Monday, December 22, 2014

Odell me a story about Luck running dry

It must have been my wife’s idea of a cruel joke. The entire family was heading off to Six Flags on Sunday, followed by a Christmas show that night. Instead of sitting squarely in front of the NFL RedZone for seven hours, rooting my team to a championship, I would have to follow the score via smartphone.

Let’s just say daddy was a little cranky on the rollercoasters.

To their credit, my battle-tested starters built up a nice lead heading into the late-afternoon games. But my opponent still had Andrew Luck and A.J. Green to play. Fortunately, Odell Beckham, Jr. added to my cushion early in the Giants’ game, while Luck was getting off to another slow start. Then Dez Bryant broke free for a touchdown, and I dared to believe this could be my day.

Still, my good fortune couldn’t last forever. Luck had to get on track at some point, right? Yet every time he started generating some yardage, his fantasy points would disappear. One interception. And then another.

I began worrying that ESPN’s tracker was malfunctioning. Surely he can’t have zero points. Not this late in the game.

Indeed, it was an implosion that will live in infamy for countless owners of the Colts quarterback. It reminded fantasy veterans of his predecessor, Peyton Manning, who perennially hit the showers early in Week 16, just when his owners needed him most. But this was different. Luck was still on the field late into the third quarter, trying. He was simply failing. And flailing.

Meanwhile, Beckham threw a knockout punch that even the great A.J. Green could never overcome. I’m going to have a hard time denying OBJ Fantasy MVP honors in next week’s awards column. Surely he was the difference-maker in thousands of leagues over the last half of the season.

Tony Romo delivered some devastating blows himself. Jordy Nelson redeemed his Week 15 debacle for those who survived, while Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady disappointed. Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch lifted millions of teams to victory Sunday night.

At least that’s what I gathered from the highlights I watched on NFL.com well after midnight.

Victory is sweet no matter how it comes. But next year, honey, if you don’t mind, I’d rather not have to watch it play out in the form of black and white numbers on a five-inch screen.


FREE AGENT PICKS AND PANS

You shouldn’t be playing for a title in Week 17. Hopefully you’re doing what a couple of my leagues do, which is playing a “Free For All Bowl,” in which every owner – even the regular season losers – sets one final lineup. Highest score gets five percent of the pot. It’s our little way of squeezing one more week of fun out of the fantasy season. And it’s one more chance for someone to win back their ante.

So, for those of you with something on the line, here’s a player to consider and a couple who would look better in your opponent’s lineup.

Catch ‘em while you can

Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons. Most of us thought the rookie would get his chance to take over for the aging Steven Jackson at some point this season. But the wily veteran got his second wind and held off the inevitable transition. Jackson’s quadriceps injury Sunday finally gave Freeman an opening, and he took advantage of it with an impressive scoring romp. Though the starter’s injury does not appear to be severe, Freeman could get another chance to showcase his skills in the Falcons’ finale.

Don’t be fooled

Luke Willson, TE, Seahawks. Two touchdowns and 139 yards receiving is pretty impressive stuff. But just three targets isn’t. Given the Seahawks’ clear preference for keeping the ball on the ground, Willson’s career day is unlikely to be repeated any time soon.

Dwayne Allen, TE, Colts. Oops, he just dropped another pass. Feel free to do likewise with him.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday morning Foolishness -- Week 16

Good morning, Fools. It's go time! Those of us with titles on the line have a big day ahead of us. Let's see how many championships the Fools can claim today.

Here's what we need to know as we settle our winning lineups:

Great news for those of us counting on Matt Ryan: Julio Jones is active. Start them both in the expected shootout with the Saints.

Big surprises out of New England this morning: Both LeGarrette Blount and Julian Edelman are inactive. Looks like Shane Vereen and, presumably, Jonas Gray, will handle the RB duties. You have to like Brandon LaFell's chances to excel as well.

Jonathan Stewart gets another boost with DeAngelo Williams already declared inactive. But he'll have to compete with Cam Newton for the rushing scores, as the QB has recovered quickly from his accident and will be back under center. Meanwhile, I already liked Kelvin Benjamin's chances; but with word that Browns CB Joe Haden is inactive, the rookie wideout could have a monster outing.

It's still too early to be official, but DeMarco Murray is on track to start today, wearing a pad on his hand. My guess is that he has a solid performance in this pivotal game for the Cowboys; but there's always a chance that he aggravates the injury.

T.Y. Hilton is also expected to try to go today, but with less on the line for the Colts, he's a big risk.

In another interesting development, Emmanuel Sanders was sent home from practice yesterday with an illness. While he's expected to return in time for Monday night's game, there's now a risk associated with him. He's also facing a solid Bengals pass defense. I am going to play it safe by pulling Sanders out of my lineup in favor of Brandon LaFell, per my optimism stated above.

DeAndre Hopkins is active, but I still don't like his chances with Case Keenum at QB.

That's it for now. Heading to Twitter for the inactives and late-breaking news. Have a great day watching football, and good luck, title-bound Fools!


Friday, December 19, 2014

Week 16 Starters & Benchwarmers

Wondering whether or not to start Tom Brady and Demaryius Thomas, or to bench Johnny Manziel and Darren McFadden? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with your real starting lineup conundrums, read on.

Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 16 of the 2014 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons at Saints. Even if Julio Jones (hip) isn’t on the field, Ryan will take full advantage of New Orleans’ generous secondary with the other weapons at his disposal. He tore up the Saints in Week 1, as has virtually every other offense that faces this defense. Even Jay Cutler managed to toss two TDs against this bunch, despite an otherwise miserable outing.

Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers vs. Browns. Everyone (but me) was high on Stewart last week; but in my experience, the veteran too often comes up short when the most is expected. His modest 73-yard performance against Tampa Bay is about what I anticipated. This week is different. Facing a weak Browns run defense (that Jeremy Hill torched last week) and with that Manziel-led offense struggling to stay on the field, even Stewart can’t screw this one up.

Fred Jackson, RB, Bills at Raiders. Oakland’s run defense has fared marginally better of late than their season average, but a workhorse like Jackson should have plenty of success. Factoring in his production as a receiver, and his nose for the end zone, F-Jax can be trusted in the Black Hole.

Marques Colston, WR, Saints vs. Falcons. With three TDs over his last four games, Colston is finally looking like his reliable old self again. More importantly, Drew Brees is targeting him more often, especially in the red zone. Frankly, any starter from either team’s passing game is worth playing in this likely shootout.

Brandon LaFell, WR, Patriots at Jets. LaFell hasn’t found the end zone since his two-TD performance against the Packers in Week 13. But he’s still getting plenty of Brady’s attention, and the Jets have surrendered a next-to-worst 29 passing scores to date. Call it a hunch, or just a great matchup; but LaFell ends his modest scoring drought on Sunday.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Matt Stafford, Tony Romo, Russell Wilson; RBs Mark Ingram, Steven Jackson, C.J. Anderson, Joique Bell, Jeremy Hill, Lamar Miller; WRs Roddy White, Golden Tate, Kenny Stills, Julian Edelman, Odell Beckham, Lee Evans, Emmanuel Sanders, Kelvin Benjamin, Steve Smith, Pierre Garcon, Jeremy Maclin.

Roll ‘em back

Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers at 49ers. He’s suffering from a painful back injury as well as tender ribs, and Keenan Allen (collarbone) is out for the season. The 49ers’ secondary kept Russell Wilson in check last week, but they have been vulnerable most of the year. I just don’t think Rivers has enough ammo this week to do the job.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Patriots at Jets. Just when it looked like Bill Belichick had settled on Blount as his workhorse, he let Jonas Gray out of the doghouse with 11 carries last week. Blount still found the end zone against the Dolphins, but the going gets tougher Sunday against New York’s stingy run defenders.

Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West, RBs, Browns at Panthers. Those of us banking on Crowell or West to take the pressure off Manziel last week were rudely awakened by just how quickly this offense fell apart. With no need to defend against the pass, all Carolina must do is stack the line and play “kill the man with the ball.”

DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans vs. Ravens. All bets are off for the Houston passing game with Case Keenum (most likely) starting at quarterback. Hopkins has been sitting out practice to nurse a wobbly ankle, but he’ll be in the starting lineup come Sunday. Whether you ever hear his name called is another story entirely.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals vs. Seahawks. Arizona’s passing game is in a similarly precarious position with Ryan Lindley at the controls. Lindley has never celebrated a touchdown among his 181 career passes. Fitzgerald is a future Hall of Famer, but he doesn’t stand a chance with that QB playing against Seattle’s secondary.

More thumbs down: QBs Eli Manning, Colin Kaepernick, Jimmy Clausen; RBs Giovani Bernard, Alphonso Smith, Andre Williams, Branden Oliver, Darren Sproles, Chris Ivory, Latavius Murray, Kerwynn Williams; WRs Reggie Wayne, Percy Harvin, Eric Decker, Stedman Bailey, James Jones, Josh Gordon, Michael Floyd, Martavis Bryant, Michael Crabtree, Doug Baldwin, Marquess Wilson, Jordan Matthews.

TAKING A FLIER

Greg Jennings, WR, Vikings at Dolphins. Charles Johnson is soaking up all the fantasy love, but Jennings has quietly reached the end zone in three of his last four games. Facing a Miami secondary that has been gouged recently, and playing with a more confident Teddy Bridgewater, the grizzled veteran has a solid chance to keep the good times rolling.


DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…forgets to check your lineup before the two Saturday games. Yep, the NFL is throwing us for a loop again, and with the Christmas rush in full swing, countless owners will completely overlook these games. This is no time to take your eye off the ball.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Week 15 Starters & Benchwarmers

This was a great week to start…

QBs
Drew Brees, Saints – Torched the Bears with 375 yards and 3 TDs, without a blemish.
Tony Romo, Cowboys – Passed for 265 yards and 3 TDs in a huge win in Philly.
Eli Manning, Giants – Just 250 passing yards but completed 3 TD passes to his rookie superstar.

RBs
LeVeon Bell, Steelers – Ran for 47 yards and 2 TDs, and added 5 catches for 72 yards.
Jeremy Hill, Bengals – Rumbled for 148 yards and 2 TDs.
DeMarco Murray, Cowboys – Rushed for 81 yards and a pair of TDs.
Knile Davis, Chiefs – Ran for 11 yards and a TD, and caught a 70-yard TD pass.

WRs
Odell Beckham, Jr, Giants – Another monster performance, with a dozen receptions for 143 yards and 3 TDs. We’ll forgive the fumble.
Dez Bryant, Cowboys – Took 6 passes 114 yards while scoring a TD trifecta.

DSTs
Ravens – Racked up 8 sacks, an INT and a TD on a blocked punt while holding the Jags to 12 points.
Bills – Had 1 sack, 2 INTs, a safety and punt return TD while holding Green Bay to 13 points.

This was a great week to play against…

QBs
Aaron Rodgers, Packers – Had a terrible outing (lowest QB rating of his career), with 185 passing yards, zero TDs and 2 INTs, plus 27 rushing yards.
Andy Dalton, Bengals – Stumbled against the Browns again, with 117 passing yards, no scores and 1 INT.
Mark Sanchez, Eagles – Stunk up the joint with 252 yards passing, no TDs and 2 INTs.
Johnny Manziel, Browns – Former Aggie “passes” for 80 yards, 0 TDs and 2 INTs, and runs for only 13 yards.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Texans – Only 30 passing and 16 rushing yards before breaking his leg.
Colin Kaepernick, 49ers – Passed for a lowly 141 yards, and ran for 46, but no TDs.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers – Had a nice 360-yard outing, but no TD passes.
Colt McCoy, Redskins – Only 39 passing yards and 24 rushing before leaving injured.
Drew Stanton, Cardinals – Just 109 passing yards without a score before getting knocked out of the game.

RBs
Rashad Jennings, Giants – Only 3 rushing yards on the afternoon.
Bishop Sankey, Titans – Ran for 8 and caught an 18-yarder.
Tre Mason, Rams – Limited to 33 rushing yards, and he fumbled.
Justin Forsett, Ravens – Surprisingly held to 48 rushing yards, and he lost a yard on his only catch.
Browns – Terrance West ran for 23 while Isaiah Crowell combined for 27 yards. Thanks, Johnny.
Jonathan Stewart, Panthers – Ran for 73 yards but lost one of his 2 fumbles.
Trent Richardson, Colts – Just 32 rushing and 9 receiving yards.
Alfred Morris, Redskins – Just 49 rushing yards on the day.
Andre Williams, Giants – Held to 44 rushing and 9 receiving yards.
Jamaal Charles, Chiefs – Caught a 1-yard pass and ran for only 52 yards.
Lamar Miller, Dolphins – Ran for 47 yards and caught a 10-yarder.

WRs
Jordan Matthews, Eagles – Skunked on Sunday night.
Mohamed Sanu, Bengals – Caught a 4-yarder.
Travis Benjamin, Browns – Had a 9-yarder.
Percy Harvin, Jets – Ran for 10 yards. That is all.
Tavon Austin, Rams – Ran for 8 yards and took 2 passes 14 yards.
Torrey Smith, Ravens – Limited to 16 yards on 2 receptions.
Keenan Allen, Chargers – Had 18 yards on 3 receptions.
49ers – Anquan Boldin had 2 for 23; Michael Crabtree just 3 for 19.
Reggie Wayne, Colts – Just 24 yards on 4 receptions, plus a fumble.
Sammy Watkins, Bills – Had a 28-yarder, and that’s it.
Reuben Randle, Giants – Only 30 yards on 2 catches.
Martavis Bryant, Steelers – 31 yards on 3 receptions.
A.J. Green, Bengals – Just 49 yards on 5 catches.
Marqise Lee, Jaguars – Those taking chance on rookie flier learned their lesson with 14 yards on 4 catches.
Steve Smith, Ravens – Only 37 yards on 5 receptions.
Josh Gordon, Browns – Had 48 yards on 3 catches thanks to Johnny’s ineffectiveness.
T.Y. Hilton, Colts – Limited to 50 yards on 4 catches.
Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos – Just 53 yards on 3 receptions.
Calvin Johnson, Lions – He also had 53 yards, but on 4 catches.

TEs
Jordan Reed, Redskins – Held to 3 for 13 yards.
Larry Donnell, Giants – Only 11 yards on 2 receptions.

Monday, December 15, 2014

15 down, one to go!

Are you still alive in your fantasy league? If so, congratulations are in order.

It’s no easy task to navigate through the topsy-turvy NFL landscape, where regular-season heroes become goats (I’m looking at you, Aaron Rodgers) and seldom-used backups turn the tables on the starters (see Davis, Knile).

If you’re moving on to the championship round, you don’t need me to tell you how fortunate you are to count Odell Beckham among your weapons – or to have avoided facing the rookie phenom this weekend. You might even have shared my delight in unleashing both Beckham and Dez Bryant on your whipsawed opponent on Sunday.

Mwahahaha…

You certainly don’t need my admonition that all bets are off with every player in a Browns uniform as long as Johnny Manziel is paying his dues. And when I say paying, I mean watching as every member of the opposing defense stands over his carcass flashing his cocky “money” gesture.

Or perhaps you’re reading this while licking your wounds, not yet recovered from the shock of seeing a perfectly thrown spiral go through the hands of Jordy Nelson, who was en route to a likely 94-yard touchdown. Or wondering why Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Tre Mason, Justin Forsett, A.J. Green, T.Y. Hilton, Emmanuel Sanders and Calvin Johnson had to turn in mediocre performances when it mattered most to you.

Indeed, it’s a tortured life we fantasy enthusiasts live. But we love it, don’t we?

Don’t we???


FREE AGENT PICKS AND PANS

To win a fantasy championship, it helps to start with a great draft. Filling in your roster throughout the season with the right free agents is also important. But let’s face it: You’ve made it this far. You probably don’t need to troll the waiver wire to field a winning lineup. Still, for what it’s worth, here are a few to consider and two who would look better in your opponent’s lineup.

Catch ‘em while you can

Joseph Randle/Lance Dunbar, RBs, Cowboys. With news that DeMarco Murray is having surgery on his broken hand, his backups suddenly vault onto the fantasy radar. Problem is, there’s no clear No. 2. Dunbar was once considered the primary backup due to his dual talents as a runner and receiver. But Randle seems poised to get the start should Murray miss this weekend’s action. If you don’t have a viable backup on your roster, Randle is likely your best hedge. 

Harry Douglas, WR, Falcons. As has become his custom, Douglas stepped in for an injured starter and put on a show. He’s only worth considering next weekend if Julio Jones’ injury lingers; but it’s comforting to have Douglas on call.

Bills defense/special teams. Have you noticed what Buffalo has done to Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers in consecutive weeks? Better yet, have you noticed who they play in Week 16? (Hint: It rhymes with “Jokeland.”) If this unit is available in your league, it’s hard to imagine a more worthy pick-and-play.

Don’t be fooled

Shane Vereen and Jonas Gray, RBs, Patriots. Yes, I realize Gray combined for 69 yards and Vereen punched in a touchdown on Sunday. I don’t care. Repeat after me: “No Patriots RB not named LeGarrette Blount should be on my roster. And I’m only trusting Blount if I have to.”

Eric Decker, WR, Jets. Decker posted his first 100-yard game as a Jet against the Titans on Sunday. So what, you say? Well, you make a good point. Carry on.



Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sunday morning Foolishness -- Week 15

Can you feel the tension in the air? I sure can. I've made it to Round 2 in two leagues, and have my work cut out for me today. Especially in the league where I'm the #1 seed and coming off a first-round bye. I started Tre Mason and the Rams defense on Thursday night. So I begin the day with a 2-0 lead and two players done. Talk about an uphill battle!

Let's see if we can do a better job picking winners from among this weekend's players...

We now know that Julio Jones is out today, so that makes the decision easier on his owners. Obviously this is disappointing news for those hoping for big things from Matt Ryan. But Roddy White and Harry Douglas can get the job done, especially given the great matchup at home against the Steelers. I'll be starting Ryan over Russell Wilson in one of my leagues.

DeSean Jackson's status is still up in the air, and he'll be a game-time decision. If he plays, I like his chances against the Giants. Otherwise, Pierre Garcon will get another chance to excel, as he did last week.

Andre Johnson (concussion) is also a game-time call. I don't like his prospects either way, though I do think DeAndre Hopkins is in for a big day.

Torrey Smith is considered probable, but Ravens watchers say he is far from 100%. Consider him a mid-level risk despite the favorable matchup.

No worries about Jamaal Charles today. Sure, he's banged up, but he'll get his full workload according to Andy Reid.

Looks like DeAngelo Williams won't be back after all to disrupt Jonathan Stewart's workload today. With Cam Newton out, J-Stew should get a lot of attention.

Anyone holding out hope that Montee Ball would return during the fantasy playoffs -- and why would you? -- can put those dreams aside. He's been placed on IR.

It appears to be safe to start Julius Thomas coming off his first full practice (on Friday) since the injury. Barring a setback in warm-ups, he should be in your lineup.

That's it for now. I'm off to Twitter for the inactives and other last-minute updates. Good luck today to all Fools!




Friday, December 12, 2014

Week 15 Starters & Benchwarmers

Wondering whether or not to start Aaron Rodgers and Matt Forte, or to bench Geno Smith and Toby Gerhart? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with your real starting lineup conundrums, read on.

Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 15 of the 2014 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Eli Manning, QB, Giants vs. Redskins. Washington has coughed up 28 passing TDs vs. just five interceptions all season. Manning should have little trouble taking advantage of that disproportionate ratio, as he did in Week 4, especially given the firepower (read: Odell Beckham) at his disposal.

Joique Bell, RB, Lions vs. Vikings. Bell has racked up a pair of touchdowns in each of his last two games. Even with Reggie Bush back on the field, he remains the starter and is getting the lion’s share (get it?) of the carries. Minnesota is giving up tons of yards, though they stiffen up around the end zone. Bell should fix that.

Alfred Morris, RB, Redskins at Giants. Coming off his worst game of the year, Morris is hard to trust. But he’ll be plowing through the Giants’ very accommodating run defense, and given his team’s troubles at QB, you can bet he’ll be leaned on heavily.

Roddy White, WR, Falcons vs. Steelers. There’s a decent chance Julio Jones (hip) sits out this delicious matchup, which would be unfortunate for Matt Ryan but would force more targets toward White. Even if Jones suits up, his counterpart’s prospects are up given the generosity of Pittsburgh’s secondary.

Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers vs. Broncos. Allen put up a stinker against the Patriots last week, but he had been on a nice roll prior to that. Philip Rivers targeted him 13 times when these teams met in Denver mid-season, and Allen responded with nine receptions for 73 yards and a TD. Look for similar, if not better, production at home.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, Jay Cutler, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson, Matt Stafford, Mark Sanchez; RBs C.J. Anderson, Justin Forsett, Chris Ivory, LeGarrette Blount, Mark Ingram, Isaiah Crowell, Jeremy Hill, Fred Jackson; WRs T.Y. Hilton, Kelvin Benjamin, DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham, Jeremy Maclin, Jordan Matthews, Pierre Garcon, Mike Evans, Martavis Bryant, Mike Wallace, Steve Smith.

Roll ‘em back

Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals at Browns. Cleveland held Andrew Luck in check for much of last week’s contest before eventually succumbing. Dalton never had a chance in Week 10, when he put up a pathetic 86 passing yards and three interceptions against the Browns. Even with A.J. Green on fire, Dalton should be benched.

Lamar Miller, RB, Dolphins at Bills. Miller has no competition for carries these days, but he’s struggled recently against the better run defenses. Only the Chiefs have surrendered fewer rushing scores to date than the Patriots’ five, so don’t expect a stellar performance in this one.

Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers vs. Broncos. Mathews has been missing practice with an ankle injury incurred in last week’s game, but he should suit up on Sunday. The ankle will be the least of his worries when Denver’s stout run defense comes to town.

Josh Gordon, WR, Browns vs. Bengals. He and Johnny Manziel have had precious little time to get in sync, so temper your expectations despite the good matchup. Manziel is predisposed to take off running when his receivers are covered, so he’s unlikely to give Gordon the extra time necessary to break free downfield.

Anquan Boldin, WR, 49ers at Seahawks. Two weeks ago, Boldin was held to three receptions for 18 yards at home against the Seahawks. That was eight yards more than his partner, Michael Crabtree, registered. This duo is doomed on the road against the Legion of Boom.

More thumbs down: QBs Colin Kaepernick, Derek Carr, Derek Anderson, Teddy Bridgewater; RBs Frank Gore, Gio Bernard, Trent Richardson, Bishop Sankey, Doug Martin, Rashad Jennings, Matt Asiata, Darren McFadden; WRs Michael Crabtree, Mohamed Sanu, Terrance Williams, Reggie Wayne, Eric Decker, James Jones, Charles Johnson, Andre Johnson.

TAKING A FLIER

Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens vs. Jaguars. Flacco periodically goes through stretches where he’s actually an attractive fantasy passer. He’s on a two-game roll now in which he’s accounted for three total TDs each week, and he’ll welcome the soft Jaguar secondary to his home stadium this week. Even if Torrey Smith can’t play, Flacco should have a nice afternoon.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…trusts Johnny Football in his first start. The stakes are too high, and he is too green, to risk him in your starting lineup. Even in two-QB leagues, you surely have safer options than Manziel.