The playoffs are almost here. Fantasy season’s almost over, and teams are starting to punch their tickets to playoff town. But unless you’re a fantasy football fanatic like me (and a lot of you) watching NFL RedZone from 1-8 each week, or are a diehard fan of one team that plays at 1pm, the one thing you may not know is which games to watch, especially if fantasy season is over for you or you don’t get NFL RedZone or even NFL Sunday Ticket. Even if you are a diehard fan or fantasy football fanatic, there will be extra time to watch another game during Football Sunday. That is the purpose of this article. Today, I will go over five of my favorite match-ups, that mean something in the big picture. I will have detail about each match-up so you know which game is for you. It’s an extended preview beyond my NFL Week 13 Picks for my five favorite games. Who’s ready to dig in?
The Chiefs had an amazing win on Sunday Night over Denver. Now it looks like it’ll be the Chiefs or Raiders winning the AFC West and making the playoffs. But the Falcons will be tough for them to beat out. They have a good QB/RB/WR duo and have proven to be just as good as teams like the Steelers, maybe even the Cowboys on offense. Will the Chiefs take it to the next level in their division, or will the Falcons make sure they can’t, and keep their own division lead.
Falcons: If they win and Carolina loses, then they significantly lower Carolina’s playoff odds
Chiefs: With a win, a Dolphins and Raiders win and Chargers loss, they leave San Diego hanging by a thread and likely out of the division. A Broncos win would also impact this.
The Keys To The Game
- The Chiefs need to find people to throw to. Especially with a strong Atlanta pass rush, KC cannot just rely on a good running game to grab them a win. If Alex Smith can stay out of the pocket and be the mobile QB he usually his, he can throw the ball, but only if he has receivers open
- Alex Smith cannot let the Falcons pass rush get to him. This shouldn’t be a problem for him, but there will be no chances for open receivers if Alex Smith can’t be ready to pass.
- Matt Ryan and his offense has had a really good season. But the Chiefs defense cannot give up big plays, or they could see a lot of points scored on them. I think this game will be low scoring, but if the Chiefs D isn’t at its best, things could get ugly very quickly.
- The Falcons offense can’t be affected by the Chiefs D if they have a chance at winning. Without their scoring offense doing its job, there’s no way to win.
- The Falcons D needs to contain Alex Smith. This will prevent the Chiefs from scoring on them so that scoring enough to win is easier for them.
- The Chiefs do have problems at receiver, but don’t forget about tight end Travis Kelce. The Falcons secondary cannot let him get open in Red Zone situations, and need to have their best players covering him.
What Do The Stats Say? (Analyzing NFL.com stats)
The Chiefs do have good defense, but their defense has some flaws. Marcus Peters has not been able to shadow, or directly cover a receiver, Justin Houston’s absences have been a problem, and at the other corner position, they’ve allowed a 95.4 passer rating. The Falcons also have the #1 scoring offense of the season. But the Chiefs have done well lately on defense, probably because of Justin Houston’s return. Since Week 6, they have been 1st in scoring defense. Matt Ryan leads the league in passer rating though. He also has 3,516 passing yards this year, plus 26 TDs. Julio Jones has an impressive 1140 yards receiving too. All season, despite a bad record, the Falcons have put up impressive stats to prove themselves, and consistently. However, their defense has allowed the most TDs ad 5th most yards when a QB releases quickly. Will Alex Smith do that That could be a statistic difference in this game. Jeremy Maclin being out has not helped Smith, but the Falcons pass defense has allowed 282 yards per game, worst in the NFL. Meanwhile, Marcus Peters has allowed just one TD to 6 top 10 or 20 receivers combined. He covers Julio Jones today, hoping for more of the same. I think that the stats point to the Cheifs. They may have problems on offense, but Atlanta’s pass defense is pathetic, and could give up a win, blow a game.
A Fantasy Spin
Travis Kelce: He definitely has the advantage over a weak Falcons secondary today, He will be hard to cover, and it will shine through in fantasy
Alex Smith: He could see a lot of passing yards today if it will be tougher to run the ball.
Tyreek Hill: Hill is a sneaky sleeper at receiver. He has shocked several teams, and he could shock Atlanta just the same
Mohamed Sanu: Julio Jones will get all the defensive attention, so he could get away with some big time yardage.
Matt Ryan: I wouldn’t go around saying to sit Julio Jones, but Ryan’s fantasy stats will be affected by the Chiefs D, and could be sat if you have another good QB.
Devonta Freeman: More like a bust for this game, the Chiefs won’t let him get away with much in this game.
Spencer Ware: The Falcons rush D is actually decent, and the Chiefs will win, but it won’r be easy. They’ll need to score fast, and Ware is not a guy to do that when you have Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.
Bold Prediction: Julio Jones will score a TD, but will be held to under 90 yards in this game. Matt Ryan will struggle throwing in Marcus Peters’ direction, and I do feel that Peters could intercept him at an inconvenient time for the Atlanta offense.
I know that Green Bay has been slumping lately, but if you haven’t noticed, so is Houston. They still should win their weak division, but on the road, they may lose this game. The Packers have almost as strong a defense as Houston’s without J.J. Watt too. This looks like a pretty evenly matched game, so the home team should win. But will that actually be the case.
Texans: With a loss, the Texans no longer hold possesion of the AFC South alone. The Titans would get a shot. A win and a Jaguars loss eliminates Jacksonville mathematically.
Packers: With a win, they increase their shot at the NFC North. A loss and a Seattle/Giants win would make it nearly impossible to grab a first wild card or first round bye.
The Keys To The Game
- Brock Osweiler must be mobile, and well protected. He is definitely sack prone against Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers and the rest of the Packers pass rush.
- The Texans have to knock the Texans offense out of their momentum. If not, we could see some of the old Packers.
- The Texans offense needs to find new ways to score. They are currently pretty predictable, and that’s not good if the Packers figure it out and guard the few Red Zone threats they have.
- The defense needs to take advantages of the Texans’ struggles. They can probbaly keep the Texans under 20 points at their best.
- The Packers cannot let the Texans come close to knocking the offense out of their momentum. If they do, they could be in some big trouble.
- Aaron Rodgers needs to be careful not to re-aggravate his hamstring, and he needs to have receivers open at all times to he doesn’t take too big of hits.
What Do The Stats Say?
The Texans are leading the AFC South with a -42 point differential. Are they contenders or pretenders? I think contenders, as the Packers did the same in 2013, but this game may be tough for them, as the Packers have improved since then. Since week 7, Rodgers leads the league in completions, passing yards and TDs. The Packers are belwo .500 through 11 games for the first time, but they’ve had a t ough schedule, their stats are trending up, and so can their record. Davante Adams also has 43 receptions since Week 7, leading the NFL. However, their pass defense has allowed a 102.5 passer rating, lower than usual. I think this is a slump they can break out of at home, not B.J. Raji’s absence. Besides, Brock Osweiler’s passer rating is 72.2, worst in the NFL, and is also in last in yards per attempt. Lamar Miller has been gppd at least, but will he shine through in a tough match-up against a rebound hungry Packers D. The Texans defense isn’t much better anyways, allowing 20+ points in 7 of 8 games with no J.J. Watt. at least the Texans’ pass defense is still good, but with a good Packers receiving game and QB, the stats point more towards the Pack in this game.
A Fantasy Spin
DeAndre Hopkins: even if the Texans lose, D-Hop will be a big part in their attempt to bounce back.
Aaron Rodgers: Could get some legitimate yards up, and score some TDs on a Watt-less Texans D.
Packers D/ST: They could easily rebound, taking advantage of a slumping Brock Osweiler
Davante Adams: Him and Jordy Nelson could try and take advantage of a Texans secondary that lacks big name players.
Brock Osweiler: Looking like a bust against a Packers pass rush with Clay Matthews and many other contributors
Lamar Miller: Won’t get as big a workload against the Packers, but could be flexed.
Randall Cobb: Cobb just hasn’t gotten as much reps lately with a great season by Davante Adams and a great return by Jordy Nelson.
The Texans offense will be severely impacted by the Psckers defense/ Lamar Miller will be held under 50 yards, and Clay Matthews will practically reenact his NFL Mobile ad in the game.
These are two AFC teams fighting for playoff spots. The Raiders need the win to keep up with the Chiefs in the division. The Bills need to keep winning if they want a chance. Will the Bills continue to surge and go for a wild card, or will the Raiders continue to dominate and stay tied for the AFC West?
Bills: With a loss and a Pats win, the Bills join the Jets as out of the AFC East. A win and a Denver, Pittsburgh and Miami loss could get them into the playoff picture
Raiders: A win and a San Diego loss would eliminate San Diego from the AFC West, leaving it to Denver, Oakland and KC.
Keys To The Game
- The Bills need to improve their pass defense, and keep Derek Carr under pressure. Carr has developed into a great QB, and he needs to be stopped.
- With Sammy Watkins back, the Bills need to take advantage of his return. They cannot let the Raiders D get in their way of making big, scoring plays
- The defense can’t give up big plays at the same time. That could really cost them.
- The defense has to be on its best. They can’t let Sammy Watkins or LeSean McCoy get to them.
- Derek Carr cannot be under pressure against this Bills D. That would ruin his game.
What Do The Stats Say?
Sammy Watkins came back strong last week. He averaged 26.7 yards per catch on three catches last week. The Raiders however, have allowed the fewest sacks this season. Stats point to a high scoring game, Derek Carr thriving over Buffalo’s D, and the Bills sneaking some big plays on the Raiders D. Oakland has scored 30+ points in six games as well. Derek Carr’s 4th quarter passer rating has gone from 67.5 (2015, last among starters), to 122.5 (2016, best in NFL), so we could even see that 30 point win come from a comeback. The defense is getting better as well, which could make it even tougher for the Bills if they are aiming for scoring a lot. The issue with the Bills is that they don’t pass enough against a tough Raiders pass rush. It will be hard to run the ball. The stats point to Oakland.
A Fantasy Spin
Derek Carr – Expect a big game from Carr as he faces an easy Buffalo defense.
Sammy Watkins – The Bills will need to pass in this game, so his work will increase
Sebastian Janikowski – Lots of scoring is good for kickers, so Seabass is a must-start
Michael Crabtree: Him and Amari Cooper should get a lot of Carr’s passes
Latavius Murray – I don’t think the Raiders will be running the ball much with the Bills right on their tail
Tyrod Taylor – He’s not a reliable QB, and the only reason he’s starting for the Bills is his mobility
Charles Clay – His workload may decrease with Watkins back, Taylor doesn’t even pass to him much anyways
Derek Carr will throw for 3 TDs, and get 350 passing yards, giving him a whopping 34 fantasy points. Carr is a must-start fantasy option, and with a good o-line and good opportunity for passing
This is a very big game for both of these teams. These teams are on the verge of potential playoff contention, and they each need a win to move forward. Will the Steelers win and take back the AFC North, or will the Giants defend their wild card and upset the Steelers?
Giants: A win and an Eagles loss can potentially eliminate the Eagles from the division and maybe even the playoffs.
Steelers: With a win, they take the AFC North lead. A loss leaves the Ravens in irst by themselves.
Keys To The Game
- The Giants defense needs to make sure that the Steelers Big 3 is covered well, or they can get away with big plays.
- The Giants cannot let the Steelers defense get to them. Both these teams have good offenses, but a good defense can affect a team.
- The Steelers need to find new weapons to surprise the Giants and score. They need to outsmart the Giants defense if they can’t outplay them.
- The Steelers D cannot let OBJ go wild. They don’t have a star corner anymore, which is typically needed for that, but they need to find another way to control him.
- Pressuring Eli Manning well would really help the Steelers thrive. It will lower Giants’ scores, and make a Steelers win easier.
What Do The Stats Say?
This should be a high scoring game, but defenses can make it tough. The Giants have the most and fewest allowed sacks since Week 9. The Giants defense has also allowed the fewest points and lowest passer rating since Week 7. Big Ben however has the highest home passer rating this season (123.8). Antonio Brown leads this season in receptions and TDs caught. The Steelers secondary has allowed 263.5 yards per game through the air though. This is a close one through stats, and it’s hard to say, so this pick is really more personal opinion, despite the Steelers -6 point spread.
A Fantasy Spin
Eli Manning: Could be good since he’s under no means sack prone and OBJ could be open for a good portion of the game
Sterling Shepard: All of the Steelers’ weak secondary will be on OBJ, so Shepard and other receivers could get some yards.
Ben Roethlisberger: In this high scoring game, him and Manning should be started in majority of leagues.
Ladarius Green/Jesse James: Could be sneaky sleepers if the Giants secondary pays to much attention to Antonio Brown.
Steelers D/ST: Definitely not a defense to start in a high scoring game when the don’t have much turnover ability.
Rashad Jennings: The Giants will need to pass in this likely offensive shootout. Jennings’ workload along with other running backs’ will be lower.
Chris Boswell: Even in a high scoring game, Boswell’s injury could keep him out, as the Steelers have signed Randy Bullock.
This is actually a good game for fantasy in general.
OBJ will have over 100 reception yards and between 1 and 3 TDs, giving him 1000 recption yards on the season and at least 20 fantasy points today. OBJ should not have a problem getting open against the corners that Pittsburgh has.
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The Panthers aren’t so good this year, but this is a big game for two reasons. First of all, the Seahawks need to prove they’re serious contenders. Second of all, the Panthers can prove they still have a shot with a win? Will the Panthers prove people wrong, or will the Seahawks thrive at home and defend their good hold of the first round bye slot.
Panthers: With a loss, the Panthers come one game away from mathematical elimination.
Seahawks: A win eliminates the Rams from the NFC West, leaving to just Seattle and Arizona (by a thread)
Keys To The Game
- The secondary cannot struggle against an easier receiving game to cover. The Seahawks don’t have a star receiver like other teams the Panthers have played. The Panthers must take advantage of that fact.
- The offense needs to put up points, even against the ever tough Seahawks D. They need to find ways to get open and score, despite a lot of good team players on the Seattle defense.
- Cam Newton’s mobility cannot be stopped by the Seahawks pass rush. He needs to be able to rush for significant yardage and TDs like he typically does.
- The Seahawks need to find a run game. Even against easy pass rushes, the run game has struggled. They need to find the right RB and execute.
- The Seahawks cannot let the Panthers offense get to them. They have to just to the same as always on D.
What Do The Stats Say?