“Mad Dog McCleese” Heroes & Zeros (Week 12 Preferred QB/TE Plays)
The 2014 Fantasy Football season will go down as one of the most controversial and challenging seasons ever for owners. First we had the whole Ray Rice saga which started what would become a raging and out of control forest fire. This obviously was just the tip of the iceberg and would put into motion events that would be debated over by millions and millions of people with various different opinions. For the record I invested in zero Ray Rice shares because just had a feeling this was just the beginning of the end for him. If that wasn’t enough for fantasy owners to deal with then came the Josh Gordon fiasco. Flash Gordon owners waited in limbo for what seemed like eternity for a decision to be handed down from the NFL. It was all over Twitter and you couldn’t go anywhere without his name coming up in conversation. All the while there were hordes of “experts” who were steadfast in their belief that Gordon wasn’t worth the risk of drafting with the unknown. Some of us were able to separate the two and realize Rice was in the twilight of his career while Gordon was still young and as talented as any wide receiver in the NFL. Never mind the unbelievable numbers he put up in 2013 some people just wanted to hate on him for making a few bad decisions. The icing on the cake was the Adrian Peterson case which is still fresh as the driven snow in Buffalo. We can only hope and pray that these players will learn from their terrible mistakes and do their part to make it right with their families, fans, communities, and respective teams. While I don’t condone any of their acts I strongly believe everyone deserves a second chance in life and hopefully all of these players will get that opportunity in the future. Having said that I would like to welcome back Josh Gordon to the NFL and pray that he can stay out of trouble. After all the Cleveland Browns need him and more importantly for us fantasy owners, we need him to help us fight our way to the playoffs and multiple championships!
Week 11 Picks Review
Teddy Bridgewater (Top 10 pick) MISS
Prediction: 28-44 336 yards 2 TDs, 5 carries for 32 yards 1 rushing TD
Actual: 18-28 158 yards, 1 TD, 4 carries for 2 yards
Standard scoring: 8 pts
MLFS scoring: 9.1 pts
I’m not sure if it was the cold weather in Chicago or the aura of Soldier Field but regardless Teddy wasn’t up for the challenge in week 11. It didn’t help matters that the running game was non-existent, he missed badly on a few throws, and his receivers had big some drops. I still think he’ll figure it out but without an All-Pro running back like Adrian Peterson to take the pressure off him, it’s going to be a rough ride. The Vikings running backs are only averaging 2.8 yards per carry in their last eight games. The addition of Ben Tate should help Teddy so there is still hope for him. I still prefer Bridgewater long-term over Blake Bortles and Johnny Football but I’m probably in the minority.
Robert Griffin III (Top 10 pick) MISS
Prediction: 30-41 336 yards 3 TDs, 1 INT, 6 rushes for 29 yards
Actual: 23-32 207 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 6 rushes for 41 yards, 1 fumble
Standard scoring: 12 pts
MLFS scoring: 8.45 pts
“Bobby Three Sticks” was a train wreck on Sunday vs the Bucs. I’ll give the Bucs defense some credit considering they showed up and forced three turnovers while sacking RG3 six times. It was a rough day at the office to say the least. Robert threw as many touchdowns to his opponent as he did to his teammates, which isn’t something a quarterback wants to hang his hat on. Granted the two interceptions were fluky and one was off a tipped pass that allowed Johnthan Banks to take it to the house. Speaking of Banks I hope you took fellow MLFS writer Bryan Luhrs advice in last week’s, “Alluhring Strategy” article and picked him up! RG3 needs to look in the mirror before calling out the rest of his teammates. You have to respect Jay Gruden for putting him in his place and stating the obvious that RG3, “had fundamental flaws” and that his performance was not even close to where it needs to be.
Josh McCown (Bye Week Plug-In) HIT
Prediction: 31-44 328 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 3 rushes for 18 yards
Actual: 15-23 288 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 3 rushes for 8 yards, 1 fumble
Standard scoring: 19 pts
MLFS scoring: 25.2 pts
Josh McCown was the HERO for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and his fantasy owners in week 11. He’s quietly put up over 20 pts the past two weeks while finishing in the top ten in scoring since taking over for Mike Glennon. He’s proven to be more than just a 35 year old journeyman. It’s about time he gets some much deserved respect from the fantasy football community. It’s obvious he’s got a great connection with Mike Evans similar to the one he had last year with Alshon Jeffery. It’s amazing what a difference one player can make on a team so desperate for a leader.
Prediction: 26-39 247 yards 1 TD, 2 INTs
Actual: 21-43 330 yards, 3TDs, 2 INTs, 5 rushes for 21 yards
Standard scoring: 23 pts
MLFS scoring: 30.48 pts
Jay Cutler continued to demonstrate his bi-polar quarterbacking tendencies in week 11 bouncing back from a lackluster performance on Sunday Night Football in Green Bay. To put it into perspective it was only his third 300 yard passing game of the season and first since week 6. The real question is whether or not he’s back or is this just a mirage? Which Jay Cutler will show up week 12 is anyone’s best guess. Cutler needs to start earning his paycheck and playing with some consistency or else he will find himself in the hot seat. It was great to see him finally force-feed Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery the ball. He wasn’t afraid to throw the jump ball in the end-zone to Marshall and lucky for him Marshall bailed him out with some unbelievable catches.
Russell Wilson (Stay Away Play) MISS
Prediction: 17-28 169 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs, 8 rushes for 42 yards
Actual: 20-32 178 yards, 2 TD, 0 INTs, 8 rushes for 71 yards
Standard scoring: 22 pts
MLFS scoring: 28 pts
We had a Russell Wilson sighting in Kansas City in week 11. He far exceeded my expectations for him in a tough matchup at Arrowhead Stadium. That being said his fantasy numbers were inflated by his rushing yards and a late touchdown pass to Tony Moeaki. I’d still consider him a game-manager on a run-heavy offense which is why I wouldn’t want to count on him to lead my team to a fantasy championship. I also don’t like his upcoming schedule considering they play Arizona and San Francisco twice in the next five weeks.
Mark Sanchez (Stay Away Play) HIT
Prediction: 22-42 252 yards 1 TD, 2 INTs, 3 rushes for 5 yards, 1 FL
Actual: 26-44 346 yards 2 TDs, 2 INTs, 3 rushes for 0 yards, 3 fumbles, 2 FL
Standard scoring: 13 pts
MLFS scoring: 13.17
I didn’t get many of my quarterback picks right in week 11 but this is one I nailed. If you watched the game you would agree that Sanchez was running for his life the entire game. Dom Capers defense kept the pressure on bringing exotic blitzes and forcing Sanchez into four turnovers. Sanchez had three fumbles, two of which he turned over at pivotal times in the game. That was just the tip of the iceberg at Lambeau Field as he threw two interceptions with Julius Peppers returning one of them for a pick six. It was a game that Sanchez will want to quickly forget and one that proved he still has a lot of growing to do in Chip Kelly’s offense.
Travis Kelce (Top 10 TE play) MISS
Prediction: 8 receptions for 89 yards, 2 TDs
Actual: 3 receptions for 37 yards, 1 FL
Standard scoring: 1 pt
MLFS scoring: 1.7 pts
Travis Kelce was nowhere close to my projections for week 11 but that’s because Alex Smith only attempted 16 passes while passing for a microscopic 108 yards. The Chiefs went with a run-heavy offensive scheme and it hurt Kelce owners. On a positive note he did lead the team in targets and receiving yards. I’m still waiting for him to be fully unleashed but I’m starting to wonder if or when it’s going to happen.
Kyle Rudolph/Chase Ford (Bye week Plug-In) MISS/MISS
Chase Ford *w/o Rudolph*
Prediction: 5 receptions for 58 yards, 1 TD
Actual: 1 reception for 4 yards Standard scoring: 0 pts MLFS scoring: 1.4 pts
Prediction: 6 receptions for 63 yards, 1 TD
Actual: 0 receptions 0 yards Standard scoring: 0 pts MLFS scoring: 0 pts
After watching the game it was clear that Kyle Rudolph wasn’t 100% and was used as a decoy in this game. He only played 14 snaps compared to 22 for Chase Ford. Rudolph wasn’t even targeted once in the game and played primarily on passing downs. Instead of Rudolph or Ford getting a touchdown Teddy found 3rd string tight end Rhett Ellison in the end zone on a well-executed play-action bootleg play. I’m guessing they’ll play it safe with Rudolph in the meantime since they don’t want to push him too hard until he’s back to full strength.
Jordan Reed (Stay Away Play) HIT
Prediction: 3 receptions 33 yards
Actual: 2 receptions 22 yards
Standard scoring: 2 pts
MLFS scoring: 6.2 pts
Well it didn’t take long for Reed to land on the injury report. Reed strained his right hamstring in Sunday’s loss to the Bucs. He was once again a non-factor in the passing game with only three targets from RG3. At this point I’d cut bait and would prefer to own Coby Fleener or Niles Paul. Actually Niles Paul has been the most consistent tight end on the Redskins and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Reed misses some time.
Jared Cook (Stay Away Play) HIT
Prediction: 2 receptions for 21 yards
Actual: 3 receptions for 19 yards
Standard scoring: 1 pt
MLFS scoring: 4.9 pts
I cautioned Jared Cook owners last week not to trust him as a starter and hopefully they listened. He’s an afterthought in the St. Louis Rams offense and will never put up consistent numbers. There has to be better options on the wire than Cook. He’s the definition of boom or bust at the tight end position and more often than not he’ll bust.
Week 12 Primer
Alright all you fantasy players out there. Week 12 is officially the last bye week. This should make everyone get up and do a club dance like Gronk does on the sideline after scoring! You should have plenty of good options at quarterback and tight end since the Panthers and Steelers are the only teams on bye. It’s nice to have plenty of depth on your bench in case of injuries but trading depth to upgrade a starting position or fill a hole in your roster should be your main focus. November is the time of the fantasy season when contenders are separated from pretenders. With most teams at full strength for the rest of the season it makes every week’s matchup even more important. It’s time to bench struggling starters with the name brand on the back of their jerseys for players who don’t have the accolades but are producing. Here are some players I would put in that category and it’s time for them to shine.
Start of the Week- Top 10 QB
Josh McCown @ Chicago Bears (HERO)
I have zero reservations this week advocating Josh McCown as my Start of the Week. He’s been impressive since returning week 10 as the starter for Tampa Bay. McCown has quietly finished in the top five in fantasy quarterbacks rankings the past two weeks. During that span he’s passed for 589 yards and four touchdowns. I’ll admit he’s had a couple great matchups to exploit but his week 12 matchup in Chicago may be his best so far this year. It’s no secret that the Bears secondary has more holes than swiss cheese having allowed 24 passing touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks. They’ve given up at least 19 fantasy points (standard scoring) to quarterbacks in seven out of their ten games. As much as I hate to admit it, the Bears don’t have anyone capable of containing the 6-foot-5 frames of Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. They’ll combine to be a matchup nightmare and the keys to McCown’s triumphant return to the Soldier Field. Make no mistake Josh McCown will have extra motivation to play his best vs his former teammates in a revenge game. I would rather start McCown over Russell Wilson, Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan, and Phillip Rivers this week. Call me crazy but I’ll stick with the hot hand and you should too.
28-43 318 yards 3 TDs, 0 INTs
Strong Play- Top 10 QB
Brian Hoyer @ Atlanta Falcons (HERO)
All season long Brian Hoyer has been without the best wide receiver on the Browns and 2013’s top fantasy wide receiver, Flash Gordon. Despite this fact Hoyer has managed to throw for 275 yards or more in half of his starts. He’s accomplished this with relatively unknown group of wide receivers in Andrew Hawkins, Taylor Gabriel, Travis Benjamin, and washed up vet Miles Austin. Getting Josh Gordon back is going to give the Browns the big-play downfield threat they’ve been missing all season. In addition to Gordon returning from his suspension they’ll be playing in the Georgia dome vs a Falcons team that has allowed the most passing yards in the NFL. Hoyer should find plenty of holes in a Falcons secondary that has allowed a league-worst 281.2 passing yards a game. The Falcons will also be without their top cornerback Robert Alford who has been a ball-hawk the past four games with three interceptions. This game could quickly turn into a shootout further increasing the likelihood that Hoyer will put up some very nice fantasy numbers on the road in hot Atlanta.
26-44 328 yards 3 TDs, 1 INT
Bye week replacement Plug-in
Ryan Mallett vs Cincinnati Bengals (HERO)
Ryan Mallett’s first start as a pro couldn’t have gone much better than it did. Not only did he manage to lead the Houston Texans to a win on the road, he demonstrated his understanding of Bill O’Brien’s offense in the process. This was apparent in his communication, pre-snap reads, decision-making, and command of the huddle. All of these intangibles took time to develop but time is something Mallett has had plenty of since being drafted in the third round, 74th overall by the New England Patriots in 2011. He’s been a developmental project ever since but has been fortunate to study and learn Bill O’Brien’s offense the past 3 ½ years. He sat behind Brady for three years holding a clipboard until getting traded to the Texans during preseason. Mallett seemed right at home in O’Brien’s fast-paced offense and had a lightning fast delivery on all of his throws. I came across an interesting tweet that I would like to share with you guys from Pro Football Focus.
That’s pretty impressive if you take into consideration how many quarterbacks played in week 11. It really speaks volumes to the decisiveness and confidence in his reads. He displayed poise in the pocket and was very accurate going 20 for 30 for 211 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. Above all it wasn’t an easy task playing on the road in his first start, in the Dawgpound of all places. This week Mallett will make his first start at home in Houston vs the Cincinnati Bengals. He’ll most likely get Arian Foster back so he should help take some of the pressure off Mallett’s shoulders. I know it’s only one game but I like what I’ve seen in Mallett enough to pick him up and start him. He also increases the value of DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Johnson going forward since he’s got a big arm and can make the deep throws that Ryan Fitzpatrick can’t.
24-33 248 yards 2 TDs
Stay Away Plays
Matthew Stafford @ New England Patriots (ZERO)
I’m not going to sugar-coat it, last week was a very disappointing start for Matthew Stafford. After getting back Calvin Johnson he proceeded to register his lowest passing total of the season to go along with zero touchdown passes. The game was on the road in Arizona where they have been a pretty stout defense against the run but terrible against the pass this year. Arizona has allowed the sixth most passing yards in the league but yet they were able to contain Stafford and all his vertical weapons. Conventional wisdom would lead you to believe that Stafford will bounce back this week in New England but not so fast. If you dig a little deeper you will find that Stafford has struggled on the road against good defenses. The New England Patriots defensive backs match up well against the Lions receivers. Bill Belichick and his coaching staff did an excellent job containing the Colts receivers so they may use a similar game-plan against the Lions. I just don’t trust Stafford this week and if the weather is anything like the forecast is calling for in Buffalo I’d steer clear of any Lions with the exception of Megatron. I know he cost a lot of his fantasy owners a win last week and if I had better options I would use them this week.
26-40 268 yards 1 TD, 2 INTs
Philip Rivers vs St. Louis Rams (ZERO)
I think the luster is starting to wear off Philip Rivers as the season winds down. Rivers hasn’t looked like himself since week 8 against the Denver Broncos. It was recently reported that Rivers has been dealing with a rib issue for a few weeks which would explain his decline in production. Over his last two games Rivers has only thrown for 331 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions. Rivers has proved to be one of the NFL’s toughest players and has played through a lot worse like a torn ACL but something is clearly wrong with him. Next up on the docket is a date with a surging Rams team with one of the best defenses in the league. Over the past three weeks the Rams have managed to shut down Colin Kaepernick, knock out Carson Palmer for the season, and most impressive, shut down Peyton Manning. My main concern is a fired up Robert Quinn or Aaron Donald knocking Rivers around and possibly doing more damage to his ribs. If there’s one team or defensive that scares me with the amount of pressure and exotic blitzes they dial-up, it’s the Rams. This could be a long game for Rivers and company which is why I’d consider other safer options this week. The risk far outweighs the reward in this case so I’d look for healthier options under center.
21-36 262 yards 1 TD, 2 INTs
Andy Dalton @ Houston Texans (ZERO)
Andy Dalton is coming off arguably his best game of the season against the New Orleans Saints. Before week 11 Dalton had only registered three multiple-td passing games. In addition he’s only registered two 300 yard passing games to his name this season. Red Rifle has been misfiring a lot lately with six interceptions in his past four games. He’s averaged a paltry 211 passing yards per game this season which doesn’t inspire much confidence. Dalton has also struggled to put together back-to-back decent starts so consistency has been a major problem for him. The Bengals travel to Houston this week to take on the Texans and my gut says they’ll lean heavily on Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard and the running game. I wouldn’t even recommend starting Dalton in 2QB leagues at this point. If they get up early against the Texans I envision them pounding the rock with their 1-2 punch and controlling the clock.
15-28 218 yards 1 TD, 2 INTs
Strong Play- Top 5 TE
Coby Fleener vs Jacksonville Jaguars (HERO)
If you missed the Colts game against the Patriots on Sunday Night Football then you missed the coming out party for Coby Fleener. He was already gaining steam before their bye in week 10 registering eleven targets while hauling in four passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. He was clearly one of Andrew Luck’s favorite targets Sunday night and tied with T.Y. Hilton for second on the team with seven targets. More importantly he led the Colts in receptions with seven and receiving yards with 144. Everyone assumes that Dwayne Allen is the tight end to own in Indy but I disagree and here’s why. Fleener is the one who has the history with Luck since they both played together in college at Stanford. Not to mention Dwayne Allen is as injury prone as they come and currently dealing with an ankle sprain. It’s not the dreaded high-ankle variety but he hasn’t practiced all week and will most likely sit this week. In addition Allen hasn’t topped 64 yards receiving since week 1 and is very touchdown dependent. If you’re playing in a PPR league Fleener is going to score more points and be the more consistent play over Allen. The nail in the coffin for me is his matchup this week against the Jags. Rewind back to week 3 when they played the Jags and you’ll find that both Allen and Fleener scored while combining for a total of 102 yards receiving. Fleener needs to be owned and started in all leagues this week since he’ll be a target monster. If you own Allen or Delanie Walker I would highly recommend that you run to the wire and pickup Fleener and plug him into your lineup.
6 receptions for 98 yards 1 TD
Bye week replacement Plug-in
Austin Seferian-Jenkins @ Chicago Bears (HERO)
I know I’m picking on my Chicago Bears again with this pick but if the shoe fits, wear it. As I touched on last week with the Kyle Rudolph/Chase Ford recommendations the Bears are really struggling this year to contain tight ends. They rank dead last in the league against opposing tight ends. In their past four games they’ve allowed a whopping eight touchdowns to opposing tight ends. It makes sense that opposing teams are attacking the Bears at one of their major weaknesses and will continue to do so in week 12. Austin Seferian-Jenkins isn’t a player you can depend on a week-to-week basis but he’s scored in two of his past four games. It’s worth mentioning that Seferian-Jenkins isn’t a great option in PPR leagues because like most tight ends he’s very touchdown dependent and doesn’t get consistent targets. However the Bears will focus on containing the Buccaneers two big wide receivers in emerging rookie Mike Evans and veteran Vincent Jackson. In turn they’ll force Josh McCown to beat them with someone else and that someone will be Austin Seferian-Jenkins this week. I’d rather start Seferian-Jenkins over Kyle Rudolph, Jace Amaro, and Jared Cook.
4 receptions for 48 yards, 1 TD
Stay Away TE Plays
Martellus Bennett vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers (ZERO)
“The Black Unicorn” started the season on fire and was looking like a slam dunk top five tight end. Martellus blew up in week four against the Packers with 9 receptions, 134 receiving yards, and two touchdowns. Since then he’s battled a rib injury and has only produced one game with over 58 yards receiving in his last six games. Bennett was averaging over eight targets a game through week 8. In the past two weeks he’s only been targeted ten times and has been held under 50 yards receiving in those games. It’s possible that this dip means nothing but it’s also possible that Cutler is finally starting to focus on getting the ball primarily to Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall. Believe it or not the Buccaneers have actually done a decent job defending tight ends lately. Since Week 6 they’ve allowed the second-fewest fantasy points per game to the position and haven’t allowed a touchdown to a tight end since Week 4. It’s time to bench Bennett until he proves he’s a legit starting option again.
5 receptions for 55 yards 0 TD
Delanie Walker @ Philadelphia Eagles (ZERO)
It pains me to put Delanie Walker on my ZERO list since I own him in a few leagues and could use him but here’s my reasoning. First, I’m scared to start any player coming back from a concussion on a short week with only a couple of light practices under his belt. He hasn’t topped 57 yards receiving since Week 4 even though he leads the Titans with four touchdown catches. If he does get medically cleared his matchup against the Eagles isn’t an inviting one. They’ve allowed the third-fewest points per game to opposing tight ends and have only allowed one touchdown all season to the position. Greg Olsen is the only tight end they’ve faced that’s hit the century mark in receiving yards. Greg Olsen is a top five tight end and on a different level so we really can’t compare the two. I wouldn’t cut Walker unless you need the roster spot but I would bench him until he proves he’s 100% healthy and the same player he was earlier this year.
3 receptions for 38 yards 0 TD
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This week’s guests include Bryan Robinson and Jeff Nelson. Bryan is a writer for MLFS and his articles publish every Thursday. Bryan discusses the WR/RB position and advises you on your Flex position plays.
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