IDP Start/Sit: Week 13

Updated: November 29th 2023

 

Welcome to week 13, our penultimate matchup before the playoffs! Let’s get those lineups ready again as we secure our first-round byes, or our spots in the playoff, or at the very least, play spoiler to those still in it!

Week 12 Recap

DL:

Start: Will Anderson Jr. (2 solos, 2 assists, TFL) 👎

Sit: Shaquil Barrett (3 solos, assist) 👍

LB:

Start: Ivan Pace Jr. (7 solos, 2 assists, sack, TFL, QB hit) 👍

Sit: Frankie Luvu (Solo, assist) 👎

DB:

Start: Jonathan Owens (8 solos, 4 assists, TFL, FR, Def TD) 👍

Sit: Jevon Holland (5 solos, INT, PD, Def TD) 👎

Week 13 Starts & Sits

START: Osa Odighizuwa, Dallas Cowboys, DL60 (DT18)

Osa Odighizuwa, he not only has a fun name to say, but he also has the production to get into our IDP lineups. This is especially true in week 13. Osa has had a great year in terms of his pass rush success. He has a pass-rush pressure rate of 13.65% and he has a pass-rush win rate of 24.25% on the season. These are outstanding numbers, however, they have not resulted fully in the sack numbers you’d expect. I’d expect to see him with close to 5 sacks versus the 3 he has produced year-to-date. Getting a matchup against the Seattle Seahawks should help with that this week. They are allowing pressures on 32% of all dropbacks while 15% of those are being converted into sacks. This is a strong matchup for Odighizuwa to add to his sack total this season.

SIT: Denico Autry, Tennessee Titans, DL40 (ED27)

Denico Autry has had a wonderful season. 8 sacks is a great season for most pass-rushers, but Autry is at that number through 11 games and obviously pushing for more. Autry has been an bit of an over-producer this season though, with those 8 sacks coming on 32 pressures. And as we looked at with Osa, we would expect his sack total to be closer to 5 sacks at this point. His pass-rush production numbers are solid, but not elite either that it would lead me to believe that he is a true outlier with 10.22% pass rush rate and a 15.0% pass rush win rate. This week, Autry gets a less than ideal matchup in the Indianapolis Colts who are allowing only a 23% pressure rate per dropback this season and only 7% of those pressures are converted into sacks. This is a week where Autry likely regresses back to the mean.

START: Jack Campbell, Detroit Lions, LB41

Jack Campbell has been an IDP rookie darling of mine since the draft cycles this off-season. Now, due to an unfortunate injury, he might get the full-time role I was hoping he’d have secured by this point. Either way, Campbell has been quietly delivering a respectable baseline for IDP production. He has 49 tackles at a 12.82% efficiency. This is very average, but for a first year player, that is a good baseline to be achieving already. He has added a handful of splash plays, too. Week 13 is a good matchup as well, heading to New Orleans Jack Campbell is facing a Saints offense that is providing an average of 19.2 tackles per game to the linebacker position. Even at an even split with Derrick Barnes, that is still likely to yield an 8 – 10 tackle floor for them and Campbell is should easily take advantage this week.

SIT: Markquese Bell, Dallas Cowboys, LB36

Markquese Bell has stepped up in his role with the injuries and uncertainty at linebacker this year for the Cowboys. Starting in week 6 we have seen snap percentages of 53%, 73%, 94%, 39%, 85%, and 77%. The numbers have been relatively consistent, but Rashaan Evans has slowly been seeing his integration and snaps increasing as well, even if smaller. But that reduction is coming at the extent of someone else at times, and it seems to be Bell. It also doesn’t help that they already have an established safety group of three as well in Kearse, Wilson, and Malik Hooker that limits Bell’s ability to stay on the field. Pair the snap count concerns with the Seattle Seahawks matchup this weekend in a team that is only yielding 14.7 tackles per game to the linebabcker position, I do not like Bell’s range of outcomes this week.

START: Jordan Battle, Cincinnati Bengals, DB32 (S28)

Rookie Jordan Battle is getting his opportunity this season due to injuries, but he has gone ahead and made the most of that. Filling in early two weeks ago and getting his frist fultime starting game, Battle quickly made the most of it with 19 total tackles. He projected as a strong tackling safety during the NFL draft process but has shown he can deliver that on the NFL field. While this is a small sample size, we love the production, but we also love the utilization. 58.26% of his snaps these last two weeks have come from the sweet spot alignments but his box utilization saw a jump from 18 snaps to 31 once after a week of preparing the defense with Battle known as the starter. Again, small sample sizes, but we are at the end of the season and we cannot wait several weeks to figure out some of these new roles and opportunities. But we can react to the information we have seen the teams already do. Battle should be a strong start while he maintains this role.

SIT: Richie Grant, Atlanta Falcons, DB25 (S23)

Richie Grants was a defensive back I had a lot of belief in coming into this season. Unfortunately, that has not been the case for his third season in the NFL. It has shown not only in his reduction in IDP production, but some of his worst PFF grades, especially is his overall defense and coverage grades. Most concerning though, is the last two weeks he has dipped below 100% snap percentage and this last week it was down to 75%! Up to this point, he has delivered slightly above average tackle efficiency, but if he isn’t producing outlier numbers and his utilization is going to drop, his IDP production becomes concerning on a week-to-week basis. Enter the New York Jets for this week, they are allowing the lowest numbers of tackles to opposing safeties at 9.9 per game.

 

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More Analysis by Jake

IDP Start/Sit: Week 5

Updated: October 4th 2023

 

We are at the quarter mark of the NFL season and we have plenty of interesting stories. Khalil Mack’s six sack game chief among them. Devon Witherspoon trying to cement his pace in IDP relevance as well. But let’s see who we can find for our lineups this week to deliver some of that awesome IDP value!

Week 4 Recap

DL:

Start: Za’Darius Smith (1 assist) 👎

Sit: Rashan Gary (1 QB hit) 👍

LB:

Start: Alex Singleton (4 solos, 8 assists) 👎 – let’s call it meh

Sit: Tremain Edmunds (6 solos, 2 assists, 1 TFL) 👎

DB:

Start: Rudy Ford (7 solos, 1 assists, 1 INT, 1 PD) 👍

Sit: Tyrann Mathieu (3 solos, 2 assists) 👍

Week 5 Starts & Sits

START: David Onyemata, Atlanta Falcons, DL35 (DT11)

David Onyemata has had a very successful season so far. He has notched 2 sacks, 4 QB hits, 13 total tackles. That success isn’t likely to stall out in his week matchup against the Houston Texans. This is a Texans team that has allowed 63 pressures on CJ Stroud so far this year (6th most) and even with Stroud’s movement in the pocket, he has been sacked 11 times as well (7th most). And the Texans interior defense suffered another injury with their current RG landing on injured reserved after an injury against the Steelers.

Onyemata’s production has been backed by some strong marks, too. He is 6th among all pass-rushers in his True Pass Rush win rate at 33.3%! One-third of his snaps are resulting in a win and his chance to make a play in the backfield on the QB. Add in Houston’s 5th most passing plays ran this year and their willingness to air it out, Onyemata should have a beautiful intersection of opportunity and talent that should lead to a very productive week.

SIT: Sam Hubbard, Cincinnati Bengals, DL34 (ED24)

Sam Hubbard has delivered his standard performance at the quarter mark for the NFL season. 2 sacks, 22 combined tackles, 2 TFLs, 5 QB hits. He takes his solid performance this season to Arizona against the scrappy Cardinals. The Bengals have under-delivered this season as a football team, and I am afraid Sam Hubbard will do the same here in week 5, too.

Josh Dobbs and the Cardinals have done a nice job avoiding pass rushes and have done so with some young, new talent in Paris Johnson. And a very specific gameplan, 9th fastest time to throw amongst all QBs with at least 50 pass attempts. This has led to Dobbs being the 9th lowest pressures (44) and 8th lowest sacks (6).

Add in the fact that the Bengals offense has been struggling too with injury and performance, the defense can only do so much, after so long. This cross-section for Hubbard does not bode well for him to have an overly productive week. 

START: Chad Muma, Jacksonville Jaguars, LB40

Chad Muma was a LB prospect who had some promise, upside, and excitement last year during the draft process. But he ended up behind a stud in Foyesade and top draft talent, Devin Lloyd. He had a chance to show out a bit last year and he gets his chance this year with an injury to Lloyd this season. In his first game, he totaled 7 total tackles and 2 pass breakups. Now he gets his second game overseas in a row against the Buffalo Bills and their top-ten offense in passing and rushing. This should lead to plenty of opportunities against this Jaguars defense that has struggled against the pass, too.

While his PFF grades leave a lot to be desired, Muma is their best option this week and should see near 100% snap utilization this week again. I also believe in the fact that Jacksonville has a second week in a row overseas and this should play as an advantage for him to put up a better performance overall. This is likely a limited value for Muma, so let’s enjoy this for now and if you are still looking for LB play after this week, we will have to find that value somewhere else moving forward.

SIT: Demario Davis, New Orleans Saints, LB35

Demario Davis has been an IDP stalwart for years, so it feels a bit blasphemous to call him a sit, but we are at that point in his career where it is time to call what we see. Davis dip in production starts at his tackle floor. His tackle efficiency has dipped below 9% so far this season and seems to only be trending downward at this point. His pass-rush upside was usually able to help make up for a lesser tackle rate, but even that has seen a dip. He was rushing the passer every 12.5% of his snaps for his career, but so far this year, it has dropped to 10.25% already this year.

In addition to his declining IDP performance, Pete Werner’s ascension in IDP value has been happening. Between these two things, Demario Davis is an IDP asset that I would be fading at this point with his fading tackle floor and reduced pass-rush upside, but OK starting as a deeper option thanks to the fact that he is still a near 100% snap LB.

START: Jayron Kearse, Dallas Cowboys, DB38 (S34)

Jayron Kearse hasn’t had the highest tackle floor this season, but he has been utilized in a great way to optimize that and deliver a higher tackle floor. He has played 80.55% in the sweet spot (Box, DL, Slot) and the matchup against the San Francisco 49ers has been a very IDP lucrative for LBs. And Kearse is essentially acting and playing as the 2nd or 3rd LB in this Cowboys defense.

Kearse has added a nice bonus to his IDP production with some increased productivity in coverage in the early season. He has 1 interception and 3 pass break ups which we like to see the PBUs as something more indicative of IDP production in coverage, beyond just racking up the tackles. With the matchup, the little bit of upside, and the excellent alignment usage, I am excited to fire up Jayron Kearse this week.

SIT: Jalen Pitre, Houston Texans, DB5 (S5)

Sitting our IDP darling from 2022 feels silly. A guy who was able to compile almost 150 tackles last season from the safety position, feels like a cheat code! But through his two games this season, he has only compiled 4 total tackles and a FF. One of those games was only half the snaps due to injury, but even last week with a full complement of snaps, he only compiled 2 total tackles.

The Houston Texans defense has shown to be a bit more competent under new coaching and some additional talent via the draft and free agency. This has limited the need and opportunity for Jalen Pitre to be such a playmaker. He is still taking 44.7% of his snaps from the sweet spot, but this is not the same usage he had last season.

In week 5, he faces the Atlanta Falcons whose limited offense attack downfield, means reduced opportunity for the Texans safeties when not in an ideal alignment. The Falcons have been a bottom-half matchup for their opponents’ safeties, meaning Texans safeties should see an overall decrease in their IDP production. This still might be enough to keep Pitre in shallower leagues but keep your expectations lowered for Pitre here in week 5.

 

More Analysis by Jake

IDP Start/Sit: Week 1

Updated: September 7th 2023

Welcome back, folks! It is time to kick off the 2023 NFL and fantasy season and I can’t think of a better way to do it than to talk Start and Sit options for some of our favorite IDPs. For some context for our newer readers, I am reviewing weekly rankings from Jase Abbey over at TheIDPShow.com and looking for players in that 15-40 range that we should have some greater confidence in (Start) or someone whom we have a little more concern about their output this week (Sit). These aren’t hard and fast recommendations, but hopefully, a great way for you to more thoroughly assess your lineups each week and for the season. Let’s get to it.

Week 1 Starts & Sits

START: Will Anderson Jr., Houston Texans, DL27 (Edge 21)

The talent and draft capital for Will Anderson are undeniable. And the matchup against a strong Baltimore Ravens might not be our normal target for an edge rusher matchup. However, when looking for better values for our edge rushers, we love QBs who like to hold on to the ball and Lamar Jackson is one of the best at that. His time to throw last year was second only to Justin Fields and in his 378 dropbacks, teams converted 27 sacks in those dropbacks (7.14%). In the last two years, that conversion rate is at 7.6%. Now the Ravens are set to run more offensive, and specifically, pass plays, we have a floor of 2.5 – 3 sacks given up for the Ravens.

Who better to capitalize on a QB holding on to the ball too long and moving around the pocket, than an edge rusher with the quickness and lateral agility to bring him down behind the line? While he likely won’t play Maxx Crosby volume snaps, Anderson projects as the leader rusher and should see a healthy number of snaps in a shallower edge room. Great volume play, a strong sack upside, Will Anderson is closer to a high-end edge 1 and DL2 for me this week.

SIT: Aidan Hutchinson, Detroit Lions, DL9 (Edge 9)

I love Aidan Hutchinson’s year 2 growth and have plenty of him in my lineups. However, Patrick Mahomes is one of the least sacked QBs over the last 3 years. In fact only 76 times over 2,110 dropbacks for a sack rate of only 3.6%. The game should have an above-average number of plays ran and still some good opportunity based on plays and snaps, but the sack ceiling should be lowered for this matchup.

Hutchinson showed he can make plays in other aspects of the game last year with 3 interceptions, but also had a limited tackle floor with 39 combined tackles. He will likely have an exciting year 2 in 2023, but his campaign is likely to get off to a rocky start. I view Hutchinson more as a mid-to-low end DL2.

START: Kaden Elliss, Atlanta Falcons, LB46

If you have heard me at any point this offseason, you have likely heard me talk about my excitement for Kaden Elliss. There is the contract this offseason, 3 years and $21.5 million. The familiarity with the defensive coordinator, Ryan Nielsen, who was his former DC for the last few years in New Orleans. The strong pass-rush production in his half-season role when Pete Werner was injured. Wearing the green dot this preseason. Needless to say, I am excited to see what Elliss can do with a full-time role.

Week 1, the Falcons and Elliss take on the Panthers. The Panthers have an average, at best, offensive line and have struggled this preseason. Atlanta has struggled to generate a consistent pass rush the last several years, Elliss could be primed for good volume, even in a lower projected matchup with a nice ceiling play too. This combination makes Elliss a high-end LB3 with an upside for even more.

SIT: Jamin Davis, Washington Commanders, LB28

Jamin Davis’s offseason was a bit of a roller coaster. The ups of becoming the clear LB1 for the Commanders and the potential leader of this defense. Then his subsequent off-the-field issues with his reckless driving case and the potential impact to his 2023 season. His case was recently slated for March 2024 and the NFL generally doesn’t pursue until court cases are resolved.

Now coming into week 1, he gets a matchup against the the Arizona Cardinals with the lowest over/under of the week, 38.5. An implied point total of 16 for the Cardinals doesn’t bode well for the offense staying on the field and the Commanders and Jamin Davis making a lot of plays. He has the talent to deliver an LB2 finish this week, but with a weaker floor this week, I am fading Jamin as a low-end LB3.

START: Jayron Kearse, Dallas Cowboys, DB27 (Safety 27)

Dan Quinn and this Cowboys defense have preferred to run three safeties (Kearse, Donovan Wilson, Malik Hooker) with one of them aligning more closely to the line of scrimmage. Kearse has been an IDP beneficiary and the alignment has helped a ton. He spent 74.11% of his snaps last season in either the DL, Box, or Slot alignments. Now with Wilson potentially out for week 1, Kearse should have a strong hold of the valuable snaps.

The New York Giants matchup projects to yield an above-average amount of opportunities for the Dallas Cowboys defense and with a path with reduced resistance for Kearse with Wilson on the shelf for week 1, Kearse has a likely outcome as a midrange DB2 this week.

SIT: Jeremy Chinn, Carolina Panthers, DB22 (Safety 22)

Jeremy Chinn has been an IDP darling since exploding on the scene is rookie year in 2020. This season though, the final year of his rookie contract, Chinn is in a precarious situation with incumbent safety, Xavier Woods who played over 1,000 snaps the last two season and big free agent signing, Vonn Bell. Bell has played over 1,000 snaps the last three seasons. Woods and Bell project to the be primary safeties while Chinn is likely heavily utilized in the slot defender role. Normally slot usage isn’t a death knell for IDP, however, if it is limited and the only role, that is not ideal. And this is what we saw in Chinn’s utilization this preseason.

Pair this with a poor passing performance opponent in the Atlanta Falcons, Chinn’s potential reduced usage, and the crowded safety room, Chinn doesn’t feel like a safe play for me and I would have him as a low-end DB3.

More Analysis by Jake

Divisional Round Predictions

Updated: January 12th 2019

Well, the road teams were the story of last weekend, covering the spread in all four games and winning three of them outright, culminating in an absolutely crazy finish to the Eagles-Bears game with a double doink missed/blocked FG as time expired (putting huge smiles on the faces of Matt and me). Here is how our writers performed last week (some 3-1 ATS and ML but nobody with the clean parlay):

  1. Stephen Wendell: 3-1 ML & 2-2 ATS
  2. Matt Papson: 2-2 ML & 3-1 ATS
  3. Kyle English: 3-1 ML & 2-2 ATS
  4. Matt Goodwin: 2-2 ML & 1-3 ATS
  5. Nick Andrews: 1-3 ML & 2-2 ATS
  6. Bernard Faller: 2-2 ML & 3-1 ATS
  7. Luke Patrick O’Connell: 2-2 ML & 3-1 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. Indianapolis Colts @ Kansas City Chiefs (Line KC -5): ML – 5 KC & 1 IND // ATS – 5 KC & 1 IND
  2. Dallas Cowboys @ Los Angeles Rams (Line LAR -7): ML – 0 DAL & 6 LAR // ATS – 4 DAL & 2 LAR
  3. LA Chargers @ New England Patriots (Line NE -4): ML – 2 LAC & 4 NE // ATS – 4 LAC & 2 NE
  4. Philadelphia Eagles @ New Orleans Saints (Line NO -8): ML – 2 PHI & 4 NO // ATS – 4 PHI & 2 NO

Indianapolis Colts (10-6) @ Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) [Line: KC -5]

Stephen Wendell: Mahomes overpowers Luck as his legend continues to grow. Projected Score: Chiefs 30 – Colts 24.

Matt Papson: Andy Reid is dominant off a bye. Projected Score: Chiefs 35 – Colts 24.

Kyle English: Call it a homer pick if you want, but I think the Colts are the real deal.  I expect plenty of points to be scored, I just think the Colts offense has a larger advantage over the Chiefs defense than the Chiefs offense has against the slightly underrated Colts defense. Projected Score: Colts 31 – Chiefs 28.

Matt Goodwin: Color me impressed by how dominant Andrew Luck, Marlon Mack and the Colts were last weekend in Houston. I’m really impressed with the Colts’ offensive line and running the ball will be paramount to controlling clock and keeping the high-octane Chiefs offense off the field at raucous Arrowhead Stadium. With that said, I think Pat Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill are too much for the Colts defense to contend with and Kansas City has found ways to still get solid contributions out of their running backs as well.  Projected Score: Chiefs 30 – Colts 20.

Nick Andrews: There is only one factor that will determine the outcome of this game, Indy’s O-Line. If the Chiefs are unsuccessful at getting pressure on Andrew Luck the Colts defense should be able to hold of Pat Mahomes for a least enough drives to keep them under 28 points. If there is snow during the game this only helps the Colts who are better equipped to produce through their run game. Despite all this, I still think the Chiefs will come out the victor but the Colts will have a real shot at the end. Projected Score: Chiefs 27 – Colts 21.

Bernard Faller: This should be a shootout with two of the top passers in the NFL.  Andrew Luck is playing at a MVP level and second-year pro Patrick Mahomes likely wins the MVP.  Kansas City scored 30+ in all but four games this year and the Colts won 9 of their last 10. Questions remain as to how Mahomes will react in his first post-season start but the Chiefs offense is playing at a different level.  Projected Score: Chiefs 34 – Colts 28.

Dallas Cowboys (10-6) @ Los Angeles Rams (13-3) [Line: LAR -7]

Stephen Wendell: Cowboys keep it really close but the Rams learn from last year and prevail. Projected Score: Rams 24 – Cowboys 20.

Matt Papson: I expect this to be a relatively close game. Despite being 13-3, the Rams seem vulnerable. Projected Score: Rams 27 – Cowboys 24.

Kyle English: I expect this to be a blowout with the Rams dominating the Cowboys across the board. Projected Score: Rams 31 – Cowboys 17.

Matt Goodwin: Dallas is 3-5 on the road this season and head to Los Angeles to face the Rams who have had several weeks to get Todd Gurley healthy and scheme for the Cowboys (since the Seahawks are in the Rams division, guessing the focus was on scheming for either Dallas or Chicago since the playoff bracket was announced). Anyways, while Dallas looks to run the ball with Ezekiel Elliott and get their defensive line pressuring Jared Goff into bad decisions, the Rams just have too much for Dallas to handle schematically on the road and if a team like the Colts can blow the Cowboys out, imagine what a more dynamic offense can do to them. Projected Score: Rams 34 – Cowboys 17.

Nick Andrews: All the talk this week with head coaches being hired has surprisingly focused on a coach who is already employed, Sean McVay. Every pundit and analyst is saying that X team needs to find their Sean McVay but can we pump the breaks until he’s won a playoff game at least. The Rams this season have looked superhuman, and then average around the 2/3rds marker, then back to great the final two weeks of the regular season against cupcake opponents. Whichever team shows up against the Cowboys this weekend is likely going to be the decider. Projected Score: Rams 24- Cowboys 20.

Bernard Faller: Dallas has the tools to bleed out the clock, keeping the ball away from the potent Los Angeles offense.  It will not happen this game.  Too much Aaron Donald.  Too much Rams passing attack.  Los Angeles learns from last post-season’s loss.  Projected Score: Rams 27 – Cowboys 20.

Los Angeles Chargers (12-4) @ New England Patriots (11-5) [Line: NE -4]

Stephen Wendell: Tom Brady in Foxboro in January. Enough said! Projected Score: Patriots 22 – Chargers 17. 

Matt Papson: I had more trouble picking the victor in this game than any other, but have to give the edge to BB & TB in the playoffs. Projected Score: Patriots 24 – Chargers 23.

Kyle English: I’ll be cheering for the Chargers, but I don’t think they have enough to pull out another road upset. Projected Score: Patriots 20 – Chargers 17 

Matt Goodwin: While I don’t want to stake myself against the Patriots at home with all their playoff experience, this Chargers team is 8-1 on the road this season and with such a lack of home field advantage at Stubhub Center, you can argue they play on the road every week. 12-4 in the regular season and with the most balanced team they’ve had, this Chargers team is capable of going into Foxboro and beating a potentially “cooked” Patriots team and signaling a changing of the guard. While the Patriots like to run the ball when the playoffs come, I don’t think they have enough in the passing game (especially with Gronk seemingly all sorts of banged up) to fool the Chargers stalwart secondary. On the other side, I don’t think the Patriots can take away the best weapons the Chargers have and even if they do, the Chargers have secondary weapons like Mike Williams to deal with. It will be nice to see what Hunter Henry does in his return as well. I’m calling the upset here. Projected Score: Chargers 27 – Patriots 23

Nick Andrews: Can Philip Rivers finally give Brady a loss? Does the silly stat of Nick Saban and Bill Belichick alternating championships mean anything? The answer to both is no, probably, but a fun idea for people to debate about. The Patriots are 19-3 at home in the playoffs, 11-1 in Divisional games after a bye, and 2-0 against Rivers and the Chargers during the Brady-Belichick era. The Chargers are a great team and should be a better matchup than several of the previous years’ divisional opponents but making the AFC Championship is what the Patriots do.  Projected Score: Patriots 20 – Chargers 16.

Bernard Faller: Do I necessarily trust Phillip Rivers over Tom Brady? No.  I do believe the Chargers are the better, more balanced team on both sides of the ball.  Los Angeles basically played away games this whole season so they handle one more.  Projected Score:  Chargers 28 – Patriots 24.

Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) @ New Orleans Saints (13-3) [Line: NO -8]

Stephen Wendell: I projected Sir Nick to go 7-0 and win the SB when Wentz went down with injury. He has won four in a row since then and Sunday he will make it five. Projected Score: Eagles 35 – Saints 34.

Matt Papson: The Church of Nick Foles. Projected Score: Eagles 31 – Saints 21.

Kyle English: I’d love to see more Foles magic and he’ll probably have a good game, but I think the Saints offense will be too much for them. Projected Score: Saints 31 – Eagles 27.

Matt Goodwin: St. Nick struck again last week in Chicago and the Eagles seek revenge from an earlier in the season drubbing at New Orleans. The Saints are a different team at home and while a project a close shootout, I think the Saints move on to the NFC Championship behind Alvin Kamara and Drew Brees. Look for the Eagles to lose a close one, although nothing would surprise me. Projected Score: Saints 34 – Eagles 31.

Nick Andrews: A rematch of what should have been the NFC Championship game last year we will see if Nick Foles is really a football Messiah. The Saints obliterated the Eagles 48-7 in the regular season with Carson Wentz as the starting QB and there’s not much that would make me think that the outcome would be any different this time. Blowouts are hard to pull off so while the Saints should win again the likelihood of a 41 points spread is highly unlikely. If Nick Foles somehow upsets the Saints with the same roster Wentz had in week 11 he may really have a direct link to the man in the clouds. Projected Score: Saints 31 – Eagles 20.

Bernard Faller: The key to this game is Philadelphia’s defensive front against New Orleans’ run game.  The Eagles have a chance if they can shut down Kamara and company.  The odds are against it.  New Orleans is too good in both the pass and run areas.  I also really like the Saints’ defensive backfield improvements to finish the year. Projected Score: Saints 31 – Eagles 20.

More Analysis by Stephen Wendell

Divisional Weekend Predictions

Updated: July 16th 2017

Well, last week went pretty much as the experts expected with all favorites/home teams prevailing, and only the Giants/Packers game was even close, which is really funny to type since it ended up being the largest margin of victory of any of the games with the Packers winning by 25. I have a feeling this week is going to be much different with significantly closer games save the Texans-Pats game, which is shaping up to be a pre-season warm-up game for New England ahead of the AFC Championship game next week. The RSO Writers have dissected each game again this week below, but in case you are tracking at home, here are the results of each writer’s picks from last week:

  1. Stephen Wendell: 3-1 ML & 3-1 ATS
  2. Matt Papson: 3-1 ML & 2-2 ATS
  3. Kyle English: 3-1 ML & 1-3 ATS
  4. Robert Cowper: 2-2 ML & 1-3 ATS
  5. Matt Goodwin: 4-0 ML & 2-1-1 ATS
  6. Nick Andrews: 3-1 ML & 3-1 ATS
  7. Dave Sanders: 3-1 ML & 3-1 ATS
  8. Bernard Faller: 4-0 ML & 1-2-1 ATS
  9. Luke O’Connell: 3-1 ML & 3-1 ATS

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

  1. Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons (Line ATL -5): ML – 4 SEA & 5 ATL // ATS – 6 SEA & 3 ATL
  2. Houston Texans @ New England Patriots (Line NE -15): ML – 0 HOU & 9 NE // ATS – 1 HOU & 8 NE
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers @ Kansas City Chiefs (Line KC -1.5): ML – 4 PIT & 5 KC // ATS – 5 PIT & 4 NE
  4. Green Bay Packers @ Dallas Cowboys (Line DAL -4.5): ML – GB 7 & DAL 2 // ATS – 8 GB & 1 DAL

#3 Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1) @ #2 Atlanta Falcons (11-5) [Line: Atlanta -5]

Stephen Wendell: Matty Ice has had another great year and when clicking, the Falcons’ offense is explosive. Seattle looked as solid as ever last week against the Lions, and one should never discount their winning experience this time of the year. This is a rematch of the 2012 Divisional Round game between these two teams that ended with a game winning FG by Matt Bryant…if you remember, the Falcons came out of the gates strong and lost the lead only to win on the last second kick by Bryant. I think Carroll will have his troops ready early and not let the game get away from them, and ultimately, I think Atlanta’s questionable defense lets them down and the Hawks prevail.  Projected Score: Seahawks 28 – Falcons 24.

Matt Papson: I can’t believe the Seahawks are +5 point underdogs. The NFC isn’t particularly strong this year, and this might be as good an opportunity as Matt Ryan gets in his career to win it all. But, even with the Seahawks traveling across the country, I see them showing up in a big way. I’m expecting Seattle to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl for the third time in four years.  Projected Score: Seahawks 31 – Falcons 28.

Kyle English:  Seahawks got the job done at home against the Lions, but face a much tougher test against the Falcons in Atlanta.  The Falcons do a lot of damage through the air, and against the Seahawks banged up secondary they could have plenty of success.  The Seahawks won their regular season match-up back in week 6 at home 26-24, but I think the Falcons get their revenge.  Projected Score: Falcons 31 – Seahawks 24.

Robert Cowper: I know that the Falcons come into this game at 11-5 and with Matt Ryan as a viable MVP candidate but I’m just not buying it.  These two teams, and quarterbacks, matched up after the 2012 season in a similar situation: Seahawks coming off a double-digit Wildcard round win while the Falcons were sitting idle with a bye.  The Falcons got out to a 20-0 lead at halftime only to see the Seahawks storm back but ultimately come up short; the Falcons kicked a FG with 0:08 left to win 30-28.  Wilson was a rookie then and is now an experienced Super Bowl winning QB, he’s left Ryan in the dust and I expect the Seahawks to do the same to the Falcons. Projected Score: Seahawks 23 – Falcons 15.

Matt Goodwin: As I wrote in this article, the way to beat the Seahawks defense these days is to attack them deep. The Lions didn’t take any shots, but I’m sure Kyle Shanahan’s high-powered Falcons offense will be in attack mode from the opening play (assuming that his job interviews were not a distraction-I hate that playoff coaches have to take time away to interview and wish the NFL would regulate a process to fix this). Richard Sherman showed no ability to cover Julio Jones in the first matchup (seven catches for 139 yards and a touchdown on nine targets) and they now have big play receiver Taylor Gabriel to challenge the Seahawks safeties deep. I liked how the Seahawks fed Thomas Rawls against the Lions, all while not using a single read-option play with Russell Wilson. To keep the ball away from the Falcons, the ‘Hawks will have to rely again on the run game, but this time with Wilson as well. They have fared very poorly on the road this season (3-4-1) with their only quality win being over the New England Patriots. Atlanta has just too much on offense (including in the backfield) and enough opportunistic playmakers on defense to rattle the Seahawks offensive line. Projected Score: Falcons 31 – Seahawks 20.

Nick Andrews: One bird is getting kicked out of the nest and it might not be the one you expect. While Seattle looked tremendous in their Wildcard game Matt Ryan and Co. are not the cowardly Lions. If it wasn’t for a questionable no call pass interference in their week 6 game the Falcons could already have one victory over the Seahawks this season. Not having to worry about the 12th man and playing on the fast track should be the right combination for the Falcons to advance to the NFC Championship game as it was in 2012. Projected Score: Falcons 31 – Seahawks 27.

Dave Sanders: The Divisional Round kicks-off with a really intriguing match-up in the Georgia Dome.  Though Seattle’s defense held the Lions without a touchdown last week, I wouldn’t expect that to continue against the Falcons as Atlanta finished the season ranked No. 1 in Football Outsiders’ Offensive DVOA.  Scoring points shouldn’t be a problem for Atlanta.  Limiting Seattle, without Desmond Trufant, may be an issue. Trufant frequently lined up opposite of Baldwin during their regular season meeting, limiting Baldwin to 31 yards on 4 receptions.  Thomas Rawls regained 2015 form a week ago vs. the Lions, rushing for 161 yards on 27 carries.  If Seattle’s running game can continue to be productive in Atlanta, certainly no easy task, I’d expect the Seahawks to top the Falcons in what could be a thrilling final game in the Georgia Dome. Projected Score: Seahawks 34 – Falcons 31.  

Bernard Faller: Atlanta scored a ridiculous 540 points this season, almost 100 more than 2nd highest scorer New England, led by MVP favorite Matt Ryan. The Falcons run game provides nice balance to the passing game with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Seattle won the first matchup at home 26-24. I expect the Falcons to even the season series in Atlanta against a beat up Seattle team. Projected Score: Falcons 31 – Seahawks 24.

Luke O’Connell: What have we here? Two important facts heading into this game:  Pro Football Focus dropped a scathing last place finish on the Seahawks offensive line, and the performance of the Seahawks defense in the second half of the season showed a markedly better team against the run than the pass as the pass rushing numbers declined, the tackles for loss improved nearly 2 per game:

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This funhouse mirror into Seattle’s defensive prowess starts piling a mound of chips on Matt Ryan’s shoulders.  Carroll’s company should be able to diminish Freeman and Coleman.   The Falcon QB was one missed defensive pass interference call away from beating Seattle in the last contest.  It will be up to him to dig deeper than his last performance against the Seahawks where he threw for three touchdowns, but posted his lowest depth of target all year apart from the Cardinals tilt. RSO Angle:  With everything on the line watch carry/target distribution in the Falcon backfield and target distribution among Seahawk pass catchers.  Paul Richardson may make himself fantasy relevant, or be a highlight-reel hero that you can force another owner to burn salary on.  Projected Score: Falcons 17- Seahawks 13. 

#4 Houston Texans (9-7) @ #1 New England Patriots (14-2) [Line: New England -15]

Stephen Wendell: Really not much to say here. Yes, Houston has a great defense, but they will miss J.J. Watt in this game because it takes a phenomenal defense working at 100% of its potential to stop Mr. Brady and Mr. Belichick in January in Foxboro. Pats win big en route to an AFC Championship showdown with Big Ben and the Steelers for the third time. Projected Score: Patriots 28 – Texans 12.

Matt Papson: Even if the Texans defense is able to keep the Patriots offense in check, I can’t see the Texans moving the ball effectively against the Patriots. I’m rolling with the underdogs in the NFC…but you won’t see me out on a limb in this one, which is the largest spread in a playoff game since 1999 (According to Pro Football Reference). Projected Score: Patriots 28 – Texans 10. 

Kyle English: We all know what happens here.  The Pats blew them out in Week 3 27-0 and nothing has changed since then. Patriots win big! Projected Score: Patriots 31 – Texans 6.

Robert Cowper: This game will be the proverbial train wreck that you can’t look away from.  The spread is huge but may not be big enough.  Picking the Patriots to win is no “prediction” it’s more like a foregone conclusion.  Instead, I’ll make this prediction: Jimmy Garoppolo gets 6+ passing attempts.  I think it will be enough of a blowout to pull Brady and Belichick will want to remind teams like the Cleveland Browns why they should be making trade offers for him. Projected Score: Patriots 38 – Texans 19.

Matt Goodwin: Facing Tom Brady on the road instead of Connor Cook at home. The folks in Vegas may be generous with a 16 point spread in this game because the Texans couldn’t beat the Patriots when Jacoby Brissett was under center. To me, the only interesting sidebar in this game is whether the Patriots get their points in the passing game or the run game. I expect LeGarrette Blount to score at least once, and probably twice and am guessing that Brock Osweiler throws a pick-six in this game as well. Projected Score: Patriots 38 – Texans 16.

Nick Andrews: The first betting line I saw on twitter had this game at Patriots -17. Talk about disrespecting a team that won a playoff game and has been a consistent tenant of the tournament over the last half decade. Okay have I given them enough credit to not come off as snide? Good. Yes, the defense has been one of the best in recent weeks but they don’t have enough pieces to stop everything that Belichick-McDaniels-Brady can throw at them. There will be constant double teams and chips on Clowney and the Pats defense will hold them below average offense to minimal points. The Texans only chance is to be creative with their play calling and aggressive with every opportunity they get over midfield. Projected Score: Patriots 34 – Texans 14.

Dave Sanders: Did anyone enjoy last weekend more than Brock Osweiler?  It was an impressive performance that, frankly, I didn’t see coming.  With that said, one solid outing doesn’t erase a disappointing season that including a benching in favor of Tom Savage.  The Texans are more than two touchdown dogs heading to Foxborough in what should be the ugliest game of the weekend.  If you aren’t able to be locked into EVERY game this weekend, do what you can to make this the game you skip.  From the Patriots side, the only question is at what point will the Patriots rest Tom Brady. Bet on Jimmy Garoppolo handling most of the 4th quarter. Projected Score: Patriots 38 – Texans 17.

Bernard Faller: This might be the largest contrast in quarterback play ever to appear in a divisional playoff game with future Hall of Famer Tom Brady and 2016’s worst QB Brock Osweiler. New England won easily in the first matchup with a 3rd string quarterback shutting out the Texans 27-0. Look for more of the same here. Projected Score: Patriots 31 – Texans 10.

Luke O’Connell: Bill O’Brien has exactly one shot in this game.  He has to rain down wrath upon Brady to an uncivil degree, blitzes and inside pressure, violence to a degree that is uncomfortable to watch.   It is hard conceive of a world in which Brady finishes the game and loses to Brock Osweiler.   Men like Jadaveon Clowney get paid to live in the minds of even great ones like Brady, but short of a nationwide-panic inducing Clowney sighting, this should play out comfortably for Patriot nation.  Projected Score: Patriots 30-Texans 17.

#3 Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) @ #2 Kansas City Chiefs  [Line: Kansas City -1.5]

Stephen Wendell: I love the three Bs playing together. They look incredible and are certainly built to play in all types of weather. I don’t think they will be as affected by the elements as others have been traveling to Arrowhead, and ultimately, despite the inspired play by the Chiefs this year and the exciting emergence of Tyreek Hill as a TD threat every time he touches the football, I think the Steelers find a way to win a really tough, hard-fought road playoff game. Projected Score: Steelers 24 – Chiefs 21. 

Matt Papson: The Chiefs just seem to find a way to win. The Chiefs home field advantage is one of the most underrated in sports. I expect this game to be very, very close, but I’m rooting for Big Red, so I give the Chiefs the edge. However, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Steelers blew out the Chiefs, either.  Projected Score: Chiefs 28 – Steelers 27.

Kyle English: The Chiefs were the first ones to face Bell this season in Pittsburgh back in week 4, and the Steelers promptly destroyed the Chiefs 43-14.  Now they will be playing in Arrowhead with that raucous crowd behind their Chiefs.  I think they make a difference…but not enough of one.  The three headed monster of Big Ben, Bell, and Brown are just playing too well right now. Steelers win a close one. Projected Score: Steelers 27 – Dolphins 23. 

Robert Cowper: I went against the Steelers last week and won’t make that mistake again.  I’m a Le’veon Bell owner in two leagues so I should not have been surprised by his output against the Dolphins but I was.  31 touches, 174 yards, 2 TDs.  The Chiefs are #21 in yards allowed per rush and #26 in total rushing yards, both worse than Miami.  It should be another heavy dose of Bell, especially if Roethlisberger is at all hobbled by his injury.  I am looking forward to see how the Chiefs deploy Tyreek Hill after having two weeks to game plan.  He’s a dynamic, multi-faceted player and a potential game breaker on any play (3 rushing TDs, 6 receiving TDs, 2 punt return TDs and 1 kickoff return TD). Projected Score: Steelers 17 – Chiefs 14.

Matt Goodwin: This is a rematch of an early season matchup where the Steelers obliterated the Chiefs at Heinz Field. We as fantasy owners all know the narrative of Ben Roethlisberger’s home vs. road splits and add in an ankle injury and this looks like some potential questionable weather may be sprinkled in. I feel this is a grind it out type game where Kansas City’s solid defense holds Le’Veon Bell in check enough to win this game closely. Projected Score: Chiefs 16 – Steelers 13.

Nick Andrews: Strength on strength in this matchup with a lot of focus being on the Killers B’s of Pittsburgh. But this game is in KC and the narrative of Roethlisberger’s home/road split is well documented. The Chiefs offense has also been more of a threat with the emergence of Tyreek Hill. Expect this one to be a classic AFC smash mouth game. It’ll be cold, it’ll be low(er) scoring and it will likely come down to the wire. Maybe a late turnover decides the game? Projected Score: Chiefs 24 – Steelers 21.

Dave Sanders: You’re fooling yourself if you believe that their Week 4 meeting offers any predictive value this week.  In early October, the Chiefs caught the Steelers at home, coming off an embarrassing 31 point loss to the Eagles led by rookie QB Carson Wentz.  The situation is quite different this time around as Pittsburgh has to travel to Kansas City to take on Andy Reid’s team refresh off a first-round bye.  As we all know by know, Ben Roethlisberger’s home/road splits are alarming to say the least.  While I believe Le’Veon Bell to be the best running back in the league, Pittsburgh will need an above average game from Roethlisberger to pull off the upset at Arrowhead.  Let’s not forget that Kansas City finished the season strong winning 10 of their last 12 games.  At home and led by their strong defense, I believe Kansas City will be able to score points to hold off Pittsburgh. Projected Score: Chiefs 21 – Steelers 17.

Bernard Faller: Pittsburgh absolutely demolished the Chiefs 43-14 in the first game between these two on the strength of five touchdown passes from Ben Roethlisburger. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, this game is in Kansas City. “Big Ben” has been awful on the road in recent years, basically transforming into Blake Bortles away from Heinz Field. Kansas City utilizes the electric Tyreek Hill in a number of ways on special teams and offense. Watch for a big play from him changing the game. Projected Score:  Chiefs 24 – Steelers 21.

Luke O’Connell: This game feels like the moment a fuse is lit on a marginally legal firecracker.   Something is going to explode, the risk is greater than the reward, and when the smoke clears we are going to be left shaking our heads at how it all plays out.   In a just world Big Ben and Tyreek Hill are human beings that deserve a fate far different than the praise and adulation and wealth heaped on NFL stars.  One of the two might be responsible for his team’s victory and the deeper they move in the playoffs the more we have to cringe and stare at the residue on all our hands.  It will probably be the best game of the week, but it needs to be said, if Ray Rice (correctly) is without a job, any man that lays hands on a woman, much less one who is 8 months pregnant, needs to be off our reality and fantasy teams.  RSO Angle:  Ware is a polarizing back, he is just the kind of moveable piece that should intrigue dynasty GMs.  Pitt’s stars are locked and loaded, but Ladarius Green offers worlds of intrigue if he can recover from the concussion. Projected Score: Steelers 28 – Chiefs 14.

#4 Green Bay Packers (10-6) @ #1 Dallas Cowboys  [Line: Dallas -4.5]

Stephen Wendell: Wow what a game this one should be. Dak and Zeke make their playoff debuts after a near flawless rookie season by both players. But Aaron Rodgers is as on point as he has ever been in his career. He seems poised for another Super Bowl run, and I simply don’t see him being denied this week. Dak and Zeke will play well, but their inexperience and the pressure of the moment will rear its ugly head at some point in the game, costing the Cowboys the game. Projected Score: Packers 28 – Cowboys 24.

Matt Papson: The Cowboys, top to bottom, are better than the Packers. Long before the 2016 season, I thought Dak Prescott would be a strong pro Quarterback. This is going to be the first of many playoff games for him. But, I feel obligated to go with the Packers because of one Aaron Charles Rodgers. Projected Score: Packers 35 – Cowboys 31.

Kyle English: The Packers roll into Dallas on a 7 game win streak, but got banged up quite a bit against the Giants last week, particularly Jordy.  Even if he’s able to go, you have to assume at this point he won’t be 100% which is awful news for Packers fans.  The Cowboys already went into Lambeau and won back in week 6 which is not an easy thing to do.  Unless Rodgers has a few more successful Hail Marys up his sleeve, I don’t think the Packers have what it takes to continue their season. Projected Score: Cowboys 31 – Packers 20. 

Robert Cowper: In this space last week, I said that as a Cowboys fan I feared the Packers the most.  After Green Bay’s trouncing of the Giants, I am even more worried.  It’s tough to find stats that back-up what my heart is rooting for.  The Green Bay defense is strongest against the run and weakest against the pass; the Cowboys defense is strongest against the run (gave up the fewest rushing yards in the league) but weaker against the pass.  Both are opposite what you were hoping for as a Cowboys fan.  The Cowboys only hope is if DE David Irving continues to create havoc and force Rodgers out of the pocket consistently.  Projected Score: Packers 29 – Cowboys 28.

Matt Goodwin: I’m very much looking forward to this game. Can Aaron Rodgers remain on fire? Can Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott continue to show they’ve moved beyond their rookie season on the field? There are so many storylines in this game, one I don’t believe Jordy Nelson will be available for. Look for Dallas to continue to pound the ball and run clock to attempt to keep the ball out of Aaron Rodgers’ hands. My gut tells me that Dallas has the better team, but I can’t pick against Rodgers when he’s this hot. Projected Score: Packers 27 – Cowboys 23.

Nick Andrews: To paraphrase Mugatu from Zoolander, “That [Aaron Rodgers] is so hot right now”. I thought that the Giants’ defense would be able to control Rodgers. And they did… for 28 minutes of the first half. Then Rodgers put the team on his back and made play after play before pulling away by the 4th quarter. If the Cowboys are going to succeed where the Giants failed they need to control the clock, run the ball, and not let Aaron Rodgers on the field. Lucky for them they have one of the best running backs in the league and don’t make unnecessary mistakes. But if the game comes down to a final drive and each offense has one opportunity to go down the field and score who do you trust more, the Wonder Kid Dak Prescott or the Bad Bad Man Aaron Rodgers? Projected Score: Cowboys 38 – Packers 35.

Dave Sanders: Let’s all take a moment to appreciate the brilliance of Aaron Rodgers.  The most hardcore of NFL observers have been subjected to far too much mediocre quarterback play throughout the season.  In a league where only have of the teams have competent options, we’re privileged to watch one of the all-time greats each and every week.  Doubt entered the minds of some after a slow start to 2016, but Rodgers has put together a truly special final three months and it doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon.  Though final injury reports are not out yet, it appears the Packers will be without Jordy Nelson this week.  Expecting another huge performance from Randall Cobb is probably unreasonable, but Green Bay should feel more confident in his reliability as Aaron Rodgers’ defacto No. 2 target.  Expect Dallas to move the ball efficiently on offense against a below-average Packers defense.  Attempting to win the time of possession battle and keep Rodgers off the field, I’d expect Dallas to lean heavily on Zeke to the tune of 30 carries.  Many factors, including home-field, favor Dallas, but I can’t bet against Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs…especially while he’s on this remarkable run. Projected Score: Packers 31 – Cowboys 28.

Bernard Faller: This should be an epic contest. Aaron Rodgers is destroying both good and bad defenses right now in an MVP-type year. Green Bay likely loses star receiver Jordy Nelson in this one, though. I expect many stacked defensive fronts from the Packers in an attempt to limit Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott and force fellow rookie Dak Prescott to win the game. Dallas comes up just short as Rodgers is simply playing too well at this part of the season. Projected Score:  Packers 31 – Cowboys 27.

Luke O’Connell: If Dallas loses this game, much will be made of the pressure, rookies, and walls.  Smarter men than most do a good job of debunking the rookie wall narrative.  There may be something to be made of what the pressure will do in this game.  Dak Prescott and Zeke played in massive college games all year long they have hurdled obstacles in the form of the elite athletes lined up across from them.   In a vacuum it would be hard to bet against their pedigree, their record, and their accomplishments this season.   Sometimes the chalk doesn’t win, however, and Aaron Rodgers seems set to wreak havoc.  RSO Angle:  The value fluctuation in Packer Receivers, and clarity on the proper tier and compensation for Dez Bryant. Projected Score: Packers 34 – Cowboys 31.

ENJOY THE GAMES EVERYONE!

More Analysis by Stephen Wendell