One of the things that is a sure sign that Thanksgiving is coming, other than a month of Christmas commercials already, is that games are going to be impacted by the weather.
It can be rain, snow, ice or wind. All can play a factor. We don’t need to look any further than Sunday’s game between the Chiefs and Giants – a 12-9 overtime stunner for the G-Men that was played with wind gusts up to 40 mph and intermittent rain.
Every year, fantasy teams get crushed by bad weather, so as part of the full-service treatment we provide at The Shop, these are our double six-packs – the six teams with the best closing schedules when leagues are conducting their fantasy playoffs and those that have a Week 17 round for transaction money. Teams are listed by their opponents in the final six weeks and based on who has the best and worst potential schedules based both on opponents and potential weather problems.
Atlanta Falcons – (vs. New Orleans, at Tampa Bay, at New Orleans, vs. Carolina). No team has a better opportunity to control their own division destiny late than the Falcons. All four of their games are in the division, three are in domes and none should be impacted by weather.
Baltimore Ravens – (at Pittsburgh, at Cleveland, vs. Indianapolis, vs. Cincinnati). Once you get past Pittsburgh, there may not be an easier closing schedule based on record than a winless Browns team, a no-Luck Colts squad and a Bengals team likely to fire Marvin Lewis at the end of the year. A lot of teams mailing it in when fantasy owners need them most, giving the Ravens an edge.
Carolina Panthers – (vs. Minnesota, vs. Green Bay, vs. Tampa Bay, at Atlanta). You almost never see a team get three straight home games during the fantasy playoffs, but not only do the Panthers get that, they also get a Packers team likely without Aaron Rodgers and a Bucs team looking to end the season now.
Detroit Lions – (at Tampa Bay, vs. Chicago, at Cincinnati, vs. Green Bay). This schedule couldn’t have been hand-picked much better than this. If the Lions are in the playoff mix, this could put them over the top.
Kansas City Chiefs – (vs. Oakland, vs. L.A. Chargers, vs. Miami, at Denver). Another team getting three straight home games in December, much less against two teams from California and one from South Florida. If discomfort for the road team is what you’re looking for, it doesn’t get much better than this.
New Orleans Saints – (at Atlanta, vs. N.Y. Jets, vs. Atlanta, at Tampa Bay). The three weeks of most fantasy playoffs will all be played indoors so the Saints won’t have any weather concerns and, if they want to win the NFC South, taking out Atlanta in what could be shootout games could be ideal for fantasy owners.
Cleveland Browns – (vs. Green Bay, vs. Baltimore, at Chicago, at Pittsburgh). If you’re playing Cleveland guys, you probably didn’t make the playoffs, but mixing in the Ravens, Steelers and Lake Michigan down the stretch is pretty hideous.
Dallas Cowboys – (at N.Y. Giants, at Oakland, vs. Seattle, at Philadelphia). Three road games – two potentially in bad weather – and the only home game against Seattle doesn’t bode well for a team heading in the wrong direction.
Green Bay Packers – (at Cleveland, at Carolina, vs. Minnesota, at Detroit). The big edge Green Bay typically has in December is playing at Lambeau. Not only do they only get one game at home, there final three games might be against playoff teams. Maybe Aaron Rodgers should just wait until 2018, even if he’s deemed good to go in mid-December.
Los Angeles Rams – (vs. Philadelphia, at Seattle, at Tennessee, vs. San Francisco). Three games against teams that have their sights on the playoffs will be part of the gauntlet that began for the Rams Sunday at Minnesota and continues this week against New Orleans.
Miami Dolphins – (vs. New England, at Buffalo, at Kansas City, vs. Buffalo). The Patriots are never a welcome sight, nor are December games in Buffalo and Kansas City. Things could get ugly quick.
New York Jets – (at Denver, at New Orleans, L.A. Chargers, at New England). With three of four games on the road, including the Saints and Patriots, doesn’t sound like the kind of ending the Jets want.
It’s never too early to start looking at the potential roadblocks between you and the pot of gold at the end of the fantasy season rainbow. For some teams, the future looks bright in terms of playing on a dry track or against feeble opposition. If you stocked with players from those teams, it could be the extra edge you need. If you have too many guys from the teams with the brutal schedules, you may want to have a contingency plan in place.
From all of us at The Shop to all of you, we would like to wish you and yours a happy Thanksgiving and a strong playoff run to come.
- I’ll admit I was late to the party in accepting Minnesota’s Adam Thielen as a legitimate elite wide receiver. But, he proved it again Sunday with a huge game and a back-breaking play against the Rams. Through 10 games, he has 916 receiving yards – second only to Antonio Brown. He is just the third Viking to have more than 900 receiving yards through 10 games and the other two belong to a cat named Randy Moss. Pretty elite company if you ask me.
- Every now and then a weak division has put in a team with a .500 record. Things are so bad in the AFC right now that the 5-5 Ravens would be a wild card. The wild card. Only five teams in the AFC have a record above .500, meaning the race for the last spot is going to be fierce as teams line up for the honor of getting caned by the Patriots and Steelers.
- Mark Ingram showed what not having to share time can do for a running back. He has been dominant since the Saints off-loaded Adrian Peterson and showed off his skills in overtime with back-to-back runs of 20 and 31 yards to get the Saints in position to score the game-winning points. Peterson might be the team MVP, because everyone has gotten better since he left.
The razor’s edge
- Rotten Apple? – The Giants actually won this week, showing again that they can beat teams from the AFC West, but, with the depleted receiver corps that got even thinner with Sterling Shepard being sidelined with migraines (if I played for the Giants I’d have headaches too), the G-Men needed every able-bodied man they could find. Or did they? In yet another coaching decision designed to let players know that he’s in charge, embattled and embittered head coach Ben McAdoo made cornerback Eli Apple a healthy scratch. It’s just the latest in a long line of bad blood between Big Mac and his secondary and the latest indicator that McAdoo is riding out the string with the Giants.
- Let the Naysaying Begin – The Los Angeles Rams have been one of the great stories of this season, posting great numbers on both sides of the ball, but their detractors said the Rams may be a little fraudulent at 7-2 because they hadn’t really faced elite competition this season, something that was going to change over the next five games when their schedule includes Minnesota, New Orleans, Philadelphia and a return date with Seattle – who beat them in L.A. in their first meeting. The Rams had a chance to plant their flag as a power in the NFC and looked great on their first drive of the game against Minnesota. Those would be the only points the Rams would score all day in a humbling 24-7 loss than exposed their weaknesses and proved they can be worn down defensively. One loss doesn’t erase all the good things the Rams have done, but now they will be under the microscope when matched up with the Saints, Eagles and Seahawks to defend their Super Bowl legitimacy.
- Miami Heat Cooled Off – Remember when the Dolphins were 4-2 and people were making outrageous claims that the Patriots better look over their shoulders? Four straight losses since, including a 30-20 loss to the Buccaneers Sunday in which the Jay Cutler completed nine of 12 passes before going out with a concussion – six to his own guys and three to Tampa Bay defenders – the ‘Fins were behind 20-7 at halftime and they’re not a team capable of coming back from double-digit deficits, especially without Jay Ajayi keeping defenses honest in the backfield. Miami is now 4-6 and sinking fast. Oh, by the way, two of their next three games are against the Patriots. Let’s see if that October tough talk holds up in November and December.
- One Step Forward, Two Steps Back – Every time you want to start taking passengers on the Tennessee Titans bandwagon, they do something that makes you jump off. With early wins over Jacksonville and Seattle gave them a little swagger, the Titans were off to a 6-3 start with a chance to show the world on a nationally televised Thursday night game at Pittsburgh that they were a team to be reckoned with. They had a chance to put themselves in the No. 2 seed in the AFC. Instead, they got crushed 40-17, allowing the Steelers to blow open the game by scoring on their first four possessions of the second half – three touchdowns and a field goal. Earlier this year, Houston laid 57 points on them. The Titans are a good team, but you can’t get manhandled like that and be taken seriously as a title contender.
- Discount Double Take – Many of us who follow the NFL speculated what would happen if Aaron Rodgers got hurt. The Packers have had an organization haughtiness that they don’t need to have backup plans because they went a quarter-century without the need for a backup quarterback. Brett Favre never missed games and Rodgers wasn’t far behind in that respect. But, since Rodgers went down in Minnesota, the Packers have lost four of five games and scored 17 or fewer points in all four of their losses – punctuated by a 23-0 beating at the hands of the Ravens Sunday. There has been crazy speculation that Rodgers might make a triumphant return in Week 15 to help the Packers make a playoff run. With Pittsburgh on the slate next, Green Bay is likely to drop to 5-6 and will need to run the table. Even if Rodgers does come back in Week 15, he would face Carolina and Minnesota. If Green Bay is smart (that’s a big if), for the good of the organization they should shut Rodgers down and take their lumps the rest of the season.
- Protests in our Nation’s Capital – The Washington Redskins are a team that has the ability to be a decent team, but have made some questionable decisions – like double-franchising Kirk Cousins instead of paying him two years ago for much less than he will require now. But, it hasn’t been Washington’s offense that has been the problem. The Redskins are 4-6 and, in those losses, have allowed 30, 29, 34, 33, 38 and 34 points. It’s hard to ever win when you have to score more than that on a consistent basis. The Redskins had their two highest-scoring games of the season in the last two games and lost them both. But, it was how they lost Sunday with their season on the line that has come to define the 2017 Redskins. With three minutes to play, Washington led 31-16, only to allow two touchdowns and a two-point conversion in 108 seconds to send the game to overtime and then lost on just three plays once their defense took the field. The Defense Department is based out of Washington D.C., but the Redskins aren’t invited to any of their meetings because there is no “D” in D.C.
- K.C. Non-Masterpiece – Since starting 5-0, the Kansas City Chiefs have been in free fall, dropping three of their next four games and hitting their bye week with a record of 6-3. We’ve all heard the tired stat about how dominant Andy Reid is coming out of a bye week and everyone expected that number to get even loftier with the hapless injury-ravaged Giants on the schedule for their return. The Chiefs couldn’t manage a touchdown against the Giants in a 12-9 loss and dropped to 6-4. Fortunately for them, everyone else in the division is hot garbage and they still have a two-game lead in the division. But, after starting the season by beating up the Patriots and Eagles – the two odds-on favorites to play in the Super Bowl – the Chiefs look vulnerable. They have a remaining schedule with more gravy than a Cutts family Thanksgiving (Buffalo, the Jets, Oakland, the Chargers, Miami and Denver), but it seems clear that Kansas City has gone from the penthouse to the outhouse of division leaders and that their playoff run – if it happens – will be painfully short.
- Please Don’t Squeeze the Charmin – There were some of us that openly wondered how long Denver’s defense could continue carrying a pedestrian offense. They won a Super Bowl with Peyton Manning bearing little resemblance to the Manning of previous vintage because their defense could dictate games. On Oct. 1, the defense carried the Broncos to a 16-10 win over Oakland. In the two months since, Denver has been waiting for its fourth win of the season. And waiting. And waiting. There’s no shame losing on the road to the Chiefs or Eagles or losing at home to New England. But when you lose at home to Cincinnati, there’s a problem. John Elway called his team soft after the game Sunday. Perhaps he should look in the mirror because it was him that brought the Three Stooges of quarterbacking together without the foresight to understand they all have a low professional ceiling. As a Hall of Fame QB himself, he should know talent (or non-talent) when he sees it. Maybe Elway is the one who is soft.
- Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys – There is a swagger and arrogance to the Dallas Cowboys that starts at the top and works its way down from Jerry Jones. The Cowboys went 13-3 last year and were just about everyone’s pick to repeat as NFC East champs. Dallas had to make a stand Sunday night at 5-4 and coming off a 27-7 thrashing by the Falcons. They led 9-7 at halftime and looked to be making an inspired run at the high-flying Eagles without Ezekiel Elliott, Tryon Smith and Sean Lee (who, to the surprise of nobody, is hurt again). Then came the second half. Dallas got humiliated and outscored 30-0. In the two games without Elliott and Smith, the Cowboys have 64-16, including 47-0 in the second half of those games. With Elliott still out four more games, by the time he returns, the Cowboys could be dead in the water and talking tough about 2018, not taking a good hard look at what they’ve become in 2017 when their depth has been tested.
- The Hits Just Keep On Coming – It’s hard to believe that the Buffalo Bills we’ve seen since their shocking Week 9 Thursday night implosion against the Jets came into that game expecting to improve to 6-2 and getting fans to finally forget that their last playoff game was the Music City Miracle in the last century. However, few teams have fallen so hard or so fast as the Bills have in the last three weeks. After benching Tyrod Taylor at the end of last season so his contract wouldn’t automatically roll over, the Bills decided to bench Taylor to stop the bleeding. He hadn’t played well, but he hadn’t allowed 500 rushing yards (that’s right, 500) in their previous two games, but he was scapegoated and replaced by fifth-round rookie Nathan Peterman in hopes of reviving their dimming playoff hopes. Instead, Peterman threw five interceptions in the first half and has everyone in the Bills front office shaking their heads as to how such a great start could go in flames so quickly. There need to be changes, but, after trading away a lot of their top talent for no explainable reasons, the changes may need to come at the very top, not the rank and file players.