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Dave’s Take: Fantasy Football Tips, News & Notes – Week 17

By: — December 30, 2011 @ 11:08 am
Filed under: Player Analysis

1. With the regular season about to end, several coaches around the league will have their fate decided over the next week with several pink slips expected to be handed out this coming Monday. Jacksonville (Jack Del Rio), Kansas City (Todd Haley) and Miami (Tony Sparano) fired their opening day coaches in midseason and there are four more potential firings. Let’s start in San Diego where Norv Turner has been rumored to be a coaching casualty for weeks. Perennial contenders and 2007 AFC Conference finalists in Turner’s initial season, he was not able to build on early success and with this week’s 38-10 blowout loss to the Lions, the Chargers will miss the postseason for a second consecutive season. That is not an acceptable result to owner Dean Spanos given the team’s talented personnel and Turner will almost certainly pay the price on Monday.

2.In St. Louis, the rumors have been flying wildly about who will replace Steve Spagnolo but there are just as many reports that owner Stan Kroenke will stick with him for a fourth season in 2012. With a 10-37 record during his three-year stay and this year’s 2-13 record heading into a Week 17 matchup against the 49ers, the numbers would indicate that this should be Spagnolo’s last season in St. Louis. However, injuries to key personnel have decimated the Rams at quarterback, along the offensive line and in the defensive backfield which may prompt Kroenke to bring Spagnolo back for the final year of his contract in 2012. If Spagnolo is let go, he will be a hot defensive coordinator option with the Eagles and Giants the front runners to secure his services.

3. While Spagnolo appears to be the head coach most likely to be fired outside of Turner, the Bucs Raheem Morris has earned that distinction. After finishing with a surprisingly solid 10-6 record in his second season as the team’s head coach, the Bucs have slumped badly in 2011, currently sitting at 4-11 and in the midst of a nine game losing streak. A closer look reveals that the Bucs 2010 record was more than a bit misleading, with five wins of three points or less, a schedule that included the weak NFC West and just one win against a quality opponent (a Week 17 win against a New Orleans team that had nothing to play for and pulled several starters in the fourth quarter). Look for general manager Mark Dominik to jettison Morris and the Bucs to move in another direction. With a talented young roster, the Tampa Bay job should attract plenty of solid coaching candidates.

4. Other coaches on the hot seat include Indy’s Jim Caldwell, the Eagles Andy Reid and the Giants Tom Coughlin. Caldwell has been hamstrung by a squad that was devoid of talent behind Peyton Manning and his future seems tied to Manning’s. If Manning returns, the team will likely attempt to re-sign many of their veteran free agents and bring Caldwell back in an attempt to make a Super Bowl run. While Reid has taken plenty of criticism for his team’s poor season, he is the league’s most tenured coach and his comments in recent weeks seem to indicate that he is secure for the 2012 season. The Giants have been perhaps the league’s most inconsistent team in 2011 but can reach the post-season with a win this week in a home game against a Cowboys squad whose quarterback will be playing with a bum throwing hand. If Coughlin’s Giants squeak into the postseason, he likely secures his return for next season.

AP won't be a first-rounder in 2012.

5. Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson suffered a gruesome knee injury this week against the Redskins, tearing both the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee. While the Vikings have said they expect their star running back to be ready for the 2012 season opener, that assumption may be a bit unrealistic given that he will have a recovery period of just over eight months, a short period of time for that type of injury. Peterson is a possibility to open next season on the physically unable to perform list which would require him to miss at least the first six games of the season. Even if he is ready by opening day, he will not be the same player he was prior to the injury for at least the 2012 season. Based on that prognosis, Peterson should rank no better than an upper tier RB2 for next year and Toby Gerhart merits consideration as an early season flex option in larger leagues.

6. Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson announced this week that he may retire at the conclusion of this season. A free agent at season’s end, Tomlinson has assumed a traditional backup role to starter Shonn Greene after being used in more of a timeshare role during his initial season in New York (2010). With just 224 rushing yards to go along with 38 receptions for 426 yards, Tomlinson ceased being a useful flex option for fantasy purposes. Having spent 4th round draft picks on Joe McKnight in 2010 and Bilal Powell this season, the Jets seem unlikely to spend a high draft pick in the 2012 draft to find Greene’s backup for next season. Dynasty leaguers should consider McKnight the frontrunner to assume that role although he did little as a rookie and has struggled to run the ball effectively during his first two years in the league. In the only start of his career, he carried the ball 32 times for 158 yards against Buffalo in Week 17 of the 2010 season.

Tuesday Morning Buzz – Week 16

By: — December 27, 2011 @ 12:35 pm
Filed under: Player Analysis

Welcome to Tuesday Morning Buzz! As the dust settles on Week 16, all but one NFC and two AFC playoff spots are decided. In the NFC, the Giants and Cowboys will decide the division winner next Sunday; in the AFC, the West is still open and there is room for one more wild card. In addition, this week was a fantastic display of why the NFL is the most entertaining league in the world.

Dan Orlovsky for MVP! Alright, it could be pride that has fueled the past couple of wins for the Colts, but what an interesting situation the world’s greatest competition for the No. 1 draft pick has become. St. Louis and Indianapolis both have two wins at the end of Week 16, and Minnesota is only one behind. Ironically, all three of these teams already have quarterbacks with a lot of promise. It should be an interesting Week 17 at the bottom of the totem pole this year… For the Texans, it was the Arian Foster show, as it should have been. Foster should easily be the No. 1 fantasy pick again next year, and consider yourself in good shape if you get him.

The 49ers have a fantastic record in the regular season and have played some outstanding defense all year. This team reminds me of the Jets of the past few years and the Titans in their final year with Haynesworth. While the defense is outstanding, the offense is underwhelming. I’m curious whether this defense can keep an offense like New Orleans or Green Bay under 30 points so that the offense can ride its coattails. Four field goals and one touchdown will not keep the Niners alive in the playoffs. For the Hawks, the only bit of information you need to know is that Marshawn Lynch has come into his own in Seattle. He was a hard runner in Buffalo, but he has gone full-on Beast Mode in Seattle. With that said, look forward to paying way too high a price for Lynch next year. Yours truly will not be buying the hype for a third-round pick.

This was the game I thought Dallas would play last week against Tampa, but the Buccaneers are so painfully awful that the Cowboys could have shot themselves in both feet and still come away with a win. Now, Romo did go down this week with only two passes and no completions, but this Eagles defense has been far from stout all season. If you lose in a shootout without your star quarterback, then that’s the breaks. If you lose 20-7 against an underachieving defense, even without your star quarterback, then that’s on you. That being said, I’m starting all the Dallas starters I can get my hands on in Week 17, as that will likely be the most meaningful game next week. For the Eagles, McCoy was an utter disappointment because of an ankle injury. I sure hope all you McCoy owners didn’t get eliminated due to one stinker!

P.S. Speaking of McCoy, he is likely to be in competition with Arian Foster for No. 1 next year. He’ll be good, but I think the game plan may change with a fresh season; I’d go with Foster with the first overall.

C.J. Spiller: Will there be a timeshare in Buffalo next year?

Well, just when the sportscasters were starting to believe, Tebow has hit a two- game slide. I can’t believe he allowed the Bills to score 40 points. After all, he was responsible for 100 percent of the points scored by Denver (extra points excluded), but it turns out that one man can’t win a game alone. Seems as though conventional wisdom and Tebow are the only things that played out for Denver on Saturday. Tebow is likely to be a high draft pick next year if his status doesn’t change as starter, but I’m way too worried about injury in this option offense to take a chance on him. Unless he drops into the eighth or ninth round, I’m probably finding someone else. For the Bills, C.J. Spiller is proving he was worth the first-round pick. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, this means that a timeshare is likely to evolve in Buffalo next year. This will likely result in a situation similar to Carolina’s backfield, where the great play-making ability of each running back will be either neutralized or minimized. Looks for Jackson to go too high; but Spiller may be a steal, especially in leagues where he can play as either a wide receiver or a running back.

The best thing in this game was Jerome Simpson’s awesome front-flip touchdown. Seriously, did you see that thing? Better than Reggie Bush’s 5-yard leap into the end zone from a year ago. If you haven’t seen it, YouTube it. Dalton also left a present for daring fantasy owners by rushing for 48 yards on top of his usually stellar passing numbers. For the Cards, Larry Fitzgerald also stuffed your stocking with 105 yards and touchdown. I hope that was enough to keep you going, as this Cardinals offense hasn’t generated all the points we had hoped for in the offseason. Look for Fitzgerald to be a quiet (and smart) second-round pick next year.

The Titans decided to put Hasselbeck back in at quarterback in hopes of passing the Bengals for a playoff spot, and, at least against the Jaguars, it worked. At this point, I would have been looking to see what the talented Jake Locker could do with the playoffs on the line. I can see the value of a veteran quarterback in the playoff crunch, but the chances were so slim that I would have let the draft pick pay for itself. For the Jags, MJD got his weekly touchdown and also pulled out 100 yards. He is has been a draft day mystery, as his injury and concerns over the dismal offense weigh against elite talent. If MJD falls to the late second or third round next year, I’m picking him up, starting him, and never watching him play.

P.S. Jags games are usually blacked out anyway, so you may not have to worry about seeing too many MJD performances.

Despite all the hype over Carson Palmer, Darren McFadden, Michael Bush, the speed of their receivers, et cetera, the two most important players on the Raiders’ roster both play on special teams. Shane Lechler is an absolute weapon in the field position game, and Sebastian Janikowski is MVP of the team. I would be letting Janikowski kick every time he’s within 65 (and maybe even 70) yards of the goal post, especially if I’m down in the fourth quarter. For the Chiefs, I don’t know how much fantasy advice there is, but the Kansas City defense has really turned their season around. Look for Romeo Crennel to be the head coach next season and for Jamaal Charles to be the centerpiece of a conservative run-first offense. Charles will likely be a draft day steal, as concern over his knee injury will be front page.

As has been rehashed multiple times this year, the Dolphins haven’t really had a quarterback since Dan Marino. As far as this season is concerned, the quarterback position has been especially vexing. In the Christmas spirit, I’ll let my main man Charles Dickens describe it to you:

“ Henne was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the head coach, the athletic director, the physical therapist, and the chief fanbase. Bill Parcells signed it: and Moore’s name was good upon ‘Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Henne was dead as a door-nail.”

After Henne’s loss of the reins, Matt Moore came in and the awfulness of the Dolphins could only be out-stunk by the Colts’ lackluster play. However, when the Dolphins saw that they might be able to get a premier first-round quarterback, they promptly went out and played the most dominant football they have played since Marino was breaking records. Now they are not only miles away from the first pick, they’re one win away from not even finishing last in their division! Can you imagine if the Bills get Matt Barkley or another great quarterback and Miami has to stick with Matt Moore?

P.S. You don’t need my help with the Patkowskis. Start Gost and Gron, Brady and Welker always.

Hopefully now the inane “Eli Manning for MVP” talk can officially die. I don’t know how many sportscasters I’ve heard drone on about how Tebow’s play is unsustainable and all of the comebacks are luck, and in the next breath say that Eli deserves MVP due to his fourth-quarter comebacks. Just because Peyton is out doesn’t mean we need to over-glorify someone else with Manning as their last name. Eli has been phenomenal, but frankly his brother has proven to be far more important to his team without even taking a snap. If Victor Cruz had not turned a short pass into a 99-yard touchdown, Manning’s day could’ve turned out truly awful. That being said, the same logic that applies to the Cowboys applies to the Giants next week: Get all of the starters out there. For the Jets, I wouldn’t start any of them if I could help it. They are in the thick of it for a wild-card spot, but they’re playing in Miami where the passion to be mediocre next year is in full force.

If you are a Steelers opponent, the last thing you want to do is play their style of football. Clemens and Batch are almost washes at quarterback, and their general ineffectiveness prevents any wide receiver talent from outshining the other. This leaves it up to running backs and the defense to win the game. When that happens, the Steelers will beat you 27-0. The Rams need an offense in a bad, bad, way. Yours truly is a Sam Bradford believer, but he’s got to be drooling over even the Seattle and Denver receiving corps at this point. For the Steelers, I don’t want anybody but Mendenhall and their DST next week. Without Roethlisberger, I don’t want any part of the passing game, especially in Cleveland where the atmosphere kills offenses.

Adrian Peterson will not be ready for the beginning of next season and the quality of the Minnesota offense will be called into question. If Peterson drops, you have to pick him up and stash him for the second half. All Day could be the steal of next year’s draft. Minnesota brings a Bears team to the Metrodome in Week 17, and Toby Gerhart and Percy Harvin should have mildly successful days. For the Skins, Graham Gano did his best David Akers impression and tried to carry the team on his back. Unfortunately for him, he doesn’t have the San Francisco defense backing him up.

P.S. Do you remember earlier this year when Shanahan offered a glowing review of Ryan Torain? In fact, remember when he drafted Ryan Torain? Well, after being a healthy scratch last week, Torain got four carries to the 19 of the immortal Evan Royster. Yikes.

In Week 16, the Panthers scored 48 points against a Buccaneers defense that allowed the hot-as-soft-serve San Francisco offense an equal amount in Week 5. In Week 17, the Panthers are headed to New Orleans and the Superdome. Needless to say, the Saints will likely score more points and will thus provide fewer chances for Williams and Stewart to repeat their Week 16 performances. Look for these two to lose a lot of championship rounds for a lot of fantasy owners. For the Buccaneers, it’s best to just hope your influential coach makes it through this sophomore slump and is allowed to come back next year. Tampa is another team that I would not trust Week 17 to.

Just when every last fantasy owner dropped Peyton Hillis with only Baltimore and Pittsburgh remaining, he showed up against a tough run defense for 112 yards. I wouldn’t count on that continuing next week, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Hillis gets started and loses a lot of championship matchups as well. Stay away from him if you can help it. For the Ravens, this was not a game to remember. If Ray Rice hadn’t taken a pass 42 yards to the house, Seneca Wallace may have bested Joe Flacco in the all-important passer rating stat. If the Browns prove to be more efficient than you in any facet of the game, especially in passing, you have serious issues. Look for the Ravens to try to swing back and prove themselves next week against the Bengals.

My preseason favorite San Diego Chargers ended their season with a whimper as they got unceremoniously blown out by Detroit at Ford Field. Look for an angry Chargers team to be at their best and put up a lot of points in the final weeks of the season as they first head to Oakland. There is no one the Chargers hate more than the Raiders. They will try their best to wreak havoc on Oakland’s postseason hopes. For the Lions, they head to Green Bay and try to get the No. 5 seed to play the winner of the NFC East rather than the Saints or 49ers. Look for the suddenly reignited Detroit offense to put up a metric ton of points against a leaky Green Bay defense, even in Green Bay. Start Kevin Smith in all formats.

As the MVP race between Rodgers and Brees comes to a close, Rodgers made a fantastic statement for his case. This season, 283 yards seems almost disappointing, but five touchdowns is still more than impressive. Rodgers’play has been truly dominant this year, and I don’t believe it has been stated as firmly as it was on Saturday. When James Jones—who is not Greg Jennings—comes in for 50 yards and two touchdowns against a good defense, you know it’s the quarterback making it happen. However, look for the Packers to rest their starters after a quarter or two next week, as the game is meaningless for their seed or advantage. As for the Bears, their season was likely done weeks ago when Cutler went down, was nearly sealed when Forte followed, and is now over mathematically. Kahlil Bell is the only Bear, including their defense, that you want next week, and I’m not too excited about him.

$#^% Chris Collinsworth Says
Betty White on her excitement for Monday Night Football:

“I’ve been screaming “Who Dat!” at my cats since breakfast!”

This was a fantastic game. All the talk of stats, records, and playoff seeding was a godsend for a fantasy/statistics lover such as myself. On top of that, two quarterbacks put on elite displays, and a mess of offensive stars put on a show. Best MNF game of the year!

As stated above, what an amazing game! There was a lull for a majority of the third and fourth quarters, but it all turned around as Brees broke Dan Marino’s single-season yardage record. A great comparison made during the game was that Marino broke the record at 90 yards more per game than his competitors, but in a year where quarterbacks are breaking yardage records all over, Brees was 98 yards better than the average of his competitors. Start all your Saints next week as they will try to add on to their individual records and, more importantly, try to get a first-round bye. For the Falcons, it was 61 pass attempts versus 14 rush attempts (two of which were scrambles by Ryan). They were down by two or more scores for the majority of the game, but it just goes to prove that this passing game cannot do it alone.

P.S. Sadly, I think Turner has reached the end of his dominant days. The Falcons have made liberal use of the mighty running back and he may be prematurely wearing down. I’m not certain he will make it back to a starter’s role once his current contract is up.

Brees for MVP!

QB Comparison
Brees Rodgers
Wins: 12 Wins: 14
Passer Rating: 108.4 Passer Rating: 122.5
ESPN Total QBR: 85.2 ESPN Total QBR: 82.7
Yards: 5,087 Yards: 4,643
Yards per Attempt: 8.18 Yards per Attempt: 9.25
Touchdowns: 41 Touchdowns: 45
Interceptions: 13 Interceptions: 6
Fumbles: 0 Fumbles: 3 (0 lost)
Completion %: 70.7 Completion %: 68.3
Completions/Attempt: 440/622 Completions/Attempt: 343/502

Just a quick update on the stats for the MVP race. Rodgers certainly has the edge on touchdowns and interceptions (though I wouldn’t blame either quarterback for a single one of the INTs on their stat sheet). I urge you to look deeper into the stats if you’re interested (total first downs, third down conversion percentage, etc) and find that if you balance it all, the stats are dead even or barely in Rodgers’ favor (see Total QBR). And with the benefit of the Dan Marino record and the lovefest on Monday Night Football, the hype battle may also be even. I will not be surprised if Rodgers wins the MVP, but unless something drastic happens in Week 17, I will always argue that Brees deserved the honor. Even if Brees doesn’t get it, I still believe the playoffs will tip the scales in his favor, post Super Bowl, which has always been my contention.

And that’s it! Week 16 was another action-packed display of amazing talent, fire, and passion that proved why we all stuck through the annoying lockout media circus mumbo jumbo all summer. Next week, look for playoff contending teams to be the staples of your lineups, and leave players from teams like the Patriots and Packers on your bench if you have the option. Let me know how you’re doing in your fantasy leagues with one week left… I’d love to hear about it!

Dave’s Take: Fantasy Football Tips, News & Notes – Week 16

By: — December 23, 2011 @ 11:25 am
Filed under: Player Analysis

Are these the final days for Manning in Indy?

1. In what has to rank as a major surprise, Colts owner Jim Irsay revealed that if Peyton Manning regains his health, the future Hall of Fame quarterback will be back with Indianapolis for the 2012 season. At the same time, Irsay also said that if there was a quarterback in the draft, the Colts would not hesitate to draft one. Irsay’s comments are the clearest signal yet that the Colts will take the high road with their long time star quarterback and draft Stanford’s Andrew Luck if Indianapolis finishes the season as the league’s last ranked team. That possibility seemed a foregone conclusion two weeks ago but wins over Tennessee and Houston have given the Colts a chance to finish ahead of the Minnesota Vikings and St. Louis Rams. If the Colts win at Jacksonville in Week 17 and the Rams and Vikings both lose their last two games, the Colts will lose the opportunity to select Luck. If Irsay is to be taken at his word, there are only two scenarios in which Manning does not suit up for Indianapolis next year. First, he doesn’t regain his health. Second, he requests to be released or traded to another team, paving the way for Luck or another rookie quarterback to start a new era in Indianapolis in 2012.

2. With the firing of Todd Haley in Kansas City, defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel took over as the team’s interim coach and was given little to no chance of succeeding Haley as the team’s next head coach. However, an upset win last week over the previously undefeated Green Bay Packers and some help from other teams has given the Chiefs an opportunity to win the AFC West division crown for a second consecutive year. If the Chiefs beat the Raiders at home this week and the Broncos lose to the Bills, next week’s Chiefs-Broncos game in Denver could decide the division winner provided San Diego does not win both of their final games (road games in Detroit and Oakland). If the Chiefs somehow pull that off, Crennel could be the head man in Kansas City in 2012.

3. Bills fans in Buffalo couldn’t have been too pleased when owner Ralph Wilson announced this week that the team is in talks to continue playing games in Toronto in upcoming seasons. While the Bills haven’t received much, if any, of a home field advantage when playing in Toronto, the arrangement has been a lucrative one for the small market team with Buffalo receiving a staggering $78-million for allowing Toronto to host eight games. If Rogers Communications, which hosts the Toronto games, is willing to approach the $10-million per game mark, Wilson will almost certainly take them up on their offer. In his recap of the season, Wilson also indicated that he was pleased with the play of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick but that he needed help on offense, particularly at wide receiver. Those comments seem to indicate that Fitzpatrick will lead the team for at least the next few years and that wide receiver Steve Johnson, a free agent at season’s end, will be back in Buffalo on a long term contract extension or as a franchise player.

4. Browns head coach Pat Shurmur refused to endorse Colt McCoy as his starting quarterback when he returns from the concussion he suffered against Pittsburgh in Week 14. That means Seneca Wallace could finish the season as the team’s starter, leading the team this week against Baltimore and in Week 17 against the Steelers. If that transpires, McCoy will not have another chance this season to prove to Browns management that he should be the team’s starter in 2012. With general manager Tom Heckert stating that the team has seen enough of McCoy to evaluate him and McCoy showing only minor improvement over his 2010 rookie season, his only hope of entering next season as the team’s starter is if Heckert and the team’s management determines the lack of playmakers on offense is what is held McCoy back from making a big leap forward in 2011.

5. The Cardinals quietly placed linebacker Joey Porter on injured reserve this week, ending his season and likely signaling the end of the career of one of the league’s most colorful players. Porter suffered a knee injury that kept him out of much of this season but Arizona has been pleased with the player of young linebackers such as Sam Acho and O’Brien Schofield, making Porter’s return in 2012 unlikely. He had stints in Pittsburgh and Miami before signing with Arizona prior to the 2010 season and accumulated 98 sacks during his 13-year career.

6. Rams running back Steven Jackson has been remarkably consistent despite playing for a St. Louis team that has been consistently bad since he entered the league in the 2004 draft. Aside from his rookie season when Jackson split carries with Marshall Faulk, he has topped 1,000 rushing yards every season and is on the verge of his seventh consecutive season of reaching that plateau, sitting just 34 yards shy of the mark heading into this week’s game in Pittsburgh. If Jackson reaches the 1,000 yard mark for a seventh consecutive season, he will become only the seventh player in league history to accomplish that feat.

7. Bills second-year running back C.J. Spiller was on the verge of being labeled a bust prior to his improved play since taking over for the injured Fred Jackson beginning in Week 11. However, head coach Chan Gailey ended any speculation that Spiller might take over as the team’s starter next season, stating that Spiller lacked Jackson’s size and that he wasn’t a 20 plus carry a week player. Although Spiller won’t unseat Jackson in the starting line up, his run of solid performances ensures that he will be a solid flex option in 2012.

Moving Up, Moving Down – Week 16

By: — December 22, 2011 @ 1:54 pm
Filed under: Player Analysis


Moving Up

Rex Grossman, Redskins
Should you get to be Moving Up (an acclaimed distinction to be sure) after a 15 of 24, 183 yard, one touchdown, two-interception performance? No way, Jose. But this isn’t a normal week and with fantasy finals on tap; those in desperate need of a quarterback could do worse than Grossman. The two picks last week against the Giants weren’t bad ones and Grossman has topped 20 fantasy points in three of his last five outings. The Vikings 29th ranked pass defense comes to Washington this week and that’s a tasty match up.

Moving Down

Too risky to start in Week 16.

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
If Big Ben owners weren’t done in by his horrendous performance this week against the 49ers (330 yards and no touchdowns isn’t bad unless you play in a league that penalizes turnovers of which he had four last week), then you might be looking for options this week. With the Rams coming to Pittsburgh, the Steelers could probably start their mascot and come up with a win. There are whispers that Roethlisberger will not start but even if he does, expect Pittsburgh to play conservatively and yank him if (when?) they get a big lead.

Running Backs

Moving Up

Reggie Bush, Dolphins
Dolphins management told us that Bush would be the featured back in 2011 and I guess we should have believed them. With 203 rushing yards this week against the Bills, he is just 16 yards shy of the first 1,000 rushing yard season of his six-year career and not many saw that coming. Bush is on pace to finish the season with 1,337 total yards and eight touchdowns and is currently the 12th ranked fantasy running back and will finish in the top ten since he will likely surpass both Fred Jackson and Matt Forte, who are both injured. With the Patriots and Jets up next, expect a strong finish to the season from Bush.

C.J. Spiller, Bills
I basically crapped all over Spiller when Fred Jackson was lost for the season but the 2010 1st round pick has looked reasonably decent over the past three weeks, topping double digit fantasy points twice. This week against the Dolphins, Spiller had the best game of his career, setting career highs in rushing yards (91 on 12 carries) and receiving yards (76 on nine receptions) while scoring twice. The Bills aren’t overworking Spiller (he has topped 14 carries just once since taking over for Jackson) but he certainly made the most of his touches this week.

Kahlil Bell, Bears
I put him here last week due to his modest production and he surprised on the high side this week, gaining 65 yards on 15 carries and 43 yards and a touchdown on five receptions. The Bears played from behind against the Seahawks so that helped increase Bell’s playing time but it’s not like Marion Barber is a chump as a receiver, having caught 52 passes during the 2008 season. The other reason he played more is that he looked good the previous two weeks, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. If you’re desperate for a flex, Bell’s not a bad option.

Donald Brown, Colts
Joseph Addai starts but Brown is getting the majority of the work and a significant amount of carries on a regular basis. Since Week 9, Brown has 15 or more touches in five or six games, getting just ten touches during Week 14’s loss to the Ravens where the Colts played from behind. He has hit double digit fantasy points in three or his last four games, scoring touchdowns in three of those games. At this point, Brown ranks as a low end RB2 or decent flex option and with president Bill Polian excluding running back from the list of team needs, he shapes up as the favorite to open the 2012 season as the team’s starter at the position.

Lance Ball, Broncos
A brutal fumble by Ball this week cost the Broncos big time against the Patriots but he managed a very respectable fantasy performance with 64 rushing yards, 41 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns on a healthy 13 touches. Willis McGahee’s hamstring isn’t expected to keep him out this week against the Bills but he seems to pull up lame plenty and the Bills have a run defense (ranked 29th) that’s been generous to opposing running backs.

Moving Down

Adrian Peterson, Vikings
What a kick in the groin for AP owners this week. Back in the starting line up and facing a middling Saints run defense, Peterson owners were expecting a big day but the Vikings coaching staff had other plans, giving the rock to the talented running back just ten times. He was productive, gaining 60 yards on those carries, but he wasn’t used in the passing game and backup Toby Gerhart chipped in two receiving touchdowns. Ouch. Maybe the Vikes are protecting their investment with the season already a write off.

Michael Turner, Falcons
Turner was decent this week against the Jaguars with 61 yards and a touchdown but he hasn’t put up a great performance since Week 6 against the Panthers. A combination of a groin injury and simply wearing down late in the season has led to a decline in his performance over the past four weeks. Despite some decent matchups (Vikings, Texans, Panthers, Jaguars), Turner has just 241 yards and a touchdown on 73 carries over the last four weeks while averaging a paltry 3.3 yards per carry.

Wide Receivers

Moving Up

Demaryius Thomas, Broncos
Thomas gets the Moving Up designation two weeks in a row and his last season performance should have him Moving Up the 2012 rankings at wide receiver. He is clearly Denver’s number one wide receiver (sorry, Eric Decker owners, but this one was easy to see coming) with a whopping 33 targets over the Broncos last three games. This week against the Patriots, Thomas caught seven more balls for 116 yards, bringing his three game totals to 18 receptions for 338 yards and three touchdowns. Up next are the Bills and their leaky secondary in Week 16.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders
At this point in his career, DHB isn’t nearly the enigma he was over the first two years of his career. The enigma is Raiders head coach Hue Jackson and his inconsistent use of his talented third year wide receiver. This week against the Lions, Heyward-Bey was a big part of the game plan with the Raiders feeding him the ball on shorter patterns with Detroit’s cornerbacks playing soft coverage and also taking a couple of deep shots. End result: eight receptions for 155 yards and a touchdown on nine targets. That was the best game of his young career but it won’t be a surprise if he barely sees the ball in a must win game for Oakland in Week 16 against the Chiefs.

Julio Jones, Falcons
Looks like the hammy is fine. And, no, I don’t mean the Christmas ham. Okay, that was awful but it’s good to be generous at this time of the year. And, yeah, I know it was the back that was the issue with Jones this week. Anyway, he took advantage of a truly awful Jaguars secondary this week, catching five of six targets for 85 yards and a score, one week after lighting up the Panthers for 104 yards and a pair of scores. Absolutely a must start in all leagues with the Saints (27th ranked pass defense) and Bucs (25th) on tap.

Steve Smith, Panthers
After a four-game drought where Smith caught 15 passes for 174 yards and a score, he has come on over the last two weeks, topping double digits in games against the Falcons and Texans. Smith and quarterback Cam Newton are back on the same page with Smith catching 11 of his 15 targets over the last two games for 207 yards and a touchdown. The Bucs 25th ranked defense is on tap in Week 16 so another double-digit fantasy performance seems likely.

Moving Down

Reggie Wayne, Colts
Wayne has been a huge disappointment in 2011, struggling to be productive without Peyton Manning at quarterback for the Colts. Barring a near miracle, he will finish with fewer than 1,000 yards for the first time since the 2003 season, ending a streak of seven consecutive seasons above that plateau. He is staggering towards the end of the season, with just 129 yards on 12 receptions over the last three games, although he did manage to find the end zone this week against the Titans. Unfortunately for Wayne owners, the Colts finish the 2011 season at home against the Texans and in Jacksonville against the 2nd and 4th rated pass defenses in the league. To be fair, the Jaguars offer some hope given their banged up secondary but that Week 17 match up won’t be of much use in most fantasy leagues.

Austin Pettis, Rams
Dynasty leaguers take note. Pettis made a small amount of noise this year as a 3rd round pick out of Boise State and with Brandon Lloyd a free agent at season’s end and no other receiver having stepped up to claim a spot in the starting line up, Pettis had a chance to compete for a starting spot in 2012. However, a four game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs ensures Pettis backup status remains in tact for next season.

Tight Ends

Moving Up

Brent Celek, Eagles
Do you get the feeling the Eagles are utilizing more screens to help keep Michael Vick happy? This week against the blitz happy Jets, Celek set a career high with 156 receiving yards this week on five receptions while catching a 26-yard touchdown. Since being reintroduced to the game plan eight weeks ago, Celek has 558 receiving yards. Philadelphia gets Dallas this week and look for plenty of screens as the Eagles try to slow down Cowboys pass rushing linebacker DeMarcus Ware.

Moving Down

Jason Witten, Cowboys
Witten owners should maybe rejoice. I had Calvin Johnson Moving Down last week based on a string of subpar performances and all he did was have the best game of his career with 214 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns, including the game winning score in the final minute against the Raiders. I love when that happens! Witten was decent this week against a porous Bucs secondary, catching four passes for 77 yards, but over his past four games, he has 16 receptions for 179 yards. That’s 4.5 points per game, folks, not what you’re looking for from your stud tight end when the fantasy matchups count the most.

Tuesday Morning Buzz – Week 15

By: — December 20, 2011 @ 12:10 pm
Filed under: Player Analysis

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 exceeded expectations in 2011.

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.

QB Comparison
Brees Rodgers
Wins: 11 Wins: 13
Passer Rating: 109.1 Passer Rating: 120.1
ESPN Total QBR: 82.4 ESPN Total QBR: 84.3
Yards: 4,780 Yards: 4,360
Yards per Attempt: 8.2 Yards per Attempt: 9.2
Touchdowns: 37 Touchdowns: 40
Interceptions: 11 Interceptions: 6
Fumbles: 0 Fumbles: 3 (0 lost)
Completion %: 71.5 Completion %: 68.1
Completions/Attempt: 417/583 Completions/Attempt: 322/473

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.

Dave’s Take: Fantasy Football Tips, News & Notes – Week 15

By: — December 16, 2011 @ 4:10 pm
Filed under: Player Analysis

Big Ben will be riding high in 2012.

1. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has put together a solid fantasy season in 2011, throwing for 3,526 yards and 21 touchdowns with just 11 interceptions in 13 games. While he hasn’t run the ball as much or as well as in previous years (just 70 yards on 30 carries with no touchdowns), Roethlisberger’s passing prowess has propelled him to the number nine ranking amongst quarterbacks and that ranking could go even higher in 2012. In starting wide receivers Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown and third year player Emmanuel Sanders, the Steelers will enter next season with their most dynamic group of receivers in years. Wallace is averaging 17.1 yard per catch while Brown is at a healthy 16.8 per reception and Sanders is a player the team is high on but who has struggled with injuries in 2011. That trio and Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arian’s preference for the passing game bode well for Roethlisberger’s prospects in 2012.

2. In Kansas City, the Chiefs did the expected and fired head coach Todd Haley with three games left in the season. Although Haley led the Chiefs to the AFC West division title in 2010 and Kansas City struggled with injuries to numerous key players this season (Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry, Tony Moeaki and Matt Cassel), there were whispers that he did not get along well with general manager Scott Piolo and that friction would eventually lead to his departure. While Haley was hamstrung by injuries to key players, he was also responsible for a preseason regimen that left the Chiefs ill-prepared to start the season and his decision to continue playing Tyler Palko at quarterback even when the evidence was clear that he was not a capable NFL starter. As for Pioli, he doesn’t escape Haley’s firing unscathed as his personnel decisions (some of them clearly influenced by Haley such as the signing of wide receiver Steve Breaston and retaining Palko as a backup) have either backfired or not resulted in the production expected from high-salaries players or players taken early in the draft. Defensive ends Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey were both top five selections that have failed to live up to expectations and running back Dexter McCluster was taken in the 2nd round but has done little to justify being taken so high. Who Pioli chooses as the team’s next head coach will clearly be the deciding factor in how long he remains in Kansas City.

3. Sticking with that theme, the apparent front-runner to take over as the Chiefs next head coach is former Broncos head coach and current Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Pioli is familiar with McDaniels from their time together in New England and was the Patriots offensive coordinator when Cassel started 15 games for an injured Tom Brady in 2008. Also working in McDaniels’ favor is the Broncos production on offense with Kyle Orton starting at quarterback while he was head coach. However, McDaniels has been an abysmal failure in St. Louis this season as the Rams are last in the league in points per game with just 11.7 per contest and quarterback Sam Bradford appears to have regressed. The Rams have scored just 12 offensive touchdowns in 13 games this season although they have suffered numerous significant injuries on offense. While McDaniels has struggled with some questionable game plans in 2011, look for him to be hired as Kansas City’s new head coach based on the strength of his relationship with Pioli.

4. The Redskins placed starting safety LaRon Landry on injured reserve this week with an Achilles tendon injury and there is speculation in Washington that he may have played his last game with the team. He is a free agent at season’s end and while the Redskins do not have an obvious replacement, they may not be willing to shell out a substantial contract to a player that has missed 15 games over the last two seasons. Landry is clearly a talented player but he has not developed into the playmaker Washington envisioned when they made him the sixth selection in 2007, failing to top two interceptions, two forced fumbles or one and a half sacks in any given season. Having doled out a lucrative contract to former Rams safety O.J. Atogwe this past offseason and with several glaring holes on offense, it will be a surprise if the Redskins sign Landry to a contract this offseason that makes him one of the league’s top paid safeties.

5. Another player likely looking for a new home in 2012 is current Bengals starting running back Cedric Benson. Benson has played well since joining Cincinnati in 2008, gaining 747 rushing yards in just 12 games that season, topping 1,000 yards in 2009 and 2010 and likely to achieve that feat again this season with 883 rushing yards with three games remaining. However, Benson is a free agent at season’s end and the team, armed with two 1st round selections and possibly next season as well (depending on the conditional pick in the Carson Palmer trade) may decide to draft a more dynamic running back, rounding out a solid nucleus of talented, young players on offense including quarterback Andy Dalton, wide receiver A.J. Green and tight end Jermaine Gresham.

6. The Chargers running game has remained productive despite a flurry of injuries across the team’s offensive line that have resulted in two starters missing significant periods of time. Left tackle Marcus McNeill and left guard Kris Dielman, both former Pro Bowlers, are both on injured reserve while center Nick Hardwick has played hurt and right guard Louis Vasquez has missed two games. With McNeill suffering a neck injury and Hardwick a free agent at season’s end, it is possible that the team will lose two Pro Bowl quality players prior to the beginning of the 2012 season. The 2012 fantasy prospects of quarterback Philip Rivers and running back Ryan Mathews will both take a hit if both starting lineman have new teams next season.

7. The Packers are clearly the league’s elite team thus far in 2011 and with last week’s win over the Raiders, the Pack have now won 19 consecutive games dating back to last season. With wins this week over Kansas City and next week over Chicago, Green Bay will tie New England’s record of most consecutive wins at 21 games.

8. Texans owner Bob McNair took a lot of heat in the offseason for refusing to fire head coach Gary Kubiak despite Kubiak having failed to lead the team to the playoffs during his first five years with the team. McNair’s faith in Kubiak’s ability to lead the team’s offense and his insistence on the team firing its entire defensive staff which led to the hiring of Wade Philips as the team’s defensive coordinator paid off this week with the Texans clinching their first AFC South division title. With a 10-3 record and games against the Panthers, Colts and Titans remaining, the Texans have a chance to finish as the AFC’s top seed which would guarantee the team home field advantage throughout the playoffs, a significant advantage with rookie T.J. Yates leading the team at quarterback.

Moving Up, Moving Down – Week 15

By: — December 15, 2011 @ 1:48 pm
Filed under: Player Analysis


Moving Up

Eli Manning, Giants
This Moving Up is long past overdue. Just 13 games into the schedule, Eli has already surpassed his previous career high in passing yards with 4,105 and is just six touchdown passes away from matching his career high in that category (31 in 2010). In fact, at this current pace he would finish just 32 yards short of matching Dan Marino’s record for passing yards in a season. Of course, that likely wouldn’t even give him the record since he is currently sitting fourth in passing yards in 2011 behind Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Not bad company to keep. Manning currently sits 5th overall amongst fantasy quarterbacks.

Moving Down

Michael Vick, Eagles
Anybody who was paying attention knew that Vick was unlikely to match his fantasy point per game total from last season in 2011 since his 2010 totals were padded by a whopping 676 rushing yards and 9 rushing touchdowns in just twelve games. Thus far in 2011, Vick’s rushing yardage total of 544 remains solid but he has yet to find the end zone and given that his passing touchdowns are also down (just 12 in ten games), his fantasy ranking has taken a major hit. So much for the theory that when he suffers in the passing attack, he will make up for it running the ball. Throw in the injury issues and Vick, the top rated fantasy quarterback in most circles heading into 2011, shapes up as a low end QB1 at best in 2012.

Running Backs

Moving Up

Felix Jones, Cowboys
What the fantasy gods giveth, they can taketh away just as easily. That’s what DeMarco Murray owners found out this week. After looking decidedly mediocre over the Cowboys first five games, he busted out with a 253-yard, one touchdown performance against the Rams and played well until suffering a fractured ankle last week. With most leagues in the 1st round of the playoffs, that was bad timing to say the least. In steps Jones, who was solid this week with 16 carries for 106 yards and six receptions for another 31. He also had a horrible fumble but let’s be honest, Murray owners probably don’t have many options at this point.

Shonn Greene, Jets
Greene has had a mostly disappointing 2011 campaign, with the naysayers heavily critical of his inability to find the end zone. However, he had another touchdown this week after a three-touchdown performance in Week 13, bringing his season total to six. Hard to imagine that a big, bruising back playing in a heavily run based offense has just ten touchdowns over the first 42 regular season games of his career but at least he’s hot for the fantasy playoffs. Of course, his subpar play for most of the year likely means that plenty of his owners are sitting on the sidelines already.

Ryan Grant is the last man standing in the Packers' backfield.

Ryan Grant, Packers
I’m going to be honest with you. Grant was never the most talented running back in the league and the ankle injury he suffered last season seems to have set him back more than was expected. He was never that explosive and now he looks more plodding than ever. That being said, James Starks has missed most of the last three games with injury and Grant finally took advantage of the situation this week against the Raiders, gaining 85 yards and two touchdowns on just ten carries. Starks hasn’t practiced this week and the Pack get the Chiefs and their 25th ranked run defense this week. Yummy.

Brandon Jacobs, Giants
Jacobs played well in Ahmad Bradshaw’s absence and has continued to get carries and produce with him back in the line up. Despite lining up against some pretty solid run defenses (Saints, Packers, Cowboys), Jacobs has amassed 206 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns over his last three games. Up next are the Redskins and Jets.

Kahlil Bell, Bears
Since Marion Barber hasn’t exactly been a bastion of health in recent seasons and the Bears will have to run the ball no matter who is at running back given Caleb Hanie’s lack of success at quarterback, I would be willing to add Bell in larger leagues that use the flex position. He totaled 64 yards on 14 touches this week, which isn’t bad.

Moving Down

Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants
Let’s see. Your season’s on the line in a key division matchup against the team ahead of you in the standings and your starting running back breaks a team rule. You bench him for a series, right? A quarter maybe? A half? Are you kidding me? That was the plight of Bradshaw owners as head coach Tom Coughlin nailed him to the bench until the second half and then gave him eight carries which produced 12 yards. This week, he has missed practice. Let’s sum it up. In the doghouse. Check. Unproductive coming back from injury (19 carries for 50 yards in his last two games). Check. Backup played pretty well in your absence. Check. Guess what? That gets you Moving Down.

Darren McFadden, Raiders
The word is out. Run-DMC has a Lisfranc injury and that usually requires surgery for a full recovery. Looks like Oakland’s chances of making the playoffs in 2011 are dwindling, as are the chances of McFadden owners who didn’t do the smart thing and handcuff the injury prone back with Michael Bush.

Willis McGahee, Broncos
The good news for McGahee owners is that every time I write his fantasy obituary, this cat discovers another of his nine lives. This week, I’m writing him off courtesy of his 17 carry, 34-yard performance last week against the Bears. It’s nice he got the rock 17 times despite his lack of production but what is worrisome is that he seemed to be bothered by his knee injury.

Wide Receivers

Moving Up

James Jones, Donald Driver and Randall Cobb, Packers
With Greg Jennings expected to miss two to three weeks with a knee injury, the Packers will turn to their trio of superlative backup wide receivers in his absence. The only issue for fantasy owners is figuring out which one is the best option. Of the three, Jones has been the most productive this year but Driver had four receptions this week for 75 yards, one week after catching a pair of touchdown passes. Cobb is a supremely talented, rookie 2nd round pick but he’s been mothballed for much of 2011 after a promising performance in Week 1. Jones is clearly the top pick but all three are listed here because they all could be useful in larger leagues.

Jordy Nelson, Packers
See above. Already a quasi WR1, Nelson moves up the chain to clear cut number WR1 for fantasy purposes. His owners could be getting their fantasy Christmas gift early.

Nate Washington, Titans
About the only reason Washington doesn’t get compared to the likes of the Joey Galloway’s and Santana Moss’ of the word is because he’s never had a 1,000-yard season. Other than that, the similarities are striking and it is mostly to do with consistency – as in Washington has none of it. With 798 yards and three games to go, looks like we will be able to make those comparisons in 2012 as Washington seems a likely bet to get to 1,000 yards considering his performance this week. He went off on the Saints, catching six passes for 130 yards and a touchdown, after notching just five receptions for 52 yards over his last two games. Maybe Damian Williams isn’t the surefire number one in Tennessee after all.

Demaryius Thomas, Broncos
Looks like the 1st wide receiver taken in the 2010 draft has some game after all. After playing a solid game in Week 2 of his rookie season, Thomas basically faded into the background due to injuries that ultimately forced him to miss the first six weeks of this season as well. However, over the last two weeks he has become Tim Tebow’s favorite target and made several big plays, accumulating 11 receptions for 222 yards and three touchdowns. And topping it all off are the 20 targets that he had in those games.

Moving Down

Greg Jennings, Packers
Back for the playoffs, at best. NFL playoffs, that is.

Calvin Johnson, Lions
Here’s your second WR1 that is Moving Down this week. Of course, we all knew that Megatron couldn’t keep up the touchdown clip that he was on over his first eight games of the season when he caught 11 touchdowns (including eight in his first four games). However, his owners weren’t expecting him to forget where the end zone was. Unfortunately, that seems to have happened with Megatron finding the end zone just once in the Lions last five games. This week against the Vikings, he put up his worst fantasy performance of the season with just three receptions for 29 yards. In Week 1 of the fantasy playoffs no less. Recall my comment about the fantasy gods giveth and taketh away.

Tight Ends

Moving Up

Jake Ballard, Giants
Being truthful (starting a sentence that way makes it sound like sometimes I’m not, doesn’t it), Ballard is Moving Up because the pickings were extremely thin at tight end. Thin as in I don’t ever remember my options being this limited in all my years doing these types of columns. He looked good against the Cowboys this week with four receptions on six targets for 52 yards and a score. Mostly he is here because he got the six targets and scored despite the Giants having their top three wide receivers healthy for an entire game for the first time in ages.

Moving Down

Jimmy Graham, Saints
Sometimes a player tries to play through injury and they’re still productive but they’re just not the superstar they would otherwise me. Meet Jimmy Graham. Graham’s owners likely made the playoffs in their leagues with his performance being a big part of the equation but he is playing through a back injury that he described as painful. This week against the Titans, he caught five balls for 55 yards and failed to score, bringing his scoreless games streak to two.

Tuesday Morning Buzz – Week 14

By: — December 13, 2011 @ 11:04 am
Filed under: Player Analysis

Welcome to the Tuesday Morning Buzz! Week 14 was a fantastic week for non-stop action on Sunday with another less-than-entertaining Monday Night Football. Regardless, drama is running high as the fantasy playoffs are underway and the NFL postseason looms. Watch for each week to get even more tense and unpredictable as the season draws to a close.

Let the praise of Roethlisberger begin anew and with more fervent adamancy than ever before! The man behind the Steel Curtain came back into the game on Thursday night after an ugly ankle injury and played it out. While it was certainly admirable how Big Ben returned to play, Vinny Testaverde could suit up for the Steelers right now and win a half of football versus the Cleveland Browns—with two high ankle sprains, no less. I don’t mean to overstate the Browns’ ineptitude, but it seems their lack of play knows no bounds. Also, has Antonio Brown outperformed Mike Wallace, or is Wallace’s talent opening up the path for Brown? You decide, but next week I may sit Brandon Marshall or Greg Jennings for Brown. As for Cleveland … hey, there’s always next year.

I can’t figure what to make of this game. On the one hand, you’ve got the Ravens coming out of it with another victory, and if they win out, they’ll get the number one seed. Run of the mill, right? Well, not so fast. This is the Colts! This team is purposely trying to lose the game and you, the best of the AFC, can only hang 24 points on them? Where was the offense? Where was the ball control? Somehow, the mighty Indianapolis Colts had almost 24 minutes of possession with no weapons and no will power. I’m sadly disappointed that the Ravens didn’t put a little bit of a harder stomp on them. For the Colts, see my Cleveland Browns analysis.

Khaaaaaaaaaan! Surely it must be the new impending ownership that inspired the Jaguars to score 41 points when they were only averaging 12.7 points per game coming into the week, right? Surely it is that epic ‘stache that brought the MJD of 2009 back to score an inordinate amount (4) of touchdowns, right? Perhaps it was the might and prowess of Shadid Khan that scared the Bucs into a sickening slump in the early going of the second quarter. Whatever the reason, if I see more of that next week in the Georgia Dome, I’m going to feel a lot better about starting MJD in the championship round. For the Bucs, who are 1-8 since Week 5, there’s always next year!

P.S. I’m sensing a trend here. It’s amazing how clear the NFL all of a sudden gets around Week 12, isn’t it?

Lucky for their fantasy owners, the Packers really want to go undefeated. They want it so badly that Rodgers was still in the game slinging the ball around well after everything was in hand. If I were Mike McCarthy, I would’ve had Rodgers, Jennings, and Finley on the bench after Grant’s touchdown, with a shade over seven minutes remaining in the first quarter. I understand wanting to win and playing your starters, but there is no need to risk your season and your franchise when you’re up by 31 points. For the Raiders, there’s always next year! I’m kidding; they’re obviously still in their division race. However, the Tebow seem to be predestined to be the AFC West team that gets bounced in the first week of the playoffs.

P.S. Watch for Darren McFadden’s return this week versus a middling Detroit defense in Oakland. It could be big.

I don’t believe that being outdoors has much of an effect on the Saints. Sure, they are 3-2 with much less impressive stats when outdoors this season. However, I think this has far more to do with not being in New Orleans than it has to do with being outside. The Saints seem less inspired when away from their adoring crowd and the Superdome, and this is why it was 3-3 at the half. It had nothing to do with playing under an open sky. That being said, the Saints got hot late (as they usually do in close competition), and Drew Brees brought Marques Colston to life with two sweet touchdown passes.

For the Titans, I’m confident that they would’ve won the game if Hasselbeck had been the quarterback on that final play. Locker looks to be the future in Tennessee, though, and if I were a Titans fan, I would be excited about that. He seems to have many of the same qualities of Vince Young without the immaturity and off-the-field issues.

Brees for MVP
Alright, you win. I’ll argue, but only because I love you so. Last week I told you that I believe Brees is the best quarterback of this era, that he’ll retire as the best of his contemporaries, and that this season will end with Brees as the top quarterback. But those three statements are all totally subjective and can’t really be proven. Pick your favorite quarterback and you can argue the same for him. Here is my case for Brees.

As many of you have pointed out, Rodgers is on a record-setting pace for single-season passer rating with 123.3 through 14 weeks, and Brees is only at 105.9. However, this is the only category in which Rodgers truly is head and shoulders above Brees. Here is the stat sheet for both quarterbacks:

 QB Comparison
Brees Rodgers
Wins: 10 Wins: 13
Passer Rating: 105.9 Passer Rating: 123.3
ESPN Total QBR: 81.2 ESPN Total QBR: 86.7
Yards: 4,368 Yards: 4,125
Yards per Attempt: 8.04 Yards per Attempt: 9.42
Touchdowns: 32 Touchdowns: 39
Interceptions: 11 Interceptions: 6
Fumbles: 0 Fumbles: 3
Completion %: 70.9 Completion %: 69.6
Completions/Attempt: 385/543 Completions/Attempt: 305/438

As you can see, no other category is overwhelmingly in Rodger’s favor. More touchdowns and fewer interceptions on fewer pass attempts certainly gives Rodgers a strong and well deserved passer rating. However, you will also notice that Brees, the most accurate quarterback the world has ever seen, is edging Rodgers in completion percentage by a full point, made more impressive by Brees’ 80 more completions on 105 more attempts. If you look at total turnovers, Rodgers is only two better than Brees. You’ve also heard Tony Dungy live on television saying he’d never blame a quarterback for an interception. Fumbles however? Those are all the ball carrier’s fault.


These points are very nit-picky, but that’s how it has to be when comparing two phenomenal athletes who are playing the position at a higher efficiency and explosiveness than it has ever been played. Now for the point that matters most, the point I had in mind when I originally made my claim: What will truly determine who has the better season? The playoffs, of course. A Super Bowl appearance or win will make up for any edge either quarterback may have over the other at the end of Week 17. The Saints have had a couple of slip-ups, but they have ranked number-one overall in offense and 27th overall in defense (outranking New England and Green Bay in both categories). If Brees ends this season just behind Rodgers in stats, but with a second Super Bowl ring, then I don’t see how anyone could say Rodgers had the better season.

P.S . Let’s not even get started on Marino’s 29-year-old record that Brees will soon surpass, Johnny U’s consecutive games with a touchdown record that Brees could eclipse next season, and the completion percentage record that Brees already owns.

For the Chargers, its start ‘em time. Rivers is Infinity times 2 in the month of December, and it doesn’t seem like that is going to change any time soon. I think the Tebow will win this division, but you won’t be able to say the Chargers didn’t try for a comeback. For the Bills, Steve Johnson continues to be the only player on the team I really want to start. I had such high hopes for Buffalo playing spoiler to the big boys in their division, but they simply do not know how to be a good team. Combine that with management that is interested in saving money rather than winning big, and you have an organization that will never succeed if things don’t change.

As Tebowmania continues to rock the nation, I’ve heard many sports analysts exclaim, “The Bears played them well for 55 minutes! They had it! They were pressing the receivers and pressuring the quarterback! Why did they back off?! Why did they give up the sideline?!” I’ll tell you why. Because in the last five minutes of a game, Tim Tebow puts the fear of God in defensive coordinators. If you press the receivers and send blitzes, it leaves too many opportunities for heroics. In the mind of Lovie Smith, the only chance was to play coverage and hope to break up the passes and keep the runs short. The sideline was open because defenders were crowding the middle of the field to stop Tebow if he ran. Tebow may not have magic powers that make him the ultimate quarterback in the fourth quarter, but he has a tangible advantage in the fourth quarter as impending doom sets in for his opponents.

For the Bears, I have one word (sort of): Yikes. It is going to be hard to pass the Lions for second place in the division, and it isn’t even a sure thing that second place in the North will garner a wild-card spot. Cutler could’ve taken this team to the playoffs, but with so many other teams in the final stretch here…well, there’s always next year.

The Cardinals, not to be outdone by the Dolphins, are proving to be quite the spoiler team through the final stretch. Just one week after setting the Cowboys up for a potentially fatal loss to the Giants, the Cardinals added a rare tick to the “L” column for the Niners. San Francisco owns the tiebreaker, but if the immortal Ben Roethlisberger can find a way on Monday night next week, the Saints have a legitimate shot at a first-round bye. As for fantasy, there aren’t many on these teams that are performing week in and week out that you’d want to trust your playoffs to. This late in the season, I say go with who got you here. And if that means Larry Fitzgerald plays, then play him!

How about that T.J. Yates? The most untalked-about rookie quarterback this year went into Cincinnati and beat a Bengals D that has been good all year and phenomenal at home. And he did it to the tune of 300 yards and two touchdowns on a day when his running game was mostly shut down. Not only that, but he notched a dramatic and much-coveted comeback win by throwing the game-winning touchdown with two seconds on the clock. For the Bengals, keep riding that A.J. Green wagon and don’t play another man.

To say that Christian Ponder has struggled this season might be seen as an understatement. Still, he certainly has this offense performing at its best since Favre took it to the championship game two years ago. But then that’s as comforting as the faint praise the Jaguars get for shattering their 12-points-per-game average. What I saw was nearly a 50/50 split between Webb and Ponder in which Ponder looked better in every category except interceptions. If he could’ve kept his cool (tough to do against a Lions team full of thugs and ne’er-do-wells) he may very well have thrown his team to a “W” in Detroit. Ponder could get hot next week when the Saints come to town, but look for that to affect Gerhart and Harvin more than Ponder in fantasy. For the Lions, it’s a tough stretch ahead, but all should be good in the fantasy world as they are likely to get into three straight shootouts to end the season.

Well, now that the Eagles are all but mathematically eliminated, they sure did look good against the Dolphins. These guys played spoiler to the spoilers! Look for the Eagles to light up the scoreboard in the final weeks to save the final scraps of their reputation as a dangerous offense. For the Dolphins, do you think Sparano had a situation like Coach Boone in Remember the Titans? One loss and you’re done, despite how awesome your team has been in previous weeks? Sure seems like it. I wonder how Sparano would fit with the Chiefs.

Not that we can ever try it out (each game is different), but I wonder what an actual competent offense would’ve done this day against these Chiefs. I mean, the Jets scored 37 points? Unless you started Mark Sanchez, you didn’t feel much of the benefit in the realm of fantasy, but it sure did look crazy on the score ticker. For Kansas City, I’m really looking forward to next year. If I’m a Chiefs fan, I’m very excited to see the talent retake the field after their injuries heal. Watch for the Chiefs to be in the thick of it as long as similar injuries don’t make an appearance next season.

The ‘kowskis once again handled the majority of the scoring for the Pats, but Welker did manage to squeeze a touchdown out of the Skins as well. I’ve run out of analysis on these Pats, and I refuse to give any credence to the Brady spat on the sidelines. If you haven’t figured it out yet, you really don’t want a New England running back in your lineup for the fantasy playoffs. For the Redskins, they’re going to try awfully hard to put a stop to Eli Manning and a Giants team that’s on a roll right now, but I wouldn’t feel too comfortable about starting any Redskins either.

P.S. Close your eyes and forget about Helu. As is well documented, it’ll bite you in the end if you stick with a Shanahan running back.

In defense of Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan threw for 320 yards, four touchdowns, and no picks, with a 58 completion percentage, and he still finished three points below Rodgers’ average passer rating for the season. The Falcons won through the air, but Michael Turner still got the ball 21 times. Turner has run hard and often for many years and just seems beaten up and worn down this season, and I wouldn’t be overly surprised if this year is his last. If so, it will be a sad day in Atlanta, as the Falcons haven’t proven that they can win without a heavy dose of Michael Turner.

For the Panthers, the future looks brighter every week. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathon Stewart are feeling the pain of losing John Fox, but Steve Smith is feeling the joy of gaining a real quarterback. Watch for the Panthers to pick high for a Julio Jones-esque wide receiver who will take this passing game to the elite level. For this year, however, I don’t know that I’d trust any Panther not named Cam with the keys to my fantasy season.

Oh those poor, poor Dallas Cowboys. How frustrating it must be to be Jerry Jones! He has watched squad after ultra-talented squad fail and sputter mentally as the seasons have wound down. Expect for frustrating play out of these Cowboys as long as they are in contention. If a catastrophic loss to the Bucs or Eagles occurs, watch for the Dallas offensive stars to take off as the games become meaningless and the pressure to succeed drops off. For the Giants, you have to love what you’re seeing out of the offense. Eli is looking the best he ever has, and this wide receiver corps may be the best that New York has ever seen. If they can shore up the defense a little and keep their nose clean until Week 17, they probably have the East in the books.

$#^% Chris Collinsworth Says
On the dominance of Jason Pierre-Paul:

“He’s just too much! You know, you’ve got to chip him, you know, the Cowboys just have to make the adjustment! There’s no way around it, you’re not going to block him one-on-one with anybody! I just haven’t seen it done all year. You watch him on tape enough and he’s like an octopus coming at you! Arms and legs, you think he’s got eight different arms flailing at you! Just… quick moves… a dynamic player!”

If the rest of the Giants D can play to the level of Pierre-Paul—who CC wisely pointed out, has yet to reach the apex of his game—then their path to the playoffs is clear. Wild Card Weekend for the NFC should be absolutely crazy.

I’m not going to honor this matchup with a lot of analysis. The game was terrible. As was brought up multiple times by the commentators, the Rams have placed ten cornerbacks on IR this season. And they have next to no talent on their roster, so you can’t expect much, if anything, from them. That lack of talent may extend beyond the roster. They had seven downs at the 1-yard line late in the fourth quarter on Monday night and only ran the ball on the first and seventh down. Instead of giving the ball to their best talent, they had their injured quarterback throwing to their C-class receiving corps. Spagnuolo may be the next coach to go after this performance. An empty space on your roster may be as valuable as most of the men on the field in this game.

And that’s it! Week 14 is in the books. I don’t know how much fantasy goodness will come from it, but I’m looking forward to the Ravens–Chargers matchup on Sunday Night next week. Also, your Cardinals, Lions, Raiders, Titans, Bengals, Saints, and Vikings should all have good fantasy weeks. Thank me later.

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