In 2015, the Packers were missing something in their offense. The glaringly obvious fact was that Aaron Rodgers no longer had Jordy Nelson due to a knee injury. In addition, the Packers were missing a tight end that could run down the field. Richard Rodgers was not fast enough to expose holes in the defense. Receivers were unable to get open, resulting in short drives. They needed someone faster who could run routes.
The Rams cut tight end Jared Cook before their relocation to Los Angeles. The Green Bay organization had been in consideration to trade for Cook, but now that he was a free agent, they set out to sign him.
Cook inked a one-year, 3.6-million-dollar deal, which means the organization was committed, since they usually refrain from signing big name free agents. Green Bay tends to use the draft as a means to build their team. Richard Rodgers did a great job stepping up in 2015. Who could forget that instant-classic catch that was dubbed, “The Miracle in Motown”?
The Packers still needed some depth though. Nelson was expected to lose some speed after his return, so it was necessary that they upgraded their speed elsewhere. The tight end position needed the most speed improvement. Richard Rodgers just was not quick enough to be the full time tight end. Other teams such as the Patriots have made a living by having two good tight ends.
The offense had an extra setback when Eddie Lacy got hurt. They found a running back in Ty Montgomery, but it wasn’t until week 15 that a running back scored a TD for them. The Packers went from passing 56.79 % of the time in 2015, to 62.37 % in 2016. This helped Cook see an increase in targets. This also helped him establish a connection with Aaron Rodgers. The offense will be more balanced next year, but there should be no concern about Cook’s targets.
That increase moved them from 18th to 5th in the league for passing attempts. Due to Nelson and Adams playing well, the ball was distributed evenly. Although Cook isn’t getting points for other receivers making plays, it makes the defense open up for bigger plays to him.
Cook started the first 2 weeks of the season, and saw 79 snaps in which his production was limited. Being new to the offense, and with Eddie Lacy getting hype for his weight loss in the offseason, Cook spent the beginning of the season blocking, or watching his targets go to Jordy Nelson. Jared saw a mere 11 targets through the first four weeks. Week 3 was short lived for Cook, as he suffered a high ankle sprain and he wouldn’t be back back until week 11
Once he was back, he started to find a groove. He caught 6 passes out of 11 targets in his first week back for 105 yards and a TD. This would turn out to be his only TD of the regular season, but the work he did on 3rd downs allowed many of the drives to stay alive, which if he continues to do this, will help raise his ceiling in 2017.
Over the regular season, in which he only played 10 weeks, Cook caught 12 of 16 passes for 200 yards while facing 3rd down. This means that 53% of his yards came on 3rd down. Due to his production, the Packers were 2nd in 3rd down offense, making him valuable to Rodgers and fantasy owners.
For a big tight end, he should have had way more than one TD during the regular season. His total yards were also rather low for his career. He only had 377 yards in 10 games. Other than the injury he sustained this season, the only reason these numbers aren’t better is that Aaron Rodgers has a lot of other targets.
However, he had the 3rd best average yards per catch of his career. His career highs being 15.5 (2011), 13.2 (2013), 12.6 (2016). Cook was tied for 7th among all tight ends in YAC. As stated above, the receivers around Cook helped to expose defenses so that he could exploit them. The Packers are going to have to decide how much money Cook is worth.
Cook will be 30 next season, but he is still quick, and he can still make spectacular catches. I would be careful about drafting Cook too high due to his injury history, however he will be one of the best tight end options of 2017 if he can stay healthy. Assuming he comes back to Green Bay, Cook should have a little more fantasy value next year, due to gaining Rodgers’ confidence.
He has a knack for working back to the quarterback, which is important since Aaron is so good at extending plays with his feet. This ability adds another dimension to his game, giving him a value many others don’t have.
Cook will have a steady season next year by being more of a touchdown threat. In his 3 playoff games this year, he had 229 yards to go along with 2 TD’s. These numbers seem to be a more accurate depiction of what he will do next year, because he was settled in and consistent. Cook should be a lower TE1. It is tough to say if Gronk will be healthy, but there are guys like Kelce, Eifert, Olsen, and Reed who have proven to be successful. It depends on the league as to where Cook falls. I would keep an eye on the draft board and pick him up after those other names begin to be picked. The Packers boasted a 10-3 record in games that Jared played in, and his value will transfer into fantasy points if he stays with the Packers in 2017.
When it comes to succeeding in fantasy football over the course of a season, it's important to know which players are on the rise and which ones are about to see a dropoff in production. In this article, we give you a few players that could help or hurt your fantasy team as the season goes along.
Jordan Howard, Running Back for the Chicago Bears
The end of the short Jeremy Langford era is upon us. Langford suffered an ankle injury in the loss to the Cowboys and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. Even before suffering the injury, Jordan Howard had more carries than Langford. There is already speculation that Howard will remain the starting running back for the Bears even after the return of Langford. In the limited time Howard has had on the field, he has made the most of it, averaging 5.6 yards per carry. This is 2 more YPC than Langford. Ka’Deem Carey is also not expected to play his week. I expect Howard to prove himself as the best running back on the Bears and keep the starting role the rest of the season. You may still be able to get him for a relatively low price, but that won’t last for long.
Dez Bryant, Wide Receiver for the Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys pass offense has looked a little different this year. It has featured much less Dez Bryant and much more Cole Beasley. I don’t think this is going to change while Dak Prescott is at quarterback. Prescott is still new to the NFL, and while he’s played well for the most part, he’s still a rookie. He’s not going to make the same plays that Tony Romo would. Jerry Jones has expressed that as soon as Romo is healthy, he will be the starting quarterback, which is huge for Bryant’s value. Romo is expected to miss 6-10 weeks, which puts him right back in the lineup before the playoffs. You don’t necessarily need to make a trade tomorrow for Dez, but keep your eye on him. If he still is putting up very inconsistent games you can probably get a good deal for him.
Matt Ryan, Quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons
I never would have thought Matt Ryan would be the #1 fantasy quarterback three weeks into the season. His top ranking isn’t going to last forever. Through the first three games of the season, the Falcons played Tampa Bay, Oakland, and New Orleans. They rank 20th, 32nd, and 25th respectively in passing yardage allowed per game. The next three weeks the Falcons play Carolina, Denver, and Seattle. They rank 5th, 4th, and 2nd respectively in passing yards allowed per game. They each have allowed on average the following number of fantasy points per game to the opposing quarterback: Carolina 13.5, Denver 13.8, and Seattle 10.1. He does have some more favorable matchups later in the season, but his value is not going to be higher than it is now.
LeGarrette Blount, Running Back for the New England Patriots
Blount has had a great start to the season. He currently leads to league in rushing attempts (75), yards (298), and is tied for first in touchdowns (4). I believe this is mostly due to Tom Brady’s suspension. Last season the Patriots were tied for 25th in team rushing attempts. Once Brady is back I expect to Patriots to resume “business as usual” with their future hall of fame quarterback. Just like last season Blount will have his big games, but he is not going to be the workhorse that he is now. I expect James White to get into the game more with Brady back too. Blount has yet to catch a pass this season, and we all know how well Dion Lewis and James White were last year. You may get one more great game from Blount but don’t expect that to keep up.
Keep for now:
Coby Fleener, Tight End for the New Orleans Saints
Fleener finally rewarded fantasy owners this past week with a big game, and that will continue to happen. The Saints are going to have to air the ball out every week to try and win. It has taken a little bit more time than expected for Fleener to get a feel of the offense, but he looks to have a grasp on it now. I am still as high on Fleener as I was when I wrote about him this season. Fleener is second in targets to Brandin Cooks with 23, and his targets have increased each game: Week 1 (4), Week 2 (8), and Week (11). Fleener will continue to get more comfortable with the offense, and will be productive. The Saints show no signs of being able to stop a team on offense (I’m calling the Giants game a fluke). Fleener is also a great buy-low candidate, but his stock is on the rise.
It’s been a long time since the Packers had a tight end even remotely fantasy relevant. Richard Rodgers finished as the No. 9 TE last season, but he’s not getting the title of ‘fantasy relevant’ yet. Rodgers caught one hail mary against the Lions which accounted for 61 yards and a touchdown. If you get rid of that play his stat line goes drops to 58/449/7, which makes him TE 12.
Even though TE 12 doesn’t seem terrible, Rodgers was so inconsistent he would’ve been a big gamble to start. He only posted 4 games with double-digit points (3 discounting the hail mary catch) while also posting 8 games under four points.
The last time the Packers had a startable tight end was in 2011 when Jermichael Finley was the fifth best TE. Finley’s career was riddled with injuries and after a serious neck injury, Finley had to retire. Like Rodgers, he posted 4 games with double digit fantasy points but had only 5 games under four points. Still not the production of a great fantasy option.
Jared Cook signed with the Packers during free agency. He has never played with an elite quarterback during his career. From 2009-2012 when Cook played for the Titans, his quarterbacks included Vince Young, Kerry Collins, Matt Hasselbeck, and Jake Locker. From 2013 - 2015, Cook played with Sam Bradford, Kellen Clemens, Austin Davis, Shaun Hill, Nick Foles, and Case Keenum. During that time, Cook’s best fantasy year was in 2013 when he finished as the 11th best TE.
Aaron Rodgers is by far the best quarterback the Jared Cook has even played with, and I expect a top 12 finish from Cook provided he is the starter. I believe that part of the reason that Jared Cook has never lived up to expectations is because he’s never had a reliable guy getting him the football. Cook has all the attributes to be a top tight end in the league. He has elite speed, posting a 4.49 forty yard dash in the combine in 2009. Even if his speed has dropped off a bit, he’s still one of the fastest tight ends in the game.
Vernon Davis and Jared Cook boast very similar skill sets. In the combine Davis posted a 4.38 forty yard dash, a 42 inch vertical leap while measuring in at 6’3”, 254 pounds. Cook had a vertical leap of 41 inches, and measured in at 6’5”, 254. The big difference between the two is Davis has played with a reliable quarterback for part of his career.
Cook does have some injury concerns. Currently Cook is recovering from foot surgery that he had in June. He should be ready to go for the start of the regular season, and maybe even some of the preseason. It’s important for Cook to get some work in with Aaron Rodgers. Missing practices could result in a slower start to the season for Cook.
The only way Cook could be a tight end worthy of starting is if he’s the unquestioned starter. If Richard Rodgers is the starter or if they split time, Cook will not put up great numbers. Neither player will have much value if they split time on the field.
Keep watching reports on which Packers’ tight end is practicing with the first team. Once Cook begins practicing it will be interesting to see how he and Richard Rodgers split first team reps. I would expect to see Jared Cook become the starting tight end, even if it isn’t right away. Cook is currently ranked by FantasyPros at TE 21, and 177th overall. He’s a great option for a late-round flier who has TE1 potential.
I promise that this article does discuss Donte Moncrief, but bear with me while I discuss the offensive situation of the Colts first.
Andrew Luck is back, and he has a lot to prove after signing his $140 million contract extension. I know he didn’t play well last year, but a lot has changed since then. Rob “Chud” Chudzinski is the offensive coordinator, the Colts bolstered their offensive line in the draft, and Luck is finally healthy.
With Pep Hamilton out and Chud in we can expect the Colts to start attacking the field vertically, like a Bruce Arians type of Colts offense from 2012. With Arians in charge Luck finished his rookie season as the #11 fantasy QB and set the NFL record for most passing yards by a rookie QB. The Colts were 9-3 in the 12 games with Arians under the helm.
In the one game that Luck and Chud played together Luck put up 252 yards, 2 TDs, 0 turnovers, and was only sacked one time. Don’t forget that this game was also against the Super Bowl Champions themselves, the Denver Broncos. The game against the Colts was the only game in the 2016 season when Von Miller and company failed to sack the quarterback more than once.
Now insert Ryan Kelly. He is a strong and athletic center who the Colts took with their first round draft pick. His physical abilities plus his high football IQ will solidify the offensive line. I predict a good showing from the Colts O-line this year, which created the majority of the offensive problems for the Colts.
We can get to Donte Moncrief now. Keeping all of the aforementioned information in mind let me give you a few stats about Moncrief, T.Y. Hilton, and Luck. In the 7 games that Andrew Luck played in last season these are the stats for those two receivers: Hilton 31 catches, 548 yards, and 3 TDs for a total of 70 fantasy points in a standard league (101 PPR). Moncrief: 32 catches, 351 yards, and 5 TDs for a total of 62 fantasy points (94 PPR). Very close production for the No. 1 and No. 3 wide receivers on the depth chart.
Now I’m a guy that’s all about player consistency. I’d rather have the running back who puts up his 10 points each week than the one who switches off between 15 and 5 point weeks. Hell, I’d rather have one that puts up 9 points each week. I think that constant production is the key to winning.
I also want to note that Hilton had one game with 150 yards and 2 TDs, a total of 27 fantasy points. That’s over 38% of his seven week production in 1 game. Each of the receivers had a down week of two, but Moncrief scored at least 9 points in 5 of those 7 games. Hilton only managed to do it in 3 games. Now Hilton was the 24th best WR last year while Moncrief only came in at 38th, but bad offensive line play and a banged up Matt Hasselbeck made the Colts offense very inconsistent for the other 9 games.
Hilton’s inconsistency dates back to 2014. He had 6 games with 6 points or less and 6 games with 12 points or more. I’ll give him credit though, some of those 12+ point games were incredible performances. A 223 yard, 1 TD performance against the Texans and a 150 yard, 2 TD performance against the Browns. In his 3 best games last year Hilton put up 528 yards and 4 TDs. T.Y. put up almost 40% of his yardage total and over 57% of his touchdown total in just a quarter of his games. I don’t think it’s a fair to compare the 2014 seasons of Hilton and Moncrief as it was Donte rookie year.
Moncrief should see significantly more playing time in 2016 with the departure of Andre Johnson. Johnson played 710 offense snaps in 2015 as the team’s second string WR.
FantasyPros currently has Hilton as the 28th best player this year and the 15th best WR. Moncrief is ranked as the 58th best player and the 27th best WR. We know Andrew Luck is going to get the ball down the field as both WRs are deep threats, but Moncrief is going to be the better bargain. Hilton may end up with more fantasy points at the end of the year, but Moncrief is going to be the consistent scorer. He could even finish with nearly as many points as T.Y., and he’s going 3 rounds later. Bypass Hilton in the early rounds and snag a mid-round gem. #FeedMoncrief
Coby Fleener is coming off of his worst season since his rookie year of 2012. He is leaving his college teammate Andrew Luck after four seasons to play with another elite quarterback in Drew Brees. The situation is great for both the Saints and Fleener. The Saints need a TE who can replace Jimmy Graham and no offense to Benjamin Watson, but I don’t think you’re that guy. Fleener can be that TE. I’m not saying he’s going to put up the 1,200 yards and 16 TDs that Graham did in 2014. But with Sean Payton’s offense, Fleener will have his best fantasy season yet.
The Saints have been blessed with Drew Brees and Sean Payton since 2006. The Saints worst finish in net passing yards in the Brees-Payton era was 4th.
Brees is a huge reason why the Saints offense has had so much success. I would argue that he is the epitome of consistent and great quarterback production. Since moving to New Orleans Brees has averaged over 4,800 yards and almost 38 touchdowns per season. He also only missed two games during that span. From 2011-2014, Brees averaged almost 5,200 yards and over 40 touchdowns per season.
In the same four year period, Jimmy Graham averaged 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns. That accounted for 21% of Drew Brees’ passing yardage and 28% of his touchdowns. That is incredible production from the TE spot. While it’s easy to think that Jimmy Graham is much better than Coby Fleener, they are comparable players.
Graham stands at 6’7” and weighs 265 lbs. Fleener is 6’6” and weighs 251 lbs. Graham’s 40 yard dash time is 4.56 while Fleener’s is 4.51. Both players are reliable catching the ball. Over the past three seasons, each player has dropped 12 passes, accounting for 3.3% of Graham’s targets and 4.3% of Fleener’s targets. Each player is thought of as a receiving TE, as both have received criticism for their poor blocking skills.
The following is the end of the season ranking in terms of total fantasy points for the starting TE in New Orleans since 2009: 18 (2009), 23 (2010), 2 (2011), 1 (2012), 1 (2013), 3 (2014), 7 (2015). It’s also important to keep in mind that 2010 was Jimmy Graham’s rookie year, and that 2009 was the only year he played football in college.
Last year the starting TE for the Saints was an aging Benjamin Watson. Even at the age of 36, he managed to haul in 74 receptions for 825 yards and 6 TDs. That stat line was good enough for 118 fantasy points, tied for 7th best with Travis Kelce. Even without an elite tight end, the Saints are getting production from that position. Now insert Coby Fleener, who’s an upgrade from Watson. Fleener is easily going to out produce a player past his prime, after a terrible 2015 campaign he is going to be eager to produce.
Sean Payton’s TE friendly offense is going to continue with Coby Fleener. Drew Brees is going to continue to air the ball out and Fleener will reap the rewards. I predict that he will finish in the top 5 this year. There might be a little bit of growing pains with Fleener learning a new offense, but Brees and Fleener will develop great chemistry. Fleener is currently ranked as the 7th best tight end by FantasyPros, and his ADP is 79th. I’m drafting him a bit earlier than that. The risk is well worth the reward taking Fleener in the 6th round.
Week 16 is the championship week in fantasy football for nearly every league. Unfortunately, there are a lot of top running backs whose status is in flux on the biggest week of the fantasy football season. You may be one of those people facing the dillema of having one of those backs on your fantasy team and are still uncertain what your lineup should look like. We're here to hopefully make it a little easier to decide. Here are a bunch of running backs whose status is uncertain heading into Week 16, what their matchups are like, and whether or not we trust them to win you a fantasy championship.
Cleveland Browns Isaiah Crowell @ Carolina Panthers
Crowell's problem: Hip injury
What he did last game (vs. Cincinnati): 7 carries for 17 yards (2.9 yards per carry), 2 catches for 17 yards
What he's up against this week if he plays: Carolina ranks 12th worst against fantasy running backs (17.8 points per game)
What happened last week: Crowell has put together an impressive rookie season with 8 touchdowns and 546 rushing yards. Not bad for a guy who went undrafted. Crow's always been a bit of a touchdown dependent, boom or bust guy due largely to the Browns dual system with Terrance West. That, combined with the Browns suspect run blocking ever since Pro Bowl center Alex Mack went down for the season and you have a constant whirlwind of uncertainty going into each matchup if you have Crowell.
To complicate matters further, the Browns trotted out rookie Johnny Manziel for the first time last week and it was a strug. The rookie quarterback forced the issue at times, made some classic rookie mistakes like throwing the ball just a half second too late on an out route which lead to an interception and overall created more doubt regarding whether the Browns will move the ball effectively this week. Of course, you can't place the blame solely on Manziel. The Browns receivers failed to reel in a few of his throws, but his mistakes were enough to severely limit the Browns offense and allowed the Bengals to bring the blitz more which limited Crowell's upside.
What could happen this week: The Panthers are a far cry from the dominant defense they were just a year ago where they ranked second best team in the league against running backs. Injuries on the defensive line sprinkled with lackluster depth at the receiver position have resulted in several low scoring outputs for the Panthers, but they have established a bit of a running identity in the last few weeks. The Panthers have shown life in the running game with Jonathan Stewart averaging 4.6 yards per carry. The Panthers will also likely get Cam Newton back and he's averaging 5.0 yards per carry.
Even though Crowell is banged up, he played through it last week which could indicate he's not completely against playing through pain. Still, the Browns are a complete liability on offense as long as Manziel is under center as a rookie. If you watched the Bengals/Browns game last week, you saw how the Bengals completely dominated the Browns in the run game which ate up clock and limited the offenses time on the field. That could very well be the case again this week against Carolina with Stewart.
Do we trust Crowell?: No
Who would we start over him?: Giovani Benard, Carlos Hyde, Dan Herron, Lamar Miller, Tre Mason
Dallas Cowboys' DeMarco Murray vs. Indianapolis Colts
Murray's problem: Broken metacarpal in his left hand (same injury as Apollo Creed's opponent in Rocky I which forced the champ to find himself another ranked contender)
What he did last game (@ Philadelphia): 31 carries for 81 yards, 2 touchdowns (2.6 yards per carry)
What he's up against this week if he plays: Indianapolis ranks 6th worst against fantasy running backs (19.1 points per game)
What happened last week: While many consider Murray's injury huge in terms of affecting his value, the status of offensive linemen Zach Martin and Doug Free may actually make a bigger difference. Martin and Free suffered ankle injuries last week against Philadelphia, but luckily both avoided the dreaded high ankle sprain which could've been a sweet kiss of death for Week 16. Their status is uncertain but if either or them can't go, it could really impact the effectiveness of the Cowboys run game.
As for what happened in the game itself, the Philadelphia Eagles front four picked up from where they left off last week after handling the run quite well a week earlier against the Seattle Seahawks and running back Marshawn Lynch. Fletcher Cox has been a force up the middle all year long and is a perfect fit for the 3-4 scheme. They kept Lynch under the 100-yard mark and held him to just 3.7 yards per carry.
Against Murray, it was more of the same. They held the league's leading rusher to a season low 2.9 yards per carry average. Even when defensive end Trent Cole went out with an injury in the second half, Brandon Graham stepped right in and the defense didn't miss a beat as far as containing Murray went. Still, the Cowboys committed to the run and Murray went on to have a productive fantasy day despite being limited. It shows you just how valuable he is to the offense even when he's not performing at his peak.
What could happen this week: Murray is currently a game time decision for Week 16. If you weren't lucky enough to grab his handcuff Joesph Randle (who's available in 87% of Yahoo! Leagues) then you may have a crisis on your hands. The matchup against Indy is tasty like a Dallas steak medium rare cooked on a cast iron grill. The Colts are allowing 110 rushing yards per game and rarely hold opponents to low scores. They've been involved in several shootouts with their No. 1 ranked passing attack and teams haven't exactly struggled when it comes to keeping up with their scoring. Two weeks ago, Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West combined for over 100 rushing yards against them. They allowed 99 yards from Arian Foster last week and over 130 total rushing yards to the Texans overall. This is a team that can be run on, but you can't put Murray's status at anything better than 50/50 at this point so you'll have to monitor him throughout the week. But remember to monitor the status of the linemen as well. If Martin and Free can't go but Murray can, expect Murray to maybe be a little less effective but still startable. If Murray can't go and neither can Marin and Free, then go with Randle if you have him but temper expectations severely.
Do we trust Murray?: If Martin and Free can't go, then no. But you have to start him anyway because of the all important fantasy commandment of 'start thy studs.'
Kansas City Chiefs' Jamaal Charles @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Charles' problem: Ankle and knee injuries
What he's up against this week: Pittsburgh ranks 12th best against fantasy running backs (14.6 points per game)
What happened last week: Charles rushed for a respectable 52 yards on 15 carries (4.3 yards per carry) and looked like his usual self until a big hit sidelined him for virtually the remainder of the game. Originally thought to be concussed, it turned out Charles' head is just fine and he shouldn't have any more obstacles keeping him from playing against Pittsburgh this week. Backup running back Knile Davis continues to be among the top handcuff RBs in the league and is a worthy flex option regardless if Charles starts or not.
What could happen this week: The Steelers have a lot on the line in this game. They control their own destiny heading into the playoffs. Still, they remain completely inept against the pass (252 passing yards allowed per game) and allow 23.8 fantasy points to wide receivers per game which could help Charles be very effective catching the ball out of the backfield. Charles hasn't been the dominant receiver in 2014 that we've seen in the past but he still has 5 receiving touchdowns on the year to go with 235 receiving yards. Davis could be in line for some catches as well.
Do we trust Charles?: Yes, go with him as an RB1, start Davis as a flex
San Francisco 49ers' Frank Gore vs. San Diego Chargers
Gore's problem: Concussion
What he did last game: 11 carries for 29 yards, 1 touchdown
What he's up against this week if he plays: San Diego ranks 13th best against fantasy running backs (14.5 points per game)
What happened last week: Gore got off to a hot start before he took a vicious hit after trying to block down field which left him with a concussion. Fellow running back Carlos Hyde, who replaced Gore, also suffered injuries to his ankle and back. Both running backs missed practice on Tuesday and they have a short week as they're scheduled to play San Diego on Saturday.
What could happen this week: Even before his injury, Gore had been struggling. His YPC average hovered around 2.7 over the last four games and he hasn't crossed the century mark since Week 5 against Kansas City. Hyde has been waiting in the wings and looks like the fresher option at this point. He's been limited in touches, but when he's gotten the carries he runs hard and is a touchdown threat around the goal line.
Do we trust Gore?: No
What should you do: if Gore can't go, then start Hyde as a flex. If Gore can go, bench both him and Hyde or keep Gore in the flex if you're desperate. Hyde simply doesn't get enough carries if Gore is on the field to be effective.
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On Monday's Week 15 edition of First Aid, the Helpers analyze Seattle/San Francisco and Detroit/Minnesota and give out fantasy value to the players in those contests. Plus weekly awards and a quick preview of Chicago/New Orleans tonight. Enjoy.
Well, if you’re still alive then I say congratulations and I I’d also like to say…. I’m jealous! My first round exit will be just another blip on the radar that nobody will remember. Admittedly, my team happened to not be very good, but in addition to my team, the regular season’s points leader and consensus best team in my league by far was eliminated. Unfortunately for that team, they will also be another team in the 2014 season that nobody will recall long term. This week those of you who are one game from the championship, are not only playing for a spot in the Super Bowl, or in many cases money….you’re playing for a permanent place in your league’s history books, a fond memory that you and your league members will have forever the bragging rights that come along with this glorious memory. Let me show you what I mean.
I’m a Giants fan in my early 30s and I’ve been a diehard football fan as long as I could remember. Anything Giants related is entrenched in my mind, but playoff games between other teams before they reached the Super Bowl…not as much. For example, everyone around my age or older remembers the Titans v. Rams Super Bowl XXXIV where Kevin Dyson, instead of scoring the game tying TD, was tackled at the one yard line to end the game. The game was now 15 years ago this January and even if you don’t remember the details of the game you know exactly what game I’m referring to and there is a clear picture of it in your mind. However, do you remember how those teams got there? A small percentage of you might, but I’m almost positive that the very large majority does not. I had to look it up and I discovered that the Rams beat the Tampa Bay Bucs 11-6. Weird score and I know I watched that game, but I can’t tell you anything about it off the top of my head. The Titans dominated the Jaguars 33-14. I can’t tell you anything about that game either. In the long run nobody will remember or care that the Bucs made the NFC Title game that year. I’m sure the Bucs don’t brag about losing that heart breaker. Super Bowls will live in all of our hearts and minds forever. Don’t be a blip on the radar! Whether you’re the best team in your league on paper or whether you’re a team that got hot at the right time, take it home this week and you’ll be in fantasy football lure for the rest of your days.
Your lineup should be set with the exception of maybe a flex spot and the always matchup dependent TE spot. However, there are players at every position that I believe can help you accomplish your goal of winning a Super Bowl ring.
Without further ado, your week 15 Sleepers and Busts:
DISCLAIMER:A sleeper is not a must start and a bust is not a must bench, they are merely indications that a player will have a better or worse game this week than they normally do. It all really depends on your alternatives. I will give an example of a few players for whom I personally would start the sleeper over or bench the bust for.These players are simply there as an indication of how good or bad I think the sleepers/busts will perform so you have a comparison in mind when applying it to your actual lineup. For example if I am comparing a QB to a stud like Andrew Luck, I am not necessarily saying you need to start him over Luck (even if I would) but it will imply that I feel really good about him.
· Mark Sanchez v. Dallas. Ok so maybe last week didn’t work out at home against Seattle, but that was the Super Bowl Champs playing at their best in a huge game and this is Dallas, a team that's known as the biggest group of December choke artists in the last 15 years. Their defense has given up 7 TDs through the air in the last three weeks to Eli Manning, Jay Cutler, and Mark Sanchez himself. The Eagles dominated the Cowboys in Dallas 33-10 on Thanksgiving day and there is no reason to think they won’t do the same on Sunday.
Quick stat: According to Football Outsiders, teams losing by more than 20 points at home are just 17-36 (.321) in road rematches. The Eagles and Sanchez are looking better already.
Sanchez has shown consistent QB1 ability other than his misstep last week and despite only throwing for 96 yards, he still threw for 2 TDs. He’s otherwise been consistently over 300 yards and has had multiple TDs in 5 of 6 starts. His matchup is ideal for the playoffs and has unlimited upside. Take a tip from me. Just because you were rejected by the girl/guy who doesn’t ever give it up (Seattle), does not mean you won’t score with the girl/guy who has the reputation for giving it up (Dallas)! As far as Mark Sanchez goes, we know he’ll score on Sunday….as soon as he’s done throwing a few TDs in the football game.
I’d Start Mark Sanchez over: Tony Romo, Jay Cutler, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, JohnnyManziel
· Matthew Stafford v. Minnesota. Oh how a couple of big performances against awful defenses make us forget. In the last two weeks against the 23rd and 31st ranked teams (Chicago, Tampa Bay) against fantasy QBs, Stafford has averaged approximately 350 yards and 2.5 TDs per game. Stafford’s previous two games were against elite defenses in New England and Arizona, games in which he combined for 0 TD and 2 INT. Minnesota, the 10th ranked fantasy defense against QBs and 6th in passing yards against, is up next on the schedule. They’re not nearly as good as New England or Arizona defensively but they’re not nearly as bad as Chicago and Tampa Bay. The Vikings can be run on easily, ranking 23rd in yards per game and I anticipate the Lions going that route. Some sites have Stafford ranked as high as #4 this week after his success the last two weeks but I’d expect him to finish with about 250 yards and 1-2 TDs, a borderline QB1.
I’d Start the following players over Matthew Stafford: Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan
· Fred Jackson v. Green Bay. They say experience wins in the playoffs right? Well why not take a shot with the oldest RB in the NFL. This matchup has big upside for the Bills best receiving threat out of the backfield. Jackson, a versatile threat looks as healthy as ever with 18 and 21 touches the last two weeks. He has not hit pay dirt in those games but he did score big in PPR leagues with his 10 receptions last week against Denver. Denver got off to a 24-3 lead and the Bills had to air it out leading to many dump offs to Jackson. I see this game against Green Bay being extremely similar with a similar outcome for Jackson. Start the old reliable Freddy Jackson as a RB2 in PPR leagues and as a flex in .5 PPR and standard leagues.
I’d start Fred Jackson over: Steven Jackson, Chris Johnson, Jeremy Hill, Latavius Murray
· Chris Johnson at Tennessee. Last week I believed in the awful RB (Trent Richardson) having a big game in a revenge game and it backfired on me. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. Chris Johnson is a slightly better Trent Richardson. I don’t mean speed wise, Richardson runs in slow motion, but Johnson has zero power at this stage of his career and doesn’t provide much in terms of broken tackles. It takes Moses parting the waters for him to hit the hole. Johnson did have over 100 yards two games ago, in the run runrunrunrunrun game against the Dolphins, but has otherwise not topped 69 yards rushing yards this season when normal game plans were in place. A decent performance could very well happen against Tennessee but I would not dare to put my fantasy prospects on a guy who has not scored a TD in the last nine games. Experts are ranking him as a mid RB2 but I think he’s a at best a desperate flex option. If you’re still alive at this stage of the game, you probably can do better.
I’d start the following players over Chris Johnson: Isaiah Crowell, Jeremy Hill, Fred Jackson, Chris Ivory, Dan Herron
· Marqise Lee at Baltimore. For one week Baltimore, the league’s worst team against fantasy WRs, did not get dismantled in the passing game. With the Jaguars coming to town, a blowout is likely in favor of Baltimore and a lot of throwing should be in store for the Jaguars come the 2nd half of the game. A lot of throwing against the worst fantasy team against WRs? sounds like fantasy gold to me. Advantage Marqise Lee, the shiny new toy in Jacksonville. Lee has 16 targets over the last two weeks and is building some chemistry with number one pick Blake Bortles. He’s been consistent with 52-75 yards over the last 3 weeks including a TD, but should be on the higher end of the spectrum against one of the league’s poorest defensive backfields. Consider Lee as a 3rd WR.
· Steve Smith Sr vs. Jacksonville. Steve Smith is in the midst of a fine bounce back season in his first year in Baltimore. He comes into this week 15 matchup against the Jaguars with two TDs in his last three games and with Torrey Smith battling an injury common sense says he’ll receive more targets and continue to put up big weeks. People see Jacksonville and think it’s a tasty matchup but much like I’ve warned the past few weeks, they’re actually a BAD matchup. Since week 4 this team has been playing stellar defense against the pass. Just this week they opposed Ryan Fitzpatrick who was coming off a 6 TD performance and held him to 135 yds and 0 TD! IN addition, the previous two weeks they held Eli Manning to 1 TD and broke Andrew Luck’s streak of 300 yard performances while holding him to 1 TD. The point of mentioning all these QBs is that the Ravens could very easily win this game handily, but it could be with a steady dose of Justin Forsett and some big plays against Blake Bortles. The Ravens will not have to air it out too often, limiting Smith’s opportunities against and already very good pass defense. All year Smith has been a boom or bust type of guy and I’m smelling bust for this week.
I’d start the following players over Steve Smith: Marqise Lee, Julian Edelman, Vincent Jackson, Golden Tate, Malcolm Floyd
· Larry Donnell v. Washington. It’s been a rough go for Larry Donnell and those fantasy players who started him for the past three weeks but week 15’s matchup with Washington is the cure for the tight end blues. The Redskins have gotten torched in back to back weeks by Coby Fleener and Jared Cook. They rank 29th overall against the TE. The Giants have shown that when they have an advantage in the passing game that they’ll keep picking on the matchup as evidenced by Donnell’s tendency to either put up a huge game or a tremendous dud. Look for the Giants to look for Donnell on fade patterns and/or jump balls in the endzone. In addition, look for them to throw a few deep seam passes to Donnell, a play that Washington has not shown the ability to cover in the last couple of weeks.
I’d start Larry Donnell over: Antonio Gates, Julius Thomas, Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, Jordan Reed, Zach Ertz
· Julius Thomas at San Diego. If your other options are borderline options then you must start Julius Thomas, however I am concerned with his week 15 matchup. I’m mostly concerned with his injury. If he is not 100% then he is not the same player that can beat LBs and safeties 1 on 1 in the blink of an eye. In addition, I am concerned with Denver’s proficiency in the run game. In the beginning of the season, Denver was struggling to punch the ball into the endzone and Julius Thomas was their best option inside the 10 yardline. Nowadays CJ Anderson is one of the hottest RBs in the game of football, and he does convert inside the 10. The Broncos have no problem letting Anderson doing the dirty work while letting Julius Thomas get his legs back under him in his first game back from injury. If that wasn’t bad enough, San Diego is the 3rd ranked team against TEs and held a healthy Julius Thomas to only 2 catches for 23 yards in week 8. Once again, start him if you have to but if you have any other high end options like Delanie Walker, Martellus Bennett or this week even Larry Donnell, I would go ahead and bench him and save him for my Super Bowl week.
I’d Start the Following Players over Julius Thomas: Delanie Walker, Martellus Bennett, Larry Donnell, Antonio Gates
That’ll do it for week 15.It’s win or go home my friends. Don’t be a blip on the radar! Get it done this week and you’ll have bragging rights for a lifetime. Good Luck!
On Friday's edition of Diagnosis, the Helpers discuss a few playoff sleeper options at each position for Week 15. Week 15 is often considered the divisional round of the fantasy playoffs, so the competition is likely to get even tougher from here on out. Also, they go over their hits and misses from Week 14.
Editor's note: Our bullet point articles are written to better explain our weekly rankings, which you can find here.
If you’re reading this you’re more than likely looking for advice for round 1 of the fantasy playoffs. Check out the below key points about the two most commonly streamed positions during these do or die weeks, QB and Defense/Special Teams. Good Luck!
Start of the Week:
QB –Russell Wilson at Philadelphia- #6 in Weekly Rankings
Is Wilson the best fantasy QB this week? Probably not, but everyone above him is just too obvious to talk about and I’d only need to say their names as to why you should love them this week. Russell Wilson travels to Philadelphia, the 26th ranked team in terms of passing yards against. Russell Wilson’s rushing stats have been amazingly consistent and high with over 30 rushing yards in 7 straight weeks including four games over 70 yards and two games over 100 yards. It’s a given that Wilson will add fantasy points via the rush. Going up against one of the weakest pass defenses against fantasy QBs, Wilson should be able to have one of his best passing days of the season. When he does both things well, we’ve seen Russellmania be able to put up top 3 QB weeks.
D/ST – Minnesota v. NY Jets - #1 in Weekly Rankings
The Vikings will be without star rookie LB Anthony Barr but I’m still placing them in the top spot. This defense just put up a 30 spot in standard leagues with its two blocked punt TDs and all around domination against the Carolina Panthers. Their 35 sacks rank 4th in the NFL and they’re suddenly the 9th ranked fantasy defense. This week they’re matching up with Geno Smith. The Jets are literally scared to let their QB throw as evidenced by last week’s bizarre game-plan where Smith threw 13 passes. If the Vikings put 8 or 9 in the box and stop the Jets on first down and create 2nd and 3rd and long, we could be seeing many sacks and turnovers and very possibly a score for this defense.
QB – Ryan Tannehill - #10 in Weekly Rankings
Tannehill is coming off a dud in a prime matchup against the Jets last week. However, he’s coming back home where he’s had multiple TDs in his last three outings. Tannehill is in the midst of a breakout year and the addition of rushing stats to his game via the read option have made him a weekly fringe QB1. This week he faces the Ravens, a team who may be struggling against the pass more than anyone in the NFL right now. The Ravens have been a different defense since star CB Jimmy Smith went down for the season. They’ve allowed over 32 fantasy points to QBs in 6 PT KD leagues in 3 out of the last 4 weeks and we all remember the 6 TD game they gave up to Big Ben. If things weren’t bad enough, All-Pro defensive tackle Haloti Ngata has been suspended for the remainder of the season for using Adderall. The Dolphins should be able to move the ball at will and Tannehill should extend his streak of multiple TD games at home.
D/ST – New Orleans v. Carolina- #8 in Weekly Rankings
The New Orleans Saints are fantasy football’s 28th ranked defense. I don’t really have much good to say about them other than the play of Keenan Lewis and Cameron Jordan. The high ranking of this team should tell you just how much the Carolina Panthers are struggling. In their last two road games against Minnesota and Philadelphia, the Panthers have allowed opposing fantasy defenses to score a mind boggling 30 and 35 fantasy points respectively. Cam Newton has 7 turnovers in his last 3 games and the Panthers’ special teams is coming off a week where they allowed two blocked punts. The Saints have already played the Panthers on the road, a game they won 28-10 and a game in which they had their best fantasy defensive outing of the season. The Panthers are in the midst of an epic collapse and I don’t think a trip to New Orleans is the answer. The Saints are most likely available in many leagues and I highly recommend them as a matchup play.
QB – Ryan Fitzpatrick at Jacksonville - #23 in Weekly Rankings
Warning! Do not chase last week’s six TDs game from Fitzmagic. It’s so tempting to think that Fitzpatrick can keep this up, but he’s a journeyman part time starting QB. We’ve seen Matt Flynn do this and completely disappear off the face of the earth, so please do not think this kind of play will continue. Fitzpatrick is in his 9th season and is on his 5th team. That is telling. In addition, Jacksonville sounds like a great matchup but it’s not. The Jaguars rank 20th against fantasy QBs but have gotten better as the season as progressed as they’ve only given up one 20 point fantasy QB game since week 4. Stay away, do not be baited into this dud in the playoffs.
D/ST – Indianapolis at Cleveland - #18 in Weekly Rankings
Brian Hoyer has been completing a lot of passes to the opposing team but this week the Colts will be without Pro Bowl CB Vontae Davis. Davis is the backbone of this defense and frankly he’s the only reason it’s even mediocre. Without him the Colts are vulnerable against both the run and pass. Last time the Colts were without Vontae Davis was 11 snaps into a game against the Steelers, a game in which the Colts gave up 51 points. Look for a big time shootout in this game.