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2018-19 NFL Playoff Contest (Picks, Predictions, and Fantasy Player Discussions)

Date:
January 4, 2019 5:28 PM
January 5, 2019 8:50 AM

We are doing something a little different for this year’s NFL playoffs. The Handicapping Group + 1 (analyst Ross Jacobs) is entering a playoff contest, where the last place finisher for the week cannot move on to next week in the contest.

Six people enter, three will make it to our Super Bowl challenge -- picking the game ATS, fantasy performances, and prop bets to find the last man standing/best predictor.

This wild card round, the contest is to pick each game with a confidence ranking (4 pts for your #1 play winning, 3pts for #2, and so on). You’ll see those picks listed in order by each Handicapper.

We also have an ‘outright upset’ bonus (+2pts) for picking one Vegas underdog to win outright.

We also have a fantasy non-QB/player (PPR) choice from each person in the case of a tie-breaker.

Below are our picks and our informal email chat about our reasons and fantasy thoughts and Super Bowl predictions…and wherever the conversation took us.

We used Vegas lines from Wednesday and make our picks that same day -- and have to live with them. Here’s all the info, chat transcript (forgive any typos, it’s informal emailing), and final regular-season records from our Handicappers in 2018 at the very end, for those wondering if who won the All Picks and Blazing Five contest -- and if I finished the year above .500 (spoiler alert: You know it! 13-6-1 the final four weeks of B5!!)

The Playoff Picks:

SKOL: (1) IND, (2) BAL. (3) PHI, (4) SEA. Indy for the outright upset and Ezekiel Elliott as the top non-QB for fantasy.

RABBITT: (1) LAC, (2) IND, (3) CHI, (4) DAL. Indy for the outright upset, and Ezekiel Elliott as the top non-QB for fantasy.

KATZ: (1) IND, (2) DAL, (3) LAC, (4) CHI. Indy for the outright upset, and Ezekiel Elliott as the top non-QB for fantasy.

SAVAGE: (1) BAL, (2) PHI, (3) HOU, (4) DAL. Seattle for the outright upset, and DeAndre Hopkins as the top non-QB for fantasy.

ROSS: (1) IND, (2) SEA, (3) LAC, (4) CHI. Indy for the outright upset, and T.Y. Hilton as the top non-QB for fantasy.

RC: (1) IND – The Computer says Indy by 7.2 (8.7 spread differential)

(2) CHI -- The Computer says CHI by 13.5 (8.0 spread differential)

(3) BAL -- The Computer says BAL by 9.8 (7.3 spread differential)

(4) SEA -- The Computer says DAL by 0.7 (0.3 spread differential)

Indy for the outright upset and Tarik Cohen as the top non-QB for fantasy

RC: Our group’s picks went:

5-1 for Indy…and most (4) of us with Indy as best bet

3-3 for PHI/CHI…RC, abandoned by Skol, with most CHI confidence

3-3 for LAC/BAL…Ross/BAL and Rabbitt/LAC have as their top picks

3-3 for SEA/DAL…Katz supporting his ‘Boys with unusual confidence

We all love Indy as an upset outright, and Ezekiel Elliott is the fave fantasy play – he dropped 127 yards against Seattle Week 3 (but Chris Carson went for 102 and a TD vs. Dallas that same game).

=======================

RC: Can I first ask…the Bears are the best team in this 8-team cluster, right? If you had to pick one that made it to the Super Bowl from just this 8…it would be Chicago? So, why is everyone running from them or has lower confidence? Has Nick Foles FINALLY made you all believers?

Skol: This may be a total side track to get started (so I’m ok if this gets deleted!) but my Eagles pick is mostly rolling with my personal best case scenario.  I’ve never done a big future bet before so I’m a rookie just trying to minimize mistakes.  I have Bears to win NFC and about 4X as much to gain if they win the SB.  I’m hedging enough to make a small profit if they get knocked out.  My initial thought was to hedge with Eagles ML...but then I decided 40-60 ML to point spread would be best because if I get a close Bears win I would actually make $ and it will help fund the next round of hedging.  If Nagy didn’t make the most foolish mistake ever...I would not be hedging $1 if the Bears were playing the Vikings.  

This is the Eagles preferred role...that means a lot to me...I also have some first round playoff numbers that favor an Eagles cover here.  This feels very chutes and ladders to me...the Bears can get knocked out in a low scoring game because of Trubisky’s inexperience (vs Super Foles experience) and because Parkey has been so shaky.  If they beat the Eagles, I think the Rams are one and done again this year.  I’ll be cheering like crazy for the Bears...an Eagles win would leave me feeling like Nagy betrayed us in week 17.  I also don’t love Fangio interviewing on Monday.  Even if he spends 10% of his time preparing for that (and who could blame him)...I want 100% of his focus.

Rabbitt:  I'm not afraid of Chicago.  The points is a little much, but it really comes down to the fact that I like the chargers roster top to bottom so much more than baltimore's it's not even funny. My brain just can't wrap itself around Baltimore being a playoff team.  Indy has a really under rated roster as well, and I think they go in and knock off Houston.  That makes it so I can't have Chicago any better than 3rd.

Savage: I think the Bears are the best team in the opening weekend, but I'd give all 4 AFC teams an equal or better shot to make the Super Bowl. The bottom line is I cant see Chicago going into New Orleans and winning, and I think it will be a challenge to even get to that game. I was on the over for their win total like the rest of the group, but they've always felt more like a one and done type team than a Super Bowl contender to me - sort of like the Rams last year or the Cowboys in Dak's first season. I refuse to trust Nagy to hold a lead in a playoff game until I see it happen, ditto for Trubisky making a game winning drive. I've been a Foles believer since 2013 and I think you could make the case that the Eagles were the best team in the month of December.

RC: I think the LAC-BAL dynamic is interesting...does it purely come down to NFL teams are so unpracticed and unstudied against a college spread offense that the Ravens might flop their way to the Super Bowl as the unorthodox team that confuses opponents -- if KC/LAC are the two best teams in the AFC...BAL beat LAC and had KC down and lost in OT in recent weeks. The ultimate run game + good defense keeps the ball away from the high-powered offenses enough to win? The Ravens run game was literally unstoppable at several points of their game last week.

Rushing yards for BAL in a game since LJax took over: 267-242-207-194-242-159-296...that's a lot of clock chewed and rest for the defense and taking opposing offense out of rhythm.

Ravens...best run game, fresh offense, 2nd/3rd best/top defense, best money kicker in the league = very dangerous. I think the lack of a passing game will catch them in the end, but they are the one team no one wants to play among the 1st-round teams. They may be more dangerous than the Bears right now.

The Chargers do not impress me at all. Dominated for a half+ by PIT and KC in recent weeks, but somehow stumbled into wins against both. Lost to DEN, should've lost to CIN in the past few weeks. Every time I watch LAC, I wonder how they are winning. Every time I watch the Ravens, who I'm always against, I'm shocked at how dominant they can be. I'm going with the dominating team at home with BAL.

Katz: So many thoughts. On the Bears side of the coin, I actually would like the Eagles more if the line were 3. I was surprised it was high. It seemed like too many points, which typically means it's not enough. I also think the Bears are capable of a run.

As for the Cowboys, that came down to a number of things. First, they already lost to Seattle, which I don't think will happen twice. This game is in Dallas. The defense is far better now than it was back in Week 3. The offensive philosophy is a bit changed as the team is throwing more, particularly on first down. I will always have that fear that the team will come out playing not to lose, but I'm trying to go based more on tangible evidence than Cowboys things.

On the Chargers side of it, same thing with the Chargers having already lost to the Ravens. I know that game was at home and now they're on the road, but we're talking about a rookie QB with questionable passing ability having to win a playoff game against a 14 year veteran. It's the square play, but it's the right one.

Finally, we have the Colts. I believe in Andrew Luck and the Colts secretly very good defense. Simple as that.

Rabbitt: I guess as per usual, I'm the square or common man in this situation.  Baltimore can run the ball, and play defense. That used to be the winning formula right.  When was the last time we saw that go the distance? The Broncos of what now 4 years ago?  I don't see Baltimore as that same sort of defense. Give me Rivers and the Chargers D all day.


RC: The thing that grabs me about the BAL run game, Rabbitt, because I thought the same thing about the passing game era -- was that their numbers running the ball are different/prolific. Stunning, really. And it's not the old smashmouth or protecting themselves from the the bad/Trent Dilfer QB -- this is a team actually playing offense with a lead punch of the mobile QB, on purpose...not the fear he can run, this is them lead-punching with an old, near Wishbone style offense with a running-on-purpose QB -- and it came on late in the season and defenses seem utterly confused to stop it because they haven't seen it before like this -- their used to the air raid, not the 'run raid'. You know me, I'm for the passers...I just wonder/think if this one moment is the perfect storm moment never to happen again where the college running QB/spread hits the NFL and they couldn't figure it out in time...a la 'RPOs' for a moment.

Is there a team in history that ran this type of offense on purpose with a real mobile QB like this?

Rabbitt: Denver.  Tim Tebow.  26 carries in a game I believe.


RC: You would have watched that like none other here...and I'm trying to remember because it was 7+ years ago when he was a thing (that won a lot of games at first because everyone was confused/God loved him). Did they run a real spread with him, or just him taking shotgun and throwing first look or taking off running if he didn't see it? I feel like his era was the offense not really built around him...just him put into a 'normal' offense but him allowed to run from it as he wished.

When he was thrust in as starter Week 6 of his 2011...he won 8 of his first 9 games, then lost 3 in-a-row to end season...then upset PIT in 1st-round and then got popped by Belichick a 2nd-time for that season in the next round.

And the Denver defense was pretty bad then -- 24th in pts allowed and 20th in yards allowed.

Rabbitt: that is true on the defense.

It seemed to me offensively that most games they would try to run a traditional offense until halfway through the third quarter, abandon it, and then try to go more spread concepts, and sometimes even old wing t concepts.  (I saw an NFL team run an honest to god super power... I didnt even know what to think).

I will also say Tebow more limitations as a passer, but I do think the comparison fits.  Jackson is a good not great runner of the football from what I have watched. I really dont see him as this devastating weapon running the football.  They are using him rather effectively as a very good runner of the football.  I dont think he is an rg3 style able to go 70 yards anytime he is in space not is he a human tank like tebow was and cam is where they can get a gutsy 3 or 4 with their body.  I imagine this time around SD has something ready for them, and jackson will be forced to throw in some critical situations.

Savage: I think the more appropriate comparison would be another Harbaugh coached team: the 2012 49ers. LJax has more Kaepernick to his game than Tebow... more of a sprinter than a power runner and much more capable of completing spread-style passes. The Ravens defense isn't quite as good as that 49ers team, but they're miles better than the Broncos D was back then as Rabbit and RC both mentioned.

But let's forget about their style of play, how good their QB and defense are for a second... I think they proved they're a better team than the Chargers when they dominated them in LA a few weeks ago. Now they play in Baltimore at 10 AM LA time. This line should be higher than 2.5 based on that alone. Seeing LJax a second time and having the opportunity to throw new looks at him is a valid point, but is Anthony Lynn really the guy you trust to do that? I don't really see what adjustments the Chargers can make anyway. The strength on defense is their edge rushers and their secondary, they don't have the personnel to stop a good run attack.


Rabbitt: I have a feeling Derwin James will be a spy for the entire game.  I know I would play him down in the box and mirror jackson the entire game.  

Does it change anyone's mind if Hunter Henry plays?

ROSS: Ok so the Ravens are bothering me too. They have the much better offensive line and as everyone has pointed out, they are chewing up yards on the ground and playing good defense. This is a very dangerous team IF opponents don’t over commit to stop the run. That, essentially, is my problem with them. If teams would just stack the box I don’t think Lamar can beat it consistently. I like the comparison to Kaepernick, but Jackson is probably a tougher runner than Kap and not quite as good passing. He’s definitely more dangerous than Tebow. God bless Tim, but he couldn’t throw to save his life. But yeah the Chargers are inconsistent and I’m definitely no fan of their roster, strategy, or schedule (as far as a legit Super Bowl team) but they obviously have done enough right to get here. I actually think the Ravens have more potential for an inspired run, but I just don’t like betting on a one dimensional team, especially a pure run team.

The Colts are just straight up the better team than Houston in my opinion. I’ve been bashing the Texans all year and I’m not stopping now. I think they’re vastly overrated and the Colts underrated. I noticed their O-line was very good even when they were 1-5 which is why I kept predicting the record would improve. It’s shocking how much better they are than last year. I don’t think they are super bowl ready this year, but next year could be great with some better weapons for Luck.

The Bears are the best of this bunch in my opinion, but my confidence is lower because of the line plus I don’t trust Nagy plus St. Nick is magic. I could absolutely see this team going on a tear if Trubisky gets unleashed and we see a dominant run that culminates with the Bears looking like the Seahawks after their Super Bowl win. Everyone forgets that Seahawks team was widely considered huge underdogs to the Broncos but then immediately after they dominated they were massive favorites to repeat the next season. A few games can change our perceptions big time and the Bears have the most potential to do so of anyone in this playoffs.

I’ve been bashing the Cowboys all year, and again I’m not stopping. Do not like their O-line. Honestly they are very similar to Seattle as a team, but Seattle has a very impressive resume to me. Most of their losses are against really tough teams. That’s the tie breaker for me. Dallas hasn’t really beaten anyone other than the one win against the Saints and Seattle has. They both have bad O-lines, good defenses, underrated mobile QBs, weak weapons, and want to run the ball too much. With two teams that similar I’ll take the better record and that’s the Seahawks.


Skol:  I think the Chargers could turn out to be a pretty one dimensional team...if they can’t run the ball they are in trouble IMO.  Maybe they will hit some plays but that screams 1-2 turnovers.  If I had to choose one dimension for a game in Sept, I’ll take passing...in the playoffs give me a team who can run anytime...even in 2019.  As we know the Chargers became a popular SB futures bet but this is not a great spot.  Revenge isn’t automatic.  With Tucker the Ravens can score from 1/2 the field.  They also have the better coach, with playoff experience.  To Rabbitt’s Q - I think Hunter Henry will be limited.  So maybe a little help in the Red Zone but not a major factor.  A 100% healthy H. Henry would be huge.  This would be a very impressive win if Rivers and Co won this game.  

I was trying to research something this afternoon and stumbled upon something else...relevant data IMO.  I went back to 2006 and looked a specific factor for teams in the wild card round.  Teams that had this certain...gene se qua...had an ATS record of 14-4-1.  3-0 last season so I wish I stumbled upon this 360+ days ago.  I’m going to try to dig back a few more years tomorrow but the team that fits this season...E-A-G-L-E-S.  And the line keeps slowly moving the Bears way...just saw -6 (-110) (ML +225)...which makes me so happy I panicked and took +5.5, +205 two days ago.  I thought it would go down once Foles was official...I am pretty consistently poor at predicting line moves...wish I was better.

BTW, I checked to see if the Vikings would have fit and they wouldn’t have.  In fact my numbers have the Bears as the bet over the Vikings.  Damn you Matt Nagy.

Finally, twitter had highlights of the Frank Reich wild card playoff comeback over the Oilers...that was Falcons/Patriots on steroids for those of you not old enough to remember.  I wasn’t old enough to bet but I watched that entire game...down 35-3...won 41-38.  Unreal.

 

RC: Anyone like any not-Ezekiel, not-obvious fantasy plays this week for the playoff-FF?

I like the Bears v. Philly for offense. The Eagles have been getting smoked through the air and ground for the 2nd-half of the season, due to a lot of injuries...with only two exceptions/great defensive numbers or performance...both against devastated (O-Line Washington and McCoy/Josh J). I think the Bears are about to run the Eagles out of the building and that Allen Robinson (who I almost picked for my FF player tiebreaker) could be huge if he's 100% here. I like Trubisky as well as Tarik Cohen.

I think the Bears are more nervous about the Eagles than next week vs. the Rams (having already put them down) -- I think Nagy runs all the cute plays here and Nick Foles is crushed by the Bears-D. You know I love Foles but this is a bad scene coming this week at CHI.

Darren Sproles, Keke Coutee (if active), and Dallas Goedert would be my sleeper plays of the week.

ROSS: Taylor Gabriel could surprise, as could Tyler Lockett. Those would be my top two guesses at surprise huge games.

RC: Does anyone get the feeling we collectively love Indy so much this week that it means they're bound to get smoked by Houston? The Texans have had 5 games with playoff teams...2-3 record with the two wins lucky OT wins vs. IND and DAL...right before those teams took off. To me, the Texans are the biggest frauds here.

Indy is only 2-3 vs. playoff teams as well, but all their losses came early on when their O-Line (and defense some weeks) was all butchered up. Once relatively healthy they went 9-1 to finish the season.

Besides D-Line...is Houston considerably better than Indy at any position on the field? Indy has the better offense and defense, overall, in my book.

I wonder if New England is praying Houston wins and goes to NE next week...or would they rather see Indy get sent to face KC, and they'll take the LAC/BAL winner?

Katz: I get the feeling that the opposite of everything I think could easily happen. I've never been this unsure of a group of games. I legitimately feel like every team in the playoffs could conceivably win the Super Bowl.


ROSS: Indy won’t get smoked, but they’ll find some way to lose to some Watson prayer where Hopkins pushes off to catch the winning TD. Or something like that. You laid it out, it’s the most straightforward analysis I had. Indy is simply better at everything except edge rusher and honestly Watt and Clowney have not really impressed me this year. I felt like they beat up on the bad teams and didn’t do much against the good ones. Plus this Indy o-line is more than capable of holding their own. I think NE would rather face predictable Rivers forcing the ball to Gordon/Allen or one dimensional Lamar over having to face Luck with time to throw.


Rabbitt: I cant help but think Bill wants to play one of the running QBs that aren't that great of throwers.  Despite every football analyst telling you that a running QBs added detention is hard to defend, the true hard thing to defend is an incredibly skilled passer that can run.  I dont think either of Watson or jackson count as a skilled passer that can run ala Wilson or rodgers.

Rabbitt:  as for sleepers I think everything bears is the way to go in fantasy this week.  Eagles resurgence on defense is a fraud at least partially, and there is no reason to "save" wear on Cohen anymore.  

Looking ahead for those of you in the one per team style fantasy playoff leagues my huge sleeper is a james white playoff resurgence  I think a decent portion of him disappearing some down the stretch was to get him ready for his giant playoff role again.  Just a hunch.

ROSS: Yeah I’m on board with the James White resurgence. Pats always seem to go him come playoff time and other teams seem completely unable to stop it for some reason. The Bears need to get Gabriel going. He could be the playoff mvp if they would give him 7 targets and 2-3 carries a game.

Skol: I too have James White in my (one per team) roster.  Hard to find a better Patriot to include.  A sleeper nobody here is going to like is A.Jeffrey.  Foles favorite WR and he can win a jump ball vs Amukamara or Fuller.  Going back to where he player for many years...Eagles can lose and he could still put up a good FF game.

Rabbitt: I went chalk on the eagles this week with ertz on my one per team league. I do like the Jeffery argument on one per team leagues though, Jeffery has outscored Ertz in 3 of the last 4 games. I just assume if the Eagles are to have a chance, it will be with Ertz blowing up.

I assumed most people would be on Sony Michel as the patriots player to own. Maybe I am off and I am chalk on that one as well.

RC: The Bears have allowed 15 TD passes/22 INTs since they became a new team Week 4 vs. TB. 13 games...1.1 TD passes allowed, I'm not loving Foles or Jeffrey or anything else Eagles. Take out the Chase Daniel stretch of 3 games and they've allowed 10 TD passes in the 10 Trubisky starts in there. They squash all comers...Peterman, Goff, Rodgers, Cousins, Stafford, et al. In their last 7 games with Trubisky starting, the defense has allowed 11.9 points per game.

Since the TB outbreak Week 4, the Bears are 10-3...two OT losses, one with Chase Daniel...a 7-point loss to NE that they lead by two scores at one point before yielding a D TD and KR TD...and the loss to NE with Khalil Mack playing hurt/ a non factor.

The Bears have lost 4 games, and were leading in all of them...and had fluke losses in three of them. They've smoked the Rams, Vikings 2x, heating up SF at SF recently...they'd be on a 10-game win streak if not for a Chase Daniel OT loss at NYG 5 games ago..

It feels weird to say it or think it...but the Bears are clearly the best team in the NFL -- the most unstoppable defense and a plausible enough/sometimes really good offense. The question is -- will Matt Nagy coach them to another big lead/2nd-half loss and/or will Trubisky choke because he's still not ready for the big time?

Considering the Bears are a wrecking ball -- I wouldn't play any Eagle, Rams, Saint (the Bears path to the Super Bowl) for the fantasy playoffs if I could help it. The Saints may have to face Dallas-Rams/Bears in their NFL playoff games -- all the hottest defenses.

Savage: The team I watched play the Packers a few weeks ago is not the best team in the NFL. 14-14 early 4th quarter, and Rodgers misses on two straight deep balls that were wide open. The Bears were the better team, but nearly let Green Bay steal the game from them for the 2nd time this year. To me that's a bad sign, given how big that game was for the Bears.

RC: The Chargers should've lost to Cincy a few weeks ago (and PIT and KC, and were struggling with DEN Sunday). The Ravens should've lost to the Browns Sunday -- let them right back into the game and were a Mayfield 5+ yard completed pass/into FG range with a minute left away from not even being in the playoffs. The Rams got humiliated by the Bears then lost to the wounded Eagles down the stretch...struggling with SEA-KC-DET prior to those two losses. The Saints lucked past Tampa-Carolina-Pitt down the stretch, after getting squashed by Dallas. KC blew it against the Chargers and Seattle in the past three weeks...and fought off Oakland and Baltimore prior or they might have had a 4-game losing streak late. Indy should've lost to NYG Week 16. The Pats have lost 3 of their last 7...wins against NYJ 2x and BUF saving them.

What team is without blemish better than the Bears?

The Bears, to me, are the one team that can turn on their defense and stop anyone almost at will. The Ravens are good but cannot do that...they aren't Bears-good. The Rams defense has moments, but are sloppy. The Bears defense, the Ravens spread run attack, Patrick Mahomes unleashed are the scariest/most impressive things I've seen -- and I think the Bears defense trumps them all, of the things I've seen this year -- and Brock Osweiler lucked past them with big stats. Anything can and has happened to all these top teams in a week -- but the Bears are the one team, to me, that has been the closest to domination -- the best defense, by far...and at times a top 3-5 offense to go with. I think the Bears-Ravens-Chiefs are the most dangerous teams in this...not the Saints, Rams, Pats for Foles -- but any of them could win it.

Speaking of that -- who is everyone's Super Bowl prediction/matchup as of today and why?

Savage: Yeah, that's sort of my point. The Bears are in that upper tier of teams that has been dominant at times, but not consistently. If they're the best team in the league, its only because there may not be a truly great team this season. I still think New Orleans is the best team in the league. They really only lost 2 games despite one of the toughest schedules in the league. Their sluggish finish came in a stretch of 3 straight road games, followed by a home game against a good and desperate Steelers team. I think that scheduling quirk is throwing people off the scent a bit. I think they roll through the NFC and win the Super Bowl.

Skol: As of today my NFC pick is the Saints.  If the Bears win this week they will go to LA and have 70% of the crowd.  Then go to NO with a chance to do the Super Bowl shuffle but with the Saints exiting last year’s playoff via the Minneapolis Miracle they have the experience and an entire offseason to stew on that loss. If the Eagles were to upset the Bears this week then the Saints road to the Super Bowl is unobstructed IMO.

In the AFC as of this moment I’ll roll with the Ravens.  Baltimore is a team the historically has come to New England without fear.  I don’t think they sweat the Chiefs so I’ll take the best defense in the conference in a year where the teams at the top seem vulnerable.  

My Super Bowl is New Orleans Over Ravens 30-17

ROSS: There is no one single dominant team this year. Everyone has their flaws and occasional weak games. That said the NFC is loaded between the Saints, Bears, and Rams (in that order for me). The AFC has the Chiefs who are probably 4th best and then a whole mess behind them. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to see anyone come out of the AFC after getting hot. All that said since I feel it’s so wide open this year I’m going with the teams with the path of least resistance. That would be the Saints and Chiefs for me. I think the Bears are the second best team but they have to play one more game than the Saints. I see the argument for the Ravens, but I worry that the offense is too one dimensional and Lamar too inexperienced. Wouldn’t be surprised if they made a Kaepernick 49ers like run to the Super Bowl though.

RC: Savage has a great point on the Saints schedule-based slide at the end. So many teams burst a bubble late...it looked like Chiefs-Rams on a collision course after that MNF game, and they've been fading every since.

I think Matt Nagy will be the reason the Bears don't run the table...he will turn into a Jordan Howard grind it out offense the second he can and they'll let a team hang around too close them and then 'boom' they lose a game they coulda/shoulda won.

I'm going with a team not mentioned much here...Patriots to represent the AFC. If Mahomes-Lamar are the real AFC threats...the smart money is Belichick to figure out a way to take them down.

NFC, I'll go Rams since everyone is giving up on them. The best offense in the NFL...because it's the best coached offense with a very good QB who got his feet wet last playoffs. Arguably, the 2nd-best defense -- the Rams defensive performance in the CHI-LAR game was overshadowed by the Bears. I'll go Rams-Patriots with the Rams winning it all and leaving everyone in shock who wrote them off. It wouldn't surprise me of the Bears, Saints, or Ravens either. The teams I think have little/no shot: Dallas (because of coaching), HOU (probably the worst team in the playoffs), and LAC.

Remember this about LAC for wins or fantasy trying to stop BAL -- Jatavis Brown got hurt last week/gone for the season. They have 4th-string LBs left to try to stop Lamar''s run game. It won't happen. Losing Jatavis is almost taking their best front-seven player away. Bosa creates havoc 2-3-4 pass rushes a game -- Jatavis does it all in the middle every play.

Skol:  RC...Nagy’s challenge, as I see it, is balancing not being too conservative with trusting Trubisky if he is having a shaky game.  (IE, every game except the Jets and Bucs).  That Rams game was cold but Mitch tossed his third INT and they called all running plays the rest of the game.  Mitchell seems to lack awareness of when to take chances and when to just manage the game and let the defense choke the other team out.  My hope is we see a bunch of running from him and Nagy brings the creative kitchen sink.  Remember that awesome formation the Bears ran 4-5 different plays out of in the opener vs the Packers?...three WRs and an O-lineman split out?...where the heck has that been the rest of the year.  I’m so fired up for these games to start!  Good luck guys with Bets and FF!

RC: It's the #1 reason why the Bears will not make it to the end, even though they should -- Nagy needed to get Trubisky ready to carry the team. Trubisky needs more time in the oven because he didn't get the star treatment/all the reps in college...like Goff, Mayfield, Mahomes. Trubisky doesn't believe in himself like Mayfield/Mahomes and that will make the difference under the big spotlight. They need to treat Trubisky like he's everything and push and push and push. Instead they hold back and run cute gadget plays.

The Bears future is Trubisky having the skill set to be the greatest QB we've all ever seen...but I don't think he'll ever get there or it will take years. Nagy, in the end, plays it too safe too much and too cute vs. letting talent be talent. He's playing for now and it's going to cost him domination later -- it worked fine this year, so no sense in him changing now.

Skol: This morning I heard something I thought you guys would find interesting.  Kyle Long missed 8 games and played 8 games...the Bears rushed for 41 more yards per game with him in.  (Returned last week for the J.Howard explosion).

Also, E.Jackson still seems to be a game time..

All Games ATS Through Week 17:

132-115-9 = Skolman

132-115-9 = Savage

132-115-9 = Rabbitt (Rabbitt…I figured you a 6-10 for Week 17)

131-116-9 = Katz

123-124-9 = RC

*20-14-1 YTD when all five Handicappers unanimously agree on an ATS pick.

Blazing Five Records After Week 17:

47-36-2 = Skolman

44-37-3 = Katz

40-33-2= Cowherd (Skips Week 17…chicken)

42-39-4 = RC

42-39-4 = Savage

40-41-2 = Rabbitt

*15-12-0 when 3 or more of our group agrees on a B5 pick.



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About R.C. Fischer

R.C. Fischer is a fantasy football player analyst for Fantasy Football Metrics and College Football Metrics. 

Email rc4metrics@gmail.com

Learn more about RC and the Fantasy Football Metrics system >>