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.
Check out Jerry Ting's Flickr photo page here.
Marqise Lee WR/Jacksonville Jaguars (Owned in 11.5% of ESPN Leagues)
Lee showed that Blake Bortles is not the only rookie down in Jacksonville that should be getting some attention. Lee closed out the preseason in style, hauling in a 57-yard touchdown pass from Bortles. While I take preseason stats with a grain of salt due to the vanilla-style of defense, Lee showed that he is going to be one of the leading targets for the Jaguars’ quarterbacks.
Lee got off to a slow start in the preseason, drawing sour remarks from head coach Gus Bradley concerning his effort on plays that were not designed for him. However, Lee bounced back and finished with a total of 8 receptions for 94 yards. While the stats may not be as flashy as teammate Allen Hurns (who we’ll discuss later), Lee showed to be a consistent target and big play ability (23.7 YPC) during the preseason.
With fellow draft pick Allen Robinson and incumbent starter Cecil Shorts battling hamstring injuries, there is a real opportunity for Lee to lead the Jaguars in receiving this season. Lee currently holds the value of a WR4/5 but has the room to develop into a WR3/Flex option if the Jaguars offense shows continuity.
Tim Wright TE/New England Patriots (Owned 16.0% ESPN Leagues)
When the news broke about a trade sending the Tampa Bay tight end and a 2014 4th-round pick to New England for Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins, I question the motivation behind the move. However, upon further review this deal looks to have worked out for both teams.
Since the arrest of former tight end Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots have been looking for someone who could fill the “move” tight end position that was left vacant. They tried preseason darling Zach Sudfeld last season, and reportedly even considered trying out free agent signee Brandon LaFell at the position this year. After acquiring Wright, the hope is that the search has been completed.
After signing with the Bucaneers as a UDFA in 2013, Wright went on to have a productive rookie season finishing with a 54/571/5 split. Wright is a huge mismatch for linebackers in coverage, operating the intermediate area of the field very well. Even though Rob Gronkowski is going to see the bulk of the targets, the Patriots have shown in the past that there are plenty of targets to go around with Tom Brady under center. Wright is no more than a low TE2 at the moment, but if he can show that the ability to learn the playbook, he could establish himself as a sleeper candidate this season.
Devonta Freeman RB/Atlanta Falcons (Owned in 40.8% ESPN Leagues)
Although starting running back Steven Jackson returned to practice this week, I am wary of any running back that is already battling hamstring injuries at this point in the season. In his absence, Devonta Freeman was given the opportunity to show what he could do, and flashed potential in a big way.
Freeman is currently listed 4th on the Falcons depth chart behind COP backs Antone Smith and Jacquizz Rodgers. Although Freeman has some climbing to do, his talent is far superior to the players in front of him. Freeman averaged 4.2 YPC during the preseason, and showed to be a reliable target out of the backfield totaling 11 catches during the course of the preseason.
Freeman is buried a little bit on the depth chart, but with Jackson’s questionable health, and the lack of real talent in front of him, Freeman should see his carries and playing time increase. While you probably cannot count on Freeman consistently at the moment, he is well worth the stash as a RB 4/5.
Andrew Hawkins WR/Cleveland Browns (Owned in 13.7% ESPN Leagues)
With the yearlong suspension for wide receiver for his third violation of the leagues substance abuse policy, the Browns suddenly have a very thin receiving corps. The hope was that veteran Nate Burleson and Miles Austin could provide some solid depth. However, the Browns released Burleson earlier this week, and Miles Austin is, well, Miles Austin.
While wide receiver Andrew Hawkins is not the most house-held name, he's the only Browns receiver that offers any playmaking ability. The Browns signed the restricted free agent to a four-year/$13.6 million offer sheet this offseason, hoping the injuries that held him out of half the 2013 season are a thing of the past. In three seasons with the Bengals, Hawkins had a 86/995/4 split, and showed to be one of the best up-and-coming slot receivers in the league.
Hawkins is currently listed as the No.2 receiver for the Browns opposite Miles Austin. However, Austin does not offer much in terms of playmaking ability, and the Browns quarterbacks cannot force the ball to Jordan Cameron on every play. So if any member of the Browns receiving corps is going to have hold some fantasy value, it will be Hawkins.
Travis Kelce TE/Kansas City Chiefs (Owned in 7.8% ESPN Leagues)
Would someone on the Chiefs offense please step up and take some of the pressure off of Jamaal Charles? After touching the ball over 330 times last season, the Chiefs need to find someone to keep defenses from keying soley on the electric running back. With wide receiver Dwayne Bowe facing a one-game suspension from a marijuana arrest, there is no one on the Chiefs that strike fear in the minds of opposing defensive coordinators.
Kelce has the potential to be one of the bigger surprises this season. While I do not preseason stats too seriously, Kelce showed the ability to stretch the field vertically (17.6 YPC) and has the potential to be a reliable red-zone threat .
Kelce is not someone you can pick up and play during week one, however he's someone to keep an eye on during the first week of games. With the Chiefs lack of explosiveness at the receiver position, and Coach Andy Reid’s history of getting tight ends involved in the offense (Brent Celek 59.25 Rec/year last four seasons), Kelce could be in line for a productive season.