Week 16 Recap: Adieu
The holiday season is a case of the best of times and the worst of times. On one hand, I love Christmas and how it brings family and friends together. (As those fellow parents who also celebrate Christmas will understand, seeing your child on Christmas morning is a moment that is second to none.) From a fantasy perspective, this is playoff season, where all the hard work pays off. Next to draft day, it is the most exciting part of the year.
As good as all that is, there is a downside. The day after Christmas is a bit depressing; there won’t be another 24-hour period quite like the 25th of December for 364 more days. The fantasy season is ending, leaving an eight month gap in my calendar. Worst of all? This is the last weekly recap. Sniff…
Lest we end the intro on a sad note, there is a silver lining that awaits you. Your humble author and his numberFire cohorts have myriad content planned for the entire offseason, starting with team recaps and rolling right through the summer months. So, if you find yourself with a post-holiday hangover, navigate on over to numberFire.com and see what we have to offer. You will be glad you did.
Bills 19, Dolphins 0
The Dolphins wowed fans with one of the single most spectacular offensive outputs in recent memory. Honestly, I can’t recall anything quite like their 103 yards on 52 plays. Here is some analysis: Miami’s offense is a bunch of big dumb stupid heads.
Here is some real analysis: Next week the Fins have the Jets at home. Avoid playing a Miami running back, but if you normally fire up Mike Wallace, Ryan Tannehill, or Brian Hartline, I wouldn’t hesitate to do so. Of course, if you have been relying on any of them, you probably didn’t make the playoffs in the first place. Essentially, nobody is reading this paragraph at this point.
Buy: The Bills ran all over the Dolphins front seven, something I expect to repeat in Week 17 against the weak Patriots run defense. Both of their backs warrant RB2 consideration.
Sell: The Dolphins
Bengals 42, Vikings 14
The Vikings were thoroughly whipped in every regard by the Bengals. As upset as Minnesota fans probably are, they should send a gift basket to the Cincinnati organization. If the Bengals had allowed another good game out of Matt Cassel, I could have seen the inept Vikings front office making him their 2014 starter.
Cordarrelle Patterson extended his streak of nine or more fantasy points scored to four games. His floor is ever rising and his ceiling any given week is in the 20-25 point range. He would be a wonderful gamble for any owner in need of a big week from their WR or flex slot.
Following an awful four game stretch, Good Andy has made his triumphant return to the Bengals’ lineup. Mr. Dalton has nine touchdowns, zero interceptions, and nearly 900 total yards the last three weeks. Just as he is lulling owners into a false sense of security, Cincy plays host to the Ravens next week. The last time they met, Dalton threw three picks.
Buy: Greg Jennings. I am a lot of things, and stubborn is most definitely one. Go back to last week’s recap and read what I said about him; I don’t think one bad game changes much. Minnesota hosts the Lions porous pass D next week and I think Jennings could justify my faith.
Sell: Andy Dalton may continue his hot streak, but he is just as likely to score 11. Or worse. If you start Dalton in the final week of the season, I cannot be held responsible for what happens.
Colts 23, Chiefs 7
Will the real Kansas City Chiefs please stand up? I actually sort of think they did stand up in this terrible loss at home against the Colts. On the season, KC’s 11 wins are against teams with a combined winning percentage of .339. Only two of those teams are .500 or better.
The Colts have been quietly playing much better football. It hasn’t translated into great fantasy stats, but they also haven’t given us a reason to turn away from Andrew Luck or T.Y. Hilton (the only two playable guys, mostly, on their roster).
Buy: The Colts could still end up with a first round bye. They need to win and need help elsewhere, but the opportunity is likely enough to get them to play out their Week 17 game. If you usually rely on Luck and Hilton, you should be just fine.
Sell: Any Chief other than Jamaal Charles
Rams 23, Buccaneers 13
Neither team was able to get much going offensively, combining for 3.03 yards per carry and 6.9 yards per attempted pass. Things won’t get easier next week when the Rams travel to Seattle and the Bucs to New Orleans. If you can look elsewhere, that would be your best bet.
Buy: Zac Stacy may not have a big game against Seattle, but just like he has in 8 of the last 10 weeks, he is very likely to see 20 or more touches. By hook or by crook, Stacy seems to always end up as at least an RB2.
Sell: Bobby Rainey has been a useful fantasy piece twice this year. His other four games as a starter have ranged from not-good to really bad. I wouldn’t go anywhere near the Tampa RB in Week 17.
Jets 24, Browns 13
Chris Ivory is quietly putting together a very nice season. Including his 109 yards on 20 carries against Cleveland, Ivory has averaged nearly 10 points per game over the last nine contests. For Week 17, the Jets travel to Miami to face a defense that just gave up about 13,000 yards to the Bills. I reckon Ivory will be a solid RB2.
Josh Gordon once again had a nice day with 97 yards. As much as we’d like to count on a touchdown every week, that isn’t realistic. So, instead, be happy that he can score fantasy points without the long play. His ascension into the first two rounds of my 2014 draft board is now complete.
Buy: Chris Ivory and Josh Gordon
Sell: All other players on both teams
Cowboys 24, Redskins 23
This was a pretty typical game on both sides of the ball, with all except Jason Witten performing as expected. On the topic of the Cowboys tight end, he has become almost entirely touchdown dependent. Over the last six games, Witten has a 16 receptions and only 211 yards, averages of 2.7 and 35.2 per contest. He has, of course, scored four times in those six games, but those are very hard to rely on. You probably don’t have a better option for Week 17, but this is something to consider for 2014.
Kirk Cousins was one of the most asked about players on my Twitter feed this week. The Redskins are a bad team, and despite looking good at times, Cousins has given us very little reason to mortgage a fantasy season on his arm. The matchup next week looks good on paper, but the Giants have played solid defense of late. I’d recommend steering far away from Captain Kirk.
Buy: DeMarco Murray has had a great season without anybody really taking much notice. Against the Eagles next week, he promises to show up in an RB1 sort of way.
Sell: Kirk Cousins as a viable fantasy option in nearly any league
Panthers 17, Saints 13
In what was a mainly defensive battle, we didn’t get much in the way of fantasy help from the game’s participants. We do, however, get to look forward to Week 17. The Panthers face the Falcons, who harbor the NFL’s worst defense, ranking 32nd in Adjusted Defensive Net Expected Points per Play. Carolina has a shot at the number one seed, and I expect them to play like it.
The Saints’ could steal the division, and a first round bye, if they win and the Panther’s lose. They could also lose their playoff slot with a loss and wins from San Francisco and Arizona. With all this in mind, I’d expect them to come out firing in the Superdome against Tampa Bay.
Buy: Both teams playing their starters as they normally would.
Sell: If you are still trotting Darren Sproles out there, even in PPR, it’s time to stop. I know, it makes me sad too.
Titans 20, Jaguars 16
With no playoff implications in this totally inconsequential game, let’s cut to the chase and have a look at Week 17.
The Titans are at home against the Texans, who, despite giving up a billion yards to Denver this week, are generally effective against the pass in terms of fantasy production. Tennessee is not the type of team who is likely to overcome that, so don’t expect much in the way of production. Expect a performance similar to what you saw in this game.
Jacksonville travels to Indianapolis. They won’t face many roadblocks, but unfortunately they have but one fantasy relevant player: Maurice Jones-Drew. Assuming health, MJD will be a flex type play in what will likely be his last game as a Jag. Don’t be a silly person and assume he will put out some superhuman effort due to the circumstances. That sort of thing is a made up narrative that lazy analysts love to lean on.
Buy: Both of these teams looking very, very different on opening day 2014
Sell: Both of these teams ability to make that different look be something resembling a good football team
Broncos 37, Texans 13
Despite locking up their division, the Broncos still have a number one seed to play for in Oakland next week. Those of you relying on their myriad weapons to lead you to a fantasy title should send a thank you card to the Patriots for their stunning Week 12 victory.
I received a number of Ryan Griffin questions this week, and in each case I said, “You are hoping for six or seven points. You can do better.” For the second week in a row, the third-string rookie delivered on that hope. He is probably a safe bet for the same if he gets the nod next week. If that excites you enough to make him a start, who am I to judge?
Buy: Denver. All of them.
Sell: Every Texan except maybe Andre Johnson. And even there you are taking a bit of a leap of faith.
Giants 23, Lions 20
Look! The Giants are still trying! Sarcasm aside, you have to give the Giants’ players and staff credit for fighting through a very tough season. Lesser organizations would have folded months ago. But instead, their defense has shown huge improvement and the offense, well, they still stink. At least Eli Manning only threw one interception?
Andre Brown left the game with a concussion. Considering he is the only viable fantasy play on the Giants and considering they face the leaky Redskins’ defense next week, cross those fingers and hope Brown is healthy enough to play. If he is, I’d put him smack dab in the middle of the high-end RB2 discussion.
Reggie Bush continued his up-and-down second half with a very disappointing performance. Given the Ridley Treatment following his fourth lost fumble on the season, Bush saw almost no action thereafter. With the Lions’ season now over (they were eliminated from contention), you have to wonder how much their big money back will play next week against the Vikings.
There is a similar sentiment around Calvin Johnson, who hobbled around the field with a knee issue. Megatron was a virtual ghost, catching zero balls after the break and playing a highly reduced snap count. The Lions have zero reason to run him out there for the final game.
Buy: Andre Brown, if healthy, against the Skins
Sell: Reggie Bush
Cardinals 17, Seahawks 10
The Cardinals marched into Seattle and dominated defensively, causing all sorts of throwing of monkey wrenches into both the wild card race and the competition for the one seed. We all saw that coming. Right?
Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch owners weren’t very happy with the result of the massive upset. I can’t imagine a world where there is a repeat next week with the Rams in Seattle, so I’d not spend too much time worrying about it.
Arizona, who looked pretty bad on offense themselves, has to play San Francisco next week in a must-win game. It is a very tough spot for fantasy. I’d avoid all Cardinals under most circumstances.
Buy: Wilson, Lynch, and Doug Baldwin against the Rams. Seattle needs to win to preserve their home-field advantage (and, pending Monday Night Football, perhaps the first round bye).
Sell: Any Cardinal facing the 49ers
Steelers 38, Packers 31
We already knew this, but the Packers proved once again that without Aaron Rodgers, this is a team whose receivers you cannot trust. I will readily admit that I hung onto the "Jordy Nelson is a WR2" thing way too long, but it’s not too late to change. So, if Rodgers doesn’t return to face the Bears next week, I’d consider him a flex play and nothing more.
Pittsburgh overcame referees (How did Green Bay get the ball after the blocked field goal?) and awful coaching (How does Mike Tomlin not make the call to run the clock out and kick a field goal to end the game?) to win a pivotal Week 16 contest. That they did it on the shoulders of their surging rookie running back and young star wide receiver is encouraging for the aging Steelers. Next week Pittsburgh hosts the rather listless Browns, so expect more of the same.
Buy: Eddie Lacy could rush for 200 yards next week against Chicago. I’m not even kidding.
Sell: Hope of Aaron Rodgers playing. Reports came out on Sunday that he wasn’t even close this week. I’m not sure that his collarbone will suddenly heal in the next four days.
Chargers 26, Raiders 13
This was yet another in a string of disappointing games for fantasy players. Aside from a red hot Ryan Mathews, no other player came close to meeting our expectations in a sort of quiet, uneventful game. There won’t be anything quiet next week for either team, as they both have nice matchups to close out the year.
Oakland hosts the Broncos in a game they are sure to be trailing. Considering Rashad Jennings is the only reliable fantasy play on their team, this doesn’t bode particularly well for his relevance. I would consider him a low-end RB2/Flex play.
If you are in a deep league, need somebody to fill in for benched stars, or are behind by a ton in a two-week playoff game, maybe take a look at Andre Holmes. He has had at least seven targets in three straight games and has the physical talent to explode at any given time. There is a ton of risk involved, but if you are down 50, why not?
San Diego hosts the Chiefs in a game that could decide a ton in the AFC playoff race. Last time these two teams faced off, the Bolts hung a 40 spot in the first win of their current 4-1 stretch. Expecting a repeat performance would be optimistic, but I feel confident that the Chargers will create plenty of value for owners of Philip Rivers, Mathews, and Keenan Allen.
Buy: Ryan Mathews has quietly turned into one of the most reliable fantasy options in the NFL. He has topped 10 points 10 times in 15 games, including six of the last seven. He is a high end RB2 who will likely be a draft day steal next fall.
Sell: Rashad Jennings, but only because Oakland is likely to be down a bunch in a hurry against Denver.
Patriots 41, Ravens 7
Considering the panache carried by these two teams, there is remarkably little in the way of fantasy value. Even in a game where the Pats scored 41, they didn’t have a single startable player (LeGarrette Blount doesn’t count) who didn’t disappoint. The Ravens didn’t fare much better with no player reaching even seven points.
The Patriots somehow find themselves contending for a number one seed, so we should expect a full effort next week against the Bills. Buffalo has been playing underrated defense (ninth according to Adj. DNEP/Play), but I don’t suspect that changes much for owners of New England players.
What may cause a headache is Shane Vereen’s groin. He left the game, then returned briefly before finally exiting for good. The Patriots are a pain in the arse when it comes to injury news, so you won’t likely know where Vereen’s chances of playing will stand until Sunday. And because they play a 4:25 game, you may have a difficult decision ahead.
Baltimore travels to face a Bengals team that has performed much better at home than on the road this season. To up the difficulty level even more, a Cincinnati win combined with a New England loss secures a first round bye for the Bengals. The only player you should even be mildly considering starting is Torrey Smith, and he is a low-end WR2 at best.
Buy: Julian Edelman has been aces for the Pats. They will need him to come up big next week.
Sell: If you are still starting Ray Rice, you are either drunk, desperate, or drunk.
Eagles 54, Bears 11
There is nothing to be taken away from one of the most absurd games in recent memory. Next week, both teams have great matchups in must-win games. Expect each to show up.
Buy: Both offenses.
Sell: Being a Bears fan and the ulcers that come with it.
It is with great honor that I present 2013’s final Pumpkin Head award (given to the player who most outperforms his real life skill in terms of fantasy output) to Andy Dalton. His 31-point performance made the decision an easy one. It also makes him the only two time winner of the award named in his honor.
The Recap Bids You Adieu
As I said in the intro, this is the final weekly recap of 2013. I wanted to take a quick moment to thank all of my readers, colleagues, and the numberFire staff for making my rookie season as an analyst a great one.
Good luck to all of you in Week 17, and happy holidays.