A Newbie’s Guide to Playing Fantasy Football

Fantasy football can be enigmatic, even to players who have been doing it for a few years. Playing fantasy football well does take skill, but a lot of success is just pure luck. The NFL only has 17 games a season, compared with 82 for the NBA or NHL, and 162 for MLB. Because of that, fantasy football is subject to more severe year-to-year deviations.

Yet, within those seemingly random deviations, one can figure out patterns that emerge. While these tips won’t help new players dominate right away, they will be able to keep their heads above water against more experienced players.

It is also important to note that these are guidelines. A player that is good enough will be someone a player can buck the trend with. For now, though, a new player should memorize these five concepts.

No QBs in the first round

New players come into fantasy football thinking that if quarterbacks score the most fantasy points, why aren’t they the first to go off the board?

Of course, the answer to that question is simple, but not intuitive for the beginner. Quarterbacks do score the most fantasy points, but they’re a better value later on in the draft. After the top five or so, quarterbacks score about the same amount of points all the way down to 25th. In other words, you can have someone like Kirk Cousins or Jimmy Garoppolo and score decently.

Other positions, like running back, are hard to come by. After the top five backs, the talent level drops off significantly. This increases the importance of getting a top-tier back early on. Hence, running backs are a better target than quarterbacks or receivers in the first couple of rounds.

There are exceptions, though, as Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen may be worth a first-round pick, especially in leagues that have 14 teams or more.

No QBs that are 35 or older

Older players in general are a gamble. Even though they’re a known quantity, the quality of play they offer can drop off at any time. Worse off, a player’s quality will drop off much faster the older a player is.

Picking a quarterback aged 35 or older is a slot machine to avoid. Even with players like Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, talent could fall off very quickly and without warning. Stick to QBs that haven’t gotten that old, yet.

An example of this is Peyton Manning’s twilight years. In 2014, Peyton Manning was QB4 and showed only modest signs of decline. By 2015, though, Manning had fallen off the face of the Earth. His arm and neck had given in, and he would have to be relieved by Brock Osweiller. This led to him going from QB4 to QB34.

The reason why this happens is easy to understand. Schematically, a coach will plan around his player’s weaknesses. At first, this looks like a subtle game plan change. Yet, as arm strength and touch continue to fade, the coach cannot run the same plays or offense anymore. This puts a team at a crossroads; either play like the older QB is used to and risk him losing the game, or play differently.

Most coaches will dance with the one that brought them, though.

Grab the youngest back possible early on

Running backs fall off very, very quickly. By their late 20s, most backs are washed, and picking them up is a recipe for disaster. PFF recommends that dynasty fantasy football players trade any back over the age of 25. The position is brutal on a back’s body, and moderating their touches must be done the older they get.

Hence, go with the youngest back possible who can still be a quality starter, and do it early. It seems odd to pick a rookie or a second-year player, given they haven’t proven themselves yet. But, running backs are fairly easy to project even before they play a down.

For example, Saquon Barkley is a perfect case study, as it was obvious he was going to be special. As a rookie in 2018, he ran for over 1,300 yards and got into the end zone 11 times. By 2021, though, he ran for only 593 yards and two touchdowns. Players who drafted Barkley in 2018 came out much better than players who drafted him in 2021. At 25, his peak looks to already be well past.

If one can find a back that is projected high and is under 25, that is the best course of action. Avoid picking anyone over 27, though, like the plague.

Kickers can be worth a 10th or 11th round selection

Nerds would call the kicker position a market inefficiency. Kickers are often overlooked in fantasy football, as it isn’t the sexiest position, and they can be erratic from week to week.

However, a top-five kicker is worth a high-end double-digit round draft slot. In 2021, the top five kickers averaged 9.7 fantasy points per contest. That point total is equivalent to the 25th ranked running back, or a top 15 receiver. This is also a guaranteed starting position, too, so it will deliver production nearly every week.

Kickers are also age-resistant, so don’t feel hesitant to draft 37-year-old Nick Folk with an 11th or 12 round pick, if you can.

Do not pick anyone with any consistent injury history. Ever.

This is arguably the most important thing to learn.

Injuries are common in football. When we talk about injury history, we aren’t talking about the minor bruises and sprains that a player can play with. Instead, if a player has any sort of injury history that has kept him off the field more than one time, pass on him. Even if that player is Christian McCaffery, taking him is going to open a novice up to the variance that can demolish new players.

But, players should also give lesser priority to players that have been hurt seriously just one time. These players don’t have to be avoided outright, but avoiding them if possible is a prudent decision.

While these tips are not going to help a newbie win their fantasy league in year one, they are useful pitfalls to avoid early on. Ultimately, these tips can help someone playing fantasy football gain skills in it for the future, and be a building block to winning something down the road.

Miami Dolphins Schedule: 5 Most Interesting Storylines

The Miami Dolphins schedule was released last week, and there are several interesting matchups for Mike McDaniel and company.

Miami Dolphins Schedule
Credit: Sam Navarro, USA Today

The Miami Dolphins schedule was released last week, and it is riddled with interesting matchups. The Dolphins are getting two primetime games, along with several more that may be nationally televised. Following their trade for star acquisitions, many view the Dolphins as playoff contenders. Thus, their schedule has five key storylines to look out for.

Tua vs. Herbert and Burrow

The Miami Dolphins hold matchups against the Bengals and Chargers, the former of which being on Thursday Night Football. These three teams have been tied together for over two years, when they were all competing for the number one pick and the rights to Joe Burrow, who went to Cincinnati.

Miami, of course, selected Tua Tagovailoa soon after, passing on Justin Herbert, who has looked stellar with the Chargers. In a “do or die” year for Tua, it’s important to see how his progress stacks up with the fellow quarterbacks of the 2020 draft.

Brian Flores Returns to Miami

Following the conclusion of Miami’s 2021 season, the Dolphins opted to fire Brian Flores. A combination of friction with personnel and a lack of production on the offensive side of the ball caused Miami to look in another direction. However, this was called into question when Flores filed a lawsuit against the team and the rest of the NFL.

Flores alleged several teams of racially motivated hiring and interviewing practices, and accused the Dolphins of offering him incentives to lose games in 2019.

Unable to find a job in this cycle as a head coach, Flores joined the Steelers as a linebackers coach. Coaching Mike Tomlin’s star-studded defense, Flores will make his return to Miami on Sunday Night Football in Week 7.

Deshaun Watson in Hard Rock Stadium

The most prominent factor in Miami Dolphins schedule for early on is facing the Cleveland Browns. The constant rumors about a Deshaun Watson trade. It loomed over the team for a large portion of the year, and former coach Brian Flores refused to refute any potential trades. Thus, the pressure was on Tua Tagovailoa, with the constant worry of not having his job in the coming weeks.

Following the trade deadline, the weight seemed to be lifted from Tagovailoa’s shoulders. He performed significantly better and led Miami on a seven-game winning streak.

With Miami’s new staff putting forth full confidence in Tagovailoa, they backed out of the Watson sweepstakes. The controversial quarterback was traded to the Cleveland Browns and leads one of the most talented rosters in the NFL.

Many looked at Watson, Jacoby Brissett, and Jakeem Grant, as three players that would be in Miami in 2022. However, all three are on Cleveland together and will come down to Hard Rock to face the Dolphins in Week 10.

Mike McDaniel Revenge Game

Following the firing of former coach Brian Flores, the Dolphins figured that they needed someone who could change the game on offense. Thus, they hired San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel, who comes from Kyle Shanahan’s elite outside zone scheme.

McDaniel took several staff members from San Francisco on his trip to the east coast. Namely, receivers coach Wes Welker (who played for the Dolphins) and tight ends coach Jon Embree. These three, along with other assistants, will go back to their old stomping grounds in Week 13. Miami will fly to San Francisco where McDaniel will meet his mentor, and potentially show him that he was ready to move on.

Beating the Bills

When Tom Brady left New England to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a power vacuum in the AFC East opened up. Each team made aggressive attempts to get better with hopes of taking over in the division. Miami and Buffalo, namely, have made vast changes to their teams over the last couple of years.

Now Miami fans (and Buffalo fans) circle their calendars every time the Miami Dolphins schedule drops.

However, the Bills have been much more successful in their approach. Making timely additions of Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, and other contributors have vaulted them to the top of the East. Miami, on the other hand, has been on the outside looking in.

This has largely been in part to the matchups between the two teams. Miami hasn’t beat the Bills since 2018, when Adam Gase as their head coach. It is up to Mike McDaniel and company to change this if they are to contend for a title in the coming years. They face the Bills in Weeks 3 and 15.

The biggest story lines from the Raiders schedule in 2022

Photo Credit: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times

The 2022 NFL schedule was released this week. With that comes record predictions, ticket-purchasing, and more storylines than anyone can keep track of.  The Raiders schedule is no different. It showcases a matchup against the reigning Super Bowl champions, a revenge game 50 years in the making, and more AFC West matchups than your heart can handle. So, let’s look at three of the biggest storylines to keep track of in 2022.

Week 1: Las Vegas Raiders @ Los Angeles Chargers

It’s the game you’ve been waiting all offseason for. The Raiders will head to SoFi Stadium for their first game of the season to try and take down Justin Herbert and a revamped Charger’s defense.

As you may remember, the Raiders beat the Chargers in the last regular season game of the 2021 season, sending the Silver and Black to the playoffs, and ending the Bolts season without a second thought. Los Angeles has spent the duration of the offseason trying to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Since the two teams last met, they have added numerous Pro-Bowlers to their defense including J.C. Jackson, Kyle Van Noy, and former Raider, Khalil Mack.

Mack, who spent the first four seasons of his career with the Raiders, was traded to Los Angeles this offseason. He is infamously known for being a player Raider Nation saw leading the team to their next Super Bowl win. That is, until the former regime sent him off to Chicago. Since leaving Oakland, Mack’s statistics have declined. However, his game-changing talent and sure-fire want for revenge is still cause for concern in Las Vegas.

On top of being a revenge game for many reasons, the Raiders second home is in Los Angeles. It’s not uncommon for Raider Nation to take over SoFi stadium and make it their own, adding fuel to the fire.

Week 15: New England Patriots @ Las Vegas Raiders

While there are numerous storylines in between Week 1 and Week 15, the Patriots vs. Raiders game is what everyone will be looking forward to. Head coach Josh McDaniels will lead his new team out proudly (we hope), as he takes on the man that taught him everything he knows.

Before being hired as the Raiders head coach in January, McDaniels spent 13 seasons with the Patriots. He served as everything from their offensive assistant to their offensive coordinator, learning the ins and outs of coaching from one of the best in the business, Bill Belichick.

McDaniels was joined in Las Vegas by new general manager, Dave Ziegler, who also spent the previous seasons in New England. McDaniels and Ziegler wasted no time in bringing their favorite former Patriots to Sin City, making Week 15 even more meaningful.

Las Vegas has added six players this offseason who played for the New England Patriots including running back Brandon Bolden, tight end Jacob Hollister, fullback Jakob Johnson, and quarterback Jarett Stidham, among others. Along with players, McDaniels also hired several former New England coaches to his staff.

The sheer volume of Raiders that have played or coached for the Patriots is something that doesn’t go unnoticed, making Week 15 a must win game for the Silver and Black.

Week 16: Las Vegas Raiders @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Fifty years in the making, the Raiders will return to the scene of the “Immaculate Reception” one day after its half-century anniversary. If you’ve been a Raiders fan for a while, or have ever known a Raiders fan, its likely you know exactly what play we’re talking about. If not, you can read up on the controversial play, here.

No matter how much time passes, it will never be clear what happened that day. You’ll get a different story from every player, and every referee working that game. The Raiders are three Lombardi trophies better off than they were that day in Pittsburgh, but they’ll never forget. And they’ll be sure to remind the Steelers of that in December.

The Raiders schedule is tough, with a lot valuable storylines in 2022. If they want to return to the playoffs for a second consecutive year, they’ll have to prove each and every week why they deserve to be there.

Early Storylines for Every 2022 Patriots Game

New England and Buffalo get the Thursday night double dip as Buffalo will be coming off a Thanksgiving showdown against Detroit. These teams matched up three times last year with the fierce Buffalo wind proved to be the Patriots’ most valuable defender in those games.

New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) points out trouble during a game between the New England Patriots and the Jacksonville Jaguars on January 2, 2022, at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Photo Credit: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The new season schedule is finally here! The Patriots were allotted the maximum number of primetime games before flex scheduling, as Mac Jones and company remain in the national eye after a strong rookie year. Everyone is ready to see record predictions and game-by-game expectations. But being this far out, let’s just look at early storylines for every 2022 Patriots game and notable trends in the schedule itself.

Week 1 @ Miami

The Patriots avoid a late-season Miami trip this year. Miami has been a house of horrors for New England; they are just 2-7 in their last nine visits. An early trip to Miami means dealing with the late summer heat or possible sloppy hurricane season weather. The Pats will get immediately tested by Tyreek Hill and the new-look Miami offense. Perhaps the Pats catch a break with some early season desynchrony from the Tua-led passing game.

Week 2 @ Pittsburgh

The Patriots get back-to-back road games to open the season. Pittsburgh will still feature a tough defense coupled with a ground-and-pound approach. The Steelers will most likely be starting Mitch Trubisky at quarterback. Trubisky has faced New England once in his career, losing with the Bears 38-31 on October 21, 2018. Trubisky was 26/50 for 333 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions in that game. He also added 81 yards on six carries and a touchdown. The Pats will look to further limit his production this time around.

Week 3 vs. Baltimore

The Patriots make their home debut against a talented Baltimore squad led by fourth-year quarterback Lamar Jackson in Week 3. The Pats emphasized adding speed on defense this off-season, and Jackson will present an early litmus test. The Ravens don’t have a receiver with more than two years of NFL experience on the roster. This fast, but physical opponent will test the Pats’ defense. This game will also mark Matthew Judon’s first time playing against his former employer.

Week 4 @ Green Bay

The Patriots return to the road in Week 4 to play the Packers. The Pats avoid late-season nasty Green Bay weather with the timing of this road trip. When these two teams last met, James White ran for a pair of touchdowns, Cordarrelle Patterson added another on the ground, and Josh Gordon took a Tom Brady pass 55 yards for a 31-17 Patriots victory. Now, the Mac Jones-led offense will need to keep pace with Aaron Rodgers, even if he is without top receiver Davante Adams now.

Week 5 vs. Detroit

The Patriots get just their second home game in Week 5, as they face off against the Lions. This game could be a lot closer than many people are expecting. The Lions are building a solid culture under second-year coach Dan Campbell and will compete until the final whistle. Purely speculative, but this could end up being a Trey Flowers revenge game.

Week 6 @ Cleveland

The Deshaun Watson situation looms large for this portion of the schedule. The expectation is a suspension of some sort will be handed down before the season starts. Six games seems to be the rumored minimum. However, the league put Cleveland in primetime twice this year, with the second being Week 8. With how conservatively the NFL tries to avoid storylines such as Watson’s, it may be prudent to assume the Watson suspension lasts until at least Week 8. IF that’s the case, the Patriots dodge a massive bullet and will face old Wolfpack member Jacoby Brissett.

Week 7 vs. Chicago (Monday Night Football)

The Patriots get their first primetime game of the season with a Monday Night showdown against the Bears. This game will feature second-year quarterbacks Mac Jones and Justin Fields. The early storyline for both has been the improved supporting cast and incredible system that Mac walked into, while Chicago has done very little to support Fields. After a difficult opening stretch, the Pats could enter this game on a small win streak. A win in primetime might get the team feeling right early in the season.

Week 8 @ NYJ

The Patriots turn around on a short week to play the rival New York Jets. It’ll be a repeat storyline as the week before, as dueling second-year quarterbacks will take center stage. The Jets have been lauded as having had an incredible off-season thus far. They made it a point to surround Zach Wilson with a solid supporting cast and get difference-makers on the defensive side of the ball. As this rivalry gets fresh blood on both sides, this game will give us a glimpse of what to expect for years to come.

Week 9 vs. Indianapolis

Last year the Colts were the beginning of the end for the Patriots’ season. The Saturday night matchup previewed the slow starts and undisciplined brand of football the Patriots were going to play down the final stretch. This year the Patriots catch them just before their bye week. The Colts acquired Matt Ryan from the Falcons this season. They added to an already vaunted defense with pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue and former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Stephon Gilmore. This matchup will be an excellent barometer for Mac Jones’ development, as this group should be a premier defense in the league.

Week 10 BYE

The Pats get a bye week almost precisely halfway through the season. It will be ideally timed, as the team prepares for the grueling second-half push for playoffs. The bye also may be a realistic expectation for a James White return.

Week 11 vs. NYJ

The Pats will face the Jets for the second time in four weeks after their bye. Last year, the team was consistently flat and undisciplined after their bye week. The team can make a statement by coming out with a purpose and playing inspired ball against the Jets.

Week 12 @ Minnesota (Thursday Night Football)

This game marks the first of four consecutive primetime affairs for the Patriots. It also marks the Patriots’ return to Thanksgiving football for the first time since the “Butt Fumble.”

The Patriots have played five times on Thanksgiving in franchise history, sporting a 3-2 record. However, the Pats have won three in a row on Turkey day and will look to extend the streak to four. The Vikings are coached by Kevin O’Connell, a former third pick of the Pats. This could be a very entertaining holiday nightcap. Also, highlight this one as the potential return of the “Pat Patriot” jerseys.

Week 13 vs. Buffalo (Thursday Night Football)

New England and Buffalo get the Thursday night double-dip, as Buffalo will be coming off a Thanksgiving showdown against Detroit. These teams matched up three times last year, with the fierce Buffalo wind proving to be the Patriots’ most valuable defender in those games. Josh Allen and the Buffalo offense didn’t punt in the final two matchups between these teams.

The Pats’ defense will be a known commodity by this point in the season, even if most of the changes this offseason were done with this matchup in mind. Keeping this one competitive against the presumed AFC favorites will be a good indicator of where the Patriots’ rebuild stands.

Week 14 @ Arizona (Monday Night Football)

The Patriots start a west coast trip with a Monday Night showdown against the Cardinals. The Pats will be coming off a mini-bye here, as they go from a Thursday night showdown to a Monday night game. These teams last met in 2020, with the Patriots defense stifling Kyler Murray and the Cardinals offense in a 20-17 Patriots victory.

While the Pats may benefit from some suspension luck when they play Cleveland earlier in the season, they get no luck here, as DeAndre Hopkins will have served his six-game ban for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. Arizona has faded down the stretch under Kliff Kingsbury and will be looking to reverse that trend this season. Arizona may feature even more team speed than Buffalo, with burner Marquise Brown joining DeAndre Hopkins and Kyler Murray.

Week 15 @ Las Vegas (Sunday Night Football)

The second leg of the West Coast tour means a date with Josh McDaniels in Vegas. Belichick against his disciples is always exciting theater. Both teams figure to be making a postseason push. The Raiders will host the Patriots for joint practices before their preseason tilt, so this game will feature some very familiar opponents. Don’t be surprised if this is a high-drama affair, coming down to the last minute.

Week 16 vs. Cincinnati

The Patriots continue a brutal stretch of schedule by hosting the defending AFC Champs on Christmas Eve. The Pats will be hoping Mac has made a Joe Burrow-esque second-year leap of his own, while trying to contain an explosive Cincinnati offense. This game should also feature playoff implications. The Patriots in years past have pointed to a West Coast staycation as a bonding experience for the team, and the Bengals will provide the first test to that idea.

Week 17 vs. Miami

The Patriots’ final regular-season home game feature a familiar spoiler. Last year, the Dolphins swept the Patriots on the back of costly Patriots turnovers. The Tua experiment will be over by this game, one way or the other. He will either have justified his role as the franchise QB, or the Pats will be facing Teddy Bridgewater. The Dolphins have ruined the last few Patriots seasons, so getting a statement win here may help them lose the monkey on their back.

Week 18 @ Buffalo

Like all Week 18 games, this one is yet to have an assigned time slot. Patriots fans should be hoping for a Sunday Night matchup with division title implications. But, this game could feature a host of Buffalo backups as they look to rest up for playoffs and the Patriots try to jockey for one of the Wild Card spots.

Raiders trade Bryan Edwards for late-round pick

Raiders WR Bryan Edwards traded to Atlanta
Photo Credit: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The Las Vegas Raiders have traded wide receiver Bryan Edwards and a seventh-round pick to the Atlanta Falcons for a 2023 fifth-round pick. In 2021, Edwards caught 34 passes for 571 yards and three touchdowns per Pro Football Reference.

Edwards is entering his third year in the league after being drafted in the third round of the 2020 NFL draft. His big plays have been few and far between, but he is a reliable and hard-working player with a lot of potential. Last season, Raiders coaches even went so far as to say Edwards reminded them of Hall of Fame player, Terrell Owens. While he didn’t live up to those high standards, he did make some game-changing plays for the Raiders.

The 23-year-old receiver’s biggest impact as a Raider came during a must-win game in Week 15. The Silver and Black were visiting the Browns in Cleveland. Las Vegas sat at 6-7 with their playoff hopes on the line. Both teams had been dealing with COVID-19 breakouts, and the Raiders needed everyone to stand out. Edwards took it to heart the most as he made the play of the game in the first quarter, catching a touchdown pass over the head of the NFL’s highest-paid cornerback, Denzel Ward.

For the Raiders, they are now one step closer to finalizing their wide receivers room after a big shakeup this off-season.

Edwards will now join his former teammate, quarterback Marcus Mariota, in Atlanta. A receiving corps including Edwards, Kyle Pitts, and Drake London is sure to turn some heads in 2022.