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Frankie Hughes de-commits from Louisville

On Tuesday afternoon, Frankie Hughes and the University of Louisville mutually agreed to part ways.

Hughes, a 6’3” combo guard from Cleveland, had committed to the Cardinals amidst the ongoing Katina Powell scandal, and the current rumors indicate the split and the scandal are completely unrelated. Given the youth of the Cardinals’ backcourt and the high probability of most of those players returning, Hughes’ minutes likely would have been limited as a young college player.

Hughes has exceptional ball handling skills and knock down shooting capability, so it’s hard to imagine Greg Gard and the Badgers not making a serious run at him now that he’s back on the market. Wisconsin was pushing for Hughes earlier this year, as he is a smart, savvy, lights out shooter, fairly consistent with the recent mold of Wisconsin guards.

The biggest difference between Hughes and the typical Badgers recruit comes in his athleticism. At 6’3”, Hughes has the potential to play top tier perimeter defense and attack the rim, something that could be a spark the Badgers on both ends of the court.

Obviously, with the news just breaking this afternoon, no front-runner has been announced as to where Hughes will go, but it’s hard to imagine the Badgers not throwing the house at the Garfield Heights product to bring him to Madison.

Wisconsin has two scholarships available for 2016. Hughes could immediately serve as a true backup point guard along with Jordan Hill to Bronson Koenig. He would add depth to a Wisconsin team that could use some more offense at the guard position. With three guys (Nigel Hayes, Khalil Iverson, and Vitto Brown) and assistant coach Lamont Paris from Ohio, Hughes may feel very comfortable in Wisconsin red.

Check out Hughes’ hoopmixtape here.

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Photo courtesy of the Cardinal Connect.

17 January 2016: Wisconsin Badgers guard Bronson Koenig (24) in action as the Wisconsin Badgers defeat the 4th ranked Michigan State Spartans in a last second thriller (77-76) at the Kohl Center in Madison, WI. (Photo by Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire)

College Basketball Stock Watch: January 24

As we continue to move through the season, one thing remains certain: this season is still wide open. Of course, teams like Oklahoma and North Carolina have made it clear that it’s Final Four or bust for the remainder of the year, but for the majority of the nation, everything is still up in the air. Top 10 teams are dropping three games in a row, number one teams seem to be catching the curse, and no one has definitively settled into the spot just yet. Yet, a few programs find themselves looking up with increased expectations, while other schools have found themselves needing to check their expectations as conference play moves forward.

STOCK UP

Wisconsin

In a season where there’s been little to cling to for Badger Nation, the last week has been the best Wisconsin has felt in a while. In an exhilarating game with Michigan State one week ago, the Badgers’ stars were able to get their footing and change the game. Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig combined for 52 of the team’s 77 points, keeping the game within reach the entire 40 minutes and giving freshman Ethan Happ the opportunity to score the game winning basket with just 12 seconds left. Just a few days later, Wisconsin was on the road against Penn State in a game that easily could have slipped away coming off the high profile win against the Spartans. Led by Happ’s double-double, the Badgers escaped with a 66-60 victory. With the starters performing well, the Badgers have an opportunity to show that this won’t be a short trend when they host No. 25 Indiana on Tuesday.

Click here to look at Wisconsin’s NCAA Tournament résumé.

Texas

It’s always tough to put a team coming off a loss on the upward trend, but when that loss comes against the #3 team in the country in a competitive game, that loss doesn’t seem quite so damaging to the résumé. In the case of Shaka Smart and the Texas Longhorns, their loss to the Kansas Jayhawks doesn’t seem so alarming considering their recent victories against #17 Iowa State and #6 West Virginia. Much like Wisconsin, the Longhorns have battled their way through early season struggles, and now have climbed to a record of 12-7 and have picked up some significant performance from their stars, giving them some crucial leverage in the conference. Texas averages five blocks per game, giving their plethora of attacking scorers ample opportunity to run out in transition and get to the cup. With three players averaging double figures for Texas, their defense will be key as they progress through conference play. Again, their situation parallels the Badgers’, as their conference schedule will more than allow them to earn their way into the NCAA Tournament in March. Texas will need sustained success from their front court if it hopes to continue trending in the right direction.

Louisville

With three losses this season, Louisville hasn’t received the attention that the elite teams in the country have. Those three losses, two coming to top 15 teams, have been by a total of ten points. The Cardinals currently sit at third overall in the KenPom rankings, second overall in the powerful ACC Conference. Despite a recent hiccup against Clemson, a team that has more than proven it’s capable of beating good teams, Louisville has more than passed the test, maneuvering through it’s conference schedule 5-1 overall. Chinanu Onuaku has posted a double-double in five straight games, and freshman Donovan Mitchell has given the Cardinals more than a spark with his exciting play. Damion Lee has been able to consistently give Louisville offensive consistency, something that it’s lacked in recent years. Defensively, the inexperience of the Cards is wearing off and the press is back. When Rick Pitino teams combine stifling defense with consistent offense, they have a tendency to be dangerous in March.

STOCK DOWN

Gonzaga

Last year, Gonzaga entered the NCAA Tournament with a two-loss record, giving them the opportunity to enter the tournament at a very good ranking. That higher seed in the tournament gave them a much easier path to their eventual exit in the Elite Eight. This year, the Zags have already racked up five losses, and we’re not even out of January yet. Despite their slips in their record, Gonzaga has seen stellar performance from their two stars. Kyle Wiltjer has averaged 21.7 points and 7.0 rebounds, while Domantas Sabonis has averaged a double-double, racking up 17.5 points and 11.5 rebounds per game. Fortunately for Gonzaga, they still will have a relatively easy conference schedule, and should still be able to make the tournament easily. The reality for Gonzaga is that if they don’t have a phenomenal regular season performance, they’ll enter the tournament at a relatively low seed, making their path to the Final Four very tough. With superstars like Wiltjer and Sabonis, though, anything can happen in March.

Duke

For the first time since 2007, Duke lost three in a row last week, marking the first time Duke had lost to three unranked opponents in a row since 1969. While they were able to stop the bleeding with a ten-point victory over struggling NC State this week, major flaws were certainly exposed. Scoring has certainly not been the issue for Duke, as they have five players currently average double figure points and a team average of 86 points per game. Losing Amile Jefferson, one of those double figure scorers, to injury has hurt Duke in more ways than one, as his points and veteran leadership have proven to be of incredibly high value to the Blue Devils. Undoubtedly, the high level of talent for Duke will prevail and they will start to string together some wins under Coach K’s guidance, but it has certainly been difficult to ignore the inability to close games for Duke. The return of Amile Jefferson will propel Duke in the right direction, and come tournament time, they’ll be ready.

SMU

I hate to be the one to pour salt in the wound for SMU, but following their loss to unranked Temple today, the season for SMU seems somewhat of a wash. The late timing of their preseason sanctions really prevented any of their players from transferring, meaning that their undefeated season was really all they had to play for. Now, they’ll meander through the remainder of their AAC Conference schedule, with the best possible situation being a regular season AAC title. Of course, Larry Brown’s team will come out and play hard, as there are many players with basketball aspirations after college; but nevertheless, it’s a tough day for Mustang Nation.


Photo: Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire

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College Basketball Stock Watch: January 17

At this points last season, Kentucky was undefeated and looked like they would never lose, Frank Kaminsky and Jahlil Okafor had already made the Wooden Award a two-man race, and Gonzaga appeared good enough to reach the Final Four for the first time in school history (sorry Zag Nation).

This year, the entirety of the season is still in the air. No one seems to be able to latch on to the number one spot, the Wooden Award is still undecided, and there have been surprising teams in each and every conference. Undoubtedly, we could guess the Final Four will look something like Kansas, North Carolina, Michigan State, Maryland, with schools like Oklahoma, Xavier, and Duke still looking like legitimate contenders. In recent weeks, we’ve some schools and players trending the right direction, while others need to find some stability quickly if they’re going to keep March dreams alive.

STOCK UP

Clemson Tigers – When the Tigers dropped a home game to UMass by 17 in November, I assumed the Tigers would be doomed when it came time for ACC. This season’s ACC is looking like the old Big East – if your team doesn’t bring your A game night in and night out, the likelihood is that you’ll find little success. Well, Clemson has brought their A game each night since conference play started, currently boasting a 5-1 record in conference play, with their only loss coming against my National Championship pick, North Carolina. Included in those five conference wins are victories against #16 Louisville, #9 Duke, and #8 Miami where Clemson played as the underdog. Jaron Blossomgame has been opening scouts’ eyes, putting up almost 20 PPG in his last three games, carrying the Tigers. I highly doubt Clemson’s success will continue in this fashion, but they’ll be a tough out come March.

Iowa Hawkeyes – Though they started the week outside the top 15, the Iowa Hawkeyes have been playing like a top five team this week. Wins on the road against Purdue and Michigan State paired with a home victory over the Spartans and Michigan have alerted the nation as to what the Hawkeyes are capable of in a gruesome Big Ten Conference. If Iowa had hung on to the 20 point lead they had on the road against in-state rival Iowa State, perhaps we’d be looking at these games differently. Nevertheless, to knock off the Spartans twice is an accomplishment that will certainly help the Hawkeyes with seeding when March rolls around. The chemistry between Jarrod Uthoff and Mike Gesell gives Iowa confidence, and Peter Jok has become a dynamic scorer for the Hawkeyes.

Louisville’s Chinanu Onuaku – Last year, Onuaku’s game was largely overshadowed by the dominating play of Montrezl Harrell. There weren’t too many low block touches available for him, and his numbers suffered as a result. This season has been a completely different story for the big man. In the last four games, Chinanu has posted 14 points, over 12 rebounds, and nearly 3 blocks per game, recording double doubles in each of those games. With his great play in the low block, strong hands grabbing rebounds, and slick passing, Nanu has done wonders for his draft stock, while also helping Louisville re-emerge as a legitimate contender in this year’s ACC. Onuaku plays much like Andrew Bogut, using his savvy in combination with his physical skills to become the most dominant player on the court. For the season, Chinanu is averaging 10.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. If he can elevate those numbers and continue his hot streak, Louisville is likely to catch fire as ACC play continues.

STOCK DOWN

Kentucky Wildcats – For the first time since 2000, UK lost to Auburn. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, that isn’t the only reason they find themselves on this list. When UK knocked off Duke at the very beginning of the season, they appeared to be on track to have a season with similar success to last year’s team. Then, losses to UCLA, Ohio State, and LSU (all unranked) revealed some of the major blemishes in this year’s Cats. Perhaps the biggest disappointment for Kentucky this season has been freshman sensation Skal Labissiere. Coming into 2015-2016, Labissiere was supposed to assume the role that was vacated by Karl Anthony-Towns last season. Thus far, he has appeared overmatched, averaging only 7.9 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. His block average of 1.6 per game shows that he is not a lost cause, and as we know, the season is still very young. This Kentucky team is eerily similar to the team of two seasons ago that finished the regular season 29-11, but eventually went on to the National Championship game, where they fell just short of a miraculous run with a loss to UConn. The Cats are weak for now, but the long-term reality is that Coach Cal will get this team trending the right direction when it matters, making them as dangerous as any team in the tournament.

California Golden Bears depth – Cal came into this season with three players ranked in the preseason top 100 by CBS and had a lot of optimism as a program. Those three players (Jaylen Brown, Tyrone Wallace, and Ivan Rabb) have all had solid years thus far, and the other two members of the starting five, Jabari Bird and Jordan Matthews, have provided production as well. The problem for California has been finding any production outside of those five guys. The sixth highest scorer for the Bears averages a meager 4 points per game. In a season as long as the college basketball season is, relying on the starting five for the entirety of the points is a strategy that simply cannot work. If Cal wants to be a team capable of a deep March run, the starting five is going to need some serious help. Even with that being said, this is a team no one wants to face in March.

Mississippi State’s Malik Newman – A member of the ESPN 100 before the season started, I had high hopes for Malik Newman. His high school film looks like a cross between Steph Curry and Tracy McGrady, but playing against some formidable competition has drastically slowed him down. Currently boasting a field goal percentage of 41.3%, Newman has been a part of a four game skid for the Bulldogs that has left them at the very bottom of the relatively weak SEC. To this point in the season, Newman has only been able to average 13 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists per game; but if there’s one thing I’m confident in, it’s that he’ll eventually figure out a way to get his buckets. His jumpshot could be suffering from fatigue, adding muscle, or any number of hindrances, but once he controls it and learns how to play at an elite level, watch out.


Photo: Richard Shiro (Associated Press)

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Favorable Fantasy Matchups: Week 7

QB: Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers (vs. Oakland Raiders)

Rivers will never forget his performance last week, passing for over 500 yards at Lambeau Field in the closest game the Packers have had at home in a while. Rivers’ 65 pass attempts demonstrated how much faith the San Diego staff has placed in him as the leader of their offense. His 66% completion rate and 99.7 QBR are a reflection of a quarterback in control of the game, which Rivers certainly appeared to be for the majority of Sunday’s game.

The return of Antonio Gates has been crucial for Rivers and the Chargers offense. Since his return, Gates has amassed 18 catches for 187 yards and two scores in just two games. Having a Hall of Fame caliber tight end back in the lineup has been and will continue to be a huge asset for Rivers. Oakland is giving up an average of 14.4 points to tight ends per game (according to ESPN standard leagues), which spells trouble when Rivers and Gates are playing at the level they are. Rivers only has one three-touchdown game so far this season, but I expect him to have another this week.

RB: Christine Michael, Dallas Cowboys (@ New York Giants)

Alright, I’ll admit it, I’m not original. Just about every fantasy writer has Michael as his or her running back sleeper this week. Can you blame us? The Cowboys are battling injuries and inconsistencies at every offensive position except for offensive line and tight end (more on this later). So, what makes Michael the guy to come in and provide what Dallas has been lacking in the backfield all season?

When the Seahawks drafted Michael, the idea was that he was an exceptional athlete, a true combination of power and finesse, and a guy capable of filling in for Marshawn Lynch. Obviously, that didn’t happen as Lynch helped Seattle reach another Super Bowl, and Michael was waiting for his shot. Dallas RB coach Gary Brown said this week they plan to let Michael loose and “let him rock.”

WR: Willie Snead, New Orleans Saints (@ Indianapolis Colts)

The Colts secondary is beyond depleted. All season, they’ve struggled to slow down opposing passing games. Through six weeks, the Colts rank in the bottom five in defensive efficiency vs. opposing receivers, having already surrendered nine receiving touchdowns to wide receivers this season, allowing challenging WRs to reach double digit fantasy points each game this year.

With no Jimmy Graham and no Kenny Stills, Drew Brees has had to look elsewhere for consistency, and Snead has assumed that role. Snead has recorded at least four catches each game this season since Week 1, and is averaging nearly 17 yards per reception. Given how inefficient the Colts pass defense has been this year, this game has some serious potential to turn into a shootout. If that’s the case, Drew Brees could have a field day.

TE: Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys (@ New York Giants)

With 973 career receptions, Witten is likely to become the second tight end in NFL history with 1,000 career receptions. Year after year, Witten has been one of the most reliable targets in the NFL, no matter who his quarterback has been. Of course, the most consistent of those QBs has been Tony Romo, currently sidelined with a collarbone injury. This week, Witten will have Matt Cassel slinging him passes against a Giants defense ranked fifth worst against opposing tight ends this season.

In the Cowboys’ season opener against the Giants, Witten had eight grabs for 60 yards and two scores. The buzz around Dallas this week has been that Dez Bryant will likely not be back on the field and available. Even if he isn’t 100%, the distraction of having an elite wide receiver back on the sideline for Dallas should open up the middle of the field, an area that Witten has been earning a living for 13 years. 

D/ST: Atlanta Falcons D/ST (@ Tennessee Titans)

An injury to Marcus Mariota means the Titans offense is now in the hands of Zach Mettenberger. Immediately, the offense shrinks. Mariota’s agility and speed adds a dynamic to an offense that Mettenberger simply doesn’t bring to the table.

Regardless of who has been under center for the Titans thus far this season, they’ve struggled. They’re 1-4 and in dire need of a win if they want to keep this season meaningful. Through five games, the Titans have allowed opposing defenses to rack up 12.6 points per game, a number that is worst in the league by over a point.

The Falcons look rejuvenated under head coach Dan Quinn, playing like a completely different team. They’ve already tallied six interceptions as a unit, one for a score. They also have seven sacks and six forced fumbles, numbers that are likely to go up this week. The defense as a unit is giving up just over 23 points per game, but I really don’t see how a Zach Mettenberger offense eclipses that number this week.


Image: Witten

Nov 2, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) rushes against the Washington Redskins in the fourth quarter at TCF Bank Stadium. The Vikings win 29-26. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports ** Usable by BS, CT, DP, FL, HC, MC, OS, HOY, CGT and CCT **

Favorable Fantasy Matchups: Week 6

QB: Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings (vs. Kansas City Chiefs) 

The Kansas City Chiefs are not having the year many expected them to. They’re currently sitting at 1-4, searching for answers. For the defense, the biggest problem is how to slow down opposing quarterbacks. The Chiefs are worst in the NFL in fantasy points per game to opposing QBs, currently allowing 26.4. This week, their matchup is the Vikings, spearheaded by Teddy Bridgewater.

Teddy hasn’t quite made the second year leap the Vikings had hoped he would, but he’s been efficient nonetheless. He’s only thrown two touchdowns in four games this season, but he also only has two interceptions to accompany his 67% completion rate. This should be the week for Bridgewater to break it open against a Chiefs defense that has struggled mightily. Hopefully the bye week the Vikings are coming off will prove valuable.

RB: Charcandrick West, Kansas City Chiefs (@ Minnesota Vikings)

Alright, let’s play a game…if you had heard of Charcandrick West before this season, raise your hand. Ok, now if your hand is up, please put it down because you are lying. A second year player out of Abilene Christian University, West has only registered 12 NFL carries in his career. How could this translate to a successful week for him in a game on the road against a middle-of-the-pack defense in the Vikings?

The Chiefs’ offensive answer for years, especially during their wide receiver touchdown drought, was Jamaal Charles. He ran the football, caught the football, and scored the football more efficiently than anyone else on the Chiefs roster. With him out, the Chiefs are going to have to search for new answers, and that begins this week. West has been taking the majority of first team reps and the Chiefs believe he gives them more offensive versatility than Knile Davis. Look for West to more than double his career yardage (48) this week.

WR: Willie Snead, New Orleans Saints (vs. Atlanta Falcons)

The Falcons Defense has been one of the more surprising units in all of the NFL this season. Yes, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones have been in sync offensively, but the D has kept them afloat and undefeated. This week, they’ll head down to New Orleans to battle the Saints in the SuperDome…never an easy task when Drew Brees is lining up under center.

This year’s Drew Brees is not the one we’ve been accustomed to for the last decade or so, but you still have to respect what he’s capable of on the football field. With Marques Colston out this week, the Falcons are likely to send lockdown cornerback Desmond Trufant with the over the top help of safety William Moore to spy on Brandin Cooks, leaving Snead and the rest of the receiving core to roam the field.

TE: Richard Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (vs. San Diego Chargers)

Aaron Rodgers at home this week can only mean one thing – a terrifying matchup for the opposing defense. Sure, the Pack looked a little disgruntled last week against a pretty stellar Rams Defense, where Rodgers finally threw two interceptions. Despite that, the Packers will be ready to redeem themselves this week after some struggles last week, and Richard Rodgers could be a spark plug.

Earning the respect of A-Rodg is of the utmost importance in this often, as he is the king of making receivers open, even if they’re not. Rodgers is a 6’4″ target that provides the Packers with a tight end red-zone threat, something they haven’t had since the days of Bubba Franks and maybe Jermichael Finley. San Diego is in the bottom third of points allowed to opposing tight ends so far this season, and Rodgers has a chance to bust that wide open. Given that he’s only owned in 47% of Yahoo Leagues, he could be a very valuable pick up.

D/ST: Cincinnati Bengals (@ Buffalo Bills)

The Buffalo Bills have been very solid offensively through five weeks of the season. Under Tyrod Taylor, they’ve found some offensive groove that has allowed them to make some noise in the AFC. There’s one problem this week, and that is Tyrod Taylor’s sprained MCL. Regardless of whether or not he’s going to be ready to play Sunday, the Bengals are currently on an incredibly hot streak, ranking fifth in the league in sacks.

If Taylor is the starter, the offense will continue to run as it has, but his mobility will be limited. If he isn’t the starter, that means the Bills will probably turn to EJ Manuel. Either way, I like the Cincinnati front seven versus whoever lines up under center on Sunday to apply some pressure, get some sacks, and force some bad throws. Cincy has struggled against the run through five weeks, but given that Karlos Williams is coming off an injury and LeSean McCoy is unlikely to play, they should be able to shut down running lanes.

K: Josh Brown, New York Giants (@ Philadelphia Eagles)

Year after year, the NFC East is a division where a Super Bowl contender seems to emerge. At this point in the season, we’re looking at an Eli Manning lead squad that has that knowledge of how to win games. Sure, they dropped their opening two games, but they did so by a combined five points. Since then, they’re 3-0, surging their way into the top spot in the division.

The Eagles have been somewhat the inverse. Yes, they’ve won two games, but they haven’t been able to really get things clicking the way that Chip Kelly may have hoped. They’re giving up an average of nine points per game to opposing kickers, and Brown is one of the more reliable in the league. If the Giants want to win on Monday Night Football on the road, Brown will have to be on point; something he is more than capable of.

Image: Bridgewater

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Favorable Fantasy Matchups: Week 5

QB: Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. Chicago Bears)

The Chicago Bears are struggling this season and were only able to earn their first win last week with a two-point victory at home against the Raiders. Defensively, the Bears have looked disgruntled and lost this season, giving up an average of nearly 33 points per game thus far. Their pass rush suffered a major midseason hit as well as they traded away all-pro defensive end Jared Allen to the Carolina Panthers.

The Chiefs offense, despite not being able to locate wide receivers for touchdowns, has an immense amount of potential with weapons at nearly every skill position. This week, I look for Alex Smith to stand tall in the pocket and dish out dimes to his receiving core against a depleted Bears secondary. If I have Travis Kelce in my tight end spot this week, I’m getting excited for some big time numbers as well.

RB: T.J. Yeldon, Jacksonville Jaguars (@ Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

All of the ingredients in this matchup are pointing towards a big week for T.J. Yeldon. The rookie running back has looked impressive thus far this season, earning the starting job for the Jags. He’s already tallied 70 carries and 10 catches through four games, giving him a lot of chances to make a play with the ball in his hands.

Tampa Bay’s rushing defense has been subpar to say the least this season. They’re giving up 136 yards and a touchdown per game on the ground this far, and it looks as though they haven’t yet figured out a solution. Yeldon has yet to score his first NFL touchdown, and all indications are that this is the week he gets his first.

WR: Eddie Royal, Chicago Bears (@ Kansas City Chiefs)

The Bears’ passing game has yet again been disappointing through ¼ of the season. No Jay Cutler and an injury to Alshon Jeffery has left a lot of fantasy owners stumped and upset. This week, however, Cutler should be back near 100% having had an additional week to prepare. Jeffery may be back from injury this week, but either way, Royal gives Cutler another solid target.

The Chiefs’ pass defense, currently giving up nearly 300 pass yards per game, has been torn up in consecutive weeks by Aaron Rodgers and Andy Dalton. The Chiefs may be in for more trouble if Jay Cutler can come out with a solid performance this week.

TE: Larry Donnell, New York Giants (vs. San Francisco 49ers)

A season ending injury is never a good thing for a football team. For Larry Donnell, an IR stint due to MRSA for teammate Daniel Fells means only one thing – more playing time. Donnell will be the feature tight end for Eli Manning and the Giants in a system where we know Eli is capable of lighting up the scoreboard on any given Sunday.

The 49ers’ defense has not been awful against opposing tight ends this season, giving up only seven points per game. Donnell should be able to raise that average a bit with the majority of tight end reps now going his way. The 49ers haven’t faced an elite level tight end yet this season, and even though Donnell isn’t elite, he has the opportunity to put up big numbers this week against a reeling 49ers team.

K: Chandler Catanzaro, Arizona Cardinals (@ Detroit Lions)

Let’s all admit it – we were surprised to see the Cardinals fall to the Rams last week. Arizona had been absolutely red hot this season, especially offensively, and the Rams were able to slow them down. This week, they face a defense in the Detroit Lions that looked very impressive on Monday Night Football against the Seattle Seahawks, keeping the game close down to the very end.

How does this translate well for kicker Chandler Catanzaro? We know the Cardinals are going to be able to move the football well, but will they be able to finish every drive with six? I don’t believe that will be the case this week, opening up a big window for Catanzaro to rake in some serious fantasy points.

D/ST: Houston Texans (vs. Indianapolis Colts)

To me, whether Andrew Luck plays or not may not proved to be that important for this decision. The Texans’ D, usually seen as one of the tops in the AFC, has underachieved to this juncture in the season. J.J. Watt has still been able to average one sack per game, tallying half of the team’s total. The emergence of Jadeveon Clowney will certainly boost that number as the season goes on.

For me, this matchup is all about the Colts’ offensive line. To say they have looked bad this year would be putting it very nicely. They haven’t given their quarterback, whether it was Luck or Matt Hasselbeck, any time to go through their progressions and make plays. On a short week this week, they will again struggle on Thursday night.


Image: Yeldon

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Favorable Fantasy Matchups: Week 4

QB: Sam Bradford, Philadelphia Eagles (@Washington Redskins)Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 8.25.49 PM

It’s safe to say that the 27-year-old Bradford has been disappointing to start the 2015 campaign for the Eagles. He’s looked a little uncomfortable in Chip Kelly’s high-powered, fast paced offense, leading to his mark of four interceptions and only three touchdowns through three games. Despite the troubling numbers, there is one that is exciting for fantasy owners.

In each of the first two games of the season, Bradford had two picks and only one touchdown. Last week, in a win against the Jets, Bradford had a touchdown, but did not throw an interception. This week, the ‘Skins are without lead cornerback DeAngelo Hall after an injury, and if Bradford can continue to get more and more comfortable, his numbers are bound to go up.

RB: Chris Johnson, Arizona Cardinals (vs. St. Louis Rams)Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 8.26.25 PM

This pick is one I am confident not because of the matchup per say, but more so because the Cardinals are on one of the hottest offensive streaks in the NFL. In the past two weeks, they’ve put up a combined 95 points against two teams in Chicago and at home against the 49ers, both of whom are traditionally defensive powerhouses, even if this season hasn’t been that way for them.

Carson Palmer’s resurgence has this offense playing at an elite level, allowing the Cardinals to be one of the best teams in the NFC ¼ of the way through 2015. Even if Andre Ellington comes back, he will have limited carries. This leaves the opportunity for Johnson to do the majority of the work in the backfield. I don’t know that he’ll be able to mirror his two touchdown performance of last week, but he’ll certainly make an impact in this week’s contest.

WR: James Jones, Green Bay Packers (@ San Francisco 49ers)Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 8.26.04 PM

It’s a great feeling to be able to have a Packer on this list in back-to-back weeks. Let’s be honest, though, the majority of this credit is due to Aaron Rodgers’ MVP performance through three weeks of the season. Right now, it looks as though Rodgers could take the practice squad and turn it into one of the best offenses in football. Pretty terrifying stuff for opposing defenses.

James Jones has been instrumental for the Pack after they lost Jordy Nelson. He has come in and filled in beautifully, allowing the Packers to continue to run their high octane aerial destruction of an offense. Last week, Jones was targeted eight different times against the Chiefs. Of those eight targets, Jones brought in seven catches for 139 yards and a touchdown. The 49ers D has struggled against wide outs so far this year, so I look for Jones to continue his run of success.

TE: Charles Clay, Buffalo Bills (vs. New York Giants) Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 8.25.30 PM

Last week, I put Bills’ QB Tyrod Taylor on this very same list, and he did not disappoint. He put up a very solid 25+ points, depending on your league, helping the Bills score a total of 41 points against a decent Dolphins D. Taylor is on an absolute tear to start off the season, and tight end Charles Clay has been one of his favorite targets in doing so.

Clay is a top 10 tight end in PPR leagues, and has been off to a great start this season as well. He’s already accumulated 150 yards receiving and two touchdowns, just one score shy of his total from all of last season. This week, the Bills square off against the Giants, a defense who has done well to lock down feature wide outs, but has struggled against tight ends. If you’re like me and Gronk is on a bye-week, Clay could be a great substitute this week.

D/ST: Carolina Panthers (@Tampa Bay Buccaneers)Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 8.26.14 PM

We have our first repeat of the season! The Carolina Panthers have certainly been one of the surprises at this point in the season, beginning their 2015 off with a 3-0 start. No, they haven’t played any top tier teams yet, but they certainly have been more than what we expected. The Panthers D has looked stout, giving up 9, 17, and 22 points in the first three games.

Each game has allowed their opponents to score more than the team before them, but giving up only 22 points will usually lead to good things for your football team. No Luke Kuechly last week was probably one of the bigger reasons the Panthers gave up the points they did, but this week Kuechly is likely to be back. The Panthers’ front office also added another stellar pass rusher this week by trading for Jared Allen. The pressure on Jameis Winston should turn into some turnovers for the Panthers D. 

K: Brandon McManus, Denver Broncos (vs. Minnesota VikinScreen Shot 2015-09-03 at 8.26.19 PMgs)

Being the kicker on a Peyton Manning team usually equates to high levels of success. You’re often asked to close out drives either via extra points or field goal attempts. Through three weeks, McManus is averaging 11 1/3 points per game, good for fourth best in the NFL. Playing at home in the high altitude against a mediocre team like the Vikings ought to mean points on the board for McManus and the Broncos.


Image: Kevin Hoffman / USA TODAY Sports

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Favorable Fantasy Matchups – Week 3

QB Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills (@ Miami)Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 8.25.30 PM

I picked the Miami Dolphins D/ST to have a big week against the Jags last week, and they did pretty much the opposite. Blake Bortles looked comfortable in his progressions and had time to make them, not really what I expected from the Dolphins. They weren’t able to apply the pressure needed to disrupt the pocket, causing them to accumulate a whopping ZERO fantasy points last week.

This week, the Dolphins square off against Tyrod Taylor and the Bills. Taylor, despite a relatively high number of turnovers, has looked solid thus far in 2015. He’s completing his passes at above a 75% clip, also dishing out four touchdowns in two games. Between Taylor’s ability to scramble and having LeSean McCoy in the backfield, the field should open up for him, especially if Ndamukong Suh continues to disappoint the way he has so far.

RB James Starks, Green Bay Packers (vs. Kansas City)Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 8.26.04 PM

I think we all need to be comfortable saying that Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the league when he plays at home. He hasn’t thrown an interception in over 500 attempts and is 15-2 in his last 17 starts. The last interception he threw at home was in 2012. So, how do those ridiculous statistics benefit James Starks?

Eddie Lacy went down with an ankle injury on Sunday night against the Seahawks, leaving his short term playing status in question. When Starks came in to fill the void, he did so admirably. He was hitting holes  and was able to cut the ball up field to create some plays against one of the best D’s in the league. If Rodgers can continue to open up the field and shred up the Chiefs, Starks is primed to play a lot this week even if Lacy plays.

WR Travis Benjamin, Cleveland Browns (vs. Oakland)Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 3.32.18 PM

Just as I predicted, Steve Smith, Sr. had a phenomenal last week against none other than the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders pass defense is less than stellar, giving opposing wideouts the chance to open up their games. Smith, Sr. was able to haul in 10 grabs for 150 yards a week ago in Oakland after just two grabs the week prior. The Raiders were able to add to their secondary this week by claiming David Amerson off of waivers, but it’s unlikely Amerson will completely turn things around for the Raiders.

Benjamin is coming off a two touchdown performance against the Titans last week and his confidence couldn’t be higher. Johnny Manziel and Josh McCown now have a legitimate deep ball threat they can look to, allowing Benjamin the opportunity to make some big time plays. There’s no doubt in my mind that Benjamin will be able to keep his hot streak alive against a struggling Raiders’ pass defense.

TE Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings (vs. San Diego)Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 8.26.06 PM

Teddy Bridgewater is starting to look like a legitimate NFL quarterback. When he entered the league, it was obvious he would be able to do it from a mental standpoint, quickly demonstrating his ability to go through reads and progressions to make the right decision. The addition of Adrian Peterson to his repertoire has only helped. Last week, Bridgewater targeted tight ends on 10 of his 18 pass attempts, leaving Rudolph as one of his main choices.

Against the Lions at home last week, Rudolph brought in five grabs and was targeted seven times. Given Bridgewater’s strong intermediate passing game and Rudolph’s high level of efficiency last week, I look for them to continue their connection throughout the season. In both of their first two games, the Chargers have given up a touchdown to opposing tight ends; I look for that streak to continue into Week 3.

D/ST Atlanta Falcons (@ Dallas) Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 8.26.12 PM

I thought I could get away with going with the “anyone against the Jags” strategy for the duration of the season, but unfortunately they discounted that pretty quickly. This week, I’m going with a D that’s only owned in 2% of Yahoo! fantasy leagues: the Atlanta Falcons. Head coach Dan Quinn has completely changed the culture of the Falcons, bringing a tenacity they’d lacked previously.

Quinn’s experience with the Seahawks defense clearly gave him some incredibly valuable tools as a coach as the Falcons have started their season red hot. Given that the Cowboys are without both Dez Bryant and Tony Romo, their struggles offensively are highly likely, even though they have one of the best offensive lines in football. Brandon Weeden has thrown 28 interceptions in his career compared to only 27 touchdowns, and I don’t see that ratio getting flipped in the right direction this week.

K Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis Colts (@ Tennessee)Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 8.26.09 PM

Historically, Adam Vinatieri is one of the best kickers of all time. With well over 2,000 career points, Vinatieri is in an elite category of special teamers in the history of the game. With one more field goal, he’ll move into a tie for third all-time in the NFL’s all time leading scorers list. Last season may have been Vinatieri’s best to date, going 30/31 on field goal tries.

This season hasn’t been so friendly to Vinatieri and the Colts so far. The team is 0-2, Andrew Luck is looking lost, and the secondary is beyond depleted. Despite all of that, I don’t think the hard times will last in Indy. Andrew Luck is too good to let this team continue to slip, and if Luck gets hot, Vinatieri will have a chance to cap off some long drives. Assuming there’s no more Frank Gore fumbles at the goal line, the Colts should get things straightened out this week.


Image and statistics from CBS Sports.

PNI1230 cardsmain : Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) during their 23-30 loss to the San Francisco 49ers Sunday, Dec. 29,, 2013 in Glendale. Photo David Kadlubowski / The Arizona Republic

Favorable Fantasy Matchups – Week 2

QB: Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals (@ Chicago)

Last week, the Chicago Bears allowed Aaron Rodgers to earn 22 fantasy points without Jordy Nelson and with Randall Cobb not playing at 100%. The defense of the Bears is one we’re not accustomed to seeing. They’re youthful, inexperienced, and at times, a bit shaky. When you watched them last week against the Pack, they looked a bit lost during some points of the game, and they allowed James Jones, a guy who had been on the active roster for about a week, to score two touchdowns.

When the Cardinals lineup against the Bears this week, they’ll certainly be feeling confident, coming off a comfortable 12 point win against the New Orleans Saints. Palmer, second among QBs in fantasy points last week, has been exceptional for the Cardinals when he’s been healthy. At 35, the former Heisman winner still puts up dazzling numbers, including his three touchdown, zero interception performance last week. With weapons like John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald and company spreading the field, I predict Palmer to put up similar numbers to last week.

RB: Tevin Coleman, Atlanta Falcons (@ NY Giants)

In my opinion, Tevin Coleman was the best running back in this year’s draft class. How many people in the history of Indiana football have rushed for 2,000 yards? One, and it’s Coleman. His success was of course overshadowed by Melvin Gordon’s ridiculous display last season, but Coleman’s is far more impressive considering Wisconsin churns out offensive lineman like it’s a hobby.

Last week, Coleman was very impressive against the Eagles, rushing for 80 yards. Given the fact that he was able to establish himself in such a strong fashion last week, look for Tevin to be toting the rock a little more this week. Given that the Cowboys racked up 80 rushing yards in an offensive shootout without a feature back, you have to think Coleman will be able to punch one in against a relatively weak Giants rush defense.

WR: Steve Smith, Sr., Baltimore Ravens (@ Oakland)

Last week was a very quiet week for Ravens WR Steve Smith, Sr., as he was only able to haul in two catches for 13 yards. How do 3.3 fantasy points one week turn straight into a great matchup the next? Simply put…

Andy Dalton tore up the Raiders’ pass defense last week, throwing two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Even though Smith, Sr. only brought in two receptions last week, Joe Flacco did target him seven times. Look for that ratio of catches to targets to improve this week for the always-dangerous Smith. It’s hard to rule out a guy with eight seasons of 1,000 receiving yards or more.

TE: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@ New Orleans)

It’s pretty obvious that Jameis Winston was outgunned last week. He looked uncomfortable, irritable, and ill prepared against a Titans team that really struggled last season. Despite that, one thing we know about rookie QBs is that they tend to improve week-to-week. Given that Seferian-Jenkins is a 6’6” target, you have to think he can only help Jameis do just that.

Last week, Seferian-Jenkins caught both of Winston’s touchdown strikes, causing him to be one of the talks of the league last week. The Saints weren’t able to generate much of a pass rush against the Cardinals (part of the reason Carson Palmer found his way on to this list), and if that’s the case again this week, Winston will be able to find time to find his massive target in his tight end.

D/ST: Miami Dolphins (@ Jacksonville)

If week-by-week you consistently see the defense that’s going against Jacksonville in this spot, don’t be surprised. In their home opener last week, the Jags only put nine points up on the board against the Panthers. They also had the second worst performance of any team in the NFL last week, accumulating only 265 yards of total offense.

This week, the defensive line of the Dolphins is going to have an absolute field day. The pressure up the middle of Ndamukong Suh coupled with the exterior pass rush of Cameron Wake spells major trouble for the Jaguars and Blake Bortles. Given that intense pressure he’ll be facing, I’d be surprised if Bortles didn’t throw at least one pick this week.

K: Matt Prater, Detroit Lions (@ Minnesota)

Prater did not attempt a field goal last week in the Lions’ loss to the Chargers, but he was 4/4 on extra points. This week is an entirely different animal for Detroit, as they’ll head to Minneapolis to face their division rivals, the Vikings. While last week didn’t provide Prater the opportunity to line up for a field goal, divisional matchups in the NFC North always seem to be a more grind-it-out style of football.

In the last two seasons, Prater has registered an incredibly high level of efficiency, converting on almost 89% of his field goal attempts, missing only one field goal in 2013. I have no doubt that Matt Stafford and company will move the ball against this mediocre Vikings D, giving Prater the opportunity to cap off some drives this week.


Image: Carson Palmer

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Fantasy Matchups: Week 1

The following are players not named Rodgers, Peterson, Bryant, Gronkowski, Seattle D/ST, Gostkowski, etc. that I think will have big weeks based on matchups. The standard league projections are based on ESPN standard scoring.

QB: Ryan Tannehill – Miami Dolphins (@ Washington)Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 8.25.35 PM

If I had to highlight one aspect of the Miami Dolphins where I’d say they drastically improved this offseason, it’s definitely in their receiving core. The additions of Greg Jennings, Kenny Stills, and rookie DeVante Parker at wide receiver, along with the addition of Jordan Cameron at tight end, have all of the fixings for the Dolphins to have an elite level passing game.

This week, Tannehill faces off against a Washington defense that was near the worst statistically against quarterbacks in fantasy football in 2014. That bodes well for Tannehill, coming off of a season in which he threw for over 4,000 yards with 27 touchdowns. This game is an opportunity for Tannehill and the Dolphins to open their season with a bang and silence some doubters, and I fully expect them to do just that.

Standard league projection: 320 passing yards, 3 passing TDs, 1 INT, 1 2-point conversion (24 points)

RB: Ryan Mathews – Philadelphia Eagles (@ Atlanta)Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 8.25.49 PM

Sometimes it can be hard to put your faith in a backup running back, especially when the backup running back in question is playing second fiddle to one of 2014’s MVP candidates. That’s exactly the case here, as Ryan Mathews will be doing the cleanup work for DeMarco Murray in Philly. Despite being the backup, Mathews is bound to get some touches out of the backfield this season.

One major thing we’ve learned about Chip Kelly’s offensive mindset is that there isn’t another coach who values the logic of “the more the merrier” more than Kelly. The Eagles have become known for their hurry-up offense where the ultimate goal is to keep running plays. Even if Murray is truly the go-to back, Mathews will have plenty of opportunities to rake in some major points. With the over-under for points for this game currently sitting at 55, you’ve got to like the odds that Mathews accounts for a chunk of the contribution.

Standard league projection: 80 rushing yards, 30 receiving yards, 1 rushing TD (17 points)

WR: Stevie Johnson – San Diego Chargers (vs. Detroit)Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 8.26.23 PM

At one point in his career, Stevie Johnson was making a case for himself to be entered into the conversation of the league’s rising stars. Between 2010 and 2012, Johnson hauled in 23 touchdowns, including one season with 10. In the two seasons since combined, he’s only brought in six. The biggest difference for Johnson in those highly successful seasons was that he was on the field. He played in all 16 games for the Bills in those seasons, and has failed to do so every other year in his career.

Given the fact his new quarterback in Philip Rivers and considering that Rivers will be without his favorite target, Antonio Gates, Johnson could be in a position to compensate. If Johnson can keep himself on the field and attract the attention of Phillip Rivers, he’ll be on pace for a sleeper week and season.

Standard league projection: 60 receiving yards, 1 TD (12 points)

TE: Tyler Eifert – Cincinnati Bengals (@ Oakland) Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 8.25.55 PM

The Raiders’ defense – those three words really shouldn’t intimidate you if you’re trying to establish an offensive aerial attack – finished in the bottom third of the league’s defenses against tight ends last season.

Last season, Andy Dalton and A.J. Green demonstrated that they were more than capable of stretching out any defense in the NFL, and that came without the help of Eifert, who spent all of 2014 on Injured Reserve. In 2015, if Dalton and the offense make Eifert’s involvement a priority, it will benefit fantasy owners with any offensive Bengal. Look for Week 1 in Oakland to be an introduction.

Standard league projection: 70 receiving yards, 1 TD (13 points)

D/ST: Carolina Panthers (@ Jacksonville)Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 8.26.14 PM

Let’s play a game – if you can name more than half of the offensive starters for the Jaguars without the internet…no wait…If you can, I don’t want to know. The Jaguars are filled with players on offense that just make you go, “meh…”

The Panthers added Charles “Peanut” Tillman this offseason, a welcome departure from the Bears for Packers fans. With Charles Johnson and Luke Kuechly leading the front seven, sacks are imminent for this defense with the stout coverage the secondary will provide.

Standard league projection: 15 points

K: Mason Crosby – Green Bay Packers (@Chicago)Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 8.26.04 PM

When head coach Mike McCarthy comes out claiming the Packers are going to…for lack of a better synopsis…handle their business in Chicago, you have to think the offense is going to come out super charged. That’s going to leave the door open for Crosby to end some drives with either extra points or some chip shots. Either way, points are points.

I know Packer Nation is terrified of what’s going to happen to the offense with no Jordy Nelson, but if Aaron Rodgers’ tenure as the head of the offense in Green Bay has proven anything, it’s that Rodgers can turn almost any weapons into serious weapons. The return of James Jones will give the Pack a familiar, comfortable target to balance out the loss of Jordy. All of this only benefits the guy who will cap off most drives, Mason Crosby.

Standard league projection: 15 points


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