Week 14’s Monday Night Football game was stuffed full of fantasy potential. But entering the game, a sub-zero wind chill had fantasy football owners in a panic.
”Will Josh McCown get the 15 points I need to win my playoff matchup?” someone on Twitter would ask. “I’m worried about the temperature.”
I think we got our answer.
While some were correct in Week 14 to monitor the weather and hold back high expectations (Detroit vs. Philadelphia), others saw the advantage in playing a guy based solely on matchup, regardless of the natural conditions.
The latter folks may have been rewarded with a top quarterback performance from Josh McCown last night. It wasn’t Peyton Manning or Drew Brees leading the way at the quarterback position this week – it was McCown, a 34-year-old passer who has never had better than an 11:10 touchdown-to-interception ratio in his career. Today, the Bears’ backup sits with 13 touchdowns to just one mistake on the season.
I’d love to start with a big celebration in adding him in this week’s 15 Transactions column, but I can’t. Even with a Passing Net Expected Points total that’s fourth best in the NFL this season, McCown may not see game action this weekend.
Add Jay Cutler
After Chicago’s win against Dallas, head coach Marc Trestman reiterated the fact that Jay Cutler was the Bears’ starting quarterback. If, of course, he’s medically cleared to play.
While plenty of people are going to be upset by this, it’s the belief in Trestman’s offensive system that we have to abide by in fantasy football. Not the player.
Josh McCown has been fantastic. Brilliant, some may say. As I mentioned above, he’s now fourth in the entire league in Passing NEP, while his only start with fewer than 270 yards and two scores was against the Ravens.
But that, I think, is where people need to realize that part (not all, not even close) of McCown’s success has come from strength of schedule. Outside of the Ravens game – where he was no better than just a little above average – McCown has faced pass defenses that rank 25th, 23rd, 24th, 29th and 16th in terms of Defensive NEP when adjusted for strength of schedule.
McCown’s still outperformed expectations, but I think one thing we have to do is believe in the coach. If Cutler plays, he should be valued the same way we’d value McCown. Keep an eye on the situation, and in the mean time, it’s not a bad idea to just own both of them if you’re in need of a quarterback. The Bears get Cleveland this week, who have a vulnerable middle-of-the-road pass defense.
Add Running Back Handcuffs
I can’t stress this enough: Handcuff your stud running backs, unless you have great depth, during the fantasy playoffs.
I talked about this last week and heard some negative feedback, but we saw why you need to secure production when both Adrian Peterson and Eddie Lacy fell to injury this past weekend. Fortunately Lacy returned, but now AP is doubtful for this weekend’s game.
Grab Toby Gerhart. Grab Knile Davis. Don’t make the same mistake again this week.
Drop Carson Palmer
That was a fun time, Palmer owners. As I said last week, the game against St. Louis was Palmer’s last big chance to put up fantasy points this season. He put up a mediocre 14.5 standard tallies, and now will go up against the Titans and Seahawks pass defenses over his final two fantasy games. While Tennessee isn’t incredibly strong – 15th – when you adjust their pass defense metrics for strength of schedule, they do pose a threat with their solid cornerback play. And Seattle, well, is Seattle.
With quarterback options everywhere in most leagues – even 14-team ones – Palmer isn’t worth a roster spot.
Sell the Giants Passing Game
I’ve hesitated in mentioning this frequently over the weeks because the Giants schedule has been so soft, favoring their passing game tremendously. But even still, they’ve been able to muster up absolutely nothing.
Victor Cruz is even struggling, and still hasn’t scored since Week 4. In fact, 38.5% of Cruz’s fantasy football total in half-point PPR leagues came in Weeks 1 and 4. That’s it. Two weeks of football equates to well over one-third of Cruz’s total.
You can’t be confident rolling out anyone in this offense outside of Andre Brown.
Add Dennis Pitta
I mentioned Pitta in my Gronkowski replacement article yesterday, so instead of duplicating the content and writing it in a different way, I’ll just copy it for you below:
The obvious Gronk fill-in is Dennis Pitta, who played in his first game of the season yesterday for Baltimore, catching six passes for 48 yards and a key touchdown.
If you recall, Pitta was the guy who was supposed to assume the role of the departed Anquan Boldin this year in Baltimore. Part of the reason Joe Flacco has struggled this season is because, quite frankly, he has no number two pass-catcher. Pitta’s that guy.
The Ravens face Detroit in Week 15 – a team that ranked ninth against tight ends in terms of fantasy points against entering the week – and then the Patriots in Week 16. The Pats game should provide a lot of potential, as they’ve let tight ends go nuts on them at times this year (Tony Gonzalez in Week 4, Jordan Cameron yesterday).
In truth, Pitta’s one of the few tight ends in this league that could see enough targets to be matchup proof. If he’s still on your waiver wire – which he shouldn’t be if you read my 15 Transactions column last week – snag him ASAP.
Add Daniel Thomas
Thomas went from nearly being done for the season last week to rushing 16 times for 105 yards in relief for a concussed Lamar Miller against the Steelers. If Miller can’t go next week against New England, Danny boy will be the main man for the Phins. New England ranks 19th in the league when it comes to surrendering fantasy points to running backs, and are fourth-worst against the run according to our advanced analytics. Thomas could be a really sneaky play in Week 15.
Add Jordan Todman
Maurice Jones-Drew is another starting back with an injury, this one being a hamstring. If he doesn’t go Sunday against Buffalo, Jordan Todman will get the nod.
Todman wouldn’t be an ideal play this week, but does have pass-catching ability, often being compared to Darren Sproles. Our numbers say that the Bills rush defense is the 14th-best one in the league, but they’ve often allowed big runs, including last week to the Bucs’ Bobby Rainey.
If Jones-Drew doesn’t go, consider Todman a high-risk, high-reward play in PPR leagues.
Add Chris Ogbonnaya
Hey, look, another lead running back with an injury. Willis McGahee suffered a late-game concussion against the Patriots, and, like the aforementioned injured backs, could miss this week’s game against Chicago.
That could be huge for Chris Ogbonnaya, who, despite not seeing the volume you want from a starting fantasy back, could have an opportunity to put a dent in a miserable Chicago rush defense.
The Bears continue to struggle at stopping opposing running backs, ranking 27th against the position in fantasy. If not for Dallas abandoning the run last night, DeMarco Murray would have probably rushed for 400 yards. Not really. But really.
Silent G is as sneaky as they come, and has more value in PPR leagues. Don’t overlook him this week off your wire.
Bench Ladarius Green
It was a possibility going into the week, but it sounds like Eddie Royal stole snaps from Green, giving Ladarius the goose egg on the day. In fact, according to Rotoworld.com, Green went out and ran only five pass routes on the day.
The Bolts didn't have to get aerial against the Giants, so that certainly didn't help Green's cause either. But Eddie Royal's snap count (40) hurt Green's performance most.
Keep in mind that, despite the hype from everyone in the football world, Green only had nine catches over his last three games. He's too hard to trust in the fantasy playoffs.
Add Joe Flacco
Flacco made this column last week, and thanks to some late-game heroics, came through for fantasy owners. His 20 standard fantasy points were good for 11th most in the league, behind players no one started like Jason Campbell and Geno Smith.
This week, Flacco will face Detroit's secondary indoors. While the Lions have a top-three run-stopping unit, their pass defense has been anything but good, ranking in the bottom 10 of our pass defense metrics. If not for their performance against Matt Flynn on Thanksgiving, Detroit would be a bottom-of-the-barrel defense against fantasy quarterbacks over the last five or six weeks of this NFL season.
Add Delanie Walker
Just like Pitta, I wrote about Walker yesterday. Here’s the info:
I’ve pumped up Delanie Walker quite a bit here on numberFire over the last month or so, and though he hasn’t played (essentially) his last two games, he should be able to come back next week and be a top tight end producer in pretend football.
With Fitzpatrick under center after Jake Locker’s season-ending injury, Walker’s seen an average of nine targets per game. Fitzpatrick loves him. And so do I, as the Titans will face two of the worst teams against the tight end position in Week 15 and 16 in Arizona and Jacksonville.
Walker, too, ranks eighth among tight ends this season in Target Net Expected Points, which measures how many real points a receiver is adding for his team on all targets.
Add the Bills’ Defense
The Bills allowed 27 points to the Bucs on Sunday, but still managed to score in the green due to two picks and a sack. They've been a top-15 unit all season long in fantasy, and should - even after their mediocre performance last week - do well against the Jags in Week 15. Though Jacksonville's offense is clicking, it's tough to say no against Chad Henne and company, especially if MJD is indeed out.
Add Ryan Tannehill
The Dolphins' passer has had his three best fantasy performances of the season over his last three games, and will attempt to keep pace with Tom Brady's Patriots this weekend. Over the last three weeks, just for context, Tannehill's been the 11th-best fantasy quarterback. Not bad considering none of his performance were outliers.
Tanny is as consistent as they come in fantasy, and still hasn't scored fewer than 10.8 standard points in a single game. He should come through for quarterback streamers this week.
Buy Shane Vereen
When I say "buy", I mean to buy what Shane Vereen is doing, and expect it to potentially get better with the injury to Rob Gronkowski. He's not your traditional running back, but he's seeing just as many targets and receptions as some of the top receivers in the game. In fact, since his Week 11 return, Vereen is third in the NFL in targets among wide receivers and running backs, behind only Josh Gordon and Andre Johnson. He's a running back, people!
If you own him, you're more than likely starting him, especially in PPR formats.
Buy the Redskins' Offense
No, that’s not a typo – for this week only, I’m fine if you want to buy into the Redskins offense. Dysfunctional? Certainly. Risky? Sure. We could even call it a dumpster fire. But the one way to put out a football dumpster fire, or at least contain it, is to play against the worst defense in all the land.
Mike Shanahan's Someone's Redskins will face Atlanta this week, a team that just surrendered over 250 yards to Matt Flynn's Packers, and one that hasn't stopped anyone this season. Atlanta still ranks dead last in the league in Adjusted Defensive Net Expected Points, allowing 130 more real points this season than they should have.