I’m writing this week with a very heavy heart. My father-in-law passed away on Tuesday afternoon after a long sickness. It’s rocked our family and we’re all trying our best to do the impossible and come to terms with the reality of his passing. To say that he was a great man is an understatement. We lost our HERO this week in addition to the best father ever, loving husband, and brilliant teacher. Tom Koran had a brilliant mind and was a numbers guy like myself. He had the rare ability to do complicated equations in his brain without ever needing to put anything on paper. Tom was also an avid Chicago sports fan. I’m really going to miss talking with him about the Cubs and how good they’ll be “next year.” Not to mention watching Bears games with him on Sundays. He was my biggest supporter when I started writing and wanted to know exactly when my article would post so he could be the first to read it. It didn’t matter that he knew nothing about fantasy football but that was just the kind of guy he was. I contemplated taking the week off but then I asked myself what would Tom want me to do? That’s when I realized he would want me to do what I love to do and write about fantasy football. He would want me to do my best to educate and entertain my readers just like he did with his students in class. Tom spent his life teaching and supporting everyone around him and was a rock that everyone leaned on. He was always a breath of fresh air and brought his kind smile and helpful hand everywhere he went. Tom and my mother-in-law Nancy always found time to come to every softball game I coached and played in before he got really sick. They were the most loyal fans I could ever ask for. The next time I step onto the diamond I know he’ll be watching and will be the voice inside my head telling me not to go crazy on the ump after a terrible call. Rest in peace Tom and if you have wireless internet up there know that we love you more than life itself. We miss you dearly already and will never forget all the great memories you made with us.
Week 14 Picks Review
Matthew Stafford (Top 10 QB) HIT
Prediction: 30-43 368 yards 3 TDs, 1 INT
Actual: 26-34 311 yards 3 TDs, 0 INT
Standard scoring: 24 pts
MLFS scoring: 35.05 pts
I finally struck gold with my poster boy and I’m confident that the Madden curse is finally over. Stafford lit up the Tampa Bay Buccaneers secondary as I predicted he would. It was easily his highest scoring fantasy output since Week 1. After his big game on Thanksgiving it was good to see him continue his hot streak and build rapport with his main squeeze Calvin Johnson. He was 8 for 9 for 158 yards and a touchdown when targeting Megatron. Fortunately for his fantasy owners Stafford is peaking at the most important time of the year. I’ll be riding him until the wheels fall off and would advise you to do the same.
Ryan Tannehill (Top 10 QB) MISS
Prediction: 28-38 276 yards 2 TDs, 5 carries for 40 yards
Actual: 23-33 227 yards 1 TD, 0 INT, 2 carries for 6 yards
Standard scoring: 13 pts
MLFS scoring: 15.95 pts
Ryan Tannehill was serviceable in Week 14 but he failed to live up to my lofty expectations for the second consecutive week. He’s still a very accurate passer and has completed over 70% of his passes in his last six games. As much as I like him the inconsistency is very troubling and he’s starting to remind me of Alex Smith. Unfortunately his upside is capped in Miami’s offense but he has the weapons around him to bust out of his mini-slump at any time. I’d also like to see him get back to using his legs more which is something he excels at being a converted wide receiver in college at Texas A&M.
Teddy Bridgewater (Top 15 QB) HIT
Prediction: 21-32 258 yards 2 TDs, 5 carries for 45 yards, 1 rushing TD
Actual: 19-27 309 yards 2 TDs, 1 INT, 3 carries for 7 yards
Standard scoring: 18 pts
MLFS scoring: 24.4 pts
I caught the entire Vikings-Jets game and came away very impressed with the play of Bridgewater. I witnessed a young quarterback who is growing and maturing right in front of our eyes. Bridgewater’s poise and command of the offense was impressive. In overtime Teddy identified a Jets blitz and checked to a screen resulting in an 87 yard game-winning touchdown to Jarius Wright. This was just one of many good reads and checks he made further enforcing the theory that he was the most NFL ready quarterback in the draft class. He should have had a third touchdown pass had Charles Johnson not fumbled the ball before diving into the end zone. In addition his lone interception came on a Hail Mary at the end of the first half. The arrow is pointing up for Bridgewater stock and in keeper and Dynasty leagues I would be looking to acquire him before his value skyrockets.
Mark Sanchez (Stay Away Play) HIT
Prediction: 24-34 226 yards 1 TD, 2 INTs, 5 carries for 18 yards
Actual: 10-20 96 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 1 carry for 7 yards
Standard scoring: 9 pts
MLFS scoring: 12.5 pts
“If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, it must be a duck.” We all know Chip Kelly loves his ducks but Sanchez laid a BIG goose egg in Week 14. I warned everyone about depending on Sanchez in Week 14 so hopefully you took my advice. I had Sanchez sitting on my bench in a couple of leagues and managed to win in both, thank you very much Cam Newton. The Seahawks dominated the game after Philly drew first blood in the first quarter with Maclin’s one yard touchdown reception. In short, I’m not worried about Sanchez at all with his upcoming tasty matchups versus Dallas and Washington during the fantasy playoffs.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (Stay Away Play) HIT
Prediction: 22-34 249 yards 1 TD, 2 INTs
Actual: 13-19 135 yards 0 TD, 0 INT, 8 carries for 19 yards, 1 TD
Standard scoring: 13 pts
MLFS scoring: 14.65 pts
The Amish Rifle must have left his ammo back in Houston Week 14 versus the Jacksonville Jaguars. Maybe he just completely ran out after his six touchdown performance in Week 13. This was a classic example of why you don’t chase points or touchdowns from a previous week’s matchup. His floor was limited due to the lack of pass attempts with only 19 passes. The Texans went with a ground and pound strategy and attacked the Jaguars defensive front with a heavy dose of Arian Foster. I mentioned last week that this was a “trap” game and I meant that from a fantasy perspective. Everyone assumed that Jaguars defense would fold and lead to a big game for Fitz but this wasn’t the case. Hopefully you didn’t put your trust in Fitz because if you did your dreams of a fantasy championship probably went up in smoke.
Ben Roethlisberger (Stay Away Play) MISS
Prediction: 24-38 268 yards 1 TD, 2 INTs
Actual: 25-39 350 yards 3 TDs 0 INT
Standard scoring: 37 pts
MLFS scoring: 43.88 pts
Big Ben came back to his home state of Ohio and put on a show at Paul Brown Stadium. The Steelers saved their best for last blowing up for 25 pts in the fourth quarter to take control of the game. Roethlisberger was mired in a three-game funk coming into this heated AFC North division matchup but he busted out in a big way. He also connected for his longest touchdown pass of the season with a 94-yarder to rookie Martavis Bryant. When the smoke cleared in the jungle Ben had managed to finish as the third highest scoring fantasy quarterback in Week 14. I’ll admit this was my biggest MISS in Week 14 but overall I was pleased with my quarterback picks.
Travis Kelce (Top 10 TE) HIT
Prediction: 5 receptions for 77 yards 1 TD
Actual: 7 receptions for 110 yards, 1 FL
Standard scoring: 9 pts
MLFS scoring: 14.65 pts
Travis Kelce led the Chiefs in targets, receptions, and receiving yards in Week 14. He recorded a season-high 110 receiving yards. It was as close to a breakout game as possible considering the Chiefs vertically challenged passing offense. He finished Week 14 as the 7th ranked fantasy tight end in standard leagues. Kelce did lose a crucial fourth quarter fumble that appeared to be the wrong call. Kelce is trending in the right direction and might have finally graduated to an every week starter in standard and PPR leagues.
Kyle Rudolph (Top 12 TE) MISS
Prediction: 4 receptions for 64 yards 1 TD
Actual: 2 receptions for 9 yards 0 TD
Standard scoring: 0 pts
MLFS scoring: 2.9 pts
Kyle Rudolph was nowhere to be found on Sunday. Teddy only targeted him twice and he caught both passes but was a big fat ZERO in Week 14. I’ve come to the realization that Rudolph probably isn’t going to do much this year which is depressing considering Norv Turner’s track record with developing tight ends in his system. If you’re still holding onto him I think it’s safe to cut bait and say goodbye.
Jordan Reed (Stay Away Play) HIT
Prediction: 5 receptions for 54 yards 0 TD
Actual: 3 receptions for 25 yards 0 TD
Standard scoring: 2 pts
MLFS scoring: 7.5 pts
Jordan Reed was a major letdown in Week 14 for his fantasy owners. Personally I had no problem ignoring his monster stat line in Week 13 and letting everyone else waste a claim on Reed. Reed is the definition of a fantasy tease. No one will argue the fact that Reed has immense talent and athleticism but he can’t stay on the field. Reed has yet to earn a reliable role in the offense due to injuries and inconsistency. People can talk all they want about the targets he was seeing with McCoy under center but what has he done with them? I’d rather roll with more reliable guys like Larry Donnell and Heath Miller.
Dwayne Allen (Stay Away Play) HIT
Prediction: 3 receptions for 38 yards 0 TD
Actual: 1 reception for 5 yards 0 TD
Standard scoring: 0 pts
MLFS scoring: 1.5 pts
Dwayne Allen was a no show in Week 14 as I predicted. He was only targeted three times by Luck compared to ten targets for Coby Fleener. I’m not going to write him off for the rest of season but how can you start a player who has yet to prove he’s healthy? It’s a known fact that a player can lose his starting position due to an injury. It happens all the time and with Fleener emerging as one of Luck’s top targets in Allen’s absence it wouldn’t surprise me if his role regresses. I’ll stand by my man Coby Fleener as the top tight end on the Colts until Allen proves otherwise.
Week 15 Fantasy Playoff Primer
If you’re still reading my article that means I’m doing my job and more importantly that you’re a serious contender for a fantasy championship. I’m very proud to say that I made the playoffs in all of my leagues this year which has never happened before. I’ll reframe from providing an exact number as to conceal my compulsive addiction but will admit that it’s over ten. Take some advice from fellow MLFS writer Matt Barkman in “Off the Matt” and play in multiple leagues. I couldn’t agree more with Matt and would also add that there is one key ingredient to all of my playoff teams, a top-tier quarterback. I’ve enjoyed owning multiple shares of Andrew Luck this year and have been rewarded handsomely for investing an early pick on him. Owning a top-tier quarterback is a major advantage considering today’s pass-heavy NFL. If you own Manning, Luck, Rodgers, Brees, or Brady you’re usually guaranteed a floor of 25 fantasy points a week. Granted Brady owners had to suffer through the first four weeks of the season but it was smooth sailing afterwards. The ceiling on the other hand with these top-tier quarterbacks is through the roof due to all the weapons they have at their disposal. I’ll stick with this strategy and recommend you do the same next year. Good luck to everyone this week in the playoffs and keep pushing for the ultimate goal, the Shiva trophy.
Start of the Week (Top 10)
Philip Rivers vs Denver Broncos (HERO)
The Broncos travel to San Diego this week for a heated AFC West showdown with the Chargers. Philip Rivers is coming off a disappointing start versus the New England Patriots. It’s been a rough run for Rivers the past five weeks during which time he has been held under 300 yards passing four times. He also has only one multi-touchdown game during that time period which came against Baltimore in Week 13. This week Philip Rivers will step up and lead his Chargers to an improbable victory. This is a must-win game for the Chargers while also taking into consideration River’s past success against the Broncos. Rivers has tossed 12 touchdown passes in the last six meetings in this division rivalry. Digging even deeper I found that the Broncos have allowed multiple scores to opposing quarterbacks in nine out of their thirteen games. They’ve also surrendered the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season. Rivers won’t have to contend with “Revis Island” this week and will be forced into a shootout with Manning and company. Make no mistake there will be plenty of points scored in this division matchup with the over/under currently at 51. If you don’t have the good fortune of owning one of the top five quarterbacks Rivers makes a great substitute in Week 15.
33-44 363 yards 3 TDs, 1 INT
Strong QB Play (Top 12)
Mark Sanchez vs Dallas Cowboys (HERO)
In the NFL you must have a short memory and Sanchez will quickly forget about last week’s brutal matchup with the Seahawks. He was held under 100 yards passing and only had two completions more than five yards past the line of scrimmage. This week Sanchez takes on the Cowboys in South Philly where he’s posted a 66.7 completion percentage compared to 50 percent on the road. The Cowboys defense has struggled against opposing quarterbacks lately giving up 896 passing yards and six touchdowns in their past three games. As long as the Eagles can establish their running game with Shady McCoy and Darren Sproles Chip Kelly’s offense should have no problem moving the ball down-field. Sanchez was very efficient in the last meeting against the Cowboys going 20 for 29 for 217 yards. He threw for a score and added another one on the ground. That game was a blow-out so expect Sanchez to have more pass attempts in their second meeting. Sanchez isn’t flashy and doesn’t have the name brand pedigree but he’s in the perfect offense to put up decent fantasy numbers. If you’re a Cam Newton owner and bumming about his accident hopefully you can plug-in Sanchez and sleep like a baby.
28-42 336 yards 2 TDs, 1 INT, 5 rushes for 25 yards, 1 rushing TD
Sneaky QB Play (Top 15 QB)
Johnny Manziel vs Cincinnati Bengals (HERO)
I was ready to include Johnny Football in my article last week but Cleveland coaches decided to suffer through one more week with Brian Hoyer as their starter. It’s time for a changing of the guard in Cleveland and I’m sure that Browns fans would agree with me. Hoyer has one touchdown drive in his last 29 series and has a 0-to-7 TD-to-INT ratio the past three games. Surely Manziel will give the Browns a much-needed spark and opposing defenses a headache to contain. In college Manziel had the luxury of having 6-foot-five target Mike Evans to lob the ball up too and now he has Josh Gordon. Believe it or not Johnny Football has better arm strength than people give him credit for and also possesses deceptive speed when he scrambles. He’ll need to work on ball control and minimize turnovers but if he can do that he should be a major upgrade over Hoyer. Another reason why I think his first start will be a successful one is that the Bengals have struggled containing mobile quarterbacks like Manziel. In Week 6 Cam Newton ran all over the Bengals for 107 yards and a touchdown. Another major advantage in starting Manziel is that opposing defenses won’t have much game-tape to study him with the exception of his college tape. I would roll the dice and start Johnny Football over Eli Manning, Colin Kaepernick, and Ryan Tannehill. If you’re looking for an upside quarterback play in Week 15 then look no further than the Browns new starting quarterback and former Heisman Trophy winner.
16-26 201 yards 2 TDs, 1 INT, 10 rushes for 65 yards, 1 rushing TD
Stay Away Plays
Colin Kaepernick @ Seattle Seahawks (ZERO)
Colin Kaepernick travels to Seattle in Week 15 for a date versus “The Legion of Boom.” In his last three meetings against the Seahawks Kaepernick has a 1-to-6 TD-to-INT ratio. If that’s not enough to scare you away from starting Kaepernick consider that he’s scored multi-touchdowns in as many games as he’s thrown for multi-interceptions, which is three. When Kaepernick took the league by storm in 2012 his dual-threat ability set him apart from other quarterbacks in his class. Since then he’s regressed and has yet to score a rushing touchdown this season and probably won’t top 500 yards rushing. I’m not sure if it’s the offensive scheme or the fact that NFL Defensive coordinators have figured out how to defend the read option. Regardless I’ll be keeping my distance from Colin Kaepernick from now on and have finally given up on my infatuation with him. There’s a reason why so many experts have soured on him and put him on the over-rated list. Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire.
15-29 145 yards 1 TD, 2 INTs, 3 rushes for 18 yards
Russell Wilson vs San Francisco 49ers (ZERO)
Russell Wilson is coming off his best game since Week 11 versus the Kansas City Chiefs. Before getting too excited consider his opponent was the Philadelphia Eagles. The Seahawks will attack the 49ers on the ground with a heavy dose of Marshawn Lynch aka “Beast mode.” I wouldn’t expect over 25 passing attempts in the game for Wilson which will cap his passing numbers across the board. Believe it or not the 49ers have done a pretty decent job containing Russell Wilson in their past three meetings. They’ve yet to allow him to throw for multiple scores and he owns a 3-to-2 TD-to-INT ratio in their last three meetings. Wilson is also a lot better quarterback on the road than at home. He owns a 12-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio on the road compared to 5-to-4 TD-to-INT ratio at home. I’d rather start Philip Rivers, Mark Sanchez, or Johnny Football over Wilson in Week 15.
17-24 188 yards 1 TD 1 INT, 10 rushes for 58 yards, 1 rushing TD
Ryan Tannehill @ New England Patriots (ZERO)
I’ve been advocating starting Tannehill for a couple of weeks now and he’s yet to come through for me or his fantasy owners. It’s a shame too because his matchups recently have been juicy however he’s been unable to capitalize on them. It appears to me that he’s been a victim of bad luck the past couple weeks. He hasn’t gotten much help from Mike Wallace and his alligator arms. Speaking of Mike Wallace, he’ll have “Revis Island” covering him which basically takes him out of the game-plan. It’s no secret that Tannehill isn’t going to throw for over 250 yards consistently and rarely attempts passes longer than 20 yards. That’s not his game but earlier this year he was running a lot more often which made up for his lower passing yardage totals. In the past five weeks he hasn’t topped 16 rushing yards which is killing his value. The Patriots play on a different level at home in Foxboro and just shut down Matthew Stafford a couple of weeks ago. If they can handle a high-powered offense like the Lions and shut them down they shouldn’t have any problems dealing with Bill Lazor’s dink and dunk offense. I’d be shocked if the Dolphins score more than one touchdown in this game.
22-34 230 yards 1 TD, 2 INTs, 5 rushes for 15 yards
Strong TE Plays (Top 5)
Delanie Walker vs New York Jets (HERO)
I’m back in the Delanie Walker fan club for Week 15 and the remainder of the fantasy playoffs. He’s got a number of things working in his favor this week. First off Zach Mettenberger is done for the year meaning Jake Locker will take over under center for the remainder of the season. Zach has a cannon and wasn’t always on the same page as Walker. The targets haven’t been the issue; it’s been that the reception rate on those targets hasn’t been great. Walker led the team in targets with ten last week but only managed to haul in four receptions for 27 yards. Jake Locker will need to latch onto Walker as his most reliable and short intermediate safety valve. Secondly the Titans have been devastated with injuries recently losing Justin Hunter and now Kendall Wright is dealing with a broken bone in his hand. It’s possible that Wright sits out again this week leaving Nate Washington and Derek Hagan as the Titans top two receivers. This should allow plenty of opportunities for Walker to ball out and eat like a king on Sunday. The nail in the coffin for me is the matchup versus the New York Jets is great. It’s going to be like early Christmas in Nashville with Walker soaking up all the targets and he’ll make the most of them. The Jets have allowed a league-high 12 touchdowns to opposing tight ends so Walker will be licking his chops to play the Gang Green in Week 15.
6 receptions for 110 yards 1 TD
Strong TE Play (Top 12)
Larry Donnell vs Washington Redskins (HERO)
Larry Donnell hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 11 versus the 49ers but this is the week that changes. I know he’s been very inconsistent but hasn’t lost targets with Odell Beckham emerging as the top receiver on the Giants. Actually OBJ has helped open up passing lanes for Donnell and the only player losing targets because of him is Rueben Randle. Donnell has 14 targets in the past two games which is an average of 7 targets a game. I guess I should take the time to remind everyone what Donnell did last time the Giants played the Redskins. In Week 4 Donnell caught 7 catches for 54 yards and three touchdowns on Monday Night Football. Every time the Giants got in the red zone Eli looked Donnell’s way. While I don’t expect a similar game out of Donnell I do expect him to be heavily involved. The Redskins have allowed four touchdowns to opposing tight ends the past two weeks with Jared Cook and Coby Fleener both catching a couple. The Redskins secondary is depleted and it’s no secret that they’re vulnerable through the air. I expect a big day from Donnell and would start him over Coby Fleener and Jason Witten this week.
5 receptions for 68 yards 1 TD
Stay Away TE Plays
Jason Witten @ Philadelphia Eagles (ZERO)
The days of Jason Witten dominating targets and producing top end numbers in PPR and standard leagues are long gone. Instead he’s been relegated to being featured primarily as a blocking tight end and sees a minimal number of targets. In the Cowboys last two games he’s got a total of five targets. The Eagles shut him down with one catch for eight yards in their last matchup a couple of weeks ago on Thanksgiving. The Eagles have been very stingy with opposing tight ends allowing only 5.2 fantasy points per game. They’re allowing the sixth fewest fantasy points to tight ends on the season. Any way you cut the cookie this is a matchup to steer clear of and avoid at all cost. I’d rather start Larry Donnell and Heath Miller over Witten.
2 receptions for 24 yards 0 TD
Mychal Rivera @ Kansas City Chiefs (ZERO)
We finally had a Mychal Rivera sighting in Week 14 versus the 49ers. Rivera caught 7 balls for 109 yards and a touchdown. He had been left for dead after three straight poor outings in which he scored a total of six fantasy points. For the record his worst outing in the last three weeks came against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 12. In that game he had one catch for 8 yards on four targets. Guess who he’s playing against in Week 15? You got it, the same Kansas City Chiefs team. As I touched on last week more often than not we’ve seen mid-tier tight ends blown up one week only too completely disappear the next week. If you’ve read my articles then you know I’m not a big Rivera fan but I do think his sister Naya Rivera is pretty hot. I don’t watch ‘Glee’ and if I did I wouldn’t admit to it but every time I google Rivera his sister pops up and I get excited. I wish I could say the same about Mychal Rivera and his fantasy prospects but I’m just not buying. With so much on the line this week I would recommend safer and more consistent options at tight end like Coby Fleener or Heath Miller.
3 receptions for 32 yards 0 TD
(Click the blue link below to listen live)
Major League Fantasy Sports Radio: Join Ej Garr and Corey D Roberts on December 14th, 2014 from 11am-12pm EST for this week’s episode of Major League Fantasy Sports Radio sponsored by The Sports PaloozaRadio Network.
We will take your calls live at 646.915.8596. Our guests this week include Bryan Robinson and Ron McCleese. Bryan is a writer with MLFS and his focus is on the RB/WR positions. His articles are published every Thursday called “FLEXual Tension”. Ron McCleese is also a writer with MLFS and his focus is on the QB/TE positions. His articles are published every Friday called “Heroes & Zeros”. This should be a very spirited debate and we encourage listeners to join in!
Don’t forget if you miss the live airing you can always click the blue link above or listen to the podcast afterward. You can find it by searching for “Sports Palooza Radio” on I-Tunes or Google play stores.