Week 14 Recap: Snow

LeSean McCoy was a snow angel on Sunday. While not as good as a snow bunny or the Abominable Snow Man, it will have to do.

After spending the first 30 years of my life dealing with the harsh South Dakota winters, I didn’t think there was much about snow that I liked. Then Sunday happened. Snow and football go together like bourbon and anything. Another perfect match? Your eyes and this recap. Never one to stand in the way of true love, let’s get started.

Jacksonville 27, Texans 20

Following a 73rd consecutive defeat, Texans’ head coach Gary Kubiak was fired Friday. This affects fantasy teams the same way chewing gum affects the moon. Andre Johnson, Ben Tate and Garrett Graham are the only three guys we care about. And considering their matchups against Indianapolis and Denver the next two weeks, we care quite a bit. All three are imminently playable in all formats.

Apparently Jacksonville isn’t as bad as we thought. But that doesn’t mean there is much to get excited about from a fantasy perspective. Even the guys we’ve been able to start have issues, as Maurice Jones-Drew is battling a hamstring and Cecil Shorts is as inconsistent as any receiver in the NFL. MJD has been a late season revelation and that should continue. Shorts, on the other hand, isn’t a great start in even 12 team leagues.

Buy: The Texans have a nice schedule, so I’m buying Andre Johnson, Ben Tate, and Garrett Graham to all finish strong.

Sell: Despite a gang of targets (29) and two touchdowns the last three games, Cecil Shorts just isn’t doing much with the opportunity. The lack of long receptions (none over 28 yards since Week 3) and inaccurate passes from Chad Henne make him a borderline top-30 receiver at best.

Hold: MJD has been much better as of late, working his way into RB2 territory. If the hammy is OK, he is a decent play in each of the season’s final three games.

Bengals 42, Colts 28

The Colts once again fell behind early, before coming back to score…wait a second, there is breaking news coming into numberFire’s Las Vegas branch. NFL referee Jeff Triplette is holding a press conference where sources indicate he plans to address the controversial play in which he overturned a down by contact call, giving BenJarvus Green-Ellis a one-yard touchdown. Let’s go live to Muskogee:

I understand that my reversal of a play this past Sunday has caused some consternation among the Colts’ fan base. While I don’t expect everybody to always agree with every call I make, I’d like to take this opportunity to explain what I saw with the hope people will be better able to understand why I made the decision I did.

As was obvious from several different camera angles, after Mr. Green-Ellis was handed the sandwich, he wasn’t touched by my dentist on his way to the tree house. Once the sandwich broke the plane, by rule, it was scored as a toenail clipper.

I’d love to take some questions, but I have a meeting with LSD. Thank you to all the dragons and glowing purple spheres for coming to this press conference. Also, I bet on Cincinnati.

Buy: Andrew Luck. I don’t think there is any coincidence that when the Colts unleash Andrew Luck, good things happen for the offense. Declaring him as a buy is strictly a bet that Indianapolis realizes this and begin to operate under that philosophy going forward.

Sell: Colts receivers. With the pecking order flipped on its head, I can’t rationalize starting a single Colts wideout in a 12-team league for Week 15. Their best receiver, T.Y. Hilton, has scored 5.1 or fewer points in four straight, six of the last eight, and ten of 14 games this season.

Hold: Jeff Triplette. He needs a hug. And new eyes. (Mostly the eyes part.)

Packers 22, Falcons 21

Aaron Rodgers owners rejoice! With a Packers win and a Lions loss, the odds Green Bay shut down their starting quarterback got much smaller. Nobody seems to know when Rodgers will be back, but there is at least a glimmer of hope it's for Week 15’s must-win game against the Cowboys.

Even without Rodgers, Jordy Nelson owners caught a slight reprieve in the form of 85 yards on four receptions. He is still in that WR2 range despite Matt Flynn’s best efforts. If you played any other Packers’ receiver, that is your own fault.

Roddy White appears fully back, logging 10 targets, eight catches, and 74 yards for the struggling Falcons. A matchup against the Redskins and their disaster of a situation awaits. Pencil him in for 800 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Buy: Roddy White as a top-15 option for Week 15

Sell: Packers’ receivers not named Jordy Nelson. But only if Aaron Rodgers remains out.

Hold: Harry Douglas has been valuable enough that this one bad game wouldn’t cause me to bail, especially in PPR leagues.

Patriots 27, Browns 26

Rob Gronkowski’s luck is as bad as a Lifetime Christmas movie. With what looks like an ACL tear likely ending his season, fantasy owners are once again left holding the bag. There are a few lesser owned tight ends that you should look into, including Delanie Walker (if over his concussion by Week 15), Tim Wright, Zach Miller, and especially Dennis Pitta. The pickings are slim this late in the year, but if you play matchups you can still get production.

The Browns had a very nice day on the offensive side of ball, racking up 391 yards through the air. Things get even easier next week against a depleted Bears defense in a game that could see approximately one trillion points. For that matchup I’d rank Josh Gordon second among wide receivers, Jordan Cameron comfortably in the top 10 at tight end, and Jason Campbell as a potential top-15 quarterback.

Buy: Shane Vereen is a PPR monster. He is a clear top-15 option in PPR formats who merits RB1 consideration.

Sell: Stevan Ridley didn’t fumble, but he also only touched the ball nine times. There is no real situation in which I could recommend starting him during the fantasy playoffs.

Hold: Danny Amendola has been a massive disappointment this season, but with Gronk out, his role is sure to increase. I wouldn’t rush to start him Week 15, but I think it is reasonable to expect some increase in usage.

Jets 37, Raiders 27

I just can’t think of a good reason to waste any of our time on either team at this point in the season. So I won’t.

Buy: Rod Streater has been having a very nice second half to his season, posting at least 80 yards receiving in four of the last six games. Better in PPR leagues than standard, he is a reasonable option if you are scrambling at Flex.

Sell: Any Jet not-named Chris Ivory (a low end RB2/Flex play)

Hold: As long as he is starting, Marcel Reece is a top-20 back in all formats. In the four career games where he has 15 or more touches, Reese’s average stat line is 16.5 carries for 87 yards with 4.25 receptions for 44 yards. So hang on to him in the event Rashad Jennings or Darren McFadden is not back for Week 15.

Eagles 34, Lions 20

It is really tough to draw too much from a game played on a six-inch blanket of snow, so don’t get too anxious in an effort to draw a conclusion about anybody or anything.

Reggie Bush slipped and aggravated his calf injury in the pre-game warm ups. Hopefully you caught it in time and adjusted your lineup. And hopefully you also own Joique Bell. As of my deadline, there was zero information on the severity of the injury or Bush’s prospects for next week’s game.

Buy: The Eagles as having the best schedule in the NFL with games against Minnesota, Chicago, and Dallas left on the slate. The average Adjusted Defensive Net Expected Point per Play (Adj. DNEP/play) rank of their remaining opponents is 24th.

Sell: Any takeaway from any passing stats in this game. The weather made things completely hopeless for both quarterbacks.

Hold: Joique Bell as a top 10-12 PPR running back if Bush misses time. Less valuable in standard leagues, he is still a very good RB2.

Dolphins 34, Steelers 28

Daniel Thomas made his surprising, triumphant return to the Miami lineup. Assumed to be out for the remainder of the season, the suddenly healthy Thomas got a further boost when Lamar Miller exited with a concussion during the second quarter. With a pivotal Week 15 home game against the Patriots, Thomas could actually be worth a start at your flex; New England ranks 29th in Adjusted Defensive Rush NEP per Play, ahead of only Atlanta, Chicago, and San Diego.

I don’t mean to sound stubborn or repetitive (this has been addressed three or four times in prior recaps), but I really don’t want my readers to fall victim to Jerricho Cotchery during the most important point in the season. Despite an unfathomable eight touchdowns this year, Cotchery simply isn’t seeing enough targets to be a reliable play in 10- or 12-team leagues. Sure there are worse desperation plays, but he has almost no value unless he scores. and I am not willing to gamble that a player of his ability (or lack thereof) continues to do so.

Buy: Charles Clay is seeing a ton of targets (at least seven in five consecutive games) and turning them into production. With a friendly matchup against the Patriots on the docket, he is a TE1 next week.

Sell: If Lamar Miller does play in Week 15, I am not touching him or Daniel Thomas. The situation in Miami is too much of a mess to trust either unless one or the other is out.

Hold: This in mind during 2014 drafts: Ryan Tannehill has increased his fantasy production by a hearty 28% over last season and is on pace for nearly 25 touchdowns.

Buccaneers 27, Bills 6

The Bills offense put on one of the most pathetic showings of 2013 against an admittedly improving Buccaneers defense. E.J. Manuel was picked off four times and the Bills lost a fumble on their way to 214 yards and six points. The matchup next week looks better on paper, but Jacksonville has been playing much better of late. It wouldn’t stop me from starting Fred Jackson as an RB2, C.J. Spiller as either an RB1 or dog meat, or Stevie Johnson as Hail Mary flex, but don’t look at it as though it is a slam dunk matchup.

Bobby Rainey had a busy day with 25 touches for 123 total yards. 80 of those came on his first carry, but he struggled thereafter, averaging 2.21 yards on the other 24 touches. Rainey has been a pleasant surprise this season, but he isn’t a particularly special player, nor is he a candidate to start in 10-team leagues when the Buccos host the 49ers next week.

Buy: The Bills to bounce back next week against the Jags. It may not be an offensive explosion, but they should provide fantasy worthy starts out of both running backs.

Sell: Bobby Rainey against the 49ers

Hold: Your head high if you are a fan of either of these teams. Both have pieces in place that could bring success as early as 2014.

Chiefs 45, Redskins 10

Unless Mike Shanahan gets fired this week, I would be terrified to play any Redskin against even the awful Atlanta defense Week 15. It isn’t often a situation in the NFL gets so bad you have to significantly downgrade players for fantasy purposes, but if there ever was one, this is it. The team looked broken and uninterested in one of the most embarrassing defeats in recent memory. I’d love to offer concise, definitive advice on what to do with Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris, and Pierre Garcon, but I don’t think such advice exists.

Alex Smith has been on a nice little run over the last six weeks, topping 21 points four times. His play in this game did nothing to dissuade me from thinking he could continue the hot streak, but next week’s opponent does; the Raiders are pathetic enough that the Chiefs won’t need to throw much to beat them. Going back to the earlier portion of the season, we get a glimpse of what Smith does in games he doesn’t need to throw much, and it isn’t always pretty (from a fantasy perspective). Many people will tell you he is a great play this week, but I am not buying it.

Buy: The Chiefs' defense. Kinda. The KC D had been one of the worst units in the league the six games leading into Week 14. This begs the question: Does one great game against the biggest disaster in the NFL suddenly make them good again? Maybe. I would go ahead and chance it against Oakland next week, but be wary that the Chiefs posted a negative seven against San Diego three short weeks ago.

Sell: Alex Smith for Week 15

Hold: Redskins offense

Ravens 29, Vikings 26

Not unlike the Philly/Detroit game, this contest featured more snow than a Michael Irvin house party. Due to slightly better weather and much better visibility, the quarterbacks had more success, but much of this can be attributed to defensive backs that had a very difficult time adjusting to receiver’s movements.

Now that we have the disclaimer out of the way, let’s revisit a favorite topic of mine. I have been talking for weeks now about how important it is to stock your bench with high-upside players who could make an impact in the fantasy playoffs. The most oft mentioned example was none other than Cordarrelle Patterson. With 32 targets the last four games and three remaining matchups against teams who will put up points on the poor Minnesota defense, Patterson is a worthwhile gamble for owners who need a spark.

For example, if you are in a league with a two-week playoff and are down big going into Week 15, Patterson is a perfect high-upside play. Let’s say you snuck in as a four seed this week, but lost Gronk and Adrian Peterson to injury (more on this shortly). Stick Patterson at flex and see what happens. Maybe he hangs a three. Or maybe he breaks two passes for 80 yards each. One thing is for sure, Jerricho Cotchery isn’t going to offer you that sort of upside.

As I just mentioned, Adrian Peterson left the game with a foot injury. X-rays were negative, but Peterson was quoted as saying he is experiencing mid-foot pain, which causes immediate concern for the dreaded Lisfranc injury. If Peterson can’t go, Toby Gerhart immediately enters RB2 consideration for a team who, due to inept play at the quarterback position, needs a running game more than most.

Buy: Dennis Pitta looked great in his return to the field following a horrific hip injury at the start of training camp some four months ago. Garnering a team-high 11 targets on his way to 10.8 standard league fantasy points, Pitta instantly enters the TE1 discussion.

Sell: Ray Rice has little chance to impress next week against the Lions. Detroit got run on in a significant way by the Eagles, but as we already discussed, the snow had more to do with that than anything. Also, Ray Rice is not LeSean McCoy (or anything even close). I can’t recommend starting him in 10-team leagues against numberFire’s number-one ranked run defense.

Hold: Adrian Peterson. Unless the Vikings come out and officially announce he is done for the year, keep him stashed. At this point, you don’t need the bench spot so hang in there and hope for the best.

Broncos 51, Titans 28

This game didn’t teach us much, so let’s talk schedules.

The Titans have a rough Week 15 matchup against Arizona that was made at least a bit easier by Tyrann Mathieu’s apparent ACL tear. The remaining two games against Jacksonville and Houston, our 29th and 28th defenses according to Adj. DNEP/play, provide a reprieve. Chris Johnson, Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter, and Delanie Walker (if healthy) will all get a boost.

In Weeks 15-17 Denver faces it doesn’t matter. They will score against anybody.

Buy: Justin Hunter is another guy I mentioned along with Cordarrelle Patterson as high-upside stashes. The exact same thing I said about Patterson applies to Hunter.

Bonus Buy: Montee Ball has worked his way into every-week flex consideration. He is seeing 10-15 touches a game, which is more than enough in this offense.

Sell: Concussions. Wes Welker had his second head injury of the season, just in time to derail playoff hopes (the short week leading into Denver’s Thursday night game makes him super iffy). More importantly, two concussions in a season is not a good sign for the not-so-young receiver’s career. Hopefully Welker makes a full recovery and suffers no long-term effects to both his career and his personal health.

Hold: Kendall Wright has been incredibly reliable, posting 50 or more yards in all but two games this season. He also has only three games with fewer than five receptions. It is safe to ignore this blip and continue to run him out there as a reliable WR3.

Cardinals 30, Rams 10

Against a Rams’ pass rush that had suffocated offensive lines the second half of the season, your humble author predicted disaster for Carson Palmer and the Cardinals’ offense. I was wrong. This performance gives hope that Palmer will be useable one last time this year when Arizona travels to Tennessee for Week 15. The Titans’ corners have done a good job against wide receivers most of the year, but they don’t have an especially great pass rush and have given up more than 250 yards to everybody from Matt Schaub to Matt McGloin. Palmer remains a high-end QB2 one last time.

Zac Stacy. That’s the list. Otherwise, stay away from St. Louis.

Buy: Carson Palmer, but only for Week 15.

Sell: Starting tight ends from both teams. Neither has any level of consistency. You should be able to do better.

Hold: Zac Stacy has been a middling RB2 as of late. Next week he has a doable matchup against the Saints 23rd-ranked rush defense on a per play basis, before facing Tampa Bay (13th and climbing) and Seattle (ninth). It seems as though he is destined for mid-level RB2 numbers the rest of the way.

Chargers 37, Giants 14

There were two surprises out of this game:

1. Hakeem Nicks is alive. But because players who have broken the seven point threshold once in seven games are not fantasy starters, we really don’t care.

2. Ladarius Green saw one target. Considering the impact the dynamic tight end had made the last three weeks, this is a bit of a head scratcher. It will be very difficult to start him next week in a great matchup against the Broncos, but there is always upside with a guy this talented, especially in a game that should be a wide open affair.

Buy: Danny Woodhead had yet another great PPR showing, marking the 10th time this season he has topped 13 points and the fifth he has scored more than 18. San Diego heads to Denver for a game that should see plenty of passing game work for the former Patriot.

Sell: Giants’ wide receivers. Against Seattle Week 15, none of them are start-worthy in 10 team leagues.

Hold: Keenan Allen banged his shoulder up early in the game, even leaving for a short while to get it looked at in the locker room. He was able to return, but with a big lead, the Chargers didn’t need to push him too hard. Keep an eye on his status with the short week ahead (SD plays Denver on Thursday night).

49ers 19, Seahawks 17

Anquan Boldin continued his late-season resurgence with six catches for 93 yards in a huge NFC West matchup. The 49ers fly three time zones east next week to face the Buccaneers and Revis Island. Odds are good Revis will follow the more dynamic Michael Crabtree around the field, giving Boldin a shot at a fourth straight 90-plus yard game.

This loss was a good thing for the owners of Seahawks players. It should force Seattle to play their starters as usual for at least the next couple of games, especially if San Francisco and New Orleans continue to win.

Buy: Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch. The Seahawks should have to play out the string, making both of these guys very valuable right down to the wire.

Sell: Seattle receivers. This is one of the most untrustworthy groups in the NFL. You can’t risk a three-point day at this point in the season, so stay away.

Hold: Michael Crabtree. You can’t play him next week, but Week 16 has a juicy matchup against Atlanta.

Saints 31, Panthers 13

It sure was nice of Marques Colston to score 24 points while mired on the bench for most owners. In what was billed as a tough matchup, the Saints’ number one receiver was wide open more often than not, reeling in nine balls for 125 yards and a pair of visits to the end zone. His continued involvement in the offense (at least six targets in six straight games) makes him a WR3 with every week WR1 upside.

The Panthers go as Cam Newton goes. And Sunday night, he didn’t go well. The elite Carolina offensive line had a devil of a time with the Saints’ pass rush, something they will need to correct before these two teams meet again in two weeks. Before the rematch takes place, Carolina hosts the Jets and their top-notch run defense. If they want to avoid an embarrassing upset, it will need to be on the strength of the passing game.

Buy: Cam Newton should have a nice game against the soft Jets pass defense. The Panthers will likely struggle to run, forcing them to put the ball in the air more than usual. Steve Smith and Greg Olsen should also see an uptick in value as a result.

Sell: Panthers’ run game. There isn’t value here in general, and especially not in Week 15.

Hold: Darren Sproles was used mostly in the first half, heading to the bench as the Saints pulled away in the second. This is pretty typical in a season where he has averaged the fewest touches of his Saints’ career. I would expect more of the same in Week 15 in what is expected to be a fairly easy win for New Orleans in St. Louis.

Pumpkin Head

After four long weeks of waiting and hoping, I get to give the Pumpkin Head award to its namesake for the very first time. For our new readers, I have been issuing this honor to the player who most outperforms his real world skill in the realm of faux football. So named for the king of playing over his head, Andy Dalton, past winners have included the likes of four guys I can’t remember. Following a 30-point outpouring against the hapless Colts, it was an easy call to give the award to the Bengals passer. And because of it, I am going to sleep a little better this week.