Saturday, November 30, 2013

Updates from around the NFL

Here are some excerpts from my 4th & Long column for Sporting News, along with other news and injury updates from around the league:

Matt Forte (knee) appears on track to play against the Vikings. The injury knocked him out of Sunday’s game briefly, but he returned. So unless he has a setback in practice, he should be good to go. [Update: Forte is listed as probable.]

Zac Stacy has satisfied all the NFL's concussion protocols and has been cleared to play this week.  It's safe to put him back in your lineup against the 49ers.

Ryan Mathews has been limited in practice due to his sore hamstring. (Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.) Facing a Bengals defense that has allowed just four rushing scores all year, it’s best to look elsewhere for RB production this week. Say, for example, Danny Woodhead (just two of his seven touchdowns have come on the ground). [Update: Mathews is listed as probable, but I still don't like him this week.]

Knowshon Moreno has returned to practicing in full and is probable for Sunday's tilt with the Chiefs.  Assuming he has no setbacks, he belongs in your lineup, despite the tough matchup.

Darren Sproles is fully expected to play Monday night in a tough matchup in Seattle.

Ben Tate is also probable.  How his touches will stack up against Dennis Johnson's is another story altogether.

Even with Daniel Thomas out due to a bad ankle injury, you can’t rely on Lamar Miller to produce. Especially against the Jets’ stout run defense.

Peyton Hillis will be the primary backup to Andre Brown this week, with Brandon Jacobs ruled out due to a knee injury.  No, you don't want Hillis in your lineup.  Just keeping you informed.

Lance Dunbar is likely done for the season after his best performance of the year, thanks to a knee injury incurred during the Thanksgiving game.  That's good news for DeMarco Murray's owners, who would have had to worry about Dunbar eating into Murray's carries down the stretch.

DeAngelo Williams is in jeopardy of missing Sunday's game due to a quad injury.  Jonathan Stewart is dealing with a bum ankle.  And Mike Tolbert has a knee issue.  All are listed as questionable for this weekend.

I'm down on Andre Ellington anyway, given Rashard Mendenhall's recent resurgence.  But a knee injury apparently incurred during practice this week has Ellington shaping up as a game-time decision on Sunday.  Stay away.

The concussion suffered by Rashad Jennings in the Thanksgiving contest could open the door for Darren McFadden’s return to his starting role. That is, assuming Run DMC can avoid tripping over his dog or slipping in the shower in the interim.

Hakeem Nicks (abdomen) is getting in some practice time this week and should be active against the Redskins. Then again, we thought the same thing last week before he was declared inactive. Nicks has a great matchup, but it’s hard to trust him right now.

Keep an eye on Antonio Gates’ status as Sunday approaches. He’s dealing with a bum hammy, which could lead to more action for his promising backup, Ladarius Green.

Julius Thomas has also been limited in practice with his knee injury; but he is currently expected to be ready for the showdown in Kansas City.  [Update: Thomas is listed as questionable but still appears on track to play.]

Jordan Reed is expected to return on Sunday night against the Giants. Reed is recovering from the third concussion of his short career. Get him back in your lineup, but keep that worrisome history in mind when drafting next year.

It’s hard to sit a receiver of Andre Johnson’s caliber, but it’s even harder to argue with his own assessment: “We suck as an offense.” Facing a surging New England defense that just clamped down impressively on Peyton Manning and his potent receiving corps, Case Keenum could be in big trouble this week. Which means Johnson could very well suck again.

Aaron Dobson has already been ruled out due to a foot injury.

David Akers owners, be warned.  The Lions are auditioning potential replacements for the struggling kicker during their extended break between Thanksgiving and Week 14.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Week 13 Starters & Benchwarmers

Wondering whether or not to start Marshawn Lynch and Brandon Marshall, or to bench Jacquizz Rodgers and Darrius Heyward-Bey? 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 2013 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals at Chargers.  It’s all about the matchups with the up-and-down Red Rocket, so look for a stellar outing against San Diego’s generous secondary.  Though he’s been particularly susceptible to interceptions of late, the Chargers have only picked off opposing passers six times all season.  With an extra week to prepare, Dalton and AJ Green should have their way with this porous pass defense.

Chris Johnson, RB, Titans at Colts.  CJ1K got off to a great start against the Colts in Week 11, piling up most of his 86 yards and both TDs in the first quarter.  Then he faded.  But not as badly as Indy has since then.  Johnson should excel on the indoor track and he might even treat us to a full 60 minutes of production.

Shane Vereen, RB, Patriots at Texans.  Stevan Ridley keeps fumbling his way into his coach’s doghouse, while Vereen’s workload and production have grown steadily since his Week 11 return.  Get the multi-purpose tailback in your lineup against the imploding Houston defense.  If he doesn’t punch in a score on the ground, Vereen is a solid bet to take a swing pass the distance.

Alshon Jeffery, WR, Bears at Vikings.  Starting your receivers against the Minnesota secondary is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel.  Jeffery makes the decision easier now that he’s so frequently targeted by Josh McCown.  Even better, the passing game won’t be disrupted by the elements.

Stevie Johnson, WR, Bills vs. Falcons.  With his groin injury and the bye week behind him, Johnson is fully expected to suit up in Toronto for a tantalizing matchup with the vulnerable Atlanta secondary.  Get him back in your lineup and enjoy the favorable returns.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Tony Romo, Cam Newton, Nick Foles, Josh McCown, Carson Palmer, Tom Brady, Eli Manning; RBs Andre Brown, Rashad Jennings, Bilal Powell, Fred Jackson, Reggie Bush, Alfred Morris, Giovani Bernard, DeMarco Murray, Rashard Mendenhall, DeAngelo Williams; WRs Josh Gordon, Jordy Nelson, Michael Floyd, Harry Douglas, Riley Cooper, Nate Burleson, Rod Streater, Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline.

Roll ‘em back

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers at Ravens.  One look at Big Ben’s recent track record against the Ravens should tell you that he is the riskiest of starts this weekend.  Despite his recent hot streak, Roethlisberger can’t be trusted on the road against the team that limited him to a season-low 160 passing yards in Week 7.

Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos at Chiefs.  Moreno took a beating on Monday night and hasn’t seen the practice field since.  Though the team is praying he’ll be ready to roll Sunday on his injured ankle, he could very well be on a snap count.  Given the persistent fumbling issues of his backups, there’s no telling who would benefit most from Moreno’s limited workload or absence.

Andre Ellington, RB, Cardinals at Eagles.  With Rashard Mendenhall seemingly back to full strength, Ellington’s fantasy star turn has fizzled in recent weeks.  He’s even been unable to take advantage of favorable matchups, like this weekend’s tilt in Philly.  It doesn’t help that Mendenhall is Arizona’s preferred goal-line horse.

T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts vs. Titans.  Blame Andrew Luck’s funk.  Blame Tennessee CB Alterraun Verner, who held Hilton to a paltry 44 receiving yards in Week 11.  Blame Rio.  Whatever the cause, Hilton is unlikely to break out of his two-game skid this weekend.  There are safer options out there.

Torrey Smith, WR, Ravens vs. Steelers.  I warn you every time these teams meet to sit Smith, who is consistently shut down by Ike Taylor and friends.  His 61-yard effort in Week 7 was actually better than usual, but still of little use to fantasy playoff contenders.

More thumbs down: QBs Russell Wilson, Matt Flynn, Mike Glennon, Andrew Luck, Joe Flacco, Case Keenum; RBs Darren McFadden, Ryan Mathews, Ray Rice, Lamar Miller, Bobby Rainey, Stevan Ridley, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Ben Tate, Mark Ingram, Steven Jackson, Chris Ivory, Zac Stacy/Benny Cunningham; WRs Steve Smith, Miles Austin, Percy Harvin, Tavon Austin, Hakeem Nicks, Kenny Stills, Cecil Shorts, Terrance Williams, Marlon Brown, Tiquan Underwood, DeAndre Hopkins, Danny Amendola, Andre Johnson.


Donald Brown, RB, Colts vs. Titans.  Brown was dreadful in Week 12 against the stout Cardinals run defense, which held him to minus-1 combined yards on the day.  But the going gets easier when one of the NFL’s softest run defenses comes to town (15 rushing TDs surrendered to date).  Brown torched this squad for 94 total yards and a pair of TDs two weeks ago.  Meanwhile, Trent Richardson remains little more than a distraction.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…rushes to start the newly activated Michael Crabtree in his first game back on Sunday against the Rams.  There’s little doubt he’ll be on a snap count in deference to his rehabbed Achilles, and it will surely take some time for the wideout and Colin Kaepernick to re-establish their mojo.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Week 12 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start…

Philip Rivers, Chargers – Passed for 392 yards and 3 TDs without a blemish.
Tom Brady, Patriots – After a slow start, came storming back with 344 yards and 3 TDs, with a lost fumble.
Alex Smith, Chiefs – Put up 294 yards and 3 TDs, plus an INT.
Colin Kaepernick, 49ers – Took advantage of the Redskins’ sorry defense for 235 yards and 3 TDs, and rushed for 20 yards, without a turnover.

Knowshon Moreno, Broncos – Ran (and limped) for 224 tough yards and 1 TD.
Jamaal Charles, Chiefs – Raced for 115 yards and 2 TDs, plus 4 receptions for 42 yards.
Adrian Peterson, Vikings – Rumbled for 146 yards and a TD.
Eddie Lacy, Packers – Ran for 110 yards and a score and added 6 catches for 48 yards.
Danny Woodhead, Chargers – Amassed 25 rushing yards and a score, plus 4 receptions for 45 yards and another TD.

John Gordon, Browns – Collected 14 catches for 237 yards and a TD.
Antonio Brown, Steelers – Amassed 147 yards and 2 TDs on 7 receptions.
Julian Edelman, Patriots – Scorched the Colts with 9 receptions for 110 yards and a pair of TDs.
Tiquan Underwood, Bucs – Needed only 3 passes to accumulate 108 yards and 2 TDs.
Mike Wallace, Dolphins – Pitched in, for a change, with 5 receptions for 127 yards and a TD.
Brandon Marshall, Bears – Reeled in 10 passes for 117 yards and a TD.
Anquan Boldin, 49ers – Pulled down 5 passes for 94 yards and 2 TDs.
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals – Scored twice on 5 catches for 52 yards.

Jimmy Graham, Saints – Notched 5 receptions for 100 yards and a TD.
Rob Gronkowski, Patriots --- Caught 7 passes for 90 yards and a score.


This was a great week to play against…

Matt Ryan, Falcons – Passed for 292 yards and had his only TD pass overturned by replay.
Robert Griffin III, Redskins – Held to 127 passing yards and an INT without a score, plus 22 rushing yards.

Donald Brown, Colts – Simply imploded, with just 1 rushing yard and a reception for -2 yards.
Stevan Ridley, Patriots – Fumbled after rushing for 14 yards and never saw the field again.
Ben Tate, Texans – Ran for only 1 yards and added 5 catches for 26 yards.
Mark Ingram, Saints – Just 32 rushing yards.
Chris Ivory, Jets – Ran for 35 yards.
Ray Rice, Ravens – Reverted to bust status with 30 rushing and -3 receiving yards.
Bobby Rainey, Bucs – A week after his coming-out party, the rookie was limited to 35 yards.
Trent Richardson, Colts – Actually out-played Brown, but still only amassed 26 yards.
Alfred Morris, Redskins – Limited to 52 total yards.

Marlon Brown, Ravens – His only catch netted a yard.
Eric Decker, Broncos – Just a 5-yarder.
DeAndre Hopkins, Texans – Held to an 8-yard catch.
Terrance Williams, Cowboys – A non-factor with only a 10-yard catch.
Santonio Holmes, Jets – Caught a 12-yarder.
Miles Austin, Cowboys – Returned to action to catch a 17-yarder.
Danny Amendola, Patriots – Also had 17 yards, but took 3 catches to get there.
Kenny Stills, Saints – 2 catches produced 22 yards.
Roddy White, Falcons – Took 2 passes 24 yards.
Victor Cruz, Giants – His 2 went for just 27 yards, and he lost a fumble.
Frank Gore, 49ers – Only 34 total yards on the night.
Wes Welker, Broncos – Just 31 yards on 4 touches.
Andre Johnson, Texans – Only 2 receptions for 36 yards.
T.Y. Hilton, Colts – Just 38 yards on 5 catches.

Jordan Cameron, Browns – His 3 receptions went for 32 yards.
Antonio Gates, Chargers – Just 21 yards on 3 catches.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Gordon stakes his claim among the fantasy elites

It took A.J. Green sitting out on his bye week for Josh Gordon to break into my starting lineup this weekend.  Talk about great timing.

In that PPR league, Gordon delivered a whopping 43 points and helped me overcome an inexplicable dud by Victor Cruz, who faced one of the league’s most generous secondaries and didn’t even have to compete for targets with the inactive Hakeem Nicks.

Gordon’s 14-reception, 237-yard, one-TD jackpot against the Steelers – despite a mid-game quarterback change and blustery conditions – positions him among the most valuable wideouts in the business as the fantasy postseason rapidly approaches. 

Heck, the Jaguars are heading to Cleveland in Week 13! 

And it’s not as if this was Gordon’s coming-out party.  The Browns playmaker has posted four other games in 2013 with more than 100 yards and Sunday’s scoring reception was his fifth of the season, which, you’ll recall, began in Week 3 after his two-game suspension.

Gordon should be locked into every starting lineup for the duration.

Meanwhile, Stevan Ridley’s latest fumble (his fourth of the season) not only earned him an early shower Sunday night but could be the final straw that forces him from the Patriots’ backfield committee altogether.  Shane Vereen’s stock – and to a lesser extent, Brandon Bolden’s – warrant an upgrade.

Other lessons from Week 12 action:

Mike Wallace still has something.  Chris Johnson and Maurice Jones-Drew are still exasperating.  Kansas City’s defense isn’t so invincible without Tamba Hali and Justin Houston.  Andrew Luck could use some.  The Cardinals are no longer a laughingstock (even their running game).

Oh, and Andre Johnson is right.  The Texans “suck.”


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

Benny Cunningham, RB, Rams.  The undrafted rookie picked up where Zac Stacy left off after the starter was knocked out with a concussion.  His 109-yard, 1-TD effort showed that Cunningham has skills.  If Stacy can’t return next week, Cunningham would presumably get his shot to carry the load, albeit in a rough matchup with the 49ers.

Dennis Johnson, RB, Texans.  Uh-oh, Ben Tate owners. Johnson was given the opportunity to perform against the lowly Jags, and he did just that.  Though Tate is still dealing with cracked ribs, he was pulled more due to ineffectiveness than injury.  This likely means Houston’s backfield will become more of a committee, with the dreaded “hot hand” getting the majority of the workload.  So while Johnson is worth a pickup just in case he turns into the next Stacy, this development is probably just bad news for Tate.

Nate Burleson, WR, Lions.  Back from a freak auto accident that left him with a broken arm, Burleson has settled into his familiar sidekick role opposite Calvin Johnson.  There are benefits to being Matt Stafford’s No. 2 wideout.  A healthy Burleson can hold great value for contending teams needing a solid third receiver down the stretch.

Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots.  When the going gets tough, Tom Brady turns to Rob Gronkowski.  And Edelman, apparently.  His 110-yard, two-TD outing Sunday night came out of the blue, as the wideout had amassed just six receptions for 45 yards over the previous three games.  So we can call it a blip on the radar, or the possible resumption of the duo’s early-season success.  At this point, I’d rather take my chances with Edelman than Danny Amendola.

Don’t be fooled

Matt Flynn, QB, Packers.  Is it possible that Green Bay is the only place that Flynn can prosper?  Very possibly, but even though Aaron Rodgers is expected to sit out at least the Thanksgiving game and the Scott Tolzien experiment appears to be over, the well-traveled Flynn can’t be trusted.  Even against the soft Lions secondary on Thursday.

Tiquan Underwood, WR, Buccaneers. As well as Mike Glennon has been playing, it’s a bit surprising it’s taken this long for Underwood to have a breakout game.  But with as few targets as he is seeing, we may not see a similar performance again this season.  Underwood is a fifth-year wideout that has rarely distinguished himself on the field, so don’t get your hopes up.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday morning updates -- Week 12

Good morning, Fools.  It's frigid in the Big D -- as it is in much of the country.  Perfect day to be a loaf in front of the Red Zone Channel!  The Biros will be putting up Christmas decorations while cheering on the Dolphins -- and my fantasy teams -- toward the postseason.  (My teams are a lock.  Miami, not so much...)

Here's what we need to know as we set our starting lineups for one of the last weeks of the regular season...

Given the positive contributions made thus far by Rashad Jennings, the Raiders seem to be in no hurry to rush Darren McFadden back from his latest hamstring injury.  Run DMC has already been ruled out for today.  Jennings should have another solid outing against the Titans.

Emmanuel Sanders appears to have shaken off his foot injury and should be good to go against the Browns. With Joe Haden glued to Antonio Brown all day, Sanders should get more than his usual complement of targets on Sunday. And though I'm painfully aware of how Haden shut down A.J. Green last weekend, I still wouldn't sit a PPR machine like Brown.

Looks like Wes Welker's owners can rest easier, as the concussed receiver is in line to play as usual tonight.  But the NFL Network is reporting that Julius Thomas (knee) is "not looking good."  Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen will likely split Thomas' duties.  Given the late start, the safe approach is to go with another TE earlier; unless you have Vernon Davis or Gronk, in which case either of them is a better bet this week anyway.

Miles Austin (hamstring) is on track to return in the delicious matchup with the Giants, but I still wouldn't risk him in my starting lineup. Even before his latest injury, Austin had become a bit player in the Cowboys' passing game. Give me Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Terrance Williams. You can have the incredible, shrinking Smiling Miles.

Another week, another non-activated Michael Crabtree (Achilles'). Maybe Week 13. Maybe.

Greg Jennings will play, but Jeremy Kerley won't.  Not that either belongs in any starting lineup.

It should be interesting to see how Megatron fares on Revis Island today.  My guess?  Revis Island sinks into the ocean.

Jordan Reed won't play in the Monday nighter due to lingering concussion symptoms. Fred Davis will move back into the Redskins' starting lineup. No thanks.

Kyle Rudolph will also be inactive today.

That's it for now.  Will be tweeting inactives next.  Good luck, Fools!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Week 12 Starters & Benchwarmers

Wondering whether or not to start Matt Stafford and Demaryius Thomas, or to bench Geno Smith and Trent Richardson? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with your real starting lineup conundrums, read on.

Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 12 of the 2013 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Colin Kaepernick, QB, 49ers at Redskins.  He hasn’t given us much to pin our hopes on lately, but Kaepernick offers significant upside in this juicy matchup.  Washington has been overly generous to opposing QBs, even at home.  And the Monday night factor should work in favor of Kaep, who relishes the spotlight.

Andre Brown, RB, Giants vs. Cowboys.  No defense has surrendered more fantasy points to opposing backs than Dallas’.  Now all Brown has to do is fend off Brandon Jacobs at the goal line.  No worries.  There’s a good chance Brown will break loose on a long run or two and render the short-yardage carries moot.

Zac Stacy, RB, Rams vs. Bears.  Remember how we thought Ray Rice was all washed up just a week ago?  Chicago’s run defense made him look like a first-round stud again.  Stacy has been tearing up much better squads than this, and his young legs are coming off a week of rest.  Roll with him.

Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals vs. Colts. I’m not ready to sound the trumpets for Carson Palmer just because he torched the lowly Jaguars, but Floyd’s breakout game was worth noting.  He’ll face another imploding secondary when the Colts come to town.  He’s an excellent bye-week sub.

Jarrett Boykin, WR, Packers vs. Vikings.  Just when you thought James Jones’ return and Aaron Rodgers’ exit would doom Boykin’s prospects, he and Scott Tolzien have developed quite a bond.  Boykin has 14 receptions for 203 yards over the last two weeks, and he will benefit from facing yet another sieve-like secondary on Sunday.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Case Keenum; RBs Ben Tate, Eddie Lacy, Frank Gore, Reggie Bush, Knowshon Moreno, Alfred Morris, Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen, DeAngelo Williams; WRs Jordy Nelson, Larry Fitzgerald, Torrey Smith, Pierre Garcon, Hakeem Nicks, Steve Smith, Terrance Williams, Eric Decker, Danny Amendola, T.Y. Hilton, Anquan Boldin.

Roll ‘em back

Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers at Chiefs.  Kansas City has something to prove in the wake of its first loss of the season.  They’ll take out their frustrations on Rivers, who has posted just one solid outing in his last five. With Keenan Allen hobbling (but expected to play) on a sore knee, and a relentless pass rush in his face all day, Rivers can’t be trusted.

Bobby Rainey, RB, Bucs at Lions.  I know you’re excited about deploying your shiny new weapon, but don’t be too quick to lock him into a starting role.  Detroit’s front seven has been stifling opposing rushers lately, while surrendering big yardage through the air.  Rainey is a decent play only in PPR leagues.

Ray Rice, RB, Ravens vs. Jets.  With so many premium backs on bye this week, you probably have no choice but to start Rice.  Just don’t expect to be pleased with this week’s results, as the Jets sport the stingiest run defense in the league.  The Ravens will find much more success through the air, which is the best hope Rice has of contributing in this one.

Mike Wallace, WR, Dolphins vs. Panthers.  His disappointing tenure in Miami is likely to continue with arguably the stingiest defense he’s faced all year coming to town.  Wallace is doing little to stretch the field for the Dolphins’ passing attack, and Ryan Tannehill will be under such intense pressure from the Panthers’ pass rush that quick passes may be the order of the day.

Denarius Moore, WR, Raiders vs. Titans. While Matt McGloin was making a name for himself against the woeful Texans, Moore was an afterthought.  He salvaged his outing with a short TD reception, but his owners may not be so lucky this week.  A shoulder injury is keeping Moore out of practice, costing him valuable reps with his young QB.  That, plus the prospect of Alterraun Verner being glued to his hip all day, spells trouble.

More thumbs down: QBs Ryan Tannehill; RBs Chris Ivory, Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas, Donald Brown, Ryan Mathews; WRs Miles Austin, Keenan Allen, Eddie Royal, Rod Streater, all Jets WRs.


Marlon Brown, WR, Ravens vs. Jets.  Coming off a week in which the Bengals held him to a 10-yard reception, Brown is anything but a safe bet.  But this week’s opponents have coughed up serious production to secondary receivers over the last several games.  The Jets put Marvin Jones on the fantasy map in Week 8.  Brown and Torrey Smith should have a field day.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…puts your team’s fate in the hands of undrafted rookie Matt McGloin.  Indeed, he shocked everyone last week with a bravura performance against the hapless Texans defense.  But the competition gets stiffer when the Titans come to town, and they’ve now had a chance to study tape on the little-known gunslinger.  Let someone else take the bait.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Week 11 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start…

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers – Passed for 367 yards and 4 TDs, plus 12 rushing yards, without a turnover.
Cam Newton, Panthers – Passed for 209 yards and 3 TDs and added 62 rushing yards on Monday night.

Bobby Rainey, Bucs – Yet another Bucs RB puts Doug Martin to shame with 163 rushing yards and 2 TDs plus a 4-yard TD catch.
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks – Only 54 rushing and 9 receiving yards, but collected 3 TDs in the process.  
LeSean McCoy, Eagles – Ran for 77 yards and 2 TDs and caught 4 passes for 73 yards.
Chris Johnson, Titans – Rushed for 86 yards and 2 TDs, mostly in the first half.  Too bad he took the second half off.
Donald Brown, Colts – Ran for 80 yards and 2 TDs, plus a 14-yard catch, while upstaging Trent Richardson again.
Rashad Jennings, Raiders – Raced for 150 yards and a TD.

Calvin Johnson, Lions – Reeled in 6 passes for 179 yards and 2 TDs.
Antonio Brown, Steelers – Amassed 147 yards and 2 TDs on 7 receptions.
Michael Floyd, Cardinals – Turned 6 balls into 193 yards and a TD.
Vincent Jackson, Bucs – Caught 10 passes for 165 yards and a TD.
Andre Johnson, Texans – In PPR leagues, his 10-reception, 116-yard day was gold.

Garrett Graham, Texans – Racked up 136 yards and a TD on 7 catches, though he lost a fumble.

Bengals – Accumulated 4 sacks, 3 INTs, a fumble recovery and 3 TDs on an INT return, fumble return and blocked punt.
Seahawks – Collected 2 sacks, 3 picks, a fumble recovery and a TD on one of those INTs.

This was a great week to play against…

Fred Jackson, Bills – Only 34 rushing and 5 receiving yards.
C.J. Spiller, Bills – Ran for just 6 yards and caught 2 passes for 10 more.
Lamar Miller, Dolphins – Ran for 17 yards and pulled down 2 passes for 20 yards.
Andre Ellington, Cardinals – Much-hyped rookie limited to 13 combined yards.
Mark Ingram, Saints – As expected, disappeared promptly after his big game, with just 25 rushing and 4 receiving yards.
DeAngelo Williams, Panthers – Just 25 combined yards on the night.
Darren Sproles, Saints – Ran for 16 and turned 4 passes into only 19 yards.
Frank Gore, 49ers – Ran for 48 yards, and only added 8 yards as a receiver.
Adrian Peterson, Vikings – Limited to 65 rushing yards without a catch.

A.J. Green, Bengals – Shut down by Joe Haden with only 7 yards on 2 receptions.
Emmanuel Sanders, Steelers – Caught a 2-yarder before leaving with an injury.
DeAndre Hopkins, Texans – Just a 7-yard reception to show for his day.
Kenny Stills, Saints – Limited to an 11-yard reception.
Andre Roberts, Cardinals – Held to 14 yards on 3 catches.
Cecil Shorts, Jaguars – Managed 22 yards on 2 receptions.  And pissed about it.
Golden Tate, Seahawks – Had a 26-yard catch.
Mike Wallace, Dolphins – His 4 catches only went for 39 yards.
Brandon Marshall, Bears – You can’t hope for much less than 4 catches for 42 yards.

Jordan Cameron, Browns – Only 29 yards on 6 catches.
Tyler Eifert, Bengals – Had a 15-yard reception.

Monday, November 18, 2013

It’s roster tune-up time for title contenders

Eleven weeks down and just two to go in most leagues before the fantasy postseason begins.  (Please tell me your championship game isn’t scheduled for Week 17.)

Thankfully, the bye-week schedule wraps up next weekend and we can finally play without a stud or two tied behind our backs.  It’s also the time of season when every fantasy contender needs to re-examine his or her roster with an eye toward not only fielding the most explosive starting lineup possible but weathering the storm should a key member of your squad succumb to an ill-timed injury.

The first steps are simple: Unless you need a one-week substitute for the Seahawks’ or Bengals’ defense/special teams, or for Seattle kicker Steven Hauschka, there’s no reason to carry more than one player at either of those positions into the stretch run. You are much better served by adding a backup RB or secondary WR with the potential to soar should they get a break. 

So where do we look for these diamonds in the rough?

For starters, examine your own squad.  You’re probably sick of reading this, but have you handcuffed your starting running backs?  Arian Foster’s owners are kicking themselves now if they didn’t lock up Ben Tate.  Reggie Bush’s owners got another scare on Sunday against the Steelers, and Bobby Rainey showed just how valuable a “no name” with opportunity can be.

Once you’ve hedged your bets from within, the next place to look is at free agents with favorable schedules to close out the NFL regular season.  The most appealing rushing matchups are against the Dolphins, Vikings, Jags, Redskins, Rams and Cowboys.  Largely available backups such as the Eagles’ Bryce Brown, the 49ers’ Kendall Hunter and the Packers’ James Starks have multiple favorable matchups in their future.

Among receivers, look for players facing such passing doormats as the Eagles, Bills, Chargers, Lions and Redskins.  Intriguing options include the Ravens’ Marlon Brown, the Giants’ Reuben Randle and the Eagles’ Riley Cooper.

Whatever you do, make sure you’re not clinging to deadwood such as Doug Martin, Julius Jones, Reggie Wayne and Mike Williams, who are still inexplicably owned in a majority of leagues.  Outside of keeper leagues, which comprise a slim minority, this defies all logic.


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

Bobby Rainey, RB, Buccaneers.  The undrafted rookie castoff from Cleveland is the latest answer to the question, “Who can generate more fantasy production behind Tampa Bay’s line than Doug Martin?”  He also answered the question, “Should I pick up Brian Leonard or Rainey after Mike James went down?”  By turning a whopping 30 carries into 163 rushing yards and 2 TDs, and adding another score through the air, Rainey has absolutely earned a spot on your roster.

Joique Bell, RB, Lions.  Reggie Bush isn’t going to lose his starting job, but he did get benched for fumbling against the Steelers.  The Lions know that Bell is a talented, multi-purpose weapon, and they aren’t hesitant to use him to send a message or to cover for an injured or winded Bush.  Bell should be on every Bush owner’s bench and, if he’s not, put him on yours to keep him out of your competitor’s hands.  Unless the prognosis on Bell’s ankle injury is worse than initially reported, he’ll remain one Bush hamstring tweak or fumble away from being a postseason gem.

Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals.  Arizona finally got what they were hoping for from their 2012 first-round pick when Floyd torched the hapless Jags for 193 receiving yards, including a highlight-reel 91-yard TD catch and run.  While consistency will likely remain a concern, Floyd is worth a pickup for those needing injury or bye-week help.  If he and Carson Palmer can build off Sunday’s mojo, he has the potential to be very helpful down the stretch.

Don’t be fooled

Lamar Miller, RB, Dolphins.  He’s been of little value – to the Dolphins or his fantasy owners – for most of the season.  But Miller has set new lows over his last two outings, and gave way to Daniel Thomas on Sunday.  Behind Miami’s depleted offensive line, neither back need reside on any contender’s roster any longer.

Jarius Wright, WR, Vikings.  His pair of TDs on Sunday were his first of the season and matched his scoring production from all of 2012.  Wright benefited from the absence of Greg Jennings (Achilles); though in all fairness, he did it against stout competition.  That said, he still plays for the pass-challenged Vikings, meaning his moment in the spotlight has already passed.