Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Week 13 Starters & Benchwarmers

Wondering whether or not to start Andrew Luck and Jordy Nelson, or to bench Geno Smith and Marcel Reece? 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 2014 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Dolphins at Jets. It’s always nice having a key player going on Monday night, either to keep hope alive or, ideally, to pile on the points. Tannehill has gotten into a nice groove over the last few weeks, and he’ll be facing the NFL’s most generous defense to opposing passers under the primetime lights. 

Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals at Buccaneers. Bernard owners were encouraged by the number of touches he received in Sunday’s return to action (virtually equal to Jeremy Hill’s). Expect Bernard’s share to increase further as the Bengals make their postseason push. With an attractive matchup on Sunday, the veteran should be trusted in most starting lineups.

Denard Robinson, RB, Jaguars vs. Giants. Robinson ran into a brick wall in Indy last weekend but he’ll bounce back nicely against a defense that has allowed the second-most rushing yards to opponents this season. Throw in his usual complement of receptions, and Robinson is an excellent play on Sunday.

Jordan Matthews, WR, Eagles vs. Cowboys. The rookie has been nursing a less-than-100 percent knee, but he is fully expected to play Thursday. And the way he and Mark Sanchez have connected, Matthews makes it awfully tough to keep him out of your starting lineup. Especially against the Cowboys’ generous secondary.

Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots at Packers. Now that he’s worked through a rough midseason stretch, Edelman has returned to his role as one of Tom Brady’s most trusted weapons. Facing a Green Bay secondary that has surrendered the second-most fantasy points to opposing wideouts, Edelman belongs in your lineup in this pass-happy tilt.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Tony Romo, Matt Stafford, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Alex Smith, Andy Dalton; RBs Justin Forsett, Andre Ellington, Alfred Morris, C.J. Anderson, Fred Jackson, Mark Ingram, Frank Gore, Rashad Jennings, Jerick McKinnon, Tre Mason; WRs T.Y. Hilton, Golden Tate, Mike Evans, Kelvin Benjamin, Brandon LaFell, Mike Wallace, Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham, Jr., Keenan Allen, Torrey Smith, Justin Hunter, John Brown, Martavis Bryant.

Roll ‘em back

Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons vs. Cardinals. Ryan hasn’t had a three-TD performance since Week 4, despite some very favorable matchups. Now a stingy Arizona pass defense is headed to town and they’ll be looking to get back on track after a disappointing outing in Seattle. Keep the struggling passer out of your lineup.

Trent Richardson, RB, Colts vs. Redskins. Just when we thought Richardson would have the Indy backfield all to himself, along comes Dan “Boom” Herron to remind us why he can’t be trusted. Against Washington’s solid run defense, send T-Rich back where he belongs (your bench).

Isaiah Crowell, RB, Browns at Bills. Those of us who profited from Crowell’s performance last week would love to keep the good times rolling. But the going gets much tougher in Buffalo, where the Bills play some pretty mean run defense. Crowell could take a few steps backward in this contest.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Bills vs. Browns. As explosive as he was in the first half of the season, Watkins has been a huge disappointment over his last three games. Lining up against shutdown corner Joe Haden, don’t be surprised if the rookie makes it four poor showings in a row.

Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers vs. Seahawks. One look at Crabtree’s resume against Seattle since 2009 will convince you to bench him when he faces the Legion of Boom. Richard Sherman has Crabtree’s number, so don’t expect Colin Kaepernick to call it often.

More thumbs down: QBs Jay Cutler, Colin Kaepernick, Brian Hoyer, Derek Carr, Kyle Orton, Josh McCown, Colt McCoy; RBs Reggie Bush, Theo Riddick, Steven Jackson, Darren McFadden, Terrance West, Jonathan Stewart, Ryan Mathews, Anthony Dixon, Doug Martin, Shonn Greene; WRs Anquan Boldin, Reggie Wayne, Eric Decker, Percy Harvin, Pierre Garcon, Terrance Williams, Dwayne Bowe, Michael Floyd, Kenny Britt, Cordarrelle Patterson.

TAKING A FLIER

Charles Johnson, WR, Vikings vs. Panthers. You probably don’t own Johnson (he’s available in 95 percent of all leagues) but he’s worth a look if you don’t like your receiving options this weekend. It’s not that the rookie just nabbed his first NFL touchdown last weekend. It’s that he was targeted a whopping 11 times. And he has a delicious matchup against the porous Carolina secondary.


DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…fails to set his lineup early on Thanksgiving. You’ve grown accustomed to the Thursday night schedule, but the first of three Turkey Day games begins at 12:30 ET. Before you head off to grandma’s house, take care of business!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Week 12 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start…

QBs
Tony Romo, Cowboys – Torched the Giants for 275 yards and 4 TDs, with only a fumble lost.
Peyton Manning, Colts – Accumulated 257 yards and 4 TDs through the air.
Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins – Passed for 228 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT, and ran 15 yards for a 4th TD.
Eli Manning, Giants – Came up on the losing end, but had a nice outing with 338 passing yards and 3 TDs, plus an INT.
Drew Brees, Saints – Also fared well in a losing effort, passing for 420 yards and 3 TDs, and running for 15 more yards, plus a costly INT.

RBs
Justin Forsett, Ravens – Had a monster outing with 182 rushing yards and 2 TDs. 
Eddie Lacy, Packers – Rushed for 125 yards and a TD and caught 2 balls for 13 yards and another score.
Matt Forte, Bears – Ran for 89 yards and 2 TDs, plus 5 receptions for 23 yards.
C.J. Anderson, Broncos – Rumbled for 167 yards and a TD, plus 28 receiving yards on 4 balls.
Isaiah Crowell, Browns – Scored twice while rushing for 88 yards.
Latavius Murray, Raiders – Made the most of his 4 carries, with 112 yards and 2 TDs before getting concussed.
LeGarrette Blount, Patriots – Helped Belichick send a message to over-sleeping rookie Jonas Gray, handling the load with 78 rushing yards and 2 TDs.

WRs
Odell Beckham, Jr., Giants – Put on a show for the ages, with 10 catches for 146 yards and 2 TDs.
Demaryius Thomas, Broncos – Pulled down 10 passes for 87 yards and a TD trifecta.
Dez Bryant, Cowboys – Hauled in 7 passes for 86 yards and 2 TDs.
Anquan Boldin, 49ers – Reeled in 9 passes for 137 yards and 1 TD.

TEs
Tim Wright, Patriots – Nabbed both of Brady’s TD passes while collecting 5 receptions for 36 yards.
Jimmy Graham, Saints – Scored twice while bringing down 6 passes for 47 yards.

DSTs
Eagles – Returned the opening kickoff for a TD, then collected 5 sacks and 3 turnovers.

This was a great week to play against…

QBs
Matt Stafford, Lions – Just 264 passing yards and an INT, plus 18 rushing yards, without a score.
Robert Griffin III, Redskins – Fumbled once, ran for 11 yards and passed for just 106 yards without a score.
Michael Vick, Jets – Imploded with just 76 passing yards, no TDs and an INT.

RBs
Jonas Gray, Patriots – Learned a tough lesson about sleeping in, never seeing the field against the Lions.
Frank Gore, 49ers – Ran for 36 yards and fumbled.
Doug Martin, Buccaneers – Returned to the starting role and settled for 31 combined yards.
Bishop Sankey, Titans – Limited to 37 rushing and 14 receiving yards, and lost a fumble.
Mark Ingram, Saints – Just 27 rushing and 15 receiving yards on MNF.
Joique Bell, Lions – Held to 48 rushing and minus-2 yards receiving on the day.

WRs
Michael Floyd, Cardinals – With Fitz out, he took the game off, too.
Percy Harvin, Jets – Managed just a 2-yard catch on Monday night.
Cecil Shorts, Jaguars – Caught a 6-yarder.
Doug Baldwin, Seahawks – Took 2 catches to accumulate 6 yards.
Reggie Wayne, Colts – Held to 10 yards on 3 catches.
Terrance Williams, Cowboys – Marginalized on Sunday night with just an 18-yarder.
Kendall Wright, Titans – Caught a 28-yarder, and that was it.
Brandon Marshall, Bears – Only 32 yards on 3 catches.
Andre Johnson, Texans – He got 36 yards on his 3 catches.
Kenny Britt, Rams – Had just 2 receptions for 37 yards.
DeAndre Hopkins, Texans – Limited to 39 yards on 5 receptions.
DeSean Jackson, Redskins – He got 39 yards on 2 passes.
Pierre Garcon, Redskins – Just 34 yards on 3 receptions.
Sammy Watkins, Bills – Chipped in 35 yards on 3 catches.
Calvin Johnson, Lions – Had his second consecutive disappointing performance with just 58 yards on 4 receptions.

TEs
Owen Daniels, Ravens – Held to 7 yards on 2 receptions.
Antonio Gates, Chargers – Only 14 yards on 2 catches.
Coby Fleener, Colts – Could only reel in 2 passes for 28 yards.
Vernon Davis, 49ers – Just 21 yards on 3 catches.

Larry Donnell, Giants – Had 2 receptions for 24 yards.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Year of the Rookie Wideout

The next time some so-called fantasy guru (like me) tells you that rookie wide receivers are risky draft picks, simply reply “2014.”

Perhaps this season will go down as an anomaly, rather than the beginning of a trend; but there is no doubt that this rookie class is special.

No less than seven first-year players are currently ranked among the Top 30 WRs in Fantasyland, with Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans leading the pack. By comparison, since 2000, only twice have as many as four freshman wideouts finished among the Top 30, with Percy Harvin setting the pace at No. 25 in 2009 and Michael Clayton at No. 13 in 2004. Last season, Keenan Allen was the only rookie receiver among the Top 30, checking in at No. 17.

As of today, Kelvin Benjamin, Jordan Matthews, Sammy Watkins, Odell Beckham, Jr., Brandin Cooks and John Brown all reside among the Top 30. Cooks will eventually drop out because of his injury, but don’t be surprised if Martavis Bryant or Jarvis Landry makes a late-season push to replace him.

What’s more, these players are showing the kind of consistency that few veteran wideouts can boast. And following Sunday night’s dazzling performance, I’m convinced that a healthy Beckham will lead countless fantasy squads to this year’s title games.

Seriously, after that play – I’m dubbing it “The Tre” because “The Catch” is taken and he nabbed it with three fingers – which receiver would you rather have in your starting lineup down the stretch? Megatron? A.J. Green? Demaryius? Dez? Antonio Brown?

Perhaps, but I’m not so sure any of those players can do what Beckham can do. It’s not like “The Tre” was a fluke. He practices those catches!

Several rookie receivers will undoubtedly be major contributors to a slew of title contenders this season, and that’s a fairly remarkable development.

They require patience, but the wait can be well worth it once youth is served.


FREE AGENT PICKS AND PANS

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

Latavius Murray, RB, Raiders. He only had four carries on Thursday night, but that was enough to convince the world that Murray is the most talented back on Oakland’s roster. Whether that translates into meaningful production down the stretch is anybody’s guess. Add in his uncertain progress in the NFL’s concussion protocol, and Murray comes with significant risk. But the upside is clearly there as well.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Patriots. Jonas Gray, and his fantasy owners, learned a tough lesson on Sunday. We also learned that Blount can still be a force, especially in the Patriots’ offense. He was a beast late last season, so he’s worth consideration. Just remember last week’s prophetic words in reference to Gray: “What Bill Belichick giveth, he loves to taketh away.”

Jarvis Landry, WR, Dolphins. Landry won’t be flying under the radar much longer after scoring four touchdowns over his last four games. Ryan Tannehill is looking sharp and Landry is quickly emerging as his go-to wideout. In the Year of the Rookie WR, ignore Landry at your peril.

Don’t be fooled

Dan Herron, RB, Colts. With Ahmad Bradshaw out for the duration, Herron stepped into the role of “Backup Who’s Better than Trent Richardson.” But he’s no Bradshaw, which makes him an option best reserved for truly RB-challenged teams. Herron is more likely to be a fantasy bust than a “Boom” in any given week.


Tim Wright, TE, Patriots. Wright is no stranger to the end zone, having reeled in his fifth and sixth TD receptions of the year on Sunday. He’s also no stranger to the goose egg, registering six games with big fat zeros. There’s only one tight end in New England worth a roster spot, and that ain’t Wright.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sunday morning Foolishness -- Week 12

Good morning, Fools. It's crunch time in Fantasyland, with postseason berths on the line in millions of leagues. So let's jump right to the news we can use:

Looks like another week of Alfred Blue as Arian Foster hasn't worked out his groin issues yet (can't most of us say that, really?). Foster is not expected to play today.

Hope you're not counting on Reggie Bush either. He's likely out, leaving the backfield to Joique Bell and Theo Riddick in a tough matchup.

Fred Jackson is expected to play, and he finally got some practice reps in; but I don't like his chances in this crazy Monday nighter against a decent Jets run defense with about 45 people cheering from the stands.

Doug Martin could get another shot at the Bucs' starting gig, given the ineffectiveness of Charles Sims and Bobby Rainey in his absence. No, I don't think you should start any of them.

After Jonas Gray missed practice the other day, reports are surfacing that he will split carries with newly acquired LeGarrette Blount. It shouldn't matter, given the matchup with a very stingy Lions run defense. Neither RB is good starting material today.

Pierre Thomas will be back in the lineup Monday night, plunging Travaris Cadet's value and possibly stealing a few carries from Mark Ingram. But no worries...Ingram is still the man in the Saints' backfield.

Larry Fitzgerald will be a game-time decision. He's a risky start if he goes against the Seahawks, but Michael Floyd's value increases a bit if he's out.

Both Owen Daniels and Delanie Walker are expected to suit up today.

That's it for now, Fools. Off to early church service. Back in time to tweet the inactives and other late-breaking news. Good luck today!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Week 12 Starters & Benchwarmers

Wondering whether or not to start Aaron Rodgers and DeMarco Murray, or to bench Teddy Bridgewater and Robert Woods? 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 2014 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals at Texans. Yeah, I’m probably crazy for recommending Dalton, despite his unexpected rebound in New Orleans last week. But with a healthy A.J. Green anchoring a salty receiving corps, and the Texans’ porous secondary on tap, the Red Rifle will have every opportunity to continue his road heroics.

Trent Richardson, RB, Colts vs. Jaguars. Even with Ahmad Bradshaw on IR, Richardson is no sure thing as the bell cow back in Indy. What makes him attractive this week is the matchup against the Jags’ lowly run defense. At long last, T-Rich is finally worth starting again. At least for one week.

Isaiah Crowell, RB, Browns at Falcons. The newly crowned starter in Cleveland had a so-so debut against the Texans, but look for Crowell to return to the end zone at least once against a Falcons defense that has surrendered an NFL-worst 13 rushing scores to date.

Marques Colston, WR, Saints vs. Ravens. With rookie phenom Brandin Cooks out for a month or more, Colston and Kenny Stills will get more frequent looks in the Saints’ passing game. The veteran has had a very disappointing season, but his arrow is pointing up with the vulnerable Ravens secondary heading to the Big Easy.

Anquan Boldin, WR, 49ers vs. Redskins. Boldin is the most-targeted receiver in San Francisco, so he can produce even when Colin Kaepernick struggles. They both will enjoy facing one of the league’s most generous secondaries when the Redskins travel cross-country Sunday. In PPR leagues, Boldin’s value is especially high this week.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Jay Cutler, Tony Romo, Matt Stafford, Eli Manning; RBs Alfred Blue, Darren Sproles, Justin Forsett, Denard Robinson, Tre Mason, Rashad Jennings; WRs Mohamed Sanu, Josh Gordon, T.Y. Hilton, Michael Crabtree, Mike Evans, Brandon LaFell, Jeremy Maclin, Jordan Matthews, Odell Beckham, Torrey Smith.

Roll ‘em back

Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers vs. Rams. With just one TD pass, three interceptions and a pathetic 331 passing yards over his last two games, the bloom has come off Rivers’ rose. Squaring off against a Rams pass defense that just knocked Peyton Manning off his stride, Rivers can’t be trusted.

Jerick McKinnon, RB, Vikings vs. Packers. Green Bay has been holding quality RBs in check recently, while McKinnon (chest) is struggling against lesser opponents. Add newly acquired Ben Tate to the mix, and Matt Asiata’s concussion, and this backfield is best avoided altogether on Sunday.

Fred Jackson, RB, Bills vs. Jets. Jackson claims that his team is at a disadvantage because they’ve been unable to practice due to the relentless snowfall in Buffalo. It’s hard to argue with that. Add in his nagging groin injury, the likelihood of a committee approach with Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown, and a quirky travel schedule and all bets are off for this running game.

Pierre Garcon, WR, Redskins at 49ers. Robert Griffin III is struggling again, and he appears to be losing the confidence of his teammates. Garcon has been virtually invisible since Griffin’s return, and the road gets tougher in San Francisco. DeSean Jackson is tough to sit, but Garcon isn’t worth the risk.

Percy Harvin, WR, Jets at Bills. There’s no telling how this star-crossed game will unfold. But given the Bills’ stingy secondary, and the still-developing chemistry between Harvin and Michael Vick, and the dual threat’s best chance of producing will likely be as a runner.

More thumbs down: QBs Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, Josh McCown, Ryan Tannehill, Michael Vick, Drew Stanton; RBs Ryan Mathews, Mark Ingram, Jonas Gray, Lamar Miller, Reggie Bush, Joique Bell, Bishop Sankey, Charles Sims; WRs Malcom Floyd, Doug Baldwin, Eric Decker, Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg Jennings, DeAndre Hopkins, Wes Welker, Kenny Britt, Larry Fitzgerald.

TAKING A FLIER

Brian Hoyer, QB, Browns at Falcons. Could Josh Gordon have picked a better week to return, given the sorry state of the Atlanta secondary? Though Hoyer probably won’t have Jordan Cameron (concussion) back just yet, he can alternate between both Gordon and Andrew Hawkins while picking apart one of the league’s passing doormats.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…fails to check the weather reports prior to setting your starting lineups. Forget Buffalo…forecasted winds and precipitation could wreak havoc on passing and kicking games in Chicago, Foxborough and New York as well.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Week 11 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to start…

QBs
Aaron Rodgers, Packers – Dominated the Eagles with 341 yards and 3 TDs, plus 32 rushing yards, without a turnover.
Jay Cutler, Bears – Threw 2 INTs, but rebounded from a rough few weeks with 330 passing yards and 3 TDs, plus 21 rushing yards.

RBs
Jonas Gray, Patriots – Holy guacamole! Gray burst onto the scene with 199 rushing yards and a whopping 4 TDs.
LeVeon Bell, Steelers – Rumbled over the Titans for 204 yards and a TD, plus 18 yards on 2 receptions.
Jamaal Charles, Chiefs – Raced for 159 yards and 2 TDs, and added 19 yards on 2 receptions. We’ll forgive the fumble.
Eddie Lacy, Packers – Rushed for 69 yards and a TD and caught 3 balls for 45 yards and another score.

WRs
Mike Evans, Buccaneers – Had a monster game with 7 receptions for 209 yards and 2 TDs.
Brandon Marshall, Bears – Reeled in 7 passes for 90 yards and 2 TDs.
Alshon Jeffery, Bears – Soared in PPR leagues with 11 catches for 135 yards and a TD.
Michael Floyd, Cardinals – Finally showed up again with 2 receptions for 54 yards and 2 TDs in the first quarter. (Then nothing else.)

TEs
Jermaine Gresham, Bengals – Scored on both his catches, which went for just 13 yards.

DSTs
Packers – Accumulated 3 sacks and 4 turnovers, and scored TDs on a punt return, an INT return and a fumble return.

This was a great week to play against…

QBs
Kyle Orton, Bills – Stymied by the Dolphins with just 193 yards, no scores and no turnovers.
Alex Smith, Chiefs – Passed for just 108 yards without a score (or a turnover).
Eli Manning, Giants – His 280-yard, 1-TD effort was outweighed by 5 INTs.
Peyton Manning, Broncos – His 389-yard, 1-TD, 2-INT outing wasn’t horrible, just so much worse than normal.
Matt Stafford, Lions – Just 183 passing yards and an INT without a TD.

RBs
Matt Asiata, Vikings – Once again, can’t be trusted after combining for 14 yards and no TDs.
Ahmad Bradshaw, Colts – Stuffed at the goal-line twice, and ended with 4 rushing yards and just 7 yards on 4 catches before leaving injured.
Raiders – Darren McFadden finished with 21 rushing yards while Maurice Jones-Drew had just 6.
Bobby Rainey, Bucs – Yielded to Charles Sims, gaining just 4 yards on the ground.
Andre Williams, Giants – Marginalized by Rashad Jennings’ return, with 2 rushing and 4 receiving yards.
Steven Jackson, Falcons – Just 41 rushing yards, plus 6 yards on 2 receptions, despite the favorable matchup.
DeAngelo Williams, Panthers – He also had just 41 rushing yards (and lost 3 yards on his only catch).
Jonathan Stewart, Panthers – Just 24 rushing and 15 receiving yards.
Terrance West, Browns – Only ran for 12 yards after giving up the starting job to Isaiah Crowell. Which was a lot better than Ben Tate’s minus-9 yards.

WRs
Pierre Garcon, Redskins – Had a 6-yarder.
Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs – Just 18 yards on 2 receptions.
Martavis Bryant, Steelers – Only 11 yards on 2 catches.
Tavon Austin, Rams – Held in check (again) with just 11 rushing and 10 receiving yards.
Sammy Watkins, Bills – Took 3 passes 32 yards.
Mike Wallace, Dolphins – He had 38 yards on 4 passes.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Vikings – Ran for 3 yards and caught 2 passes for 24 more.
Mohamed Sanu, Bengals – Limited to 3 catches for 23 yards.
Wes Welker, Broncos – Even with injuries to other receivers, finished with just 28 yards on 4 catches.
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals – Only 33 yards on a pair of catches.
DeSean Jackson, Redskins – Held to 35 yards on 4 receptions.
James Jones, Raiders – He also had 35 yards, on 2 catches.
T.Y. Hilton, Colts – Held in check with just 24 yards on 3 catches.
Golden Tate, Lions – Just 41 yards on 2 passes.
Calvin Johnson, Lions – You can’t hope for much better than 59 yards on 5 catches when you play against Megatron.

TEs
Julius Thomas, Broncos – Just 3 yards on 2 catches before leaving injured.
Vernon Davis, 49ers – Another awful day with a 7-yarder.
Travis Kelce, Chiefs – Only 37 yards on 3 passes, and lost a fumble.

Antonio Gates, Chargers – Stalled with 32 yards on 3 catches.