Fantasy Football Need to Know: NFC South

Fantasy Football Need to Know: NFC South

NFC South - What You Need To Know

New Orleans Saints (13-3, 547 Points For, lost in Divisional Playoffs): How much does an elite offense rely on the coaching staff? We'll get a perfect guinea pig to study this year, as the Saints work through a season without mastermind Sean Payton. Given that the club still has quarterback Drew Brees and most of the key skill players, there's no reason to make a radical fantasy adjustment to your New Orleans expectations. But some dropoff from last year is to be expected, especially if the offensive line is slightly compromised (it looks weaker on paper). The Saints love a deep backfield and a rotating backfield, so don't expect too much from any one option. Darren Sproles is a dynamic receiver, but his size requires a modest role. Pierre Thomas is superb from an efficiency standpoint, but the club likes to watch his workload, too. Mark Ingram only managed 3.9 YPC as a rookie, a shockingly-low number given what his teammates managed. Top targets Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston and Lance Moore look like reasonably safe picks; keep in mind Graham is still relatively new to football, playing just one year at the University of Miami. There is no reasonably way for defenses to account for him.
Atlanta Falcons (10-6, 402 PF, lost in Wild Card Playoffs): You have to be careful about what you see and take away from the preseason, but Matt Ryan has been terrific through two games. He might be ready to step up to a Pro Bowl level, a Top 5 at the position level - especially if sophomore Julio Jones turns into the breakout star many are projecting. Roddy White will have to share more with Jones this year, but it also will result in a little less defensive attention, in theory. Both wideouts look like Top 10 options at the position. Michael Turner was moving at a turtle's pace late in 2011, but a Week 17 romp over the give-up Buccaneers protected his stats. He'll probably lose some of his gross output this year, with Jacquizz Rodgers ready to take on a meaty change-of-pace role. Turner should score 8-10 times anyway, but his yardage upside is probably gone for good. Rodgers is a dynamic receiver, a skill Turner has never had. Tony Gonzalez has been steady his entire Atlanta career, but doesn't the aging curve have to kick in at some point? He's 36, entering his 16th season.

Carolina Panthers (6-12, 406 PF): You can say just about anything you want with arbitrary endpoints, so take our Cam Newton stat survey with a grain of salt. That established, it's interesting to note that his YPA dropped from 8.3 to 7.2 in the second half of 2011, and his rushing scores dipped in the final four weeks. Newton's raw ability and rushing chops can't be denied, but will the Panthers want to limit his goal-line collisions at some point? Buzzy sophomores can break your heart. New fullback Mike Tolbert isn't expected to see a lot of carries - the club has Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams for that - but he might steal some goal-line work. Keep in mind Tolbert knew the current Carolina coaching staff back when all were in San Diego; his signing wasn't a big surprise. Steve Smith remains a dynamic playmaker into his mid-30s, but the rest of the Panthers wideouts are suspect. Brandon LaFell has shown deep speed and a knack for big plays, but he needs to be more consistent. Greg Olsen is a talented but somewhat-erratic tight end, but he should see increased snaps and targets now that Jeremy Shockey is gone.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12, 287 PF): A new coach and a new attitude were clearly needed here, as the Bucs quit on Raheem Morris about halfway through 2011. Look at the defensive tapes in the two Atlanta games; the effort level was appalling. Quarterback Josh Freeman lost 20-30 pounds and he's gained a bunch of skill players, so a modest bounce back is to be expected. Rookie RB Doug Martin has an outstanding chances to settle in as the team's starter and three-down option, though LeGarrette Blount has been more focused this summer and is getting positive feedback from new coach Greg Schiano. Vincent Jackson was imported to be the No. 1 wideout, but how many free-agent receivers break out immediately on their new club? Mike Williams needs a strong rebound after a messy second season; his off-field focus was openly questioned last year. Don't bother with TE Dallas Clark, who can't seem to stay healthy.

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Virginia and Idaho really love Ryan Kerrigan, apparently

Virginia and Idaho really love Ryan Kerrigan, apparently

Besides the fact that both have an "i" and an "a" in their names, there's not much in common on the surface between Idaho and Virginia. Thanks to a report from, though, the two states now share another similarity: A passion for Ryan Kerrigan.

Since the 2016 NFL Draft, Kerrigan's jersey tops the list of most popular in both states. Looking at Virginia, at least — where Washington's headquarters and training camp facility are located — that makes sense.

But Idaho? The defender wasn't born there, and he didn't play college football there. Perhaps (and this is a giant perhaps) it's because there are a lot of potatoes in Idaho, and potatoes go in sacks, and Kerrigan enjoys sacks, too. Until further explanation, that's the reasoning. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Other facts revealed in the report: People in Florida are dumb enough to buy a Ryan Tannehill jersey, those who live in Alaska are devout Julio Jones supporters (which is way more perplexing than the Idaho-Kerrigan love affair) and Hawaii should be punished, because the most popular uniform there is Seattle's obnoxious 12th fan jersey.

Here's the full graphic:

(H/T to


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Morning tip: Breaking down how bigs now tasked with being 'playmakers' for Wizards' defense

Morning tip: Breaking down how bigs now tasked with being 'playmakers' for Wizards' defense

ATLANTA -- Don't think there are any differences in the Wizards under Scott Brooks on offense? That would be wrong. Think they're approaching defense the same way? Not even close. Whether or not these changes produce more wins and a playoff berth will be determined soon enough, but the process begins tonight with the bigs -- namely Marcin Gortat or whoever is in the middle -- making all of the defensive calls. 

Last season under Randy Wittman, there was mass confusion. They routinely switched coverages, changed game plans, wouldn't adjust in-game and guards also were making calls to complicate the communication process. The results were busted coverages left and right. Brooks is intent on avoiding that catastrophe so the frontline handles the defensive calls. 

"The guards can't see what's going on. We're closer to the basket. We can see the floor. It's kind of like how K.G. was with Boston, directing the defense from the back," said Markieff Morris, projected to be the starting power forward next to Gortat, in referencing the now-retired Kevin Garnett.

Of course with a new coach, the language changes. Some teams call "blue" when they want to do what's called an "ice" of the side pick-and-roll. In other words, send the ball to the baseline. Under Brooks, the Wizards call that "push." Sending the ball-handler to his weak hand results in a call of "weak." Those details really are minor. 

What Brooks wants is for the Wizards to follow the ball first and foremost. He doesn't want his defenders preoccupied on the weakside of the floor. 

"We want to make sure we load to the ball and get into the paint within the rules," Brooks said. "You only have 2.9 but we want to utilize that. ... We've had a tendency in the past, early in camp, staying next to your man when your man doesn’t have the ball which was not a good thing."

Most teams manipualte the defensive three-seconds-in-the-lane rule to use an extra defender -- usually the center/rim protector at the 2/9 position -- to contain the ball against superior players on the strongside of the floor. It's effectively a zone defense principle but they have to get out of the lane, of course, before a violation is called. That leaves the offensive player on the far side unattended because he's not a major threat from that spot.

"We’re slightly better than we were last year. If we want to win basketball games, everything starts on defense," Gortat said. "We all have this bad flavor from last year. We all know we basically we (expletive) it up, to be honest with you. That’s what we did. You can quote that.

“We've got to be humble, we got to work hard, shut our mouth, don’t talk who we are, who we want to be and how far we’re going to be and stuff like that. Just go out on the court and do it. Just freaking do it. Let our actions speak for us. This is where everything started, having the right schemes from coach Brooks. It made us more comfortable with everything we do. We’re leaving the farthest guy open. We helping each other on the pick-and-rolls. All five of us got to work."

This all requires John Wall and Bradley Beal to work harder on the defensive end. Taking plays off isn't an option, but early on it will be a challenge for Wall who admitted that he has had trouble maintaining that level as he regains his conditioning after missing so much time because of surgeries to both knees.

"The biggest thing is he wants pressure on the ball. Our coverages are a lot simpler than last year. He makes it easy for the defense," said Beal of Brooks' concepts. "It’s really up to the bigs to make the call. The guards got to adjust to that. That’s how it goes. They see the whole defense. They see everything that’s going on behind us so they’re essentially the playmakers on defense."

The Wizards went from being a top 10 scoring defense three years in a row to 21st during a 41-41 season. They can't allow the sort of defensive debacle that took place on the road last year in Denver

"We got to be up into the ball," Morris said. "Honestly we're going ot average a lot of points. We got a lot of guys who can score the basketball. ... We just have to be a defensive-minded team. I'm usaually up into the ball on pick-and-rolls, usually showing, because I'm quicker than the average four. We're going to be different in a good way."