In my 15+ years of experience playing fantasy football, I’ve come to realize that owners can be easily placed into one of three categories, and it’s pretty simple when you consider the Goldilocks principle. You’ve got your owners who don’t care enough, those who care too much (yes, this is possible), and those in the middle that get it right.
We all know about the owners who don’t care enough about their teams to fix them. These are the guys who leave injured players in the lineup and put up scores in the 30s come Week 12. They’re the ones whose teams become glorified bye weeks when others are in the midst of a playoff push. Luckily, by this point in the season, just about all of them have been weeded out and can no longer influence the end game of your league. Only determination left to make is do you really want someone like that back in your league next year?
On the other end of the spectrum is what I think is becoming a dangerous trend in the fantasy community. I’ve seen a rise unfortunately, especially the last few years as both the popularity and the stakes of fantasy football have grown to unprecedented heights, in the legitimate moments of anger and callousness some owners have resorted to when their team is knocked out. Whether that’s a result of the competitiveness of the individual or the amount of money that’s on the line (or a combination of the two), we need to take a deep breath and a step back. Fantasy can be a cruel game and I, myself have been on the receiving end of some brutal beats, but let’s remember what’s important here, folks:
This is still a game. It’s meant to be fun. It’s meant to be a test of who can run a fake football team the best. Does that sound like something to get all worked up over? The trash talk is meant to be lighthearted. Bragging rights, not any monetary sum, should be the ultimate goal. We all want to win, but we also all need to be okay with losing. If you find yourself getting caught up in what others are doing in your league, perhaps it’s time to look at yourself in the mirror instead. Why do you play fantasy sports? What are you in it for? If you’re the angry owner who lost on what you think was complete BS, I bet the first thing that came to your mind is the money squandered because of that outcome. And if so, I don’t want you in my league and I’m not sure I want you sharing my game.
Because the good fantasy owner is both a humble winner and a gracious loser. He talks fantasy with his friends and coworkers. He laughs and shrugs about the bad beat he took and sympathizes with the owner he sucked out on. Those are the moments that make this game worth playing and make this community as unique as it is. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the fantasy football season ends smack dab in the middle of the holiday season. As the saying goes, “It’s better to give than to receive”. Think not about what you got out of your fantasy league, but think about what you contributed to it. When you have a group of owners who share that mindset, you often end up with the best kind of league.
So good luck to everyone who’s made it to their Fantasy Super Bowl. There are those among us who’ve been at it for 5, 10, even 20 years who are just now experiencing this for the first time, and you can bet they’ll enjoy every second of it. Some of you will win, some of you will lose, but whatever the outcome, do it with class and dignity and revel in the accomplishment that is making it this far.
Let’s take a moment to flashback to last week’s results and highlight the one call I harped above all others that paid off huge:
Week 15 Hits:
LeGarrette Blount – Standard scoring: 8.4 pts; MLFS scoring: 10.4 pts
Allen Hurns – Standard scoring: 7.0 pts; MLFS scoring: 13.0 pts
Marquess Wilson – Standard scoring: 7.6 pts; MLFS scoring: 10.6 pts
Harry Douglas – Standard scoring: 13.1 pts; MLFS scoring: 27.9 pts
Week 15 Misses:
Keenan Allen – Standard scoring: 1.8 pts; MLFS scoring: 5.1 pts (left w/ ankle, collarbone injuries)
Latavius Murray – Standard scoring: 7.6 pts; MLFS scoring: 9.6 pts
Alfred Morris – Standard scoring: 4.9 pts; MLFS scoring: 4.9 pts
Jonathan Stewart – Standard scoring: 5.9 pts; MLFS scoring: 3.9 pts
Donte Moncrief – Standard scoring: 0.0 pts; MLFS scoring: 1.0 pts
Kamar Aiken – Standard scoring: 0.0 pts; MLFS scoring: 8.0 pts
The very first player I discussed on this past Sunday’s edition of Major League Fantasy Football Radio was none other than Harry Douglas. Being that Julio Jones had been ruled officially out and Roddy White was still clearly not 100%, Douglas was a prime target to have a substantial day receiving, and he did not disappoint with 131 yards on 10 receptions. If you were like me, picking him up meant the difference between a semifinal departure and a berth in the finals. His situation for Week 16 remains completely tied to the status of Jones, a status that is unclear at this point. Douglas deserves to be rostered as insurance if nothing else and could be another phenomenal play this Sunday when the Falcons travel to New Orleans to face the Saints and their lackluster defense.
Onto the championship edition of the FLEXual Tension All-Stars. If you’re on the fence about who to start, these are the RB and WR plays I think are in for strong performances. You won’t see any obvious names like Odell Beckham Jr. or Le’Veon Bell, but what you will see are 10 guys I think can help you pull off the win, starting with a reliable backfield option in upstate New York:
Fred Jackson, RB (BUF) – I wasn’t sure how to feel about Jackson against Green Bay this past Sunday, but I reluctantly recommended him on Major League Fantasy Football Radio as someone you could trust thanks to the volume of touches he was getting and his inclusion in the passing game. 23 touches and 98 yards later, you probably feel pretty good if you gave Jackson a go in your lineup. This week, Jackson gets a much friendlier matchup when the Bills travel out west to take on the Raiders. In addition to being one of the worst against the run in the league, Oakland has also given up the most receiving touchdowns to opposing running backs in 2014. And for anyone who’s concerned about the return of C.J. Spiller to the lineup, just stop it. Jackson had already usurped much of Spiller’s role in the offense even before he broke his collarbone. If he eats into the backfield production at all, it’ll be at the expense of Boobie Dixon. Jackson remains among the safest options in the RB2 landscape and should be deployed with confidence.
Expectation: Top-20 RB
Vincent Jackson, WR (TB) – Maybe we were a little quick on the trigger in anointing Mike Evans the unquestioned #1 option in Tampa. After a three-week lull where Jackson managed just 10 receptions on 17 targets, he’s totaled 27 targets over his past two games, resulting in 16 catches for 229 yards. But as Jackson owners are fully aware, the most frustrating part of his game this year has been the lack of touchdowns. After averaging eight TDs a season over his last three, Jackson has found pay dirt just twice in 2014. There’s a good shot for adding to that total on Sunday when the Packers come calling. Only one team (Eagles) have allowed more touchdowns to opposing wide receivers than Green Bay has. And after an anemic performance by Rodgers, Nelson and the entire Packer offense against Buffalo, hard to imagine they don’t come out firing on all cylinders and put a big number on the scoreboard early. This should only enhance the Bucs’ reliance on the pass game, ensuring another plentiful outing for Jackson and his owners.
Expectation: Top-25 WR
Kenny Stills, WR (NO) – Did we ever imagine a day where we’d have more concern for the Saints’ offense in the Superdome than we would on the road? New Orleans has looked phenomenal in their past two road games, but struggled at home to the tune of a four-game losing streak. No better way for the Saints to get right than by inviting the putrid Falcons defense for a visit. With Jimmy Graham not looking 100% and Marques Colston becoming a touchdown-dependent option as of late, Kenny Stills has emerged as the primary pass catcher for Drew Brees and for fantasy owners. It’s no surprise this game has the highest O/U of the weekend, so expect a busy day for the scoreboard operator. In a game where so many touchdowns are to be expected, can you really see a scenario where Stills doesn’t get loose along the sideline for a bomb from Brees? Neither can I.
Expectation: Top-30 WR
Torrey Smith, WR (BAL) – I’ll admit you might be playing with fire here as Torrey Smith has disappointed owners the past two weeks as a result of a nagging right knee injury. His limited exposure resulted in just two catches over the past couple ballgames. Smith owners got some very encouraging news on Wednesday when he was not listed on the team’s injury report and the timing could not have been any better. The Texans have given up the third most points to opposing wide receivers this season (and just made Hakeem Nicks fantasy relevant for a week; how’s that for damning evidence?). Before the injury, T. Smith was in the midst of a four-game stretch with 301 yards and four TDs. Much like Stills, all it takes is one deep hookup to make your fantasy day.
Expectation: Top-30 WR
Matt Asiata, RB (MIN) – This week’s running back recommendations include some of the least exciting rushers in the game today. Hardly a pressing endorsement, but sometimes in fantasy it’s more about the role than it is the talent. Take Matt Asiata for instance, a man who is most frequently described as being “plodding”. There are a lot of descriptors you could use for good running backs, but plodding is hardly one of them. Nonetheless, Asiata’s hold on the job in Minnesota is strong and he rewarded trusting owners with 86 total yards and a TD last week against the menacing Lions’ front seven. The Vikings trade the cold, blustery weather of Detroit for the sand and sun in Miami to take on a Dolphins’ defense that has become an absolute mess. Injuries have ravaged this defense and they’ve turned into a complete sieve against the run. Backfields facing Miami the last four weeks have all amassed at least 17 fantasy points (in standard leagues), including three 100+ yard performances. The Dolphins had only allowed three backfields to surpass the century mark in the previous 10 games. This has become a matchup to exploit and Asiata gives you on option, however unattractive it may be, to do just that.
Expectation: Top-30 RB
Jordan Matthews, WR (PHI) – Count me among those who were downright shocked when Matthews left us with a bagel against the Cowboys. I wasn’t expecting a crazy number, but a goose egg? If ever there was a matchup that could right the ship, it’s the Saturday (yes, I said Saturday) tilt with Washington, fresh off getting roasted by one Odell Beckham, Jr. Back in Week 3, long before Matthews broke out as the Eagles’ #2 receiving option, he posted an impressive 8-59-2 line against a shaky secondary that’s only gotten shakier since. In their past five games, Washington has given up 1,001 yards and nine touchdowns to opposing receivers. There is some inherent risk by starting a receiver who’s only totaled 11 targets in the past three games combined, but I see Sanchez looking his way significantly more in this one, making him a viable WR3.
Expectation: Top-35 WR
Toby Gerhart, RB (JAC) – Back in the preseason, I kinda sorta subconsciously decided that the “zero-RB” strategy would be my play because I really liked the names in the mid to high teens I saw at the position. One of those names who would frequent many a roster was Toby Gerhart. With judgment like that, it’s pretty hard to imagine I’m in the finals in 3 of 5 leagues, but it goes to show you that whiffing (badly) on a pick is far from a death knell. Here we are though, four months later, and Gerhart could be a contributing piece to a championship run. Understand, though, that this recommendation is all about the matchup. The Titans have given up the most rushing yards to opposing backs, and it’s really not all that close (159 more than the next-closest team, Cleveland). They just made Andre Williams, who has long been ridiculed in past editions of FLEXual Tension, look like Jim Brown. Gerhart actually looked pretty decent (as far as I’m willing to go on a compliment) against the Ravens stout run D, posting a season-high 54 yards on 13 carries. You’ll have to swallow the lump in your throat to do so, but I think Gerhart could make his biggest impact on fantasy’s grandest stage.
Expectation: Top-35 RB
Joseph Randle, RB (DAL) – At this point, we just don’t know what DeMarco Murray’s role in the Dallas offense will be come game time. The talking heads are all optimistic that he’ll play, but when you have a player of Murray’s caliber who is as big a question mark as he is, you have to make the smart play and grab his insurance. I’ve been saying for weeks, even months now, that Joseph Randle should be universally owned by anyone who’s been relying on Murray, and now you see why. Should we find out Murray is either limited or ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Colts, Randle immediately becomes a viable lineup solution. We all know the true value in the Cowboys run game doesn’t come from Murray but rather that imposing offensive line (who could be without RT Doug Free as well). Any back who gets the carries behind that behemoth is worth a look.
I’ve heard many asking about Lance Dunbar’s role, but I don’t think it increases a ton if Murray sits. He doesn’t have the build, or the confidence of Jason Garrett, to be a feature back. Randle would probably get the lion share of a 60/40 split with Dunbar, relegating the latter to PPR consideration only. If Randle is still sitting out there in your league right now, you must go pick him up. The upside is too great to allow your competitors to potentially get their hands on.
Expectation: Top-40 RB; Top-20 if DeMarco Murray does not play
Shonn Greene, RB (TEN) – Hey, I tried to warn you. We’re talking about some downright ugly options this week, but they warrant some consideration. The Bishop Sankey experiment in Tennessee seems to be over, at least for 2014. After weeks of nothing more than 16-carry, 55-yard disappointments, the Titans finally pulled the plug and went back to Shonn Greene last week. It’s not as if Greene’s performance against the Jets was worth lauding itself (17 touches, 66 yards), but it does appear as if he’s got the job for the duration as gets a favorable matchup in Week 16. The Jaguars had given up over 100 yards to opposing backfields in five straight contests before holding the Ravens to just 85 on Sunday. It’d be hard for me to believe that Tennessee really wants Charlie Whitehurst slinging it around too much, so another full complement of touches should be in order for Greene. Hope he plows/falls into the end zone to supplement what should be another 60-75 yard output.
Expectation: Top-40 RB
Dwayne Bowe, WR (KC) – Can Alex Smith really go the entire season without throwing a TD pass to a wide receiver? I guess it wouldn’t be too surprising at this point; we’re 14 weeks in and still Bowe and his WR teammates have seen nary a spike in the end zone. Other pundits in past weeks have been claiming “this will be the week”, so I guess it’s my turn to make a bold proclamation. The Steelers have allowed six TDs to receivers over the past three weeks and have allowed the second most yards to receivers since Week 8, including four weeks of 220+ yards. Bowe has been relegated to fantasy Hail Mary status at this point but if you’re desperate for a wideout and looking for a diamond in the rough, plug him in. Plug him in, and pray.
Expectation: Top-50 WR
(Click the Blue link below to listen live)
Major League Fantasy Sports Radio: Join Ej Garr and Corey D Roberts on Sunday December 21st from 11am-12:30pm EST for this season’s final episode of Major League Fantasy Sports Radio on the Sports Palooza Radio Network. We will be taking callers live at 646.915.8596.