|Brandon Mc Manus||2||5|
BUMPS, BRUISES AND BOWOUTS
Cyrus Gray – Torn ACL
Marquise Goodwin – Ribs
Luke Wilson – Ankle
Peyton Hillis – Concussion
Bernard Pierce – Elbow
Devin Hester – Ankle
Delanie Walker – Concussion
Dexter McCluster – Knee
Carson Palmer – Knee
Ronnie Hillman – Foot
Brandon Marshall – Ankle
Michael Cox – Fractured Leg
Bruce Ellington – Ankle
The value of running backs continues to be spotty. Week ten in the NFL served up very few difference makers and of the top backs, few were players anyone drafted last summer. Marshawn Lynch dominated the day with four touchdowns but the next best fantasy backs were C.J. Anderson, Justin Forsett and Denard Robinson. Though we are getting deeper into the season, wide receivers continue to turn in better numbers. Weather has yet to be a factor but will eventually impact northern players like Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas, Jeremy Maclin, T.Y. Hilton, Emmanuel Sanders, Jordy Nelson, Golden Tate and Randall Cobb. But until then the biggest fantasy points each week are being caught and not rushed.
FRESH FROM THE BULLPEN
The Buccaneers opted to start Josh McCown over the ineffective Mike Glennon. Though they lost to the Falcons, McCown turned in 301 passing yards and two touchdowns along with a team high 39 rushing yards to rank as a top five fantasy quarterback for the week. Impressive was that both Mike Evans (7-125, TD) and Vincent Jackson (8-75) led the team in catches instead of backs or tight ends. McCown’s next opponents are the Redskins, Bears and Bengals. Consider renewing your faith in the Buccaneer wideouts for the next few weeks.
Carson Palmer is expected to miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL and that installs Drew Stanton as the starter again. That may not be a positive since his three previous starts this year resulted in only two touchdowns – both in the home game against the 49ers. Larry Fitzgerald never gained more than 57 yards in any game with Stanton while Michael Floyd sandwiched a nice 114 yard, five catch effort versus the 49ers with two single catch flops when visiting the Giants and Broncos. Just to make this worse, Stanton next opponent is the #1 pass defense of the Lions. After that are two meetings with the Seahawks, games in Atlanta and St. Louis and hosting the Chiefs. Stanton will need to throw but the Cardinals appear to be taking a step down without Palmer while facing a tougher schedule.
At first glance, Zach Mettenberger’s second start was less impressive. After throwing for 299 yards and two scores versus the visiting Texans in week eight, the rookie was held to 179 yards and one touchdown in Baltimore. But he’s one to watch if not grab given that his upcoming schedule is one of the lightest of all quarterbacks. Mettenberger faces the Steelers, Eagles, Texans, Giants, Jets and finally at the Jaguars for week 16 fantasy championships.
It is rare that free agents taken after mid-season turn into even average players, let alone every-week starters. But that is not to say it doesn’t happen or that you should ever stop searching for those gems.
He’s only played in four games, but the Steelers Martavis Bryant already scored six touchdowns. His yardage was moderate at best when he scored on the Texans and then doubled up touchdowns on both the Colts and Ravens. Going against the Jets this week in what became a trap game, he not only scored but ended with 143 yards on four catches thanks to an 80-yard touchdown. His team mate Antonio Brown only scored three times over those weeks.
Converted quarterbacks almost never make decent running backs but in the case of Denard Robinson we need to rethink that. After languishing on the Jaguars bench in 2013 and then through week six of this season, Robinson was finally given a shot as the starter and has yet to look back. He rolled up over 100 total yards for three straight games and scored in two of them. This week in London, Robinson was held to only 70 total yards by the Cowboys but still ran in two touchdowns. While all other Jaguars are risky fantasy plays at best, Robinson is a must-start.
The winless Raiders constantly trail on the score board but had not made use of their tight ends as receivers in several seasons – until now. In week eight, Mychal Rivera went from only one catch over the two previous games to leading the team with seven receptions for 83 yards in Cleveland. In Seattle the next week, Rivera again led the Raiders with eight catches for 38 yards and scored both receiving touchdowns. He now comes off the hat-trick with six receptions for 64 yards and one score versus the Broncos. Three straight weeks as a viable fantasy start and he’s likely still on your waiver wire.
The fourth-year wideout Chris Hogan has been little noted in his career spanning three teams but recent weeks has seen an uptick in his production and impact on the Bills. Starting in week six, he’s played in each of the four games and three times ended with at least five catches. Last Sunday he caught the lone touchdown in the loss to the Chiefs. He also scored on the Patriots when he ended with five receptions for 72 yards. Sammy Watkins will always be the main focus for the Bills and Robert Woods remains the other starter but Hogan is making his name and value known.
While Odell Beckham began playing in week five, it was not until after Victor Cruz was lost that he became a starter and the newest preferred target for Eli Manning. In week seven, Beckham was held to 34 yards on four catches in Dallas but scored twice. Versus the Colts, he came away with a team high eight catches for 156 yards. Last Sunday in Seattle and while being shadowed by Richard Sherman, Beckham managed seven catches for 108 yards. His schedule is actually improving now with the next opponents of the 49ers, Cowboys, Jaguars, Titans and Redskins.
So many teams use rotations that a true primary back can be hard to find and even harder to hold on to since roles often change. Just because the season is over half-over doesn’t mean you should be comfortable with the distribution of carries and catches.
Anyone attached to the Broncos offense is worth owning and the backfield has already produced stars like Knowshon Moreno in 2013 and Ronnie Hillman this year. But Hillman suffered a foot injury in the win over the Raiders and had to leave in the fourth quarter when he had only rushed six times for 13 yards. Juwan Thompson had been the #2 back but only gained eight yards on four runs while C.J. Anderson rushed for 90 yards on 13 carries and added four catches for 73 yards and one score. While it is probably wise to drop your optimism about Thompson, grabbing Anderson is not necessarily the move to make. A slimmer, faster Montee Ball is expected to return this week and practiced prior to being inactive versus the Raiders. Sadly this says more that you should wait to see how it shakes out rather than take a chance on any of the three or even four backs who may get touches.
The Bills backfield is also hands-off after the return of Fred Jackson who ran for ten yards and added 39 yards on four catches. But Anthony Dixon remains the lead runner with nine carries for 62 yards and yet Bryce Brown gained 35 yards on seven carries and added a team-high six receptions for 65 yards versus the Chiefs. Never rely on a third of anything.
|CLE 24, CIN 3||Perfect game to start a wacky weekend. Really? The Bengals were considered one of the best teams about a month or so ago and now they crater at home against the Browns. Andy Dalton passed for 86 yards and three interceptions. Jeremy Hill ran for 55 yards on 12 carries and they should have just ran him on every play. Brian Hoyer only passed for 198 yards and no scores while the backfield was split again with Terrance West (26-94, TD), Isaiah Crowell (12-41, TD) and Ben Tate (10-34, TD) all scoring. The Browns defense was dominating and more than just one good game. Now the 6-3 Browns are on top of the AFC North and host the Texans while the 5-3-1 Bengals head to New Orleans.|
|TEN 7, BAL 21||No big surprises but no big points. Justin Forsett ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns but Joe Flacco only passed for 169 yards and one score. Torrey Smith (5-75, TD) had the rare good game while Steve Smith (3-17) did not. Zach Mettenberger got his start and threw for 179 yards and one score with one interception. But no Titans receiver were better than 53 yards and Bishop Sankey only ran for 58 yards on 17 carries. Now the 2-7 Titans host the Steelers and the 6-4 Ravens go onto their bye.|
|KC 17, BUF 13||Predictably absent of points, this defensive matchup had minimal fantasy impact other than Jamaal Charles totaling 118 yards and one score and Dwayne Bowe (8-93) actually showed up as well. But the Bills were unable to get more than 65 yards from any receiver and Bryce Brown totaled 100 yards as the only marginally productive player. Now the 6-3 Chiefs host the Seahawks and the 5-4 Bills head to Miami.|
|MIA 16, DET 20||Another game starved of points even with the Lions healthy and at home. Matt Stafford passed for 280 yards and two scores and Calvin Johnson (7-113, TD) and Golden Tate (11-109) both ended with big games. But both teams used committee backfields so that no running back gained more than 44 yards and none scored. Ryan Tannehill only threw for 207 yards and one score to Mike Wallace while none of the Fins gained more than 53 receiving yards. This game went down to the wire with Stafford hitting Theo Riddick for an 11 yard touchdown with only 36 seconds left to win the game. The 5-4 Dolphins host the Bills this week and the 7-2 Lions head to Arizona for a very big game. This was the third straight time that the Lions won the game when trailing in the final two minutes.|
|DAL 31, JAC 17||No surprises in the London game since DeMarco Murray ran for 100 yards and Tony Romo shredded the Jags for 246 yards and three touchdowns. Dez Bryant left with six receptions for 158 yards and two touchdowns and even Jason Witten (5-33) scored. Blake Bortles passed for 290 yards but no scores and Cecil Shorts (5-119) was twice as good as any other JAC receiver. Denard Robinson ran for 60 yards and two scores on 15 carries and continues to be that rare mid-season starter who becomes an every week fantasy start. Now the 7-3 Cowboys and 1-9 Jaguars both take their byes.|
|PIT 13, NYJ 20||Here is one of those games that either makes you laugh or retch – depending on whether you had players in the game. Ben Roethlisberger set records over the last two weeks with six touchdowns in each game. So when he faces the worst secondary in the NFL he naturally throws just one touchdown and two interceptions and the 80-yard score to Martavis Bryant (4-143) was a trash touchdown with just a minute left to play. Apparently playing over their head for two weeks caused the Steelers to just mail in a game against what should have been a terrible defense. Michael Vick threw for 132 yards and two scores but none of the Jets had a big game really. Percy Harvin only gained 23 yards on three catches. Now the 6-4 Steelers travel to Tennessee and the 2-8 Jets go on their bye in a good mood for once.|
|ATL 27, TB 17||The Battle for the Bottom of the NFC South saw the Falcons actually win a road game and yet Matt Ryan only passed for 219 yards and one score which almost entirely went to either Julio Jones (8-119) or Roddy White (6-72, TD). Steven Jackson gained 81 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries looking unusually spry. The Bucs reverted to Josh McCown over Mike Glennon and he threw for a credible 302 yards and two scores but also tossed two interceptions. Mike Evans (7-125, TD) and even Vincent Jackson (8-75) had bigger games than normal. The debut of Charles Sims only produced 23 yards on eight carries and two catches for 17 yards but he was the heavier used running back. Bobby Rainey was even less effective than Sims when he ran. Now the 3-6 Falcons head to Carolina and the 1-8 Buccaneers travel to Washington.|
|DEN 41, OAK 17||You have to appreciate when an NFL team does not play down to the level of their opponent and still lays down the spanking that they were capable of delivering. Peyton Manning passed for 340 yards and five touchdowns. Demaryius Thomas (11-108) and Emmanuel Sanders (5-67, 2 TD) had big games as did Julius Thomas (6-63, 2 TD). With Ronnie Hillman banged up, C.J. Anderson ran for 90 yards on 13 carries and even became the second best receiver with four catches for 73 yards and one touchdown. Derek Carr threw for 192 yards and two scores but had two interceptions. No rusher gained more than 14 yards and only Mychal Rivera (6-64, TD) ended with more than 28 yards. The 7-2 Broncos head to St. Louis this week and the 0-9 Raiders travel to San Diego.|
|STL 14, ARI 31||This was a close game until the Cardinals scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. This was a defensive game more than anything and the Cardinals scored on a fumble return and an interception. Austin Davis only managed 216 yards and one score against two interceptions and that was little more than Jared Cook (2-84, TD). Tre Mason gained 81 total yards as the only other fantasy relevant Ram. Carson Palmer appears to have torn his ACL but he wasn’t having much of a game anyway. Larry Fitzgerald (9-112) was effective but the rest of the wideouts posted mediocre stats.|
|NYG 17, SEA 38||Finally the Seahawks played like it was 2013 again (actually so did the Giants). Russell Wilson only passed for 172 yards and two interceptions but he ran for 107 yards and one score while Marshawn Lynch enjoyed a career day when he gained 140 yards and four touchdowns on 21 carries. Eli Manning threw for 283 yards and one score to Preston Parker (7-79) while Odell Beckham led all receivers with 108 yards on seven carries. This was the beatdown we expected. The 3-6 Giants return home to host the 49ers while the 6-3 Seahawks travel to Kansas City.|
|CHI 14, GB 55||The Packers are certainly good and they were at home. But the Bears are redefining bad with back-to-back losses where they allowed 50+ points. Aaron Rodgers ended with 315 yards and six touchdowns but that was all in the first half and Rodgers sat for much of the second half. Jordy Nelson (6-152, 2 TD), Randall Cobb (4-72, TD) and Eddie Lacy (3-68, TD receiving, 14-50 rushing) all turned in big games that could have been even bigger if the Packers hadn’t just given up for the last half of the game. Jay Cutler threw for 272 yards and one score with two interceptions and one fumble lost. There was fantasy value for the Bears with Brandon Marshall (8-112, TD), Alshon Jeffery (6-63) and Matt Forte (81 total yards) but most of those positives for the Bears happened when the game was hopelessly out of reach and meaningless. Now the 3-6 Bears host the Vikings and the 6-2 Packers host the Eagles.|
HUDDLE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Marshawn Lynch – Aaron Rodgers is a contender but Lynch was miles better than any other running back when he ran for 140 yards, caught a pass for 23 yards and scored a total of four touchdowns. Better yet was that the Seahawks allowed Christine Michael and Robert Turbin to share ten carries and yet still gave all the touchdowns to Lynch including two in the fourth quarter. No hawks!
DRAMA 101 – SOMEBODY HAS TO LAUGH, SOMEBODY HAS TO CRY
|QB||Josh McCown||340||2||QB||Carson Palmer||241||0|
|RB||C.J. Anderson||163||1||RB||Lamar Miller||6||0|
|RB||Bryce Brown||100||0||RB||Ronnie Hillman||22||0|
|WR||Preston Parker||79||1||WR||Steve Smith||17||0|
|WR||Chris Hogan||57||1||WR||Eric Decker||24||0|
|WR||T.J. Graham||67||1||WR||Sammy Watkins||27||0|
|TE||A. Sefarian-Jenkins||30||1||TE||Travis Kelce||19||0|
|PK||Matt Bryant||13 pts||PK||Mike Nugent||3 pts|
|Huddle Fantasy Points = 122||Huddle Fantasy Points = 20|
Sunday’s Couch Commentary
I’ll study it more in the offseason, but this year seems to be filled with much more two and three touchdown efforts by players and yet the decline in value is sharp – particularly in running backs. This week there were just four backs with 100 rushing yards but 12 receivers notched that many yards and with far more receptions for leagues that reward the category.
Every summer we draft based on what happened the previous year. After passing records fell in 2011, quarterbacks were red hot in 2012. Last year we went heavy for running backs not because there were so many but because there were so few. What will 2015 crave? We still have much of the season left but many fantasy owners are going to lose interest starting about this week and this is as far as the season that they will remember.
Where has the biggest values been? Andrew Luck? Do we just remember DeMarco Murray, Arian Foster and Matt Forte and forget that right now the top dozen backs ends with Matt Asiata who has half the score of Murray?
Tight ends have not been as clear though now that Gronkowski is in gear maybe that sticks. Julius Thomas and his 12 touchdowns. Not a lot of difference makers though.
Wide receivers have been great at scoring even if not always the ones we expected. But it seems that a larger number of them means many wait. And no telling what owners of Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green now think of taking an early wideout.
I’m guessing round one of 2015 will have Andrew Luck. Maybe Manning or Jimmy Graham at the end. And Antonio Brown and Demaryius Thomas. And nothing else but running backs.
The Game-O-The-Week? A nice surprise though with fewer points than I typically like.
49ers 27, Saints 24
Though it only totaled 51 points, it generated some nice fantasy games for players that always start and was helped in no small part by about ten extra minutes of overtime.
Colin Kaepernick only threw for 210 yards and one score but Anquan Boldin ended with 95 yards and one score. Frank Gore ran 23 times for 81 yards and score once and Carlos Hyde also found the endzone on his four runs for 36 yards. What the 49ers did right was only losing one fumble as opposed to a fumble and two interceptions by the Saints.
Drew Brees still threw for 292 yards and three touchdowns with Mark Ingram rushing for 120 yards on 27 carries and adding 19 more on three catches. Brandin Cools led the team with 90 yards on five catches and one score because he always shows up at home (and never on the road). Jimmy Graham ended with ten catches for 76 yards and two touchdowns to dominate all other receivers.
The Saints went ahead with 1:55 left to play when Brees hit Graham for a touchdown and a 24-21 lead but the 49ers drove the field on their next series and kicked a 45-yard field goal to tie with 49 seconds left. Regulation ended with Drew Brees throwing a 47-yard Hail Mary to Jimmy Graham for what would have been the winning score but Graham was called for offensive pass interference.
Overtime was unproductive and it looked like a tie in the making but on second down from his own 15-yard line, Drew Brees was hit from behind and lost the fumble. The 49ers immediately kicked the field goal to win.
It was a good week for football even with stupid games like the Steelers flopping against the worst secondary in the league and the Bengals apparently peaking long, long ago. Fantasy playoffs loom soon and these final weeks are critical to get right and make the post-season.
If you have teams that are no longer in contention – and everyone does if you play more than a few leagues – keep up with your starters and play the league out. Just because you won’t win the league doesn’t mean you should make it easy for the guy who does.
And besides, you get more time to contemplate the big question in life. Who will I want in the first round next summer?
Now get back to work…