Fantasy Mailbag 2016: Week 14

Did you have Jordan Howard against the Niners last week? He accomplished something that hadn’t been done by a Bears running back since Gale Sayers. Not too shabby company to have in the 3 TD club.

A better question is, have you had ANY running backs against the Niners? They are allowing 148 yards per game against the run and don’t appear to be catching anyone anytime soon. Jets RBs should be encouraged by that this week.

Mail Time!

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RB 1 – Melvin Gordon. Carolina without Luke Kuechly is exactly what a defense would look like without Luke Kuechly, as they allowed 240 yards to a Seahawks team that had been STRUGGLING on the ground. Gordon also hasn’t been held under 65 yards rushing or 20 touches in his last 7 games. Solid play.

RB2 – Speaking of the Seahawks run game, I do love Thomas Rawls this week against the Packers. Green Bay has allowed more rushing touchdowns than anyone in the last 5 weeks and Rawls is back to Rawl’n. Safer bet would be Shady McCoy for his volume in the pass game, but he does play against the 5th ranked run defense…

TE – Tyler Eifert. He is either catching touchdowns or going over 90 yards receiving in 4 of his past 5 games and is heavily relied on with AJ Green out.

 

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I don’t like either one this week, but Rashad Jennings is the lesser of two evils with starter volume. Darren Sproles should never be relied on as an RB2.

 

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I’m not a meteorologist, Scott, but I do know that the Bills secondary is struggling with Ronald Darby hurt. 13 QB TDs (air and ground) in the last 5 games makes Ben Roethlisberger an attractive play, despite some inconsistencies on the road.

 

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QB – Can I choose someone else? Probably nerve-racking that Cam was benched last week but he’s still the safer play when you’re going up against either the Chargers or the Broncos. Joey Bosa is going to chase him, but you have to play Cam Newton when your alternative QB is going against the #1 pass defense.

 

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QB – Am I betting against Aaron Rodgers this late in the game? Yep. Philip Rivers has multiple TDs in 5 straight games and faces one of the worst secondaries in football (Carolina). If you’re in a win-or-go-home spot, you don’t want to leave your chances against the Seahawks in December.

RB – Not Darren Sproles

 

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You have to play Jay Ajayi against a Cardinals defense that looks like San Francisco’s when they play on the road. And as much as I hate picking against Pryor, Jamison Crowder has the better matchup.

 

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CARSON PALMER, Alli! I always read all-caps as yelling. As mentioned earlier, you don’t want to leave your game up to Super Mariota having to beat the #1 ranked pass defense in football. The Dolphins defense, on the other hand, is allowing 334 pass yards and 3 touchdowns in the last month (minus Jard Goff’s first start). Go with Carson and be glad.

 

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Goodness, Kirk! You know the rules!

Carlos Hyde. Sit Carlos Hyde. The pass-catching backs for San Fran are better built for playing the J-E-T-Sucks. You have stronger matchups across the board otherwise.

 

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Oh those are ugly options for an RB2. The theme of today is NOT DARREN SPROLES, so we’ll stick with that. And as we led off talking about the Niners defense, Bilal Powell has by far the best matchup. So there you go.

Have more Fantasy lineup questions? Don’t hesitate to ask on Facebook or Twitter

Denver Police Troll New England Patriots Before Halftime

The AFC Championship has been relatively one-sided so far for Manning vs. Brady 17.

The Denver Broncos lead the New England Patriots 17-9 at halftime. Peyton Manning is 10/20 passing with 128 yards and 2 touchdowns to Owen Daniels. Tom Brady’s day has been less than stellar throwing 8/20, 87 yards and 2 interceptions.

Meanwhile, the Denver Police Department is having some fun at the Patriots O’s expense on Twitter.

 

Too early? I hope not…They may not like what they find.

 

For more, follow along on Twitter

Fantasy Football Awards 2015

Has your Fantasy Football withdrawal kicked in already? Are you already thinking about next year’s draft? Yeah, me too…That’s why I’ll be frequently updating my draft boards on MichaelPiff.com starting next week.

But first…

We have some awards to hand out from the 2015 season!

 

This season was wild. Injuries, suspensions, surprises, Gary Barnidges, backup quarterbacks, drama and more drama…We’ll look at all the impact players, and some of the worst, that dictated your fantasy season this past season.

 

MVP

CamVP

Cam Newton, Panthers

Every year you do your Fantasy draft, who usually goes off the board first?…Running backs. Then someone drafts Aaron Rodgers (probably Andrew Luck this year too) ridiculously high and some wide receivers will round out your first round. Quarterbacks don’t typically start to go in bulk until the 4th round and Cam Newton wasn’t even being considered until the 8th. His average draft position was 77.1 overall, average round was 8.4.

Those who rolled with Newton, and weren’t afraid of the lack of hype around his wide receivers, reaped ALL the benefits of #1 scoring quarterback in football. He finished the season leading the league in total touchdowns with 45 (35 passing, 10 rushing) and added 4,473 yards from scrimmage (3,837 passing, 635 rushing). Newton’s stretch from Week 11-15 (19 total touchdowns) likely helped carry you to your league’s championship too.

Next Best: Carson Palmer

Hard not to consider Carson Palmer as an MVP as well since he regularly gave you at least 290+ yards and 2-3 touchdowns through the air.

Biggest Bust of the Year

Lacy Bust

Eddie Lacy, Packers

I can’t fault players who miss time or underperform due to injury. The top tier of the running backs almost all suffered this, besides Adrian Peterson. Eddie Lacy wasn’t hurt though. Lacy was a Top 5 pick in most leagues, and he gave you just 3 rushing touchdowns and 758 yards on the ground in 15 games. He was out of shape, missing curfews, and just simply…bad. If any of his 3 games of 100+ yards helped you, I imagine it was because you were desperate at running back. It took Lacy until Week 11 to do so.

Next Worst: Dez Bryant 

I’m probably breaking my injury rule here, but you likely picked Bryant late 1st or early 2nd round, held on to him while he was injured, and got just 3 touchdowns and 401 yards in 9 games for your patience. Tony Romo or not, Bryant is supposed to be a game changer…not THAT.

 

Draft Steal

Devonta Steal

Devonta Freeman, Falcons

If you paid close attention to the Falcons in the offseason, you were weighing your options of taking rookie Tevin Coleman or 2nd year RB Devonta Freeman as one of your flier picks. If you picked Freeman, you CHOSE WISELY. Freeman went 119th overall on average, 2 rounds or so after Coleman, and he gave you 1,639 yards from scrimmage and 14 total touchdowns (most in the league). He also helped you stack up some wins from Weeks 2-6 with 10 touchdowns (9 rushing, 1 receiving).

Next Best: Tom Brady

If you picked Tom Brady before his suspension was lifted, you got him at backup value in later rounds. If you took him after, you still enjoyed his #RevengeTour with 36 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions.

Waiver Wire Pickup of the Year

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers

DeAngelo Williams, Steelers

While Le’Veon Bell served his 2 game suspension to start the year, DeAngelo Williams filled in with 204 yards and 3 touchdowns (all in one game). After Bell went on IR following Week 8, Williams gave you high-end RB1 production, averaging 125 yards from scrimmage and finishing tied with Freeman for the league’s lead in rushing TDs.

Next Best: Gary Barnidge

Might gut went with Gary Barnidge initially, but Williams’s value after Bell went down was just too strong…Barnidge was certainly the breakout player of the year, posting 1,043 yards and 9 touchdowns on 79 catches at the age of 30. Before this year, Barnidge’s career totals were 604 yards, 44 catches and 3 touchdowns over 7 years.

Comeback Player of the Year

DMartin Comeback

Doug Martin, Buccaneers

I’ll admit it. I wrote off the Muscle Hamster. After recording nearly 2,000 yards yards from scrimmage his rookie season, the guy barely hit half of that total over the next 2 years because of injuries, bad offensive lines and worse offensive coordinators. Bucs OC Dirk Koetter figured it all out though and made Doug Martin into the league’s 2nd leading rusher, picking up 1,402 yards on the ground. For someone who went in the 9th round on average in most fantasy drafts, I think you’d take that.

Next Best: Ryan Fitzpatrick

Ryan Fitzpatrick is the definition of a journeyman quarterback. 6 teams in 10 years, never making the playoffs and a career high of 24 touchdown passes in both the seasons he started all 16 games…until this year. Surround his beard with 2 excellent possession receivers, a quality offensive line, and 2 viable running backs and Fitzpatrick turns into FitzMagic throwing 31 touchdowns. He threw multiple touchdowns in 12 of his 16 starts…Who figured Geno Smith getting punched in the face would benefit them so well?

 

Rookie of the Year

Gurley Rookie

Todd Gurley, Rams

It’s hard not to picture Todd Gurley being drafted in your first round next season. In 12 starts, the rookie out of Georgia 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground (2nd highest in the league). Gurley was the Rams’ only source of offense, which explained some of the slow down in production down the stretch as opposing defenses keyed in on him. Expect Gurley to just get stronger and scarier now that he’ll have a full offseason without rehabbing an injury.

Next Best: Jameis Winston

It’s easy to compare Jameis Winston with Marcus Mariota, both rookie QBs with Heisman trophies in their mantles. Winston separated himself from Mariota with big play ability, ranked 2nd in yards per completion (13), and was more consistent for scoring in the 2nd half of the season.

 

Best Lineup

QB: Cam Newton, Panthers – 3,837 yards, 35 TD passing / 636 yards, 10 TD rushing

WR:  Antonio Brown, Steelers – 1,834 yards, 136 catches, 10 TD

WR: Julio Jones, Falcons – 1,871 yards, 136 catches, 8 TD

WR: DeAndre Hopkins, Texans – 1,521 yards, 111 catches, 11 TD

RB: Adrian Peterson, Vikings – 1,485 yards, 11 TD rush / 30 catches, 222 yards receiving

RB: Devonta Freeman, Falcons – 1,061 yards, 11 TD rush / 73 catches, 578 yards 3 TD receiving

FLEX: Odell Beckham Jr, Giants – 1,450 yards, 96 catches, 13 TD (15 games)

TE: Rob Gronkowski, Patriots – 72 catches, 1,176 yards, 11 TD 

K: Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots – 33/36 FG, 52/52 PAT

DEF – Denver Broncos – 52 sacks, 14 INT, 16 fumble recoveries, 5 TD

 

Rising Lineup

QB: Kirk Cousins, Washington 

WR: Allen Robinson, Jaguars 

WR: Doug Baldwin, Seahawks 

WR: Brandin Cooks, Saints 

RB: Todd Gurley, Rams 

RB: David Johnson, Cardinals 

FLEX: Lamar Miller, Dolphins 

K: Brandon McManus, Broncos 

DEF: Minnesota Vikings 

 

Who are your picks for our Year-End Fantasy Awards? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter! Stay tuned for year-round Fantasy Football info for next year’s draft!

 

 

 

 

I’m a Fan of Marlins Man

For those who are new to watching playoff baseball, you may notice something that doesn’t match either the Cubbie blue or Cardinal red color scheme behind home plate. Sitting behind the gentleman in the pink hat at Wrigley Field, was a bright orange Marlins jersey and a matching visor. He’s…

Marlins Man!

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Many first noticed Marlins Man among the Kansas City Royals blue a year ago, making his presence known in national HD TV while glowing in bright orange. Social media greeted the sight as you’d expect…with the anger and burning ire of a thousand suns. I didn’t get it at first either, but then Marlins Man grew on me and my level of admiration grew with every snarky Tweet and comment directed his way.

Laurence Leavy, a law firm owner that specializes in labor law, used to own season tickets to multiple South Florida teams, including the Marlins (duh), Dolphins, Heat, and Miami Hurricanes. He told the Sun-Sentinel last week that he would spend $200,000 to $300,000 on season tickets for his clients and that it really helped his practice, especially in the 90’s. Unfortunately the teams around Miami, outside of the Miami Heat, all forgot how to win and Levy couldn’t even give tickets away.

Then Leavy was diagnosed with liver cancer. It turned out to be a large blood mass in his liver and kidney stones, but the health scare made him reexamine his life. Rather than go to the local sporting events for work, he decided he would go to bigger ones across the the country…for fun. Instead of taking clients to these games, Marlins Man wanted to take sports fans who would truly appreciate the experience with him.

Leavy will invite friends and total strangers on Facebook to go to games and events with him for free. It could be the Stanley Cup, a Red Sox-Yankees game at Fenway Park, the Kentucky Derby, or Game 3 of the NLDS at Wrigley Field. The only thing Leavy asks of his guests and fellow sports fans that they “pay it forward” by performing an act of kindness for someone else in need. Once they prove they have done so, Marlins Man then sends them a t-shirt with his face on it and in bold print “Pay It Forward”.

“Think of an idea to change the world – and put it into action.”

I used to think Marlins Man was simply doing what every sports fan dreamt of. He was attending the biggest games in the world, witnessing the coolest moments from the best seats, because he could. Shaquille O’Neal interviewed him during the NBA playoffs recently asking “Why do you do it?” Marlins Man answered exactly how I would have, “Why not?”. He also gets noticed, obviously. If his favorite teams weren’t going to be represented in the playoffs, he might as well do it for them.

Learning that Marlins Man is using his celebrity for more than himself makes the whole thing incredibly cooler to me. It makes me want to share that part of his story to those who probably don’t know it. When journalists ask him about the people he helped, Leavy will reference hundreds of emails and voicemails on his phone from people he took to games, telling their stories of good deeds they performed as a result of his.

It’s not an ongoing vacation, as one would assume (*raises hand*). Leavy works billable hours from the hotel rooms he stays in and if you notice he’s on his phone during games, he’s running his law firm of 37 employees from the front row.

A year ago, the Kansas City Royals asked Marlins Man to wear something blue and not his signature orange uniform. Leavy respectfully declined and showed up to ballpark wearing one of the 8 bright jerseys he keeps packed. You go, Marlins Man. I look forward to catching him at the next one…

…and paying it forward just for knowing about it.

For more, follow along on Facebook and Twitter

The 2015 Cubs from a White Sox Fan’s Perspective

I’m jealous, but I’m not.

On the one hand, the Chicago Cubs are in a one-game playoff game tonight in Pittsburgh. A year ago, the San Francisco Giants played in the Wild Card game, beat the Pirates, and went on to win the World Series. The Giants rode their ace, Madison Bumgarner, all the way to Game 7 against the Kansas City Royals and so much champagne was had after. The Cubs have a chance to do the same thing tonight with the best pitcher in baseball this season, Jake Arrieta.

The fact that the Cubs are built to sustain a run of opportunities like tonight for years to come, that their manager is a baseball genius with one of the cooler demeanors in the sport, and that every postgame is a party for their club makes me jealous. I’m jealous of the fun personalities on the team and how hard it is to find someone worth disliking. Is there anyone?

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I’m not jealous of the nerves and emotions Cubs fans have been going through since Sunday. Hard to imagine that a 97-win season’s fate is being left to one game, on the road, against another one of the league’s best pitchers, Gerrit Cole, and arguably the best bullpen in baseball. I’ve been there before…2008, Game 163 between the White Sox and Minnesota Twins, John Danks vs. Nick Blackburn, decided in the bottom of the 7th off a Jim Thome home run…the only run scored in the game.

Jim Thome Game 163

I’m also not jealous that despite having baseball’s 3rd best record, the two better records belong to two teams in their division. It’s not like the Pirates and Cardinals are going away anytime soon either.

The Cubs are ahead of schedule though. You would be lying if you told me that you expected a team with as many rookies playing as the Cubs have would be where they are this evening. Cubs president Theo Epstein tempered their expectations to fans and media alike, anticipating a season of growth toward 2016. They grew alright. They grew in a hurry.

I’m jealous that the Cubs were able to trade Jeff Samardzija to Oakland for Addison Russell, and all the White Sox got back was a 4.96 ERA and an 11-13 record from someone who started on opening day. While the Cubs were promoting their rising prospects to the Major League, the White Sox were trying to “win now” signing a closer, a number of back-end bullpen pitchers, Melky Cabrera, and another left handed DH on the wrong end of his career named Adam (LaRoche). While Cabrera turned out to be as advertised, the rest of White Sox GM Rick Hahn’s winter acquisitions weren’t. Then after 4 seasons of a .458 win percentage, White Sox brass somehow felt Robin Ventura was still worth keeping. On the other end of town, the Cubs fired manager Rick Renteria after one season simply because Joe Maddon was available.

The contrast between the two organizations is pretty glaring. One is the biggest surprise in the National League and the other is the biggest disappointment in the American League. One organization was able to gut their club, go through multiple bad seasons in order to acquire high draft picks and international assets, and are now reaping the benefits of a lot of patience. The other organization and their fan base still dealt with the multiple years of losing, but not on purpose. Rather than take advantage of chances to stock up for the future, the White Sox burned it on older free agents and loyalty to declining veterans.

This isn’t meant to be an open “It sucks to be a Sox” letter. Far from it. I still had fun supporting my team this year. White Sox fans celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the 2005 World Series team. Chris Sale was electric, breaking the single-season franchise record for strikeouts. Jose Abreu became the 2nd player in baseball history to hit 30 home runs and 100 RBIs in his first two seasons. And young talents like Carlos Rodon and Trayce Thompson emerged as bright spots for next season. Things were just a lot more fun on the north side and I have no problem admitting that.

I attended 3 games at Wrigley Field this season. There’s this unbelievably cool feeling that overcomes you climbing the stairwell to see the scene of the field and the scoreboard. The stadium was packed and the fans seemed to hang on to every pitch of consequence. I don’t know if it’s the crowd having an effect on the players or the other way around but the energy is certainly shared between two, and it was so romantic to experience. That Brad Pitt/Billy Beane line in Moneyball certainly applied.

U.S. Cellular Field wasn’t necessarily void of those feelings, as many would lead you to believe. In the 8 games I went to this summer, they only lost once (maybe I should have gone to more games). There were 2 different occasions that made me forget about the team’s record and their struggles. Both were Sale starts and both ended with late inning dramatics for the win. The first came against reigning AL CY Young winner Corey Kluber and the second was against former White Sox great Mark Buehrle. The ballpark was nowhere near as full as a Cubs game this year (keep your attendance jokes. I don’t care), but you couldn’t tell with how loud it got after every strikeout and base hit. Ultimately there weren’t many games like that, but that’s baseball for you.

At no point did I actively root against the Cubs, unless they were playing the White Sox. Being in two different leagues, neither team has any effect on the other’s chances to go to the playoffs. I care way more about what happens to the Tigers, Royals, and Twins than I do the Cubs because they are actual division rivals. Do I feel left out not wearing Cubby blue while living in the northwest suburbs? Not really. Admiring from afar as an objective baseball fan is fine enough, and I still think “Go Cubs Go” is the worst.*ducks*

…while I’m at it, I also put ketchup on my hotdogs. *ducks again*

I do genuinely hope Cubs fans are enjoying this ride. I was lucky to do so with a 99-win team 10 years ago, where everyone on the roster contributed with big moments…similar to this Cubs team. If things don’t go their way tonight, the season was still one of the organization’s best in the last century. “There’s always next year” has a totally different feel to it when you have Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, Jon Lester, Arrieta and Maddon returning to your dugout. Live in the moment and don’t even think about BS curses. My hope is that both teams are competitive for years to come and the prospects of a crosstown World Series become way more than a pipe dream. 

Have fun tonight, Cubs fans.

Sincerely,

Michael Piff

PS. Please don’t flip my car when you win it all.

NFL Week 16 Fantasy Mailbag: CHAMPIONSHIP WEEK

In football, many say “defense wins championships”.

In Fantasy Football, scoring more points than your opponent wins championships. I actually find that accurate in all sports, both fantasy and real. That has been your goal on a week-to-week basis, and the overall goal was to be competitive for THIS WEEK.

(As I have noted for weeks now) If your league is waiting to hold its championship for Week 17, this is all I have to say to your league’s commissioner…

Do you really want to leave THE CHAMPIONSHIP up to suspicion that key fantasy players will be sat in the final week of the season for rest until the playoffs? Look at the standings, the AFC Specifically…

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If you have contributors from the Broncos (Manning, Anderson, Sanders, and both D. & J. Thomas), the Patriots (Brady, Gronk, Edelman) or the Colts (Luck and Hilton), there is good chance they will get minimal reps or not even play to be preserved for the post season.

But back to this week…

How did we get here? I don’t know each every one of your seasons week-by-week, but I can chronicle mine to relate.

It started with a The Draft.

Yes, I know some of these picks are cringe worthy in hindsight…

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8 of my 14 picks are no longer on my team. That is evident by my 0-6 start to the season.

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And then came the moves. Up until today, I’ve made 39 adds/drops but here are the ones that mattered. (Along with a rotating defense week to week because Cincinnati’s DEF/ST couldn’t be consistent)

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I included Denard Robinson as a part of the key moves, because my wide receiver situation has been awful and it was nice to have his consistency in my WR2 slots. With the recent news of Julian Edelman’s concussion, I’m left making this last move hoping for points from at least one of my WR slots.

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So thanks to the waiver wire, I went 6-1 to clinch a playoff spot…

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Yes, revenge was sweet…but a 6 game win streak to reach the championship was even sweeter. And it was further proof of how right Kevin Garnett was (as much as it pains me to)

The point is that you shouldn’t get discouraged after a bad start. Even a month and a half into your Fantasy season, there’s a lot of football left. Now you’re left clenching on to everything and anything for the most suspenseful 5 days of your season…

Quick Hits

  • Whether you call him ODJ or ODB (that’s my choice), Odell Beckham Jr. is balling out. In his past 2 weeks, Beckham has caught 23 passes for 273 yards and 4 touchdowns on 30 targets…more than anyone in the league. The 2014 rookie wide receiver class is one that is drawing comparisons to the 1983 quarterback class, and it seemed as though Mike Evans was leading the pack with his NFL leading 11 touchdowns…but now Beckham has launched himself into the conversation for “who’s better?” He’ll have an opportunity to improve his side of the debate against a Rams defense that hasn’t faced an elite receiver since Demaryius Thomas in Week 11, who caught 7 passes for 103 yards.
  • I mentioned two quarterbacks last week that I expected to rebound after tough Week 14 games. Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense appear to be in December mode: Being smart with the football, keeping Manning upright, and riding the success of their running back, CJ Anderson…Drew Brees on the other hand, looked like Drew Brees again on Monday Night Football. I actually got to watch him throw dirt on the grave of the Chicago Bears’ 2014 campaign, in person. It was awkward…What else is worth noting, Brees is leading the league in completion percentage at 70% and red zone touchdown passes with 24. And this is a down year for him. This week, Brees faces a Falcons defense that has allowed 290+ yards to their last 7 opponents. Brees also has multiple touchdown passes in 13 of 16 meetings with Atlanta as Saints quarterback.

Brees TD

  • Keep in mind, this week’s NFL schedule is weird. There are two Saturday games being played, Philadelphia vs Washington at 3:30 CT and San Diego vs. San Francisco 7:30 CT. So set your roster accordingly…And then there’s tonight’s edition of Thursday Night Football: Titans vs. Jaguars. Sounds awful, right? I’m still making a play from this game with an un-good wide receiver situation…Nate Washington. There’s gotta be some offense from somewhere tonight, and I see it going to Washington who caught 6 passes on 10 targets for 102 yards last week. Even if Kendall Wright returns tonight, Washington is expected to be the focal point against the league’s 28th ranked defense.

Nate Washington GIF

Fantasy Awards Update

Last week I announced the nominees for our first Fantasy Awards (First Annual is incorrect and sounds weird). I chose 4 players per category and let you, THE READERS, choose the 5th. So without further ado, here are the nominees with THE READERS CHOICE included.

Comeback Player of the Year

– Rob Gronkowski

– Arian Foster

– Jeremy Maclin

– Randall Cobb

Julio Jones (Readers Choice)

Biggest Draft Bust

– Adrian Peterson

– Jimmy Graham

– Montee Ball

– Toby Gerhart

Zac Stacy (Readers Choice)

Breakout Player of the Year

– Justin Forsett

– CJ Anderson

– Ryan Tannehill

– Mike Evans

Odell Beckham Jr. (Readers Choice)

Steal of the Draft

– Antonio Gates

– Lamar Miller

– Tom Brady

– Kelvin Benjamin

Ben Roethlisberger (Readers Choice)

Most Valuable Fantasy Player

– Andrew Luck

– Aaron Rodgers

– DeMarco Murray

– LeVeon Bell

– Peyton Manning (Readers Choice)

Next week you’ll have the opportunity to vote for the winners of each award via Facebook and Twitter. I’ll announce the results after the holidays! Good luck on your matchup this weekend don’t hesitate to ask questions!

NFL Week 14 Fantasy Mailbag

It’s here. It’s finally here.

Feels like just yesterday we were drafting our teams. Some of you probably thought you were sneaky, taking Maurice Jones Drew in the late rounds. Others probably couldn’t believe they got Rob Gronkowski in the 4th round. And everybody who drafted Andrew Luck is likely bragging about where they picked him, right?

Then you had 13 weeks to tinker and toy with your lineup. Early on, it was adding Steve Smith Sr. for Eric Decker, Dwayne Allen for Jordan Reed, and Justin Forsett for Knowshon Moreno.

Forsett vs. Pitt

In October you saw Branden Oliver added for CJ Spiller, Odell Beckham Jr. for Victor Cruz, and Denard Robinson for Adrian Peterson.

Denard GIF

And when it mattered most down the stretch, CJ Anderson for Ronnie Hillman, Jarvis Landry for Larry Percy Harvin, and Kenny Stills for Larry Fitzgerald.

Kenny Stills

So what do you do to have the edge in the playoffs?

You have your players that have been reliable all year and got you where you are, but you can always add help every week.

Colts RB – Daniel “Boom” Herron: Even after fumbling twice the last two weeks, the Colts are committed to running with Boom Herron. Herron has picked up where Ahmad Bradshaw left off by making Trent Richardson look sillier and averaging 7.65 yards per carry since Ahmad Bradshaw went on IR.

Washington TE – Jordan Reed: I mentioned it a week ago, and I was right. Jordan Reed is a better player when RGIII isn’t throwing to him. Colt McCoy gets the start last Sunday and Reed catches 9 passes on 11 targets for 123 yards. If you’re in need of a tight end or Julius Thomas’s status is making you pull your hair out, pickup Reed.

Panthers RB – Jonathan Stewart: DeAngello Williams has a broken hand. Broken hand or not, Jonathan Stewart was running better than Williams anyway. Stewart gained 110 yards total (85 rushing, 25 receiving) against the Vikings defense on Sunday. Even with a 3-8-1 record, the Panthers are in the playoff hunt and establishing some kind of illusion of a run game will be key if they want to steal the horrible NFC South.

Colts WR – Donte Moncrief: The word out of Indianapolis is that Donte Moncrief has surpassed Hakeem Nicks for the #3 receiver role. He’s a boom or bust type of player much like Terrance Williams was for Dallas in the first half of the season, but Reggie Wayne’s production is sloping the wrong way. 134 yards and 2 touchdowns on 3 catches last week makes Moncrief very attractive for more Andrew Luck targets and for you to grab him if he’s available.

Quick Hits

  • Ryan Fitzpatrick…WHA-HAPPENED? One minute, the “bearded one” was being benched for Ryan Mallett. The next he’s throwing 6 touchdown passes. This is the same Fitz-Beard that averaged an INT per game, and couldn’t find Andre Johnson in the end zone (he did on Sunday). It seems head coach Bill O’Brien has taken off the training wheels finally and airing it out. DeAndre Hopkins had 9 catches for 239 yards and 2 TDs while JJ Watt caught his 3rd off the season. They won’t be playing stats padding Titans again, but they will see the Jaguars this weekend for more air-time.

JJ Watt TD #3

  • Can we talk about the Rams? They only have 5 wins this year, and really that could have them first in the abysmal NFC South. 3 of those 5 wins have come against playoff contenders (Broncos, Seahawks, 49ers) and they just beat the Raiders 52-0. For a team decimated by injuries, they sure don’t act like it. Stedman Bailey (another guy to pick up for your playoff run) has emerged as Shaun Hill’s go-to receiver with 12 catches, 189 yards and a TD on 15 targets the past two weeks. Bailey had 100 yards in the first quarter alone against the Raiders. And Tre Mason just scored 3 touchdowns (2 rush, 1 rec.). He may have just scored again on the Raiders, I’m not sure.

Tre Mason TD

  • And bouncing back from having his winning streak snapped, Tom Brady catapults himself to MVP frontrunner…of commercials. That mullet is…beautiful.

And now for YOU time. 

DB Moenning on Facebook: “Got two burning Flex spot questions for you. Pick 1: Keenan Allen or Giovani Bernard. Fred Jackson or Denard Robinson.”

Normally I lean toward running backs in this situation for guaranteed touches. Before his injury, Gio Bernard would have been a no-brainer. But since returning, the Bengals have given the starter reigns to Jeremy Hill, as well as the red zone carries. I could see them riding whoever the hot hand is against the Steelers…The Phillip Rivers target machine Keenan Allen is finally making the most of his opportunities. 3 touchdowns in his last 2 games (3x his total before then) and coming off an 11 catch 121 performance against Baltimore. The Packers 3rd WR just put up similar numbers against the Patriots and that’s why I like Allen better than Gio this week.

For your second conundrum, I like Denard Robinson better and here’s why. While Fred Jackson dispelled the running-back-by-committee approach for the Bills last weekend, he’s running into a buzz saw that is the Broncos run defense. The D-line has found their groove, and allowed Jamaal Charles just 59 yards total (35 rush, 24 rec.). The Bills have a defense that could prevent the Broncos from getting out to a crazy early lead that has forced most teams to give up on the run, but I’m not necessarily counting on it…Shoelace has had a tough go the last two weeks, and it’s mostly been because of game-flow circumstances. The Jaguars had to come back from a 20 point deficit in the first half last week and that helped Marqise Lee out more than Robinson. They should have better luck with time of possession early on against the Texans defense and that bodes well for Robinson, who even got some effective Wildcat plays against the Giants.

Ryan Ricci on Facebook: “Larry Donnell or Jordan Reed?”

As I mentioned earlier, Colt McCoy throwing to Jordan Reed only means good things. Tight ends are what makes McCoy tick. If he’s healthy, go with Reed…I really don’t get Larry Donnell. I think some the occasional drop in his numbers is because the Giants OL can’t handle pass rushers without him blocking. He has a solid matchup against the Titans this week though. If Reed can’t go, Donnell will be a decent play in his place.

Craig Bucy on Facebook: “Romo or Tannehill?”

Tony Romo had a tough one last week. He’s dealing with a bad back but seemed to have a weekly routine to rest it. Romo throws 4 touchdowns in Week 12, goes just 3 days without taking a hit, and he has his worst game of the season. A full week with his regular routine against the Bears secondary may be the bounce back Romo needs. He threw 3 touchdowns against Chicago the last time he traveled to Soldier Field and the Bears are allowing 326.4 yards per game to competent quarterbacks (Stafford, Rodgers x2, Brady, Ryan)…Tannehill has good matchup against Baltimore, but Romo will be your guy.

Sam Kalmar on Facebook: “Terrance Williams or Malcom Floyd? Any potential waiver pickups suggestions welcome also.”

Terrance Williams has really fallen off in the last month. He started off hot and then Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and DeMarco Murray stopped sharing the targets from Romo. Bryant and Witten will benefit the most against the Bears soft press defense this weekend. Malcom Floyd would have been a nice play if he wasn’t going to draw Darrelle Revis or Brandon Browner….I would recommend either Donte Moncrief or Stedman Bailey who I mentioned either, as well as Robert Woods who has emerged as a startable WR thanks to #OrtonMagic and a beat up Sammy Watkins.

I’ll be on a work trip in Phoenix till Sunday, but feel free to keep asking questions on either Facebook or Twitter