Just have to say, before we get into anything fantasy related, how cool was it to have football literally from sun up to sun down last Sunday? I never thought the NFL could outdo the smorgasbord that college football gives us every Saturday, but that DET/ATL morning kick was just plain fun. After taking a straw poll of friends and co-workers, safe to say I’m in the majority that supports making The Breakfast Bowl (still working on names here) a yearly staple. Even better, if the recent report that the NFL is now taking five games to London is true, gimme three of these Sunday morning matchups a year and I’ll toss a little extra in the collection plate to cover me sneaking NFL Mobile under the pew.
We are back to the traditional football schedule this week, and the Hot List is back for the second half of it’s trade primer. Last week we covered the best WRs to buy and sell (hopefully you paid good attention to that Julio Jones call). It’s the running backs who take center stage this time around as we find you three running backs to target in a stretch run deal, and three you should be looking to dump while the dumping is good. Let’s start with the glass half-empty guys, those you need to sell sooner rather than later, a trio affectionately known as my:
Three to Ground:
Ben Tate, CLE – Do not adjust your screens. This is no Halloween trick. For months, Round Robinson Inc. has been the front company for the Ben Tate Fan Club, championing him through injuries and upstarts, deeming him a top-10 back when healthy. But fantasy is a cruel mistress and I’ve gone from being a Tater Tot to a complete Tater Not, and it all comes down to one injury. This time though, the injury had nothing to do with Tate himself. When the Browns lost Alex Mack to a season-ending leg injury, they lost not only a two-time Pro Bowler, but the anchor and signal-caller of their O-line. The results haven’t been pretty since as Tate has failed to reach 40 yards in each of his last two contests while averaging just 2.0 YPC in that time frame. Those were a couple cupcake matchups as well (@JAX, vs.OAK) and Tate gets one more gift from the scheduling gods facing Tampa this week. If you want to hold him for one more game, I can understand the appeal, but know the risk ahead of time. If he puts up another clunker, Tate’s recent failures will no longer be a Secret World (that one’s for my fellow 90s kids).
Marshawn Lynch, SEA – I’m usually not one to kick a player (to the curb) when he’s down, but this one just can’t be helped. Beast Mode has been anything but the last three weeks, failing to eclipse 65 yards or record a touchdown. Frequent readers, however, know that the last thing I would do is sell a player at the bottom of his value. Two things that save Lynch’s stock here are his brand name and his enticing upcoming matchup with Oakland. I expect Seattle to get back to pounding the rock with Lynch and he’ll come out of Sunday’s game tasting all kinds of rainbows. And that’s when you deal. As soon as the clock hits triple zeroes and not a second later because you want no part of Lynch in the fantasy playoffs. Check the schedule, holmes, it’s absolutely brutal. Starting in Week 12, that five-game stretch goes: vs.ARI, @SF, @PHI, vs.SF, @ARI. San Fran and Arizona are both getting key contributors back on defense, making those games even more beastly for Lynch. Hope for a strong showing against the Raiders, then sell, sell, sell.
Branden Oliver, SD – What a great story Oliver has been this year for the Chargers. Down to their fourth option in the backfield, this kid emerges out of nowhere and becomes a fantasy godsend to those in need of a running back. Oliver saved many an owner’s bacon in Week 5 and Week 6 (myself included) with back-to-back studly performances and became a fantasy darling in the process. Unfortunately, the clock has struck midnight for this fantasy Cinderella and it’s time to move him before you’re stuck with a pumpkin post-Halloween. The big cloud hanging over Oliver’s head is the impending return of Ryan Mathews and just how much of the time share he’ll lose to the incumbent. I still think Oliver gets the majority of the running back touches, but nothing like what we’ve seen the last month. But let’s play devil’s advocate for a minute and assume Mathews gets hurt again or loses the job entirely to Oliver (both entirely possible). We play the schedule game with Oliver and, much like Lynch, it comes up snake eyes. Between Weeks 13-16, the Chargers have dates with the Ravens, Broncos and 49ers, all of which are top-8 defenses against fantasy RBs. Too much working against Oliver for my liking here, so if you can flip him as a top-15 running back right now, it’s time to end the fairy tale. There are three rushers I do see finishing up with more of a happy ending, and those are my:
Three to Crown:
Fred Jackson, BUF – I love how crazy everyone’s been going trying to figure out the Buffalo backfield situation between Boobie Dixon and Bryce Brown. For all the fanfare it’s caused, it’s like everyone forgot that Jackson will be back in less than a month and reaffirm his place atop the depth chart. The Spiller injury doesn’t make me think Jackson will be in line for any more touches than he was already receiving, but it’s not like he needs the extra volume anyway. He’s been involved more in the passing game than any of us would have thought before the season, making him an even better stowaway in PPR formats. And from Week 13 on, only the Bills’ trip to Denver in Week 14 scares you from a scheduling perspective. If you can afford to carry Jackson’s dead weight for the next few weeks, the investment should pay off come fantasy playoff time.
Giovani Bernard, CIN – As you can tell from his placement on this list, Bernard’s current hip ailment does not concern me in the least long term. In fact, his injury status might help you acquire him for just a little bit less than you might have originally paid. The Bengals have shown a willingness to give Gio both the volume and goal-line touches we were afraid he might lose to Jeremy Hill and that’s not going to stop now. Getting A.J. Green back will only serve to help Cincinnati’s offense as a whole and give Bernard that much more room to operate. Much like Jackson, the only matchup of the Bengals’ last five that gives you any pause is a date with Denver in Week 16 as the rest are fully exploitable. Odds are, the Bernard owner in your league is a little jittery at the moment, so make sure to shoot him a reasonable offer.
Alfred Morris, WAS – If there’s one guy who is absolutely ecstatic that Robert Griffin III is back in the lineup this week, it’s… okay, so it’s Daniel Snyder. He’s doing back flips over stacks of hate mail in his office as we speak. But the other man who should be stoked to see RGIII is Alfred Morris. The threat of Griffin running is just one more thing defenses now have to worry about when they see Washington on the schedule, a threat that has been lacking the last six weeks. Over that period, Morris is averaging just 56 yards per game and has only two touchdowns. The return of the former Heisman Trophy winner should allow Morris to ramp up his own production and get back to the high-end RB2 level he was drafted at, rather than the low-end RB2 valuation some pundits have labeled him with. Act quickly on this one, folks, because a friendly matchup with Minnesota this Sunday could end any hopes of getting Morris at a discount.
Speaking of discounts, there were some big time performances from Week 8’s Hot List that you should definitely not discount, especially on the WR front. If you’re looking for some waiver wire adds that you might’ve missed out on, some of my calls from last week will surely fit the bill.
Week 8 Hits:
Keenan Allen – Standard scoring: 13.3 pts; MLFS scoring: 21.9 pts
Mark Ingram – Standard scoring: 23.5 pts; MLFS scoring: 35.45 pts
Travaris Cadet – Standard scoring: 4.7 pts; MLFS scoring: 8.7 pts
Mike Evans – Standard scoring: 7.8 pts; MLFS scoring: 12.8 pts
Davante Adams – Standard scoring: 7.5 pts; MLFS scoring: 15.5 pts
John Brown – Standard scoring: 17.9 pts; MLFS scoring: 25.9 pts
Week 8 Misses:
Joique Bell – Standard scoring: 6.1 pts; MLFS scoring: 10.1 pts
Tre Mason – Standard scoring: 3.3 pts; MLFS scoring: 4.3 pts
Trent Richardson – Standard scoring: 0.0 pts; MLFS scoring: 0.0 pts
Paul Richardson – Standard scoring: 2.0 pts; MLFS scoring: 8.8 pts
I don’t think any single call this season has given me as much satisfaction as did Keenan Allen when he scored his first touchdown of the year last Thursday against Denver. Funny how so many came out of the woodwork the next day saying they never jumped off the bandwagon, but no one can say they were as invested as I was in his success. I was still regarding him as a WR2 before last week’s resurgence and am imploring everyone else to do the same, especially in PPR formats. Allen now has 47 targets over his last five games, and I dare anyone to ignore a wideout averaging nearly 10 balls thrown their way per contest. I’ll say this as clearly as I can for the masses: THIS IS NOT A FLUKE. Allen will continue to be a top-20 WR going forward with room for growth and should be in your lineup week in and week out.
Similarly, Mark Ingram absolutely dazzled on Sunday night. I know Green Bay is terrible at stopping the run, but Ingram downright embarrassed a few would-be tacklers in a way I can’t ever remember him doing. The concern, as always when dealing with Saints’ running backs, is that their isn’t enough work to go around for all their runners. Right now, that isn’t an issue with Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson out of the fold, but I think Ingram has done enough to secure himself at least 12-15 touches a game regardless. When he’s been on the field in 2014, Ingram has been one of the best backs in fantasy and should continue to be a solid play no matter how many other mouths there are to feed in New Orleans.
On the other side of the coin, I do have to admit I was sucked in by the talent I saw from Tre Mason in Week 7 and figured that Jeff Fisher and the Rams would be as well. Alas, carries were split between Mason, Benny Cunningham and Zac Stacy, with no back getting into double digits and no back having a useful fantasy day. I’d still hold onto Mason at this point in the hopes that he does get a firm grip on this job outright, but you can’t put him anywhere near your starting lineup at this point. Actually, you can’t put any Ram near your starting lineup right now. Some of you were still trotting out Brian Quick, a move I disagreed with, and a moot point now since he’s done for the season. If you feel the need to speculate on a St. Louis pass catcher, knock yourself out, but I want no part of this team right now. They are officially designated a fantasy wasteland until further notice.
With that we roll into Week 9 and a return of bye week hell. Six teams are again off this week (Falcons, Lions, Bears, Bills, Titans, Packers) meaning you’ll have to mine the depths of your roster and the waiver wire for effective options. The Hot List is here to help, giving you 10 names that will shine in Week 9:
Alfred Morris, RB (WAS) – If I’m going to put my money where my mouth is when it comes to Alfred Morris’ value, might as well do it the first game Robert Griffin is back on the field. Griffin has been named the starter for Sunday’s game against the Vikings and I couldn’t ask for better timing if I’m a Morris owner. Minnesota is the 10th-easiest matchup for fantasy RBs in 2014, and that’s after above-average performances against Buffalo and Tampa Bay the last two weeks. Now, Mike Zimmer gets the unfortunate task of trying to scheme against a QB who could take off at any moment. I say “could” because I really don’t expect to see a ton of RGIII running the ball after missing six weeks, but the threat will be enough to give Morris some additional running lanes. You have to go back to Week 1 to find a game where Morris topped the 5.0 YPC plateau, but I think he gets back there this week and pillages the Vikings all afternoon long.
Expectation: Top-12 RB
Frank Gore, RB (SF) – If you’re having a hard time trusting Gore after his last two games were complete duds, I get it. One of those games just happened to be against the same opponent he faces this Sunday, the Rams (16 carries for 38 yards in Week 6). I’m imploring you not to lose faith in Gore, at least in this matchup. How’s this for a next-level statistic: Since 2010, Gore has averaged exactly 100 rushing yards per game the week following the 49ers bye week. Two of those four games have come against these same St. Louis Rams, who are allowing 4.7 YPC in 2014. Between that defense being banged up and Carlos Hyde being a little more ineffective than many predicted, I see Gore bouncing back in a big way here.
Expectation: Top-16 RB
Michael Floyd, WR (ARI) – If there’s one name I’ve seen owners on the fence about this week, it’s Floyd. I’ve been among the biggest defenders of his this season, but last week was a complete whiff in what should have been a ridiculously good matchup against Philadelphia. A knee injury caused him to miss some time in that game, but he returned to that game and had multiple deep opportunities that he and Carson Palmer couldn’t link up on. I continue to beat the drum for Floyd as the #1 receiving option in Arizona and am doubling down on him this week against Dallas. The Cowboys were diced up pretty well by Colt McCoy and the league saw just what you can do against this defense when time of possession is closer to equal. Dallas could again struggle on offense with Todd Bowles firing up all sorts of blitzes in Tony Romo’s direction, meaning ample opportunities for the Arizona offense to put up yards and points. Expect Floyd to be a primary beneficiary and get a few long-distance hook ups in AT&T Stadium on Sunday.
Expectation: Top-20 WR
Shane Vereen, RB (NE) – Jonas Gray is the flavor of the week in the Patriots’ backfield after he peeled off 86 yards against Chicago. Now, as always happens with runners under Bill Belichich, owners have to decide which back will have the bigger day against Denver. There’s two ways this game goes down for New England. Either they will feature a steady diet of Gray in an attempt to control the clock and keep Peyton Manning on the sidelines, or they’ll be forced into letting Tom Brady drop back 50 times and air it out trying to keep up with the high-powered Broncos offense. I lean towards the latter, especially with Denver being number one in the NFL against the run. He won’t do a ton on the ground, but expect an active night in the passing game for Vereen after he hauled in 13 passes last year in two meetings with the Broncos.
Expectation: Top-20 RB
Andrew Hawkins, WR (CLE) – PPR players already know the value a player like Hawkins has in their game, but standard leaguers need to take notice of what the diminutive Cleveland receiver has done lately as well. Over the last two games, Hawkins has averaged six catches and 100 yards a contest and registered his first touchdown of the season. While the TDs are few and far between, the volume certainly isn’t and Hawkins should be in for another busy day against the Bucs, who are the most fantasy friendly defense against wide receivers. I’m a sucker for those targets and Hawkins has 62 on the season, nearly double what any other Cleveland pass catcher has amassed. He and Brian Hoyer have a real connection here and that should continue until you-know-who gets back in the fold.
Expectation: Top-24 WR
Julian Edelman, WR (NE) – Everybody’s falling all over themselves when it comes to this new found love for Brandon LaFell. Have to admit, I was lured in by the potential a few weeks ago myself and it’s paid off more times than it hasn’t. As LaFell’s stock has risen, that of Julian Edelman’s has taken a turn for the worse, but perhaps we shouldn’t be in such a rush to anoint LaFell as Brady’s new favorite WR. After all, in eight games, Edelman has seen more targets than LaFell in six of them. Yes, the single touchdown is bothersome, but much like I predicted Keenan Allen to score last week, I see Edelman returning to the promised land against Denver. All he did in his two games against the Broncos in 2013 was nab 19 balls for 199 yards and three TDs. Brady looks his way often in this one and Edelman rebounds from last week’s one-catch clunker.
Expectation: Top-24 WR
Jeremy Hill, RB (CIN) – Predicting a viable fantasy day for Hill is dicey because it usually means predicting a good game for both Giovani Bernard and the Bengals as a team. If those two don’t happen, it’s a struggle for the rookie to get adequate touches. However, with Bernard being hampered by that hip injury, Hill got 14 touches last week against the Ravens. Granted, he only parlayed those touches into 53 yards, but Bernard is still a little gimpy and Jacksonville is no Baltimore. I expect to see a steady diet of Hill early and often as they pepper him in a bit more to keep Gio’s workload manageable. Although the Jaguars have been better as of late on defense, I still think Cincinnati has a steady lead in the fourth quarter and features Hill as the hammer closing it out, leading to 12+ touches and another shot at an epic Ickey Shuffle.
Expectation: Top-24 RB
Bobby Rainey, RB (TB) – I feel obligated to list a Tampa Bay rusher in this space considering they have one of the sexiest RB matchups of the week and due to the immense amount of talk that surrounds this situation, so let’s break it down. Doug Martin is dealing with the ramifications of both a left ankle injury and his own general ineffectiveness. I think he gets shuffled to the back of the line even if he does play in this one. Everybody’s hopped aboard the Charles Sims bandwagon during this past week, a bandwagon I can say I’ve been comfortably seated on since the middle of August. First game back though, I want to see how the Buccaneers unleash him before I do the same. That leaves Rainey, who’s run well when he’s gotten his opportunities but struggled with ball security. We all remember that Thursday night debacle in Atlanta. I do think, given a steady workload, he can put up adequate numbers against Cleveland, and he’s the runner I want for this week. If you’re playing out the string with Tampa’s backfield (first of all, good luck), Sims should be the preferred target for the rest of the season.
Expectation: Top-30 RB; Highest-scoring RB for Tampa Bay
Dwayne Bowe, WR (KC) – Sometimes you have to take a paint-by-numbers approach to the analysis and expect the results to be there when the smoke clears. We all know there are certain secondaries I love to pick on when identifying optimistic flex plays, and the Jets abominable back end is high on that list, so we look to Kansas City for an under-the-radar option. If any WR is treated with the same kind of disgust I mentioned last week with Trent Richardson, it has to be Dwayne Bowe. Many of us have been burned too many times to allow him back in our good graces, but this is one time to set aside that disdain and plug him in. In his last four games, Bowe has eclipsed the 60-yard mark and had at least five receptions three times. Now, his touchdown total for the season makes Hawkins and Edelman look like Cris Carter, but if there was ever a chance to bank on Bowe getting his first spike of 2014, this is the week to do it. Swallow that lump in your throat and lock him in if you’re desperate for a WR3.
Expectation: Top-36 WR
Kenny Stills, WR (NO) – If you’re in need of a real longshot this week, try firing up Stills as a hail mary play. All of the buzz in the New Orleans passing game currently surrounds Brandin Cooks, but let’s not overlook what Stills has done recently. He’s averaged 4.5 catches and 80 yards the last two weeks and the Saints get another friendly fantasy defense in Carolina this week. Much of Stills’ production has come while Jimmy Graham has been out or limited and I think on a short week, Graham will again be on a pitch count, giving Stills a few more opportunities for a big play. The great thing about Stills is all you need him to do is be on the receiving end of one Drew Brees bomb to make this play pay off. I think he gets that big play tonight and the momentum continues for the Oklahoma product.
Expectation: Top-48 WR
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Major League Fantasy Sports Radio: Join Ej Garr and Corey D Roberts on Sunday November 2nd at 11am EST for this weeks episode of Major League Fantasy Football Radio sponsored by The Sports Palooza Radio Network. We will be taking live callers at 646.915.8596. We will be taking live questions that pertain to anything Fantasy Football related. Our two guests this week are Andy Macuga and Bryan Luhrs. Andy Macuga is the head football coach for Borrego Springs H.S. in Southern California and an owner in our baseball & football leagues. Bryan Luhrs is the owner of Real Deal Dynasty Sports which is the dynasty arm of MLFS. He is also an owner in MLFB & MLFF leagues. Come join the conversation and don’t be afraid to ask a question.
Don’t forget to join Bryan Robinson on reddit.com (/r/fantasyfootball)this Saturday for a live Q&A session in which he will answer all your burning line up decisions. Then call in on Sunday for last minute advice on air. You will be part of the conversation so don’t think we will rush you off the phone!