Monday, December 11, 2017

Week 14 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to play…

QBs
Carson Wentz, Eagles – Passed for 291 yards and 4 TDs, and 16 rushing yards, plus an INT, before being lost for the year.
Dak Prescott, Cowboys – Beat up another sorry opponent, passing for 332 yards and 3 TDs, plus 13 rushing yards, without a turnover.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers – Passing for a whopping 506 yards and 2 TDs, without a turnover.
Brett Hundley, Packers – Held down the fort well again, passing for 265 yards and 3 TDs, plus 31 rushing yards, without a blemish.
Jay Cutler, Dolphins – Remarkably, passed for 263 yards and 3 TDs, without a blemish.

RBs
Jonathan Stewart, Panthers – Raced and rumbled for 103 yards and 3 TDs.
Todd Gurley, Rams – Rushed for 96 yards and 2 TDs, plus 39 yards on 3 receptions.
Rod Smith, Cowboys – Rushed for 47 yards and a TD and caught 5 passes for 113 yards and a TD.
Theo Riddick, Lions – Scored twice while running for 29 yards and added 6 receptions for 64 yards.
Le’Veon Bell, Steelers – Rushed for 48 yards and 2 TDs, and hauled in 9 passes for 77 yards and a 3rd TD.
Jamaal Williams, Packers – Ran for 49 yards and a TD and added 7 receptions for 69 yards and a second TD.
Jordan Howard, Bears – Rumbled for 147 yards and 2 TDs, plus an 8-yard catch.
LeSean McCoy, Bills – Plowed through the snow for 156 yards and a score.
Kenyan Drake, Dolphins – Rushed for 114 yards and caught 5 passes for 79 yards.
Alex Collins, Ravens – Ran for 120 yards and a TD and caught 2 passes for 46 yards.

WRs
DeAndre Hopkins, Texans – Reeled in 11 passes for 149 yards and 2 TDs. We’ll forgive the fumble.
Davante Adams, Packers – Gathered 10 passes for 84 yards and 2 TDs.
Michael Thomas, Saints – Caught 10 passes for 117 yards and a TD.
Jarvis Landry, Dolphins – Hauled in 8 passes for 46 yards and a pair of TDs.
Antonio Brown, Steelers – Did his thing, catching 11 passes for 213 yards.

TEs
Trey Burton, Eagles – Caught 5 passes for 71 yards and 2 TDs while Zach Ertz was inactive.


This was a great week to play against…

QBs
Alex Smith, Chiefs – Passed for 268 yards and an INT without a score, plus 24 rushing yards.
Josh McCown, Jets – Just 46 passing yards, and 2 turnovers, with no TDs before leaving injured.

RBs
Alvin Kamara, Saints – Got knocked out just as he was getting rolling, leaving with just 2 rushing and 25 receiving yards.
LeGarrette Blount, Eagles – Just 12 rushing and 11 receiving yards.
Aaron Jones, Packers – Lost 2 yards rushing and didn’t catch a pass.
Bilal Powell, Jets – Limited to 35 rushing yards.
Samaje Perine, Redskins – Held to 45 rushing and 7 receiving yards.

WRs
Amari Cooper, Raiders – Suited up, but finished with a goose egg.
Chris Hogan, Patriots – Returned to catch a 1-yard pass.
Jermaine Kearse, Jets – Caught a 4 yarder.
Sterling Shepard, Giants – Wasted a great matchup, with just 2 catches for 16 yards.
Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos – Grabbed a 16-yard pass.
T.Y. Hilton, Colts – Just 20 yards on 2 catches in the snow.
Mike Evans, Buccaneers – Just 25 yards on 2 receptions.
Will Fuller, Texans – He had 26 yards on 3 receptions.
Jeremy Maclin, Ravens – Just 27 yards on 3 catches.
Robby Anderson, Jets – Same for him.
Jordy Nelson, Packers – His 33 yards on 4 catches was better than usual these days, sadly.
Brandin Cooks, Patriots – Caught just one 38-yard pass on MNF.

TEs
Greg Olsen, Panthers – Blanked in his return.
Tyler Kroft, Bengals – Also laid a goose egg.

Charles Clay, Bills – Just 11 yards on 2 catches.

Ill-timed injuries could tilt playoff balance

Rare is the fantasy owner who breezes through the season without having to overcome injuries. It’s a part of the game – real football, of course, and the fantasy game we love to play.

But some injuries hurt more than others. David Johnson’s broken wrist in Week 1 and Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone injury five weeks later leap to mind. (My buddy’s contention that Pierre Garcon’s Week 8 injury was a crushing blow to his roster just doesn’t hold water.)

But losing one or more of your studs at playoff time can prove fatal to your title chances.

Nobody knows that better than owners of Alvin Kamara, who went down with a concussion on the first drive of the Thursday nighter. The timing couldn’t have been worse, and it undoubtedly prevented countless fantasy teams from advancing to the next round as they otherwise would have.

Carson Wentz’s loss is different, but no less alarming. Wentz treated his owners to a 291-yard, 4-TD, 1-INT performance before going down, likely for the season, with a serious knee injury. The fantasy ramifications of that injury begin now.

Those who don’t already have a solid QB on their bench will be searching for emergency help on a waiver wire that has likely been picked clean over the course of the year. I’ve offered a couple of recommendations below; but unless Aaron Rodgers is still sitting there for some inexplicable reason, get ready for a significant downgrade at this crucial position.

By the way, if you find yourself facing Wentz’s owner in Week 15, or could face him or her in the championship round, consider making a preemptive claim on the best QB available. Keeping Rodgers, Blake Bortles or whomever from your opponent’s roster is not just a sneaky blocking move; it’s good strategy that could make the difference in your title run.

As they say, all’s fair in love and fantasy football.


WAIVER WIRE PICKS AND PANS

To win a fantasy championship, it’s best to start with a great draft. But filling gaps in your roster with the occasional waiver-wire acquisition can also pay big dividends. Here's a look at players worth considering, and a couple who would look better in someone else's lineup.

Catch ‘em while you can

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers. How is he still available in a third of all leagues? Surely my readers have not overlooked Rodgers, since I advised you to grab him last week. Come on, people … it’s Aaron Freaking Rodgers, and he’ll probably be the Packers’ starter next week!

Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars. Did Wentz strand you at the worst possible time? Bortles could come to the rescue. Benefiting from his stifling defense, a strong running game and the emergence of play-making wideout Marqise Lee (who’s also still widely available), Bortles posted his second consecutive multi-touchdown game without a turnover in the tough battle with Seattle. Next up: tasty matchups with the Texans and 49ers.

Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers. Stewart is available in four out of six ESPN leagues, which is odd because he scored in each of the last two games before his 103-yard, 3-TD explosion against the top-ranked Vikings run defense. With Green Bay and Tampa Bay up next, Stewart could keep the TD streak going while grinding out decent (or better) yards.

Don’t be fooled

Nick Foles, QB, Eagles. Foles had his moments in the fantasy spotlight, but those days are long gone. Though he has a great cast around him, and even a favorable matchup against the Giants next week, he’s just not the guy you want leading your team in the fantasy postseason. Unless you are truly desperate.


Rod Smith, RB, Cowboys. Smith has become the king of trash-time scoring, finding the end zone four times over the last three games – all in the fourth quarter. So if you think the Cowboys will continue to nurse big leads at the end of their next two games, go ahead and grab him. But that’s an awfully risky proposition. Don’t forget: Ezekiel Elliott returns in Week 16.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sunday morning observations -- Week 14

Good morning, Fools, and welcome to the fantasy postseason!

If you're reading this, I assume you're in the hunt for a title, and that makes me happy. I'm playing this weekend in one league and have a bye in the other. I was a decided underdog in this weekend's contest, but I got a huge break Thursday night when my opponent lost Alvin Kamara in the first quarter.

You never want to see a player get hurt -- and concussions evoke more concern than ever -- but the timing couldn't have been much better for me (or worse for my opponent).

Let's take our weekly swing around the NFL for the news we need to set our best starting lineups.

Matt Stafford is warming up well and will be playing despite his bruised and battered hand. I still don't love his chances for a big game today.

Tyrod Taylor will take a seat today thanks to a gimpy knee, giving the starting nod back to Nathan Peterman. This could get ugly. It's going to be snowing and blustery in Buffalo today, so conditions won't be great for either passing game. (That's a red flag for T.Y. Hilton, too ...)

Good news for those of us hoping for big things from Kenyan Drake on MNF: Damien Williams is out again due to his shoulder injury.

On the other side of the ball, Dion Lewis is still listed as questionable with an illness. Rex Burkhead could come up big on Monday night if Lewis sits. As you know, Gronk is suspended for the week, but Chris Hogan appears to be set for a return. I still like Danny Amendola in this one.

Adrian Peterson will sit out with his back injury, leaving the starting job in Kerwynn Williams' hands again. Stay away. Stay far away.

Doug Martin is back and expected to reclaim his starting job, which is a shame for those who were hoping for some help from Peyton Barber. It's hard to trust either player without a full workload.

Ameer Abdullah won't play, so the Lions' backfield workload will again be split between Theo Riddick and Tion Green.

As expected, Joe Mixon will miss at least this week due to last week's concussion. The Cincinnati running game will go through Gio Bernard today, and he could be a serviceable flex.

After some pessimism earlier due to a bum hammy, Sterling Shepard warmed up without restrictions and is active for today's tasty matchup with the Cowboys. He and Evan Engram should be very busy men today as Eli Manning returns to his starting gig against a very familiar opponent.

If you're counting on Derek Carr, there's good news: Amari Cooper is active and will suit up and play today. That said, his arrow was pointing straight down as recently as Thursday, so there's no telling how his ankle will hold up.

If you're still holding onto Jordan Reed, it's time to press the eject button. He's out today, probably again next week and you won't want to trust him in his first week back if that comes in Week 16. See if there's someone else out there who can help you in a pinch.

Both Greg Olsen and Devin Funchess will be available for Carolina today, but that may not be enough to help Cam Newton excel against the Vikings.

That's it for now. Inactives and other late-breaking news coming next via Twitter. Good luck today, Fools!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Week 14 Starters & Benchwarmers

It’s playoff time! Wondering whether or not to start LeSean McCoy and DeAndre Hopkins, or to bench Jamaal Charles and Michael Floyd? 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 2017 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Jameis Winston, QB, Buccaneers vs. Lions. Winston put up respectable numbers last Sunday in his return from a three-week absence due to a shoulder injury. He’ll look to build on that performance in a home draw against a Detroit secondary that has coughed up serious fantasy points to opposing QBs lately. Though Mike Evans could struggle in his matchup with Darius Slay, Winston’s other receivers should have a field day.

Kenyan Drake, RB, Dolphins vs. Patriots. Damien Williams may return to the field for this contest, but Drake has earned more than his fair share of the carries. He should have little trouble slicing through one of the NFL’s most vulnerable run defenses. The main worry is that Miami could fall behind early and be forced to abandon the running game.

Samaje Perine, RB, Redskins at Chargers. Perine took a step backwards last weekend after two consecutive 100-yard outings, but he should bounce back nicely against a Chargers defense that struggles against the run. Perine has become a workhorse by default, and he should get plenty of volume to excel as L.A. clamps down on Washington’s passing game.

T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts at Bills. Hilton delivered against the NFL’s stingiest secondary last week, thanks to a nifty, 40-yard TD catch and run. He’ll have a chance to improve on that performance on his trip to Buffalo, which has surrendered big chunks of yardage, and plenty of scoring plays, to No. 1 wideouts over the past several weeks.

Danny Amendola, WR, Patriots at Dolphins. This game may not be competitive for long, but with Rob Gronkowski sitting out, Amendola should be a busy man. Even if Chris Hogan returns, Amendola will keep the chains moving for the Patriots while Brandin Cooks takes the top off the sieve-like Miami secondary.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Alex Smith, Dak Prescott, Philip Rivers; RBs Jordan Howard, Frank Gore, Dion Lewis, Alfred Morris, Giovani Bernard, Peyton Barber, Lamar Miller, Carlos Hyde; WRs DeSean Jackson, Larry Fitzgerald, Dez Bryant, Keenan Allen, Sterling Shepard, Michael Crabtree, Marquise Goodwin, Davante Adams, Adam Thielen, Jarvis Landry.

Roll ‘em back

Jared Goff, QB, Rams vs. Eagles. Goff has struggled against three of the best pass defenses in the NFL (Seattle, Minnesota and Jacksonville), and he’ll face another elite unit on Sunday. Robert Woods is likely to miss another week, adding another red flag to Goff’s prospects.
  
Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars vs. Seahawks. The old adage that you don’t sit your studs in the playoffs may not apply to Fournette, who hasn’t been very studly of late. His lingering ankle woes appear to be limiting his burst and Seattle’s stout run defense will surely stack the line to keep the rookie from controlling this game.

Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers vs. Vikings. He’s dealing with a tender shoulder, and he doesn’t get many carries. Where McCaffrey excels is in the passing game, but Minnesota’s defense is exceptionally tough against opposing running backs – including the pass-catching types. They’ve only surrendered one receiving TD to a tailback all season.

Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos vs. Jets. How can you trust a wideout with seven receptions for a whopping 38 yards total over the last three games? You can’t, even in a favorable matchup like this. Sanders’ talents are being squandered by pathetic quarterback play; so while you can always hope for a breakout, your postseason fate is best placed in another receiver’s hands.

Marvin Jones, WR, Lions at Buccaneers. There is legitimate concern that Matt Stafford’s injured hand could compromise his ability to grip and accurately throw the football on Sunday. The Bucs have improved their pass defense recently, so Jones may have trouble keeping up his stellar production.

More thumbs down: QBs Matt Stafford, Cam Newton, Marcus Mariota, Blake Bortles, Joe Flacco, Josh McCown, Jay Cutler; RBs Devontae Booker, Danny Woodhead, Doug Martin, Mike Davis, Orleans Darkwa, Isaiah Crowell, Kerwynn Williams, Ameer Abdullah; WRs Will Fuller, Jordy Nelson, Doug Baldwin, Kelvin Benjamin, Sammy Watkins, Dontrelle Inman, Jamison Crowder, Nelson Agholor, Jeremy Maclin, Martavis Bryant, Jermaine Kearse.

TAKING A FLIER

Josh Gordon, WR, Browns vs. Packers. It’s understandable that Gordon only snagged four of the 11 passes sent his way in his 2017 debut last week against the Chargers. The once-elite wideout was shaking off the rust, he faced a tough secondary and his chemistry with rookie QB DeShone Kizer is a work-in-progress. But did you catch that number 11? As in 11 targets? That’s extremely telling, and with the Packers’ struggling unit coming to town, Gordon has a great opportunity to exploit all that attention.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…complains about the way your league allocates postseason berths, seeding and payouts. That’s a discussion for preseason, not now. If you think your rules are unfair – and if they’re all about win-loss records and don’t factor in points, you’re right – put a reminder on your calendar for next August and propose a change prior to next season’s draft.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Week 13 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to play…

QBs
Alex Smith, Chiefs – Passed for 366 yards and 4 TDs without a turnover, and had a 70-yard run to boot.
Josh McCown, Jets – Passed for 331 yards and 1 TD and added 19 rushing yards and 2 more TDs, without a blemish.
Russell Wilson, Seahawks – Went full-on DangerRuss, passing for 227 yards and 3 TDs, plus 31 rushing yards.

RBs
Alvin Kamara, Saints – Rushed for 60 yards and 2 TDs and added 5 receptions for 66 yards.
Rex Burkhead, Patriots – Ran for 78 yards and 2 TDs, and caught 3 passes for 25 yards.
Le’Veon Bell, Steelers – Rushed for 76 yards and tallied 5 receptions for 106 yards and a TD.
Kenyan Drake, Dolphins – Took advantage of his workhorse role with 120 rushing yards and a TD, plus 21 receiving yards on 3 balls.
Alex Collins, Ravens – Rumbled for 75 yards and 2 TDs, and caught 2 passes for 23 yards.

WRs
Tyreek Hill, Chiefs – Reeled in 6 passes for 185 yards and 2 TDs.
A.J. Green, Bengals – Seemed unstoppable on MNF, catching 7 passes for 77 yards and 2 TDs (and had another long TD called back)
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals – Caught 10 passes for 98 yards and a TD.
Keenan Allen, Chargers – He collected 105 yards and a TD on his 10 receptions.
Nelson Agholor, Eagles – Hauled in 7 passes for 141 yards and a TD.
Jermaine Kearse, Jets – In PPR leagues, his 9 receptions for 157 yards were sweet.

TEs
Travis Kelce, Chiefs – Grabbed 4 passes for 94 yards and 2 TDs.
Rob Gronkowski, Patriots – Reeled in 9 passes for 147 yards.
Evan Engram, Giants – Caught 7 passes for 99 yards and 1 TD.
Cameron Brate, Buccaneers – Scored on both of his catches, with 39 receiving yards.

D/STs
Dolphins – Collected 3 sacks, 3 INTs, a fumble, 2 safeties and an INT return TD while holding the Broncos to 9 points.
Ravens – Amassed 3 sacks, 2 INTs, a fumble and returned an INT for a TD.
Rams – Had 6 sacks, 2 INTs, a TD on an INT return and 2 blocked kicks.

Ks
Robbie Gould, 49ers – Scored all of his team's points with 5 FGs (of 24, 28, 33, 34 and 35 yards)


This was a great week to play against…

QBs
Tom Brady, Patriots – Tossed 258 yards but had 0 TDs and an INT.
Matt Ryan, Falcons – Only 173 passing yards without a TD or turnover.
Trevor Siemian, Broncos – Passed for 200 yards without a TD, plus 16 rushing yards, and was picked off 3 times.
Brett Hundley, Packers – Managed just 84 passing yards with 1 INT and 0 TDs, plus 66 rushing yards.
Tyrod Taylor, Bills – Passed for 65 yards, ran for 32 yards, had 0 TDs and 1 INT.

RBs
Danny Woodhead, Ravens – Combined for 23 yards.
Duke Johnson, Jr., Browns – Amassed just 12 total yards.
LeGarrette Blount, Eagles – Finished with 26 rushing yards.
Jacquizz Rodgers, Buccaneers – Only 25 yards rushing while Doug Martin sat out.
Jordan Howard, Bears – Ran for just 38 yards and lost 5 yards on his only reception.
Joe Mixon, Bengals – Combined for 42 yards before leaving injured.

WRs
DeVante Parker, Dolphins – Had a 5 yarder.
Tyrell Williams, Chargers – Caught an 8-yard pass.
Paul Richardson, Seahawks – He got his 8 yards on 2 catches.
Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos – Only 11 yards on a pair of receptions.
Corey Davis, Titans – Limited to 12 yards on 2 receptions.
Jordan Matthews, Bills – Caught a 14 yarder.
Jordy Nelson, Packers – Finished with 17 yards on 5 balls.
Brandin Cooks, Patriots – His 17 yards came on 2 receptions.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Steelers – His 17 came on 4 catches.
Zay Jones, Bills – Caught 2 passes for 22 yards.
DeSean Jackson, Buccaneers – Logged 24 yards on 2 balls.
Julio Jones, Falcons – So did he.
Eric Decker, Titans – Just 27 yards on 3 catches.
Demaryius Thomas, Broncos – He got 27 yards on 2 catches.
Stefon Diggs, Vikings – His 32 yards came on 2 receptions.
Mike Evans, Buccaneers – Held to 33 yards on 2 receptions.
Danny Amendola, Patriots – Caught 2 passes for 34 yards.

TEs
Jack Doyle, Colts – Only 16 yards on 3 receptions.

Zach Ertz, Eagles – Caught 2 passes for 24 yards before leaving injured.

Monday, December 4, 2017

And a rookie shall lead them

Well, that was quick.

The fantasy regular season is now a wrap – in most leagues – and if you’re reading this, I’m guessing you are preparing for your postseason run.

It seems like just yesterday we were drafting our squads and eagerly anticipating the season opener. Remember how pumped you were when you got the first pick and confidently invested it in David Johnson?

Not long after, back in the “olden days” of September, didn’t it seem inevitable that Kareem Hunt would be the common denominator in the majority of championship teams?

Fast forward a few weeks, and the Hunt owner in one of my leagues didn’t even make the playoffs. Then again, he was the same guy who selected Johnson first, and Ezekiel Elliott with his third pick.

Fantasy football can be a cruel mistress.

Sitting here today, the player I fear most in an opponent’s playoff lineup is a different rookie running back. A “backup,” at that.

Alvin Kamara looks positively unstoppable, and he’s making Hunt’s stellar first three games look routine. Can you imagine what Kamara’s numbers would look like if the extremely capable Mark Ingram wasn’t competing for touches? (The duo is also conspiring to turn Drew Brees into a proverbial bus driver.)

Who else do I hope to avoid in my quest for fantasy glory?

Russell Wilson, who’s hitting his stride at just the right (or wrong) time, depending on your perspective.

Keenan Allen, who has caught 33 of the 41 passes Philip Rivers has flung his way over the last three games.

A healthy Antonio Brown … because he’s still an unstoppable force.

And Rob Gronkowski, because he’s a freak of nature.

Of course, nothing beats a well-rounded team from top to bottom. And a dash of good luck!


WAIVER WIRE PICKS AND PANS

To win a fantasy championship, it’s best to start with a great draft. But filling gaps in your roster with the occasional waiver-wire acquisition can also pay big dividends. Here's a look at players worth considering, and a couple who would look better in someone else's lineup.

Catch ‘em while you can

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers. The future Hall of Famer has resumed throwing and is progressing toward a probable return to the field in Week 15. He’s available in nearly half of all leagues and should be added for those hoping to progress into the postseason. I don’t have to explain why, right?

Peyton Barber, RB, Buccaneers. Last week I advised you to steer away from “hot waiver-wire prospect” Jacquizz Rodgers, mostly because he had failed to shine in previous opportunities and was destined to share carries. Little did I know that Barber would step so boldly to the plate. The second-year back finished with 27 touches (vs. 3 for Rodgers and 5 for Charles Sims). He was the Bucs’ leading rusher and receiver and he put to rest the notion that he’s little more than a goal-line vulture. Doug Martin could return in Week 14, but Barber has staked his claim to a continuing role in this offense.

Chris Ivory, RB, Jaguars. Leonard Fournette limped off the field late in Sunday’s game, though he returned to the field and finished strong. Still, the scene should serve as a reminder of how important it is to handcuff your studs. Ivory is Fournette’s primary insurance policy, leaving him just a play away from becoming a very important addition to your postseason roster.

Don’t be fooled

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers. Let’s tap the brakes a bit before we anoint Garoppolo the second coming of Tom Brady. Sure, he was impressive in his starting debut with the 49ers. He showed poise, touch, accuracy and even the “it” factor. The interception wasn’t his fault, but he’s going to have to start leading drives that end in TDs, not field goals, before he’s ready for the fantasy stage. Maybe next year, Jimmy G.

Mike Davis, RB, Seahawks. Has Seattle finally settled on a workhorse running back? Davis got his turn in the primetime spotlight and didn’t disappoint. Of course, the best runner on the team is still the quarterback. And I continue to believe that J.D. McKissic is the team’s most talented tailback. Count me skeptical of Davis’ value down the stretch.