Wildcard Weekend Predictions

Updated: January 5th 2019

Welcome to wildcard weekend and the NFL playoffs! With your fantasy season over, the playoffs are the perfect holdover between now and when the RSO site reopens a few days after the Super Bowl. We have three lines below three points and the defending champions +6.5 on the road in Chicago. The games should be highly entertaining this weekend. Like last year, some of the RSO Writers have made their predictions for and given a little analysis of each game, which can be found below. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the weekend!

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. Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans (Line HOU -1.5): ML – 4 IND & 3 HOU// ATS – 4 IND & 3 HOU
  2. Seattle Seahawks @ Dallas Cowboys (Line DAL -2.5): ML – 4 SEA & 3 DAL // ATS – 4 SEA & 3 DAL
  3. Los Angeles Chargers @ Baltimore Ravens (Line BAL -2.5): ML – 5 LA & 2 BAL // ATS – 6 LA & 1 BAL
  4. Philadelphia Eagles @ Chicago Bears (Line CHI -6.5): ML – 2 PHI & 5 CHI // ATS – 3 PHI & 4 CHI

#6 Indianapolis Colts (10-6) @ #3 Houston Texans (11-5) [Line: HOU -1.5]

Stephen Wendell: Andrew Luck quietly has gotten his team back to the playoffs, which is a good sign for the future of the Colts. However, Deshaun Watson is back to looking healthy and I think he and his other Clemson buddy DeAndre Hopkins are too much for the Colts to handle in the end.  Projected Score: Texans 28 – Colts 21.

Matt Papson: Both teams enter the playoffs red hot, tying each other at 9-2 their last 11 games. An incredible story for the Colts, with Andrew Luck returning from a devastating injury, barely able to throw a football a year ago, first year Head Coach and second year GM Chris Ballard making the best use of their personnel. The colts and Texans May battle for the AFC south for years to come. The Texans also have a great story, with Bill O’Brien going from the hot seat to coach of the year candidate, an incredible defense, deshaun Watson’s return from his own injury, and the passing of Bob McNair, the team’s founder and owner, as inspiration. Ultimately I think the Texans win a tight thanks to their defense. Projected Score: Texans 27 – Colts 24.

Kyle English: I am not about to pick against the Colts who have been on fire lately (Editor’s Note: and our my favorite team). Projected Score: Colts 27 – Texans 24.

Matt Goodwin: With some assistance from my 8 year old son Jory who wanted to pick these games with me, here we go. Both division rivals won on the road in this series this season, with the Colts winning 24-21 to start their four game winning streak. I think (and Vegas agrees) that a similar score is in order for this game. TY Hilton has performed very well in Houston in the past. However, I think the Texans defense will cause a lot of problems/turnovers for Andrew Luck even with an improved Colts offensive line and the Deshaun Watson/DeAndre Hopkins will shine in this game, giving the Texans the edge. Additionally, Ka’imi Fairbairn was the best kicker in the game this year and is practically automatic at home (18/19 for the season). Projected Score: Texans 27 – Colts 20.

Nick Andrews: This matchup is probably the least interesting to the casual football fan but by the end of wild card weekend, this may be the biggest nail-biter. The Colts have looked solid in the final quarter of the season with a shutout win over Cowboys and a victory over these very same Texans just four (4) weeks ago. If the playoffs started in December the Texans would have been the hottest team entering the tournament but losing two of their last four games has put them in a bit of a slump. The playoffs sometimes have teams roll through a couple weeks on pure momentum and after a must win on Sunday night last week I think the Colts are going to be coming out of the gate a little faster than the Texans. Colts 27 – Texans 24.

Bernard Faller: The AFC South rematch resumes with both teams posting identical points scored and 1-1 records against each other this season.  The Texans’ weaknesses jump off the page when compared to the Colts.  Houston’s offensive line is still a mess while the defensive secondary is exploitable if Indianapolis’ stellar offensive line can contain Watt and Clowney to a degree.  Expect another tight one. Projected Score:  Colts 31 – Texans 28.

Luke Patrick O’Connell: The FantasyDocOC is letting his scores speak for themselves this week. Projected Score:  Colts 24 – Texans 21.

#5 Seattle Seahawks (10-6) @ #4 Dallas Cowboys (10-6) [Line: DAL -2.5]

Stephen Wendell: Seattle has had a remarkable year and Pete Carroll deserved the contract extension but they are 4-4 away from the friendly confines of CenturyLink Field, and Dak + Zeke + Cooper will be too much for the Seahawks in Jerry World. Dallas wins and covers. Projected Score: Cowboys 28 – Seahawks 21.

Matt Papson: The Cowboys have been great at home this year, but I don’t think this team is ready for this moment. With Kris Richard getting looks from other teams as a head coaching candidate, it will be interesting to see if Jerry finally decides to move on from Jason Garrett and again replace from within. This Seahawks team could be dangerous in the playoffs, though they’d need to win two road games, and have the eagles win two road games, in order to host the NFC championship in Seattle. I don’t think this one will be as close as the line suggests. Projected Score: Seahawks 31 – Cowboys 16. 

Kyle English: Both teams have been on a roll, but I’ll take the Cowboys at home. Projected Score: Cowboys 20 – Seahawks 17.

Matt Goodwin: Probably the most evenly matched game of the weekend where both teams hope to impose their will by pounding the other in the ground game. Expect continued heavy usage by both Ezekiel Elliott for the Cowboys and both Chris Carson and Mike Davis for the Seahawks. The Seahawks have had some trouble against running backs catching passes, so I expect Elliott to be a significant factor in that aspect as well. The Seahawks impressed me this season by changing up their scheme successfully and I wouldn’t doubt Russell Wilson in the fourth quarter with the game on the line if he gets the chance (and if he does, my favorite part of any NFL game is the reaction in Jerry Jones’ owner suite after the Cowboys blow a game). I just don’t think they’ll get the opportunity as Dallas will play keep away with Dak Prescott being one of the hottest QBs of late playing better at home with shiny new toy Amari Cooper doing enough in the passing game as well.  Projected Score: Cowboys 23 – Seahawks 20

Nick Andrews: This game is either going to be the highest or lowest scoring game of the week, there’s no middle ground. Both teams want to run the ball as much as they can to get down to the final possession and have a chance to either score the game winner or milk out the clock. Sure, there will be some big plays in the passing game between Lockett, Baldwin, and Cooper but I think both sides would be more comfortable if their running game had close to 30 touches and 150 yards on the ground. Red zone trips will become the premium and whichever teams make at least 2 red zone touchdowns will in the game. Seahawks 13 – Cowboys 10.

Bernard Faller: This should be a good game between franchises which have exceeded many expectations this season.  Both teams play a similar style pounding away at the run game with better defenses than many give credit for.  I trust Russell Wilson a lot more than Dak Prescott to make plays when needed in a low scoring affair.   Projected Score:  Seahawks 17 – Cowboys 13.

Luke Patrick O’Connell: The FantasyDocOC is letting his scores speak for themselves this week. Projected Score:  Colts 24 – Texans 21.

#5 Los Angeles Chargers (12-4) @ #4 Baltimore Ravens (10-6) [Line: BAL -2.5]

Stephen Wendell: Wow, Phillip Rivers puts up one of his best years of his career, goes 12-4 and travels to face a first-year QB in Lamar Jackson and is a 2.5 point underdog. I think it is Rivers’ time and the Chargers avenge the Week 2 loss to the Ravens and come out of Baltimore with a win.  Projected Score: Chargers 24 – Ravens 20. 

Matt Papson: The Chargers are sneaky good, but I can’t help but take the hot hand. I have always admired the Ravens organization ability to be competitive year after year. They’re seemingly always risk moving on from veterans a year early rather a year late, and it’s only been a few games, but getting Lamar Jackson with the last pick in the first round, giving them an option for his fifth season, looks like a final stroke of genius by one of the best GMs of the modern era. After the season, it wouldn’t be totally surprising if they decide to trade (yes, trade) John Harbaugh to another team and move forward with Eric DeCosta and a new coach with their young QB into a new era. Projected Score: Ravens 24 – Chargers 23.

Kyle English: I’ll take the veteran QB over the rookie. Projected Score: Chargers 24 – Ravens 20.

Matt Goodwin: Baltimore is like the Pharcyde as they want to keep “Runnin'” with rookie sensation Lamar Jackson providing the lightning to Gus Edwards’ thunder; however the Chargers offense getting off to a quick start can potentially alter the game script. In the meeting a few weeks ago in Los Angeles, an interception on an underthrown bad decision ball to Mike Williams by Philip Rivers set the tone early and took the Chargers rhythm from the game, particularly from Melvin Gordon and early penalties called back some big plays. I think the Chargers getting Austin Ekeler back from a stinger/concussion helps in the utility role and a fully healthy Keenan Allen should carve up the Ravens very solid secondary as they continue to play him in the slot where Baltimore just gave up 5-102-1 to Jarvis Landry last week. If Hunter Henry comes back (even on a pitch count) that should also help matters in the very attackable middle of the field against the Ravens. I also think that the Chargers get more pressure on Lamar Jackson this go round and in spite of being on the road, the better team wins in this one. Projected Score: Chargers 24 – Ravens 20.

Nick Andrews: I want Philip Rivers to have a rubber match game at the Chiefs in the divisional round next week. I just can’t see the outcome of this week’s game being any different then what transpired in week 16. The Ravens play a smothering defense that doesn’t allow most offenses to go the length of the field multiple times in a game. Combine that with the fact that each offensive drive the Ravens have drains so much of the clock with their running game it puts an even greater emphasis on Rivers getting at least a score on every other drive. The only way I see the Chargers flipping the script is if rookie QB Lamar Jackson makes multiple mistakes that lead to short fields and easier scoring chances. Ravens 24 – Chargers 12.

Bernard Faller: Baltimore dominated the first game between these two teams where the Ravens suffocating defense forced Phillip Rivers into his worst game of the year.  Baltimore’s run-heavy approach with rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson has given teams fits so far.  I believe the Chargers adjust this time around and Rivers out-duels Jackson for the win.  Projected Score:  Chargers 24 – Ravens 17.

Luke Patrick O’Connell: The FantasyDocOC is letting his scores speak for themselves this week. Projected Score:  Chargers 31 – Ravens 14.

#6 Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) @ #3 Chicago Bears (12-4) [Line: CHI -6.5]

Stephen Wendell: No surprise from me here. When Wentz went down in Week 14, I texted some old Eagles buddies to chin up because Nick Foles was going to come in and win seven straight to become a Philadelphia God (he is currently a Philadelphia legend). He took care of the first three games, and I think this will be number four (remember Mitchell Trubisky is playing in his first ever playoff game). Projected Score: Eagles 20 – Bears 17.

Matt Papson: The Church of Nick Foles. Projected Score: Eagles 33 – Bears 31. 

Kyle English: As much as I want to believe in the Foles’ magic, the Bears are the better team. Projected Score: Bears 24 – Eagles 13.

Matt Goodwin: A stalwart Bears defense goes against St. Nick in the final game of the playoff slate in frigid Chicago. While Foles’ magic has been impressive, this Bears defense is one of the best in recent history and they undoubtedly will double team Zach Ertz and make the wide receivers beat them. While it is a tough draw to face the hot defending Super Bowl Champions in your first playoff game in awhile for Mitch Trubisky and company and running against the Eagles front is particularly arduous, the Bears get this game on defense and a little bit of Tarik Cohen gadgetry. I expect the Bears DST to score a touchdown and to cause all sorts of problems for Nick Foles. Projected Score: Bears 24 – Eagles 16

Nick Andrews: Foles Magic Part Deux is upon us once again and much like the Colts who started their playoff a week earlier than everyone, the Eagles have been in must-win mode for most of December. Unlike the Texans who I think have a good defense, I think the Bears have a great defense that, even when their offense isn’t working at full capacity, can more than make up for it. Much like Lamar Jackson in Baltimore I think all Mitch Trubisky has to do is not have negative plays and this team should easily move on to the divisional round. Bears 20 – Eagles 13.

Bernard Faller: This game presents more questions than answers.  How will Mitchell Trubisky react in his first post-season game?  Will a Nick Foles with bruised ribs continue last season’s incredible playoff run?  The one known is a Chicago defense with no true weakness decimating offenses of late.  The Foles’ post-season magic dries up playing in the cold confines of Chicago. Projected Score:  Bears 21 – Eagles 10.

Luke Patrick O’Connell: The FantasyDocOC is letting his scores speak for themselves this week. Projected Score:  Bears 17 – Eagles 14.

More Analysis by Stephen Wendell

Week 11 Street FA Report

Updated: November 15th 2018

Each week we will recommend a group of players that are owned in less than 50% of RSO league that should be rostered. Depending on roster and league sizes not all of these players may be available. For that, we will offer 1 player that is owned in <10% of leagues as our Sleeper add.

Byes: Buffalo, Cleveland, Miami, New England, NYJ, San Francisco

Add of the Week

Josh Reynolds, WR – LAR (Owned 26%)

Week 10: N/A

If you are in 3 of 4 leagues where Josh Reynolds isn’t already owned you need to drop your cap space on him immediately. With Cooper Kupp out for the rest of the season, Reynolds will step back into the WR3 role that he had when Kupp missed time earlier this season. The Rams run 11 personnel (3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB) almost the entire game (95%) which means that Reynolds will be on the field a lot for the remainder of the season. He may not be as consistent a fantasy producer as Kupp but his ceiling is worth risking it.

Suggested Bid: $7,000,000 – $10,000,000

RB Add

Jacquizz Rodgers, RB – TB (Owned 10.5%)

Week 10: 1 Car/0 yards, 8 Rec/102 yards

It was amazing to see the Buccaneers put up over 500 yards of offense and somehow manage only 3 points. Within those 500 yards though was 100 receiving yards from running back Jacquizz Rodgers. This could be a more common feature, although not likely 100 yards a week, for the Bucs moving forward. Ryan Fitzpatrick will always be a gunslinger but having a check down option never hurts an offense that is likely to be in “catch-up” mode for most of the game. This may have been a single game standout for Rodgers but with playoffs around the corner, it’s time to start stashing as many bench options as possible if you are in the hunt.

Suggested Bid: $500,000 – $1,000,000

WR Add

Brandon LaFell, WR – OAK (Owned 11%)

Week 10: 4 Rec/47 yards

Brandon LaFell was brought in a couple of weeks ago to fill the hole at receiver when the Raiders traded away Amari Cooper. A couple weeks later and he now appears to be their primary receiver. What’s more is that both Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant are injured leaving minimal options for Derek Carr to throw the ball to for the next 6 weeks. The Raiders offense is not going to score many points each week but in PPR leagues having a team’s number one target is always a good thing to stash on the bench for emergencies. LaFell could remain a deep WR play for struggling teams that can’t afford/acquire Josh Reynolds.

Suggested Bid: $1,000,000

TE Adds

Tyler Higbee, TE – LAR (Owned 20%)

Week 10: 3 Rec/25 yards, 1 TD

There’s a similar analysis here for Tyler Higbee as with Josh Reynolds but on a lower scale. Targets will become available with Kupp out of the lineup, however, only one tight end will be on the field at any given time. Higbee plays about 77% of the snaps so he will have the opportunity to carve a new role out for himself. You should temper your expectations, however, as he has only reached four (4) targets twice this season.

Suggested Bid: $500,000

Sleeper Add (<10%)

Dontrelle Inman, WR – IND (Owned 3.8%)

Week 10: 4 Rec/41 yards

A team polar opposite to LA Rams in terms of tight end usage, the Colts love to get their big guys involved in the passing game and had their third game this season with multiple tight ends scoring a touchdown. The story underneath of that, however, is that of newly acquired receiver Dontrelle Inman stepping in as the WR2 behind T.Y. Hilton the past two weeks. Maybe it is because Ryan Grant isn’t fully healthy yet but Inman had four catches to Grant’s one in week 10. Chester Rogers has also become non-existent since bringing in Inman and Grant returning. Like Brandon LaFell, Inman could have great appeal for teams that need some receiver depth but won’t be able to acquire Josh Reynolds this week. Plus no one is talking about him so he should be cheap to acquire.

Suggested Bid: $500,000

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

FA Expectancy – Jimmy Graham

Updated: July 4th 2018

Our Free Agent (FA) Expectancy series is back! Throughout the offseason, I will be preparing a collection of articles that will focus on free agents and trade candidates. The articles will discuss the player in question, and what the move does to their value, as well as what their landing spot means for their new and old teams.

Jimmy Graham – TE – Green Bay Packers

When Jimmy Graham signed with the Packers in March there was plenty of excitement for owners that held his services. He was moving to an offense that features one of the best quarterbacks ever, Aaron Rodgers, and with the departure of Jordy Nelson, ARod would be looking for a new favorite red zone target. Davante Adams has emerged as a talented receiver but after Randall Cobb, who hasn’t done much since his breakout 2014 campaign, there are not many names that would warrant consideration for consistent targets. This must be a perfect match for Jimmy Graham to reclaim his TE1 title; or is it?

Since 2009 the Green Bay tight end has had a significantly reduced role in terms of target share and usage. The last two years Green Bay TEs have shrunk down to 15.8% and 10% of total targets and 8.2% and 6.2% for the team’s TE1 individual target share. The ceiling at this point may be similar to Richard Rodgers’ 2015 season where despite tight ends only being targets 18%, Rodgers managed to hold a 14.8% individual target share with 85 targets. This would have been good for a low-end TE1 target share in fantasy last season.

Many would be quick to point out that Graham is a far superior talent to Richard Rodgers and should, therefore, be able to outproduce his greatest statistics. Well, if we look back to the earlier career of Aaron Rodgers when he had the talented Jermichael Finley at tight end the stats are surprisingly not much different. In 2011 and 2012 Finley had 92 targets and 87 targets for a team target share of 16.7% and 15.6% respectively. This was also before every NFL team was running more 11 personnel (3WR, 1TE, 1RB) than any other type of formation so if a blocking TE is needed for running plays don’t expect to see Graham on the field. If Green Bay is creative with their schemes, they should find ways to use Graham as the third receiver and instead have Mercedes Lewis, who was also acquired, be the more traditional TE in 11 personnel formation. We will see though.

All in all, it is still likely that Graham will be a strong play at the weak tight end slot in fantasy. It should not be expected, however, that he would return anywhere close to his wide receiver level of production that he had with Drew Brees in New Orleans like some seem to think. If he is available in your auction this year look for a two year deal between $7-10MM annually. This way if he is productive in Green Bay you have him at about the highest TE Franchise Tag anyways without having to use your tag this season. If he has an expiring contract this year I would only be looking to resign him if either his contract is another one year deal or his annual value is low enough that if he doesn’t work out/retires in 2019 and beyond his cap space would not be a huge detriment. Without know his statistics through the first four weeks of this season I would suggest in the range of either $8MM/1year or $18MM/3year as a respectable contract for resigning Graham this season.

Seattle Seahawks Identity Problem

Fans of football have often reflected on the Seahawks trading for Jimmy Graham in 2015 as a knee-jerk reaction to the famed interception that cost them a second consecutive the season prior. The logic behind it sort of makes sense. If they had a big receiver that could they could trust in the end zone to “climb the ladder” for a jump ball instead of trying to throw inside to a smaller receiver they would have been champions twice over. They decided to trade away a key offensive line piece, center Max Unger, to try and solve this issue but in return ended up losing their team identity of being aggressive with their run game and defense. They haven’t looked the same since that Super Bowl 49 loss.

With Graham now gone and most of their defensive superstars either gone or aging it will be interesting to see how the Seahawks view their best strategy to win moving forward. They brought in Brandon Marshall to see if he still has some game left in him but at 34 and coming off multiple lower body surgeries it’s not even a guarantee that he makes the roster let alone has any fantasy value. The team drafted rookie running back Rashaad Penny in the first round which was a surprising move to many. This may indicate that the team wants to return to a game-controlling, run-first offense. Without much improvement on the offensive line, however, this may be difficult to accomplish so expectations for Penny should be kept at an RB3-4 max until we see how he will be utilized in both the passing game and carries per game. Ultimately, it comes down to how effective Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin can be and those three players (Wilson, Baldwin, and Penny) are the only players to expect game-to-game consistency in fantasy this season. Tyler Lockett does have upside but he hasn’t looked as explosive since his leg injury in 2016. He will have great games but be a ghost for more than one would feel comfortable as their third or fourth option at receiver.


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

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

FA Expectancy: Robert Woods

Updated: July 31st 2017

For the final 2017 FA Expectancy article, I wanted to shine the spotlight on Robert Woods who signed with the L.A. Rams. His arrival wasn’t a big splash like Brandin Cooks in New England or Alshon Jeffery in Philadelphia and most owners have seen Woods move from one stagnant offense in Buffalo to another in L.A. as neutral at best. So why should anyone be excited about a receiver moving to the 27th ranked team in pass attempts in 2016 and who hasn’t accumulated more than 700 yards or 5 touchdowns in a season? It all has to do with the situation he finds himself with new coach Sean McVay and the lack of experienced receivers on the depth chart.

Can Woods Be the #1 Option?

The Bills for the last two seasons under Rex Ryan finished 31st and 32nd in pass attempts. Before Ryan arrived Woods had 65-699-5 in his sophomore season playing alongside Sammy Watkins and the team was ranked 13th in pass attempts. With the three years that most expect receivers to develop it would have been interesting to see how Woods would have developed in a moderate passing offense these last two years.

Last season Watkins missed weeks 2-11 forcing Woods to be the WR1 and he produced an average of 10.66 points in PPR leagues. This was highlighted by his game on Monday Night Football in week 9 against Seattle of all teams when he had 10 catches for 162 yards. Clearly, he can contribute enough to be a fantasy relevant receiver and this all came with only a single touchdown in 2016. Increasing his touchdown total to even a moderate 5 or 6 would make Woods a solid WR3 with WR2 upside on a weekly basis.

Fisher-less Rams

Despite some confusion midseason with the Rams giving Jeff Fisher a contract extension the team finally came to their senses and fired him before the end of the season. His replacement, Sean McVay, is the youngest head coach in the modern NFL history (30). With all the hype surrounding Kyle Shanahan and how he will be changing the fortunes of the 49ers, there’s not much being talked about with McVay’s success. I argued this in a previous article that Shanahan wasn’t that dominant of a play caller for Washington and after McVay replaced him the team actually scored a slightly higher amount of touchdowns (38:34) per season.

So why are people so high on players like Pierre Garcon and Joe Williams but aren’t as high on Robert Woods and Todd Gurley? The only reason must be because of how little publicity the moves the team made in the offseason have been and the stigma of a Fisher-led team leaves. We should remember that before last year’s draft most expected Jared Goff and Carson Wentz to be developmental QBs and were likely going to be 2-3 years away before deciding what their NFL talent levels would be. Therefore, it should be expected that there be an improvement from last year. Even if the quarterback play doesn’t improve drastically from Goff the addition of McVay should increase the passing numbers from Fisher’s 27th ranking last year.

 

Addition by Subtraction

The team added Andrew Whitworth to the offensive line which was a big reason for Gurley’s disappointing sophomore season. Getting a running game involved in the offense will always help open up zones in the secondary which is where Woods earns his money. At 6ft, 200lbs and a 4.51 40-time Woods isn’t going to blow the top off or box out defenders, he will need time to create separation and make himself open. Luckily for Woods, the Rams still have Tavon Austin who can be the speedy, gadget player that can stretch the field. They also released last year’s receiving leader Kenny Britt along with Brian Quick which immediately put Woods in the role of the X receiver. The team did draft Josh Reynolds (a Matt Waldman darling) and Cooper Kupp who people are very excited about for the future. Still, somebody has to be the primary option and at least for 2017 that would seem to be Woods. Averaging 10PPR points seems like a floor for Woods who wouldn’t need to be more than a WR4/5 on any roster. With the upside of being a target volume vacuum in what should be a more pass friendly team, the cost of $3-6MM for Woods offers tremendous value for the stat line he could have.

 

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde

Updated: July 23rd 2017

Fantasy Doc OC’s Gameplan #1

“Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm.”Robert Louis Stevenson

Rarely as fantasy players do we get to witness the marriage of the very worst to the very best.   The romcom equivalent of the bride and groom at the altar destined for unspeakable calamity until the voice of reason crying from the congregation to “stop.”   This year we get a fantasy union of striking proportions and no one is screaming any objections just yet. This year’s most eligible bachelor comes in the form of an offensive coordinator-turned head coach.  His blushing bride, the worst offense if football. My contention is that offensive coordinators are one of the most crucial, least evaluated variables in fantasy production.   There is little glamour to be found in glitchy microsoft pads or dapper headsets that make up the tools of the offensive coordinator’s trade, but I will attempt to offer some predictive claims based on the scoring opportunities   This series of articles will dive into the potential impact of new playcallers on your fantasy players.  Consider two teams:

Team A: Finished dead last in the league in 2016.  The percent of team’s drives ending in an offensive score at 21.8%

Team B: Topped the league in the same category with a staggering 52.9% of its drives ending with an offensive score.

The good news is fantasy players have every reason to hope that a coordinator that pops off at a better rate than Steph Curry in the bay area will be able to pan some fantasy gold.   The 49ers are team A in the scenario above, and team B is your NFC Champion Falcons.   Kyle Shanahan’s best performance was amplified by the steady hand of Matt Ryan, the breathtaking talent of Julio Jones, and one of the league’s deepest backfields.   It is a fool’s errand to attempt to parse exactly how much is Shanahan and how much production stems from the array of talent at his disposal, but consider his scoring performance across three franchises and his other five seasons at the helm of the offense:

Falcons

Overall Offense/Percent of Scoring Drives

17th overall/34.5 %

Browns

27th overall/28.0 %

Redskins

27th overall/ 27.6

6th overall/39.3

21st overall/30.9

Shanahan comes out at a six year average of 35.53% despite being tethered to the QB play of luminaries like Donovan McNabb 2.0, RG3, Brian Hoyer, and Johnny Manziel.   So it is not beyond the realm of possibility that he can work with the QB Hoyer/TBD of the SF 49ers.  35.53 would represent a 60% improvement over the scoring output of the 2016 49ers and would have been good for 18th in the league last year, nestled firmly between the Bengals and Ravens.  If, however, you want to strip 2016 as an outlier not truly indicative of Shanahan’s prowess, you are left with a scoring percentage of 32% over five seasons, pushing Shanahan down into the 2016 territory of the Bucs and Texans, but still a nearly 50% increase in production for the 49ers.  At the team level this suggest that the 309 total points produced by the 49ers could jump significantly.   Couple this with the Shanahan tendency to turn to his running backs in the red zone, and one player stands out as most set to benefit from Shanahan’s alchemy: Mr. Carlos Hyde.

Hyde’s new Dr. Jekyl engineered 18 high-leverage rushing attempts for Devonta Freeman inside the opponents 5 yard line, and targeted him 6 more times inside the 10, for a total of 24.   All year Carlos Hyde saw 6 rushing attempts inside the 5 and exactly 1 target inside the 10 yard line.   Hyde was able to ride significant volume in the Chip Kelly’s attack to a RB18 overall finish in PPR scoring formats 14th in standard.  Two more scores would have vaulted Hyde into RB1 status on the season.  It is time for RSO GM’s to follow Kyle Shanahan, fantasy prospector, out West to pan for the fantasy gold of a top 10 running back.


Luke @FantasyDocOC is husband, father, doctoral student, and teacher slowly building a reality dynasty league comprised entirely of daughters. He writes OC’s Gamplan for Reality Sports Online.  Following in the footsteps of Saint Francis, “Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” CUA. Hoya Saxa.

More Analysis by Luke O'Connell