Here we are. The playoffs.
It's what everyone spends all season waiting for and dreaming about. If you're lucky, you'll be playing meaningful football this week. If you follow the advice of FakeTeams, hopefully you'll play fantasy football next week. If you're a Colts fan, I'm sorry.
This is crunch time and every point matters. As I've been doing all season long, I'll try my best to extrapolate every possible point from your roster as I can. There's no way to predict a total flop when using statistical measure, history, and situation to it's finest. Injuries happen. Flops happen. Just ask Rashard Mendenhall after failing to do much against one of the league's worst run defenses. But I'm going to give you the best evidence I can that the following advice is correct.
Adrian Peterson is practicing. That doesn't mean that he'll play, but he's practicing. That's a good sign if you have him and a potentially bad sign if you're facing him. I actually have him in one money league and my opponent has him in the other. I have Toby Gerhart in BOTH leagues, but I'll go ahead and pray that Peterson returns. He was my number one pick and helped lead me to the points lead during the season.
If he doesn't go, then Gerhart isn't a bad option. Somebody has to fill Peyton Hillis's shoes. You know, as an underdog running back that comes out of nowhere to be a top rusher. That's why I am comparing the two. I swear.
Here are your Sleepers for Week 14
Earlier in the season Fitzpatrick was a surprise big-time QB when he threw for 9 TDs and over 800 yards through three games. He showed promise last season when he threw for 23 TDs, but he was far from a sure thing. After he came up big (and the Bills went 3-0) he was signed to a big contract extension not long after.
Not longer after the extension, Fitz fell flat.
Between weeks 4 and 10 he threw for 7 TDs and 11 INTs, throwing for less than 200 yards four times. He was basically unstartable. Then he threw for 264 yards, 3 TD/0 INTs against the vaunted Jets, attacking Darrelle Revis over and over again with success. He had 288 yards and 1 TD/0 INT against Tennessee last week. If you find yourself in a bind at QB, Fitz could be a very successful play this week.
The Chargers look nice on paper when it comes to pass defense. They're sixth in the NFL against the pass in terms of yardage, and have held a QB under 200 yards seven times and only once over 300 yards. Look deeper and you'll see that they're not that good. For instance, they held Donovan McNabb and the Vikings to 28 net passing yards in week one. So what? Where's McNabb now?
San Diego has allowed 22 TDs against just 11 INTs and giving up 7.8 yards per pass attempt. Opposing QBs are posting a 94.7 QB rating and that still includes McNabb. (And Blaine Gabbert. And Tim Tebow. And Matt Cassel. And Mark Sanchez. And Kyle Orton. And Matt Moore. You get the idea.) Gabbert threw for 195 yards and 2 TDs against the Chargers last week. I think Fitzpatrick should be good for at least 250 yards and 2 or 3 TDs.
Mike Tolbert versus the Bills
Same game, different team.
Tolbert hasn't been bad this season, but he's only rushed for 364 yards playing behind Ryan Mathews. He does have 45 catches for 370 yards and seven total touchdowns, but he's a risky play. The bowling ball man has seen less than 10 carries in seven of eleven games this year, but against Buffalo, he will stand a good chance of scoring and getting double-digit touches.
The Bills have given up 14 rushing TDs and 21 passing TDs and are 26th in the NFL in scoring defense. Good for Philip Rivers, good for Ryan Mathews, and yes, good for Mike Tolbert.
Ricky Williams versus the Colts
I put Ricky on this list last week and he put up 76 yards and a TD against the Browns. (God the Browns suck at run defense.) The Colts are pretty awful at it too.
Indy has given up an NFL worst 17 rushing TDs to go along with 144.2 yards per game. Even when Ray Rice gets 200 yards, there's still leftovers for Ricky when you face a defense as bad as Cleveland or Indianapolis. Once Baltimore establishes a 21 point lead, the ball will be in the hands of Ray and Ricky and that's the kind of R&R Ravens fans can get used to. (I suppose they can get used to Rest and Relaxation as well. I mean, that's the point of rest and relaxation.)
I was about to say "Santana Moss should be an obvious play" but then I had to remind myself that Moss has not been his normal self this year, is getting older, dealt with injuries, and dealt with Rex Grossman. He's posted between 17 and 42 yards in each of his last five games without a TD since week four.
Gaffney was hot to trot for a little while and put up 7 catches, 115 yards and a TD against Dallas three weeks ago. Then he didn't post any catches against the Jets last week. That should not happen against the Patriots.
It's true that New England has given up the most passing yards in the NFL, but their defense isn't as bad as that. They've given up 18 TDs and a second-best-in-the-NFL 17 INTs. That's why Grossman is more of a risky 300 yards, 3 or 4 INT possibility type of play this week.
INTs don't matter to WRs though. Both are good plays this week. Though I wouldn't necessarily start them over a better player with a slightly worse matchup. If you're deciding between Moss and Doug Baldwin, I'd go Moss.
Its a risky proposition to start Austin after missing over a month but it might be worth it. It seems like ages ago that Austin caught 9 balls for 143 yards and 3 TDs in week two against the 49ers, but he started out the year on fire. He hasn't done much since, even in the games he was healthy(ish) in and Laurent Robinson has become the go-to guy for Tony Romo.
The Giants have been torn up lately but a lot of the damage was done not by the big name guys, but players like Donald Driver, Riley Cooper, and Delanie Walker. Austin may not be as big a part of the offense as he was earlier in the year, but that may not be a bad thing for his owners.
Don't be fooled by the Bengals being 10th in the NFL in pass defense. They've been burned by plenty of wide receivers and the faster the better. Recently they've given up scores to Mike Wallace, Greg Little, and a huge game by Torrey Smith. Don't get me wrong, Jones has been held with 1 catch or less five times this season and he's only had two good fantasy games all season long. That's why you've got your Miles Austin sleeper that you'll probably start and your Jones sleeper that's a move of desperation that could really pay off.
If Andre Johnson misses the game it's even more opportunity for Jones.
Ed Dickson versus the Colts
The Colts aren't a guaranteed success against, they held Marcedes Lewis to negative yards, but they are the Indianapolis Colts. Rob Gronkowski did work. Tony Gonzalez did work. I suspect that Dickson will catch his fourth TD of the season.
Week 14 Playoff Disappointments
Sometimes you only get one chance to screw up royally in the playoffs. These guys could leave owners smashing their televisions, leaving their wives, and relocating to another city this week.
There aren't too many terrible matchups for great QBs this week. Freeman is the closest thing I could find. Ben Roethlisberger could have made this list, and the Browns did a good job of shutting him down until Joe Haden fell down and Antonio Brown scrambled 80 yards for a score near the end of the game. (I'm facing Brown in my $200 league and yes, I was livid.)
Freeman isn't having a good season. If you're in a two-QB league or a super deep league, maybe you're starting him. This wouldn't be a good week to do that. The only QBs the Jags have allowed to go over 200 yards this year are Philip Rivers, Matt Schaub, Drew Brees, and Matt Hasselbeck way back in week one. Freeman shouldn't get much to work with on Sunday.
Beanie Wells versus the 49ers
This is always an automatic. 12 games, 0 rushing TDs allowed.
The league's 2nd best run defense. In their first game this year, Stewart had 48 yards and a score and Williams had 44 yards. Cam Newton always a threat to steal the goal line touchdowns.
I expect he will play but still bothered by a foot injury, which is never a good thing. Marshawn Lynch was in a similar situation where it looked like he would play against the Browns and then scratched at game time, so just keep an eye on that. On top of that, the Texans have a great defense and they've held opposing teams under 100 yards in six of their last eight games.
Kansas City is allowing 42.2 yards per game to opposing number one wide receivers and their defense is the ONLY reason they are still only 2 games back of first place at 5-7. Brandon Flowers, Joe Haden, Darrelle Revis are always corners to avoid.
Brandon Lloyd versus the Seahawks
Lloyd did catch a TD pass in their first matchup of the year, but the Seahawks completely (and I mean COMPLETELY) shut down the Rams offense after that. Rookie Richard Sherman is quickly rising the ranks as one of the top young corners in the league.
Dwayne Bowe versus Darrelle Revis
Will teams continue to attack Revis like the Bills did with success? I wouldn't want to be the guy that has to test that out this week.
Owen Daniels versus the Bengals
Cincinnati might be a good team to attack in the air with wide receivers, but they do a good job of shutting the tight end down. On top of that, Joel Dreessen has been stealing all of the goal line targets from Daniels.
Players That Will Get You to Round Two
Matthew Stafford versus the Vikings
Right now these are the numbers that opposing QBs combined have put up on the Vikings in 12 games this year:
68.2% completion, 3,278 yards, 24 TD/6 INT, 8.2 Y/A, 106.5 QB Rating
The only QB in the league with a higher QB rating than that is Aaron Rodgers. In their first meeting of the season, Stafford went 32 of 46 fo 378 yards, 2 TD/0 INT. He could do better than that.
Aaron Rodgers versus the Raiders
Because of course. And the Raiders have given up the 7th most points to QBs over the last five weeks.
In their first meeting, Turner had 139 yards and 2 TDs. Panthers can't stop the run and Turner is good. Science.
This just screams 200 yards.
Ray Rice versus the Colts
Roddy White versus the Panthers
Rowdy Roddy is coming on strong lately and the Panthers are 27th in DVOA against a number one WR.
Calvin Johnson versus the Vikings
I have Stafford and Megatron. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU
Stevie Johnson versus the Chargers
This could be a high scoring game.
Jason Witten versus the Giants
New York has been burned over and over again by tight ends lately. I expect that to continue with Witten getting a lot of targets on Sunday Night.
As always, follow me on twitter @casetines
ITS TIME FOR MORE FREAKING NOTES
- Last night I needed Rashard Mendenhall and Antonio Brown to get shut down. And it worked for most of the game. With time winding down they were both held under eight points. I guess I can be grateful that Mendenhall didn't have a good game when he should have. I still like my chances but it's not the hole I wanted to be in with Brown topping 21 points. I have: Stafford, Megatron, Roddy, Witten, Roy Helu, CJ Spiller, Adrian Peterson/Toby Gerhart, Nick Novak, and Miami Dolphins defense. It seems like nobody else in the universe is paying attention to Miami's defense. Meanwhile, they face an Eagles defense that turns it over more than any team in the league. I'm hoping for a touchdown or TWO from them.
- I promise it's pure coincidence that My "Team That Gets You to Round Two" has four guys from my team.
- In my other league my lineup is Stafford, Victor Cruz, Dez Bryant, Michael Bush, Maurice Jones-Drew, Jermichael Finley, Toby Gerhart, MIA, with Andre Johnson waiting in the wings and a couple of players that could fill in for Gerhart if Peterson gets healthy.
- I face Tony Romo in both leagues but I have a safety valve in Witten in one league and Dez in the other.
- If you add up the win totals of both teams in a game this week, the lowest number you'll find is seven: The 2-10 Rams and the 5-7 Seahawks. Are you ready for some football? MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL! The interesting thing about that game would be seeing Tom Brandstater start at QB for an NFL team on Monday Night.
- The Bucs and Jags also add up to seven, tied for the worst. MJD will seal a Jags victory.
- The Chiefs and Jets won't be exciting football, it will probably stay low scoring and though I'll be pulling for Kansas City, I think the Jets manage to pull out another victory and move to 8-5 while Kansas City sees their playoff hopes go poof. KC has been one of the most interesting teams I can remember... They scored 10 points in their first two games, then they scored between 17 and 28 in their next five games, and they've scored a total of 35 points over their last five games. Sure, losing Matt Cassel and Jamaal Charles is the key, but 7 points per game?
- I would like the Colts to beat the Ravens. I would like to see them go 4-12 so that Andrew Luck does not wind up there or to make all of this Manning/Luck talk completely moot. It's a long shot that the Vikings or Rams end up getting the number one pick, but it would certainly be a lot more interesting to see one of those teams probably trade Luck to the highest bidder. I would like a lot of things in life, but the Colts beating the Ravens is probably not going to happen. (Watch it happen.)
- The Eagles are a disappointing 4-8 and the Dolphins are a surprising 4-8. Perspective is funny. Tony Sparano probably can't keep his job, but I wouldn't be so quick to fire him. The Dolphins lost to the Pats by 14, to the Texans by 10, to the Browns by 1, to the Chargers by 10, to the Jets by 18, to the Broncos by 3, to the Giants by 3, to the Cowboys by 1. That's six out of eight losses to potential or definite playoff teams, and close losses that could have been wins. I would let Sparano coach next year, but I'm a softy. If the Dolphins get their QB, they'll be good. They seem like a good fit for Robert Griffin III. Oh, Dolphins beat the Eagles on Sunday. Andy Reid may not keep his job either.
- The Panthers may play bad defense. The Falcons may play good defense. The Falcons may have won the first meeting by 14 points. But at home, with Cam Newton, coming off of back-to-back wins, anything can happen. They lost to the Packers by 7, to the Jay Cutler Bears by 5, to the Saints by 3, they had a big lead against the Lions... Carolina might win this one. I'll just say Falcons by 3 to be safe though.
- The Redskins have lost their last four home games and now New England comes into town. It will be interesting to see what Tom Brady does against a good pass defense. He seems super human, but he's had lulls this year. I'll take the Pats by 10.
- Aaron Rodgers will roll over the Raiders. No offense Oakland, but your pass defense isn't good and Rodgers is the best player in the league. This one could get ugly and Michael Bush might be taken out of the game early. Carson Palmer could have a good day, but to what receiver? Chaz Schilens, super sleeper.
- The Saints travel to Tennessee and I think the Titans will put up a good fight. I love Drew Brees, but I'll take an upset of small proportions: Titans 24, Saints 20.
- The Texans will finish the year 12-4 and get the two seed in the AFC with a bye and a home game. It's hard for teams without playoff experience (and the franchise has NONE) to win their first go-around in the playoffs, but Houston has a very special defense. If they still had all of their key pieces, they might go much further. They should beat the Bengals this week, a team that's falling to earth hard.
- Lions 49, Vikings 20. Stafford to Megatron thrice? Not until he throws his mandatory two first half interceptions.
- The 49ers play the Cardinals in Arizona this week and have the Steelers at home next week. Ever heard of a trap game? Cardinals have won four of their last five, their only loss being to the 49ers. Upset alert right here.
- The Bears scored 30 points six times with Jay Cutler and they've scored 23 total in two games with Caleb Hanie. The Broncos play good D and now Matt Forte is out too. These are two 7-5 teams headed in very opposite directions. The Bears still play in Green Bay in week 16, could 8-8 be their best case scenario? That's probably not going to get you into the playoffs. But it might. Broncos win 17-15.
- Denver in first place? Wow.
- Two of the fastest falling teams in the league meet in San Diego. Both the Bills and Chargers are 1-6 since week five. It would make sense that the Chargers win at home, with the more talented team. It would also make sense that Tim Tebow would have been benched after two games and that Chris Paul would be a Laker. We live in a different world now. Still, SD 35, Buf 31
- I previewed some of Dallas and New York earlier this week. I've got to ultimately take the Cowboys at home and they almost certainly win the division if they do that.
- Again, Monday Night Football is Tom Brandstater versus Tarvaris Jackson possibly. That's kind of terrible and kind of awesome. Seattle 24, St. Louis 3.