Saturday, December 31, 2011

Saturday updates around the NFL - Week 17

Here are a few snippets from my column in yesterday's Sporting News Fantasy Source:

Ben Roethlisberger is likely to make a cameo appearance in Sunday's game; but don't expect a full day's work. Though the Steelers have a potential bye week at stake, Big Ben (ankle) is expected to be watching from the sidelines by halftime. Pittsburgh also knows is can probably beat the Browns with Charlie Batch at the controls.

Tony Romo will play with his swollen right hand against the Giants, and he should be among the top passers of the day, thanks to New York's sieve-like secondary. Romo will also have his full complement of receivers, including Laurent Robinson (shoulder) at his disposal.

Kevin Kolb has been ruled out of Sunday's finale due to lingering concussion symptoms. John Skelton will make another start for the Cards.

Keep an eye on Reggie Bush's status (say, via my tweets @ladd_biro), as he is dealing with a possible knee sprain. He could be a game-time decision against the Jets. If Bush can't go, Daniel Thomas is in line for a heavy workload. Despite leaving last week's game early, the rookie is not listed on the Dolphins' Week 17 injury report. [UPDATE 12/31: Bush has been ruled out for Week 17.]

You need not worry about Michael Turner's groin (not sure that came out quite right). But you do need to be aware that if the Lions beat the Packers in the earlier game, Atlanta will be locked into the sixth seed and have little reason to go full tilt. That would be a shame, since they'll be facing the pathetic Bucs defense.

LeSean McCoy (ankle) returned to practice on Thursday, indicating that he is gearing up to play as usual against the Redskins. Since the Eagles have nothing to play for besides pride, any hiccup by McCoy could send him to the sidelines early. You have to start him, but be prepared for an early exit.

Not only won't Mark Ingram suit up Sunday, but he is in jeopardy of missing the Saints' postseason run after having a setback with his turf toe injury.

The Chiefs' backfield will be a little less crowded -- yet still not very enticing -- with the absence of Jackie Battle (foot) this weekend. Dexter McCluster and Thomas Jones will split the carries, but it's hard to trust either player. They've scored one touchdown between them all season.

Both Hakeem Nicks (hamstring) and Mario Manningham (knee) are expected to join Victor Cruz in the lineup against the Cowboys on Sunday night. I wouldn't bet against any of them reaching the end zone.

Andre Johnson (hamstring) is expected to play Sunday, but only 15-20 snaps. While that could be enough to find him celebrating in the end zone, I wouldn't bank on it. Ditto for Owen Daniels (knee), who will yield most, if not all, of his playing time to Joel Dreessen.

This would have been a great time for Randall Cobb to rack up meaningless stats, but a groin injury will almost certainly have him watching from the sidelines.

Billy Cundiff will be a game-time decision for the Ravens.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Week 17 Starters & Benchwarmers

Hopefully this isn’t your championship weekend and you’re just playing for fun. But since all bets are off in Week 17, some obvious choices are suddenly not so obvious. Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 17 of the 2011 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Bills at Patriots. He torched the Patriots for 369 yards and two TDs when these teams met way back in Week 3. Though Fitzpatrick has been mediocre most of December, he has a great chance to finish on a high note as he faces the worst pass defense in the league.

Ben Tate, RB, Texans vs. Titans. With its postseason seeding set in stone, the Texans will surely rest Arian Foster. That should leave the backfield to Tate, assuming he also isn’t reserved. Tate posted 104 yards rushing against Tennessee’s mediocre defense in Week 7, even though Foster started and played well.

Felix Jones, RB, Cowboys at Giants. With everything on the line and his quarterback nursing a bruised hand, Jones will be leaned on heavily in this favorable matchup. He’s had plenty of time to rest his bum hamstring, so look for a heaping helping of Jones in Sunday night’s showdown. He collected 137 combined yards in the last meeting between the division rivals.

Robert Meachem, WR, Saints vs. Panthers. New Orleans still has a bye week on the line, so the starters should get a decent amount of action. With Lance Moore likely to sit out due to a hamstring injury, Meachem has a great chance to prosper against the Panthers’ porous secondary.

Malcom Floyd
, WR, Chargers at Raiders. A groin injury will likely sideline Vincent Jackson for the finale, giving Floyd an ideal opportunity to reach the end zone for the third consecutive week. Oakland’s pass defense has been pretty awful, so it should be a nice day all around for those participating in the San Diego aerial attack.

More thumbs up: QBs Michael Vick, Cam Newton, Eli Manning, Tony Romo, Matt Stafford; RBs Maurice Jones-Drew, Kahlil Bell, Rashard Mendenhall, Marshawn Lynch, Beanie Wells, C.J. Spiller, Michael Bush, DeAngelo Williams; WRs Reggie Wayne, Brandon Marshall, Percy Harvin, Jeremy Maclin, Torrey Smith, Steve Smith, Nate Washington, Stevie Johnson, Dwayne Bowe, Miles Austin, Laurent Robinson, Denarius Moore.

Roll ‘em back

Tim Tebow, QB, Broncos at Chiefs. Kansas City has played outstanding defense over the past two weeks, most notably against Aaron Rodgers in Week 15. Tebow generally makes up for his passing deficiencies with rushing scores, but those will be tough to come by as well. These teams are heading in opposite directions lately, making Tebow a very risky play in rowdy Arrowhead.

Chris Johnson, RB, Titans at Texans. In Week 7, Houston held Johnson to a paltry 45 combined yards. Though he’s broken out of his early-season doldrums, Johnson is now dealing with a nagging ankle injury on which he’s having trouble cutting. Though the Titans still have a shot at the postseason (provided they get a lot of help), it’s hard to expect a full game, or meaningful production, from “CJ1K” against the stout Texans run defense.

Steven Jackson, RB, Rams vs. 49ers. As predicted here, and virtually nowhere else, Marshawn Lynch finally punctured the 49ers’ defense for its first rushing TD of the season last weekend. Jackson won’t make it two in a row. He was held to 30 combined yards when these teams met in Week 13. It should be another ugly day to finish an ugly season for the Rams.

Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers vs. Lions. Even if Green Bay’s regular starters are allowed to play a quarter or more, Nelson should be resting comfortably on your bench. He lives and dies on big plays and limited targets, so his risk is amplified further when an early exit seems assured.

Andre Johnson, WR, Texans vs. Titans. He’s expected to return from his on-again off-again hamstring injury, but he’ll be on a strict snap count. With nothing at stake for the Texans, and his fellow starters leaving early, Johnson should remain on your bench.

More thumbs down: QBs Aaron Rodgers, Matt Moore, Mark Sanchez, Matt Hasselbeck, Rex Grossman, Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco; RBs Donald Brown, Arian Foster, LeGarrette Blount, Mike Tolbert, Kevin Smith, Willis McGahee, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Jackie Battle, Ryan Grant; WRs Plaxico Burress, Vincent Jackson, James Jones, Lance Moore, Greg Little, Demaryius Thomas, Brandon Lloyd, Antonio Brown.

Taking a flier

Stevan Ridley, RB, Patriots vs. Bills. The rookie led his team in rushing the last time they faced the Bills, and Ridley has gotten the most carries in the Patriots’ backfield committee over the last two games. Against the NFL’s 28th-ranked rush defense, Ridley is well positioned to have the best game of his young NFL career on Sunday.

Don’t be the bonehead who…wages your title game in Week 17 again next year. Talk to your commissioner and fellow owners now, and agree to change the schedule so you’re not stuck in this same situation next season. Championships should not be contested while many of your best players are wearing baseball caps.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Week 16 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start

Aaron Rodgers, Packers – Gave a final kiss to his fantasy owners, with 283 passing yards and 5 TDs, plus 18 yards on the ground, without a turnover.
Drew Brees, Saints – Eclipsed Dan Marino with his 307-yard, 4-TD effort, which also came with 2 INTs.
Cam Newton, Panthers – Kept up the Superman act with 171 passing yards and 3 TDs, plus 65 rushing yards and a fourth TD.
Tom Brady, Patriots – Rallied for his team and his fantasy owners with 304 passing yards and 1 TD, plus 17 rushing yards and 2 QB plunges.
Matt Stafford, Lions – Passed for 373 yards and 3 TDs.
Matt Moore, Dolphins – Took advantage of the New England secondary with 294 passing yards and 3 TDs plus 2 turnovers.

DeAngelo Williams, Panthers – Found the end zone twice while rushing for 66 yards. Also added 2 receptions for 18 yards.
Kevin Smith, Lions – Combined for 61 yards and 2 TDs.

Jordy Nelson, Packers – Torched the Bears with 6 receptions for 115 yards and 2 TDs.
Brandon Marshall, Dolphins – Reeled in 7 passes for 156 yards and a score.
Victor Cruz, Giants – Turned 3 passes into 164 yards, including a 99-yard TD burst.
James Jones, Packers – Hauled in 4 passes for 50 yards and 2 scores.
Julio Jones, Falcons – Brought in 8 passes for 128 yards and 1 TD, though he lost a fumble.
Wes Welker, Patriots – Had another great PPR game with a dozen catches for 138 yards.
Roddy White, Falcons – His PPR owners loved his 11 receptions for 127 yards.

Jared Cook, Titans – Hauled in 8 passes for 169 yards and a TD.

Bills – Returned 2 Tebow INTs for TDs, scored on an 80-yard punt return, and added 2 sacks and 4 total turnovers.

This was a great week to play against…

Tony Romo, Cowboys – Left in the first quarter after a hand injury, with no completions to his credit.
Alex Smith, 49ers – Passed for 179 yards, and ran for 22, without a TD or turnover.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots – Limited to 10 rushing yards.
LeGarrette Blount, Buccaneers – Held to 11 rushing yards against Carolina’s soft run defense.
James Starks, Packers – Returned from injury to total 19 yards.
Felix Jones, Cowboys – Limited against the Eagles to just 24 rushing yards, thanks to a tight hammy and meaningless game.
Donald Brown, Colts – Rushed for 35 yards and caught 2 passes for 13 more.
LeSean McCoy, Eagles – Uncharacteristically held to 35 rushing yards and a 10-yard catch, and was kept out of the end zone.
Beanie Wells, Cardinals – He only managed 53 yards plus an 8-yard reception.
Chris Johnson, Titans – Only 56 yards on the day.
Cedric Benson, Bengals – Just 57 rushing yards and an 8-yard catch.

Eric Decker, Broncos – Held catchless.
Laurent Robinson, Cowboys – Marginalized by circumstances, only tallied a 5-yard catch.
Hakeem Nicks, Giants – Had only a 20-yard catch to show for his day.
Brandon Lloyd, Rams – Just 29 yards on 3 catches.
Plaxico Burress, Jets – His 3 receptions amounted to just 34 yards.
Antonio Brown, Steelers – Same for him.
Torrey Smith, Ravens – Held to 2 catches for 38 yards by Cleveland’s Joe Haden.
Mike Williams, Buccaneers – Just 4 catches for 39 yards.
Vincent Jackson, Chargers – Limited to 41 yards on 2 catches.
Steve Smith, Panthers – His team racked up 48 points, but his 23 rushing yards exceeded his receiving total (9 yards).
A.J. Green, Bengals – Ran for 25 yards and caught 2 passes for 25 more.

Owen Daniels, Texans – Held on to one 4-yard pass.

Monday, December 26, 2011

After the laughter, it’s time for a free-for-all

Aaron Rodgers earned his place on fantasy’s Mount Rushmore with his five-touchdown performance on Christmas night, propelling millions of gleeful owners to championship glory.

That’s the type of overwhelming firepower you’re dreaming of when you invest a first-round pick on a quarterback. Many of those who took that gamble are celebrating today.

Then again, if all they got from Rodgers’ masterful evening was a ticket to a Week 17 Super Bowl, they’d better party hearty now. Because their All World quarterback won’t be playing much, if at all, in the Packers’ meaningless regular season finale.

That’s why your league shouldn’t be playing for all the marbles, either.

With nothing at stake next Sunday, most Packers starters will undoubtedly hit the showers after a drive or two. Expect similar non-production from Arian Foster and his fellow Texans starters, who are locked in as the AFC’s No. 3 seed. There’s no telling how long, or hard, the Saints, Lions and Falcons will be battling, either.

Meanwhile, players from non-playoff bound teams may have already checked out mentally. (See Tampa Bay.)

Allow me to recommend a more enjoyable way to wrap up the fantasy season: The Free-for-All Bowl.

It’s simple. Everyone – including those owners who sat out the postseason – sets one final starting lineup. The top overall score wins five percent of the pot. (For non-money leagues, I suppose you could play for pride. Winning, in this case, would be much like hitting a perfect drive off the 18th tee after a lousy round of golf. It fuels hope for future success.)

We’ve played the Free-for-All Bowl in a couple of my leagues for as long as I can remember, because it’s a great way to keep everyone engaged while extracting one more competitive week out of the fantasy season. And I think we can all agree that’s a worthy objective.

If you can talk your fellow owners into staging a Free-for-All Bowl next weekend, I urge you to give it a try. Otherwise, be sure to lock it into your schedule next season.

Because Week 17 is a terrible thing to waste.


Hopefully you’ve already played, and won, your league’s championship. If you still have something on the line in Week 17, there’s not much help available on the waiver wire. But here are some marginal free agent recommendations anyway, along with two who would look better in someone else’s lineup.

Catch 'em while you can

Matt Flynn, QB, Packers. The highly regarded backup out-dueled Tom Brady in passing for 251 yards and 3 TDs last season when Rodgers was injured. Flynn has the talent, and presumably he’ll have enough receiving weapons at his disposal to make things interesting against the Lions. He’s the type of unheralded player that often tops the Week 17 passer rankings.

Evan Royster, RB, Redskins. Why not one more spin on the Redskins’ backfield rollercoaster? After combining for 147 yards against a solid run defense in his first NFL start, Royster has certainly earned another opportunity against the Eagles in Week 17. Of course, only the inscrutable Mike Shanahan knows if he’ll get the chance, and that decision hinges somewhat on Roy Helu’s health.

Toby Gerhart, RB, Vikings. While we ponder the possibility that we may have just witnessed the beginning of the end to Adrian Peterson’s stellar career, it’s time again to make room for Gerhart on your roster. Now owned in less than half of all leagues, Gerhart will be called upon to finish off the Vikings’ disastrous season against the Bears next Sunday.

Don’t be fooled

Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders. There’s chatter swirling in fantasy circles that RunDMC may be preparing for a Week 17 return to the field. While anything’s possible in Oakland, the possibility seems remote at best. Even more unlikely is the notion that McFadden would deliver meaningful production in his first action since injuring his foot in Week 7, particularly when Michael Bush has performed so well in his absence.

Jerome Simpson, WR, Bengals. Even the non-football fans gathered at my home on Christmas Eve were mesmerized by Simpson’s mind-boggling scoring leap. But don’t let his signature career highlight convince you that he belongs on your roster; especially with the Ravens coming to town for the Bengals’ finale.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Saturday morning updates -- Championship Weekend!

Good morning, Fools. Merry Christmas Eve, and happy Championship Saturday!

Not sure how I feel about 13 games being played on a Saturday, with so many other things going on, but it is what it is. Let's get to the news we can use to emerge victorious this weekend. (I'm hoping none of your leagues are holding your Super Bowls in Week 17, even though I know some still make that mistake. Please, for the love of Priest Holmes, stop it!)

BIG NEWS OF THE DAY: Roy Helu has been ruled OUT of today's game due to his lower leg injuries. Evan Royster will get the start against the Vikings, which makes him a real sleeper. Minnesota's run defense is good, but not the brick wall it once was. That said, Royster has had very little experience at this level. I wouldn't rush to pin your title dreams on him, unless Helu was your last option at RB.

Big Ben is out, as he should be, against the Rams. Charlie Batch will be the Steelers' QB, which hurts Mike Wallace's and Antonio Brown's stock. I wouldn't bench Wallace ever, but Brown is expendable depending on your other options. The real beneficiary is Mendenhall, who not only has a delicious matchup, but will be leaned on even more heavily than normal given the QB situation.

After telling us all week that Felix Jones' hammy was OK, and he was just being held out of practice in an over-abundance of caution, his status is now in complete doubt. He will likely be limited under any scenario, but he may even be declared inactive if the Giants beat the Jets in the earlier game (rendering Dallas' game vs. the Eagles meaningless for postseason purposes). Regardless, Sammy Morris is slated to get a big share of the workload. Avoid Felix today.

Look for a good game from Kevin Smith, as he is very close to full health and the Lions have committed to him as their workhorse back. The DET-SD tilt should be a barn-burner, and Smith is bound to get his share of the fantasy pie.

Mark Ingram will surely be declared inactive on Monday night, leading to more split touches between Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas.

Looks like James Starks is headed back to the lineup for Sunday night's game. The rough matchup with the Bears, and the likely shared backfield with Ryan Grant (and Brandon Saine and John Kuhn), make all Packers RBs unusable fantasy options.

On the other side, it appears that Marion Barber will be held out of the game. That makes my choice of Kahlil Bell as "flier of the week" even stronger. He's a decent flex play if you're willing (or need) to gamble a bit.

Chris Johnson has been bothered by an ankle injury all week, but he is expected to suit up today vs. the Jags. You probably have to start him, though; even if he's not 100%.

Beanie Wells (knee) is questionable to play today, but most observers believe he'll start as usual in Cincinnati.

Lance Moore aggravated his hamstring in practice Friday. Not sure how serious it is, but given the Monday night start, he's now a risky option. The last thing you want now is to be left without a backup option and have to take a goose egg in one of your WR slots.

Vincent Jackson will be a game-time decision due to a groin injury. There's a very real chance he won't play in today's later game. Plan accordingly. (Malcom Floyd and Vincent Brown are decent proxies if available.)

Don't expect Mario Manningham to play today. That adds value to both Nicks and Cruz, who face a tough secondary.

Brandon Marshall is fine and will play today. In fact, he should have a monster game against the Pats.

TE Anthony Fasano, however, will not play in the delicious matchup against New England's shoddy secondary.

That's it for now, Fools. I'll be tweeting (@ladd_biro) the inactives when they start announcing them. Good luck today, and have a blessed weekend.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Week 16 Starters & Benchwarmers

Wondering whether or not to start Drew Brees and LeSean McCoy, or to bench Seneca Wallace and Joseph Addai in your championship game? 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 2011 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons at Saints. With seven TD passes and no interceptions over the past two weeks, Ryan is among the hottest QBs in the land. He’ll need to keep up the blistering pace on Monday night as he duels Drew Brees in what is sure to be a fantasypalooza.

Ryan Mathews, RB, Broncos at Lions. Coming off a week in which he gashed the Ravens’ elite defense for 90 yards and two scores, Mathews now gets to pick on Detroit’s vulnerable run defense. He could score as a rusher and receiver in this high-flying contest.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks vs. 49ers. Call it a hunch, or pure confidence in a tailback who hasn’t failed to reach the end zone since Week 3. Not only wouldn’t I sit Lynch against the NFL’s top-ranked run defense; I’ll bet he posts the first rushing score of the year on them.

Plaxico Burress, WR, Jets vs. Giants. The cross-town smack talk is in full swing, but the Giants’ porous secondary won’t be able to muzzle the chatter, or the scoring. Look for Burress to penetrate the end zone at least once against his former team, and add some nice yardage along the way.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles at Cowboys. He’s been hindered in recent weeks by hamstring and shoulder injuries, but Maclin appears reliably healthy now. He notched 54 yards and a TD in the teams’ first meeting, and similar or better production awaits in what should be a high-scoring rematch.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Matt Stafford, Cam Newton, Tony Romo, Michael Vick, Matt Moore, Tim Tebow; RBs Michael Bush, Reggie Bush, Kevin Smith, Willis McGahee, Rashard Mendenhall, C.J. Spiller, Shonn Greene, Cedric Benson, Beanie Wells; WRs A.J. Green, Nate Washington, Vincent Jackson, Steve Smith, Mike Williams (Bucs), Percy Harvin, Dwayne Bowe, Stevie Johnson, Jordy Nelson, Santonio Holmes.

Roll ‘em back

Rex Grossman, QB, Redskins vs. Vikings. Grossman is at the top of many sleeper lists this week since he’ll be facing Minnesota’s generous secondary. That might make sense if (a) he hadn’t underachieved in other juicy matchups, and (b) he didn’t have the capacity to implode at any given moment. Don’t pin your title hopes on one of the most unreliable passers on the planet.

DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers vs. Buccaneers. In three of his last four games, Williams has scored at least once and rushed for 61 or more yards. But he stunk it up in the other contest, in Tampa Bay. Unless Williams breaks another long TD run Sunday, you may be left cursing Cam Newton for stealing all the goal-line glory.

Roy Helu, RB, Redskins vs. Vikings. A lower leg injury presumably was the cause of his poor productivity last week, and it could limit his touches on Sunday, too. You know how skittish Mike Shanahan can be with his rushers. Evan Royster could be this week’s favored son. Helu comes with considerable risk against a solid run defense.

Torrey Smith, WR, Ravens vs. Browns. With news that Anquan Boldin is out due to knee surgery, Smith will be the primary receiver in this matchup. That means he’ll be blanketed by Joe Haden, who is playing at an elite level.

Brandon Lloyd, WR, Rams at Steelers. Whether or not Sam Bradford (ankle) suits up, Lloyd can’t be trusted against the stingiest pass defense in the league.

More thumbs down: QBs Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Matt Hasselbeck, Alex Smith, Kyle Orton, Carson Palmer; RBs Marion Barber, Steven Jackson, Donald Brown, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Toby Gerhart, Jonathan Stewart, Peyton Hillis, Jackie Battle, Ben Tate, Brandon Jacobs; WRs Eric Decker, Greg Little, Steve Breaston, Reggie Wayne, Denarius Moore.

Taking a flier

Kahlil Bell, RB, Bears at Packers. Looking for a sneaky flex play? Marion Barber is quickly wearing out his welcome in Chicago, and he’s been sitting out practice this week with a calf injury. Green Bay has coughed up at least one rushing TD per game for six straight weeks. Bell is a decent bet to make it seven.

Don’t be the bonehead who…heads out for last-minute Christmas shopping and forgets that Saturday is the new Sunday. A full slate of 13 games will be played on Christmas Eve this year. Be sure to lock in your championship game lineup by Saturday morning.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Week 15 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start…

Drew Brees, Saints – Had a monster game with 412 passing yards and 5, count ‘em, 5 TDs, with no INTs and one fumble.
Matt Stafford, Lions – Passed for 391 yards and 4 TDs, with a fumble and no INTs.
Tony Romo, Cowboys – Threw for 249 yards and 3 TDs and ran in a 4th TD, with just one lost fumble.
Tom Brady, Patriots – Passed for 320 yards and 2 TDs, and ran in a 3rd score.
Matt Ryan, Falcons – Passed for 224 yards and 3 TDs.

LeSean McCoy, Eagles – Rushed for 102 yards and a TD trifecta. Also lost a fumble.
Reggie Bush, Dolphins – Burst through the Bills for 203 rushing yards and a TD, but lost a fumble.
C.J. Spiller, Bills – Ran for 91 yards and a TD, and reeled in 9 passes for 76 yards and a second score.
Ryan Mathews, Chargers – Gained 90 yards on the ground with 2 TDs, plus 2 receptions for 19 yards.
Donald Brown, Colts – Rumbled for 161 yards and a game-clinching TD.
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks – His 2 TD runs made up for just 47 combined yards.
Toby Gerhart, Vikings – Only ran for 12 yards, but caught 4 passes for 46 yards and 2 TDs.

Calvin Johnson, Lions – Broke out of his slump with 9 receptions for 214 yards and 2 TDs.
Roddy White, Falcons – Reeled in 10 passes for 135 yards and 2 TDs.
Lance Moore, Saints – Scored twice on his 5 receptions for 91 yards.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders – Pulled down 8 catches for 155 yards and a score.

Brent Celek, Eagles – Hauled in 5 passes for 156 yards and a score.
Aaron Hernandez, Patriots – Did his best Gronkowski imitation, with 9 receptions for 129 yards and a TD.

Seahawks – Returned 2 interceptions for scores while registering 4 sacks and 5 total turnovers.
Falcons – Forced 3 turnovers, amassed 5 sacks and returned a fumble for a TD while holding the Jags to 7 offensive points.

This was a great week to play against…

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers – The hobbled QB mustered 330 yards, but no TDs and 4 turnovers.
Matt Hasselbeck, Titans – Despite the juicy matchup, only tossed 223 yards and 2 INTs, without a score, and gave way to Jake Locker again.
Eli Manning, Giants – Coughed up 3 INTs while passing for 257 yards and no scores (though it wasn’t all his fault).
Andy Dalton, Bengals – Wasted a great matchup by throwing for just 179 yards, no TDs and 1 INT.

LeGarrette Blount, Buccaneers – Held to 21 rushing yards.
Marion Barber, Bears – Limited to 33 yards.
Brandon Jacobs, Giants – So was he.
Kevin Smith, Lions – Led Lions rushers with just 43 yards, plus a 3-yard catch.
Adrian Peterson, Vikings – Out-performed by Toby Gerhart, with just 60 rushing yards in his return.

Mike Williams, Buccaneers – Laid a goose egg against the Cowboys.
Percy Harvin, Vikings – Turned 3 receptions into just 8 yards.
Doug Baldwin, Seahawks – Had a 13-yarder for the day.
Denarius Moore, Raiders – Returned from injury to catch just 2 passes for 13 yards, and he ran for 13 more.
Johnny Knox, Bears – Had a 15-yard catch, and fumble, before absorbing a stomach-turning hit.
Eric Decker, Broncos – Held to a 22-yard reception.
Pierre Garcon, Colts – Ran for 8 yards and caught 2 passes for 24 yards.
DeSean Jackson, Eagles – Just 28 yards and 2 receptions.
Jordy Nelson, Packers – He only had 29 yards on his 2 catches.
Wes Welker, Patriots – Just 4 for 41 yards against the Broncos.

Tony Gonzalez, Falcons – Just one 14-yard catch.
Antonio Gates, Chargers – Limited to 2 catches for 31 yards.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Upsets rule Week 15, in fantasy and reality

Upsets made headlines across the NFL this week. So it should come as no surprise that several top-seeded fantasy teams were sent packing as well.

Who could have imagined that the lowly Chiefs would spoil the Packers’ march to perfection? Even more inconceivable was a scoreless first half performance by Aaron Rodgers and the most prolific offense in the NFL.

Rodgers managed to finish with respectable fantasy numbers, but Drew Brees, Matt Stafford, Tom Brady and Tony Romo put him to shame when it counted most.

Remarkably, three of the top seeds in my four leagues went down to defeat this weekend, thanks to uncharacteristically pedestrian performances from such stalwarts as Rodgers, Eli Manning, Wes Welker, Percy Harvin, Jordy Nelson, Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Gates. Greg Jennings’ absence hurt as well.

Hey, even the Colts had to win some time, right?

If your fantasy season ended more abruptly than expected due to poorly timed swoons from your key starters, I feel your pain. Over the years, I’ve steamrolled into the playoffs with a seemingly indestructible team, only to watch in vain as my studs wilted on the field.

For every Calvin Johnson owner exulting in his receiver’s overpowering performance against the Raiders, there’s another owner wondering why Megatron had to break out of his mini-slump this weekend. We’ve all been there, buddy.

Ultimate success in Fantasyland rarely comes by accident; but just as rarely is it achieved without a dollop of luck along the way.

Losers, keep your chin up. Momma said there’d be days like this. Winners, don’t get too cocky. Things change quickly around here.


Now that the fantasy postseason is upon us, your starting roster should be fairly settled. But a little tweaking here or there, if only to keep your competition from improving, might still be in order. Here’s a look at a couple of players that could help in the final weeks, and a couple that won’t.

Catch ‘em while you can

Matt Moore, QB, Dolphins. I can’t imagine any scenario in which a title-contending fantasy team would need to resort to a flier at the quarterback position. But if you’re the rare exception, Moore is your man. Not only did he fare well in the snowy conditions of Buffalo on Sunday, but he’ll face the ragtag Patriots secondary next weekend.

Brent Celek, TE, Eagles. His career-best game (156 yards, 1 TD) came against a solid Jets secondary and included receptions of 13, 26, 38 and 73 yards. Now that Michael Vick is reasonably healthy, Celek is a viable receiving option, especially if DeSean Jackson’s elbow injury limits his playing time.

Don’t be fooled

Kahlil Bell, RB, Bears. It’s little surprise that after Marion Barber’s costly mistakes in Week 14, and his modest production Sunday against the Seahawks, Bell was given a chance to shine. The second-year back took advantage of his opportunity, but only if you were banking on Barber should Bell even be a consideration.

Donald Brown, RB, Colts. If you have to own a Colt tailback, Brown is the guy you want. Fortunately, nobody’s forcing you to own one. His 80-yard touchdown run against the Titans was a thing of beauty; but the highlights for this offense, and this running game in particular, are few and far between.

Greg Little, WR, Browns. The rookie flashed some promise earlier in the season, but his size and talent have mostly been squandered in Cleveland’s moribund offense. He broke loose on a 76-yard scoring reception against the Cardinals, which gave him a career-high 131-yard, one-touchdown game. Keep him on your radar for next season’s draft.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday morning updates -- Week 15

It's the most wonderful time of the year: Christmas and the fantasy postseason! It just doesn't get any better than this.

Let's scope out the latest news across Fantasyland so we're as well-informed as possible heading into our playoff contests.

Big Ben has been limited in practice and you know he's going to do everything in his power to play on Monday night. But you just can't take the chance that he sits, unless Alex Smith is your backup (and he doesn't exactly provide much comfort). To me, starting Roethlisberger is out of the question. But what about his receivers? Mike Wallace has to start, no matter what; but Antonio Brown is a much bigger question mark. I'm still reserving him. Emmanuel Sanders has already been ruled out.

(On a positive note, for Steelers fans, All Pro MLB Patrick Willis will likely not play for the 49ers on Monday night. Willis is the best defender on the team, perhaps in the NFL, and nobody can fill his cleats.)

John Skelton will be back under center for the Cards, with Kolb (concussion) out. You still have to start Fitz.

Sam Bradford is highly unlikely to play, leaving Kellen Clemens as the Rams' starter. If that doesn't prompt you to play the Bengals defense, I'm not sure what will. That's very bad news for Brandon Lloyd too.

Adrian Peterson is expected to be active. Even though there's talk of limiting his touches, you have to start him.

Mark Ingram has been ruled out for the Saints. Pierre Thomas has been getting the bulk of the goal line carries, Chris Ivory runs between the 20s and Darren Sproles does a little bit of everything. Makes for a very messy and unpredictable fantasy situation.

Looks like Brandon Saine may join James Starks on the inactive list today, leaving Ryan Grant and John Kuhn as the only healthy backs for Green Bay. Good news for those wanting/needing to start Grant today.

Kevin Smith is expected to suit up today, but I wouldn't touch him, even against the Raiders. Maurice Morris and Keiland Williams take too many carries.

Ahmad Bradshaw is expected to play against the Redskins. Assuming he made curfew last night, he should play the entire game, limiting Brandon Jacobs' upside.

Deion Branch won't play today. Gee, you think Gronkowski might get more involved in the game plan now?

Andre Johnson is out again.

Good luck, Fools! Make it a 200-point day! Inactives and other late-breaking news coming via Twitter (@ladd_biro) soon.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday updates and injury news

Here are a few snippets from my column in today's Sporting News Fantasy Source:

You can never count out Ben Roethlisberger (ankle) until the last second, but his Monday night start won’t give you the luxury of waiting that long. Don’t risk a goose egg, especially since all the current indicators are pointing south for Big Ben.

Kyle Orton (finger) will likely be back under center when the Chiefs play the Packers. While he could post some nice trash-time stats, the real beneficiary is Dwayne Bowe. He should have a big game against Green Bay’s porous secondary.

I’m curious how Adrian Peterson (ankle) calculates that he is “85 percent” healthy; but all I need to know is that he’s playing on Sunday. As of this writing, it appears that he is. Follow me on Twitter (@ladd_biro) to make sure there are no last-minute surprises.

Remember way back when when Darren McFadden (foot) was a fantasy stud? Yeah, I’m having trouble remembering that, too. Keep Michael Bush in your lineup against the Lions.

Speaking of which, Kevin Smith (ankle) has resumed practicing and will likely be suiting up on Sunday. No guarantees, of course; but in any event, Smith will be sharing carries with Maurice Morris and touchdown-vulture Keiland Williams. You should have better options.

With James Starks (ankle) expected to miss another game, Ryan Grant has an opportunity to prosper against the sub-par Chiefs run defense. I still think last week’s two-touchdown outburst was an aberration in Green Bay’s pass-centric offense; but Grant is worth a flex play given the favorable matchup.

Andre Johnson (hamstring) will likely be a game-time decision. You have to start him if he plays – T.J. Yates has proven he can get him the ball – but at this point, you need to make contingency plans.

Despite lingering shoulder and hamstring injuries, Jeremy Maclin is expected to start against the Jets. But as with last week, he may not make it the entire game. Not to mention, the Jets’ vaunted secondary has finally started playing up to their pedigree. Maclin is a very risky start, particularly with Michael Vick (ribs) also struggling.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Week 15 Starters & Benchwarmers

Wondering whether or not to start Drew Brees and Rob Gronkowski, or to bench Caleb Hanie and Tashard Choice? 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 2011 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Tim Tebow, QB, Broncos vs. Patriots. There’s only one elite quarterback playing in this game, and it’s not Tebow. But New England’s secondary has made fantasy stars out of Rex Grossman and Dan Orlovsky over the past two weeks. Even if he’s only on-target in the fourth quarter while playing catch-up, Tebow will deliver stellar production.

Cedric Benson, RB, Bengals at Rams. There’s no better matchup for an opposing rusher than the Rams’ putrid defense. Benson is the unchallenged workhorse of Bengals’ offense, making him a must-start in virtually every league -- even over some elite options.

Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals vs. Browns. His two-game roll was interrupted by the elite 49ers defense last week. But Sunday offers the perfect rebound scenario of a lousy run defense, combined with a strong secondary that will limit Arizona’s passing game. Another big day awaits Wells.

Lance Moore, WR, Saints at Vikings. Marques Colston had a monster game against the Titans in Week 14, but he still trails Moore in the touchdown-scoring department (five to six). Facing an opponent that has surrendered the most passing TDs in the league (26), Moore is a must-start in Minnesota.

Santana Moss, WR, Redskins at Giants. You won’t catch me jumping on the Rex Grossman bandwagon (aka rollercoaster), but there’s no denying his delicious matchup with New York’s imploding pass defense. Moss is the most reliable target in Sexy Rexy’s arsenal, making him a great bet to reach the end zone in his second straight game against inferior secondaries.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Matt Stafford, Joe Flacco; RBs Shonn Greene, Marshawn Lynch, Felix Jones, Michael Bush, Reggie Bush, Roy Helu; WRs Julio Jones, Laurent Robinson, Miles Austin, Nate Washington, Mike Williams (Bucs), Donald Driver, Torrey Smith, Percy Harvin, Plaxico Burress, Dwayne Bowe.

Roll ‘em back

Cam Newton, QB, Panthers at Texans. Not only does Houston boast the third-stingiest pass defense in the NFL, but they are stout against the run as well. Normally you can count on Newton to make up any passing deficiencies with a running score or two; but this week should be the exception.

Michael Vick, QB, Eagles vs. Jets. The electrifying quarterback is still playing in pain, and the Jets’ aggressive pass defense won’t make life any easier. Vick has yet to notch a scoring run all season, and multiple passing scores are not in the cards this week either.

Rashard Menden-hall, RB, Steelers at 49ers. You hate to sit a top rusher in the fantasy postseason; but when he’s facing a brick wall in San Francisco, you almost have to. Mendenhall is losing touches to Isaac Redman as well, making him an even riskier start.

C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills vs. Dolphins. Buffalo is having trouble running the ball, while Miami has quietly ascended into the elite ranks of run defenses. Spiller will have trouble getting on track against this unit, which has allowed just five rushing scores all season.

Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers at 49ers. I’ve said before he’s my new favorite fantasy wideout, but Brown is a dicey proposition if Ben Roethlisberger (ankle) can’t play. While the 49ers secondary isn’t nearly as stingy as its run defense, they’re good enough to shut down Charlie Batch and his No. 2 receiver. The Monday night start makes Brown, and Big Ben, even riskier options.

More thumbs down: QBs Sam Bradford, Kyle Orton, Ben Roethlisberger, Alex Smith, Carson Palmer, Ryan Fitzpatrick; RBs Kevin Smith, DeAngelo Williams, Marion Barber, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Chris Ivory; WRs Deion Branch, Jeremy Maclin, Johnny Knox, Michael Crabtree.

Taking a flier

Cardinals defense/special teams vs. Browns. You thought Cleveland’s offense struggled before? Get ready for an epic failure with Colt McCoy (concussion) on the sidelines. Arizona has sacked opposing passers five times apiece over the last two games, and their secondary has elevated its game recently as well. The Browns’ three-headed backfield committee won’t find much room to run, either.

Don’t be the bonehead who…overlooks the Saturday night tilt between the Cowboys and Buccaneers. Just as we’ve grown accustomed to the Thursday night games, the NFL is throwing us another scheduling curveball. Make sure your Cowboys, especially, are locked in for what should be a fantasy smorgasbord.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Week 14 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start...

Tony Romo, Cowboys – Exploited the Giants secondary for 321 yards and 4 TDs without a turnover.
Matt Ryan, Falcons – Torched the Panthers for 320 yards and 4 TDs.
Tom Brady, Patriots – We’ll overlook the rare INT for the 357 passing yards and TD trifecta.
Mark Sanchez, Jets – Scored twice passing and twice rushing while throwing for 181 yards, though he also lost a fumble.
Philip Rivers, Chargers – Passed for 240 yards and 3 TDs, but fumbled once.
Eli Manning, Giants – Picked apart the Cowboys for 400 yards and 2 TDs, plus an INT.

Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars – Scored 4 TDs while rushing for 85 yards and catching 6 passes for 51 yards.
Ryan Grant, Packers – Looked like his old self, with 85 rushing yards and a pair of TDs, plus a 13-yard reception.
Brandon Jacobs, Giants – Rumbled for 101 yards and 2 TDs.
LeSean McCoy, Eagles – Only totaled 71 yards, but added 2 TDs.
Shonn Greene, Jets – Ran for 129 yards and 1 TD, and caught 3 passes for 58 yards.

Marques Colston, Saints – Pulled down 7 balls for 105 yards and 2 TDs.
Julio Jones, Falcons – Made his 3 catches count, with 104 yards and 2 fourth-quarter scores.
Antonio Brown, Steelers – Reeled in 5 passes for 151 yards and a score.
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals – Brought down 7 passes for 149 yards and 1 TD.
Laurent Robinson, Cowboys – He turned 4 passes into 137 yards and a score.
Nate Washington, Titans – Caught 6 passes for 130 yards and a TD.
Hakeem Nicks, Giants – Failed to score, but turned 8 passes into 163 yards.

Rob Gronkowski, Patriots – Amassed 160 yards and 2 TDs on his 6 receptions.
Antonio Gates, Chargers – He turned 7 catches into 68 yards and 2 scores.

Lions – Amassed 4 sacks, 6 turnovers and TDs on a fumble recovery and interception return.
Jaguars – Also scored twice (both times on fumbles) while notching 3 sacks and 6 total turnovers.
Eagles – Registered a whopping 9 sacks, 3 turnovers and a safety while holding Miami to 10 points.

This was a great week to play against…

Matt Hasselbeck, Titans – Passed for 44 yards before leaving with a calf injury.
Alex Smith, 49ers – Held to 175 yards without a score.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills – Threw 2 picks while passing for 176 yards without a score.

Daniel Thomas, Dolphins – Tallied a woeful 13 combined yards.
Maurice Morris, Lions – Only tallied 13 rushing yards before exiting injured.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots – Just 19 yards on the day.
Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants – Held out of first half for disciplinary reasons, then managed just 19 yards on the night.
DeMarco Murray, Cowboys – Left early with a broken ankle after collecting just 25 rushing yards and a 6-yard pass.
Colts RBs – Donald Brown led the trio with 28 rushing yards, and his reception for minus-6 yards was the only one of the day for all of them
Peyton Hillis, Browns – Just 25 yards on Thursday night.
Beanie Wells, Cardinals – Ran into the 49ers’ brick wall with just 30 total yards.
Willis McGahee, Broncos – Marginalized with just 36 combined yards.
C.J. Spiller, Bills – Tallied a sparse 46 rushing and 10 receiving yards on 3 receptions.
Arian Foster, Texans – In the fantasy playoffs, we expect more than 41 rushing and 33 receiving yards on 4 catches, especially when a fumble is thrown in.
Chris Johnson, Titans – Limited to 23 rushing and 43 receiving yards on 5 catches.

Plaxico Burress, Jets – Managed to go without a catch in a 37-10 rout.
Jeremy Maclin, Eagles – Caught a 13-yard pass.
Lance Moore, Saints – Just 4 receptions for 20 yards.
Greg Jennings, Packers – Had only 20 yards on his 2 catches before injuring his knee.
Calvin Johnson, Lions – Limited to 3 catches for 29 yards and an 11-yard run.
Eric Decker, Broncos – Only got to 33 yards on his 3 balls.
Mike Williams, Buccaneers – Held to 3 receptions for 35 yards.
Johnny Knox, Bears – His 3 receptions turned into 37 yards.

Dallas Clark, Colts – Returned to action to catch a 12-yarder.
Jason Witten, Cowboys – Took 3 balls to amass 12 yards.
Vernon Davis, 49ers – Held to a single 32-yard reception.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Fantasy’s MVP may not be who you think

I’d like to nominate an unconventional candidate for 2011 Fantasy MVP.

No, it’s not Aaron Rodgers, who has been consistently outstanding all season.

It’s not LeSean McCoy, who tops the running back rankings with 1,482 total yards and 17 touchdowns – five more than his nearest competitor.

Nor is it Wes Welker, who leads all receivers with 100 receptions and 1,339 yards, plus nine TDs.

Rather, my choice is Welker’s teammate, Rob Gronkowski – the most lethal tight end in the business.

Here is my hypothesis, which I challenge anyone to disprove: While he isn’t the highest-scoring player in the game, Gronkowski is the most common denominator among this year’s fantasy playoff teams.

A blatantly unscientific survey from my four leagues found that Gronkowski is owned by two top-seeded teams with first-round byes and two other teams that won their Week 14 matchups thanks largely to his most recent MVP-caliber performance. I’m willing to bet one of these scenarios played out in your league, as well.

The reason is that Gronkowski, down the home stretch in particular, has consistently given his owners a decisive advantage in the tight end slot. Jimmy Graham is his next-closest competitor; but Gronkowski has nearly doubled the Saint’s touchdown receptions for the season (15 vs. 8), including a ridiculous 10 to three advantage over the last six weeks alone.

Think you can compete against Gronkowski with Jason Witten, Tony Gonzalez or Antonio Gates? You can try; but over the last half-dozen games, Gronkowski has averaged eight to 13 points more per game than each of those players, including Graham. The differential skyrockets against second-tier tight ends.

Rodgers, McCoy, Welker and other fantasy studs have been extraordinary all season. But in any given week, each can be out-gunned by multiple players at their position. Those of us with the foresight, or dumb luck, to have selected Gronkowski in the 10th round or later of our preseason draft rarely have had to overcome a deficit.

In fact, we appreciate you spotting us a touchdown or two each week.


Now that the fantasy postseason is upon us, your starting roster should be fairly settled. But a little tweaking here or there, if only to keep your competition from improving, might still be in order. Here’s a look at a couple of players that could help in the final weeks, and a couple that won’t.

Catch ‘em while you can

Felix Jones, RB, Cowboys. Jones was released in many leagues after DeMarco Murray emerged as the workhorse of the Dallas offense. It’s time to scoop him back up now that the rookie sensation has presumably been lost for the season with a broken ankle. Jones put up 137 combined yards against the defensively challenged Giants on Sunday night. Next up: Tampa Bay, which just surrendered four TDs to Maurice Jones-Drew.

Donald Driver, WR, Packers. What a difference a week makes. Whereas I couldn’t endorse him after his stellar Week 13 performance, Driver now becomes a hot commodity while Greg Jennings recovers from his poorly timed knee injury. James Jones and Randall Cobb are also considerations; but Driver has been targeted more frequently than those two, and he’s done more with his opportunities lately.

Don’t be fooled

Jake Locker, QB, Titans. If Matt Hasselbeck (calf) is sidelined next week, Locker will draw a delicious matchup against the woeful Colts. Don’t take the bait. Despite his fine relief performance against the Saints on Sunday, Locker is simply too inexperienced to trust with a title-game berth on the line. It’s a much safer bet that Chris Johnson will lead the Titans to their inevitable victory.

Chris Ivory, RB, Saints. He was a valuable late-season addition in his rookie campaign last year, but don’t expect similar results now. Ivory must compete for touches with both Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas; and he’ll be inactive again once Mark Ingram (turf toe) returns to action, possibly as early as this weekend. While he’ll do no harm on your bench, Ivory won’t be start-worthy for most contending teams.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday morning updates -- Week 14

Good morning, Fools, and happy postseason! Here's hoping you're still reading because you're still competing.

Here's the latest info to help you on your road to a championship...

Michael Vick will be back in action against the Dolphins, and Jeremy Maclin will be, too. Maclin had been downgraded to questionable after appearing to be on his way back, but he's active today. Both players have some risk of re-injury, and Miami is playing pretty sound pass defense. But I'm starting Vick in one playoff matchup (benching Tebow, who held down the fort pretty well), and I would probably start Maclin as well if I had him.

Christian Ponder will play today -- good news for Percy Harvin's owners -- but Adrian Peterson will not, in a mild surprise. Hopefully you have Gerhart to pick up the slack.

It's still looking like the Rams will be down to their 3rd (Brandstater) or 4th (Clemens) QB on Monday night when they face the Seahawks. Sam Bradford will be a game-time decision, but I'm not taking any chances. I'm reserving Brandon Lloyd and suggest you do, too.

Not only is Roy Helu a good start today against the Patriots, but Ryan Torain is inactive.

Mark Ingram is inactive today, leaving the door open for a good showing from Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles. Chris Ivory will also get some carries.

Kevin Smith is also out. Could be a decent afternoon for Maurice Morris.

Andre Johnson is out again. If you drafted him first this season, you probably aren't paying attention anymore.

All signs point to Miles Austin returning to action in tonight's game against the Giants. Laurent Robinson looks like he'll be fine, as well.

And in other news, Robert Griffin III is your new Heisman champion. This Baylor boy would like to say congrats to RG3, and "Sic 'em, Bears!"

That's it for today. Tweets start now (@ladd_biro). Good luck, Fools!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday updates and injury news

Here are a few updates from my Sporting News Fantasy Source column today:

Michael Vick will suit up in Miami on Sunday, wearing a vest to protect his ribs. There is obviously some risk of re-injury, and the Dolphins are playing good pass defense lately. But Vick remains a more viable starting option than all but a handful of elite passers. Especially since Jeremy Maclin (shoulder, hamstring) is also expected back on the field.

I hope you aren’t counting on Christian Ponder as your fantasy QB. But those banking on Percy Harvin should know that a hip injury could keep the rookie out of the lineup this weekend. Joe Webb is his backup, and we saw last year how that played out. (Two rushing TDs for Webb; no passing scores.) Harvin owners should root for Ponder’s speedy recovery.

The Rams will likely be piloted by Tom Brandstater on Monday night, while Sam Bradford (ankle) and A.J. Feeley (thumb) are sidelined. Say a prayer for the good people of St. Louis. It’s been a rough sports week for them, and it won’t get any better soon.

Adrian Peterson (ankle) is back at practice, but his playing status will likely go down to the wire on Sunday. Fortunately, Toby Gerhart is providing decent production in his stead, for those who secured his handcuff.

Mark Ingram could sit out this week with a turf toe injury. If he does, Pierre Thomas will vault back up the rankings and Chris Ivory will likely be active (but not startable for fantasy purposes).

Michael Bush was a dud last weekend in Miami, but don’t let that scare you off from starting him against the Packers. Darren McFadden is almost certainly out again, and Bush has proven that he is a very capable fantasy producer. One false start doesn’t change that.

Don’t expect much out of Kevin Smith (ankle) against the Vikings, if he plays. He would probably be used sparingly, with Maurice Morris getting the bulk of the carries.

Cedric Benson is taking it easy on his injured foot this week, but he should play Sunday. He has a rough matchup against the Texans, however. Benson is a low-level RB2 or flex play at best this week.

Andre Johnson (hamstring) is expected to be a game-time call, but it’s probably wisest to make other plans regardless of his status. With T.J. Yates at the helm, the Texans are an even more run-dominant team, and Johnson’s snaps could be limited.

Look for Miles Austin (hamstring) finally back in action on Sunday night. He comes with some risk of limited reps, but the tantalizing matchup with the Giants should outweigh those concerns. Though there will be fewer balls for both Dez Bryant and Laurent Robinson, I wouldn’t sit any Dallas wideout in this matchup.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Week 14 Starters & Benchwarmers

Wondering whether or not to start Aaron Rodgers and Wes Welker, or to bench Dan Orlovsky and Shane Vereen? 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 14 of the 2011 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Carson Palmer, QB, Raiders at Packers. Even though his wide receiver corps is hurting, Palmer should have little trouble slicing up a generous Packers secondary that won’t have its best player, Charles Woodson (concussion). Palmer will have little choice but to pass early and often, and garbage-time stats will do just fine.

Roy Helu, RB, Redskins vs. Patriots. Do I trust Mike Shanahan? Heck no. But even he wouldn’t pull the plug on a back who has amassed 254 yards and 2 TDs over the past two games. (Would he?) New England’s run defense is not as strong as the two Helu has just faced.

C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills at Chargers. You probably saw his fluky fumble-turned-touchdown last week; but did you know he also had a 41-yard scoring run nullified by a penalty? Spiller has emerged as a key multi-purpose weapon for the Bills, while the Chargers are vulnerable to both the run and pass.

Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers at Cardinals. He and Alex Smith are finally on the same page, and Crabtree collected 120 receiving yards in their last meeting with Arizona. Look for more of the same, and an end zone visit, for the emerging duo.

Torrey Smith, WR, Ravens vs. Colts. He’s been a little quiet lately, but Smith will make some noise Sunday against the putrid Colts secondary. The Ravens may not need to pass often, but they won’t be able to resist at least one big strike to the play-making rookie.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Philip Rivers, Michael Vick, Matt Stafford, Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Ryan Fitzpatrick; RBs Marshawn Lynch, Rashard Mendenhall, Shonn Greene, Reggie Bush, Michael Bush, Ryan Mathews; WRs Antonio Brown, A.J. Green, Jordy Nelson, Stevie Johnson, Laurent Robinson, Santana Moss, Percy Harvin, Lance Moore, Santonio Holmes.

Roll ‘em back

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers vs. Browns. Whether due to their awful run defense or their world-class secondary, Cleveland simply doesn’t allow much fantasy production to opposing QBs. With multiple scoring passes in only three of his last seven games, Big Ben is a risky play tonight.

Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals vs. 49ers. Death, taxes and running backs shut down by the 49ers. Three certainties that won’t change this weekend. Wells may be on a roll, but that will come to a screeching halt on Sunday. In Week 11, he posted 33 yards against this defense.

Ryan Grant, RB, Packers vs. Raiders. You’d think Grant would be a decent play against Oakland’s soft run defense, with James Starks most likely resting his injured ankle this week. But Grant won’t have the backfield to himself, with both Brandon Saine and touchdown-poacher John Kuhn also in the mix. Avoid the unpredictable and under-utilized Green Bay backfield.

Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs at Jets. It’s not just Revis Island that concerns me; it’s Tyler Palko. As difficult as it may be to sit Bowe in the fantasy postseason, it’s worth noting that he hasn’t reached the end zone since Week 5. There are better options out there.

Brandon Lloyd, WR, Rams at Seahawks. No matter how talented he is, a receiver can’t throw the ball to himself. Instead, Lloyd could be chasing down passes from Tom Brandstater in this contest. ‘Nuff said.

More thumbs down: QBs Andy Dalton, Kevin Kolb, Tarvaris Jackson; RBs DeAngelo Williams; Darren Sproles, Cedric Benson, Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs, Steven Jackson, Peyton Hillis, Colts RBs; WRs Hines Ward, Kevin Walter, Jacoby Jones, Pierre Garcon, Johnny Knox, Deion Branch.

Taking a flier

Nate Burleson, WR, Lions vs. Vikings. As you enter the postseason, it’s always best to stick with your studs. Burleson is no stud, but he has a stellar matchup against a secondary that has surrendered a league-worst 24 passing TDs. Burleson is an excellent flex or WR3 play this week.

Don’t be the bonehead who…benches a reliable receiver for Pierre Garcon. Sure, the Colts wideout reeled in two trash-time touchdowns last weekend. But that came against the sieve-like Patriots secondary. Baltimore’s pass defenders are relentless, and Garcon won’t stand a chance.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Week 13 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to play…

Aaron Rodgers, Packers – Posted 369 passing and 32 rushing yards, plus 4 TDs and a rare INT. So what else is new?
Drew Brees, Saints – Drummed the Lions with 342 passing yards and 3 TDs.
Cam Newton, Panthers – Passed for 204 yards, ran for 54 yards, and scored 4 times in a record-setting performance.
Christian Ponder, Vikings – Lit up the Broncos for 381 passing yards and 3 TDs, but coughed up two INTs.
Eli Manning, Giants – Passed for 347 yards, 3 TDs and an INT.
Philip Rivers, Chargers – Broke out of his slump with 294 yards and 3 TDs, without a turnover.

Chris Johnson, Titans – Found his mojo, with 153 rushing yards and a pair of TDs.
Shonn Greene, Jets – Ran for 88 yards and a trio to TDs, plus 3 catches for 26 yards.
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks – Was in full beast mode with 148 yards and 2 TDs.
Ray Rice, Ravens – Rumbled for 204 yards and a TD, plus 2 catches for 10 yards.
LeSean McCoy, Eagles – Scored rushing (plus 84 yards) and receiving (plus 49 yards on 4 catches).
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars – Did it all for the Jags, rushing for 97 yards and adding 6 receptions for 91 yards and a TD.
Arian Foster, Texans – Carried his team with 111 rushing yards and a TD, plus 3 catches for 41 more yards.
Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers – Only 60 yards rushing, but 2 carries finished in the end zone.

Percy Harvin, Vikings – Torched the Broncos for 156 yards and 2 TDs on 8 catches, and ran for another 19 yards.
Pierre Garcon, Colts – Teased us again with his 9-catch, 150-yard, 2-TD effort in garbage time.
Demaryius Thomas, Broncos – Amassed 144 yards and 2 scores on his 4 receptions.
Hakeem Nicks, Giants – Reeled in 7 passes for 88 yards and 2 TDs.
Wes Welker, Patriots – PPR leaguers loved his 11-catch, 110-yard day.
Mike Wallace, Steelers – Scored twice on 3 catches, plus 38 yards.
Donald Driver, Packers – He also reached the end zone twice while hauling in 4 passes for 34 yards.

Rob Gronkowski, Patriots – Hauled in 5 catches for 64 yards and 2 more TDs.

Steelers – Knotched 3 sacks, one turnover, a punt return TD by Antonio Brown and held Cinci to just 7 points.
49ers – Collected 4 sacks, 2 turnovers and held the Rams scoreless.

This was a great week to play against…

Matt Hasselbeck, Titans – Passed for 140 yards and failed to reach the end zone against one of the most generous secondaries in the NFL.
Joe Flacco, Ravens – Another dismal day with just 158 passing yards.

Matt Forte, Bears – Lost to injury after gaining just 12 yards.
Jackie Battle, Chiefs – Continued his disappearing act with 15 rushing yards against the Bears.
LeGarrette Blount, Buccaneers – Only managed 19 rushing yards.
DeAngelo Williams, Panthers – Ran for 29 measly yards.
Steven Jackson, Rams – Totaled 30 yards against the 49ers.
DeMarco Murray, Cowboys – Marginalized in Arizona with just 38 rushing yards.
Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants – Combined for just 47 yards in his long-awaited return.
Michael Bush, Raiders – Just 18 rushing and 27 receiving yards in Miami.
Michael Turner, Falcons – Limited to 44 yards on the ground.
Cedric Benson, Bengals – Only 52 yards on the day.

Eric Decker, Broncos – Gave way to Thomas, with only 2 catches for 25 yards.
Steve Smith, Panthers – Limited to 2 receptions for 32 yards.
Anquan Boldin, Ravens – So was he.
Plaxico Burress, Jets – Just 33 yards on his 3 receptions.
Brandon Lloyd, Rams – Had a 34-yarder.
DeSean Jackson, Eagles – His season of discontent rolls on after a 4-catch, 34-yard Thursday night downer.
Nate Washington, Titans – Held to 40 yards on 4 catches.
Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs – Just 49 yards on 4 receptions.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Next stop: Fantasy playoffs

If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you are either (a) making plans for your postseason march, (b) wondering where everything went wrong in a season once so full of promise, or (c) an Indianapolis Colts player who has decided to look into a potentially more rewarding career as a fantasy football enthusiast.

First off, welcome to the column, Delone.

Second, if it’s any consolation to the disillusioned set, I started a lineup this weekend that featured Matt Forte, Michael Turner, DeAngelo Williams, Nate Washington, Brandon Lloyd and Jason Witten in a must-win game, and not one of them delivered double-digit production. In a point-per-reception league, no less! I suppose that’s the beauty of competing in multiple leagues; but missing the postseason still stings.

Know what I mean, DeSean?

For those soldiering on in their quest for fantasy glory, the old maxims still apply.

Ride your stallions. (Keep up the good work, Shady.)

Resist the seductive lure of the one-week wonders. (Sorry, Christian.)

Play the matchups. (Oui, Mssr. Garcon?)

Handcuff your studs. (It was fun while it lasted, Mr. Forte.)

And when all else fails, pray for a career game from a fringe starter. (Got another one of those in you, Shonn?)

The fantasy postseason is here. Let’s finish strong.


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

Marion Barber III, RB, Bears. Stop me if you’ve heard me say this before; but if you’re a Matt Forte owner, Barber should already be safely stashed away on your bench. With the very strong possibility that Forte (sprained knee) won’t play again until after your postseason run, Barber is a must-add. He won’t give you what you’ve come to expect from Forte; but Barber has a nose for the end zone and he has a decent matchup in Week 14 at Denver.

Kendall Hunter, RB, 49ers. No, Frank Gore didn’t get hurt again. But the 49ers have clinched their division and you have to think they will lighten the workload on their injury-prone playmaker in the weeks ahead. Grab Hunter preemptively if he’s available.

Don’t be fooled

Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos. The advice I offered after his fine Week 7 performance still applies: Thomas has great potential; but he is perpetually injured, and he hasn’t yet earned a starting job over Eric Decker and Eddie Royal. Unless you have a crystal ball telling you when he will show up next, I’d pass.

Donald Driver, WR, Packers. Once one of the most underrated wideouts in Fantasyland, Driver is likely playing out the final games of his stellar career. His two-touchdown outburst against the putrid Giants secondary will undoubtedly be the enduring highlight of his 2011 season. He’s still the fifth receiving option, at best, on his team.

Brad Smith, WR, Bills. I’ve never understood the fantasy allure of Smith. Every time he catches more than a pass or two (a rare feat, indeed), some pundit declares Smith a worthy waiver-wire pickup. Go ahead. Let me know how that works out for ya.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday morning updates -- Week 13

Good morning, Fools. Cold and drizzly here in North Texas; but this is the last week of the fantasy regular season for most of us, so it's time to get serious.

Here's the news you can use to make the best lineup choices this weekend:

Adrian Peterson will be out again today. Toby Gerhart is a decent proxy in his place, though the Broncos are very stout at the goal line.

Josh Freeman will not play today due to a shoulder injury. John Johnson gets the start against the Panthers. Hopefully he knows how to get the ball to Mike Williams. Should be a big day for LeGarrette Blount.

There's a good chance Ahmad Bradshaw will be active today against the Packers, but I wouldn't risk him. Brandon Jacobs' value takes a big hit, though.

Percy Harvin has been ill this week, but he's still expected to suit up. He should have a good game at home against Denver, assuming he's close to 100%.

We should see Malcom Floyd (hip) back in action today, which means Vincent Brown is a must-sit. Floyd should also be reserved against the tough Jags secondary.

After some signs that he would play, Mario Manningham (knee) now sounds like he'll be inactive today after a setback in Friday's practice. Nicks and Cruz are the only Giants WRs you should start anyway.

That's it for now. Inactives coming next via Twitter (@ladd_biro).

Good luck, Fools!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday updates

Here are a few snippets from my 4th & Long column on Sporting News' Fantasy Source:

The Kevin Kolb era is set to resume on Sunday now that the passer has recovered from toe and foot injuries. I’m not optimistic that this go-round will be any better than the last; and you don’t get the impression Kolb’s coaches believe it either.

you’re not counting on Josh Freeman, but he has been missing practice all week with a shoulder injury. Josh Johnson could be under center for the Bucs’ contest with the Panthers. That wouldn’t prompt me to bench Mike Williams, but it would make me feel even better if I owned LeGarrette Blount.

Looks like it will be a game-time decision for Adrian Peterson (ankle) on Sunday. If he’s active, of course you start him. If not, Toby Gerhart has a decent matchup with the Broncos, though they’ve been stingy at the goal line. [Update: AP has subsequently been ruled out.]

We could see Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) back on the field Sunday, but he’ll be a significant fantasy risk in his first action in weeks.

Beanie Wells had a career game last week against a historically putrid Rams run defense, but things get tougher against the Cowboys on Sunday. That said, in spite of continued issues with his knee, you can’t sit him now.

A foot injury that has kept Cedric Benson from practicing is not expected to keep him from facing the Steelers. But it should make your decision to bench him in this bad matchup a little easier.

Surprisingly, Kevin Smith is practicing as if he’s planning to return to the starting lineup on Sunday, after suffering a high ankle sprain on Thanksgiving. What would be more surprising is for us to trust him in our lineups against the Saints.

Another week, another Darren McFadden injury timeout.

Ditto for Miles Austin.

It’s time to give up on Mario Manningham, who is facing the real possibility of season-ending knee surgery soon. With the emergence of Victor Cruz, Manningham is already the odd man out in the Giants’ receiving corps.

Meanwhile, Hakeem Nicks has been resting his sore ribs this week, but he’s not thought to be in jeopardy of missing out on the primo matchup with the Packers. Even better, he has been cleared of any post-concussion symptoms.

Which team will win the Donovan McNabb waiver wire sweepstakes? And would that really qualify as a win?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Week 13 Starters & Benchwarmers

Wondering whether or not to start Tom Brady and Calvin Johnson, or to bench T.J. Yates and Ryan Torain? 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 13 of the 2011 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Cam Newton, QB, Panthers at Buccaneers. Some of the shine has worn off the rookie sensation recently, as Newton has failed to keep up the ridiculous pace he set at the dawn of his NFL career. But things get much easier in Tampa Bay, where the Bucs’ sieve-like secondary won’t stand a chance against the Newton-Steve Smith combo. You can count on a rushing score from the jumbo-sized passer as well.

Reggie Bush, RB, Dolphins vs. Raiders. Rookie Daniel Thomas has taken a back seat to Bush, who consistently piles up multi-purpose yardage even when he doesn’t reach the end zone. Bush should have little trouble dominating the weak Oakland defense, and at least one TD seems assured.

DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers at Buccaneers. It took a dozen weeks, but Williams finally delivered. Sadly, he did so while sitting on most owners’ benches. Slot him back in your lineup Sunday so you don’t miss out on another rousing performance against Tampa Bay’s reeling run defense.

Eric Decker, WR, Broncos at Vikings. It’s hard to get excited about a guy who posted a goose egg two weeks ago, and who plays with a quarterback that rarely throws. On the other hand, Decker has four scoring receptions over the last five games, and he’s facing the league’s most generous secondary (22 passing TDs surrendered). Start him.

Deion Branch, WR, Patriots vs. Colts. Branch is typically a boom or bust play in any given week, but when the opponent is the hapless Colts, the odds are in your favor. Tom Brady could set records in this matchup if he doesn’t hit the showers early, which he rarely does.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Tim Tebow, Eli Manning, Matt Stafford; RBs Willis McGahee, DeMarco Murray, Marshawn Lynch, Toby Gerhart, Roy Helu, LeGarrette Blount, Darren Sproles, Ryan Mathews, BenJarvus Green-Ellis; WRs Percy Harvin, Dwayne Bowe, Johnny Knox, Stevie Johnson, Antonio Brown, Victor Cruz, Laurent Robinson, Dez Bryant, Lance Moore, Mike Williams (TB), Nate Washington, Michael Crabtree.

Roll ‘em back

Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers at Jaguars. The incredible, shrinking Rivers travels cross-country to face a bad team with a solid pass defense. While we never know in advance whether Vincent Jackson will show up, it is clear that Rivers is not firing on all cylinders. Reserve him if you can.

Steven Jackson, RB, Rams at 49ers. I have no choice but to start Jackson in one league, but I wouldn’t if I had a reasonable alternative. Not only have the 49ers refused to allow a runner into the end zone all year, but Jackson has been weighed down by the Rams’ anemic offense for weeks.

Peyton Hillis, RB, Browns vs. Ravens. On the positive side, Hillis appears to be reasonably healthy and he has reclaimed his workhorse role in the Browns’ offense. However, that offense struggles to move even in favorable matchups, and the Ravens are far from favorable.

Julio Jones, WR, Falcons at Texans. Not only did he post a goose egg last week, but he wasn’t even targeted once by Matt Ryan. That’s a pretty strong signal that his hamstring isn’t yet fully healed. The concerns mount this week, as Jones is facing the NFL’s second-ranked pass defense.

Anquan Boldin, WR, Ravens at Browns. Baltimore’s lead wideout has been in a rut lately, with a 35-yard TD catch comprising his highlight reel since Week 8. He’s unlikely to break out of his slump against Cleveland’s top-ranked secondary.

More thumbs down: QBs Joe Flacco, Mark Sanchez, Sam Bradford, Rex Grossman, Carson Palmer, Andy Dalton, Kevin Kolb; RBs Shonn Greene, Jackie Battle, Kevin Smith, James Starks, Joseph Addai; WRs Andre Johnson, Earl Bennett, Jason Avant, Santana Moss, Vincent Brown, Mario Manningham, Miles Austin.

Taking a flier

Matt Moore, QB, Dolphins vs. Raiders. If you’re hurting at quarterback this week, consider Moore, who has been respectable or better in three of his last four starts. Moore has developed a nice rapport with Brandon Marshall, and he has enough additional weapons to keep the Raiders’ mediocre secondary on their heels.

Don’t be the bonehead whostops competing just because you missed the postseason. Not only is there satisfaction in playing the spoiler, but rolling over could unfairly help your competition advance over a more deserving foe. Remember, there’s no “I” in fantasy, but there is in “weenie.”