Betting on Soccer: Premier League Gameweek 30

Oscars 2021: An inside look (like, really inside) to 50 possible contenders in the next awards race

Another Oscar ceremony happened, and we got our fair share of joy and disappointment. After Parasite surprised the world and took Best Picture, it seems like the game has changed for the awards race, now that non-English speaking films can actually fight and be recognized as well as classics as… Green Book. The Oscar race is still full of pain and glory, and even though the year has barely started, we have a bunch of movies that are fighting for air. And here’s 50 of them. Yes, I had some free time in my hands and this is a cool hobby, so I took the liberty to introduce most of the movies that will have Film Twitter entertained for the following 12 months. I say most, because there are always contenders who come out of nowhere later in the year, so this is the starter set. Here we go.
-Annette: Since Parasite’s road to the Oscars started at Cannes, it seems fair to talk about a movie that is circling a premiere in the world stage that is set in France. After delivering weird, indie classics like Mauvais Sang and Holy Motors (yes, the kind of movies that make you seem like a snob when you recommend them to people), Leos Carax is making his first movie spoken in the English language… and it has a musical screenplay written by the cult rock duo of Sparks. Recently robbed Adam Driver and previous Oscar winner Marion Cotillard sing in this tale of a stand-up comedian and a famous soprano singer who rise and fall in Los Angeles while their daughter is born with a special gift. It seems like a wild bet, but we already know that Carax is a master with musical moments, so this is one of the most intriguing question marks of the year.
-Ammonite: It’s time to talk narratives. On the one hand, we have Kate Winslet, a known name who hasn’t been very successful in the Oscar race since her Oscar win for The Reader over a decade ago (with the exception being her supporting performance in Steve Jobs, where she had a weird accent). On the other, we have Saoirse Ronan, a star on the rise who keeps collecting Oscar nominations, with 4 nods at the age of 25, including her fresh Best Actress loss for Little Women. What happens if we put them together in a drama set in the coasts of England during the 19th century where both of them fall for each other? That’s gonna be a winning formula if writedirector Francis Lee (who tackled queer romance in his acclaimed debut God’s Own Country) nails the Mary Anning story, and Neon (the distribution company founded three years ago that took Parasite to victory) is betting on it.
-Benedetta: We know the Paul Verhoeven story. After isolating himself from Hollywood for over a decade, he took Isabelle Huppert to an Oscar nominated performance with the controversial, sexy, dark and funny thriller Elle. Now, he’s back with another story that perks up the ears, because now he’s covering the life of Benedetta Carlini, a 17th-century lesbian nun who had religious and erotic visions. If you know Paul, you already can tell that this fits into his brand of horniness, and a possible Cannes premiere could tell us if this has something to carry itself to Oscar night.
-Blonde: With a short but impactful directorial credits list that takes us from Chopper, to The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford to Killing Them Softly, Andrew Dominik is back with a film about Marilyn Monroe, a woman who has transcended the ideas of fame and stardom, in ways that are glamorous and nightmarish at the same time. After failing to launch with Naomi Watts or Jessica Chastain,the rising Ana de Armas takes the lead in the retelling of Monroe’s troubled life based on Joyce Carol Oates’ novel, which is said to be covered in the screenplay as somewhat of a horror movie. We don’t know what that means yet, but Netflix is gonna push hard for this one, especially considering how the Academy loves throwing awards to stars playing previous stars, and that also can possibly include co-stars Bobby Cannavale and Adrien Brody.
-Breaking News in Yuba County: While he hasn’t gone back to the heights of his success achieved by the box office and award success of The Help (a movie that did not age well), Tate Taylor is still enjoying himself economically due to recent thrillers like The Girl on the Train and Ma. For his next movie, he’s made a dramedy that once again reunites him with Oscar winner Allison Janney, where she plays a woman who has to keep appearances and a hidden body when she catches her husband cheating on her, and then he dies of a heart attack. With a cast that also includes Mila Kunis, Regina Hall, Awkwafina, Samira Wiley, Wanda Sykes, Jimmi Simpson and Ellen Barkin, this could be a buzzy title later this year.
-C’mon C’mon: You may love or hate whatever Joaquin Phoenix did in Joker, but you can’t deny the benefit of playing the Crown Prince of Crime in an Oscar-winning performance. The blank check that you share with indie directors afterwards. Now that Joaquin’s cultural cachet is on the rise, Mike Mills gets to benefit with this drama that stars Phoenix and Gaby Hoffmann, with him playing an artist left to take care of his precocious young nephew as they forge an unexpected bond over a cross country trip. We only have to wonder if A24 will do better with this movie’s Oscar chances compared to 20th Century Women.
-Cherry: After killing half the universe and bringing them back with the highest grossing movie of all time, where do you go? For Joe and Anthony Russo, the answer is “away from the Marvel Cinematic Universe”. The Russo brothers are trying to distance themselves and prove that they have a voice without Kevin Feige behind them, with a crime drama that’s also different than their days when they directed You, Me and Dupree or episodes of Arrested Development and Community. To help them in the journey, they took Tom Holland (who also needs to distance himself from Spider-Man, lest he ends up stuck to the character in the audience’s eyes) to star in a crime drama based on former Army medic Nico Walker’s memoir about his days after Iraq, where the PTSD and an opioid addiction led him to start robbing banks.
-Da 5 Bloods: After bouncing back from a slump with the critical and commercial success of BlackKklansman, Spike Lee is cashing a Netflix check to tell the tale of four African American veterans who return to Vietnam to search for their fallen leader and some treasure. With a cast that includes Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Isiah Whitlock Jr, Paul Walter Hauser and Chadwick Boseman, this sounds like an interesting combo, although we still should remember the last time that Spike tried his hand at a war movie, with the dull Miracle at St. Anna.
-Dune: If you are on Reddit, you probably know about the new film by movies’ new Messiah, Denis Villeneuve. While the epic sci-fi novel by Frank Herbert is getting a new chance in the multiplexes after that David Lynch movie that was forgotten by many, some are hoping that this will be the beginning of a new franchise (as seen by the release date of December 18, taking the spot of the usual Star Wars opening), and a return to the whole “remember when stuff like Return of the King or Fury Road were nominated for Best Picture?” question. Timothee Chalamet will be riding a lot of hope, and sandworm.
-Everybody’s Talking About Jamie: As you start to see, there are several musicals that are gonna be fighting for attention over the next year, and Annette was the first one. Now, we also have this adaptation of the hit West End production, that centers around a gay British teenager who dreams of becoming a drag queen and get his family and schoolmates to accept his sexuality. With a cast that mixes young unknowns, familiar Brits (Sharon Horgan, Sarah Lancashire and my boy Ralph Ineson) and the previously nominated legend that is Richard E. Grant (who is playing a former drag queen named Loco Chanelle), the creative team of the stage musical will jump to the big screen with the help of Fox Searchlight (sorry, just Searchlight), who has clear Oscar hopes with a release date right in the middle of awards heat, on October 23.
-Hillbilly Elegy: Even though the Parasite victory gave many people hope for a new Academy that stops recognizing stuff like previous winner Green Book… let’s be honest, the Academy will still look for movies like Green Book. This year, many people are turning their eyes towards Ron Howard’ adaptation of J.D. Vance’s memoir about his low income life in a poor rural community in Ohio, filled with drugs, violence and verbal abuse. If this sounds like white trash porn, it doesn’t help to know that Glenn Close, who has become the biggest living Oscar bridesmaid with seven nominations, will play a character called Mamaw. And if that sounds trashy, then you have to know that Amy Adams, who follows Glenn with six nominations, is playing her drug-addicted, careless daughter. I don’t want to call this “Oscar bait”, but it sure is tempting.
-I’m Thinking of Ending Things: After his stopmotion existential dramedy Anomalisa got him a Best Animated Feature nomination at the Oscars but at the same time bombed at the box office, Charlie Kaufman is getting the Netflix check. This time, he’s adapting the dark novel by Iain Reid, about a woman (Jessie Buckley, who is on the rise and took over the role after Brie Larson had to pass) who is taken by her boyfriend (Jesse Plemons) to meet his parents (Toni Collette and David Thewlis), in a trip that takes a turn for the worse. If Kaufman can deliver with this one, it will be a big contender.
-In the Heights: Yes, more musicals! This time, it’s time to talk about Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first Tony-winning musical, that was overshadowed because of his other small play about some treasury secretary. Now, his Broadway ensemble tale about life in a neighborhood in Washington Heights is jumping to the movie screen with Jon Chu at the helm, following the success of Crazy Rich Asians. This Latino tale mixes up-and-comers like Anthony Ramos (who comes straight from Hamilton and playing Lady Gaga’s friend in A Star is Born), names like Corey Hawkins and Jimmy Smits (who is pro bits), and Olga Merediz, who starred in the Broadway show as Abuela Claudia and who could be the early frontrunner for Best Supporting Actress, if Chu allows her to shine like she did onstage.
-Jesus Was My Homeboy: When looking at up-and-coming Black actors right now in Hollywood, two of the top names are Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield, who already appeared in the same movie in Get Out, which earned Kaluuya a Best Actor nomination. This time, they share the screen in Shaka King’s retelling of the story of Fred Hampton (Kaluuya), an activist and Black Panther leader… as well as the story of William O’Neal (Stanfield), the FBI agent sent by J. Edgar Hoover to infiltrate the party and arrest him. With the backing of Warner Bros, this will attempt to make an impact with a clash of actors that will have to fight with an August release date, not the ideal time to release an awards movie.
-King Richard: Starting with Suicide Squad, Will Smith has been trying to prove that he’s back and better than ever. Some attempts to get back to the top of the A-list (Aladdin, Bad Boys For Life) have worked, while others (Gemini Man, Spies in Disguise)... have not. But Will is still going, and now he’s going for his next prestige play as he plays Richard Williams, the coach and father of the tennis legends Venus and Serena, who pushed them to their full potential. While it’s weird that the father of the Williams sisters is getting a movie before them, it does sound like a meaty role for Smith, who has experience with Oscar notices with sports biopics because of what he did with Michael Mann in Ali. Let’s hope director Reinaldo Marcus Green can take him there too.
-Last Night in Soho: Every year, one or two directors who have a cool reputation end up in the Dolby Theatre, and 2020 could be the year of Edgar Wright. After delivering his first big box office hit with Baby Driver, the Brit is going back to London to tell a story in the realm of psychological horror, which has been supposedly inspired by classics like Don’t Look Now and Repulsion. With a premise that supposedly involves time travel and a cast that includes Anya-Taylor Joy, Thomasin McKenzie, Matt Smith and Diana Rigg, Wright (who also co-wrote this with Krysty Wilson-Cairns, who was just nominated for Best Original Screenplay for her work in 1917) is making a big swing.
-Let Them All Talk: Every year there’s more new streaming services, and that also means that there’s new players in the Oscar game. To secure subscribers to the new service, HBO Max has secured the rights to the next Steven Soderbergh movie, a comedy that stars Meryl Streep as a celebrated author that takes her friends (Candice Bergen, Dianne Wiest) and her nephew (Lucas Hedges, again) in a journey to find fun and come to terms with the past. The last time that Soderbergh and Streep worked together, the end result was the very disappointing The Laundromat. Let’s hope that this time everything works out.
-Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: Now that Netflix got the deal to adapt August Wilson’s acclaimed plays with Denzel Washington’s production company, the next jump from the stage to the screen is a meaty one. Viola Davis is playing blues singer Ma Rainey in this tale of a heated recording session with her bandmates, her agent and her producer in 1927, with a cast that also includes Chadwick Boseman, Glynn Turman and Colman Domingo. The Tony nominated play talked about race, art and the intersection of the two, and it’s gonna be explosive to see that unfold on screen, even if director George C. Wolfe’s previous filmography isn’t very encouraging.
-Macbeth: In a shocking development, the Coen brothers are no more. Well, just this time. For the first time in his career, Joel Coen is making a movie without Ethan, and it’s a Shakespeare adaptation. Denzel Washington is playing the man who wants to be king of Scotland, and Frances McDormand is playing his Lady Macbeth. While this just started filming and it will be a race to finish it in time for competition in the awards race, the potential is there, and this project has everybody’s attention.
-Mank: After scoring 24 Oscar nominations and only winning 2 awards last Sunday, Netflix has to wonder what else must they do to get in the club that awards them. They tried with Cuarón, they tried with Scorsese, they tried with Baumbach, they tried with two Popes, and they still feel a barrier. Now, the big gamble for awards by the streamer in 2020 comes to us in the hands of David Fincher, who is basically their friend after the rest of Hollywood denied him (Disney dropped his 20,000 Leagues adaptation, HBO denied the US remake of Utopia, and Paramount drove World War Z 2 away from him). In his first movie since 2014’s Gone Girl, David will go black and white to tackle a script by his late father about the making of the classic of classics, Citizen Kane, with previous Oscar winner Gary Oldman playing the lead role of screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz. Will the Academy fall for the ultimate “power of da moviesshhh” story?
-Minari: Sundance can be hit or miss with the breakout films that try to make it to the Oscars. However, you can’t deny the waves made by A24 when they premiered Lee Isaac Chung’s new drama there, ending up winning the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award in the US Dramatic Competition. If Parasite endeared Academy voters to Korean families, Steven Yeun hopes that the same thing happens with this story, where he plays a father in the ‘80s who suddenly decides to move his family to Arkansas to start a farm. Even though the reviews have been great, we must also remember that last year, A24 had in their hands The Farewell, another Sundance hit about an Asian family that ended up with no Oscar nominations. Let’s hope that this time, the Plan B influence (remember, that’s Brad Pitt’s production company, of Moonlight and 12 Years a Slave fame) makes a difference.
-Next Goal Wins: It’s a good time to be Taika Waititi. Why? Taika Waititi can do what he wants. He can direct a Thor movie, he can win an Oscar for writing a comedy set in WW2 about a Third Reich boy who has an Imaginary Hitler friend, or he can pop up in The Mandalorian as a droid. Taika keeps winning, and he wants more. Between his press tour for Jojo Rabbit and his return to the MCU, he quickly shot an adaptation of a great documentary about the disgraced national team of American Samoa, one of the worst football teams known to man, as they try to make the cut for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Everybody loves a good sports comedy, and Searchlight bets that we’ll enjoy this story led by Michael Fassbender as the new (and Dutch-American) coach in town who tries to shape the team for victory.
-News of the World: Seven years after their solid collaboration in Captain Phillips, Paul Greengrass and Tom Hanks reunite for more awards love in what seems to be Universal’s main attraction for the Oscars. This time, Hanks stars in a Western drama based on Paulette Jiles’ novel where he plays a traveling newsreader in the aftermath of the American Civil War who is tasked with reuniting an orphaned girl with her living relatives. With a Christmas release date, Universal is betting big in getting the same nomination boost that 1917 is enjoying right now, and the formula is promising.
-Nightmare Alley: Following his Best Picture and Best Director wins for The Shape of Water, everybody in Hollywood wondered what would Guillermo del Toro do next. Well, as Del Toro often does, a little bit of everything and nothing. Some projects moved (as his produced Pinocchio movie on Netflix, or his Death Stranding likeness cameo), others stalled and die (like his proposed Fantastic Voyage remake). But now he’s rolling on his next project, a new adaptation of the William Lindsay Gresham novel that already was a Tyrone Power film in 1947. This noir tale tells the story of a con man (Bradley Cooper) who teams up with a psychiatrist (Cate Blanchett) to trick people and win money, and how things get out of control. With a cast that also includes Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Rooney Mara and more, this could play well if it hits the right tone.
-Nomadland: There’s breakout years, and then there’s the amazing potential of Chloe Zhao’s 2020. On the one hand, after making Hollywood notice her skill with the gripping story of The Rider, she got the keys to the MCU kingdom to direct the next potential franchise of Kevin Feige, The Eternals. And just in case, she also has in her sleeve this indie drama that she wrote and directed beforehand, with two-time Oscar winner Frances McDormand playing a woman who, after losing everything in the Great Recession, embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad. If Chloe nails these two films, it could be the one-two punch of the decade.
-One Night in Miami: Regina King is living her best life. Following her Oscar win for Best Supporting Actress in If Beale Street Could Talk and the success that came with her lead role in the Watchmen show on HBO, the actress is jumping to a new challenge: directing movies. For her big screen debut, she’s adapting Kemp Powers’ play that dramatizes a real meeting on February 25, 1964, between Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown.
-Over the Moon: After earning praise and Oscar nominations with I Lost My Body and Klaus, Netflix will keep its bet on animated movies with a film directed by the legendary Glen Keane. Who? A classic Disney animator responsible for the design of characters like Ariel, the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Tarzan and more](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jRkx2PNVr8), and who recently won an Oscar for Best Animated Short for Dear Basketball, which he co-directed with the late Kobe Bryant. Now, he brings us a musical adventure centered around a Chinese girl who builds a rocket ship and blasts off to the Moon in hopes of meeting a legendary Moon Goddess.
-Passing: It’s always interesting when an actor jumps behind the camera, and Rebecca Hall’s case is no exception. For her directorial debut, Hall chose to adapt Nella Larsen’s acclaimed novel set in Harlem in the 1920s, about two mixed race childhood friends (Ruth Negga and Tessa Thompson) who reunite in adulthood and become obsessed with one another's lives. With a premise that explores tough questions about race and sexuality, it looks like a tricky challenge for a first timer, but it would be more impressive if Hall manages to rise over the challenge.
-Prisoner 760: An interesting part of following the awards circuit is looking at when it's appropriate to talk about touchy subjects in recent history. I’m saying that because this next movie tells the real life tale of Mohamedou Ould Slahi (Tahar Rahim), a man who, despite not being charged or having a set trial, is held in custody at Guantanamo Bay, and turns towards a pair of lawyers (Jodie Foster and Shailene Woodley) to aid him. Based on the famous journal that the man wrote while he was being detained, the movie (that also counts with Benedict Cumberbatch) is directed by Kevin Macdonald who, a long time ago, helped Forest Whitaker win Best Actor for The Last King of Scotland. Could he get back in the race after almost 15 years of movies like State of Play?
-Raya and the Last Dragon: This year, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ bet for the Oscars is a fantasy tale set in a mysterious realm called Kumandra, where a warrior named Raya searches for the last dragon in the world. And that dragon has the voice of Awkwafina. Even though they missed out last Oscars when Frozen II got the cold shoulder by the Academy in Best Animated Feature, this premise looks interesting enough to merit a chance. One more thing: between last year’s Abominable, Over the Moon and this movie, there’s a clear connection of animated movies trying to appeal to Chinese sensibilities (and that sweet box office).
-Rebecca: It’s wild to think that the only time that Alfred Hitchcock made a film that won the Oscar for Best Picture was with 1940’s adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s psychological thriller novel, more muted and conventional than his more known classics. Now, Ben Wheatley and Netflix are giving the Gothic story a new spin, with Lily James playing the newly married young woman who finds herself battling the shadow of her husband's (Armie Hammer) dead first wife, the mysterious Rebecca. The story is a classic, and we have to see how much weird Wheatley stuff is in the mix.
-Red, White and Water: Between 2011 and 2014, Jennifer Lawrence was everywhere and people loved it. She was America’s sweetheart, the Oscar winner, Katniss Everdeen. But then, everything kinda fell. Those X-Men movies got worse and she looked tired of being in them, her anecdotes got less charming and more pandering to some, she took respectable risks that didn’t pay off with Red Sparrow and Mother!, and some people didn’t like that she said that it wasn’t nice to share private photos of her online. Now, she looks to get back to the Oscar race with a small project funded by A24 and directed by Lila Neugebauer in her film debut, about a soldier who comes back to the US after suffering a traumatic brain injury in Afghanistan. Also, Brian Tyree Henry is in this, and it would be amazing if he got nominated for something.
-Respect: You know what’s a surefire way to get Academy voters’ attention? Play a real singer! Rami Malek took a win last year for playing Freddie Mercury, Renee Zellweger just won the gold after portraying Judy Garland, and now Jennifer Hudson wants more Oscar love. Almost 15 years after taking Best Supporting Actress for her role in Dreamgirls, Hudson will try to get more by playing soul legend Aretha Franklin, in a biopic directed by first timer Liesl Tommy that practically screams “give me the gold”. How am I so sure? Well, see the teaser that they released in December (for a movie that opens in October), and tell me. It will work out better for Hudson than Cats, that’s for sure.
-Soul: Unless they really disappoint (I’m looking at you, The Good Dinosaur, Cars 2 and Cars 3), you can’t have the Oscars without inviting Pixar to the party. This year, they have two projects in the hopes of success. While in a few weeks we’ll see what happens with the fantasy family road trip of Onward, the studio’s biggest bet of the year clearly is the next existential animation written and directed by Pete Docter, who brought Oscar gold to his home with Up and Inside Out. The movie, which centers on a teacher (voice of Jamie Foxx) who dreams of becoming a jazz musician and, just as he’s about to get his big break, ends up getting into an accident that separates his soul from his body, had a promising first trailer, and it also promises a score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, as well as new songs by Jon Batiste. The only downside so far for the marketing was the fact that the trailer reveal led people to notice a suspicious trend involving black characters when they lead an animated movie.
-Tenet: When Leonardo DiCaprio finally touched his Academy Award, an alarm went off in the mind of a portion of Internet users, who have made their next crusade to give themselves to the cause of getting Christopher Nolan some Oscar love. And his next blank check, an action thriller involving espionage and time travel, could pull off the same intersection of popcorn and prestige that made Inception both a box office hit and a critically acclaimed Oscar nominee. It helps to have a cast of impressive names like John David Washington, Elizabeth Debicki and Robert Pattinson, as well as a crew that includes Ludwig Goransson and Hoyte van Hoytema. In other words, if this becomes a hit, this could go for a huge number of nominations.
-The Devil All the Time: As you may have noticed by now, Netflix is leading the charge in possible Oscar projects. Another buzzy movie that comes from them is the new psychological thriller by Antonio Campos, a filmmaker known for delivering small and intimate but yet intense and terrifying dramas like Simon Killer and Christine. Using the novel by Donald Ray Pollock, Campos will follow non-linearly a cast of characters in Ohio between the end of World War II and the beginning of the Vietnam War, with the help of an interesting cast that includes Tom Holland, Sebastian Stan, Robert Pattinson, Mia Wasikowska, Eliza Scanlen, Bill Skarsgard, Jason Clarke and Riley Keough.
-The Eyes of Tammy Faye: After being known as a sketch comedy goofball because of The State, Wet Hot American Summer and Stella, Michael Showalter reinvented himself as a director of small and human dramedies like Hello, My Name is Doris and The Big Sick. For his next project, he’s gonna mix a little bit of both worlds, because he has before him the story of the televangelists Tammy Faye Bakker (Jessica Chastain, who has been really trying to recapture her early ‘10 awards run to no avail) and Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield, who was previously nominated for Hacksaw Ridge, instead of Silence, because why). With a real life tale that involves Christian theme parks, fraud and conspiracies, this is the kind of loud small movie that Searchlight loves to parade around, especially as an actors showcase (Jojo Rabbit being the most recent example). The first image looks terrifying, by the way.
-The Father: It’s weird to be in the middle of February and say that there’s already a frontrunner for the Best Actor race at the next Oscars. After its premiere in Sundance a couple of weeks ago, every prognosticator pointed in the direction of Anthony Hopkins (recently nominated for Best Supporting Actor in The Two Popes), who delivers a harrowing portrayal of an old man grappling with his age as he develops dementia, causing pain to his beleaguered daughter (recent winner Olivia Colman, who also got praised). With reviews calling it a British answer to Amour (in other words: it’s a hard watch), Florian Zeller’s adaptation of his acclaimed play not only benefits from having Hopkins and Colman together as a selling point, because it was acquired by Sony Pictures Classics, a distributor with experience in getting Academy voters to watch adult movies with heavy themes. If you don’t believe me, watch how they got Julianne Moore a win for Still Alice, as well as recent nominations for Isabelle Huppert for Elle, Glenn Close for The Wife, and Antonio Banderas for Pain and Glory. They know the game, and they are going to hit hard for Hopkins and Colman.
-The French Dispatch: If you saw the trailer, we don’t need to dwell too much on the reasons. On the one hand, we have the style of Wes Anderson, a filmmaker who has become a name in both the critics circle and the casual viewer, with his last two movies (The Grand Budapest Hotel and Isle of Dogs) earning several Oscar nominations, including Best Picture for the one with Gustave H. Then, we have a long cast that goes from the director’s regulars like Bill Murray to new stars like Timothee Chalamet, and also includes people like Benicio del Toro. The only thing that could endanger the Oscar chances for this is that the story, an anthology set around a period comedy with an European riff on The New Yorker, will alienate the average Academy member.
-The Humans: There’s the prestige of a play, and then there’s the prestige of a Tony-winning play. Playwright Stephen Karam now gets to jump to the director’s chair to take his acclaimed 2016 one-act story to the big screen, and A24 is cutting the check. Telling the story of a family that gets together on Thanksgiving to commiserate about life, this adaptation will be led by original performer Jayne Houdyshell (who also won a Tony for her stage performance), who’ll be surrounded by Richard Jenkins, Beanie Feldstein, Amy Schumer, Steven Yeun and June Squibb. If it avoids getting too claustrophobic or stagey for the cinema, it will be a good contender.
-The Last Duel: Always speedy, Ridley Scott is working on his next possible trip to the Oscars. This time, it’s the telling of a true story in 14th-century France, where a knight (Matt Damon) accuses his former friend (Adam Driver) of raping his wife (Jodie Comer), with the verdict being determined by the titular duel. It’s a juicy story, but there was some concern when it seemed that the script was only being written by Damon and Ben Affleck (who’ll also appear in the film). A rape story written by them after the Weinstein revelations… not the best look. But then, it was revealed that they were writing the screenplay with indie figure Nicole Holofcener, who last year was nominated for an Oscar for her script for Can You Ever Forgive Me? Let’s hope that the story is told in a gripping but not exploitative way, and that it doesn’t reduce the role of Comer (who deserves more than some of the movie roles that she’s getting after Killing Eve) to a Hollywood stereotype.
-The Power of the Dog: We have to talk about the queen of the indie world, we have to talk about Jane Campion. More than a decade after her last movie, Bright Star, the Oscar and Palme d’Or winner for The Piano returns with a non-TV project (see Top of the Lake, people) thanks to Netflix, with a period drama centered around a family dispute between a pair of wealthy brothers in Montana, Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Burbank (Jesse Plemons), after the latter one marries a local widow (Kirsten Dunst). According to the synopsis, “a shocked and angry Phil wages a sadistic, relentless war to destroy her entirely using her effeminate son Peter as a pawn”. Can’t wait to see what that means.
-The Prom: Remember the Ryan Murphy blank check deal with Netflix that I mentioned earlier? Well, another of the projects in the first batch of announcements for the deal is a musical that he’ll direct, adapting the Tony-nominated show about a group of Broadway losers (now played by the one and only Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Andrew Rannells and, uh, James Corden, for some reason) who try to find a viral story to get back in the spotlight, and end up going to a town in Indiana to help a lesbian high school student who has been banned from bringing her girlfriend to the prom. The show has been considered a fun and heartwarming tale of acceptance, so the movie could be an easy pick for an average Academy voter who doesn’t look too hard (and you know that the Golden Globes will nominate the shirt out of this). It’s funny how this comes out the same year than Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, and then it’s not funny realizing that Film Twitter will pit the two movies against each other.
-The Trial of the Chicago 7: After getting a taste of the director’s taste with Molly’s Game, Aaron Sorkin wants more. For his second movie, he’s tackling one of his specialties: a courtroom drama. And this one is a period movie centered around the trial on countercultural activists in the late ‘60s, which immediately attracts a campaign of how “important” this movie is today’s culture. To add the final blow, we have a cast that includes Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jeremy Strong, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Frank Langella, William Hurt, Michael Keaton and Mark Rylance. If Sorkin can contain himself from going over the top (and with that cast, it would be so easy to surrender to bouts of screaming and winding speeches), this could be one of the top contenders.
-Those Who Wish Me Dead: Having made a good splash in the directorial waters with Wind River, Taylor Sheridan (also known for writing the Sicario movies, the Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water or that Yellowstone show that your uncle raves about on Facebook) returns with yet another modern Western. For this thriller based on the Michael Koryta novel, Angelina Jolie stars as a survival expert in the Montana wilderness who is tasked with protecting a teenager who witnessed a murder, while assassins are pursuing him and a wildfire grows closer.
-Untitled David O. Russell Project: Following the mop epic Joy, that came and went in theaters but still netted a Best Actress nomination for Jennifer Lawrence, the angriest director in Hollywood took a bit of a break (it didn’t help that he tried to do a really expensive show with Amazon starring Robert De Niro and Julianne Moore that fell apart when the Weinstein exposes sank everything). Now, he’s quickly putting together his return to the days of Oscar love that came with stuff like The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, with a new movie that is set to star Christian Bale, Margot Robbie and Michael B. Jordan. Even though we don’t know many details (some people are saying the movie is called Amsterdam) except for the fact the movie hasn’t started shooting yet, David is a quick guy, so he’ll get it ready for the fall festival circuit. If there’s one thing that David O. Russell knows (apart from avoid getting cancelled for abusing people like Lily Tomlin, Amy Adams and his niece), it’s to make loud actor showcases.
-Untitled Nora Fingscheidt Project: When Bird Box became one of the biggest hits on Netflix history, the streamer decided to keep itself in the Sandra Bullock business. Sandy’s next project for Ted Sarandos is a drama where she plays a woman who is released from prison after serving time for a violent crime, and re-enters a society that refuses to forgive her past. To get redemption, she searches her younger sister she was forced to leave behind. With the direction of Fingscheidt, who comes from an acclaimed directorial debut with Systemsprenger (Germany’s submission to the last Academy Awards), and a cast that also includes Viola Davis, Vincent D’Onofrio and Jon Bernthal, this will also hopefully try its luck later this year.
-Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Project: We don’t know if this movie will be ready for the end of the year (although last time, he managed to sneak Phantom Thread under the buzzer and earn several Oscar nominations, including Best Picture), but PTA is apparently gonna start to shoot it soon, with the backing of Focus Features. After several movies with prestige locations and intricate production design, Film Twitter’s Holy Spirit will go back to the San Fernando Valley in the 1970s, to tell the story of a high school student who is also a successful child actor.
-Stillwater: Tom McCarthy’s recent career is certainly puzzling. After delivering the weird lows of The Cobbler, he bounced back with the Best Picture winner that was Spotlight. And following that, he… helped produce the 13 Reasons Why series. And following that… he made Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made, a Disney+ original movie. Now, he’s back to the award race with a drama starring Matt Damon, who plays a father who rushes from Oklahoma to France to help his daughter (Abigail Breslin), who is in prison after being suspected for a murder she claims she didn’t commit.
-West Side Story: To close things, we have to see one of the possible big contenders of the season, Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the iconic musical that translates Romeo and Juliet to the context of a street gang war in 1950s New York. While the decision to adapt again something that has been a classic both in Broadway and in movie theaters almost 60 years ago is a challenge, the idea of Spielberg doing a musical closer to the stage version with Tony Kushner as the writer is too tempting for the average Academy voter, who is already saving a spot in major categories in case Steven nails it in December. However, there’s two question marks. First, how well will Ansel Elgort and newcomer Rachel Zegler stand out in the roles of Tony and Maria? And second, will In the Heights steal some of the thunder of this movie by being, you know, more modern?
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[The Athletic] Rebooted: When Murdoch tried to buy Manchester United

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Offseason with Cidolfus: Building the Offense

Building the Offense

Last week I detailed how I expect the Dolphins to easily clear $100 million in spendable salary cap space heading into free agency, even after considering the monumental effective cap cost of our rookie pool for the draft. This week, I’m going to examine free agency options at the positions addressed and who I expect our major targets to be. Unlike last year, I’m not going to focus very much on our own impending free agents this time around. I addressed the very few free agents I expect to return this year in last week’s segment, so this piece will be almost exclusively focused on free agent targets across positions of need.
Additionally, because we are still so far out from the draft and because I expect we will try to address as many holes as possible first through free agency so that we’re not pidgeon-holed into selecting specific positions in the draft, I’m not going to dive too far into the draft except in a few circumstances.
For those who haven’t been keeping up with the series and would like to catch up, see the links below:

Possible Free Agent Targets

Like we covered last week, our needs on offensive should be readily apparent to anyone even remotely following the Dolphins. Ignore the talking heads who bafflingly keep trying to speak the Dolphins drafting a wide receiver in the first round into existence. That won’t happen barring some stunning fall like how Laremy Tunsil fell into our laps a few years ago.
The Dolphins badly need to find a quarterback of the future, an offensive line to protect him, and a running back to share the load with him. That’s not necessarily the order I see those positions being prioritized in free agency, though. As mentioned in replies to last week’s post, I expect that our free agency efforts will be heavily focused on building in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Before I get into free agents I expect that our front office tries to prioritize, I’ll go through free agents, position by position. All rankings are from PFF, which, while not perfect, tend to be pretty accurate in the aggregate over a season.

Quarterback

2020 is shaping up to be a very strange year at quarterback. There’s a lot of big names potentially available here, and that’s going to cause talking heads to have a lot of controversial and “bold” takes, such as all the suggestions we’ve seen that Tom Brady will come to Miami.
It’s not going to happen. There’s very little reason to believe that we make any free agency moves at the quarterback position. Ryan Fitzpatrick is under contract for $8 million in 2020 and we only save $4 million by cutting him. However, as discussed, the signing of Chan Gailey as our offensive coordinator makes a commitment to Fitzpatrick abundantly clear. We also save no money by cutting Josh Rosen since, as a former first-round selection, his base salary is entirely guaranteed. I expect that we’ll add a third quarterback to the team in the draft, but I don’t see us being remotely active at the position in free agency.
Make no mistake, though. The quarterback landscape across the NFL looks to be very different in 2020. Free agents include Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Case Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater, Ryan Tannehill, Jameis Winston, and Marcus Mariota. Every single one of those players started multiple games for their current teams in 2019. Brees likely returns to New Orleans, Tannehill will almost certainly be tagged, and Winston may as well. I’d have to bet that Brady returns to the Patriots, especially now that they’re retaining McDaniels as offensive coordinator, but it’s unclear how that shakes out. Eli Manning probably retires unless a team stuns the world to give him the starting job somewhere.
That still leaves Rivers, Keenum, Bridgewater, and Mariota up in the air, and that’s before potential cuts or trades for guys like Cam Newton and Derek Carr who could shake up the market further. The biggest way that free agency at quarterback impacts the Dolphins is how it informs the decisions of other teams in the draft. Of particular concern are the Chargers (6), Panthers (7), Jaguars (9), Raiders (12, 19), and Colts (13). The Chargers, Panthers, and Raiders are in the best position to have the draft capital to leap the Dolphins.
The Raiders can cut or trade Derek Carr and save $16.5 million in 2020. In a trade, Carr would be on a three-year deal at $19 million, $19,625,000, and $19,777,519 over the next three years. That said, I’m not sure that the Raiders actually move on from Carr. Last year he had a career high 70.4% completion percentage, 21 touchdowns, 8 interceptions, a passer rating of 100.8, and an ANY/A of 7.25. Those are respectable numbers, and rather than using multiple mid-firsts to trade up to the top of the draft, I have to imagine Gruden likes his chances to use their two firsts and three thirds and $50 million in cap space to retool their roster rather than commit to starting over with a rookie quarterback in his third year as head coach. With a ten year contract, though, he has more security than most to make a dramatic move now.
The Panthers are almost certain to move on from Cam Newton in 2020 under their new head coach Matt Rhule. Reports are that they want to trade Newton, who would carry a $19.1 million cap charge for another team in 2020 and save the Panthers just as much. I don’t expect that the trade market for Newton will be robust. He’s in a very similar position to Joe Flacco last year, who only earned the Ravens a fourth, which doesn’t give the Panthers much more immediate ammunition to move up for a quarterback. With a new head coach and the departure of Luke Kuechly, the Panthers may see themselves in a true rebuild and instead look ahead to 2021 for their quarterback of the future rather than mortgaging firsts over multiple years to try to get their quarterback now. There’s a very good chance that they’re in the same position we were this time last year with Ryan Tannehill and a new head coach coming in.
That leaves the Chargers, who almost certainly aren’t looking to bring back Philip Rivers. As the clear second team in a market that’s already proven fickle on football teams not named the Raiders, it’s possible that the Chargers might view the 2020 draft as an opportunity to make a splash by drafting their quarterback of the future. Or they could be one of the teams trying to make a splash by grabbing one of the bigger names in free agency. Our best hope is that they like a guy like Herbert or Love that they think they can get by standing pat if nobody else is moving up. We won’t be the only team that the Lions or the Giants call if they’re fielding an offer to move up and they think they can get a higher bidder.
What’s really important, though, is that with five first round picks and four seconds in the next two drafts, nobody is in a position to outbid the Miami Dolphins to move up in the draft in April. As Grier signalled loudly on Thursday, the Dolphins have “more than enough” draft capital to trade up in the draft. In a season sure to be full of vacuous statements, smokescreens, and misdirection, that statement might be the most honest thing we hear out of Grier’s mouth regarding the draft for the next couple months. It’s a signal loud and clear to teams looking to trade up that we can outbid them, and an invitation to teams fielding offers to keep us in the loop. That might cause teams ahead of us to try and bluff to get us to move up ahead of another team “trying to move up”, but if we believe it’s credible and want to beat the bid, there’s little doubt that we can.

Offensive Line

I’ll take a brief step back for a moment to remind everyone that I do not consider myself a great evaluator of talent and rely heavily on others who do this kind of stuff for a living. I know it can be a controversial metric, but one source I’ve always relied on for these posts is Pro Football Focus’s premium stats. Their grades are far from perfect, but it’s some of the best cumulative data available, and I find that while they’ve occasionally got some outliers, their grades usually align with the general consensus. Moreover, their advanced stats are some of their better material. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot on offer in that regard for offensive linemen. I believe what follows generally follows the eye test. I’m not going to come out here swinging with data that should really surprise anyone, and I’m not going to try to use PFF’s gradings to try to advocate for fringe players who are undervalued. I’m not trying to beat the system with this analysis.
This brings us to the first position group where I expect we will be active in 2020 free agency. Offensive line talent is at a premium right now, and as noted previously we have PFF and Football Outsider’s worst-ranked offensive line in the game. After letting Ja’Wuan James walk in free agency last year and trading Laremy Tunsil to the Texans, there’s a lot of pressure to rebuild this position group from a bunch of nobodies. Rookies Michael Deiter and Shaq Calhoun are the only two players on the line who played any amount of time, and both underwhelmed.

Deiter and Calhoun

Player Offensive Pass Blocking Run Blocking Total Snaps Pass Snaps Run Snaps Sacks Hits Hurries Pressures Penalties PBE
Deiter 42.5 37.8 45.5 996 708 287 6 15 23 44 5(1) 96.2
Calhoun 44.2 44.0 43.9 471 332 139 2 3 13 18 2(1) 96.8
For those of you unfamiliar with PFF’s grading system, plays are graded on a scale of +2 to -2 and then the cumulative scores are normalized to a score of 100 where 100 is the best score ever recorded for the position. Because they normalize the scores that way, that doesn’t mean that 50 is average and both Deiter and Calhoun were just above average. In fact, the median overall offensive grade among guards in 2019 was 59.6. Right about now, you should be getting the sense that neither Deiter nor Calhoun were particularly good last year.
Let’s hit the rapid fire on just how not good these guys were. In pass blocking, Deiter’s grade ranks 114th of 123 guards. Calhoun’s is 108th. Deiter’s Pass Blocking Efficiency (PBE), which is a score normalized to 100 of pressures allowed as a percentage of total pass blocking snaps with a weighting toward sacks, was tied for 92nd among 118 qualifying guards. Calhoun’s was tied for 76th. Deiter’s penalties were tied for 97th worst. Calhoun’s better here, but he also played half as many snaps and was on pace to be in a similar place as penalties as Calhoun. It doesn’t stop there, either! Deiter was PFF’s 115th ranked guard in run blocking; Calhoun was 117th.
That’s not to say that we should give up on either of them developing or playing better with better pieces around them, but we should not be complacent pursuing opportunities to upgrade over either of them.

Davenport, Webb, and Davis

If our guards were bad, our tackles weren’t much better. Julie’n Davenport, Jesse Davis, and J’Marcus Webb all played significant snaps for us at tackle throughout the season, and they were all pretty bad.
Player Offensive Pass Blocking Run Blocking Total Snaps Pass Snaps Run Snaps Sacks Hits Hurries Pressures Penalties PBE
J’Marcus Webb 34.4 32.0 37.1 543 372 171 7 6 26 39 8(3) 93.4
Julie’n Davenport 56.5 61.5 41.3 534 389 145 6 9 16 31 1(0) 94.9
Jesse Davis 58.9 59.6 53.6 975 696 279 4 5 33 42 4(1) 96.5
J’Marcus Webb is PFF’s worst tackle out of 120 total tackles, 117th in pass blocking, and 118th in run blocking. Davenport was 93rd overall, 82nd in pass blocking, and 114th in run blocking. Davis was 85th overall, 87th in pass blocking, and 91st in run blocking. In terms of pass blocking efficiency, Webb was 110th of 118, Davenport was 90th, and Jesse Davis was the only one in the bunch in the top half of tackles (barely) tied for 57th. You might have wondered why we didn’t try to maximize our running backs out in space and instead constantly rushed up the middle for small gains? Having tackles who were hot garbage blocking was certainly a big part of it.

Kilgore

Only center was acceptable through the season. Kilgore’s performance through thirteen games ranked him at 15th (of 49) in pass protection allowing three sacks, four hits, and 12 pressures with a pass-blocking efficiency good for tied for 23rd of 48 qualify centers. Even that’s not all that great, and given that none of his contract is guaranteed and he’s a free agent in 2021, if an upgrade was available we might pursue it. That said, given the dire need at guard and tackle, I imagine we keep Kilgore for another year.
I go over all of this now to make abundantly clear how dismal our offensive line is right now. Webb and Davenport are free agents who won’t be making a return. Davis, Kilgore, Deiter, and Calhoun are all under contract, but if more than two of them are still starting for the Dolphins in 2020, that will be a colossal failure by the front office.
Between free agency and the draft, we should be looking to add a minimum of three offensive linemen. Fortunately, we have the cap space and the draft capital to make this a reality.

Tackles

There are a handful of tackles available in free agency who would be an immediate upgrade for the Dolphins, although I’ll admit that’s a pretty low bar. Given that the draft is looking pretty top-heavy in offensive tackle talent in particular (depending on who you ask, there’s at least four tackles projected to go in the first round and another two or three who could be anywhere from late firsts to seconds), I expect we’ll only target one tackle in free agency. We’ve got some options. For each of these guys, I’ll discuss how they finished relative to their peers in 2019 and then include (where available) PFF grades for the last three seasons.
Bryan Bulaga (RT)
While older than maybe we’d initially want--he’ll be 31 by the time we can sign him--Bulaga is still one of the best right tackles in the game. He finished just behind Jack Conklin seventh among all tackles in run blocking in 2019, and performed better in pass blocking, grading at 41st overall with a pass blocking efficiency score good for 32nd in the league. Bulaga allowed four sacks, four hits, and nineteen hurries on 612 pass blocking snaps.
Year Offensive Pass Blocking Run Blocking Total Snaps Pass Snaps Run Snaps Sacks Hits Hurries Pressures Penalties PBE
2019 77.1 73.3 79.4 959 612 347 4 4 19 27 7(1) 97.2
2018 75.0 84.0 59.3 781 559 222 5 3 14 22 8(0) 97.4
2017 61.4 72.0 49.0 232 155 77 1 1 10 12 1(0) 95.5
Aside from age, another major knock on Bulaga will be his penalties. Unfortunately Bulaga’s 2017 season is the outlier across his career, as it’s the only time he’s had fewer than five penalties in a season. The final knock against Bulaga is his injury history. 2019 was the first season since 2016 in which Bulaga had played in all sixteen games.
The Packers aren’t flush with cap space and have several other free agents contributing significant snaps to the team who need replaced which might leave Bulaga hitting the market. Offensive linemen often have long careers well into their 30s, and Bulaga on a 3-4 year deal might be reasonable. He’s likely not our first choice, but for the past six seasons while healthy, Bulaga has consistently been one of the best pass blocking tackles in the game and would be a massive improvement for us on that front.
Jack Conklin (RT)
At 26, he’s one of the youngest tackles expected to hit the market this season. He’s also one of the surest bets not to be re-signed. Although he’s stated that he’d “love” to re-sign with the Titans, with both Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry as unrestricted free agents, the Titans are in a tough spot to keep together the team that took them from the wildcard round to the AFC Championship. Tannehill is likely to receive the franchise tag projected at a whopping $26,895,000 and Henry could receive the transition tag at $10,189,000. That alone accounts for more than half of all of the Titans’ cap space with Conklin, Logan Ryan and Termaine Brock all unrestricted free agents with over 60% of total snaps played this past season.
Conklin allowed five sacks, four hits, and 24 pressures on 617 pass-blocking snaps with the Titans this season. His pass blocking grade was 45th among tackles (T51st in pass blocking efficiency), but his run blocking grade was sixth.
Year Offensive Pass Blocking Run Blocking Total Snaps Pass Snaps Run Snaps Sacks Hits Hurries Pressures Penalties PBE
2019 80.6 74.0 83.7 1108 617 491 5 4 24 33 9(1) 96.6
2018 66.8 69.2 66.2 498 317 181 4 1 14 19 7(3) 96.1
2017 72.4 73.8 69.0 1099 632 467 2 8 21 31 8(2) 97.4
Despite his age, Conklin’s performance has been consistent across his young career despite an injury-shorted season in 2018. Demand at the position, Conklin’s age, and his consistency aside from the short year last season is going to drive his price up, although likely not quite to the gaudy APY number that Lane Johnson signed this November (more on that later).
D.J. Humphries (LT)
Humphries checks a lot of boxes as the type of guy the Dolphins might target. He’s 27-years old and can be a long-term solution at left tackle where he’s played 2,694 snaps the past four seasons. Following a season-ending knee injury in 2018, he put up a solid season in pass protection in 2019, allowing only two sacks, one hit, and 27 hurries. His pass blocking efficiency was tied for 27th among all tackles. He was poor in run blocking (94th out of 120), but has performed much better in previous years.
Year Offensive Pass Blocking Run Blocking Total Snaps Pass Snaps Run Snaps Sacks Hits Hurries Pressures Penalties PBE
2019 1046 677 369 64.5 76.3 52.3 2 1 27 30 13(1) 97.5
2018 522 342 180 68.8 62.9 72.2 4 8 16 28 2(0) 95.0
2017 204 104 100 81.7 66.0 86.1 0 0 5 5 0(0) 97.4
Humphries has been a mixed mag throughout his career with injuries and up-and-down performance that has rarely turned toward downright awful--although 14 penalties in 2019 is pretty nuts. But that’s exactly why he might be the kind of guy the Dolphins take a look at if the Cardinals decide to replace Humphries through the draft.
He won’t break the bank, and if we strike out on better options in free agency, he could be a cost-effective solution that’s still a major upgrade over any of our current tackles. His worst pass blocking grade of his career (61.8 his rookie season) is still better than any of our tackles this past season, and his worst run blocking grade of his career (52.3 in 2019) is barely worse than our best (Jesse Davis).
Greg Robinson (LT)
Likely a cheaper option, if he hits the market. This former second overall selection in the 2014 draft has had a pretty average career, but posted career-high grades last year in Cleveland. Last year, he allowed four sacks, five hits, and seventeen hurries on 535 pass blocking snaps. His pass blocking efficiency ranked him 42nd among all tackles and his overall pass blocking grade was 56th. He's marginally better in run blocking, ranking 49th among all tackles. He’s also 28-years-old.
Year Offensive Pass Blocking Run Blocking Total Snaps Pass Snaps Run Snaps Sacks Hits Hurries Pressures Penalties PBE
2019 66.9 69.3 62.8 860 535 325 4 5 17 26 11(2) 96.9
2018 59.6 68.8 52.1 498 311 187 1 0 19 20 10(3) 96.3
2017 54.6 53.4 53.2 395 257 138 3 3 18 24 5(3) 94.4
That Robinson managed to rack up 13 penalties in 2018 while only playing half a season’s worth of snaps is downright impressive. Aside from him being the living definition of mediocrity on the offensive line, his penchant for penalties is the biggest knock on Robinson. But he’ll likely be even cheaper than Humphries. If we strike out on other free agents, or only want a short-term stop gap (Robinson has played for three teams in the past four seasons already), Robinson is an option and his most recent season would still be an improvement over our current tackles.
I can see a scenario where we either whiff on guys like Bulaga and Conklin or spend more on the offensive interior and instead pursue a guy like Robinson as a stopgap for the 2020 season so that we only need to draft a single tackle in 2020 and can instead punt until 2021 with one of our two first round selections then to find the bookend at the other side of the line.
Halapoulivaati Vaitai (RT)
Vaitai saw about 40% of the Eagles total snaps this season at right tackle, and while he was far from a stud in pass protection (45th overall and 72nd in pass blocking efficiency), he ranked 10th against the run. The Eagles could end up keeping him and starting him at right tackle and moving Lane Johnson over to left tackle to replace Jason Peters, but he might also hit the market in free agency.
Year Offensive Pass Blocking Run Blocking Total Snaps Pass Snaps Run Snaps Sacks Hits Hurries Pressures Penalties PBE
2019 74.4 64.6 76.2 540 331 209 2 8 13 4(0) 95.8
2018 47.7 52.7 38.9 350 224 126 4 4 9 17 2(0) 94.7
2017 59.4 52.3 61.8 1031 600 431 9 14 28 51 6(0) 94.7
There’s risk in pursuing a guy like Vaitai, but he performed very well in his limited performance in 2019. If we’re investing in other positions on the line, we might bet that Vaitai will be able to repeat his 2019 performance with other good linemen around him. If the Eagles let him go, he’s the kind of guy I could see a tackle-needy team like the Dolphins thinks can take a decent stint as a back-up in 2019 and put together a good season as a starter. Given his up-and-down history (not listed above is his rookie season which was pretty similar to 2019), it’s riskier than most moves, but could provide good production at cost.

Guards

As previously established, our guards were bad this season. Our guards have been bad for years. The last time we had a good guard was when Laremy Tunsil played at left guard his rookie year. The last time before that was way back in Tannehill’s rookie season when we had Incognito. Adam Gase infamously dismissed our woes on the interior offensive line by insisting you don’t need to invest in guards, but NFL trends over the past several seasons have run counter to that logic.
Despite trotting out woeful ineptitude at the position for the past seven years, we’ve only drafted three guards in all that time: Jamil Douglas in the fourth, Isaac Asiata in the fifth, and Michael Deiter in the third. It’s time the Dolphins get serious about addressing the offensive interior, but this draft isn’t exactly stacked at guard (or the offensive interior line) the way it looks like it is at tackle. Fortunately, there are a handful of options who may be available in free agency.
Ereck Flowers (LG)
Flowers is young (only 26) and coming off of a decent season in Washington. He’s not the big prize available in free agency from Washington’s offensive line, but he’s still a significant upgrade over anyone we’re rostering right now.
Year Offensive Pass Blocking Run Blocking Total Snaps Pass Snaps Run Snaps Sacks Hits Hurries Pressures Penalties PBE
2019 64.2 69.0 60.1 937 588 349 2 2 20 24 6(1) 97.6
2018 65.1 62.0 63.4 588 353 235 3 7 28 38 6(2) 93.8
2017 66.8 70.4 52.8 1001 653 348 6 8 27 41 9(3) 96.2
His pass blocking efficiency was good for 43rd. In 545 pass blocking snaps he allowed two sacks, two hits, and twenty hurries. He played his first four season primarily at left tackle, and he seems to have weathered the switch to left guard in Washington well. He’s far from a world-beater, but he’s competent and is another guy who won’t break the bank. His previous experience at tackle is also always useful in the event that injuries require he shift over.
Graham Glasgow (RG)
Speaking of players for whom a move to guard was agreeable, Graham Glasgow moved from center to right guard this year and did a pretty great job of it. He allowed zero sacks, five hits, and 20 hurries on 559 pass blocking snaps and put up a career-high 74.2 grade in run blocking.
Year Offensive Pass Blocking Run Blocking Total Snaps Pass Snaps Run Snaps Sacks Hits Hurries Pressures Penalties PBE
2019 74.1 69.0 74.2 872 559 313 0 5 20 3(0) 97.6
2018 70.1 73.8 69.1 1076 673 403 1 5 15 21 9(6) 98.2
2017 71.1 71.8 67.0 1042 681 361 3 6 17 26 4(0) 97.7
Glasgow was already pretty solid as a center in 2017 and 2018, and he made the transition to guard pretty well. At 28-years-old, he could be a solid contributor who has the ability to play both guard and center, and that kind of flexibility has value, as noted with Flowers. It becomes even more valuable considering the time that Kilgore has missed over the past two seasons.
Andrus Peat (LG)
A couple of years ago, Peat was looking like a stud young guard, but he’s posted back-to-back horrendous seasons in 2018 and an injury-shortened 2019.
Year Offensive Pass Blocking Run Blocking Total Snaps Pass Snaps Run Snaps Sacks Hits Hurries Pressures Penalties PBE
2019 48.7 56.5 47.0 628 388 240 3 3 13 19 3(0) 97.1
2018 39.8 47.3 40.4 879 494 385 3 4 17 24 8(0) 97.3
2017 68.3 66.4 63.7 932 524 408 4 6 18 28 6(1) 96.7
I mostly bring Peat up because his name is one that’s certain to come up in free agency discussions, and someone’s going to look at his first three seasons in the league and think he can return to that performance. He’s risky, but his recent performance is likely to affect his price, and he’s young so there’s upside there for him to turn it around and be a long-term piece on the line.
Brandon Scherff (RG)
Of the two guards out of Washington, Scherff, age 29, is obviously the bigger catch. He’s missed time due to injury and had a lot of penalties (9) this season, but when he was on the field he was still great, ranking as PFF’s seventh overall guard and allowing only 10 total pressures (one sack, nine hurries) in 394 pass blocking snaps. Moreover, Sherff has been stellar for years.
Year Offensive Pass Blocking Run Blocking Total Snaps Pass Snaps Run Snaps Sacks Hits Hurries Pressures Penalties PBE
2019 75.0 72.0 76.3 643 394 249 1 0 9 10 9(1) 98.5
2018 70.8 84.0 62.3 506 301 205 1 1 7 9 2(0) 98.2
2017 79.9 72.3 79.3 867 524 343 3 4 15 22 2(1) 97.5
It may be worrisome to some that Scherff has ended the past two seasons on injured reserve (2018 for a pectoral tear and 2019 for shoulder and elbow injuries), but if the medicals look good, his performance on the field is good enough to justify the added risk, and he’d be a major get in free agency at a position of need.
Michael Schofield (RG)
Schofield’s a good pass blocking guard but won’t offer much of an improvement in the way of run blocking if his 2019 performance is anything to go on. He finished 17th in pass protection (allowing one sack, seven hits, and 18 hurries in 688 pass blocking snaps) but 97th in run blocking. He’s a cheaper option we may look to if we strike out on the premier names in this free agency class. At 30, he’s on the older end of players on this list as well.
Year Offensive Pass Blocking Run Blocking Total Snaps Pass Snaps Run Snaps Sacks Hits Hurries Pressures Penalties PBE
2019 63.6 76.9 50.3 1057 688 369 1 7 18 26 1(0) 97.9
2018 62.7 71.7 53.1 1116 680 436 5 5 21 31 0(0) 97.2
2017 57.0 48.1 63.1 407 230 177 2 5 18 25 2(0) 93.6
He’s been pretty consistently that same guy the past two years with the Chargers at right guard: a good pass blocker, but a poor run blocker. He played almost all of his snaps as a back-up RT tackle in 2017 with the Chargers and fared much more poorly than he did at the same position with Denver in his rookie season.
Joe Thuney (LG)
The clear prize at guard in free agency. Especially if the Patriots bring back Tom Brady, it’s going to be hard for them to afford to bring back Thuney as well. The 2019 All Pro guard figures to see a big pay day, and we should be the ones to give it to him. Thuney was absolutely stellar in pass protection last year, allowing only 17 total pressures (one sack, four hits, and twelve hurries) on 732 pass blocking snaps. His run blocking brought him down, but he finished as PFF’s sixth-ranked guard regardless. Did I mention that in 1,201 snaps he had no penalties on top of everything else? That’s crazy.
Year Offensive Pass Blocking Run Blocking Total Snaps Pass Snaps Run Snaps Sacks Hits Hurries Pressures Penalties PBE
2019 79.2 88.0 68.7 1201 732 469 1 4 12 17 0(0) 98.7
2018 75.5 85.3 68.0 1371 765 606 0 5 21 26 5(0) 98.1
2017 74.4 74.9 68.8 1354 835 519 5 10 31 46 3(0) 96.7
He’ll be sure to break the bank and may even reset the market at the position, but we badly need an infusion of talent on the interior offensive line, and Thuney’s a guy who can absolutely give it to us. He’s 28-years-old and can be a staple of our offensive unit for our quarterback of the future for years to come.
Thuney is the kind of guard you throw money at, and if he does reset the market, he’ll have earned it.
Greg Van Roten (LG)
Also one of the older guys on the list, Van Roten is similar to Schofield in that he offers solid pass blocking (24th among guards with one sack, three hits, and 13 hurries) with poor run blocking (63rd among guards).
Year Offensive Pass Blocking Run Blocking Total Snaps Pass Snaps Run Snaps Sacks Hits Hurries Pressures Penalties PBE
2019 65.6 74.3 57.3 704 446 258 1 3 13 17 2(1) 97.9
2018 59.8 68.8 53.6 1059 668 391 2 2 32 36 2(0) 97.0
2017 62.9 29.4 65.5 10 3 7 0 0 0 0 0(0) 100.0
Having only played ten snaps in 2017 (one at tight end and nine at center), you might as well disregard that season. Before that, he was in and out of the NFL and the Canadian Football League. He was the only offensive player to play all of the Panthers’ offensive snaps in 2018. In 2019 he dislocated his toe in week 12 and was placed on IR. He’s another, cheaper option we might consider if we whiff on bigger names.

Center

As mentioned earlier, I don’t think that center is a position we actively pursue, but given that Kilgore’s contract has no guarantees, if an upgrade is available it’s a possibility. Even if we wanted to address the center position in free agency, however, there’s not a major upgrade to be had, at least not someone who’s young enough to be a long-term contributor and to justify moving on from Kilgore.
Connor McGovern
As far as immediate upgrades go, McGovern comes to mind. McGovern had a career year in his contract year, allowing only one sack, three hits, and 11 hurries in 609 pass-blocking snaps and scored PFF’s fifth highest pass blocking grade for centers.
Year Offensive Pass Blocking Run Blocking Total Snaps Pass Snaps Run Snaps Sacks Hits Hurries Pressures Penalties PBE
2019 71.9 82.5 64.0 1013 609 404 1 3 11 15 0(0) 98.6
2018 58.3 38.7 66.2 1056 667 389 2 5 36 43 6(0) 96.4
2017 49.2 58.8 49.5 418 247 171 1 3 12 16 3(0) 96.3
He’s been considerably less consistent the rest of his career, however, allowing two sacks, five hits, and a whopping 36 hurries on 667 pass-blocking snaps in his first full year starting in 2018, earning a dismal 38.7 pass blocking grade that season. He was a competent run blocker in both seasons. It’s also worth noting that more than half of his snaps came at right guard in 2018 and almost all his snaps came at right guard in 2017. McGovern looks like another player for whom the position change has yielded positive results.
If he can keep up his play from 2019, he’d be an improvement over Kilgore. That’s a big if, though. At 27 he’s far more a long-term solution to the position than Kilgore who is five years his senior. I’m far more gun shy about rewarding a player for a single year of elevated performance than injuries, however, and I’m not sure I’d pull the trigger here.

Running Back

Running back is not a position with much of a shelf life, and outside of a few top backs in the league, rushing production is perhaps the most replaceable production on the field. Many fans bemoan the backs we’ve let leave in recent years, but history has largely vindicated the Dolphins’s reluctance to commit to backs beyond rookie deals.
The Texans surely regret paying Lamar Miller so much. Jay Ajayi can’t even find a spot on an NFL roster these days. While Drake has played well in Arizona, it remains to be seen whether he can actually sustain that. Even Damien Williams, who we’re watching be very successful in the playoffs now, only has 750 rushing yards and 350 receiving yards since he left the Dolphins. We haven’t let any world-beaters go.
So to say that I’m against spending money on running backs in free agency is an understatement, and frankly this year doesn’t look like a particularly good one to be pursuing anyone either. Has a holdout ever worked out more poorly for a player than it has for Melvin Gordon this year? Do we really want to go out and spend money on a guy like Jordan Howard? The only two running backs I’d really even consider trying to bring in right now might be Austin Ekeler or Gus Edwards, and the former will almost certainly be tendered (and he’s not worth giving up draft picks for) and the latter is an exclusive rights free agent.
Both, notably, are also undrafted free agents. While the recent draft has shown that premier running back talent is dominant in the league (the leading rusher in the NFL has been a former first round pick four of the past five years), there’s also plenty of evidence showing that middle-round selections for running back can return big dividends. Sorry guys, I’m not going to dive into rushing stats to demonstrate that like I did for quarterbacks. Maybe next year (but probably not).
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t improve at the position. Right now, Patrick Laird is our only running back worth half a damn on the roster, and we definitely need to bring more bodies into the group. We should probably target a running back in the middle rounds of the draft. Maybe the second if someone falls, but in general I’m against investing a lot of draft capital or cap space into the position.
It’s also worth noting that in moving to a spread offense under Gailey, rushing is unlikely to be the focal point of our attack. Versatile backs who are useful both as pass blockers and receivers are going to be very important, so a bruiser like Derrick Henry (who I doubt makes it to free agency) doesn’t seem like the type of player we should be targeting.

Tight End

As noted last week, Mike Gesicki stepping up for us in 2019 was a big get, and I expect that his role will increase even more in Gailey’s offense as he was very successful in college in a similar scheme. That said, one of the ways that we can continue to help out our offensive line in both pass blocking and run blocking is to run more sets with multiple tight ends. We brought in a lot of tight ends last off season to try and improve the group, but really only Gesicki has emerged as anything worthwhile. I don’t expect this position to be a major priority, but there’s a couple free agents who might be worth looking at if they become available.
Given the much lower likelihood that we’ll actually pursue one of these targets, I won’t go into as much depth as above for the offensive line. These are just some names to keep in mind that might not be completely out of left field.
Austin Hooper
Hooper’s a threat in the passing game, no doubt. In the past two seasons he’s caught 146 of 180 targets for 1,447 yards and ten touchdowns with only four drops. He has similar flaws to Gesicki, though, as he’s rarely used in pass protection and isn’t the stoutest run blocker (although he’s still an improvement over Gesicki in blocking). He’d be another big-bodied passing threat in what figures to be a passing-heavy offense, though.
Hunter Henry
Hunter Henry’s a very similar guy to Hooper. In his first two seasons he was much more effective in pass protection and run blocking, but he had a down year in 2019 after missing all of 2018, but he’s another guy who provides a big-bodied receiving threat that provides match-up problems for linebackers.
Tyler Eifert
He’s starting to get on the older side, but he’s probably the most well-rounded of the tight ends available in free agency. Eifert didn’t get a lot attention in the passing game this season, but he was solid in pass protection and decent in run blocking. He’s probably not a guy we target unless he’s really cheap.

Wide Receiver

We’re not going to sign a wide receiver in free agency. We’re probably not going to draft a wide receiver before the fifth round in April either. DeVante Parker and Preston Williams figure to be our two main targets in 2020, and last week I already discussed that I think we should drop both Jakeem Grant and Albert Wilson while keeping Allen Hurns and bringing back Isaiah Ford. That doesn’t leave much room for additional wide receivers who should expect to see much playing time.
I’ll readily admit, though, that it does skew towards a single skill set. Isaiah Ford is the smallest of the bunch listed at 6’2” and 189 pounds. The others are all 6’3” or taller and over 200 pounds. They all posted combine 40 times right around the average for wide receivers (4.48). In that group Hurns figures as our slot receiver (where he played 50% of his snaps last season). The group lacks lateral speed, shiftiness, and speedsters in general, but we’ve had both of those recently (Kenny Stills, Jakeem Grant, Albert Wilson) and except for Stills none of those players ever provided consistent production.
Regardless of what the team ultimately decides to do with Wilson and Grant, wide receiver is the last position any of us should expect to invest in this offseason, whether that’s in terms of cap space or draft picks. The only way I see us grabbing a wide receiver is if someone unexpected falls into our laps in April.
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In a state of flux. Why there is no legitimate favourite in the Champions League

In the quite long and glorious history of Champions League this season possibly is the most unpredictable. It is certainly comparable with the previous one which has been one of the most dramatic and intriguing in the century. Meanwhile, the reason why the balance of power was shifted is quite obvious. The golden generation of players that brought so much fame, fortune and accolades to Primera is slowly but surely ageing and couldn’t carry as big load as it was before. On the other hand, it’s too early to talk about the domination of English clubs – and not just because it lasts only one season to date. Actually the success of Premier League’s teams has been based rather on the concrete managerial projects than on the group of players – and it’s worth to mention that three of four coaches that guided their respective clubs to the Eurocups finals now are gone.
It’s very revealing that among the main contenders the first place are holding Manchester City (the British betting companies are excessively patriotic as usual) – the team which probably will be eliminated by Real within the next month. Why I think so? Well, firstly Zinedine Zidane’s team is much more balanced now (especially after the Frenchman’s fine tuning) while Josep Guardiola’s side is struggling this term unsuccessfully trying to match their own extremely high demands. On top of that, Real currently are much stronger than City without the ball both collectively and individually – this factor may prove to be decisive in the showdown between two teams which are scoring the vast majority of their goals after long and finesse combinations.
So maybe in this case Real will win the Champions League? Well, probably not – even if we take into account Zidane’s famous ability to conserve the energy of his footballers (he is really the best in history in this regard). Unlike those three seasons when Madrid ruled in Europe the maximum level of their play is significantly lower – mainly due to lack of attacking star players. In this situation the strength and depth of Real’s dimensionless bench should serve a better service in a more prolonged tournament. And this is obviously Primera.
Against that backdrop Liverpool may look almost invincible, but let’s not forget one small detail. Yes, the Reds are enjoying a huge lead in the Premier League, but it has been earned through a lot of hard-fought victories. On top of that, Jurgen Klopp deployed only a very small group of footballers – that’s why the German is behaving so strangely recently almost demonstratively neglecting by two domestic cups. In other words, Liverpool invested a lot of energy in their first championship since 1990 – and it’s hard to predict now how it affect the chances of Klopp’s team in the other major tournament when everything will be started from scratch. On top of that, in the first playoff round the Reds will face Atletico – one of the toughest possible opponents for them. Diego Simeone’s pesky side – unlike a lot of English teams – could match Liverpool’s stamina and intensity – and this statistic illustrates it very well. The Spanish club could also take away the reigning European champions from their trademark fast attacking play by placing four defensive-minded central midfielders. And it would be pretty difficult for Klopp’s team (which isn’t particularly good when the tempo of the game is slow) to unlock this kind of defense. There is little doubt that Liverpool are stronger than Atletico on a long distance, but in two games everything is possible and the chances in this particular case are almost 50 on 50.
Since 2015 when Lionel Messi and company won the Champions League for the last time to date Barcelona always were among the narrow circle of best clubs in Europe, but in a way became a victim of the regulation. The group of extremely skillful veteran players year after year suffered in those situations when two games of high intensity and magnitude were placed in a space of six days with a little time to recover and recuperate the energy. It would be hard to break this trend now when the team isn’t functioning as well as usual in the daily basis. In order to Barcelona’s footballers lift the prestigious trophy again several factors should coincide. Luis Suarez must recover as quickly as possible (without the Uruguayan who is his ideal attacking partner and draws a lot of attention from defense Messi’s goalscoring record is significantly dropped), the new and inexperience coach on this level Kike Setien must do everything right – plus the schedule should favours to the Blaugrana aging stars by giving them two additional days off in April and May in the decisive playoff rounds. Is this possible? Yes, but rather unlikely.
And in the end a couple of words about those clubs which are also highly rated among the bookmakers. Bayern Munich possesses a pretty solid team as ever – and it’s quite easy to picture the German champion in the semifinal of the major continental tournament. But winning the Champions League is a completely different thing –and it’s not just Hansi Flick’s coaching inexperience. In reality the problem is much deeper – despite the abundance of good and very good players Bayern are definitely lacking genuine stars. Manuel Neuer and Robert Lewandowski are confidently doing their job on a long distance run, but how often they performed on a really high level in the decisive moments on the international stage in the last few years? Meanwhile, the closer the Champions League to the finish the more important are individual skills – and that’s why the perennial Bundesliga champion which in the space of 3-4 seasons lost a lot of key players and didn’t replace them properly didn’t beat the other legitimate top teams in Europe in a knock-out phase since 2016.
There is no such problem for PSG. In the form of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar the Parisians have two of arguably the five best players on the planet although it’s hard to not admit that the careless and laid-back Brazilian completely forgot how to stay healthy in the most important months of a season. In addition to the individual skills the French champions have a well-structured and intelligent passing game easily surpassing Real Madrid in the group. But there is something which prevents from viewing Thomas Tuchel’s team as a true favourite. It’s a mental fragility which hindered PSG so much in the previous campaigns – even in the 100 per cent advantageous situations. This graphic reminds about it very well – and for that reason it’s hard to bet on the French club until this weakness would be removed.
As for the chances of Juventus, they are certainly not higher. Transition from a typical Italian football style to a sophisticated and elegant combinational game isn’t going smoothly – in his previous teams Maurizio Sarri used to rely on a strong and creative midfield, but currently it’s a main weak point of the Scudetto holders. An attempt to replace veterans Sami Khedira and Blaise Matuidi by younger Adrien Rabiot and Rodrigo Bentancur has failed. Winning in agility and resilience Juventus lost a lot in terms of decision-making . Some other tactical modifications (see the graphic) didn’t pay dividends either, so Sarri still need to figure out how to solve the problem. Moreover, in Cristiano Ronaldo (even if his goals per game ratio remains astonishing at the age of 35) and Gonzalo Higuain the Italian champions have one of the oldest (if not the oldest) attacking duos on a high level – and Paulo Dybala with his notorious lack of work-rate only exacerbate their shortcomings. With attack which isn’t mobile enough and midfield which isn’t able to fully compensate it Juve, indeed, can win the Champions League, but it would be a tall order.
One thing is for certain. In the end will win the one who camouflage his weaknesses in the best possible way. Or the one who reinvented himself better than the others. Basically, it’s the same thing.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAfdJ6q-lo4&feature=youtu.be
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[OC] The Fallacy of the Clean Sheet: Why One of the Oldest Statistics is Fundamentally Flawed (and Why it’s Still Used Today)

Introduction

The 2018/2019 season saw Liverpool’s Alisson win the Premier League Golden Glove award. This award is given to the goalkeeper with the most clean sheets at the end of the season. The question I (and a lot of fans) have is why are clean sheets used to determine who the best goalkeeper is in the Premier League? With this piece, I aim to break down exactly what clean sheets are measuring and how effective they are at assessing performance. I also want to assess their applications in other aspects outside of the game.

History



The origin of the stat can’t be traced back to one person, but was generally conceived by reporters in the 1930s. If a team didn’t give up a goal, then the sheet of paper that detailed goals conceded would remain blank, or “clean”. It’s innocuous and perhaps even a bit cute, but I don’t think the reporters would have considered just how widely used the statistic would become. The first Golden Glove award was given in the World Cup of 1994 in the USA. The award was given to Michel Preud’homme of the Belgian National Team. The first time the Golden Glove was given in the Premier League to was to Petr Cech, who had 24 clean sheets in the 04/05 season. It’s still the most of any winner of the award. The award is given to “the best goalkeeper of the year”. But I have major issues with that statement, specifically in how performance is assessed.

A “Blanket Stat”



Clean sheets are what I like to call a “blanket stat”. Blanket stats essentially try to assess the performance of one player over an entire game without factoring in elements outside of the player’s control. Whether or not a goalkeeper keeps a clean sheet is certainly not entirely on the goalkeeper. Goalkeepers face not only a different quantity of shots every game, but they face a different quality of shots. Penalties are sometimes at no fault of the keeper, yet the indiscriminate nature of the stat blankets over this (hence the name).

Clean sheets are unable to measure the extremes of goalkeeper performance. Ederson didn’t have to face a single shot, much less on target, in Man City’s match against Bournemouth on March 2nd. He got a clean sheet for the match. And yet, Artur Boruc and Rui Patrício didn’t get clean sheets in Bournemouth’s match against Wolverhampton just a week earlier, with the keepers only conceding penalties. Neither keeper was the cause of the penalties either. They didn’t put a foot wrong, and yet they were determined to have a worse performance than Ederson did against Bournemouth by just looking at clean sheets.

Are these examples cherry-picked? Of course they are. That’s the point. A good statistic should be able to assess the extremes of the aspect of a performance, not cover over the performance all together.

Failure at the Player Level



Let’s do a bit of a case study with two keepers, the leader in clean sheets, Liverpool’s Alisson, and the leader in saves, West Ham's Lukasz Fabianski. The stats by themselves don’t exactly tell us much, but if the Golden Glove award is anything to go by, then Alisson (21) performed three times better than Fabianski (7). By the definition of the award, which only takes into account clean sheets, this is how it should work. But breaking down a lot of the different stats each player has, the picture gets a bit blurrier.

First of all, there’s the obvious quality gap between Liverpool and West Ham. It’s not necessarily Alisson’s fault he faces a significantly lower number of shots than Fabianski faces. But in terms of pure-shot stopping, xG can aid in the analysis. Looking at xG Faced, which only accounts for shots that are either scored or saved, and total xG against, which accumulates every shot, we can look at their respective performances over the year.


Using only the last two stats, there would seem to be no comparison between the two keepers.

Fabianski faces more difficult shots and does a solid job in saving them as well. Alisson doesn’t stack up too poorly either. For the low quantity of shots he’s facing, he’s still doing a good job. His rates are similar to Fabianski (even exceeding him in save percentage). But he still was facing lower quality shots than Fabianski, who almost doubled Alisson in saves total.

Now I am of course not saying that Fabianski is the better keeper nor am I suggesting he had a better season. Because again, these are only taking into account shot-stopping qualities, and Alisson’s impact goes beyond just that. But he was not three times better than Fabianski this season. I’d struggle to see a top flight keeper who was three times better in every statistical category compared to a goalkeeper of similar minutes. But that’s what destroys the credibility of clean sheets in terms of assessing goalkeepers. The way it can blanket over a goalkeeper’s true performance for the sake of having a simple number.

Failure at the Team Level



In fact, it’s not just at the player level where clean sheets fail to assess performance, it’s at the team level. It’s a stat that doesn’t address any of the variety of factors that go into defensive performance. And remember, this is a stat which is based off of the most crucial defensive aspect: not conceding goals. Theoretically, clean sheets would be either perfectly tied down to team performance, or conversely, would showcase team’s good defenses compared to their poor offenses. Taking a look at the past five seasons and comparing each team’s points and clean sheets, we find the answer to be a lot messier.


https://preview.redd.it/1phy5b0yeo731.png?width=1366&format=png&auto=webp&s=5f77d08509291ff2bbd3cdbdc72a1a3f35e87d58

The line of best fit (or regression line, whichever you prefer) does tend to trend positively. In theory, every clean sheet would be worth about 3.9 points. But with an r-squared value of around .63, we can see that’s not the case. We essentially want the r-squared value to be closer to 1, and with a decently sized data set, this isn’t a good enough value. Even without the r-squared value, it’s easy to see that the difference in points across the teams with the same number of clean sheets is large.

So what could be concluded from this? Frankly, not a lot. It does show that there is at least some influence with better teams having more clean sheets, but not enough to make it a consistent definer of defensive performance. You’ll see teams like West Brom in the 14/15 season who had 16 clean sheets but only mustered 44 points. On the flip side, Chelsea had 93 points and won the title in 16/17 with the same number of clean sheets. There’s just too much noise with this statistic to be able to get much out of it at the team level.

Why Does it Still Have Weight?



Now that I’ve assessed the value (or lack their of) clean sheets have, why do they still hold some value? There are a few applications I see in the stat, but not at the performance assessment level.

Betting

The most compelling reason I see for the value of the stat is its use in sports betting. I’ve already discussed how a goalkeeper can be not at fault for losing a clean sheet. But it’s also incredibly uncertain wether a team can keep a clean sheet during a match. Betting and gambling companies thrive on uncertainty. They can model out exactly what odds they should give for a team to keep a clean sheet in order to maximize profits. Looking through posts on the betting odds of a team to keep a clean sheet, it is possible to see just how good the betting sites are over a season.


Teams rarely exceeded a 60% chance of getting a clean sheet, so the last row's percent is close to the average of those games.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to betting on a single game. Over a season, things tend to even out, but one game is a bit trickier. You may wind up with Liverpool conceding twice to Burnley with a 54% chance of holding a clean sheet or Southampton holding Chelsea scoreless with a 9% chance. Clean sheets are a stat simple enough for fans to make poor assumptions and bets while also making loads of money for betting companies.

Fantasy

In terms of assessing a player’s defensive performance, there are not a lot of phenomenal statistics that are easily accessible to the public. Fantasy Premier League can account for this by having clean sheets being a massive factor in defensive selection. Again, it’s a factor of uncertainty that makes fantasy sports so engaging. When selecting a player based on their potential to get a clean sheet, it’s essentially the same as gambling, but with no money involved.

The biggest issue with both of these things is equating the clean sheet to a good defensive performance. If you had Ederson picked as your goalkeeper the week against Bournemouth where he wasn’t called into action, you just see the added points to your team. The illusory effect of clean sheets is only bolstered by this reinforcement.

Perception

But a perhaps even harsher view on the subject is the stat’s simplicity and our tendency to be potentially biased. Looking at clean sheets at the end of the season should theoretically show who performs the best defensively, and I’ve already showed that it’s rarely the case. But why is its perception as a solid stat there in the first place? I’ve already shown clean sheet trend amongst clubs and point values, but to who have the Golden Gloves actually gone too? Or more importantly, how have their teams performed?


https://preview.redd.it/vpvf6cemfo731.png?width=1366&format=png&auto=webp&s=fc35b89b2a03823029447f1ec592d7fa40003203

Not a single winner outside of the top four. And that’s the hardest part to shake. All of the keepers who have won the award are big names that play for big teams. You wouldn’t call Petr Cech, David de Gea, or Pepe Reina bad goalkeepers. But it plays into the mindset of, “Oh, they’re a good goalkeeper, they deserve the award.” It’s more difficult than that. Or at least, it should be. The players who are in contention are always the goalkeepers for the best teams. Are they better goalkeepers than goalkeepers for lesser teams? Perhaps, but the award is looking at a seasonal performance, not talent.

Conclusion



A big argument against this whole piece is that clean sheets are harmless. No team in their right mind is scouting for goalkeepers using only clean sheets. I imagine many fans also hold a very similar opinion that I do on the statistic, so why even bother? It’s important that these thoughts remain in our head, on just what is influencing us when we think about these numbers. Being aware of the issue is the important factor at play here, and there are some who aren’t fully aware of what clean sheets are actually telling us. Hopefully, this sort of awareness becomes our mindset. At the very least, we shouldn’t be choosing the best performing goalkeeper solely on clean sheets. It’s important that we move towards using a variety of metric to determine both defensive and goalkeeper performances, instead on relying on the uncertainty of an ancient, flawed statistic.
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Week 15 Matchup Strategy Guide - Part 1 (DFAroto)

PART 1 of 3

Part 2 Right Here: https://dfaroto.com/nfl/week-15-matchup-strategy-guide-part-2

Part 3 Right Here: https://dfaroto.com/nfl/week-15-matchup-strategy-guide-part-3

GLOSSARY

DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average): calculates a team's success based on the down-and-distance of each play during the season, then calculates how much more or less successful each team is compared to the league average.
DVOA Pass/Run Defense Rank: Team’s NFL rank in DVOA pass or run defense so far this season. #1 means best DEF against the pass/run, #32 means worst DEF against the pass/run.
Weighted DEFENSE: is adjusted so that earlier games in the season become gradually less important. It better reflects how the team was playing at the end of the season.
ATS = Against the spread
DVOA from https://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/teamdef/2019

New York Jets at Baltimore Ravens (-14.5)

Jets ATS: 5-8-0 Ravens ATS: 7-6-0
Projected Team Totals: Jets 15.25 Ravens 29.75

Jets

Opp (BAL) Pass DVOA: #3
Opp (BAL) Run DVOA: #21
Opp (BAL) Weighted DEF: #4
Injuries to Watch DEF (BAL): LB Chris Board (OUT) S Anthony Levin (Q) DE Jihad Ward (Q)
Injuries to Watch OFF (NYJ): OL Chuma Edoga (OUT) TE Ryan Griffin (OUT) RB Bilal Powell (OUT) WR Demaryius Thomas (D) OL Kelvin Beachum (Q) RB Ty Montgomery (Q)
Key WCB matchups: None
Relevant Target Share %’s (Last 6 Weeks): Jamison Crowder (20%) Robby Anderson (17%) Le’Veon Bell (14%) Demaryius Thomas (14%) Ryan Griffin (12%)
RB Snap %/Touches/Targets Week 14: Bilal Powell (79%, 21, 3) Ty Montgomery (32%, 12, 3)
QB/WTE Breakdown
Fresh off a comeback win against the Dolphins last week, Sam Darnold (downgrade) and the Jets head into TNF against likely the best team in football. It won’t be an easy matchup for Darnold, who has cooled off a bit after a torrid three game stretch Weeks 10-12. The Ravens have given up the second fewest FPPG to QBs this season, and have the 3rd best pass DVOA. Considering the low projected point total for the Jets, Darnold is not a 1QB option, and should be viewed as a risky QB2 option against one of the better secondaries in the league. He has a tough Week 16 matchup against a stingy Pittsburgh defense as well, so Darnold doesn’t need to be owned in most leagues down the home stretch.
The matchup for the Jets’ wide receivers is not quite as challenging, as the Ravens have given up the 15th fewest FPPG to WRs. That being said, since the addition of CB Marcus Peters, this has been an elite unit. Robby Anderson has put up a quality stretch the past few weeks, albeit against inferior competition, and is deserving of consideration in many lineups. He’ll face tough boundary matchups, but he’s almost too hot to bench right now. Consider him a boom-or-bust WR3, with a slight upgrade in standard formats due to his big play ability, and only bench him if you have comfortable alternative options. Jamison Crowder (downgrade) has been a disappointment after seemingly cementing himself as a PPR stud, failing to get over 30 yards any of the past 3 weeks. He’ll likely draw stud CB Marlon Humphrey in coverage, which is a tough matchup, and is too risky to start this week outside of deep formats. Consider him a WR4 at this point. Demaryius Thomas is banged up and likely to sit this week, and TE Ryan Griffin has been placed on IR.
RB Breakdown
It appears that Le’Veon Bell (volume upgrade) will return from his short stint as a professional bowler, and will resume his status as a workhorse back for the Jets. He’s been cleared by the medical staff and is good to go, and both of his backups are nursing injuries. That means that Bell should immediately resume his heavy workload, the question is just how effective he can be in a tough matchup. The Ravens have given up the 4th fewest FPPG to RBs on the season, despite a below average rush DVOA. Consider Bell a usage-based RB2, with an upgrade in PPR leagues, who should likely be in all lineups simply because his volume is projected to be so high. He probably won’t win you your week, but has a high enough floor to ensure he doesn’t lose it for you.

Ravens

Opp (NYJ) Pass DVOA: #22
Opp (NYJ) Run DVOA: #2
Opp (NYJ) Weighted DEF: #14
Injuries to Watch DEF (NYJ): CB Brian Pooler (OUT) S Jamal Adams (D) CB Arthur Maulet (D) DL Quinnen Williams (D) DL Henry Anderson (Q) S Matthias Farley (Q) DL Steve McLendon (Q) DL Nathan Shepherd (Q)
Injuries to Watch OFF (BAL): OT Ronnie Stanley (D) TE Mark Andrews (Q) QB Lamar Jackson (Q)
Key WCB matchups: None
Relevant Target Share %’s (Last 6 Weeks): Mark Andrews (19%) Marquise Brown (17%) Nick Boyle (13%) Willie Snead (13%) Hayden Hurst (10%) Seth Roberts (10%) Mark Ingram (9%)
RB Snap %/Touches/Targets Week 14: Mark Ingram (55%, 18, 3) Gus Edwards (33%, 4, 0) Justice Hill (10%, 3, 0)
QB/WTE Breakdown
The Ravens enter Week 15 as huge home favorites against the Jets, and with their quarterback expected to play through injury should be able to handle their business. Lamar Jackson (auto-start) has labored through a quad injury this week in practice, but is tentatively expected to suit up in a plus matchup against a depleted Jets’ secondary. New York has been middle of the pack in FPPG allowed to QBs this year, but are on a downward trend as a defense overall. Jackson has shown that he can win in a myriad of ways, with his legs and his arm, and owners should continue to ride him this week unless reports come out that his quad injury will limit him severely on Thursday night. He’s an elite QB1 every time he suits up, and that will be the case again on TNF.
There simply isn’t much volume to go around in this passing game. Mark Andrews has been a consistent force as a TE1 this season, but is banged up heading into Week 15. It appears likely he will suit up, but monitor injury reports closely leading up to kickoff. The Jets have given up the second fewest FPPG to TEs this year, so the matchup is a bit riskier than would be expected. Considering his injury status, he should be downgraded to mid-range TE1, but if he’s active he should likely be in your lineup. After Andrews, the only fantasy relevant pass-catcher in this offense is Marquise Brown (upgrade). Brown hasn’t been reliable this season, and managed to finish with negative receiving yards last week. But... the Jets have given up the 10th most FPPG to WRs, and have allowed more than 80 yards per game to opposing #1 WRs, making this a potentially exploitable matchup (Football Outsiders). With Andrews likely limited, or perhaps out altogether, consider Brown a decent WR3 option, just know his floor is extremely low. There are no other names to monitor as streaming options in this low-volume pass game.
RB Breakdown
The backfield split in Baltimore has remained quite consistent throughout the season, with Mark Ingram (upgrade game-script) handling a slight majority of the snaps and touches while ceding some to his two backups to keep him healthy. He struggled in a good spot against Buffalo last week, but that was more an indication of the games overall defensive conditions than any particular issue with Ingram. Consider him a solid RB1 this week based on the Ravens position as home favorites. The Jets have given up the 10th fewest FPPG to RBs, but Ingram contributes in the run and the pass game, and generally gets a high percentage of the red-zone opportunities as well. Gus Edwards and Justice Hill aren’t fantasy relevant, although Edwards should be owned as the direct handcuff for Ingram.
Score Prediction: Ravens 30, Jets 13

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3.5) at Detroit Lions

Buccaneers ATS: 4-8-1 Lions ATS: 5-8-0
Projected Team Totals: Buccaneers 25.5 Lions 22

Buccaneers

Opp (DET) Pass DVOA: #25
Opp (DET) Run DVOA: #18
Opp (DET) Weighted DEF: #27
Injuries to Watch DEF (DET): DE Austin Bryant (Q) LB Jarrad Davis (Q) DL Da’Shawn Hand (OUT-IR) LB Christian Jones (Q) A’Shawn Robinson (Q)
Injuries to Watch OFF (TB): WR Mike Evans (OUT) QB Jameis Winston (P)
Key WCB matchups: Chris Godwin vs. Darius Slay (Rotoworld)
Relevant Target Share %’s (Last 6 Weeks): Chris Godwin (20%) Mike Evans (20%) Cameron Brate (12%) Breshad Perriman (11%) O.J. Howard (10%) Ronald Jones (9%)
RB Snap %/Touches/Targets Week 14: Peyton Barber (38%, 15, 5) Ronald Jones (35%, 15, 5) Dare Ogunbowale (29%, 5, 5)

QB/WTE Breakdown

Despite getting the win in an exciting shootout at home against Indy, the Bucs have been eliminated from playoff contention. Jameis Winston’s (upgrade) exciting season continued, as he rolled up 456-yards passing, 5 touchdowns (4 passing, 1 rushing), and of course, 3 interceptions. He’s on track to become the first player in NFL history to throw 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in the same season. From a fantasy and game watching perspective, it really doesn’t get much better than that. With Winston under center, neither his team, nor the other team, is ever out of the game. On tap is a matchup against a fading Lions team, who have been abysmal on defense of late, they rank just 27th in Weighted DEF DVOA - ceding 20.5 FPPG to QBs and 24.4 to RBs. Continue to fire up Winston as a solid QB1.
Mike Evans (hamstring) has been ruled out for the rest of the season, pulling a hamstring just as he was crossing the goal line on a 61-yard touchdown scamper. Evan’s absence elevates 3rd-year breakout Chris Godwin (upgrade) even higher into the WR1 realms. Highly respected CB Darius Slay consistently covers the slot (Rotoworld), unlike most other No. 1 CBs who tend to stay outside; meaning Godwin should see plenty of Slay, but the matchup isn’t imposing. Slay has been consistently exploited by wideouts given double-digit targets (Rotoworld). Additionally, Slay has been far from elite this season, ranking as PFF’s No. 95 CB. Fire up Godwin as a top-3 option this week. Both Justin Watson (5-59-1 in Week 14) and Breshad Perriman (3-70-1 in Week 14) found the end zone in Bucs win over the Colts last week, and both make intriguing streamer options in a plus matchup against the Lions. However, it’s impossible to know which will receive the volume, making both feast-or-famine WRs. Proceed at your own risk, but both carry matchup winning upside - DET cedes the 2nd most fantasy points to No. 2 WRs (Rotoworld). Sans Evans, Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard (stash) may see an increase in volume. The edge goes to Howard, but it’s still a risky proposition. It’s preferred to stash not start Howard, as a juicy Week 16 matchup against HOU (8.2 FPPG to TEs) is on deck.
RB Breakdown
The rollercoaster ride that is the Bucs backfield continued last week, with Ronald Jones and Peyton Barber seeing identical touches. DET is a great matchup for opposing backfields, hemorrhaging 23.8 FPPG to RBs. However, given that TB is a passing team, and that touches seem to be split right down the middle, it’s impossible to recommend either running back. Fade if possible. If that’s not an option, Jones is the preferred play, but it’s a coin flip.

Lions

Opp (TB) Pass DVOA: #19
Opp (TB) Run DVOA: #1
Opp (TB) Weighted DEF: #11
Injuries to Watch DEF (TB): OLB Anthony Nelson (Q) OLB Jason Pierre-Paul (Q)
Injuries to Watch OFF (DET): WR Marvin Jones (OUT-IR) QB Matt Stafford (D) RB Bo Scarbrough (Q) G Joe Dahl (Q) G Rick Wagner (Q)
Key WCB matchups: None
Relevant Target Share %’s (Last 6 Weeks): Marvin Jones (20%) Kenny Golladay (17%) Danny Amendola (17%) T.J. Hockenson (15%) J.D. McKissic (11%)
RB Snap %/Touches/Targets Week 14: Bo Scarbrough (48%, 20, 3) Ty Johnson (30%, 3, 1) J.D. McKissic (23%, 5, 4)
QB/WTE Breakdown
The Lions miserable season rolled on with a loss in MIN. David Blough (don’t) has been a passable stopgap in the absence of Matt Stafford and Jeff Driskel, but you aren’t starting him in any fantasy format. Stafford hasn’t been placed on IR for whatever reason, but it’s unlikely we see him play again in 2019 considering Detroit's place in the standings.
Marvin Jones (ankle) has been lost for the season, meaning Chris Lacy will likely replace him (Rotoworld). Lacy has played just 11 snaps this season and doesn’t have a target, he’s not a fantasy option. Kenny Golladay (upgrade) has 216-yards and two touchdowns in two games with David Blough at the controls. The matchup couldn’t be better, TB may have the worst secondary in the NFL. Danny Amendola (upgrade PPR) has received 8 targets in two games with Blough, but has failed to do anything meaningful with them. He’s a WR3 for the anemic DET offense. TB cedes 31.4 FPPG to opposing WRs, worst in the NFL. Logan Thomas and Jesse James are splitting snaps right down the middle, rendering both useless for fantasy.
RB Breakdown
Before exiting with a rib injury late in the 4th quarter, Bo Scarbrough grinded for 65-yards on 19 carries, producing one catch for an additional five-yards. He remains questionable for Sunday, but isn’t a great option anyway in a tough matchup - TB boasts the No. 1 Run DVOA and cedes just 11.3 FPPG to RBs. Consider him a volume-based flex option if he goes. If he doesn’t, neither J.D. McKissic or Ty Johnson should be considered viable fantasy options. Kerryon Johnson returned to practice Wednesday, and is eligible to return for Week 16 if activated. It’s worth checking your wire to see if he’s available, he could be important for Fantasy Championship week - although a Week 16 matchup against DEN isn’t amazing.
Score Prediction: Buccaneers 30, Lions 20

Philadelphia Eagles (-4.5) at Washington Redskins

Eagles ATS: 4-9-0 Redskins ATS: 6-7-0
Projected Team Totals: Eagles 22.25 Redskins 17.75

Eagles

Opp (WAS) Pass DVOA: #18
Opp (WAS) Run DVOA: #24
Opp (WAS) Weighted DEF: #19
Injuries to Watch DEF (WAS): DE Ryan Kerrigan (OUT) CB Quinton Dunbar (Q) LB Ryan Anderson (Q) CB Fabian Moreau (Q)
Injuries to Watch OFF (PHI): WR Alshon Jeffery (OUT-IR) WR Nelson Agholor (Q) RT Lane Johnson (Q) RB Jordan Howard (Q)
Key WCB matchups: None
Relevant Target Share %’s (Last 6 Weeks): Zach Ertz (25%) Alshon Jeffery (19%) Nelson Agholor (18%) Dallas Goedert (15%) Miles Sanders (10%) J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (6%)
RB Snap %/Touches/Targets Week 14: Miles Sanders (56%, 19, 5) Boston Scott (44%, 16, 6) Jay Ajayi (6%, 2, 1)
QB/WTE Breakdown
At this point, neither the Eagles or the Cowboys look like they deserve a playoff spot, but the winner of the NFC East will get in. The battle for that title takes place in Week 16. PHI managed to rally late on MNF against an increasingly hapless New York Giants team. Luckily for the Eagles, after a hot start in the first half, Eli Manning turned back into a pumpkin. Carson Wentz (upgrade) churned out a back-end QB1 start in the comeback, but PHI looked completely inept until their back was against the wall. Regardless of inconsistency, Wentz has managed to make the most against soft secondaries, and WAS definitely qualifies as that - ceding 18.3 FPPG to QBs and 21.7 to WRs. Consider him a back-end QB1.
Alshon Jeffery (foot, IR) has been diagnosed with a Lisfranc fracture and will miss the remainder of the season. It’s close to a worst-case scenario for the aging receiver who has dealt with a myriad of injuries throughout his career. Already running on fumes, Jeffery faces a long road to recovery. Nelson Agholor is also banged up, missing Week 12 and Week 14. It’s likely he sits again this week, meaning the passing game will run through Zach Ertz (upgrade), Dallas Goedert (upgrade), and to a lesser extent, rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Ertz and Goedert sit firmly in the TE1 ranks, as both should see an increase in volume sans Jeffery. Whiteside and the other passing options aren’t viable options, don’t attempt to get cute.
RB Breakdown
It was Boston Scott rolling up yards last week, not Miles Sanders. Although, that can be attributed to Sanders dealing with cramps at times. Either way, it’s possible that Jordan Howard makes his return this week. Keep an eye on his availability, as it should render Scott back to waiver fodder. The matchup is good, WAS cedes 20.3 FPPG to RBs. Consider Sanders a solid RB2, while Howard will be a solid flex if he is able to suit up. If he doesn’t, Scott has some upside as a flex option, albeit a risky one.

Redskins

Opp (PHI) Pass DVOA: #16
Opp (PHI) Run DVOA: #8
Opp (PHI) Weighted DEF: #12
Injuries to Watch DEF (PHI): DE Derek Barnett (Q) CB Jalen Mills (Q) LB Kamu Grugier-Hill (P)
Injuries to Watch OFF (WAS): RB Derrius Guice (OUT-IR) OT Morgan Moses (Q) OT Donald Penn (Q) WR Trey Quinn (Q) WR Paul Richardson (Q) OG Brandon Scherff (Q)
Key WCB matchups: None
Relevant Target Share %’s (Last 6 Weeks): Terry McLaurin (24%) Chris Thompson (19%) Kelvin Harmon (17%) Steven Sims (13%) Paul Richardson (13%)
RB Snap %/Touches/Targets Week 14: Adrian Peterson (43%, 20, 0) Chris Thompson (40%, 7, 8) Derrius Guice (14%, 5, 0) Wendall Smallwood (3%, 2, 0)
QB/WTE Breakdown
The Redskins have been playing better of late, winning two of the last three, and playing competitively against a much better Green Bay team this week. The wins can be chalked up to playing slumping teams in DET and CAR, and this offense is still not moving the ball. Dwayne Haskins (don’t) produced another sub-par performance against GB, throwing for his usual 170-yards with a touchdown and an interception. He’s not good, and the matchup isn’t good, he’s not a fantasy option.
The only piece of the passing game worthy of consideration is Terry McLaurin (upgrade). The PHI secondary has been consistently roasted this year by receivers with elite speed, and ‘Scary Terry’ certainly fits that mold. Still, the issue isn’t McLaurin’s talent, it’s whether or not Haskins can deliver a catchable ball. That remains to be seen, so Terry is no more than a boom-or-bust WR3. Don’t consider the other WAS passing game options.
RB Breakdown
It’s safe to wonder why the Redskins decided to bring back Derrius Guice (knee, IR) in a lost season. But at this point, the shortcomings of the Redskins as an organization are well documented, and no blunder made should be considered surprising. With Guice out of the picture, Adrian Peterson becomes a serviceable volume based RB3. The matchup is awful - PHI boasts a top-10 Run DVOA and only cedes 15.2 FPPG to RBs. Don’t expect much from AP. Chris Thompson (upgrade PPR) looked healthy, and should resume his PPR-dynamo ways. He caught 7 passes for 43-yards last week, and assuming he stays on the field, that should be around his floor.
Score Prediction: Eagles 20, Redskins 17

Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers (-4.5)

Bears ATS: 4-9-0 Packers ATS: 8-5-0
Projected Team Totals: Bears 18.25 Packers 22.75

Bears

Opp (GB) Pass DVOA: #17
Opp (GB) Run DVOA: #26
Opp (GB) Weighted DEF: #24
Injuries to Watch DEF (GB): CB Kevin King (Q)
Injuries to Watch OFF (CHI): TE Ben Braunecker (Q) WR Taylor Gabriel (D) OT Bobby Massie (Q)
Key WCB matchups: None
Relevant Target Share %’s (Last 6 Weeks): Allen Robinson (25%) Anthony Miller (20%) Taylor Gabriel (20%) Tarik Cohen (17%) Javon Wims (8%)
RB Snap %/Touches/Targets Week 14: David Montgomery (64%, 20, 1) Tarik Cohen (47%, 9, 6) Ryan Nall (1%, 0, 0)
QB/WTE Breakdown
You have to think that Mitchell Trubisky (downgrade) has enjoyed proving his doubters wrong during his recent three game blow-up that has coincided with a three game win streak. Last week, Trubisky surprised almost all fantasy enthusiasts (us included) by going off for over 30 points against a previously solid Cowboys’ pass defense. This week things get a bit tougher, as the Packers have given up the 6th fewest FPPG to QBs on the season. Still, the current stretch Mitch is on makes him at least worth rostering and in consideration for a starting spot. Consider him a high-end QB2 with a risky floor, but a suddenly quite appealing ceiling. But proceed with caution in chasing last week’s points. The scrambling and rushing ability he demonstrated against DAL is why he was a worthy fantasy option last year.
As Trubisky goes, so does this offense, so it’s no surprise that Allen Robinson (auto-start) has been a quality asset during Trubs recent run of success. He’s scored 4 times in the past 3 games, and is seeing consistent volume as the clear #1 in this pass game. The Packers are a tough matchup - 7th fewest FPPG allowed to WRs - but ARob has been too hot to leave out of lineups at this point. Consider him on the WR1/2 borderline this week. With Taylor Gabriel (concussion) likely out again this week, Anthony Miller (downgrade) should continue to see additional opportunities to produce. He’s averaged over 13 points per game the past three weeks (.5 PPR), and his role has increased as the season has progressed. Despite the tough matchup, he can be viewed as a low-end WR3, but his floor is dangerously low considering his still uncertain role. This has the looks of a week you might want to have him on your bench.
RB Breakdown
Can you trust David Montgomery (upgrade standard) in fantasy playoffs? That’s the question most owners are asking if they somehow made it to playoffs with the talented but unreliable back on their roster. While we can never know for certain, things seem to at least be trending in his favor. The Packers have given up the 6th most FPPG to RBs on the season, and have the 26th ranked rush DVOA. Although the Bears are road underdogs, the improved play of Trubisky at QB is also a plus in terms of potential red zone opportunities. And finally, when Montgomery fumbled last week (which was after he likely should have been ruled down by forward progress) he returned and was still a part of the offense. His floor is lowered by his lack of activity in the passing game, but the matchup this week negates that to some extent. Consider Montgomery an RB2 in most situations; he should have success on the ground but needs a TD to reach his ceiling. Tarik Cohen simply hasn’t gotten the volume to be a trustworthy start, regardless of matchup, so leave him on your bench on or waivers.

Packers

Opp (CHI) Pass DVOA: #7
Opp (CHI) Run DVOA: #11
Opp (CHI) Weighted DEF: #8
Injuries to Watch DEF (CHI): DT Roy Robertson-Harris (Q) LB Danny Trevathan (Q) DT Akiem Hicks (likely to play)
Injuries to Watch OFF (GB): TE Jimmy Graham (Q) WR Geronimo Allison (Q) OL Billy Turner (Q)
Key WCB matchups: None
Relevant Target Share %’s (Last 6 Weeks): Davante Adams (30%) Jamaal Williams (23%) Allen Lazard (11%) Aaron Jones (10%) Jimmy Graham (9%) Geronimo Allison (8%) Marquez Valdes-Scantling (6%)
RB Snap %/Touches/Targets Week 14: Aaron Jones (58%, 22, 7) Jamaal Williams (42%, 7, 1)
QB/WTE Breakdown
The Packers struggled to put the Redskins away last week, and Aaron Rodgers (downgrade) wasn’t able to capitalize on the plus matchup for fantasy owners. Outside of a few blow-up games, the former MVP hasn’t produce the numbers that we are accustomed to this season. Perhaps some of that is due to team conditions, as the defense and running game have stepped up this year, but regardless it has left him outside of the elite QB1 ranks this year. The Bears still have an imposing defense on paper, and have given up the 7th fewest FPPG to QBs on the season. They are similarly stout against both the pass and the run, so it doesn’t necessarily set up as a week for the Packers to pound the run either. Rodgers can be viewed this week as a low-end QB1; if you have an elite alternative with a good matchup it might be worth going another direction. His floor is relatively stable and he should be able to put up a solid final line, but we aren’t anticipating a “boom” week.
The Packers trend towards a run-heavy approach has also hurt the production of their pass-catchers this season. Davante Adams (auto-start) remains an elite WR, but has had some issues with injuries and low volume this year. He’s too good to bench, even in a somewhat tough matchup, but he’s not the same guaranteed 10+ points we were accustomed to in the past. The Bears give up the 9th fewest FPPG to WRs, but that shouldn’t deter you from starting Adams. Consider him a solid WR1 this week, and hope that the Bears continue to have success on offense, forcing the game into a high-scoring pace. No other Packers’ receiver has been able to carve out fantasy relevance, and only Allen Lazard has topped 50 yards in the past few games. Lazard, and the other complementary wide receivers, are not reliable fantasy options in the second week of fantasy playoffs. TE Jimmy Graham (downgrade) has been mostly mediocre this year, and doesn’t offer any upside. Consider him a low-end TE2 that would need his first TD since Week 7 to have any hope of paying off.
RB Breakdown
Is there a more boom-bust player in fantasy right now than Aaron Jones (auto-start)? Coming off two down weeks, he rebounded against the Redskins with over 150 total yards and a TD. This week, he will take aim at a Bears’ defense giving up the 15th most FPPG to RBs, with the 11st best run DVOA. The Packers are home favorites, which works in Jones’ favor, and his ceiling is such that you cannot sit him in a given week or else risk missing out on 25+ points. Consider him a RB1, and just live with the ups and downs that come with riding the young back. His backfield mate Jamaal Williams (downgrade standard) has carved out a solid role in the Packers offense, but doesn’t have nearly the ceiling that Jones does. Last week, he surprisingly had no catches, and produced only 26 total yards with no scores. In a somewhat tough matchup, he’s no more than an RB3/flex in PPR leagues, with a slight downgrade in standard formats. Unless you are extremely thin at RB, he likely can’t be trusted in the second round of the fantasy playoffs.
Score Prediction: Bears 16, Packers 13

New England Patriots (-9.5) at Cincinnati Bengals

Patriots ATS: 7-6-0 Bengals ATS: 5-8-0
Projected Team Totals: Patriots 25 Bengals 15.5

Patriots

Opp (CIN) Pass DVOA: #30
Opp (CIN) Run DVOA: #28
Opp (CIN) Weighted DEF: #28
Injuries to Watch DEF (CIN): DT Geno Atkins (Q) CB Darqueze Dennard (Q) DE Sam Hubbard (Q) DT Renell Wren (Q)
Injuries to Watch OFF (NE): WR Julian Edelman (P) WR Mohamed Sanu Sr. (P) QB Tom Brady (P) WR N’Keal Harry (P) OL Ted Karras (Q)
Key WCB matchups: None
Relevant Target Share %’s (Last 6 Weeks): Julian Edelman (26%) James White (14%) Mohamed Sanu (13%) Jakobi Meyers (12%) Phillip Dorsett (10%)
RB Snap %/Touches/Targets Week 14: James White (61%, 11, 7) Rex Burkhead (27%, 7, 0) Sony Michel (13%, 6, 1) Brandon Bolden (3%, 1, 0)
QB/WTE Breakdown
KC got their revenge against NE last week, winning a playoff-esque game 23-16. Tom Brady (upgrade) hasn’t looked great in recent weeks, but the offensive struggles may be more a reflection of the weapons around him, than Brady himself. On tap is an atrocious Cincinnati squad that is clearly vying for the No. 1 pick in next years draft. The matchup is the only reason to consider Brady a borderline QB1, if you have a better option, it may be prudent to go that direction. Positive game-script may work against Brady, the Patriots defense and run-game can likely win this game without help from the passing game. That being said, CIN surrenders 20.8 FPPG to QBs and 20.7 to WRs.
Don’t get cute in fantasy playoffs, Julian Edleman (upgrade) has been the only serviceable pass catcher in this offense. Mohamed Sanu, N’Keal Harry, Phillip Dorsett, and Jakobi Meyers are too inconsistent to trust. Sanu carries the #revengegame narrative, but he’s a risky proposition due to volume in an otherwise great matchup. Since his monster 14 target game in Week 11, he’s only seen 6 targets combined over the last three weeks. Harry only played two snaps due to injury, and it’s unclear how much healthier he’ll be in just a weeks time. It’s anyone’s guess who sees volume, so all are recommended fades.
RB Breakdown
Similar to the passing game mess, the Patriots backfield has devolved into a 3-man RBBC. Sony Michel (upgrade standard) received his second-lowest touch total last week for the season, carrying just 5 times for 8-yards, adding one catch for an additional yard. He simply hasn’t looked great this season, and can’t be used in the passing game due to his suspect hands. Still, CIN has been absolutely ravaged on the ground this season, giving up a league worst 156-yards rushing per game. If given the volume, this is a matchup Michel should thrive in. Get him active as an RB2. James White (upgrade PPR) is also in play as a flex in the great matchup - CIN surrenders 21.7 FPPG to RBs - there should be enough fantasy points to go around. Rex Burkhead and Brandon Bolden aren’t fantasy options, and exist solely to be a thorn in the side of White and Michel owners.

Bengals

Opp (NE) Pass DVOA: #1
Opp (NE) Run DVOA: #6
Opp (NE) Weighted DEF: #1
Injuries to Watch DEF (NE): LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (Q) DL Bryon Cowart (Q) CB Jason McCourty (Q) DL Danny Shelton (Q)
Injuries to Watch OFF (CIN): WR A.J. Green (D) TE Tyler Eifert (Q) WR John Ross III (Q) WR Auden Tate (OUT-IR)
Key WCB matchups: Tyler Boyd vs. Stephon Gilmore, John Ross vs. Jonathan Jones, Alex Erickson vs. J.C. Jackson (Rotoworld)
Relevant Target Share %’s (Last 6 Weeks): Tyler Boyd (22%) Auden Tate (16%) Alex Erickson (15%) Joe Mixon (9%) Tyler Eifert (9%) C.J. Uzomah (9%)
RB Snap %/Touches/Targets Week 14: Joe Mixon (59%, 26, 4) Giovani Bernard (40%, 6, 3)
QB/WTE Breakdown
The reinstallment of Andy Dalton (downgrade) has made the Bengals competitive, but a matchup against one of the NFL’s premier defenses isn’t the time to chase points, despite the recent resurgence of Cincinnati’s offense. Dalton isn’t a fantasy option this week.
I wouldn’t bet on any of the Bengals passing options this week during fantasy semi-finals. Auden Tate is done for the season, making John Ross an intriguing option next week - CIN plays MIA, Ross should be scooped now in anticipation for that matchup. Tyler Boyd (sit) faces the league's premier CB in Stephon Gilmore, fade him.
RB Breakdown
Due to matchup, Joe Mixon (downgrade) is the only option for CIN that should be considered. The matchup is awful - NE cedes only 11 FPPG to RBs - so fade if possible. His volume should keep him in the RB2 range, but this week projects as a floor game.
Score Prediction: Patriots 27, Bengals 16
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Premier League betting trends: Stattobets' Dave Pilgrim brings us betting tips & stats for goals, cards and corners Football We look at the betting trends for Premier League cards and corners Chelsea get most of their players back from injury and play an Aston Villa side that already had a match. Taking Chelsea at -182 to win seems like a good parlay piece. The same goes for Liverpool, who will be hungry to secure the Premier League title. The Premier League makes its eagerly anticipated return tomorrow, starting with Aston Villa vs Sheffield United, but how will the ‘fanless’ aspect of ‘Project Restart’ translate to betting behaviour? And what about the Bundesliga, the first major football league in Europe to bounce back following the COVID-19 enforced break. Premier League Betting Guide for 7/21/20: Arsenal have won back-to-back games against Liverpool and Manchester City. Will they keep it going against Aston Villa? Read it now on numberFire, your #1 Premier League Betting Action July 20 Wolverhampton vs Crystal Palace. UPDATE 2 P.M. ET MONDAY: At DraftKings Sportsbook, it's all Wolves about an hour before game time.Wolverhampton is a -220

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