👀 HUGE Coaching Announcements

The night before the night before Championship Sunday...

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Maybe Bill Belichick and Nick Saban will just start their own true crime podcast…

In today’s Fantasy Life Newsletter presented by Caddis:

  • Three coaching decisions with massive fantasy implications

  • Fantasy Questions: Brandon Aiyuk BOOM week?

  • Matchup of the Week: Chiefs at Ravens

  • An Injury update for the 49ers

  • Best Bets: In Patrick Mahomes we trust

  • It’s 1/26. Take it away, Ian Hartitz…

A trio of coaching decisions changed the landscape of the entire world as we know it on Thursday.

Okay, fine: Slight exaggeration, but still, Big moves went down — let’s discuss!

🏈 Falcons name Raheem Morris their new head coach

The 2013 Washington coaching tree gets even more wild, as Morris ends his three-year stint as Rams defensive coordinator to go run the team that briefly employed him as interim head coach back in 2020.

Let’s just say that the 47-year-old defensive mastermind has earned a reputation as a player’s coach.

The move ends speculation of either Bill Belichick or Mike Vrabel continuing their coaching career in Atlanta.

While Morris' first stint as a head coach with the Buccaneers didn't exactly go great (21-38 record), he’s at least not Arthur Smith! The next expected hire is current Rams passing-game coordinator/QB coach Zac Robinson, who ideally will have learned a thing or two from Sean McVay regarding how to get his talented playmakers the football on a consistent basis.

👀 The Panthers find their new leader: Dave Canales

AKA the man at least partially responsible for Geno Smith and Baker Mayfield playing the best football of their respective careers over the past two seasons.

A lot remains to be figured out in Carolina.

  • Will owner David Tepper continue to meddle in personnel decisions?

  • Is Bryce Young a bust, or simply a victim of an incompetent organization?

  • Was Canales’ success a result of his own schematic brilliance or two potentially underrated offenses?

We won’t know the answers to these questions for at least another eight or so months, but at a minimum, Panthers fans should be happy that Bucs players are sad and that Canales certainly seems to have the right mindset for the job.

Football is a helluva drug when there is an elite QB involved — here’s to hoping the Young and Canales relationship flourishes in 2024 and beyond.

🤔 Kellen Moore is a free agent

New Chargers head coach Jim Harbaugh is allowing the team’s incumbent offensive coordinator to interview with different teams. Moore has already spoken with the Eagles and could also be meeting with the Browns.

While the 2023 Chargers didn't exactly dominate on offense (21st in scoring), this group was largely a walking graveyard during the second half of the season with Justin Herbert (4 missed games), Keenan Allen (4) and Mike Williams (14) all banged up for extended stretches.

Moore’s offenses in Dallas were regularly among the league’s best units when Dak Prescott was healthy:

  • 2020 pre-Dak injury: 32.6 points per game (No. 2)

  • 2021: 31.2 (No. 1)

  • 2022 post-Dak injury: 32.5 (No. 1)

The Philly landing spot, in particular, is intriguing. This offense ranks dead last in pre-snap shift/motion (33.8%) over the past two seasons — something that Moore deployed at a top-five rate (68.1%) with the Chargers in 2023. The 2024 ceiling remains awfully high for Jalen Hurts and company considering the amount of high-end skill-position talent involved.

Fantasy Life Fantasy Questions with Ian Hartitz Conference Championship Weekend

Fantasy- and betting-relevant questions and answers from our dude Ian on Sunday’s championship matchups meant to educate the masses on the remaining team’s changing dynamics and get to the bottom of the week’s most pressing issues, is that something you might be interested in?

🙅 Who is the true x-factor in this Ravens passing game?

The answer? Probably three-time Pro Bowler Mark Andrews (ankle) if he’s healthy enough to return to action.

Otherwise, Lamar Jackson has put forward the following target distribution in six games since:

  • Zay Flowers (39 targets)

  • Isaiah Likely (27)

  • Rashod Bateman (27)

  • Odell Beckham Jr. (22)

  • Nelson Agholor (19)

  • Justice Hill (13)

The latter player looks a lot like this group’s wild card. Hill could be poised to see a bigger role than usual against a Chiefs defense that has been good, not great vs. pass-catching RBs this season:

Chiefs yards per attempt allowed by position:

  • RB: 5.4 (12th)

  • TE: 6.7 (4th)

  • WR: 6.9 (2nd)

James Cook (9-104-1 receiving in two matchups vs. the Chiefs) found a good amount of success against the Chiefs working downfield, something that Hill has been quite adept at doing himself this season.

Hill’s receiving usage since Keaton Mitchell (knee, IR) was lost for the season has been tough to ignore: He’s ripped off 3-31-0, 5-64-1 and 2-11-0 receiving lines in his last three games with Jackson under center.

Fantasy Life Fantasy Questions with Ian Hartitz Conference Championship Weekend

🦁 Can this Lions defense come close to slowing down the pass?

They sure haven’t passed the test in recent matchups. The last five QBs to face off against the Lions have put up the following numbers:

  • Baker Mayfield (349 pass yards-3 TD-2 INT)

  • Matthew Stafford (367-2-0)

  • Nick Mullens (396-2-2)

  • Dak Prescott (345-2-1)

  • Mullens (411-2-4)

The Lions have been among the league’s very best units at stopping opposing rushing attacks, but they have largely been a dumpster fire against the pass.

Shoutout to rookie Brian Branch for largely playing great this season. Otherwise, nearly every Lions corner to play 100-plus snaps has been a combination of undersized and bad:

  • Brian Branch (6’0”, 190 pounds): 77.5 PFF coverage grade (23rd among 150 qualified corners)

  • Kindle Vildor (5’10”, 191): 60 (98th)

  • Jerry Jacobs (5’10”, 208): 54.5 (118th)

  • Cameron Sutton (5’11”, 188): 53.9 (122nd)

  • Will Harris (6’1”, 207): 41.4 (146th)

Credit to safeties Ifeatu Melifonwu and C.J. Gardner-Johnson for consistently supplying a solid backbone to the secondary; just realize, this should be the sort of spot where guys like Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle are capable of going NUCLEAR.

Throw in the potential for Deebo Samuel (shoulder) to be sidelined or operating at less than 100% if active, and I’ll gladly be adding Aiyuk’s alternate receiving props to parlays of all shapes and sizes.

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Fantasy Life Conference Championship Weekend Matchup of the Week

This year’s AFC Championship is absolutely LOADED and sure looks poised to provide 60 minutes of football at the highest level. Chris is here to help you lock in. Presenting Fantasy Life’s Matchup of the Week: The Kansas City Chiefs at the Baltimore Ravens.

I realize hindsight is 20/20, but we were always going to end up here, right?

Baltimore put the league on notice after dismantling the Lions back in Week 7. Then, they put any doubts in the dirt after embarrassing the 49ers and Dolphins to close out the regular season. The Ravens’ three losses (that matter) are by a TD or less. It’s Super Bowl or bust for them. Getting to this Sunday is just a formality. 

But the Chiefs took the opposite route.

We wondered about them all season. From Kadarius Toney in Week 1 to Justin Watson in Week 16, the passing game looked stoppable. But Patrick “Fine, I’ll Do It Myself” Mahomes is unstoppable. And if this game is anything like the last time they met, we’re in for another all-time matchup.

✍️ Ravens Conference Championship Outlook

Baltimore tied for the highest explosive rushing rate in the Divisional round, with three of their ball carriers (including Lamar Jackson) contributing to the chunk gains. Out of 32 pass-catchers with a minimum 10.0% target share, Baltimore was one of two teams with a trio of receivers in the Top 15.

Simply put, they’ve got options.

So, it’s no surprise to see their dropback rate oscillate depending on their opponent.

Fantasy Life Ravens Team Style Utilization Report

However, the passing game isn’t as simple to decipher. Again, they’ve got options.

Let’s start with what we know.

Mark Andrews practiced in full last week and hasn’t had any setbacks. When healthy, Andrews was second on the team in targets (51) with the highest TPRR rate (21.3%). John Harbaugh might limit his route rate, but his presence would draw attention from the Chiefs’ defense and fantasy managers.

Zay Flowers has been and was the WR1 against the Texans last week. The rookie garnered 23.8% of the attempts from Jackson and over a quarter of the team’s air yards. Flowers and Rashod Bateman were the only WRs who had passes thrown their way on early downs, in obvious passing situations, and in the red zone. And Andrews’s return may impact their usage. But that may not be the case for the team’s TE1B.

Fantasy Life Conference Championship Weekend Matchup of the Week

Isaiah Likely instantly became a part of the Ravens’ offense after Andrews went on IR. The sophomore TE’s route rate never fell below 80.0% after Week 11. In his first game as the starter (Chargers, Week 12), he came out with a 20% target share. But the more important component of his utilization is his air yards.

Likely has seen over 20.0% of the team’s air yards in three of his last four games, including last week’s contest against the Texans. At 11.7 air yards per target last week and 12.8 against the 49ers, Likely is the only Ravens TE with multiple games primarily working in the intermediate parts of the field. He’s not just Andrews’ backup and won’t instantly fade into the background now. Likely is part of the offense.

The thought was that the Ravens were saving Odell Beckham for the playoffs. But a 38.9% route rate and a lone target in the first half when the game was still competitive doesn’t align with that idea. Baltimore can disguise running plays with 2-TE sets and get Andrews and Likeley out on routes. With the Chiefs allowing the tenth-highest EPA per play allowed to TEs, Likely will be the receiver to watch from the Ravens.

Around the Watercooler (August 2022)

🚀 Conference Championship rankings and tiers. A WR is going to the moon.

📈 GREAT injury news for the 49ers. Moving in the right direction.

💎 49ers vs. Lions offers up hidden gems in Pick’em contests. Crafting the perfect entry.

📊 Players primed to regress in 2024…for better or for worse.

😮 This Patriots WR was arrested for allegedly placing HOW MANY BETS? Wild story here.

🔎 A 2-game slate still offers ways to be different. Sneaky DFS tournament plays for Sunday.

🏆 The NFL announced some award finalists. Great year to be great.

🍽️ Classy move by Travis Kelce and Kodiak. People helping people.

⚡ "The only job where you start at the top is digging a hole." Harbaugh lol.

best bets cc

You like betting, we like betting, and Geoff LOVES betting. Lucky for you, he’s here to spread the good word with some seriously enticing best bets ahead of Championship Sunday. Lock in.

  • Play to: +3.5 (-115)

The Chiefs RBs gashed the Bills defense for 7.1 yards per carry last week as their offense employed more 12- and 13-man formations and heavier TE usage. This also opened things up for Travis Kelce (5-75-2, 6 targets), who averaged 15 yards per catch against Buffalo and had his most efficient outing of the year by most standards.

Even for how good they have been this year on defense, the Ravens may experience a lot of the same issues the Bills had in trying to stop Kansas City in this spot. Baltimore was just 22nd in success rate against the run and from, Week 12 onward, was just 28th in success rate.

The Chiefs will also have the Mahomes edge.

Mahomes enters this game 13-3 overall in 16 career playoff starts and is also 5-0 ATS for his career when he and the Chiefs have opened as underdogs of +3.0 points or more (per The Action Network).  

Trends aside, the Chiefs have been a work in progress all year but may be finally coming into their stride at the right moment. The Ravens have been at the top of the AFC market for a month now, so if there is any value on either of these teams, it’s likely with the Chiefs being undervalued. 

best bets

I’ve leaned on our FREE projections a lot this year (+18.56 units on tracked props, +73.44 units on Underdog pick’em), and I’m going to lean on them again here.

Yes, the Chiefs got bullied last week by Josh Allen (the runner), but even though they are both elite rushing QBs, Jackson’s style of running isn’t as straightforward as Allen’s. For the year, Jackson has also been under this 63.5 rushing total on 13 (out of 17) occasions. And the Chiefs, for all their faults as a rush defense, haven’t done a terrible job spying elite rushers from the QB position (they held both Allen and Justin Fields under 50 yards rushing in Week 3 and 14, respectively). 

Ultimately, after a monster week on the ground by Jackson against the Texans, this just feels like a great sell-high spot (on a prop that is nearly 10 yards higher than it was last week).

  • Brock Purdy 300+ passing yards

  • George Kittle 90+ receiving yards

  • George Kittle anytime TD

Targeting this Lions’ secondary last week worked wonders. We were able to hit on a +1400 same-game parlay with Baker Mayfield and Mike Evans both hitting on their alternate lines (300+ and 100+) and Evans finding the endzone. This week, I’m taking a very similar, simple approach. 

With Deebo Samuel banged up, I think the stage is set for George Kittle to be a star in this game. The 49ers TE has scored six times in the last six games when Samuel has been out, and over the last five games that Samuel has missed, Kittle has averaged 92.6 receiving yards. 

The Lions also have smaller corners, so even if they choose to defend Kittle with more athletic players, he’ll have a huge height advantage. It should lead to lots of explosive plays for Kittle and big yardage days for both himself and QB Brock Purdy

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