If one day of three NFL playoff games wasn't enough for you to handle, don't worry because the NFL has another tripleheader of playoff action on tap for Sunday.
After Matthew Hanson did such a great job at trying to predict Saturday's slate, he has handed the reins over to me to try and forecast what is going to happen to close out the Wild Card Round.
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick HenryRob Carr - Getty Images
1:05 pm EST (ABC/ESPN)
Spread: Ravens -3
Baltimore will have revenge on their mind when they travel to Nashville to take on the Tennessee Titans on Sunday afternoon. Not only did the Titans knock the Ravens out of the playoffs last year, Tennessee also defeated Baltimore in overtime in November. The Ravens were leading the Titans 21-10 in the regular season matchup before Tennessee was able to mount a comeback. Justin Tucker forced overtime before Derrick Henry's 29-yard touchdown scamper gave the Ravens their second straight loss.
The Ravens enter this year's playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the NFL, having won their last five games. Not only has Lamar Jackson regained some of his MVP form from last year, the Ravens have found a new weapon in rookie running back J.K. Dobbins. Dating back to the November loss to Tennessee, Dobbins has scored at least one touchdown in each of the last six games.
Derrick Henry may get all the headlines for the Titans after rushing for 2,017 yards this year, but Baltimore can't sleep on Ryan Tannehill. The Tennessee quarterback has thrown for 3,819 yards and a career-high 33 touchdowns this year. A.J. Brown was Tannehill's favorite target, eclipsing 1,000 yards receiving and catching 11 touchdowns this year. Henry and Tannehill will be hoping that guard Rodger Saffold is healthy enough to play on Sunday, especially with the Titans already having lost Taylor Lewan for the season. Even though Saffold hasn't yet practiced this week, the Indiana product has said he is playing against the Ravens.
As well as the Ravens have been playing recently, they haven't exactly being playing tough competition. During their five-game winning streak, the only win for Baltimore over a winning team came against the Browns last month. Tennessee has been a bad matchup for the Ravens the last two times they've played, and it's hard not to see the Titans causing the same problems for Baltimore. The combination of Henry and Tannehill tops Jackson and Dobbins in Nashville.
Prediction: Tennessee 27, Baltimore 20
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew BreesChuck Cook - USA TODAY Sports
4:40 pm EST (CBS)
Spread: Saints -10
Following the battle between the Ravens and Titans, another rematch of an overtime game from November is on tap. The New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears battled on the first day of November in Chicago, with New Orleans squeaking out a 26-23 win. Not only will the setting for this game be different, both teams will have a few different faces involved on Sunday afternoon.
The biggest difference for Chicago will be at quarterback. Last time these teams met, Nick Foles was taking the snaps for the Bears. Since then, Mitchell Trubisky has reclaimed his starting quarterback position, and has cut down on the mistakes, throwing 10 touchdowns and just five interceptions over the last six games. Trubisky has been helped by the emergence of David Montgomery at running back. Since Trubisky returned at quarterback, Montgomery has recorded three 100-yard rushing performances and scored nine touchdowns.
It seems like as soon as the Saints take care of one issue on offense, another pops up. Whether it be Michael Thomas dealing with injuries seemingly all year long, Drew Brees breaking 11 ribs, or all the Saints running backs sidelined last week due to COVID-19 protocols, somehow New Orleans has navigated the issues and found themselves as the second seed in the NFC. After catching 155 passes last year, Thomas has only played in seven games this year, hauling in 40 passes during that time. Thomas is practicing ahead of Sunday's game, and is expected to play. Not only will the return of Thomas give Brees his favorite target back, it will also take some of the pressure off of Alvin Kamara, who has been playing at an MVP level this year.
The Saints are a different team at home in the dome, even if there will only be limited fans in attendance. This game would be more of a fight if this game were being played in Chicago, because of the colder temperatures that Brees and company aren't used to playing in. Not only will the offense of the Saints be tough for the Bears to match, the defense of New Orleans knows how to create turnovers, which means we'll see the return of bad Mitch Trubisky. The Saints should easily move on to the next round of the playoffs.
Prediction: New Orleans 31, Chicago 17
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben RoethlisbergerCharles LeClaire - USA TODAY Sports
8:15 pm EST (NBC)
Spread: Steelers -6
The Cleveland Browns made the playoffs for the first time in 18 years and now their pets heads are falling off. Cleveland has already been dealing with COVID-19 issues over the past few weeks, and things got even worse this week when it was announced that head coach Kevin Stefanski wouldn't be able to coach after testing positive. This leaves special teams coordinator Mike Preifer to serve as acting head coach in Stefanski's absence, and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt to take over the play calling duties on Sunday night.
Just to get to the playoffs, Cleveland barely snuck by the Steelers last week. Pittsburgh was resting most of their starters and still had a chance to send the game to overtime, but Mason Rudolph wasn't able to convert the two-point conversion attempt after the Steelers had closed the score to 24-22. Steeler fans won't have to worry about seeing Rudolph this week, as Ben Roethlisberger will be back at quarterback for Pittsburgh, looking to continue his mastery over the Browns.
It'd be great to see the Browns earn their first playoff win in forever. Sadly, it doesn't look like it is in the cards for Cleveland. A week off could rejuvenate Big Ben, who has already attempted over 600 passes this year. The Steelers have struggled to run the ball all year, and even though Cleveland knows the Steelers will want to pass the football, it could be hard to slow Pittsburgh down, especially with the status of cornerback Denzel Ward up in the air. Add in the injury and COVID issues Cleveland has been dealing with on the offensive line, and Baker Mayfield could be running for his life on Sunday night against T.J. Watt and the talented defensive line of the Steelers.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 30, Cleveland 20
For college basketball, the madness is over. For the NBA fantasy managers, the madness is just beginning.
We are two weeks away from playoffs, and people are scrambling for solutions to their team's problems. Take a look at these waiver wire picks and see who will give you that final push you need to get into the postseason and avoid the humiliation of whatever fantasy punishment you may face.
Bogdan Bogdanovic Guard/Forward Atlanta Hawks
While one Bogdanovic struggles through a subpar season in Utah, another is thriving in Georgia. Bogdan, the younger of the unrelated pair, missed 25 straight games this season due to a knee injury and had trouble finding consistent minutes on this Hawks team. This past week, he caught fire with John Collins and De'Andre Hunter out with injuries.
The @ATLHawks set a new NBA record for threes made in a quarter without a miss, knocking down 11 of 11 in the 3rd q… https://t.co/Vsemb5lOV6— NBA (@NBA)1617760124.0
He is averaging 37.1 minutes, 21.5 points on 51.6 percent shooting from the field, 4.3 made threes, 4.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.3 turnovers the last four games. He is only rostered in 74 percent of Yahoo leagues but should be rostered in 100 percent.
Robert Williams Center Boston Celtics
The Time Lord continues to impress, proving that Danny Ainge made the right choice at the trade deadline to deal Daniel Theis to the Chicago Bulls. In three games last week, Williams averaged 14.3 points on 82.6 percent shooting, nine rebounds, five assists, 0.7 turnovers, one steal and two blocks.
All eyes might be on Tatum and Brown as fantasy studs, but Williams is establishing himself as a legitimate seven-category contributor in 9-cat formats.
Gary Trent Jr. Guard/Forward Toronto Raptors
Trent might not have walked into a playoff-contending team in Toronto this season, but the opportunity for production has benefitted fantasy managers. After a rocky two games, he hit his stride, averaging 23.3 points on 51 percent shooting, five made threes, and 1.7 steals.
GARY TRENT JR. WINS IT AT THE BUZZER 🔥 https://t.co/L5GiM7SdeU— NBA on TNT (@NBA on TNT)1617672392.0
Despite having a bad season, the Toronto Raptors are still within striking distance of a play-in spot. If they want to make it, they're going to look to Trent's shooting to help them get there.
Kelly Olynyk Forward/Center Houston Rockets
Gonzaga could've used the former Spokane stud in the National Championship Game on Monday. In the last four games, Olynyk is averaging 18.8 points on 57.4 percent shooting, 1.8 made threes, 5.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.3 blocks.
The Rockets may be playing for the future, but Olynyk has proven to be a dependable fantasy option for the present.
Moses Brown Center Oklahoma City Thunder
After spending last week rebounding like he was Dennis Rodman, he spent this past week looking a bit more human. After averaging 16.8 rebounds last week, Brown dropped down to 10.5 and the rest of his numbers slipped as well. He averaged 9.3 points on 42.3 percent shooting and only shot 60 percent from the foul line.
Moses Brown has been HOOPING recently... and the Thunder have awarded him with a multi-year contract. Love it. https://t.co/z0jFDmcbPR— Legion Hoops (@Legion Hoops)1616970263.0
He is averaging about five fewer minutes a game than he did in the previous week, which could be contributing to his drop in production. With Al Horford completely shut down and Mike Muscala hurt, he will have plenty of chances to increase his numbers
Seth Curry Guard Philadelphia 76ers
Slumping shooters are the most at risk to be on this "bust" list and this week it's the younger Curry brother. He still contributed 2.5 made threes, but he only shot 38.1 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from the free-throw line.
If shooters aren't hitting, they're basically an empty slot in a fantasy lineup. Still, Curry isn't worth dropping because of his potential to get hot, but these are the rough patches managers are going to have to deal with.
Kyle Kuzma Forward Los Angeles Lakers
With LeBron James and Anthony Davis out, now would be the time for Kyle Kuzma to shine. His star is looking more like a lantern fantasy-wise.
He did average 17.3 points last week, but he only shot 44.4 percent and 63.6 percent from the free-throw line. He's also only making 1.7 threes, grabbing 5.3 rebounds and turning the ball over three times in that same time span.
Lebron watching Kyle Kuzma air ball free throws like https://t.co/jy0HzCWdu3— Rich (@Rich)1617567541.0
If Kuzma wanted to prove himself a star, this period of time was not that moment.
R.J. Barrett Guard/Forward New York Knicks
The former Duke player's career season hit a speedbump this past week. In the last four games, Barrett has averaged 13.3 points on 41.7 percent shooting, 1.5 made threes, 3.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists. The Knicks have unsurprisingly lost three of those games.
Fantasy managers in a position to make the playoffs can be patient with Barrett, but those who are fighting for a playoff spot may need to look for other options.
Welcome to the Mock Draft lab.
This is where we are running experiments, crunching the numbers, and proving hypotheses, so you can reap the rewards of our hard work. The rules for this exercise were simple: Take the best pitcher in each round without reaching more than 10 spots away in either direction. (This kept us honest and realistic as to who would be available and prevented any major overpays for talent.)
The first simulation that I'm offering as a tool going into your fantasy drafts is a breakdown of the best pitcher available in each round left for the taking. This has been achieved by studying the results of numerous mock drafts, cross-referencing those results against average draft positions, and the plain old eye test.
How should something like this be applied? Well, imagine yourself in this situation: You've gone best player available for the first six rounds and realize that starting pitcher is a bigger hole on your team than the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Reference this handy-dandy sheet to assuage those concerns. Not to fear, there's plenty of talent to be had in the next round, the round after that, and the round after that.
This is based on a mid-round draft position in a 12 team league. Obviously, higher rated players could fall because there's no accounting for the taste, or lack thereof, of your fellow managers.
|1||Shane Bieber - CLE|
|2||Max Scherzer - WSH|
|3||Luis Castillo - CIN|
|4||Tyler Glasnow - TB|
|5||Lance Lynn - CWS|
|6||Liam Hendriks - CWS|
|7||Kyle Hendricks - CHC|
|8||Ian Anderson - ATL|
|9||Zach Plesac - CLE|
|10||Chris Paddack - SD|
|11||Patrick Corbin - WSH|
|12||Sixto Sanchez - MIA|
|13||Devin Williams - MIL|
|14||James Paxton - SEA|
|15||Alex Colome - MIN|
|16||Mike Soroka - ATL|
|17||Dustin May - LAS|
|18||Jose Urquidy - HOU|
|19||Ryan Yarbrough - TB|
|20||Jameson Taillon - NYY|
|21||Matthew Boyd - DET|
|22||Tony Gonsolin - LAD|
|23||Zach Davies - CHC|
As you can see, there is talent at every level of the draft, both for starters, relievers, and guys who can do both. The highlights:
Beginning at the beginning, I can't tell you how much I like getting Shane Bieber anywhere in the back half of the first round. The reigning Cy Young winner looked transcendent last season, and I've seen just as many fantasy projections that squarely place him in the conversation as the #1 overall pitcher. Getting a guy who led the league in strikeout percentage, strikeouts, ERA, and wins is a no-brainer. It's not his fault that he doesn't pitch in New York.
A couple rounds later, I believe you can still snag a dude that's about to prove he could be an ace on pretty much any staff. His numbers have improved from year to year, specifically cutting his walks and increasing his strikeouts. Without Bauer in the rotation, Castillo will be the Opening Day starter and can use this chance to solidify himself as a premier pitcher.
This Luis Castillo dude seems to be pretty good at throwing baseballs. https://t.co/jVcslXwKDi— Cincinnati Reds (@Cincinnati Reds)1600307193.0
In the middle rounds of the draft, I am all about jumping on Devin Williams. The man has a pitch so mesmerizing that it got a name: "The Airbender." He uses a normal circle change grip, but himself sees it as a reverse slider, or what was one time known as, a screwball. He's been ridiculously valuable as Hader's setup man, piling up holds left and right and center. Look here for the possibility of him assuming the closer role if the trade talk surrounding Hader finally comes to fruition.
Nearing the end and looking to fill out your roster, I think Jameson Taillon provides a ton of upside this season. He's coming off of a second Tommy John surgery, and the Yankees have already said they plan to ease him into the rotation by having Cole take two starts before his first. (This sets him up to face the Baltimore Orioles, by the way, a team who doesn't have a clear second baseman on the team). However, he's completely rebuilt his throwing motion, which should be more sustainable for his elbow.
Of course, exhibition games don't predict future success, but Taillon has looked tremendous in his four outings. He has one earned run and 14 strikeouts over the 8.1 innings, and this could, finally, be the season that he lives up to the lofty expectations of his high draft status.
Jameson Taillon is bringing a new and improved throwing motion to the Bronx for his first season with the New York… https://t.co/w862Pq5NvK— YES Network (@YES Network)1611673320.0
In the final round, I'm a big fan of Zach Davies, who put together a respectable season for the Padres last year, proving to be a valuable waiver wire addition. Once San Diego decided they were going the nuclear route and compiled the best staff in baseball, Davies saw himself dealt to the Cubs, as a part of the Darvish trade. The increased use of his change up resulted in more strikeouts. The change of scenery to a weaker division should provide a boost to his stats across the board.
Now that March Madness is over, here are a few games to mark on your calendar this week to keep feeding your sports appetite.
After a thrilling season of college basketball we saw Stanford take home their first Women's NCAA Basketball title in 29 years while on the men's side Baylor handed Gonzaga their first and only loss of the season and earned the school's first Men's NCAA championship. Since we didn't have the tournaments last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was amazing getting to see the highlights and the drama return, and both tournaments delivered on the promise of madness.
Gonzaga all season until they played Baylor tonight 😂 #NCAAChampionship https://t.co/2O2M1ZiXBy— El Maestro (@El Maestro)1617678325.0
But now that we'll have to wait until next year to get more college basketball action, here's a rundown of some of the best matchups in the NBA as their season is getting closer to their postseason, and in the MLB where teams are just ramping up nearing the end of the first week of their season.
Utah Jazz vs. Phoenix Suns Wednesday April 7
We start with the top two teams in the NBA's western conference who play on Wednesday night. The Utah Jazz bring the league's best record to Phoenix to take on the second place Suns. If you haven't been paying attention to the NBA and are now craving more basketball, now is a perfect time to jump in.
That wasn't a typo you just read either; the Jazz and Suns are ahead of the likes of the Clippers and Lakers in the standings, and these are two very good teams you need to get acquainted with. If only someone could have suggested you do it sooner by, I don't know, writing a feature article about one of them in the first week of the season.
DEVIN BOOKER. Another 30 point performance. https://t.co/DN07ZaMsnd— Phoenix Suns (@Phoenix Suns)1617675411.0
Chris Paul continues to make everyone around him better, including Alfonso Ribeiro in those State Farm commercials. But more importantly his presence has expedited the development of all of the young talent around him in Phoenix, resulting in the Suns being a team we talk about in terms of "they can win now" versus "they can win someday."
The Jazz are basically the Spurs during the Duncan era. They're a very fundamentally sound team that plays basketball the way you should play it, and it's not very fun to watch most of the time. But that's not a shot at them, it's a testament to their coaches and players for putting together an excellent game plan and executing it night in and night out.
Longest win streaks in the NBA this season: Utah Jazz - 11 Utah Jazz - 9 (active) Utah Jazz - 9 Hawks - 8 Bucks - 8 Nets - 8— John Keeffer (@John Keeffer)1617514941.0
If you haven't seen these teams play it's a great opportunity to see two of the best fight it out as they battle for positioning atop the western conference.
Washington Wizards vs Golden State Warriors Friday April 9
I know what you're thinking. Why would I spend my Friday night watching a Wizards game? Well a lot of this rests on Bradley Beal returning to action who has missed the last five games with a hip injury. But if Beal is good to go against the Warriors, we'll get to see the aforementioned Beal go head to head with Stephen Curry. Beal is currently leading the league in points per game with 31.3 ppg, and Curry is third in that category averaging 29.4.
People seem to forget Steph Curry led the Warriors to 73-9 WITHOUT Kevin Durant— Ben Stinar (@Ben Stinar)1617637387.0
Even if Beal is unable to go, my backup argument for watching this game is that you then get a matchup of Curry vs. Russell Westbrook who is fresh off leading the Wizards to a win over the Raptors behind the former MVP's triple double on Monday. Either way it's a low stakes game with some talented scorers, and it's going to be fun.
Russell Westbrook insane game: 35 PTS 14 REB 21 AST The first 35/10/20 game in NBA history. https://t.co/MnS5NHOAHH— StatMuse (@StatMuse)1617067788.0
Atlanta Braves vs. Washington Nationals Wednesday April 7 3:35 pm EST
The reason I had to denote the time of this game is that it's the second game of the scheduled double-header we'll see between these teams on Wednesday. Due to some positive Covid-19 test results the series that was meant to start last week will actually begin today on Tuesday April 6.
GOT 'EM! Bryce Harper tried to stretch this into a double, but @Braves' Ronald Acuña Jr. had other plans 💪 https://t.co/bESXJlYJPY— FOX Sports: MLB (@FOX Sports: MLB)1617481262.0
Furthermore, the reason that this game is on this list is that the Braves and Nats are going to play three baseball games in the span of about 27 hours. This is the last game on the schedule within that timeframe. That means we could very well see some weird stuff, and in baseball we love weird stuff.
We could see minor league call-ups whose only professional game is this one. We could see pitchers being used as pinch hitters. We could see position players being called upon to be relief pitchers, maybe even a half inning called by only one announcer because the other had to make a bathroom break run.
Considering we don't even know who the probable pitchers are for this one yet, it's a safe bet that we're going to get weird.
Washington Nationals vs Los Angeles Dodgers Saturday April 10
I promise you that I didn't intend to list three Washington sports games on here, but it's just how the schedules played out.
This day was supposed to be all about the star power that the Lakers and Nets were going to bring to Brooklyn in primetime, but thanks to injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis, it will instead be a game worthy of a blackout rather than a national spot.
So instead we turn to another L.A. team taking on an east coast powerhouse in the MLB, and if it's star power you want, these teams can bring it. Even though we don't have projected starting pitchers yet, it's likely we see Trevor Bauer toe the mound for the Dodgers, and it's unlikely we'll see Max Scherzer ready to go by then as he's going today in their season opener.
Hi hello Opening Day is TOMORROW Let's watch some *crushed* Juan Soto homers to get us ready 🙌 ⬇️ https://t.co/SWGADq3deS— Sarah Langs (@Sarah Langs)1617236372.0
But on the offensive side there is an endless supply of power for both teams. Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger lead the way for the 4-1 Dodgers while Juan Soto and Trea Turner highlight the lineup for the Nationals.
If you're bummed you're missing out on the Lakers and Nets matchup we've been waiting for, tune in for this one as it could turn into a barnburner of a Saturday night.