Week 13 Recap: Jive Turkey

Jordy Nelson didn't exactly spend his Thanksgiving stuffing box scores. What a turkey.

We do Thanksgiving the old fashioned way in the Miller household (except without the land stealing and murder of native peoples), by eating turkey by the fistful and drinking whiskey until it hurts to breathe. And, of course, we watch football, screaming at the TV just like God intended. Whatever your tradition, I hope your Thanksgiving was as good as mine.

Lions 40, Packers 10

If you started Jordy Nelson, your Thursday was perhaps a little less enjoyable than you had hoped. If Aaron Rodgers does come back Week 14, then there isn’t much reason to be worried. The only reason I even brought Nelson’s bad game up is because I enjoy seeing my readers suffer. Essentially, ignore everything that happened to any Packer in this game. It didn’t count.

Nate Burleson went from a 10-target, seven-catch Week 12 to a zero-catch, one-target Week 13. He was on the field for 60 snaps, so playing time wasn’t an issue. The problem is that 25 of Matthew Stafford’s 35 throws went to three players, none of whom were named Nate. We don’t know why this was the case, and the Lions aren’t talking. With that in mind, it is hard to trust Burleson next week, even in a matchup against the Eagles 22nd-ranked pass defense (according to our Adjusted Defensive Pass Net Expected Point metric (Adj. DPNEP)).

Buy: Joique Bell as a guy too many people start next week. He is a very good player, but Bell may not match his Thursday touch total (22) the next two games combined.

Sell: This game for the Packers. Unless you know a Green Bay fan and enjoy needling them, just pretend it didn’t happen.

Hold: Nate Burleson. I couldn’t blame you for trying with him next week, but we all now know the potential floor.

Cowboys 31, Raiders 24

The two touchdowns notwithstanding, Rashad Jennings’ poor performance in a very good matchup (Dallas Ranks 29th against the rush) did little to solidify his stranglehold at running back for the Raiders. And that is to say nothing of the concussion he suffered. With a matchup in New York against the Jets next week, who rank second in the league against the run, this is a situation to avoid.

Buy: Andre Holmes in dynasty leagues (sorta, anyway). We haven’t seen nearly enough of him to get too excited, but Holmes is worth an add in deeper leagues in the event he has finally turned his prodigious physical talent into on-the-field production.

Sell: Andre Holmes in any non-dynasty league. The Raiders’ passing attack is not nearly consistent enough to make him worth rostering.

Hold: Andre Holmes in a hot dog eating contest. We haven’t seen nearly enough of him in eating competitions, but the dude is 6-foot-4 so I assume he can put down an unhealthy amount of encased meats.

Bonus Hold: Andre Holmes. Not really. Just wanted to see how much mileage I could get out of this.

Ravens 22, Steelers 20

Ray Rice was started in 85 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues. A player who has failed to top seven points in 8 of 11 games this season does not deserve to be in a lineup, much less 85 percent of them, you guys. Rice is not the guy he once was, so, please, stop it. Turn around and walk away. It isn’t going to happen for him this year. It’s over. Finished. Done. Kaput.

Buy: Forget what I just said and consider starting Rice next week against the Vikings. They rank 31st in fantasy points allowed to running backs and 27th in Adj. Defensive Rushing NEP, so Rice has a chance to do at least something. That said, he has been awful in good matchups before, so there is a ton risk involved.

Sell: Heath Miller had a nice game but isn’t producing much overall. His name still carries some panache so folks may be tempted, but Miller isn’t worth starting in any 10- or 12-team league.

Hold: Antonio Brown had one of his worst games of the season but is still a low-end WR1.

Jaguars 32, Browns 28

Cecil Shorts finally got off the schneid, catching six balls for 64 yards and a touchdown (his first since October 6). But before you get too excited, he faces Houston next week and Tennessee Week 16. The Titans have allowed the fewest points to wide receivers this season and the Texans are not far behind (they rank fifth). Shorts is a middling WR3 who, despite his wealth of talent, should not be viewed as a plug-and-play wide receiver.

Buy: Stop me if you have heard this before, but Josh Gordon is an elite NFL player. It doesn’t matter if it's Jason Campbell or Brandon Weeden under center, he just flat out produces. For the most part, the Browns have incredible matchups to finish out the season; Gordon could top a million yards.

Sell: Jordan Cameron is seeing plenty of targets but is still largely unproductive. He has mixed in drops with unpolished play, torpedoing what looked like a breakout season. Sure, the quarterback roulette hasn’t helped, but it's time to stop looking solely at the guy throwing the ball. I watched Cameron’s last three games this week and he just isn’t playing like a dominant TE1.

Hold: While the matchups are bad for Shorts, Maurice Jones-Drew finishes out with a relatively easy schedule of run defenses. His yards per carry average is as attractive as a Pontiac Aztek, but the touches are there. He is an RB2 the rest of the season (ROS).

Colts 27, Titans 14

The Colts didn’t trail at halftime! But their offense was still awful. How bad? 264 total yards and no fantasy player over 12 fantasy points bad.

It has been a frustrating run for Colts’ star players with Andrew Luck having fewer than 12 points in three of the last four, and T.Y. Hilton scoring under five points in three straight. Want more bad news? The schedule isn’t exactly kind the rest of the way with trips to Cincinnati and Kansas City sandwiched around a home game against the Texans. Odds are that you can’t sit either of these guys, but if you have the depth to pull it off, don’t be afraid to pull the trigger.

Delanie Walker’s failure to contribute against Indy was due to suffering a concussion in the first quarter. He has become a popular streaming option for tight end desperate fantasy owners, and assuming a return to health, the Broncos present a nice matchup next week.

Buy: Jim Irsay a gag and some duct tape. If I was a Colts fan I’d be at the door of his chateau with a torch and pitchfork.

Sell: The Colts running game. They named Donald Brown the starter before the game, but so what? The offense is so up and down and all over the place that I couldn’t recommend Brown as anything more than a throw-it-off-the-wall-and-hope-it-sticks flex.

Hold: Coby Fleener has been producing like a low-end TE1 as of late. He didn’t see a ton of targets or receptions on Sunday, but he is still in that 8-12 area at his position.

Vikings 23, Bears 20

Alshon Jeffery is very much the real deal. Coming into this game he was already the 14th overall wide receiver on the season, but after a 12-catch, 249-yard, two-touchdown performance Jeffery is likely to vault into the top 10. While it may be a bit premature to anoint him a full-on WR1, he is locked into the top 20.

Buy: Everybody playing Chicago. To reiterate something I spoke about last week, you should be starting any and all fantasy relevant players against the Bears. Their defense is among the very worst in the league.

Sell: Greg Jennings. This isn’t his first good game of the year, but it is the first in two months. He just isn’t a good fit for this offense.

Hold: Josh McCown. If you are a Jay Cutler owner or have a soft spot at quarterback, McCown is worth a hold even if the injured Bear comes back this week. Cutler already returned only to sit out again once, so it isn’t far-fetched to think it could happen again.

Dolphins 23, Jets 3

Despite a poor offensive line and an even worse matchup, Lamar Miller showed he may be able to provide at least something on the ground for the Dolphins. I wouldn’t recommend getting too excited, but Miller does merit weekly RB2/flex consideration. Just know there is sub-five point downside every week.

We don’t care what the Jets do at quarterback. They don’t harbor a single receiving option for fantasy owners, so it is completely inconsequential. The only relevant Jet for our purposes is Chris Ivory. He only touched the ball 13 times this week, which isn’t ideal, but still scored over seven points on the limited usage. Ivory is in the same territory as the aforementioned Miller but has a higher floor than his Miami counterpart.

Buy: A paper bag and put it over your head if you are a Jets fan. What an amazingly inept organization.

Sell: Every Jet who has any passing game involvement.

Hold: Lamar Miller, Chris Ivory

Eagles 24, Cardinals 21

The future for these two teams is a tale of two schedules. The Eagles are fortunate in that theirs is as soft as a bed of Twinkies (seriously, think about how soft that would be). The Cardinals? Not so much.

Carson Palmer has had a nice run, but any notion you had of playing him in a coming week needs to become less of a notion and more of a stop sign. The average Adj. DNEP rank of Cardinals’ opponents is 12th. While that isn’t awful at first glance, the average is artificially low due to the Rams ranking only 20th despite having played like a top 10 defense the last month or so.

The Eagles face a much easier slate with opposing defenses ranking, on average, 24th in Adj. DNEP. There isn’t a single opponent that should cause any sort of consternation when considering starting a Philly player.

Buy: Is Nick Foles a top-10 quarterback? It certainly seems that way. Due to him being a waiver pickup in most leagues, it is possible you own him in addition to another top-12 type. If so, don’t be afraid to plug the Eagles’ passer into your lineup over more lauded names.

Sell: Carson Palmer

Hold: Riley Cooper has been very quiet two weeks running. We all know he isn’t all that skilled as a player, but Foles had willed him into fantasy relevance. While I wouldn’t jump ship quite yet, you may want to proceed with caution until we know if this is the new normal.

Panthers 27, Buccaneers 6


Buy: Cam Newton is good.

Sell: The Carolina running game. Even with DeAngelo Williams out, there was no fantasy-worthy play.

Hold: Bobby Rainey is going to find it tough going much of the rest of the season due to an unfriendly schedule. But his workload alone will keep him in consideration for your flex position.

Patriots 34, Texans 31

If you ever wondered what would happen if you were a running back for a Bill Belichick coached team and you fumbled approximately 300 times in a season, now you know (he was a healthy scratch). Will Stevan Ridley be any type of factor again this year? The answer is as clear as a 15-year-old’s face. Don’t take an unnecessary gamble with your team at this critical point of the season. Until further notice (likely in 2014), Ridley belongs on your bench.

After alternating good and bad games the last six weeks, it seems as though Ben Tate can’t make up his mind if he is an RB2 or a weak flex play. Fortunately, the schedule going forward is overflowing with fortuitous matchups of fortunateness. numberFire has Tate as the 30th-ranked running back the ROS, but following a very nice showing I would expect that to rise. I personally have him pegged safely as a mid-range RB2.

Buy: Ben Tate as a solid RB2

Sell: Danny Amendola has been a total disaster of a fantasy play for the most of 2013. Don’t be foolish enough to play him over lesser names with better production as he is nothing more than a WR4.

Hold: I find Julien Edelman’s resurgence difficult to buy in to, but it is also very hard to deny. I am going to stop short of recommending a start against the Browns next week, but if he isn’t owned in your league (currently his ownership on ESPN is only 30%), you need to pick him up.

Falcons 34, Bills 31

Coming into this game, there was a lot of talk among pundits and owners alike as to where C.J. Spiller fell in the rankings. There were certainly a myriad reasons for caution, but I have never been one for reasons, caution, common sense, or showers (my skin gets too dry if I cleanse myself more than once every couple of weeks).

With an amazing matchup and a full two weeks to rest, I expected Spiller to explode, and explode he did. Because Captain Hindsight isn’t the most useful super hero, let’s talk about Weeks 14-17. If you are a Spiller owner, they are glorious: all four opponents rank 20th or worse against the rush according to our metrics. As long as he comes out of this game with his health (he tweaked his ankle early, but stayed in and played well), I see Spiller as the top-10 option you drafted him to be.

Coming into this game there was a lot of talk among pundits and owners alike as to where Roddy White fell in the rankings. There were certainly myriad reasons for caution, which I espoused in this very space one week ago. Seems I was maybe a bit too cautious, as White turned 15 targets into 10 catches and 143 yards. To give you an idea of how big of a turnaround this was, coming into the game White’s stat line for the season was 10 receptions for 66 yards, and no touchdowns.

Again, we look forward and see the Packers and Redskins on the slate for Roddy and the Falcons. I am not ready to hoist him into the top 10 as I did with Spiller, but a healthy Roddy White in a pass-heavy offense on a team that can’t stop opposing teams is a top-20 receiver at the very worst.

Buy: C.J. Spiller, Roddy White

Sell: Caution and common sense

Hold: Just because I am buying White and Spiller doesn’t mean their teammates, Harry Douglas and Fred Jackson, lose value. Jackson is Jackson, with our without C.J., and the Falcons are forced to throw enough that Douglas could easily see 10 or more targets any given week.

49ers 23, Rams 13

In case it isn’t entirely obvious, the only Ram you are starting is Zac Stacy. Unfortunately, he didn’t exactly light the field on fire against a very good 49ers run defense. Things actually get tougher next week when St. Louis visits the Cardinals, who rank fifth in our Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP metric, six spots higher than San Francisco. And while Stacy isn’t matchup proof in the same vein as an Adrian Peterson type, he is still the focal point of this offense who stands a decent chance at 75 yards and a touchdown (but that is likely his ceiling).

The minute I started running down Anquan Boldin in the recap, he started playing well. The unexpected turnaround followed an eight week stretch where the 49ers receiver broke the eight point threshold once (in four of those games, he failed to score more than three points).

Boldin is now on a new streak: Over the last three games, he's scored nine or more points on the strength of three touchdowns and 28 combined targets. The returning Michael Crabtree was on a snap count against the Rams, so we are not yet sure how his full return will impact Boldin. I am taking a wait and see approach to the entire situation, which is made easier by the matchup against the Seahawks in Week 14.

Frank Gore hasn’t exactly been racking up fantasy points as of late. The touches have been a bit tougher to come by and the seemingly ageless veteran hasn’t done a ton with what he’s gotten. The downturn is a likely product of the 49ers trying to preserve his legs in games they are winning comfortably. That said, his RB1 days are well behind him. Gore is a decent RB2 with a very high floor.

Buy: There honestly isn’t one.

Sell: Tavon Austin was started in 18% of ESPN leagues. That is about 17.83627% too many. If you are among that select group, you are doing your team a great disservice. The touches aren’t there, even if the talent is.

Hold: Frank Gore, Zac Stacy, Michael Crabtree, and Anquan Boldin

Broncos 35, Chiefs 28

Show of hands: After four straight rough weeks, how many of you benched Eric Decker? I can’t say I blame you, as numberFire had him as the 30th-ranked receiver this week (a ranking I agreed with). Whether this game changes anything going forward is a good question, especially as Denver faces the tough Tennessee secondary next week. My advice: Don’t overreact to one game. Decker is still not a full-blown WR1, regardless of the crazy-productive outing, so treat him thusly.

Knowshon Moreno didn’t exactly churn out many yards on the ground, but did get it done through the air. I watched this game closely and it seemed like the Chiefs keyed on the run with Moreno in the game as he had very little room. Montee Ball had no such issue, but that looked to be more good fortune than anything else. Moreno is still an RB1 and Ball is still not quite on the flex radar. Don’t overreact to one game.

As much as Dwayne Bowe tempted owners with a number of solid consecutive outings, we all knew he had this sort of game in him. But as I just said with Decker and Moreno, don’t overreact to one game. Bowe remains a low-end WR3.

Buy: Despite a down performance and a nice game from his backup, Knowshon Moreno is an RB1 ROS.

Sell: Unknown players vulturing touchdowns. What is a John Hemmingway and why is it getting three targets?

Hold: Dwayne Bowe

Bengals 17, Chargers 10

There isn’t much to report here. Nothing significant happened fantasy-wise and, to be honest, it wasn’t much of a game to watch. Also, I got a sliver in my thumb while carrying in our Christmas tree about an hour ago and it hurts like heck to type.

Buy: A real Christmas tree. Fake ones are an abomination.

Sell: That terrible Christmas song, “Wonderful Christmas Time" by Paul McCartney. I understand he is one of the most important musicians in history, but that doesn’t mean his Christmas song isn’t a joke.

Hold: Out hope that someday Andy Dalton has a big game so I can give him the Pumpkin Head Award. The biggest upset of the season is that he hasn’t won the award named in his honor.

Giants 24, Redskins 17

The Giants are playing very good defense over the last six games. Using ESPN’s standard scoring, they have scored 12, 15, 18, 14, 6, and 8 points over that stretch. This doesn’t necessarily make them a great play any of the next three weeks against the Chargers, Seahawks, and Lions, but it is a fact worth considering when using players on any of those teams. Temper your expectations a bit as the terrible early season version of the Giants’ defense is a thing of the past.

Buy: Even when he doesn’t rack up yards, Andre Brown still scores points. He is enjoying high-end RB2 status.

Sell: The Redskins offense without Jordan Reed. His absence has left a gaping hole that they are having a very difficult time filling. Hopefully he is back for Week 14.

Hold: It wasn’t his best effort, but Alfred Morris is still a low-end RB1. He has a very, very good schedule to finish the season, so enjoy the ride.

Pumpkin Head

As I alluded to a few paragraphs ago, the Pumpkin Head Award is given each week to the player who most outperforms his talent. The easy thing to do this week would be to give it to Raiders wide receiver Andre Holmes, who nearly doubled his career total fantasy points in one game. And because I like the easy way out, that is exactly what I am going to do. Enjoy the award Andre, something tells me it will be your last.