Fantasy Football: NFC North

Fantasy Football: NFC North

Green Bay Packers (15-1, 560 Points For, lost in Divisional Playoffs): The Packers looked so sluggish in their playoff loss to the Giants, it's easy to forget just how dominant this offense was in the regular season. Aaron Rodgers has established himself as the best quarterback in the league, and fantasy owners appreciate that he'll run for a handful of yards and touchdowns every year, too. Perhaps a few of those cheapies at the goal will fade away with Cedric Benson in the fold, but make no mistake, Rodgers can pass his way to another MVP award either way. Although Greg Jennings is the de-facto No. 1 receiver here, he didn't even see 100 targets in 2011 - that's how much the Packers spread things around. No one thinks Jordy Nelson can score 15 times again, but his crisp routes and breakaway speed should give him a strong chance at 9-11 spikes. James Jones and Randall Cobb will struggle to get significant looks; Cobb has a big upside but didn't do much this summer. Jermichael Finley would be a star at tight end if he found a way to fix his ongoing drop problem. Look for another division title in Wisconsin, and at least 450 points. Bang the drum all day.

Detroit Lions (10-6, 474 PF, lost in Wild Card Round): Everything broke right for Matthew Stafford as a fantasy play last year: he stayed healthy and the Lions couldn't run the ball or stop anyone else from the scoring. Detroit wound up throwing the ball 66 percent of the time, the highest clip in the league. Head coach Jim Schwartz would like more balance in the offense (as anyone would), but the Lions don't have any special backs between Kevin Smith (ordinary vet), Mikel Leshoure (injury issues, drug suspension) and Jahvid Best (concussion problems, may not play again). Okay then, let Stafford line up in the shotgun and let it rip. Calvin Johnson is an uncoverable freak at receiver and a justifiable fantasy pick in the overall Top 5, and he'll get more help from Titus Young this year (try to snag Young as your fourth or fifth receiver). Tight end Brandon Pettigrew is a solid volume play, but he's not a dominator in the red zone.

Chicago Bears (8-8, 353 PF): The Bears were on the short list of Super Bowl contenders before Jay Cutler busted his thumb in November. A 1-5 crash landing followed, as a nation grimaced at the sight of backup QB Caleb Hanie. The front office did all it could to help Cutler for 2012, adding his old running mate Brandon Marshall in addition to RB Michael Bush and rookie WR Alshon Jeffery. Marshall should be a force between the 20s, but he never had big touchdown counts back in the Denver days with Cutler. He's a strong fantasy play but not a Top 10 wideout. Bush probably can poach 6-8 rushing touchdowns from tailback Matt Forte, but Forte will get his 1500-1800 total yards anyway, even behind a pedestrian offensive line. If you're looking for a safe back in the late-first or early-second round, Forte is a smart play. TE Kellen Davis has a some sleeper value in deeper leagues.

Minnesota Vikings (3-13, 340 PF): It's notable to see 340 points tied to a team that just won three games; the Vikings outscored 13 clubs last year. There's offensive talent here, and second-year starter Christian Ponder might be the most improved quarterback in the league. Percy Harvin is a Top 10 wideout if the migraines leave him alone, and TE Kyle Rudolph has breakout written all over him. No. 2 wideout Jerome Simpson can jump out of the dome, but he's on a drug suspension to open the year. No one knows what to expect from RB Adrian Peterson after his holiday knee blowout last year. He didn't take contact or play in any preseason games. You need a lot of nerve to select AP in the Top 25 - we'll pass on that option, thanks. Backup Toby Gerhart will be underrated in many leagues; he went for 4.9 YPC last year and caught 23 passes (three for touchdowns). Even if Peterson is able to start most of the season, Gerhart might be good enough to see 8-12 touches a week.

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Need to Know: Redskins OT Ty Nsekhe unlikely to go anywhere

Need to Know: Redskins OT Ty Nsekhe unlikely to go anywhere

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, February 20, 17 days before the March 9 start of NFL free agency.  

Timeline

Days until:

—NFL Franchise tag deadline (3/1) 9
—NFL Combine (3/2) 10
—Redskins offseason workouts start (4/17) 56
—NFL Draft (4/27) 66
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 202

More free agency quick hitters

Ty Nsekhe not going anywhere There seems to be some confusion as to Ty Nsekhe’s free agent status. Some websites have him as a restricted free agent. But from what I can tell he will be an exclusive rights free agent. You need to have three accrued seasons to be a RFA. Nsekhe has two seasons from the last two years here but he came to the Redskins without any. He did appear in two games for the Rams in 2012 but he wasn’t on the roster long enough to accrue a season. This means that the Redskins will bring him back, probably on a one-year, minimum salary contract.

More Redskins: NFL Mock Draft 3.0

Thompson, Compton restricted The Redskins third-down back and Mike linebacker are restricted free agents as they each have three accrued seasons in Washington. The Redskins can tender them one-year contracts and then they can go out and solicit offer sheets that Washington would have an opportunity to match. RFA’s rarely end up changing teams so they both likely will be back.

Duke Ihenacho back? He played in 15 games at safety last year, starting 10. His play was competent in may respects but had the most missed tackles in the team, 15, despite being 10th on the team in snaps played. The coaches were reluctant to use him sometimes because he tended to freelance. Ihenacho will be an unrestricted free agent and I haven’t heard much talk about his status. That’s kind of unusual for a guy who started 10 games. If I had to guess I’d say he’s not going to return but that’s just a hunch.

Cousins to tag and sign? Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports said that he believes that Kirk Cousins will get the franchise tag by March 1 and then “I suspect Cousins has a long-term deal with Washington agreed to.” I’m not sure what will happen between March 1 and July 15 that would get the Redskins to make a better offer or that would get the Cousins camp to lower their demands. But July 15 deals do happen so we’ll see. I’ll stick with my belief that if a long-term deal is not done by March 1 it won’t get done at all.

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Fun and games between John Wall and Russell Westbrook during All-Star shove

Fun and games between John Wall and Russell Westbrook during All-Star shove

NEW ORLEANS -- Coming off the bench, Russell Westbrook clearly wanted to get himself another MVP tropy at the NBA All-Star Game -- 26 shots in 20 minutes for 41 points -- but him playing with former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate and his roughouse play with John Wall drew the most attention Sunday.

In the second quarter, Westbrook made a two-hand shove of Wall after a break in the action. Intially, he had a scowl. Then it turned into a bit of a smirk. 

Wall, who was attempting to play defense, didn't take it too seriously. The final score was 192-182 as the West beat the East. 

"There wasn't no trash-talking," Wall said. "I didn't say (anything). If it was real games, I'll get down. That was just fun and games."

Jae Crowder of the Boston Celtics found that out when the poked Wall in the face with his finger during a game in January that led to both players being fined. Wall retaliated there with a quick slap. 

The highlight of the night, however, came when Kevin Durant, who left Westbrook and the Thunder for the Golden State Warriors, threw his former point guard a lob for a dunk. 

When there was a timeout, the DeMarcus Cousins, Draymond Green and Steph Curry led the cheer when the pair went to the bench. 

MORE WIZARDS: Wall expects deadline move to bolster bench