Not so fast, John Elway wants Peyton back for another season in Denver

 

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Denver's general manager John Elway got right to the heart of the matter when he spoke to reporters today, he absolutely wants fantasy QB stud Peyton Manning back to the lead the Broncos next season.

The Broncos have been consistently great in the regular season during the past three seasons, but have not met expectations when it comes to the playoffs. It's obvious that Elway and the rest of the front office want the man who continues to battle father time back on their team come next season. Even if the 38-year-old Peyton Manning isn’t at his best physical state, he still is better than 80% of the quarterbacks in the NFL.

So let’s get down to the main questions at hand, will Manning return and should he return? It was just revealed to the public that Manning has been playing with a torn right quadriceps. However, it's still clear that Manning and the Broncos are not the same team in the playoffs as they are in the regular season. During his career, Manning has lost his first playoff game an astonishing 9 times.

Despite this fact, Manning is still getting to the playoffs and both teams he's played for (IND & DEN) have been nothing but competitive. There's still some unfinished business and an ample amount of drive from Peyton and the Broncos to get that monkey off their back and win a Super Bowl.

Manning has been in the league for 17 years and should have at least one more year in the tank left. His style of play, where he sits in the pocket and gets the ball out of his hands quick, makes it harder for opponents to lay big hits on the 38-year-old.  

Manning should get ample rest during the off-season and even be limited in OTAs and the pre-season – similar to how the Vikings handled Brett Favre when he had his two year tender in Minnesota. Manning should be able to withstand playing at least one more full year in the NFL, even with this new quadriceps injury and father time looking over his shoulder.  Hopefully he can stay out of the injury QB news this season.

Stay tuned to Fantasy Focus for recent QB fantasy news.

 

The Bills made a high risk, high reward decision by hiring Ryan

 

Well, this seems boring, but I think you’ll agree in the genius of it by the end of this piece…

…maybe.

One of the NFL trends I enjoy is the coaching carrousel, selfishly, so I can research coaches who I was not as familiar with—and trying to figure out their impact on their new team/FF. It’s like a fun little puzzle to tinker with. No puzzle here with the Bills. Do I really even need to write this piece about Rex and the Bills? Is there anyone on the planet with a different take on his impact?

Of course, the easy thing to do is go…”Well, the Bills had an awesome defense…and Rex Ryan is a defensive genius…so now the Bills defense will be even better.” You know this because the Jets allowed 31 TDs/6 INTs on 64.1% Comp. Pct. through the air last season—one of the worst, if not thee worst, pass defenses in the league.

I’ll admit that Rex is a great defensive coach, and we all thought the Bills-DST would already be pretty nice for 2015…so now we still do, I guess. Nothing new here.

We all felt that E.J. Manuel was a joke and was never close to the list of top fantasy sleeper picks. Some of you thought he just ‘needed coaching’, because you’re insane…or you’re the Bills GM reading this. EJM is Geno Smith bad…and we see how delightful Rex was with Geno. Don’t worry, Bills fans! Rumor has it the guy who was the O-C for Colin Kaepernick—the one who coached him into three-years of regression is on the way to fix EJM. Get those playoff tickets ready.

This is the fresh start the new ownership is bringing in?

This is the best the Bills President and GM could do—their elbows firmly on the pulse of the up-and-coming coaches? My assumption would be: The Bills President and the GM have one more year until never being in those roles again in their lives—unless they pull off a terrific 2015. Rex Ryan gives them a guy with some track record of walking and making an instant ‘rah-rah’ shift, and who has been able to take great defenses with junk QBs to the doorstep of the Super Bowl instantly—and we all should respect that. Rex is also not afraid of New England, and has shown an ability to hang with the Pats—that’s key for the Bills too. For one year, one game, Rex is terrific…over a five-year period, he is suspect. At some point, talent acquisition and offensive coaching have to come into play.

Really, like most things, it comes down to QB. The Bills don’t have one. There is likely no QB savior in the draft. Unless the Bills find a QB, then all the defensive enthusiasm won’t matter.

Whatever you thought of the 2014 NY Jets…think the same of the ‘new’ Buffalo Bills (even if Jay Cutler is the QB)—great defense, bad offense, 8-8 record…plus or minus a win. Always formidable, but not a dynasty in the making.

HOWEVER…

That is a generic evaluation of the team with Rex. The more immediate, critical thing to consider: The gift of the 2015 schedule. You’ll see what I mean in the next section…

**See the 2015 Dynasty Rookie Draft & Team Builder, with our Moneyball-style scouting reports and rankings. Go to http://advancedsportslogic.com/products/dynasty-rookie-draft?ref=blog **

Fantasy players impacted by the Rex Ryan hiring…

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 — I am a little giddy of what this might mean for Bryce Brown. I think Rex Ryan is a realist. I also believe he can change troubled players from troubled to bad-asses. Once Ryan gets a load of Bryce Brown—it could be a Fantasy match made in heaven. The coach who loves the run the ball, a coach who will have to run the ball, has three-choices (today): aging Fred Jackson, tugboat Anthony Dixon, and the potential next Adrian PetersonBryce Brown.

If Brown has a prayer left in the NFL/FF…this is the best thing that could have happened. I assume (from public and private sources) that Doug Marrone and the GM and President fought like cats and dogs. Marrone willing to do anything to spite management…Bryce was management’s guy. Bryce MAY have been a pawn in that (or Bryce makes his own bed…). They traded for Brown in the offseason, but Marrone kept Bryce inactive most of the season–and when Spiller-FJax went down, Marrone turned to something calling itself ‘Boobie’. This may be Bryce’s best, and last chance.

 — Every year of the Rex Ryan era in New York was a disaster in the passing game. He has an awful QB situation today in Buffalo—it’s hard to envision Sammy Watkins is going to a next level, but he will get heavy targeting…it just may not be catchable. I think Rex and Sammy have a Clemson connection over the past few years as well. I expect Sammy to get enough touches to be plausible, but he likely cannot go to the next-level because of the QB. However…

I assume the Bills will also look for a new QB for right now…the Bills-2015 are much like the Oakland Raiders-2014. Everyone is under employment pressure, and they will sell their soul to win now…the future be damned. Thus, you trade for, and pay heavily for, Matt Schaub. The Bills are going to trade for Schaub…figuratively. They need a one-year ‘fix’, and Jay Cutler makes a lot of sense. Cutler + Watkins is exciting-ish. Cousins + Watkins = a tragic FF-comedy.

 — You might get excited for the Bills-DST, one of the better NFL fantasy sleepers, for 2015, not just because of Rex, but because the schedule kinda lends itself to a run that the Texans had this year. A so-so team with an awesome schedule. The Bills will get the Jets 2x, but also has JAC, TEN, WAS. There are five wins already built in. If they split with Miami, they might just have to win three of the other nine games on the schedule to get another winning season on record. What if the Bills second Patriots matchup is in Week-17…and it doesn’t matter to New England (same as this year when Buffalo beat them Week-17)?

Because of the schedule, Buffalo should be a playoff contender in 2015…like this past season. Which makes the Rex hiring make a ton of sense, even if it doesn’t make a bigger picture sense to all of us. The 2015 schedule is begging for the Bills to go 9-7 again. If they do, Rex and friends will be painted as genius.

…if they flameout with this schedule…’oh, my’.

R.C. Fischer is an NFL Draft analyst for College Football Metrics.com, and a football projections analyst for Fantasy Football Metrics.com. His group also provides player projections for Advanced Sports Logic’s football software “The Machine.” See “The Machine” here: The Machine via FFM

 

Tom Brady says he's a '(bleeping) machine' when it comes to cold weather

  

The Ravens and Patriots have developed a tough rivalry and this playoff game should exhibit just that. Both teams had impressive defensive units this season, and their high-profile quarterbacks will have to play their best to avoid failure in the search to advance to the AFC Championship game.

For New England, the game plan should be rather simple. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady LOVES the cold weather and it's expected to be in teens at kickoff in Foxborough. The Ravens defense is notorious for causing mayhem, but their pass defense was uncharacteristically inadequate this season, ranking 23rd in allowing 248.7 passing yards per contest.  

Brady's targets aren't that impressive, except for the monster he utilizes quite frequently in TE Rob Gronkowski. Gronk is the best tool a quarterback could ask for, as a 6'6" freak of nature with speed and great hands, and has been Brady's go-to guy for quite some time. Gronkowski had another impressive season, securing 82 catches for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns, and ended the season scoring a touchdown in each of his last 3 games.  

Expect Gronk to be a major factor, and to go off on a weak Ravens secondary, racking up at least 75 yards and a touchdown in what should be an entertaining game. Brady's two near 1,000 yard receivers in Brandon LaFell and Julian Edelman will look to make contributions as well, and one of them should definitely find the end zone as Tom Brady should put up at least 3 touchdowns in a dominant performance.

Though the Ravens pass defense struggled through the season, their rush defense did quite the opposite. LeGarrette Blount, Jonas, Gray, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden will struggle as Baltimore's elite rush defense ended the season ranked 4th in giving up 88.3 rushing yards per contest, making the passing attack that much more important. Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil will continue to wreak havoc, making advancing the ball through use of the run game much more difficult than New England is used to. Don't expect more than 50-60 yards from any of the Pats tailbacks, and they shouldn't reach the end zone except for a possible goal line attack.

The Patriots will have to excel in the passing game to compensate for what will be a tough rushing game, but the Ravens offense will have to be balanced and effective in both facets. QB Joe Flacco will be facing a Patriots defense that ranked 17th this season in giving up 239.8 passing yards per contest, which should not be too tough a task. The former Super Bowl champion is coming off his best season, setting career highs in passing yards (3,986) and touchdowns (27), and should look to build off his stellar year. 

Flacco has a very talented group of targets at his disposal in WRs Steve Smith and Torrey Smith, and TE Owen Daniels, and should look to spread the wealth in this contest. Expect Flacco to continue his characteristically elite postseason form, and attempt to carry the Ravens to an upset in Foxborough. Flacco will have to keep it simple and live with more short passes than he's used to, as New England's secondary features superb talent in cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis. Expect Torrey Smith to get some extra looks across the middle on shorter throws, and for Flacco to put up 2-3 touchdowns in yet another solid playoff performance.

As for the running game, the Ravens face an above average rushing defense, as the Patriots ranked 9 in allowing 104.3 rushing yards per game, but they can't abandon the run in this one. Baltimore RB Justin Forsett easily had his most effective season in 2014, as he rushed 235 times for 1,266 yards (5.4 yards per carry) and 8 touchdowns, eclipsing 100 yards 5 times. The Pats have been solid against the run, but Forsett helped them get to where they are with his spectacular play, and they will need him to be successful in order to take down the big bad Patriots. Expect Forsett to receive close to 20 total touches, possibly picking up around 60-70 yards from scrimmage, as the Patriots narrowly escape the Ravens in a one-possession win.

Will the Broncos go back to their prolific passing attack or stick with C.J. Anderson?

 

As the Colts head to Denver to take on the Broncos, Peyton Manning has the opportunity to take down his old squad for the second time this season and advance to the AFC conference championship. Manning and company got the best of the Colts in their first meeting during Week 1 this season, 31-24, but both teams have undergone major changes since the start of the season. 

Denver's backfield now features rookie stud C.J. Anderson, who will look to set the tone early. Anderson ended the season on a high note with 31 carries for 170 yards (5.48 yards per carry) and 4 touchdowns in his last 2 games combined, also picking up 75 receiving yards on 10 receptions. Indy's lackluster rush defense finished off the season ranking 18th in allowing 113.4 rushing yards per contest and Anderson will exploit their every weakness. With The Broncos making more of an effort to include a solid rushing attack in their offense, expect Anderson to get a heavy workload and post anywhere from 80-120 rushing yards and a touchdown. 

Manning's success could be contingent upon the health of his freak athlete tight end Julius Thomas. During Week 1, the tandem hooked up 7 times for 104 yards and 3 touchdowns. Thomas is easily the most difficult offensive weapon to defend, but the ankle injury that's plagued him through out the latter half of the season may still be nagging him. 100 percent or not, expect Julius Thomas to rack up a ton of targets for a moderately successful game around 50-60 yards and a red-zone touchdown.

As for Indy's offense, they face a much more difficult task of breaking down the elite Broncos defense. The Broncos upgraded their secondary significantly from last season with the additions of T.J. Ward and Aqib Talib and the difference is very notable. Denver finished off the season ranked 9th against the pass, allowing 225.4 passing yards per contest.

Couple that with a top notch rush defense and it could be a long day for Andrew Luck and company. The Broncos finished the season ranked 2nd in rushing yards allowed, surrendering 79.8 per contest. That leaves the Colts with no easy way around it, so they will have to settle with check downs. In order to pull off a great upset, Luck will have to settle for moving the ball slowly, preferably with short throws to RB Dan Herron, WR T.Y. Hilton and his dual TE threats in Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener.

 

Herron could be the difference maker in this one, if he can manage to hold onto the ball. Herron is a solid lead back who can provide a real spark for the Colts passing attack. His major problem has been fumbling, as he coughed it up twice in their win over the Bengals last week. If he can keep the ball in his hands, the Colts have a shot to advance. Expect Herron to see upwards of 15-20 total touches and put up a solid performance, with at least 100 total yards from scrimmage and possibly a touchdown.

The Broncos should walk away the victors, but it won't be easy.

 

Eddie Lacy must pick up the slack for a hobbled Aaron Rodgers

 

It's the Divisional round of the playoffs and what most fans consider the best weekend of football during the NFL season. There are two excellent NFC match-ups in store with the Carolina Panthers traveling to Seattle to take on the Seahawks on Saturday and the Dallas Cowboys traveling to Green Bay to take on the Packers on Sunday.

Saturday's match-up promises to be a defensive affair that has two of the hottest teams in the NFL. The Panthers have now won five straight after a 3-8-1 start and Seattle is on a six game winning streak after starting out 6-4. Both defenses are playing out of their mind but Seattle has won in Carolina each of the last three years and this game will be played in Seattle. 

Sunday's match-up between Green Bay and Dallas promises to be more of a shoot-out with the high-flying Green Bay offense that is undefeated at home taking on the balanced attack of the Dallas Cowboys who are undefeated on the road. The Cowboys will be dealing with some weather conditions they haven't played in all year but Aaron Rodgers won't' be playing at full strength due to a calf injury.

Let's take an in depth look at both games and see which team has the advantage. 

 

Dallas @ Green Bay: Sunday, January 11th @ 1:05 EST

Dallas travels to Green Bay in what most people consider the match-up of the week. Green Bay is undefeated at home and Dallas is undefeated on the road with arguably the best offensive line in football. Green Bay is in a tough spot because Aaron Rodgers will be playing with a partially torn calf muscle. His lack of mobility causes all sorts of headaches for the Green Bay offense and the team may be forced to rely much more on their running game and Eddie Lacy.

Dallas will have to run the ball and run the ball well to win this game. If Dallas is going to win, it's going to be at the expense of DeMarco Murray chewing up the clock and Tony Romo converting some key plays on third down and in the red zone. 

There's also a good chance that the Cowboys offense plays well and puts up points on the scoreboard and still gets blown out at the expense of Aaron Rodgers. The Packers have dismantled several quality opponents at home and there is a good possibility that the Dallas defense that has been overachieving all year won't be up to the task of slowing down the Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Eddie Lacy.

I see the Packers jumping out to a lead early in this game like they've done all season and putting the game in Romo's hands. I also see Romo having a great game but falling just short at the end in large part because of his defense. Romo will get the blame for the loss but it will be more about what Rodgers did and what Dallas's defense didn't do that determines this game.

Carolina @ Seattle: Saturday, January 10th @ 8:15 PM EST

Carolina heads to Seattle as an 11.5 point underdog against the Seahawks on Saturday. That spread looks a little high at first glance but given the fact that Seattle has beaten Carolina in Carolina the last three years it actually sounds about right. Carolina has to travel to one of the toughest places to play in the NfL and teams with losing records during the regular season have been blown out in recent history during the divisional round.

While Carolina's defense has been playing lights out, their offense has not been lighting up the scoreboard and Carolina will need to play a flawless game ti come out on the winning end. Carolina looked impressive against Arizona but they were facing a third-string QB and the Cardinals did not capitalize on the Panthers mistakes. 

If Carolina can't run the ball and turns the ball over, this game will be out of reach by halftime. I expect Carolina to have some success in the run game but to struggle in third and long situations. I see this game being close in the first half with Seattle pulling away in the fourth quarter and winning with some nice runs from Beast Mode and several extended plays by Russell Wilson. Wilson has established himself as a big-game quarterback that can extend plays and make things happen in crunch time. 

Carolina's defense will keep them in the game, but Wilson and the Legion of Boom will prove to be too much for Cam Newton and the Panthers.

 

 

Boom Herron may fumble the Colts straight out of the playoffs

 

Well, my dream came kinda true in this game…Zurlon Tipton got extended time, on-purpose, ahead of Daniel Herron.  

There is some level of satisfaction in knowing that when I scout these players early in a calendar year, and a guy like Zurlon Tipton (11 carries for 40 yards, 1 rec. for 6 yards on 1 target) really pops for us—and is a prospect many scouts/analysts would have never considered to be on the list of fantasy sleeper picks. But we saw him as a top-10 RB in the class (maybe even top-5 when healthy)…it’s a good day to see him start the 2nd-half of a tight playoff game.

It wasn’t Disney-esque. He didn’t run for 200+ yards and become the buzz of the week, but it was a good performance. Dan Herron was having issues with fumbles, and Trent Richardson was active (but sick), and so to start the 2nd-half, there he was—Tipton starting, and taking carries. After another Herron fumble, while the Colts were trying to salt the game away—it was Tipton plowing through the Bengals…running clock, and not fumbling. He didn’t have any breakaway runs, but had some decent carries—enough to show he belongs.

From UDFA, to making the main roster opening-day, to cut the following week, to practice squad, to the Colts relying on him to secure the win in the playoffs. I’m a proud football scout ‘Papa’. I am still hoping for more. I’ve seen him show that he belongs, but he can do more—he is kinda like Benny Cunningham. I hope Tipton has a better 2nd-year than Benny…a.k.a. being the best RB on the team, but mostly defers to a flashy name because ‘draft pick justification’.

If Herron fumbles right away next week—Tipton gets another chance. That’s all I’m watching that game for.

Our Dynasty Stash, featuring an analysis of Zurlong Tipton for 2015, analysis for 2014-15 is now on sale:   Dynasty Stash Package 2014

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 — No A.J. Green, so I had hope–but Mohammed Sanu (3 rec. for 31 yards on 7 targets) did little…locked down by IDP Vontae Davis (4 tackles, 1 PD). Davis held him quiet earlier in the year as well.

 — Refer to your 2014 FFM Fantasy Football draft guides for more info, but Rex Burkhead (1 carry for 23 yards, 3 rec. for 34 yards) really had a nice showing here. Burkhead should be used by an NFL team, not buried. There is no reason why you draft RBs highly in this era to begin with, but especially back-to-back drafts…when you have Burkhead just sitting there.  He is definitely one of the better NFL fantasy sleepers.

For the price, you give me an NFL choice between Gio Bernard (3 carries for 6 yards, 8 rec. for 46 yards) and Burkhead—give me Rex. Gio should be denoted as a total waste of a high draft pick today. Not that he’s a bad player, he’s just as good as a fifty other RBs with decent hands floating around in or out of the NFL.

Burkhead’s outlook for Fantasy Football? Ha! You think some GM (or his own team) will display ‘vision’ on this? If you’re looking the next Brian Leonard for FF, here you go. It’s sad about the ‘box’ some of these young players get painted into.

A new season of “Play The Draft” is coming in January 2015. Look for our FFM contest and prize package to be announced soon. Play The Draft’ website 

  — Coby Fleener came up big with the bright lights on…1 rec. for 18 yards on 2 targets.

In 2014, Fleener scored zero TDs against teams who made the playoffs (8 games, including this one).

Against non-playoff teams this season = 8 TDs (9 games).

Against teams picking in the first five for the NFL Draft (a.k.a. the worst five teams in the NFL), Fleener had six of his 8 TDs (5 games).

However, anything attached to Andrew Luck (31-44 for 376 yards and 1 TD/0 INT, one of the best fantasy football keepers) has FF-value.

 — Terrance Williams 2.0, Donte Moncrief (3 rec. for 54 yards and 1 TD on 3 targets) scored a TD in this game. With all the WR talent in the football universe…I cannot believe how FF-serious we’ll all have to take Moncrief, but we will.

…anything attached to Andrew Luck (31-44 for 376 yards and 1 TD/0 INT) has FF-value.  Is this becoming an NFL trend?

**See the 2015 Dynasty Rookie Draft & Team Builder, with our Moneyball-style scouting reports and rankings. Go to http://advancedsportslogic.com/products/dynasty-rookie-draft?ref=blog **

 — The anti-Andy Dalton (18-35 for 155 yards, 0 TD/0 INT) sentiment has oddly changed in the national media. I was surprised to see so many compliments and excuses (AJG and Gresh out) about his play. I like Dalton, always have, but he’s just not getting any better. He’s a fine/plausible QB in the NFL, but he took a huge step back with Hue Jackson this year…or the big contract did it to his mindset.

I didn’t expect Cincy to win, and I get guys are missing, but Dalton has to be better than what he did in this game. Dalton’s season numbers were really nice, and improving his first three years—and then a giant step back with Hue Jackson this season. For Fantasy/Dynasty purposes, I’ll look at a Dalton bounce back in production when Jackson is gone…with Jackson there, FF-dead money.

R.C. Fischer is an NFL Draft analyst for College Football Metrics.com, and a football projections analyst for Fantasy Football Metrics.com. His group also provides player projections for Advanced Sports Logic’s football software “The Machine.” See “The Machine” here: The Machine via FFM

 

 

J.R. Smith will have to fight for time in Cleveland once LeBron is healthy

 

In recent basketball news, J.R. Smith could be suiting up for the Cleveland this evening after the Cavs acquired Smith and Iman Shumpert in a three-team trade earlier this week. The Knicks picked up 3 non-guaranteed contracts in the deal, acquiring Alex Kirk and Lou Amundson from the Cavaliers, and Lance Thomas from Oklahoma City. (all three players are expected to be waived). 

Smith will be a welcome addition to Cleveland, especially while one of the best NBA players alive, LeBron James, is sidelined.

That being said, Smith is currently having one of his worst seasons scoring just 10.9 points per contest on 40.2% shooting, but his upgrade in supporting cast could help those numbers rise. It will be difficult for Smith to get more than 20 minutes of playing time per game on a healthy Cavs team, fighting for minutes with Shumpert, Mike Miller and others, but could definitely make an impact. Expect Smith to struggle finding his role in the offense at first, but wind up scoring about 12 to 15 points per game in Cleveland.

As for Shumpert, he seems more like a natural fit for the Cavaliers. As long as he can stay healthy, he should come into the starting role as a defensive-minded player, who can aid in limiting opponents significantly. Shumpert is currently recovering from a shoulder injury that has kept him sidelined. As with many of LeBron's past and present teammates, Shumpert will most likely be transformed into a spot-up 3 point shooter, which could limit his value in standard fantasy basketball formats. Due to the style of play the Cavaliers endorse, Shumpert's ceiling as an asset should keep him around 10 points per game, with a couple 3 pointers, and 1-2 steals per contest. He should also make minimal contributions in assists in rebounds, as his value as a teammate will go far beyond his numbers.

Looking at the Oklahoma City Thunder, they added Dion Waiters at little to no cost, and now have another source of scoring to look to when the bench squad takes the court. Waiters will have a similar role on the Thunder as he did in Cleveland, and should continue to see upwards of 20 minutes per game. The 23-year-old guard has already received a vote of confidence from reigning and new teammate MVP Kevin Durant, who stated that the Thunder "are gonna make him feel wanted." Dion's overall production should rise slightly on his new team, but his ability to contribute heavily will be limited by Reggie Jackson's command of the second unit.

Now for the one team who picked up no players of importance, take a look at the Knicks. With Carmelo Anthony dealing with knee issues, New York had been turning to Smith to pick up the scoring slack. Since Smith and a near healthy Iman Shumpert are gone, and Anthony possibly getting shut down for the season, players will have to step up and fill the void. The first candidate for the task is second-year shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. Hardaway has shown his ability to provide a spark off the bench, but will now be thrust into the starting lineup indefinitely, and is most certainly worth an add in standard fantasy NBA formats.

The other man who will have to step up and take command of a weak Knicks team will be Quincy Acy. Acy has shown his versatility as of late, as he is a big man who can shoot the 3 ball, in addition to racking up rebounds and scoring in the paint. The depleted Knicks roster already had him receiving more minutes as of late due to injuries at power forward in Amare Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani, but now he has become even that much more necessary for the Knicks. Expect Acy to take on a bigger role for this young Knicks team, and for his numbers to increase drastically, especially in points in rebounds as he gets more playing time. Shooting 52.6% from the field, and 79.1% from the free-throw line, he can most certainly be worth a look in deeper leagues for now, and could emerge as a solid option down the stretch.

It's also worth mentioning that rookie Cleanthony Early could be a sleeper pick-up as he becomes more well-oriented with the NBA style, and proves that he can do some damage as a scorer.

The sky is the limit for Dallas if Romo can get the win in Green Bay

 

QB Fantasy Football News -

The Cowboys are already 6-point underdogs for Sunday's Ice Bowl 2 in Green Bay, but don't tell Dallas and fantasy QB Tony Romo. Romo, constant focus in our QB news, got knocked down by the Detroit defense for three miserable quarters and responded with the greatest comeback win of his career.

Romo found a way to turn that clutch switch on at the right time and take that playoff monkey off his back. Usually Romo’s critics are criticizing him for not doing enough when they lose or how the Cowboys win in spite of him. Romo won this football game by working his 4th quarter magic is showing us why he finally should be considered an elite quarterback in the NFL.  

For the first time in playoff history, a team that is 8-0 on the road (Dallas) and a team that is 8-0 at home (Green Bay) will square off against each other. Boy is this going to be a battle come Sunday. Romo versus Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs, what more could one ask for? One thing is certain - we do not need a meteorologist to tell us that it is going to be cold in Green Bay, Wisconsin in January. Tony Romo is going to have to be productive in temperatures that will be around 10 degrees.

Both of these two teams tend to rely on their offense outscoring the other offense and not so much on their defenses. The Cowboys offense is definitely capable of outscoring the Packers with the weapons they have in stock. Tony Romo, Demarco Murray and Dez Bryant are having their best years as professionals thus far and are clicking on all cylinders.

People think that the Green Bay Packers are invisible at home and this is where those people are wrong. Since 2012, the Packers have lost 2 of their last 3 playoff loses at Lambeau, and again, the Cowboys are a perfect 8-0 on the road this year which is almost unfathomable. Something else that needs to be noted is the injured left calf of Aaron Rodgers. If Rodgers is seen limping around too much, the Cowboys are going to tee-off on him and expose that vulnerability. With a new and improved Tony Romo and company, the Dallas Cowboys have a great chance of taking down Rodgers at Lambeau come game time.

Stay tuned to the latest QB fantasy news with Fantasy Focus.

The Cardinals defense may not be enough to overcome the team's faltering offense

 

The 7-8-1 Carolina Panthers will be hosting the 11-5 Arizona Cardinals and the red-hot Panthers might be set to advance. The Cardinals have a laundry list of injured players, none more important currently than QB Drew Stanton. The Cardinals are down to their 3rd string quarterback, Ryan Lindley and he's likely to have a bad day against a resurgent Carolina defense.  Various fantasy football implications are in play!

With no strong running game in order due to Andre Ellington's absence (placed on injured reserve before their Week 14 contest), they will have no chance of doing any damage on offense. The only possible benefactor could be Cards wideout Michael Floyd, as he and Lindley have established good rapport, hooking up for 153 yards and 2 touchdowns in last week's loss to the 49ers.

However, for Carolina, expect coach Ron Rivera to allow Cam Newton, NFL fantasy stud, to run wild within the offense. The Arizona defense will probably be on the field most of the game because the Carolina defense is likely to force multiple 3 and outs against the Cardinals. With lead receiver Kelvin Benjamin healthy and prevalent in the offense, he should be seeing 7-10 targets, and put together a solid amount of receptions and receiving yards.

As a solid contrast to Cam Newton and company, running back Jonathan Stewart should also break off into a few long runs and cash in on some goal-line opportunities. Stewart has re-established himself as a powerful halfback with breakaway speed, and his confidence should carry him to another successful performance and a Panthers win.

As for the contest between Dallas and Detroit, the outcome is a little less certain. The high-powered Cowboys offense will prepare to host the stifling Lions defense, in what should be a very entertaining game.

In other NFL player news, Dallas's high-powered offense has succeeded throughout the season due to their three headed monster in QB Tony Romo, RB DeMarco Murray and WR Dez Bryant. Murray broke the franchise record by rushing for 1,845 rushing yards this season, but faces the tough task of the stout Lions rush defense. Detroit finished the season first in allowing 69.3 rushing yards per contest, and will have its hands full against the league's leading rusher in what should be a very tough battle. The Lions killed it against the run, but they were only slightly above average against the pass this season (ranking 13th in surrendering 231.6 passing yards per game), and Romo will exploit them as much as possible. Romo has not only Dez Bryant, but Terrance Williams, Jason Witten and Cole Beasley there to make big plays for him. Expect Bryant to come down with a touchdown, and Jason Witten should get some goal-line looks as well. Murray will struggle but his heavy workload and breakaway ability should lead to a solid performance on his end as well, especially once the Lions begin to overcompensate for Romo's dangerous passing offense.

Looking at the other half of the battle, the Lions offense will face the cupcake Cowboys defense, as they should be able to score some points with their high profile passing attack. QB Matthew Stafford has a pair of 1,000 yard wideouts in Golden Tate and Calvin Johnson, and both of them should be expected to see many passes thrown their way. The Cowboys finished 26th in allowing 251.9 passing yards per game, and Stafford should have fun picking on their lackluster secondary. A 100 yard performance should be in order for Megatron, and Golden Tate will look to do his damage on some short range catches. The Lions rushing attack will be led by starter Joique Bell, but don't expect too much from him. Coach Caldwell will most likely look to exploit the weakness in the weak Cowboys pass defense, limiting Bell's touches and ceiling. Despite Detroit's favorable match up with the Cowboys defense, Dallas should be able to overcome adversity and come out with a win. The Cowboys are simply too strong and too difficult to handle, even with a tough defense led by Ndamokung Suh and company.

 

Not much love exists between the Steelers and Ravens

 

Wild-Card weekend is here and it's win or go home from here on out. There are two excellent AFC math-ups this weekend with the Baltimore Ravens taking on their division rival Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday and The Colts hosting the Bengals on Sunday. Both games will be rematches from earlier this season but many things have changed since those match-ups occurred.

Let's take a look at the key factors in each game and who should come out on top.

Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers, Saturday @ 8:15 PM EST. 

The Ravens and Steelers split the season series with the home team winning big each time. The Steelers won't have the services of All-Pro Running Back Le'Veon Bell, so it will be up to Big Ben and Antonio Brown to carry the Steelers on offense. On the flip-side of the ball, the Ravens boast one of the best Front 7's in the NFL, but they have a decimated secondary that has been their Achillies' Heel all season. Antonio Brown Brown and Big Ben should produce big numbers through the air, but can the Steelers scratch out a win without an effective running game?

The Ravens will have a more balanced attack with a solid running game and a pair of big-play receivers in Steve Smith Sr. and Torey Smith. The additional of Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak has made Baltimore an excellent zone running team with a deadly play-action passing game. The Ravens will be going up against a Steelers team that also has been decimated with injuries and is a shell of themselves compared to the Dick LeBeau defenses of the past.

While both teams have surprisingly been led by their offenses all year, look for a defensive battle and a win for the home team. The Ravens were only 1-6 against teams with winning records this season, while the Steelers were 5-1 against playoff teams (3-0 at home).

 

Cincinnati Bengals @ Indianapolis Colts, Sunday @ 1:15 PM EST

In Week 7, the Colts completely dismantled the Bengals to the tune of 27-0 and completely changed the outlook of the Bengals season. In that game, the Bengals were held to 32 rushing yards and then starting Running Back, Giovanni Bernard, was injured for several weeks. Since Bernard's injury, Rookie Running Back Jeremy Hill has come in and produced big numbers and is dominating touches out of the backfield even with Bernard back in the lineup. Hill was recently voted as the team MVP by his teammates and the Bengals now have one of the best one-two punches out of the backfield. 

In NFL player news, A.J. Green did not play in Week 7 due to a foot injury and Green has all but been ruled out of this weeks match-up as well with a concussion, bad news for playoff fantasy football owners. Ahmad Bradshaw did most of the damage for the Colts out of the backfield in Week 7 and has since been put on season ending I.R. The Colts running game has not been the same since without Bradshaw. What did we learn from this Week 7 match-up? Pretty much nothing. The Colts were a different team back then and the Bengals are a different team now.

This game will come down to turnovers. NFL fantasy stalwart Andrew Luck can sling it with the best of them but threw seven interceptions in two playoff games last year. His counterpart, Andy Dalton, has yet to win a playoff game (0-3) and has struggled in prime-time games throughout is career. Without A.J. Green, I don't think the Bengals will be able to keep up with a Colts team that should be able to play some inspired football in front of their home crowd.

I see this being a close game with the Bengals finding success in the running game and their defense to keep them in the game. Until the Bengals win a playoff with Dalton under Center, you won't see me picking them to win a playoff game on the road. Look for the Colts to come out on top as Luck outplays Dalton in Lucas Oil Stadium.