Santa, Darth Vader & Chuck Norris in Starts, Sits, Bluffs
It’s less than one week until Santa arrives. Don’t pretend that you don’t believe.
So why not have a little Christmas-themed story for the Fantasy Football championship week?
Now, I’m about to date myself, but in 1986, I so wanted a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES for the cool kids) for Christmas. After all, it was the toy to get. A technologically advanced, 8-bit graphic, advanced gaming system, what kid wouldn’t die for one? (Side note: can you imagine what kids these days will see at our age? If Nintendo was groundbreaking for us, does that mean the Xbox 360 will look just as bad in 25 years?).
In any case, I begged, did extra chores, was super nice to my evil little sister – maybe just in my mind – and I even cleaned up after and fed the dog like I promised when we first got him. Christmas morning came, and I bolted downstairs around five in the morning. We had to wait for mom and dad to get the coffee ready and then join us first, but I was already sizing up the boxes for possibilities. There were three presents that could be the Nintendo I longed for.
Once my parents finally sat down, I tore into the presents. First one, no Nintendo, just some clothes. Second, no dice, but a cool toy. It was the G.I. Joe Night Raven… actually, pretty sweet.
Third and last option, nada, a winter jacket. Disappointment poured over me. Yea, the G.I. Joe jet was pretty cool, but it was no NES. I continued to open the rest of my presents, and eventually, I did come across a gaming system… of sorts. It was the Vtech Talking Baseball Video Game. Now, I loved baseball – after all, my Mets and favorite player (Gary Carter) had just won the World Series that year – so my excitement came back. Not back to NES-level excitement, but some nonetheless.
Of all of my toys, that was the first I opened and played. If any of you owned one, you know what I experienced. The players were those black, filled-in, lighted spots that gave the illusion of animation with a robotic voice and computerized baseball sounds.
It is beyond antiquated by today’s standards and even in comparison to the NES, but I was enjoying myself and rarely stopped playing it (at home, in the car, etc.).
That was until we visited my friends two weeks later. I brought my baseball game and G.I. Joe jet to play with them. I ran upstairs to their game room (yes, their family was a tad more rich than ours… okay, a lot). At the top of the stairs, I stopped dead in my tracks and immediately felt my heart sink. What were they playing besides a brand new Nintendo?! There was Duck Hunt on the screen, as Kenny and Brad shot virtual ducks dead for the laughing dog to grab. This thing had guns too?!
Oh, and don’t pretend that you never cheated and stood with the gun to the screen to reach the insanely hard levels!
I wanted to toss my baseball game down the stairs so they never saw it, as I felt embarrassed bringing that lame toy into a room with an actual NES. In truth, it didn’t even matter. They barely turned around to say “hey” and spent the entire afternoon playing Duck Hunt and Mario Bros. I might have played two or three times – it’s hard to recall the exact amount among hours of watching them play.
That sinking feeling I had, it’s no different than the numerous Fantasy Football owners who watched as Josh Freeman, Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford, Doug Martin, Jamaal Charles, Ray Rice, Victor Cruz, Reggie Wayne, Demaryius Thomas, Danario Alexander and the Lions D/ST left a path of destruction, as they combined for fewer Fantasy Points (FP) than Dennis Pitta… by five (24 to 19)! Let’s just take a normal lineup. Would anyone have not prematurely celebrated if he had Stafford, Charles, Martin, Rice, Cruz and Thomas going into Week 15? Forget the TE, D/ST and K; that is a stud lineup! Yet, owners were stopped dead in their tracks, just like I was, and watched as teams with Russell Wilson, Beanie Wells, Danny Woodhead, James Jones and Pitta stomped them.
Fantasy Football and Christmas presents: both bring so much hope, excitement and promise, and then it all comes crashing down and we just end up having a bad time.
ACES IN THE HOLE (Guaranteed a Good Week): Drew Brees, NO; Adrian Peterson, MIN; Andre Johnson, HOU – No worries for one of the game’s best, as Brees torched the awful Bucs pass defense… Rushing record, here he comes! I worked my tail off to acquire Johnson in as many leagues as possible during and after Week 10. For reasons like this, I wish it were more.
RIVER RAT (Surprising Top Performances): Russell Wilson, SEA; Beanie Wells, ARZ; James Jones, GB – Granted, the Bills defense stinks, but three rushing TDs? That gave Wilson more rushing TDs in one game than Darren McFadden, LeSean McCoy, Maurice Jones-Drew and Ryan Mathews each have all year… The Lions defense had been strong against the run, but then they played like it was 2009… I wrote last week that James Jones was a big risk due to his reliance on TDs for Fantasy value and that Chicago had allowed just eight to WRs all year. So, it figures that would happen.
GUT SHOT (Let Everyone Down): Stafford, Eli and Freeman; Doug Martin, TB and Bryce Brown, PHI; Danario Alexander – Really, take your pick. All three hit season lows at the worst possible time… There is plenty of blame to place at RB, but none worse than Martin’s two-FP effort against the worst defense in the league… Tons more blame to pass around, but like Martin, none was worse than DX’s goose egg after averaging six catches, 98.8 yards and 15.4 FP the previous five weeks.
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.
Tony Romo, DAL (NO) – My Ranking 7: After being told I couldn’t win a championship with Romo as my QB, I look forward to my win this week. Over the last five games – including his off-week against Cincy – Romo averaged 333.2 YPG and tossed for 10 TDs. What many might have missed in the disappointing game by the Bucs is that Josh Freeman still threw for 330 yards against the Saints last week. You can win championships with Romo... at least in Fantasy Football.
Ben Roethlisberger, PIT (CIN) – MR 10: Have you seen the Steelers rushing attack? No, seriously, have you? The Steelers would love to know where it is if you know. Proof that Pittsburgh is struggling in the run game: Big Ben attempted 42 and 40 passes in the last two games. Don’t expect much change this week because with their playoff hopes on the line, Pitt will certainly rest their hopes on Ben’s shoulder, as he’s passed for at least one TD in every game started (even in his early exit against KC).
Other QBs I’ve been asked about most often on Twitter (@allinkid): Andrew Luck 9, Ben Roethlisberger 10, Matthew Stafford 11, Colin Kaepernick 12, Russell Wilson 14, Sam Bradford 18
DeMarco Murray, DAL (NO) – MR 7: For three straight weeks, I’ve ranked Murray higher than anyone else I’ve seen. This looks to be the week that changes, although, seventh still seems to be one of the highest. Sure, Murray is less than 100 percent and doesn’t have his typical after-contact numbers, but he’s scored in every game since returning and now faces the Saints – those same Saints that allow a league high 21.2 FPPG, even after Doug Martin’s letdown. Add in the 77 receptions for 720 yards allowed to RBs and Murray’s great pass-catching ability, and you have little reason not to love Murray.
Marshawn Lynch, SEA (SF) – MR 8: Oh no, it’s the 49ers!
Hold on a minute… Lynch was the lone RB to score against them last year, when he also rushed for 107 yards, and then he notched another 103 yards earlier this year. Skittles is matchup proof. Or, does his 98.5 rushing YPG average and 10 rushing TDs not convince you?
Stevan Ridley, NE (@JAX) – MR 13: I hear the panic: Ridley is in Bill Belichick’s doghouse! I don’t believe that’s the case. Ridley just came off six straight games with a rushing TD and has at least 13 carries in every game this year. Last week was also against the 49ers, a game where the Pats fell behind early and big. Jacksonville’s defense isn’t half of what the 49ers are, even on their best day. Against the Bills, Jets and Dolphins the last three weeks (not exactly juggernauts) the Jags gave up 469 rushing yards and three TDs to RBs. Don’t lose faith in one of the key RBs to your 2012 Fantasy success.
DeAngelo Williams, CAR (OAK) – MR 22: It’s not that I want to use DWill, it’s just that I, well we, kind of have to… don’t we? Jonathan Stewart is still out with a high ankle sprain, and that’s sweet music to Fantasy owners’ ears. What makes it sweeter is that Oakland allows 20.6 FPPG, and before Kansas City stunk up the joint, they had allowed 144.5 rushing YPG and a TD in each of the previous four games. Even with Mike Tolbert lying in wait to pounce on the TD opportunities, DWill is a solid flex option.
(Note: Update - if Jonathan Stewart actually plays, this recommendation go in the trash faster than that ugly sweater grandma bought you for Christmas).
Other RBs I’ve been asked about most often: Frank Gore 14, Darren McFadden 16, Reggie Bush 18, LeSean McCoy (if he starts) 20, Ahmad Bradshaw (if he starts) 27
Dez Bryant, DAL (NO) – MR 8: Forget the broken finger, forget the padded glove, Dez is on fire and nothing is stopping him now. Check the numbers: 37 receptions, 584 yards, eight TDs and 101 FP over the past six games. At this point, Dez would need to lose half his fingers to slow down.
Cecil Shorts, JAX (NE) – MR 15: Even with missed time and low-level QB play early in the season, Shorts is still tied for second in big plays (plays of 40-plus yards) with five. Only A.J. Green has more, and Shorts ranks sixth in plays of 20-plus yards. Basically, he’s your prototypical “big play” receiver. Meanwhile, the Patriots have allowed the most receiving plays of 20-plus yards on the year (68). Hmm, pretty sure there is a connection here somewhere.
Danny Amendola, STL (@TB) – MR 20: Unlike the previous return from injury, Amendola certainly wasn’t a decoy. With 12 targets, six catches, 58 yards and a score, it’s safe to say Amendola is back and healthy. The Bucs are on tap, and no team allows more FPPG to WRs than Tampa Bay because they’ve allowed the second highest number of receptions (203) and the highest receiving yardage total (3,059). Even in a standard league, Amendola is a must-start, and he approaches WR1 territory in PPR leagues.
Other WRs I’ve been asked about most often: Pierre Garcon (with RG3 at QB) 16, Brandon Lloyd 21 (so nervous recommending him again), Hakeem Nicks 27, Jeremy Maclin 31, Kenny Britt 33
Jermichael Finley, GB (TEN) – MR 13: Right now, there is a miniature version of myself screaming from the back of my mind, “Noooooo! You can’t trust Jermichael Finley.” I know, I know. After all, the man has as many games with three FP or less as he does with five FP or more (seven each). And, he has just two double-digit games to boot. For those reasons, I can’t rank Finley higher than 13th. Most TEs would climb into TE1 territory when facing the Titans D, a team that’s allowed two of the last three teams they’ve faced to score via the tight end, and gave up 55-plus TE receiving yards in three of the last four. With Tennessee having to focus on Randall Cobb, Greg Jennings and now James Jones (those three TDs still have me shocked), Finley should be able to break open for a few good plays.
Other TEs I’ve been asked about most often: Heath Miller 5, Dennis Pitta 8, Kyle Rudolph 11
New York Jets (SD) – MR 6: The Jets D/ST has at least nine FP in five of their last six games (Pats game only one where didn’t) and averaged 11.2 FPPG in those. Now they host a Chargers team that has given up and lost Ryan Mathews for the season. We can count on the Jets to do this one thing right… well, right?
San Diego Chargers (@NYJ) – MR 9: The Chargers are here since many leagues may not have the Jets D/ST available. Mark Sanchez has finally been benched for Tim Teb… err… what? You say it’s not Tebow at QB? Rex Ryan is turning to Greg McElroy? Man, how much does Ryan hate Tebow, and is he trying to get fired at this point? (I could certainly understand why when watching this team.)
Other D/STs I’ve been asked about most often: Seahawks (no matter the suspension outcome) 7, 49ers 8, Bengals 10, Panthers 14
Philip Rivers, SD (@NYJ) – MR 24: In case you didn’t catch any of the Chargers game, San Diego has cashed it in. The players are likely spending more time reviewing Expedia’s travel deals than the playbook and gameplan. Add in a matchup against the Jets stingy pass defense, a decimated backfield and Philip Rivers already poor play this year, and you see why you want no part of Rivers in championship week.
Jay Cutler, CHI (@ARZ) – MR UR: The Cardinals allow just 10.0 FPPG to QBs, and that includes many QBs better than Cutler. In fact, Cutler is averaging just 11.3 FPPG himself. Using Cutler this week borders on insanity.
LaMichael James, SF (@SEA) – MR 47: You’re getting too cute. This is not the time to buy into speculation that LMJ could spell Frank Gore a bit more and provide “sleeper” value. Even if the 49ers weren’t facing the tough Seahawks run D, James would still be too risky to use for a championship game.
Felix Jones, DAL (NO) – MR 52: Since Murray’s return, Jones has seven, two and three carries. If you can’t figure this one out, well, then I have no idea how you’ve made it this far.
Redskins Receivers not named Pierre Garcon (@PHI) – MR 51/54/UR: That’s Santana Moss, Josh Morgan and Leonard Hankerson for those wondering. The Eagles actually clamped down last week, and the secondary played up to its skill level. Now, they host the Redskins, and there is no doubt the Eagles would love to squash their playoff and division title hopes. Moss still hasn’t topped five FP without finding the end zone, Morgan just doesn’t have the talent to be reliable and Hankerson, well, he’s the poster child for fluke games.
Andrew Hawkins, CIN (PIT) – MR UR: First off, the Steelers, in spite of all of their injuries, are still the stingiest team against the pass with just 181 YPG allowed. While the Bengals still need someone to produce consistently behind A.J. Green, more often than not, it’s been tight end Jermaine Gresham and not Hawkins. There is just no reason to use Hawk-man as one of your WRs.
Vernon Davis, SF (@SEA) – MR 21: Give me one good reason to start him. Actually, just give me one sign that Colin Kaepernick even knows that Davis is on the team. Seriously, eight targets and four catches over the last four games? Maybe Davis came on too strong, and now Kaepernick is just giving him the cold shoulder.
Indianapolis Colts (@KC) – MR 18: Many owners are looking to the Colts as the waiver D/ST to grab for Week 16. Hold your horses. The Colts D/ST has four negative point performances, and all of them came on the road. In fact, only once have they topped five FP on the road, and that came against Jacksonville because they returned an interception for a TD. Sure, Ricky Stanzi at QB increases the odds of that happening, but do you really want to risk a D/ST with that many negative-point efforts for your title hopes?
Carson Palmer, OAK (@CAR) – MR 19: Palmer has been rather turnover prone since the Raiders bye week. In nine games since, Palmer has 12 INTs and five lost fumbles. Meanwhile, the Panthers have let just two QBs top 17 FP since Week 5 (Josh Freeman and Matt Ryan). In a more recent stretch, only Matt Ryan topped 201 passing yards over the last four games. Look elsewhere for your Week 16 QB.
Chargers RBs (@NYJ) – MR 35/45/UR: The unranked player is Ronnie Brown, as he may be out again this week. Even if he isn’t, both Jackie Battle (35) and Curtis Brinkley (45) are simply too risky to warrant use. Even when Mathews was hurt early in the year, Battle’s carries never topped 15, and Brinkley is more in the mix this time around. Oh, and don’t forget what I said about this team checking out. I think those tickets are booked now, and the players are just picking out which clothes to take.
Beanie Wells, ARZ (CHI) – MR 36: Let’s try this again. Not only do I not like Wells again this week, I ranked him in the same exact spot. Look, just because the Lions decided to revert to their 2009 selves, it doesn’t mean you should plug Wells into your lineup against the Bears. Last week was Wells’ season-best YPC average at 3.9. Prior to the game, his YPC sat at a pathetic 2.4 clip. The Bears allow just 12.0 FPPG to RBs, and are going to be fired up for a must-win home game in order to keep their playoffs chances alive.
Danario Alexander, SD (@NYJ) – MR 37: See: Rivers, Philip; the RBs; team checking out. Hey DX, is that lobster you’re eating up there in first class?
Golden Tate, SEA (SF) – MR 47: Like Santana Moss, Tate just doesn’t have much value unless he scores. It’s easy to see why, as Tate has only topped five catches once. In the four games prior to Monday night, the 49ers had allowed just 47 FP to WRs. Russell Wilson and the Seahawks are not Tom Brady and the Patriots, and Seattle managed just 97 total WR yards in the first meeting.
Antonio Gates, SD (@NYJ) – MR 14: See: Davis, Vernon and all of the Chargers mentioned. Barely used, barely caring or trying, a team barely playing… the Fantasy value here is gone… bet you thought I was going to say “bare” didn’t you. Sorry, I just couldn’t bear it…
And, no connection for this one, but since we're close to it being officially winter...
Main image photo credit: CEBImagery.com
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