par with the 3-13 Giants and 6-10 Raiders and then were shutout by the Cowboys in week 17. There’s a reason why this will be the first time since the playoffs expanded that the #1 seed is an underdog in the Divisional Round. The Falcons flaunted their playoff experience against the Rams last week by taking the early lead and then holding strong throughout. I expect the same will occur this week. Projected Score: Falcons 27 – Eagles 16.

Bernard Faller: Philadelphia was in the conversation for most complete team in the NFL with Carson Wentz at quarterback.   The Eagles dominated in almost every aspect with no weaknesses.  Things change in a hurry.  Atlanta has not exactly been a “juggernaut” in any area this season but I will take Ryan almost every time in a Ryan vs. Foles matchup.  The improving Falcons defense does just enough. Projected Score: Falcons 21 – Eagles 17.

Dave SandersWhile Doug Peterson tries to return Nick Foles to somewhere between competent and his 2014 form, the Atlanta Falcons come to town as -2.5 point road FAVORITES.  I’d expect that Ajayi, Blount, and Clement will faced a stacked box as Dan Quinn will force Foles and company to attack their Cover-3 zone scheme, which has been very successful this year.  Foles will have to get the ball out quickly to counter Atlanta’s ability to pressure with only four rushers.  On the other hand, Atlanta’s offense hasn’t be great this season and likely will continue struggle against a stout Philadelphia defense.  All of that said, give me Ryan over Foles in a playoff game.  It’s as simple as that.  I’ll take Atlanta and lay the 2.5 points. Projected Score: Falcons 20 – Eagles 13.

#5 Tennessee Titans (9-7) @ #1 New England Patriots (13-3) [Line: NE -13.5]

Stephen Wendell: The Titans cover but in a backdoor fashion. They will not compete on the road in one of the toughest places to win in January. Brady and a healthy Gronk dominate this game from start to finish. Projected Score: Patriots 27 – Titans 14.

Matt Papson: All the drama surrounding the Pats isn’t nearly enough to create a chance they lose this one. Projected Score: Patriots 45 – Titans 13.

Robert Cowper: Jury duty got a hold of Bob this week (good thing college is done) so he was just able to send his projected scores. Projected Score: Patriots 33 – Titans 10.

Matt Goodwin: Going with experienced QB play in each game as that is the key to the divisional round in my opinion. Projected Score: Patriots 31 – Titans 10.

Nick AndrewsI called everything but the score in last week’s Titans/Chiefs game. The Chiefs did everything to lose that game by not relying more on Kareem Hunt in the second half. It will be interesting to see what happens to them in the offseason. As for the Titans current matchup, the Patriots are the opposite of the Chiefs in terms of offering opportunities to come back from a multi-score deficit. There are only two outcomes that this game can have. Either the Patriots are distracted from last week’s media storm and allow the Titans to pull out another sneaky win or they use the distraction as fuel to throttle the Titans out of playoffs. I expect the latter. Projected Score: Patriots 27 – Titans 12.

Bernard Faller: The Titans move on to the second round after a historic collapse by the Kansas City Chiefs last week.  New England’s defense, one of the worst in the league this year, is certainly exploitable especially against the run.  That won’t matter as Tom Brady brutalizes the Tennessee defense.  The Kansas City offense forgot to play the second half last week.  New England’s will not.  Projected Score: Patriots 34 – Titans 24.

Dave SandersGive me Tennessee and the 13.5 points.  This isn’t about the drama between Brady, Belichick, and Kraft, which I believe to be overstated.  It’s simply too many points for New England to be laying against anyone in the divisional round.  Mariota and Henry should be able to do just enough to cover, while still losing a close game to the Pats. Projected Score: Patriots 34 – Titans 24.

#3 Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6) @ #2 Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3) [Line: PIT -7.5]

Stephen Wendell: Blake Bortles is awful, plain and simple. Big Ben threw 5 INTs, 2 of them were run back, and the Jags still only scored 30 points in the Week 5 defeat of the Steelers. Big Ben will protect the ball this time around and the Steelers offense will score enough to overcome a very very weak Jags offense. Projected Score: Steelers 24 – Jaguars 10. 

Matt Papson: Despite last week’s abysmal performance I think this is going to be closer than people are expecting.. Projected Score: Steelers 31 – Jaguars 27.

Robert Cowper: Jury duty got a hold of Bob this week (good thing college is done) so he was just able to send his projected scores. Projected Score: Steelers 16 – Jaguars 9 

Matt Goodwin: Going with experienced QB play in each game as that is the key to the divisional round in my opinion. Projected Score; Steelers 16 – Jaguars 10

Nick Andrews: Antonio Brown is expected to be back but how healthy will he be? These two teams met up in week 5 when Big Ben had five interceptions and the Jags got a rare win at Heinz Field. While I don’t think there will be five interceptions again I do suspect that the result will repeat itself. The Jags defense has shown that they can cover the best receivers in the league and can also get to the quarterback. Bortles was rather lackluster against the Bills but he surprisingly did enough on the ground to get a win last week. His performance will likely be the difference between a victory and defeat.  Projected Score: Jaguars 19 – Steelers 17.

Bernard Faller: The Jaguars won an ugly contest in the wild card game against Buffalo featuring one of the worst cumulative performances by opposing quarterbacks in playoff history.  Jacksonville’s defense might be the best in the league and could keep the game close.  The Jaguars beat the Steelers earlier this season with a historically bad five interception game from likely future hall of famer Ben Roethlisberger.  It will not happen again.  One can not trust Blake Bortles against Ben Roethlisberger in a playoff matchup.  Projected Score:  Steelers 24 – Jaguars 13.

Dave SandersI can’t wait to watch the Steelers offense vs. the Jacksonville defense.  It’s the head-to-head matchup I’m most looking forward to watching, most especially if Antonio Brown has fully recovered from injury.  In what may become a defensive grind, I’ll take Jacksonville and the 7.5 points. Projected Score:  Steelers 23 – Jaguars 16.

#4 New Orleans Saints (11-5) @ #2 Minnesota Vikings (13-3) [Line: MIN -4.5]

Stephen Wendell: Man this is the toughest game to predict of the weekend. I think the Vikings put together a FG drive late to win 17-16 and inch out the Saints, putting them one win in Philly away from hosting the Super Bowl! Projected Score: Vikings 17 – Saints 16.

Matt Papson: The Vikings have a more feasible path to a home super bowl than any team in recent memory. Case Keenum isn’t as good as Drew Brees, but the Vikings offense has been consistent and Pat Shurmur is going to put his mark on his final few games with the team Projected Score: Vikings 31 – Saints 27.

Robert Cowper: Jury duty got a hold of Bob this week (good thing college is done) so he was just able to send his projected scores. Projected Score: Vikings 24 – Saints 23.

Matt Goodwin: Going with experienced QB play in each game as that is the key to the divisional round in my opinion. Projected Score: Saints 24 – Vikings 20.

Nick AndrewsThis is another regular season rematch but unlike my Jags prediction, I think this one will be a different outcome. In week 1 the Saints were trying to figure out what to do with Adrian Peterson, had yet to discover the awesome power of Alvin Kamara, and faced Sam Bradford instead of Case Keenum at QB. Marshon Lattimore has also developed into a shutdown corner which will limit the big plays of Stefon Diggs. If the Saints offense can continue to both stretch the field with Brees, Thomas and Ginn Jr. as well as pound the ball with Ingram and Kamara I see the Saints hosting the NFC Championship game next week. Projected Score: Saints 20 – Vikings 17.

Bernard FallerThis game is the highlight of the playoff weekend.  Two of the best overall teams in the league face off for the second time this season.  The Vikings won the first matchup on the strength of a 347 yard, 3 touchdown game by Sam Bradford.  Both teams are good on each side of the ball but the highlight will be two top-rated units squaring off in the New Orleans offense against the Minnesota defense.  In a common theme for my picks, I pick the team with the proven quarterback in Drew Brees going against playoff first-timer Case Keenum. Projected Score: Saints 24 – Vikings 20.

Dave SandersIn what most are calling the game of the week, New Orleans travels to Minnesota in a showcase of two of the best QBs in 2017….Drew Brees (makes sense) and Case Keenum (wait what?).  It’s true.  Maybe it’s the 2,500 virtual reality reps or just distance from Jeff Fisher, but Keenum has turned himself into a very good quarterback.  I still have this feeling in the back of my mind that he’s going to sink the Vikings with a dud of a game at some point.  I’ll bet on it being this game as Kamara, Ingram, Brees, and Thomas may be too much for the Vikings regardless. Give me the Saints and the 4.5 points. Projected Score: Saints 24 – Vikings 23.

More Analysis by Stephen Wendell

Wildcard Weekend Predictions

Updated: January 5th 2018

Yes, your fantasy season is over, but the NFL playoffs have begun! Whether your team is still alive or failed to make the exclusive 12-team field, the action this weekend should be very entertaining. There are some big point spreads but something tells me we will see one or more upsets this weekend.  Like last year, some of the RSO Writers have made their predictions for and given a little analysis on each game, which can be found below. Enjoy the games!

A quick summary of the picks in case you don’t want to read each writer’s analysis…but you should because there are some great nuggets of information down there:

  1. Tennessee Titans @ Kansas City Chiefs (Line KC -8.5): ML – 6 KC & 0 TEN// ATS – 4 KC & 2 TEN
  2. Atlanta Falcons @ LA Rams (Line LAR -5.5): ML – 2 ATL & 4 LAR // ATS – 3 ATL & 3 LAR
  3. Buffalo Bills @ Jacksonville Jaguars (Line JAX -8.5): ML – 0 BUF & 6 JAX // ATS – 1 BUF & 5 JAX
  4. Carolina Panther @ New Orleans Saints (Line NO -6.5): ML – 1 CAR & 5 NO // ATS – 2 CAR & 4 NO

#5 Tennessee Titans (9-7) @ #4 Kansas City Chiefs (10-6) [Line: KC -8.5]

Stephen Wendell: The Titans are a really nice story, but KC at Arrowhead will prove to be too tough. The Chiefs come in on a hot streak that will continue with a win over the Titans that will be a little closer than the experts think.   Projected Score: Chiefs 28 – Titans 20.

Matt Papson: Papson is letting his score predictions speak for themselves this week. Projected Score: Chiefs 31 – Titans 16.

Robert Cowper: This one isn’t even that close for me, honestly.  The Titans are a bad team with a mediocre record that snuck into the playoffs because they earned wins against a poor division.  Of their nine wins, four came against below average quarterbacks (Brissett twice, Kizer/Kessler and Savage).  The Chiefs did struggle in the middle of the season too, losing six of seven in one stretch, but they are hot now after four straight wins.  Wunderkind Kareem Hunt had his “sophomore slump” a little early during that losing streak, however he has rebounded and is ready to dominate the playoffs.  Not counting the Week 17 Denver game when Hunt had one carry (for 35 yards and a score, by the way), he had three straight games of 100+ total yards and at least one touchdown.  With Hunt running well again I don’t think there is any way that the Titans can beat the Chiefs.  The Chiefs are 6th in the league in average time of possession per drive, whereas the Titans are 22nd; if the Chiefs go up by two scores the Titans won’t be able to score enough in their limited time of possession.  Projected Score: Chiefs 22 – Titans 11

Matt Goodwin: Based on scoring differential and other key markers, teams like the Titans and Bills were far inferior to the Chargers and Ravens. Yet the Titans and Bills find themselves in the tournament this weekend while the other two are watching on the couch just like I will be. That said, it’ll be a quick visit for the Titans who unless they get something outer-worldly from QB Marcus Mariota both with his legs to make plays and in the air, I see this game being a big one for Kareem Hunt in the passing game (you saw what Gurley did to the Titans a few weeks ago) and I see Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill both scoring in this game and potentially even a defensive score out of the Chiefs. I’ll be watching Corey Davis on the Titans to see if he can build some momentum to be a fantasy relevant WR2 next season in RSO leagues. Projected Score: Chiefs 30 – Titans 13

Nick AndrewsThe Chiefs played like Super Bowl favorites for the first five weeks of the season but struggled through the middle of the season forcing them to be playing this weekend instead of having a bye. Because of this, along with the past history of Andy Reid teams coming up short in playoff games, I really wanted to pick the Titans here to upset the Chiefs. However, over the last four weeks, the coaching staff seems to have realized that they need the offense to run through rookie Kareem Hunt and allow him to touch the ball 25-30 times a game in order to win. The Titans have the opportunity to beat the Chiefs but more likely this game will be decided by whether the Chiefs beat themselves with bad/conservative play calling. Projected Score: Chiefs 23 – Titans 13.

Bernard Faller: Kansas City heated up at the right time, rolling into the playoffs on the strength of a four-game winning streak.  The Chiefs feature one of the best all around offenses in the NFL with good skill weapons across the board, a solid offensive line, and quarterback Alex Smith having a career season.  The same can not be said for the other side of the ball.  Kansas City managed one of the worst defenses in football struggling against the run and pass.  The Titans limp to the postseason losers of three of their last four games, ending the season with a negative point differential.  The decidedly mediocre Tennessee team relies on winning at the line of scrimmage with good run offense and defense but struggles both throwing the ball and defending the pass.  Tennessee will not hang with the big play Kansas City offense.  Projected Score:  Chiefs 27 – Titans 20

#6 Atlanta Falcons (10-6) @ #3 Los Angeles Rams (11-5) [Line: LA -5.5]

Stephen Wendell: Atlanta is overwhelmed with relief to be back in the playoffs so they officially have a chance for redemption of last year’s Super Bowl debacle. That redemption will start on the road in LA against a very talented Rams team, but I believe Matt Ryan finds a way and Goff makes a couple key mistakes due to his inexperience, resulting in a Falcons upset victory and a second round matchup with Philadelphia. Projected Score: Falcons 28 – Rams 24.

Matt Papson: Papson is letting his score predictions speak for themselves this week. Projected Score: Rams 31 – Falcons 28. 

Robert Cowper: The Rams were a great bounce back story in 2017.  Sean McVay would get my vote for Coach of the Year and Todd Gurley should be considered for MVP now that Carson Wentz is hurt.  That being said, I’m actually not feeling that confident in the Rams chances.  Goff’s numbers have not been as strong in the final half of the season as they were earlier in the year.  Part of that may be them slowing him down to preserve him for the playoffs (as they did in Week 17 by resting him fully), but you can look at his rate stats and see the trend line decreasing too.  Goff’s five highest outings in regards to yards per attempt, a stat he finished 2nd in for the season, all came in Weeks 1-9.  In those weeks his Y/PA was 9.13 or higher; all of his games since Thanksgiving have been 8.23 or lower.  He’s still playing at an above average level, most quarterbacks including Matt Ryan, would love to have a Y/PA like Goff’s, but if I had to bet I would say that Goff plays closer to the bad than the good in the playoffs given his lack of experience.  Don’t forget the Rams also lost kicker Greg Zuerlein; replacement Sam Ficken went 2-3 last week but with a long of just 23 yards.  That will likely matter in a game that I expect will come down to field goals.  The Falcons won three of four to clinch the last playoff spot but could be without Julio Jones who is questionable as of this writing.  I expect Julio to play, even if limited.  He only has 3 TDs on the year but his 88 receptions were 9th most in the league.  Regardless of Julio’s status, keep an eye on Mohamed Sanu, a homer favorite of mine (67-703-5).  Thankfully Devonta Freeman should be healthy enough to play.  I’m not ready to buy in on the Rams yet, they are young and inexperienced at the two most important positions: quarterback and head coach.  Dan Quinn is no Vince Lombardi, but take him and the Falcons.  Projected Score: Falcons 31 – Rams 25

Matt Goodwin: I think this game has the potential to be the most fun of the weekend slate and certainly has the potential to be high scoring. I’m curious about what Devonta Freeman’s knee injury really is as it seemed to come from nowhere. Not sure if that is going to be a factor in this game, but seemingly not as Freeman is not on the final injury report. If it is, I think the Falcons have the potential to get blown out, even with being the more experienced playoff team. In the end, I think Wade Phillips’ defense is going to be fired up against a turnover prone Matt Ryan and I think the Falcons aren’t a good come from behind team. In a tight game, I would worry about Rams rookie kicker Sam Ficken as he’s definitely no “Greg the Leg”. I’m most excited to see Cooper Kupp’s continued ascendance to fantasy relevance and expect him to have a solid game. Give me fellow Miami alum Sean McVay and the Rams in this one. Projected Score: Rams 31 – Falcons 17

Nick AndrewsI don’t know whether Sean McVay and the Rams were resting their start players to purposefully try and fall to the #4 seed to increase their chances of playing the Eagles in the Divisional Round or if they truly wanted to keep them fresh for the playoffs. Either way, everyone else lost in week 17 so the Rams stayed in the #3 seed and will play the Vikings with a victory over the Falcons. The Falcons have had a down year compared to last year’s offensive explosion but they are the only NFC team to return the playoffs from 2016. That is a big check mark for playoff experience on their side of the matchup. If the Falcons are going to beat the Rams it will be because this game is tight in the 4th quarter and their Super Bowl experienced team will be cool and calm under pressure. Expect this game to be the highest scoring game on Wild Card weekend. Projected Score: Rams 34 – Falcons 27.

Bernard Faller: Coach Sean McVay is evidentiary piece number one for what a difference quality coaching can make.  The Rams went from one of the worst teams in football with the lowest scoring offense (by a lot) in 2016 to one of the best teams with the highest scoring offense in the NFL for 2017.  Atlanta, on the other hand, does not look like the same team which narrowly missed winning the Super Bowl last year.  The offense never fully recovered from losing offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan seemingly just a small step out of balance all year.  Look for the Rams dominance continuing in the first playoff game for either new Los Angeles team.  Projected Score:  Rams 31 – Falcons 21

#6 Buffalo Bills (9-7) @ #3 Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6) [Line: JAX -8.5]

Stephen Wendell: Bills Mafia is in full effect as the team is back in the playoffs for the first time since Y2K! They travel to Jacksonville to play a really improved Jaguars team whose defense is flat out relentless. The line is pretty large in my opinion as I do not trust Blake Bortles to play mistake-free football in the pressure type situations he will find himself in this weekend. Ultimately, the defense will be too tough, even if McCoy is fully healthy for the Bills. Jacksonville advances. Projected Score: Jaguars 20 – Bills 13. 

Matt Papson: Papson is letting his score predictions speak for themselves this week. Projected Score: Jaguars 24 – Bills 15.

Robert Cowper: Much like Tennessee against Kansas City, I don’t think the Bills stand a chance in this matchup.  Buffalo is saying that LeSean McCoy may play this weekend but I think that is more gamesmanship than anything.  How often does somebody get carted off with an injury and return the next week?  So, the Bills will likely need to rely on QB Tyrod Taylor’s arms (and legs) to will them to competitiveness.  The Jags pass defense is just is so good.  They lead the league in numerous categories including: completion percentage, yards per attempt, rating, and interception percentage.  They also have the second most sacks so it’s the rush and the coverage working in tandem to shut down the opposition.  Pro-Football-Reference.com tracks “expected points contributed” and in that category the Jags pass defense has “contributed” 121.9 points which is astronomical.  The second best pass defense checks in at 61.30, half of the Jaguars.  Amazingly, the Jacksonville pass offense only contributes 71.65 points – they are the only playoff team whose pass defense is worth more than their pass offense, and I would bet that would hold true for non-playoff teams too.  Projected Score: Jaguars 26 – Bills 9 

Matt Goodwin: I don’t like this matchup at all for the Bills, especially with Lesean McCoy a game-time decision. I think Blake Bortles may have turned a corner late in the season and all of a sudden the Jags passing offense is formidable even without Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee. Combine this with a tough running game and a play-making defense and Buffalo won’t be able to control clock or move the ball. I’ll be watching to see if late season rookie sensation Keelan Cole continues his hot streak. Projected Score; Jaguars 30 – Bills 10

Nick AndrewsWhen the Bills traded Marcell Dareus and started Nathan Peterman it seemed like they had packed it in for the season. Instead, they managed to sneak into the playoffs for the first time this millennium and set up some pretty juicy narratives against the Jaguars. As previously mentioned Marcell Dareus will be playing against his old team for the first time since being traded. Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone also was the head coach for Buffalo in 2014 before voiding his contract and leaving the team. But the biggest story is whether LeSean McCoy will be available for Sunday. Even if McCoy can gut it out it will be difficult for the Bills to generate much offense on the best defense in the NFL. If he cannot go the slim chances that Bills have to win will likely disappear completely. Projected Score: Jaguars 19 – Bills 6.

Bernard Faller: These teams each play in a similar manner relying on good pass defenses and the run game while limiting quarterback usage.  Jacksonville has simply been much better at it this year with a dominant best pass defense that is perhaps the best in the league.  Blake Bortles improved but is still an average option at quarterback the Jaguars will try to cover up.  Buffalo struggled making the playoffs and most would consider them the worst team in the playoffs.  The Bills could be in real trouble if LeSean McCoy is unable to produce due to his injury.  Expect a low scoring contest.  Projected Score:  Jaguars 24 – Bills 13

#5 Carolina Panthers (11-5) @ #4 New Orleans Saints (11-5) [Line: NO -6.5]

Stephen Wendell: Pretty easy game for me to pick here. Saints beat the Panthers twice this season, Cam has no weapons to speak of, and Drew Brees now has two fantastic RBs to go with a solid core of WRs. Saints win big! Projected Score: Saints 35 – Panthers 24.

Matt Papson: Papson is letting his score predictions speak for themselves this week. Projected Score: Saints 31 – Panthers 27. 

Robert Cowper: The Panthers lost to the Saints in both head to head matchups by a combined 31 points this season.  This one will probably be closer just because it’s the playoffs and the Saints may be more risk averse in their play calling but I do still expect them to win.  Drew Brees was not his usual prolific self this season, he threw for the fewest yards and touchdowns of any season since joining the Saints, because the offense has relied on the dynamic one-two punch of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara.  I was dead wrong on Kamara who I avoided in rookie drafts and am sorry now.  He’s been fantastic with over 1,500 total yards and 14 total TDs.  On the Panthers side, the passing game has been hampered by the trade of Kelvin Benjamin, the injury of Greg Olsen and the inconsistency of Devin Funchess.  Funchess has played through injury without missing a game so he’s tough, but still, he has not surpassed 60 yards receiving since Week 11.  RB Christian McCaffrey is the team’s leading receiver, averaging 5 receptions and 40 yards per game.  Both defenses are Top 11 when it comes to total points allowed but both are in the bottom half of the league when it comes to yards per play and the number of punts forced.  I think it will be a game with a lot of yardage but it’ll come down to who converts in the red zone and that favors New Orleans (58.2% vs 53.8%).  Projected Score: Saints 34 – Panthers 19

Matt Goodwin: I know that the Saints swept the Panthers this season in fairly convincing fashion. However, Cam Newton has had some monster games in the Big Easy in the past few years. The Saints now boast a play-making defense with a very underrated secondary and probably the best running game in the NFL. That said, I still like the Panthers here, especially if they can figure out how to get Christian McCaffrey in space and use Greg Olsen in the middle of the field where the Saints are more vulnerable. This one’s probably closer than the other three games given the division familiarity. Projected Score: Panthers 24 – Saints 21

Nick AndrewsHad the Bills not found a way into the playoffs I would have said that the Panthers are easily the worst team to make the playoffs this year. Cam Newton doesn’t have enough weapons around him on offense and the defense isn’t as elite as several of the other NFC teams in the playoffs, including the Saints. Newton himself hasn’t looked elite since his MVP 2015 season. Other than an explosive game against the Dolphins, Newton hasn’t thrown for 250 yards or completed 65% of his passes in a game since week 5. The Saints are too strong of a defense and too efficient of an offense to allow Cam Newton and the Panthers enough short fields and opportunities to beat them. Projected Score: Saints 31 – Panthers 13.

Bernard Faller: Two intra-division rivals face off for the third time this season.  The New Orleans story starts with finally finding a competent defense this season.  This changed the formula for the Saints relying much more on one of the best run games in the league highlighted by rookie sensation Alvin Kamara.  Drew Brees’ numbers may be down but not due to effectiveness as he leads the NFL in completion percentage and yards per attempt.    Carolina made the postseason again but it was not pretty.  Cam Newton’s struggles as a passer continue resulting in an erratic offense throughout the year.  New Orleans dominated the first two matchups racking up over 30 points in each contest.   It is difficult beating a playoff-level opponent three times but there is nothing suggesting anything but the same here. Projected Score:  Saints 28 – Panthers 21

More Analysis by Stephen Wendell

RSO Staff Picks: Week 17

Updated: December 30th 2017

Week 16 Results

T1. Papson – 13-3

T1. English – 13-3

3. Wendell – 12-4

Overall Standings

1. Papson – 162-78

2. Wendell – 160-80

3. English – 159-82

Papson comes up with another solid week at 13-3 with his Jimmy G 49ers pick proving pivotal, giving him a two game lead over Wendell and a three game lead over English instead of being even with Wendell and one game ahead of English. Alas, 16 more games this week to decide the season long crown in what has been an extremely close race all year long. Papson trails only Mike Clay (165-75) out of the 11 ESPN experts. Here are our picks for the final week of the regular season. Happy New Year!

NFL Game Picks

Game

Wendell

English

Papson

DAL @ PHI

GB @ DET

HOU @ IND

CHI @ MIN

NYJ @ NE

WAS @ NYG

CLV @ PIT

CAR @ ATL

CIN @ BAL

BUF @ MIA

NO @ TB

JAX @ TEN

KC @ DEN

OAK @ LAC

SF @ LAR

ARI @ SEA

 

More Analysis by Stephen Wendell

RSO Staff Picks: Week 16

Updated: December 22nd 2017

Week 15 Results

1. Papson – 15-1

2. English – 13-3

3. Wendell – 12-4

Overall Standings

1. Papson – 149-75

2. Wendell – 148-76

3. English – 146-78

Big week from Papson who goes 15-1 and leaps into first place with only two weeks to go. English is only three games back and Wendell is now one game back after leading for most of the season. 32 games to go! Good luck to those playing for fantasy immortality this week and happy holidays to all of our GMs. Our picks for Week 16 are below:

NFL Game Picks

Game

Wendell

English

Papson

IND @ BAL

MIN @ GB

TB @ CAR

CLV @ CHI

DET @ CIN

MIA @ KC

BUF @ NE

ATL @ NO

LAC @ NYJ

LAR @ TEN

DEN @ WAS

JAX @ SF

NYG @ ARI

SEA @ DAL

OAK @ PHI

PIT @ HOU

 

More Analysis by Stephen Wendell