Saturday, April 23, 2016

Offseason movements of note

The annual merry-go-round of the NFL offseason is in full swing and, as always, Fantasy Fools is tracking the movement of fantasy-relevant players on a daily basis. Note that we only report on actual trades, free-agent signings and retirements -- not rumors -- and we don't cover players re-signing or franchised by their current teams.

We'll keep the following list as current as possible, but Fools are encouraged to alert us to any that may slip by us. As of May 24, here are the moves of note since the 2016 offseason began:


QBs
Peyton Manning (retired) -- Limps off into the sunset after Hall-of-Fame career and 2nd Super Bowl win. That's the way it's supposed to be done.
Brock Osweiler (Texans) -- Cashes in after subbing capably for Peyton on Broncos' Super Bowl run.
Robert Griffin III (Browns) -- Can RG3 finally give Cleveland stability at QB? Browns fans can dream, right?
Mark Sanchez (Broncos) -- Worry not, Denver fans. Sanchez is here to lead you back to Super Bowl glory! Yeah, right...
Brian Hoyer (Bears) -- Released by Houston, later signs to back up Bad Jay.
Johnny Manziel (M.I.A.) -- Spoiled brat may sign with Texas Correctional facility before another NFL team gambles on him.


RBs
Matt Forte (Jets) -- Now on the wrong side of 30, can the former Bear rekindle his elite fantasy status in the Big Apple? We'll see.
Arian Foster (F/A) -- Still looking for work after being released by Houston.
DeMarco Murray (Titans) -- After being misused and given-up-on in Philly, Murray will try to rediscover his mojo in Nashville.
Lamar Miller (Texans) -- Former Dolphin will attempt to fill Foster's cleats in Houston.
Marshawn Lynch (retired) -- Now in retirement mode.
Alfred Morris (Cowboys) -- After dazzling as a Redskins rookie, his stats have declined annually. Will he revive his career behind Dallas' OL ala Run DMC in 2015?
Stevan Ridley (Lions) -- Former Patriot and Jet will now compete for playing time in Detroit's backfield.
Trent Richardson (Ravens) -- Currently listed as #4 on Baltimore's depth chart. Wow...
Chris Ivory (Jaguars) -- Well-traveled rusher (Jets, Saints) will take his chances in Jacksonville.
Khiry Robinson (Jets) -- Ex-Saint may become a goal-line vulture behind Forte and Bilal Powell.
Donald Brown (Patriots) -- Leaves sunny San Diego for a spot in New England's always-crowded backfield.
Robert Turbin (Colts) -- After quick swims through Cleveland and Dallas, can the ex-Seahawk finally make a mark in Indy? Magic 8 Ball says "Don't count on it."
Bobby Rainey (Giants) -- Had his moments in Tampa Bay, but likely won't see a lot of action with the G-men.
Joique Bell (F/A) -- Set loose by Detroit. Interviewing for jobs.

WRs
Calvin Johnson (retired) -- The clock starts ticking for Megatron's first-ballot Hall of Fame election.
Travis Benjamin (Chargers) -- Interesting... The playmaking speedster never really had a chance to soar in Cleveland, but Rivers could make him a star.
Mike Wallace (Ravens) -- After underwhelming in Minnesota and Miami, looks forward to disappointing fans in Baltimore.
Brandon LaFell (Bengals) -- After rough year in New England, will try to recapture his 2014 promise opposite AJ Green.
Martavis Bryant (suspended) -- Still a Steeler, but the troubled talent must sit out a year thanks to his latest suspension.
Rishard Matthews (Titans) -- Experienced brief success as a Dolphin, but now joins a young and talented WR corps in Tennessee and may have trouble getting on the field.
Nate Washington (Patriots) -- Had his moments in Tennessee and Houston, but the best may be to come if Brady takes a shine to him.
Marvin Jones (Lions) -- Former Bengal will try to fill the vacancy left by Megatron. Good luck with that.
Reuben Randle (Eagles) -- Failed to achieve consistency as a Giant; will hope for greener pastures in Philly.
Jeremy Kerley (Lions) -- Rarely appeared on the fantasy radar as a Jet. Unlikely to do so as a Detroit backup.
Chris Givens (Eagles) -- Ex-Raven/Ram will try to find a consistent role in Philly.
Chris Hogan (Patriots) -- The only reason the ex-Bill makes this list is because he signed with a pass-happy offense.
Mohamed Sanu (Falcons) -- Seems like an upgrade from last year's version of Roddy White opposite Julio.
Andre Caldwell (Lions) -- Ex-Bronco and Bengal will try to make a bigger impact in Motown.
Brian Hartline (F/A) -- Squeezed out in Cleveland.
Vincent Brown (Saints) -- After disappointing stints in San Diego and Oakland, he'll try to find traction in New Orleans.
Malcom Floyd (retired) -- Oft-injured Charger walks away from the game.
Dwayne Bowe (released) -- Remember when he was fantasy-relevant? Me neither.
Percy Harvin (retired) -- Perennially over-drafted receiver shuffles off from Buffalo.

TEs
Jared Cook (Packers) -- Underachieving former Ram gives Aaron Rodgers his best TE target since Jermichael Finley was healthy.
Ben Watson (Ravens) -- Leaves New Orleans for an uncertain future in Baltimore.
Coby Fleener (Saints) -- Ex-Colt should be the starter in New Orleans with Watson gone. This move also bodes well for Dwayne Allen in Indy.
Martellus Bennett (Patriots) -- Traded by the Bears to be Gronk's lesser sidekick.
Ladarius Green (Steelers) -- The oft-delayed heir apparent to Antonio Gates leaves San Diego to try his luck as a starter in the Steel City.
Vernon Davis (Redskins) -- After short stint in Denver, will wait for Jordan Reed to get injured again in Washington.
Heath Miller (retired) -- One of Big Ben's favorite targets has left the building.
Garrett Graham (Broncos) -- Former Texan goes a Mile High.
Owen Daniels (F/A) -- Set free by the Super Bowl champs.

Ks
Connor Barth (Saints) -- Former Buc takes his boot to the Big Easy.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Perfect Draft: The Grand Do-Over

What if your league-mates gave you a draft-day do-over?

Would you have rolled the dice on Devonta Freeman instead of a “safe” pick like Jamaal Charles or, heaven forbid, C.J. Anderson?

Would you let Andrew Luck slide on by and grab Cam Newton instead?

Maybe pass up Jimmy Graham for, say…let’s see…15…other…tight…ends?

Sadly, there are no do-overs in fantasy football. (No, I still don’t recognize daily fantasy leagues.) But there sure is plenty of second-guessing. Yes, friends, it’s time to adjust our rear-view mirrors as we explore what could have been with my oft-imitated, always-controversial, yet magically delicious Perfect Draft: The Final Answer.

As always, we start with a few key assumptions. First, we’re in a 10-team non-keeper league using a standard scoring system that starts one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, and one tight end, kicker and team defense. Second, we are drafting from the middle (fifth) position in a snake format, meaning we won’t have a shot at Adrian Peterson. Third, since all drafts play out differently, we’ll need a little luck along the way. And finally, our goal is nothing short of total domination and the abject humiliation of our opponents.

Now, with the fifth pick of the 2015 Perfect Draft, we should have selected…

Round 1: Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots. As is often the case, many of the consensus first-rounders failed to measure up to their lofty draft status. Not Gronk.

Round 2: Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, Giants. He lived up to the hype from his stellar rookie season, but his Week 16 suspension couldn’t have come at a worse time. That is, for most teams. This roster can absorb the hit without flinching.

Round 3: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans. Given that he soared despite playing with four different mediocre quarterbacks, Hopkins just might be the best receiver on the planet.

Round 4: Brandon Marshall, WR, Jets. All he did was score at least one touchdown in three-quarters of his games, and exceed 100 receiving yards 10 times.

Round 5: Todd Gurley, RB, Rams. The Fantasy Rookie of the Year proved that he is true franchise material. If the Rams acquire some talent to put around him, Gurley could be one for the ages.

Round 6: Doug Martin, RB, Buccaneers. Nobody is more surprised than me that Martin excelled this year; but I must give him his due. As in his rookie year, a disproportionate share of his touchdowns came in one game; yet he managed to produce on a more consistent basis throughout the season.

Round 7: Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars. No receiver had more than his 14 TD receptions, and he plays in Jacksonville, for crying out loud.

Round 8: Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals. He hasn’t lost a step. Fitz just needed his quarterback to stay upright.

Round 9: Cam Newton, QB, Panthers. Weren’t we all convinced that Cam was toast once Kelvin Benjamin went down in the preseason? Yeah, what do we know?

Round 10: Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons. Freeman slowed down from his blistering pace around midseason, but kicked it back into gear down the stretch. A backup to start the year, Freeman finished as the No. 1 fantasy back in the league.

Round 11: Danny Woodhead, RB, Chargers. The problem with Woodhead is guessing which week to start him. So we probably won’t. But let’s not take the chance that our competitors will time it right.

Round 12: Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals. He stayed healthy and took full advantage of the talented wide receiver trio at his disposal. Palmer finished in the Top 5 QB ranks, and we could have waited a few more rounds to take him.

Round 13: Broncos defense/special teams. Denver boasted the top fantasy D/ST in the land for most of the season, though they sputtered down the stretch. If we’re really brilliant, we’ll drop the Broncos at their Week 7 bye, grab the Chiefs off waivers and ride them the rest of the way.

Round 14: DeAngelo Williams, RB, Steelers. If we were smart enough to start him in Weeks 1 and 2, and to hang onto him until Week 8 when Le’Veon Bell went down, we had ourselves a gem.

Round 15: Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks. We may be tempted to drop him around mid-season, but no receiver will be more valuable as we head into the postseason. He scored 12 of his 14 TDs from Week 10 on.

Round 16: Gary Barnidge, TE, Browns. He broke into the NFL in 2008 and you’d never heard his name until Week 3 of this season. Crazy.

Round 17: Graham Gano, K, Panthers. Stephen Gostkowski finished on top, again; but he would have cost us a 12th rounder, or higher. Gano was nearly as prodigious, and a much better bargain.

The good news is you didn’t need to draft this well to win a title. But it sure would have been fun.


That does it for this season. Thanks, once again, for following my column. Keep checking in here for offseason developments and we’ll be back in July to prep for the elusive Perfect Draft.

Monday, January 4, 2016

10th Annual Biro’s Heroes and Zeros Awards

Peacemakers have the Nobel Prize. Musicians have the Grammys. Fantasy football players are stuck with Biro’s Heroes & Zeros.

I’m sorry. It’s just the way it is.

Once again, before we close the books on another exhilarating / frustrating / victorious / humiliating (circle one) fantasy season, we must take a quick stroll back through 2015 to examine the players we rooted for and against and – with as much objectivity as we can muster – give credit where credit is due.

As always, our annual accolades (and condemnations) have but a few important criteria:

  1. Consistency on a weekly basis is next to godliness.
  2. Production during the fantasy playoffs – NFL Weeks 14 through 16 – is given extra weight.  Players who let their owners down at the worst possible time earn our eternal scorn. (We’re looking at you, Big Ben.)
  3. Week 17 is dead to us. (Lucky for you, Gronk.)
Without further ado, I am pleased to present the 10th Annual Biro’s Heroes & Zeros Awards:

Most Valuable Player: Cam Newton, QB, Panthers. Unlike most years, no clear-cut MVP emerged in Fantasyland in 2015. Newton gets the nod thanks to his late-season heroics, and despite his pedestrian outing in Week 16. Runner-up: Tom Brady, QB, Patriots.

“Peerless Price Memorial” Bust of the Year: C.J. Anderson, RB, Broncos. A consensus first-round draft pick, Anderson was so ineffective early on that Ronnie Hillman stole his starting job. He flashed his 2014 form in a couple of games, but those came too late, or while he was buried on his owners’ benches. Runner-up: DeMarco Murray, RB, Eagles.   

Rookie of the Year: Todd Gurley, RB, Rams. Once he broke into the starting lineup, Gurley showed that he is, indeed, franchise-back material. Though he was regularly held in check by the dearth of talent around him, he was a fantasy gem in most weeks. Runner-up: Amari Cooper, WR, Raiders. 

Comeback Player of the Year: Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals. The biggest surprise was not that Palmer soared as the leader of Arizona’s high-octane offense, but that he managed to stay upright for all 16 games. Runner-up: DeAngelo Williams, RB, Steelers.

Mr. Reliable: Brandon Marshall, WR, Jets. When Ben Roethlisberger is under center, nobody is more reliable than Antonio Brown. But this year, Marshall set the pace with Ryan Fitzpatrick, of all people, flinging him passes. Marshall scored at least once in a dozen games and exceeded 100 receiving yards 10 times. Runner-up: Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots.

Surprise of the Year: Gary Barnidge, TE, Browns. The veteran toiled in obscurity for the first six years of his NFL career. Then he caught fire in Cleveland, of all places, finishing in the elite ranks. Runner-up: Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars.

Best Waiver Wire Acquisition: Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks. Widely available in Week 10 at the dawn of his extraordinary late-season emergence, Baldwin led countless fantasy owners to titles down the stretch. Runner-up: Bortles.

Mr. Big Play: Odell Beckham, Jr, WR, Giants. Among his 13 TDs were scoring jaunts of 50, 67, 72, 84 and 87 yards. Runner-up: Brandin Cooks, WR, Saints.

Most Devastating Injury Loss: Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs. Charles was well on his way to another stellar season when he blew out his knee in Week 5, leaving his owners scrambling. Runner-up: Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys.

Steal of the Draft: Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons. He began the season backing-up Tevin Coleman, then seized his opportunity when the rookie went down in Week 2. The eventual No. 1 RB in fantasy football was widely available in the 10th round or later. Runner-up: Palmer.

Most Valuable Handcuff: DeAngelo Williams. The oldest RB in the league was stellar during Weeks 1 and 2 while Le’Veon Bell served his suspension. Then he was even better after Bell suffered a season-ending injury in Week 8. Runner-up: David Johnson, RB, Cardinals.

“Thomas Jones Memorial” Most Underrated: Eric Decker, WR, Jets. His counterpart absorbed most of the accolades, but Decker was nearly as effective, scoring in all but three games and exceeding 1,000 receiving yards on the season. Runner-up: Danny Woodhead, RB, Chargers.

Most Overrated: Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers. The heralded rookie came up short week after week while Woodhead ran circles around him. Runner-up: Andrew Luck, QB, Colts.

Might As Well Be Injured: Murray. Last year’s rushing leader was used so sparingly, he wasn’t even start-worthy most of the season. Thanks for nothing, Chip. Runner-up: Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers.

Made Chicken Salad from Chicken Scratch: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans. Despite the motley assortment of quarterbacks he played with, Hopkins managed to catch scoring passes from four of them while finishing among the Top 6 fantasy wideouts of the season. Runner-up: Barnidge.

Biggest Postseason Disappointment: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers. If you survived Big Ben’s Week 14 letdown, he likely cost you a title with his 215-yard, zero-TD, two-INT outing in Week 16. Runner-up: Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions.

Most Spectacular Bench Performance: Drew Brees, QB, Saints. On the heels of two consecutive “meh” games, Brees torched the Giants with 505 passing yards and seven touchdowns in Week 8. Runner-up: Eli Manning, QB, Giants (350 passing yards and six TDs in the same game).

Lived Up to the Hype: Gurley. The only thing wrong with this rookie was the sorry offense that surrounded him. Runner-up: Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings.

“Frisman Jackson Memorial” Irrational Exuberance Award: Leonard Hankerson, WR, Falcons. Countless fantasy owners jumped on Hankerson’s bandwagon after the veteran vaulted over Roddy White to become Atlanta’s No. 2 wideout. He then quickly flamed out in Atlanta, and again in New England, before finishing the season in Buffalo. Runner-up: Tyrod Taylor, QB, Bills.

Team Bust of the Year (a.k.a. They Are Who We Thought They Were): 49ers. There isn’t a player on this team that you regret not drafting. Runner-up: Titans.

“Plaxico Burress Memorial” Bonehead of the Year: Beckham, Jr. His lack of discipline in the showdown with Carolina’s Josh Norman earned him a one-game suspension – during fantasy championship week, no less. Runner-up: Martavis Bryant, WR, Steelers.

Most Likely to Succeed in 2016: David Johnson. Once the lesser talents above him on Arizona’s depth chart fell away, Johnson got his opportunity to dazzle as a rusher and receiver. He should enter his second season as the unchallenged starter. Runner-up: Jeremy Langford, RB, Bears.

As always, I’m open to your feedback on these awards.  Feel free to comment below, and be sure to begin your message with “You’re an idiot because…”


Week 17 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start…

QBs
Cam Newton, Panthers – Passed for 293 yards and 2 passes, and ran 10 yards for 2 more TDs, without a blemish.
Matt Stafford, Lions – Passed for 298 yards and 3 TDs, plus 10 rushing yards, without a turnover.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers – Had 2 INTs, but offset those with 349 passing yards and a TD trifecta.
Kellen Moore, Cowboys – Amassed 435 yards and 3 TDs, but also had 3 turnovers.

RBs
Rashad Jennings, Giants – Rumbled for 170 yards and a TD against the Eagles.
Matt Forte, Bears – Ran for 76 yards and caught 3 passes for 34 yards and a TD.

WRs
Antonio Brown, Steelers – Caught 13 passes for 187 yards and a score, though he lost a fumble.
Calvin Johnson, Lions – Collected 10 passes for 137 yards and a TD.
Brandon Marshall, Jets – Hauled in 8 passes for 126 yards and a TD.
Jordan Matthews, Eagles – Came up big with 7 receptions for 54 yards and 2 TDs.
Cole Beasley, Cowboys – Scored twice while catching 5 passes for 53 yards.
Julio Jones, Falcons – His 9 receptions for 149 yards were appreciated in PPR leagues.
Demaryius Thomas, Broncos – Caught 5 passes for 117 yards and a TD.
Sammy Watkins, Bills – PPR leagues loved his 11 receptions for 136 yards, too.
Terrance Williams, Cowboys – Racked up 173 yards on 8 catches.

TEs
Zach Ertz, Eagles – Amassed 152 yards on 9 receptions.

D/STs
Texans – Collected 8 sacks, 2 INTs, 2 fumble recoveries and a TD on an INT return while holding the Jags to 6 points.
Vikings – Registered 5 sacks, 1 INT, and a TD on a fumble recovery, while holding Green Bay to 13 points.

This was a great week to play against…

QBs
Blake Bortles, Jaguars – Came up short with 239 yards, 2 INTs and a fumble, without a score.
Tom Brady, Patriots – Limited to 134 passing yards without a score by the Dolphins.

RBs
Denard Robinson, Jaguars – Fumbled his opportunity away while rushing for 9 yards.
Jeremy Langford, Bears – Limited to a 14-yard outing.
Charcandrick West, Chiefs – Ran for 34 yards and caught 1 pass for -2 yards.
Eddie Lacy, Packers – Totaled 41 yards on the night.
Ameer Abdullah, Lions – Ran for 44 yards and caught a 7-yard pass.
DeAngelo Williams, Steelers – Only 8 rushing and 13 receiving yards before leaving with an injury.
Isaiah Crowell, Browns – Finished much like he started, with 53 rushing yards.

WRs
Donte Moncrief, Colts – Lost 2 yards on his only reception.
DeSean Jackson, Eagles – Shut out in a meaningless game.
Martavis Bryant, Steelers – Caught a pass for zero yards.
Nate Washington, Texans – Caught a 6-yarder.
Brandon LaFell, Patriots – He got 7 yards on 2 passes.
Stefon Diggs, Vikings – Caught an 8-yarder.
Michael Floyd, Cardinals – Caught a 16-yarder.
Allen Hurns, Jaguars – Held to 3 receptions for 17 yards.
Danny Amendola, Patriots – Only 17 yards on 2 catches.
Amari Cooper, Raiders – Left with 20 yards on 2 receptions.
Brandin Cooks, Saints – Limited to 22 yards on 5 passes.
Mike Wallace, Vikings – He got to 22 yards on 1 pass. But that was it.
Golden Tate, Lions – Just 34 yards on 4 catches.
Willie Snead, Saints – Only 35 yards on 3 receptions.
Randall Cobb, Packers – Settled for 37 yards on 6 catches.
Marvin Jones, Bengals – Caught 5 passes for 38 yards.
T.Y. Hilton, Colts – Just 44 yards on 4 receptions.
Doug Baldwin, Seahawks – He had 46 yards on 5 catches.

TEs
Travis Kelce, Chiefs – Caught a 10-yarder.
Rob Gronkowski, Patriots – Remarkably, had just 18 yards on 2 receptions.
Julius Thomas, Jaguars – Only 12 yards on 2 catches.
Greg Olsen, Panthers – Just 16 yards on 2 passes.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Sunday morning updates -- Week 17

Greetings, Fools. Well, it's "the Sunday after" and that should mean you're not playing for anything more than perhaps a fun, high-scorer-takes-all type of Week 17 contest. That's what we're doing in my two leagues, where we have $25 and roughly $200 on the line this week.

So, whaddya say we go get it?

As usual, there's a long list of players out either due to injury or because their teams won't be risking their health in meaningless contests. Here are just a few of the guys you won't see in uniform today: Andy Dalton, Andrew Luck, Marcus Mariota, Marshawn Lynch, LeSean McCoy, T.J. Yeldon, Matt Jones, Alshon Jeffery, Dez Bryant, Julian Edelman and Marques Colston.

As I pretty much predicted, the Rams will not be risking Todd Gurley's health in today's meaningless game. Tre Mason will get the start, and could be a one-week wonder.

Bilal Powell will not be doing his thing for the Jets. The backfield is all in Chris Ivory's hands against the Bills.

Looks like Matt Forte is suiting up today, but I'm still not starting him. Jeremy Langford is a better option.

The Dolphins have placed Rishard Matthews on I.R.

Josh Freeman is expected to get the start at QB for the Colts. Though Freeman is no slouch, he hasn't thrown a pass in an NFL game since Week 7 of the 2013 season. Keep T.Y. Hilton and every Colt not named Gore on your bench.

Martavis Bryant is expected to shake off this week's illness and play in Pittsburgh's important tilt with the Browns.

Michael Floyd (knee) will join his fellow wideouts in Arizona's meaningful finale with the Seahawks.

And Danny Amendola looked fine in warmups and will play for the Pats today.

That's it for now, Fools. Enjoy the last week of the regular season. I'll have my Biro's Heroes & Zeros Awards ready for you tomorrow.

Inactives and other late-breaking news coming via Twitter shortly.


Friday, January 1, 2016

Week 17 Starters & Benchwarmers

Wondering whether or not to start DeAngelo Williams and Brandon Marshall, or to bench Zach Mettenberger and Greg Jennings? 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 17 of the 2015 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Jets at Bills. The Jets have a playoff berth at stake, while the Bills have only Rex Ryan’s ego on the line. That’s never kept opposing teams from trouncing him, though; so look for Fitzpatrick to keep feeding the ball to his consistently productive receivers. At this point, weather is not forecast to be a major factor in upstate New York on Sunday.

Tim Hightower, RB, Saints at Falcons. Hightower has been a late-season gem for the Saints and his fantasy owners, and he’s coming off his best game since…well…ever. He should remain very busy, and productive, against Atlanta’s sorry run defense.

Darren McFadden, RB, Cowboys vs. Redskins. The only thing working for Dallas’ offense is its running game, and McFadden is just three yards shy of his first 1,000-yard season since 2010. With Washington likely playing its scrubs for most of the game, and Kellen Moore under center for the Cowboys, McFadden should be good for another “hundo” and perhaps even a rare trip to the end zone.

Martavis Bryant, WR, Steelers at Browns. Pittsburgh can’t afford another disappearance by its passing attack with a possible playoff berth on the line. Bryant was awful last week, but he should have a nice rebound against the same generous Cleveland secondary he torched in Week 10.

Jordan Matthews, WR, Eagles at Giants. In-season coaching changes often spur teams to rally in their first game under an interim leader. Sam Bradford and his receivers have a lot to prove after such a disappointing season. Matthews is riding a nice two-game streak and should continue to prosper against the suspect Giants secondary.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Eli Manning; RBs Ronnie Hillman, David Johnson, Frank Gore, Jeremy Langford, James White; WRs Jeremy Maclin, Nate Washington, Eric Decker, Allen Hurns, Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead, Michael Crabtree, Jarvis Landry, Emmanuel Sanders, Kamar Aiken.

Roll ‘em back

Kirk Cousins, QB, Redskins at Cowboys. Washington has nothing at stake in this divisional matchup. Their playoff seeding is set, so expect to see little more than token appearances from Cousins, DeSean Jackson and their other starters.

Matt Forte, RB, Bears vs. Lions. Forte is dealing with a back injury, which puts his playing status in jeopardy for Sunday’s meaningless contest. Even if he plays, talented backup Jeremy Langford should see the majority of the backfield work, while KaDeem Carey could ruin both backs’ value by poaching the goal line touches again.

Todd Gurley, RB, Rams at 49ers. Would you risk your franchise running back in an inconsequential finale? Gurley has been in a walking boot this week due to a nagging foot injury, though he is expected to be active. Just how much he plays is the bigger question. Of course, he could run wild; but it would be coaching malpractice to take big chances with their only offensive star’s health in this matchup.

T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts vs. Titans. Hilton will be attempting to shag passes from a quarterback he likely just met this week. If the Colts are savvy enough, they’ll install a wildcat offense (a la Baylor) since they are down to practice squad and off-the-couch options at QB. Regardless, nobody in Indy’s passing game can be trusted.

Tyler Lockett, WR, Seahawks at Cardinals. Doug Baldwin is too hot to sit, but Lockett is coming off a rough outing against the Rams. Meanwhile, Arizona just embarrassed the vaunted Packers passing attack, and head coach Bruce Arians said he will not rest his starters prior to the playoffs. The rookie’s ceiling is low this weekend.

More thumbs down: QBs Ryan Tannehill, Alex Smith, Philip Rivers, Derek Carr, Tyrod Taylor, Jay Cutler, Jameis Winston, Nick Foles; RBs Karlos Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Matt Jones, Alfred Morris, Giovani Bernard, DeMarco Murray, Christine Michael, Denard Robinson, Isaiah Crowell, Antonio Andrews; WRs Pierre Garcon, Donte Moncrief, Travis Benjamin, Terrance Williams, Davante Adams, Mike Wallace, Anquan Boldin, Dorial Green-Beckham, Malcom Floyd, Dontrelle Inman, Amari Cooper, Rishard Matthews.

TAKING A FLIER

Brian Hoyer, QB, Texans vs. Jaguars. Now that he has cleared the concussion protocol, Hoyer is set to start against the sieve-like Jaguars secondary on Sunday. Hoyer racked up 293 yards and three TDs without a turnover against this defense in Week 6, and he’ll need to have similar results to keep up with the high-flying Jags offense and nail down the AFC South title.


DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…plays your championship game in Week 17 next year, when so many teams and players have either thrown in the towel or are resting up for the postseason. Instead, play a “Free for All Bowl,” where each team – including those that didn’t make the playoffs – sets one final lineup and the top scorer wins a small portion of the pot. It’s a great way to keep the good times rolling for an extra week, and for everyone to have a shot at one last taste of victory.