Lost Bets and Lots of Animals in Starts, Sits & Bluffs
Well, I have to wear a White jersey on Sunday. No not the color, a Roddy White Atlanta Falcons jersey. Many of you, especially his Fantasy owners or Dirty Bird fans, probably don’t think it’s such a bad thing. However, when you are a Giants fan – a frustrated Giants fan that has seen your team dominate the 49ers, Packers and Saints, only to lose games they shouldn’t, such as Philly, Pittsburgh and the RG-fumble-TD game – it’s the ultimate nightmare for Week 15. And, it was so narrowly close to never being possible.
My friend, who is a girl, and no, not my girlfriend – and yes, that’s a story for another time… Okay, quick version since I know you’re curious. She’s great! Attractive, enjoys sports, good sense of humor, is not a big fan of the outdoors (a plus for me) and has no pets (another plus). We’ve just never had the right timing. Other relationships, travel, work, etc.; it’s nearly reached the point of “just doesn’t seem to fit.” In any case, her workplace has a football pool. Every week, over 100 people play. That means you need to be nearly perfect to win any given week. I’ve missed three or less more often than anyone and only one a few times – I’m leading the season standings by 11 games; I got this! Yet, I’ve never won an individual week. Twice, I came close: lost by one game from a Monday night outcome and once by a tiebreak.
There is more to the season battle than just the weekly or year-end prizes. Both of us make picks every week; she submits two under her name. That’s not the kicker, though. It’s that we made a preseason bet. She bet that she would win the pool before I did, and if so, I had to wear a White jersey for the Giants-Falcons game, and if not, she would wear my Eli Manning jersey. I have Hakeem Nicks and Justin Tuck jerseys too, but she chose Eli… hmm, maybe she’s racist! Uh oh.
Now, she’s a Falcons fan, sure, but NFL knowledgeable, barely. You know that 11-game lead I have on the season-long pool prize? She’s 56 games back, barely over .500!
I’m sure you’ve figured out what happened by now. This past week – yes, the last possible week before the big game – she missed one game. Just one! Do you recall the madness of this past week? The Vikings over the Bears. Eagles on the road. Chargers topping the Steelers in Pittsburgh. Atlanta losing just their second game – which was the only one she missed! I don’t know of anyone else who went 15-1 this past week. Except her…
Now, I’m stuck wearing a jersey of the Giants opponent during one of the most critical games in their season. Why? Because as they say, even a blind squirrel…
How is that so different from the excitement and misery created from the Seattle Seahawks D/ST last week? Sure, we’ve seen Fantasy outbursts from unexpected sources, even David Wilson last Sunday too. But when was the last time you remember a D/ST swinging the balance of so many matchups, and so many matchups coming in the first week of the playoffs? The only comparison that comes to mind is Billy Volek. That was 2004, and for those of you not playing at the time, Steve McNair battled injuries that season and was done after Week 12 due to an injured sternum. Enter Volek, who threw for 269 yards, three TDs and two INTs in Week 13. Desperate McNair owners grabbed him already, but some others took a chance after that game. Week 14: 426 yards, four TDs, no INTs. Week 15: 492 yards, four TDs, one INT. Basically, Volek single-handedly won you the first two rounds. He was awful against Denver in Week 16, but that is how those plays sometimes pay off.
Sure, Volek catapulted teams to a championship game, the Seattle D/ST won the first round for many and this girl missed only one game in a weekly pick ‘em. What does it all mean? Just what I’ve been saying all year long and focused on last week, sometimes, luck is the greatest friend of all (or most evil being, depending on which side you sit… or jersey you wear… sigh).
ACES IN THE HOLE (Guaranteed a Good Week): Cam Newton, CAR; Marshawn Lynch, SEA; Brandon Marshall, CHI; Seattle D/ST – Here I go again, on my own. Walking down the only road… oh sorry, just what I imagine Cam singing at this point after his third straight 28-plus FP effort… Not only did Lynch trump Adrian Peterson’s day, he did it on just 11 carries (for 128 yards and three TDs). Whoa!… Mike Wallace actually out-scored Marshall, but some were still hesitant to use Wallace. I wasn’t, and did in many leagues and recommended him in more. But, Marshall was the 100-percent used option who came up big again… Normally, we do a QB/RB/WR, but the Seahawks D/ST won many and lost many first-round playoffs for teams. I was on both sides of it, and I admit, when a D/ST scores that much, Fantasy skill has little to do with it.
RIVER RAT (Surprising Top Performances): Nicks Foles, PHI; David Wilson, NYG; Brandon Lloyd, NE – Foles outscored Tom Brady? That’s all you need to know when it comes to surprise QB of the week… Talk about Fantasy Points going to waste with Wilson. Talk about some ticked off Ahmad Bradshaw owners too… So, that was what I was expecting from Lloyd all year when I called him a WR2 given his new situation. Too bad that rarely happened this year.
GUT SHOT (Let Everyone Down): Andrew Luck, IND; Ahmad Bradshaw, NYG and Bryce Brown, PHI; Greg Jennings, GB; Kyle Rudolph, MIN – Tasty matchup, home game, pass-happy offense. What happened Luck?! A rookie is sometimes just a rookie… See: Wilson, David. As for Bryce, what can anyone say? Yes, the Bucs run D is one of the best, but Brown is a great pass catcher and should have found success anyway… I would say Larry Fitzgerald, but that’s too easy at this point, and he was a benchable option anyway. However, Jennings was not supposed to fall flat against Detroit. Then again, neither was Aaron Rodgers… Like the Aces, normally, we don’t go past the three, but Rudy deserves it. With Percy Harvin out, Rudy had been a stud. So, get him in your lineups! Oh wait; let’s disappear with a goose egg. Are.you.serious?!
Breakdown: Hold ‘Em – start them and/or players I like more than most rankings have them. Fold ‘Em – outright sit them; don’t consider them start-worthy in standard-sized leagues. Bluffs – still start them, but I like them less than most rankings and they will disappoint.
Matt Ryan, ATL (NYG) – My Ranking 7: I hear the naysayers. Ryan hasn’t played well at home. Ryan’s second half isn’t as good as the first. Ryan’s TD passes aren’t coming as often. I choose to tune all of them out. The Giants pass defense is sixth worst in the league. As for all of the talk about their “devastating pass rush being back,” it all stems from the Green Bay game. Yes, they got to Rodgers plenty, but against Cincy they had zero sacks and one QB hit, Washington was zero and two and New Orleans was one and one. Ryan has one game with less than 301 passing yards since Week 8. After last week’s upset to the Panthers on the road, Ryan and the Falcons will be looking to take flight (yep, I did) at home in the game of the week.
Andy Dalton, CIN (@PHI) – MR 10: Dalton’s Week 2-4 games: 22, 24 and 21 FP. His Week 10-12 games: 23, 24, 20. The opponents in order: CLE (minus Joe Haden), WAS, JAX, NYG, KC, OAK. Not exactly murderer’s row, huh? Dalton can put up big numbers against soft defenses. Philly is on tap, and they allow the third most FPPG to QBs. They’ve also allowed at least two passing TDs in every game since the bye, while intercepting none! Maybe 10th is too low for Dalton.
(Post-TNF update bonus: Dalton had a solid game thanks to a rushing TD, but more passing success was definitely expected. With TNF over, another QB high on my list is Josh Freeman (MR 8). After all, he's facing the Saints, and look at what Eli Manning just did to that defense... or lack thereof.)
Alfred Morris, WAS (@CLE) – MR 8: Four straight games with 20-plus carries. What happened to the Mike Shanahan we used to know (enjoy having Gotye stuck in your head now)? ALF also has three straight games with 113 or more yards. Now, Morris faces a Browns team that saw Jamaal Charles put up 165 yards on 18 carries last week. With Robert Griffin also ailing, and the team likely realizing they might want to keep the man healthy, ALF is in for a big day.
Reggie Bush, MIA (JAX) – MR 20: Yes, Bush is back to his frustrating ways – the ones we remember from his Saints days. However, Daniel Thomas’ opportunity has apparently passed (two carries last week), and the Jaguars give up the third most FPPG to RBs (20.6). Even if Bush sees his normal 15 or so carries, he’ll do enough with them and in the passing game to warrant RB2 status.
Jonathan Dwyer, PIT (@DAL) – MR 21: Since Week 7, the Cowboys have held one team under 100 rushing yards. That was Philly, and the Eagles still scored 16 FP thanks to a TD with their 84 rushing yards. It’s actually worse over the past four games, as teams averaged 131 yards on the ground. Dwyer is at least worth a flex play against Dallas.
Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, TB (@NO) – MR 4/20: I only include VJax because I am mentioning his teammate, Mike Williams. Obviously, you know VJax is a must-start every week, but it doesn’t get any better than this… or did you not see what Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks just did to the Saints? New Orleans has allowed six teams to top 30 FP via the WR with three more topping 20. In fact, the Bucs scored 39 FP on 13 receptions and 287 yards the first go ’round. Sure, Williams had only 36 yards, but that’s because VJax was busy torching the Saints for 216. New Orleans will certainly pay more attention to Jackson this time, meaning Williams is a great bet to score or at least post big receiving numbers.
Lance Moore, NO (TB) – MR 19: I know, I know. He burned you last week (me too). Don’t make the mistake of benching him against the Bucs though. There is plenty to like here. Lance plays much better indoors – maybe it’s a track thing? He also notched 121 receiving yards on nine catches in the first matchup. Plus, the Bucs have averaged 28.6 FPPG allowed to WRs since Week 7, where – what do you know – the Saints WRs exploded for 317 yards, two TDs and 42 FP.
Josh Gordon, CLE (WAS) – MR 22: At this point, give me some pads and a jersey (more so, that nice paycheck that would come with those) and let me suit up in the Skins secondary. My safety-playing days aren’t too long gone. I mean, really… really Washington? You’ve allowed all but three teams’ wide receivers find the end zone? Really Redskins? In those three games, you still gave up 14 and 15 FP? C’mon Hogs, really? Eight games where you allowed 21 or more FP to WRs, including four over 30 with a 56 FP outing from the Bengals?! This has been Really?! with the All In Kid and Hold ‘Em or Fold ‘Em (SNL copyright lawyers lying in wait).
Owen Daniels, HOU (IND) – MR 4: The only reason Daniels isn’t higher is I couldn’t put him ahead of Aaron Hernandez, Jimmy Graham or Tony Gonzalez. Outside of those three, Daniels is the best TE you can find in Week 15. The Colts have allowed five TE TDs over the past four games (at least one in each), and that includes middle-of-the-road TEs such as Scott Chandler, Brandon Pettigrew and Jared Cook. Indy also rates out at the worst team in defending the TE position. Look for Daniels to post his fifth double-digit FP game of the year.
Detroit Lions (@ARZ) – MR 5: The only concern I have here is that Detroit will be such a popular pick that the Fantasy gods will curse us all. Ryan Lindley is back at QB, and the man is just not ready for the NFL. In four games, Lindley has 59, 72, 312 and 64 passing yards. Those 312 yards? Well, they came with four INTs and no TDs. In fact, Lindley hasn’t thrown for a TD yet. Now, the Seahawks D/ST is much better than the Lions’, but even half of what Seattle did is still nearly 20 FP and a dream come true for playoff time.
Jay Cutler, CHI (GB) – MR 23: First time Cutler faced Green Bay this year: 126 yards, one TD, four INTs and two FP. Actually, since Cutler came to Chicago in 2008, he has 1,303 yards, seven TDs and 15 INTs in six games against Green Bay. That’s an average of 217.2/1.2/2.5, which is an average of 8.5 FPPG. Who knew math could be so useful in Fantasy Football?
Tashard Choice, BUF (SEA) – MR 49: Sure, Fred Jackson is done for the year, but it is playoff time, and not time to get cute. Even if this were a cake matchup, Choice is still too risky given C.J. Spiller’s explosive ability. Why would the Bills even turn to Choice more than a handful of times? Oh, and about it not being a cake matchup, it’s the exact opposite. The Seahawks allow 12.6 FPPG to RBs and have held seven teams to single digits.
Robert Turbin, SEA (@BUF) – MR 52: Okay, so the Seahawks are too scary, but what about their opponent, the Bills? Again, too cute! The Bills defense is playing much better for one – no more than 68 rushing yards allowed over the past four games. And, Turbin only saw 20 carries last week because Marshawn Lynch had already destroyed the Cards… well, and the Seahawks defense had done the same.
Chris Givens, STL (MIN) – MR 44: So much for being the “new Danny Amendola”...
In truth, Givens did see plenty of targets again, but this time, too many fell incomplete. With Amendola looking likely to play (practiced, albeit limited, on Wednesday), Givens’ time to shine is likely over, as are the high number of targets.
Nate Washington, TEN (NYJ) – MR 55: While the Jets pass defense hasn’t been as good without Darrelle Revis, it actually hasn’t been much worse. Only three teams had their WRs score TDs since Revis’ departure. In the other games, WRs averaged just 106.1 total receiving yards and 9.3 FPPG. With Kenny Britt back on his game, there just isn’t enough value left over for Nate.
Jacob Tamme, DEN (@BAL) – MR 23: Remember how Tamme and Peyton Manning were supposed to rediscover that love and feeling from their Indy days together? So much for that. Tamme has just two TDs on the year, the same number of TDs Baltimore has allowed to opposing TEs. Additionally, Tamme has 10 games with five FP or less. Manning has moved on apparently, so should you.
San Francisco 49ers (@NE) – MR 14: A guy asked me on Twitter right before the game if he should bench the Texans D/ST. After asking if he fell asleep over the weekend and missed grabbing anyone else, I asked what his lead was. He told me just .34 points. I said, “bench them!” Forget it and risk any possible scoring adjustment. I know we’re talking about the 49ers – the fourth highest scoring D/ST – but we’re also talking about the Patriots. A team averaging, yes averaging, -1.5 FPPG for opposing D/ST. Since the Arizona upset in New England, the Pats had two opposing D/STs that did not score negative points, and it was just one and two FP. Don’t take the risk, even with a team like the 49ers.
Tony Romo, DAL (PIT) – MR 16: Romo fell back to Earth against the Bengals. After two straight terrific games with 27 and 25 FP, Romo managed just 268 yards and one TD with a pick – good for just 12 FP. Even after Philip Rivers’ three TDs last week (seriously, Rivers?!) the Steelers still allow just 10.8 FPPG to QBs with more zero-TD games (three) than three-TD games (two) allowed. Obviously, Dez Bryant would help Romo’s odds of a decent game and would boost his stock, but with a torn? broken? whatever is wrong! finger, Dez can’t be 100 percent.
Alex Green, GB (@CHI) – MR 35: Green’s season high for rushing is just 69 yards and has yet to score. The Bears allow a mere 12.5 FPPG to RBs and have allowed just two RB TDs at home. Green isn’t even worth a flex play.
Beanie Wells, ARZ (DET) – MR 36: The only reason Beanie doesn’t rank lower is because Detroit has been weak against the run again. The Lions started the season strong, but have allowed each of the last three teams to score via a RB rushing TD. Now, ranking Beanie 36th obviously means I’m not using him wherever I can avoid him, but some owners might not have a better option. Although, with an average of 29.3 rushing YPG since his return, I pray long and hard that you do!
James Jones, GB (@CHI) – MR 41: Do you really want to bet your playoff life on a TD reception? After all, that is what it takes for JJ to have real Fantasy value. In games with at least one TD catch, Jones averages 14.0 FPPG, in game without one just 3.1 FPPG. Meanwhile, Chicago has allowed just eight WR TDs all year and are the second toughest matchup for a team’s No. 3 WR.
Anquan Boldin, BAL (DEN) – MR 42: It’s tough going against Boldin after these past two games, but the Broncos are quite good against opposing No. 2 WRs. On top of that, don’t you think Champ Bailey and the Broncos have taken notice? If Bailey takes any of his attention Boldin’s way, it could be a long day. Oh, and we haven’t even noted Joe Flacco’s road struggles… yea, he’s still got ‘em (10.1 FPPG on the road).
Brandon Pettigrew, DET (@ARZ) – MR 16: This is if Pettigrew plays, but even if he is limited, I’m not a huge fan of Tony Scheffler either. The Cards defense has allowed the least amount of TE receptions on the year at just 38. That is the primary source of Pettigrew’s value: receptions. Take that away, and you have a subpar TE who has only scored three times.
(Update: Pettigrew is sounding doubtful. With this news, and the Lions needing someone to catch passes outside of Calvin Johnson, I actually moved Scheffler up to 10th - ahead of Kyle Rudolph and behind Martellus Bennett.)
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