RSO Staff Picks: Week 7

Updated: October 19th 2018

Week 6 Results

1. Papson – 14-1

2. English – 10-5

3. Wendell 8-7

Overall Standings

1.  Papson – 58-33-2

2. English – 55-36-2

3. Wendell 49-42-2

Wow! Pappy cleans up with a 14-1 week, taking the overall lead at an impressive 58-33-2, three games ahead of Kyle and a whopping nine games ahead of me in last place. His only miss, the Jaguars meltdown in Dallas. With the Patriots impressive win in Foxboro over an equally impressive Chiefs team on the road, there now is only one undefeated team, the Rams at 6-0. All other teams have won at least one game, so anything is still possible with eleven more weeks to go before the end of the season. Not a particularly inspiring week of games this week with the exception of the Chiefs, who play another good SNF game hosting the 4-2 Bengals. The Broncos demolished the Cardinals last night (the Cards promptly dismissed their OC this morning), which gives Kyle and I one game up on Pappy to start the week (Pappy loves those Thursday night home teams). The rest of our picks are below. Enjoy the games and good luck in all your fantasy matchups!

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More Analysis by Stephen Wendell

RSO Staff Picks: Week 5

Updated: October 7th 2018

Week 4 Results

T1. English – 9-6

T1. Papson – 9-6

T1. Wendell 9-6

Overall Standings

1.  English – 36-25-2

2. Papson – 35-26-2

3. Wendell 32-29-2

Lots of different picks from us, but the end record is the same, as we all go 9-6 on the week and the overall standings stay the same. Through the quarter pole of the season, there are only two undefeated teams left in the NFL, the Rams and the Chiefs. The Arizona Cardinals are the only team that does not have a win. Shaping up to be a wild and unpredictable season for sure. Huge AFC game today as the Jags take that great defense to Arrowhead against the current the MVP through four games of the NFL season, Patrick Mahomes. The Steelers (1-2-1) and the Falcons (1-3) are in an absolute playoff like must-win game at Heinz Field today. Here are our picks for the week (we all had the Pats on Thursday night).

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Everyone enjoy the games in Week 3 and best of luck this week in your leagues!

More Analysis by Stephen Wendell

The Amazing, Good, Sad and Embarrassing

Updated: September 19th 2018

The first two weeks of the NFL season are in the books.  If you need a brief overview of what happened, this is the place.  The article looks at some of the outstanding players and teams so far to some of the worst with a couple more topics thrown in.

The Amazing

Ryan Fitzpatrick and Patrick Mahomes

“FitzMagic” is back!  The Harvard-grad leads the NFL after two weeks in passing yards with over 400 per game, in passer rating (151.5), and yards per attempt (13.4) which is almost three more than any other quarterback.  The “Beard” performed this monumental feat despite playing against two defenses which were top-8 in Football Outsider’s pass efficiency last season.  DeSean Jackson provides a big reason for Fitzpatrick’s early success.  The 31 year old is proving his doubters wrong by setting up big plays for Fitzpatrick getting easy deep separation with his game-changing speed.  Jackson leads the league in receiving yards on only nine targets catching each one for a gaudy 30.6 yards per reception.

Not to be outdone, the Kansas City second-year playcaller is setting records early in 2018.  Mahomes already racked up ten touchdowns without throwing an interception leading the Chiefs to a 2-0 start.  He is receiving good pass protection and the assortment of offensive targets makes big plays possible on every snap.  It is a truly outstanding start to his career.

The Good

NFL Passing

Offenses sometimes start slowly the first few weeks of the season thanks to limited practices in the preseason.  That is not the case this year where teams are putting up video game offensive numbers early.  I talked about the expected increase in passing prior to the season but we have witnessed a massive overcorrection so far.  Tom Brady led the NFL in passing last year at 286 yards per game.  There are eleven quarterbacks averaging more so far this year.  Eleven quarterbacks have passer ratings in excess of 100 this season while only five managed that feat last year.  Yardage and scoring are broadly up throughout the league.  This is a great NFL for those who worship offensive football.

Los Angeles Rams

There was some concern out there the Rams might regress somewhat after an amazing 2017.  We must keep in mind the opponents played so far but the early results suggest the concern is unwarranted.  Los Angeles dismantled the Raiders and Arizona on the way to a league-leading +54 point differential.  The Rams rank no worse than 7th in yardage and scoring for both offense and defense highlighted by allowing a league best 6.5 points per game.  The major offseason additions of Cooks, Suh, Peters, and Talib appear to have integrated nicely at this point making for a dangerous team on both sides of the ball.

The Sad

Josh Gordon

The Gordon saga with the Browns finally came to an end this week after a suspension fueled tumultuous time in Cleveland filled with off the field issues.  The hope and promise of a player who led the league in receiving five years ago never fully materialized again for the Browns.  The fact that Gordon is still on an exclusive rights free agent contract seven years after being drafted tells all you need to know about his struggles.  He was traded to New England Monday.  Everyone hopes he succeeds with the Patriots but that concern is a distant second in comparison to hoping he gets his life in order away from the football field.

Buffalo Bills

Many people envisioned the Bills taking a major step backward after winning nine games and making an improbable playoff bid in 2017. The playoff birth was a mirage masking a Buffalo team finishing with a -57 point differential and ranking just 20th in Football Outsiders team efficiency.  The Bills’ coaching staff understood this was not a playoff-worthy roster and started a complete takedown.  The process will be even uglier than most envisioned.  The offensive side of the ball features one of the worst offensive lines in the league after losing two top linemen to retirement and trading a third away.  There are no receiving options which scare any team.  The only real offensive weapon, LeSean McCoy, just suffered a rib injury.  The Bills were even forced to put rookie Josh Allen into the starting lineup after Nathan Peterman predictably was benched yet again.  A mediocre Bills’ defense crumbled under the pressure of an incompetent offense this year yielding a league worst 39 points per game.  Things are so bad Vontae Davis gave up millions to retire at halftime of week two.  Things will get better in Buffalo but 2018 will be a struggle.

The Embarrassing

Arizona Cardinals

Arizona was competitive last year despite big losses during the season.  The Cardinals went 8-8 in 2017 without David Johnson for most of the year while also starting either Blaine Gabbert or Drew Stanton for over half the season.  New head coach Steve Wilks and the rest of the coaching staff has managed to make a complete mess in Arizona so far this season.  The Cardinals have been outscored by a combined 58 to 6 tally in two lifeless outings on the way to a 0-2 start.  New quarterback Sam Bradford accumulated 346 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions in his last full start for Minnesota.  He has a combined 246 yards and zero touchdowns with two interceptions in two starts for Arizona this year.  This looks like a team destined for a complete top to bottom rebuild with everyone from players to coaches in danger.

Honorable mention: Detroit Lions.  The Lions are another competitive team from last season with a new head coach, Matt Patricia, whom struggled mightily in two games.  The 9-7 team from 2017 has not been close in two contests, including being blown out at home against a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start, with players already calling out the new coaching staff.  It could be a rough year for Detroit in a solid NFC conference.

The Giants Offensive Line

Anyone watching the New York-Dallas game Sunday night should easily recognize the huge discrepancy between offensive lines.  Dak Prescott was able to sit back in clean pockets for much of the night while Eli Manning was under constant pressure for almost every dropback forcing short quick dumpoffs and ugly throws.  The Giants’ line struggles continued to the run game where Saquon Barkley was continuously required to make defenders miss nearly as soon as he touched the ball.  New York will not compete this season if new head coach Pat Shurmur does not fix the dreadful offensive line, no matter the wealth of talent at the skill positions.

NFL “Roughing the Passer” Issue

Defenders may not hit the quarterback in the head, or the knees, or the mid-section, or land on them, or pick them up, or…   You get the picture.  What are defenders supposed to do?  Put their hand up as a stop sign and hope the quarterback falls to the ground out of fear?  There is simply no reasonable way for defenders to tackle quarterbacks without being at risk of penalty at this time.  The NFL has vastly overcorrected thanks to high-profile injuries at quarterback last season.  The recent Matthews’ penalty is just the most recent example of the problem that costs teams wins.  The NFL must make a decision as to whether quarterbacks are actual football players or porcelain dolls in need of protection at all costs.  Acknowledge the dangers of the sport and go back to calling the most egregious hits if it is the former.  Use a touch rule or flags to eliminate hitting of quarterbacks altogether If it is the latter.

Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

More Analysis by Bernard Faller

RSO Staff Picks: Week 2

Updated: September 13th 2018

Week 1 Results & Overall Standings

1. Papson 10-5-1 

2. English – 9-6-1

3. Wendell – 7-8-1

Mr. Papson picks up right where he left off last season with the best record this week, which is traditionally a tough week to pick games as you just never know who is new and improved and who is not. We will all have a tie on our records for the year and the Browns scratched out an impressive tie against the Steelers. Other surprises included a one-legged Aaron Rodgers coming from way behind to beat the Bears (well I guess that is not a surprise if you are a Bears fan), Dallas looking abysmal in Carolina, the new look Redskins going on the road and trouncing the Cardinals, the Bucs/Saints combining for nearly 100 points with Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm in TB, and the Jimmy G show getting a reality check against one of the league’s best defenses in Minnesota. Great storylines from Week 1 and even more to develop as we look to Week 2 with a classic AFC North battle between two 1-0 teams tonight between Baltimore and Cincinnati to kick us off. Our picks for the week are below:

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Everyone enjoy the games in Week 2 and best of luck this week in your leagues!

More Analysis by Stephen Wendell

Auction Recap

Updated: September 8th 2018

Inside Access to the RSO Experts/Writers League War Rooms

While I haven’t been writing as regularly as in the past, I still love fantasy football as much as ever. I’m in what some would say too many leagues (and my wife might agree), but to me, there’s always room for one more. With the season now underway and all my auctions behind me, I can say that none were as enjoyable as the RSO Experts League Year 3 Free Agency Auction.  RSO auctions often require more strategic preparation than most leagues and that’s exponentially true when competing against some of the best analysts in the industry.

In year 3, the player pool was stronger than last year given that most players signed to 2 year deals in the startup reached free agency.

Teams had limited cap space and most are saddled with at least one bad contract.    Cap space and multi-year deals had to be used wisely. Since I haven’t won the league yet and have made my share of bad decisions, I’m not one to judge everyone’s auction and assign grades.  Instead, I’d like to take you inside several of the war rooms so you can hear from league members directly about their strategy entering the auction and thoughts on how it went.  Without further ado, let’s dive in…

Matt Papson

“I had $6MM in space to fill four roster spots. I could not use all of my multi-year contracts. I signed James White and Mike Wallace to one year minimums (not guaranteed). I signed TyGod and Joe Flacco to multiyear deals just to minimize 2018 salary. I have five starting quarterbacks and plan to win the league. The end.”

Bob Cowper

“Similarly to Pappy, I only had three spots and limited cash to fill them. I went into the auction knowing I needed a starting running back to pair with Leonard Fournette and I needed to add at least one tight end too. I was very happy with the deal that I got on Kenyan Drake (two years, $10m in 2018) because I think Drake will end up getting the biggest piece of the RBBC pie in Miami. Rookie Kalen Ballage might cut into Drake’s receiving production but if he manages 25 receptions he should finish as a top twenty back (he had 32 last season). Next, I turned my attention to the tight end position. I’ve been targeting George Kittle in leagues this season and didn’t mind going to $4m per year to secure him. Kittle’s production over the final five games of his rookie season, those he started with Jimmy G, puts him on pace for a 48-716-3 line for 2018. That would make him a borderline top ten option but I think we’ll see even better numbers. For my last spot, I was torn on whether I should add another TE or another QB. I already had five QBs but one is suspended (Winston) and two are rookies that won’t start the season barring injury (Darnold, Rudolph). Ultimately I figured I would trust Trubisky and Goff and add a TE instead. I didn’t love the other TE options after I was outbid on Trey Burton. I grabbed Cameron Brate on a minimum deal to pair with OJ Howard, figuring I might as well lock down the Bucs TE on the cheap.”

Bernard Faller

“The overall cap space in our league was somewhat limited with six teams having $40M or less in available salary and no team with more than $78M. My $55M in cap space and eight open roster spots with no major positional holes to fill meant I could hold out for value. Our league places a big premium on QBs with fifteen paid $17.8M or more in salary for 2018. Having Stafford ($9M) and Garoppolo ($2M) locked up for a combined $11M frees up a lot of cap space for high upside gambles and quality depth at RB/WR. Quality running back depth is always a main priority for me in shallow leagues given the high injury rate and uncertainty at the position. Starting RBs usually hold excellent trade value during the season due to the scarcity of high-end backs available.

Hill (4yr, $37M) was not one a player I actively looked for but he represented solid value for one of the most dynamic players in the league. One likely target for me going into the auction was the San Francisco offense. The consensus of major fantasy sites projects the 49ers as a top-10 passing offense but the top skill players are generally very cheap in auctions. I invested heavily signing McKinnon (2yr, $30M), Breida (3yr, $2M), and Garcon (1yr, $1M) to deals. McCoy’s (1yr, $10M) range of outcomes is probably the most polarized of any player. He is either going to be out of the league or touching the ball twenty times a game as the focal point of a bad Bills offense. My running back depth chart now includes Gurley, McCoy, McKinnon, Miller, and Ronald Jones which accomplished my goal of a quality, deep group with loads of upside.

I missed out on a reliable bye-week/injury replacement QB which was my main oversight in the auction. The depth at wide receiver for fantasy is outrageous. Robby Anderson, Tyler Lockett, and Garcon came at good values but I would rather add better quarterback and tight end depth which came cheap in the auction.”

Stephen Wendell

“Pretty simple for me…

1) Needed another QB because I feel like you have to have 3 starters in this league and I had two in Cam and Big Red. I wanted Brees but I felt like he got too expensive given his age and stage, so I bailed and waited for Matty Ice, at which point I was going to get him no matter what it cost. Beauty of the platform … start-up auction Matt Ryan probably does not make so much, but being one of 4-5 starting QBs in a Super Flex league in year 3 of the league, guy is going to get paid.

2) After that, did not have much more, and I was at my father’s birthday dinner, so I did my best to grab a few more guys I liked:

  1. a) Eifert for $1mm – great upside if he returns to TD machine form and good to stack with Dalton in good matchups
  2. b) Martavis Bryant at $500K – literally a free flyer which could payoff if he can learn the Gruden playbook
  3. c) Corey Clement 3 yr $9.5mm – love the Birds and think he could be Sproles 2.0 and ironically beat the OG Sproles out of the job he created. If not this year, then definitely by 2019, giving me a dynamic playmaker for 2 years on the cheap during what should be prime years for Carson Wentz and the Eagles offense.

For the record, these are my reasons now. At the time, I was just trying to grab some players I knew in between bites of she crab soup and great conversation with my family.”

Matt Goodwin

“Going in with $34mm in cap space, I knew that I’d have to build around my foundational pieces (OBJ, Brady, Hunt) and “paint around the edges”. So, I focused on maximizing value which is something that I feel like I’ve been able to do well in this league. I was focused on getting guys on multi-year deals for typically no more than $5 million average per year.

Succession Quarterback-Having already starting with two starting QBs, I wanted to make sure I had at least a third and a potential succession plan to Big Ben who is expiring after 2018 season. Taking a page from Bernard’s Jimmy Garoppolo deal last year as a backup who’d likely be starting the following season (or even this season), so I grabbed Nick Foles on a three year deal for 3 years, $8.0mm total.

Upside Starting Tight End-I also came in as one of the few teams needing a starting TE and I took the high variance Jordan Reed on a 1 year, $4.5mm deal to replace my injured Hunter Henry. I know Reed comes with risk, but I think Alex Smith is the perfect QB for him if he can stay healthy. And if he can’t, I only have him for a year as dropping some cap off my books in 2019 was important to me as well.

Swiss Army RB’s For Flex or Jay Ajayi Backfill- I’m in my second and final year of a pricey $25.5mm Jay Ajayi deal. While I have hopes that he’ll eat this year in the Eagles offense, I wanted to build my base of running backs for the future this year. I started that with Royce Freeman in the rookie draft at 2.02. He’s now going much sooner and I have the Broncos backfield locked up this season for cheap. I then focused on guys with upside in the passing game like Duke Johnson (2 years, $9.0mm) and Aaron Jones (2 years, $7.0mm) to be possible flex plays, starting running backs for me in 2019, or guys to count on if Ajayi falters or gets hurt.

WRs Who Can Take the Lid Off a Defense- I’ve made no secret on All About Reality that I’m a fan of WRs. I like high-upside ones who can take a lid off a defense and pairing them with PPR types. Having OBJ, Crowder, and Corey Davis already, I grabbed a few of my favorite potential breakouts in 2018 in Marquise Goodwin (we are not of relation) on a 3 year, $14.0mm deal based on faith in Jimmy G and the 49ers upstart offense. I then grabbed Kenny Golladay in a bidding war with Nick Andrews for 4 years, $22.0mm. There are a wide range of outcomes for Golladay, but I felt he had WR1 upside for a droppable contract cost and I did want to keep him away from Nick’s talent-laden team. Lastly, if Jordy Nelson has anything left in the tank, I have him for a 2 year, $1.0mm total deal.

Minimum Salary Guys- I always like to have some interchangeable pieces in spite of a deep bench in this league, so I grabbed Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Keelan Cole as minimum salary players who might be able to step in.

We’ll see where this thing goes as realistically the team with the best starters invariably wins the league, but I think a third straight playoff appearance is achievable and that my team has the upside to fly the flag if health and luck go my way as well.”

Kyle English

“Went into the auction with 63M in space and only 6 spots to fill…

– Wanted Melvin Gordon since he was the best available RB, but Luke wasn’t going to give him up. Bid him up and eventually let Luke take him for 2/64M which made him the highest paid RB in our league by over 5M/yr. I was then able to get who I thought was the second best RB in the draft in Devonta Freeman for 2/37.5M. Given the prices of those contracts, I’m very please with how that ended up for me and because I spent less I was able to get nearly every other player I was targeting.

– Got Chris Carson for 1/2.5M. Very surprised he went that cheap given the auction was after all the camp news about him looking like the starter. Honestly wasn’t expecting to target him but that’s a nice easy contract to add some more RB depth.

– Needed another QB in case Gruden’s Oakland experiment doesn’t go well for my Carr or Watson doesn’t come back as strong. Targeted Rivers and got him for 3/63M. That’s on the high side of what I’d like to pay, but since I didn’t blow it all on Gordon I was able to do it. Followed that up by targeting Bradford for 1/2.5M to pair with my Rosen which was an easy choice.

– Then went out and got Larry Fitz for 1/12M. I think the Cards will be playing from behind a lot and Fitz has been a PPR monster despite his age.

– Finished it off with the best TE in the auction in Delanie Walker for 2/12M to go with Olsen who I already have. Didn’t want to trust him solo after last season’s debacle.”

Nick Andrews

“Being in the championship game the last two years I felt confident that the core of my team would keep my window open at least another season. Having this mentality I wanted to maximize the final year that I have both Julio Jones and Le’Veon Bell, both on expiring deals after the 2018 season. I reacquired Drew Brees for $57MM/2yr to pair with Kirk Cousins who I had given my extension to earlier in the off-season. Having what I think should be two top 5 QBs in a superflex league hasn’t fail me in my first two seasons so I wasn’t concerned about having to pay up to reacquire Brees. I also needed a rotational guy for bye weeks and was able to add Blake Bortles on a small $9MM/3yr.

With the aforementioned Jones and Bell on expiring deals I wanted to focus my remaining multi-year deals on trying to acquire young replacements that wouldn’t eat up too much cap space. Once the bidding war for Kenny Golladay with Matt Goody was deemed too expensive for my plan I pivoted to other ancillary players that should be successful as bye week options. Nelson Agholor ($12MM/3yr), Tarik Cohen ($20MM/4yr), Isaiah Crowell ($3.5MM/2yr), Tyrell Williams ($500k) were low risk deals that I felt comfortable if they could produce would be great assets to have available to come off the bench.

Finally, I already had Kyle Rudolph locked in for another two seasons so for tight end I focused on upside with some guys that are getting good buzz leading up to the preseason. Ricky Seals-Jones on a $2MM/1yr was a “let’s see what he’s made of deal” where if he doesn’t pay off it’s not a big cap concern. I also was able to use RSO’s new feature of bidding against yourself by nominating and subsequently giving Jonnu Smith a two year, $2MM deal in the hopes that if he doesn’t full replace Delaine Walker this season he will by 2019.

Looking forward to our third seasons and hopefully there will be a third championship appearance for the Knightmare squad.”

Luke Patrick

“Papal Fallibility made a jump from worst-third and the core of the team and no dead money had me in a good position. Going into the auction three starting spots needed to be filled- RB2, WR3, and QB2. Melvin Gordon (64MM/2yr) on a short massive contract was my plan to fill the RB2 slot as he stood alone in a tier with for team built to win this season. Unfortunately, my fellow writers and other drafters were more savvy building depth and I backed down on my two QB targets (Matt Ryan/Drew Brees). This cost me Case Keenum Mark Ingram and Baker Mayfield’s rookie deal in a post draft trade for Cam Newton. Not dropping cash on the QB2 slot left me to secure my top WR on the board in Adam Theilen for a below market deal (51MM/3yr). The squad this year is textbook stars and scrubs. QBs: Russell Wilson/Cam Newton RBs: DJ/Melvin Gordon WRs: Keenan/Diggs/Theilen and TE: Kelce. My bench is wide and thin, populated by upside dart throws and RBs that can inherit big roles.

Dave Sanders

Despite having a solid core of Wentz (thru 2020 @~$21MM per), Mariota (thru 2020 @~$23MM per), Zeke Elliott (thru 2019 @ ~$23MM per), Dion Lewis (thru 2018 @ 500k per), Amari Cooper (thru 2018 @ ~$24MM per) and Rob Gronkowski (thru 2018 @ ~$24MM per, I’ve been mostly a middle of the pack team that has been on the fringe of playoff contention each year.  With Gronk, Amari and Zeke set to enter free agency within the next 2 years or become very expensive to retain, I knew that I needed to use my ~$20MM in cap space wisely and focus on immediate impacts over long-term value.

Before the auction, I identified several targets:

  • Rex Burkhead (have Sony Michel and wanted that pair) – signed for 2 years @ $6.5MM per.  It’s more than I wanted to spend, but I strongly believe that one of those RBs will finish within the top 10 in 2019 PPR scoring.  Which one?  I have no idea.
  • Josh Gordon – signed for 4 years @ ~$3MM per.  With cap situation, I didn’t have room to lock up a star player for multiple years and thought he might come cheap given the uncertainty that was especially heightened around the time of our auction on August 8th.  I feel a bit better about his status now, but he’s certainly no lock to remain on the field.  That said, the penalty for cutting him won’t be too detrimental if it doesn’t work out.  The upside, if he ever returns to form, could be massive.
  • Jarvis Landry – signed for 3 years @ ~$12MM per.  As soon as I landed Gordon, I turned my attention to Landry.  To me, he’s almost a Gordon handcuff.  If Gordon misses time in any of the next 3 years, Landry should see increase volume and possibly more downfield utilization.  At what I consider to be a below market deal for a PPR league, count me in!

I hope you enjoyed this in-depth look into our war rooms.  Stay up to date on the experts league by following #RSOexpertsLG on Twitter.

More Analysis by Dave Sanders

RSO Staff Picks: Week 1

Updated: September 6th 2018

And. We. Are. Back. The NFL season kicks off tonight in the City of Brotherly Love as Matt and my beloved Eagles play host to the Atlanta Falcons in a playoff rematch from last year. With Carson Wentz not back from injury yet, Nick Foles gets the opportunity to prove that last year’s magical run was not a fluke and that with our without him at the helm, the Eagles are a true threat to defend their Super Bowl Championship in 2018-19. In this post last year, we spoke about Tom Brady and getting back to the Super Bowl game, which he did, coming up just short but playing one of the best games by a QB ever (not just in a Super Bowl). Which teams will surprise in 2018 and which familiar squads from last year’s playoff picture will make another run? Cannot wait to find out. As we have in prior years, Matt, Kyle and I will pick each game every week of the season (the rest of the writers will join us for the playoffs). Matt won again last season in an extremely tight year long race where every one of us had a really solid win-loss record. We look to get off to a hot start again this year with our Week 1 picks, which are below. Enjoy the games!

NFL Game Picks

Game Wendell Papson English







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More Analysis by Stephen Wendell