Liam Hendriks, coming off his best season, signed a deal to join a burgeoning White Sox team with World Series aspirations.

John Antonoff/Chicag Sun-Times

As the game of baseball has evolved, a new level of respect has been put on relievers' names.

Since the early to mid-2010s, managers started eschewing traditional workhorse starters for situational pitching and fresh arms that toss high-powered gas at will. A sturdy, trustworthy closer has always been important, but with the advent of “Holds" as a statistic and fantasy category even middle relievers have obtained a place of prominence.

More so than any other position, relief pitchers are dependent on situational value. How can a strong closer notch saves without playing on a team that consistently puts them in save situations? Over the course of a full season, there are usually enough wins to go around and allow a reliever to make their bones, but it's the little things that separate you from a championship or missing the playoffs. That attention to detail is reflected below.


THE SUMMIT

Cream rises to the top — whether we are talking about dairy products or relief pitchers, the idiom remains the same. There is a clear and defined group at the summit of these rankings with a steep drop off to base camp. The top three on this list are, on average, drafted within about 12 slots of each other (Hendriks At 58, Hader at 59, and Chapman at 70). This is no accident.

Liam Hendriks - CWS

Here's a guy who might benefit the most from a change in circumstances. For the past two seasons, he's been a lights-out closer on an Oakland team that routinely competes for the AL West crown with a bargain basement payroll. After hitting the free agent market, he was signed by the team that he absolutely smothered in the Wild Card round last season, the Chicago White Sox.

Most experts had the young upstarts poised for a long playoff run, but that all ended after the A's offense did just enough and Hendriks' Herculean effort. Now, firmly cemented as the closer on a legit World Series contender, Hendricks vaults to the top of this list with his potent arsenal and two straight years of a sub-1.00 WHIP and sub-2.00 ERA. It's hard to make an argument against the Australian not claiming the #1 spot.

Josh Hader - MIL

Up until recently, Hader held a death grip on the title of the MLB's undisputed best closer; and from a pure talent argument, he may still have a rightful claim to the throne. There's not much to say here that hasn't already been said about the long-haired flamethrower, and he represents a sure bet whenever you draft him.

However, the Brewers are on the verge of a make-or-break season after going from divisional winners to wild card round losers to finishing under .500 in a span of three years. As the team record declined, the likelihood of a Hader trade has increased, especially with the emergence of Devin Williams. If Hader were to be dealt to a prospect-rich contender, his fantasy value would Increase. This, also, would open the door to Williams, and his signature pitch, becoming a fantasy force of their own, forcing a re-configuring of any rankings.

Aroldis Chapman - NYY

Chapman never really got going in 2020 after missing the start of the season due to a positive COVID test and hitting the DL for about a month in the middle, leading to only three saves but more than respectable numbers for WHIP, strikeouts, and other periphery stats. His manager, Aaron Boone, pointed out during this Spring Training that Yankee fans and media have been able to avoid the annual tradition of worrying about Chapman's velo.

Usually, as he builds up to regular season strength, everyone goes all Chicken Little and screams that the sky is falling on the Cuban Missile's most important asset. Eventually, it ramps back up, and he returns to his usual best reliever in the AL form. As a Yankee fan, I've definitely been left with a bad taste in my mouth, having the season ended two years in a row by walk offs that Chapman let up, but EVEN that wouldn't stop me from drafting him, especially if he's adding a new pitch to his arsenal: the Splitter.

BASE CAMP

Edwin Diaz - NYM

James Karinchak - CLE

The path has been cleared for Karinchak to take sole possession of Cleveland's closer role with Brad Hand joining the anemic Nationals' pen. The 25-year-old moved up the organization quickly and established a reputation as a strike out force, punching out nearly two thirds of all batters he retired. There's no one else on the team that has as effective combo as his lively fastball and knee-buckling curve, so it seems to be a safe bet that he wins the job and becomes a productive addition to any fantasy team.

Kirby Yates - TOR

Ryan Pressly - HOU

Pressly assumed the closer role in lieu of Roberto Osuna, who went down with an elbow injury in 2020. The former Twin was one of the 'Stros original diamonds in the rough that they polished by emphasizing his four seamer and curveball. Since the trade from Minnesota, he's been one of the most effective relief pitchers in baseball and should prove to be equally effective as a closer with ample opportunities for saves.

Raisel Iglesias - LAA

Brad Hand - WSH

Kenley Jansen - LAD

Trevor Rosenthal - OAK

Will Smith - ATL

ON THE GROUND

Nick Anderson - TB

Rafael Montero - SEA

Craig Kimbrel - CHC

How the mighty have fallen. The once powerhouse All-Star has become as shaky as they come since his move to Chicago. The first year and half were not confidence-inspiring, and this Spring has done nothing to change this narrative. He's on the wrong side of 30, and while his velocity may have seen an uptick, there's no accounting for his command.

Matt Barnes - BOS

Richard Rodriguez - PIT

Joakim Soria - ARI

Drew Pomeranz - SD

A trade deadline pickup for the Brewers from the Giants in 2019, Pomeranz transitioned easily to the pen and went on to find new life as a reliever. He signed with the Padres and continued to effectively eat up innings for them, cutting out a nice role for himself. While San Diego brought in Mark Melancon to compete for the ninth inning job, but Pomeranz should be able to still rack up holds, and you can't rule out him taking hold of it and not letting go.

Jordan Hicks - STL

Detroit Lions v Green Bay Packers
Getty Images

Week 2 of the NFL was full of breakout performances, thrilling finishes and potentially the start of the Justin Fields era in the NFC North as the Bears' win over the Bengals finds them in first place in the division.

We cap off the week with a Monday Night Football showdown between the Packers and the Lions with the winner finding themselves tied for first in the North. The Packers put up an absolute dud of a performance last week against the Saints in Week 1 while the Lions looked surprisingly effective while playing catch-up against the West-leading 49ers. The expectations for these two teams couldn't have been further apart coming into the season but with matching 0-1 starts on the books, I think there are a couple of interesting props and roster construction angles to exploit.

NFL DFS Showdown Picks

*Prices are from DraftKings

Captain: TE T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions ($9,600) ($14,400)

I'm normally not a fan of playing a tight end in the captain spot, but T.J. Hockenson is not your average tight end. He finished 2020 with an elite 18% target share in the Lions' offense and picked up right where he left off in Week 1, finishing with an 18.2% share on 50 routes run last week. Hockenson has always carried premium TD upside as a red-zone target but what was most encouraging about last week was that he ran nearly 55% of his routes out of the slot, leaving him a matchup against Chandon Sullivan, who's allowing a 67% catch rate in his coverage. In a game where the Lions are projected to be down early, expect Hockenson to get fed once again. His red-zone utilization gives him enough juice to take the captain's chair in my builds.

Core Consideration: QB Jared Goff, Detroit Lions ($10,000)

Two principles I take into Showdown slates apply to this play. Generally speaking, if I have a pass-catcher as my captain, I'm finding a way to get their QB into a flex spot. The second is that your build needs to tell a story. Mine is that the Packers come out with something to prove after getting embarrassed in Week 1 and that we'll likely see upwards of 50 pass attempts from Jared Goff as he attempts to mount a comeback. Goff is a surprisingly effective passer when getting good protection and this unit gave him a clean pocket on 86.7% of snaps last week. Expect that to continue tonight as Goff will continue to feast in garbage time.

Contrarian Play: WR Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers ($2,000)

I still chuckle at the thought of the return of Randall Cobb being on the short-list of demands from Aaron Rodgers in the midst of his holdout. I do, however, think there is something to be said about the importance of chemistry between a quarterback and his receiver and I expect that in a typical game (which Week 1 was not), Aaron Rodgers is going to find his spots to get Cobb involved. In a game script that figures to have the Packers up by a healthy margin, not many are going to look at the tertiary passing options for Green Bay and I think a $2,000 Randall Cobb could sneak in a handful of receptions at single-digit ownership..

Salary Relief: WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, Detroit Lions ($2,400)

This one fits perfectly into my narrative for the game as well. In a game where the Lions are likely to flirt with 50+ pass attempts and coming off a week where St. Brown ran routes on 75% of the team's passing plays, I will be overweight on Amon-Ra tonight. Lining up in the slot on 74.5% of plays means St. Brown will primarily see coverage from Chandon Sullivan, the most favorable of the options GB lines up in their defensive secondary. Expect St. Brown to see his target volume increase tonight. If Detroit can be more effective in getting to the red zone, he carries decent scoring upside with the way he's utilized in this offense. Plus, who doesn't love the extra motivation of playing against their big bro?

Monday Night Football Best Bets

Taking a look at the wagering side of this game; before we determine anything else we must ask ourselves what we think of these Green Bay Packers. I tend to look at last week's performance as the exception and not the rule. With that being the case, I am laying the 11.5 points and taking GB tonight. Over the past six seasons, oddsmakers have been fairly sharp when it comes to these larger spreads and NFL teams cover double-digit spreads more than 55% of the time. The total for tonight is sitting at 48.5 and given the somewhat surprising ability of the Lions to make up ground last week, I am confidently on the "over" side of that line.

Picks: Packers -11.5, OVER 48.5 points

Taking a look at the prop market, I am again mainly investing in the "GB Blowout" narrative:

D'Andre Swift: OVER 28.5 Receiving Yard

Coming off a 65-yard performance in a very similar game script, this one feels like a no-brainer. Swift averages nearly 8 yards per reception so this really boils down to whether you think he catches more than 3 passes. I certainly do and I'm confidently on the OVER for this prop. FanDuel is currently carrying the best odds at -110.

T.J. Hockenson: Anytime TD

I'm not the biggest fan of these "to score" props, but I'll break from the norm with this one. I am projecting the Lions to at least have a go at it in this game and there simply isn't a scenario where that doesn't involve a score for Hockenson. +220 odds at FanDuel sort of feels like stealing given that I see this game going over the 48.5 total.

AJ Dillon | UNDER 8.5 Rushing Attempts

I know that the betting public is forecasting a fairly comfortable win for the Packers, but let's not get carried away. AJ Dillon would have to nearly double his career average for carries to get to this number. Plus, it's a bit unlikely that this game gets so far out of reach that Green Bay brings in their backups. Even last week when they did bring in the second-stringers, Dillon only saw 4 carries. I'm expecting Aaron Jones to have a monster day on the ground, as evidenced by my Saturday article.

File:Derrick Henry 2019 12-08.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Week 1 is in the books and it's time to move on to the best bets in Week 2.

If you listened to my article earlier this week, you would have started 1-0 for taking the Giants with the points against Washington in that thriller of a matchup Thursday night. Now, let's dive into Week 2's best NFL bets.

Best Bets

Tennessee Titans/Seattle Seahawks Over 54

The Seahawks' offense was high-flying in the first half last week. Because the Colts never really threatened the outcome of the game, the Seahawks were able to take the air out of the ball and finish the game with an easy win while only scoring seven in the second half. While both the Titans' defense and offense looked atrocious, expect Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry to have big bounce-back weeks and make this an epic high-scoring game. This has all the makings for a shootout in which both teams put up 30-plus points.

Cincinnati Bengals +2.5 @ Chicago Bears

Until that Monday night game, the Bengals had the honor of winning the craziest Week 1 game over the Vikings in overtime. The Bears' defense, which is supposed to be their strength, looked awful against the Rams, including one of the most blown coverages you'll ever see on Cooper Kupp's long touchdown. It was simply an awful week for the Bears. I don't think it gets any better until they remove Dalton and promote Justin Fields. If they don't do that prior to game time, the Bengals will run away with this one.

Los Angeles Rams -3.5 @ Indianapolis Colts

Coming out of Week 1 the Rams looked great on both sides of the ball. Matthew Stafford had a great first game, going 20 for 26 with three touchdowns. The Colts... They didn't look that great on either side of the ball. While Carson Wentz's overall numbers didn't look bad, most of the yardage and one of his two TDs came in the fourth quarter as they were chasing from two or more scores back, never actually threatening to win the game. I'm leaning towards the Rams winning this in a blowout and would consider alternate spreads.

Arizona Cardinals -3.5 vs. Minnesota Vikings

Kyler Murray appears to be a man on a mission to avenge last season's bitter ending after absolutely torching the Tennesee Titans in Nashville. The Vikings' defense, who hasn't been as formidable as years past, is going to have their hands full with Kyler. Last week they allowed Joe Burrow to complete nearly 80% of his passes, and Burrow isn't a threat to run nor has a receiver as talented as DeAndre Hopkins. If the Vikings offense doesn't step up and make this a shootout, things could get ugly in Phoenix.

Dallas Cowboys + 3.5 @ Los Angeles Chargers

Dak Prescott looked great in Week 1 and if there were any issues with his shoulder after throwing 58 times, he had 10 days to get healed up again and ready for the Chargers. I can almost guarantee, whenever the Cowboys go to play either Los Angeles team in their stadium, that there will be more Cowboys fans than LA fans. So while they aren't playing in Jerry World, they'll have more fan support. My concern for Justin Herbert and the Chargers is their efficiency in the red zone. His most potent weapons in Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler become less effective as they get closer to the goal line. That leaves Jared Cook and Mike Williams as your bigger bodies in the red zone, which isn't ideal. The Cowboys have a decent chance to win this one outright, but you can take the points for some cushion.

Long-Shot Parlay

  • Cowboys ML (+160)
  • Titans +6.5 (-105)
  • Steelers ML (-225)
  • Rams -3.5 (-110)

Five Props To Consider

  • Calvin Ridley OVER 6.5 receptions (+115)
  • Tyrod Taylor OVER 34.5 Pass Attempts (-105)
  • Aaron Jones OVER 88.5 combined yards (-115)
  • Nick Chubb OVER 17.5 carries (-120)
  • James Robinson OVER 9.5 carries (-125)

All five of these props have an excellent chance at hitting. I like the idea of wagering a three-leg prop parlay with the last three props listed (Jones, Chubb and J-Rob). Thanks me on Monday.

Saquon Barkley | Running back Saquon Barkley of the New York… | Flickr

Can the NFL season be over before Summer officially ends?

After Week 1, half the teams are 0-1. Each of those teams has a chance to right the ship and get to .500 with a win this week.

However, there are three teams who are guaranteed to start the season 0-2 (barring a tie). Three games have matchups of 0-1 teams facing off against each other this week. The loser of each game will be 0-2 heading into Week 3.

Historically, 92% of teams who begin the year 0-2 do not make the playoffs. That number may skew a bit this year because a 17th game has been added to the schedule. And an additional playoff team has been added in each conference, but overall, starting 0-2 is not ideal.

New York Giants @ Washington Football Team (-3.5 40.5 O/U)

The Daniel Jones experience may be coming to an end in New York. He coughed up another fumble (his 30th) last week against the Broncos in New York. His career record is only 8-19, but amazingly he's 4-0 against Washington.

Saquon Barkley only played 29 snaps last week and is complaining about the short work week, with this game against Washington just days after Big Blue's brutal loss to the Broncos. It's obvious the Giants are trying to ease Barkley back, but they may not have that luxury. They'll need him to be productive to keep Washington's defensive end, Chase Young, away from Jones. Ideally, the Giants will try to employ a quick passing attack, however, it doesn't help matters that tight end Evan Engram has officially been ruled out with a calf injury.

Washington doesn't come into this game any better, having lost Ryan Fitzpatrick to a hip injury. They've turned the reigns over to Taylor Heinicke, who actually was productive in relief of Fitzpatrick last week. The reality is, there's not much to get excited about for either team, and frankly, neither one probably should be 1-1, but the reality is, one will be.

In last week's games, neither team sniffed 20 points. Washington scored 16 points and the Giants only could muster 13 points. In this era of the NFL, it's hard to imagine a team not scoring 20-plus points, but the over-under is only 40.5, so Vegas doesn't feel either team will put up a ton of points. Out of the two teams, the Giants feel like they need it more, and Jones definitely does.

As bad as it was last season, Washington did prevail to win the NFC East last season, so the fan base should be more forgiving, especially with the Fitzpatrick injury. But for coach Joe Judge, this year was supposed to be the start of the turnaround for the Giants. Hey just cannot go 0-2, especially after seeing what the Eagles and Jalen Hurts did in Week 1 to the Falcons. The Eagles are vastly improved, as is Dallas, even though the Cowboys lost to Tampa Bay. It's going to take much more than a 7-9 record to win the division this year.

The 3.5 points is a nice bonus, but I think the Giants win outright, in a low-scoring affair. If you wanted to get frisky, take the Giants to win outright for +150.

Prediction: Giants 19-14

New England Patriots (-5.5 43 O/U) vs. New York Jets

Normally, a win could be penciled in for the Patriots and everyone would just move on. These aren't normal times. Tom Brady is no longer at the helm, and nothing should be taken for granted in New England. The dynasty is most assuredly over.

There is a narrative that coach Belichick dominates rookie quarterbacks. That just isn't so. On the road, in the last 12 games against a rookie signal-caller, Belichick is 6-6. And in games played prior to Week 10, he's only 1-5.

This game, like the Giants-Washington game, features two teams who scored under 20 points last week, although the two teams feel like they have a better offensive grasp. And each team had opportunities to score more points.

The line is hovering between 5.5-6 points depending on where you look. If you're inclined to take the Jets, try to find +6. If you like the Pats, look for -5.5. The line opened at 3 points, which means a ton of money is coming in heavy on the Patriots. The Pats do have more to lose in this game since their Week 1 loss was to the Dolphins, and they can't afford to not only start 0-2, but 0-2 in the division too.

And although the Pats are facing rookie QB Zach Wilson in his home debut, they are sending out a rookie themselves, Mac Jones, in his road debut, against a very hostile New York crowd.

Although I do think the Pats will prevail, I can't see them covering the number. Even if it's from a back door cover, I envision the Jets covering the 6-point spread. I also think both offenses will be much better than they were in Week 1. If I had to choose, I'd take the OVER. But I'd rather stick with Patriots outright or Jets covering the spread.

Prediction: Patriots 24-20.

Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers (-11 48 O/U)

A few years ago Aaron Rodgers famously said "R-E-L-A-X." With everything that went on in the offseason, it doesn't feel like he's compelled to give the same message, and it definitely doesn't seem like the fans are receptive to hearing it.

Rodgers typically doesn't put up back-to-back stinkers, but this is unchartered territory. He knows he's not coming back next season; he's on borrowed time in Green Bay. Not that he's deliberately trying to sink the team, he is a fierce competitor, but he's also a complex person and many things are surely weighing on his mind.

The good news for Green Bay fans is that Rodgers has owned the Lions in his career, going 17-5 against them with a 104.8 passer rating. They are playing in their home opener and if anything can motivate a solid performance, an opening night crowd on Monday Night Football should do the trick.

The Lions are an intriguing opponent. The ending of their game against the 49ers last week makes this matchup quite interesting. After finding themselves behind early, 31-10 at halftime, and 38-17 after the 3rd quarter, they showed life and offense in the final quarter. Yes, it can be argued that it was garbage time and the 49ers were playing soft to kill the clock, but it still shows that the Lions have heart.

I'll put it this way, the Lions put up 33 points last week. The Packers only managed a field goal.

Although I don't see the Lions' offense putting up 30-plus again, mainly because that would be back-to-back atrocious games by the Packers' defense, their offense is good enough to score more than 20 points. Jared Goff was successful in getting the ball to his tight end T.J. Hockenson, as well as his two RBs D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams. They combined for 24 catches, 218 yards and 2 TDs. Williams also rushed for a touchdown.

The Lions can't bank on a disinterested Rodgers. They will utilize a ball control and short-pass/running gameplan to control time of possession and keep the ball away from Rodgers. And based on what happened in Week 1, we know Green Bay has the potential to give up points.

I'm willing to speculate that the Lions get to at least 20 points. Assuming they do, the play would be Lions +11 and over 48. That way, you're guaranteed no worse than a split.

If the Lions score 20, the only way you lose is if Green Bay puts up 32 or more points, which would be a combined 52 points. You'd lose the Detroit bet but win the Over.

Prediction: Green Bay 31-21

If it pans out like I think it might, the Washington Football Team, New York Jets and Detroit Lions will be 0-2, last place in their divisions, and already looking ahead, with one eye on the 2022 season. Thankfully, there is that extra game this year, and an extra Wild Card team.

One thing is sure, three of these teams will be facing the daunting circumstance of being 0-2.

Terms & Conditions: 21+ and present in CO, IA, IL, IN, MI, NJ, PA, TN, VA or WV. New users only. Must wager in designated offer market. $10 first deposit required. $150 max bonus. See full terms at sportsbook.fanduel.com. Gambling Problem? Call: 1-800-522-4700 (CO), 1-800-BETS-OFF (IA), 1-800-9-WITH-IT (IN), 1-800-270-7117 for confidential help (MI), 1-800-GAMBLER (NJ, PA, IL, VA), TN REDLINE 1-800-889-9789 (TN), or visit www.1800gambler.net (WV).