Friday, November 21, 2014

Week 12 Starters & Benchwarmers

Wondering whether or not to start Aaron Rodgers and DeMarco Murray, or to bench Teddy Bridgewater and Robert Woods? 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 12 of the 2014 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals at Texans. Yeah, I’m probably crazy for recommending Dalton, despite his unexpected rebound in New Orleans last week. But with a healthy A.J. Green anchoring a salty receiving corps, and the Texans’ porous secondary on tap, the Red Rifle will have every opportunity to continue his road heroics.

Trent Richardson, RB, Colts vs. Jaguars. Even with Ahmad Bradshaw on IR, Richardson is no sure thing as the bell cow back in Indy. What makes him attractive this week is the matchup against the Jags’ lowly run defense. At long last, T-Rich is finally worth starting again. At least for one week.

Isaiah Crowell, RB, Browns at Falcons. The newly crowned starter in Cleveland had a so-so debut against the Texans, but look for Crowell to return to the end zone at least once against a Falcons defense that has surrendered an NFL-worst 13 rushing scores to date.

Marques Colston, WR, Saints vs. Ravens. With rookie phenom Brandin Cooks out for a month or more, Colston and Kenny Stills will get more frequent looks in the Saints’ passing game. The veteran has had a very disappointing season, but his arrow is pointing up with the vulnerable Ravens secondary heading to the Big Easy.

Anquan Boldin, WR, 49ers vs. Redskins. Boldin is the most-targeted receiver in San Francisco, so he can produce even when Colin Kaepernick struggles. They both will enjoy facing one of the league’s most generous secondaries when the Redskins travel cross-country Sunday. In PPR leagues, Boldin’s value is especially high this week.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Jay Cutler, Tony Romo, Matt Stafford, Eli Manning; RBs Alfred Blue, Darren Sproles, Justin Forsett, Denard Robinson, Tre Mason, Rashad Jennings; WRs Mohamed Sanu, Josh Gordon, T.Y. Hilton, Michael Crabtree, Mike Evans, Brandon LaFell, Jeremy Maclin, Jordan Matthews, Odell Beckham, Torrey Smith.

Roll ‘em back

Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers vs. Rams. With just one TD pass, three interceptions and a pathetic 331 passing yards over his last two games, the bloom has come off Rivers’ rose. Squaring off against a Rams pass defense that just knocked Peyton Manning off his stride, Rivers can’t be trusted.

Jerick McKinnon, RB, Vikings vs. Packers. Green Bay has been holding quality RBs in check recently, while McKinnon (chest) is struggling against lesser opponents. Add newly acquired Ben Tate to the mix, and Matt Asiata’s concussion, and this backfield is best avoided altogether on Sunday.

Fred Jackson, RB, Bills vs. Jets. Jackson claims that his team is at a disadvantage because they’ve been unable to practice due to the relentless snowfall in Buffalo. It’s hard to argue with that. Add in his nagging groin injury, the likelihood of a committee approach with Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown, and a quirky travel schedule and all bets are off for this running game.

Pierre Garcon, WR, Redskins at 49ers. Robert Griffin III is struggling again, and he appears to be losing the confidence of his teammates. Garcon has been virtually invisible since Griffin’s return, and the road gets tougher in San Francisco. DeSean Jackson is tough to sit, but Garcon isn’t worth the risk.

Percy Harvin, WR, Jets at Bills. There’s no telling how this star-crossed game will unfold. But given the Bills’ stingy secondary, and the still-developing chemistry between Harvin and Michael Vick, and the dual threat’s best chance of producing will likely be as a runner.

More thumbs down: QBs Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, Josh McCown, Ryan Tannehill, Michael Vick, Drew Stanton; RBs Ryan Mathews, Mark Ingram, Jonas Gray, Lamar Miller, Reggie Bush, Joique Bell, Bishop Sankey, Charles Sims; WRs Malcom Floyd, Doug Baldwin, Eric Decker, Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg Jennings, DeAndre Hopkins, Wes Welker, Kenny Britt, Larry Fitzgerald.

TAKING A FLIER

Brian Hoyer, QB, Browns at Falcons. Could Josh Gordon have picked a better week to return, given the sorry state of the Atlanta secondary? Though Hoyer probably won’t have Jordan Cameron (concussion) back just yet, he can alternate between both Gordon and Andrew Hawkins while picking apart one of the league’s passing doormats.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…fails to check the weather reports prior to setting your starting lineups. Forget Buffalo…forecasted winds and precipitation could wreak havoc on passing and kicking games in Chicago, Foxborough and New York as well.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Week 11 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start…

QBs
Aaron Rodgers, Packers – Dominated the Eagles with 341 yards and 3 TDs, plus 32 rushing yards, without a turnover.
Jay Cutler, Bears – Threw 2 INTs, but rebounded from a rough few weeks with 330 passing yards and 3 TDs, plus 21 rushing yards.

RBs
Jonas Gray, Patriots – Holy guacamole! Gray burst onto the scene with 199 rushing yards and a whopping 4 TDs.
LeVeon Bell, Steelers – Rumbled over the Titans for 204 yards and a TD, plus 18 yards on 2 receptions.
Jamaal Charles, Chiefs – Raced for 159 yards and 2 TDs, and added 19 yards on 2 receptions. We’ll forgive the fumble.
Eddie Lacy, Packers – Rushed for 69 yards and a TD and caught 3 balls for 45 yards and another score.

WRs
Mike Evans, Buccaneers – Had a monster game with 7 receptions for 209 yards and 2 TDs.
Brandon Marshall, Bears – Reeled in 7 passes for 90 yards and 2 TDs.
Alshon Jeffery, Bears – Soared in PPR leagues with 11 catches for 135 yards and a TD.
Michael Floyd, Cardinals – Finally showed up again with 2 receptions for 54 yards and 2 TDs in the first quarter. (Then nothing else.)

TEs
Jermaine Gresham, Bengals – Scored on both his catches, which went for just 13 yards.

DSTs
Packers – Accumulated 3 sacks and 4 turnovers, and scored TDs on a punt return, an INT return and a fumble return.

This was a great week to play against…

QBs
Kyle Orton, Bills – Stymied by the Dolphins with just 193 yards, no scores and no turnovers.
Alex Smith, Chiefs – Passed for just 108 yards without a score (or a turnover).
Eli Manning, Giants – His 280-yard, 1-TD effort was outweighed by 5 INTs.
Peyton Manning, Broncos – His 389-yard, 1-TD, 2-INT outing wasn’t horrible, just so much worse than normal.
Matt Stafford, Lions – Just 183 passing yards and an INT without a TD.

RBs
Matt Asiata, Vikings – Once again, can’t be trusted after combining for 14 yards and no TDs.
Ahmad Bradshaw, Colts – Stuffed at the goal-line twice, and ended with 4 rushing yards and just 7 yards on 4 catches before leaving injured.
Raiders – Darren McFadden finished with 21 rushing yards while Maurice Jones-Drew had just 6.
Bobby Rainey, Bucs – Yielded to Charles Sims, gaining just 4 yards on the ground.
Andre Williams, Giants – Marginalized by Rashad Jennings’ return, with 2 rushing and 4 receiving yards.
Steven Jackson, Falcons – Just 41 rushing yards, plus 6 yards on 2 receptions, despite the favorable matchup.
DeAngelo Williams, Panthers – He also had just 41 rushing yards (and lost 3 yards on his only catch).
Jonathan Stewart, Panthers – Just 24 rushing and 15 receiving yards.
Terrance West, Browns – Only ran for 12 yards after giving up the starting job to Isaiah Crowell. Which was a lot better than Ben Tate’s minus-9 yards.

WRs
Pierre Garcon, Redskins – Had a 6-yarder.
Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs – Just 18 yards on 2 receptions.
Martavis Bryant, Steelers – Only 11 yards on 2 catches.
Tavon Austin, Rams – Held in check (again) with just 11 rushing and 10 receiving yards.
Sammy Watkins, Bills – Took 3 passes 32 yards.
Mike Wallace, Dolphins – He had 38 yards on 4 passes.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Vikings – Ran for 3 yards and caught 2 passes for 24 more.
Mohamed Sanu, Bengals – Limited to 3 catches for 23 yards.
Wes Welker, Broncos – Even with injuries to other receivers, finished with just 28 yards on 4 catches.
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals – Only 33 yards on a pair of catches.
DeSean Jackson, Redskins – Held to 35 yards on 4 receptions.
James Jones, Raiders – He also had 35 yards, on 2 catches.
T.Y. Hilton, Colts – Held in check with just 24 yards on 3 catches.
Golden Tate, Lions – Just 41 yards on 2 passes.
Calvin Johnson, Lions – You can’t hope for much better than 59 yards on 5 catches when you play against Megatron.

TEs
Julius Thomas, Broncos – Just 3 yards on 2 catches before leaving injured.
Vernon Davis, 49ers – Another awful day with a 7-yarder.
Travis Kelce, Chiefs – Only 37 yards on 3 passes, and lost a fumble.

Antonio Gates, Chargers – Stalled with 32 yards on 3 catches.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Let the postseason countdown begin

With just two weeks to go in most fantasy leagues’ regular seasons, it’s crunch time for teams on the postseason bubble. And things are about to get very interesting.

Josh Gordon is set to return in Week 12 against a very vulnerable Falcons secondary. With Andrew Hawkins stepping up and tight end Jordan Cameron nearing his return from a concussion, Cleveland’s offense is about to get turbo-charged. Don’t be surprised if Brian Hoyer turns in some stellar performances in the weeks ahead.

The Adrian Peterson saga could be resolved at any minute, giving the Vikings a fresh-legged superstar to carry the load down the stretch.

Marginal teams that have socked Peterson and/or Gordon away could become contenders overnight.

The mercurial Marshawn Lynch is unhappy with his lame duck status in Seattle so he will presumably be gunning for a massive payday in the offseason. I’m glad I’m not one of the poor souls that has to tackle an angry, motivated Beast Mode.

Meanwhile, just when we thought we could never trust Jay Cutler or Andy Dalton again, both quarterbacks reminded us how quickly things can change when you have talented receivers at your disposal. Which is why you shouldn’t count out Matt Ryan or Matt Stafford after their sub-par performances, and why Ben Roethlisberger will continue to make your start/sit decisions so confounding.

Even Josh McCown is worth a gamble in favorable matchups, thanks to the emergence of rookie Mike Evans and his equally explosive counterpart, Vincent Jackson.

Apparently, a well-stocked receiving corps and solid running game isn’t enough for Robert Griffin III, though.

Several other players served notice in Week 11 that they could be factors in the second half of the season, including Ryan Tannehill, Tre Mason, C.J. Anderson and the Packers’ defense.

And remember…if you’re the Raiders of your league, don’t just tank it. The integrity of the competition depends upon everyone putting up their best fight every week. If you can’t win it all, at least spoil someone else’s season. Isn’t that what friends are for?


FREE AGENT PICKS AND PANS

To win a fantasy championship, it helps to start with a great draft. But filling in your roster throughout the season with the right free agents is also important. Here's a look at players worth considering, and others who would look better in someone else's lineup.

Catch ‘em while you can

Jonas Gray, RB, Patriots. Talk about a great way to vault onto the fantasy radar! If you watched Sunday night’s game, you don’t need me to tell you to grab Gray. Just be warned: What Bill Belichick giveth, Belichick loves to taketh away. Gray certainly looks like workhorse material, especially with the winter weather kicking in; but how the undrafted free agent will be deployed going forward is anybody’s guess.

Isaiah Crowell, RB, Browns. Ben Tate had his turn. Then came the Terrance West Experiment. Now, the starting job in Cleveland is in Crowell’s hands; and while he didn’t exactly soar with the opportunity, he seems destined to get another shot this weekend. Given the aerial firepower at the Browns’ disposal, and Crowell’s effectiveness around the goal line, he certainly merits consideration for teams dealing with RB injuries and/or ineffectiveness.

Josh Gordon, WR, Browns. Somehow, last season’s most prolific fantasy receiver is set to return to action this weekend and yet he’s still available in about a third of all leagues. If your league is one of those, what on earth are you waiting for?

Coby Fleener, TE, Colts. When Dwayne Allen was carted off with an ankle injury Sunday night, Fleener became Andrew Luck’s go-to receiver. The Stanford teammates obviously have a good rapport, and if Allen misses more time, Fleener will have the dreaded tight end “committee” job all to himself.

Don’t be fooled

Charles Sims, RB, Buccaneers. Any starting RB is worth a fantasy roster spot. Unless he plays in Oakland, or Tampa Bay. Sims took over for Bobby Rainey, who made everyone forget Doug Martin. But despite the favorable matchup and plenty of opportunities, Sims managed just 44 combined yards. Thanks, but I’ll pass.

Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals. There’s a reason Floyd is available in a third of all fantasy leagues: If he doesn’t deliver in the first half, he doesn’t deliver. Fortunately, he reeled in two TD receptions in Sunday’s first quarter; then he promptly disappeared and didn’t have another catch. If you grab him, be prepared for more frustration.

Kenny Britt, WR, Rams. Britt is notorious for underachieving, and he’s unlikely to put that reputation behind him in St. Louis. His physical skills have always made Britt intriguing, but it’s hard to trust a guy that has squandered every chance he’s been given.



Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sunday morning Foolishness -- Week 11

Good morning, Fools. It's cold, drizzly and overcast in Dallas but, as always, it's a beautiful day in Fantasyland.

Lots of news to cover this morning, so let's get right to it…

Arian Foster has been ruled out for today's game in Cleveland, so get ready for the Alfred Blue show. He's a solid RB2 or flex play today.

As mentioned in my Starters/Benchwarmers column on Friday, you should be very wary if you're an Andre Johnson or DeAndre Hopkins owner, given the tough matchup and the first NFL start for their new QB, Ryan Mallett.

There were some worries about Marshawn Lynch's status a couple days ago when he added a rib injury to his ailments, but he is expected to play as usual today. Hopefully he'll go all Beast Mode on the Chiefs today.

We already knew Gio Bernard was out, giving Jeremy Hill at least one more week as the workhorse in Cinci.

Reggie Bush will not be active, leaving the backfield in the hands of Joique Bell and Theo Riddick. They'll have a rough go of it in Arizona.

C.J. Anderson will start for the Broncos today, but Montee Ball will play and could see plenty of action. This may be the only week that Anderson is worth starting; and even now, he's a dicey proposition.

Ryan Mathews will reclaim his starting gig today, and POOF goes Branden Oliver's fantasy value.

By the way, if Josh Gordon is still available in your league (as he is in roughly a third of them), grab him pronto. He's eligible to return to action next weekend!

Delanie Walker is expected to sit out Monday night due to his concussion. Hopefully you have a TE backup plan.

Okay, that's it for now. Heading over to Twitter for the inactives and other late-breaking news, and to answer your questions. Good luck, Fools!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Week 11 Starters & Benchwarmers

Wondering whether or not to start Tom Brady and Emmanuel Sanders, or to bench Ryan Mallett and Zac Stacy? 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 11 of the 2014 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Robert Griffin III, QB, Redskins vs. Buccaneers. Coming off his bye and a solid, though certainly not spectacular, return in Week 9 against the Vikings, Griffin should be well prepared for the vulnerable secondary heading to FedEx Field. Given the play-making receivers at his disposal and a solid running game to keep the Bucs guessing, RG3’s ceiling is high.

Frank Gore, RB, 49ers at Giants. This has been a frustrating year for Gore and his owners, but he turned in a solid performance in New Orleans last week. Up next: A Giants defense that was just throttled by the Seahawks for 350 yards and five TDs on the ground. Surely Gore can cash in as well.

Steven Jackson, RB, Falcons at Panthers. The aging veteran is trending up recently, riding a two-game scoring stretch while keeping his backfield mates’ touches to a minimum. Carolina has given up big chunks of yardage and a league-worst 13 rushing TDs (tied with the Giants and Falcons).

Brandon LaFell, WR, Patriots at Colts. Tom Brady is en fuego while Indy’s pass defense is getting pummeled harder than a Democratic politician in Texas. LaFell has been targeted 24 times in just the last two games (six more than Rob Gronkowski), illustrating just how comfortable his QB has become with him. It’s good to be Brady’s BFF.

James Jones, WR, Raiders at Chargers. It goes against my nature to endorse a Raider, but given the pathetic recent track record of the San Diego secondary and Derek Carr’s stellar performance against this team in Week 6, I’m semi-interested. Jones is getting a lot of Carr’s attention lately, mostly at the expense of Andre Holmes. He is a viable bye-week or injury substitute.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Philip Rivers, Matt Stafford; RBs Mark Ingram, Ahmad Bradshaw, Jerick McKinnon, Terrance West, Alfred Morris, Darren Sproles, Jeremy Hill, Rashad Jennings, Alfred Blue; WRs Julian Edelman, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Roddy White, Kelvin Benjamin, Martavis Bryant, Odell Beckham, Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans, Keenan Allen, Brandin Cooks, T.Y. Hilton, Golden Tate.

Roll ‘em back

Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks at Chiefs. Despite some favorable matchups, Wilson has struggled as a passer over the last three weeks. And the road gets much bumpier in Kansas City, where the Chiefs seemingly always rise to the occasion. They also give up an NFL-low 205 passing yards per game. Wilson’s rushing prowess won’t compensate enough to make him a solid play in this matchup. 

Lions RBs at Cardinals. Reggie Bush (ankle) may sit out with yet another injury, leaving the backfield to Joique Bell and Theo Riddick. While each back brings something to the table, none has a promising outlook against Arizona’s top-notch run defense. Give them a rest on the road.

Broncos RBs at Rams. With Ronnie Hillman (foot) out and Montee Ball set to return, the backfield touches are likely to be parsed out among three mid-level players. C.J. Anderson is coming off the best game of his brief career against the lowly Raiders, but Ball will siphon off plenty of carries (if not the starting assignment). Mix in goal-line vulture Juwan Thompson, and the fact that Denver’s QB could care less about running, and this tough matchup is best avoided altogether.

Andre Johnson, WR, Texans at Browns. With Ryan Mallett making his first NFL start and shut-down corner Joe Haden shadowing him up and down the field, Johnson’s prospects are dim in this tough road contest. Don’t count on much from DeAndre Hopkins, either. Houston’s passing game is in transition, and not in a good way.

Jordan Matthews, WR, Eagles at Packers. The rookie is on a nice roll, thanks in part to the extra attention being paid to him by new starter Mark Sanchez. But the Packers sport a stingy pass defense and they are likely to get an assist from the weather gods at frigid Lambeau Field. Matthews is a risky proposition.

More thumbs down: QBs Mark Sanchez, Andy Dalton, Jay Cutler, Eli Manning, Drew Stanton, Zach Mettenberger; RBs Tre Mason, Bishop Sankey, Andre Williams, Shane Vereen, Darren McFadden; WRs Wes Welker, Doug Baldwin, Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright, Kenny Britt, Michael Crabtree, Marques Colston.

TAKING A FLIER

Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers vs. Raiders. Branden Oliver’s last strong outing came against the Raiders in Week 6, but Mathews has practiced fully all week and is expected to reclaim his starting gig on Sunday. Given San Diego’s recent slide, Mathews will be given every opportunity to jumpstart the offense in this highly attractive matchup.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…benches Andre Ellington due to the tough matchup with Detroit. To be sure, the Lions play some mean run defense. But with Drew Stanton under center, the Cardinals must lean on their bell cow. Ellington contributes as a receiver as well, so he’ll get plenty of opportunities to pile up the fantasy points.
 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Week 10 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start…

QBs
Aaron Rodgers, Packers – Pistol-whipped the Bears with 315 passing yards, 6 TDs and no turnovers.
Peyton Manning, Broncos – Rang up 340 yards, 5 TDs and 2 INTs against the lowly Raiders.

RBs
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks – Was in full Beast Mode, running for 140 yards and 4 TDs, plus a 23-yard reception.
Justin Forsett, Ravens – Ran for 112 yards and 2 TDs.
C.J. Anderson, Broncos – Took over for hobbling Ronnie Hillman, running for 90 yards and taking 4 passes for 73 yards and a TD.

WRs
Dez Bryant, Cowboys – Torched the Jags with 6 receptions for 158 yards and a pair of TDs.
Jordy Nelson, Packers – Reeled in 6 passes for 152 yards and 2 terrific TDs.
Martavis Bryant, Steelers – Turned 4 passes into 143 yards and a trash-time TD.
Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos – Scored twice and accumulated 67 yards on 5 receptions.
Jordan Matthews, Eagles – Soared with 7 receptions for 138 yards and 2 TDs.
Kelvin Benjamin, Panthers – Shined through a terrible loss with 3 catches for 70 yards and 2 TDs.

TEs
Jimmy Graham, Saints – Claimed 10 passes for 76 yards and 2 TDs.
Julius Thomas, Broncos – Reeled in 6 passes for 63 yards and a pair of TDs.

DSTs
Cardinals – Finished strong with TDs on an INT and a fumble, and collected 3 turnovers and 6 sacks.
Eagles – Accumulated 9 sacks, 3 INTs, 2 fumbles and TDs on an INT return and a punt return. Wow.

This was a great week to play against…

QBs
Andy Dalton, Bengals – Imploded on MNF, passing for just 86 yards, no TDs and 3 INTs.
Brian Hoyer, Browns – Led the Browns to victory, but his 198 yards without a score didn’t do his fantasy owners any favors.
Carson Palmer, Cardinals – Just 241 passing yards with an INT and no scores before leaving with an injury.

RBs
Shonn Greene, Titans – Lost a fumble at the goal-line and ended with 5 yards.
Jeremy Hill, Bengals – Finished with 55 rushing and 6 receiving yards, and fumbled.
Lamar Miller, Dolphins – Played poorly while dinged up, finishing with just 10 rushing and minus-4 receiving.
Ronnie Hillman, Broncos – Just 13 rushing and 9 receiving yards before leaving early with a minor injury.
Reggie Bush, Lions – Only 20 rushing yards to pair with a 5-yard catch.
Darren McFadden, Raiders – Combined for just 36 yards.
Chris Ivory, Jets – Ran for 51 yards.

WRs
A.J. Green, Bengals – Just 23 yards on 3 receptions.
Mohamed Sanu, Bengals – Held to 20 yards on 2 passes.
Terrance Williams, Cowboys – Went AWOL in London.
Andre Holmes, Raiders – Also posted a goose egg.
Michael Floyd, Cardinals – Notched an 11-yard reception on the day.
Justin Hunter, Titans – Had a 17-yarder.
Steve Smith, Ravens – He took 3 receptions to get 17 yards.
James Jones, Raiders – Had 8 catches but only took them 20 yards.
Sammy Watkins, Bills – Had his chances, but finished with just 27 yards on 4 receptions.
Doug Baldwin, Seahawks – Just 31 yards on 4 catches.
Marques Colston, Saints – Only 36 yards on 2 receptions.
Eric Decker, Jets – Limited to 24 yards on 3 balls.
Percy Harvin, Jets – Ran for 33 yards but just 3 catches for 23.
Jeremy Maclin, Eagles – Only 38 yards on 3 passes.
Rueben Randle, Giants – Took 5 passes 39 yards.

TEs
Vernon Davis, 49ers – Caught an 8-yarder.
Owen Daniels, Ravens – Just 20 yards on 2 balls.
Travis Kelce, Chiefs – Got 19 yards on 2 passes.