The Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs has passed, and we're now down to the remaining four teams that are vying for a Super Bowl championship this season.
HOW ‘BOUT THOSE CHIEEEEFS?!?!? https://t.co/rWt2MIdoP2— Kansas City Chiefs (@Kansas City Chiefs)1610995798.0
The reigning Super Bowl champion, Kansas City Chiefs, squeaked by with a win over the Cleveland Browns 22-17 even though starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes was knocked out for most of the second half with a concussion. The Chiefs backup QB, Chad Henne, was able to scramble for a first down late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory for his squad.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers took care of the Rams with relative ease 32-18, as Jared Goff seemed limited while still recovering from a broken thumb on his throwing hand. The league's top defense was unable to slow down the Packers dual threat offense as Rodgers threw for nearly 300 yards and two touchdowns, and Aaron Jones ran for 99 yards and a touchdown.
The Bills were able to limit the Ravens rushing attack and ultimately Lamar Jackson's ability to keep the chains moving. The wind played a factor in this game, forcing both teams to miss out on big passing plays and causing missed field goals. The weather certainly forced this game to be a lower scoring affair than we expected, but the result would have been the same. Bills took this one in a defensive battle 17-3.
Bills fans started donating to Lamar Jackson’s favorite charity overnight after he left the AFC divisional game wit… https://t.co/Dd4wVt0a9N— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter)1610902091.0
The Saints were not able to defeat Tom Brady's Buccaneers for the third time this season. Sweeping Tampa in their two regular season meetings, the Saints weren't able to get the passing game going in this one, which isn't something we're used to saying. Adding to their lackluster performance, the rumors of Drew Brees' imminent retirement makes this one even tougher to swallow if you're a fan of the Saints. New Orleans only lost 30-20, but they never really felt in the game.
AFC Conference Championship Game
Sunday 1/24/21 at 6:40 PM EST
(2) Buffalo Bills at (1) Kansas City Chiefs -3
We are exactly where we should be at this point in the AFC, with the top two seeds in the conference fighting for the chance to head to the Super Bowl. This matchup is a tale of two very different organizations however. The Chiefs are the reigning, defending, undisputed Super Bowl champions with a super hero quarterback named Patrick Mahomes and an offense with more weapons than the Green Berets.
Everyone has that friend who always comes in way too hot... 😂 @Micah_Hyde | @Taronj11 https://t.co/N5D0ami2P7— Buffalo Bills (@Buffalo Bills)1611017220.0
Buffalo is a small market team with a grassroots fanbase that hadn't seen a playoff win since the Clinton administration. Their claim to fame is losing four consecutive Super Bowls during the Jim Kelly era, and most recently they have been a team that's always been just good enough to avoid a top draft pick but never good enough to reach the postseason.
Enter Josh Allen, Brandon Beane, and Sean McDermott. In a few short seasons the Bills have gone from lovable losers to upstart dynasty much in the same vein as Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. Allen, like Mahomes, put up numbers that should position him as an MVP front-runner. Allen, unlike Mahomes, had to disprove a lot of doubters that had built up over the beginning of his NFL career.
Get you someone who looks at you the way Josh Allen looks at Stefon Diggs 😊 https://t.co/DzID71IYnD— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter)1610858845.0
Mahomes came out with guns blazing from the start of his career and has never looked back. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that most think if Mahomes continues this level of play throughout his career, he may retire as the best to ever do it. But that's a long way from now, and right now Mahomes has a formidable opponent on his hands.
At this point, there's not telling what can happen. But the prospect of what can happen has us awaiting anxiously for Sunday night. As long as Patrick Mahomes is cleared to play after sustaining a concussion in the Divisional Round game against Cleveland, the Chiefs will feel confident going in to this one.
Josh Allen. Patrick Mahomes. A matchup we have all been waiting for… 👀 “If he flips the table and takes out the Ch… https://t.co/UOKDzBDOUh— NFL Network (@NFL Network)1611000000.0
For Buffalo this is new and unexplored territory. We saw Josh Allen against the Texans last season fall on his face in his first playoff experience. Sure he's been great all year, and they just knocked off Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, but will the pressure of being one step away from the Super Bowl be too much for this untested group?
Prediction: Buffalo Bills 38 - Kansas City Chiefs 31
NFC Conference Championship Game
Sunday 1/24/2021 at 3:05 PM EST
(5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers at (1) Green Bay Packers -3.5
Over the course of two decades, we have seen a lot of great quarterbacks, but possibly no two better than a couple of guys that wear number 12. Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers often feel forgotten about for large portions of their careers because other storylines pulled our attention away from the consistent elite-level of play we have gotten from both of them on an annual basis.
Like anything in our lives that seems so basic and intrinsic to the fabric of life, we take players like Brady and Rodgers for granted because we just expect them to be able to continue throwing 40 touchdowns per season into their 40s (Tom Brady passed for 40 touchdowns in the regular season at the age of 43).
Tom Brady now has more playoff wins than all but five franchises 🤯 https://t.co/4xCxNpOmIM— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter)1610983750.0
The degree of difficulty to maintaining a level of excellence while teammates change, coaches change, systems change, and defenses constantly game plan to shut you down is unbelievably high. No two quarterbacks (in this writer's opinion) have ever done more with less in regard to weapons at their disposal.
If you look at that statement in a vacuum, then it doesn't make sense as both QBs are playing with possibly their most talented respective groups ever this season. But over the course of their careers, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have elevated their teams year after year and made a lot of players, coaches, and front offices look better than they really were (Bill Belichick NOT included).
The best player in the NFL right now.... @AaronRodgers12. https://t.co/FiyDd8N5tk— Stephen A Smith (@Stephen A Smith)1610999364.0
The Buccaneers struggled with consistency during the regular season. While clearly one of the best teams in the NFC even while enduring some bad play, the Bucs took some bad L's including a 38-3 loss to the Saints in early November. When at their best however Tampa is an offense that can run the ball and play defense, allowing Tom Brady to make plays when necessary and manage the game when required.
The Packers will need to focus on stopping the Buccaneer's running attack. Leonard Fournette has had over 100 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in both of Tampa's playoff games so far, and Ronald Jones (who is recovering from injury) chipped in 62 yards on the ground against the Saints last week. Considering how difficult it is to limit the Buccaneers' passing options, Matt LaFleur's best chance to slowing down this offensive attack is to take away the run.
Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27 - Green Bay Packers 24
As we're just over a week away from seeing the new play-in format the NBA has decided to go with this season, it means that teams are vying to be in the top 10 in their respective conferences to keep their postseason dreams alive.
We have seen LeBron James make public statements opposing the new format even though it was unanimously approved by the NBA Board of Governors last year. It's understandable that James would have negative feelings about the new format as his Lakers have struggled throughout the season as both him and superstar teammate, Anthony Davis, have dealt with injuries which have caused them to miss significant time.
The Lakers are currently in the seventh spot in the west which puts them in line to host the Golden State Warriors in one of the Western Conference play-in games. This is an exciting matchup for fans, but it would put LeBron and the Lakers directly in the sights of MVP frontrunner Steph Curry.
Steph who missed most of last season with an injury is epitomizing what it means to have a comeback season and has overtaken Bradley Beal for the league lead in points per game, now averaging 31.9 on the year. He also leads the NBA in three pointers made by a wide margin. Curry has 324 made threes which is 55 more than Buddy Hield who comes in at second place currently with 269.
Klay Thompson every time Kerr pulls Steph Curry before he breaks his record 😂😂😂 https://t.co/3Vt7NJyV8R— ᕼᗝᗝᗪᎥᗴ 𝙇𝘽𝙅 ➐ (@ᕼᗝᗝᗪᎥᗴ 𝙇𝘽𝙅 ➐)1620534236.0
It's not that the Warriors are a more difficult matchup than what would've been the Lakers' first round opponent in a traditional format where they would have just faced the two seed in the first round, that's not the case.
That would put the Lakers right up against the Phoenix Suns who have shocked the basketball world all season behind the play of Chris Paul and Devin Booker.
Yahoo Source: Lakers star LeBron James (ankle) has had two “really good days of workouts at a high level” and feels… https://t.co/BjAlbmo41E— Chris Haynes (@Chris Haynes)1620656452.0
It's that now, there is a very real chance that we may see a team that has the likes of LeBron James, AD, and a handful of all-stars not making it into the postseason. This is a very bad look for the King if it were to happen. So it's possible that his recent negative comments about the new format is in a way, him doing some preemptive PR in the event that Los Angeles does have to participate in the play-in games and they don't make it past that round.
If the standings remain the same at the end of the regular season and we get a Lakers and Warriors play-in game, it makes for an interesting matchup as the Lakers boast the league's best defensive rating (tied with the 76'ers) but have struggled to get any of their scorers in sustained stretches of success. The Warriors on the other hand lead the league in assists which has always been a staple of the Steve Kerr led team. It would make for an excellent example of what wins between isolation offense and team ball.
Looking over to the Eastern Conference there is another team lurking to steal a playoff spot and disrupt some plans in the early rounds of the playoffs. The Washington Wizards are one of the hottest teams in the league since early April. That's when Bradley Beal returned from a nine game absence. With a full compliment of Beal, Russell Westbrook, and Daniel Gafford available the Wizards are a dangerous team, especially in a play-in game format.
Russell Westbrook tonight: 33 points 19 rebounds 15 assists 181 career triple-doubles And the game winning b… https://t.co/EY8HacJseY— NBA Central (@NBA Central)1620524700.0
The only problem for the Wizards is that news has come out that Beal may miss the rest of the regular season with a hamstring injury. MRI's came back negative for any significant damage, but it's enough that he's being held out for the next few games until there's a chance to have further analysis done. That's not to say he wouldn't be back in time for a potential play-in game or the playoffs, but the team will monitor his situation with caution as he is the catalyst for the team's long term success.
Did Steph Curry know Bradley Beal scored 50 points earlier today before the Warriors tipped off tonight? Steph: "Of course I did." 🤣— Drew Shiller (@Drew Shiller)1620536014.0
If Beal is ready to go however we recently saw Washington go on a 15-4 run since April 7 and there may not be two players in the league that play with a bigger chip on their shoulder than Bradley Beal and Russ. By adding an athletic big man that can get to the rim in Gafford, the Wizards have just enough ammunition to make the top contenders in the east very nervous.
Daniel Gafford (7-7 FG) scored 15 points and blocked three shots in 15 minutes tonight! #WizPacers | @Dan_G33 https://t.co/7hkZMxOYmF— Washington Wizards (@Washington Wizards)1620097359.0
Baseball is a game of hot streaks and slumps, and as a fantasy baseball manager it's sometimes difficult to know when to part with someone on your roster to take a chance on someone new.
Here we'll examine three players you may want to consider moving on from if you have them rostered, and provide three potential replacements for them. Just like in real baseball, sometimes you have to make the tough moves in order to win. But if you don't know what the right moves are to make then you just end up looking like the Pittsburgh Pirates of your fantasy league.
Here's some advice for you so you don't become the Pirates of your league.
Cole Irvin Oakland A's SP (30% Rostered in Yahoo)
Cole Irvin was on his game tonight A's Postgame Live is airing right now on NBC Sports California and streaming he… https://t.co/7ec4GeS6Vv— A's on NBCS (@A's on NBCS)1620187381.0
Irvin hasn't allowed more than two runs in the past four starts and will carry a 3.09 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 34/5 strikeout to walk ratio heading into his next one against Tampa Bay this weekend. To put how effective Irvin has been into perspective, he's averaging nearly a strikeout per inning while only .1 walk per inning.
Even if Irvin comes back down to earth a little, now is the time to pick him up while he's riding this hot streak. He is coming off a game against the hard-hitting Blue Jays where we saw him set his career-high in strikeouts with nine over eight innings. Take into consideration he has three quality starts (out of six) and his most recent loss was to the Rays who he sees again on Saturday. In that last appearance against Tampa he went six innings, striking out eight, allowed only two runs and earned a quality start in a loss.
If you're looking for a long term option at starting pitcher, Irvin presents a great opportunity to snag a hidden gem off waivers but don't expect him to last much longer if he puts in another strong performance against the Rays on Saturday.
Kyle Hendricks Chicago Cubs SP (88% Rostered in Yahoo)
Kyle Hendricks is dealing GAS to start this game! I’m so happy I drafted him somewhat high in fantasy baseball! He… https://t.co/M5Dfs5SPNG— Vinnie Parise (@Vinnie Parise)1619653359.0
Hendricks seems far removed from his 2016 season where he helped lead the Cubs to a World Series win and finished third in NL Cy Young voting. In the three seasons that would follow we'd see Hendricks' ERA slightly climb higher and his strikeouts decline. We thought we saw a glimmer of hope that his fortunes were reversing in the shortened 2020 season as he did well enough to finish ninth in NL Cy Young voting last year.
However, what we've seen from him this year is enough for us to have already raised the red flag, and at this point we're giving up. It seems early, but if you gave us the straight up choice between Hendricks and the aforementioned Cole Irvin, it's an obvious decision for us.
Hendricks' ERA currently sits at 6.07, but that's only after reducing it from 7.54 in just one game. Sure Hendricks pitched great against the Dodgers in that last start, but it appears that the great start from Hendricks is the anomaly now.
Shane McClanahan Tampa Bay Rays RP (25% Rostered in Yahoo)
So McClanahan is a tough one to put accurate value on as it stands today. What we do know is that he's looked impressive in his two starts this season. Yes, even though McClanahan is listed as a relief pitcher, he's getting starter reps in Tampa. Kind of.
McClanahan is one of the Rays' most valued prospects as a hard throwing lefty and we have seen their plans to limit the amount of pitches we'll get to see from him this season. Going only four innings in both of his starts this season he's amassed a stat line of 2.25 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and has a 10/2 strikeout to walk ratio. He has hit over 100 mph on the gun a few times and has displayed a 93 mph slider.
You may not get a ton of innings out of him or many crooked numbers in the win column, but he is a viable replacement for a reliever in your bullpen that has possibly lost their role as closer.
Alex Colome Minnesota Twins RP (47% Rostered in Yahoo)
@JasonPuckett20 Reminds me of the Alex Colome experience.— Casey Ferguson (@Casey Ferguson)1620191041.0
Speaking of closers who have lost their role, it's time to sell Alex Colome immediately. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli announced on Tuesday that he was moving Colome to a "lower-leverage role" making way for Taylor Rogers to assume the closer position. Now Rogers has also struggled in that role, but considering the struggles we saw out of Colome, it should be safe to assume Baldelli will give some time for the new pecking order to play out.
Don't keep Colome on your roster waiting to see what happens. Go drop him and grab Shane McClanahan for the meantime. Trust us, Colome will be on the waiver wire if you ever want to grab him again.
Willie Calhoun Texas Rangers OF (12% Rostered in Yahoo)
Career-high 9-game hitting streak for Willie Calhoun— Jared Sandler (@Jared Sandler)1619981049.0
If I were to tell you there was a player available in nearly 80% of leagues that has hit .318 with three home runs and five RBI over the last two weeks you would probably be excited to pick him up. Until I told you that player was Willie Calhoun of the Texas Rangers. At that point you would probably have an audible response of "Oh".
But don't sleep on Calhoun, especially when he's riding a hot streak like he is now. That is especially if you had stock in the recently injured Luis Robert.
Luis Robert Chicago White Sox OF (79% Rostered in Yahoo)
Luis Robert was examined today at Rush and a scan showed a grade 3 strain (complete tear) of the hip flexor. Furthe… https://t.co/jwb5TmSIbP— Chicago White Sox (@Chicago White Sox)1620079749.0
Robert suffered a very serious injury this past week, being diagnosed with a Grade 3 hip flexor strain. That doesn't sound as bad as it really is. It's a complete tear, and at this point surgery is still an option being kicked around the organization. The timetable for a return puts Robert out for another 12-16 weeks minimum, but surgery would likely end his season.
Robert and the team's decision may not be decided until later on in his initial recovery stage as they may decide to shut him down for the year if the team is falling out of contention in a very deep AL Central. It would be wise to try to keep him on the injured-reserve list if your league offers one, but if it doesn't or if you are just low on available IL spots don't shy away from dropping Robert.
Sure he was a top pick in your draft, but the likelihood that Robert returns this season is slim already, and by the time he'd be back you would be sacrificing a lot of production from any player that is just flat out healthy and available. Willie Calhoun is a solid option for at least a short-term replacement. Replacing someone like Robert won't be easy and it may require streaming throughout the rest of the season until you find the right player.
Start with Willie Calhoun, because compared to Robert he has one ability that the star prospect doesn't, and that's avail-ability.
Who needs an Avengers incorporated ESPN broadcast when the real nerd-sports crossover is right here?
Welcome to the final round of the basketball fantasy season. You're either in the championship or you've decided that you wanted to set your lineups early and actually enjoy watching basketball.
In any case, you need to fill your rosters and we have the players you need to look out for on those waiver wires.
Oshae Brissett Guard/Forward Indiana Pacers
You'd be excused for not knowing who Oshae Brissett was before this week. He went undrafted in the 2019 NBA Draft and started his professional career in the NBA G League. Now, he is making a name for himself in Indianapolis.
Domantas Sabonis posts a first-half triple-double in the @Pacers victory! Sabonis: 26 PTS, 19 REB, 14 AST Doug McD… https://t.co/zt6NWnvi3L— NBA (@NBA)1619924840.0
Last week, the former Syracuse forward averaged 16 points, made three three-pointers, 10.7 rebounds, 1.3 steals and four blocks. With multiple Pacers players fighting injuries, Brissett should have plenty of opportunities to prove he can be a consistent contributor in the final stretch of the NBA season.
Ricky Rubio Point Guard Minnesota Timberwolves
Much like the Timberwolves, it has been an objectively bad statistical year for the Rubio. Also much like the Timberwolves, even he can have a span of success. Rubio didn't provide a ton in any category this past week, but he did average a solid 10.5 points, 1.8 made threes, four rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.8 steals and 0.8 turnovers.
Anthony Edwards says he's going to Spain with Ricky Rubio and Juancho Hernangomez this summer. Says he's gonna lea… https://t.co/4tDF6e9KgC— Dane Moore (@Dane Moore)1620270912.0
Rubio may have had a good week, but even his good week isn't much in terms of massive contributions. He may be high on last week's rankings, but he isn't worth the pick-up unless you're really desperate for steals and assists.
Isaiah Stewart Forward/Center Detroit Pistons
Stewart goes back-to-back on the list despite his scoring numbers dropping. In three games last week, Stewart scored 11 points on 53.8 percent shooting, 7.7 rebounds, one steal and 3.3 blocks.
While minutes volatility is still a fear with any Pistons player, Stewart has shown that he can contribute in four or more categories for another week. Pick him up for the rest of the season if you can.
Saddiq Bey Small Forward Detroit Pistons
Bey may still be figuring out how to be successful in the league, but at least he can score like a seasoned vet. In three games last week, he averaged 17 points, four made threes, 7.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals.
Most games with 5+ threes by a rookie in NBA history: 11 — Saddiq Bey 9 — Steph Curry 9 — Allen Iverson https://t.co/2XWEHxrCeo— StatMuse (@StatMuse)1620090686.0
He's still a liability in terms of accuracy (39.5 percent from the field last week), but if you need scoring and rebounding, there aren't a ton of other options on the waiver.
Dillon Brooks Guard/Forward Memphis Grizzlies
The former Duck has developed into a consistent scorer for the Memphis Grizzlies. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, he doesn't provide much else. Last week, he averaged 17.5 points, but only managed to average 1.8 made threes, 1.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 0.8 steals.
Dillon Brooks getting cooked always cleanses the soul https://t.co/sOHc8CzrWa— 𝗧𝘆 𝗝𝗮𝗴𝗲𝗿 (@𝗧𝘆 𝗝𝗮𝗴𝗲𝗿)1620103888.0
He may not provide much in fantasy, but Memphis is fighting hard to stay in the playoff picture. Brooks will have plenty of chances to keep up his scoring numbers so if that's something you require, he is a great option to give you a boost.
Duncan Robinson Guard/Forward Miami Heat
Shooters in fantasy basketball are DCEU movies: Sure, you'll get a Snyder cut of "Justice League" or "Wonder Woman," but you have to wade through the other travesties to really appreciate them. Duncan Robinson's last week was "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice"-esque.
Fastest to 500 3's, NBA history (regular-season games): 1. Duncan Robinson, 152 2. Luka Doncic, 187 3. Damian Lill… https://t.co/6AUVdWYImI— Tim Reynolds (@Tim Reynolds)1619918867.0
In four games, Robinson averaged three made three-pointers but only 10.3 points, 2.0 rebounds and 0.8 assists. People aren't picking up Robinson for his other stats, but if he's not scoring or shooting at an elite level, he's a tough pickup at best.
Danilo Gallinari Forward Atlanta Hawks
Gallinari's up and down year hit another valley last week when he averaged 10.3 points on 37.9 percent shooting, 1.3 made threes, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists.
With Kevin Huerter and Bodgan Bogdanovic to compete with for minutes, anything consistent from the Italian baller can't be counted on moving forward.
Delon Wright Guard/Forward Sacramento Kings
Wright was making the most of his minutes in Detroit but since he was traded to Sacramento, his lack of opportunity has been frustrating for anyone who manages him. In four games last week, he averaged 10 points, one made three, 3.3 assists and 1.3 steals.
If you are holding out hope that Wright will step up in the finals weeks of the season, I have a monorail I think you'd be interested in.