As we are barreling towards the end of the season, the focus of the recap is going to be shifting a bit. There are no trades to make (almost all deadlines have passed), the pickups are pretty thin, and we pretty much know what we have with regards to most players. So with that in mind, I’ll be spending more time than usual talking about upcoming schedules and specific matchups. Hopefully this little tweak will help you make the best, most informed possible decisions with your lineup.
Saints 17, Falcons 13
Two targets? Two targets? I understand that Roddy White has been injured. I get that he doesn’t look entirely like his old self. I understand that the Saints are locking down opponent's number one receivers. But if you’re in a close game, wouldn’t you try a bit harder to get your best weapon the ball? Like it or not, this is the way of the Falcons in 2013.
So what do we do with Atlanta’s struggling veteran wideout? Even with a lack of evidence to support any level of faith in White, when you look at the Falcons schedule you can see a scenario where Roddy takes off. Until such an occurrence actually takes place, I would treat him as a so-so WR3 who could surprise with more.
A lot has been made about Seattle’s great secondary, and rightfully so. But for their Week 13 matchup against the Saints, they will be a little bit weaker. Brandon Browner is already out with a groin, and now his backup Walter Thurmond III has been suspended four games for substance abuse. Seattle is still great up front and has top level safety play, but this should open things up at least a bit for the vaunted Saints’ air attack. What once looked like an awful spot for the (sorta) surging Marques Colston got a little bit brighter with the suspension.
Buy: Atlanta offense. I know, I know, but as I said above, the schedule gets pretty fantastic; the next three weeks they see Buffalo, Green Bay, and Washington. While Buffalo ranks a surprising 11th in Adjusted Defensive Net Expected Points per Play (ADNEP/Play), their secondary has proven to be burnable. The Packers and Redskins rank 28th and 24th in the same metric. Atlanta has not looked good, but we could see a little late season resurgence.
Sell: Darren Sproles. He relies on his quickness and speed, but now is dealing with two separate lower body injuries. Sproles metrics are as strong as ever (first among running backs in NEP/Target), but injury and usage are conspiring against him.
Hold: Marques Colston had a quiet game but was targeted six times and just missed out on a touchdown. He has been a bigger part of this offense following a mid-season lull and his Week 13 matchup isn’t as bad as it looks on paper.
Steelers 27, Browns 11
After yet another so-so showing, Le’Veon Bell is averaging 3.1 yards per carry (YPC) this season, which is .1 more than the universally maligned Trent Richardson.
I will let that sink in for a second.
Does that mean Bell is not a good fantasy player? Of course not. The volume of carries combined with his usage in the pass game makes him a useful piece. And while I think numberFire’s ROS ranking (ninth) coming into this week is optimistic, Bell is a solid RB2. (It should be noted that YPC is as pointless of a stat as exists in the NFL, but that is a rant for another day.)
Josh Gordon is the greatest player in NFL history. Seriously, I have been paying people off in the Browns organization off for months in an effort to get an unwashed pair of his game worn socks (if you have any sort of connection, look me up on Twitter @GordonSockFetish).
Aside from my, um, hobby, I legitimately do think highly of Mr. Gordon. He ranks 13th out of 65 receivers with 50 or more targets in NEP/Target and is now averaging 14.7 fantasy points per game, which is second among all wide receivers. It doesn’t matter who is throwing to him or what corner he is lined up across from, Gordon is a legitimate no-brainer WR1.
Speaking of top 10 wide receivers, Antonio Brown had a great game against Joe Haden. This marked Brown’s fourth consecutive outing of 10 or more points, as he saw double digit targets for the seventh time this season. The Steelers number one receiver has proven himself more than capable of putting up numbers in any matchup.
Buy: Josh Gordon as an elite WR1. Antonio Brown lags a bit, but isn’t too far behind.
After a zero point, one target game, can the Jerricho Cotchery
thing not be a thing anymore? He is not a fantasy relevant player, you guys.
Hold: Jordan Cameron saw his targets increase for a third straight game as he ended up with 10. Cameron may be tough to start right now, but if you make room on your bench, the early season version may come roaring back in matchups against Jacksonville, New England, and Chicago.
Buccaneers 24, Lions 21
The Bobby Rainey hype train came to a grinding halt against a stout Detroit front seven (they rank third in Adjusted Defensive Run NEP/Play, or ADRNEP/Play for short). Things don’t get easier next week against the fourth-ranked Panthers. He is a flex option at best in that game. The remainder of the schedule is decent with home games against Buffalo and the 49ers followed by trips to St. Louis and New Orleans. If you play them properly, you should see some RB2 play mixed in against the Bills, Rams, and Saints.
Mike Glennon is turning out to be a nice up-and-coming talent. It may not do you much good this year, and there isn’t a lot of reason to think he is a future hall of famer, but Glennon has played reasonably well for most of his rookie campaign. If he can build on it going into the off season, Tampa Bay may win more than a couple of games next year.
Buy: Into Nate Burleson paying for delivery next time he wants a pizza (in case you somehow missed it, two months ago while on a pizza run he got into a car accident, breaking his arm). The returning receiver looked fantastic against soft coverage as the Buccos concentrated on Calvin Johnson. I see him as a rock solid WR3, especially in PPR leagues.
Sell: Tiquan Underwood is not a viable fantasy player. He scored one more touchdown (two) than he had targets (one) last week. Don’t get cute.
Hold: Reggie Bush has certainly been quiet of late, topping 12 points only once since Week 6. While he may not be the MVP candidate he looked like after the first month, Bush does have double digit points in three of four games and is still a low-end RB1.
Packers 26, Vikings 26
In the first and hopefully only tie of the season, Adrian Peterson and Eddie Lacy had great days. Aside from the two running backs, this game was mostly filled with fantasy disappointment. The one exception was Jarrett Boykin, who posted a nice game with 10 targets and a touchdown. I expect Boykin to be a solid PPR WR3 regardless of who is under center for the Pack.
Buy: I’ve been imploring you for weeks to add little-owned high upside guys to the end of your bench. And while Cordarrelle Patterson has yet to go off in a game, he saw season highs in receptions (eight) and targets (11) against the Packers. This is a bench stash that could pay dividends in deeper leagues.
Sell: Josh Freeman. This has zero fantasy implications, but I wanted to point out how terrible this guy is at football. He can’t get on the field for the Vikings? Hello CFL.
Hold: Your eyes shut for a moment and think back to the preseason when the NFC North was considered one of the best divisions in the NFL. Now open them and realize how crazy this season has been.
Chargers 41, Chiefs 38
If you are still starting the Chiefs defense, feel free to go ahead and stop. Using ESPN’s standard defensive scoring, they have 4, 16, -1, and -7 points the last four games, which is an average of 3.25 per.
Signs of their slippage abound:
- They tallied 18 turnovers the first six games but have managed only six since.
- After posting 35 sacks the first eight weeks, they have two in the last four.
- They have allowed more than 425 yards in three straight games.
- In the 16 fantasy point showing against Buffalo in Week 9, they needed two touchdowns to bail them out of an otherwise very poor effort.
Topping things off, both Justin Houston and Tamba Hali left the game with injuries. There is not a lot of early information out about either, but going into a Week 13 game against Denver, I am not sure that it matters. There will be much, much better options out there.
Philip Rivers ended his six-game streak of fewer than 20 points with a resounding 27. I don’t really think it changes much, but any notion people had of benching him for QB2 types (there was some of this on Twitter and in the numberFire Questions section this week) needs to be put to bed.
Ladarius Green is becoming a very intriguing late season add. He has seen five targets and had at least 80 yards receiving each of the last two weeks. The tall, speedy, dynamic tight end is earning the coaching staff’s faith as his snaps continue to rise along with his production. Green should be owned in all 12-team leagues in the event his usage continues to ascend.
Buy: All the nice things I said about Josh Gordon apply similarly to Keenan Allen. While Allen is not quite the physical freak Gordon is, he is sixth in the NFL in both NEP/Target and a clear top-15 receiver for the rest of 2013. Stop finding ways not to play him (I know somebody who was considering sitting him for Donald Brown) and enjoy the production. This kid is legit.
Sell: Hamstrings. Ryan Mathews has been troubled by a hamstring injury for a few weeks and now it appears to have caused him to be unable to finish this game. He was in the midst of very productive stretch, so hopefully it isn’t too serious. If Mathews misses time, Danny Woodhead will see the most fantasy significant increase in usage.
Hold: Dwayne Bowe found the end zone for the second straight game and now has 16 receptions for 175 yards and two scores the last three games. He is also averaging 10.7 targets per game over that stretch. Based on the entirety of Bowe’s season and the nature of the Chiefs’ offense, it is hard to label him a WR3. But the more their defense falters, the more he will be leaned on.
Rams 42, Bears 21
Top Tip: Start players against the Bears defense. An elderly woman who just found out her coffee maker is broken (THE RAGE) could be more effective than the guys the injury-depleted Monsters of the Midway are rolling out there.
Zac Stacy took a hit to the helmet late in the second quarter and was unable to return due to a concussion diagnosis. If Stacy misses time, Benny Cunningham is the clear replacement. But before you get too excited about his 13 carry, 109 yard showing, look at the paragraph before this one.
Buy: The Bears have a very nice schedule to finish out the year. Despite a bit of a down game in some regards, they are going to score points.
Sell: Tavon Austin had another nice game, but he is still not a fantasy starter. I need to see more than three touches on five targets before I am willing to anoint him as useful.
Hold: A séance if you are a Bears fan, as their defense is more or less dead.
Panthers 20, Dolphins 16
Final drive excepted, this game was as exciting as vacation pictures.
Daniel Thomas had to be carted to the locker room with an ankle injury. After the game, he was spotted with a walking boot and crutches. In addition to my being desperate to find something constructive to say about this game, the reason this is important is, of course, because now instead of having eight carries for 14 yards next week, Lamar Miller will have 16 for 25.
Buy: Cam Newton. If this seems obvious, it’s because it is. The problem I am having is that there are no other buys on either team.
Sell: Every player on both teams not named Cam or Greg Olsen. While that may be a bit of an overstatement, both teams are utterly devoid of anything more than bit players for fantasy purposes.
Hold: Lamar Miller? I am drawing straws here, folks.
Ravens 19, Jets 3
Last week we talked about how Ray Rice took advantage of an awful Bears defense. This week he faced numberFire’s second-ranked rush D (according to ADRNEP/Play) and was completely brutal. If you are counting on him to help you at all the rest of this year, you are bound to be terribly disappointed.
Buy: Ray Rice as utterly washed up (at least for this year).
Sell: The Jets. Almost all of them (see below). They are the worst 5-6 team I can remember (but only because Oakland lost).
Hold: Chris Ivory hurt his ankle on the first play of the game, but stayed in and pushed through. Afterwards he said he would be getting an MRI Monday. If healthy, Ivory has flex appeal, so keep an eye on the injury reports.
Jaguars 16, Texans 6
Case Keenum is among the worst calls made by many fantasy analysts this season. A quick look at a handful of mainstream fantasy sites shows an average rank of 10.7 for Keenum this week, with six people ranking him inside of the top 10. Two of those had him as high as sixth. Even numberFire fell victim, using his excellent metrics and fantastic matchup to project him as the number 10 quarterback for Week 12. Hopefully after this abject stinker of a performance, everybody will come to their senses and realize he isn’t even in the top 20. If you have been listening to me, you didn’t fall prey to this one, as I’ve been the leader of the Case is Terrible bandwagon. If you didn’t follow my sage advice, maybe you should have, because I have yet to be wrong on anything all year (cough, Trent Richardson, cough, Philip Rivers).
Buy: Maurice Jones-Drew as a low-end RB2. This has little to do with what is left of his skills and lots to do with his volume of touches.
Sell: Case Keenum as a fantasy relevant player in anything outside of deep 2QB leagues. And even then, yuck.
Hold: Cecil Shorts complained about his paltry five targets last week and was rewarded with 11. Unfortunately, he was unable to parlay them into a touchdown, and managed only 71 yards on his eight receptions. Shorts has slowly slipped from WR2 to borderline WR3, a trend this game didn’t do much to reverse.
Titans 23, Raiders 19
If you waited to pick up Justin Hunter until now, you may be too late. I’m not suggesting he is a WR2 (or WR4) all of a sudden after a breakout six-catch, 109-yard, one-touchdown game, but the comparisons people have made between him and Randy Moss showed strong signs of relevance. Hunter is as good of a wide receiver to have on your bench as an upside stash as there is, so if you can still grab him, get on it. Our own JJ Zachariason mentioned this last week in his 15 Transactions column.
Rashad Jennings had yet another nice game, totaling 122 yards. The question is how carries will be broken up when Darren McFadden returns this Thursday (as is being reported). Following comments to the effect from Dennis Allen after Week 11, it is widely believed this will be a timeshare. To that end, I would find it very hard to recommend either running back as even a flex play for their Thanksgiving showdown versus the Cowboys. But if I had to pick one, it would be Jennings.
Buy: Kendall Wright continues to push for WR2 consideration, even in non-PPR leagues. After finally getting into the end zone this week, I think it is time to seriously consider the possibility.
Sell: Consistency. Are there two teams with more players who look fantasy worthy one week and like total mutts the next? Aside from Kendall Wright and Rashad Jennings, there isn’t a single guy you can trust not to lay an egg every bit as often as they bother to show up.
Hold: Rashad Jennings. Just because Darren McFadden is close to a return doesn’t mean he is going to stay healthy.
Cardinals 40, Colts 11
The Colts offense struggled tremendously against the ever-improving Cardinals defense. As per usual, they didn’t run it effectively and couldn’t hold off the pass rush long enough to open anything up downfield. This is a familiar refrain that the Colts will be hard pressed to overcome entirely, but as they have shown several times this year in the second half of games, there are things they can do to mask their deficiencies. It would be nice to see that happen from the opening kickoff, but I digress.
Fantasy-wise, T.Y. Hilton, Andrew Luck, and Coby Fleener are the only Colts you can start at this point. And as long as you temper your expectations somewhat, especially with regards to Hilton, who many expected to explode following his Week 9 breakout, you should be fine.
Michael Floyd continued his coming out party with another nice outing, but as you are about to read with Carson Palmer, the fun may be about to come to an end. How Palmer and the Cards’ offensive line fare against tougher defenses will determine Floyd’s ultimate ceiling.
Buy: Carson Palmer, but only for next week. The Cards have the Eagles Week 13, after which things get a bit difficult when they finish out against St. Louis, Tennessee, Seattle, and San Francisco. Their offensive line struggles mightily against pressure, so don’t get fancy with Palmer after next week.
Sell: All Colts running backs. I am not so sure they are even worth a roster spot in 10-team leagues at this point.
Hold: Michael Floyd, T.Y. Hilton, and Coby Fleener
Cowboys 24, Giants 21
Regardless of how this game went for Giants' players in the world of faux football, you need to look forward to the next month of the season when they face Washington, San Diego, Seattle, and Detroit. Excluding the Seahawks, the average ADNEP/Play rank for their opponents is 26. In simple terms, as gross as it may feel, you will be starting your Giants more often than not down the stretch. Take a shower with bleach if you must, but just because something feels dirty doesn’t mean it isn’t the right way to go. Coincidentally, I’ve heard that Hugh Hefner says that all the time. And I bet you didn’t even know he played fantasy football.
Buy: The Cowboys and Giants both have fantastic schedules down the stretch. It is time for an NFC East party in your lineup.
Sell: The inconsistent but explosive Terrance Williams saw two targets against the Giants. Blame the return of Miles Austin, but also blame the maddening mental lapses the rookie makes every game. I don’t see him as particularly ownable unless you have the space and don’t buy into Austin’s health.
Hold: Out hope that the Giants find a way to be un-Giants like during your fantasy playoffs.
Patriots 34, Broncos 31
If you were high on PCP, this game played out exactly how you planned it.
It is hard to find many takeaways from an odd game in awful weather, but we do have two things worth discussing on the Patriots’ side of the ball.
Julien Edleman hasn’t done much the last six weeks, but came out of nowhere for a huge 23-point effort. I am not reading anything into it as the Pats are playing offense sort of like the Saints, where the only receiving option you can trust is the stud at tight end.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Stevan Ridley fumbled early on and never set foot back on the field. There was hope after LeGarrette Blount also put one on the turf, but that quickly dissipated when New England went to Brandon Bolden for early-down work. I know I am supposed to say something about how Ridley will still be the favorite for carries, but, honestly, I think this backfield is such a train wreck it is better to just walk away. Shane Vereen is worth a PPR start as a flex play, but other than that, your best bet is to let Ridley waste away on your bench, knowing you will miss out on a 100-yard, two-touchdown game at some point.
Buy: Knowshon Moreno is not a particularly great player, but he is perfect for this offense, which makes him a great fantasy player. And that is all we ask for.
Sell: Patriots receivers and running backs. Just walk away and let somebody else play the guessing game of who will go off and when. It isn’t worth the anguish (and high potential for two points).
Hold: I shouldn’t have to say this, but the Denver pass offense will be fine. Don’t get silly and start benching guys based on one bad game.
The competition for this week’s Pumpkin Head Award, given in Andy Dalton’s honor to the player whose fantasy output most outpaces his real life skill, was almost nonexistent. Our winner ran away with the trophy (which is a moldy pumpkin) by posting 108 yards and two touchdowns, which were both double his season totals. Congrats to this week’s recipient, Tiquan Underwood, for sucking less in fantasy than he does in real life.