Friday, November 30, 2012

Week 13 Starters & Benchwarmers

Wondering whether or not to start Tom Brady and Calvin Johnson, or to bench Ryan Lindley and Jerome Simpson?  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 2012 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Matt Stafford, QB, Lions vs. Colts.  Coming off his huge Thanksgiving outing against the Texans, keep Stafford in your lineup as the Colts’ mediocre secondary comes to town. Stafford didn’t skip a beat without Titus Young, and he is finally starting to resemble the deadly gunslinger we remember from last season.

Bryce Brown, RB, Eagles at Cowboys.  Dallas’ defense is in free-fall, thanks to injuries to several key players.  Meanwhile, LeSean McCoy is still in the early stages of recovery from his concussion, leaving the backfield in Brown’s capable hands again.  The Eagles have little alternative but to ride the play-making rookie as far as he can carry them.

Mikel Leshoure, RB, Lions vs. Colts.  With scoring runs in each of his last two games, Leshoure is back on a decent roll.  Now facing a lackluster Colts run defense, and blessed with excellent air cover from Stafford & Co., Detroit’s lead back is well-positioned for another good-to-great outing.

Stevie Johnson, WR, Bills vs. Jaguars. He’s reached the end zone just once since Week 3, but Johnson has a good chance to return Sunday against the shoddy Jaguars secondary.  Despite his modest production of late, Johnson is still being targeted frequently, so don’t hesitate to trust him.

Brandon Lafell, WR, Panthers at Chiefs.  Lafell has scored in back-to-back games, and he has actually been more productive than Steve Smith in recent weeks.  Only the Redskins and Raiders have surrendered more passing TDs than the Chiefs.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Cam Newton, Matt Schaub, Andy Dalton, Tony Romo; RBs Frank Gore, CJ Spiller, Trent Richardson, Alfred Morris, Jonathan Dwyer; WRs Eric Decker, Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, Reggie Wayne, Dez Bryant, Hakeem Nicks, Steve Smith (CAR), Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Pierre Garcon, Cecil Shorts.

Roll ‘em back

Josh Freeman, QB, Buccaneers at Broncos.  After a six-game stretch in which he posted a whopping 1,715 passing yards and 16 TDs, Freeman came down to earth against the Falcons in Week 12.  He could remain grounded against a stout Denver defense that leads the league in sacks.  Go with a safer option.

Stevan Ridley, RB, Patriots at Dolphins.  With the rushing workload divided between three, sometimes four, backs, Ridley could have a tough time racking up big stats against the stingy Dolphins run defense.  Brady will move the ball at will through the air in this contest, potentially making Ridley a bit player in this matchup.

Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders vs. Browns.  RunDMC (ankle) is expected to reclaim his starting job this week, but Marcel Reece has earned a continuing role in the rushing attack going forward, thanks to his strong relief performances.  If McFadden sits again, Reece is worth a start.  Otherwise, consider benching both backs against a Cleveland run defense that has been playing its best ball of late.

Golden Tate, WR, Seahawks at Bears.  Tate has been surprisingly effective when healthy; but, like his quarterback, he’s much more productive at home than on the road.  Chicago’s secondary presents a formidable challenge, so you’d be wise to avoid the entire Seattle passing attack at Soldier Field this weekend.

Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers at Ravens. Last week, I begged you to sit Mike Wallace due to Ben Roethlisberger’s continued absence.  This week, I’m just as concerned about Brown, who is on track to return from a three-week respite due to an ankle injury.  Big Ben’s chances of playing are remote, at best, making Brown too risky to start against a Ravens defense that has surrendered just nine passing TDs all season.

More thumbs down: QBs Philip Rivers, Joe Flacco, Mark Sanchez, Russell Wilson, Sam Bradford; RBs James Starks, Knowshon Moreno, Rashad Jennings, Shonn Greene; WRs Mike Wallace, Jeremy Kerley, Greg Jennings, Torrey Smith, Jeremy Maclin, Dwayne Bowe, Sidney Rice, Danny Amendola, James Jones, Mike Williams.


Michael Bush, RB, Bears vs. Seahawks.  While it appears Matt Forte will suit up Sunday, Bush will surely see more touches, if only to reduce the wear-and-tear on the starter’s tender ankle.  Miami’s rushers torched Seattle last week, so look for Bush to burst through for at least one score, and plenty of yardage, in this contest.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…sticks with David Akers despite concerns over his pelvis injury.  Still owned in 80 percent of fantasy leagues, Akers whiffed on two of three field goal attempts last week.  The 49ers are auditioning temporary replacements.  You should, too.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Week 12 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start…

Robert Griffin, Jr., Redskins – Passed for 311 yards and 4 TDs, with 1 INT, and ran for 29 more yards.
Cam Newton, Panthers – Threw for 306 yards and 2 TDs, and ran for 52 yards and 2 more scores, with no turnovers.
Tom Brady, Patriots – His 323-yard passing day included a trio of TDs, plus he ran one in.
Tony Romo, Cowboys – Got off to a slow start, but ended with 441 yards, 3 TDs and 2 INTs.
Matt Stafford, Lions – Passed for 441 yards and a pair of TDs.
Eli Manning, Giants – Finally got off the schnide wih 249 yards and 3 TDs without a turnover.
Andy Dalton, Bengals – Passed for 210 yards and 3 TDs.

Bryce Brown, Eagles – Welcome to the NFL, rookie.  He burst onto the scene with 178 rushing yards and 2 TDs, plus 11 yards on 4 receptions; but he fumbled twice.
Arian Foster, Texans – Ran for 102 yards and a pair of Thanksgiving treats, and caught 5 passes for 15 yards for dessert.
Shane Vereen, Patriots – Rushed for 42 yards, but did his real damage as a receiver, hauling in 2 passes, including an 83-yard TD.
Michael Bush, Bears – Scored twice while running for 60 yards.
Doug Martin, Bucs – Ran for 50 yards and scored 2 TDs, and caught 2 passes for 13 yards.
Beanie Wells, Cardinals – Also found the end zone twice, and ran for 48 yards.

Dez Bryant, Cowboys – Had 8 catches for 145 yards and 2 TDs.  We’ll overlook the fumble.
Julio Jones, Falcons – Caught 6 passes for 147 yards and a score.
Calvin Johnson, Lions – He turned 8 passes into 140 yards and a TD.
Julian Edelman, Patriots – Had another crazy, productive outing with 2 receptions for 64 yards and a TD, and ran in a fumbled kickoff return for another score.  He also lost a fumble.
Andre Johnson, Texans – Pulled down 9 receptions for 188 yards.

Patriots – Scored on 2 fumble returns, and notched 4 takeaways and 2 sacks.

This was a great week to play against…

Josh Freeman, Buccaneers – Held without a TD and just 256 yards passing.
Aaron Rodgers, Packers – Any time he’s limited to 219 passing yards, 22 rushing yards and 1 TD, plus 2 turnovers, it’s your lucky day.

Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers – Actually cost his owners points with a fumble and just 6 rushing yards.
Pierre Thomas, Saints – Got nowhere on his only carry.
Ronnie Hillman, Broncos – So much for taking over for Willis McGahee.  He only got 3 carries for 9 yards.
DeAngelo Williams, Panthers – Held to 21 rushing yards.
Fred Jackson, Bills – Combined for 24 total yards.
Mark Ingram, Saints – Ran for 27 yards.
Jonathan Dwyer, Steelers – Totaled 28 yards and fumbled.
Jonathan Stewart, Panthers – Just 27 on the ground and 9 through the air.
Matt Forte, Bears – Rushed for 42 yards and lost a fumble.
Vick Ballard, Colts – Ran for 41 yards.
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks – Only 46 yards on the day.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders – Blanked by the Bengals.
Brandon Gibson, Rams – Posted a goose egg.
James Jones, Packers – He did, too.
Mike Wallace, Steelers – Shut down by his QB, and Joe Haden, with one 9-yard catch on the game’s last play.
DeSean Jackson, Eagles – Left injured after his own 9-yard reception.
Miles Austin, Cowboys – Knocked out early before he could catch a pass.
Brian Hartline, Dolphins – Only 2 catches for 17 yards.
Brandon Lloyd, Patriots – Just 3 receptions for 26 yards.
Michael Crabtree, 49ers – Ditto.
Mike Williams, Bucs – He produced 28 yards on 3 passes.
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals – His 3 receptions only amounted to 31 yards.
Danny Amendola, Rams – Had a 38-yarder.

Vernon Davis, 49ers – Blanked.  Again.
Antonio Gates, Chargers – Only 13 yards on 2 catches.
Aaron Hernandez, Patriots – Just 2 receptions for 36 yards, but had a TD negated on an offensive PI penalty.

Monday, November 26, 2012

When must-starts must be stopped

Some “no-brainers” are more equal than others.  And no, I’m not referring to the cast of Jersey Shore.

I advised you last week to bench Mike Wallace, who is normally a must-start player, regardless of the matchup.  My reasoning was that he was coming off a bad game with Ben Roethlisberger on the sidelines, his backup’s backup (Charlie Batch) was now in charge, and Cleveland’s shutdown corner Joe Haden would be shadowing him everywhere.

Sure enough, most of you ignored my advice (not always a crazy idea), and Wallace finished with a single, nine-yard reception on the game’s final play.

Throughout the weekend, I also received dozens of tweets asking if Julio Jones could be trusted, since he, too, was coming off a lousy showing the previous week, most likely related to a lingering ankle injury.

My consistent advice on Jones was this: He’s simply too explosive to bench, especially against the sorry Buccaneers pass defense. 

Those who heeded my advice love me today.

(This column will focus solely on those recommendations where I was correct.  Let’s not quibble over a silly “sit Reggie Bush” call or multiple tweets to trust Ronnie Hillman...  Can’t we all just get along?)

So why was it acceptable to bench one must-start wideout (Wallace) while playing the other (Jones)?  Haven’t we all memorized the age-old fantasy maxim: “Never bench your studs”?

In this case, the answer is rather simple: Receivers can’t throw themselves the ball!  Jones may have been at less-than-100 percent, but Matt Ryan was still in control.  With that tandem, there’s just too much upside to ignore. 

Meanwhile, Wallace was facing a stingy opponent with Pittsburgh’s third-string quarterback under center.  The situation was ripe for disaster.

The same rationale can be applied to Larry Fitzgerald while Ryan Lindley is under center.  And to Dwayne Bowe, until the Chiefs find a real quarterback.


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

Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos.  So, uh, he’s the guy now?  Just when we thought promising rookie Hillman would get his shot, Moreno was yanked off the weekly inactive reports and inserted into Peyton Manning’s backfield.  And Mike Shanahan isn’t even coaching in Denver anymore!

Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals.  Once upon a time, I was a Beanie fan.  But, every time I started him, or recommended starting him, he broke something, pulled something or just plain stunk up the joint.  I won’t be picking him up; but if you’re really desperate, be my guest.  Just note that aside from his two TDs (which were nice), he posted just 48 yards (at a 2.8 yards-per-carry clip) and was never thrown to.

Cecil Shorts, WR, Jaguars.  I’m clearly a late arrival on the Cecil Shorts Bandwagon; but I’m not alone.  Shorts is currently owned in roughly half of all leagues.  With 80-plus yards and a TD in each of his last three games, it’s time to give him some respect.  Shorts even has another up-and-coming receiver (Justin Blackmon) on the opposite side to keep opposing defenses honest, and a favorable schedule ahead.

Don’t be fooled

Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers.  At this point, I can’t make a case for keeping the veteran on your roster any longer. With two disastrous performances in a row, and three other backs to contend with, he’s unstartable in Week 13, despite the favorable matchup with the Ravens.  And the road gets tougher after that, with San Diego and Dallas on deck.  Set him free.
Mohamed Sanu, WR, Bengals. The way Andy Dalton has been lighting it up recently, I’d normally be inclined to recommend a wideout that has collected four TDs over his last three games.  But Sanu’s season-high in receiving yardage is a mediocre 47 yards, and he’s competing for touches with A.J. Green, Andrew Hawkins, Jermaine Gresham and others.  I don’t advocate picking up players I could never imagine starting, and Sanu falls in that category.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday morning scattershooting

Good morning, Fools.  I trust you are having a great, long weekend. 

Let's see what we need to know for the remaining games of Week 12.

First, on Monday night, we know that both Vick and Shady are out due to their respective concussions, leaving Nick Foles under center (yuck) and Bryce Brown starting at RB (interesting).  As I said in Thursday's column, don't expect much from the Eagles receivers.  And yes, you gotta love the Panthers defense this week.

It will be interesting to see what rookie Ronnie Hillman and third-stringer Jalen Parmele can do as starting RBs for the Broncos and Jaguars, respectively, today.  I'm actually fairly high on both of them.

Both RunDMC (Darren McFadden) and Mike Goodson will sit out with bum ankles, leaving the Raiders backfield in the versatile hands of Marcel Reece.  I like his chances today in Cincinnati.  Not too high on Oakland's aerial attack in this one, though.

Beanie Wells is returning from his turf toe injury today.  I've received a lot of tweets asking about starting him over "so-and-so."  So-and-so always gets my vote.  I don't trust Beanie when he's fully healthy, much less in his first game back from a seven-week absence.  His return is bad news for LaRod Stephens-Howling as well.

We also know that Jay Cutler will start for Chicago, which gives a nice boost to Forte and Marshall -- not that we wouldn't have started them anyway.

Percy Harvin did not travel with the team to Chicago, so I wouldn't expect much from any Viking whose initials aren't A.P.

I don't own Julio Jones (ankle); but if I did, I'd start him against the Bucs' woeful secondary.  That is, unless I was completely stocked at WR.  But you don't have to go far down the list before you get to a receiver who's no match for Julio at 80-90%.  There's just too much upside there to ignore.  Word is that the pace of the game will dictate how much action Julio gets.  And methinks Michael Turner won't go anywhere against that run D; so passing will be the order of the day.

Antonio Brown claims that he will suit up today, but Pittsburgh's beat writers aren't buying it.  I would love to see him get out there and get a game under his belt.  But I wouldn't risk him in my starting lineup this weekend.

Don't expect to see Danny Amendola today.  His foot injury is expected to sideline him for at least a game.  Could be good news for Brandon Gibson, if you're looking for a flier.

Okay, Fools, that's it for the morning updates.  Inactive reports are coming now (, and then I've gotta scoot for church.  I'll answer as many tweets as I can before I roll.  Good luck to all!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Saturday injury updates, and more

Here are a few snippets from yesterday's 4th & Long column, along with some other updates from around the league.

Colin Kaepernick will get another start for the 49ers over Alex Smith, who is essentially being benched since he’s been medically cleared to play. At this stage of the season, I'd hate to start such a green QB; but you can't argue with his favorable matchup against the sieve-like Saints defense.  You also have to feel pretty good about Michael Crabtree's and Vernon Davis' chances on Sunday, after Kaepernick's solid start last weekend.

Jay Cutler could be back for the Bears on Sunday, which is especially good news for Brandon Marshall's owners.  I wouldn’t risk Cutler in my starting lineup – fully healthy or not – but there’s no arguing that his presence is an upgrade for both Marshall and Matt Forte.

If you were toying with dropping Ben Roethlisberger due to the discouraging news that initially surrounded his shoulder injury, don't do it.  Word now is that he could return as soon as Week 13.  And we’ve seen plenty of evidence in years past that Big Ben can play extremely well when hurt.  

Andy Dalton is on a terrific roll, with seven total touchdowns over the past two weeks.  Meanwhile, the Raiders have given up 93 points over the same period.  Cha-ching!

Cincinnati hasn't allowed a passing score over its past two games, while Carson Palmer has been tearing up a series of poor pass defenses. As much as he would love to make his former team regret they let him go, Palmer's hot hand is likely to cool off this weekend.

The way to move the ball against the Bucs is through the air, not on the ground. Michael Turner has had an up-and-down season, but this game has all the trappings of a disaster.

Looks like at least one more week of the Marcel Reece Experiment, as Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson miss another game with their bum ankles.  Reece has been a pleasant surprise so far, and he should continue to deliver capably in Cincinnati.

Injuries to his foot and neck are hounding Ahmad Bradshaw this week, and his status for Sunday night’s game could come down to the wire.  Given the late start, you’d be wise to go with a safer option in the early games, or have Andre Brown ready in the wings in case Bradshaw can’t go. [UPDATE: Bradshaw should play; but expect significant appearances from both Brown and rookie David Wilson.]

Danny Amendola is in a walking boot, thanks to the foot injury he sustained last weekend.  His status is in jeopardy heading into Sunday's late games.  Plan accordingly. [UPDATE: Amendola is now officially doubtful.  Find a sub.]
Denarius Moore is dealing with a bum hammy, but he should play Sunday.  I'm benching him this week due to the injury, the tough matchup, and his lackluster performance in Week 11.

Don't expect to see Percy Harvin (ankle) back this weekend.

Julio Jones will likely give it a go on his ailing ankle; and despite his limited contributions in Week 11, you can’t afford to bench him against the Buccaneers’ hapless secondary.

It sounds like Greg Jennings is nearing a return, finally.  Don't expect him back this weekend, but Week 13 is a real possibility.  It would be great to let him get a game under his belt before trusting him in the fantasy postseason.

Laurent Robinson has been placed on IR due to his fourth concussion of the season.  It’s hard to believe, in this day and age, that he was even given the opportunity to incur a third blow to the head, much less four.  Litigation, anyone?