We at FantasyFootballHelpers.com are excited to be newly affiliated with DraftKings and we’d like our followers to become affiliated as well. If you’re not familiar with how DraftKings works, let me take a moment to explain the basics before we get into strategy. DraftKings assigns each player with a dollar value and allows you a salary cap of $60,000 to create your preferred team. Each team consists of a QB, 2 RBS, 3 WRs, a TE, a flex and a Defense. Basic PPR scoring is used and rewards are given for 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing/receiving.
DraftKings runs a multitude of contests where you are going head to head from with anywhere from 1 person to 75,000 people! My favorite contests are the ones where I can invest something meaningless like $2-5 and come away with prizes of $10,000-$25,000. They also run the Millionaire Maker, a $27 contest where first place is $1 Million!!! There are many contest options with differing strategies for each, but I’d like to share with you my preferred strategy for selecting a lineup when entering these larger contests.
Rule #1 – Know the NFL Injury Report Like the Back of Your Hand
Knowing the injury report is vital to winning these large contests. DraftKings values players based on previous performance so for example if we know that Jamaal Charles is anywhere from out to questionable we’ll want to monitor his injury and after we’re sure he’s out, go ahead and insert Knile Davis into the lineup regardless of his matchup. In this example, Davis would be purchased at a backup RB price but have potential to give you high end RB1 numbers regardless of matchup. Davis is a known stud when he gets an opportunity to play, but other backup players should be judged on a case by case basis by looking at the matchup, and previous success when given an opportunity. Basically if the player in question has a chance for a big game and can be had at backup value you must have them in your lineup. You’ll then be able to load up on other stud “sure things”. For questionable players and/or game-time decisions, it's important to constantly refresh the injury report before gametime until there is a definitive designation of “out”.
Knowing injuries on defense is equally important. While DraftKings does provide you with the opponent’s ranking against each position, it does not adjust for injuries on defense. Obviously if J.J. Watt or Richard Sherman is hurt, then the Houston and Seattle defenses will suffer and players against those teams should be upgraded.
Rule #2 – QB/WR/TE Combo Play
Selecting a QB/WR/TE on the same team allows you to score 2 TDs on one play. I usually start with the QB selection and choose my favorite WR on his team. In daily fantasy we’re looking for the quarterbacks who can feasibly throw for 300 yards and 3+ TDs on a given day. This always includes the group of Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson (not a 300/3 guy but can run for 50-100 yds) and Tom Brady regardless of matchup but keep in mind they will always be priced high. I’m not opposed to selecting them, but I also like to also take a look at the next tier of QBs that includes Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, or Joe Flacco and take a close look at their matchups. If any of them are against a defense like a Philadelphia, Atlanta, Jets or TB that gives up monster passing stats then I’m inclined to save some money at the QB position and go with the second tier QB. If the matchups don’t seem particularly great for the second tier QB, I’ll choose my favorite matchup from the first tier of QBs. Whoever I choose at QB I will pair them with the best WR/TE option on that team.
Rule #3 – Running Back Selection by Blowout type
I love to choose running backs involved in blowouts on both sides. The obvious choice is to choose the typical workhorse who will get 25 touches in a blowout therefore racking up yards and goal line carries i.e. Marshawn Lynch at home vs. the New York Giants. This is obvious enough and getting two of these types of backs is fine. If money is getting tight then my other strategy is to select a RB who catches a high volume of passes in a game where their team is projected to be blown out. The receptions add up in PPR leagues and selecting a RB who can catch 6-10 passes and get in the endzone in garbage time can pay dividends. A high cost option in this scenario would be Matt Forte, while medium and low cost options include Daniel Herron and Fred Jackson.
Also, do not choose a RB from the same team you’re selecting your QB/WRs. We’re looking for as many multiple TD games as possible for our lineup and there are only so many TDs to go around for one NFL team.
Rule #4 – The sleeper wide receiver
In these large tournament formats, we’re not looking to play it safe. We want that top prize and should therefore take a shot on the low cost big time play makers at the WR position. Based on the rest of the roster we’ll need one or two of these options. Hitting on these selections is the most important factor in winning huge prize money. Those who hit on Martavis Bryant, Kenny Stills, Donte Moncrief, or Mohammed Sanu in their big time performances from this year were well on their way to winning big money. This position provides the highest upside and the lowest cost. Researching how teams perform against number #2WRs-#4WRs can help you determine who may have the best chance of breaking out in a specific week.
Rule #5 – Choose a Strong Defensive Matchup
The whoever plays against Jacksonville rule applies here. But specifically you don’t want to spend so big on your skill position players that even you yourself know that you’re most likely picking a defense that should not score a lot of points. It’ll be exciting to look at your lineup and gush over the talent up and down the roster but when your defense throws you a 2 point effort you’ll be out of the running for that top prize regardless of what your offensive players do. Draftkings starts your defense with 10 points and harsh penalties are given for points against. It’ll take a few turnovers sacks and a possible TD for your defense to have a great day so make sure you choose wisely. The difference between choosing a 20 point defense vs. a 5 point defense could be the difference between $1,000,000 and $1,000 or more realistically $1,000 and $10. Tip: Use the weather reports wisely when it comes to defenses. A low cost defense can have a big day simply because it is too windy for any offense to be sustained.
Using these methods does not in any way guarantee success. The NFL is extremely difficult to predict on a week by week basis and it will take a healthy combination of skill and luck to defeat thousands of others. Using these tips will give you a leg up on those who do not have a plan in place. DraftKings gives you the ability to view the lineup of anyone in a contest. In order to develop some of your own strategies, view the lineups of the weekly winners to see what has been working for them and if you notice any trends then adjust your lineup accordingly.
When the 2015 season begins we will run a weekly column with our favorite weekly DraftKings selctions and value picks. If you have any questions about this article or DraftKings related advice feel free to drop a comment on the Fantasy Football Helpers Facebook page or on Twitter at @FantasyFB_CBASS. In order to join DraftKings or deposit funds while helping us out a bit, you can click on the ad on the right hand side of this page.
In the 2011 season, Matthew Stafford entered the group of fantasy elite QBs when he tallied 5,038 passing yards, 41 TDs and 16 INTs. It was only his 3rd year in the league and he joined the top tier of fantasy QBs that included Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady. Fantasy experts saw a young QB with a rocket of an arm, an offense who passes more than anybody, along with the best WR in the NFL, Calvin Johnson, and decided to anoint Stafford as the next big thing at the QB position and a player who would produce fantasy greatness for years to come.
The following year Stafford set the NFL record for passing attempts but his TDs fell dramatically from 41 to 20. We heard a lot of stories about how many times Lions players were tackled inside the 5 yard-line and even at the 1 yard-line and we heard that his 20 TD season was a fluke. He’d be projected as a top 6 QB once again. Well, two more years have passed since Matthew Stafford’s 41 TD outburst in 2011 and in that time frame eleven different QBs have thrown 30 TD passes….none of them are named Matthew Stafford. In 2013, he fell just short with 29 TDs but then followed that up this season with an abysmal 22 TD passes. I think it’s safe to say that the last three years are not all flukes, but that Stafford was just too hyped after 2011. Year after year fantasy owners have been spending a relatively high draft pick (ADP round 3-5) on Stafford and coming away disappointed while chasing what may be the real fluke, 2011’s stats.
In 2014, Stafford bottomed out setting his low mark in passing yards in 4 years and his 22 TDs ranked 14th at the position, one above rookie Derek Carr. Heading into the season, experts and fantasy players were once again expecting Stafford to produce, with a 4th round ADP (46th pick overall) so the question is….what happened?
Coming Into the Season
Joe Lombardi took over as offensive coordinator for the Lions this season replacing Scott Linehan who was released when Jim Schwartz was replaced by Jim Caldwell as the Lions head coach. Linehan had done a decent job developing Stafford since he joined the staff in 2009 including the career year in 2011, but the Lions opted to go another direction and clear house upon the firing of Schwartz. They brought in former Saints QBs coach Joe Lombardi, a Sean Payton disciple to run the offense. Lombardi’s recognition as an OC candidate came to fruition while Sean Payton was suspended following the bountygate scandal. The Saints didn't suffer on offense and many believed Lombardi was the reason. Stafford had all the tools for Lombardi to mold Stafford into the next Drew Brees, a comparison that started popping up upon Lombardi's hiring.
Golden Tate was added to bookend Calvin Johnson on the outside, and as it turned out to complement him in the slot. Having played in a conservative offense in Seattle, it was unknown how good Tate would be but one thing was for sure, he was better than the man he’d be replacing in Nate Burleson and/or Kris Durham. In addition, the Lions used their first round pick on Eric Ebron, a physical specimen with great hands at tight end. These changes once again had everyone aboard the Stafford hype train.
2014: Week 1- A Match Made in Heaven
Stafford’s first week in Joe Lombardi’s offense could not have been scripted any better. On the first drive of the game, Stafford found Calvin Johnson all alone for a 67-yard touchdown down the right sideline. He was all by himself, with nobody within 20 yards of him. On the second drive, he’d catch a 16-yard TD pass and was almost just as open. Stafford finished with 346 yards and 2 TDs passing, a rushing TD, and 0 turnovers in an easy 35-14 victory. The success of the high flying offense was a great start for the Stafford/Lombardi relationship and the Brees comparisons were all over the media. Little did they know, the Giants were just that bad of a defense.
2014: Weeks 2-11 – Calvin’s injury + Tate’s Emergence = Stafford Mediocrity
Over the next 10 games the Lions would go 6-4. They found themselves in a race for the division lead, but it was due to their top ranked defense, not their quarterback. Stafford had only 11 TDs and 10 INTs during this stretch, while only throwing for 300+ yards once. His top performances (2 passing TDs each game) came against the Jets, Saints and Falcons….and the way those defenses were playing, should those even count as good games?
Calvin Johnson sustained an ankle injury in week 3 against Green Bay. He played the next 2 weeks as a decoy combining for only 3 catches and 19 yards. The Lions decided to shut him down for the next 3 weeks. Basically five weeks were played without Calvin Johnson, a scene all too familiar to Lions fans. Stafford didn’t actually have his worst weeks without Calvin, but his improvement in the new offense had to be put on hold while they waited for Calvin to get healthy.
The one positive to come out of the injury was Stafford’s new found chemistry with breakout WR Golden Tate. Tate basically put up Calvin-like numbers during this stretch. In the five games that Calvin was either a decoy or out, Tate had four 100 yard games (three over 134 yds) and surpassed seven receptions in each game. He made two game winning TD catch and runs, one against the Saints and the second against the Falcons. This chemistry would carry through the rest of the season even when Calvin returned and Tate became a dynamic number two option,a mismatch against #2 CBs who could take it to the house on any play.
2014: Weeks 12-17 – Finally!
After a brutal 10 week stretch and back to back 0 TD weeks heading into week 12, Stafford was written off for good as a fantasy option. However, something clicked against the Bears that week that stuck for the remainder of the season. Sure, the Bears are one of the worst defenses in the league, but Stafford looked absolutely incredible on Thanksgiving Day throwing for 390 yards and 2 TDs on 34/45. In the final 5 weeks Stafford threw for 9 TDs and only 2 INTs while the Lions finished winning 4 of their last 5. He had his first two 3 TDs games and had two 300+ yards outings during this time. His most impressive game was actually a loss where he had 217 yards 3 TDs 0 INTs at GB in week 17 to end the season. Sure, Aaron Rodgers out dueled him but putting up those numbers in Green Bay in December is something that only a guy like Rodgers does.
Stafford may be undervalued next season and I believe he will improve significantly. I’m going to give him one more try as long as his ADP puts him in the middle rounds. He finished the season red hot and started realizing Joe Lombardi’s vision on offense. His chemistry with Golden Tate is tremendous for his prospects of breaking out next season. Calvin Johnson is still as good as he always was and if he could ever stay on the field we could see something really special.
However, I don't mean top 5 QB when I say really special. For one, the Lions defense is elite. If they can retain Ndomukong Suh next season, then it will remain elite. In addition, the running game is much improved. Joique Bell has settled into the Lions work-horse back and was able to close out games by picking up late first downs and eating clock. The team no longer needs to rely on Stafford’s arm to win games. This formula was successful and will not be changing if the defense remains intact. Keep an eye on Suh’s status because if the defense gets worse it will really help Stafford’s fantasy value.
Stafford will enter year two with confidence in Joe Lombardi’s system. Lombardi was quoted as saying “Looking back, I kind of tried to drop maybe some responsibilities on him that maybe a quarterback like Drew didn’t get until four years into the system in New Orleans. “We asked a lot of him and he responded...” Stafford will have another year under his belt throwing balls to Golden Tate and while Eric Ebron did very little (as almost all rookie TEs do), we can expect a significant improvement in his game. I do think Stafford will reach 4500 yds and 30 TDs next season. In a way too early mock draft on NFL.com he was the 14th QB off the board in the 12th round. Getting Stafford at that value is highway robbery. I anticipate his value improving the offseason and would target him as the 10th QB starting in round 8.
Daily Fantasy leagues have taken the world by storm. Fantasy sports’ newest revelation allows you to risk very little money to win huge prizes day after day in the sports world….and what’s even better is that somehow this is all legal! We at fantasy football helpers are excited to be newly affiliated with the best daily fantasy site out there, Draft Kings. So when we talk about Daily Fantasy we’re talking about Draft Kings!
There is no bigger opportunity to risk little and win BIG then in everyone’s favorite game, Fantasy Football. This week I am wagering $5 in a contest where first place takes home $25,000!!! Sure you’ll have to beat about 65,000 other people to win that top prize but hey, somebody is going to win it, and we’re good at this game aren’t we? So for you daily fantasy players out there I’d like to give you my recommendations on who the must start players are this week along with some value picks.
If you’re not familiar with Draftkings daily fantasy football, Draftkings assigns each player with a dollar value and allows you a salary cap of $60,000 to create your preferred team. Each team consists of a QB, 2 RBS, 3 WRs, a TE, a flex and a Defense. PPR scoring is used and rewards are given for 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing/receiving. This week there are only four teams playing so while many people will be grabbing a lot of the same players, it is impossible to build an all-star squad under the salary cap. Therefore, selecting the right stars along with the right sleepers/value picks (i.e. Danny Amendola last week) are vital to winning a top prize.
If you don’t have a Draft Kings account you can click the ad that should be on the right of the page to sign up. If you, like us here at Fantasy Football Helpers and plan on signing up, please do so this way since this will help us!
Without further ado here are my recommendations for this playoff round:
QB – Recommended Start
· Andrew Luck at New England ($8200) – We’re making this selection over Tom Brady ($8500), Russell Wilson ($8000), and Aaron Rodgers ($7800). There is only one quarterback here that will need to throw the football regardless of game flow and that is Andrew Luck. Any of the other three QBs could defer to their RBs to control the game and we would not be surprised. Aaron Rodgers is the other QB who probably will have to do a good amount of throwing but I’d like to stay away from him since he’s banged up coming into a matchup in Seattle. And if you think Tom Brady is immune to a sub-par performance then just think back to the last Colts game when Jonas Gray ran 40+ times for 200+ yards. We’d expect Indianapolis to be playing from behind meaning a lot of throwing will be in store for Luck against a defense that allowed 4 TDs just last week to Joe Flacco. Luck struggled against the Patriots earlier in the season but his TE Dwayne Allen was missing in that game. The Patriots struggle against athletic TEs and against passes in the middle of the field so having a healthy Allen should make a huge impact. In addition, the Colts had not yet unleashed Daniel Herron who is not only clearly their best RB, but is also a significant factor in the passing game. Expect Luck to pass for over 300 yards and at least 2 TDs along with more stats via the run. We’ll need more than that to get our first prize but at only $8200, with that kind of floor I’d say we’re off to a great start.
QB Value Pick
· Aaron Rodgers ($7800)– Eddie Lacy is banged up and Green Bay should be coming from behind in the second half. Aaron Rodgers costing the least just sounds crazy. He’s a great value despite the matchup at Seattle. He is my second choice and a selection of Rodgers will allow you to go big at the other positions. I’d expect about 250 yards 2 TDs and 1 turnover but when you talk about a guy like Rodgers, despite injury, the upside is unlimited.
· Marshawn Lynch ($7600) – Lynch costs the most at the RB position but it’s a pick you have to make. Green Bay ranks 23rd in rushing yards against on the season and DeMarco Murray (23 carries 123 yds 1 TD) didn’t have a problem in last week’s game. In week 1, Lynch rumbled his way to 110 yards and 2 TDs in a 36-16 win over the Packers. I’d expect a similar gameplan from Seattle with similar results. Lynch is a must start.
RB Value Pick
· LeGarrette Blount ($4500) – Guessing the Patriots flavor of the day at RB is always a dangerous game but we’re going for the top prize here so it’s worth the risk. As I had mentioned earlier, Jonas Gray went for 40 carries over 200 yards and FOUR TDs in the last game against the Colts. His alarm clock failed to go off, the Patriots signed LeGarrette Blount and Gray has yet to play significant snaps since his breakout game. I expect the Patriots to deploy the same ground attack to keep Andrew Luck off the field with Blount stepping into the Jonas Gray role. For $4500 you could be getting 100+ and 2 TDs.
· Julian Edelman ($7200) – Edelman is the 3rd most expensive WR at $7200 behind Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson. Edelman however may be the most safe for a 15+ point performance and has huge upside. The Colts ranked 30th in the NFL against short passes which are defined as passes that travel up to 15 yards through the air. Edelman is amongst the NFL’s best at getting open in the short game. Vontae Davis should mostly be on Branon LaFell leaving Edelman, Gronk and Amendola to rack up the numbers in the passing game. Edelman has 23 catches for 303 yards and 2 TDs receiving in the last 3 games and is a PPR juggernaut. Oh, and maybe he’ll even pass for a TD since he had one of those last week! I don’t really think that but it just shows you that the Patriots like to call Edelman’s number a whole lot lately. Ignore the Packers WRs this week and go Edelman for your top WR spot.
WR Value Pick:
· Donte Moncrief ($3500)– The WR value pick is where the league is won. Last week it was Danny Amendola. You will have to select one of these guys and getting this right separates you from the pack. Revis should be on Hilton much of the time and Browner on Wayne/Nicks leaving Moncrief 1 on 1 with either a nickel corner or even a safety. With the Colts expected to trail much of the game I’d expect the Colts to use Moncrief on more snaps than usual. All it will take is one connection for a score for this selection to be worth the gamble.
Rob Gronkowski ($7800) – You need to select Gronk in order to win this…seriously. He’s that good and the Colts are THAT bad (ranked 27th) against the TE. Gronk is on an absolute tear with TDs in 4 straight games and he had 71 yards and a TD in the previous meeting against the Colts. Enough said. Pick Gronk. I’m not even going to list a value TE to make you think about not picking him.
I hope you all enjoyed these recommendations and I hope you all join me in playing. So little to enter and so much to win! I wish you all a 2nd place finish…b/c I of course would like to finish first. Good Luck.
Shhhhhhhh. I’m about to reveal something that only a small percentage of football fans, both NFL and fantasy football fans know. Minnesota Vikings rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater, finished his 2014 campaign on one of the all-time best runs by a rookie QB. Because of their record at the time (4-7), most people stopped paying attention to the Vikings from an NFL standpoint, and fantasy owners who were gearing up for the playoffs already had a reliable starting QB, so they ignored the end of the season statistical barrage that will be referred to as Teddy Time later in the article.
It obviously wasn't all smooth sailing so I’d like to further analyze Bridgewater’s season and answer the question that should be on your mind. What happened?
Coming Into the Season
In 2012 as a sophomore Teddy Bridgewater punched his ticket into the NFL throwing for 27 TDs vs. 8 INTs, his season culminating as the Sugar Bowl MVP in a victory over Florida. He remained in school for 2013 and capped off his storied career with a 31/4 TD/INT ratio. He was the 3rd QB selected in the 2014 draft behind Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel. A concern over Bridgewater’s arm strength knocked him down to third on the totem pole, but the Vikings thought enough of him to trade 2nd and 4th round picks to Seattle in order to select him with the last pick in round one. In hindsight, the slip to the end of round 1 was the best thing that could’ve happened for Teddy, as he is clearly comfortable in Minnesota and is standing firmly at the head of the 2014 QB class after disastrous seasons by Bortles and Manziel.
2014: Weeks 1-2 – Holding a clipboard
Despite being the favorite to start heading into the season, Bridgewater lost a camp battle to Matt Cassel that lasted all the way until the last preseason game. Neither QB met the expectations of head coach Mike Zimmer and Offensive Coordinator/QB Guru Norv Turner, so they decided that winning was the top priority and they’d stick with the veteran Cassel.
2014: Weeks 3-4 – Season debut, first start and injury
After Cassel went down with a foot injury, Bridgewater was inserted into the lineup mid-way through week 3’s game against the Saints. With the Adrian Peterson child abuse story having just popped up, and with breakout candidate TE Kyle Rudolph going down with a significant injury, the Vikings season was in shambles. All eyes were on Bridgewater to salvage any hope for the future of the Vikings franchise. Taking over for Cassel, Bridgewater struggled in his first action against the Saints. However, his first start of the season resulted in a 41-28 rout over the Atlanta Falcons, a game in which Bridgewater threw for 319 yards and ran for a crucial TD, without committing a turnover. Bridgewater led several long drives and consistently hooked up with Jarius Wright (132 yds) setting up three Matt Asista goal line plunges. Things were finally looking up for the Vikings. The Vikings' balloon was deflated however when it was revealed that Bridgewater suffered a potentially severe ankle injury during the game.
2014: Weeks 6-11 – The low point, followed by steady improvements
Bridgewater’s ankle recovered quicker than expected and he only missed one game. However, his next two games, both Vikings losses, were anything but smooth as he was sacked 13 times against the Lions and Bills while throwing only 1 TD vs. 5 INTs. It was apparent that the rust from the injury was there and the game was moving too fast for Bridgewater during these losses. He looked indecisive and took too many sacks against the ferocious pass rushes that these two teams brought to the table.
He’d settle down and show steady improvements in the next three weeks against lesser defenses (TB, Washington, Chicago), going 2-1 as a starter and throwing 3 TDs vs. 1 INT, but there were still two huge elephants in the room when viewing the Vikings' offense. One was that Bridgewater was checking down time after time so despite the winning record against the Bucs, Skins, and Bears, fans were left scratching their heads asking themselves when Norv Turner’s offense would become even remotely explosive. The other elephant in the room was the play of young, speedy WR Cordarelle Patterson. Patterson had a fine rookie campaign (627 total yds, 7 TDs) and was the NFL’s preseason fantasy football darling at the WR position, with experts placing him amongst the top 15 for 2014. The coaching staff did their best to feature Patterson early in the season but he was an utter disappointment in Turner’s offense. Patterson struggled with route running, effort, and dropped passes. He became less and less featured in the offense over time. His poor play opened the door for another athletic freak at WR, Charles Johnson. Eventually Johnson would take over for Patterson as Patterson became a pure part time player.
2014: Weeks 12-17 - Teddy Time
The turning point of Bridgewater’s season actually came in a 24-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers. Nobody had given the Vikings a prayer to be alive in that game and Teddy went toe to toe with Aaron Rodgers, even executing a 4th quarter drive to bring the team to within three points with four minutes to go. He finished the game with 210 yards and 2 TDs, his first multiple TD game.
The emergence of Charles Johnson gave Bridgewater a legitimate big play, down field threat. From the Green Bay game forward, the cast of receivers including Johnson, Greg Jennings and slot man Jarius Wright was a balanced, dangerous crew. Each player had a defined important role. They had their dynamic #1 WR in Johnson who excelled on intermediate and deep balls (56 yard TD on go route vs. NYJ), along with a short-intermediate pass receiver and pro’s pro in Jennings (4 TDs in last 6 gms) and the speedy sneaky slot receiver Jarius Wright (2 TD last 6 gms). Bridgewater looked comfortable slinging the ball to this trio, winning 3 of his last 5 games and averaging 246 yds and 1.6. He’d finished the season with 4 multiple TD games in his last 6 and completed 68%+ in each of his last 5 games. The offense produced 30+ points 3 times bringing fantasy value not only to Bridgewater but to players at all positions on the Vikings offense.
To go into further detail, during the last 5 weeks (Teddy Time) the following accolades that Bridgewater racked up were not only impressive for a rookie but for any quarterback:
· *Second highest completion percentage (Behind Romo)
*First rookie ever to complete over 70% of passes in four straight games
*Eighth highest passer rating
*Seventh highest yards per attempt
*Pro Football Focus’ second-highest graded quarterback (Behind Rodgers)
You may not have realized, but Teddy Bridgewater’s 64.4% completion rate on the season was the 3rd best ALL TIME by a rookie behind Ben Roethlisberger and Robert Griffin III. Norv Turner gained more confidence in his young QB, and dialed up deeper passes once Bridgewater started to trust his offensive line and his WRs. If you don’t catch my drift, his five game streak of greatness to end the season went unnoticed but was truly special. With another year to work with Turner and his WRs, Bridgewater is sure to be undervalued and I’m pegging him as the breakout QB of 2015. He finished with a 14 TDs and 12 INTs in 13 games. Maybe it’s a coincidence but he also had this same TD/INT ratio in his first year starting at Louisville…the next season he finished with 27 TDs/8 INTs. Take what you want from that. A QB with this level of elite accuracy in a Norv Turner offense cannot be ignored. Turner will allow Bridgewater to air it out starting in week 1 and a huge breakout could be on the horizon. At minimum he will be a solid high end QB2, one that I would go out of my way to draft in the later rounds. Those who like to wait on QB would be wise to pair him with another mid-level QB and play matchups. Think of him as next year’s Ryan Tannehill.
Coming Into the 2014 Season
Colin Kaepernick came into the season off a breakout 2013 campaign in which he had thrown 10 TDs vs. 1 INT in his last 6 regular season games all while rushing for 243 yards in three post season games. He was 1 Richard Sherman tip away from reaching the Super Bowl and NFL and fantasy football fans were led to believe that he could be the next big thing at the quarterback position. His 2013 season (25 TDs/8 INTs, 524 yards rushing) placed him 12th amongst fantasy QBs, but because of his rushing ability and his much improved passing efficiency, it seemed as if this was his floor while the sky was the limit. His ADP ranged from as high as the 6th QB to as low as the 10th QB off the board.
2014: Weeks 1-6
The 2014 fantasy season started off with mixed results as Kaepernick was not playing all that well as an NFL QB, but the fantasy point totals added up. In the first five weeks he showed flashes of brilliance for one half of the game while sailing throws, taking sacks and folding in the other half. However, he consistently provided enough rushing yards so that his fantasy point total was respectable. His week 6 MNF performance against the Rams (335 yards and 3 TD) was his high point of the season, raising him to the 7th ranked QB. This performance had Kaepernick owners saying to themselves, “This guy hasn’t even started really running yet. He’s put together incredible halves of games, and finally he had a complete game of dominance. This guy could be top 5 when all is said and done. Crabtree and Vernon Davis haven’t even done anything yet. This season is going to be incredible!” Well, as you all know, that week 6 game would be his only big performance, and the plummet to a disappointing season happened quickly, leading to his finishing as the 16th ranked QB. So the question on the minds of Kaepernick owners at year’s end was…..What happened?
Two Bust Pass Catchers. I’m talkin’ to you Crabtree and Vernon
Michael Crabtree finished 2013 healthy and having been two years removed from a torn ACL, his 2014 season was supposed to be a special one. NFL experts pegged a healthy Crabtree as a game changer, much like he was in 2012, and the reason why San Francisco would overtake Seattle in the division. In addition, Vernon Davis was an athletic tight end on the rise coming off a career high 13 TDs. Savvy veterans Anquan Boldin and newly signed Stevie Johnson rounded out what looked like a pass catching foursome that would give defensive backs nightmares. What happened next was not expected by anyone…Boldin was the heart and soul of the team and was incredible while the great duo of Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree were among the biggest real life and fantasy football busts. Both players struggled with injury while running poor routes and dropping pass after pass. They’ve actually dropped three passes since you started reading this article! Stevie Johnson was basically a non-factor. The poor play of Crabtree and Davis left a lot of points on the table for Kapernick owners from day 1 all the way through week 16.
Ineffective/Injured Offensive Line
Starting guard Alex Boone entered 2014 as a holdout and didn’t have a training camp. Pro Bowl right tackle Anthony Davis was coming off shoulder surgery which held him out of the preseason and injured his hamstring in practice before week 1. He returned in week 4 and sprained his MCL the same day against the Eagles. He returned briefly while playing injured and then sustained a concussion in week 12. He was held to 5 games. Boone struggled throughout the year and Davis’s absence led to swinging gate, Jonathan Martin, having to play right tackle. The end result was an offensive line that allowed 53 sacks, the 3rd most in the league. Sure, Kaepernick held onto the ball too long leading to some of these sacks, but the o-line was significantly worse than the unit the 49ers had previously considered a position of great strength.
Defenses Adjusting to the Mobile QB
As I had previously mentioned, Kaepernick put together respectable rushing totals in weeks 1-6. He had rushed for 37-65 yards in 4 out of the first 6 weeks. In the following 7 weeks, Kaepernick was not able to break 26 yards. His threat as a rusher had been taken away, and the safety net for fantasy owners, Kaepernick’s rushing totals, had disappeared. As a slap in the face to his owners, he ended the season rushing for 151 yards and a TD in a game against the Chargers. It was his only rushing TD on the season (last season he had 4).
Decision Making and Touch Passes
These are the two areas where Kaepernick struggles the most. When his first read is open he’s incredible. When his second read is open he’s pretty good. When both his first and second reads are covered he starts dancing around and either throws the ball away, takes a sack, or turns it over. Starting in week 7, defenses regularly started to rush only 3 or 4 and take away his first receiving option. He was able to find Anquan Boldin often because my man Q is incredible at finding holes in the zone, but Kaerpernick often missed first down opportunities on crucial drives because he did not go past his second read. Outlet receivers and lesser talented options would be open, but he just wouldn't bother to look at them. These adjustments led to a jaw dropping run from week 7 to week 16 where Kaepernick had 1 or fewer TD passes leading to Kaepernick being amongst the worst fantasy QBs in the 2nd half of the season.
In addition, when Kaepernick did deliver the ball it was almost always getting to the receiver at 95 MPH. Kaepernick was recruited as a pitcher and he sports one of the fastest bullet passes, but it’s the only speed he knows how to throw. Until the young QB learns when it is appropriate to throw a bullet vs. a medium speed pass vs. a touch pass, more drops and more inaccuracy can be expected.
Major changes will be coming in San Francisco. Jim Harbaugh is already out as head coach and offensive coordinator Greg Roman is interviewing with other teams, so he could very well be out of the mix in San Francisco. Kaepernick has all the talent in the world, but he needs to get his head on straight in order to succeed. His decision making and accuracy issues were exploited this season and he’ll most likely be learning a new offense. The new head coach, and coordinator/personnel changes will determine his value going into next season. Because of his unique skill-set, he will always have a high ceiling as long as he’s a starting QB, however, unlike last year, fantasy owners should not be drafting him as their starting QB.
Start of the Week:
QB –Matt Ryan at New Orleans- #7 in Weekly Rankings
Drew Brees is really the best start this week as I have him at #1 but Matt Ryan is the less obvious elite choice this week. You’re going to want to fire up all fantasy players in this matchup between these two teams who rank 30th and 31st against fantasy players at all positions combined. This matchup could very well decide the division and both teams will not want to go down fighting without using their player(s), their QBs and pass catchers. Julio Jones has not practiced but all signs point to him being on the field. Roddy White looks healthy with TDs in back to back weeks and Harry Douglas and Devin Hester are fine compliments to the elite Julio/Roddy duo. This game will not be a blowout and points will be fired back and forth between the two teams. Look for Ryan to have a tremendous week 16 against a struggling secondary ranked 28th against opposing fantasy QBs.
D/ST – Seattle Seahawks at Arizona - #1 in Weekly Rankings
Ryan Lindley yum yum yum. This is a tasty fantasy matchup on board for the best real life defense in the NFL. The game hasn’t even started, yet but there is blood in the water and there will be a feeding frenzy on the inexperienced 3rd stringer. Everyone will be anxious to get a taste of Lindley and a game where A game with Seattle taking the lead and Lindley (career 0 TD/7 INT) having to throw to have a chance in this game is very likely to happen. Many sacks and turnovers will be had. A TD even seems likely and it’s hard to peg a defense to do that. This is a scary game for Lindley and for anyone who has to face the Seattle defense in fantasy.
QB – Alex Smith at Pittsburgh - #11 in Weekly Rankings
For you QB streamers this could be the game winning start. Alex Smith is never a sexy option in the fantasy world but in this matchup he provides significant upside against a swiss cheese Pittsburgh defense. The Steelers rank 27th against opposing fantasy QBs and have allowed a 20+ fantasy point performance in 6 out of their last 7 games to QBs. This stretch includes big games by borderline to low end options Michael Vick and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Ike Taylor is a shell of his former self and William Gay just plain and simple isn’t a good NFL CB. Smith comes into this game as a hot QB having thrown 7 TDs in his last 4 games. He has a high floor this week and could capitalize on this prime matchup in a big way in your Super Bowl week.
D/ST –Carolina v. Cleveland- #9 in Weekly Rankings
The long awaited Johnny Football debut took place last week and boy was it ugly. There was a lot of non-NFL things happening on the Cleveland side of the ball. The Browns only ran 38 plays TOTAL. Manziel should be better but that doesn’t mean he’ll be good. He can’t do worse than 80 yards and 2 INT right? Carolina had five turnovers the last two weeks playing inspired defense at New Orleans and against Tampa Bay and suddenly they have a chance to win their sorry division. The Panthers have seen the mobile QB every day in practice so Manziel’s legs will not surprise them in any way. Look for Manziel to struggle once again and for Carolina to have a big day. They’re only the 25th ranked fantasy defense on the season so they very well could be available in your league.
QB – Eli Manning at St. Louis - #19 in Weekly Rankings
This is just a heads up to those fantasy owners who think that just because ODB is a beast (and he certainly is) that Eli Manning’s floor is high enough to be inserted into your lineup. St. Louis comes into this week having allowed 12 total points in the last three weeks. They may just be sporting the best defense in the NFL right now including the Legoin Of Boom in Seattle. The Giants have replacement players on the offensive line, something that just won’t cut it against Robert Quinn and Chris Long. Manning could have a disaster much like he did against San Francisco earlier in the year. I’d stay away and choose another streaming option.
D/ST – San Francisco D/ST vs. San Diego- #18 in Weekly Rankings
The San Francisco 49ers do not really have much to play for anymore. Jim Harbaugh is as good as gone. We can and should question where their heads will be for this game against a desperate San Diego Chargers team. However, the emotions of the game are not why they are here. DE Ray McDonald had been playing good football the last few weeks. He was released with the allegations of domestic abuse hanging over him this week. In addition, LB Chris Borland had been playing at Pro Bowl levels even being compared to Zach Thomas. He’s out for the season. Combine the emotions and the loss of two key players and what we have is a defense we should not think is capable of a big game, even at home.
If you’re in the championship round then kudos to you my friend, you’ve had an incredible season regardless of the outcome of this week. You’ve worked your way into the fantasy football record books. Now it’s time to take home the hardware and to play our favorite Queen song on repeat until the 2015 season begins.
As exciting as this week is for you, it may be equally frustrating and confusing. After 15 weeks of winning because of your dominant roster, and because you’ve spent 15 weeks analyzing the tendencies of every team’s offense and defense, the NFL went and turned itself upside down in one crazy week. Quarterbacks like Jimmy Clausen, Ryan Lindley, Charlie Whitehurst, Case Keenum, and Johnny Manziel are going to play a huge role in the performance of so many of our regular starters. Add this QB mess to the inconsistency, or maybe all too consistently awful play that QBs such as Blake Bortles, Derek Carr, Geno Smith, and even Colin Kaepernick bring to the table. We find ourselves in a fantasy world this week where almost 30% of the NFL offenses in this championship round could very well be a complete disaster. Fantasy beasts and sure fire starters Matt Forte Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett, Arian Foster, DeAndre Hopkins, Andre Johnson, Josh Gordon, and Larry Fitzgerald all of a sudden range from severely diminished but startable (Forte), to non-startable (Fitzgerald), to flex plays or borderline startable (Gordon, Alshon, Bennett, Hopkins). None of them are sure things any longer but Arian Foster should be just fine so start him as you normally would.
As a result of this chaos, this week’s sleepers and busts list is more important than ever before. This week, some obscure or lesser talented players really have a huge opportunity to shine and could be better plays then some of the players on the teams loaded with uncertainty. I beg you to please look at the NFL situation and not just the name of your player when making your start em/sit em choices. This week is for all the marbles. Good Luck!
Without further ado, your week 16 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.
· Robert Griffin III vs. Philadelphia. Hey you, Cutler/Newton/Rivers/Tannehill/Eli owners. Move your cursor to the save button, take a deep breath, a hard swallow and close your eyes to build up the nerve to click mouse button while inserting RG III into your lineup this week. Griffin is coming off an all too familiar week of producing quality fantasy numbers while folding when the game is on the line from an NFL standpoint. He threw for 236 yards and a TD, had his legs working for 46 yards and we all saw the controversial fumble right before the half that very well could have and maybe should have been called a TD. He scored 19+ fantasy points and was very close to a 25+ day. A matchup against an Eagles defense who can’t seem to stop allowing big QB games is on tap. The Eagles have allowed 6 out of the last 8 QBs they’ve faced to score over 20 fantasy points including two games allowing 33+ points. In week 3, Washington had Philadelphia’s number with then QB Kirk Cousins to the tune of 427 yards passing and 3 TD. Look for DeSean Jackson to have his second huge performance against his old team and Griffin, who is playing for his NFL life as a starting QB over the next two weeks, to continue the Redskins’ and NFL wide trend of high scoring QBs against this defense.
I’d Start Robert Griffin III over: Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Philip Rivers, Ryan Tannehill, Eli Manning
· Russell Wilson at Arizona. Russell Wilson is a fine NFL QB both NFL and fantasy, but these divisional games against the 49ers and Cardinals are always slugfests and never provide too much upside. Seattle is locked in and is playing Super Bowl caliber defense. They’re up against Ryan Lindley so we can expect Seattle to jump out to a lead and grind out a victory much like they’ve done in the previous three NFC West matchups against San Francisco and Arizona. Seattle won 19-3 in 2 of the games and 17-7 last week against the 49ers. The Seahawks went 3-0 in these games and Wilson had sub-par outings in each one. These teams know each other too well and Seattle’s defense is playing too well to let Arizona hang around in the second half. Wilson will be able to coast to victory much like he did in the three previous NFC West slugfests. Wilson is a high QB2 this week with a low ceiling.
I’d Start the following players over Russell Wilson: Robert Griffin III, Mark Sanchez, Philip Rivers, Joe Flacco
· Matt Asiata @ Miami. By no means is Matt Asiata a talented RB, but Minnesota insists on giving him 65% of the snaps and the majority of touches. Miami has been a complete disaster against RBs ever since the Jets embarrassed them by running on them 23 straight plays. Miami won the game, but that game revealed a flaw in the Dolphins defense and the Fins have been blown out in the two weeks since. While the Jets brought these problems to the forefront, this issue has been there for quite a while. In fact, the Dolphins have allowed over 20 fantasy points to RBs in .5 PPR leagues in 5 out of the last 6 games after allowing 3 such games in the first 9 weeks. As a human being who plays RB and receives touches against a team who can’t stop the RB, Asiata is a fine play this week. No other qualifications are necessary for him to be a sleeper and high upside play against this defense. If Mickey Mouse was getting RB touches against Miami I would've had him here. Asiata just happens to be the lucky guy this week.
I’d start Matt Asiata over: Matt Forte, LeGarrette Blount, Steven Jackson, Dan Herron, Alfred Morris
· Matt Forte v. Detroit. Well here is one of those controversial sits/busts I’m going to try to convince you about. Forte’s QB is Jimmy Clausen, who last started a game in 2010. He made 10 starts that year and had all of 3 TDs. In other words, he had a lot of opportunities against a plethora of good and bad defenses and only had 3 TD passes in 40 quarters. He’s not going to be moving the ball against one of the elite NFL defenses, the Detroit Lions. The Lions, even with Cutler at the helm limited Forte to FIVE yards rushing in their Thanksgiving matchup. He did chip in 6 catches for 52 yards. I really see a similar outcome here for Forte with the main similarity that I’m almost sure about being zero TDs. Forte could see some more dumpoffs and could approach 10 points but in no way would I allow my finals matchup to be dependent upon Jimmy Clausen moving the football against a top defense, who by the way is two wins away from locking up their division. He’s on the RB2 radar but it's possible that you can do better this week.
I’d start the following players over Matt Forte: Matt Asiata, Fred Jackson, Lamar Miller, LeSean McCoy, Tre Mason, Alfred Morris
· Donte Moncrief at Dallas. TY Hilton is very questionable to face Dallas and there has been talk of reducing Reggie Wayne’s snaps whether idle to rest (or secretly and more likely, on field performance). Whether Hilton plays or not he will be limited, and Moncrief has the potential to be your Super Bowl hero. Dallas, who ranks 23rd in passing yards against, stepped up in a big way against Mark Sanchez last week but no disrespect to the job the Sanchize has done but…Luck ain't no Sanchez. Prior to last week, Dallas had allowed WRs to score 30+ fantasy points in 3 straight games against the Giants, Eagles and Bears. It’s almost a given that Andrew Luck WILL throw for 300+ yards and WILL throw 2+ TDs. If Hilton and Wayne are not receiving a big chunk of those yards this week then the sky of the limit for the young speed/size freak who has shown incredible ability against teams who give up big plays (Pittsburgh, Washington). The indoor surface of the Cowboys' stadium plays to Moncrief’s strength. Go for the glory and get him in there if you need a WR3/flex.
I’d Start Donte Moncrief over: Charles Johnson, Steve Smith Sr., Martavis Bryant, Sammy Watkins, Stedman Bailey
· Sammy Watkins at Oakland. Buffalo at 8-6 is fighting for their playoff lives on the road in Oakland. It’s always dangerous to assume anyone wins on the road, but with Buffalo having a lot of incentive to win and Oakland a lot of incentive to lose, let’s just assume the Bills win this game and control the game for the most part. Sammy Watkins could be in for a quiet performance if the recent past repeats itself. The Bills have won three of the last four games with a combined 85 points in those three wins. Sounds like it should be a lot of Watkins, the Bills number one wide out right? Wrong! In those three wins Watkins was held to a combined 7 catches for 74 yards and 0 TD. In the one loss to Denver, the Bills were in comeback mode and Watkins had a huge day with 127 yards. The issue here is that the Bills are a very good running football team who likes to get touches for all of their RBs, and they exclusively throw short passes when they’re controlling the game. Kyle Orton has no problem spreading targets to Watkins, Robert Woods, Scott Chandler and Fred Jackson on short, chain moving plays, so long as he avoids the turnover. Watkins surprisingly has gone six straight games without a TD as well. The matchup sounds better than it is as the Raiders rank 8th in the league in passing yards against. The Bills are playing fine football and will stick to the blueprint for success against Oakland, a stout defense a running game and short quick passes.
I’d start the following players over Sammy Watkins: Nate Washington, Charles Johnson, Stedman Bailey, Greg Jennings
· Zach Ertz v. Washington. Tight ends are tough to come by outside of the top seven or eight. I don’t have a sleeper I feel awesome about but Zach Ertz is a sneaky play if you are absolutely playing the matchups. I like 12-14 TEs more than him, but he’s up against a Washington team who ranks 30th against the TE and has given up huge days to Jared Cook and Coby Fleener recently. Ertz has the type of ability to burn a LB off play action and if the Eagles look at the film they’ll see an opportunity or two to look his way on a deep seam pattern. Once again, I don’t love it but if you’re desperate he has more upside than a Donnell or a Kyle Rudolph this week.
I’d start Zach Ertz over: Kyle Rudolph, Larry Donnell, Mychal Rivera, Owen Daniels
· Kyle Rudolph at Miami. Not a shocking bust but Rudolph is listed as high as the number 14 TE on some sites, a borderline matchup play. I wouldn't go near him. The Dolphins have not allowed even a mediocre game to a TE not named Gronkowski since week 4. The list of TEs they've shut down is not so impressive but it does include Martellus Bennett, Antonio Gates, and Owen Daniels. Rudolph is worse than all three and should be avoided. Look for a better matchup if you need it.
I’d Start the following players over Kyle Rudolph: Coby Fleener, Owen Daniels, Heath Miller, Zach Ertz, Scott Chandler
That’ll do it for week 16. I hope you've enjoyed the column this season. I’ll be putting a week 17 column out there next week, but I’m sure this is the last week of many of your seasons. Thank you for reading and good luck to all of those playing in the Super Bowl! Here’s to hoping you’re firing up that Queen song we all love to blast after we take down a title!
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!
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.
Congratulations! If you’re reading this then (in most leagues) you’re in the fantasy playoffs! Now let’s begin that Super Bowl run. There’s a common saying “may the best team win”. I couldn’t disagree more with this saying! “May MY team win”, or for you readers, "may YOUR team win” is more like it……unless you’re one of my league competitors. And if I or you happen to be the best team, then this still qualifies. But, in the playoffs the standings are irrelevant, and regular season accomplishments do not matter. It’s three weeks of win or go home, and whether you're a top seed or lower seeded playoff team, be confident. Those teams who are stacked really do have a chance to go home early. It’s a small sample size, but in my 12 team league, the best team, the team who led the league in points during the regular season, has only gone on to win the Super Bowl twice out of 10 years. So if you don’t think you’re the best, then maybe that’s a good thing!
Beating the best is the key to winning it all, and it is going to take some chutzpah. If you’re going up against a team who is truly elite and is projected to beat you by 30+ points, it’s going to be tough but it's not over by a longshot. If you know you’ll be up against a big score, then I suggest trying to hit a home run with a high upside start even if the player has a low floor. If you’re in this position, now is not the time to stick with your boring, low upside players (i.e. Reggie Wayne, Owen Daniels, Frank Gore) just because you’ve been starting them all year. It all comes down another saying, one I do like a lot, “no guts, no glory”. I’ve witnessed teams starting players like Billy Volek (former Titans QB), Ryan Moats (former Eagles RB), or Tim Tebow make deep playoff runs, demolishing teams who are better on paper. Hey, just look at what Ryan Fitzpatrick of all people was able to do last week. At this time of the year, anything goes.
If you’re in the playoffs then most of 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 be the first step towards your 2014 Super Bowl ring. The below sleepers and busts will be a good source for week 14’s home run hitters and those players to avoid in round 1 of the playoffs.
Without further ado, your week 14 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.
· Teddy Bridgewater vs. New York Jets. If you’re playing matchups at QB the best thing you can do this week is embrace your Teddy bear and hope for the best…your Teddy bear of course being Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater is getting more and more comfortable every week in Norv Turner’s offense and Turner has finally decided (fortunately for Bridgewater and the Vikings offense as a whole) that Cordarelle Patterson should not be on the field. Explosive WR, Charles Johnson’s emergence and Kyle Rudolph’s return to the lineup have allowed Turner to run the offense he envisioned when he joined the staff and it’s led to Bridgewater acquiring value as a matchup play. He has back to back 2 TD weeks and only 2 INTs in the last 5 weeks. The Jets are as good of a matchup play as you can get. Ranking 30th against the pass and having only picked off three passes this season, the Jets are a dream playoff matchup. They're going through the motions to finish the season and Rex Ryan knows he’s not coming back. There is no motivation on the part of Gang Green to pull off a surprising performance on the road. Expect Bridgewater to continue to mature, and if the game stays close and Teddy gets to throw for four quarters, we could be looking at a career day and Bridgewater’s first 3 TD game.
I’d Start Teddy Bridgewater over: Colin Kaepernick, Andy Dalton, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Mark Sanchez
· Andy Dalton v. Pittsburgh. I totally understand that Pittsburgh is a great matchup and that their CBs are burnable. However, I don’t trust that Andy Dalton and his 13/13 TD/INT ratio are capable of taking advantage. His pro-bowl LT, Andre Smith, is out for the season and Dalton is fresh off a 176 yard 1 TD/3 INT dud against an awful Tampa Bay secondary. Dalton is as inconsistent as they come and he’s thrown 0 TDs in 4 games this season while also throwing 1 TD in another 4 games. So 66.667% of the time he's thrown at most 1 passing TD. He's not exactly trending upward either with 2 TD/4INT in the last two weeks. The Andy Dalton name has some recognition and can make you feel warm and fuzzy when looking at the matchup, but you can easily do better than him as a fantasy starter.
I’d Start the following players over Andy Dalton: Ryan Tannehill, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Teddy Bridgewater
· Trent Richardson at Cleveland. To be clear I like Boom Herron this week but I like Richardson slightly more. Richardson gets to go back to the city where all the running in place started, Cleveland. Seriously, it’s a revenge game for Trent and if he’ll ever put it into that next gear (first gear?), it will be this week. He’s gone on the record saying he’ll jump into the dog pound after he scores, and the Colts if they can take an early lead will do what they can to get Richardson in the endzone. Colts head coach, Chuck Pagano remains adamant Richardson is the starter on this team and will continue to receive touches. Herron’s explosiveness (and Richardson’s lack thereof) keeps him in the rotation but he’s had fumbling issues that keep Trent out there getting half the touches. Besides this being a revenge game, Cleveland sports a soft front 4, and while the defense focuses on containing Andrew Luck, they can be had in the running game. I don’t see this as a high ceiling start but I can see this as a flex play with about 70 total yards and at least one TD.
I’d start Trent Richardson over: Jonathan Stewart, Frank Gore, Latavius Murray, Bishop Sankey
· Frank Gore at Oakland. Frank Gore is coming to the end of a fine career and could very well find himself in Canton one day. However, this season may be the beginning of the end. Gore has had 50 yards or fewer rushing in 5 out of the last 7 games and only 1 rushing TD in the last 10 games. He only has 9 catches on the season so he’s no longer a factor in the receiving game. The matchup against Oakland is ideal, but Gore having a big game would mean that San Francisco would have to be able to move the ball on offense. The offensive line is vastly under-performing both in the pass game and run game. Nothing the 49ers have done the past three weeks has shown that they have the ability to move the ball. Last week was pathetic, but I’ll give them a pass against Seattle. But scoring only 16 points and 17 points against two of the worst defenses in the league (NY Giants, Washington), is inexcusable. Oakland presents another supposed plus matchup, so Gore is ranked as a high RB2, but he’s clearly past his prime, and I’m starting to believe that the 49ers do not have a solution to the mess they’re experiencing on offense.
I’d start the following players over Frank Gore: Tre Mason, Ryan Mathews, Lamar Miller, Gio Bernard, Trent Richardson
· Nate Washington v. New York Giants. This is for you guys in deep 3/4 WR leagues, and you’ll thank me later. Nate Washington is about to have a BIG week and a BIG fantasy playoffs so grab him. Prior to this year Washington was a viable WR3 in all leagues. He was 2013s #35 WR in .5 PPR leagues having put up over 900 yards receiving. He has a 1000 yard season to his name and has 8 career 100 yard games including 3 just last season. This season Justin Hunter, a promising WR with freakish speed and size, was supposed to be the next big thing, so the Titans, a team that is not really in win now mode, gave Hunter all the reps, snaps, and looks he can handle. Hunter suffered a lacerated spleen in Week 13 after getting hit by a freight train named Daniel Manning. Hunter stayed in the game briefly but was ineffective. After the injury, Nate Washington started getting peppered with targets, racking up 9 in total along with 5 receptions, 61 yards, and a score. This was Washington’s 2nd TD in the past 3 weeks, a stretch where he’s had over 200 yards receiving. The Titans top WR threat, Kendall Wright, suffered a cracked bone in his wrist this week and could miss week 14, leading to even more targets for the savvy veteran. The Giants come to Tennessee, still brutal and banged up at every position on defense. Nate Washington will be able to outsmart the Giants porous defense and will have many targets, many catches, and at least one of his patented big plays. I recommend him as a #3 WR, the same place he ranked last year when he played a full complement of snaps. His week 14-16 schedule is NYG, NYJ, @Jax. GET HIM NOW.
I’d Start Nate Washington over: Roddy White, Reggie Wayne, Keenan Allen, Marques Colston, Julian Edelman, Reuben Randle
· Keenan Allen at New England. Next stop Revis Island. The Chargers have so many other weapons with Gates, Floyd, Royal, and then Mathews in the running game, so there is no way Mike McCoy's gameplan will be to overload Keenan Allen with targets. Revis has left his Tampa Bay days behind him and returned to his lockdown form in 2014. Stud WRs Jordy Nelson, Calvin Johnson and TY Hilton have combined for 9 catches for 125 yards and 1 TD the last 3 weeks against Revis! When ONE of those guys has a game like that nobody blinks an eye, but to lock down all three like that is something that cannot be ignored. Keenan Allen isn't even close to the player those guys are, so I’d expect him to do less than the 3 catch, 40 yard average that they were held to in the previous three weeks. Allen has been hot but he simply cannot be started this week in any/all formats.
I’d start the following players over Keenan Allen: Nate Washington, Charles Johnson, Stedman Bailey, Greg Jennings
· Travis Kelce at Arizona. One team’s strength against another team’s weakness. Arizona has elite CB talent but cannot seem to stop TEs ranking 27th on the season against the position. Kansas City is still waiting to throw its first TD to a WR while their TE combination of Travis Kelce and Anthony Fasano have combined for a whopping eight TDs. I like this matchup a lot for Kelce. The Chiefs will do their best to run the ball with Jamaal Charles, but could very well struggle against the league’s 6th ranked team in rushing yards against. They’ll have to go to the air and it only makes sense that they use their TEs to do so. Not convinced? Take a look at this motley crew who has hit paydirt against the Cardinals: Jared Cook, Cooper Helfet, Daniel Fells, Levine Toilolo, and Julius Thomas. Outside of the elite TEs and Delanie Walker, I like Kelce the most this week at this position.
I’d start Travis Kelce over: Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, Greg Olsen, Jordan Reed
· Dwayne Allen at Cleveland. Dwayne Allen is set to make his return to the lineup after missing the past two games with a sprained ankle. Prior to his departure he was squarely in the mid TE 1 conversation. However, I’d expect some rust in his first game back. In addition, Coby Fleener has been fantasy’s #1 TE over the last three weeks. Fleener had a very ugly drop on a sure thing long TD last week but has otherwise been picking up large chunks of yardage through the air and getting into the endzone. Allen will clearly cut into Fleener’s looks but I don’t see the Colts forgetting about what Fleener has done the last few weeks. Furthermore, the Browns are on tap, a team who allowed a huge game to Jimmy Graham in week 2 but has since not allowed any TE to score more than 11.8 fantasy points in .5 PPR leagues. They’ve completely shut down many of the TE they’ve faced during this stretch and in 6 games have limited TEs to less than 6.4 points. Allen is a risky play returning from injury and perhaps sharing with Fleener and the matchup at Cleveland lacks the upside needed for a fantasy playoff start.
I’d Start the Following Players over Dwayne Allen: Travis Kelce, Jordan Reed, Kyle Rudolph, Larry Donnell
That’ll do it for week 14. Do not leave any bullets in that holster. There's no reason to play it safe now. Go big or go home. May your run to the Super Bowl begin this Sunday. Good Luck!