NFL

NFL Fantasy Picks: Lamb won't be silenced by Chiefs

By Sports Desk November 17, 2021

Trying to predict the 2021 NFL season has seemed like an exercise in futility.

It is a year that has served as a perfect illustration of the NFL being a 'week-to-week league'; upsets have been frequent, making the elite teams tougher to discern, even with 10 weeks in the books.

Only four teams in the AFC are below .500 while, of those currently outside the playoffs in the NFC, every team aside from the winless Detroit Lions is at worst a game back in the loss column of the final Wild Card berth.

It sets the stage for a fascinating stretch run in the regular season and, for fantasy purposes, can sow doubt around players who would otherwise be considered sure things.

But, in Week 11, there are some clear standouts who look primed for highly productive performances. Once again, Stats Perform has identified four offensive players and a defense that deserve starting spots this week.

Quarterback: Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals @ Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders were shredded by Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs last week as their commitment to playing coverage looks featuring a single-high safety backfired spectacularly.

Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley seems steadfast in sticking with such coverages and the evidence suggests it will prove the Raiders' downfall again versus the Bengals.

Though the Bengals enter the game on a two-game losing streak, they can afford to have confidence in Burrow flourishing in Las Vegas.

Burrow is delivering a well-thrown, accurate ball on 84.4 per cent of his pass attempts against Cover 1 robber looks and on 90.2 per cent of throws versus Cover 3 zone.

The Raiders, therefore, represent the ideal matchup as the Bengals and Burrow look to bounce back. 

Running Back: A.J. Dillon, Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings

The Packers will be without starting running back Aaron Jones because of a knee sprain, however, Dillon has proven himself an impressive complement and should excel filling the void while Jones is on the sideline.

Dillon was not efficient in the Packers' win over the Seattle Seahawks last time out, averaging only 3.1 yards per carry while finding the endzone twice.

However, he has averaged at least 4.9 yards per rush in the three other games where he has received at least 10 carries this year.

Against a Vikings defense giving up the third-most yards per rush in the league (4.74), Dillon will have the workload and the matchup to enjoy a career day in Jones' absence.

Wide Receiver: CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys @ Kansas City Chiefs

The second-year wideout is on a tear, Lamb having racked up 378 receiving yards and four touchdowns over the last four games.

He is establishing himself as Dak Prescott's top target on a loaded offense few have managed to slow down in 2021.

The Chiefs have improved on defense of late but theirs is a unit allowing the third-most pass yards per play in the NFL (7.41). It is tough to have faith in Kansas City to slow down a receiver in Lamb's vein of form.

Tight End: Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills vs. Indianapolis Colts

Returning from a fractured hand, Knox was targeted just once in the Bills' blowout win over the New York Jets.

The game script did not really call for Knox to be heavily involved as Buffalo built an insurmountable lead.

However, things are likely to be closer against the Colts, meaning Knox may need to reproduce the breakout form he delivered earlier in the season.

Knox has a touchdown in four of his seven games in 2021. Against a Colts defense allowing the seventh-most TD drives in the NFL (27), he's a strong bet to find the endzone again.

Defense: Miami Dolphins @ New York Jets

Miami's ultra-aggressive defense created havoc in their stunning win over the Baltimore Ravens in Week 10. The Dolphins sacked Lamar Jackson four times, their commitment to relentlessly blitzing defensive backs derailing Baltimore's passing game, intercepted him once and forced two fumbles, with one returned for a touchdown.

Now they face a Jets team that has turned the ball over 22 times this season, committing 13 giveaways in their last four games.

They have turned to Joe Flacco in the belief the veteran, and not ailing second overall pick Zach Wilson or Mike White, gives them the best chance to win. However, Flacco threw an interception in each of his previous three appearances for the Jets last season. Despite the quarterback change, the signs still point to Miami's defense enjoying another disruptive day.

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  • Australian Open: No happy ever Rafter, Cash machine didn't pay out – Barty eyes glory after Aussie heroes fell short Australian Open: No happy ever Rafter, Cash machine didn't pay out – Barty eyes glory after Aussie heroes fell short

    Australia expects as Ash Barty faces Danielle Collins in Saturday's grand slam final at Melbourne Park.

    The world number one, from Ipswich, Queensland, will be bidding for her third grand slam singles title but a first at the Australian Open.

    The wait for a home champion has been a long one, but it could soon be over.

    Chris O'Neil was the last Australian winner of the women's singles, way back in 1978, while the last men's singles champion was Mark Edmondson in 1976.

    Australia has hardly been starved of tennis talent over the past 40 years, but for one reason or another, the home slam has been beyond their reach.

    Here, Stats Perform remembers the household names who have seen their hopes dashed in Melbourne.

    Jelena Dokic

    Dokic never came close in Melbourne, truth be told. Which is not to say she lacked the ability, having reached the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2000 and climbed as high as number four in the WTA rankings two years later. Dokic's career was blighted by a traumatic relationship with her overbearing and violent coach and father, Damir, whom she alleged physically abused her on many occasions. Her best performance at Melbourne Park came against all expectations, at the outset of a tour comeback in 2009 when she reached the quarter-finals, losing out there to Dinara Safina. Dokic, who is now 38 and retired from the tour, has been conducting on-court interviews during this year's Australian Open.

    Lleyton Hewitt

    'Rusty' won Wimbledon and US Open titles at the peak of his powers, and reached number one in the world at the age of 20. Before Roger Federer came along with different ideas, it seemed Hewitt might rule the roost in the men's game for years to come. He reached one Australian Open final, and in 2005 that was a glorious chance to secure a home major as he faced Russian Marat Safin in the final. Hewitt won the first set, but then Safin took command, winning in four. Incredibly, it would be the last grand slam men's singles final not to feature Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic until the 2014 US Open (Nishikori v Cilic).

    Pat Cash

    Cash's career peak came at Wimbledon in 1987, when he beat Ivan Lendl to capture the title before famously climbing up to the players' box. At the start of that year he almost won the Australian Open, too, when that tournament was staged on grass at Kooyong, in Melbourne's suburbs. He lost a five-set thriller to Stefan Edberg, another grass-court master, and when the tournament moved to Melbourne Park a year later, shifting to hardcourts, Cash was a finalist once more. Again, he suffered heartbreak in a deciding set, Mats Wilander denying Cash home glory, and he would never play a grand slam final again.

    Samantha Stosur

    Stosur, who called time on her singles career after a second-round defeat in Melbourne this year, was Australia's most recent women's singles grand slam champion until Barty came along. She triumphed at the 2011 US Open, sensationally beating Serena Williams in the Flushing Meadows final, and got to as high as number four in the world. She also reached the 2010 French Open final, but Stosur was never a factor in the business end of her home major, at least in singles. The fourth round was the furthest she ever went, but it was a different story in doubles, as she won an Australian Open mixed title in 2005, alongside fellow Australian Scott Draper. In the twilight of her career, in 2019, she teamed up with Zhang Shuai to win the women's doubles, a poignant success after so much singles frustration.

    Mark Philippoussis

    Philippoussis, aka 'Scud', was a US Open runner-up in 1998 and also reached the 2003 Wimbledon final, where he was the sacrificial lamb as Federer scooped the first grand slam title of his career. In Australia, though, just like Stosur, his slam peak was round four, a disappointment considering his talent and weaponry. In 1996, Philippoussis stunned the then world number one Pete Sampras in the third round in Melbourne, only to lose to lowly ranked compatriot and doubles expert Mark Woodforde in his next match. Arguably the most famous story concerning Philippoussis and the Australian Open is the widely reported rumour he was spotted kissing Anna Kournikova in an underground car park at the 2000 tournament. Both denied it. "Just good friends," was Kournikova's verdict.

    Pat Rafter

    Rafter won back-to-back US Opens in 1997 and 1998, as well as reaching consecutive Wimbledon finals in 2000 and 2001. A semi-final run in Melbourne in 2001, which proved to be the serve-volley master's last year on tour, was Rafter's best performance at his home slam, eventual champion Andre Agassi coming from two sets to one down to deny him a place in the title match.

    Nick Kyrgios

    All the talent in the world, but Kyrgios appears to be happy enough ploughing a unique furrow though his tennis career. Top five in the shot-making stakes, Kyrgios turns 27 in April and his ability has taken him to just two slam quarter-finals to date, including at the 2015 Australian Open. He was a junior champion at Melbourne Park in 2013, and has also reached the fourth round twice in the seniors. It is up to Kyrgios whether he wishes to make optimum use of his remarkable racket skills or carry on entertaining with virtuoso, but short-lived, singles runs. You wonder whether a Barty triumph could ignite this firecracker of a player.

  • Kroos wants to spend rest of his career at Real Madrid Kroos wants to spend rest of his career at Real Madrid

    Toni Kroos insists he wants to spend the rest of his career with Real Madrid, with his current contract due to run until the end of next season.

    Kroos moved to the Santiago Bernabeu in 2014 from Bayern Munich and has made 344 appearances for Los Blancos in all competitions, scoring 25 goals and assisting 77.

    The German midfielder has won two LaLiga titles, three Champions Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups and four FIFA Club World Cups since arriving in Spain, and has confirmed that he wishes to see the final days of his career out in Madrid.

    "I want to finish my career here," Kroos said in an interview with RTVE. "My family and I are fine in Madrid, there is still a year and a half left [of this contract]."

    The 32-year-old also spoke about this season's title race in LaLiga, with Madrid currently top of the league, four points ahead of second-placed Sevilla, adding: "We have to look for all the points in the league, there's still a lot left.

    "At the moment the rival is Sevilla, and we have to fight for it until the end."

     

    Kroos' team-mate Eden Hazard has had a difficult time since his big-money move to Madrid from Chelsea in 2019, but the Belgian has started to show shoots of form of late, scoring the winning goal in the dramatic 2-1 comeback win in extra time at Elche in the Copa del Rey.

    "I believe in him," Kroos said of Hazard. "He has to do everything to return to being what he has always been – he can help us a lot."

    The 2014 World Cup winner was also asked about another world champion, Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe, who has been heavily linked with a move to Madrid when his contract expires at the end of the current season.

    "It is difficult to know because everything depends on the situation of his contract," he added. "It does not surprise me that Madrid are trying to sign him because he is a top player. It is not a secret that Real Madrid want him.

    "In my eight years here, many names have come up and only 20 per cent have arrived."

  • Australian Open: Barty braced for 'in your face' threat from Collins in title match Australian Open: Barty braced for 'in your face' threat from Collins in title match

    Ash Barty will plot a path to victory over Danielle Collins in the Australian Open final with the coach she describes as "a magician" and "a massive part of my life".

    Australian home hero Barty has been a hot favourite for the title since before the first ball was struck in Melbourne, and to date she has justified all the hype and expectation.

    Barty has dropped only 21 games across six matches to reach the final. Since 2000, only Serena Williams (16 games at the 2013 US Open and 19 at the 2012 US Open) and Venus Williams (20 games at Wimbledon in 2009) have lost fewer games to reach a grand slam final.

    The last player to lose fewer games en route to the final in Australia was Monica Seles in 1993 (20 games), and she went on to beat Steffi Graf in a title match that went to three sets.

    This is the level Barty is at now, as an established world number one and reigning Wimbledon champion, and a Collins victory on Saturday would be a major upset.

    Yet Barty sees the 28-year-old American as a major threat, and the evidence of Collins' destructive performance against seventh seed Iga Swiatek in Thursday's second semi-final attests to that.

    Collins won 6-4 6-1 and hit 27 winners and only 13 unforced errors, securing a place in her first slam final.

     

    "She's an exceptional ball striker," said Barty. "She's someone who stands on the baseline and can hit all spots of the court from any position. I think the challenge is going to be trying to get her off balance.

    "We'll do our homework and try to figure out a plan, and come Saturday try and execute. Danielle's done incredibly well here in Australia before. The way she's able to control the baseline and really take the game on, she's one of the most fierce competitors out here.

    "She loves to get in your face and loves to take it on. It's going to be a challenge for me to try to neutralise as best as I can, but it's certainly nice to see her out here playing her best stuff."

    Working out a strategy for the match, alongside Barty, will be veteran coach Craig Tyzzer. Barty trusts him implicitly to get the plan right.

    "'Tyzze' is a magician; he's able to look at a lot of different matches, look at key matches, some recent and some old, and work our plan out in looking at different conditions and things like that," Barty said in a news conference after her thumping 6-1 6-3 semi-final win against Madison Keys.

    "He's the man that does all the work. I just get to go out there and have fun with it."

    Barty is understating her role there, but she has turned singles into a team game, relying on the likes of Tyzzer and mindset coach Ben Crowe to steer her on the right path.

    She is attempting to become the first Australian player to win this title since Chris O'Neil in 1978, so the pressure is on, and it helps that those around her help to relieve the stress.

    "Everyone is equally important. We're all equal, we all play our roles," Barty said. "The most amazing thing is we all communicate really well together and get along with each other and know when it's time to back off, relax, and then when it's time to switch on and really have a crack.

    "'Tyzze' has been a massive part of my life since 2016. Before that, we'd done some work together, but the work he's done in setting up an amazing group of people around us has propelled my career for both of us. The experiences we've been able to share has been remarkable.

    "It starts with my family, my sisters, obviously my professional team who contribute as much time and energy into my career and help me try and live out my dreams. I cannot thank them enough for the time and effort they put in to someone else.

    "Being able to enjoy it all together and lighten up when we're not focused on the match is a really important part of that."

    Barty's first serve has been a huge weapon, while Collins' return of the second serve has been a significant factor behind her run. So if Barty can land enough first serves on Saturday, that could prove telling. It has helped her to save 13 of 14 break points so far in this tournament.

    Giving Collins a regular look at her second serve could be costly. Collins has won more points on the return of second serve (90) than any other woman in the tournament.

    Barty ranks ninth on that list but is the leader on winning points when landing a first serve, achieving an 83 per cent success rate.

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