“Mad Dog McCleese” Heroes & Zeros (Week 14 Preferred QB/TE Plays)
As the Fantasy Football season winds down I really hope everyone still has something to play for in Week 14, even if it’s for pride. After all we as fantasy owners invest so much time and effort into grooming our teams into perennial powerhouses that we don’t even notice how quickly the season flies by. One moment we’re drafting our team and the next we’re preparing for the playoffs. The time between is filled with high highs and low lows and everything between. The amazing thing about fantasy football is that there’s always hope. You could start off the season 1-5 like my friend Dennis Dunbar and I did in an expert 14 team Dynasty league. When you’re at the bottom you only have two options. You can cash in on the season and give up which would be the easy way out….Or you can fight like hell every week and use the waiver wire to pluck off the hidden gems while mastering the art of preemptive pickups. We choose the latter and I’m proud to say that we managed to win six out of our last seven matchups to finish 7-6 and clinch the playoffs. I’ve been playing fantasy football for a while but this comeback was one for the ages. When you play in as many leagues as I do it’s nice to have a partner in crime and one that can share in your success as a team. It’s like finally reaching the top of Mount Everest and standing on the highest point in the world. If you’ve accomplished making the playoffs then keep pushing for the peak and when you finally get there stand back and admire the view because you earned it.
Week 13 Picks Review
Ryan Tannehill (Top 10 QB) MISS
Prediction: 24-35 268 yards 3 TDs, 1 INT, 5 rushes for 45 yards
Actual: 25-35 235 yards 0 TDs, 1 INT, 4 rushes for 13 yards
Standard scoring: 8 pts
MLFS scoring: 8.05 pts
I’m beginning to wonder if being the poster boy for “Heroes & Zeros” is similar to the Madden curse….well not really but lately it sure seems that way. Ryan Tannehill owners had every reason to believe that he would thrive under the circumstances of playing a reeling Jets team. Instead the Jets dominated the line of scrimmage and grinded out the game on the ground while dominating the time of possession. The Jets ran the ball a whopping 49 times while only attempting 13 passes. The only thing that was predictable in this game was that Geno Smith would turn the ball over and that the Jets would find a way to lose. The Dolphins offense never got kick started and was stuck in neutral until a late rushing score in the fourth quarter by Lamar Miller. Tannehill didn’t get much help when Mike Wallace couldn’t haul in a sure-fire touchdown pass although he misfired on another potential touchdown pass. All things considered Tanny laid a big egg and was a ZERO in Week 13.
Ben Roethlisberger (Top 10 QB) HIT
Prediction: 25-35 326 yards, 3 TDs
Actual: 32-58 435 yards 2 TDs, 2 INTs
Standard scoring: 25 pts
MLFS scoring: 45.55 pts
This was another game that was ugly and hard to watch especially for Pittsburgh Steelers fans. If you caught any of the game or highlights it was clear that Big Ben wasn’t his normal self. To the naked eye and based on his numbers alone it may appear differently. Ben Roethlisberger was dealing with a hand injury after banging his throwing hand on Curtis Lofton’s helmet. He was definitely favoring it afterwards and that gave the Steelers even more reason to lean heavily on Le’Veon Bell for a monster workload with 29 touches and 264 all-purpose yards. Truth be told Big Ben picked up chunk yardage in garbage time connecting with Antonio Brown twice in the final 2.5 minutes of the game. The two interceptions were also very uncharacteristic of Big Ben at home after only throwing one all year at Heinz Field. At the end of the day he still managed to finish as the third highest scoring quarterback in MLFS leagues.
Zach Mettenberger (Top 12 QB) MISS
Prediction: 28-43 318 yards, 2 TDs 1 INT
Actual: 13-19 184 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Standard scoring: 9 pts
MLFS scoring: 11 pts
The young rookie played just as you would have expected; like a rookie. He threw an interception to Jonathan Joseph on his first pass attempt of the game. I’ll be honest I was a little concerned when I found out that Mettenberger was going to be missing his starting center and left tackle. He paid the ultimate price for a paper-thin offensive line offering little protection to his blind side. Mettenberger left in the third-quarter with a shoulder injury after tossing a 36 yard touchdown to Kendall Wright. This game was out of hand early but it appeared that Mettenberger was just getting warmed up when he had to leave the game. He was later diagnosed with a Grade 1 AC joint sprain but said he expects to play in Week 14. Regardless, he’s still been the most impressive rookie quarterback and one that appears to have a bright future in The Music City.
Philip Rivers (Stay Away Play) MISS
Prediction: 26-38 278 yards 1 TD, 2 INTs
Actual: 34-45 383 yards 3 TD, 1 INT
Standard scoring: 26 pts
MLFS scoring: 44.55
Philip Rivers came out guns blazing in Baltimore and shredded the Ravens secondary. They allowed Rivers to sit back in the pocket offering little pressure with only two sacks and five quarterback hits. Maybe the ribs are healing up, but I think the takeaway from this game is that the Chargers high-powered passing offense has reemerged with the resurrection of Keenan Allen. Rivers needs a legit WR1 to lean on in the passing game and he got it Sunday from Keenan Allen with 11 receptions, 121 yards, and two touchdowns. He also has a nice supporting cast with Malcolm Floyd, Antonio Gates, and Eddie Royal who caught the game-winning touchdown catch with 38 seconds left on the clock. Hopefully readers disregarded my recommendation last week to sit Rivers and reaped the rewards of his top 5 fantasy finish in Week 13.
Matt Ryan (Stay Away Play) MISS
Prediction: 28-44 262 yards 1 TD, 2 INTs
Actual: 30-41 361 yards 2 TD, 1 INT
Standard scoring: 20 pts
MLFS scoring: 31.2 pts
The Matt Ryan rollercoaster ride continued in Week 13. The Falcons bounced back facing a depleted Cardinals team that has suffered a rash of injuries, minus starters Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald. Sunday added to the long list of injuries for the Cardinals as they lost Andre Ellington in the first half to a hip injury. The Cards defense struggled to contain Julio Jones as he went off for a video game-like 10 catches for 189 yards and a touchdown. I was even more impressed that Ryan was able to overcome the loss of Roddy White and still put up impressive numbers. It’s too bad Matt Ryan can’t play all his games at home in the Georgia Dome but expect the bumpy ride to continue along with the inconsistency that plagues him and his fantasy owners.
Cam Newton (Stay Away Play) HIT
Prediction: 23-38 218 yards 1 TD, 2 INTs, 6 rushes for 39 yards
Actual: 18-35 194 yards 1 TD, 1 INT, 9 rushes for 49 yards
Standard scoring: 13 pts
MLFS scoring: 15.6 pts
Cam Newton’s slump on the road continued Week 13 in Minneapolis. He was ineffective and unable to finish drives until finally connecting with Philly Brown for his only touchdown pass in the third quarter. I think it’s finally safe to abort mission on Cam Newton and use your remaining bench spots on your roster for high-upside stashes like say Johnny Manziel or I dare say Ryan Fitzpatrick. I know, what has the fantasy world come to when I’m recommending a 32-year-old backup over Superman? Oh Cam, how far the mighty have fallen. Keep your head up, there’s always next year.
Delanie Walker (Top 5 Play) MISS
Prediction: 6 receptions for 94 yards, 1 TD
Actual: 1 reception for 6 yards
Standard scoring: 0 pts
MLFS scoring: 1.6 pts
I seem to be one week off with Delanie Walker every time I recommend him as a HERO or a ZERO. I think Walker and Coby Fleener are secretly conspiring against me to make me look foolish with my tight end picks. It was funny the first time guys but please stop it now. On a positive note I’m starting to catch on to the trend of tight ends having a great week only to completely disappear the next. That’s what category Walker falls into Week 13 after his explosion in Week 12. I would take it with a grain of salt considering that Walker only saw three targets and lost Mettenberger in the third quarter. I’m praying Mettenberger is cleared to play for Walker’s sake in Week 14. The thought of Jake Locker under center makes me want to run to the bathroom and throw up my lunch. This would be a deathblow to the fantasy value of Kendall Wright and Delanie Walker.
Antonio Gates (Top 12 play) HIT
Prediction: 5 receptions for 58 yards, 1 TD
Actual: 7 receptions for 83 yards 0 TD
Standard scoring: 8 pts
MLFS scoring: 15.3 pts
It was nice to see Antonio Gates finally get back on the horse and have his best game since Week 8. He finished the week as the sixth ranked fantasy tight end in standard scoring leagues. There will be plenty of targets to go around if Rivers keeps slinging the pigskin 45 times a game. I think this is the start of another impressive run for Gates with New England and Denver coming up on the schedule.
Mychal Rivera (Stay Away Play) HIT
Prediction: 2 receptions for 22 yards 0 TD
Actual: 3 receptions for 21 yards 0 TD
Standard scoring: 2 pts
MLFS scoring: 5.1 pts
This was a tough matchup for Rivera and he was already fading away from fantasy relevance. He did see 8 targets but only managed 3 receptions. At this point you should have better options than Rivera and I’d put him on the same list as Jared Cook as tight ends that should be thrown back into the scrap heap. And with Derek Carr struggling his stock falls even further so it’s time to move on Rivera owners.
Heath Miller (Stay Away Play) MISS
Prediction: 3 receptions for 38 yards 0 TD
Actual: 8 receptions for 82 yards 0 TD
Standard scoring: 8 pts
MLFS scoring: 16.2 pts
The ol’ man Miller saw 14 targets in week 13 and made the most of them catching 8 passes for 82 yards. The Steelers were playing from behind all day and trying to play catchup against Drew Brees and company. It was a tough task and Big Ben was forced into hitting his 2nd and 3rd progressions or reads and safety valve Miller. Don’t let this one week fool you because it’s a mirage and Miller will pull another disappearing act.
Week 14 Primer
It’s crunch time for a lot of owners in do or die matchups separating the contenders from the pretenders. We had some major surprises in Week 13 with the top scoring quarterback being a full-bearded man in Ryan Fitzpatrick. They say not to fear the beard but six touchdowns! Are you serious? I don’t think I’ll be able to find a diamond in the rough this week like Fitz. The question is do you really want to put the trust of your fantasy season in the hands of Ryan Fitzpatrick? I’m going to challenge myself this week more than any other week to HIT on my predictions because I know how important these lineup decisions are and how much is on the line. I’m rolling up my sleeves and going to work so I can help steer you in the direction of the ultimate goal, a fantasy championship.
Start of the Week (Top 5)
Matthew Stafford vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers (HERO)
I’m ready to anoint Matthew Stafford my poster boy for Week 14 and he’s going to be a HERO this Sunday for his loyal fantasy owners. The Lions looked great on Thanksgiving Day albeit against a struggling Chicago Bears team but there were a lot of positives to take away from the game. Stafford threw for 390 yards which was his highest total since Week 1. He’s finally starting to click with Calvin Johnson and it couldn’t come at a better time for his owners, playoff time. If you take a closer look at his home versus road splits you’ll find that he’s completing 66.7% of his passes at home compared to 54.6% on the road. That’s not all his quarterback rating is 93.5 at home compared to 76.0 on the road. It’s no secret that Stafford thrives in The Motor City and this week will be no different. The Lions take on a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that has allowed 22 scores through the air. The Lions should dominate the time of possession and keep the Bucs from sustaining long drives by shutting down their running game with their stout defensive line. They’ll force the Bucs to become one-dimensional which is never a good thing. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Stafford crack the top 5 this week but he’s a safe bet to finish in the top 10.
30-43 368 yards 3 TDs, 1 INT
Strong QB Play (Top 10)
Ryan Tannehill vs Baltimore Ravens (HERO)
I’m going back to the well this week even though it was dry as the Sahara Desert last week. I refuse to give up on my Ryan Tannehill man crush even if it kills me. I’m betting the house that Tannehill bounces back from a sub par performance on Monday Night Football. The Dolphins desperately need a win to stay in the race for the final AFC wild-card spot so they’ll have to bring their A-game this weekend. The Dolphins players are well aware of what’s at stake and will be treating this game like a playoff game. Tannehill should have a field day versus a Baltimore Ravens secondary that just got shredded by Philip Rivers for 383 yards. The Ravens own the 31st ranked passing defense and are allowing an average of 274 passing yards a game to opposing quarterbacks. In their past 4 games they’ve allowed a whopping 14 scores through the air. On the other hand the Ravens can stop the run meaning this game will be won or lost through the air. The Ravens have no one that can cover Mike Wallace and if they scheme to take him out of the game then Jarvis Landry will beat them one-on-one every time. Landry is quietly emerging as Tannehill’s number one passing option and leads the team with 57 receptions. It’s no secret that Tannehill has developed a comfort level and trust with Landry evidenced by his 22 targets in the last two games. This game figures to be high-scoring one so get Ryan Tannehill in your starting lineup and don’t let Monday Night’s dud scare you away.
28-38 276 yards 2 TDs, 5 carries for 40 yards
Sneaky QB Play (Top 15)
Teddy Bridgewater vs New York Jets (HERO)
I’ll be 100% honest with you guys and admit that this spot was reserved for Johnny Manziel before the news broke that Brian Hoyer was starting in Week 14. In any event I wanted to highlight a quarterback that could help you if you’re in a pinch or desperate. Maybe you’re a Mark Sanchez owner or a Cam Newton owner and you’re looking for a sneaky play in Week 14. If that’s the case then I have one for you this week and it’s Teddy Bridgewater. He’s quietly put up back-to-back weeks with at least two touchdown passes. It’s hard to bank on any consistency from a rookie but Teddy has shown before that if the matchup is good he can make the most of it. If Bridgewater can throw for 300 yards versus the Atlanta Falcons then why can’t he do it against the Jets? He was very efficient and accurate last week completing 15 of his 21 passes good for a 71% completion percentage. The Vikings defense and special teams have been playing great lately and helping take the pressure off Bridgewater. The Jets are reeling and will be suffering a major hangover from their tough loss to the Dolphins on Monday Night Football. They have a short week to prepare for the Vikings so the stage is set for another rough game for Rex and troops. Geno will self-destruct as usual and Bridgewater will be the major beneficiary. It will also help that the Jets will most likely be without the services of hog molly Muhammad Wilkerson.
21-32 258 yards 2 TDs, 5 carries for 35 yards, 1 rushing TD
Stay Away Plays
Mark Sanchez vs Seattle Seahawks (ZERO)
Mark Sanchez has been a fantasy savior this season for many owners including myself. As much as I like Sanchez I have to tempter my expectations for him in Week 14. When your fantasy season is on the line you have to be able to sort through the data available and make the best possible lineup decision for your team. I’m going to give you the data that supports my recommendation to bench Mark Sanchez this week. The Eagles have the cards stacked against them in Week 14 considering they’re going up against the number one ranked pass defense in the league. The Seahawks are allowing a paltry 11.5 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks which should be enough to scare you away. I’d like to refer to it as the “Sherman” effect but it’s a team effort. Since the return of Bobby Wagner the Seahawks defense has morphed back into the dominate defense that won a Super Bowl last year. In the past three weeks the Seahawks haven’t allowed a passing touchdown and have only allowed three total in their past six games. Granted Cam Newton, Derek Carr, Alex Smith, Eli Manning, and Colin Kaepernick aren’t top flight quarterback options but they have had plenty of success in the past. Do yourself a favor and use this data to your advantage and make the right call and sit Sanchez in Week 14.
24-34 226 yards 1 TD, 2 INTs, 5 carries for 18 yards
Ryan Fitzpatrick @ Jacksonville Jaguars (ZERO)
I’m going to be the first to admit I was really impressed with Ryan Fitzpatrick’s performance in Week 13 considering it came out of nowhere. He was able to spread the ball around and make some big plays against his former team. I also respect him for being one of the smartest quarterbacks in the league having graduated from Harvard. There’s no doubt that Fitzpatrick had some extra motivation going up against his former teammates. A lot of owners will run to the wire this week and pickup Fitzpatrick and insert him into their starting lineups, excepting similar numbers. You really don’t want to be that owner and make the mistake of chasing his six touchdowns in Week 14. I’m not saying not to go pick him up if you need a quarterback but just to be aware of the following. On the surface the Texans matchup with the Jaguars looks like a juicy one but it’s a trap. Since Week 4 the Jaguars defense has only allowed two quarterbacks to throw for multiple scores and held opposing quarterbacks under 270 yards in every game. I would err on the side of caution and keep Fitzpatrick on your bench in Week 14. I don’t fear the beard this week and would rather roll the dice on Teddy Bridgewater or Colt McCoy due to their home digs and plus matchups.
22-34 249 yards 1 TD, 2 INTs
Ben Roethlisberger @ Cincinnati Bengals (ZERO)
I love throwing my readers a curveball so expect the unexpected from time to time on my picks. I get paid to think outside the box in real life and it comes into play in fantasy too. I’ve been a Big Ben supporter for some time and absolutely LOVE the weapons he has to work with this year. I watched the entire game this past Sunday versus the Saints and it left a sour taste in my mouth. I’d love to chalk it up as just an off game for Big Ben but unfortunately there’s more to it than that. Let’s go over the facts and the facts are that Big Ben hurt his wrist on his throwing hand early in the game. It was bothering him afterwards and it was obvious to anyone watching that he was struggling to make the easiest of throws to his receivers. Big Ben is tough as nails and has played with a broken nose before so we all know he’s not going to take himself out of the game and I can respect that. However my concern is whether or not this injury will hamper him the rest of the season. Ok let’s forget about the rest of the season how about in Week 14? The Steelers travel to The Queen City for a heated AFC North showdown with the 1st place Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals have been great against opposing quarterbacks and haven’t allowed multiple scores through the air since Week 9. The only quarterbacks to score over 20 fantasy points this year against them are; Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, and Blake Bortles. That’s a short list and they also haven’t allowed over 255 yards passing to any quarterback since their Week 7 matchup versus Andrew Luck. I won’t be starting Roethlisberger in any leagues in Week 14 because of the matchup and my concerns about his hand injury. Also consider that Big Ben has yet to top 20 fantasy points on the road making him a ZERO in my book for Week 14.
24-38 268 yards 1 TD, 2 INTs
Strong TE Plays (Top 10)
Travis Kelce @ Arizona Cardinals (HERO)
I may actually name my first-born after Travis Kelce. I’m pretty sure that my wife won’t sign off on it but I’ll try like hell. Gronk-Light is due for a big game after Anthony Fasano stole away what should have been his receiving touchdown last week versus the Broncos. If only Fasano would just go away and stop stealing Kelce’s thunder we might get to witness a true breakout game from Kelce. He still led the team in receiving yards which isn’t saying much since we’re referring to the Chiefs passing game mind you. If you were ever looking for a matchup to exploit for your tight end this would be the one versus the Cardinals. They’ve allowed three touchdowns to opposing tight ends in their last four games and over 80 receiving yards in two out of their last four. Andy Reid is an offensive mastermind and he’ll be sure to feature some special plays designed for Kelce. My gut says this is the week that Kelce blows up and helps his fantasy owners clinch the playoffs or move onto the next round. At a position that has been so inconsistent outside of Gronk, Jimmy Graham, and Julius Thomas I’m fine with rolling with Kelce as my starting tight end.
5 receptions for 77 yards 1 TD
Kyle Rudolph vs New York Jets (HERO)
This will technically be Kyle Rudolph’s fourth game back after returning from sports hernia surgery. The Vikings coaches have brought him along slowly and it’s possible that he won’t be 100% until next year. Having said that it only takes one red zone target for him to convert into a touchdown and make him starter worthy. Norv Turner is a mastermind at drawing up plays for his tight ends and he thrives on it. It also really helps that Bridgewater prefers to lock onto his tight ends in the red zone. Rudolph caught a cheap score from 4 yards out last week and I really like his chances this week for a repeat performance. The matchup is ripe for picking on considering that the Jets are terrible at defending opposing tight ends. They’ve allowed multiple scores to the position in five games this season and double-digit scoring in seven games. I’d prefer to start Rudolph over Jordan Reed, Larry Donnell, and Dwayne Allen.
4 receptions for 64 yards 1 TD
Stay Away TE Plays
Jordan Reed vs St. Louis Rams (ZERO)
While most tight end needy owners are running to the wire to pickup Jordan Reed this week, I’ll pass. Ok I understand that Reed just blew up for 9 catches and 123 yard versus Indy but here’s my reasoning. There isn’t a bigger injury risk out there than Reed and when has he ever proved that he can stay on the field for any length of time? Do you really want to put your trust and playoff hopes in Reed’s fragile hands? While I’ll agree that Colt McCoy seems to have developed a great rapport with Reed it could all go up in smoke quickly with an injury. If you’re expecting a similar performance in Week 14 versus the Rams then you’re barking up the wrong tree. The Rams have yet to allow an opposing tight end to go for over 100 yards receiving this year which is pretty impressive. Not to mention they’ve only allowed two scores all season to the position. If Reed can prove to be more durable than glass maybe he’s worth a stash but I’m not holding my breath. Let your opponents chase the points Reed scored last week while sticking with safer and more durable options like Coby Fleener or Heath Miller.
5 receptions for 54 yards 0 TD
Dwayne Allen @ Cleveland Browns (ZERO)
I have a hard time advocating players coming back from an injury. There are lots of risks associated with starting a player in his first game back after a long shutdown. First off we have no guarantee how many snaps Allen will play and how rusty he’ll be when he is on the field. And if that’s not concerning enough the matchup versus the Browns this week is less than inviting. Cleveland has been very stingy with opposing tight ends this year having only allowed three scores and only one game over 100 yards receiving. Plus the Colts have been just fine in Allen’s absence with Coby Fleener emerging as one of Luck’s preferred targets. The activation of Allen is a drag for Fleener owners but I still think he’ll maintain plenty of value in the Colts high-octane offense. If I had to pick one to start this week I’d pick Fleener without any reservations. In the meantime I’d take the wait-and-see approach before inserting Allen back into your starting lineup. He’s definitely worth stashing on your roster if you’re playoff bound given his tendency of finding the end zone.
3 receptions for 38 yards 0 TD
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________(Click the blue link below to listen live or recorded after the show) Major League Fantasy Sports Radio: Join Ej Garr and Corey D Roberts on Sunday December 8th from 11am-12pm EST for this week’s episode of Major League Fantasy Sports Radio sponsored by the Sports Palooza Radio Network. Call in live to ask line up questions at 646.915.8596