Sports Strength

UPNXT: NFL Wildcard Weekend DFS Value Plays

Guess who’s back? Back again! Even though our UPNXT NFL articles came to an end for the regular season, we decided to come back with some daily fantasy picks for this weekend’s NFL Wildcard playoff games. There’s a total of six games taking place over the course of Saturday and Sunday, so, if you’re an NFL fan or play DFS, you’ll want to stick around for some of our favorite picks on DraftKings or FanDuel.

1. Quarterback
Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens – DraftKings $7,800, FanDuel $9,300
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Jackson enters Sunday’s game against the Titans as our favorite quarterback on DraftKings and FanDuel. This game has an implied total of 54.5 points, with the Ravens as -3 road favorites. Where Jackson really shines in DFS is his ability to rack up yards through the air and on the ground. It can’t be overstated, but quarterbacks with rushing upside are my favorite guys to roster, and Jackson happens to bet he best dual threat quarterback in the NFL. I expect him to surpass 20 fantasy points, with 30 as a real possibility as his ceiling. Tennessee has done a good job shutting Jackson down in previous matchups, but he and the Ravens seem to be hitting their stride at the right time. Roster Lamar Jackson with confidence and consider stacking him with fellow Ravens Marquise Brown or Mark Andrews.

2. Running Back
Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts – DraftKings $7,900, FanDuel $8,800
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What a way to end the season with a bang! Jonathan Taylor capped off a productive rookie year with an outstanding performance against the Jaguars, rushing for 253 yards and two touchdowns. The Colts’ leading rusher faces off against the Bills on Saturday, with the game total set at 51, and Buffalo as -6.5 favorites at home. For the regular season, the Bills have been a league average defense in terms of points allowed to opposing runners, giving up 24.5 fantasy points per game. Taylor has led this backfield in most rushing metrics for most of the year, and I don’t expect that role to change in this spot either. How he performs will likely come down to Indy’s defense, and their ability to slow down Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs. If they can keep the score close and competitive, they can feed their workhorse tailback and keep him involved. We like Taylor as a cheaper alternative to Derrick Henry if you’re looking to save some salary this weekend.

3. Wide Receiver
Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints – DraftKings $6,400, FanDuel $6,800
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Before being placed on IR by the Saints to end his regular season, Michael Thomas was beginning to get his groove back in what has been a down year full of injuries. The total for this game is 47.5 and the Saints are a massive -10 home favorite. He will have a tough matchup against the Chicago Bears this weekend, as they’ve allowed just 33.7 fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts. If quarterback Drew Brees and Thomas can shake off the rust and get back on the same page, I think Thomas is a tremendous value play at under $7,000 on both DFS sites. Both players should be completely healthy and poised to make another deep playoff run.

4. Tight End
Logan Thomas, Washington Football Team – DraftKings $4,900, FanDuel $6,400
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He may not be cheap, but he’s worth it. Other than Terry “F1” McLaurin, Logan Thomas is my favorite receiving option on this Washington Football Team roster. He’ll face a Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense allowing 14 fantasy points per game to tight ends, putting them in the bottom ten in the league at defending the position. This game is implied for 44.5 points, with the Bucs as -8 favorites on the road. This could be one of the games that doesn’t stay close for long, meaning quarterback Alex Smith may have to throw more than he normally would. Often, those passes have been targeted towards McLaurin and Thomas. Unlike other tight ends in the league, Thomas isn’t used as a blocker as much, as they opt to have him running routes as much as possible. I think he’s a good bet to go over ten fantasy points in this matchup.

5. Defense/Special Teams
New Orleans Saints – DraftKings $3,800, FanDuel $4,600
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Anytime I can get an elite defense versus Mitch Trubisky, I get excited. As we know, Trubisky and the Bears offense have had their fair share of struggles this year, and this is a prime spot for us to target him once again. New Orleans allows the fifth fewest fantasy points to the opposition’s signal callers, averaging just 17.4 points per game. Couple that with the fact that they are also the best versus opposing running backs, and you’ve got all the makings of a monster fantasy performance for the Saints defense. I can see them putting the clamps on running back David Montgomery and being up by enough points that the Bears are forced to throw it, which is exactly what we want. The more that a quarterback drops back, the more opportunities there are for our defense to rack up sacks, picks, and forced fumbles. I usually pay down at defense, but in this case, I don’t mind spending more salary for a defense in such a sweet spot.

Sports Strength

Lamar Jackson Is Not As Good As Patrick Mahomes, But He Could Be One Day

The Baltimore Ravens are currently sitting at 6-2, and they are second in the AFC North, behind the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers. Unsurprisingly, the reigning MVP, Lamar Jackson, has been a key figure in Baltimore’s hot start to the season. Jackson, in just his third year, has posted a winning record of 25-5 tying him with Dan Marino for the best start by a quarterback in NFL history.

“It’s pretty cool, I’m up there with a Hall of Famer,” Jackson said via ESPN’s Jamison Hensley. “But you still got to win each and every game. So, it’s all right.”

“I think that’s really something. Wow,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of Jackson tying Marino’s mark. “Lamar will tell you it’s a team effort. I think the team will tell you that you couldn’t win those games without Lamar.”

Jackson’s latest victory this past Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts did not come without adversity. The Ravens trailed the Colts 10-7 at the half and coming into Sunday’s game, Jackson was 0-6 when playing from behind.

However, on Sunday, that would not be the case; Jackson would complete all ten of his passes for 119 yards and add a nine-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Finishing the game with 170 yards passing on 19 passes and added 58 yards on the ground with a touchdown.

Jackson has accumulated 1513 yards on 62.9% of his completions through the first eight games, with 12 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has also rushed for 469 yards and three touchdowns.

Since entering the league, Jackson has been criticized for using his legs to run rather than using his arm. When the pocket starts to collapse, everybody knows that he will take off, including ESPN’s analyst and former Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman Marcus Spears.

“That percentage of them winning is because of Lamar operating as he did from the pocket [on Sunday],” Spears said in September.v” I don’t care what anybody says; every analytic person knows when Lamar Jackson is running the football.”

That’s not to say Spears is not a fan of Jackson’s game, but the main goal is to win a Super Bowl eventually, and for that to happen for the Ravens, according to Spears, Jackson has to evolve as a quarterback.

“I felt good about what Lamar did. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t use his legs; I was never trying to make that point,” Spears said. “For his evolution, for his next phase of the game and when we’re talking about winning a Super Bowl, he’s going to have to operate from the pocket like that, especially if they are in the playoffs.”

Jackson has also drawn comparison to Kansas City Chiefs quarterback and reigning Super Bowl MVP, Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes won the regular season MVP back in 2018, and the following year led the Chiefs to a Super Bowl victory, and Ravens are hoping Jackson can do the same. If Jackson can win the Super Bowl, would he receive the same respect that everyone gives Mahomes? It’s tough to say.

However, NBA analyst Brendan Haywood does not think it will happen.

“Lamar Jackson will not get the same respect as Patrick Mahomes because he is not as good as Patrick Mahomes,” said Haywood on Instagram Live Monday night.

“They can win games with Lamar being a game manager. That is how they have won games this year. If you watch the Ravens play, Lamar ain’t been ballin. Lamar is not in anybody’s MVP conversation. Lamar is not a top seven guy in the NFL, and it is because he has a bunch of games under 200 yards passing. His rushing has gone from 80 yards per game to like 58 per game; his rushing TDs are down from last season. And the thing is the NFL has film on him, and Lamar cannot throw outside. Those on time, back-shoulder throws like Patrick Mahomes. They know that this dude is trying to run the ball or play action and throw the ball in the seams to his tight-ends or Hollywood Brown, and people are covering that.”

Jackson and the Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman need to switch things up to catch these defensive coordinators off guard. And they can start this week when they play the New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football.

Sports Strength

Against The Spread: Sheasby’s Week 3 NFL Best Bets

Back for more, baby. Sunday’s simply cannot come soon enough. I conditioned myself to expect no sports—you know, 2020—and here I am with first-day-of-school excitement day after day. 

Is it Sunday yet?


No, but here are my best bets for the week:

Jets vs. Colts
Colts -11.5
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Next week doesn’t get any easier as the Jets move to IND, who just throttled MINN 28-11, a defense that allowed Dalvin Cook, one of the best RB in the league, to only have 63 yards and forced 3 INT against Kirk Cousins.

What did the Jets offense do last week?

  • Frank Gore ran for 63 yards, averaging 3.0 YPC
  • They were 5/14 on 3rd down

The Jets offense is simply unable to play football. The entire offense is injured (Crowder out with a Hamstring, Perriman sprained ankle, Bell out for 2-4 weeks, Hogan left with a rib injury (but should play)), and they simply cannot move the ball.

  • 30th of 32 yards per play
  • 2020: 29th Offensive Efficiency; 11th in  Defensive Efficiency

Pair that with a Colts defense currently ranked 5th D-eff, 6th against the pass, 11th against the run, and is 1st in opponent Yards Per Play, ahead of both San Francisco and Buffalo, where the Jets failed to score double digits until garbage time in the 4th? Major yikes.

Line is fleeting away from the Jets, that’s for sure: opened at -7, now up to -10.5 w/ 83% of the bets on IND.

While the Jets are 0-2 ATS and historic trends point in their direction here, injuries + lack of talent should be too much for them to stay in it.

Taking the Colts -10.5.

Titans vs. Vikings
Titans -2.5
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Joe Public, how you doing? 78% bets can’t scare me away from this Titans game, as much as my inner contrarian wants it to. Before we dive into why I love the Titans, this week, let’s look at the Vikings:

  • Coming into the season, the Vikings had a LOT of turnover on defense, losing six key veterans. What does that mean exactly? They lost a combined 281 starts, 9 pro bowls, 62.5 sacks, 19 interceptions, and 16 forced fumbles.
  • The Vikings of course made replacements, but even in pre-season, there were murmurs of a defensive letdown, to which Coach Zimmer said there would be growing pains, but they have 16 weeks to figure out.
  • Weeks 1 and 2? Safe to say they haven’t quite figured it out.
  • The Vikings are currently ranking 20th in defensive efficiency (down from 4th in 2019), giving up 43 points to the Packers in Week 1 and 28 points to the Colts in Week 2.
  • On top of that, they’re ranking 23rd in Rush D-Eff, and have to face the ferocious Derrick Henry in Week 3.

Tennessee on the other hand has been a mixed bag so far in 2020: 2-0 yet 0-2 ATS. Of course, this includes Gostkowski leaving 10 points on the board for an easy win/cover in week 1 against Denver, and they allowed 13 4Q points last week to JAX to make the game far more interesting than it probably should have been. Dare I say they were looking past JAX to MINN? Perhaps, perhaps not – but I think that bodes well for the Titans this week.

The Titans offense has seemingly picked up where they left off, ranking 9th in O-EFF, but looking under the hood, that reveals that they’re currently 2nd in Pass Efficiency and 24th in Rush Efficiency. Surprisingly, the pass efficiency is nothing new: Henry’s presence on the ground opens up the air for Tannehill, and he’s taken care of the ball (they ranked 5th last season and 6th in rushing). This week poses an excellent “get-right” spot for Henry, as MINN defense ranks 23rd against the run, mentioned above. 

Tannehill has found a strong connection with tight end Jonnu Smith while Corey Davis and Adam Humphries have looked like reliable targets, and as such, the Titans offense should keep rolling this week (especially vs. MINN 19th ranked Pass D-EFF). 

Kirk Cousins has looked lost without Stephon Diggs to blow the top off of coverage (coming off an abysmal 133 yard, 3INT effort vs. the Colts), and while he should bounce back, it won’t be enough to get past a solid Tenn Defense.

Taking the Titans -2.5

Buccaneers vs. Broncos
Bucs -6
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Back on the Bucs? Of course. Why? The quick hitters:

  • Tom Brady has a career cover rate around 59%, and is playing with the best offense he’s had since 2007.
  • This offense has improved week-over-week, and should only continue to gel more. Godwin is back this week, and Fournette ran for 100+ yards last week. A strong running game will only help the passing game.
  • This passing game needs to improve, as they currently rank 21st in Pass O-EFF, and I believe they will, as they face a DEN defense that ranks 20th in PASS D-EFF.

The real X-factor for me here is the Bucs defense and the matchup at hand:

  • Currently ranking 4th in D-EFF, yet still somehow have the narrative that they’re ‘not good’
  • Denver is starting Jeff Driskel, who’s 1-7 in his career. Driskel did look solid last week when you look at yardage (256), but was wildly inefficiency, completing only 52% of his passes.
  • The Bucs defense forced 4 turnovers last week, and against an inexperienced (and rather average) QB this week, I look for that trend of dominance to continue.
  • Bucs defense is 9th in the league in opponent yards per play, while Denver is 27th in the league in offensive Yards per Play.

As such, I’ll be riding with the public once more on this one, playing the Bucs at under a touchdown. 

Taking the Bucs -6

Bonus Plays: Patriots -6, Steelers -3.5, Lions +6.5, Cowboys +5, Eagles -4.5

Sports Strength

The 30 Best NFL Players of All-Time

The NFL has produced some of the best athletes in professional sports. Some of the best talents have come through and made their mark on the league. There are great quarterbacks on this list, but the top players span all positions including some of the top pass rushers, wide receivers and running backs as well.

The top players all made huge impacts in revolutionizing the game, producing on the field and winning games at a high clip. From Jerry Rice to Walter Payton, here’s a look at the 30 best NFL players of all-time.

1. Jerry Rice

If you put Rice’s numbers up against any other wide receiver in the NFL, it’s a straight-up massacre. He has a nearly 6,000-yard advantage in total receiving yards over the next receiver on the list and a lead of 41 in total touchdowns caught in NFL history. A three-time Super Bowl champion, Rice was the key target for Joe Montana and later on Steve Young in the San Francisco 49ers dynasty of the 1980s and 1990s.

2. Tom Brady

Even as a New York Jets fan, I have to give Brady props begrudgingly. A six-time Super Bowl winner and a four-time Super Bowl MVP, Brady was the crown jewel of a nearly two-decade dynasty with the New England Patriots. He’s a heady quarterback with 14 Pro Bowl appearances and the most wins by a quarterback (219). Brady’s in a new situation after signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this NFL offseason, so the question must be asked: At 43, can he take the Bucs to the promised land?

3. Jim Brown

The only fullback on this list, Jim Brown helped power the Cleveland Browns to an NFL championship in 1964. Brown rushed for at least 1,000 yards in seven of his nine seasons. He also was the MVP on three different occasions. After all of these years, Brown’s still the all-time rushing leader for the Browns franchise.

4. Lawrence Taylor

A hard-hitting linebacker, Lawrence Taylor might be the most feared defensive player in NFL history. A two-time Super Bowl champion with the New York Giants in 1987 and 1991, Taylor was the rare defensive player to win NFL MVP in 1986. That season he accumulated 20 ½ sacks.

5. Peyton Manning

There might not be another signature calling card that stands out more than Peyton Manning calling “Omaha” as an audible play. A two-time Super Bowl champion with the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos, Manning’s accuracy as a supreme quarterback thrower was unmatched. The 6’5” quarterback racked up individual awards as well, taking home five MVP trophies and being named to the NFL All-Pro First team on seven different occasions. Manning has the most seasons (14) with at least 4,000 passing yards in NFL history.

6. Reggie White

I think every quarterback had nightmares the night before a matchup with Reggie White. A Super Bowl champion with the Green Bay Packers, White made 13 Pro Bowls. When he retired, White was the all-time sacks leader with 198. A two-time Defensive Player of the Year, White led the NFL in sacks in two different seasons.

7. Joe Montana

A four-time Super Bowl champ and a three-time winner of the big game’s MVP award, “Joe Cool” was an NFL regular season MVP twice and made the Pro Bowl eight times. Montana had several clutch moments late in games and is a factor in some of the best moments in NFL history. Montana’s late touchdown pass to Dwight Clark in the 1982 NFC Championship game is simply known as “The Catch.” I just got some shivers down my spine writing about this.

8. Walter Payton

If your name gets slapped on an award forever, you must be doing something right. If it’s on two awards, now we’re reaching unprecedented levels. Given the nickname “Sweetness,” Walter Payton was a dominant running back. He registered at least 1,200 rushing yards in a 10 out of 11 season stretch. The 1977 NFL MVP, Payton won a Super Bowl in 1985 with the Bears and qualified for nine Pro Bowls.

9. Ray Lewis

The Super Bowl MVP in 2000, Ray Lewis handled the middle for the Baltimore Ravens for 17 years. A late first-round pick by Baltimore, Lewis excelled and became a franchise player. He helped elevate the Ravens to a contender on numerous occasions despite not having the traditional elite quarterback that so many title worthy teams carry. Lewis made the Pro Bowl 13 times and won two Super Bowls with the Ravens. He piled up the hits, racking up 2,061 tackles in his career.

10. Dick Butkus

A physically imposing middle linebacker, Dick Butkus anchored the Chicago Bears defense for nine seasons. Butkus was a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, eight-time Pro Bowler and an agitator on defense that struck fear in the hearts of his opponents. A master intimidator and disruptor on the field, when Butkus retired from the NFL, he had the most fumbles recovered in league history (25).

11. Johnny Unitas

Johnny Unitas was a true Cinderella story in the NFL. He was a ninth round selection and cut in his first training camp by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Unitas joined the Baltimore Colts and after an injury by starter George Shaw, he took over and the rest is history. A three-time champ with the Colts, Unitas was a three-time regular season MVP and a 10-time Pro Bowler. He threw at least 20 touchdowns in eight different seasons.

12. Joe Greene

Given the nickname “Mean,” Joe Greene was a major part of Pittsburgh’s dominant “Steel Curtain.” A defensive tackle, Greene was a four-time Super Bowl champion, 10-time Pro Bowler and a two-time Defensive Player of the Year. Also, kudos to Greene for being a G.O.A.T. in the sports ad world. His Coca-Cola commercial still sounds fresh 41 years later.

13. Randy Moss

Moss’ ability to create separation from his defender stands out as what made him a special wideout . A former basketball player in college, the 6’4” Moss’ length and athleticism made him unstoppable. A six-time Pro Bowler, He led the NFL in receiving touchdowns five different seasons. This included a record 23 touchdowns in the 2007 season with the New England Patriots.

14. Ronnie Lott

Ronnie Lott is one of the best defensive backs of all time. A four-time Super Bowl champion with the San Francisco 49ers, Lott managed to lead the NFL in interceptions on two separate occasions. Known for his anticipation and ability to tackle in the open field, Lott made 10 Pro Bowl teams throughout his career. The hard hitting safety deserves a spot just for all of the injuries he played with.

15. Deacon Jones

A two-time Defensive Player of the Year in the 1960s, Deacon Jones came up with the phrase “sacking the quarterback.” A piece of the “Fearsome Foursome” defensive line of the Los Angeles Rams in the 1960s and 1970s, Jones revolutionized the defensive end position with blinding speed and a bloodthirst for the quarterback. Though sacks weren’t an official statistic during Jones’ playing career, he’s estimated to have gotten to the QB 173 ½ times.

16. John Elway

A number one overall pick in the 1983 NFL Draft, John Elway won back-to-back Super Bowls in the late-’90s with the Denver Broncos. The Most Valuable Player of the 1987 NFL season, Elway is just one of six quarterbacks to throw for over 3,000 yards in 12 separate seasons. “The Drive” will be remembered for years and years as arguably the best late-game drive in NFL history.

17. Gale Sayers

One of the biggest what-ifs in sports history, is what would’ve happened if Gale Sayers wasn’t maligned by a serious left knee injury and played longer than seven seasons. The fact that he’s on this list after that short NFL career is remarkable. A halfback with the Chicago Bears, Sayers was a five-time First team All-Pro and led the NFL in rushing in 1966 and 1969.

18. Anthony Munoz

Anthony Munoz had one of the most decorated careers for an offensive lineman in NFL history. Munoz made the Pro Bowl 11 consecutive times while leading the charge for the Cincinnati Bengals’ offensive line. An NFL Hall of Famer, Munoz physically was startling. Standing 6’6”, Munoz showcased a unique mix of strength and quickness for a long period of time.

19. Otto Graham

The fourth pick of the 1944 NFL Draft, Otto Graham had a great run as quarterback of the Cleveland Browns. He collected numerous trophies, including three Super Bowl victories and three NFL regular season MVPs. A five-time Pro Bowler, Graham still is the all time leader in touchdowns (174) in Browns history.

20. Brett Favre

The ultimate risk taker as a quarterback, Brett Favre had one of the best careers a QB could have in NFL history. His play from the 1995-1997 seasons with the Green Bay Packers remains one of the better stretches of football that you’ll ever see. Favre won the regular season MVP all three seasons and won the Super Bowl in 1996.

21. Deion Sanders

A two-sport athlete, there aren’t many players that were as skilled at the game of football as cornerback Deion Sanders. A member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Sanders’ list of accomplishments is startling. A two-time Super Bowl champion, Sanders made eight Pro Bowls and also was on the All-Pro squad as both a kick returner and punt returner. Sanders’ signature high-step and celebration after a pick-six is legendary. Must be the money?

22. Drew Brees

The Super Bowl MVP of Super Bowl XLIV, the 41-year old Brees is sure to be a Hall of Famer. A 19-year veteran, Brees has exceeded the expectations that came with being an early second round pick in the 2001 NFL Draft. He’s made the Pro Bowl in 13 different seasons with the San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints. Though touchdown passes are a bit inflated, Brees is still playing and is the current leader in all time touchdowns thrown.

23. Dan Marino

Dan Marino spent all of his 17-year career with the Miami Dolphins. Marino arguably had the best natural throwing ability of any quarterback in NFL history. Though he was never able to get that Super Bowl ring, Marino’s numbers are too remarkable to ignore. A nine-time Pro Bowler and the 1984 NFL MVP, he has 420 touchdown passes and 61,361 total passing yards in his career.

24. Bruce Smith

A defensive end that was picked first in the 1984 NFL Draft, Smith is the all time leader in sacks with 200. Smith was a key cog in the Buffalo Bills teams of the 1990s that reached the Super Bowl four consecutive seasons. What stands out from Smith’s 19-year run in the NFL is his consistency. The two-time Defensive Player of the Year recorded at least 10 sacks in 13 different seasons.

25. Terrell Owens

An NFL Hall of Famer and one of the premier wide receivers of all time, Terrell Owens was a primetime star in his 15-year NFL career. A six-time pro bowler, Owens recorded at least 1,000 yards receiving on nine different occasions and at least 10 touchdowns eight different seasons. Owens’ most gutsy moment was when he played with a broken leg and torn ligament in his ankle during Super Bowl XXXIX. He still managed to catch nine passes for 122 yards.

Owens’ flair and personality also added an extra layer to an interesting career. The pom pom celebrations and the popcorn fun was good, but the celebration on the Dallas star was a moment that will never be forgotten.

26. Emmitt Smith

You can’t talk ‘bout them Cowboys without looking at the impact of running back Emmitt Smith. During the franchise’s dynasty-like dominance over the NFL in the ‘90s, the featured back was at the center of it all. The NFL’s MVP in the 1993 season, Smith made eight Pro Bowl squads throughout his playing days. A three-time Super Bowl winner with Dallas, Smith won the MVP of the big game in Super Bowl XXVIII.

27. Barry Sanders

There aren’t many players with a 100 percent success rate in Pro Bowl appearances to seasons played. In 10 seasons, running back Barry Sanders made the Pro Bowl every year and rushed for at least 1,000 yards too. This included a career-high 2,053 yards in his penultimate campaign. There’s no doubt that Sanders retired early at the age of 31, but the former 1997 NFL MVP’s track record speaks for itself even with his shortened career.

28. Jack Lambert

A physical defender who wasn’t afraid to mix it up, Pittsburgh Steelers middle linebacker Jack Lambert was definitely a game changer. In his 11-year stint in the NFL, Lambert racked up the awards. He won Defensive Player of the Year on two separate occasions, won the Super Bowl four times and earned nine berths in the Pro Bowl. At 220 pounds, Lambert was considered skinny for the linebacker position. Lambert was at the center of Pittsburgh’s disruptive defense and sported an intimidating look with his top middle teeth missing.

29. Sammy Baugh

A versatile player on the field, Sammy Baugh played quarterback, free safety and punter while playing 16 years in the NFL for the Washington Redskins. He made the All-Pro First and Second teams nine times combined. 1943 is a memorable season as Baugh dominated across multiple categories. He led the NFL in interceptions (11) and punting yards (1195). Baugh also managed to finish second in total passing yards (1754). Baugh’s talents crossed over to the movie screen where he starred in 1941’s King of the Texas Rangers.

30. Don Hutson

A three-time Super Bowl champion with the Green Bay Packers, Hutson played multiple roles throughout his 11-year career in the NFL. He was a kicker and also played on both offense and defense, Hutson is considered the original wide receiver in the NFL’s history. He recorded 99 touchdowns and led the NFL in receiving yards eight different times throughout his playing career. An eight-time All-Pro selection, Hutson also won the NFL’s MVP Award in both 1941 and 1942.

Sports Strength

Here Are Your Best Bets for Week 15 in the NFL

Hear me out—I’ve been doing this betting thing for a while now as a sports betting consultant and a regular on CBS New York’s Fanalysis and on Twitter at @OldManWhoBets. I report for duty today in order to share my learnings. Let’s get straight to the picks.

Patriots -9.5 (81 percent of bets)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Shocker, but I’m back on the Patriots again. While I do put them on autopilot often, I feel better than ever this week in supporting both Tom and Bill to bring us to a gambling payday. 

What do we like about the Patriots as a bet? First, the macro: Brady covers around 59 percent for his career. Combine that with New England starting hot ATS, but now 1-5 in their last five points to upward regression, getting us back in the ‘cover’ category. 

Now, situationally, hearing that the Patriots are coming off a loss is always music to my ears. And not just any loss—one in which a rare coaching miscue (losing both challenges early) led to at least one touchdown coming off the board. Add in the fact that they lost two in a row? This is borderline uncharted territory. 

After looking a touch deeper into that game, I did like what I saw over the Texans, where their plethora of no-name receivers were getting more targets. In classic New England form, once Brady stops over-targeting Edelman (and historically Gronk), there are some growing pains (for example, point totals for the last four weeks in which they went 2-2). Eventually, they start to bloom. 

Next, let’s touch on the Bengals for just one second. The Bengals have shown a touch of life these last two weeks with Dalton back at the helm and their WR core coming back from injuries.  Even so, some of the best offenses in the league are struggling to put up points against this suffocating defense, and I’m looking for the Patriots to grind out a win and cover. 

Lastly, it’s important to mention some intangibles: Another camera “scandal” leaking, lots of media chatter about Brady being too old and about them being done. We’ve seen how the Patriots bounce back before, so why can’t they do it again on Sunday?

24-10 Patriots

Titans -2.5 (48 percent of bets)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The return of Ryan Tannehill has been nothing short of remarkable. I’m taking the red hot Titans versus the Texans this week, at home and ready to fight. 

Why? First, this looks like a letdown spot for the Texans. Coming off an emotional win at home against the Patriots, an in-division showdown with the Titans should be a barnburner, and the line reflects that. 

Next, the line: Since opening at -1.5, it has since moved to -3 and back to -2.5, where I’m taking it. With only 48 percent of bets, it seems the sharps agree with me that this is a great spot for the Titans. Game on. 

As for ATS trends, the Titans are 4-1 ATS last five, which is a bit concerning, but I equate this more to the lack of public support they’ve been receiving and the lack of Vegas respect.

On the flip side, I do think Houston is consistently overrated. Big names on both sides of the ball often grab people’s eyes, but of course, this is a team game.

Team game? Here is the team efficiency breakdown:

  •     Titans offense: 9th
  •     Texans offense (with Deshaun Watson! And Hopkins!): 12th 
  •     Titans defense: 18th 
  •     Texans defense (with JJ Watt!): 27th in the league 

Bam. That’ll do it. Titans at -2.5 all day, willing to play it up to -3.

Buy low candidate of the week: Cowboys +1 (12 percent of bets)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Wow, just wow. One week off and the Rams are finally playing good football (note: at home is Goff’s specialty) and the public has seen enough. “Pound the Rams! The Cowboys stink!”

Maybe they do, but I’m not sold. The Cowboys (outside of losing to the Jets) have only lost to above-average teams. Yes, I’m including the Bears as an above-average team, especially with their defense (the Cowboys put up 24 points against them, second-most the Bears’ defense allowed all year). Patriots, Bills and Bears—not a bad resumé of recent losses. 

The slide stops here. 

Dallas is currently ranked number two in offensive efficiency, with the Rams at 17. On the other side of the ball is the polar opposite: Dallas is 22 and the Rams are six.  Looking at overall team efficiency, we get Dallas at seven and the Rams at eight. 

So where does that leave us? With two evenly matched teams, one on a “slide” and one coming from a huge win. The public, of course, is expecting what happened last week to happen again this week. 

After opening at -4 for the Cowboys, locking them in after this movement at +1, a home underdog in a pivotal game is where I’ll be placing my bet.

Leans: Chargers +3 (19 percent of bets)
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The Chargers have been lackluster this year, to say the least. But in looking a little deeper, every loss of theirs (all eight of them) have been by one score or less. Something’s got to give. Coming off their biggest point win of the season, I’m looking to ride that momentum back at home in a fade-the-public way. Let’s break this one down:

The Chargers have been way better than their record indicates. Minnesota, of course, is a good team.

Offensive Efficiency:

  • Chargers rank tenth, Minnesota ranks seventh

Defensive Efficiency: 

  • Chargers rank 21, Minnesota ranks eighth

The biggest delta here clearly is on the defensive side of the ball, but the Chargers defense has shown up in big games against good opponents, holding the loaded Chiefs offense to only 24 and the Packers to 11. Both of these examples were home games. 

Looking at mutual opponents also indicates this should be a close game, and I’m betting on the home team.

Denver: MIN win by four, LAC lose by three, seven

KC: MIN lose by three, LAC lose by seven

CHI: MIN lose by ten, LAC win by one

The only common opponents where MIN has the upper hand is against poor teams where the Chargers didn’t show up. But here we are, with the Chargers at home playing against a good team as a small underdog. I’m all for it.

49ers -10.5 (44 percent of bets)
Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

The 49ers have taken the league by storm. After playing literally no one for the early part of the season, they have flexed hard, proving they are indeed a very strong team.

What I love about them is their versatility: Their run game has four NFL starting running backs who all eat up yardage (Breida and Mostert seem to get five-plus for every carry, Coleman and Wilson Jr. are talented in their own right), and Jimmy G, with the addition of Emmanuel Sanders and the maturation of Deebo, has stepped up big time. And then there’s George Kittle, and their defense can be categorized as “Beast Mode.” I love it all.

The data backs up their greatness. Their defense is second in defensive efficiency, including number two against the pass, which has been the only way ATL has moved the ball this year. 

On the other side of the field, ATL’s defense has been porous outside of two weeks after their bye, and are 26 in DEF efficiency. That’s not going to cut it this week. ATL’s offense clocking in at 20 in efficiency also isn’t doing them any favors.

In a lost season for ATL, I’m looking for the 49ers to keep the train moving with a massive victory at home.

Sports Strength

How Thanksgiving Became the NFL’s Best Friend

Food. Family and friends. Football.

These are the pillars of Thanksgiving. As far back as 1869, football has been played on the holiday, and the National Football League has taken full advantage of the fact that Americans across the country are gathered together and will plop down in front of the television before, after and in between courses. Sure, your uncle and cousins might be getting into an argument over politics, but football always offers a nice respite from the chaos.

One need only look at the ratings for the NFL’s Thanksgiving games to get a good idea of how important the holiday is to the league. It is, by far, the NFL’s best day for ratings, outside of the Super Bowl and the playoffs. Week to week, most games average 10 to 20 million viewers each, but the games on Thanksgiving see the ratings spike close to 30 million people tuning in to watch. In fact, sometimes they go well over that benchmark; the Cowboys-Redskins matchup in 2016 had over 35 million viewers.

In 2017 the ratings dropped by a small margin, thanks in no small part to the controversy surrounding Colin Kaepernick and the national anthem as well as the fact that the games just weren’t very good. According to Ad Age, the game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Dallas Cowboys had an audience of 26 million. By comparison, 2016’s highest-rated contest between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins drew a viewership of over 35 million. Even with the drop in ratings, the ad revenue the NFL receives from sponsors is substantial. With Thanksgiving serving as the perfect excuse to sit is in front of a TV, the league will continue to remain heavily invested in the holiday.

Focus on Sport/Getty Images
Quarterback Greg Landry of the Detroit Lions plays on Thanksgiving day, 1969

The modern NFL (there was another “National Football League” that existed prior to today’s NFL) has played games on Thanksgiving basically since its inception. The first Thanksgiving games took place in 1920 between teams like the Akron Pros, the Canton Bulldogs and the Detroit Heralds.

From 1920 onward, football and Thanksgiving have been in lockstep. Professional football has been played on the holiday every single year with the exception of the years 1941–1945. World War II obviously had a massive impact on society in the United States and sports were no exception. Twenty-one men involved with the NFL—19 players, an ex-head coach and an executive—lost their lives in World War II. Football on Thanksgiving, and in general, took a backseat to the war effort but things would pick back up in 1945 once the war had been won.

Patrick McDermott/Getty Image
The Washington Redskins eat turkey on Thanksgiving day, 2017

Other than just economics, the NFL’s tradition of Thanksgiving games is reason enough for the league to stay invested in the holiday. The two teams most associated with Thanksgiving are the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys, as they have been playing on turkey day for decades now—the Lions since 1934 and the Cowboys since 1966. Viewers have since come to expect, regardless of record or quality of matchup, the Lions and Cowboys to put on a show.

In recent years, the NFL has continued to capitalize on the success of the Thanksgiving games by adding a primetime game to the schedule, and those games have provided their own share of highlight-reel moments including the now infamous Mark Sanchez “butt fumble.”

Jeff Kowalsky/Getty Images

One of the goofier, but still highly entertaining moments of these games is watching the winning team chow down on some turkey in their post-game interviews. It’s a nice little victory formation for the team and something that never gets old. 

Without question, Thanksgiving has served as a nice crutch for the league, showing that even when ratings and revenues are down, such as in 2017, the holiday will be there to pick up some of the slack.

Sports Strength

Talkin’ ’Bout Ketchup with Patrick Mahomes

Last fall, an ESPN magazine profile of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes revealed something shocking: Mahomes puts ketchup on everything. The habit went ludicrously far, to the point that Mahomes admitted to slapping ketchup between two slices of plain bread and eating that as often as two or three times a week. As he got older, Mahomes grew embarrassed to ask for ketchup, even though he wanted it; at steakhouses, his mother, Randi, would order it instead and slip it to him on the sly.

“I had gotten to a point where I’d ask for ketchup and the chef would come out to me because they thought that I thought something was wrong with their steak,” says Mahomes, calling in from the Chiefs’ training facility in Kansas City, Missouri. “And I was like, man, I just like ketchup.”

This information immediately went viral. An athlete from an older generation might have instantly gone into damage control mode, posing with famous chefs in steakhouse kitchens, flaunting unadorned prime cuts. But having grown up in an era where social media is every millennial’s second language, Patrick did something awesome: He leaned into it. Ketchup brands went nuts for it.

Heinz promised Mahomes a lifetime supply of ketchup if he passed for 57 touchdowns, which, in hindsight, was a lofty ask for a pro athlete who had been bombarded with free ketchup from the moment his affinity for ketchup went viral. (The record for touchdowns in a season is 55. If Mahomes had passed for 57, free ketchup would be the least of his concerns.)

Eventually, Hunt’s called—they had to have Mahomes as their spokesperson. Dan Skinner, the communications manager for Conagra Brands (which own Hunts), flew to Kansas City to woo Mahomes. Shortly thereafter, the biggest endorsement deal in the history of ketchup was struck.

ONE37pm talked to Mahomes about the deal, social media, the important distinctions between barbecue sauce, ketchup and other condiments, and his role in the development of Hunt’s new all-natural Best Ever ketchup formula.

ONE37pm: So, was there a bidding war? Heinz said they’d give you a lifetime supply of ketchup if you got to 57. 

Mahomes: A lot [of companies] called my agent. I got frigging ketchup from everywhere. There were companies I’d never even heard of that were sending me ketchups, and different styles of ketchups. I finally had to give some away, because I had a whole cabinet full of just ketchup from all these different ketchup companies. I was getting it for about two or three weeks after [the story went viral]. But it was a cool deal.

I mean, it was crazy when it happened, especially through social media. But I’ve definitely already gotten probably a lifetime supply of Hunt’s ketchup. So I think I’m good there.

You play in a market that is uniquely obsessed with barbecue and barbecue sauce. To you, what’s the major distinction between ketchup and barbecue sauce?

Mahomes: I only eat barbecue sauce with barbecue food, from the restaurant. If I take some home in a little to-go box or something like that, I usually eat ketchup with it at home. So I don’t know what’s so weird about me about that. But definitely while I’m eating barbecue food at restaurants, I use barbecue sauce. Sometimes I like a little spicy—kind of depends on what kind of barbecue food I’m eating.

Do you have a favorite spot in town? 

Mahomes: I’ve been eating Joe’s a lot. That’s been the one that I’ve been going to and getting delivered a lot. I’ve been on Joe’s. It was Jack Stack, now it’s Joe’s. So I kind of just gotta make my rounds.

What sealed the deal for Hunt’s? 

Mahomes: The biggest thing that I do with all my endorsement deals is always meet the people first. I always want to know who I’m trying to deal with and what kind of people they are. And I feel like that was a big deal for me, getting to meet those people and understanding that they are really good people and that they want to help me build my brand in the best way possible, as well as theirs. And then, obviously, I’ve used Hunt’s ketchup my whole life. So I knew I liked it, I knew I loved everything they were about, and I know that they’re going to keep trying to get better and better every single year.

I sense a divide between athletes who grew up with social media and those who didn’t. Do you see that kind of divide in the athlete community and in the locker room? 

Mahomes: I don’t know if it’s necessarily a divide. But being able to see what it was like when I was in high school and in college and watching the show, with me being the one tweeting at pro athletes, being able to conversate with them, and then now, being a pro athlete, I understand what it’s like, just because I’ve been on both sides of it. But I don’t know if it’s necessarily a divide. People are starting to really understand social media and the impact it has in our daily lives. And so I just kind of try to be authentic to who I am and try to keep that rolling.

What’s the next category you’re dying to break into?

Mahomes: I have some that are in the works already; I can’t really announce yet. But I mean right now I’m pretty set on where I’m at. I can kind of knock them out here soon, and then I’ll have a lot of free time where I can go out there and get ready for the football season. I’m excited about the opportunity to keep building my brand.

For more stories related to athletes’ individual business interests and partnerships, check out our 30 Most Entrepreneurial Athletes series.

Sports Strength

Russell Wilson Gave All of His Linemen Stock in Amazon

After signing a 4-year, $140M contract—a deal that made him the highest paid player in the NFL—QB Russell Wilson wanted to say “thank you” to his offensive line for keeping him healthy long enough to secure the bag. But instead of a fancy watch or a pair of Wranglers—sorry Brett Favre—Wilson gave each lineman something he thought would have “a lasting impact” on them and their families: $12,000 of Amazon stock.

“You sacrifice your physical and mental well-being to protect me, which in turn allows me to provide and care for my family,” Wilson wrote his linemen in individual letters, according to TMZ. “This does not go unnoticed and it is never forgotten.” He ended the letter with “You have invested in my life … this is my investment in yours.”

Wilson hopes that his gift will encourage his teammates to start thinking about the long game. “The memories on the field will last forever,” he wrote, “but we have to constantly prepare for life after football.” Wilson shared that one of the ways he plans for his post-playing days is by investing in companies that will “grow and change the world,” like Amazon.