The hits just kept on coming last week as big name performers once again came up small in crunch time. Yes, I am looking at you Aaron Rodgers, Calvin Johnson and LeSean McCoy.
It’s been a brutal fantasy playoffs season so far and if you are still standing (in most leagues) on championship weekend, you have certainly earned it. Or, at least you’ve made it this far without Peyton Manning producing.
Let’s take a look at those players we feel will lead your team to that coveted league title.
Matt Ryan, ATLANTA at New Orleans: Ryan is on a roll having put up an average of 348 passing yards per game over the past three weeks with eight touchdowns and only three interceptions in that timespan. In the first meeting with New Orleans, he finished with 448 passing yards and three touchdowns. We like Ryan this week as a fantasy football start.
Matthew Stafford, DETROIT at Chicago: It was the Thanksgiving Day game against Chicago that started the streak Stafford is on. He’s thrown six touchdowns with only one interception in his last three outings and will carve up a Chicago defense that appears to be mailing it in.
Tony Romo, DALLAS vs. Indianapolis: You give Romo a full week to prepare and a pain-killing injection and he has been lethal. Tossing out the Thanksgiving Day nightmare against Philadelphia when Romo couldn’t even practice prior to the game, and he has thrown 13 touchdowns in his last four games. Trust Romo this week.
Andy Dalton, CINCINNATI vs. Denver: The rollercoaster that is Dalton is on a downward spiral as he once again came up empty last week against Cleveland. He’s managed to top 15 fantasy points in only three of his last nine games. The Denver defense has allowed merely four touchdown passes in the last three games while intercepting five passes in that stretch.
Ben Roethlisberger, PITTSBURGH at Kansas City: This is a tough matchup for Roethlisberger as Kansas City has allowed only five touchdowns in the last four games to quarterbacks. After back-to-back six touchdown games, Roethlisberger has totaled only seven touchdowns over the last five games. There are better matchups this week.
Eli Manning, NEW YORK GIANTS at St. Louis: Manning heads into a hornets nest in Week 16 after tearing up the hapless Washington defense. Few defenses are as hot as St. Louis, who has racked up 17 sacks and 10 turnovers in its last four games. Be thankful if you started Manning last week and be smart by benching him this week.
For the latest in fantasy sit start advice, keep reading ASL!
QB Fantasy Football News -
The Chicago Bears shocked the NFL world this week when they announced that they have benched their 100-million dollar quarterback, Jay Cutler. After suffering under some of the worst coaching the NFL has seen in a long time, the Bears predictably used Cutler as the team's scapegoat.
In QB fantasy news, Coach Marc Trestman will be starting Jimmy Clausen (fantasy QB dud) in Cutler's place and many people are speculating that the Bears will now release Cutler or trade him at the end of the season. Cutler may be gone, but Trestman will not be far behind after what the team has done since his arrival.
There's no guarantee that Cutler is being banished from Chicago, but the embattled quarterback desperately needs a change of scenery.
Was it a good decision to bench Cutler? Who knows, but given the fact that Cutler can't win with all the weapons at his disposal, and the lack of emotion he displays, it wouldn't bother many Bears fans if Cutler has taken his last snap in Chicago.
Let's take a look at one team in each division that could benefit from having Jay Cutler under center.
The Broncos, Chargers and Chiefs are all content with their QB's so the only possible place Cutler might end up is Oakland. Derek Carr has shown signs of being the future in Oakland but the Raiders and their fan base doesn't seem too excited about the Raiders winning in the near future. Cutler could provide some off-season buzz for a very passionate fan base and a team with some young talent.
There are two teams that could be a nice landing spot for Cutler. Houston and Tennessee are both in need of a QB, but if given the choice, Cutler would much prefer playing for Houston. Adding Cutler to the Texans would make them an instant playoff contender and Cutler would greatly benefit from joining a team with a good defense and a head coach that gets the best out of his quarterbacks. Of all the logical landing spots, Houston sounds like the best fit to me.
There may not be a good fit in the AFC North. Two teams teams have a Super Bowl winning QB, one recently signed a 100-million dollar contract and the other just drafted Johnny Football in the first round. Depending on how Johnny Football plays in the last two games may determine of Cutler would be a good fit in Cleveland. As of now it looks like there is no fit in the AFC North.
The Jets and the Bills might be good fits for Cutler if they don't see a future with EJ Manuel or Geno Smith. The Bills appear to be the better fit considering they have an excellent defense, a lot of young talent on the offensive side of the ball and are a decent QB away from posing a decent threat to New England.
The Rams would be a great fit for Cutler. They have stellar defense and are a playoff-caliber team if they were in pretty much any other division in football. Since Sam Bradford can't stay healthy and can't be depended on, Cutler would provide some reliability and be a QB that won't be afraid to but heads with the likes of Seattle and Arizona.
The Tampa Bay Bucs might also be the best possible fit for Jay Cutler of any team. They are coached by the former Bears Coach, Lovie Smith, and Cutler actually had some decent years in Chicago under Smith. The Bucs have some good weapons on offense and Coach Smith should be able to shore up the defense in the near future. If the Bucs can keep Vincent Jackson, they will have two monsters on the outside and they may be able to get Doug Martin back on track which would give them a very good chance to win the division in one or two years. Whether Cutler ends up in Tampa Bay will be a clear indication of how positively Lovie Smith feels about Cutler's ability to be franchise QB.
With the status of RGIII in limbo, Cutler may actually be a good fit in Washington. Washington has some weapons on the offensive side of the ball and the defense ranks well against the run. Cutler may be a good fit and exactly what Jay Gruden wants to fit his West-Coast system. Cutler would love playing in a division where defense is optional and with Cutler in Washington, the Redskins could cause some headaches for for the Eagles and Cowboys.
There likely won't be any interest from the NFC North since each team has had a front-row seat to the dumpster-fire known as Jay Cutler. Minnesota would be the only possible place that Cutler can land and it doesn't seem likely given the fact that the Vikings drafted Teddy Bridgewater in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft.
For the most up-to-date QB news, stay tuned to Fantasy Focus!
Fantasy Sit Start
1. RB LeSean McCoy, PHI:
McCoy can still shake up defenses with his agility and elusiveness, but his value is taking a hit as he's losing goal-line opportunities. Just last week, he rushed 16 times for 64 yards (4.0 yards per carry), but fellow back Chris Polk was the one to hit the end zone twice, and Darren Sproles picked up a TD as well. McCoy will have a tough time picking up the same high rate of yards per carry against the stout Redskins defense, as Washington ranks 7th in allowing 101 rushing yards per game. Expect Shady McCoy to put up low-end RB2 numbers as he continues to lose goal-line work.
2. RB Frank Gore, SF:
Gore is dealing with a concussion, and though he is on pace to start in Saturday night's game, don't expect him to get too much work in. With the 49ers having no chance of making the playoffs, they may not want to risk him re-injuring himself. San Francisco plays a decent rush defense in the Chargers, as San Diego ranks 13th in surrendering 108.6 rushing yards per contest. This may very well be a game where Kaepernick leads the team in rushing (and carries for that matter as well), as Gore can rest up in what could be one of his last 2 games with the team. Consider Gore a weak RB3/Flex play for Week 16
1. RB Tre Mason, STL:
Mason is a strong play in fantasy leagues across the board as his match up gives him great appeal for this week. On Sunday, the Rams host the Giants, who struggle heavily defending the run. New York ranks 30th in giving up 135.1 yards per game, and the young tailback will exploit the running lanes provided for him with ease. Coming off a poor performance (13 rushes for 33 yards), this is a great opportunity to bounce back. Mason is a solid fantasy football start as a high-end RB2 with major upside.
2. RB Mark Ingram, NO:
Mark Ingram is in a position to succeed, as the Saints take on a porous Falcons defense as they try to solidify their position atop the NFC South. Atlanta ranks 20th in allowing 117.4 rushing yards per game, and the young tailback should get some goal-line work as well. Ingram had a solid game last week, as he took 17 carries for 59 yards and a touchdown, and will look to keep the ball rolling. Ingram should receive 20+ touches, and should be considered a very appealing RB1 play this week.
Fantasy Waiver Wire Pickups -
LB Will Compton, Washington
Will Compton is a very athletic, high-effort, but raw IDP linebacker who is seeing more playing time due to the injury to Keenan Robinson. During the past two games, finally getting serious playing time, Compton has averaged 11.5 tackles, 7.0 solo tackles, 0.5 TFLs per game. He should be playing heavy again in Week 16, where he’ll face run-heavy Philadelphia. He might be good for 10+ tackles this week. Compton is not a super-talent, but he is working hard, has NFL athleticism, and most of all, has clear opportunity right now.
CB Justin Gilbert, Cleveland
First and foremost—Justin Gilbert is a very talented IDP CB. However, he is just a rookie—and is very raw. It’s easy to lose track of Gilbert, despite the fact that he was the #8 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. He played right away for Cleveland, but was struggling in coverage (to put it mildly). He was ‘benched’ for all intents and purposes, and played sparingly for weeks. Of late, injuries have crushed the Cleveland secondary, and Gilbert is getting more playing time.
Gilbert has 0.9 PDs per game in his last eight games, much of that not starting or playing a ton. Two weeks ago, he picked off a pass and took it back for a 23-yard TD. That’s his hidden value as a DB/CB…he was an all-world return man in college. Arguably, one of the greatest return men in the history of the NCAAs. When Gilbert gets his hands on the ball, he’s electric. He is a TD waiting to happen…he’s good enough that you might see him take some plays on offense in the future. Perhaps, even this week.
Joe Haden is questionable for Week 16, and they may force Gilbert into a pure starting role…and he faces either Cam Newton or Derek Anderson—it should be a fair opportunity for a pick. If Gilbert starts, and gets picked on--he might get his hands on an interception, and then watch the fireworks on the runback.
LB Kavell Conner, San Diego
Kavell Conner has been playing more and more as the season wears on, and now might have a clear shot at a full start in Week 16 with the season-ending injury to starting ILB IDP Donald Butler.
In the last five weeks, Conner has posted two games with eight tackles, while averaging 6.2 tackles and 0.2 sacks per game in that span.
Conner is not as physically gifted as the aforementioned Will Compton, but he is more experienced…and like Compton, Conner is in line to play a full game as a starter. He should be good for at least eight tackles this week, with a chance at popping double-digits. He also may nab a sack against the extremely sack-able Colin Kaepernick. One of the better fantasy pickups for this week.
*Our annual Fantasy Football Metrics.com Dynasty Stash 2014 package of reports are posting/updating through Weeks 16 and 17, and we are adding an IDP-only Dynasty Stash report as well. Go to Fantasy Football Metrics.com for more information.
-- R.C. Fischer is an NFL Draft analyst for College Football Metrics.com, and a football projections analyst for Fantasy Football Metrics.com. His group also provides player projections for Advanced Sports Logic’s football software “The Machine.”
The following are a few crucial fantasy injury updates:
With DeMarco Murray's availability currently up in the air, he may not be a recommended start for this week’s fantasy league playoffs. With Murray questionable and possibly a game-time-decision, owners should look toward solid alternatives in fellow Cowboys tailback Joseph Randle or Panthers back Jonathan Stewart.
Randle is more than just Murray's handcuff option, he is an immediate low-end RB1 as he has thrived in the Cowboys offense. Though it may be a small sample size, Randle is averaging 7.0 yards per carry on the season (34 carries for 237 yards and 2 touchdowns). Dallas faces a mediocre defense in the Colts, as Indianapolis ranks t-16th in allowing 110.4 rushing yards per contest.
Joseph Randle would receive the bulk of the carries in Murray's potential absence and could very well break 100 yards for the contest behind the dominant offensive line for the Cowboys.
If Randle is unavailable, Jonathan Stewart is another solid option at halfback. Stewart (who is not shy to the injury updates list) has been red-hot as of late with 42 carries for 228 yards (5.43 yards per carry) to go along with one rushing and one receiving touchdown.
In other NFL injury updates, fellow back DeAngelo Williams should be returning, but expect Stewart to retain the feature back role. He and the Panthers have a very favorable match up with the Browns. Cleveland ranks 31st in the league by allowing 137.6 rushing yards per game.
Stewart should be started regardless, but he is more than suitable as a DeMarco Murray replacement.
One week Peyton Manning blows it for you in the playoffs and now its Aaron Rodgers dropping the ball. What a terrible couple weeks it's been for these fantasy football so called “studs!” Hopefully you are still in contention for some NFL fantasy hardware even in spite of these quarterback woes.
Now lets take a look at what the damage really was for these two guys. During Week 14, Manning threw for a woeful 173 yards and two interceptions against a dominating Bills defense. That same vaunted Buffalo defense then held Aaron Rodgers to a minuscule 185 yards and two interceptions during Week 15. Those types of weeks are not what fantasy owners had in mind for their supreme quarterbacks during fantasy crunch time. One thing that both of those punishing weeks have in common is the opponent. The Buffalo defense has proven again and again that they are for real by stopping both of these Hall of fame caliber shot callers.
So the question is, if you own one of these two quarterbacks, can you give them another chance? The answer has to be yes. Chances are if you are still in the playoffs, its because of one of these guys not in spite of. In a week where your team absolutely needs to perform, you’ve got to roll with your big guns.
In NFL player news, Aaron Rodgers has had an MVP type season and should bounce back easily in week 16. The Green Bay Packers are facing the 2-12 Tampa Bay Bucs next week and Rodgers should again show fantasy owners why they drafted him on draft day. The Buccaneers defense has allowed the ninth-most passing yards per game this season and only four other teams have permitted more passing touchdowns. Start Rodgers with full confidence next week.
The matchup is not so sweet for Peyton Manning next week. They face a hot Bengals defense that shut out Johnny Manziel and the Browns last week. But let’s not get carried away and even put Manziel and Manning in the same sentence. Manning and the Broncos still have a first-round playoff bye to play for so look for Manning to be at his best this week. With the resurgence of the Bronco’s running game Peyton has not been putting up such gaudy fantasy numbers as he has earlier in the season but you have to trust Peyton this week unless you have another top 5 quarterback with a better matchup – sat Andrew Luck against Dallas.
The moral of the story is to start the players that have gotten you here thus far. Even though Rodgers and Manning have had a couple of skids late in the season, they are still fantasy football studs. These two guys are the best options at quarterback and are still “must-starts” in fantasy land.
— Well, how was that for a Johnny Manziel (10-18 for 80 yards, 0 TD/2 INT) debut? Manziel was once at the top of the list of fantasy sleeper picks, but is now a total bust with the added bonus of having locker room and off-field issues at every turn.
I realize rookie QBs can flounder early. This wasn’t a floundering…it was one of the worst QB performances you will have ever witness. I would have expected this from Logan Thomas or Ryan Lindley, etc., if/when they were thrown ‘into the fire’ off the bench never having played with the 1st-team in the regular-season…but you would expect a little better from a 1st-round draft pick. This is the guy that many of the mainstream football analysts touted as their initial #1 QB and/or overall prospect in the 2014 NFL Draft. Manziel’s performance in this game was abysmal.
Someone needs to find that homeless man who told the Browns’ owner to “draft Manziel,” and fire him.
Manziel had two interceptions in this game. He should have had between four and six of them. His downfield throws that were actually completed were all blind throws that were mostly wounded ducks than actual NFL passes. This was an embarrassment to the NFL…’this’ being when Manziel’s payroll check clears the bank this week.
The Carolina-DST (Cleveland’s next opponent) is suddenly in-play for Week 16 title matches and is one of the better NFL fantasy sleepers for this week.
Will the Browns wait a year to admit their error, or will they draft another QB in 2015? Either way, the Browns are screwed unless they dig up the right veteran QB next year (and it’s not Hoyer). Josh Gordon (3 rec/ for 48 yards on 4 targets) and Jordan Cameron (1 rec. for 4 yards on 1 target) will be FF-disappointments for the foreseeable future as well.
This will not help the emerging Browns-DST either, because the turnovers, lack of field position, etc. is too tall a hill to climb.
This is a total unraveling for a franchise that three weeks ago was worrying about the playoffs. They now have to worry about their franchise getting flushed back to becoming a constant source of ridicule…again.
Our College Football Metrics.com studies saw the Manziel bust coming…with specifics on what he was doing on the field in college, and why it would be an issue in the pros.
Don’t lose track of Browns’ practice squad QB Connor Shaw…it might be all they have at a certain point. Likely, he’ll never get a fair shake despite being a similar, better QB than Manziel in the SEC in their final seasons. You can see his detailed scouting report on College Football Metrics.com as well.
Best Fantasy Football Keepers -
— Jeremy Hill (25 carries for 148 yards and 2 TDs, 1 rec. for 4 yards on 1 target) had a nice game here. We did not think Hill could carry an offense in the NFL…projecting that he would be more of a complimentary guy, which is an NFL trend these days. I’m not blown away by Hill, but I see he is better than we statistically scouted.
What I would like to celebrate on Hill: We did tell you, for a year plus, that Gio Bernard (15 carries for 79 yards, 3 rec. for 24 yards on 3 targets) was just an average/good NFL RB prospect…and by no means a high-end, main-carry guy in the NFL. His Fantasy-Dynasty stock is plummeting quickly.
— IDP Craig Robertson (10 tackles, 1 PD, 1 INT) is white hot the past few weeks. He was one of our deep sleepers for Week 15, and he delivered again this week. In the last five games: 10.6 tackles, 0.4 PD, 0.2 INTs per game. He has double-digit tackle in four of those last five.
– R.C. Fischer is an NFL Draft analyst for College Football Metrics.com, and a football projections analyst for Fantasy Football Metrics.com. His group also provides player projections for Advanced Sports Logic’s football software “The Machine.” See “The Machine” here: The Machine via FFM
Week 14 was “The Red Wedding” episode of the 2014 fantasy football season as more star players bit the dust than any week this year.
If you own Peyton Manning and are still standing, then chances are your team had earned a bye last week.
There is no rest for the weary as we plow forward into week 15 and the players that will lead your teams to victory.
Without further ado…
Tony Romo, DALLAS at Philadelphia: We will give Romo the benefit of the doubt that his miserable Thanksgiving performance against the Eagles was due to the short week and its effect on his back. With plenty of rest, Romo will take advantage of a defense that’s given up 26 touchdowns through the air while only picking off 10 passes. Look for Romo and the Cowboys offense to exact some revenge Sunday night.
Matthew Stafford, DETROIT vs. Minnesota: The Lions offense is beginning to fire on all cylinders and Stafford is averaging 350 yards passing in his last two games. He has also tossed five touchdowns without an interception in those games. Geno Smith just put up 254 yards and a score against the Vikings…Geno Smith. Get ready to see the Stafford-to-Calvin Johnson show all day long - a must fantasy football start.
Ben Roethlisberger, PITTSBURGH at Atlanta: Big Ben finally had a nice road game and it came versus a solid defense and a team that he had historically struggled against. He now gets to face a Falcons defense that has allowed 10 touchdowns in the last six games. Yes, we trust Roethlisberger to shine again away from home.
Matt Ryan, ATLANTA vs. Pittsburgh: Over his past three games, ‘Matty Ice’ has tossed eight touchdowns and only three interceptions. He’s also averaged 336 yards passing during that time. The Steelers have allowed at least two touchdowns to quarterbacks in seven straight games. This is going to be a big week for Ryan.
Colin Kaepernick, SAN FRANCISCO at Seattle: If Kaepernick couldn’t produce against the Oakland Raiders on the road, there is no hope that he will do anything at Seattle. Whoever the new coach is in San Francisco next season, getting the kid back on track should be job one. Avoid at all costs this week.
Andy Dalton, CINCINNATI at Cleveland: Dalton continued his up and down play with two passing touchdowns last week. He put up over 300 yards passing along with a career long 20-yard touchdown run. This week he faces a much stiffer test in a Browns defense that just held Andrew Luck in check. It’s hard to shake that Week 10 performance in which Dalton completed 10-of-33 passes for 86 yards and three interceptions against Cleveland. Bench him.
Ryan Tannehill, MIAMI at New England: Tannehill stumbled badly last week in a favorable matchup at home. There is no way we are going to trust fantasy playoff success by counting on him at New England this week. In the last five games, the Patriots have held Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers to a combined total of seven touchdown passes. There are better options than Tannehill.
Joe Flacco, BALTIMORE vs. Jacksonville: Flacco has bolstered his last two performances by racking up a rushing touchdown in each of the games to accompany two touchdown passes. That is not something to be counted on to continue on a weekly basis. Flacco has topped two rushing touchdowns for a season only once (2012). The Jaguars defense has been stout of late against quarterbacks, holding them to merely three total touchdowns (one rushing) in the past three games.
Keep reading ASL for the most complete fantasy sit start info!
QB Ryan Tannehill, MIA:
Coming off a less than impressive line in a loss to the Ravens, Tannehill is in for another tough one as the Dolphins head to New England for Week 16. Though the Patriots do not rank too highly in passing yards allowed per contest, they have done very well defensively at home. They held Matthew Stafford to 0 TDs and 1 interception in a blowout, and let up 2 TDs to the great Peyton Manning while forcing him to throw 2 interceptions as well. Tannehill and the Dolphins offense is nowhere near as impressive as that of Stafford's Lions and Manning's Broncos. Expect Ryan Tannehill to have great difficulty getting things going, and he is not a recommended start in 2 QB leagues.
RB Ryan Mathews, SD:
It comes as no surprise, but Ryan Mathews is once again battling injury. The injury-prone 27-year-old tailback from Fresno State has been dealing with injuries for the entirety of his 5 year career, missing 17 total games thus far. The status on his ankle injury is unknown at this point, but he is being considered 50-50 for San Diego's contest with the Broncos. Even if Mathews plays, he faces a Broncos defense that ranks second in allowing just 72.8 rushing yards per contest. Consider the brittle-boned Ryan Mathews nothing more than a weak RB3 play.
WR Jordan Matthews, PHI:
Jordan Matthews will look to bounce back from a weak performance against Seattle, as he and the Eagles face a much weaker defense opponent in the Dallas Cowboys. The last time the two teams squared off in Dallas, Matthews went for a line of 4-51-1. The Cowboys pass defense ranks 25th as they surrender an average of 251.9 passing yards per game, and the big athletic rookie wideout is a tough guard to begin with. Look for Mark Sanchez to look toward the receiver he trusts most in Jordan Matthews, and expect him to go off in a very favorable match up as a high-end WR2 with major upside.
RB Jeremy Hill, CIN:
Jeremy Hill is facing a great matchup in his first game since taking control of the backfield, as the Bengals head to Cleveland for Sunday afternoon. The Browns rank 26th in allowing 129.5 rushing yards per game. Expect the rookie to have a field day against the Browns, with multiple opportunities to reach the end zone as he has also taken over as their goal line back. Last time the 2 teams met, Hill was able to rush for 4.6 yards per carry, and now as the single feature back, he should be able to do some serious damage. Hill can be used as a middle of the pack RB1 for Week 15 and should be a good fantasy football start option.
For the latest fantasy sit start advice, stay tuned to ASL!
RB Fantasy Football News -
The Miami Dolphins have plenty of talent and are in the hunt for a Wild Card birth in the AFC. Their biggest issue is that they aren't using their most productive offensive player, running back Lamar Miller. Dolphins fans and fantasy owners can't understand why the Dolphins don't utilize their could-be top 5 fantasy RB more given the fact that he's averaging 4.8 Yards Per Carry and 6.5 Yards Per Reception.
In RB news, Miller is only averaging 12 carries per game and the only reasonable explanation can be that the coaching staff doesn't want to wear him out. However, if the Dolphins keep up their current playing style, Miami will miss the playoffs altogether and the entire team can take a nice long rest waiting for next year's season to begin. The Dolphins have not won back-to-back games since Week 9 and face a hungry Patriots squad on the road in freezing Foxborough where the high temperature won't be a lick over 40 degrees.
Miami will try to become the first team to beat the Patriots in New England all year. Miami is one of three teams to beat the Patriots this year, so they have the required pieces to win, but this Patriots team is a far different beast than the team they beat back in Week 1.
The Dolphins have to pretty much win out and have some things go their way to even have a chance to squeak into the playoffs. The only way this will happen is if they feed Miller the rock and ride him until the wheels fall off.
If Miami boosts Miller's touches to between 18-20 carries per game, they will increase their chances of winning games and give fantasy owners the boost they have been waiting for all season long. More volume would transform Miller from a high-end RB2 to a solid RB1 for the remainder of the year and beyond. But this can only happen If Miami comes to their senses and allows Miller to play a more significant role in the team's offense.
Stay tuned to ASL RB fantasy news for the most up to date info!