Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Over Looks Solid in the Georgia Dome Tonight

Don't worry everyone, the two days without football are over. All of you SnapCallers out there can start to predict the Week 3 action tonight as the 0-2 Buccaneers head into the Georgia Dome to take on Matt Ryan and the 1-1 Atlanta Falcons. For those of you with larger monetary appetite, the Falcons are laying 6 points at home tonight. Too big? Too small? Whichever side of the fence you're on, we've got the info to help you sort out your pick. Let's dive in:

We start with the injury report, and that leads us directly to the visitor's locker room. The man once known as the "Muscle Hamster," Doug Martin, is once again not going to start this week. He'll give way to speedster Bobby Rainey. Martin banged up his knee in Week 1 against Carolina, and missed the team's second game. Still, he's practiced all week, and could get a few touches in this one if he makes it through warm-ups. It's odd, because generally, when your bell-cow running back is healthy enough to suit up, he's healthy enough to start. Head coach Lovie Smith has been animate in saying he wants to use a backfield by committee this year, but words are one thing, and actions are another. It's possible that Tampa Bay is just riding Rainey's hot hand after he racked up 174 total yards on 25 touches in Week 2. Still, Bucs beat writer Rick Stroud tweeted that Rainey's start is "not just because of Doug Martin's knee. The coaches really do like [Rainey]." In addition, Martin is averaging a paltry 3.41 yards per carry over the last two seasons, so we could be seeing a shift in philosophy. Rainey, a speed-back, fits more with an uptempo, pass-first offense. Think of a poor-man's Darren Sproles. Since Tampa will probably be playing from behind for a good portion of this game, don't expect many power running looks for Martin. Sorry fantasy owners.

The Falcons on the other hand are fairly healthy. WR Roddy White has been dealing with a sore hamstring, but it seems like he's on the injury report every week, and always toughs it out. This one is set to be a shootout, and in an important divisional game, we'd bet good money that Roddy won't leave his QB hanging. 

As we said, we anticipate Tampa playing from behind tonight, but that most definitely does not mean that this game will be a blowout. The Matt Ryan-Julio Jones-Roddy White combination may be as daunting as any QB-WR-WR trio in the league, but the pirates from the Gulf Coast have a few tricks of their own. While QB Josh McCown hasn't put up eye-popping numbers quite yet, we saw what he was capable of last year while filling in for Jay Cutler in Chicago. With the Bears, he had two gigantic receivers as targets. He may not have Marshall or Jeffery anymore, but Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans are proving to be a big, lethal combination in their own right. Considering that Atlanta has given up an average of 317 yards through the air this season, ranking 31st in the NFL, it's safe to say we'll see McCown take quite a few shots down-field. Watch for big plays tonight on the turf. It may be crazy, but we wouldn't be shocked to see four different receivers reach triple-digit yardage tonight. 

So we have some on-field trends, now what does the sports book have to say? Even as a 4-12 team last year, the Falcons averaged 24 points per game at home. Now, with a healthy roster, they should be good for at least 30. Let's disregard their injury riddled 2013 campaign. In 2012 Atlanta went 13-3 in the regular season, covering the spread 9 times. At home though, they went 7-1, covering 5 times. Who could have possibly beaten them at home that year? That's right, Tampa Bay. 

On the Tampa side, it's nearly irrelevant to reflect on last year, as there's a new QB in town, and a plethora of other new faces on the offense. Although we have a limited sample size this year, the Bucs have failed to cover twice, and the under has hit both times.

All in all, it's safe to say that Matt Ryan will lead the Falcons into the end zone quite a few times. Josh McCown should be able to keep up for a while against a feckless ATL defense, but is he ready to lead an impressive upset? The easy money is on a Falcons' victory, but don't be shocked if we see a last minute back-door cover to shatter the hearts of handicappers everywhere. Remember, you might be good, but Vegas is better. 

Tune in at 8:20 PM ET tonight when SnapCall kicks off it's coverage of Week 3!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Nationals Dilemma: Pickup the Win or Protect the Pen?

While the Nationals are cruising toward the postseason, the Braves are in complete free-fall. Atlanta is 5.5 games back in the Wildcard race entering Wednesday, with just 12 games to go. Crazier things have happened, but if they want to get the ball rolling it would have to start with a win over Gio Gonzalez and the Nats tonight on ESPN.

Last night, the Nationals became one of only two teams to clinch their division thus far, winning their 3rd NL East title in franchise history, and 2nd in three years. Still, they're in a tight race with the Dodgers for the top spot in the National League, which would ensure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. 

Looking to the mound, Gonzalez's numbers (8-10, 3.79 ERA) don't do him justice. He has recorded a quality start in each of his last five outings, one of which being a hard-earned win against those same Dodgers. He should have two goals tonight: The first, and most important, is to stay healthy. That should be the aim at all times, but with the Nationals banking on their rotation in October, they can not afford to lose their ace. Win or loss, they can't push him too far.

Funny enough, the second goal may become completely contradictory to the first. Gio has to do everything he can to save the bullpen, which generally means going deep into the game. Rafael Soriano has been removed from the closer's role, and Matt Williams has decided to go with a closer-by-committee approach. While Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard have both thrived in late inning roles throughout their careers, any manager would rather not make that decision every day with the game on the line. 

What can Gio do to preserve health, but still go deep into the game? He must throw strikes early and often. This Braves team ranks 29th in runs, 23rd in batting average, and 26th in slugging percentage. The fact is, they just can't hit the ball very hard. While Freddie Freeman and Evan Gattis may be dangerous bats, they don't have much protection, and generally don't have men on base in front of them. Sure, Gonzalez has the stuff to finesse his way through heavy bats, but he doesn't need to do that tonight. Expect him to pitch to contact, and not make the game harder than it has to be. 

As for the the Braves, they should see a steady dose of fastballs early in the count. Once they see enough pitches, expect free swinging. While Washington is just a middle of the pack team defensively, ranking 15th in the league, they're better suited taking their chances with balls in play tonight, and Atlanta is perfectly okay with that. It's all about whether Atlanta can rack up enough power shots to knock Gio out of the game early. If they do that, they could very well keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

Be sure to open your SnapCall app at 7:00PM ET as Gonzalez takes on Braves' youngster Alex Wood (10-10, 2.83 ERA) in the final game between these two clubs!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Fantasy Dos and Don'ts: Week 3

Anything can happen in one week of fantasy football. Even two weeks is too small a sample size. Three weeks though, and your team starts to form a reputation. Falling to 0-3 probably means it's time to make a move, while vaulting to 3-0 gives you cushion when your team is inevitably ravaged by injury, or in this year's case, suspension. Still, what if you're in the middle of the pack? Where do you turn? You've got questions, we've got answers. As bye weeks approach, it's crucial to have the appropriate depth on your squad. We'll dive into a couple of possible moves to make or break your team.

DON'T overreact to QB play. We know it's tough for those of you who have drafted Drew Brees, Tony Romo, or Tom Brady.  RG3 is hurt, so too is Carson Palmer, but there is no reason to panic. These guys are meant to put up big points, and they just haven't yet. Still, it is very rarely worth trading for a QB, considering how deep the player pool is. In a 12 team league with standard scoring, it's more than likely that signal-callers such as Joe Flacco, Josh McCown, Geno Smith, Ryan Tannehill, or Eli Manning are free agents. If you have a free roster spot, and can nab someone going against a weak secondary while you wait for your big guns to turn it around, that's fine. Otherwise, remember the golden rule: play your studs. Plenty of time for these guys to turn things around for you.

DO start to plan around your bye weeks. Not this Sunday, but next week has the Bengals, Browns, Broncos, Rams, Cardinals, and Seahawks on a bye. There are many stars on those teams, and you don't want to give away a week because you weren't prepared. If you wait until after week 3, you'll have to battle everyone else on the waiver wire. We recommend grabbing replacements now if you need them, so you can get the pick of the litter. 

As for targets for Week 4, keep a narrow scope. You're only going to need these guys for one week, and then your starters will be right back in. Rather than just grabbing the biggest name available, go after a team facing a weak defense. The Giants, Packers, Saints, and Jaguars have given up the most points in the NFL thus far. They're all on the road in week 4, playing against very tough offenses. If you can pick up a skill player on the Redskins, Bears, Chargers, or Cowboys, you should be in good shape. Always plan ahead.

DON'T forget about the trade market. Some owners with an 0-2 record, or a serious injury, will hit the panic button before they should. If you can make a trade that would have looked good on draft day, you should still do it today. For example, one of our SnapCall game producers received this juicy trade offer Tuesday morning:

Receive: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR (MIN) and Darren Sproles, RB (PHI)
Give: Trent Richardson, RB (IND) and Pierre Garcon, WR (WSH)

Of course, the owner giving up Patterson and Sproles is 0-2, and thought he needed to shake things up. Really though, he's giving up the two best players in that deal. These trades happen more often than you might think, so take advantage. We couldn't advise our guy to hit the accept button fast enough. 

If you're on the more aggressive side, go offer some beneficial trades to the teams that are already struggling. If they decline, you lose nothing, but one lopsided deal could give you a big edge for the rest of the season.

DO stash Josh Gordon. His suspension is going to be lowered from 16 to 10 games, it's just a matter of time until the league accepts the new drug policy. While you'll be burning a roster spot for most of the year, we're talking about the guy who led the league in receiving yardage last season. It doesn't matter who is throwing to him, Gordon is a stud. If you can squeak into the playoffs without him, and unleash him for the postseason, your opponent won't know what hit them. If he's not owned already, make your play.

DON'T hesitate to stream defenses and kickers. While they're mostly an afterthought to most people, they can easily score a combined 20+ points in a week. A large majority of fantasy games can come down to the wire, so these spots really do have an impact. 

If there's a kicker on a prolific offense sitting on your free agent list, go grab him! What's the worst that can happen? Many fantasy owners think that having a kicker on a bad team is better, because they won't be able to reach the end zone, and will be forced to rely on long field goals. That could be true, but the logic is flawed. Even Denver's ridiculous offense has only scored 75% of the time's they've reached the redzone this year. You'll still get your field goals, and the extra points will make up for the rest. It's a safer bet overall. 

On the defensive side, if you don't have Seattle, you can afford to drop your team for another. Don't bother carrying two defenses, it's not worth it. There will always be a free agent D/ST playing against a struggling offense. While the season is young, don't be afraid to feel out different teams. Baltimore (@ CLE), Philadelphia (vs. WSH), Houston (@ NYG), and even Indianapolis (@ JAX) are viable options that probably aren't owned, and could feast on poor offense in week 3. Go for them, and thank us later.

If you're still struggling with your team, don't worry. SnapCall gives you a way to predict the action on not only a weekly basis, not only a game basis, but on the biggest individual plays of each game. Don't miss out on a perfect football Sunday companion as we cover the league's best games of the week. Join us for the fun by downloading SnapCall from the Apple or Google app store.