December football! It’s the best. Sadly for teams like my beloved 49ers, their air time becomes noticably smaller as their games become more and more meaningless. I understand the logic and lets be honest, no one wants to watch crappy teams in December but it still hurts a bit. NFL game pass for me next year I reckon.
Anyway, on to week 14 and my usual review of the weekly non-televised games and fantasy outlook for all teams. I liked the semi-new format from last week so will keep rolling with it until someone tells me it stinks or could be better. Adam has already covered the Thursday game with his usual moxy and accuracy. Loved Travis Kelce’s game (four straight 100 yard games and counting) and how masterful the Chiefs looked in general in the first half. One takeaway however though is both teams dropping a complete dud in the second halves. Both are very good and half time adjustments (see Oakland’s game last week against Buffalo as a prime example) so it was a bit of a disappointment to see this game from awesome to crappy so quickly. Never mind though, the Chiefs took a very important game, sweeping the Raiders and will own the tie breaker if their records are the same come the end of the season. One final thing for the Raiders, this was their chance to make the league stand up and finally take notice about what they have done this year. They failed. Don’t get me wrong they still have as good a chance as anyone to make the playoffs in the AFC but bear in mind that both Chiefs and Raiders play the Broncos again, their journey has become that bit harder. Derek Carr said after the game that the loss was ‘a punch in the mouth’. You’re damn right it was and it will hurt even more if they don’t make the playoffs.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Buffalo Bills
Which Steelers team do you think shows up this week? The high flying amazing to watch exquisite offense of the past few years or the bums that lost to the Eagles and Dolphins? Hard to tell but of all teams in the league, they look like they are finally getting themselves together a bit ready for a January push. Start Brown and Bell as always. Don’t need to go in to reasoning on that any more. Rothlisberger doesn’t look like the ideal scenario against the Bills but Derek Carr sliced and diced them last week so I think starting him will be fine. The Steelers have really suffered without Markus Wheaton as the third main passing threat so fantasy players should be excited about the emergence of Ladarius Green who rocked over 100 yards and a TD last week. Those who know football should know that he has shown flashes of greatness, especially last year when he was at San Diego but in Gronk-like fashion, he just can’t stay on the field. He does legitimately look like a downfield threat and Big Ben loves airing the ball out so he might just be the third threat they have been searching for all year. That being said, I would temper expectations just a bit so pick him up on your waiver wire for sure but if you have an already producing starter, then leave Green out just for this week. That being said, the TE position this year stinks so you might just have to play him as he should get some looks behind Brown and Bell. Long shots for the Steelers, look to Eli Rogers before Sammie Coates but both are boom or bust type players so avoid if you can. For the Bills, they dominated the game on the ground in the first half against the Raiders and then looked totally flummoxed in the second. Tyrod Taylor plays well and has the best footwork for a QB in the league and is always worth a streaming look each week. If you are vying for a playoff spot however, I would go with a more reliable player with a safer floor. If you are out, hell go for it as the Steelers are susceptible in the passing game and I am sure Taylor will look to launch a few deep balls this week. LeSean McCoy was vultured like week by Mike Gilleslee to the tune of 2 touchdowns which is highly infuriating to owners (like me) of McCoy who should have had a 30+ week if he had those goal line touches. Damn you Rex!! Obviously football coaches don’t give a damn about your fantasy league so don’t dwell on it too much. I really like Watkins and personally see him as a difference maker like Mike Evans but his injuries have really derailed him this year. At 100% he is an every week starter as the main focal point (exactly like Evans) for the passing game, this week however I would hope for flex type points at best and hope that he scores a TD. Long shots look at guys like Robert Woods but one guy to stash might be Mike Gilleslee (who I just read is more likely to get increased red zone touches so he will continue to vulture McCoy’s touchdowns. HANDCUFF HIM. HANDCUFF HIM NOW). Heck Justin Hunter is an option but only if he scores a TD. Avoid both defences like the plague as this is likely to generate 20+ points from both sides. I like Pittsburgh in this one as they absolutely have to win to secure their division.
Winner – Steelers
San Diego Chargers @ Carolina Panthers
The long running narrative with San Diego and their potential relocation to LA or Vegas or (surprise late location) the Moon continues and their fan base must be so fed up by now. Such an up and down season it would just be typical if they beat the defending NFC champions after losing at home last week. Now, we of course know that the Panthers are not the same team they were last year. As Austin Powers would say, they have lost their mojo. The Chargers have a surprisingly good D so starting Cam Newton is not really a favourable match up for me this week. He is a danger on the ground as always and Ted Ginn is somehow his number one target again so that gives you the impression that their offense isn’t quite as in tune as it should be. General theme for me here is that I think the Panthers tank, massively. DE Joey Bosa is seriously impressive and is JJ Watt type disruptive in the backfield and CB Casey Hayward just locked down Mike Evans limiting him to 3 catches for 38 yards. Depending on the Chargers tactics, that basically means you can write off Kelvin Benjamin and the whole Panthers offense becomes one dimensional. Always start Olsen but he has had a slump over the past month or so. As mentioned Ted Ginn is a decent play if you want low ceiling but high reward but this week I wouldn’t bank my whole fantasy week on it. If the Panthers get rolling them you can bank on Johnathan Stewart getting moving and Cam using his legs. On the flip side, without Luke Kuechly the Panthers D isn’t the top tier unit it once was. I will call it the Navorro Bowman affect where you lose your General in the middle of the field, the team goes to pot. The Panthers secondary should in theory get victimized by the Chargers wide receivers. Decent day ahead for Tyrell Williams and Dontrelle Inman. I have my ongoing reservations about Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry when they should really be playing the latter. Maybe next season? Start Melvyn Gordon without a second thought as he is a TD machine AND catches passes out of the back field so he is a fully legimate 3-down back. No kind of surprises here or anything, usual suspects for both teams, no sleepers for me. I do like San Diego in this one because the Panthers playing at home, seems almost too easy to call so I think Rivers throws 3-4 TDs (maybe a few picks as well for good measure). However, if this is close, I actually favour the home team and there are rumblings that Luke Kuechly may return so that plays in to their favour however, I don’t think that this will be close.
Winner – Chargers
Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns
The Battle of Ohio! Well, I say Battle. I mean more like a scrap between two kids about 8 or 9. Limbs flailing, lots of dancing, you know the drill. Ok I am probably being a bit harsh on both these teams because I do actually like them both but they are having miserable seasons. Cleveland, mainly thanks to a lack of depth and talent, Bengals mainly due to injuries and poor offensive line play. Success for NFL franchises can literally be turned upside down in the modern NFL and it is a testament to their system, their salary cap and their draft process. That being said, like the Jet and Niners game later in this review, I don’t think this is getting any TV time, hell even Red-zone time. Rumours are that RG3 is going to start and that plays in to the hands of the Bengals big time. RG3 has flashes of brilliance but he is as flimsy as a soggy piece of paper and just as consistent. He does have a lovely deep ball but that doesn’t mean much when his face is in the dirt. Andy Dalton tore up the Browns when they played earlier in the year (308 yards and 128.3 passer rating) and Tyler Eifert should get some yards and a score at least. With AJ Green out, Dalton has to pass to some one so theory would dictate that Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd get more targets but I don’t think it is that simple. Don’t expect an even split, Dalton will probably focus on one of them so it is a coin toss to be honest, they are flex options at best. I hate writing this but Jeremy Hill is a great shout this week so start him, he ran for over 160 yards against the Browns. If you don’t like Hill, which I don’t, you could take a glance at Rex Burkhead as his workload has increased with Gio Bernard and is actually a decent player. Over the other side, start Terelle Pryor with confidence as he had a great rapport with RG3 in that first game and as I mentioned, RG3 does have a great deep ball so it makes sense. Corey Coleman is a sleeper but a very deep sleeper and please forget Gary Barnidge. I wrote off the Bengals and had them losing against the Eagles but they put them in their place and dominated the Eagles D so I’m not making the same mistake again.
Winner – Bengals
Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions
Jordan Howard went off last week for 3 scores but that was against the 49ers so again fantasy numbers can be messed up by matchups with poor defenses. He is the focal point now though so if you like his match up then start with confidence. Matt Barkley has really surprise a lot of people with being more than servicable but of course you are not starting him under any circumstances. However, it does mean that guys like Marquess Wilson are all of a sudden getting looks and a lot of volume. It’s amazing to see the difference of distribution with the 3 QB’s Chicago has rolled out. Brian Hoyer = Cameron Meredith. Jay Cutler = Alshon Jeffrey. Matt Barkley = Wilson. Wilson however is doubtful and didn’t practice Friday so that is very risky proposition if you start him. So the starting QB does make a massive difference. That being said, forget anything that you have heard, don’t start anyone on the Bears, even their D. Matthew Stafford had a great game last week despite a few duds and low fantasy output, they just keep winning so again so it’s great for the Detroit team that doesn’t need Stafford to light up the score board each week. They have slowed their play down on the offensive side of the ball to hide their inefficiencies on D. Theo Riddick was once a great play but not anymore as he is far too inconsistent now. Golden Tate has re-established himself as WR1 over Marvin Jones as his lack of production is well documented since his 200 yard game beginning of the season. Tate is a stretch admittedly and I would also not bother with Eric Ebron either as he is also far too inconsistent. This game itself could be a really boring one and certainly from a fantasy standpoint, I don’t see much production from anywhere other than from Stafford and Barkley (streaming only calm down). The floor is relatively high, you will get average production but you don’t want average, you want great production this time of year so I would just leave this game alone.
Winner – Lions
Houston Texans @ Indianapolis Colts
Important game for the AFC South. One which I see the Colts running away with already. The Texans as we all know are weighed down by Brock Osweiller and he has all but ruined any fantasy prospects for anyone not called CJ Fedorowicz. You can still start Hopkins in a flex spot as he has the talent to break out every week but he has a very low floor each week now so a risky play at best. I am worried about Lamar Miller as he got banged up last week and he has not been great statistically this year. If he is healthy he gets all the looks but if not, look for someone like Alfred Blue to plug in and get the volume. I’m not promising output but he would take the volume over. The Texans D is an option each week but playing 2015 Andrew Luck, you would be licking your lips and feasting on the interceptions and sacks but this is not 2015 Andrew Luck. He still gets hit alot thanks to ongoing poor offensive line play but he is playing so damn well, I think he lights the Texans up. Start TY Hilton as he is the go to guy each and every week. Moncrief has a TD in each game back from his injury but his yards per game are around 60 so without his TD’s he is only scoring about 6 points a game which is not a great position to be in. I would not start Moncrief as I would prefer guaranteed volume this stage of the fantasy season. I am not jumping on the Dwayne Allen band wagon at all either. It is the same wagon that Jack Doyle owned at the start of the year. Allen is probably just borrowing it so don’t get carried away. You can’t start Doyle either mind you so just don’t. Frank Gore gives you a great fantasy floor, would give you 50-80 yards a game plus catches out of the back field and if points are going to be scored, he has a great shot this week to get close to 20 points for you. Frank Gore’s last 100 yard game? Against the Texans this year. So yeah. That. There are concerns as always about the Colts D but if you feel like throwing caution to the wind, why not start their D? Brock is bad and if Lamar Miller is out then he will to throw a lot more than Bill O’Brien wants him to.
Winner – Colts
Minnesota Vikings @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Start the Minnesota defense. Do it. Do it now. They have shut out virtually all major players this year and they hit the QB a ton. Not looking great for Blake Bortles and he is likely to post some minus points this week. Avoid like the actual plague please. Same goes for all Jags receivers and running backs and tight ends and anyone else within the Jags organisation. Chris Ivory would be your guy to hopefully pose any type of running threat (sorry TJ Yeldon but it is true) but he is listed as doubtful at the moment so that leaves you with the golf swing arm motion of Mr Bortles, who as I mentioned is likely to be sacrificed to the football gods in front of his friends and family. The only saving grace is that the Jags apparently have the number 2 ranked pass defense so this might be closer than it really should be. The Vikings have no run game and if Bradford cannot get the ball moving to his pass catchers, then it could be a serious punt-fest. Specials teams will then be very important and the Vikings have resolved their kicking issues and actually have a good return game so advantage on paper goes to the Vikings. Sam Bradford is posting a career best season statistically but you sit him this week. You can get some decent production I think out of Diggs and Rudolph. At a stretch I think you could go for someone like Adam Thielen as Diggs could be frozen out by Jalen Ramsey so he is a decent flex option. The Jags secondary are very good tacklers so yards after the catch may be limited which of course takes away the dink and dunk approach that the Vikings have to employ because their o-line are possibly the worst in the league. The only doubt in my mind with this one is if the Vikings let a big play go early and they have to fight from a 10+ point deficit because they are not built to play from behind.
Winner – Vikings
Arizona Cardinals @ Miami Dolphins
So Arizona showed a bit of fight last week! I liked it! It helps when you have possibly the best football player on the planet on your team in David Johnson. His worst game this year against the Panthers, he didn’t score but still got over 100 yards and posted 10.8 points. What is fantasy production in his last four games you ask? Great question voiceless anonymous fantasy football player, he has 22, 28, 22 and 29 points. He has over 1000 yards rushing, 700 yards receiving and 15 touchdowns. WHAT?! Anyway that’s enough as it is truly upsetting to anyone that doesn’t have him on their fantasy teams. From there it is the usual suspect of Fitzgerald and that is it. I still have no trust for anyone on this Cardinal team till they start producing more consistently. Miami don’t have a great D so Carson Palmer has a chance to redeem himself and build on his 300 yard performance last week so he is a low end QB play this week. Wouldn’t pick him up if it were me but again match ups are very important this time of year so worth a shot if you want to take the risk. Over on the other side, I actually like Jay Ajayi this week despite facing the number 2 ranked run D. He will get his usual volume and if it is a close one, which I think it will be, Miami will want to power through and control the ball. They got their balls handed to them in a massive spot against the Ravens. Much like the Raiders on Thursday, that was a chance to show that they were for real and they blew it. Tough matchup don’t get me wrong but if Miami can get production from both run and passing game then the Cards are beatable. Jarvis Landry still gets the volume and if Devante Parker comes off the injury report then they are both nice flex plays. Beware of Patrick Peterson who is a legitimate shut down corner so if he pins down on Landry then I would roll with Parker. Dion Sims has produced from the TE position if you are struggling but this game will need Ryan Tannehill to produce to stay in the game. Thankfully for both starting QB’s they have great running back play so again I think this will be a close one, which if that is the case, I favour David Johnson to dominate.
Winner – Cardinals
Washington Redskins @ Philadelphia Eagles
I have been burned by the Eagles this year. No more! Ok I haven’t really but I guess I thought their impressive start to the season would carry over but it is a showing of how teams do change through the season. Carson Wentz flew out the gate but of course has stuttered, as most QB’s do in their first season. Peyton Manning had 28 interceptions in his rooke year so I don’t think anyone within the Eagles is too worried. Not saying that he will become the next Peyton Manning but I thought it provided some context. With that in mind, this is a Redskins game to lose. Philly are better at home and if Ryan Matthews plays (which is should according to the injury report) then that gives them a bit more balance and hopefully means Wentz doesn’t have to throw 60 times. If any QB has to throw 60 times then that is not good for a team. Their WR unit are on par with San Francisco as probably the worst in the league so that hasn’t helped any progression for Wentz either. I think you can start both Matthews’ against a shaky Redskins D but keep an eye out on the the injury report for both of them before the game starts. Start Zach Ertz in this scenario because the TE position is so crappy and he is a safety net for Wentz so should get some decent production. Oh I’m sorry for talking about Wendall Smallwood last week. I had him as a sleeper pick and he had 1.9 points. My bad. That is why they call them sleepers so don’t hate. Usually you could start the Eagles defense but with their offense being so bad, you don’t want to start a unit that is playing from behind all the time and hasn’t had a sack in 2 weeks. Kirk Cousins has been on fire this year and since their bye in week 9 he has averaged 23 fantasy points a week so lock him. Jamison Crowder remains his favourite target in the absence of Jordan Reed who may or may not play this week. Rob Kelley is due a big day as I think the Redskins will control the majority of this game. If they have a few red zone chances look for Fat Rob (great nickname) to smash through and get a few scores. One guy who is on the upward trend recently is Pierre Garcon. In the last 4-5 weeks he has been really productive so if you are looking for someone to carry you with volume and targets for the rest of the season then he is a good shout. The Redskins are up against Philly this week then Carolina and then the Bears so their outlook is very positive. Desean Jackson could lift the top off the Eagles D but as always he is a high risk high reward type guy so pick up Garcon or Crowder off the waiver wire before Jackson. Redskins D this week if you are streaming? Nah just kidding.
Winner – Redskins
New York Jets @ San Francisco 49ers
Ok so you would think that after last weeks miserable performance that I would be down on the 49ers this week? YOU ARE WRONG! I again like our chances against a Jets team who have all but given up. Add that we are playing a shaky secondary and a rookie QB that is simply not ready to play means that we have a legit shot to get, that’s right, win number 2! You can start Matt Forte this week purely on volume, which is even more guaranteed with Bryce Petty under center. That being said, the Niners have limited David Johnson and Jay Ajayi in recent weeks and Matt Forte is no longer the game breaker that he used to be. Other than Forte you could roll Brandon Marshall in a flex spot but he is one of the guys that does tend to switch off once seasons are done so I have little confidence in him. On the Niners side, Kaepernick should right the ship and go back to a positive fantasy performance, I would say 25 points is very realistic against said shaky defense and again his floor is so high because of his running yards. I’m not saying start him over guys like Brady or Brees but if you are in need of a hail mary and potential week winner then keep him in your line up. Carlos Hyde has been decent but not great this year, I think the workload is too much and for once a team should spell their other running backs in a bit more but Chip Kelly’s offense requires speed and pace which means less substitutions so that is not a realistic possibility unless he changes his entire philosophy. Still a flex spot based on volume. Vance McDonald signed a new extension rewarding his good work this year and he is a good building block to keep around, he has another low floor high ceiling so if you are struggling at TE then why not. Don’t start any receivers obviously, even if someone like Quinton Patton or Jeremy Kerley get stuff going you just can’t risk it now. I think if you want to risk it then start the 49ers D as they are better at home and as I mentioned, the Jets have literally no fire at the moment so it is a great spot for a cross country beat down. Both passers this week need to air it out to prove their worth within the league so I hope we get some points on the board.
Winner – 49ers
Atlanta Falcons @ Los Angeles Rams
Now what I am about to say is purely based on Julio Jones not playing. Which he might not and he is a game time decision. He did not practice and as of Saturday morning UK time he is not expected to play. If he is out then this could be an upset. Seriously. The Falcons flew out of the gate this year but all of a sudden almost don’t seem to register on anyone’s radars. They have lost ground in their division and been caught up by the Tampa Bay. Case in point is Matt Ryan failing to top 19 fantasy points 3 weeks in a row. Losing your mojo against a team like the Rams is a risky proposition but as bad as the Rams offense has been, the Falcons defense has been just as sketchy so all it will take is the Falcons offense to stutter and the Rams have a shot (honestly I can’t believe I am writing this). You can still start Matt Ryan as he has one of the safer floors of any QB and you can start Devonte Freeman as he continues with his RB1 workload. Mohammad Sanu is not a lock to play either and Taylor Gabriel remain a boom or bust flex play until he improves his hands. So you can see where I am coming from right? Could this possibly be a Tevin Coleman bounce back game? He has been gently worked back in to the offense and he had massive success in the pass game (he had over 300 receiving yards and a TD in the first 5 weeks of the season including two 20+ point games) so if they are down several WR then plugging Coleman in could really work out. Flex him because he could bomb out completely but you could be leaving 20 odd points on your bench. For Rams fans, with the above in mind, this could be the game that Jared Goff breaks out and shows a glimpse of what the future might be. Now I have no statistical basis for this, none whatsoever and the worst offense in the league gives me no fact to base this on but this is the NFL and hell, weirder things have happened. Personally I don’t rate Goff at all. He comes from a college spread offense which looks great for TV and puts up gaudy passing numbers but it doesn’t translate to the NFL. These spread offense QB’s don’t call plays, don’t make adjustments or call audibles at the line, even things like their footwork is completely different and it just sets them up to fail. Kenny Britt has been good and TE Kendricks is a streaming option. Todd Gurley would need to explode for this to come close to being true but I have a feeling about this one. Again, purely based on Jones and Sanu being out, the Falcons are trending downwards and are away from home. Tampa are on the up and playing very well, all the signs are there. Ah screw it….
Winner – Rams
New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Another game to check the injury report as this will change your fantasy game. If Mark Ingram does not play, start Tim Hightower. Huge volume upside so pick him up if he is available in your league. Under center, Drew Brees stung a lot of fantasy owners to the tune of 7 points. Got the yardage but 0 TD’s and 3 picks. Wow. Now history would suggest that Drew Brees will bounce back in a big way so keep him in your line up regardless as the odds are better for him scoring 20+ than they are another dud. That being said, new favourite target Michael Thomas did not practice Friday but word is that he should be okay to play. If he doesn’t then increase looks for Wille Snead and Brandin Cooks bumps them up to decent upside flex options. Not WR1 production because as we know Brees spreads the love around with the best of them but the targets should be there at least. Who thinks Coby Fleener has a great game this week? No? Anyone? Ok you are probably right. Back to the injury report, Doug Martin is potentially out and I would honestly just sit him or even drop him now anyway. Jacquizz Rodgers may get increased workload so if you need a streaming/flex but also Charles Sims is likely to be back soon as well so Doug’s stock is plummeting hard and he is not helping himself by averaging less than 3 yards a carry. Yes they have played very good run defenses over the last few weeks so his numbers are slightly skewed but I’m thinking bigger picture and your fantasy playoffs. Start Mike Evans of course as there is no way New Orleans can contain him under any circumstances. Russel Shepherd has the most catches behind Mike Evans so if there are yards and touchdowns a plenty then he is a good shout as a flex start. I would be quite happy starting Cameron Brate as well to be honest so feel good about that. Leading the recent charge is Jameis Winston who has been great this year and over his last 8 games has a 15:4 TD/INT ratio with a 90+ passer rating in 9 of his 12 games. Interesting stat for this game is that Winston is the best passer in the league under pressure as per NFL stats and although the Saints love to blitz they were just carved out by Matthew Stafford so this plays right in to one of Winstons key strengths. This has a make up of a boom or bust game. Both defenses can be beaten, both passers are aggressive and the run games are sometimes hit and miss. There will either be 800 yards in the passing game between Winston and Brees lighting it up all game or it will be a complete stinker and the defenses control the game because the running games don’t get going. My gut says that the Saints need to rebound but the Bucs have been sneaky good on defense so I am going to take a risk and go with the home side.
Winner – Buccs
Denver Broncos @ Tennessee Titans
Start: Demaryius Thomas, Delanie Walker, DeMarco Murray, Bronco’s D.
Flex: Emanuel Sanders, Devonte Booker
Sit: Marcus Mariota, Trevor Siemian/Paxton Lynch, Titans WR’s
Seattle Seahawks @ Green Bay Packers (potential snow game)
Start: Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Jordy Nelson, Thomas Rawls, Jimmy Graham
Flex: Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Tyler Locket
Sit: Jared Cook, Seattle D, Green Bay running backs
Streamer: Ty Mongommery anyone?
Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants
Start: Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott, Dez Bryant, Odell Beckham Jr, Jason Witten
Flex: Sterling Sheperd, Rashard Jennings
Sit: Victor Cruz, Eli Manning
Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots
Start: Tom Brady, Joe Flacco, Julian Edelman,
Flex: All running backs, Malcolm Mitchell, Steve Smith, Mike Wallace
Sit: Martellus Bennett, Ravens D
Many thanks all, hope you enjoy it.