Tiki Barber was never supposed to be a football player.
After he and his twin brother Ronde were born prematurely, doctors warned they’d never be able to play contact sports.
However, the Barbers were a football family. Their father James wasn’t there during most of their childhood but the duo was surrounded by artifacts from his standout career at Virginia Tech and, as Tiki put it, “It captured our imagination.”
The boys eventually convinced their mom to let them play football and did their very best to make those doctors look like idiots on their way to having a couple of incredibly successful NFL careers.
I got the chance to chat with Barber ahead of the first Sunday of the NFL season, where he’ll be posting up in Hoboken with DraftKings to ring in the new year at a kickoff event that will give attendees plenty of chances to make some cash— including a fantasy contest with a $10,000 purse.
However, if you can’t make it to New Jersey, there are still plenty of opportunities to use your football knowledge to rake in money this year.
Who Will Be This Year’s MVP?
Aaron Rodgers is the odds-on favorite to take home MVP honors this season and Barber thinks the hype is real.
“I like Aaron Rodgers. He’s obviously coming back healthy and improved and he’s one of those players I think lives up to the expectations— and the contract that he just signed, which is enormous— plus he has Jimmy Graham there. He moves around so much in the red zone and a guy like Jimmy Graham is the perfect red zone target for a guy like him.”
When I spoke to Tony Romo, he said Graham could be one of the top fantasy sleepers this year, but that combination might not be enough for the Packers to bring a championship back to Green Bay.
Who Will Win Super Bowl LIII?
The Steelers are near the top of the pack when it comes to Super Bowl favorites but Barber thinks they have what it takes to take home the Lombardi Trophy:
“My eventual Super Bowl winner is the Steelers even though I’m second guessing that with the Le’Veon Bell situation. I like their team. I like their talent on offense. If they can replace Ryan Shazier on the defensive side of the ball they can get significantly better over there.
They have so many weapons offensively: Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith Schuster, and James Washington. I think talent-wise they have a ton for Ben Roethlisberger to play with.”
The Packers might have the tools to be contenders in the NFC, but in Barber’s opinion, it’s the Rams who are the real team to watch out for in the conference.
He says they could give the Steelers some serious trouble if they make it to the Super Bowl:
“The Rams have done so much. Think of where they got last year. People forget because they played so terrible in the playoffs. They spent all this money this offseason to bring in Brandon Cooks, Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, and now they’ve signed Aaron Darnold.
They’re built for success now. It’s hard to buy success but it feels like they might be able to be one of the few exceptions.”
He was also nice enough to give his opinion on what is easily my favorite prop bet of the preseason…
How Many Games Will The Browns Win This Year?
It’s close to impossible for the Browns to get any worse than they did last year and even Vegas is optimistic they’ll be able to turn things around, with the over/under at 5.5 wins— a total Barber can see them surpassing:
“I’m going to say over. On paper they’re amazing. The only thing I worry about— and it’s only because of Hard Knocks— is it feels like there’s some dysfunction in the coaching staff. Hue Jackson [is] getting taken on by Todd Haley and we all know how emotional Greg Williams is. That coaching staff has to be able to hold itself together.
They’ve got tons of talent. You’ve got Josh Gordon and Jarvis Landry being brought in. Carlos Hyde is a sneaky running back and he might have a great season. The quarterback situation is stable enough with Tyrod Taylor.
It’s just a matter of whether they get coached correctly.”
However, there was only one question I really wanted to know the answer to for the sake of my fantasy football team.
Should You Keep Le’Veon Bell On Your Fantasy Football Team?
The fantasy world was rocked earlier this week when rumors started to swirl that Le’Veon Bell might sit out for up to ten weeks in search of a new contract, but Barber doesn’t seem to think he’ll actually hold out that long— assuming he’s still on the Steelers at the end of the season:
“He won’t be out more than two weeks. There’s a monetary aspect to this as well. There’s also speculation that he’ll get traded. At this point, if he’s going to be this disruptive to the locker room, is it worth moving on from him and trading him?
I think an issue is that the Steelers don’t want to be the first team to set the market for a running back like this. A lot of people will point to Todd Gurley’s contract and say ‘Didn’t Todd Gurley set the market?’ because he’s making $14 million a year.
But Todd Gurley has stolen money in there because it was part of his existing deal. As great as it looks, half of it or a quarter of it is already money that is being paid to him.
Le’Veon is brand new because it all stems from year zero, not from a year back. He could get traded which would change the conversation about running backs.”
I guess that makes him a keeper for now.
Even if you can’t hang with Tiki on Sunday, you can still put your skills to the test against him and (if you’re in New Jersey) use the DraftKings Sportsbook to get your bet on once the season really kicks off.
Of course, you can also join us for the season’s first pick’em contest.
May the odds be ever in your favor.