With Super Bowl week finally upon us, it’s time to take one final victory lap as the season draws to a close. Unfortunately, this is the final Dose for the 2016 NFL league year. Hopefully this past regular season was filled with fantasy success, because we’re so close to another long offseason.
Before we move on, though, we have to take a peek into all of the Super Bowl news and blurbs from around the league. As always, if you’re a true fantasy enthusiast or if you’re just looking for a deep dive into the Falcons and Patriots, Rich Hribar provided an excellent primer in his Worksheet series for the Super Bowl. It’s always a must-read.
Let’s hit the news.
Super Bowl News and Notes
Fresh off of a two-week break and still riding high after setting the Packers’ secondary on fire for 9-180-2 in the Championship Round, Julio Jones (toe) “looked great” in practice this week per HC Dan Quinn and is locked and loaded to play on Sunday. What the Patriots will (or won’t) do versus Julio in the Super Bowl remains one of the best individual matchups. This stretches back to 2013, but when the Falcons and Patriots met over three years ago, Bill Belichick did not assign an isolated cornerback to travel with Julio Jones. Jones went for 6-108 that day. Instead, Belichick let his two corners “stay home” on their respective sides of the field. Former-Patriot CB Aqib Talib shut down Jones on his side while Jones ripped into Alfonzo Dennard on the other side of the field. Even though Malcolm Butler has had a fantastic year -- he finished as PFF’s second-best cover corner -- he is still not yet as good as Talib. For what it’s worth, Talib has allowed just 6.55 receiving yards per target in his coverage over the past three years while Butler allowed 8.04 YPT this year. At any rate, it is still unknown if Bill Belichick will assign Butler to Julio exclusively. Butler has traveled with No. 1 and No. 2 receivers at times in 2016, but the connection between Matt Ryan and Julio Jones is easily his toughest task to-date.
Also of note, Falcons’ stud C Alex Mack (ankle) was limited in practice earlier this week, but he is fully expected to play in the Super Bowl. Mack was not even on Atlanta’s injury report at last week’s end. The Ringer posted a terrific piece last week profiling how Mack has been a lynchpin in Atlanta’s offense in their Super Bowl run. Per PFF’s grading, Mack posted the best single-season in run blocking for a center over the past four years in 2016.
The Headlines from Around the League
Per a report earlier this week, soon-to-be 32-year-old Rashad Jennings “expects” to be back with the Giants in 2017. Jennings has one-year left on his deal and New York could save $2.5 million if they cut Jennings loose this offseason. Notably, veteran Shane Vereen has one year left on his deal and the Giants could save $3.8M against the cap if they let the near 28-year-old go. New York’s backfield was a mess in 2016 and Jennings is likely going to be a cap-casualty at his advanced age. Shane Vereen is nearly four years younger and only played in five games this past season after tearing his triceps twice. Rookie Paul Perkins will be an interesting player to evaluate for the 2017 season. In the Giants’ final five games, Perkins saw more opportunities (rush attempts plus targets) than Rashad Jennings (83:74) and doubled the aging veteran’s touch count in their Wild Card playoff loss to the Packers (12:6). No matter what the G-Men do with their backfield this offseason, they have to fix their offensive line that finished the year 24th in Football Outsiders’ run blocking efficiency.
Speaking on Wednesday, Texans’ owner Bob McNair said signing DeAndre Hopkins to a long-term extension is a “priority” this offseason. Houston also has to make a decision on re-signing stud CB A.J. Bouye after his breakout 2016 campaign. Per PFF, Bouye allowed just 5.36 yards per coverage target last year, the ninth-best mark in the league. Turning 26-years-old in August, Bouye is going to bang the cash register this offseason. Hopkins, however, may be next in line for new deals after Bouye. Hopkins will be in the final year of his rookie deal in 2017 since Houston exercised the fifth-year of Hopkins’ deal in April 2016. He is set to make just under $8M before he is an unrestricted free agent in 2018. After two excellent WR18 and WR5 fantasy campaigns (points per game) in 2014 and 2015, Hopkins’ WR35 finish last year was a major disappointment. Hopkins’ regression obviously wasn’t entirely his fault. Among the 30 receivers to see seven or more targets per game, only 59% of Hopkins’ targets were deemed “catchable” per PFF. That was the fifth-lowest rate in the league. Houston desperately needs to figure out their quarterback situation for 2017.
Larry Fitzgerald told ESPN's Jim Trotter he's "definitely" going to play out the final year of his contract and return for the 2017 season… Malcolm Mitchell (knee), Martellus Bennett (knee) and Chris Hogan (thigh) were all listed as “limited” in Wednesday’s practice; expect all three to play in the Super Bowl on Sunday… Western Michigan WR Corey Davis suffered an ankle injury in training and may miss the Combine… C.J. Anderson (knee surgery) expects to be fully cleared later this month… J.J. Watt (back surgery) said he's been "fully cleared" and expects to participate in OTAs… Victor Cruz said the "ball is in [the Giants'] court" regarding his future with the team… Sammie Coates underwent surgery to repair fractures and tendon damage to his left ring and index fingers… Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff said the team will address Devonta Freeman's contract this offseason… The 49ers are suing suspended Raiders OLB Aldon Smith to recoup signing bonus money… Travis Benjamin underwent right arthroscopic knee surgery last week.