👀 NFL Awards and KEY Super Bowl Questions

The night before the night before...

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I’ve got a fever. And the only prescription is more Super Bowl prop bets...

In today’s Fantasy Life Newsletter presented by Hugo Boss:

  • Lamar Jackson and the rest of the NFL’s award winners

  • Fantasy Questions: How special has Rashee Rice been?

  • The Fantasy Life Super Bowl Show is LIVE

  • Super Bowl SGPs: +1200 potential payout!

  • It’s 2/9. Take it away, Ian Hartitz…

Cash those tickets: NFL AP awards are officially official.

  • MVP: Lamar Jackson

  • OPOY: Christian McCaffrey

  • DPOY: Myles Garrett

  • OROY: CJ Stroud

  • DROY: Will Anderson Jr.

  • CPOY: Joe Flacco

  • COY: Kevin Stefanski

  • ACOY: Jim Schwartz

  • Walter Payton Man of the Year: Cameron Heyward

Congrats to all winners involved, particularly the headliner who was just one vote away from winning unanimously (the critic’s reasoning).

The Ravens’ electric dual-threat QB is now just the 11th player to ever win multiple MVP awards, joining an esteemed list featuring Peyton Manning (5), Aaron Rodgers (4), Tom Brady (3), Jim Brown (3), Brett Favre (3), Johnny Unitas (3), Patrick Mahomes (2), Kurt Warner (2), Joe Montana (2) and Steve Young (2).

Jackson excelled as a passer in his first season under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken, joining Brock Purdy, Tua Tagoaviloa and CJ Stroud as the league's only QBs to average at least eight yards per attempt. Throw in 821 rushing yards and five scores on the ground (good for first and fourth at the position), and there really wasn’t anyone quite like Action Jackson this season.

Additional love to CMC for capturing the de facto most-valuable non-QB offensive award. Luckily he DID take home Fantasy Life MVP honors, which will assuredly comfort him at night.

Stroud and Anderson became the second pair of teammates to take home offensive and defensive rookie of the year honors in as many years after Jets WR Garrett Wilson and CB Sauce Gardner managed to accomplish the feat last season.

There was some controversy surrounding the comeback player of the year, as Bills S Damar Hamlin lost on total points despite getting the most first-place votes. Of course, Flacco was indeed AWESOME down the stretch in his own right; it’d be great to see a “Most Improved Player” category introduced to help honor what were obviously two different — yet deserving — candidates.

The NFL didn’t stop spreading honors, naming the official 2024 Hall of Fame class:

  • Dwight Freeney

  • Devin Hester

  • Andre Johnson

  • Julius Peppers

  • Patrick Willis

  • Randy Gradishar (senior)

  • Steve McMichael (senior)

What a group, even with more big names just missing the cut.

Freeney’s spin move remains legendary. Hester is the near-unanimous GOAT returner. Johnson beat the crap out of Courtland Finnegan (and also had 14,000 career yards and 70 TDs). Peppers and Willis both have rather strong cases as THE best players at their positions during their primes.

With all due respect to those classic Chicago DSTs: Nobody was more impactful in the fantasy world than Andre Johnson. He finished as fantasy's overall PPR WR1 in both 2008 and 2009, joining Antonio Brown, Calvin Johnson, Marvin Harrison and Randy Moss as the only WRs with two first-place finishes since 2000.

Congrats to all, and here’s to hoping the good vibes lead to one helluva finale on Sunday. Oh yeah, speaking of that game…

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Fantasy Life Fantasy Questions Super Bowl Weekend

One last game to right any wrongs you experienced this season as a fantasy manager, gambler and human being alike — what could go wrong?

Don’t worry: Ian is here to address all the big questions ahead of the biggest game of the season, and oh hey, he’s got some answers up his sleeves too.

🚀 Just how special has Rashee Rice’s rookie campaign been?

Rather spectacular.

Puka Nacua (understandably) has gotten most of the shine this season when it comes to rookie WRs, but Rice’s per-route performance is also up there with some legit studs.

However, Rice has gone about picking up his yardage a bit differently. His 5.2-yard average target depth is easily the lowest mark of that above-esteemed group and ranked dead last in 2023 among 80 WRs with at least 50 targets.

The Chiefs haven’t made a habit of asking the YAC-merchant to operate too far past the line of scrimmage, but maybe that’s because Rice has been rather incredible with the football in his hands.

  • Yards after the catch per reception: 8.3 (No. 2 among all WRs with 25-plus targets) 

  • ESPN Analytics YAC Receiving Rating: 73 (No. 3)

  • Next-Gen Stats yards after the catch above expected per reception: +1.9 (tied for No. 9)

There have been a few glimpses of Rice winning downfield, although more highlights than not feature the rookie simply winning on quick-hitting screens or by finding the soft spot in zone coverage

Ultimately, Rice has been incredibly consistent in racking up receptions, totaling at least six catches in seven of his last nine games. Only Kelce (103) has more total targets than Rice (78) against primary zone-coverage looks; no other Chiefs player has reached even 50 such opportunities.

Don’t be surprised if more quick-hitting opportunities keep coming Rice’s way against a 49ers defense that has run the 10th-highest rate of zone coverage this season.

Fantasy Life Fantasy Questions Super Bowl Weekend

🤔 What 49ers pass-catchers will most likely be featured?

The Chiefs play man coverage at a top-10 rate BUT also provide plenty of safety help over the top: This is the league’s only defense to spend at least half of their snaps with the middle of the field open, which accounts for most traditional two-high looks such as Cover-2, Cover-4, Cover-6 and 2-Man among others.

Purdy's target distribution against defenses leaving the middle of the field open:

  • Deebo Samuel (44)

  • Christian McCaffrey (43)

  • Brandon Aiyuk (32)

  • George Kittle (29)

We see the same story/order when looking at the target distribution vs. the specific coverages independent of the safety alignment: Kittle has usually been the odd man out in these sorts of circumstances.

This is one of a few reasons why I’m a big fan of Kittle going UNDER on his receiving yards props.

The 49ers’ stud TE is awesome, but he’s also seen fewer than five targets in eight games this season inside this crowded passing game, leading to him finishing under this mark on four separate occasions. This Chiefs secondary was a top-10 group at limiting opposing TE receiving yardage, causing the odds to feel steep for someone who could simply be game-planned into more of a block-first role this week.

Only the Ravens allowed fewer yards per pass attempt to WRs aligned out wide than the Chiefs this season; it’d make sense if the sledding is tougher than usual for Aiyuk, even if the stud fourth-year WR is certainly capable of making the most out of potentially limited opportunities. 

Look for CMC and Deebo to lead the way this week. The latter player certainly looked healthy in the NFC Championship despite playing through the pain of a shoulder injury, as Deebo forced a whopping eight missed tackles on 11 touches. Not too shabby!

Around the Watercooler (August 2022)

💎 The Chiefs pass-catchers could be a key to victory. Which ones are hidden gems?

🏆 Class of 2025 first-time eligible Hall of Fame list is out. Adam Vinatieri and more.

📊 Why let the offseason be boring when we can be drafting for next season? 4 players primed for regression.

😮 Offseason WR player movement has the potential to be WILD. That’s an elite list of dudes.

🎉 The Fantasy Life Super Bowl Show is LIVE! Great day to be great.

🎤 Let’s get weird. Super Bowl novelty props to bet.

🤯 Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy might go HOW high? Draft rumor szn is in full swing.

🤠 The Cowboys found a new man to lead their defense. A reunion!

👰‍♂️ Now THAT is a great fantasy football last-place punishment. Lmao.

SB SGP

Looking to take advantage of some of the SGP promotions available for the Super Bowl? Matt LaMarca has you covered…

  • 49ers ML

  • Under 47.5

  • Christian McCaffrey anytime touchdown

  • McCaffrey Over 94.5 rushing yards

  • Isiah Pacheco Over 64.5 rushing yards

This is my personal favorite “reasonable” SGP.

There really hasn’t been a ton of movement on this side in the matchup, with the 49ers opening as roughly 2.5-point favorites and settling at around -2. The Chiefs have the edge in public support – 70% of the bets have sided with the underdogs (per the Action Network) – but there has been more sharp action on the 49ers.

That’s the side that I prefer. The 49ers have struggled a bit during the postseason, but they were far superior to the Chiefs during the regular season. They were nearly unbeatable at full strength, posting a 12-1 record in games where Deebo Samuel, Trent Williams, and McCaffrey were fully available.

They haven’t met those standards for most of the postseason, but they did in their furious second-half comeback against the Lions.

The Chiefs have clearly elevated their game, particularly on offense, but their path to the Super Bowl has been easier than it looked on paper. The Dolphins were dealing with tons of injuries and unfavorable weather conditions, while the Bills’ defense had numerous injuries in their back seven. The win over the Ravens was the best of the bunch, but that victory was propelled by the defense. I’m not sure if they can shut down San Francisco the same way they did Baltimore.

SB SGP

I see both of these teams having more success on the ground than through the air. The Chiefs’ poor run defense is a known commodity. They were third in dropback EPA defensively during the regular season, but they were 28th against the run. I have no idea why the Ravens didn’t try to exploit the Chiefs on the ground in the AFC Championship but don’t expect Kyle Shanahan to make the same mistake. McCaffrey should be busy and productive in this spot.

The 49ers’ run defense doesn’t have the same reputation, but they’ve been nearly as bad. They were merely 26th in rushing EPA defensively, and they’ve surrendered big games to the Packers and Lions runners in the first two games of the postseason. Specifically, the Lions averaged 6.2 yards before contact in the first half of the NFC Championship. The Chiefs are still a pass-first team, but they’ve been more willing to let Pacheco carry the load at times this season.

If both teams are leaning on the run game, it makes sense to pair it with an under for the game. Running the ball keeps the clock moving, and even a successful run game is typically less efficient than throwing the ball. Overall, points should be at a premium in that game script.

If you wanted to make this a little juicier, you could also consider adding a Pacheco anytime touchdown. That said, this feels like a very reasonable outcome for a +1150 potential payout.

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