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Fantasy Football 2014: Strong Statistical Matchups for Week 14

Strong Statistical Matchups for Week 14
It's playoff time for a lot of us, which means it's time to start the players who got us here and avoid getting too cute playing matchups.

Yet it doesn't mean that you ignore matchups or that you don't still have difficult lineup decisions to make.

And what do we have to go on?

Well, we've got statistics.

And like Mark Twain once said, "There are lies, damned lies and statistics."

Strong Statistical Matchups for Week 14
But it's all we've got, Mark.

These are highlights of what we believe are some of the best plays out of the most favorable statistical matchups at a variety of positions. Our advice would be to cross-examine this with past performances when making lineup decisions.

Try as much as you can to ignore projections. We need a little more to go on than pure speculation.

Let's get started.

1. Isaiah Crowell

If he plays (he's missing practice time this week), Isaiah Crowell is an excellent, dare I say, RB1 option.

The Indianapolis Colts are the 28th worst team against opposing running backs, allowing an average of 19.9 fantasy points per game to the position.

A healthy Crowell should be able to take advantage of that and put up a big game like he did in week 12 against the Atlanta Falcons.

We like Josh Gordon in this matchup too, by the way.

2. Kelvin Benjamin

Kelvin Benjamin has cooled off a bit with a bye in week 12 and a "meh" five-point showing in week 13. But the towering receiver should see plenty of action against a New Orleans Saints secondary allowing the 29th most fantasy points to opposing wide outs.

Has anyone noticed that the Carolina Panthers have lost six games in a row?


This team needs a win. And at 3-8-1 they can still win the division and make the playoffs, which is astounding, to say the least. But that means they've got something to play for.

Expect this to be a competitive game that benefits the fantasy value of both Benjamin and Cam Newton.

3. The Texans DST

When you start the Houston Texans DST, you're basically putting J.J. Watt in your lineup.

You won't get credit for the offensive touchdowns he's been scoring, but he'll be up against the interception machine that is Blake Bortles and his hapless Jacksonville Jaguars offense.

You can start the Texans DST will all the confidence in the world this week.

Enjoy it before they head into Indianapolis.

4. Tony Romo

Against the Bears in Chicago, Tony Romo is a solid play against fantasy football's second worst pass defense. Chicago just gives up a ton of points to opposing QBs, and we expect Romo to get back to his familiar stat line.
Martellus Bennett is a good play here as well.

5. Calvin Johnson

Injuries have made it difficult to trust or get excited about Calvin Johnson.

He's again listed as questionable for Sunday's game, but that game is against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who stop absolutely nobody.

So if he plays, he's in your lineup. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

6. Randall Cobb

Against the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football, Randall Cobb is a great play.

He's matchup proof with Aaron Rodgers throwing to him, but you've got additional reason to be optimistic if he's your guy. The Falcons secondary allows an average of 24 fantasy points per game to opposing WRs, with seven games that have eclipsed 25.

In other words, there's some to go around for both Cobb and Jordy Nelson.

7. Frank Gore

The issue with Frank Gore is that he's not scoring TDs (only two on the season).

That said, the Oakland Raiders have allowed 13 rushing TDs (second most in the NFL) and are the worst team when it comes to giving up fantasy points to opposing RBs.

The St. Louis Rams ran all over them last week, so look for San Francisco to employ a similar gameplan and get Gore involved.

He's not a great option, but the matchup is excellent if you must play him.

8. Eddie Lacy

Eddie Lacy has failed to reach double-digit fantasy points only once, dating back to week four.

He isn't likely to break that streak against Atlanta who give up the third-most fantasy points to opposing RBs.

Lacy deserves beaming confidence this week.

9. Mike Wallace 

Mike Wallace hasn't had a 100-yard receiving game this year, though he has caught seven TDs.

The competition he faces from Jarvis Landry (more on him next) reduces the value of both WRs, but Wallace is still a solid WR2 or high-end FLEX going into a matchup against the Baltimore Ravens who are allowing more than 27 fantasy points per game to opposing receivers.

I'd expect both wideouts to get a score in this game.

10. Jarvis Landry

His case is pretty much the same as Wallace's.

Ryan Tannehill is playing well and the Baltimore secondary isn't all that great at stopping anybody, making Jarvis Landry a reasonable play in week 14.

If either Miami Receiver is on your roster, he's a low-end WR2 or high-end FLEX.

11. Russell Wilson

He might just be the "feel good" start of the week, if that's even a thing.

I guess it is now.

Did you know that Russell Wilson ranks 11th in the league in rushing yards? That's including er'body.

He's also been in double-digit fantasy points every game this year, eclipsing 20 on four occasions. Against the Philadelphia Eagles secondary, which is one of the worst in the league against opposing QBs, you're starting Wilson with all the confidence you can muster.

12. Teddy Bridgewater

I suppose that this week, you could consider him a poor man's Russell Wilson.

Teddy Bridgewater has actually been respectable in his last  five games, breaking the 13-point mark in four of them. Add the New York Jets defense and you've got a matchup that's worthy of your consideration in deeper leagues.

However, you've got better options in 10-12 team leagues, despite the statistical generosity.

13. Kyle Orton

Kyle Orton is a QB2 unless you're desperate.

But if you are, the matchup against the Denver Broncos isn't all that bad for a few reasons.

First, the Broncos have a good run defense, which means the Buffalo Bills are likely to throw the ball a little more than one might expect.

Second, the Bills could be playing from behind, meaning that Orton will need to rely more on his arm and hope he can break down a Denver secondary that allows the fifth most fantasy points to opposing QBs.

A couple injury reports to watch on this one would be Sammy Watkins and Aqib Talib.

If Talib plays and Watkins doesn't, you might do well resist Orton's dynamic and fascinating personality.

15. Ryan Tannehill

We've already pledged our allegiance to Wallace and Landry, so that means we've got to be on-board with Tannehill as well.

In a big game, that has playoff implications for both teams, expect lots of throwing from Tannehill and Joe Flacco. Despite last week's performance against the Jets, Tannehill should bounce back statistically even if the Dolphins don't win the game.

Thoughts, Darned Thoughts?

We like to chat about fantasy football, talk about starts-sits and all that good stuff over at Twitter and Google Plus.

You can join in over there.

Good luck in your playoff matchups.

Flickr Commons Image Courtesy of elviskennedy


Fantasy Football Playoffs 2014: 13 Players You Should Absolutely Trust

Fantasy Football Playoffs 2014: 12 Players You Should Absolutely Trust

No play in fantasy football is disaster proof.

Even Demarco Murray and Peyton Manning have had off games this year, so stamping some kind of a guarantee on your roster isn't possible.

Alas, we have to rely on conventional wisdom and speculation to make our choices and adjust our lineups from week-to-week. But isn't it nice to at least feel like a player is trustworthy? A lot of them will produce points, and if you're a playoff team, you'll need to make sure that you get those guys into your lineup.

So who could you feel good about?

These are 30 players, some rather obvious and some not so much, that you should absolutely trust going into your 2014 fantasy football playoffs.

Start them, relax and enjoy the last few weeks of the NFL regular season.

1. Tom Brady

His division (aside from the Miami Dolphins) is pretty beatable, and right now the New England Patriots are the best team in the NFL, hands down.

Somehow Tom Brady just continues to make it work.

He was brutal to begin the season, but you're not sitting him from here on out, even after two mediocre games where the Patriots running game took center stage.

2. Josh Gordon

It didn't take Josh Gordon long to reestablish himself as the No. 1 receiver on this team, hauling in eight catches for 120 yards against the Atlanta Falcons in his first game back. What's even more encouraging is that Gordon was actually targeted 16 times and played most of the snaps.

He'll be the offensive centerpiece of Cleveland's improbable playoff run. That's good for those of you who are lucky (and patient) enough to be starting him.

3. Ryan Tannehill 

Man, what a steal this guy has been.

The Dolphins have been serious contenders all year in a crowded AFC playoff picture, and Ryan Tannehill has done everything that could be asked of him to get his team into the postseason.

20 touchdowns, only eight interceptions and a surprising 276 rushing yards has him eighth in fantasy points among QBs.

He's a trustworthy start with two games remaining against the New York Jets and one in Minnesota.

4. Aaron Rodgers

At this point in the season, I'd have to say that Aaron Rodgers is your MVP. 30 TDs and only three picks to go along with nearly 3000 yards is plenty to be confident about if he's your fantasy starter. He's got three tough games against New England, the Detroit Lions and the Buffalo Bills.

That's not enough to make us worry.

Week 16 against Tampa Bay should be excellent.

5. Justin Forsett

Justin Forsett has been scoring a lot of TDs from far away from the goal line, including two this past Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, in addition to 182 rushing yards.

He'll have good opportunities for similar production finishing up against Jacksonville, Houston and Cleveland, especially with the other two Baltimore RBs looking to be now firmly in support roles.

6. Emmanuel Sanders

While Demaryius Thomas has been getting all the attention and is now the No. 1 fantasy receiver, Emmanuel Sanders has quietly taken over the fourth overall spot, in front of Jeremy Maclin and Dez Bryant.

He's had six games of double-digit fantasy points, with seven TDs and four 100-yard games in that span. In three of those games he broke 120.

Denver finishes up the season against Cincinnati and Oakland.

7. Greg Olsen

He's not flashy and we never talk about him, but Greg Olsen is nothing if not reliable and consistent. Only one point separates him from Antonio Gates for the fourth best fantasy TE spot. Besides, it's not like Cam Newton has much else going on in Carolina's offense.

Well, Kelvin Benjamin is there, but still. Play Olsen and rest easy.

8. Cody Parkey

Cody Parkey has been good for double-digits most of the season, and a stalling Mark Sanchez drive is always more likely than one that sees the endzone.

9. Joe Flacco

It's not as though you should want Joe Flacco to be your starter. But if he is, you have a good change at being locked into 10 to 15 points at his position, if not a blowup game like what we saw in week six. That's a good thing when you get into the playoffs.

Easy does it.

10. Matt Forte

It seems like no one ever talks about Matt Forte, but we should. Because he's only a handful of points (nine, to be exact) behind Murray for No. 1 fantasy RB spot.

He's added nearly 600 yards receiving and three TDs through the air to 822 rushing yards and five TDs on the ground.

It's not like you were benching him, but the dude just doesn't get enough credit.

11. Julian Edelman 

While he hasn't been the poster-boy for consistency, Julian Edelman continues to get a lot of targets in what has quickly become one of the league's top offensive attacks. So if you believe in Brady, there's little reason not to believe in his top WR as well.

That goes for both PPR and standard leagues from here on out.

12. Odell Beckham Jr. 

The guy who made what might be the greatest catch in NFL history is becoming one of Eli Manning's most favorable targets, especially in the red zone. Odell Beckham Jr. is the real deal in terms of talent and fantasy potential. The only downside is that the New York Giants aren't going to be competing for a playoff spot. Even still, Beckham Jr. is trustworthy from here on out.

13. Demaryius Thomas

It's not like you were benching him, but Demaryius Thomas should be a "feel-good" start the rest of the way, especially when you consider that Denver has some pretty significant competition in the AFC.

With Julius Thomas out and Wes Welker a shell of his former self, it has been the Demaryius and Emmanuel show the last few weeks. That value should stick whether Julius Thomas is in the lineup or not. Start Demaryius the rest of the way regardless of situation or matchup.

Beyond Must-Starts

You need to enter your playoff matchups with some confidence, and these guys are all worthy of it.

Try to avoid one-hit-wonders and fantasy fool's gold like Jonas Gray and instead stick with the players who have been reliable and who are largely responsible for getting you into the playoffs in the first place. Once you're in those games, avoid impulsive waiver-wire picks if you can help it and just let your best players play.

The time for experimenting with bench players and working the matchups has come and gone. Trust your studs and be smart about your lineup.

The playoffs are no time to try and get cute.

What about you?

Who do you trust without question? Perhaps you've got a fantasy football-related question to throw out.

Let us hear it over at Twitter and Google Plus.

Flickr Commons Image Courtesy of Mike Morbeck


8 Great Reasons Not to Draft a Running Back with Your First Fantasy Pick in 2015

8 Great Reasons Not to Draft a Running Back with Your First Fantasy Pick in 2015

This might be one of the easiest arguments I've ever made.

And I've argued a lot.

At least in my opinion this is an easy call, especially after this season. Drafting running backs last year was bad but this time around has been downright awful.

And yes, there have always been busts.

I get that.

But Adrian Peterson was not a bust this year in the traditional sense of the word. Nor is it a bust when an RB gets hurt and misses two-thirds of the season. That's just bad luck. And when it comes to RBs and fantasy football, it seems as though the luck is trending downward pretty consistently.

But anyone can get hurt. That's true.

The problem is that we tend to look at risk by player instead of by position. If a player is "injury prone" like Ahmad Bradshaw, he'll fall in the draft by default.

What we don't do is take into account the risk of an overall position when assessing a player's value.

Thus we have the first great reason not to draft an RB with our first pick in next year's fantasy draft.

1. You're losing value by drafting risk.

The RB position as a whole is inherently risky.

There's no way to get around that fact, regardless of which back you take or how valuable they're supposed to be. Thus my argument is simply that the risk of the RB position should impact the value of the players within it.

If fantasy football players thought that to be true, RBs would drop across the board.


Because your first round pick is too valuable to use on such a risky investment. Risky investments are (or should be) for the mid and/or later rounds.

2. Unreliable Return

Who's happier this year, the guy who drafted Peyton Manning, Jimmy Graham or LeSean McCoy?

They were all first round picks in most cases and thought to be worthy of a top-12 spot in all fantasy formats. But isn't it fair to say that McCoy drafters (who were almost certainly taking him in the top three, if not first overall) drew the small straw?

Yes, McCoy is a featured back in Philadelphia.

But does that mean he's going to produce points at a rate that warrants a first-round pick? The answer, unfortunately, is no. And say what you will about drafting quarterbacks or tight ends in round one, but Graham and Manning owners haven't had that problem.

Graham has dealt with injuries but his usage and role in the offense is the same every week.

You know those two teams are going to throw and you know that those two players will be relevant, barring someone getting hurt.

There is no Darren Sproles to take away points from Manning in Denver.

Brock Osweiler (Robert Pattinson 2.0) is not going to take over on third down or at the goal line.

So you've got players available in the first round who are simply a more reliable investment than RBs and even guys like McCoy.

The argument then becomes simple: Why not spend your high picks on reliable players?

3. Committee Backfields

Though it's possibly a subset of the "unreliable" category, the influx of committee backfields deserves its own discussion.

Multiple RBs on the same team getting playing time is not new.

But even on team's that aren't what you would consider explicitly committed to a committee RB gameplan will fall into this pattern.


Because on every team you typically have three different types of RBs.

  1. Primary Back: This is the guy that's on the field for most of the snaps. He's your "starter" or the "every-down-back."

  2. Third Down Back: The Danny Woodheads and Shane Vereens of this world are fast, pass-catching backs who are typically deployed on third down.

  3. Goal Line Back: These are bigger backs, who might also be the primary back or another player altogether.

In many cases, you can have hybrids of these playing styles.

You might have a primary runner who is also a fast enough and good enough pass-catcher to also be the third down guy. Think Jamaal Charles.

Or you could have a primary back who is a big enough and a powerful enough runner to get goal line work.

Le'Veon Bell would be a good example.

Those are the guys who typically get drafted high; the ones who can serve in multiple roles, thereby staying on the field much longer.

But how often do you have a back who is really good in all three spots?

A lot of people thought McCoy was that guy.

But he hasn't done well so far this year. Why?

Well first of all, he's only got two TDs. Sproles has four and is averaging  6.8 yards per carry. McCoy is averaging 3.7 yards per carry. So despite the fact that McCoy is one of the best RBs in the game, Sproles' role has made the Eagles' running game multidimensional.

And he did so rather easily.

Because the fact is Sproles isn't having a great year. In fact, Comcast Sports Philadelphia just published a piece asking why he's not getting more carries, which is an excellent question by the way.

Is there some bad luck involved? Sure.

We all thought that Lynch was going to get squeezed out by Robert Turbin and that hasn't happened.

But a committee run game can pool together pretty quickly. Yet another reason not to draft RBs high.

4. The Injury Argument

Take a look at this graph from 2010, courtesy of

8 Great Reasons Not to Draft a Running Back with Your First Fantasy Pick in 2015
We knew it was bad, but this even surprised me.

Keep in mind that the chart takes into account the number of players that are on the field at a given time and adjusts accordingly.

These are also just players who end up on IR, not taking into account missed time within games and short-term injuries.

So it seems like we hear this all the time, but it continues to be a non-issue on draft day. The injury frequency of RBs substantially increases the amount of risk involved when investing in them with a first-round pick. Personally, I wouldn't want that much risk.

I know it's not news and that everybody knows RBs get hurt a lot, but shouldn't it change the way we draft?

5. Productive RBs are always more plentiful than they appear.

Did anybody expect Knowshon Moreno to be a top-five fantasy rusher last year?

If they did, they weren't talking about it.

RBs always come out of the shadows, whether it be for a short stint or to make their presence felt long term. Just look at guys like Bradshaw, Justin Forsett, Jeremy Hill, Lamar Miller and even Demarco Murray to a certain extent.

Nobody thought any of those guys would be worth drafting in the first round with maybe the exception of Murray.

So the argument is that you can get good RBs all throughout the year as injuries and poor play from starters begins to shift lineups around.

You certainly aren't doomed if you don't get them in the first two rounds.

RBs are plentiful in this league because the position is so tentative.

Draft accordingly.

6. In today's NFL, it's easier to pass than run.

Of the two ways to play offense in the NFL, rushing is becoming a much more difficult aspect of everyone's gameplan.

With so many talented receivers and QBs all piled into a league with rules that are being tailored to procuring their success, it's hard to justify investing high fantasy picks in players that aren't going to benefit from that system.

And again, this is all before you even consider which RB on a team would get carries once they're given out.

The fact is carries are becoming a less efficient way of scoring points in the NFL, especially with the rule changes this year.

So why wouldn't it be at least an equally smart plan to draft a QB and/or receiver with your first two picks? Why in the world would that not be a plausible, if not a better strategy than using those picks for an unreliable and, at times, unproductive position?

7. The Raw Numbers

Go check out the ESPN fantasy scoring leaders for standard formats.

That's filtered for all positions, yet eight of the top ten spots are occupied by a QB. Murray and Lynch come in at ninth and 10th overall.

If you're going to base the value of your first round pick on raw numbers, it would make the most sense to take a QB like Aaron Rodgers, Manning or Andrew Luck. That's going to be a much safer investment and a better return numerically.

Because QBs just score more fantasy points. Every year that's the case.

And just because there are a lot of good QBs doesn't negate that fact. Sure, you could have gotten Ben Roethlisberger in the 10th round. I get that. But at the same time, you could have drafted Manning, Antonio Brown and Bell fairly easily as well.

Would that have been better than drafting, say, McCoy, Peterson and Roethlisberger?

There's luck involved to be sure, but the point is, you can draft based on raw point totals and still have a really good season.

8. Statistics can drastically shift from year to year.

If you don't agree with this point than I would politely submit that you're not paying attention.

We have examples of statistical drop offs for RBs every year, and it tends to happen extremely fast. What's worse, we base ADP off of prior year's performances (I guess we have to) which means RBs get drafted high and many of them don't even come close to replicating the statistical output from the year prior.

Trent Richardson in 2013, McCoy this year, C.J. Spiller in 2013, Knowshon Moreno this year and plenty of other examples wherever you're willing to look, show that one good year can mean quite little for the following season.

That's not to say this doesn't happen with receivers and QBs, but you don't see the same kind of drop-offs at those positions that you do with RBs.

Remember Shaun Alexander? He's a good example.

Adrian Peterson is well on his way there too.

Your Thoughts

This is a pretty widely debated idea in the realm of fantasy football.

If you have thoughts you'd like to share, you can do it over at Twitter and Google Plus. Best of luck the rest of the way.

Flickr Commons Image Courtesy of Joe Bielawa


Starting Quarterback Fantasy Outlook for All 32 Teams: Week Eleven

A lot of people learned their lesson about dropping Tom Brady.

I know I did.

And as we're heading into the last third of the season's schedule, a look at each team's primary signal caller and their respective fantasy outlook can help to prevent similar catastrophes.

After all, you have 32 quarterbacks playing every week (maybe more).

So if you missed the boat on getting a decent QB (and many of us did this year) you've got plenty of other options, even in deeper leagues. To make good choices, you've got to be informed and you might need to dig pretty deep depending on the size of your current roster.

Let's get informed.

Rotating QBs 

QB is actually one of the spots in fantasy where you can do really well by just playing the matchups and rolling different starters week to week.

You don't want to do that, but that's easier to overcome than if you have to keep playing the waiver wire on, say, running backs or wide receivers.

So this is more relevant for those of you rotating QBs in and out of your lineup.

You folks are on the Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco roller coaster while the Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck people are coasting along on a smooth, bump-free ride. While I can't guarantee you a smooth ride, taking a comprehensive look at the league's QBs might help you beat the Manning/Luck teams, when it really counts.

Let's dig in.

AFC teams first.

1. Buffalo Bills

I really didn't think that Kyle Orton would ever reappear in the NFL. He's mostly a career backup without any kind of flair.

But here's the thing; he's not a bad fantasy QB.

How's that?

Because he's consistent, if not interesting.

Sometimes uninteresting QBs can make excellent fantasy starters. Because if you have a good team, at least the Kyle Ortons of this world won't hurt you. They won't throw 24 interceptions a year or get injured because they're scrambling all over the field.

Think 260 yards, two touchdowns and a an overall respectable stat line.

That's what Orton gives you.

In five games this year he's got 10 touchdowns and only three picks. So again, he's a good bet if you're safe at other positions.

2. Miami Dolphins

Ryan Tannehill has been incredibly good this season and remains a strong QB1 even after a 10-point showing against the stellar Detroit Lions defense.

He did sustain what looks to be wear-and-tear type injuries, though it isn't likely to cause him long-term trouble.

What's also nice about Tannehill is that he still comes cheap.

He's only owned in 45 percent of ESPN leagues making him an easy waiver claim in most situations.

His next three games are against Buffalo, Denver and the New York Jets.

We'll take it.

3. New England Patriots

Like I said, dropping Brady was a mistake.

For the first four weeks of the season he was absolutely terrible, going into a bad matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals. Since then, Brady has been on fire, throwing 18 TDs and only one interception, on his way to the sixth-best point total among QBs in fantasy scoring.

Matchups against the Colts, Lions and Packers don't look great, but if you keep him for a playoff run you'll have the Jets, Bills and Dolphins to finish up the regular season.

Whatever happened those first few games might be a taste of things to come for Brady, who is closing in on his 40th decade of life. But for now he's done more than enough to quiet that talk.

He's an unquestionable QB1 in all scoring formats.

4. New York Jets

Michael Vick is always an intriguing play, but his stat line in the three games he's started for the Jets has been pretty mundane.

Sure, he's running, but he just hasn't done enough to provide substantial fantasy value.

He's an interesting QB2 play in two-QB leagues, but outside of that format, I don't think Vick is a guy that you want starting for you, at least until you see what he can do over the next couple games after the Jets' bye week.

One thing to consider; he's got a cake schedule the rest of the way, with the exception of hosting New England in week 16.

Although I hate to say it; if you're playing in week 16, you probably weren't desperate enough to play Vick in the first place.

5. Denver Broncos

Manning actually trails Andrew Luck for the top fantasy QB spot, though only by five points.

With divisional games yet to play against Kansas City and Oakland while also hosting Buffalo and Miami, things look all but perfect for Manning who is once again leading the NFL in TD passes.

Personally, I'd rather have him than Luck.

Not because of anything Luck is doing wrong (he's clearly not), but I think when the dust settles and the regular season is over, Manning will be your fantasy scoring leader again.

That is, barring injury of course.

6. Kansas City Chiefs 

Alex Smith hasn't thrown a single TD to a wide receiver this year.

That's brutal news for fantasy owners and a major deterrent when it comes to starting him. As a result, he's been consistently average, failing to reach 20 points outside of only one game in standard scoring formats.

Upcoming games against Seattle, Arizona, Denver and Pittsburgh don't help matters either.

The only bright spots for Smith are Travis Kelce and Jamaal Charles, the ladder of which simply isn't the same guy we saw last season.

Last year Charles hauled in seven TD catches, whereas this year he only has two, both occurring in the same game against New England.

That was essentially the source of Smith's relevancy in 2013.

If Charles can turn things up in the passing game, that's the only time you should consider giving Smith any kind of consideration.

Otherwise, he's a bench warmer in most formats.

7. Oakland Raiders

Derek Carr had a four-TD game against San Diego in week six.

So the kid has potential.

But he's not a viable fantasy asset right now. He's on a terrible team with no weapons and no experience in the NFL prior to this year. Sure, he's an interesting prospect, which is good for a rebuilding organization.

But not-so-good for your fantasy team.

8. San Diego Chargers

Philip Rivers started the season strong but has trailed off in the last three weeks, throwing for five TDs and six interceptions.

Still, if he's your starter, it's not wise to give up on him after the week nine debacle at Miami that left him with minus three fantasy points.

But it's like the Brady thing.

You survive the stretches of bad play because when these QBs are good, they can win you a championship.

Up to this point in the season, Rivers has thrown two or more TDs in every game but two. The game against Miami was one and then again in the opener against Arizona, he only threw for one score.

In every other game it has been two or three TDs.

To be more precise, five games with three passing TDs.

That's great news for his potential value the rest of the way. So don't give up on Rivers or get discouraged because he's had a rough stretch.

While it might not be enough to propel the Chargers into the playoffs, Rivers' play will improve during the last third of the season.

9. Baltimore Ravens

Flacco's performance this year has been a bit bizarre and unpredictable. With the resurgence of Steve Smith, improved production from Torey Smith and the exodus of Ray Rice, it makes sense that Flacco would now be more of an offensive centerpiece for the Ravens than what we've seen in the past.

But at the same time, his production has been extremely spotty with almost no consistency to his fantasy value.

Outside of a five-TD game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a three-score game against Carolina in week three, Flacco hasn't cracked 18 fantasy points.

A good comparison for him would be Alex Smith.

But unlike Smith, Flacco actually has receivers, so you might be able to say that Smith is the poor man's Flacco.

For practical purposes, you'd be better off avoiding both.

10. Cincinatti Bengals

Andy Dalton -- how the mighty have fallen.

Was he ever really mighty though?

I don't want to say the guy "backed in" to a top-five fantasy QB spot in 2013, but he was helped by several blowup games that were interspersed with lots of average play.

This year the average play has continued, yet with zero of those blowup games.

On Thursday night in week 10, he had one of the worst statistical games of any QB in recent memory. How bad was it? He somehow managed a 2.0 passer rating, which is the lowest since 1983.

So not only do you have to hope for Dalton to recover from that game, but you have to deal with a spotty performer who has become a consistently bad fantasy option.

At least last year you had the possibility that he was going to blow up, but this year that doesn't seem likely, even with a halfway decent schedule the rest of the way.

I don't think this means at all that Dalton is done with the Bengals (or that they're done with him) but it does mean his fantasy relevance is non-existent unless we see some major statistical shifts.

11. Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns are winning and are in the playoff hunt.

How have they been doing it?

They've mostly done it by installing a clock-eating run game and better-than-average defensive performances. In other words, Hoyer has not had to be great.

He's been steady, but not at all a player you would want to have starting for you in fantasy. He's only broke 20 fantasy points once (21) and thrown for more than one TD in two games.

That being said, Josh Gordon is set to return to the lineup on November 23rd, which will give Hoyer's value a speculative boost, though I would caution you to keep optimism reasonable. Even if Gordon plays that day, he's been unable to practice with the team at all.

So it's not unreasonable to think that Gordon might need a week or so to develop some chemistry with Hoyer.

As a competitive playoff team, the Browns have games coming up against the Texans, Falcons (Gordon's potential return game) and Bills.

That's a good look for Hoyer, but you don't want to start him unless you're really desperate.

12. Pittsburgh Steelers

Roethlisberger is a huge mystery this year.

Back-to-back games in weeks eight and nine, in which he threw for a combined 12 TDs 862 yards, vaulted him into top-five fantasy QB status.

The problem is that if you take away those two games, and prorate accordingly, you've essentially got another Brian Hoyer.

So how do we value Roethlisberger going forward?

The emergence of Martavius Bryant to go along with Antonio Brown could help keep numbers high for the Steelers' QB.

Games against New Orleans, Atlanta and Kansas City also look like promising matchups.

He's a high-risk and high-reward type of player.

13. Indianapolis Colts

As we've mentioned, Luck holds the edge over Manning as the most productive fantasy asset of 2014 thus far. My bet will continue to be that Manning eventually overtakes him and that Luck's production settles a bit.

For example, his upcoming matchup against the Patriots, who have been a surprisingly effect DST unit, isn't great.

He's also thrown seven interceptions in two career games against New England.


That doesn't mean you bench him as he's long past matchup-proof. But it does mean that you might expect him to slow down a bit as the team gets closer to locking up a playoff spot in a weak division.

14. Jacksonville Jaguars

Blake Bortles, though he could have a bright future ahead of him, has thrown more interceptions than any other NFL QB to this point in the season and he didn't even start playing until week three.

The picks are costing him points and he's simply not in an offense that's going to help him or make him better.

He'll get you to double digits in most situations, but that's pretty much it.

Don't be surprised if the four or five point games make an appearance every now and then also.

If you do start him, anything above 15 points is a great day. But honestly, who wants to start a QB where you're crossing your fingers for 15 points?

Look elsewhere in the near future.

15. Houston Texans

Though he's been a steady double-digit fantasy QB in standard formats, Ryan Fitzpatrick has only broke the 14-point marker on three occasion this year.

As a patch job, he's a decent choice, simply because of consistency.

You could also consider that he's been more productive than Nick Foles and Dalton, both of whom have much higher rates of ownership than Fitzpatrick. That is of course, if it makes you feel better, should you have to start him.

Two matchups against Jacksonville are one reason to like him as the season's final stretch begins, but
strength of schedule isn't enough to make up for an average team and lackluster offense.

Houston is likely to continue to run the ball and focus less on the passing game.

16. Tennessee Titans

Rookie Zach Mettenberger now sits in front of Jake Locker on the team's depth chart, making Locker's fantasy relevance nonexistent for the time being.

As far as Mettenberger's value goes, we've only had a two game sample size in which he's been predictably average. To be honest, the switch from Locker to Mettenberger doesn't make a bit of sense to me.

Besides, if Locker plays, he's actually a decent fantasy option.

And is it really smart to give up on him after one season? I wouldn't think so. Especially not when Mettenberger is your next best option.

If Locker ever comes back, I like his potential. Otherwise, stay away from this team entirely when it comes to fantasy football.

17. Dallas Cowboys

Tony Romo has settled in as the 11th most productive fantasy QB, and not to anyone's surprise as he consistently throws TDs while seldom blowing us away with his production.

I'd like to see the yardage increase, especially with guys like Dez Bryant on the roster.

But most of that extra yardage has been going to Demarco Murray, which means Romo isn't in a place where he must make the passing game work. Even if it means he loses some yardage to Murray, having such a solid running game helps Romo's fantasy value, and quite frankly takes some of the pressure off of him.

He's scored at least one TD in every game he's played in this year. And with matchups coming against the Giants, Redskins, Bears and Eagles, that's not likely to change anytime soon.

If you need a QB he's available in 25 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues.

It's worth a shot.

18. Philadelphia Eagles

One good game from Mark Sanchez already has this kind of talk brewing.

I dunno about all that.

But for the time being, Sanchez is going to be the Eagles' guy, as Foles is out indefinitely with a broken collarbone. And if the Monday night game against the Panthers is any indication, Sanchez should be a decent, if not solid fantasy option.

But we've got to be reasonable about a small sample size.

Sanchez could do well, especially considering he's spent most of his career in a terrible Jets offense. But it's hasty to proclaim him a must-start or even a good fantasy option at this point.

Until we see more good games, Sanchez is a guy you'd do well to wait on.

19. New York Giants

The only game that Manning failed to throw a TD pass in was the awful mess that was week six against the Eagles. And while he's having a far better year than he did in 2013, he's still not a guy you want to start on a regular basis.

If you're playing on strength of schedule, the Giants have a stretch against Jacksonville, Tennessee, Washington and St. Louis coming up before they finish the season hosting Philadelphia.

But, do you want to start him every game?

Outside of the first two game of the season, he's only thrown two picks. That's good, because you can at least assume he's not going to kill your point total with turnovers.

On the other hand, you'd like to see more from your QB1 going into the playoffs.

Essentially, he's in the Flacco conversation.

He's not a bad start and you can keep him in through stretches. Yet he's far from ideal.

20. Washington Redskins

Robert Griffin is back in the fray as the Washington Redskins starter and presumed franchise QB. His dual-threat ability makes him a borderline must-start while his injury risk is what keeps us from doing so with confidence.

In his first game back he performed as one might have expected, throwing for 251 yards, a TD and adding 24 more yards on the ground.

Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have given up multiple TDs to opposing QBs in all but three games this year, Griffin is an excellent start.

After that, it gets a little more complicated.

In weeks 12 and 13 the Redskins play the 49ers and Colts respectively, before a game against St. Louis, followed by three divisional matchups to finish up the year.

It's easier to like Griffin in those division games than during the Niners-Rams stretch.

But then again, if he has a good game against Tampa Bay and really gets his legs going, it'll be hard to steer away from a healthy RGIII.

For the time being, he's a green light.

21. Detroit Lions

Matthew Stafford has been painfully average, breaking the 20-point mark only twice and has yet to throw for more than two TDs in a game this year.

Still, he's far more consistent then what we saw last season, and that's something that everyone really needed from Stafford who could hurt fantasy owners with his interceptions alone.

Matchups against Arizona and New England aren't wonderful.

But afterwards the Lions host Chicago, Tampa Bay and Minnesota.

It's also worth considering that for the past several games, Stafford has been without Calvin Johnson, who is by far his most powerful weapon.

Wait out the two game road trip and give Stafford a shot in week 13, assuming you've still got a healthy Johnson to compliment.

22. Chicago Bears

Most will say that Jay Cutler needs to be better, and I won't argue with that.

But the problems in Chicago are more than their QB, which will make life for whoever that QB is, incredibly difficult.

In two of his last three games he's mustered only eight points or less, and he's got two games against the Vikings and Lions remaining on the schedule, both of whom have been pretty effective at shutting down opposing QBs.

Cutler isn't a bad option, but he's not as good as what we were seeing at the beginning of the season.

The interceptions are also starting to become an issue.

23. Green Bay Packers

There's no debate that needs to be had.

You're starting Aaron Rodgers in all formats and all matchups. Because the man is at a familiar MVP pace, coming off a 36-point six-TD beat down of Chicago.

He's got Atlanta, Buffalo and Tampa Bay yet on the schedule and if you ask me, he's your No. 2 fantasy QB when the season ends.

24. Minnesota Vikings

Teddy Bridgewater has thrown for one TD in three-straight games and has a matchup against the horrendous Bears defense coming in week 11.

That said, he's far from a safe play even with favorable matchups looming.

Simply put, we've got to see more from Bridgewater before trusting him in anything outside of deep two-QB leagues.

I would however give him a small upgrade if Adrian Peterson were to return.

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

In Sunday's game against Atlanta, Josh McCown threw for over 300 yards, adding two TDs and two picks.

You can hang your hat on his 2013 performance and the fact that Tampa Bay will likely be playing behind and have to throw a lot. But with such a small sample-size on his new Brandon Marshall-less team isn't encouraging.

Then again, he's got Mike Evans (who seems to be coming on as of late) and Vincent Jackson still at his disposal.

Personally, I think McCown has some good fantasy value where he's at.

At 7% ownership, he's a good pickup if you need a QB.

26. Atlanta Falcons

Matt Ryan is a likeable fantasy asset because of the dual-threat he's got at WR.

But he's failed to reach the 20-point mark since weak three of this year and has been woefully average on a team that doesn't seem to be going anywhere on either side of the ball.

He's not a QB that's likely to ruin your Sunday, but don't expect big things from him, even with Julio Jones and Roddy White on the field.

27. Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton has admitted that he's playing hurt, which in my opinion is a blaring signal to get him out of your starting lineup.

What might be a problem for many is that they don't have any better options.

If you read the article I linked to, you might also catch that Newton claims to have been less than 100% for a long time.

Again, that's a big red flag. Because going into your fantasy playoffs, you don't want to have your QB leaving in the first or second quarter. With Newton, that's a much bigger risk, especially at this point in the season.

My advice would be to bench Newton and look for a temporary patch until his play improves.

It might be easier if you consider he's only broke 14 points twice this year.


28. New Orleans Saints

When Jimmy Graham is healthy, Drew Brees is a better QB and that's what seems to have happened over the past two weeks. That said, he's only broke the 20-point threshold twice this year and hasn't been anywhere close to his top-three performance from a season ago.

Finishing the year against Chicago, Atlanta and Tampa Bay should help the cause.

Either way, you're not benching Brees the rest of the way.

He might be under-performing this year, but he's the type of play where patience pays off. Stick with him for a few more weeks and you'll be glad you did.

29. San Francisco 49ers

Here's a good thing about Colin Kaepernick; he's thrown for at least one TD in every game he's played this year.

The running hasn't been as good as owners would hope for, but he's been surprisingly consistent, considering his team's situation and his own style of play.

So for now, we're giving him the "steady" card, if not the wow-factor.

Here's another thing to make you feel good: If you discount week two against Chicago, Kaepernick has only thrown two picks. 

30. Arizona Cardinals

Oh Carson, why'd you have to go? You and your fantasy owners would have been so happy together.

Palmer was looking like an absolute steal for fantasy owners after coming back from an early-season injury to pilot the best record in the NFL (who would've thought that?).

But a season-ending knee injury has put Drew Stanton back in the spotlight.

It's hard to make judgements based on such a small sample size, but if you're looking for something to like, Stanton is yet to throw an interception this season.

He's thrown three TDs.

With games coming up against Detroit and Seattle, it might be smart to let the tough defenses test Stanton and see what he's got.

He'll have a slightly better schedule the rest of the way, even though he does have to play Seattle again.

31. St. Louis Rams

Austin Davis has officially been benched.


I liked Davis and thought he had some good potential. He even managed to turn in at least one TD in every game since week three.

But he still hasn't been startable in any format, and Shaun Hill isn't going to be either.

The St. Louis Rams are essentially without fantasy relevance for the rest of the season.

32. Seattle Seahawks

Russell Wilson is actually the fifth best fantasy QB this year, largely due to breaking the 500-yard rushing mark, having rushed for over 100 yards in three separate games.

Two games where he eclipsed 30 points (against St. Louis and Washington) also helped the cause.

So despite a tough schedule the rest of the way (two against Arizona and San Francisco, Wilson is a safe must-start on a team that now needs him to carry the load offensively. You might have to be patient with him (the last three weeks have been pretty mediocre) but I think he's got a couple more 30-point games in him.


Got lineup questions? We talk about it over on Twitter. Hit me up over there and I'll give you my best, quality speculation.

Flickr Commons Image Courtesy of Keith Allison, bmward_2000, Jeffrey Beall, San Diego Shooter, Football Schedule


Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet and Start-Sit for Week 10

In ESPN fantasy leagues, 29.5 percent of users started Andy Dalton this week.

I'm so sorry.

On the bright side, who would've thought the Cleveland Browns would be looking so good at this point in the season? And all without that dumb Johnny kid they drafted.

What's the first rule about Johnny Manziel? Never shut up about Johnny Manziel even though he's done nothing at the professional level.

Anyway, the Browns' success bodes well for Josh Gordon's long-awaited return on November 23rd.

Otherwise it's good to put the Thursday night game behind us.

Looking ahead to the full version of the NFL's week 10 season, we're crafting a cheat sheet and hitting on all the highlights to help you make some informed decisions and hopefully win big as we get closer to fantasy playoff time.

Money is on the line folks (in some cases), so here's your homework for the weekend.

The Free Advice Column (initial notes and thoughts)

So I saw this one pop up on Twitter:

Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet and Start-Sit for Week 11
This is what we call getting "too cute."

Please don't do this.

Ben Roethlisberger had a couple amazing weeks, but you can't just assume that it's going to continue. I get it though, he's playing the New York Jets and he's certainly not a bad start if he's your best or only option.

But if you've got Aaron Rodgers and Roethlisberger on your roster, you've got to go with Rodgers.

What about Michael Vick?

What about him?

He's not a good start this week because it's impossible to tell what he's going to do with the Jets offense.

It's nice that he's got Eric Decker and Percy Harvin, but that's not enough to make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside about Vick's fragile, aging body and his over-hyped athletic ability.

Give him a week to see what he's got for you. Even if he turns out a couple good games, the guy is tough to trust.

Denard Robinson?

Start him.

He's had three straight games of double-digit fantasy points, is averaging 5.8 yards per carry and is the only thing good about the Jacksonville Jaguars offense right now.

Robinson is also playing the Dallas Cowboys, who are good, but allow 4.6 yards per carry to opposing running backs. Which is of course, not good.

So it's finally time to jump on the bandwagon.

Dave Richard would agree.

My Take on Ronnie Hillman

It's fine to start Ronnie Hillman against the Oakland Raiders, but keep in mind that Montee Ball could return to action this week which would cut into the value of both players.

Hillman will still get time, but he only had 16 yards on ten carries last week.

The receiving numbers saved him, but I'd expect a slowdown sooner than later.

Don't be Scared of Reggie Bush

I know, he's been awful; certainly not anywhere close to what he did for fantasy owners last year.

But Reggie Bush will see the field against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, and personally, I think he deserves a chance. He's playing against his former team and it's not like Joique Bell has been wonderful.

It goes against conventional wisdom and better judgement, but I think courageous Bush owners have luck on their side this weekend.

Flex or low-end RB2 if you don't have any better options.

The Start-Sit Column

I've done start-sit columns in the past with a paragraph or so explanation each player mentioned in either category.

This time we're doing a graph and then talking a bit about some of the highlights. Not only is it easier to write, but it also gives me the opportunity to cover a lot more players and omit information that you're probably not nearly as concerned about.

Keep in mind that obvious starts or sits won't be included.

So if you're on the fence about any of these guys, let this table be your guide.

We'll start with QBs first:

 QB Start-Sit

Joe FlaccoTony Romo
Cam NewtonMark Sanchez
Ryan TannehillColin Kaepernick
Ben RoethlisbergerAlex Smith
Eli ManningAustin Davis
Carson PalmerKyle Orton

RB Start-Sit

Reggie BushAndre Williams
Ronnie HillmanLorenzo Taliaferro
Andre EllingtonTre Mason
Frank GoreChris Johnson
Justin ForsettJoique Bell
Lamar MillerJonathan Stewart

WR Start-Site

Kelvin BenjaminJames Jones
Martavis BryantTerrance Williams
Doug BaldwinOdell Beckham Jr.
Mike WallaceMike Evans
Torrey SmithRueben Randle
Anquan BoldinBrandin Cooks

Lorenzo Taliaferro makes the sit list because I think it's smart to steer clear of the Baltimore Ravens running game at this point.

Their passing game I find far more palatable.

So start Joe Flacco, Torrey Smith and of course Steve Smith. Flacco will benefit from the play of both.

Mike Evans, Brandin Cooks and Kyle Orton are all fantasy fool's gold, so my advice would be to keep them on your bench and avoid chasing good weeks. You need to be ahead of the game at this point and confident in who you're starting.

The Best Statistical Matchups

We worry about our stars too.

If you're roster-rich and debating between two big names, or if you're just looking to find some more confidence in your starters, here are some of the week's best statistical matchups.

PlayerOpponent (rank)Position
Ben RoethlisbergerJets (32nd)QB
Cam NetwonEagles (30th)QB
Derek CarrBroncos (27th)QB
Mark SanchezPanthers (26th)QB
Carson PalmerRams (24th)QB
Bobby RaineyFalcons (32nd)RB
Ronnie HillmanRaiders (31st)RB
LeSean McCoyPanthers (30th)RB
Justin ForsettTitans (28th)RB
Marshawn LynchGiants (25th)RB
Julio JonesBucs (32nd)WR
Kendall WrightRavens (30th)WR
Kelvin BenjaminEagles (29th)WR
Kenny BrittCardinals (28th)WR
Anquan BoldinSaints (27th)WR
Larry FitzgeraldRams (26th)WR
Jeremy MaclinPanthers (25th)WR
Vincent JacksonFalcons (24th)WR
Richard RodgersBears (32nd)TE
Heath MillerJets (31st)TE
Clay Harbor Cowboys (30th)TE
Larry DonnellSeahawks (29th)TE
Michael RiveraBroncos (25th)TE

In particular, Michael Rivera could be an interesting play against the Denver Broncos, who for all the money they've spent on defense, have been pretty poor defending against the pass.

That being true both in terms of tight ends and wide receivers.

Additionally, Kelvin Benjamin and Larry Fitzgerald are also solid plays against their respective opponents. Benjamin in particular is a strong start this week as a high end WR2.

I'll also say that I don't mind Derek Carr against the Broncos.

He'll need to do some throwing to keep up with Peyton Manning.

Miscellaneous Notes and Thoughts

We'll finish up with some closing thoughts. So to begin the end, let's talk about Travis Kelce.

What do we do with him?

He's playing the Buffalo Bills, which is statistically a bad matchup, especially since they rarely allow at TD against a TE. Kelce is nothing if not TD dependent.

But that's not to say you shouldn't start him.

He's still got top-ten TE status, and his showing last week was good. I like him as a low-end FLEX or a "I've got no one else" TE option.

Jeremy Maclin and Mark Sanchez?

The two can coexist and we saw glimmers of it in week nine after Nick Foles got hurt.

Here's the thing: Maclin is way too good to hit your bench just because the Eagles lost their mediocre QB. Let him play and feel good about it against an atrociously disappointing Carolina Panthers defense.

In other words, start Maclin and sit Mark Sanchez, but trust Sanchez enough to keep Maclin productive.

Something you might not have noticed...

Dan Bailey is the third best kicker in fantasy football and he's got a matchup coming against Jacksonville who allow the second most points to opposing team's kickers.

If Tony Romo plays, Bailey has considerable value and could potentially be your team's X-factor.

That's just a little something to feel good about.

Enjoy Week 10 Folks

If you're in the playoff hunt (or if you're 9-0) this is a great time of the year to be playing fantasy football.

It's getting fun.

Not that it wasn't fun before, but this is where it counts folks.

Enjoy it and check out our Twitter and Google Plus accounts to keep up with all the talk.

Flickr Commons Image Courtesy of  MGoBlog