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Roundtable Week 17

2017 rebound candidates, free agency, and the playoff prognostication in this week's Roundtable.

This week, we're looking ahead to 2017: 

Let's roll...


Rebound Candidates

Check out this list of rebound candidates and then answer the questions below it.

Questions:

  1. Name and explain your three candidates most likely to rebound as fantasy starters next year. 
  2. Name and explain your three least likely candidates for a starter level rebound next year. 
  3. Explain which player's surroundings limits him far more than his talent.


Mostly Likely Rebounders

 
Chad Parsons: The rebound names who stand out are Cam Newton, Alshon Jeffery, and Tyler Eifert. I rarely bet on older players to bounce back, which eliminates about a third of the list. Also, I am skeptical of ho-hum physical talents to see a significant rise in production once a downturn occurs. Finally, I want players with elite upside or an elite background of production.

Newton is having his worst passing season-to-date and saw his rushing production cut in nearly half (yardage) and lose five touchdowns from a year ago. Kelvin Benjamin's return did little to aid Newton. The offensive line cannot be much worse next year considering their play in 2016.

Jeffery is a wild card as a free agent, but Jeffery strung together three straight seasons of at least 17 PPR PPG before missing a handful of games and scoring just two touchdowns this season. Changing teams would result in a quarterback upgrade (strong odds).

Eifert's main concern is durability with a second season of significant missed time in his four-year career. His touchdown rate was strong and he has a career-high 13.6 yards-per-catch in 2016. Eifert is the easiest call on the list.

Jeff Haseley: My three candidates most likely to rebound as fantasy starters next year. 

C.J. Anderson - There was a concern that one of the Denver backup running backs (Booker or Bibs) would assume the main rushing role when Anderson went down with a knee injury. The opposite occurred and neither back rose to the occasion, making Anderson the favorite for the role once again in 2017. Unless Denver drafts or signs a running back in the offseason, this is very much Anderson's role entering the summer. 

Alshon Jeffery - I think the writing is on the wall that Jeffery will be on another team in 2017, a team that will look for him to assume the primary receiving role. If Jeffery is signed to the right team, with a capable quarterback, he could easily return to a Top 20 or 15 ranking in 2017. 

DeAndre Hopkins - We've seen Hopkins perform well with even average or sub-par quarterback play. His struggles in 2016 reflect poorly on the abilities of Brock Osweiler. I would be shocked if Osweiler doesn't have competition next season. A journeyman, veteran quarterback would be a positive addition to the team which could elevate Hopkins game to his pre-Osweiler days. I can't see Houston being complacent in this area because ultimately that was the main reason for their offensive struggles in 2016. 

Will Grant: My three...
  1. I agree with Chad that Cam Newton is a good candidate to rebound in 2017. The Panthers are not as bad as they've played this season, and there is still an incredible lack of talent surrounding Newton on their offense. With a couple key additions, Newton could still be a top five fantasy QB and the Panthers should be playing for a playoff spot next season
  2. Thomas Rawls. I'll put a '*' next to this and hedge saying 'If he stays healthy'. Rawls is a great kid and he runs with authority, but he just couldn't stay healthy this season. I love how physical he is and he is definitely a player that can go all the way any time he touches the ball. I do have to say that he is an injury risk though, and he will need to stay healthy to really reach his full potential. If you are going to draft him next season, you might want to look at handcuffing him with Prosise. 
  3. DeAndre Hopkins - There's no doubt in my mind that a better QB would mean a return to greatness for Hopkins next season. Between Lamar Miller, Will Fuller and C.J. Fiedorowicz give Houston a pretty talented offense. If only they had someone to run the offense that wasn't named Brock Osweiler
Andy Hicks: Tyler Eifert, DeAndre Hopkins, and Cam Newton.
 

Like Will and Chad, I can easily see a rebound for Cam. MVP's don't lose talent quickly and with some good additions and a goodstartCarolina could easily revert back to 2015 form.

As mentioned the main problem with Tyler Eifert is getting and staying on the field. If fit, he rebounds easily into a top 5 Tight End

DeAndre Hopkins hasn't developed any chemistry with Brock Osweiler and it shows in his stats. If Osweiler is serious about staying in the Nfl long term he needs to let Hopkins do his work for him. Otherwise Tom Savage or whoever else the Texans bring in will get that opportunity.

John Mamula: Mine...

Cam Newton-Like Will, Chad and Andy, I expect Newton to rebound next season. Newton was overvalued heading into this fantasy season after his 2015 MVP season. The pendulum should swing in the other direction next season as you should be able to wait on a QB and land Newton in the later rounds.  

Alshon Jefferey- This depends on where Jefferey is playing next season. The writing on the wall is there that his time is over in Chicago. Jefferey may be a WR2 with WR1 upside next season if he lands in the right offense.

Tyler Eifert- This depends on Eifert's health. Injuries have been the only thing holding Eifert back. He has missed 27 games over his first four seasons in the NFL. 

Mark Wimer: My three...

Cam Newton: With youth, talent, a good coaching staff, and young talented receivers still learning their craft around him, there are plenty of opportunities to improve in coming years.

Tyler Lockett -  With youth, talent, and outstanding quarterback working with him, he should be good to go as long as his leg injury heals properly.

DeAndre Hopkins -  With youth, talent, and the clear-cut primary role on his team, Hopkins should benefit from Osweiler having another training camp and preseason. It was overly optimistic to think Osweiler would be top-10 in his first year in a new system.

Matt Waldman: I'll go with Randall Cobb, Thomas Rawls, and Alshon Jeffery. Cobb was dinged for a part of the season and the Packers were struggling to find its identity on offense early on. Jared Cook is a temporary answer for Cobb. Rawls has run hard and smart, but the offensive line was too far away from delivering on quick, Tom Cable tutorial like it did during 2015. We'll see greater continuity in 2017 even if he's sharing time with C.J. Prosise. Jeffery will likely land in a town with a good quarterback. Health is his greatest issue.

Least Likely Rebounders 

 

Matt Waldman: Doug Martin. It has nothing to do with talent and everything to do with his current drug problems. A four-game suspension could be looming, the potential of Tampa voiding a contract worth a remaining $7 million, and possibly a new team who can't count on him as a starter. Looks tough. 

Julius Thomas. I've heard questions about his effort and physicality. He's a talent, but I think the way that Gus Bradley managed tight end reps shows that Thomas performed his way out of a starting job this year. Last year, he returned to the field out of shape. 
 
Blake Bortles I know that he did not work at his craft remotely as hard or as in an organized fashion as he did heading into 2015. If anything, Bortles ruined the Jaguars season because he spent more time on the town than he did working. In 2015, he worked with Tom House during the offseason. In 2016, he didn't work with anyone, spent a lot of time in places he shouldn't, and his mechanics and understanding of defenses regressed dramatically. There's room for Bortles to mature and to the work again so he doesn't regress and he actually grows, but I Bortles became a coach killer last year. He has a lot to prove in 2017.
 
Chad Parsons: I would bet strongly against Carson Palmer, Doug Martin, and Allen Hurns. Palmer looks physically done on tape. His accuracy, power, and pocket movement are all at career low points. Doug Martin was essentially benched by the team who signed him in free agency less than 12 months ago. With a strong rookie crop of runners in the 2017 draft class and Martin essentially on a one-year deal based on contract construction, he is a dicey bet to rebound. Hurns plummeted back down to earth after a touchdown-infused 2015 breakout season. Marqise Lee ran circles around Hurns when healthy and Hurns has a one-year type deal with the construction of his current contract with Jacksonville. With Lee under contract for another year, Hurns would need Lee to miss time to return to relevance next season.

Jeff Haseley: I'm cheating with four...

Brandon Marshall - The Jets have too many options and too many questions at quarterback for Marshall to be a shoe-in for a rebound season, plus he's getting older each passing season (33 in 2017). He could have some big weeks here and there, but the chances of a return to glory among the Top 20 may be over (Ranked 45th thru Week 16). 

Thomas Rawls - I'm not convinced that Rawls will be back to his 2015 level of performance. Seattle has no long-term commitment to him and they have other options who will assume a role in the running game, namely C.J. Prosise. Rawls rise to the top was primarily due to the Marshawn Lynch injury and the fact that Seattle didn't have many other options at the time. Now Rawls has injuries of his own and the Seahawks have other options. It's not a foregone conclusion that Rawls will return to an RB1 level in 2017. In fact, it seems more doubtful that he reaches that level again. 

Blake Bortles - Bortles will have the benefit of a new coaching staff coming into Jacksonville. It's possible that the new staff will orchestrate an offense that is more conducive to his abilities and talents. It's also possible that the new staff will want to turn in a new direction and target a different quarterback that they would rather have running their offense. I don't see Bortles drifting off into the sunset, though, but his days as a starting quarterback could be numbered, if not over. 

Carson Palmer - The veteran quarterback could potentially have another year in him, but he appears to be in the twilight of his career. The window for the Cardinals to earn a ring with Palmer (and also Larry Fitzgerald) is getting smaller with each passing week. I see Palmer fading more in 2017 than I see him rising to the heights he had in 2015 or earlier. If I'm Arizona, I'm definitely looking for a new quarterback to at least compete with Palmer, who will eventually be his replacement when his time to hang up his cleats comes. 

Will Grant: My three...

  1. Carson Palmer - I think the years have caught up with him now and after 14 seasons, I think he has nowhere to go but down. With Larry Fitzgerald getting closer to retirement and a lot of question marks at the WR behind him, the Cardinals just have David Johnson to count on for their offense. If Palmer has to do more of the work himself, he's going to fail. 
  2. Eddie Lacy is going to be a starter at the beginning of the season for Green Bay or some other team next season. But I see his performance next year as just an extension of this season - a ton of opportunity but little delivery. The Packers are desperate at RB and Lacy wasn't doing much before he was injured. With a full season to recover, he might begin the season at full strength, but it won't be long before the same physical issues catch up to him and he's struggling to be on the field and marginally effective when he is. 
  3. Julius Thomas. He's going to be a starter next season, but he'll still be on the Jaguars and he'll still be a fraction of his former self. The back to back double digit TD seasons from his days in Denver are a pipe dream if he stays in Jacksonville. 
Andy Hicks: Age and circumstance have caught up to Carson Palmer and Brandon Marshall. They will not be fantasy starters again. Palmer rarely was anyway and Marshall won't do well with whatever the Jets trot out or on his 5th NFL team. I would also think that Thomas Rawls will struggle to beat the injury bug long enough to last a full season, even if Seattle decides to keep him around to complement C.J Prosise.

John Mamula: Carson Palmer. I agree with many of the other staff writers. Palmer is past his prime and inching closer to retirement. His skills have declined and the offense now revolves around David Johnson.

Julius Thomas-Thomas may not ever become fantasy relevant again. He benefited from an elite passing offense in Denver for two seasons where he scored 12 TDs each year. Since those years, he has battled injuries and inconsistent QB play. 

Allen Hurns- In his 3rd season in the league, Hurns experiences some major regression. After cracking 1000 receiving yards and double-digit TDs last season, Hurns currently has 477 yards and 3 TDs through 11 games played this season. With the healthy Marquise Lee in the fold, Hurns is relegated to a complimentary option moving forward. 

Mark Wimer: Mine...

Brandon Marshall - He's old (32), has a chronic hip injury, and the Jets are bad and will be rebuilding (again) with a new coach (again) next year

Carson Palmer - He's ancient (37), and the surrounding talent melted away (John Brown, sickle-cell health issues; Michael Floyd, DUI/released). Larry Fitzgerald may retire. It's time for Palmer to hang up his cleats the Super Bowl window in Arizona has passed.

Julius Thomas - With a chronic back injury he's not good for 16-game seasons anymore.

Matt Waldman: I have to say that I disagree with all of you about Carson Palmer for the reasons you stated with the possible exception of Wimer, who mentioned one of the key points about Palmer losing surrounding talent. No one mentioned the state of the Cardinals' pass protection in this piece, which amazes me because it's probably the most important reason behind a good/bad play by a pocket quarterback. I don't know if the Cardinals will get enough surrounding talent for Palmer to rebound to top 5-7 production, but if this line returns healthy, I think a lot of you will have to do a mea cupla about "declining skills." 

Explain which player's surroundings limits him far more than his talent. 


Mark Wimer: Randall Cobb. He is surrounded by more talented receivers (Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams) and is having multiple injury issues. I don't think Cobb claws his way back up the depth chart in 2017.

Matt Waldman: I'm going with Allen Hurns. While many of you guys on this panel don't see him as a strong talent and cite regression due to touchdowns, I bet if Allen Robinson was put on this list, many of you would have cited him as the answer to this question or as a likely rebound candidate. Hurns has once again been playing with an injury and while Marqise Lee is out producing Hurns, he's out producing everyone on this roster—not really an indictment on Hurns. 

As Chad mentioned earlier, if Hurns' one-year deal translates into an opportunity for him to go elsewhere sooner than later, I think he'll wind up on a better team with a better quarterback, and we'll witness a consistent performer much closer to 2015 Hurns. 

John Mamula: DeAndre Hopkins. Brock Osweiler and Hopkins could not find the chemistry that made Hopkins one of the top fantasy WRs last season. After finishing the 2015 season with 1521 yards and 11 TDs, Hopkins is currently earning 831 yards and 4 TDs this season. The number that really stands out is 192 targets last season as compared to 140 targets this season. The cast of QBs in Houston last season was forcing the ball to Hopkins and he was catching those passes at a higher rate.  Those that spent a 1st round pick on Hopkins more than likely didn't make it to their fantasy championship games this season. 

Will Grant: I think Cam Newton falls directly into this category.  What could a guy like Cam Newton do with an offensive line like Dallas? What could Newton do with a group of receivers like they have in Denver? We saw what Newton did with a top-rated defense last season: He nearly won the Super Bowl. Newton could easily be the No.1 rated fantasy QB if the Panthers had just a little more talent around him. 
 
Jeff Haseley: Carolina's offensive coordinator Mike Shula has done a decent job of calling plays for Newton and the Panthers offense, however, teams are starting to learn how to stop the Panthers on offense, particularly the zone read. Shula (and Newton) aren't doing a good enough job of making adjustments on the fly and it's costing them opportunities on offense. Perhaps a new offensive coordinator, who can better use Newton's skills and talents to craft a better offense is the way to go in Carolina. 

I'm with Matt on Hurns. I would love to see what he can do on a different team with a more prolific offense. He has shown in the past that he can be a reliable receiving option capable of a Top 20 season when on a decent offense. I see Hurns in the same light as Marvin Jones. Imagine Hurns on Atlanta, New Orleans or New England. He would be a weekly fantasy threat on those teams with a chance to have over 100 targets with consistent production. He'll be one to watch when/if he has an opportunity with another team.
 

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Free Agency

 

  • Purely speaking from a fantasy perspective, who are your three most valuable free agents likely to hit the market after the season? 
  • Answer the same question solely from a non-fantasy perspective. 
  • List three free agents that will likely be overrated in 2017 as fantasy prospects.
  • Where would you like to see Tony Romo in 2017?

Chad Parsons: LeVeon Bell is clearly the most valuable free agent this offseason, but I would be shocked if he is not a Pittsburgh Steeler next season. I project a fantasy value hit if he left the Steelers as his usage, especially in the passing game, is optimal now and he possesses a strong quarterback.

Alshon Jeffery is next up. I expect him to leave Chicago in search of a better overall team, quarterback, and to a sizeable pay raise. A situational upgrade is likely in terms of quarterback and offense, but his volume may drop with more viable targets around him compared to Chicago in recent seasons.

Kirk Cousins is another free agent atop his position. Like LeVeon Bell, I do not know how Washington would let him out of the building without, at worst, the franchise tag applied. Cousins has followed up his breakout 2015 season with an arguably better follow-up campaign. While DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon may be out of the Washington offense in free agency, Cousins is key to the offense bridging the gap to 2017 with Josh Doctson, Jordan Reed, Jamison Crowder, and potentially a new receiver via the draft or free agency.

Matt Waldman: I agree that Bell should not be mentioned anymore as a candidate, even if he becomes one. It'sno-brainer. 

Jeff Haseley: Chad summed up this question pretty well. I'd also add that Kenny Britt and Kendall Wright could thrive on the right offenses. The success Britt had on the worst offense in the league is nothing short of astonishing. He exceeded 100 targets, 1,000 yards and he's on pace to reach 70+ receptions. Not too shabby for a player on a Rams team that averaged 14.5 points per game and 192 yards passing per game. Britt's success in 2016 will definitely lead to a big payday in the offseason. Hopefully, that's not his only motivation. 

As for running backs, let's also add LeGarrette Blount, Danny Woodhead and Lance Dunbar to the free agent equation. I would be surprised if New England doesn't try to retain Blount. He's a perfect fit for their needs and it's also a landing spot that players will covet. Perhaps that will be enough to re-sign him at a somewhat discounted price? I don't see New England overpaying for him, though, which could ultimately be the reason why he signs elsewhere. If he does sign somewhere else, I would imagine his fantasy numbers will drop off dramatically.

Woodhead and Dunbar can be big additions to any team that uses the running back often in their passing game. Perhaps Indianapolis is a good landing spot for either player. I'd give Woodhead a higher percentage of staying with his current team than Dunbar. I think Dunbar will jump at the opportunity for increased playing time with another team that will best utilize his abilities. 

Will Grant: 

  • Terrance West became a legitimate fantasy player this season as the feature back of the Baltimore Ravens. He'll finish the season with over 1000 yards from scrimmage and at least six TDs. He's an RFA next year, and will most likely return to the Ravens as their feature back again in 2017.  He probably won't be a feature back like some of the others that were mentioned here, but he'll be a solid fantasy player with a legitimate chance to crack the top 15 for fantasy backs. 
  • Terrelle Pryor is one of the most versatile players in the game, comfortable running, receiving or throwing the ball. He's been banged up this season, and he's playing for the worst team in the league, but he's done enough to earn a nice free agent contract for a team looking for a skilled offensive player. In the right kind of offense, Pryor can be dangerous. He had a great season despite all the challenges he's faced in Cleveland. If he finds the right system, he could be a big fantasy threat—especially in a full PPR league. 

Andy Hicks: The three that fascinate me most are Latavius Murray, Eddie Lacy, and Robert Woods. The Raiders need a triplet to complement Derek Carr and Amari Cooper and Murray isn't that good. I expect the Raiders to take one in a rich class and allow Murray to leave. In the right circumstances, Murray could be very productive. Eddie Lacy has produced, but Green Bay is likely to let him test free agency following a couple of seasons of fitness issues. If Lacy has his head screwed on and is motivated I can see him succeed in Numerous places, but the Seahawks stand out as an opportunity to complement Prosise. Robert Woods has taken a few years to learn his craft and Buffalo isn't the best place for him to succeed. In the right offense, I expect him to come on in leaps and bounds. 
 
Matt Waldman: I'll go with Terrelle Pryor, DeSean Jackson, and Alshon Jeffery although I'll also give props to Hicks for mentioning Woods as a sneaky option. 
 
Jeffery will be the most desirable receiver for most fantasy owners. I get it, despite his health remaining a consistent source of concern. He's the type of player that the Panthers hope its receivers can develop into and he'd be a good fit in Carolina if the Devin Funchess experiment is aborted at season's end. 

Jackson isn't a player I'd want to build and offense around, but he could be a fantastic final piece to the puzzle. I'm not using this cliché in the context of a team ready to become a Super Bowl contender, but as a final piece to the offense. There's talk about him returning to Philadelphia, which would be a good fit if the Eagles add another reliable receiver, but I'd prefer to see him with an accurate deep passer. Carson Wentz has been inconsistent in this area as a collegian. Arizona and Carolina would be good spots. 

Pryor professed his loyalty to Hue Jackson so if the Browns keep Jackson, Pryor will stick around. If not, some team is in line for a player emerging as an elite receiver with a long career of top-15 production ahead. I've been as impressed with his transition as any conversion prospect at receiver that I've seen and the credit goes to Pryor for doing the work. I can't think of a team that wouldn't want him now. 
 
John Mamula: Michael Floyd has a chance to redeem his career in New England. The Patriots claimed Floyd off waivers after he was released earlier this season following his DUI arrest. He is likely to be facing a league suspension but can carve out a role as a deep threat for the Patriots. With a healthy Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, Floyd has an opportunity to shine if he is focused on football. It will be a telling sign if the Patriots offer Floyd a contract.

Alshon Jefferey will most likely be playing for a new team in 2017. If Jefferey lands in the right situation and stays healthy, he has value in 2017. There are a lot of IF's with Jefferey, but he has talent which can overcome all of those questions.

Willie Snead has had a quiet 69 receptions for 813 receiving yards this season. After 69 receptions for 984 yards last season, the undrafted WR from Ball State has carved out a role in the NFL. The Saints offense typically has a lot of mouths to feed. If Snead moves on to a different offense, he will be undervalued heading into next season. 

Mark Wimer: Of the guys likely to at least test the market beyond their current teams, I think DeSean Jackson could be very intriguing back in Philadelphia, and that may be a possibility. Nelson Agholor isn't developing rapidly and Jackson/Matthews could be a nice 1-2 combination to help Carson Wentz grow in the NFL. Kenny Britt may want away from Goff (who wouldn't?) and he's been solid even with crap quarterbacks. He might be very interesting depending on where he lands. Michael Floyd (if he gets his off-field life in order) could also be very impactful for a wide-receiver-needy team. Jack Doyle has been a find at tight end for the Colts—he is interesting to me as well.

Same question, but solely from a non-fantasy perspective...


Andy Hicks: It's going to be a group called offensive lineman. How many great sides can get away with a poor line? This year has demonstrated that poor offensive line can turn a potentially very good team like the Denver Broncos or Seahawks into also-rans.

Matt Waldman: Or have everyone here digging a grave for Carson Palmer while ignoring the line...

Andy Hicks: Ha! Then compare these performers to the Raiders or Cowboys who have invested heavily in these units. Watch for moves in free agency and the draft, map them out with a good offense and good coaching and expect to see a much-improved offense as a unit eg Atlanta in 2016. 

John Mamula: Eric Berry is the glue that holds the Chiefs defense together. The Chiefs used the franchise tag on Berry this season as they could not reach a long-term contract. While I expect Berry to sign a deal with the Chiefs, he is a player that would make an impact if he signs with another team this offseason. 

Matt Waldman: Good choice there, John and I agree. Berry is a fantastic player and if he doesn't stay in Kansas City (and he should), he could be that final piece to a puzzle for a contender.

Will Grant: In a league where almost every team has an RBBC, Mike Asiata is going to be a great short-yardage back for someone next season—probably the Vikings again. He's proven to be a thorn in the side of fantasy owners when he vultures those short yardage TDS, but he doesn't have enough consistent play to start for a fantasy team. 
 
Matt Kalil spent most of this season on IR, and he's a UFA at the end of the season. However, He's young enough and has enough talent to command a big free agent contract from just about any team. He's only 27 years old, so he has a quite a few years left to play, and he's going to make a great addition to an offensive line somewhere if he doesn't re-sign with the Vikings. 

Chad Parsons: From a non-fantasy perspective, I think DeSean Jackson will really help an NFL offense. He has (and always will be) a high-variance fantasy proposition, but from an X's and O's standpoint, Jackson's speed is still a differentiator. Safeties are back more often and Jackson opens up the interior of a defense for high percentage throws.

Three likely overrated free agent prospects?


Will Grant: Alshon Jeffery is going to land a big contract somewhere and people are going to jump all over him as a top-rated WR. But Jeffery has had some serious problems staying on the field over the last two seasons, and I honestly think he's a good candidate to completely underperform in 2017. Jeffery has great talent, but he can't stay healthy. The PED suspension was VERY suspect, and neither he nor the Bears organization will elaborate on why he was taking those enhancements. The question now is if he can't stay healthy WITH PED, how will he do it without them? His attitude toward the team has been terrible and he's clearly going through the motions now until he can find a new team with a new contract. A lot will depend on where he lands, but I am sure he'll go well before I'm comfortable taking him in next season's draft. 
 
Eddie Lacy is definitely on the overrated list and has an excellent chance to be drafted well above his performance, depending on where he lands next season. Green Bay is pulling people out of the stands to run the ball this season. If he can't make it in that situation, where is Lacy going to go that he'll be more productive?
 
Brian Hoyer performed just well enough that someone's going to take a chance on him next season. Maybe even Chicago. Chicago wants to rid of Jay Cutler so bad that they might just cut him loose. Hoyer's short appearances with crap receivers and low expectations might just convince the Bears to go with him at the start of 2017 while they look for their QB of the future. Hoyer will be another Josh McCown in this respect - a guy who was never as good as his stats indicate, and will flame out completely when given a full-time starting role. 
 
Andy Hicks: It's hard to call anyone overrated until we see where players end up and on what kind of deals. It would be easy to see the free agent RB market, with the exception of LeVeon Bell falling away and therefore expectations would have to be lowered. Anyone expecting Terrance Williams or Brian Hoyer to be considered as a fantasy prospect in 2017 is also looking way too deep. Alshon Jeffery presents as the most likely to get a big deal and bust out, but NFL teams will do their due diligence and either not sign him based on his injury issues or place a lot of incentives in any contract. Terrelle Pryor has a lot of animosity directed at him for some reason, so it would be easy to see him fail.

Chad Parsons: Eddie Lacy, Latavius Murray, and Terrance Williams top my overrated free agent list for this coming offseason. Lacy was a baseline producer in Green Bay over the years considering his situation. Plus, he needs to break multiple tackles to gain more than 10 yards anymore. His playing style and lack of any second-level speed is a limiting factor. Murray is a momentum runner who lacks the ability to restart once his feet stop. The Oakland offensive line was one of the best in the NFL. Murray's snap count was limited this season, especially in the passing game. Williams held the No.2 receiver job in Dallas for too long. Williams would be a low No.2 or likely No.3 on other NFL depth charts.
 
Matt Waldman: I agree with these three that Chad listed above even if not for all the same reasons in regard to Murray. 
 
John Mamula: I agree with Jeff's analysis on Kenny Britt, who has had a career season in his 8th year in the NFL. Britt has been more consistent this season as in the past and it will result in somebody overspending on him in free agency. Where he lands will determine his fantasy value next season.
 
LeGarrette Blount, who currently has 17 TDs, is likely to finish the season as the rushing TD leader. He had (4) multiple TD games this season. Expect Blount to return to the Patriots, but be overvalued heading into 2017 fantasy drafts.
 
DeAngelo Williams will turn 34-years old this offseason. His time as an NFL RB has come and gone.
 
Mark Wimer: I'm with the other guys about not trusting Alshon Jeffery. If Doug Martin is allowed to depart Tampa Bay I think he'll be way over-rated. Danny Woodhead is past 30 now and spent most of the year on IR, but people in PPR leagues will probably over-rate him based on his play in years past.

Where would you like to see Tony Romo in 2017?


Mark Wimer: Denver would be a great landing spot for him if they also improve the offensive line in free agency. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders would see a big bump in value with Romo in there while Paxton Lynch gets additional NFL seasoning.

John Mamula: I would like to see Romo as a backup in Dallas next season. However, he will probably move on to get one more chance as a starting QB. A veteran coach, such as John Fox, could bring Romo to Chicago to compete for the starting QB position. 
 

Andy Hicks: Romo needs to end up with a side that needs a bridge QB. Arizona could be an option as Carson Palmer is done. The Jets may need a year or two out of someone, but a new coaching staff will dictate that. Buffalo could be an option, as could Chicago, Denver, or San Francisco.

Denver makes sense as Paxton Lynch could be ready at any moment, but having Romo improves the side instantly. Unfortunately behind that line it won't be for long. 

Will Grant: As a Cowboy fan, I would love to see him back in Dallas as a backup to Prescott. The Cowboys bottomed out in 2015 because they couldn't find a serviceable backup QB to their starter.

If they cut Romo loose, aren't they just doing the same thing again with Dak Prescott? Can you really expect Mark Sanchez to be entrusted with the franchise? Are you going to go and draft another rookie QB after showing confidence in Prescott? 

If they do move him, I think the teams that would want him the most are the places that he'd be the least successful: Cleveland or Chicago. Both teams have a LOT of rebuilding to do and Romo would be just a stop-gap until they found their QB of the future. Behind terrible offensive lines in bad weather, I think you're setting him up for failure.

Houston might be another option but after sinking that much money into Osweiler this off-season, why would they go after a guy like Romo?  The #NarrativeStreet would be off the charts if that happened, though. 

Matt Waldman: I like the Jets. The offensive line is good when healthy, Brandon Marshall has that tight coverage physicality that Romo will jibe with and I think Quincy Enunwa, Eric Decker, and Robby Anderson are massive upgrades to the Cowboys receiving corps. Add the trio of Matt Forte, Bilal Powell, and Brandon Wilds to the group, and I think this is a team capable of competing with the Patriots for the AFC East if it remains healthy. 

Romo also gets a flexible offensive coordinator in Chad Gailey and the Dallas QB is used to the intense media spotlight that Dallas shines on football the way New York shines it on everything else. It's a good risk for a team that will need a young quarterback regardless of landing Romo or not. It gives the aging, but effective, veterans one more year to shoot for something big. If Romo gets hurt again, the Jets would have likely gone with a youth movement in 2017 anyhow so not as much lost. 

Chad Parsons: I would like to see Tony Romo as a backup in Dallas, to be honest. His creaky back is a limiting factor and I doubt he holds up as a regular starter for long, a position he would have if changing teams. Any other team would be an offensive line downgrade from Dallas as well, which should be a key factor for Romo considering his physical state.

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2017 playoffs

As of today, here's how the playoffs are shaping up: 

AFC (Seeds are projections heading into Week 17)

  • 1st Seed: New England
  • 2nd Seed: Oakland
  • 3rd Seed: Pittsburgh
  • 4th Seed: Houston
  • 5th Seed: Kansas City
  • 6th Seed: Miami

NFC

  • 1st Seed: Dallas
  • 2nd Seed: Atlanta
  • 3rd Seed: Seattle
  • 4th Seed: Green Bay
  • 5th Seed: New York
  • 6th Seed: Detroit
  • Potential contenders: Washington and/or Tampa Bay

Answer the following questions:

  • Which conference is the toughest this year? 
  • Name the weakest (TB and Wash not included) teams from each conference?
  • Name a team from each conference in the 3rd through 6th seeds (including the Washington and/or Tampa if you wish) that you would not want to face.
  • Presuming Week 17 keeps Jene Bramel quiet, project the outcome of the playoffs and Super Bowl as well as notable players leading the way. 

Which conference is the toughest this year?

 

Jeff Haseley:  The NFC is the tougher conference, primarily due to all of the quarterback injuries on the AFC playoff teams.

Will Grant: I agree that the QB injuries on the AFC side make it 'easier' for teams to advance, except for the fact that Pittsburgh and New England are two of the toughest teams in the league and I wouldn't want to play either of them right now. Yes, any given Sunday and all that, but it's going to be really hard to beat Pittsburgh or New England at home this season.  

Andy Hicks: I agree with the others and say the NFC. The depth is strong here, whereas some damaged or weak sides are in on the AFC.

John Mamula: The Patriots, Steelers, and Chiefs are the only teams that I can envision winning the AFC this year. So I'm going with the NFC.
 

Chad Parsons: The NFC is the tougher conference. I look at quarterbacks for playoff matchups and Eli Manning and Matthew Stafford as the two wildcard teams on the road in the first week offer upset potential. Both quarterbacks are used to leading comebacks and making big throws in key situations. On the flip side, Miami may have a backup quarterback (Oakland will for sure) in the AFC and Alex Smith - no offense - will be at a significant disadvantage in Round 1 compared to the other conference quarterbacks.

Mark Wimer: Houston's offense and Miami's defense are very suspect in the AFC, while NFC is high quality from top to bottom and the potential contender Washington has a powerful offense if they get in.

Matt Waldman: I'll take the AFC. New England, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City are strong teams with balanced offenses and veteran quarterbacks and coaches. The defenses have opportunistic players and at least two of them can generate a strong pass rush.

All three teams have excellent offensive lines. I can only say that about Dallas and Atlanta in the NFC. Seattle's offensive line is horrible and it's limiting the team's ability to control the ball and keep its excellent defense fresh.

Speaking of defense, let's not forget that beyond Vic Beasley, Atlanta's defense is missing its best cover corner and its linebackers are youthful and easily fooled. Green Bay's defense is a paper champion that cannot defend the run and it's very likely it will face Atlanta or Dallas and get exposed...AGAIN. Detroit's defense? I think that phrase is an oxymoron. 

Yes, Houston is weak and Miami and Oakland are further weakened due to QB injuries, but I'll take the collective strengths of New England, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City over the volume of mediocre teams after Dallas and Atlanta in the NFC.

Besides, I'm an AFC guy at heart and I think all of you on this panel are fans of NFC teams with the exception of Mamula, who is one of those neurotic Steelers fans that I love to hate. NFC fans are snobs.

Name the weakest (TB and Wash not included) teams from each conference?


Will Grant: Miami is the weakest team in the AFC. They've strung together a decent season, but Matt Moore doesn't scare anybody and he has performed well in limited duty, but when the win or go home games start, I think he's going to be the same Matt Moore we all know and love and the Dolphins will be done.

On the NFC side, I think the Lions are in serious trouble and may not even make the playoffs this year. Green Bay is a buzz saw right now, and after being blown out by Dallas, they get to face the hottest team in the NFC in a game where the winner goes to the playoffs and the loser probably goes home. Even if they manage to win, I don't see them beating Dallas, Seattle or Atlanta on the road. 

Andy Hicks: I'm going to surprise many and pick the Seahawks from the NFC. Without Earl Thomas, this defense isn't anything special and they can't run the ball. They beat three awful sides in their division to advance and they are 2-3 in their last 5 games. Not good enough to advance.

The AFC is much tougher. Miami, Oakland, and Houston all have QB issues. I will settle on Houston though as they are going to struggle unless they come up against the inexperienced and Carr-less Raiders

Matt Waldman: I appreciate the Seattle pick, but I think Russell Wilson is good enough and still has enough talent on offense to keep this team a dangerous opponent in one-and-done situations. I'll go with the Giants. Eli Manning is performing the worst among all the NFC contending quarterbacks and without a steadying force of a ground game, I don't like New York's chances.

I'll also agree with those who chose Houston. Tom Savage has the arm of a playoff quarterback and his aggressive tendencies could serve as a pleasant surprise, but it's quite a jump to reach the playoffs in his third career start and actually perform well. I'm not buying it.

John Mamula: In the AFC, the Texans are my choice for the weakest team. The Texans have thrived at home (7-1 home record) with their defense. They have struggled with offensive consistency all season. Inserting Tom Savage into the mix is unlikely to help. They beat the Chiefs 19-12 at home way back in Week 2. If these teams meet again in the playoffs, expect another low scoring game.

In the NFC, Detroit is the weakest team. The Lions have too many questions at running back and on defense to make any noise in the playoffs. 

Mark Wimer: Houston is weakest by far. Weak offense, mediocre defense, they benefited from a low-quality division. Of the NFC teams, I'd say Detroit is weakest due to their lack of a reliable running game, with New York sharing the same flaw.

Name a team from each conference in the 3rd through 6th seeds that you would not want to face...


John Mamula: Heading into the playoffs, I would not want to face the Steelers or the Packers. Both offenses are thriving and will be tough outs.

Mark Wimer: New York is doing what they do when they make playoff runs - peaking at the right time of the season. They have really played well on defense lately, and defense wins championships.

Kansas City looks very powerful and Tyreek Hill has given the offense just enough 'boom' potential that Alex Smith doesn't have to rely on long, dink-and-dunk drives for points these days. Hill is the 'X' factor for Kansas City that makes them very dangerous in the NFL tournament.

Andy Hicks: If the Chiefs stay the 5th seed they should wallop the Texans and be hard to beat from there on. In the NFC, the Giants look like a playoff team. It would be most interesting to see another Patriots v Giants Superbowl. 

Matt Waldman: I'm also going with the Chiefs. I've written about them as a dangerous contender three weeks ago and little has changed. I think this team has enough weaponry and coaching ability to overtake the Patriots or Steelers. The last matchup with Pittsburgh was a rain-soaked disaster before Kansas City discovered the merits of Tyreek Hill. I like how the Chiefs are structuring its offense and the return of key defensive pieces paired with youthful, athletic options makes this a team that can take the ball away and then keep it away from the opposite offense.

Will Grant: No question, Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers is on a mission and thanks to a couple key losses, he has a chance to bring his team to the playoffs. They are getting healthy on defense, and their rag-tag offense is finding a rhythm.  If they make the playoffs after 'running the table' like Rodgers predicted, they are going to have a huge amount of momentum going into the playoffs. 

Chad Parsons: Pittsburgh and Seattle are the two teams I would not want to face. Super Bowl winning quarterbacks with strong track records and X-factors in the passing game (Antonio Brown and Jimmy Graham).

Jeff Haseley:  Kansas City in the AFC. Provided the Chiefs stay the third seed, otherwise, they would not fit this category They are arguably one of the hottest teams in the league and have played well at home or on the road against top competition. They have a balanced team on both sides of the ball, plus one of the best special teams units in the league. They are a top option to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. 

Green Bay in the NFC. The Packers are on a roll lately amidst a five-game winning streak heading into Week 17 against Detroit. Be afraid of any team playing at their peak in late December and early January. Green Bay is capable of beating anyone any given week as long as Aaron Rodgers is healthy. They are more than capable of playing well against any competition they could potentially face in the playoffs, including top-seed Dallas. 

Presuming Week 17 keeps Jene Bramel quiet, project the outcome of the playoffs and Super Bowl as well as notable players leading the way.

 

Chad Parsons: Pittsburgh beats Miami easily in the opening round with Kansas City escaping a low-scoring affair in Houston. The Steelers stay hot and beat the Derek Carr-less Raiders in Oakland by multiple scores. The Chiefs narrowly lose to the Patriots thanks to a strong defensive effort. The Steelers upset New England in the title game as LeVeon Bell goes for 200 total yards and, while the Patriots keep Antonio Brown quiet, Eli Rogers and JesseJamescome up big in the passing game.

The Lions miss the playoffs after losing the Green Bay in Week 17. The Redskins lose in Seattle to open the playoffs as Washington's defense allows 41 points. The Giants narrowly lose in Green Bay 27-21 as Eli Manning has the ball with a chance to win in the closing minutes but throws a back-breaking interception. Seattle travels to Atlanta and is the second team all season to limit the Falcons to less than 20 points (Philadelphia did it back in Week 10), winning by 10 points. Dallas rolls over Green Bay, rushing for 250 yards as a team at home. Seattle pressures Dak Prescott more than any team this season as Seattle upsets Dallas for the NFC crown.

The Steelers win the Super Bowl in a shootout with LeVeon Bell winning the MVP.

Jeff Haseley: No narrative, just data...

East
Wildcard

5 KC over 4 HOU
3 PIT over 6 MIA

Divisional
5 KC over 1 NE
3 PIT over 2 OAK

AFC Championship
3 PIT over 5 KC

West
Wildcard

4 GB over 5 NY
3 SEA over 6 DET/WAS/TB

Divisional
1 DAL over 4 GB
2 ATL over 3 SEA

NFC Championship
1 DAL over 2 ATL

Super Bowl
3 PIT over 1 DAL

Will Grant: Data and commentary...

East
Wildcard

5 KC over 4 HOU
3 PIT over 6 MIA

Divisional
1 NE over 5 KC
3 PIT over 2 OAK

AFC Championship
1 NE over 3 PIT

West
Wildcard

4 GB over 5 NY
3 SEA over 6 WAS

Divisional
1 DAL over 4 GB
3 SEA over 2 ATL

NFC Championship
1 DAL over 3 SEA

Super Bowl
1 NE over 1 DAL

Yes, a boring match of No.1 teams but it pains me to say that I don't think Dallas is as good as their record indicates, and they could very easily lose to Green Bay at home in the divisional round if the Packers keep rolling. The Patriots are solid and Tom Brady will find a way to win, no matter who he needs to get involved. I think Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott will play well in the playoffs, but if they managed to make it to the Super Bowl, I think Brady and Belichick will too much for them to overcome. 

Andy Hicks: In bullet points...

  • With so many moving parts in play, it seems like folly to do this. The AFC west and NFC north are still undecided and the difference between being a 2nd seed, 5th seed or in the case of Detroit missing altogether makes this a futile mission.
  • At this stage, I will predict the following: 
    • Dallas will be one and done, as will Seattle.
    • The Giants will win the NFC
    • The Patriots will win the AFC following another Tom Brady special against the Chiefs in the AFC conference game.
    • The Patriots will beat the Giants in the Superbowl. MVP = Stephen Gostkowski 

John Mamula: Steelers and Patriots are on a collision course in the AFC. The winner of that matchup will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. Expect Bill Belichick will make the necessary adjustments to limit both LeVeon Bell AND Antonio Brown. Tom Brady leads the way with 3 passing TDs as the Patriots beat the Steelers 31-17.

In the NFC, the Packers keep up their offensive momentum and find a way to beat the Cowboys in the NFC Championship game. Aaron Rodgers throws for 4 TDs with 2 TDs to Jordy Nelson as the Packers win 38-24. In a Super Bowl XXXI rematch, the Packers get the victory over the Patriots as Rodgers outduels Brady. Rodgers is named Super Bowl MVP while telling everyone to "Relax, I'm going to Disney World." 

Mark Wimer: KC vs. New England for the AFC Crown and KC advances to the Super Bowl. Atlanta vs. Dallas for the NFC Crown and Atlanta upsets the Cowboys to advance to the Super Bowl. Alex Smith and Andy Reid get their Super Bowl rings.

Matt Waldman: Kansas City takes Houston. The Texans put the clamps on Tyreek Hill, but Travis Kelce and Spencer Ware come up big in the passing game. Houston feels the wrath of an opportunistic Chiefs secondary and the pass rush.

Pittsburgh narrowly beats Miami. Once again, a weakened rushing defense has fits with Jay Ajayi, but Eli Rogers riddles the middle of the Miami defense. 

Green Bay builds an early lead and Eli Manning does just enough to lose the game in an exciting thriller filled with offense. Seattle squeezes by one of the three teams that potentially earns the final seed. Jimmy Graham comes up big in any of these matchups and expect a few Tweets directed to me about Paul Richardson

Kansas City beats New England, harassing Brady into multiple turnovers and one of those sack-fumbles or interceptions leads to a score. Tyreek Hill comes up big on special teams and Travis Kelce continues showing the Patriots what they're missing with Gronkowski in the training room.

Pittsburgh mauls Oakland's Carr-less offense, which broadens the Silver and Black Welcome Mat for LeVeon Bell and DeAngelo Williams (if he's ready).

Seattle should lose to Atlanta because they should have lost the previous game, but I think Atlanta's defense is worse off than Seattle's and Russell Wilson is far healthier than he was in the first game. Jimmy Graham comes up big, Doug Baldwin comes up bigger, and the Seahawks win a late-game squeaker.

Dallas runs over, around, and through Green Bay and the only think that looks close about this contest will be the final score thanks go Aaron Rodgers-led garbage time. Look for David Irving and Benson Mayowa to continue their surprising onslaught off the edge. 

Pittsburgh edges Kansas City, but this is a far closer game than it was earlier this year. Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Jeremy Maclin lead an offensive effort that keeps the Chiefs within three points until the final minutes. Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Rogers, LeVeon Bell, and Antonio Brown pace the Steelers but it's an unlikely score from one of its tight ends that ends the game. Look for a costly turnover from one of these offenses late in the game to be the difference in a see-saw affair. 

Dallas beats Seattle thanks to Ezekiel Elliott, the play of the Cowboys offensive line, and a slow start by the Seahawks that renders a furious second-half rally by Russell Wilson moot.  Dez Bryant and Cody Beasley pace the passing game. 

Pittsburgh beats Dallas in a rematch of the regular season game. This time, Pittsburgh jumps to an early lead and Dak Prescott finally looks like a rookie for a few plays too many. Prescott brings Dallas within range to make this game but LeVeon Bell and Antonio Brown slam the door with huge plays that break the backs of the Cowboys.

 

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