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.
Start of the Week
1. Andre Johnson v Pittsburgh Steelers #10 Weekly Rankings
Fantasy owners almost take for granted the consistency Houston wide receiver Andre Johnson has provided them over his illustrious career. Going on the age of 33, Johnson is not going to get any younger but has shown he can still be the number one option in the receiving game.
Going into week 7, Johnson draws a great matchup with the Steelers inconsistent defense. The Steelers just benched No. 1 cornerback Cortez Allen who signed a four-year contract extension this offseason due to his terrible play (worst rated CB according to Pro Football Focus), and are looking like they will be without the services of rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier due to a knee injury.
Despite the emergence of second-year receiver DeAndre Hopkins, Johnson is still the primary target in Houston's passing game. He leads the the Texans in targets (48), receiving yards (419) and does not have a game this year being targeted fewer than 7 times and with the Steelers defense looking to patch up an already shaky secondary, expect a big day from Johnson and the rest of the Texans passing game.
2. Dwayne Allen v. Cincinnati Bengals #11 Weekly Rankings
It has been tough to depend on any of the Colts tight ends this year from a fantasy perspective. Allen has been the clear favorite in terms of red zone targets, and has also shown a much better ability to stretch a defense up the middle of the field. Although Allen had a mediocre game last week, there's plenty of evidence to suggest that he will once again provide another quality fantasy day.
Allen has a great matchup this weekend with the Bengals who are allowing the most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. While the Bengals defense is stout against the run, their linebackers are don't have the ability to play man-coverage against opposing tight ends.
Even though Allen put up a mediocre three receptions for 49 yards, he was still targeted 6 times in the game. Now going up against a defensive unit that's giving up an average of 12.4 fantasy points to opposing tight ends, I expect a big day from both the Colts tight ends.
1. Larry Donnell v. Dallas Cowboys #8 Weekly Rankings
How can someone lose all the fantasy equity they built up with just a couple of bad weeks? After posting three touchdowns in the Giants week 4 matchup with the Redskins, Donnell was invisible in the Giants passing game in week 6 after catching one pass for 6 yards. While fantasy owners may be questioning whether or not they can depend on Donnell as a consistent fantasy option, I still recommend rolling with him for at least one more week.
Now that Victor Cruz has been placed on injured reserve due to a knee injury, there are going to be plenty of opportunities for the rest of the Giants' receivers to make a fantasy impact. While a lot of fantasy owners are going to pick up rookie Odell Beckham Jr., he will need a couple weeks to prove himself as a consistent option for Eli Manning. Last week was the only week Donnell registered fewer than 6 targets in a game, showing that him and Manning are developing pretty good chemistry.
Fantasy owners have to be hopeful for a bounce back week from Donnell due to his matchup with the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys defense has given up the third-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends, as well as the second most receiving touchdowns (6) this season. I am still going to consider Donnell a lower-level TE1 due to the shaky performance last week. However, with a juicy matchup and a quarterback that's making a conceded effort to get him involved, try and keep Donnell in your lineup.
2. Pierre Garçon v. Tennessee Titans #24 Weekly Rankings
After leading the NFL in targets (178) and finishing second in receptions (110), Garcon has not had the same fantasy success under new head coach Jay Gruden’s new offense. Despite the recent struggles (8 catches through three weeks) I feel like there are a couple of reasons to expect Garcon to bounce back.
Earlier this week when asked about Garcons recent struggles, coach Gruden made it clear that they needed to get him involved in the offense more. Even though Garcon was able to get double-digit fantasy points last week, he salvaged a day that was looking like a dud after he snagged a fourth quarter touchdown reception late.
Despite the recent success of Desean Jackson, Garcon is still leading the team in both targets and receptions, and will prove to be the more consistent option going forward due to Jackson’s reliance on big plays.
Fantasy owners have to be happy to see the Titans on the Redskins schedule this week. Over the last three weeks, opposing quarterbacks have completed 66 percent of their passes, allowing an average 340 passing yards per game and an average of nearly 2.5 passing touchdowns per game. The recent success of opposing quarterbacks give hope to the Redskins passing attack that is in dire need of consistency.
1. Brian Quick v Seattle Seahawks #30 Weekly Rankings
After posting at least 7 receptions or a touchdown in every week, Quick saw that streak come to an end after San Francisco’s secondary made it evident they wanted to slow him down with bracket coverage most of the night. Now after dealing with Chris Culliver, Quick gets the pleasure of matching up with the self-proclaimed “best corner in the league” Richard Sherman and the rest of the Legion of Boom.
Even though the LOB has not been as good as it was last year, they're still formidable. They are allowing 19.6 fantasy points per week to opposing wide receivers.
While Quick is the only receiver on the Rams that comes close to any fantasy relevance, fantasy owners do need to take note of this difficult matchup.
2. Jason Witten v. New York Giants #16 Weekly Rankings
Witten finally found pay dirt last week against the Seahawks,showing he still does have some semblance old Witten left in the tank. Despite the touchdown Witten only totaled 11 fantasy points, which was good for his highest total of the season as well as the only time Witten has reached double-digit fantasy points (.5 PPR) this year.
I don't think the touchdown is a sign of greener pastures the rest of the season. Dallas finally committed to DeMarco Murray instead of putting pressure on Romo to make plays, and the early results seem to be positive. Murray is currently on pace for well over 2,000 yards this season and has a chance to break Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record. The Cowboys are going to continue to lean on the running back as well as feature a downfield passing game with Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams. Witten has been nothing more than a low-end TE1/mid TE2 for most of the season, a trend that I think will continue unless an injury opens up some opportunities.
The purpose of this article is to give viewers an opportunity to get inside our minds, and help understand why we decided to rank players the way that they did. Like other contributors to this website have mentioned, just because we give someone a lower ranking does not necessarily mean you necessarily have to keep that player out of your lineup, but too make you aware that they might not put up their typical production.
George and Scott do their usual fantasy breakdown of two matchups this week, and assess the damage of the week that was in the NFL. Plus, they hand out weekly awards and discuss things to do in Wyoming.
Matchup No. 1 (Atlanta vs. New York Giants)
Two rookies came out of the woodwork in this one and are must owns in all leagues going forward. Andre Williams and Odell Beckham Jr. both shined in New York's victory over Atlanta. Filling in for an injured Rashad Jennings, Williams put his violent running style on full display, trucking defenders on his way to 65 yards and one touchdown on 20 carries.
It was a solid day for Williams considering this was the first time he has been thrust into the starting role as a rookie. The offensive line of the Giants provided good blocking at times (especially the tight ends who helped seal the outside on a lot of off tackle plays) and Williams made the most out of it. Depending on Jennings' status going forward, we could see Williams take on a more substantial role within the offense.
In the receiving game, rookie first-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. (owned in just 9% of Yahoo! Leagues) scored a touchdown on a crucial play in his first NFL start. He saw five targets, which was third behind Reuben Randle (10) and Victor Cruz (6) but he made the most out of them. He caught four passes for 44 yards, and already clued spectators in as to how efficient he could be. Factor in his return yards and this is a natural receiver you want to get your hands on if you're high on the waiver wire. The Giants play the Philadelphia Eagles this week, a team that's been susceptible to the pass (they allowed 3 touchdowns from Austin Davis this week and let Kirk Cousins throw for more than 400 yards on them.) Eagles linebacker DeMaco Ryans also left the game and if he's hurt, then Week 6 could be a big day for the Giants offense.
Matchup No. 2 (Detroit vs. Buffalo)
This game was all about two things — Golden Tate and Calvin Johnson. Already not 100 percent coming in, Johnson aggravated the same ankle that was bothering him after he took a hit from Bills CB Leodis McKelvin. He left the game after recording just one catch for seven yards. His status for Week 6 will be monitored closely no doubt.
Tate flourished in Johnson's absence, finishing with 7 catches for 134 yards and a touchdown on a team-high 9 targets. Tate now has put together back-to-back 100-yard performances and is on pace for 1,014 yards and 3 touchdowns. He's a WR2 with WR1 upside in a high-powered offense riddled with injuries to receivers and running backs.
The rushing game was non-existent for both teams, with both teams combining for a little over 100 yards rushing. Fred Jackson was the top rusher for Buffalo, finishing with 10 carries for 49 yards while George Winn led Detroit with 11 carries for 48 yards. Expect starter Joique Bell to return as the Lions top rusher in Week 6 after being sidelined with a concussion for Week 5. Jackson remains a solid flex play due to his versatility (he caught 7 passes for 58 yards as well).
Rookie Sammy Watkins continued to impress for Buffalo, catching 7 passes for 87 yards on a team-high 12 targets. He's a WR2/3 going forward but will likely be hampered by the Bills' situation at quarterback. Speaking of, Kyle Orton finished 30-of-43 for 308 yards, one touchdown and one interception.