NFL Strength of Schedule Projections

Evaluating teams’ remaining slates

Football is unpredictable–even at the NFL level–for a lot of reasons. There’s all your cliches: it’s a game of inches, games aren’t played on paper, etc. There are match-up peculiarities, small sample sizes and just plain luck. Yet, sometimes the ‘unpredictability’ is because, especially early in the season, a lot of what we predict is based on projections tied to previous years. Now, every team has at least a quarter of its season played and several teams are 5 games in. So the 2017 season can really start to mean something in and of itself for projecting ahead.

One way to capitalize on this is to look at the schedule ahead for each team. Before the season, most strength of schedule metrics are measured by opponents’ prior year win percentage. That yielded this list: Continue reading “NFL Strength of Schedule Projections”

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Fantasy Football with Jon Butler

Pro Sports Fandom’s fantasy guru give his take on all things fantasy football

Jon Butler of Pro Sports Fandom  drops by to to dive into the Fantasy football season so far. We talk about his favorite league traditions and look into two cool fantasy resources he mentions. Then we dive into waiver/trade talk and we end with some talks on our favorite players this week and a few sleepers we like.

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MLB Playoff Predictions

Two takes on how October will unfold

Nick Yusko and I join forces again to let you know how we see the MLB postseason playing out. We wrote this before both Wildcard games, but the editor (ahem…myself) took a little time getting it off the presses. Here’s what we thing is going to happen. Let us know what you think.

AL Wild Card:
Josh:
My thoughts on Twins have been documented. But, as I said, I’m picking the Yankees

Nick:
Remarkable season for the Twins as they take on a young Yankees squad. The Twins have a very good team but I have a hard time seeing their lineup do much against young fireballer Luis Severino. Yankees bats come alive early at home against Ervin Santana and their dominant bullpen closes out the Twins.
Yankees over Twins

NL Wild Card:
Josh:
I’ve always had a soft spot for the Rockies and have enjoyed the ride their MVP candidates (Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon) have taken fans on, but they don’t have an arm near the caliber of Zach Greinke.
Diamondbacks over Rockies

Nick:
Another surprising matchup here in the NL Wild Card game with the Rockies at the Diamondbacks. The Rockies boasted a potent lineup for the past few years, but often lacked in the pitching department. Quite simply, that’s still a problem. Zack Greinke is better than John Gray and the Diamondbacks lineup itself is nothing to be ashamed of, plus this game isn’t at Coors.
Diamondbacks over Rockies

ALDS:
Josh:
The Indians have been the darling of the second half, but I think they peaked a bit too early. This Yankees team has the lineup to give the Indians’ deep staff trouble and a bullpen to rival any in the league. Cleveland lets this one slip away. All rise.
Yankees over Indians in 4

Nick:
The Indians have been the most dominant team in baseball for the second half of the season. Their remarkable run to end the season netted them home field advantage in the American League. In the postseason, you often see a lot of low scoring pitching duels. No starting rotation has been better than the Indians lately and the Yankees won’t have Severino right off the bat. Indians’ arms dominate this series and they breeze past a young Yankees squad that will be contenders in the coming years.
Indians over Yankees in 3

Josh:
The Red Sox don’t have much besides Chris Sale and the Astros lineup may be the deepest in the playoffs. Altuve, Correa and Springer finally get their postseason moment–aided greatly by the arms of Verlander and Keuchel.
Astros over Red Sox in 4

Nick:
The Astros hit a lull towards the middle of the season. However, they acquired an experienced ace in Justin Verlander and have been playing some of their best baseball as of late. Despite injuries taking some key cogs out of their lineup, the Astros still led the majors in runs scored and batting average. With David Price limited to bullpen duties, the Red Sox do not have anyone in their rotation that scares you outside of Chris Sale. He may take game one, but the Astros are a superior team and win this series.
Astros over Red Sox in 4

NLDS:
Nick:
The Dodgers put together an incredible regular season. Outside of one unexplainable losing stretch, they have been dominant. However, the Diamondbacks have had their number. The D-backs swept a pair of late season series from their division foes. Clayton Kershaw has been the best regular season of this generation, however he has yet to exorcise his postseason demons. He also has not looked all too sharp in his return from the disabled list. The acquisition of JD Martinez continues to pay dividends and an underrated rotation of Ray, Godley, Walker (don’t forget about Greinke!) has me leaning towards the snakes in a hard-fought series.
Diamondbacks over Dodgers in 4

Josh:
The Dodgers have struggled all year with the Diamondbacks, but will break out when it matters. Not having Greinke to match up with Kershaw will cost Arizona and Kenley Jansen will put the clamps on the D-backs in pressure situations. The Dodgers get this one easier than expected.
Dodgers over Diamondbacks in 3

Nick:
The Nationals got a big scare in Max Scherzer’s last start as he exited with a potential hamstring injury. The potential Cy Young winner not being at 100% is a huge blow to the Nationals rotation. On the offensive side, the Nationals lineup is phenomenal, featuring a lineup as fierce as anyone with Murphy, Zimmerman, Rendon, Harper (though he seldom played the last 2 months of the season). Meanwhile, the defending champs enter after a ho-hum season that saw the Cubs get out to a slow start before they turned it on to have the second-best record in the MLB in the second half. The starting staff has some questions, but a key pickup in Jose Quintana could prove huge. On the offensive side, the Cubs boast a lineup that equally has as much depth as the Nationals and one that can wear out starting pitchers. I think the Cubs are being slept on for how well they played in the second half and take care of Dusty Baker (who is notorious for leaving his starting pitchers in too long) and the Nationals.
Cubs over Nationals in 4

Josh:
The Cubs did well to get here, but have not looked right all year. They have gotten better in recent months, but the Nationals have the lineup to hang with Rizzo, Bryant and co. Plus, the Nats have two starters (in Scherzer and Strasburg) better than anything the Cubs will trot out. Unless Scherzer is really hurt, the NAtionals finally get past the NLDS. These Cubs will be back.
Nationals over Cubs in 5

 

ALCS:
Josh:
The Astros will have the edge in the rotation and the deeper lineup. However, if the Yankees can get in front, their bullpen will be hard to crack. Houston will have an emotional city behind them and will ultimately prove to have too much firepower for New York. Houston heads to just its second world series.
Astros over Yankees in 5

Nick:
In what I expect to be a spectacular series between the two best teams in baseball (in my opinion), I simply think the Indians experience and bitterness from last season wins out in the end. While the hitting metrics side slightly with Altuve, Correa, Springer, and co both of these teams have huge offensive firepower. The Indians themselves have Lindor, Ramirez, Encarnacion, and Jay Bruce. The old adage is “good pitching beats good hitting” and I think that holds true here. I like the Indians pitching staff a little more than the Astros plus the home field advantage will be key. I like the series to go the distance, with the Indians winning at home in game seven.
Indians over Astros in 7

NLCS:
Josh:
Dodgers and Nationals will be a familiar series. Kershaw shut the door on the Nationals last year, but won’t be enough this time. The Nationals have been under-the-radar much of the year, but ride their high-powered lineup and get enough from their starters to get past a Dodgers squad that will be left with a lot of questions. Washington will need to avoid a game 7 in LA, but I think they get the job done.
Nationals over Dodgers in 6

Nick:
Based on their regular season matchups, I expect this to be a bit of a higher scoring series than typical postseason baseball. While I think the Diamondbacks come into the playoffs hot, the Cubs have still been better over the entire second half. Additionally, the Cubs already got a bit of taste of a playoff atmosphere with two late season series against the Brewers and Cardinals. I think that experience on top of last year’s run to the World Series makes the difference here. In what ends as a great turnaround season for the Diamondbacks, we get a World Series rematch.
Cubs over Diamondbacks in 5

World Series:

Nick:
I think it is fitting after last season’s World Series classic, it is only fitting we get a rematch. The Indians are back and look better than ever. The Cubs are the young but experienced squad that has played a lot of baseball games the past few years. Throw in the boosts to their lineup and the fully healthy rotation and I think the Indians are better than this year’s Cubs. I think the games will be close and tightly contested, but I like Francona as a game manager more than Maddon. Unfortunately, I also see this series being rather run-of-the-mill in comparison to last year’s, but it feels like justice for the Indians to come back and end their long drought against the team that ended their own the year before at the Indians’ expense.
Indians over Cubs in 5

Josh:
I picked this matchup at the beginning of the season so am sticking with it (hold the applause because I picked it last year too…). I think this matchup features two teams due for October glory, two loaded lineups and impressive pitching. Dusty Baker finally getting to the World Series is another great storyline and the #HoustonStrong would be on full display. Ultimately, The Astros have been the better team all year long and combining that with home field pushes them over the top.
Astros over Nats in 5

This weekend’s football picks

Looking to bounce back after last weekend

The first step is acceptance. Last week was bad. 1-4 in NCAA games, with 3 blowout losses. 2-3 in the NFL and lucky to get the Atlanta victory. It’s going to happen early in the season, but would like to limit the damage. So, this week trying to get back on track. Consulted with more people on these, dug a little deeper on research and re-examined some of my gut feelings on teams. I’m excited for the slate of games this week and think the picks will get better results. Follow or fade, but enjoy the weekend. Best of luck!

 

NCAA:
Minnesota -13 v. Maryland
Third string quarterback on the road against a team I like. Row the boat.

Washington -27 @ Oregon St.
I was down on Washington, but clearly put too much stock in their first half of the year against an improved Rutgers team. Jake Browning and co. have looked strong since then and were effective against a pretty good Colorado defense. Add that to the fact Oregon State is awful and I’m okay laying all the points.

Alabama -27.5 v. Ole Miss
Ole Miss is a program in a deep mess and they have some key injuries to their offensive weapons. They already lost to Cal by double digits and Bama is better than Cal (hot take). Alabama looked as good as ever last week and I think the Tide keep the dominance rolling. It’s a big spread, but Alabama covers another one.

Clemson -7.5 @ Virginia Tech
If anything, I would stay away from this game, because I can’t take the Hokies. Not only because of the Louisville pick a couple of weeks ago, but because the Tigers have looked to good to feel good going against. Tech’s defense is better than Louisville and they can move the ball, but I think Clemson rises to the challenge in Lane Stadium and pulls away.

Cal +14 @ Oregon
I think this is a shootout and Cal will at least get the cover. The Golden Bears hung tough against USC and the Ducks fell to Arizona State, so I struggle to see Oregon blow this one open even in Eugene.

Last Week: 1-4
Season: 8-7-1

NFL:
Ravens+3 v. Steelers
The Ravens are a much better team at home and I think their debacle in London was an anomaly. The Steelers struggle on the road and have looked sluggish in general. These games are always close and I lean Ravens outright so I’ll take the points.

Texans+2 v. Titans
Texans offense looked much better in New England and I think Tennessee benefited from a Seahawks defense worn down by off the field distractions, as they just faded in the second half. The Titans were locked in a close one with Jacksonville until turnovers helped them pull away. If the Texans can hold on to the ball, I like Houston at home

Patriots -9 v. Panthers
This a clash of strength on strength and weakness on weakness. The Pats’ offense and the Panthers defense should be fun to watch, but the other side will be two struggling units. I have faith in Brady to win his match up and I think Belichick figures out how to do enough on the defensive side of the ball. When picks are struggling, seems smart to lean on Brady and Belichick.

Buccaneers -3 vs. Giants
I’m scared of a desperate Giants team that seemed to put together something of an offense late against the Eagles. I’m not scared that Tampa Bay is as bad as they looked last week. The Vikings are a good team and the Bucs were dealing with the travel and emotional roller coaster that has been associated with Irma. The defense is still banged up, but another week should help the staff figure out better fixes. I think the line should be higher so like getting it at -3 and I think the Giants fall to 0-4.

49ers +7 @ Arizona
The 49ers look ready to get in the win column and Arizona has looked lost. The Cardinals looked a little better against Dallas, but I don’t think Palmer is as big advantage over Hoyer as the names make it sound. Shanahan should have San Francisco moving the ball and even if Arians’ squad claws out a win, I like the Niners to cover.

Last Week: 2-3
Season: 4-5-1

The Minnesota Twins are surprising everyone

They have the pieces to keep it up

The Minnesota Twins will cap off a stunning regular season when they clinch the playoffs this week. As many waited for them to fade, they have gone from last year’s league-worst record to a wildcard spot. I have picked against them throughout the wildcard homestretch, but they have stayed comfortably in position as the second wildcard and are destined for Yankee Stadium and the American League Wildcard game. For many, that will be the first time they have seen the Twins play this season.

Baseball’s season is notoriously long. Its a 162-game slog where moments struggle to break through until late in the season and the post-season. It’s hard for any Cinderella Story to really jump out when there are more games than characters in a tweet. This is especially true when the slipper is in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Yet, the Twin Cities have seen a team do what very few have done before. They have gone from 59-103 to a wildcard spot and are only the 13th team to go from 100 losses to a winning record. FiveThrityEight had them with just a 7% chance to make the playoffs before the season and virtually no one saw them coming. That may include the Twins, who were sellers at the trade deadline.

Paul Molitor’s squad is a unique combination of established stars overachieving and a young core coming into its own. Joe Mauer has been around long enough to see the Twins’ last run to the postseason and his uptick in performance has helped spur this team on. His batting average climbed from last year’s .261 to over .300 this season, and his adjusted OPS has climbed from 104 to 116. Brian Dozier is one of the only Twins who was better last year, but a slight decline from his 42 home run season still has him leading the team in dingers, while being second in adjusted OPS. Then there is Ervin Santana. He pitched well last season (he actually had a lower ERA and FIP last year), but maintaining that another season while the team has improved in the lineup and behind him on the mound, has led to an ace-caliber W-L record for him. The Twins’ established players have done enough to allow a young core to lift them to the postseason.

That young core is headlined in the lineup by Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco and Eddie Rosario. All aged 25 or younger, each of these players has a WAR greater than 1 and Buxton leads the team at 5.1. Buxton’s bat has not been as hot as the Twins would like, but the 2012 second overall pick is far and away the team’s best fielder and gives them an asset in center field that few can match. He has also stolen 23 bases in a row without being caught. Meanwhile, Polanco and Rosario are near the top of the team in Offensive WAR and help give the Twins a lineup that can be dangerous 1-9.

On the mound, the youth revolution is led by 23-year old Jose Berrios. He leads the rotation in FIP and averages almost a strikeout per inning. He has been so impressive, there are some calls for Berrios to get the start against the Yankees.That will probably be Santana, but Berrios could be the Twins top pitching weapon if they can get to the ALDS.

Meanwhile, the bullpen is another case of youth and experience combining to elevate the Twins. Veteran closer Brandon Kintzler picked up 28 saves before going to the Nationals in a deadline deal and paving the way for youth to step up in the pen. While 37 year old Matt Belise has gotten the bulk of save opportunities since Kintzler’s departure, a young three-headed monster is emerging. Taylor Rogers, Alan Busenitz and Trevor Hildenberger are maturing when needed most. All three are just 26 and give the Twins different strengths. Rogers is deadly as a lefty specialist and has been called on more than any reliever in Molitor’s pen. Busenitz is emerging as a setup man late in the season with a sub-1.5 ERA. The best of the trio may be Hildenberger who has the team’s best FIP and averages 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings. The Twins should feel good about their relievers as the season wraps up and should feel great about next year’s bullpen.

The Twins have flown under the radar all season because there’s no dramatic explanation for this team’s success. They have just improved up and down the roster from one year to the next and that wide-scale incremental improvement has been just enough to earn a date with the Yankees. The Yankees are the Twins’ polar opposite–nothing they do flys under the radar. A perfect microcosm: the Home Run Derby is remembered for Aaron Judge’s fireworks display, but you know who took second? Miguel Sano of the Twins. In fact, Sano is currently injured, but may be a factor for the Twins postseason hopes if he can get healthy.

This team has the pieces to make a run. The starting pitching is good, the lineup is deep and the bullpen has multiple weapons. They even have the presence of Bartolo Colon. They went 2-4 against New York in the regular season and 6-10 against their likely ALDS opponent–and division rivals–the Cleveland Indians. Few will believe in the Twins, but few have all season. The Twins will wrap up one shocking result this week and all attention will turn to their next opportunity: the October 3rd match-up with Aaron Judge and the Yankees.

I’m picking the Yankees.

Football Weekend Recap: What I thought I knew

Several teams reshaped my expectations

Much of the football weekend was not about football (Some of my early thoughts are on Twitter, but more to come on that in a podcast later this week), but the on-the field entertainment was as high as its been over a Saturday and Sunday as it’s been in a while. Apart from close games, much of the thrill came from teams defying or surpassing our expectations. Just when I think I have a read on the season, I’m reminded how little I know for certain. Let’s look at eight things I thought heading into the weekend and how they held up.

Oklahoma State’s offense can’t be stopped
TCU showed you may not be able to shut the Cowboys down, but you can contain them enough to get a win–even in Stillwater. The Pokes still racked up just under 500 yards, but they were only on the field for 21 minutes and were out-rushed by 140 yards, while averaging just 3.3 yards per rush. The meek effort on the ground (by their standards) combined with 4 turnovers was their undoing. Turn them over and hold their running game down and Oklahoma State is beatable.

Weird things happen in Iowa City
This one proved true. Penn State broke Hawkeye hearts on the last play of the game, but Kinnick Stadium still provided the drama akin to what it has seen in the past.

The SEC East is hapless
This one got complicated. Vanderbilt got spanked by Alabama, Kentucky found a way to lose to a less than impressive Florida squad. Tennessee and South Carolina edged out wins against sub par competition and Missouri was embarrassed by Auburn. However, Georgia dominated Mississippi State and looks like maybe the only SEC team that can challenge for Alabama’s throne. The division as a whole may be in trouble, but Georgia may be enough to flip the script.

It’s hard to come back after a hurricane-induced layoff
Tested across the collegiate and professional ranks, the results were mixed. Florida State looked lost, but NC State is a tough match up and the Seminoles were starting a new quarterback. Miami let Toledo hang around, but pulled away while UCF blitzed Maryland to the tune of an easy 38-10 victory. In the NFL, The Buccaneers and Dolphins looked good in their first game back, but it’s possible the crazy travel schedule and emotional roller coaster took its toll as both teams laid an egg this past Sunday. It will take more games to properly contextualize the hurricane’s layoff, but one can’t help but root for all these teams as they represent embattled areas of the nation.

Thursday games are a dud
My distaste for Thursday games has been documented. Yet, last week’s expected dud between the Rams and 49ers yielded a thrilling 41-39 contest featuring plenty of offense, an onside kick recovery and interested viewers. We’ll see if this was the anomaly it seems to be or the start of a run of entertaining Thursday contests.

Roethlisberger struggles on the road
The loss to the Bears may have more to do with an underrated Chicago defense holding down the Steelers rushing attack, but Big Ben’s road struggles did rear their ugly head.

The Raiders are Super Bowl contenders
Pump the brakes. Maybe Washington is better than expected and this was a West Coast team playing in the East. Still, this was a night game so body clocks shouldn’t enter the equation and Derek Carr had his worst game in a long time–held under 120 yards and tossing two interceptions. This team may not even be the best in its division. It will be fighting for second place next weekend at Mile High.

The Jets won’t win a game
So maybe no one truly expected 0-16, but it seemed shockingly possible. That was until the Jets controlled the game against the Dolphins and looked convincing in a 20-6 win. Time will tell, if they can duplicate the effort or how much a win over the Dolphins means, but a win has got to feel good for Todd Bowles and co.

Double Take: NFL Debates

The Rams, AFC v. NFC, Thursday and London Games, Fantasy Trades

The following is a lightly edited extract from a back and forth I had with Nick Yusko. We like to challenge each others ideas as we figure out what we think. Here, we went in on some NFL topics.

Rams

Coming of a surprisingly entertaining 41-39 victory to move to 2-1…

Josh: Are the Rams a playoff team?

Nick: No I can’t see that happening. The Rams, granted their offense has looked much much better than a year ago, but they’ve beaten the Colts and 49ers. And lost to the Redskins. None of those teams are playoff teams in my mind and none of those teams play much defense either, which I think attributes some to the offense looking better.

Josh: I went back and forth on this team before the season, and eventually settled on the under for their wins. But a couple things have changed my mind. One, while I agree the teams they’ve beaten aren’t juggernauts, they did manhandle the Colts and the 49ers might be an underrated challenge. Plus, their schedule doesn’t get too much tougher as Jaguars, Giants and Saints all look like winnable games. The biggest thing though is how bad the Cardinals look. That really could be 2 wins (certainly 1) I didn’t see coming. Plus, the Seahawks are struggling and the Rams have had their number anyway. I think they are going to be right there for a playoff spot.

Nick: Just remember, this was a team that started 3-1 last year with wins over Seattle, Tampa, and Arizona. Then lost 11 of their last 12 (only beating the Jets) the rest of the season. The offense is better, but they still like to turn the ball over. Gurley has 4 fumbles (lucky to have only lost 1 in 3 games) and Goff threw a bad pick in against the Skins in their only truly big pressure possession. Even worse question marks are on the defense. The Rams rush defense has been absolutely shredded the past 2 weeks by a Redskins team that can’t run the ball and by a 49ers team that hadn’t scored a touchdown yet before last night. The next 2 weeks will be telling of their playoff potential in my mind as they travel to Dallas and host Seattle (2 playoff teams). You mentioned some winnable games but the 2nd half of their schedule looks pretty rough down the stretch with a 6 game stretch of @Minnesota, vs Saints, @Arizona, vs Eagles, @Seattle, @Titans.

Josh: You’re right, they need to stockpile some wins early. The Goff pick is concerning, but y’know what helps? Not having Jeff Fisher–that guy was just out of touch and really held this team back (this is a fun video). I think they get to 7-2 or 6-3 and then grind to 9 or 10 wins. That might be good enough

Nick: Ah, well Jeff Fisher–tied for the most losses in NFL history–certainly wasn’t helping. I think their ceiling is probably an 8-8 team, but even if they somehow eclipsed that with 9 wins… you mentioned 10 which I think is a stretch… I don’t see them winning that division still with the Seahawks and Cardinals. Over the last 5 years the average NFC wild card team has averaged 10.6 wins, including 3 teams that have been left out with 10-6 records. With a number of competitive teams in other divisions – ATL, TB, CAR, DAL, PHI, GB, MIN – I don’t see them eclipsing that number.

Josh: Imma say they go 9-7, second in their division and will need help from two of Carolina, Minnesota and Detroit to get a wildcard. Playoff caliber–may come up short.

Nick: I’m gonna say they go 7-9, still a year away from being a real contender.

AFC vs. NFC

Josh: So you kind of hinted at another thing I want to get into in talking the depth of the NFC. I think the AFC is the stronger conference this season, what’s the NFC’s case?

Nick: Right now if you just look at records, the AFC does seem stronger, especially the AFC West, plus the Patriots and Steelers looming. But honestly how strong is this conference? I’d like to point out I am basing my thoughts on projected growth over the year and then potential in the playoffs. Between the AFC South and East, you have the Patriots and maybe the Titans; I don’t think you are very high on them but someone has to win that dreadful division. The other 6 teams are trash. In the North, the Steelers look legit and the Ravens defense is scary but is anyone actually going to be afraid of Joe Flacco over the course of the year? And in the West, I see the Raiders as legit SB contenders but regular season stud QB Alex Smith (he wins a lot of games somehow) and Trevor Simian doesn’t strike fear into me come playoff time. Overall I’ll cede that the top 3 teams are very very good, but the lack of overall depth and absolute garbage at the bottom – Jets, Bills, Browns, Colts, Jags and even the Bengals and Texans – make me believe that the NFC is stronger.

Josh: To stay with listing negatives: The NFC has maybe one good looking division. The NFC West’s contenders have looked like a mess. The East was supposed to be good, but Dallas just got rolled, Eagles/Redskins have a lot of questions and the Giants look awful. In the North, there may be 3 good teams, but there’s a lot of injuries for Vikings and Packers and I don’t trust the Lions. I like the Buccs and Falcons down south, but am worried about the Panthers. So, I see falcons and Buccs with Packers and Seahawks maybe hanging around. Gonna have to see a lot of progression to believe they can put forward even 4 legit playoff squads.

Nick: I think overall though you have greater depth in the NFC. I’m a believer that the Seahawks will figure out their offensive line and I think Arizona will figure out how to regroup without David Johnson. I think in the East, at least 2 of those 4 teams will be playoff caliber. The Cowboys are still my favorite but I think Wentz could make a 2nd year jump like Mariota and Carr did. And if the Giants figure out their line they still have a very good defense that they rode to an 11-5 record last year. The North has the Packers, who everyone knows and respects, and the Lions have looked pretty solid so far. We’ll have a better idea about them maybe after this week. The Vikings have a solid defense and their offense looks more promising if Bradford can stay healthy. And down South you have the Falcons and Bucs, who are both very good teams, and the Panthers defense seems healthy and ready to dominate again this year. If Newton shakes off the cobwebs and gets fully healthy I think they are a dangerous team like a few years ago. My point being, while the NFC does not have a team that stands out as elite, like I think the top 3 in the AFC, they have better overall depth. Once the 6 teams are set in the AFC playoffs, people will pick the Pats and then a few die hard fans will pick their Steelers or Raiders to reach the Super Bowl. In the NFC playoffs, I think a case could possibly be made for any of the 6 teams that make it have a chance to make a run and reach the Super Bowl.

Josh: A lot of ifs in the NFC. Sounds like we agree the top of the AFC holds up, but I would argue the AFC has depth too. Out West, I think the Chiefs are Super Bowl contenders and Broncos are playoff threats (Chargers would be if they can find the snake venom antidote). Pittsburgh and Baltimore should capitalize on the Bengals and Browns’ woes and use their strengths (Steelers O, Ravens D) to coast to the playoffs. In the East, Miami can be a playoff caliber team and Buffalo and the Jets have not been as terrible as thought. The South is trash, but Watson and Mariota are exciting QBs who might can pull an upset if they make the playoffs. The depth is right there with the NFC and I’d take Chiefs, Raiders, Steelers, Patriots before all but Falcons and maybe Packers Super Bowl wise.

Thursday and London

Josh: So, which is worse, London Games or Thursday games?

Nick: Ahaha that’s actually a pretty hard one in my opinion. I don’t like either, but Thursday’s are worse… barely

Josh: I think both are brutal, London usually gets sub-par teams and Thursday is just too short of a turn around. I like the London idea–but its execution is a bit off

Nick: The only redeeming factor about London is that since both teams are bad the games are usually fairly close. There are exceptions, i.e. the Patriots have been there 2x and slaughtered both opponents. But there’s also last year’s joke, a tie between the Redskins and Bengals. I don’t like the London idea at all.
Thursday nights aren’t fun for anyone. It messes around with the resting period between games and usually are of an inferior quality. The majority of people who tune in are fantasy football fans. No one else gets excited to tune in and watch the Bengals vs Texans, Rams vs 49ers, Jets vs Bills, etc. The only Thursday that is acceptable is Thanksgiving.

Josh: We agree on Thursday–bad all around, Thanksgiving only please. London I get. You want international fans and they give teams the option to take the next week off. So, I get what they’re going for and I think it means a lot across the pond

Nick: I think the NFL wants to eventually move a franchise over there though. And I don’t like the thought of that. If you wanna have a few games a year over there, especially to expand the audience (and in the Jags case actually make more profit from a home game there than in Jacksonville), I guess it’s alright. The bye week afterwards isn’t that much of a reward still. The Ravens requested to have a later bye week because a week 4 bye is very early and means you have to play 13 straight to end the year. The NFL was like “sure no problem guys, we’ll give you a home game against your bitter rivals the Steelers the following week and then have you go to Oakland the week after that.”

Josh: Haha, i guess it worked out better for the Jags…who get the Jets. I’m with you that I can’t see a franchise there with current technology, but it’s good to try and make the game more international. That’s pretty brutal for the Ravens though…

Nick: I read that they are debating using games like that in London or Mexico City (or China for the Rams and 49ers next year) as a punishment for teams that are relocating. It seems the globalization is inevitable but that’s considered a “punishment” because it forces them to give up a true home game as well as the effects on the players body clocks.

Josh: Well…that’s interesting. Shocking to see the NFL with such vindictive management tactics...

Fantasy Trades

Josh: Fantasy football has been a huge reason the game has grown like it has–and is one reason guys like us watch as many games as we can. But, you have some things to say on Fantasy Trades, right?

Nick: I don’t even want to get started on this lol. Some people just are absolutely clueless when it comes to a player’s value. If that’s the case, you should just keep to the waiver wire and your own team. I hear you’ve had some pretty fun offers made to you this past week?

Josh: Yea, i got offered Rex Burkhead for Mike Evans…. so that was cool. I will say, people don’t wanna look stupid when the trade goes through so they are overly cautious. I mean i made what i think was a pretty fair trade: gave Demaryius Thomas, Jordan Howard, Devante parker; got OBJ, Crowell and Duke Johnson Jr.. And you still get questions and you still worry. So everyone wants to dominate trades and thus offer some lame ones.

Nick: Yeah the jury is still out on that one but it seems pretty even on the surface. I also don’t understand why the guy who has scored the 2nd most points so far would be looking to trade. Obviously his team is pretty solid; I would expect that people seek him out for trades and not the other way around. I also hate trades where people basically try to buy a player from you so they offer 2 for 1 or 3 for 2. Cause most leagues, but ours in particular, people carry a full roster so you immediately have to drop one of the guys you’re receiving in the trade or someone else on your roster. Which if they’re on your roster you must feel something about them.
I’m also pretty against trades in general too. Just my style of fantasy,

Josh: Yeah, both of us are more waiver wire centric. So I have enjoyed at least attempting to bring the negotiation dynamic into play. But yeah, it’s tough when your not on the same page or people clearly don’t have valuations correct. In general, with unlimited waivers you are probably better off just looking there. Less hassle and can get similar value. If you limit waivers, trades become more crucial.

Nick: I enjoy the prospect of talking about trades and proposing deals. But then never actually following through on them.

Josh: Classic.