Monday, December 29, 2014

9th Annual Biro’s Heroes and Zeros Awards

Movie stars have the Oscars. Sports stars have the ESPYs. Fantasy football players are stuck with Biro’s Heroes & Zeros.

I’m sorry. It’s just the way it is.

Once again, before we close the books on another exhilarating / frustrating / victorious / humiliating (circle one) fantasy season, we must take a quick stroll back through 2014 to examine the players we rooted for and against and – with as much objectivity as we can muster – give credit where credit is due.

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

  1. Consistency on a weekly basis is next to godliness.
  2. Production during the fantasy playoffs – NFL Weeks 14 through 16 – is given extra weight.  Players who let their owners down at the worst possible time earn our eternal scorn.  (I’m looking at you, Mr. Luck.)
  3. Week 17 is dead to us. (Sorry, Geno.) 
Without further ado, I am pleased to present the 9th Annual Biro’s Heroes & Zeros Awards:

Most Valuable Player: DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys. Andrew Luck lost his claim to the honor with his Week 16 implosion. Odell Beckham, Jr. deserves consideration after leading countless teams that added him early in the season to titles. Le’Veon Bell had an outstanding season, especially down the stretch. But Murray earns the nod thanks to his dominating rushing performance and remarkable consistency. Runner-up: Bell, RB, Steelers.

“Peerless Price Memorial” Bust of the Year: Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings. The Top 5 pick racked up a combined 93 yards in the opener, then was never seen again thanks to his off-field transgressions.  Runner-up: Montee Ball, RB, Broncos.   

Rookie of the Year: Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, Giants. In the “Year of the Rookie Wide Receiver,” OBJ was clearly the pick of the litter. Despite missing the first four games while recovering from a hamstring injury, Beckham worked his way into the Top 10 fantasy ranks. No receiver in NFL history has scored as many as his 12 TDs in his first 12 career games. Runner-up: Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers. 

Comeback Player of the Year: Julio Jones, WR, Falcons. After missing all but five games in 2013, Jones not only returned to form, but he piled up the most receptions and yards of his career. Runner-up: Arian Foster, RB, Texans.

Mr. Reliable: Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers. We may soon need to name this award after Brown, who delivered receptions, yardage and scores at a consistently stellar clip for the second consecutive year. This time, he averaged 7.6 receptions for 98 yards per game, with 12 TDs, through 16 weeks. Runner-up: Murray.

Surprise of the Year: Justin Forsett, RB, Ravens. This was supposed to be Ray Rice’s backfield. Then Bernard Pierce’s. Lorenzo Taliaferro had his 15 minutes. But it was Forsett, who had never finished among the Top 30 RBs in his previous six seasons, who quietly took the reins and became an every-week fantasy starter on his way to a Top 10 finish.  Runner-up: Brandon LaFell, WR, Patriots.

Best Waiver Wire Acquisition: Beckham, Jr. Because he entered the season injured and destined for a backup role, OBJ typically was available well into October. When Victor Cruz went down in Week 6, the rookie’s prospects soared. After that, it was game over.  Runner-up: Eagles defense/special teams.

Mr. Big Play: Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers. Among his 13 TDs were scoring jaunts of 40, 45, 59, 60, 66, 73 and 80 yards, which makes the one that slipped through his fingers in Week 15 that much more painful. Runner-up: Beckham, Jr.

Most Devastating Injury Loss: Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals. Bernard was money until he hurt his hip in Week 8. The injury lingered while rookie Jeremy Hill slowly stole his job. By the time Bernard got healthy, it was too late. Runner-up: Victor Cruz, WR, Giants.

Steal of the Draft: Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers. His backup, Ladarius Green, was typically drafted ahead of Gates, who was available in the 15th round or later. All the wily veteran did was return to elite status and finish with one of the best seasons of his career.  Runner-up: Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos.

Most Overrated: Percy Harvin, WR, Jets. He runs, he catches, he even returns kicks! He just doesn’t produce much in the process, whether in Seattle or New York.  Runner-up: Vernon Davis, TE, 49ers.

“Thomas Jones Memorial” Most Underrated: Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Colts. His own team even refused to acknowledge that he was the most productive and reliable RB on the roster. Despite Top 10 production while healthy, Bradshaw was routinely benched by owners that just didn’t believe he could keep producing from his backup role. Runner-up: Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks.

Might As Well Be Injured: Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders. The perpetually sidelined tailback played in all 16 games, but who could tell? McFadden was so awful he wasn’t even owned in roughly nine out of 10 fantasy leagues. Runner-up: Reggie Bush, RB, Lions.

Made Chicken Salad from Chicken Scratch: Mike Evans. Playing for a two-win team now on the clock for the first pick of the 2015 draft, Evans scored in more than half his games and finished just outside the Top 10 rankings. Runner-up: Chris Ivory, RB, Jets.

Biggest Postseason Disappointment: Andrew Luck, QB, Colts. Posted the worst performance of his career in Week 16, and wasn’t terribly sharp the previous week either.   Runner-up: Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos.

Most Spectacular Bench Performance: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers. After an up-and-down start to the season, Big Ben put on a masterful 522-yard, 6-TD performance in Week 8. Many of his owners were so incredulous, they didn’t start him in Week 9 either, thus missing out on his 340-yard, 6-TD encore. Runner-up: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans (9 receptions for 238 yards and 2 TDs in Week 13).

Most Marginalized by Pathetic QB Play: Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals. The future Hall of Famer’s talents were squandered by the lousy backups subbing for Carson Palmer.  Runner-up: Eric Decker, WR, Jets.

“Frisman Jackson Memorial” Irrational Exuberance Award: Jonas Gray, RB, Patriots. Countless fantasy enthusiasts positively swooned over his 199-yard, 4-TD breakout in Week 11. Even Sports Illustrated fell for it, making Gray the cover boy of their next issue. Then Gray slept through a team meeting, LeGarrette Blount was scooped up off waivers, and the rookie was rarely heard from again. Runner-up: Donte Moncrief, WR, Colts.

Starter in Name Only: Trent Richardson, RB, Colts. It’s bad enough when the starter is consistently outplayed by his primary backup. But Richardson not only paled in comparison to Ahmad Bradshaw, but to third-stringer Daniel “Boom” Herron as well. Runner-up: Doug Martin, RB, Buccaneers.

Worst Sophomore Jinx: Zac Stacy, RB, Rams. Much was expected after Stacy’s midseason emergence as a rookie. But he never got on track in 2014 and was quickly relegated to the bench. Runner-up: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Vikings.

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

“Plaxico Burress Memorial” Bonehead of the Year: Josh Gordon, WR, Browns. He was suspended for the first 10 games of the season because he couldn’t keep his head out of the weeds. Then Gordon capped off his lost year by skipping a team walkthrough prior to the finale and was suspended again. Runner-up: Ray Rice.

Most Likely to Succeed in 2014: Brandin Cooks, WR, Saints. Marques Colston has lost a step and Kenny Stills clearly doesn’t have the rapport with Drew Brees that Cooks developed early in his rookie season. Look for Brees and Cooks to soar with another offseason under their belts. Runner-up: Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons.

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

Week 17 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start…

Geno Smith, Jets – Out of nowhere, passed for 358 yards and 3 TDs, with a fumble.
Matt Stafford, Lions – Passed for 217 yards and 3 TDs, plus a fumble.
Aaron Rodgers, Packers – Despite missing time with a calf injury, generated 226 yards and 2 TDs, plus 14 rushing yards and a 3rd TD, without a blemish.

C.J. Anderson, Broncos – Ran for 87 yards and a TD trifecta, plus 2 receptions for 20 yards.
Lamar Miller, Dolphins – Raced for 178 yards and a TD.

Michael Floyd, Cardinals – Scored twice while catching 8 passes for 153 yards.
Eric Decker, Jets – Hauled in 10 passes for 221 yards and 1 TD.
Dez Bryant, Cowboys – Grabbed 4 passes for 99 yards and 2 TDs.
Randall Cobb, Packers – Caught 4 passes for 80 yards and a pair of TDs.
Odell Beckham, Jr, Giants – Pulled down a dozen passes for 185 yards and a TD.
Andre Johnson, Texans – In PPR leagues, his 10-reception, 134-yard, 1-TD performance was sweet.

Coby Fleener, Colts – Caught 5 passes for 56 yards and 2 TDs.

Panthers – Accumulated 6 sacks, 2 INTs, a fumble and 2 pick-six TDs while holding Atlanta to 3 points.

This was a great week to play against…

Philip Rivers, Chargers – Held to 291 yards without a TD, plus 3 costly turnovers.
Jay Cutler, Bears – Unimpressive in his return to the starting job, with just 172 passing yards and no scores.
Tom Brady, Patriots – Just 80 passing yards without a score before hitting the showers early.
Peyton Manning, Broncos – Gave way to his RB before exiting early, finishing with just 273 yards and no TDs, plus a fumble.
Russell Wilson, Seahawks – Had 239 passing yards with an INT but no scores and only 7 rushing yards.
Matt Ryan, Falcons – Passed for 260 yards, but didn’t have a TD, and tossed 2 picks.

Chris Johnson, Jets – Only 20 yards rushing and lost 3 yards on his only reception.
Devonta Freeman, Falcons – Ran for just 13 yards and took 2 receptions 3 yards.
Trent Richardson, Colts – Outplayed by his backup again after generating just 11 rushing and 9 receiving yards.
Tre Mason, Rams – Ran for 28 yards and caught 3 passes for 29 yards.
Jamaal Charles, Chiefs – Just 62 combined yards.

T.Y. Hilton, Colts – Blanked by the Titans.
DeAndre Hopkins, Texans – Held to 5 yards on 2 balls.
Kelvin Benjamin, Panthers – Limited to a 9-yarder.
Vincent Jackson, Bucs – Caught an 11-yarder.
Mohamed Sanu, Bengals – Settled for a 16-yarder.
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals – Just 2 receptions for 29 yards.
Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs – Only 30 yards on 3 catches.
Alshon Jeffery, Bears – Just 34 yards on 2 receptions.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sunday morning Foolishness -- Week 17

Good morning, Fools. I imagine there are much fewer of you reading this than normal, and that's a good thing. Unless you play in a weekly league, or have something akin to the "Free for All Bowl" that a couple of my leagues run, there's no reason to be focusing on starting lineups this weekend.

That said, some boneheaded leagues still play their Super Bowls this weekend, so we must remain vigilant for their benefit. Here's what they need to know:

As covered in my Starters & Benchwarmers column, nearly 20 teams have either been eliminated from the playoffs, or have little or no incentive to play hard to improve their playoff seeding. Guys like Tom Brady are expected to play a half or less. Rob Gronkowski has already been made a healthy scratch. No reason to think Tony Romo or Dez Bryant will play long either. Look for DeMarco Murray to get in long enough to break Emmitt Smith's team rushing record (he needs 30 yards), then quickly exit.

Everyone else is a dicey proposition, and there's little doubt that some unheralded backups will be among the day's top performers. Figuring out which ones in advance takes more work than I'm willing to put in for such little benefit. (Sorry...I've got a family!)

Steven Jackson is out for the Falcons, so Devonta Freeman will get a whole game to audition for next year's starting job. Freeman is a prime candidate.

Forget my flier of the week pick, Jonas Gray. He's already been ruled out. It could be a nice day for James White and/or Brandon Bolden, though. Julian Edelman is also inactive.

Julio Jones will suit up in Atlanta's all-or-nothing game with Carolina.

Here's a sneak pick at this year's honoree for the "Plaxico Burress Memorial Bonehead of the Year Award:" Josh Gordon, who got himself suspended for Week 17 for missing Saturday's walkthrough with the team. He apparently was playing hooky with Johnny Manziel, though not necessarily together. Can that duo be anything but trouble? We will likely be hearing a lot about them in the offseason, for all the wrong reasons.

Meanwhile, the Browns will be led by rookie Connor Shaw at QB today. Oh my.

Terrance West gets the start at halfback for the beleaguered Browns.

Percy Harvin and Dwayne Allen have also been declared inactive.

That's it for now. More inactives coming next, but I'm heading to church. Will get out as many as I can. Good luck to all Fools!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Week 17 Starters & Benchwarmers

Hopefully you aren’t contending for a title this weekend. But if you are, or you’re playing a weekly game, we still have work to do.

Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 17 of the 2014 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Dolphins vs. Jets. Miami has nothing but pride at stake in this divisional battle, but Tannehill still has much to prove as the Dolphins’ QB of the future. He had a huge game last week and should stay in the groove with his wideouts against the Jets’ horrid secondary.

Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers at Falcons. Those who trusted Stewart last week were rewarded with 122 rushing yards and a late TD reception. Keep Carolina’s (current) bell cow in your lineup against an Atlanta run defense that has coughed up a league-worst 20 rushing scores. This is a must-win game for both teams.

Joique Bell, RB, Lions at Packers. Reggie Bush got the start last week because Bell violated a team rule. But once Bell got into the game in the second quarter, he resumed his lead-back duties. He presumably will keep his nose clean this week, and he’ll be leaned on heavily as a rusher and receiver in this critical game for the Lions.

Greg Jennings, WR, Vikings vs. Bears. Minnesota has little to play for, but this is a divisional rivalry and Chicago’s pass defense is truly awful. Even if Jennings doesn’t play a full game, he has an excellent opportunity to notch his fifth TD reception over the final six games of the season.

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Panthers at Falcons. The rookie hasn’t found the end zone since Week 14, but he hasn’t faced Atlanta’s overly generous secondary either. Look for another 100-plus-yard performance, with at least one TD in this all-or-nothing contest.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Andy Dalton, Eli Manning, Russell Wilson; RBs Justin Forsett, Devonta Freeman, Matt Asiata, C.J. Anderson, Andre Williams, Chris Ivory, Jeremy Hill, Joseph Randle, Fred Jackson, Alfred Morris; WRs Mohamed Sanu, Emmanuel Sanders, Kenny Stills, Sammy Watkins, Terrance Williams, Mike Wallace, Jarvis Landry, Jeremy Maclin, Mike Evans, Kendall Wright, DeSean Jackson, Torrey Smith.

Roll ‘em back

Nearly 20 teams are either eliminated from the playoffs or have little or no incentive to play their stars in Week 17. Every one of the starters from these teams, therefore, comes with significant risk of being pulled early: 49ers, Bears, Bills, Browns, Buccaneers, Colts, Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles, Giants, Jaguars, Jets, Patriots, Raiders, Rams, Redskins, Saints, Titans and Vikings. When in doubt, choose a player with an incentive to give his all.

More thumbs down: QBs Joe Flacco, Philip Rivers, Matt Stafford; RBs Tre Mason, Kerwynn Williams, Giovanni Bernard, Branden Oliver, Reggie Bush; WRs Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Julian Edelman, Eddie Royal, Dwayne Bowe.


Jonas Gray, RB, Patriots vs. Bills. Predicting which back will get the lion’s share of the carries for New England is always a dicey proposition. It’s even harder to decipher when the team has nothing to play for. But here’s my expectation: The prodigal rookie Gray will get the call, while the veterans are used sparingly.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…plays for all the marbles in Week 17 next season. Too many key players will be sitting or exiting early, so the best fantasy teams could be unfairly penalized. Also, be sure to watch the inactive reports, as several stars will likely be healthy scratches.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Week 16 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start…

Russell Wilson, Seahawks – Accumulated 339 passing yards and 2 TDs, without an INT, and rushed for 88 yards and a 3rd TD.
Philip Rivers, Chargers – Passed for 356 yards and 4 TDs, though he also tossed 3 INTs.
Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins – Generated 396 yards and 4 TDs, with 1 INT.
Tony Romo, Cowboys – Dominated the Colts with 218 passing yards and 4 TDs, without a blemish.
Eli Manning, Giants – Threw for 391 yards and 3 TDs.
Colin Kaepernick, 49ers – Passed for 114 yards and a TD, and ran for 151 yards and another TD, though he lost a fumble.

Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks – Went all Beast Mode with 113 rushing yards and 2 TDs.
Frank Gore, 49ers – Raced for 158 yards and a TD.
Matt Asiata, Vikings – Rushed for 58 yards and 2 TDs, and caught 3 passes for 19 yards.
Lamar Miller, Dolphins – Ran for 92 yards and a TD, plus 5 receptions for 58 yards.

Odell Beckham, Jr, Giants – Pulled down 8 passes for 148 yards and 2 TDs.
Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos – Shook off an illness to grab 6 passes for 70 yards and 2 TDs.
Torrey Smith, Ravens – Caught 5 passes for 59 yards and 2 TDs.
Mike Wallace, Dolphins – Took 5 passes 58 yards and a pair of TDs.

Luke Willson, Seahawks – Reeled in 3 passes for 139 yards and a pair of TDs.
Antonio Gates, Chargers – Caught 7 passes for 92 yards and 2 TDs.
Zach Ertz, Eagles – In PPR leagues, his 15 receptions for 115 yards was golden.

This was a great week to play against…

Andrew Luck, Colts – Had a disastrous day with 109 passing yards, no scores and 2 INTs.
Robert Griffin III, Redskins – Passed for 220 yards, but no scores and an INT.
Matt Stafford, Lions – Passed for 243 yards without a TD, plus 2 INTs.
Johnny Manziel, Browns – Had just 32 yards before getting knocked out of the game.

Steven Jackson, Rams – Ran for 9 yards and caught a 14-yard pass before pulling up lame.
Doug Martin, Buccaneers – Rushed for 17 big ones.
Isaiah Crowell, Browns – Ran for 55 yards.
Justin Forsett, Ravens – Ran for 19 yards and caught 4 passes for 13 yards.
Pierre Thomas, Saints – Caught 2 passes for 24 yards.

A.J. Green, Bengals – Blanked on Monday night.
Michael Crabtree, 49ers – Caught a 5-yarder.
Reggie Wayne, Colts – Just 23 yards on 3 catches.
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals – Limited to 33 yards on 4 balls.
DeAndre Hopkins, Texans – Only 38 yards on 5 receptions.
Martavis Bryant, Steelers – Caught 1 pass, a 44-yarder.
Josh Gordon, Browns – Took 4 passes 45 yards.

Martellus Bennett, Bears – Went nowhere with his only reception.
Jordan Reed, Redskins – 5 yards on 2 catches.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Odell me a story about Luck running dry

It must have been my wife’s idea of a cruel joke. The entire family was heading off to Six Flags on Sunday, followed by a Christmas show that night. Instead of sitting squarely in front of the NFL RedZone for seven hours, rooting my team to a championship, I would have to follow the score via smartphone.

Let’s just say daddy was a little cranky on the rollercoasters.

To their credit, my battle-tested starters built up a nice lead heading into the late-afternoon games. But my opponent still had Andrew Luck and A.J. Green to play. Fortunately, Odell Beckham, Jr. added to my cushion early in the Giants’ game, while Luck was getting off to another slow start. Then Dez Bryant broke free for a touchdown, and I dared to believe this could be my day.

Still, my good fortune couldn’t last forever. Luck had to get on track at some point, right? Yet every time he started generating some yardage, his fantasy points would disappear. One interception. And then another.

I began worrying that ESPN’s tracker was malfunctioning. Surely he can’t have zero points. Not this late in the game.

Indeed, it was an implosion that will live in infamy for countless owners of the Colts quarterback. It reminded fantasy veterans of his predecessor, Peyton Manning, who perennially hit the showers early in Week 16, just when his owners needed him most. But this was different. Luck was still on the field late into the third quarter, trying. He was simply failing. And flailing.

Meanwhile, Beckham threw a knockout punch that even the great A.J. Green could never overcome. I’m going to have a hard time denying OBJ Fantasy MVP honors in next week’s awards column. Surely he was the difference-maker in thousands of leagues over the last half of the season.

Tony Romo delivered some devastating blows himself. Jordy Nelson redeemed his Week 15 debacle for those who survived, while Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady disappointed. Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch lifted millions of teams to victory Sunday night.

At least that’s what I gathered from the highlights I watched on well after midnight.

Victory is sweet no matter how it comes. But next year, honey, if you don’t mind, I’d rather not have to watch it play out in the form of black and white numbers on a five-inch screen.


You shouldn’t be playing for a title in Week 17. Hopefully you’re doing what a couple of my leagues do, which is playing a “Free For All Bowl,” in which every owner – even the regular season losers – sets one final lineup. Highest score gets five percent of the pot. It’s our little way of squeezing one more week of fun out of the fantasy season. And it’s one more chance for someone to win back their ante.

So, for those of you with something on the line, here’s a player to consider and a couple who would look better in your opponent’s lineup.

Catch ‘em while you can

Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons. Most of us thought the rookie would get his chance to take over for the aging Steven Jackson at some point this season. But the wily veteran got his second wind and held off the inevitable transition. Jackson’s quadriceps injury Sunday finally gave Freeman an opening, and he took advantage of it with an impressive scoring romp. Though the starter’s injury does not appear to be severe, Freeman could get another chance to showcase his skills in the Falcons’ finale.

Don’t be fooled

Luke Willson, TE, Seahawks. Two touchdowns and 139 yards receiving is pretty impressive stuff. But just three targets isn’t. Given the Seahawks’ clear preference for keeping the ball on the ground, Willson’s career day is unlikely to be repeated any time soon.

Dwayne Allen, TE, Colts. Oops, he just dropped another pass. Feel free to do likewise with him.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday morning Foolishness -- Week 16

Good morning, Fools. It's go time! Those of us with titles on the line have a big day ahead of us. Let's see how many championships the Fools can claim today.

Here's what we need to know as we settle our winning lineups:

Great news for those of us counting on Matt Ryan: Julio Jones is active. Start them both in the expected shootout with the Saints.

Big surprises out of New England this morning: Both LeGarrette Blount and Julian Edelman are inactive. Looks like Shane Vereen and, presumably, Jonas Gray, will handle the RB duties. You have to like Brandon LaFell's chances to excel as well.

Jonathan Stewart gets another boost with DeAngelo Williams already declared inactive. But he'll have to compete with Cam Newton for the rushing scores, as the QB has recovered quickly from his accident and will be back under center. Meanwhile, I already liked Kelvin Benjamin's chances; but with word that Browns CB Joe Haden is inactive, the rookie wideout could have a monster outing.

It's still too early to be official, but DeMarco Murray is on track to start today, wearing a pad on his hand. My guess is that he has a solid performance in this pivotal game for the Cowboys; but there's always a chance that he aggravates the injury.

T.Y. Hilton is also expected to try to go today, but with less on the line for the Colts, he's a big risk.

In another interesting development, Emmanuel Sanders was sent home from practice yesterday with an illness. While he's expected to return in time for Monday night's game, there's now a risk associated with him. He's also facing a solid Bengals pass defense. I am going to play it safe by pulling Sanders out of my lineup in favor of Brandon LaFell, per my optimism stated above.

DeAndre Hopkins is active, but I still don't like his chances with Case Keenum at QB.

That's it for now. Heading to Twitter for the inactives and late-breaking news. Have a great day watching football, and good luck, title-bound Fools!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Week 16 Starters & Benchwarmers

Wondering whether or not to start Tom Brady and Demaryius Thomas, or to bench Johnny Manziel and Darren McFadden? 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 2014 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons at Saints. Even if Julio Jones (hip) isn’t on the field, Ryan will take full advantage of New Orleans’ generous secondary with the other weapons at his disposal. He tore up the Saints in Week 1, as has virtually every other offense that faces this defense. Even Jay Cutler managed to toss two TDs against this bunch, despite an otherwise miserable outing.

Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers vs. Browns. Everyone (but me) was high on Stewart last week; but in my experience, the veteran too often comes up short when the most is expected. His modest 73-yard performance against Tampa Bay is about what I anticipated. This week is different. Facing a weak Browns run defense (that Jeremy Hill torched last week) and with that Manziel-led offense struggling to stay on the field, even Stewart can’t screw this one up.

Fred Jackson, RB, Bills at Raiders. Oakland’s run defense has fared marginally better of late than their season average, but a workhorse like Jackson should have plenty of success. Factoring in his production as a receiver, and his nose for the end zone, F-Jax can be trusted in the Black Hole.

Marques Colston, WR, Saints vs. Falcons. With three TDs over his last four games, Colston is finally looking like his reliable old self again. More importantly, Drew Brees is targeting him more often, especially in the red zone. Frankly, any starter from either team’s passing game is worth playing in this likely shootout.

Brandon LaFell, WR, Patriots at Jets. LaFell hasn’t found the end zone since his two-TD performance against the Packers in Week 13. But he’s still getting plenty of Brady’s attention, and the Jets have surrendered a next-to-worst 29 passing scores to date. Call it a hunch, or just a great matchup; but LaFell ends his modest scoring drought on Sunday.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Matt Stafford, Tony Romo, Russell Wilson; RBs Mark Ingram, Steven Jackson, C.J. Anderson, Joique Bell, Jeremy Hill, Lamar Miller; WRs Roddy White, Golden Tate, Kenny Stills, Julian Edelman, Odell Beckham, Lee Evans, Emmanuel Sanders, Kelvin Benjamin, Steve Smith, Pierre Garcon, Jeremy Maclin.

Roll ‘em back

Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers at 49ers. He’s suffering from a painful back injury as well as tender ribs, and Keenan Allen (collarbone) is out for the season. The 49ers’ secondary kept Russell Wilson in check last week, but they have been vulnerable most of the year. I just don’t think Rivers has enough ammo this week to do the job.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Patriots at Jets. Just when it looked like Bill Belichick had settled on Blount as his workhorse, he let Jonas Gray out of the doghouse with 11 carries last week. Blount still found the end zone against the Dolphins, but the going gets tougher Sunday against New York’s stingy run defenders.

Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West, RBs, Browns at Panthers. Those of us banking on Crowell or West to take the pressure off Manziel last week were rudely awakened by just how quickly this offense fell apart. With no need to defend against the pass, all Carolina must do is stack the line and play “kill the man with the ball.”

DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans vs. Ravens. All bets are off for the Houston passing game with Case Keenum (most likely) starting at quarterback. Hopkins has been sitting out practice to nurse a wobbly ankle, but he’ll be in the starting lineup come Sunday. Whether you ever hear his name called is another story entirely.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals vs. Seahawks. Arizona’s passing game is in a similarly precarious position with Ryan Lindley at the controls. Lindley has never celebrated a touchdown among his 181 career passes. Fitzgerald is a future Hall of Famer, but he doesn’t stand a chance with that QB playing against Seattle’s secondary.

More thumbs down: QBs Eli Manning, Colin Kaepernick, Jimmy Clausen; RBs Giovani Bernard, Alphonso Smith, Andre Williams, Branden Oliver, Darren Sproles, Chris Ivory, Latavius Murray, Kerwynn Williams; WRs Reggie Wayne, Percy Harvin, Eric Decker, Stedman Bailey, James Jones, Josh Gordon, Michael Floyd, Martavis Bryant, Michael Crabtree, Doug Baldwin, Marquess Wilson, Jordan Matthews.


Greg Jennings, WR, Vikings at Dolphins. Charles Johnson is soaking up all the fantasy love, but Jennings has quietly reached the end zone in three of his last four games. Facing a Miami secondary that has been gouged recently, and playing with a more confident Teddy Bridgewater, the grizzled veteran has a solid chance to keep the good times rolling.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…forgets to check your lineup before the two Saturday games. Yep, the NFL is throwing us for a loop again, and with the Christmas rush in full swing, countless owners will completely overlook these games. This is no time to take your eye off the ball.