Welcome to the Tuesday Morning Buzz! Week 15, to me, was very decisive in fantasy but left a lot on the table in the NFL. As you’ll see, many teams who believed they were out of the hunt for weeks are all of a sudden fringe contenders for wild cards or division championships. For this reason, Weeks 16 and 17 should continue to provide fantasy output from most teams, as the Packers are the only team in the NFL with their playoff seed mathematically decided. Let’s get right into this week’s action:
Give credit to Matt Ryan and the Falcons passing game in this one. They still ran more than they passed (33 rushes to 32 passes), but Ryan looked great when he dropped back and completed 19 of 26 to the tune of 224 yards and three touchdowns. Had he thrown as many times as Brees or Rodgers normally would, you wouldn’t be able to tell the numbers apart. Add in that this Jaguar defense is nothing to be sneezed at and you have to be pretty impressed. Maybe, just maybe, after one more offseason, the Falcons will be ready to be a downfield offense (whether or not that will truly be an improvement is yet to be determined). For the Jags, MJD will be licking his chops to run against the Titans and then the Colts, but I wouldn’t touch any other guy in a Jaguars jersey. I don’t see any of them being trustworthy, even with the power of Shadid Khaaaaaaaaaaaan!
There are four Cowboys I feel good about if they are on my team in the championship round: Romo, Robinson, Austin, and Bryant. Romo threw three short-range touchdowns in this game, and each was caught by a different, dominant Cowboys receiver. This may seem like common-sense advice, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Felix Jones owners are all of a sudden feeling froggy against Philadelphia next week. Perhaps he’ll be a good flex play, but I’m looking hard at other options if I have a choice. For the Bucs, LeGarrette Blount and his teammates are a sit for the rest of the year. I’d rather have Roy Helu for the remainder of the season.
Reggie Bush has looked so good on the stat sheet this year. And I can’t believe how great his fantasy production has been. The Bills haven’t been great or even good against the run this year, but Reggie had only one 100-yard game before this season, and I’m not sure he ever carried the ball 25 times in any game for the Saints. For Bush, you’ve just got to close your eyes and start him. In the same breath, C.J. Spiller also looked fantastic against a better-than-you-think Dolphins run defense that shut down Fred Jackson earlier in the year. In some leagues, Spiller can be started at wide receiver, and in those leagues he is unsittable in future weeks. Next week he visits Tebow, who will likely use his divine right to keep Spiller at bay, but I still think Spiller will be passable as a starter in the championship round.
No Bears are a good start for the remainder of the year, despite their playing Green Bay next week. If you are in a super deep league, you may consider Kahlil Bell, as Marion Barber is done for the year (and perhaps his career) after he let the power of Tebow intimidate him last week. For the Seahawks, Marshawn Lynch only went into Beast Mode around the goal line on Sunday, but that was good enough. Lynch is the only one of the 106 men in uniform at this game that I would start in the playoffs. Next week is a scary matchup against the 49ers, but you had better believe he will cross the goal line at some point on Sunday.
Well, I guess Curtis Painter just isn’t that good. I had assumed that the Colts had given up and no one was trying, but maybe Painter just can’t play football that well. It appears that Orlovsky can at least bring the Colts to relevance. I wouldn’t start Reggie Wayne this weekend against an angry Texans D, but if he does happen to perform well against Houston, I would start him with utmost confidence against Jacksonville in Week 17. For the Titans, don’t even think about it. Yes, Locker is looking good, but don’t let any of this success fool you. These Titans are not offensively strong enough for you to put any of their WRs in your lineup, though you have to start CJ2K next week against the Jags and in Houston in Week 17.
I was certain the Giants were going to claim the division on a boneheaded Cowboy loss in Week 15 or 16. It appears that the opposite may have happened. The Cowboys came out of the week looking dominant, and the Giants came out with a home loss to an awful team. The Giants’ loss can be tied to one play in particular, when Hakeem Nicks broke free and Eli laid the ball in to him for a walk-in touchdown. The only catch (no pun intended) was, Nicks dropped the ball after it was well in the breadbasket and the rest was history. If the Giants had scored that touchdown, things wouldn’t have gotten desperate, and perhaps Eli wouldn’t have been forcing passes. For the next two weeks, the Giants offense should do well, as they are now backed into a wall for a playoff spot. Now it’s win out or go home. For the Skins, Helu is your only option to gamble on, and I’m well documented on how I feel about Shanahan running backs. That being said, Torain and Choice are apparently not even in consideration for play, so there really isn’t anyone for Shanahan to use as a substitute.
The Chiefs seem to be the first 2011 beneficiaries of the new coach bump. They had been playing great defense down the stretch and, with Romeo Crennel taking over, they drew blood from the seemingly invincible Green Bay Packers. The Packers are great and should be in the mix deep into the playoffs, but I have to wonder if this blemish may deflate a team that was riding a high of confidence. Neither the Bears nor the Lions play defense the way the Chiefs can, so I’m starting all Packers into the new year. For the Chiefs, I don’t love Oakland or Denver as the remaining opponents against this D and I am certainly not starting anyone else.
We will continue our discussion on MVP candidacy in just a moment. First though, I wonder how many fantasy seasons were ruined or made by the play of Brees the past two weeks. The Saints are absolutely on fire down the stretch and are looking to make a strong run in the playoffs. They play their final two games in the Superdome and should be playing hard for the No. 2 seed, though the Niners seem too good to give that up easily, so I’d keep starting all of the regulars. For the Vikings, Gerhart got two receiving touchdowns in a game where Peterson was healthy, but I wouldn’t count on that repeating. With Peterson likely back at full health next week, Gerhart should be dropped for more explosive options.
I have two corrections from last week’s article. First, I titled the argument “Brees for MVP,” which is misleading. I should’ve called it something else, as I’m not actually campaigning for Brees winning the regular-season MVP award. Rodgers’ passer rating and wins are simply too much for Brees to make up for in the limited amount of time remaining. My actual point was that Brees will emerge in history as having had a better year this year than Rodgers, and I think the playoffs will be the deciding factor in a statistically close regular season.
Also, my apologies on Rodgers’ fumbles. I read the stat line without doing the proper research, and that was my fault. Brees has turned the ball over far more often than Rodgers this season, and that in itself is nearly enough reason for Rodgers deserving the regular-season MVP.
Brees for MVP!
That all being said, Brees isn’t totally eliminated from the MVP argument. And I like the segment title, so that’s what we’re going with! Rodgers had a miserable week and Brees had one of his best of the season. Especially with human tendency to recall that which is most common, if Brees’ play goes up while the Packers begin to rest (No. 1 seed guaranteed, no perfect season chances), it is possible that Brees could end the year with highly favorable numbers. I’m not saying it is likely—Rodgers dominated for 13 weeks of the season—but it could happen. Let’s check the stat sheets.
As you can see, the race has significantly tightened. And again, with the Saints playing hard through Week 17 and the Packers possibly relaxing with nothing to play for, it’s not hard to see Brees leading Rodgers in nearly every category by year’s end. Add to this that Rodgers’ No. 1 target is out for the regular season, and there is a good chance that Brees ends the year with stronger numbers in most categories. Add all of the records that Brees is likely to break by year’s end, and you have a strong candidate for regular-season MVP. Again, this piece was not meant to say that Brees deserves the title of MVP, but that he has played well enough to be in the conversation with Rodgers and will perform over Rodgers’ head in the playoffs to emerge from the total season as the year’s best quarterback.
If you have Steven Jackson and, somehow, are still alive in your league, you have to ride him even though the Rams quite possibly have the hardest remaining schedule of any team in the NFL. Next week they travel to Pittsburgh, and then come home to find the 49ers waiting for them. For the rest of the Rams, don’t get cute. They have absolutely no other player to consider, even in a 20-team league. For the Bengals, they should be fighting until the end of the year for a playoff spot, so A.J. Green should continue to be a dominant force if he plays. Look for the Bengals to score especially high against the upcoming Cardinals.
The forecasting on these two teams is as easy as it gets. Play Cam Newton and Steve Smith for Carolina. Play Arian Foster for Houston. Anyone else is moot. The Texans play two fairly soft offenses in the coming weeks, so feel free to start their defense as well.
P.S. Is the normally stout AFC South the weakest division in football this year? If so, does that cheapen the fact that the Texans finally made it to the playoffs?
A battle of silly silver heads making silly silver penalties! Yours truly was let down by Kevin Smith (a waiver wire pick-up this week) and Eli Manning (who I traded Carson Palmer for). For Smith, I do like his chances the remaining two weeks against the Chargers in Detroit and then traveling to Green Bay in Week 17. For Palmer and company, I don’t like any Raiders next week against the mighty Chiefs, and I’m only marginally excited for a Week 17 against a Chargers team that is fighting hard to somehow climb back to a playoff spot. If you’ve held on to McFadden thus far, I can’t imagine keeping him on the bench for the championship round. There has to be someone out there to take away from your opponent, even if you won’t start them.
Peyton Hillis came back strong this weekend, but not strong enough. And his remaining schedule includes Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Yikes. Better luck next year, buddy. For the Cardinals, Fitz is looking good for his remaining two games against a Bengals D that hasn’t been airtight and a Seattle team in Glendale. I’d temper your expectations though, as neither of those teams are mathematically eliminated and will be playing hard to see postseason afterlife.
Speaking of those not mathematically eliminated, how ‘bout them Eagles! Yes, believe it or not, they could still win the division. My money is still on the New York Football Giants, but you had better believe that the Eagles know it’s possible. I’m not saying that you should be playing Brent Celek over Jermichael Finley, but look for the Philadelphia skill position players to make an impact as they too are clawing towards the light. It is, in my opinion, highly unlikely that the Jets will make the post season. They face a motivated and embarrassed Giants team and then travel to a suddenly hostile environment against a hot Miami team. The Jets could win either or both of those games, but I don’t see it happening, and I don’t like any of their offensive players for the remainder either. I’m just saying, I’d rather have Lance Ball than Shonne Greene.
Well, as Jesus (Jason Sudakis) put it on SNL this past Saturday, “If I’m God’s son, Tom Brady must be his nephew!” Ok, I’m kidding. I actually think this was Belichick’s game-planning ability more than it was any Patriot’s dominance at their position. Against a defense that wasn’t going to allow the underneath game to be successful, the Patriots went deep to Ochocinco (What?!?) and Hernandez. Add three rushing touchdowns (including one by Brady), and you’ve got a stat line that defies the reality of New England’s 2011 offense. Tebow (the man, not the team) continued to have an outstanding fantasy day and, may I say, looked passable on the football field for all four quarters. Always keep in mind that John Fox reached the Super Bowl with a team very similar to this. Great defense, great running game, and a quarterback that keeps defenses honest. As for keeping defenses honest, who would you rather have as your starting quarterback, Jake Delhomme or Tim Tebow? Case in point.
The league that means most to me is a standard 10-team league with a pair of two-week playoff rounds. I entered week two as +14, but Calvin Johnson brought me down to -5 heading into Sunday night. It was my Ryan Mathews versus my opponent’s Ravens DST with no one to play on Monday. Boy, oh boy, am I glad for that December Chargers offense. These guys look like world-beaters right now, and I wouldn’t be overly surprised if two easy matchups in Detroit and Oakland get them into the playoffs. For the Ravens, the story is lackluster play on the road. Cross-country games are usually tough, but watch for this loss to have cost Baltimore their division in the long run. And as we have seen, if these Ravens go on the road in the playoffs, they’re not likely to stay alive. For fear of this, watch for the Ravens offensive players to be on fire the remaining two weeks. They have Cleveland in Baltimore and then travel out to Cincinnati, both of which will be looking to ruin the Ravens’ season.
$#^% Chris Collinsworth Says
Speaking of being on the road, I am actually in Ohio with my in-laws for this and next Sunday for the holidays. For this reason, I was unable to catch the audio of the newly elected “least favorite NFL commentator” by the NFL players in Sports Illustrated’s newest poll and will be unable to hear him next weekend as well. Please let me know if I miss out on anything!
There were two main stories for this game. For the Steelers, as with their counterpart in Baltimore, the on-the-road play is definitely lacking. The Steelers had a chance to take the division Monday night and, instead, nearly sealed their fate as a wild card. I know Ben is hurt and better days are coming, but this was a poor showing. For the 49ers, they deserve credit for an intense pass rush and great coverage. The Steelers offense is built on the assumption that Roethlisberger can’t be sacked, so if you can get him, you have them beat. Vernon Davis is going to be a great asset in the final two weeks of the season, for both the 49ers and his fantasy owners. Look for San Francisco to stay hot as they try to protect their round-one bye.
And that’s it! Week 15 was only a prelude to the action forthcoming as the regular season ends in a blaze of glory. Watch for all teams to be at their very best, as nearly every playoff spot is still up for grabs. Each fantasy point is worth exponentially more than the one before it now, so remember to be very judicious and calm in your lineup selection. Week 16 is the time to look for consistent and “guaranteed” points. If you get down big, then go out on a limb in Week 17; but for now, keep your cool and ride the horse that got you here.