The 2016 Strength of Schedule

The 2016 Strength of Schedule by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator & Doug Bowles

The 2016 NFL Schedule has recently been released, and with it comes every team’s new 2016 Strength of Schedule, which is is based on the win-loss records of their opponents. Football fans everywhere are scanning the calendar to see how “easy or difficult” it will be for their favorite teams in the upcoming season.

More often than not however, good teams have good seasons regardless of their schedules, and bad teams have bad seasons, so it may be unproductive to consider. I also believe that it is a flawed system for determining a “2016 Strength of Schedule”. In 2015, Washington won the NFC East, with Dallas in the basement with a 4-12 record. Was Washington the better team in 2015, or did Dallas have a losing season because QB Tony Romo was injured for most of the season? We know the answer is the latter. So Dallas was given an “easier” schedule ultimately based on an injury, and not necessarily because the NFL is trying it’s best to maintain a competitive balance within the league.

As I noted in February of this year, this report often doesn’t usually end up meaning much for NFL teams or for fantasy football when it’s all in the books at the end of a season.

If the “Strength of Schedule” actually is significant, it doesn’t show from the wins and losses recorded by NFL teams in 2015.

#32 (hardest)…PITTSBURGH………..10-6
#31 (hardest)…CINCINNATI…………12-4
#29 (hardest)…SEATTLE…………….10-6
#28 (hardest)…ARIZONA…………….13-3
#25 (hardest)…KANSAS CITY……….11-5
#23 (hardest)…DENVER………..……12-4
#21 (hardest)….MINNESOTA………..11-5

#10 (easiest)…PHILADELPHIA……….7-9
#9 (easiest)…DALLAS………………….4-8
#8 (easiest)…JACKSONVILLE……….5-11
#7 (easiest)…TENNESSEE………..…..3-13
#5 (easiest)…NEW ORLEANS………..7-9
#2 (easiest)…INDIANAPOLIS…….….8-8
#1 (easiest)…ATLANTA………………..8-8

NFL Playoffs – In 2015, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati had the 1st and 2nd hardest schedule respectively. As you know, these 2 teams went to the post-season.

LOOKING AT 2016-

#32 (hardest)…SAN FRANCISCO
#31 (hardest)…ATLANTA
#30 (hardest)…LA RAMS
#29 (hardest)…NEW ORLEANS
#28 (hardest)…SEATTLE
#27 (hardest)…TAMPA BAY

San Francisco is likely to have a terrible 2016 NFL season, and although their schedule doesn’t help any, they are going to lose because they aren’t very good. ( They will also lose because I believe Chip Kelly was the wrong man to hire as the 49er’s new head coach.) As for the rest of these teams, only Seattle had a winning season in 2015, and everyone of them would prefer an easy “Strength of Schedule” whether there is a debate about it’s significance or not.

#9 (easiest)…CINCINNATI
#8 (easiest)…DETROIT
#7 (easiest)…DALLAS
#5 (easiest)…CHICAGO
#2 (easiest)…NEW YORK GIANTS
#1 (easiest)…GREEN BAY

On the other side of the 2016 Strength of Schedule, Green Bay is likely to have a terrific 2016 NFL season, and although their schedule does help, they are going to win many games because they are a very good team.

FANTASY FOOTBALL – “Strength of Schedule” also doesn’t seem to matter in fantasy football. One would think that if a team has a very difficult schedule, then scoring would be more difficult. Not true! The Arizona Cardinals, with the #28 (hardest) Schedule was tops in the NFL in scoring points ( 489). Seattle (423), and Pittsburgh (423) also had tougher schedules while scoring in the top 10 of NFL teams for points in 2015.

For individual fantasy football players, the 2016 Strength of Schedule isn’t worth the trouble of considering. Examine the following inconsistencies….

The #1 WR for 2015 was PITT WR Antonio Brown- (The hardest) 2015 Strength of Schedule.  

The #2 WR for 2015 was ATL WR Julio Jones- (The easiest) 2015 Strength of Schedule.  

 

3 of the top 7 Running backs for 2015 had the (hardest) of 2015 Strength of Schedules.  

2 of the top 3 Running backs for 2015 had the (easiest) of 2015 Strength of Schedules.  

 

As for Quarterbacks– None of the 4 QBs with the (easiest) of Strength of Schedules for 2015…made it into the top 12 rankings for last season.

 

So, going into this 2016 season, I will ignore the “2016 Strength of Schedule” and I will concentrate on what really matters…the “2016 Strength of Talent”.

1st and 10 with DFF Week 3

1st and 10 with DFF Week 3 by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles

“1st and 10 with DFF” is a weekly segment of fantasy insights and a joint endeavor between the Dynasty Football Factory and Utter-Fantasy Football. We will canvass some of the hot button topics to keep us all informed on the ever-changing NFL landscape and which may carry major fantasy implications.

Michael Goins is the owner of Dynasty Football Factory, which is a website that you must visit daily, or you are missing out on great fantasy football, especially dynasty formatted fantasy football. Follow him on twitter @DynastyFFactory

 

On Monday afternoon, approximately 2:00 PM Central, I will post the latest segment in “1st & 10 with DFF.”  If you enjoy it, let us know. If you have any questions for Michael, really let us know.

Week 3-  March 28st, 2016

Special Guest Writer-Dynasty Football Factory’s Zach Van Kirk. Be sure to follow Zach on Twitter @DFF_Zach

 

Utter-Fantasy #1)  The Kansas City Chiefs had a top 5 defense in 2015, but OLB Justin Houston’s (ACL) season is now “in jeopardy”. Are you buying or selling the KC defense in 2016 with this key player now missing from the upcoming season?

DFF Response) The loss of Justin Houston will be major loss to the team, but not so much to the fantasy world. Houston had a large drop off in production from his near record setting campaign in 2014. Granted, Houston did miss 5 games in 2015 and was likely playing at less than 100%. Even with Houston ailing, the Chiefs sacked the QB 47 times, good for 4th in the league, and finished as the top scoring fantasy defense in 2015. I wouldn’t expect to see the same type of fantasy production from the Chiefs defense in 2016, as team defenses has proven to be fairly volatile, but I would argue that they are a must start in the coming season.

 

Utter-Fantasy #2)  The NFL has now expanding the international games to China in 2018. I don’t believe that NFL players are jumping for joy over this, having to travel all the way across the world for one game. As a fan, I truly don’t think this brings much to the game, do you?

DFF Response) This is one of those moves that the NFL is doing in hope of expanding the brand and increasing revenue. They are doing so with little regard to the players or fans. From a fan standpoint, I could do without games in China. I am a creature of habit when it comes to the regular season schedule and the games in England last year had earlier start times than normal. I love watching as much football as I can but as a fan on the west coast, I had to wake up earlier than I do during the week to check who was active and confirm my lineup. I think the majority of fans and players would be more welcoming of games in Mexico City, like they are doing in 2016.

 

Utter-Fantasy #3)  N.O Sean Payton was the highest paid head coach in the NFL last year, but has had back-to-back losing seasons in 2014 & 2015. Is this guy worth the new five-year contract that he was just given, worth “in excess” of $45 million?

DFF Response) In my opinion, Payton isn’t worth this much money. The entire move seems a bit odd considering the downtrend that the Saints have been in recently. The defense is most to blame for the lack of success in 2015 by allowing the most points per game (29.8) and the second most rushing and passing yards over the season. Rob Ryan took most of the blame for the defense when he departed, so now the focus will shift to 37 year old QB Drew Brees. The Saints offense has still been able to produce even with an aging Brees, but it remains to be seen how Payton will replace Brees. There is also the question of if Payton can be successful without Brees, as the two of them have been connected at the hip since 2006.

 

Utter-Fantasy #4)  The 2016 NFL Draft is in a month. It will begin, like it always does, with Roger Goodell walking on stage and being booed mercilessly….and I love it. Do you think he has any idea how hated he is, or does a $40 million dollar paycheck every year, make all the jeers just fade away?

DFF Response) I would hope Goodell is smart enough to understand how much everyone hates him. Players and fans voice their opinion on Goodell after every controversial decision. At this point, I don’t think he cares. The NFL continues to see success and is only gaining momentum. While the hatred for him grows, it seems increasingly unlikely that we will see him bounced from his job. At this point, the owners seem too content with the revenue stream to put up much of a fight against him. We won’t see Goodell removed from his office without a major scandal.

 

Utter-Fantasy #5)  Coach Rex Ryan reiterated at Tuesday’s NFL Coaches Breakfast that he wants free agent Percy Harvin back with the Bills. Here are Harvin’s stats for the past 3 years…….(2013)-1/17/0…..(2014)-51/361/1…..(2015)-19/218/1. How the heck does this guy keep getting a spot on team rosters???

DFF Response) Harvin will continue to find work because of the stats he put up from 2010 to 2012. Since those three productive years in Minnesota, he has been plagued by injuries and also pegged as an outsider in the locker room. Harvin, as a free agent, also comes at a much lower price compared to the 1st, 3rd, and 7th round picks that the Seahawks sent to Minnesota in early 2013. Although it is highly unlikely that Harvin will find the same form he had in Minnesota, I would say that it is at least worth a gamble. If the Bills bring Harvin back for pennies, any sort of production would come as a warm welcome.

 

Utter-Fantasy #6)  DE Chris Long obviously comes from good NFL pedigree, but he has battled injuries for the past 2 years. He was drafted by the St. Louis Rams 2nd overall in the 2008 NFL Draft, and LA Rams HC Jeff Fisher has stated that Long will ‘be a factor’ for Patriots. Do you agree?

DFF Response) I love the move. While Chris Long has dealt with his fair share of injuries, he came at an incredible bargain. I am confident that Bill Belichick will get every ounce of potential out of the 31 year old defensive end. Long may not end the year as a defensive player of the year candidate but he should be a huge factor in helping the Patriots compete for another championship.

 

Utter-Fantasy #7)  I have always liked the competitive fight in WR Anquan Boldin, and even on a lousy 49er team in 2015, he hauled in 69 receptions for 789 yards and 4 touchdowns. Although he’s 35 years old, I am surprised that he’s still free agent…are you? ( I would love to see him reunite with WR Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona!)

DFF Response) I am fairly confident that Boldin will find a home before preseason. He may be getting older but he has shown much more resiliency than other 35 year old receivers. As an Arizona native, I would love to see Q back here. My family had the good fortune of meeting him several times during his time in the desert and he was always extremely kind and receptive to fans. On top of his on-field production, Boldin’s good nature is likely to woo a GM or Coach during the free agency period. We already know that Q’s first game with a new team will be a good one: AZ Debut- 10/217/2, Baltimore Debut- 7/110, San Francisco Debut- 13/208/1.

 

Utter-Fantasy #8)  I am always relieved in fantasy football drafts when WR Rueban Randle is taken early, so I don’t even have to consider him in later rounds. The Giants did not try to re-sign him, and now that he is Philadelphia, his stock drops even more for me, if that’s possible. Does he have much fantasy value for you in 2016?

DFF Response) As a perpetual Randle owner, I can say that this move doesn’t excite me in the least. I have rostered Randle in the past as a bye week filler but the Philly signing will hurt that stock as well. Everyone expects the Philly offense to be much different than it was under Chip Kelly but that still doesn’t mean that Randle will be anything outside of a desperation flex play. The team already has two stars in the making with WRs Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor, so it’s likely that Randle will take over as the 3rd receiver, competing with Chris Givens and Josh Huff. After Victor Cruz went down, Randle’s biggest advantage in NY was not having a true WR2 to surpass him on the depth chart. Barring a setback or injury to Agholor or Matthews, Randle should lose all fantasy value and retain very little NFL value as well.

 

Utter-Fantasy #9)   RGIII is now in Cleveland, and the Browns have a capable quarterback of sorts. They have wasted 5-1st rounds picks on quarterbacks since 1999, so this signing means that they won’t draft a QB in the 1st round, correct?

DFF Response) I have mixed feelings about RGIII in Cleveland. They have made a lot of positive changes including the hiring of Hue Jackson. All signs point to this being a productive move for the Browns and RGIII, but they are still the Browns. The problem arises if the Browns draft a quarterback with the second overall pick. This would likely create an unnecessary media distraction and ultimately leave the Browns with two starter potential quarterbacks, both with lost confidence.

 

Utter-Fantasy #10)   True or false……Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak is “coo coo” if he believes Mark Sanchez can “run the Denver offense.”

DFF Response) False. Falso. Faux. Falsch. Mark Sanchez is the opposite of a franchise QB. I am still racking my brain on how Sanchez, Rex, and the Jets made it to the AFC championship in back to back years. If I could insert a gif in here to support my argument, it would be the ultra famous Butt Fumble. We may never see something so terrifically entertaining ever again. After a few years of great offseason and draft moves by Elway, this is the biggest head scratcher. Sanchez has all the talent in the world to be a backup QB, but he should never be a starter again. The support that he has received from Kubiak is likely coach talk and the Broncos will end up with Ryan Fitzpatrick or a rookie in the upcoming draft. Don’t expect to see Sanchez on the field in 2016 besides in preseason games.

 

Next week Utter-Fantasy will have 10 new questions for the Dynasty Football Factory

Washington Team Profiles 2016

Washington Team Profile 2016 by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles

If it wasn’t obvious to you that new HC Jay Gruden didn’t like like RG3…then you weren’t paying attention. Also, If you didn’t see that QB Kirk Cousins was the better quarterback in Washington…then you weren’t paying attention either. It was an unpopular move to make by HC Gruden with management and with the fans, but he made Cousins the starter, and they won the division. No one is questioning him now.

2016 Team Outlook – In the past 5 years, every team in the NFC East has won the division at least once. NYG in 2011, PHIL in 2013, DALLAS in 2014 and WASH in 2015. It didn’t take a great record to win the division in 2015. Washington won the NFC East with a 9-7 record. No team has the obvious edge heading into 2016.

2016 Fantasy Football Outlook –

QB- These are the quarterbacks from the 2012 NFL Draft- The jury is still out o QB Nick Foles, who has had some success in the NFL, and only Cleveland wasted their pick.

IND A Luck- Rd 1 #1
WASH R Griffin III- Rd 1 #2
CLEV B Weeden Rd 1 #22
DEN B Osweiler Rd 2 #57
SEA R Wilson Rd 3 #75
PHIL N Foles Rd 3 #88
WASH K Cousins Rd 4 #102

Cousins was the #9 quarterback in 2015, with 4166 passing yards and 29 TD passes. His numbers ranked him higher than QBs Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan, who all were able to play the entire 16 game season in 2015. Robert Griffin III is a free agent, and he is currently talking with the Jets organization. UPDATE: RGIII was traded to Cleveland and signed a 2 year deal with the Browns.

RBs– In most of last year’s fantasy football drafts, Alfred Morris was the 13th overall running back selected. If you were in a 10-12 team fantasy football league, and took Morris, he hurt your fantasy football season. Reliable in previous years, Morris ended 2015 as the #45 RB, with only 763 yards and only 1 touchdown. The 27-year-old free agent averaged a career-worst 3.7 yards per carry and failing to reach 1,000 yards rushing for the time in his career. RB Matt Jones is the assumed heir-apparent to the starting job, but in a few games last year when he was given the start, he failed to capitalize on the opportunity. He is an excellent receiving running back out of the backfield, but may not be a 3-down back. I doubt very much that he ends up with the most carries in Washington, when the 2016 season is over. Washington tendered exclusive rights free agent RB Chris Thompson. UPDATE: Free agent Alfred Morris signed a 2-year deal w/ DAL

WRs–  WR DeSean Jackson is an explosive play-maker when he is on the football field, which isn’t often. In 2015, Jackson only played in 8 games. HC Jay Gruden was clearly frustrated with Jackson’s 8 game season, but Washington doesn’t have a lot of depth in their receiving corps. DeSean will be back in 2016, but it will be his last season, if he doesn’t play. Pierre Garcon is the “Roddy White” in Washington, but still with a job. He was a talented receiver, but he just has too many miles on him. He was drafted by the Colts in 2008, so 2016 will be his 9th year in the NFL. Washington drafted 2 wide receivers in the 2015 NFL Draft, Jamison Crowder in Round 4, and Evan Spencer in Round 6. Neither is projected to do much in 2016.

TEs – In 2014, Jordan Reed was injured and had only 465 yards and 0 TDs. In 2015, Reed was healthier and played 14 games. He went on an offensive tear in the final 5 games of the regular season ( 498 yards and 6 TDs. ) He also had 9-of-17 targets for 120 yards and a touchdown in Washington’s Wild Card Round loss to Green Bay. For the season, Reed was the #2 tight end, just behind Gronk, with 952 receiving yards and 11 TDs. QB Kirk Cousins loves him and so should you in 2016. UPDATE: Free agent Vernon Davis signed a 1-year deal w/ WASH and Logan Paulsen re-signed 1-year.

K– Akers, Novak, Suisham, Cundiff, Gano, Hocker, Forbath, and Hopkins are just a few of the place kicker names associated with Washington. It can be a temporary gig. K Kai Forbath was replaced by Dustin Hopkins in September of 2015, who lost a preseason competition with Saints kicker Zach Hocker. Hopkins only missed 3 field goals last year ( 25 of 28 and 9th best percentage in the NFL), so hopefully he can stick around for awhile in Washington. Hopkins was a sixth-round pick of the Bills in 2013.

DEF– You wouldn’t think that Washington could win the NFC East again in 2016, with another defense that ranked #21, but none of the 4 teams in that division are very good. The Giants were #30, while Dallas and Philadelphia ranked #17 and #19 respectively. If one of these 4 teams can making significant improvements on defense, they’ll likely win the division because of it. Washington was 19th vs the pass, and 22nd vs the run in 2015.

2015 Washington Fantasy Surprises– QB Kirk Cousins was going to be the starter for Washington, but his #9 ranking for 2015 likely even surprised HC Jay Gruden. TE Jordan Reed finally played more than 11 games, since being drafted by Washington in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft. 2015 was only RB Alfred Morris’ 4th season in the NFL, but he looked out of gas early on last year, and he isn’t getting much attention so far in free agency.

2016 Free Agents that Washington Needs to Address– QB Kirk Cousins (Re-signed 1-year deal), RB Alfred Morris, FB Darrel Young, RB Pierre Thomas, QB Colt McCoy, TE Logan Paulsen, ILB Mason Foster, CB Will Blackmon, OLB Junior Galette, NT Kedric Golston, ILB Will Compton (RFA), ILB Keenan Robinson, G/C Josh LeRibeus, NT Terrance Knighton,

2016 NFL Draft– The immediate needs of Washington is on their defense that ranked #21 in 2015. Washington needs inside linebackers and a revamped defensive line that can actually slow down an opposing team’s running attack. Like everyone else, they need help on their O-Line. ( former Brown’s Center Alex Mack would have been a huge acquisition, but he signed with ATL)- Washington still needs a workhorse running back and more talent in their receiving corps.-WASHINGTON’S 2015 DRAFT

Did You Know – Former Redskins Running Back John Riggins went to college at Kansas University where he broke the rushing record of another great Running Back, Gale Sayers.

Team Home Page: www.redskins.com

All team reports can be seen at this link- TEAM REPORTS

Tennessee Titans Team Profile 2016

Tennessee Titans Team Profile 2016 by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles

On November 3, 2015, the Titans relieved Ken Whisenhunt of head coaching duties and announced that Asst HC Mike Mularkey would step in as interim head coach for the remainder of the 2015 season. On January 16, 2016, Tennessee officially named Mularkey as their full-time head coach for the upcoming season.

2016 Team Outlook– Indianapolis had won the the AFC South in 2 consecutive years, prior to 2015. With the Colt’s QB Andrew Luck on the sidelines last season, there was a better chance for Tennessee, Houston or Jacksonville to take the division. Houston ended up winning the AFC South, with a 9-7 record. Tennessee had a new rookie quarterback and ended with a 3-13 record. The Jaguars were 5-11 because they did not have a defense to compete with. If QB Luck is 100% healthy, I like the Colts to rebound, but Houston is making it interesting with their recent player acquisitions.


2016 Fantasy Football Outlook–

QB–  QB Marcus Mariota went #2 overall to the Titans in the 2015 NFL Draft, and started in Week 1. The rookie quarterback wasn’t able to play an entire 16 game season, diagnosed with a sprained right MCL after Week 15. Tennessee’s record dictated shutting the rookie QB down for the remainder of the season. Mariota ended 2015 with 2818 passing yards, 19 passing touchdowns and 10 INTs. In Week 13 vs Jacksonville, Mariota had 9 rushes for 112 yards  and 1 TD. (most of the yards coming on a fun-to-watch 87 touchdown run in the 4th quarter) New HC Coach Mike Mularkey has stated that the Titans will “design more running plays” for Marcus Mariota in his second NFL season.

RB-  Down around #46 is where you’ll find the Titan’s top running back last season, Antonio Andrews. He had 556 rushing yards and 3 TDs. If you keep digging deep, you can find Tennessee’s other backs if you want, Bishop Sankey, Terrence West and David Cobb. Fantasy football owners were disappointed, and so were the Titan’s. On March 7, 2016 Tennessee traded for former Eagle RB DeMarco Murray. Happy to be out of Philadelphia, Murray signed a 4-year contract worth $25.5 million. Murray is a solid running back, but he was made special by Dallas’ #1 offensive line in 2014. There were 14 running backs I ranked ahead of Murray at the start of 2015, and #15 is my ranking for Murray in 2016. UPDATE: Titans acquired RB DeMarco Murray from the Eagles in exchange for undisclosed draft pick compensation.

WRs– The Titans have used the NFL Drafts to fortify their receiving corps over the past 4 years. Kendall Wright was selected in 2012 and Justin Hunter in 2013. In the  2015 NFL Draft, the Titans grabbed 2 more….6’5″ Dorial Green-Beckham ( 2nd round) and 6’0″ Tre McBride ( 7th round). Still trying to surround their quarterback with weapons, Tennessee signed former Dolphin wide out Rishard Matthews on March 9th, 2016. It’s an imposing core of receivers, and now fantasy football owners need to decide who will help them the most. No Titan receiver ranked in the top 50 last year. I would wait until the late rounds in 2016 fantasy football drafts to get a receiver from this team. UPDATE: former Dolphin WR Rishard Matthews signed a 3-year deal w/ TENN.

TEs– A tight end can be a rookie quarterback’s best friend. After the 2015 season was in the books, Walker was the #5 tight end in the NFL. He led all NFL tight ends with 94 receptions. He is a weapon that QB Mariota likes to get the ball to.

K– Mr. Irrelevant from 2009, Ryan Succop, did not have a great fantasy football season in 2015, but you can’t blame Mr. Irrelevant from 2009, Ryan Succop. The man only had 16 field goal attempts in 2015, and made 14 of them. That’s good for a 87. 5%…..11th best in the NFL. The Titans re-signed K Ryan Succop to a three-year contract.

DEF– The Titans were the 23rd worst defense in 2015. Tennessee was 24th vs the pass and 24th vs the run. Houston was the only team in that division with a strong defense (#8 in the NFL) and they won the AFC South. The Titans need a defense that isn’t ranked in the bottom 3rd every year.

2015 Tennessee Fantasy Surprises– 1) If you get as far as the NFL, you are a special talent. Tennessee had talented running backs on their roster in 2015, but none of them did very much, so they traded for RB DeMarco Murray. 2) I am a believer in letting a quarterback hold a clipboard for year, before throwing them at NFL defenses filled with world class athletes. Mariota was given very little time to be a starting NFL quarterback, and he was one.

2016 Free Agents that Tennessee Needs to Address–
TE Craig Stevens, ILB Zach Brown, CB Coty Sensabaugh, NT Sammie Lee Hill, NT Al Woods, RT Byron Bell, G/T Jamon Meredith

2016 NFL Draft–
The immediate needs of Tennessee is protecting the quarterback that they spent a #2 overall 2015 NFL Draft on. The Titan’s allowed a league-high 54 sacks in 2015. The Titan’s need defensive backs in April and need reinforcements on their defensive line. TENNESSEE’S 2015 DRAFT-

Did You Know– While playing for the Titans, Chris Johnson twice had the longest TD run of the season in the NFL. He did this with a 91 yard scoring run in 2009 and then again with a 94 yard touchdown run in 2012.

Team Home Page: www.titansonline.com

All team reports can be seen at this link- TEAM REPORTS

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Team Profile 2016

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Team Profile 2016 by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles

For Lovie Smith, an 8-24 record after two years in Tampa Bay = FIRED!  You are FiredSmith was a head coach in the NFL for 11 years, he had a winning percentage of .500 and never won a post-season game. Gone now from the NFL, Smith was named head coach for the University of Illinois on March 7, 2016. Dirk Koetter became the Buccaneers’ new head coach on Jan. 15, 2016, after a successful season as Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator in 2015. Koetter’s offensive leaderahip led the team to finish 5th in the NFL in total offense. (Impressive considering the Buc’s roster of very young players, including 21-year-old rookie quarterback.)

2016 Team Outlook – The Buccaneers compete in the NFC South division with Carolina, New Orleans and Atlanta. The Panthers won the division with a 15-1 record, and went to Super Bowl 50. It probably would have been just fine with the Bucs, if QB Cam Newton had also retired (aka Peyton Manning) after the 2015 season. Cam did not, so Carolina is the favorite team to take the NFC West title in 2016.


2016 Fantasy Football Outlook –

QB– Florida State QB Jameis Winston was the #1 overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft. Tampa Bay was definitely going to draft one of the two highly coveted college quarterbacks, ( Winston and M Mariota) but Winston’s connection with the state of Florida likely sealed the deal for the Bucs. Rookie quarterbacks seldom have the success that both Winston and M Mariota had in 2015, so hats off to them, and their offensive coordinators. Winston threw for over 4000 yards last years with 28 total touchdowns ( 22 passing, 6 rushing. )

RB– Buccaneers agreed to terms with RB Doug Martin on a five-year, $35.75 million contract, including $15 million guaranteed. For a couple of weeks, free agent Martin was being sought by many NFL teams, but the Bucs wanted him back and got the contract done. On a team with a rookie quarterback, and with an average O-Line, Martin powered his way to the #3 running back for 2015. He racked up almost 1700 total yards and 7 TDs. Teammate running back Charlie Sims may have had the quietest 1000+ yard seasons (rushing and receiving) in the NFL last year. A talented back out of the backfield, Sims had 4 receiving touchdowns. RB Bobby Rainey is a free agent. UPDATE: Bobby Rainey signed a 1-year, $840K deal with NYG.

WRs– Mike Evans had 1208 receiving yards in 2015 and at the same time led the NFL in drops last year. It’s scary how good this guy could be in 2016. If he can fix his butter fingers, if QB Winston can go to the next level as an NFL quarterback, and if the Bucs bring in another receiving threat…Evans will be a top 10 fantasy football wide receiver. WR Vincent Jackson turned 33 this year, and although he is on the decline in his career, he’s still a big, talented receiver ( 6’5″).  In the 2015 NFL Draft, the Bucs drafted 6’1″ Nebraska WR Kenny Bell and new HC Coach Dirk Koetter has stated that Bell is “a big part of the Bucs’ future plans.”

TEs– In the 2014 NFL Draft, the Bucs used their 2nd draft selection on 6’5″ TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins. His rookie season ended with only 221 receiving yards and 2 TDs, playing in 9 games. 2015 was a slight improvement, with 338 receiving yards and 4 TDs, but playing in only 7 games. In 2 seasons, ASJ has spent as much time watching from the sidelines, as on the field. He needs to stay healthy in 2016, to avoid being considered a 2nd round bust for the Bucs. ( Maybe someone needs to remind ASJ that the Bucs have other decent TE options…as in Luke Stocker, Cameron Brate and Brandon Myers.)

K– The Bucs started the preseason out with place kicker competition between Connor Barth and Kyle Brindza. The Week 1 job went to Brindza. 6 missed field goals later by Brindza, and Connor Barth got his job back. Barth will likely get competition again, missing 5 FGs of his own last year.

DEF– Tampa Bay’s defense playing in the NFC South, is like 3 nerds in a room, with one jock. Tampa Bay, Atlanta and New Orleans can all hang together with defenses that rank near the bottom of the NFL, while Carolina flexed their defenses muscles at #2. Tampa Bay’s defense must rebound with key additions coming from the 2016 NFL Draft.

2015 Tampa Bay Fantasy Surprises – If I am an NFL defense facing Tampa Bay with a rookie quarterback, I am going to stack the box, stop the run, and force the Bucs to beat me through the air. It’s a logical strategy. In 2015, defenses couldn’t stop RB Doug Martin. The #3 running back in the NFL had an incredible 4.87 yard average per carry at season’s end.

2016 Free Agents that Tampa Bay Needs to Address – RB Doug Martin (re-signed), RB Bobby Rainey, DT Jacquies Smith (RFA), DT Henry Melton, CB Sterling Moore, OLB Danny Lansanah (RFA), SS Bradley McDougald (RFA), FS Keith Tandy, DT Tony McDaniel, FS Chris Conte, CB Mike Jenkins

2016 NFL Draft–
Taking a look at who the Bucs could lose in free agency, the immediate needs of Tampa Bay are on defense. The Bucs secondary was a joke in 2015, 26th worst vs the pass. Tampa Bay needs corners and a caliber safety. The Bucs also need to find some pass rushers to help out a new secondary. The best thing that Tampa Bay can do for their 2nd year QB J Winston, is get reinforcements for the O-Line. Young talent opposite WR Mike Evans might be added.  – TAMPA BAY’S 2015 DRAFT

Did You Know –
Buccaneers running back Mike Alstott (1996-2006) played his first two seasons in the NFL with his name misspelled on the back of his jersey, it read “Alsott”

Team Home Page: www.buccaneers.com

All team reports can be seen at this link- TEAM REPORTS

Los Angeles Rams Team Profile 2016

Los Angeles Rams Team Profile 2016 by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles

The NFL football team now known as the Los Angeles Rams played in St. Louis, Missouri as the St. Louis Rams from the 1995 through the 2015 seasons. Although it seems like Jeff Fisher has been head coach for the Rams for a long time, it’s really only been since 2012. Fisher did not have one winning season in any of the 4 years in St. Louis, so maybe the change of scenery will be welcomed.

2016 Team Outlook –
Unfortunately for Fisher and the Rams, they didn’t change divisions, just cities. They still have to contend with Arizona and Seattle in the NFC West. Fisher isn’t worried about the San Francisco 49ers. Arizona won the NFC West in 2015, with a 13-3 record. Seattle was close behind with a winning record as well…..10-6. For the Rams, it’ll be tough to compete…..as of now, they don’t even know who their starting quarterback will be.

UPDATE: Rams acquired the No. 1, No. 113 and No. 177 overall picks of the 2016 draft from the Titans in exchange for picks Nos. 15, 43, 45 and 76 in this year’s draft as well as 1st- and 3rd-round picks next year.


2016 Fantasy Football Outlook –

QB– The Rams have QBs Case Keenun, Nick Foles and Sean Mannion on their roster. (Nick Foles came over from Philly in the san Bradford trade and started the 2015 season.) Los Angeles has restricted free agent Case Keenum atop their depth chart, so for now he’s projected to be the starter.” Keenum became the starting QB halfway through last season when the Rams lost faith in QB Foles. The Rams currently have the 15th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Moving up to get one of the top quarterback prospects is expensive and risky. Less than 50% of quarterbacks drafted in the 1st round, ever pan out to be successful NFL QBs…..( just ask the Cleveland Browns, if you don’t believe me.)

RB–
In the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, two selections in particular ( by two different teams) had me trying to figure out what the heck those teams were thinking. 1) Indianapolis selecting a T Y Hilton-clone WR Philip Dorsett……and 2) St. Louis’s pick of RB Todd Gurley.  The Colt’s pick is still a mystery, but after watching Gurley last year, I get it. I knew he was crazy talented, but at the time… he was injured, and at the time, the Rams were stock piled with running backs. When Gurley was drafted, the Rams already had 3 talented RBs….Tre Mason, Zac Stacy, and Benny Cunningham. In 2015, Gurley was the #5 running back in the NFL, playing in only 13 games.

WRs– In 2015, St. Louis was loaded with young, talented wide receivers. The Rams had Tavon Austin, Brian Quick, Kenny Britt, Austin Pettis and Chris Givens. Not 1 of them ended 2015 ranking in the top 50 of wide receivers in the NFL. The Rams were a mess last year at quarterback, when Foles didn’t work out, and Case Keenum had to take over. (Foles had more INTs than TDs in his 11 starts – Keenum only had 4 TD passes in his 5 starts.) On November 9, 2015, the St. Louis Rams signed Welker to a one-year, but he won’t be back. Brian Quick is a free agent. UPDATE: Brian Quick re-signed a 1-year, $1.75M deal with LAR.

TEs– 6’5″ Jared Cook led the St. Louis Rams in 2015 with 481 yards and 0 TDs. ( the Ram’s wideouts weren’t the only position to have a rough 2015 season) Lance Kendricks only had 281 yards receiving, but hauled in 2 TD receptions last season. On Feb. 19th, 2016, the Rams released TE Jared Cook. Lance Kendricks could have a bigger role following Cook’s release, but Los Angeles needs a quarterback, before we start expected good things from any Rams’ tight end.

K– Unlike a nice bottle of wine, place kicker Greg Zuerlein isn’t getting better with time. Free agent Zuerlein was a Ram 6th Round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Zuerlein started his career strong, but was a liability for the Rams especially  last season. In 2015, “Legatron” made only 66.7 % of his field goal attempts ( 20 of 30) which was dead last in the NFL. He has 6 months to turn it around if he wants to be employed in Week 1.

DEF–
If you’re going to play with the tough kids on the playground, you had better be pretty tough yourself. The NFC West has some pretty tough defenses playing in it, namely Arizona and Seattle. The Rams can say that they held there own in 2015, with the #7 defense in the NFL. The Rams were 8th vs the pass, 7th vs the run last year. FYI- Of the top 12 defenses in the NFL from 2015, all went into the post-season….except the NY Jets (#5) and the STL Rams (#7).


2015 St. Louis Fantasy Surprises –
WR Tavon Austin did not have a spectacular receiving year in 2015 as compared with other NFL wideouts, but he was rather spectacular rushing the ball. Austin had 52 rushing attempts last year, totaling 434 yards Austin with 4 turning into touchdowns. He became the first player to score at least five receiving touchdowns, four rushing touchdowns, and a punt return touchdown in a single season since Gale Sayers did so for the Chicago Bears in 1965. RB Todd Gurley is a special talent, so his 1108 rushing yards and 10 TDs isn’t surprising, but he did so playing in only 13 games, following rehab from a torn ACL.


2016 Free Agents that St. Louis Needs to Address –
QB Case Keenum (RFA), RB Benny Cunningham (RFA), WR Brian Quick, DE Eugene Sims, WR Wes Welker, K Greg Zuerlein, FB Cory Harkey, C Tim Barnes, CB Janoris Jenkins, DT Nick Fairley, CB Trumaine Johnson, DE William Hayes, LB/S Mark Barron, FS Rodney McLeod,

2016 NFL Draft –
The immediate needs of Los Angeles is getting a center and guards for their O-Line, a quarterback and they desperately need defensive backs. If the Rams lose FS Rodney Mcleod, that leaves a hole at free safety as well. The Rams have one of smallest receiving corps in the NFL. Most are 5’10”, except for Kenny Britt, so Fisher might grab a receiver with some height.- ST LOUIS’ 2015 DRAFT

Did You Know – In one of the most unique trades in professional sports history, 1971 saw Baltimore Colts owner Carroll Rosenbloom trade his entire franchise to Rams owner Robert Irsay. Essentially the two owners swapped complete organizations. No players or other personnel changed teams in the transaction.

Team Home Page: www.therams.com/

All team reports can be seen at this link- TEAM REPORTS

 

Seattle Seahawks Team Profile 2016

Seattle Seahawks Team Profile 2016 by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles

Pete Carroll began coaching the Seattle Seahawks in 2010, and it took a couple of seasons to turn the team into his winning organization. 2010 and 2011 both ended in 7-9 seasons. In 2012 HC Carroll drafted Russell Wilson with the 12th pick in the third round (75th overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft. Since the selection, the Seahawks have had no less than 10 wins for the past 4 years.

2016 Team Outlook – The Arizona Cardinals, led by HC Bruce Arians, ended the Seattle Seahawks 2 year domination of the NFC West Division. In 2015, Arizona had a 13-3 record vs the Seahawks 10-6 record. Arizona and Seattle share their division with the L.A. Rams and the SF 49ers. The Rams and 49ers are rebuilding, and don’t even have starting quarterbacks on their rosters, so it’s likely only a 2 team battle for the division in 2016.

2016 Fantasy Football Outlook –

QB– In the 2012 NFL Draft, 5 quarterbacks were selected before Seattle grabbed Russell Wilson in the 3rd round. The most egregious was Cleveland’s selection of Brandon Weeden in Round One. Seattle has been rewarded for their savvy pick, with a franchise quarterback who has never had a losing season, 4 straight post-season appearances and one Super Bowl victory. Wilson was a top 5 quarterback in 2014 and 2015. Wilson is an excellent fantasy football QB that fantasy leaguers can wait to get in Rounds 4 and 5.

RB– On February 7, 2016, the day of Super Bowl 50, Lynch announced his retirement. Lynch battled injuries throughout the 2015 NFL season, and only played in 7 games last season. Prior to 2015, Lynch had 4 straight seasons with 1200+ rushing yards and 11+ touchdown runs. The Lynch-era in Seattle is over, and the Thomas Rawls-era as the full-time #1 RB in Seattle begins. HC Carroll has stated that RB Rawls will have to win the job in 2016, but only an injury is going to prevent Rawls from being the starter. In 2015 while filling in for RB Lynch, Rawls had 906 total yards and 5 touchdowns, making him the #26 running back in the NFL.

WRs–
On March 10, 2015, N.O. TE Jimmy Graham was traded to the Seahawks. If you were a Seattle wideout, you probably thought that your upcoming 2015 player stats….just got cut in half. What’s worst, is that this was already a run-first team to begin with. So if you had told WR Doug Baldwin on March 11th, 2015 that he was going to have the best year of his career, and that he’d end up with over 1000 yards receiving and 14 touchdown receptions….he probably would have started laughing at you. Rookie Tyler Lockett is proving to be a steal from the 2015 NFL Draft, drafted by the Seahawks in the third round. He ended 2015 as the #42 WR in the NFL and he is a premier kick returner. In his first NFL appearance, Lockett had a 103-yard kick return touchdown against the Broncos in Seattle’s preseason opener. WR Jermaine Kearse also had the best season of his career in 2015, with 685 yards and 5 TDs. Kearse is a free agent and intends to test the open market. UPDATE: Jermaine Kearse re-signed a 3-year, $13.5M deal with SEA.


TEs–
It needs to be noted that even before newly-acquired TE Jimmy Graham tore his right patellar tendon in the Seahawks’ Week 12 win over the Steelers, there seemed to be little chemistry between him and QB Russell Wilson. Graham had zero touchdown receptions from Week 3 – Week 12 and had only one game with over 100 yards receiving in 2015. It’s doubtful that Graham will be healthy enough to start the 2016 season in Week 1. Seattle has 2 other competent tight ends in Luke Willson and Cooper Helfet.

K– Steven Hauschka joins NE Stephen Gostowski as one of the most accurate and dependable place kickers in the NFL. Hauschka’s 93.5% for field goal completions in 2015 was only bested by NYG K Josh Brown, who was successful in 93.8% of his attempts.

DEF– Teams with good defenses go to the post-season. Teams with the top 2 defenses go to the Super Bowl. These statements may not be true every year, but they were in 2015. Denver, Carolina, Arizona and Seattle were the top 4 defenses in the NFL last year. Seattle was 3rd vs the pass, 3rd vs the run and only Denver allowed fewer points to opposing offenses last season.

2015 Seattle Fantasy Surprises –
RB Marshawn Lynch was drafted by the Bills in the 1st round of the 2007 NFL Draft, so 9 years as an NFL running back will take a toll on any man. Its no surprise that he finally wore down, and has ultimately decided to retire. WR Doug Baldwin and undrafted RB Thomas Rawls were the fantasy surprises for this team last season. Both are Utter-Fantasy recommendations as early adds in fantasy football drafts this September.

2016 Free Agents that Seattle Needs to Address – WR Jermaine Kearse, RB Christine Michael (RFA), RB Fred Jackson, RB Bryce Brown, QB Tarvaris Jackson, OG J.R. Sweezy, DT Ahtyba Rubin, C Patrick Lewis (RFA), P Jon Ryan, DT Demarcus Dobbs, T/G Alvin Bailey (RFA), LT Russell Okung, OLB Bruce Irvin, NT Brandon Mebane, CB Jeremy Lane

2016 NFL Draft– QB Russell Wilson was pressured a lot in 2015, and sacked a career high 45 times. Seattle needs immediate help on their offensive line to protect Wilson and reestablish the team as a run-first offense again. WR J Kearse departure will leave Seattle needing another wideout. Free agency could wipe out all of RB Rawl’s current back-ups, so Seattle needs help there. The Seahawks also needs a more dependable corner opposite LCB Richard Sherman. – SEATTLE’S 2015 DRAFT

Did You Know – RB Thomas Rawls was signed by the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent in 2015. He played college football at Michigan and Central Michigan. Rawls currently holds the record for the most single game rushing yards by a rookie running back for the Seattle Seahawks (209), as well as the most rushing yards by an undrafted rookie in his first 6 games (711).

Team Home Page: www.seahawks.com

All team reports can be seen at this link- TEAM REPORTS

San Francisco 49ers Team Profile 2016

San Francisco 49ers Team Profile 2016 by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles

Fill in the blank……. ___________ wants out of San Francisco. You could put many current SF players here. (You knew things were bad when former 49ers Jim Harbaugh left. Harbaugh was a winning coach, he never had a losing season, he went to the Super Bowl in 2012, and then left for the college ranks in 2015.)  Jim Tomsula lasted one 2015 season as the 49ers head coach, and 2016 starts the “Chip Kelly” era (hired on January 14, 2016.)  This has disaster written all over it, at least for 2016.

2016 Team Outlook–
  San Francisco’s 5-11 season in 2015 was their worst since 2007. ( also 5-11 ) The 49ers play in the NFC West, with Seattle, Arizona and L.A. Ram. The last time I looked, those 3 other teams were pretty good. HC Chip Kelly would get “Coach of the Century” if he could win this division, this year.

2016 Fantasy Football Outlook–

QB–  Things got so bad for QB Colin Kaepernick last year, that in November, 2015 he was benched Week 11 and Blaine Gabbert started against the Falcons. It was reported that even Colin Kaepernick’s teammates wanted him benched so that he could “clear his head.” “Kaep” most likely won’t be with this team in 2016, and teams around the league are content to wait it out until April 1 to see if the 49ers cut Kaepernick before his salary becomes guaranteed. Gabbert is a back-up quarterback, so the 49ers are currently without a starting QB.

RBs– Carlos Hyde only played on 7 games last year, but he would not have had a great year even if he had stayed healthy. With all the kaos surrounding this team, the poor quarterback play, and a hideously bad offensive line, it would have been hard for any running back to put up big numbers. Hyde had 470 yards rushing last season, and that was tops for any SF RB. In March of 2015,  49ers signed RB Reggie Bush to a 1-yr $2.5 million contract, with $500,000 guaranteed, and a $500,000 signing bonus. They got 8 carries for 28 yards for that brilliant investment. UPDATE: Shaun Draughn re-signed 1-year deal with SF.

WRs– Anquin Boldan is one name that you can write in that blank above. In 2015 Boldin had his lowest receiving yards last season since 2004. The free agent is going to get his wish of getting out of San Francisco and says that “he wants to play for a team that is a Super Bowl contender”. (I don’t blame him, but doesn’t everyone?) After Anquan is officially gone, the 49er’s receiving corps are left with Torrey Smith, Bruce Ellington and Quinton Patton. This is a team for fantasy football owners to steer clear of next September.

TEs– There is actually a 49er offensive player ( other than the place kicker) who ranked among the top 32 at their position. Vance McDonald was the #31 tight end in the NFL last season, with 326 yards and 3 TDs. He has a nice 2 week stretch to thank for most of those stats, in Week 11 & Week 12. McDonald had 65 yards and 1 TD, and 71 yards and 1 TD respectively in those 2 weeks. UPDATE: TE Garrett Celek re-signed 4-year, $14M deal with SF.

K– K Phil Dawson is 41 years old and still kicking. He is on a two-year contract that he signed in March of 2014 and he finished 2015 as the #24 place kicker in the NFL. He went 24 for 27 in field goal attempts.

DEF– The San Francisco went from the #5 defense in 2014 ( 4th vs the pass- 10th vs the run) to the #27 defense in the 2015 ( 30th vs the pass- 23rd vs the run.) This wasn’t just a spiral down for this defense, but a spiral down and flush. The San Francisco’s defense was 4th worst at giving up points to opposing offenses.

2014 San Francisco Fantasy Surprises–
Granted, it seems like a long time ago, but in 2012, QB Colin Kaepernick took his team to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans against the Baltimore Ravens. In 2013, Kaepernick led his team to two victories in the post-season…..only one game away from another Super Bowl appearance. It’s surprising that the #12 QB in 2013…the #16 QB in 2014….was the #33 QB in the NFL in 2015, and benched in Week 11.

2015 Free Agents that San Francisco Needs to Address–
WR Anquan Boldin, RB Shaun Draughn, RB DuJuan Harris, RB Reggie Bush, (RFA), K Phil Dawson, ILB Michael Wilhoite (RFA), NT Ian Williams, OG Alex Boone,DE Tony Jerod-Eddie

2015 NFL Draft– The San Francisco 49ers have so many glaring weaknesses, that it would almost be faster to write what positions they don’t need to address in this upcoming draft. For starters however, they need a quarterback for the future. The niners need offensive line reinforcements, wide receivers, a legit shutdown cornerback, defensive linebackers, etc. ect. etc. – SAN FRANCISCO’S 2015 DRAFT

Did You Know– 
During his senior year of high school Joe Montana was offered full ride scholarships from North Carolina State University as well as the University of North Carolina… to play basketball.

Team Home Page: www.49ers.com

All team reports can be seen at this link- TEAM REPORTS

San Diego Chargers Team Profile 2016

San Diego Chargers Team Profile 2016 by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles

After starting out 2-2 in 2015, the Chargers went 2-10 for the remainder of the NFL season. The team had its worst season since 2003 with that 4–12 record. Mike McCoy became the head coach of the San Diego Chargers on January 15, 2013, and had winning seasons in 2013 and 2014.

2016 Team Outlook– The Chargers have had to watch the Denver Broncos win the AFC West Division for 5 years in a row now. QB Peyton Manning is about to announce his retirement, so every team has a shot at winning the division in 2016. With an aging quarterback, the Chargers will treat this year as the “must-win” season, before the rebuilding starts in 2017.

2016 Fantasy Football Outlook–

QB– Philip Rivers 160 consecutive starts ranks 4th all-time among NFL quarterbacks. and for active QBs, only trails NYG QB Eli Manning. In early 2015, there were speculations that Rivers wanted out of San Diego, but he ultimately signed a four-year contract extension on Aug. 17, 2015 with the team that will keep him with the team through 2019. He was the #9 QB for 2015. UPDATE: Kellen Clemens re-signed 1-year, $1.065M deal with SD.

RBs– “Out” with RB Ryan Mathews (who was drafted by the Chargers in the 1st round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Chargers-12th overall)…..and “In” with Melvin Gordon (who was drafted by the Chargers in the 1st round of the 2015 NFL Draft-15th overall.) In a crowded backfield now in Philadelphia, Matthews ended 2015 as the #33 overall running back with 685 total yards and 7 TDs. In an uncrowded backfiled, Gordon ended 2015 as the #51 overall running back with 833 total yards and 0 TDs. The Chargers fell to 30th and 31st ranked run offense, over the past two years. Gordon- Dec. 12th, 2015….”I’m going to be better. This whole team is going to be better. I can promise you that. This record will not be the same next year. I promise you.”

WRs– In 2015, Utter-Fantasy wrote…”the Chargers have no shortage of talented wide receivers on their roster. For fantasy owners, they may have too many WRs and TEs catching passes from QB Rivers.” Oh, what a difference a year can make! Injuries, free agency, old age and retirement has turned a crowded San Diego receiving corps into an almost empty one. Every tight end for the Chargers is headed for free agency, and the only dependable wide receiver San Diego has right now is Keenan Allen. UPDATE: former CLEV Brown Travis Benjamin signed a 4-year, $24M deal with SD.

TEs– TE Antonio Gates, TE Ladarius Green and TE David Johnson are all free agents. Gates will likely re-sign with San Diego, which is good, he should eventually retire a Charger. Gates is 36 years old however, and it’ll be tough for him to be productive for all 16 weeks in 2016. Ladarius Green hasn’t been the tight end San Diego had hoped he’d be, so they will likely let him walk. There are some interesting tight ends available in 2016 Free Agency, and NFL.com has the top 2 prospects in the 2016 NFL Draft as Hunter Henry TE, Arkansas and Nick Vannett TE, Ohio State. UPDATE: Antonio Gates re-signed a 2-year, $11M deal with SD and Ladarius Green signed a 4-year, $20M deal with PITT.

K– Nick Novak entered 2015 as the San Diego place kicker, but undrafted free agent Josh Lambo won the Chargers’ job in early September. Lambo ranked #19 at season’s end, hitting 26 of 32 field goal attempts. ( Novak went onto to kick for Houston, playing in 13 games)

DEF– San Diego was near the bottom as a defense in 2015 ( ranked #28) while Denver, who is their in AFC West Division, was #1. If San Diego wants to take advantage of a wide open division that is any team’s to win in 2016, they cannot be #32 vs the run….again. The San Diego defense needs a major Meg Ryan-ish face lift on their defensive line and in their secondary.

2015 San Diego Fantasy Surprises–
RB Melvin Gordon was high on most fantasy football owner’s draft board in the fall of 2015. The rookie running back was being drafted before Todd Gurley, Lamar Miller, Latavius Murray, Doug Martin and I could name a lot more. He ended the season with 0 touchdowns, and ended many fantasy football owner’s chances of winning a fantasy championship in 2015. The NFL suspended Chargers TE Antonio Gates for the 1st 4 games of the 2015 season, for violating the league’s PED policy. This was 6’6″ TE Ladarius Green’s opportunity to take over the position and score big for fantasy football owners. He did not.


2016 Free Agents that San Diego Needs to Address–
  TE Antonio Gates, TE Ladarius Green, TE/FB David Johnson, RT Joe Barksdale, SS Jahleel Addae (RFA), DE Ricardo Mathews, DE Kendall Reyes, OT Chris Hairston, FS Eric Weddle, CB Patrick Robinson

2016 NFL Draft– The immediate needs of San Diego are fixing their defense and help on their O-Line. The Chargers finished with the 25th overall defense in 2014 and got even worst in 2015. San Diego needs a safety and they will need 2 new corners, especially if they lose free agent CB Patrick Robinson. The Chargers will likely sign free agent wide out talent, but they could also address the position after first selecting players for their defense – SAN DIEGO’S 2015 DRAFT

Did You Know– The San Diego Chargers are one of just five NFL teams that  have never drafted a Heisman Trophy winner in the NFL Draft.

Team Home Page: www.chargers.com

All team reports can be seen at this link- TEAM REPORTS

Pittsburgh Steelers Team Profile 2016

Pittsburgh Steelers Team Profile 2016 by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles

Mike Tomlin became the Pittsburgh Steelers head coach on January 22, 2007, which will make 2016 his 10th year. Tomlin has never had a losing season with Pittsburgh. Despite key players suffering serious injuries, the Steelers had another winning season in 2015, with a 10-6 record. It wasn’t enough to top Cincinnati, who won the division with an even better record of 12-4.

2016 Team Outlook – Over the past 10 years, Baltimore has won the AFC North Division 3 times, Cincinnati has won it 3 times and Pittsburgh 4 times. The team not mentioned here is Cleveland. It’s been 29 years since the Browns won an NFL Division title ( 1989- and it was the AFC Central then.) Pittsburgh and Cincinnati have been taking turns winning the division since 2013…so with the Bengal’s title in 2015, the edge goes to Pittsburgh in 2016.

2016 Fantasy Football Outlook-

QB– The Steelers got into trouble in 2015, then same way the Dallas Cowboys did. When their star quarterback went down, there wasn’t a strong back up quarterback on the roster that could carry the team. Ben Roethlisberger only played in 12 games last season, and only 13 in 2012. He’s a big quarterback who often takes big hits. He has been increasingly prone to injury, but when healthy, Big Ben is a top 5 QB in the NFL.

RBs– For some fantasy football owners, Le’Veon Bell’s two game suspension was a blessing in disguise. (reduced by the NFL from a three-game suspension for being a first-time offender of league policy) Many avoided selecting LeVeon Bell in fantasy football drafts because of the suspension, and unfortunately for Bell, he suffered a season-ending torn MCL in the game vs Bengals. In Week 9, RB DeAngelo Williams became the #1 Waiver Wire pick up. –Week 9 Waiver Wire– ( (While Bell was on suspension Weeks 1 & 2, Williams proved he could fill in with 224 total yards and 3 TDs) Williams ended 2015 as the #4 RB in the NFL, and will return as Bell’s back up in 2016. ( On Mar. 1 st , 2016, LeVeon Bell had been cleared to begin running.)

WRs– Antonio Brown was drafted by the Steelers in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. 21 wide receivers were selected in that draft, before Antonio Brown was selected by the Steelers with the 195th overall in the 6th round. 3 wide outs from the Pittsburgh Steelers ranked in the top 40 in 2015. Brown was #1, Martavis Bryant ranked #32 and Markus Wheaton was #40. (Antonio Brown was the #1 WR in 2014 as well) UPDATE: NFL suspended Steelers WR Martavis Bryant a minimum of one year for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.

TEs– Heath Miller, who QB Ben Roethlisberger has called the best tight end in the NFL, has called it quits after 11 years in the NFL. On February 19, 2016, Miller announced his retirement from football and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Jesse James, drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 5th round of the 2015 NFL Draft, will likely be the starting tight end for Pittsburgh Week 1, 2016. UPDATE: Steelers sign former Charger TE Ladarius Green

K– Shaun Suisham missed all of 2015 with a torn ACL. Suisham was replaced by Chris Boswell, who did well for Pittsburgh, converting 29-of-32 field goal attempts. His 90.6% field goal percentage was 7th best in the NFL. Both Suisham and Boswell will compete for the position in 2016.

DEF– In 2015, it was a whole lot easier to pass against Pittsburgh, than it was to run against them. Pittsburgh’s 2015 group of corners has one of the weakest in the NFL, and now depleted due to CB William Gay, CB Antwon Blake, and CB Brandon Boykin all free agents. The Steelers were 5th vs the run, and held teams to under 95 yards rushing on average per game.

2015 Pittsburgh Fantasy Surprises– If you grabbed RB DeAngelo Williams in  fantasy football drafts last fall, either as RB LeVeon Bell’s handcuff or simply as  a starter for the first 2 games of the season ( Bell was suspended) you were rewarded with the #4 running back for 2015. Williams has 1174 total yards and 11 TDs. Last year QB Roethlisberger was talking up WR Markus Wheaton as a player ready for a breakout season. Many fantasy football owners fed on this, and selected Wheaton over WR Bryant in their fantasy drafts. Bryant and Wheaton’s numbers were very close at season’s end, but Bryant played in 5 less games.

2016 Free Agents that Pittsburgh Needs to Address–  QB Bruce Gradkowski, QB Michael Vick, RB Jordan Todman, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, LT Kelvin Beachum, OG Ramon Foster, CB Brandon Boykin, NT Steve McLendon, CB William Gay, SS Will Allen, ILB Sean Spence, CB Antwon Blake, FS Robert Golden, DE Cam Thomas

2016 NFL Draft– Pittsburgh’s immediate needs are addressing most positions on defense, especially at cornerbacks and safety. The Steelers did not have a legit No. 1 corner going into 2015, and must get at least one for 2016. Protecting QB Roethlisberger starters with their O-Line and they have holes, thanks to free agency. The Steelers also need a quarterback to groom and back up Roethlisberger. PITTSBURGH’S 2015 DRAFT

Did You Know– Steelers’ fullback Rocky Bleier was drafted in 1968 and played his rookie season for the team before being drafted again, this time by the United State Government, and sent to Vietnam. After being wounded in Vietnam, Bleier had trouble even walking without pain yet came back to work his way into NFL shape and star for the Steelers through the 1980 season.

Team Home Page: www.steelers.com

All team reports can be seen at this link- TEAM REPORTS

Philadelphia Eagles Team Profile 2016

Philadelphia Eagles Team Profile 2016 by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles

After only 2 seasons as the Philly head coach, Chip Kelly was fired. His offenses were regularly at the top of the league, but his defenses were not. He wasn’t a “players’ coach,” and he didn’t get along well with management. “OK” with San Francisco apparently, who hired Kelly as their head coach on January 14, 2016. Four days later, the Philadelphia Eagles announced the hiring of Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson as their team’s new head coach.

2016 Team Outlook– All four teams in the NFC East has won the division at least twice in the past 10 years. It’s a very balanced and competitive division, and if history has any say in 2016, it will be Philadelphia’s turn to take the NFC East title. ( not a prediction! )

2016 Fantasy Football Outlook–

QB– On March 10, 2015, the Philadelphia Eagles traded QB Nick Foles, a 2015 fourth-round pick and a 2016 second-round pick to the ST L Rams, in exchange for QB Sam Bradford and a 2015 fifth-round pick. Philly also re-signed QB Mark Sanchez. Bradford is a capable quarterback, when he can stay healthy. Since being drafted #1 overall by the Rams in the 2010 NFL Draft, Bradford has only played in all 16 games twice. On March2 , 2016, Bradford signed a new two-year deal that can pay him up to $40 million- Read more

RBs– In 2015, Utter-Fantasy warned fantasy football owners to avoid drafting DeMarco Murray early. –Eagles Profile 2015– “Utter-Fantasy has dropped his fantasy value and ranks him down to #17 RB.” The reason was, Murray didn’t have that gigantic Dallas O-Line now making him holes, and there were 2 other backs in Philly also part of the offense. DeMarco Murray ended 2015 as the #18 running back. New head coach Doug Pederson is coming from KC, where a one-back offense is primarily installed. It will be interesting what this team looks like with Peterson’s stamp on it. UPDATE: DeMarco Murray signed with TENN.

WRs– After losing WR DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, the Eagles flew with  Jordan Matthews, Riley Cooper, Josh Huff and rookie Nelson Agholor. The Eagles selected 6’0″ WR Nelson Agholor with their 1st pick in the 1st round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Eagles released WR Riley Cooper, so Philadelphia is hoping for a big second-year leap for WR Nelson Agholor in 2016. Eagles #1 wide receiver Jordan Matthews was selected in the 2nd round of the 2014 NFL Draft, and was the #19 WR for 2015 with 997 yards and 8 TDs. UPDATE: Rueben Randle signed a 1-year deal w/ PHIL.

TEs– In the final 5 games of 2105, tight end Zach Ertz put up more yards receiving and touchdown receptions, than he did in the first 11 games combined. On Jan 25, 2016,  Zack Ertz signed a five-year, $42.5 million extension through 2021, making him the fourth-highest paid tight end in the league. One day later, the Eagles signed TE Brent Celek to a three-year, $13 million extension through 2018. Both tight ends will have importance in the 2016 eagle offense.

K- Eagle’s place kicker Cody Parkey’s 2015 season was cut short when he tore “all three” groin muscles in Week 3. He was replaced by former-Dolphin Caleb Sturgis, who made 18 or 22 field goals for the remainder of the season. Parkey should return as the Eagle kicker if he can get healthy.

DEF– One has to think that there were members of the Philadelphia defense that were damn glad to see former HC Chip Kelly go. Because of the fast pace of the Eagle’s offense, there were times that the Philly defense was on the field for seemingly hours during a game. When you’re on the field that long, you get tired…..which might be why this defense was 28th vs the run in 2015. On Jan. 19, 2016, HC Doug Pederson announced that Jim Schwartz had been hired as his defensive coordinator.


2015 Philadelphia Fantasy Surprises–
It isn’t often that you see at a season’s end, 3 running backs from the same team, all ranking in the top 42 among RBs for that year. DeMarco Murray ended 2015 as the #18 RB…..Ryan Matthews as the #33…..and Darren Sproles as the #42. That means that each of these 3 RBs saw a lot of action. Only HC Peterson knows how these guys will be used in 2016 (none are free agents) but this Eagle team will likely be as different on offense and defense as before and after pictures of Michael Jackson.

2016 Free Agents that Philadelphia Needs to Address– QB Sam Bradford, DE Cedric Thornton, SS Walter Thurmond III, CB Nolan Carroll, OG Matt Tobin (RFA), CB E.J. Biggers

2016 NFL Draft– With the 28th worst defense vs the run last year, the immediate needs of Philadelphia is depth on their defense line. The Eagles were 14th vs the pass, but that could get worst, if they don’t acquire a couple dependable defensive backs. The Eagle’s may keep the receiving corps growing with another wide out to replace Riley Cooper and a successor to QB Sam Bradford is a good idea. PHILADELPHIA’S 2015 DRAFT

Did You Know-
Former Eagles head coach Dick Vermeil owns the distinction of being named Coach of the Year at four different levels; high school, junior college, NCAA Division I, and the NFL

Team Home Page: www.philadelphiaeagles.com

All team reports can be seen at this link- TEAM REPORTS

 

Oakland Raiders Team Profile 2016

Oakland Raiders Team Profile 2016 by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles

Jack Del Rio is heading into his 2nd season as head coach of the Oakland Raiders. Del Rio was hired in January 2015….previously the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2003 until 2011. Did you know Del Rio was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays of Major League Baseball out of high school in 1981? Later drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the 3rd round of the 1985 NFL Draft. Jack hopes to improve on the Raider’s 7-9 record from 2015.

2016 Team Outlook –AFC West Division might be the hardest division to predict in 2016. The Raiders battle San Diego, Kansas City and the Denver Broncos. With Denver starting over with a new quarterback ( likely Brock Osweiler) and Oakland finally jelling as a team, any of these four teams could rise to top and represent the AFC West next year in the playoffs.


2016 Fantasy Football Outlook –


QB–
Cleveland took Manziel in Round One of the 2014 NFL Draft, while Oakland waited until Round Two, selecting QB Derek Carr ( and Oakland still has their quarterback.)  Carr did not fall into the proverbial “Sophomore Slump” in 2015, on the contrary, he was even better. As a rookie, Carr ended the year as the #20 QB in the NFL with 3270 passing yards, 21 TDs and 12 INTs. In 2015, Carr ended the year as the #14 QB in the NFL with 3987 passing yards, 32 TDs and 13 INTs.

RBs– One game in 2014, bolted RB Latavius Murray from the bench, into the starting line-up in 2015. On only 4 carries in the game versus the Kansas City in Week 12 of the 2014, Latavius Murray had 112 rushing yards and 2 rushing touchdowns, including a long 90-yard touchdown run. Murray played in all 16 games in 2015, ended as the #10 running back for the season. On December 24, Murray became the first Raider to reach the 1000-yard mark rushing, since Darren McFadden in 2010. His work was huge in 2015…so look for the Raiders to concentrate on a running back to spell Murray more in 2016.


WRs–
Amari Cooper was the first wide receiver taken in the 2015 NFL Draft. Oakland had the 4th overall pick, and selected the Crimson Tide wide out over WR West Virginia’s Kevin White. (White was later picked 7th overall by the Chicago Bears, but never played in 2015.) Cooper was an legitimate weapon for the Raiders from the get-go, and his success helped open up the field for Michael Crabtree, who had an even better 2015 than Cooper did. Crabtrees 85 catches and 9 TDs were career highs. WRs Andre Holmes and Rod Streater, who played behind Cooper and Crabtree, are free agents in 2016.

TEs–
For the first time in 3 seasons, TE Mychal Rivera wasn’t the top tight end in Oakland. In 2015, rookie Clive Walford was the preferred target by QB Derek Carr, with 28 grabs for 329 yards and 3 TDs. Walford was the 3rd overall pick by the Raiders, who used the 2015 NFL Draft to surround QB Carr with weapons. Walford should have a stronger 2nd year, with Mychal Rivera right behind him.


K-
Since Sebastian “Seabass” Janikowski’s 2015 season was a relatively boring one, how about if I just write some of the records that he currently holds. Longest field goal in overtime: 57 yards…Most field goals in one quarter: 4…Most field goals of 60 yards or more in a career: 2…Most field goals attempted of 60 or more yards in a career: 8…Most field goals of 50 yards or more in one game: 3.

DEF– HC Jack Del Rio is a defense-minded coach having played linebacker in the NFL for 11 years. When with Jacksonville, the Jags finished the season with the second-ranked rush defense and sixth best overall defense. With Ken Norton Jr on board, the Raider’s defense went from #26 in 2014, to #15 in 2015. FS Charles Woodson has retired, putting an end to a career that began in 1998, so Oakland needs lots of help for their pass defense. UPDATE:
<strong>Raiders signed formerly Chief CB Sean Smith</strong> to a four-year, $40 million contract.

2015 Oakland Fantasy Surprises – Michael Crabtree was one of those “never-again” guys. Never again would I waste a fantasy football draft pick on that guy.  In 2013 he played in only 5 games for the 49ers, with 284 receiving yards and 1 TD for the year. 2014 wasn’t much better. 698 receiving yards and 4 TDs. But the change of scenery was good for Crabtree, and he had chemistry with QB Carr. He played in 15 games, he had 923 yards with 9 TDs and ended 2015 as the #20 WR in the NFL. I hope he keeps it up.


2016 Free Agents that Oakland Needs to Address –
WR Andre Holmes, WR Rod Streater, QB Matt McGloin (RFA), G/C Tony Bergstrom, P Marquette King, CB Neiko Thorpe (RFA), FS Larry Asante, SS Taylor Mays, T/G Khalif Barnes,  LT Donald Penn, OLB/DE Aldon Smith, T/G J’Marcus Webb, OLB Benson Mayowa (RFA)

2016 NFL Draft–
The immediate needs of Oakland is all over on their defense. FS Woodson’s retirement and previous draft busts forces Oakland to get two new starting safeties. A young slot corner is needed and also help on the defensive line. Oakland might use a late round pick on a running back.- OAKLAND’S 2015 DRAFT

Did You Know –
The Raiders have had three players play for them named Napoleon. Napoleon McCallum, Napoleon Kaufman, and Napoleon Harris

Team Home Page: www.raiders.com

All team reports can be seen at this link- TEAM REPORTS

New York Jets Team Profile 2016

New York Jets Team Profile 2016 by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles

Todd Bowles became the 18th head coach in Jet’s team history on January 14, 2015. Bowles worked as a defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals in 2013 and 2014. Usually, a new head coach is given a pass on his 1st year, to organize the team and make it his own ( afterall, the previous guy was fired for likely creating a bad team.) But HC Todd Bowles didn’t need a pass, proving that he was the right man for the job with a 10-6 record in 2015.

2016 Team Outlook – I am not a believer in running up the score, when you’re beating the crap out of another team. But some purists will say…”Hey, if the team doesn’t like the score….then stop them!” Same can be said about the AFC East Division. If the New York Jets, Buffalo and Miami don’t like New England winning all the time…..then stop them!”

2016 Fantasy Football Outlook –

QB– Ryan Fitzpatrick may have finally found a home. Fitzpatrick was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the 7th round of the 2005 NFL Draft and he has bounced around the league playing for 6 different teams. Those teams are the St. Louis Rams, the Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans and the New York Jets. Fitzpatrick finished the year with 3,905 passing yards, 31 touchdowns with 15 interceptions, breaking Vinny Testaverde’s 1998 franchise record for most touchdown passes in a season. In Week 17 of 2015, the Jets were eliminated from playoff contention despite finishing the year with a 10-6 record. FYI- Fitzpatrick has the highest Wonderlic Test score ever achieved among NFL quarterbacks.

RBs– Chris Ivory played in 15 games for the Jets in 2015, and finished the season as the #7 running back in the NFL. He ranked near the top in rushing attempts, proving to be durable and reliable. Ivory is a free agent this year, and is expected to test the open market. If the Jets can’t re-sign him, the team is hurting because their other productive back, RB Bilal Powell, is also a free agent. UPDATE: Jets lose RB Ivory ( to Jacksonville) …but sign former Bear’s RB Matt Forte…..Bilal Powell (resigned).  Khiry Robinson signed a 1-year deal w/ NYJ.

WRs– There are a few wide receiver tandems in the NFL, that make “receiver-weak” teams drool. Demaryius Thomas/ Emmanuel Sanders in Denver….Allen Robinson Allen Hurns in Jacksonville…and Brandon Marshall/ Eric Decker in New York. No tandem produced more in 2015 than Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. The pair is just what the doctor ordered for the offense, for Jet’s fans and for resurrecting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick’s career. UPDATE: Jeremy Ross signed a 1-year deal w/ NYJ.

TEs– Two words that can murder a tight ends stats…..Chan Gailey
. Prior to 2015, the Jets had at least one tight end rank in the top 30 for the past 4 years. In 2015, TE Kellen Davis was the #83 Te in the NFL, beating out fellow Jet;s TE Jeff Cumberland at #84. The tight end position not a big part of offenses designed by OC Chan Gailey, who runs the most four-wide sets in the NFL.

K– On Nov. 10, 2015…Jets placed K Nick Folk on injured reserve with a quadriceps injury, ending his season. Former Texan Randy Bullock took over kicking duties for the rest of the season. Folk should be back in 2016.

DEF– New head coach Todd Bowles is defensive minded, and improved the 21st ranking in 2014….to 5th best defense in 2015. The Jets were #1 vs the run. The head coach probably didn’t like being 9th vs the pass however. On Feb. 22,2016 the Jets released CB Antonio Cromartie.

2015 New York Jets Fantasy Surprises
–By season’s end of  2015, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick ranked ahead of GB QB Aaron Rodgers, MIA QB Ryan Tannehill and ATL QB Matt Ryan. Fitzpatrick’s 3905 passing yards with 31 TDs landed him #11 for last year. RB Bilal Powell was an untapped resource for the Jets, until the latter part of the season. Powell is a talented pass-catching back who had 25 receptions for 243 yards and 2 TDs in the final 4 games of 2105.


2016 Free Agents that New York Needs to Address –
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, RB Chris Ivory, RB Bilal Powell (resigned), TE Kellen Davis, WR Chris Owusu, RB Stevan Ridley, K Randy Bullock, DE Muhammad Wilkerson, NT Damon Harrison, DE Leger Douzable, ILB Erin Henderson, ILB Demario Davis, OLB Calvin Pace, OG Willie Colon, CB Darrin Walls, ILB Jamari Lattimore, SS Antonio Allen

2016 NFL Draft– QB Ryan Fitpatrick is 34 years old and that means, the Jets have to protect him ( O-Line help in the draft) and they have to think about tomorrow, by drafting a quarterback to groom. Even if the Jets sign one of their free agent running backs, it’s time to draft a young guy. Look for the Jets to select an outside linebacker and address their secondary. – NEW YORK JET’S DRAFT

Did You Know –During his five seasons with the Jets, quarterback Mark Sanchez threw 68 touchdown passes. They were caught by 22 different players.

Team Home Page: www.newyorkjets.com

All team reports can be seen at this link- TEAM REPORTS

New York Giants Team Profile 2016

New York Giants Team Profile 2016 by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles

After 12 years of being the New York Giants head coach, ol’ grumpy pants is out ( forced to “resign”). Tom Coughlin’s run in New York was a good one, having only 4 losing seasons out of the 12, and two Super Bowl rings to show for it. On Jan. 15, 2016, the Giants announced that Ben McAdoo will become the 17th head coach in franchise history. McAdoo, 38, was the team’s offensive coordinator the previous two seasons.

2016 Team Outlook– The Giants are joined in the NFC East by Dallas, Philadelphia and Washington. This division was won in 2015 with a 9-7 record by Washington. Dallas will get QB Romo back, and if he can stay healthy, the Cowboys won’t have another 4-12 season repeat. It’s anyone’s division to win in 2016.

2016 Fantasy Outlook–

QB–
In 2013, Eli Manning had a tough time of it, throwing for 3818 yards and only 18 touchdowns….#21 QB for that season ( that was the year Peyton Manning had a career year of 5477 yards passing and 55 touchdowns.) Drafting wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr in the 2014 NFL Draft, will solve the problems of almost any quarterback. With Beckham to throw to, Manning rebounded in 2014 and 2015. He became the #8 QB for 2014, and #7 in 2015, throwing for a combined 65 TDs over the past two seasons.

RBs- Ol’ Grumpy Pants Coughlin definitely made fantasy football owners grumpy in 2015, by taking the hated RBBC approach to his offense. In the first half of the season, the Giants had 4 running backs all getting touches. Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, and Shane Vereen saw action every week, and New York added RB Orleans Darkwa into the mix in Week 7. It wasn’t until the end of the season that the Giants finally got it….”Letting a running back get hot”. In Week 15, Rashad Jennings rushed for 107 yards and 1 TD, and in Week 17, 170 yards and one touchdown on 27 carries. Hopefully HC Ben McAdoo finds himself a workhorse for 2016…. fantasy football owners hope so anyways.

WRs– If you want to know how to get under WR Odell Beckham’s skin, watch the 2015 Week 15 game vs DB Josh Norman and the Panthers. We all know Beckham can trash talk, but Norman was pushing Beckham’s buttons the entire game, and Beckham lost it. (committing two personal fouls and launching himself into Panthers CB Josh Norman’s head at the end of a play.) The “Meltdown” cost Beckham a game suspension in Week 16, and some fantasy football owners a championship. Beckham will learn from this. The Giants don’t seem keen on keeping Victor Cruz around, nor free agent Rueban Randle. There will be new WR faces in New York for 2016. UPDATE: Cruz was re-signed with a paycut, and Rueban Randle signed with PHIL.

TEs–
The Giants have both of their tight ends peeking at free agency right now…. TE Daniel Fells and restricted free agent TE Larry Donnell. If the Giants don’t resign these guys, there are some interesting names that are also free agents…
Antonio Gates, Ladarius Green, Dwayne Allen, Vernon Davis, Coby Fleener, Ben Watson, Zach Mille, Marcedes Lewis, Jared Cook.

K– Josh Brown had a great 2015 season, not bad timing for someone headed for free agency. Brown was tied for #1 in field goal percentage hitting 93.8% last year ( tied with SEA Steve Hauschka). I suspect New York tries hard to re-sign him.

DEF– The Giants cannot challenge in the NFC East against Dallas, Washington and Philadelphia, if they have the 30th worst defense again. New York was 28th vs the pass, and that doesn’t bode well versus wide receivers in their division such as DAL Dez Bryant, WASH DeSean Jackson or PHIL Jordan Matthews. A revamped defense is coming.

2015 New York Giants Fantasy Surprises– At the end of the season, New York finally let a running back get more more than 7 carries, and Rashad Jennings did what he was brought in to do. WR Rueban Randle was a name with “break out season” always attached to it, but Utter-Fantasy was never on board with that. Still, he ended 2015 as the #29 WR in the NFL for 2015. It will be interesting to see where he, as a free agent, lands in 2016

2016 Free Agents that New York Needs to Address– WR Rueben Randle, K Josh Brown, WR Hakeem Nicks, TE Daniel Fells, TE Larry Donnell (RFA), DT Cullen Jenkins, CB Trumaine McBride, SS Brandon Meriweather, MLB Jasper Brinkley, C/G Dallas Reynolds, DE George Selvie, CB Jayron Hosley, FS Craig Dahl, DE Jason Pierre-Paul, CB Prince Amukamara, DE Robert Ayers,

2016 NFL Draft– As far as their defense goes, it would be quicker to write where the Giants don’t need help from this 2016 NFL Draft. The Giants receiving corps  needs a big make over, behind Odell Beckham. Victor Cruz can’t stay healthy and Rueban Randle likely won’t be back.- NEW YORK GIANT’S 2015 DRAFT

Did You know–
Bill Parcells is the only person to have coached both of the NFL’s New York franchises, the Giants and the Jets. BONUS Did You know– Neither the New York Giants or the New York Jets play games in New York, they both play in New Jersey.

Team Home Page: www.giants.com


All team reports
can be seen at this link- TEAM REPORTS

New Orleans Saints Team Profile 2016

New Orleans Saints Team Profile 2016 by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles

Both HC Sean Payton (currently the highest paid head coach in the NFL) and QB Drew Brees (currently the 5th highest paid QB in the NFL) are both up for new contracts. Meanwhile, the Saints have had 3 losing seasons out of the past 4. Coach Sean Payton, who has two years left on his existing deal, said publicly that he’s “close to finalizing” a new contract with the Saints.

2016 Team Outlook- The Saints play in the NFC South, and they might have been the favorite to win the division in 2016, if it weren’t for that one other team….the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers ended the season 15-1 and then went onto Super Bowl 50. New Orleans, Tampa Bay and Atlanta won’t be able to put the same caliber of team on the field as Carolina will in 2016, so expect a repeat for the Panthers (although not another 15-1 season.) The Saint’s fire to win seems to have been extinguished years ago, so another 7-9 season is not unfathomable.

2016 Fantasy Football Outlook-

QB– In 2012, “The Saints offered Brees more than the $18.5 million and a $30 million signing bonus….the 2nd-highest amount of guaranteed money in NFL history in the first 3 years of his deal. Brees countered by demanding $23 million per season.” (Because Brees wouldn’t sign, the Saints couldn’t franchise all-pro guard Carl Nicks, who left to go to Tampa. Cornerback Tracy Porter and Robert Meachem both left as well.) Brees would cash in for 5 years and $100 million in the middle of July. He’ll no doubt be demanding another huge contract.

RBs– Mark Ingram was having a pretty good year, until he suffered a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder in Week 12, and placed on injured reserve. Even missing the last 4 games of the season, Ingram ended 2015 as the #15 running back in the NFL. (He should be fully healthy for the start of OTAs.) RB Tim Hightower was a beast taking over for Ingram in the last past of the season. New Orleans GM Mickey Loomis: said in a recent radio interview…”the Saints will see ‘real C.J. Spiller’ in 2016″. Don’t believe it. Fantasy football owners stuck a fork in Spiller long ago. UPDATE: Tim Hightower re-signed 1-year deal w/ NO.

WRs– The Saints have a lot of young talent in their receiving corps, starting with Brandin Cooks (2014 NFL Draft) and Brandon Coleman (UFA). Cooks bounced back from an injury his rookie season, to end 2015 as the #12 WR in the NFL. He had 1140 receiving yards and 9 TDs. 6’6″ Coleman will replace long-time Saint WR M Colston, who was released Feb. 29th, 2016. 23 year old Willie Snead finished his sophomore season with 69 catches for 984 yards and 3 TDs.

TEs–
Josh Hill was suppose to be the heir-apparent to Jimmy Graham ( traded to Seattle) but TE Ben Watson wasn’t to be denied in 2015. Watson finished the 2015 NFL season as the #7 tight end, with 825 yards and 6 TDs. Ben Watson is now a free agent. Saints GM Mickey Loomis says the team still has high hopes for restricted free agent TE Josh Hill for 2016. UPDATE: Saints ink TE former Colt Coby Fleener to a 5 yr deal

K– Over the past couple seasons, the Saints have had a few place kickers working for them, but none have really worked out. Shayne Graham kicked in 2014. New Orleans started with Zach Hocker in 2015, but converted just 9-of-13 field goals and was released. The Saints then signed K Kai Forbath, who’s now a free agent.


DEF–
Good Bye DC Rob Ryan and good riddance. In two full years as the Saint’s defensive coordinator, the defense ranked 31st and 32nd. By far, the worst in the NFL. It’s doubtful that he would have gotten another job as a defensive coordinator in the NFL, but his brother ( BUFF HC Rex Ryan) has hired brother Rob. (Dennis Allen took over as New Orleans’ defensive coordinator after Rob.)

2015 New Orleans Fantasy Surprises– Free agent TE Ben Watson had a career year in 2015, and the 35-year-old says he wants to keep playing. Watson and the Saints are in talks for a new contract. After RB mark Ingram went down in week 12, RB Tim Hightower was re-signed and got his first regular season work since 2011. He was a fantasy football waiver wire savior for owners who lost Ingram.  Hightower was impressive, racking up 456 yards from scrimmage and 4 touchdowns in Weeks 14 thru 17.

2016 Free Agents that New Orleans Needs to Address–
TE Ben Watson, RB Khiry Robinson (RFA), RB Tim Hightower, TE Josh Hill (RFA), K Kai Forbath, TE Michael Hoomanawanui, RB Travaris Cadet, QB Luke McCown, QB Matt Flynn, OG Tim Lelito (RFA), DT Kevin Williams, FS Rafael Bush, CB Kyle Wilson,


2016 NFL Draft-
Getting rid of DC Rob Ryan was only the start of repairing the worst defense in the NFL. The defensive line must get help, and the Saint’s were 32nd vs the pass, so a shut down corner is needed. An offensive guard will be taken at some point in this draft. – SAINT’S 2015 DRAFT

Did You Know– The team’s colors (Black and Gold) came about as a salute to the city’s long standing ties to the oil industry (“Black Gold”).


All team reports
can be seen at this link- TEAM REPORTS

Team Home Page: www.neworleanssaints.com

New England Patriots Team Profile 2016

New England Patriots Team Profile 2016 by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles

One has to wonder if New England fans know just how good they’ve had it? Has winning become insipid and lackluster….like hearing Meryl Streep nominated for another Oscar? ( As one of the many loyal Lion’s fan, we’d be happy just to make it the playoffs…and over the moon to actually win one!-  The Detroit Lions have 1 playoff win in past 56 years. )   Since the year 2000, New England has won four Super Bowls, six AFC Championship Games, and thirteen AFC East titles, while amassing a regular season record of 175–65.

2016 Team Outlook–  In 2015, Utter-Fantasy boldly predicted that the Pats would be the division champs of the AFC East! It actually wasn’t a bold prediction…. New England had already done it 11 of the past 12 seasons. 2015 made it 12 of the past 13. Of the three other teams in the division, the New York Jets are probably the strongest team to challenge New England, followed by Miami, then Buffalo.

2016 Fantasy Football Outlook–

QB– “Every team tampers with the footballs,” Matt Leinart said on Twitter.  “Ask any QB In the league, this is ridiculous!!” The NFL tried to hit Brady with a ridiculous charge that would have kept him off the field for 4 games with a suspension. A few lawyers later and the NFL was forced to back down, but they did strip NE of a 1st round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. It doesn’t matter what they throw at him, Tom Brady can throw a football, and in 2015, he threw it for 4770 yards (2nd most in the NFL.) Although Brady is getting on in years but he’s still playing well and has said he wants to play into his 40s. On Feb. 29, 2016, the Patriots and Tom Brady agreed to two-year extension through 2019.  UPDATE: the Patriots are “bracing” for Tom Brady to lose his Deflategate appeal and serve a four-game suspension.

RBs– In the latter part of 2015 and in the post-season, the Patriot’s offense was exposed for being the one-dimensional team that they are. With no running game to speak, defenses were able to tee off after Brady. The Pats ranked 25th in run attempts, 30th in yards rushed per game, and 29th in yards per attempt. Fantasy football owners should already know to stay clear of NE running backs. HC Bill Belichick is not a fan of fantasy football, and he will make sure you are disappointed if you try to guess week-to-week, who he is going to start. RB L Blount and Steven Jackson are free agents. UPDATE: Pats sign former Charger Donald Brown. LeGarrette Blount Re-signed 1-year deal.

WRs–
As far as wide receivers, for the past few years it’s been the WR Julian Edelman,  WR Danny Amendola and WR Brandon LaFell show in New England. A Pat’s wide receiver rarely cracks the top 25 statistically because of New England’s tight end Gronk ( and Scott Chandler in 2015.) UPDATE: The Pats have released Brandon LaFell….Pats sign former Buffalo WR Chris Hogan and Nate Washingtons signed a 1-year deal w/ NE.

TEs– It’s taken a while, but teams are starting to get it. Tight ends can be a huge contributor in NFL offenses. In 2014, no other tight end came close to Gronk’s 1124 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. ( CAR TE G Olsen had 1008 yards but only 6 TDs) In 2015, Gronk barely beat TE G Olsen in receiving yards and TE Tyler Eifert had 13 TDs, 2 more than Gronk’s 11. (WASH TE J Reed also had 11 TD receptions) 2016 could be a big year for NFL tight ends. UPDATE: The Pats have released Scott Chandler. Clay Harbor signed 1-year w/ NE.

K-
Stephen Gostkowski has been the NFL’s #1 place kicker for 4 years in a row. As the best kicker in the league, 32-year-old Gostkowski is the league’s richest player at his position. UPDATE: Adam Vinatieri re-signed 2-year w/ NE- $6M.

DEF–
In 2015, New England was 10th vs the run, and 13th vs the pass……making them 12th overall in the NFL. The Patriots pass defense needs a boost and they can find good cornerbacks in the deep corps of this upcoming draft.

2015 New England Fantasy Surprises– Prior to his Week 9 season-ending injury, RB Deon Lewis was racking up the fantasy football points with rushing yards, rushing TDs, receiving yard and receiving TDs. After his first six games, he already had close to 600 total yards and 4 combined touchdowns. Prior to the 2015, few fantasy football websites had Lewis ranked even in the top 70….Utter-Fantasy didn’t. 2015 RB Rankings-

2016 Free Agents that New England Needs to Address–
RB Steven Jackson, RB LeGarrette Blount, DT Akiem Hicks, NT Sealver Siliga (RFA), CB Tarell Brown, OG Ryan Wendell, SS Nate Ebner, SS Tavon Wilson, MLB Dane Fletcher,

2016 NFL Draft–– The Patriots were stripped of a first-round pick in the 2016 draft (plus a third-rounder in the 2017 draft) for the deflated football malarkey. When they do get to select a player, look for the Pats to address their defense with a cornerback. They also need help with a tackle for their O-Line, and somewhere in the draft, they might need to find a couple fresh running backs.- NEW ENGLAND’S 2015 DRAFT

Did You Know–
In the 1987 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots selected Rich Gannon in the 4th round intent upon converting Gannon to running back. ( in 2002 OAK QB Gannon won the NFL Most Valuable Player Award and the  Raiders advanced to Super Bowl XXXVII.)

Team Home Page: www.patriots.com

All team reports can be seen at this link- TEAM REPORTS

Minnesota Vikings Team Profile 2016

Minnesota Vikings Team Profile 2016 by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles

The Vikings topped the NFC North Division in 2015, with a winning record of 11-5. If Minnesota history stays true however, head coach Mike Zimmer had better have another winning season in 2016, if he wants to keep his job. In 2009, HC Brad Childress had a winning season- 12-4. The following year his Vikings went 6-10, and he was canned. In 2012, HC Leslie Frazier had a winning season- 10-6. The following year his Vikings went 5-10-1, and he was canned.


2016 Team Outlook-

The Vikings division win in 2015 was their first since 2009. Usually Green Bay will win the 2-3 years in a row, then Chicago or Minnesota will sneak in a year and will one. Detroit never participates. Green Bay has the best shot at winning the division in 2016, but Minnesota will have a competitive team. Chicago has many question marks going into 2016, and Detroit will likely under-achieve as usual.

2016 Fantasy Football Outlook-

QB- Teddy Bridgewater was drafted by the Vikings in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, so making 2016 his 3rd year in the NFL. Bridgewater ended the 2015 NFL season as the #23 quarterback in the NFL, with 3231 passing yards, 14 touchdown passes and only 9 interceptions. His 9 INTs were the 2nd lowest for any QB playing in all 16 games. Teddy has one of the best running backs to ever play the game joining him on the offense, but his receiving corps either aren’t as talented as many thought, or are a held back by Teddy Bridgewater’s weak arm and the Vikings’ run-based offense. Bridgewater threw for one TD pass or less, in 14 of 16 games last season. ( and none in the post-season.)


RBs–
Most running backs cannot follow a long layoff in the NFL, by coming back the next season and ranking as the #1 or #2 RB in the NFL….but Adrian Peterson isn’t most running backs. He’s done it twice. On December 24, 2011, Peterson torn his ACL and MCL in a game vs Washington. He was placed onto injured reserve. The following year, AP was the #1 RB in the league.  On September 12, 2014, Peterson was indicted for brutally beating his child, and subsequently missed the remainder of the season. The following year, 2015, AP was the #2 RB in the league. Regardless of his situation, Peterson is an athletic freak and will always rank at the top when playing. Back-up RB Matt Asiata is a free agent. UPDATE: Matt Asiata re-signed 1-year deal w/ MINN.

WRs– In 2015 WR Charles Johnson, who Vikings OC Norv Turner said was “far and away our best receiver”….played in only 6 game last season, racking up a paltry 127 yards and 0 touchdowns. He was a 2015 fantasy football draft pick that fantasy owners wish they hadn’t made. Rib injuries and inconsistent play by Johnson allowed WR Stefon Diggs to step up and become the Vikings #1 receiver. ( although even Diggs only ranked as the #46 WR in 2015, with 720 receiving yards and 4 TDs.) Minnesota may try to upgrade their receiving corps beyond WRs Diggs, Wallace and Wright in 2016, but the real problem is the limitations of QB Bridgewater. UPDATE: Free agent Mike Wallace signed w/ BALT.

TEs– In the 2015 NFL Draft , the Vikings used their 5th round pick on TE MyCole Pruitt who was a bigger hit at the NFL Combine in April than he was on the playing field during this past season. Pruitt was drafted to play in two tight end packages opposite Kyle Rudolph, but Pruitt was out-played by TE Rhett Ellison, a 2012 Viking draft pick. Ellison unfortunately suffered a torn patellar tendon in Week 17 in 2015. (His career is now in doubt.)  Kyle Rudolph’s stats after the 2015 season were 495 yards and 5 TDs, and that’s probably the ceiling for any Viking tight end in 2016.

K– In the Vikings’ first playoff game since 2012 against Seattle on January 10, 2016, Blair Walsh was 3-for-3 on field goals before missing a potentially game-winning 27-yard attempt late in the 4th quarter. Walsh kicked the laces of the football and hooked the attempt wide left.  You had to feel for the guy, but Walsh has remained positive and said ‘It is Not Going to Ruin My Life’.

DEF– The Viking’s were focused on improving their #27 defense from 2014, by using their first 3 picks in the 2015 NFL Draft on quality defensive player. The result, in part, helped the team rise to the #14 defense in 2015. The Vikings have a lot of good pieces in place offensively for the 2016 season, so it wouldn’t be surprising if they attacked the draft in April the same way as 2015.

2015 Minnesota Fantasy Surprises–
In August, 2015….the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s reported that Charles Johnson is “the receiver Teddy Bridgewater trusts most.” Rotoworld forecasted “a breakout year for Johnson in 2015″, as did many fantasy football websites. Utter-Fantasy had Charles Johnson ranked #18 in the preseason, ahead of Amari Cooper, Jeremy Maclin and Eric Decker. Johnson ended 2015 with 127 receiving yards.

2016 Free Agents that Minnesota Needs to Address– TE Rhett Ellison, RB Matt Asiata, CB Terence Newman, OG Mike Harris, OLB Chad Greenway, SS Andrew Sendejo, SS Robert Blanton, DT Kenrick Ellis, CB Marcus Sherels, MLB Audie Cole, CB Josh Robinson

2016 NFL Draft- The Vikings wisely used their first selections in the 2015 NFL Draft on defensive players, starting with CB Trae Waynes. They followed Waynes with ILB E Kendricks, then DE D Hunter in Round 3. In 2016, Minnesota will address their defense and grab a needed safety, but they also need O-Line help…..at guard and at offensive tackle.

Did You Know– In a 1997 game against the Carolina Panthers, Vikings quarterback Brad Johnson became the first NFL quarterback to ever throw a touchdown pass to himself. He did this after catching his own deflected pass and running three yards into the end zone.

Team Home Page: www.vikings.com

All team reports can be seen at this link- TEAM REPORTS

Houston Texans Team Profile 2016

Houston Texans Team Profile 2016 by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles

There have been four head coaches of the AFC South Division Houston Texans. Don Capers was the first, followed by Gary Kubiak, who was fired mid-season on December 6, 2013. ( He was replaced on an interim basis by defensive coordinator Wade Phillips for the last 3 games.) In the 2013 off-season, Bill O’Brien was hired to be the 4th Texans’ next head coach. O’Brien had previously served as the NE offensive coordinator under Bill Belichick. Heading into his 3rd season, O’Brien  serves as both the Texans’ head coach and offensive coordinator.

2016 Team Outlook–
In 2014, Houston’s 9-7 record didn’t come close to winning the AFC South Division, but in 2015, the Houston’s record of 9-7 did win the AFC South. The Indianapolis Colts couldn’t match their 2014 11-5 record, with QB Andrew Luck out most of the season, so Houston leaped on top. With question marks still at quarterback, it will be difficult for Houston to challenge a healthy Andrew Luck and the Colts. ( the Jacksonville Jaguars are an interesting sleeper team)

2016 Fantasy Football Outlook-

QB–
The Indianapolis Colts have only needed only 2 great quarterbacks playing for them since 1998 (Prior to QB Andrew Luck’s injury in 2015). Meanwhile the Texans have struggled with Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, TJ Yates, Brandon Weeden, Matt Schaub, Case Keenum, Matt Leinart, Sage Rosenfls, David Carr, Tony Banks and Dave Ragone! Texans owner Bob McNair has made to clear to the GM and head coach that he isn’t a fan of Hoyers. If there is a Week 1 starting quarterback in this NFL Draft, he probably won’t be there at Houston’s No. 22 overall. UPDATE: The Texans have signed former Bronco QB Brock Osweiler

RBs– Arian Foster has only played in 25 games over the past 3 years. Foster ruptured his Achilles tendon on October 25, 2015, in a loss to the Miami Dolphins. Two days later, Foster was placed on injured reserve. On January 14, 2016, the Houston Chronicle reported that the Texans would likely release Foster before the 2016 season. RB Alfred Blue played 14 games in 2015, ranking only 50th among NFL running backs. The top 5 running backs currently headed for the 2016 NFL Draft are 1. Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State, 2. Derrick Henry, Alabama, 3. Alex Collins, Arkansas, 4. Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech and 5. Devontae Booker, Utah. UPDATE: The Texans have signed former Dolphin RB Lamar Miller

WRs– DeAndre Hopkins, also known as “Nuk,” was drafted by the Texans in the 1st round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He played college football at Clemson. You know that you have a great NFL offensive weapon, when he can put 1521 receiving yards and 11 touchdown receptions (ranking #6 wide receiver in the NFL) with 4 different quarterbacks in 2016. Houston selected two wide receivers back-to-back in the 2015 NFL Draft, WR 6’2″ Jaelen Strong in Round 3, and 6’0″ Keith Mumphery in the 5th Round.


TEs–
Ryan Griffin, CJ Fiedorowicz and Garrett Graham all had minimal action in 2015. Griffin topped the group 251 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns. There are talented free agents tight ends looking for new teams this year, including Dadarius Green, Dwayne Allen and Zach Miller, if Houston feels they are upgrades. 2016 Free Agents-

K–
former Texan place kickers Randy Bullock and Nick Novak (13 games in 2015) are both free agents this year.


DEF–
LE J.J. Watt earned his third Defensive Player of the Year award in the past four seasons. Despite this honor, the Houston defense took a few steps backwards in 2015, dropping from 6th top defense in 2014, to 8th in 2015. The Texans were a pedestrian 13th vs the run last season. Houston used their 1st two selections in the 2015 NFL Draft on 6’0″ CB Kevin Johnson and 6’4″ ILB Benardrick McKinney.


2016 Houston Fantasy Surprises–
Only the Panthers ( Week 2), the Dolphins ( Week 7), the Saints ( Week 12) and the Patriots ( Week 14) were able to slow down wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in 2016. His best game of the season came in Week 6 vs the Jaguars- 10 catches for 148 yards and 2 touchdowns. RB Alfred Blue was moderately effective when given the opportunity, ending 2015 as the 40th running back in the NFL. In Week 3 vs Tampa Bay, he had 31 carries for 139 yards and 1 TD.


2016 Free Agents that Houston Needs to Address–
WR Nate Washington, K Nick Novak, P Shane Lechler, RB Chris Polk, RB Jonathan Grimes (RFA),OG Brandon Brooks, OT Chris Clark, DE Jared Crick, C Ben Jones, FS Quintin Demps, SS Eddie Pleasant (RFA), OLB John Simon (RFA)


2016 NFL Draft–
The immediate needs of Houston is at quarterback, running back, at safety and on their defensive line. The Texan’s first pick doesn’t comes until the 22nd selection of the first round.

Did You Know–
The name Texans has a long history in professional football. The Dallas Texans moved to Kansas City to become the Chiefs. The San Antonio Texans played one year in the Canadian Football League. The Houston Texans of the NFL began play roughly 25 years after the Houston Texans of the WFL left town.

Team Home Page: www.houstontexans.com

All team reports can be seen at this link- TEAM REPORTS

Carolina Panthers Team Profile 2016

Carolina Panthers Team Profile 2016 by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles

Panther’s head coach Ron Rivers was named the AP Coach of the Year on Feb. 6th, 2016. Rivera has led Carolina to 3 straight season playoffs. Carolina started the season 14–0, and had their best regular season record going 15-1. Their only lost in 2015 came in Week 16, vs the Falcons in Atlanta. After their bye in the Wildcard Weekend, the Panthers defeated the Seahawks 31–24 in the Divisional round, avenging their elimination from a year earlier. The Panthers then blew out the Cardinals in the NFC Championship game by a score of 49–15, but lost to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50 by a score of 24–10.

2016 Team Outlook- The Panthers share the NFC South division with the Saints, the Falcons and the Buccaneers. In 2014, not one of these teams ended the season over .500.  In 2015, only Carolina had a record better than .500. ( the other 3 teams- Atlanta 8-8, New Orleans 7-9 and Tampa Bay 6-10 ). This will be Carolina’s division to win again in 2016, unless one of the other 3 teams has a break out season.

2016 Fantasy Football Outlook–

QB- AP’s Most Valuable Player was Cam Newton, an honor which was expected even as early as Week 14. Cam Newton was the #1 ranked quarterback for the 2015 season, with 4473 total yards ( 3837 passing and 636 rushing yards), 45 touchdowns ( most in the NFL) and only 10 INTs. Newton was drafted as the 1st overall selection by the Panthers in the 2011 NFL Draft and is one of the few Heisman Trophy winners (2010) to have uncommon success in the NFL ( read Utter-Fantasy’s “The Curse of the Heisman Trophy” article). Cam Newton is only getting better with each NFL season, and he has only missed two regular season games since being drafted in 2011.

RBs- RB Cameron Artis-Payne was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the 5th Round of the 2015 NFL Draft, but it was understood that he would only be a change-of-pace running back, and eased into the offense. ( Artis-Payne ended 2015 as the #85 running back for 2015 with only 183 rushing yards and only 1 touchdown.) Due to RB Jonathon Stewart’s history of injuries, Utter-fantasy wasn’t high on him for the 2015 season. Stewart only played 6 games in 2013 and only 13 games in 2014. In 2015 he was a solid contributor in the 13 games that he played, finishing the season as the #16 running back in the NFL ( 989 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns)  Unfortunately for any running back in Carolina, QB Cam Newton is a TD vulture anywhere near the goal line. RB Cameron Artis-Payne’s playing time will only increase going forward, so do not draft injury-prone Stewart in any early round next September.

WRs– Few thought that after Carolina lost WR Kelvin Benjamin in the pre-season, that they could win the NFC South Division. In August, Benjamin tore his ACL in practice ending his 2015 season. Fortunately Ted Ginn stepped up big in 2015 with a career year- 739 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns ( 7th best in the NFL). WR Corey Brown contributed as well with 447 yards and 4 TDs.  Rookie Devin Funchess, drafted in the 2nd round of the 2015 NFL Draft, had only 7 receptions in his first 7 games. In Week 17, Funchess broke out with 7 catches for 120 yards and 1 TD vs Tampa Bay. A relatively non-factor in Carolina’s playoff run ( 5 catches for 73 yards total in 3 games), but Funchess did have a receiving touchdown vs Arizona in the Conference Game. Ideally, Funchess could serve as the Panthers’ No. 2 wideout in 2016, opposite Kelvin Benjamin. Ted Ginn turns 31 this April and is owed $1.4 million.

TEs- In 2011, the Chicago Bears traded TE Greg Olsen to the Carolina Panthers for a 2012 third round draft pick. That still has to sting. Olsen ended the 2015 NFL season the #4 tight end, with only Gronk having more receiving yards ( 1176 Gronk-Olsen 1104) No tight end has been more consistent than Olsen, who has only missed two regular season games since his rookie season in 2007.

K- Graham Gano ended the 2015 season the 2nd best scoring kicker, converting 30 of 36 field goals and 56 of 59 extra point attempts, the most in the NFL.

DEF- The top 5 NFL defenses for 2015 were #1 Denver, #2 Carolina, #3 Arizona, #4 Seattle and #5 NY Jets according to “the footballoutsiders. With the #2 defense and the #1 rushing offense, Carolina plowed through the regular season 15-1, and went to Super Bowl 50. HC Rivera will always put a strong defense on the field, so pencil them in as a top 10 defense for 2016. UPDATE: RE Jared Allen retired

2015 Carolina Fantasy Surprises- Prior to 2015, QB Cam Newton’s career best for passing touchdowns was 24 in 2013. In 2015, Cam threw 35 passing TD and adding 10 more rushing TDs. Newton was voted MVP for the regular season. WR Ted Ginn’s 2015 season was a career best with 739 receiving yards. In 2015, CAR WR Ted Ginn had 10 receiving touchdowns  ( 7th best in the NFL). From 2014-2007 when Ginn was drafted, he had 11 touchdowns combined. RB Jonathon Stewart’s 989 and 6 rushing touchdowns was most successful season since 2009 ( 1133 rushing yards and 10 TDs).

2016 Free Agents that Carolina Needs to Address- CB Josh Norman, CB Charles Tillman, SS Roman Harper, FB Mike Tolbert, OG Amini Silatolu, DT Kyle Love, DE Frank Alexander, P Brad Nortman, CB Cortland Finnegan, OG Chris Scott, WR Stephen Hill (RFA)

2016 NFL Draft- Expect Carolina concentrate on keeping their defense on of NFL’s best, with free agency signing and young talent from the 2016 NF Draft. RCB CB Charles Tillman and fill-in slot CB  Cortland Finnegan are free agents, so corner backs and tone-setting safety should be priorities. Carolina got what they could out of LT Michael Oher and RT Mike Remmers, but the O-Line desperately needs upgrading.

Did You Know- that Carolina Panther’s QB Cam Newton’s full name is Cameron Jerrell Newton

Team Home page: http://www.panthers.com/

Buffalo Bills Team Profile 2016

Buffalo Bills Team Profile 2016 by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles

Rex Ryan’s first year as head coach of Buffalo wasn’t a bad one. His last year with the Jets, Ryan led the team to only 4 wins, so ending 2015 with a record of 8-8 was respectable. For the 2015 Buffalo Bills Team Profile, Utter-Fantasy predicted two things would happen…….1) the players will love him 2) the team will have a losing season. Utter-Fantasy is happy to be wrong on one of them. Give the new head coach credit for getting 8 wins out of a team thrown together in the spring of 2015. QB Tyrod Taylor wasn’t the quarterback for Buffalo in 2014.  RB LeSean McCoy wasn’t the running back for Buffalo in 2014.  TE Charles Clay, you guessed it…….wasn’t the tight end for Buffalo in 2014. WR Sammy Watkins was a rookie in 2014 ( see Buffalo Draft) and forced to start over with a new QB in 2015. These players and others all had to come together as a team over the summer and in pre-season, and make it work during the regular season. Not an easy task.

2016 Team Outlook- Buffalo ( and the rest of the AFC East Division) get stampeded by the New England Patriots. The Pats are the thorn in Rexy’s side, it was while he coached the Jets and remains while he’s coaching Buffalo ( but that’s why he got the Buffalo gig, his familiarity with his opponents in that division.) On January 10th of this year, brother Rex hired brother Rob, former New Orleans defense coordinator, to run the Buffalo defense. ( On November 16, 2015, the day after a 47–14 loss to Washington, and with the New Orleans defense ranked last in the NFL, Ryan was fired.) Nepotism doesn’t get much more ridiculous than this. Rob stinks as a defense coordinator. Not my opinion, it’s a fact. Rex Ryan’s first NFL Draft as head coach was not considered to be a very good one. In 2015 , Mel Kiper handed out his NFL Draft grades and ranked the Buffalo Bills draft dead last.

2016 Fantasy Football Outlook–

QB- Tyrod Taylor was signed away from Baltimore on March 12, 2015, the young quarterback signed a 3-year, $3.35 million contract with Buffalo. On August 31, 2015, Taylor was named the starting quarterback for the 2015 season by head coach Rex Ryan, after beating out former Bills first round pick EJ Manuel and veteran Matt Cassel in their preseason quarterback competition among the three. Although Taylor’s season wasn’t disasterous ( He set the Buffalo Bills’ franchise record for consecutive passes without an interception in the third quarter of a week 13 ) Bills GM Doug Whaley gave a half-hearted endorsement of Tyrod Taylor as the long-term starting quarterback.

RBs- A decent part of this section should be devoted to newly acquired RB LeSean McCoy’s accomplishments during the 2015 and how he overcame his Week 3 injury to become the starting running back for Buffalo once again in Week 9, but that’s ancient history for LeSean. McCoy has recently found himself in a peck of trouble. Arrest warrants for McCoy and and three other alleged assailants are expected to be served in February. McCoy is being accused of assaulting two off-duty police officers at a Philadelphia nightclub last Saturday night/Sunday morning. This has a long way to go still, but it’s possible McCoy serves time on Exempt List. In 2015, Buffalo selected rookie running back Karlos Williams’ in the 5th round of the NFL Draft. Throughout 2015, he shared time with McCoy, racking up 517 rushing yards along with 7 TD runs. He ended 2015 as the 31st ranked RB for the season. In light of McCoy’s legal trouble, Williams fantasy stock is on the rise.

WRs- Who are the wide receivers on the Buffalo Bill’s roster? Sammy Watkins. Good, now who else? Woods somebody. OK….his name is actually Robert Woods……who else? ZZZZZZZ. Therein lies the problem. Buffalo has actually been focused on selecting wide receivers in past drafts, and most are still on their roster. WR Marcus Easley was drafted in 2010, Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin in 2013, Sammy Watkins in 2014 and Dezwin Lewis in 2015. Perhaps they are still in development and will be solid contributors in the future. One has to wonder however, why Buffalo keeps adding wide receiver journeyman on their roster, such as Greg Salas, Greg Little, Leonard Hankerson and Jarrett Boykin.

TEs- Scott Chandler is the only name worth mentioning one year ago, until Buffalo shuffled him off to New England and acquired former Miami free agent TE Charles Clay. He’s a big, tough guy and Buffalo signed a five-year, $38 million deal back in March, and Buffalo paid him like an elite tight end.  It was an expensive 51 catches for only 528 yards with 3 measley touchdowns. TE Scott chandler could have done that. Wait…Scott Chandler DID do that, in 2014….almost….47 catches for only 497 yards with 3 measley touchdowns for Buffalo. After only one year with a new head coach and new teammates, Clay can’t be considered a bust yet. Clay has great size and talent so the Bills need to tap into more of it in 2016.

K- Buffalo’s Dan Carpenter had been in the top 10 rankings for kickers in 2014 ( #6) and 2013 (#10) . Due to a poor offense, Carpenter fell to #20 in 2015. Carpenter seemed to struggle the most with the extra yardage added to extra point in 2015. He went only 34 for in 40 attempts, the most missed extra points in the NFL.

DEF- The Buffalo defense took a nose dive in 2015, falling from #3 in 2014 to #26. So how did Rexy decide to fix it. He brought in his brother Rob, who was fired from New Orleans for engineering the worst defense in the NFL. ( that’s like hiring CLEV WR Josh Gordon as a guidance counselor for chemical dependency!)

2015 Buffalo Fantasy Surprises- My fantasy football surprise from Buffalo isn’t Sammy Watkins ( we all expect him to do great things), but QB Tyrod Taylor. While running back LeSean McCoy was the only Buffalo Bills player to officially make the 2015 Pro Bowl, first-year quarterback Tyrod Taylor also made a trip to Hawaii as an alternate for the game, replacing Panther’s quarterback Cam Newton. Tylor ended 2015 as the 18th ranked quarterback in the NFL. He threw for 3035 yards and ran for 568 more. Taylor also had the least amount of interceptions (6) for any QB playing in al least 14 games. Another fantasy football surprise for 2015 was RB Karlos Williams. Many people questioned HC Ryan’s selection Williams in the 2015 NFL Draft, but Williams was a contributor to the offense in 11 of Buffalo’s 16 games last season and as mentioned earlier, RB McCoy’s legal trouble could lead to Williams be the #1 running back in Buffalo for 2016.

2016 Free Agents that Buffalo need to address- OG Richie Incognito, DT Corbin Bryant (RFA), OLB Nigel Bradham, WR Percy Harvin, FS Bacarri Rambo (RFA), DT Alex Carrington, CB Ron Brooks, DT Stefan Charles (RFA), OTJordan Mills, WR Leonard Hankerson LT Cordy Glenn

2016 NFL Draft- Buffalo has half of their O-Line headed for free agency, so if they can’t find a way to keep them, they must replace them. HC Rex Ryan ( and now Rob) have to fix a defense that ranked #26…..they need help with new linebackers and in their secondary.

Did you know- January 2016 marked the first time the two twins, Rex Ryan and Rob Ryan, had coached together since 1995. Back then, they were coaching under their father, Buddy Ryan, with the Arizona Cardinals.

Atlanta Falcons Team Profile 2016

Atlanta Falcons Team Profile 2016 by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles

On Feb 2nd, The Atlanta Falcons hired Dan Quinn, former defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks, as their new head coach for the 2015 season. This was Quinn’s first job as a head coach in the NFL. Atlanta ended the 2014 season with a 6-10 record, which cost Mike Smith Smith his job, fired on December 29, 2014. Smith had two losing seasons in a row. Expectations were now high for new HC Quinn and Atlanta in 2015, but they missed the playoffs…….finishing with a disappointing 8-8 record.

2016 Team Outlook- The Carolina Panthers easily won the NFC division in 2015, winning 15 of 16 regular season games, and losing to Denver ( and the refs) in Super Bowl 50. New Orleans and Tampa Bay will likely struggle again in 2016, so Atlanta’s battle is with Carolina for the NFC South.

2016 Fantasy Football Outlook-

QB- Matt Ryan had finished in the top 10 of NFL QBs every year since 2010, but he took a step backwards in 2015 finishing #16 among NFL quarterbacks. He WAS rock solid quarterback for fantasy owners until the 2015 season. Last year Ryan had 8 games in which he only threw for 1 touchdown, and had 2 games with none. Atlanta will need to address their receiving corps if Ryan is to rebound. WR Julio Jones was a one-man show and that’s about all QB Ryan had.

RBs- Nobody saw RB Devonta Freeman’s breakout season coming. ( If someone says they did see it coming, check to see if their pants are on fire.) Weeks 2 thru 9, Freeman was the “hottest fantasy football running back” in the NFL. In that span, Freeman racked up 1094 total yards and 11 TDs. Freeman unfortunately suffered a concussion Week 11 during the game, and forced to miss Week 12. ( Freeman never posted more than 81 rushing yards in any game after his concussion.) Fantasy football owners seem skeptical of a repeat season, currently drafting Gurley, Peterson, LeVeon Bell and David Johnson ahead of Freeman in recent mock drafts. ( see Utter-Fantasy article “Mock Football Drafts from 2015 to 2016″ )

WRs- Heading into the 2015 season, Atlanta was thought to have one of the stronger receiving corps in the NFL. QB Matt Ryan and Falcons fans found out otherwise. Wide receiver Roddy White is sadly a shell of his former self, and injuries to Leonard Hankerson and Devin Hester left the the team without weapons. The Falcons are really feeling it, having ignored the WR position in many NFL Drafts since 2008. ( see Atlanta Falcon Draft history ). 2015- 4th rounder Justin Hardy ( 5’10”) is the only WR drafted by Atlanta since Julio Jones’ 1st round selection in 2011. 2010 5th rounder WR Kerry Meier only played in 12 career games in Atlanta, on special teams. UPDATE: The Falcons have released Roddy White…..Falcons sign former Bengal WR Mohamed Sanu

TEs- Jacob Tamme was brought into Atlanta to give QB Matt Ryan another weapon and try to fill in for Future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez who called it quits in 2013. Tamme failed to do so however, with only 59 receptions in 2015, 657 receiving yards and only 1 TD. The Falcons need to address wide recievers and a tight end in free agency and/or the 2016 NFL Draft if they are going to have any chance competing with Carolina in their division.

K- On December 11th, Falcons placed K Matt Bryant (quad) on injured reserve, ending his season. Shayne Graham closed out the season as Atlanta’s placekicker. The Falcons have Matt Bryant signed through 2017, after giving him an offseason extension. ( Shayne Graham is a free agent)

DEF- In 2014, Atlanta was the 8th worst defense in the NFL. In 2015, Atlanta was the 5th worst defense in the NFL. If the Falcons do not get help fast, they will be in the cellar of the NFC South, looking up at Carolina, New Orleans and Tampa Bay, no matter how many points their offense puts up.

2015 Atlanta Fantasy Surprises- Clearly there were two obvious fantasy football surprises from Atlanta in 2015, one good and one bad. As I wrote earlier, nobody saw RB Devonta Freeman’s breakout season coming (the Good) and few likely saw QB Matt Ryan’s mediocre 2015 fantasy season coming ( the Bad).

2016 Free Agents that Atlanta Needs to Address-  DT Adrian Clayborn, DE Kroy Biermann, MLB Paul Worrilow (RFA), DE/LB O’Brien Schofield, SS Charles Godfrey, OLB Philip Wheeler, RT Ryan Schraeder (RFA), OG Chris Chester,K Shayne Graham

2016 NFL Draft- The early needs of Atlanta are Defensive End, help on the O-Line and Wide Receivers/ Tight End. The Falcons actually need multiple pass-rush additions (LBs), having finished dead last in the NFL in sacks (19). An upgrade at center is critical for a new Falcon offense because C Mike Person isn’t the answer and OG Chris Chester is headed for free agency. I’ve already written enough about Atlanta’s receiving corps woes.

Did You Know- that the owner of the Atlanta Falcons is Arthur M. Blank (born September 27, 1942) and co-founder of Home Depot. His current net worth is $2.6 Billion.

Arizona Cardinals Team Profile 2016

Arizona Cardinals Team Profile 2016 by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles

HC Bruce Arians became an NFL head coach for the first time when hired by Arizona on January 17, 2013. Named the Associated Press Coach of the Year after leading the Cardinals to an 11-5 record and a berth in the postseason in 2014. In 2015, Arians (with a healthy Carson Palmer), lead the team to yet another post-season appearance, and top of the NFC West division with a 13-3 regular season record. The NFC West title earned the Arizona Cardinals a “bye’ in the Wild Card Weekend, and the following week they beat Green Bay in the Divisional game. Losing to Carolina in the Conference game cost Arizona a shot at the Super Bowl.

2016 Team Outlook- The NFC West consists of Arizona, Seattle, St. Louis and San Francisco. Even with RB Marshawn Lynch retiring, the Seahawks will still be contenders in that division. St. Louis and San San Francisco have major concerns at the quarterback position, for starters, so it should be another Arizona/ Seattle slugfest for the division.

2016 Fantasy Football Outlook-

QB- Carson Palmer had a career year in 2015, throwing for 4671 yard, 35 touch down passes- only 11 INTS. Palmer’s worst game unfortunately came in the Cardinals’ blowout loss to the Panthers in the NFC Championship Game. Carson Palmer completed 23-of-40 passes for 235 yards, one touchdown, and four interceptions and lost two fumbles. Palmer is 36 years old ( he’ll be 37 on December 27th, 2016) but Palmer was a legitimate MVP candidate and plays in an offense with playmakers all around him. He also has one of the best head coaches in the NFL. He should once again be a solid QB1 in 2016 and a top 10 fantasy football quarterback for fantasy owners.

RBs- Atlanta Falcon RB Devonta Freeman was the running back star of the 1st half of the 2015 NFL season, and Arizona RB David Johnson made a case for being the running back star of the 2nd half of the 2015 NFL season. ( David Johnson was selected by the Cardinals in the 3rd round of the 2015 NFL Draft-)  Prior to Week 12 of the 2015 regular season, RB Johnson totaled 109 rushing yards, backing up RB Chris Johnson. In Johnson’s last 5 regular season games as the starter, he rushed for 442 and added 5 touchdowns. ( he also had 216 receiving yards in those 5 games) A duo threat rushing and receiving, Johnson has all the makings of a three-down back in one of the NFL’s best offenses, and should be one of the top 5 running backs drafted next September ( see Utter-Fantasy article “Mock Football Drafts from 2015 to 2016″ )

WRs- The 2015 NFL season was a “Renaissance” for both QB Carson Palmer and WR Larry Fitzgerald. In 2014, Fitzgerald was the #55 ranked wide receiver at the end of the season, with only 63 receptions, 784 receiving yards and 2 TDs. ( of course, injuries to Arizona quarterbacks had a lot to do with these poor stats). With a healthy QB Carson Palmer,  Fitzgerald’s ranking as wide receiver at the end of the 2015 season jumped all the way up to #9, with 1215 receiving yards and 9 TDs. (“Fitz” also dominated the Divisional post season game win against the Green Bay Packers.) With WR John Brown ( #22 WR for 2015) and Michael Floyd ( #34 WR for 2015), the Cardinals are poised for another prolific season for Arizona fans and fantasy football owners.

TEs- The Cardinals are so stacked in their receiving corps, that it might be impossible for any tight end ( unless Gronk suddenly got trade west) to make a huge offensive mark in Arizona. The Cardinals had 2 tight ends marginally involved in their offense in 2015, Darren Fells (311 receiving yards and 3 TDs) and Jermaine Gresham (223 receiving yards and 1 TDs). These 2015 stats are likely the ceiling for any tight end in Arizona in 2016. Gresham is a free agent this year.

K- Good NFL offenses usually leads to good fantasy years for “kickers’. Injuries to Arizona quarterbacks in 2014, made it difficult for the Cardinals to be a good offensive team, which is why K Chandler Catanzaro was only the #19 ranked kicker that season. With QB Palmer healthy, The Cardinals offense was very good and so was K Chandler Catanzaro, knocking in 28 of 31 field goals and the 2nd most extra points in the NFL ( 58). Catanzaro ranked as the 3rd best kicker in the NFL for 2015.

DEF- In 2014, Arizona was ranked #7 in defense. With a smash-mouth mentality, Arizona was even better in 2015, ranking #2. Pencil the Cardinals in for a top 5 defense again for 2016.

2015 Arizona Fantasy Surprises- Going into the 2015 NFL season, RB Andre Ellington was to be the workhorse for the Arizona Cardinals, with Chris Johnson as his back up. Few people thought that CJ2K had much left in the tank, after sputtering about the league the past couple of years. Ellington’s sprained PCL at the beginning of the 2015 season, gave CJ2K the starting job and he was the fantasy surprise. From Week 2 through Week 8, Johnson racked up 645 rushing and receiving yards with 3 rushing touchdowns. A fractured tibia in Week 12 ended his season, but for a stretch there, ol’ CJ2K was back in the NFL. Chris Johnson is a free agent in 2016.

2015 Free Agents that Arizona need to address-  RB Chris Johnson,  C Lyle Sendlein, OG Ted Larsen,  OLB Dwight Freeney, WR Jaron Brown (RFA), TE Jermaine Gresham, ILB Sean Weatherspoon, SS D.J. Swearinger (RFA), OLB LaMarr Woodley, DE Red Bryant, FS Chris Clemons, QB Drew Stanton, FS Rashad Johnson, FS Tony Jefferson (RFA), RT Bobby Massie, CB Jerraud Powers

2016 NFL Draft- The early needs of the Arizona Cardinals are, like almost every NFL team, is shoring up their O-Line due to free agency. Their #2 defense needs some young players mixed in, and Arizona might have the worst supporting cast backing up QB Palmer in the NFL. ( Prior Arizona Cardinal Drafts )

Did you know- The Cardinals have not drafted a quarterback in the first 3 rounds of any draft since 2006 ( Matt Leinart, Round One- 10th overall)

The Curse of the Heisman Trophy

The Curse of the Heisman Trophy by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug “Believer in Curses” Bowles

The Friday before “Super Bowl Weekend” can be a bit depressing. It means that the NFL season is almost over, and even staring at a couple new fantasy football trophies on my mantle doesn’t help.

My wife is an Alabama alumni, so watching Crimson Tide games is mandatory ( but I’d watch them anyways, no matter who I was married to!) As you might know, there are many Saban stars currently in the NFL. Julio Jones, Eddie Lacy, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, CJ Mosley, AJ McCarron, Dont’a Hightower and Mark Ingram to name a few.

The New Year however, did offer a couple of interesting college bowl games, which helped take my mind off of the end of another fantasy season. I particularly wanted to see the Cotton Bowl (Alabama vs Michigan State) and later the BCS National Championship ( (Alabama vs Clemson) so that I could get another good look at Heisman Trophy winner running back Derrick Henry.

During Alabama’s victory over Clemson, Henry rushed for 158 yards on 36 carries with three touchdowns. During the game, he also broke Shaun Alexander’s record for most career rushing yards in Alabama history. As a true freshman in 2013, Henry rushed for 382 yards on 36 carries with three touchdowns. During the 2014 Sugar Bowl, he rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown on eight carries and had a 61-yard touchdown reception. Sharing time with T J Yeldon his sophomore year in 2014, Henry rushed for 990 yards on 172 carries with 11 touchdowns. TJ Yeldon entered the NFL Draft in 2015, so Henry took over as the starting running back as a junior. Playing in all 15 games, he rushed for SEC records 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns on 395 carries.

I don’t know what it is about the Heisman, but like the Madden Cover, the success rate of anyone getting on the Heisman Award, is not good.

Here’s 15 years worth….

2000- QB Chris Weinke…..In 2001, he was the starter when the Panthers finished with a 1-15 record. Back up QB the rest of his career. Out in 2007

2001- QB Eric Crouch…..Drafted by St. Louis, but seen by the NFL as too short to play QB and better suited for playing wide out. Because of the injury, Crouch left the team before playing a single game

2002- QB Carson Palmer…..successful as the starting QB in Cincinnati and Arizona, but injuries have limited what Palmer might have been able to accomplish

2003- QB Jason White…..Despite a strong college career, White was not selected in the 2005 NFL Draft and did not receive a tryout from any NFL team

2004- QB Matt Leinart…..famous for his rookie season “hold-out”, Leinart spent four seasons with the Cardinals, primarily as backup for Kurt Warner

2005- ( RB Reggie Bush- Trophy & Award Forfeited )

2006- QB Troy Smith…..In the NFL from 2007 to 2009. Smith wasn’t drafted until Day 2, and was finally selected at the end of the fifth round by the Baltimore Ravens.

2007- QB T Tebow….He began the 2011 season as the Denver backup QB, behind Kyle Orton. Traded to the Jets in 2012 and a short stint with the Patriots, he was out of the NFL by 2013.

2008- QB Sam Bradford…..Drafted in 2010 by St. Louis. Expectations have been high for often-injured Bradford. In 2011, he went 4-0 in the preseason, but the Rams finished a dismal 2-14

2009- RB Mark Ingram….. Selected by the New Orleans Saints in the 2011 NFL Draft. Ingram’s best season so far is 2014. In prior seasons, Ingram never topped 602 yards or 5 TDs.

2010- QB Cam Newton…..most successful of Heisman trophy winners since 2000. Starter for the Carolina Panthers since 2011. 82 TDs vs 54 INTs

2011- QB Robert Griffin III…..has only 12 wins since starting in 2012

2012- QB J Manziel…..After a disastrous 2 seasons on the Cleveland roster, Manziel is said to be released by the Browns in March 2016.

2013- QB Jameis Winston

2014- QB Marcus Mariota

2015- RB Derrick Henry…..won the Heisman Trophy, beating out finalists Christian McCaffrey and Deshaun Watson.

The end of the regular NFL season is pretty darn depressing, but perhaps not as depressing as this pitiful list…but it seems to be getting better. 2010 Heisman trophy winner Cam Newton not only had an MVP regular season, but is headed for the Super Bowl on February 7th. Rookie QBs Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota had very good 1st years in the NFL, for rookie quarterbacks. (Perhaps the most demanding position in sports, to be thrown into right away. ) Now… can Derrick Henry keep the positive streak of the Heisman going, or will he start a new streak of players with the trophy who are unsuccessful in the NFL?

After watching RB Henry quite a bit over the past couple years, I am afraid that he is a product of a very good Alabama system, rather than being a very good running back. Remember, RB Trent Richardson was also a star running back from Alabama, a powerful, straight ahead runner like Henry, who failed miserably in the NFL. Jacksonville’s TJ Yeldon is out that same mold as well, and he didn’t exactly set the NFL on fire with his talent in 2015 ( 740 yards on 182 carries- 2 TDs).

A more talented back out of Alabama is Eddie “when he’s 30 pounds lighter” Lacy. I am hoping that Henry turns out to be more “Lacy” than “Richardson”, but until we know…..let everyone else draft him high next September.

2015 Strength of Schedule and Who Cares

2015 Strength of Schedule and Who Cares by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator & Doug Bowles

I’ll admit it. I tend to be the “over-thinker” in regards to the NFL and fantasy football.

Every fantasy draft has a few of me…..the fantasy football drafter who researches everything and anything in order to draft the best possible fantasy team. ( Every fantasy draft also has the “unprepared” team owners….who “wing it” from the start, and who maybe studied an hour before the draft. )
As the “over-thinker”, I look at everything from statistics, trends, player contracts, offensive lines…and even NFL drafts dating back 10 years. You name it, I usually research it. But one area I think I’ll stop considering is “Strength of Schedule”….also called “Projected Difficulty of Schedule”. After researching my research, I’ve concluded that 2015 Strength of Schedule and Who Cares!

The following is a list of 14 teams…..7 teams which had the hardest NFL schedules for 2015, and 7 teams which had the easiest NFL schedules for 2015. It is very interesting to see how their seasons turned out. It appears that if a team is good enough, it ultimately doesn’t matter who they are playing.

NFL – In 2015, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati had the 1st and 2nd hardest schedule respectively. As you know, these 2 teams with the most Difficulty of Schedule, got into the playoffs.

The Strength of Schedule is based on statistics from the previous year. With all the changes that NFL teams go through, from the Super Bowl in February to kickoff in September, the information for determining the Strength of Schedule almost becomes obsolete and irrelevant.

The Strength of Schedule did not seem to help the teams that were terrible the year before either. Atlanta who was given the easiest schedule, was 6-10 in 2014, and 8-8 in 2015, ( not much of an improvement) Jacksonville, New Orleans and Tennessee also had some of the easiest of schedules and yet they combined for only 15 wins. 7 teams listed below with very tough schedules all went to the playoffs. (The Carolina Panthers actually fell into the “Easy Schedule”, at #6 (easiest) for 2015, but they would have gone to the playoffs regardless.)

Strength of Schedule…TEAM…2015 Record

#32 (hardest)…PITTSBURGH………..10-6
#31 (hardest)…CINCINNATI…………12-4
#29 (hardest)…SEATTLE…………….10-6
#28 (hardest)…ARIZONA…………….13-3
#25 (hardest)…KANSAS CITY……….11-5
#23 (hardest)…DENVER………..……12-4
#21 (hardest)….MINNESOTA………..11-5

#10 (easiest)…PHILADELPHIA……….7-9
#9 (easiest)…DALLAS………………….4-8
#8 (easiest)…JACKSONVILLE……….5-11
#7 (easiest)…TENNESSEE………..…..3-13
#5 (easiest)…NEW ORLEANS………..7-9
#2 (easiest)…INDIANAPOLIS…….….8-8
#1 (easiest)…ATLANTA………………..8-8

 

FANTASY FOOTBALL – Strength of Schedule also doesn’t seem to matter in fantasy football. One would think that if a team has a very difficult schedule, then scoring would be more difficult. Not true! The Arizona Cardinals, with the #28 (hardest) Schedule was tops in the NFL in scoring points ( 489). Seattle (423), and Pittsburgh (423) also had tougher schedules while scoring in the top 10 of NFL teams for points in 2015.

So, going into the 2016 season, I will ignore any “Strength of Schedules” statistics that I happen to stumble on, and I will concentrate on what really matters…“Strength of Talent”.