Wednesday, November 27, 2013

2013 Week 13 Fantasy Advice

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! As everyone gets ready to stuff their faces with Turkey, or set up tents outside your local Wal-Mart, I'm excited to say I'm thankful for my fantasy team rebounding to have a 6-6 record at this stage after a terrible start. And I'm also thankful for no more bye weeks the rest of the way. All 32 teams are playing every week, which means a full slate of football for everyone. Cheers to that. And in honor of Thanksgiving, enjoy this stuffed column with more recommendations than usual.

Who to Start:

QB Matt Stafford (DET) vs. GB THU: Aside from last week, Stafford has been pretty efficient at home. The Packers defense has been pretty abysmal for most of the season, so Stafford should be able to rebound on the big stage.

QB Philip Rivers (SD) vs. CIN: On paper, this matchup looks bad for Rivers and the Bolts. But when you look closer, the Bengals have not been nearly as good away from home as they have at home, and injuries have played a role in that. Rivers could have a big game Sunday.

RB Andre Brown (NYG) vs. WSH: It seems the Giants have finally found their consistent running back that they've long needed. His pace should continue against the dreadful Washington rush defense, which gets gashed week after week.

RB Chris Ivory (NYJ) vs. MIA: While the Dolphins defense has been overall solid for most of the season, they have been pretty poor against the run. Ivory will need to have a big game for the Jets to get a win, and he likely will.

WR Josh Gordon (CLE) vs. JAX: Brandon Weeden does scare me, as does the Jags improving pass defense. But even in garbage time, that Gordon performance last week is too hard to look away from.

WR Michael Floyd (ARZ) vs. PHI: He's been on fire recently, torching both the Jaguars and Colts. The Eagles secondary is not very good either, so Floyd could be in line for another big day.

WR Harry Douglas (ATL) vs. BUF: He's not been a like-for-like replacement for Julio Jones, but he's been good enough for fantasy owners. The Bills secondary is pretty bad, and he doesn't have to deal with the Buffalo elements since the game is in Toronto.

TE Greg Olsen (CAR) vs. TB: He's been a consistent target for Cam Newton, as well as a consistent performer for fantasy owners. The Bucs have been a lot better in their 3 game winning streak, but this is the best team they're playing in that stretch.

TE Martellus Bennett (CHI) vs. MIN: Inconsistent but important, Bennett has been the type of TE that has frustrated everyone playing against him or starting him. He could be due for an off game because of his recent form, but he torched the Vikings in Week 2.

DEF New England vs. HOU: It's amazing how bad the Texans offense is. The Pats aren't the world's best fantasy defense, but they could have a field day against the Texans.

DEF Dallas vs. OAK THU: Matt McGloin is who he is, which means he's not good. Dallas should romp.

Who to Sit:

QB Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) vs. BAL THU: Hard to bench him on current form, but he's never played all that well against the Ravens, and Baltimore is a totally different team at home compared to away from it.

QB Mike Glennon (TB) vs. CAR: He's been a fantasy sleeper based on how well he's played for the Bucs, but he's been the beneficiary of some good matchups. Carolina's isn't one that is. He probably will come back down to earth.

RB Pierre Thomas (NO) vs. SEA MON: He's been playing great recently for New Orleans, but that snake-pit in Seattle is going to be hard to continue that success in. They're great against the run, especially in Seattle.

RB Anyone for New England vs. HOU: Based on the case of the fumbles guys like Stevan Ridley had against the Broncos, this doesn't bode well for anyone that screws up against the Texans since they could quickly go in the doghouse.

WR T.Y Hilton (IND) vs. TEN: As the Colts have gone cold, so has Hilton. The Titans defense has been better against the pass of late, including in Week 11, so Hilton is probably one to avoid.

WR Cecil Shorts (JAX) vs. CLE: As he complained about targets in Week 11, he got more of them against Houston, and performed well. But he's going up against Joe Haden this week, and very few receivers get the better of him.

WR Tavon Austin (STL) vs. SF: It's really nice to see him finally emerge as the big play threat the Rams drafted him as. But, his success has been against inferior defenses, and finally the 49ers unit seems to have found their feet again.

TE Jared Cook (STL) vs. SF: The invisible one for most of the year, he's actually rebounded nicely of late. But if you want to see why he's in this part of the column, see above.

TE Antonio Gates (SD) vs. CIN: He's losing targets to Ladarius Green of late, meaning his fantasy value is going down with it. The matchup against the Bengals isn't totally favorable either.

DEF Kansas City vs. DEN: Injuries + facing Peyton Manning a second time = disaster.

DEF New Orleans vs. SEA MON: They've been awesome for most of the season, but their major struggles have come away from home, and Seattle has made some defenses look silly at CenturyLink before (see 49ers, San Francisco).

4 Super Sleepers:

QB Josh McCown (CHI) vs. MIN: He's been an admirable replacement for Jay Cutler when he's been hurt, and this matchup against the pretty terrible Vikings secondary is favorable for him to have another decently big game.

RB Donald Brown (IND) vs. TEN: As Trent Richardson continues on the train to Bustville, Donald Brown picks up the ashes and plays pretty well. He did so against the Titans in their first meeting, so there is no reason to think that he won't do that again.

WR Kendall Wright (TEN) vs. IND: He's been a PPR star this season, and in other leagues he's starting to figure even more prominently. The Colts secondary has been torched badly since their bye week, so Wright could have another big game.

DEF Miami vs. NYJ: The Jets are usually better at home than they are on the road, but the turnovers from Geno Smith in the last 2 games have been appalling. Because of that, the Dolphins D could be in for a big game.

Buyer Beware:

QB Russell Wilson (SEA) vs. NO MON: Hard to bench him at this point considering how well he's been playing, but the Saints defense is the best one Wilson will have faced on paper since the Cardinals in Week 7. He could be in for some struggles, which might lead some to bench him.

WR Torrey Smith (BAL) vs. PIT THU: No one usually does well on offense when the Steelers and Ravens play each other, and Smith while on good form has never done well against Pittsburgh in his career. Again hard to bench, but one that might need to be considered.

Good Luck in Week 13 and remember that Tryptophan doesn't actually make you sleepy.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A 61 Year-Old Going Away Party

There are very few experiences in sports like watching your college team switch conferences. In the past, it was a totally alien feeling that might have only be discussed around the water cooler if there was nothing else to talk about. Now? Another fanbase is talking about this sensation every other day. And on this day, it was Maryland fans going through this. In a fairly empty Byrd Stadium, the Terps tried to honor their ACC past while looking to their B1G future, and it felt incredibly awkward. I imagine this is how a lot of other fanbases have felt recently, but putting pen to paper on these thoughts might codify them for those who will never experience the feeling.

Many fans were given a poster shaped in the number 61, referring to the number of years Maryland played ACC football, complete with ACC moments across the front. Everything from the game when Byrd Stadium hosted the Queen of England in 1957, to the Labor Day game 2 years ago when the world was introduced to "Maryland Pride" was included. Maryland is not a school that has much football history, so I imagine this will feel far weirder when the basketball team has this moment in March. But even then, the people in the stadium didn't really know how to react to some of these moments. When some members of the 1953 National Championship team were introduced, everyone cheered, but it felt like an obligation, not one out of an impulse of nostalgia. Some notable Terps games from seasons past were shown in moments on the scoreboards during commercial breaks, and it felt nice to see them, but nostalgia can only get you so far.

But maybe the weirdest moment was during halftime when the Maryland Band performed. Fittingly, they lined up in the shape of the ACC logo at one point during the performance, and then went to the shape of the B1G's new logo. The stadium had thinned out from an already sparse crowd that started the game, but those that saw it didn't really know how to react. Laugh? Cry? Both? Most if not all Maryland fans have memories solely in the ACC, so going to a new conference is certainly going to bring culture shock. Going from complaining about Carolina refs to Michigan refs is going to be weird the first few times one of the drunk stragglers in the student section at Comcast Center says it.

But what this day really cemented for me, someone with no attachment to Maryland athletics aside from this season and last, is that no one really has come to grips yet with Maryland switching conferences. Sure, the football schedules up until 2019 have been released, and Terps fans are already wondering what trips to Madison will be like compared to trips to Raleigh or Winston-Salem. Implicitly, every Maryland fan has already accepted what the future holds. But today told me that no one, including the athletics staff themselves, have really begun to come to grips with what is coming next fall. Maybe it won't be until Maryland fans get to October and see Ohio State coming on the schedule instead of Clemson that people will accept the B1G as the new home of Terrapins everywhere. But today, it didn't feel like anyone was ready to accept the future yet.

Drunk on nostalgia, everyone watched as Maryland coughed up another win at home, making it 3 straight losses at home. No matter what happens against NC State, or in the bowl game, Maryland will always be an ACC team, until the realization that they aren't hits home.

And for the 32K people in the stands, and probably to the people making the game happen, it hasn't yet. Nor will it any time soon.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

2013 Week 12 Fantasy Advice

We're about a week away from Thanksgiving now, which means the NFL season is getting more and more interesting. Whether interesting to you is watching dumpster fires, or watching the Broncos on Sunday Night Football every week, the interesting factor is certainly increasing by the week. This is also the last week for bye weeks, huzzah!


Who to Start:

QB Matt Stafford (DET) vs. TB: The Bucs have won 2 in a row, which seems weird considering their talent level. Despite possessing the best cover corner in football, the Bucs secondary has been awful. This bodes well for Matt Stafford, who needs a big week for the Lions on the rebound after a bad loss in Pittsburgh.

RB Zac Stacy (STL) vs. CHI: The carousel of Rams running backs continues to spin, and Stacy has come on top, especially with the Rams QB situation boosting his stock. The Bears surprisingly have been pretty poor against the run this season, so Stacy is a good start.

WR Larry Fitzgerald (ARZ) vs. IND: He's not been that consistent this season, but he had a solid game against the Jaguars Sunday, so a rebound could be in the offing. The Colts secondary has been oft torched this season, so he could have another solid outing.

WR Victor Cruz (NYG) vs. DAL: With a win, the Giants would be 1 game out of 1st place in the NFC East. Amazing, right? They haven't been particularly amazing in any game, but they've done enough to win. The Cowboys secondary has been pretty bad all year, so Cruz could have a big game in the biggest game of the year in the NFC East so far.

TE Vernon Davis (SF) vs. WSH MON: He's been great recently for the 49ers despite their overall slump, but going against Washington should help him see a rebound. The Redskins have been bad at most things on defense, but they've been especially bad at defending the Tight End. Davis could have a nice game.

DEF Baltimore vs. NYJ: The Jets have been one week on, and then one week off all season. They were off last week, so they should be on this week, right? Well... they've been garbage away from home aside from the game against Atlanta, and the Ravens are now desperate for a win.

Who to Sit:

QB Philip Rivers (SD) vs. KC: Of late he's been solid but unspectacular, and that doesn't bode well going into the snake pit that is Arrowhead Stadium. He's also not had the best of success in his career against the Chiefs either, throwing a pick in 5 consecutive games against them.

RB Trent Richardson (IND) vs. CLE: I think Cleveland won this trade. Richardson has been just terrible for fantasy owners of late, and it doesn't help that he's going up against a very underrated Cardinals rush defense on Sunday.

WR Mike Wallace (MIA) vs. CAR: I hope everyone saw how good the Panthers were on Monday Night, because that's what they're like every week. Wallace has been pretty awful with the Dolphins, and the Panthers are pretty likely to put the clamps on him.

WR Antonio Brown (PIT) vs. CLE: He's been red-hot of late, and that is usually must start criteria. But, he's going up against Joe Haden, who totally shut down A.J Green last Sunday. Watch out if you're starting Antonio Brown.

TE Timmy Wright (TB) vs. DET: I'm asking myself who this is as I type this as well. After some big games back a few weeks ago, his production has taken a bit of a nosedive of late. The Lions haven't been good at many things on defense, but they've held Tight Ends in check.

DEF New England vs. DEN: Do I need to explain this one?

3 Super Sleepers:

QB Case Keenum (HOU) vs. JAX: Despite getting benched last week, he's been good in every game he's played so far, but not good enough to win. The Jaguars pass defense has been getting better, so this is a riskier pick than you might think, but a good bye week option regardless.

RB Rashad Jennings (OAK) vs. TEN: Remember when he was supposed to be a pretty decent option in Jacksonville? That never happened, but he's been great the last 3 weeks. The Titans have had their struggles defending the run this season, so another big game for Jennings could be coming.

WR Kendall Wright (TEN) vs. OAK: QB issues have kept him completely under the fantasy radar this season, but going up against the Raiders patchwork secondary might put him back on it, at least briefly.

Buyer Beware:

QB Robert Griffin III (WSH) vs. SF MON: Unnecessary comment analysis aside, Griffin has just not been the same QB this season. Whether it has been defenses figuring out how to defend the read-option exclusive offense (yes), or he's still a bit tentative because of his injury in the playoffs in January. The 49ers have been losing lately, but their defense hasn't been why. He's a risky start on MNF.

Good Luck in Week 12!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

2013 Week 11 Fantasy Advice

After all of the craziness of Week 10, fantasy playoffs loom closer now. With all of the major injuries affecting most teams now, you'll have to find some new faces to play impact roles this weekend. Luckily, I'm here to provide those for you.

Byes: STL, DAL

Who to Start:

QB Russell Wilson (SEA) vs. MIN: He has been not playing quite up to his torrid pace from earlier in the season, but he'll probably find it again against the absolutely awful Minnesota secondary. The challenge to stop Wilson on the road is even harder.

RB Ray Rice (BAL) vs. CHI: Even though he's been a massive bust for most of the season, the Bears have had trouble defending the run of late, so it's honestly hard to bench Rice even when his fantasy numbers have been poor this season.

WR Antonio Brown (PIT) vs. DET: He's a PPR dynamo, but for non-PPR leagues he's a great option this week too. He's been Big Ben's favorite target recently, and the Lions secondary isn't exactly a juggernaut now, is it?

WR Riley Cooper (PHI) vs. WSH: The Redskins secondary is pretty terrible, and Riley Cooper has seen a massive increase in targets since Nick Foles has taken over at QB, so it's logical to expect Cooper to have another big game on Sunday.

TE Antonio Gates (SD) vs. MIA: Even though the Chargers are on a little mini-skid right now, Gates has been playing pretty well. The Dolphins are a flaming trainwreck as has been well publicized, but even then Gates has been good enough to challenge teams better than the Dolphins, so he could be a good option for Sunday.

DEF Arizona vs. JAX: Despite Jacksonville's first win, the Jaguars offense was pretty poor. Arizona's defense is far better than Tennessee's, so they could have a field day in Jacksonville.

Who to Sit:

QB Tom Brady (NE) vs. CAR MON: While he rebounded very well against the Steelers, he now gets to go up against the red-hot Carolina Panthers and their impressive secondary. With an imposing atmosphere ahead of him, it will be a tough game for Brady to put up good numbers in.

RB CJ Spiller (BUF) vs. NYJ: He's been on and off all season in terms of fantasy numbers, but going up against the Jets stiff run defense means he'll probably be off this week.

WR Roddy White (ATL) vs. TB: He's still gimpy from those injuries he has suffered, and he's going up against Darrelle Revis on Sunday. That is not a good combination.

WR Anquan Boldin (SF) vs. NO: The Saints pass defense has been mistakenly identified as porous by many, and because of that Boldin might be starting in some leagues on Sunday. He probably shouldn't be though, since the Saints secondary is pretty good.

TE John Carlson (MIN) vs. SEA: After Kyle Rudolph went off injured, Carlson had to pick up the slack for Minnesota. He's going to have some trouble against the Seahawks for the obvious reasons too.

DEF Pittsburgh vs. DET: They're no longer an elite defense and when they go up against pretty decent offenses they struggle mightily. Detroit is pretty decent.

3 Super Sleepers:

QB Case Keenum (HOU) vs. OAK: He's been really good despite the fact that his team hasn't been, and with the Raiders having a pretty terrible secondary, Keenum could have another big game.

RB Andre Ellington (ARZ) vs. JAX: He's not really a backup, and he's a far more dynamic player out of the backfield than Rashard Mendenhall. The Jaguars can't really defend anything well despite their performance last week, so Ellington could have a monster game.

DEF New York Giants vs. GB: Scott Tolzein, everybody.

Buyer Beware:

DEF Kansas City vs. DEN: Yes, they've been the best defense in football all season. Yet, this is Denver, and Kansas City hasn't faced a team with a remotely powerful offense all season. Peyton Manning might be gimpy, but he'll still put this unit up to a stern test.

Good Luck in Week 11!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Maybe the Harris Poll Meant more than I Thought it Did

As I was watching my Florida Panthers put out another listless effort, and two bizarre MLS playoff ties, I was trying to keep an eye on what might have been college football's biggest Thursday ever. 2 Top 10 showdowns, both with possible national title implications. Once again, what looked like surefire BCS chaos in its final hurrah should all of Alabama, Oregon, and Florida State finish unbeaten is now quelled thanks to Stanford beating the Ducks... again. But the fact that this game meant so much, when there is still a month left to go in the season with plenty of twists and turns still to come, is what makes the BCS great, despite its thousands of flaws. And for that, I'll sort of miss it.

Maybe it's a little like Stockholm Syndrome in an obtuse way, since the BCS has kidnapped us ever since 1998 by looking at ridiculous formulas and permutations in order to figure out what 2 teams will play for the Crystal Trophy, and now that we're freed from the trap some of us might be in fact missing our captors. There is such pressure on everyone to win and only win when only two tickets are on the line. And that drama has captivated many to turn their eyes to college football. It's not every year that there is major controversy like there was in 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004 and others, but that draws us in to the intense pressure of those moments. You never know how a team will respond when a trip to the national championship game is on the line, as Oregon once again proved.

And the best part? The drama is nowhere near over. Alabama has games against LSU and Auburn left, and there's no telling what could happen if they fall. Ohio State and Baylor are waiting in the wings in case one of them slips up. And what if all of them lose, like what happened in 2007? Everything goes out the window. While the college football playoff will certainly provide drama of its own, and certainly better football, sometimes the weight of the computer formulas are stronger than the thoughts of Tyrone Willingham and Condi Rice.

At some point in the future, we'll look back on the BCS and probably laugh at this hilariously perverse method of getting 2 teams into the national championship game. But in that same gulp of air, we'll all probably fondly remember the drama of days past when standings changed daily and when 1 loss could KO a team's chances on the spot. In the new playoff, 1 loss might prove to be fatal, but not likely as much as it would have in the BCS system, and there's going to be a little of that lunacy that I miss.

Roy Kramer is probably off somewhere in retirement cackling as he looks at the madness he's created and the roller-coaster he's put college football on ever since 1998. And for that Mr. Kramer, as your baby slowly goes the way of the dodo bird, I have to say thanks.

For all of the amazing faults and lapses in judgment, and for all of the controversies, it did provide college football with an intense amount of drama and pressure, the likes of which it may never see again.

Maybe the Harris Poll meant more than I thought it did.

(h/t to Chris Low of for writing a similar piece where some of the information in this column came from. Read it here:

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

2013 Week 10 Fantasy Advice

The 2013 NFL season has been the most incredibly bizarre season that I've ever seen in my time following the NFL, and it seems with every week it gets weirder and weirder. Even taking out the messes in Miami and Tampa, more major injuries have been suffered every week, and it gets even crazier. Luckily though, this column stays the same every single week.

Byes: CLE, KC, NYJ, NE

Who to Start:

QB Philip Rivers (SD) vs. DEN: This has the makings of an intense shootout with plenty of points to be scored. Rivers didn't have his best effort in Washington, but the Denver secondary can be had (just see the Jacksonville game), so Rivers is a very nice start this weekend.

RB Chris Johnson (TEN) vs. JAX: Chris Johnson has returned to form... kind of! Well at least he finally made his owners happy last Sunday with his performance against the Rams. The Jaguars rush defense has been pretty bad this season everywhere, so Johnson could have another big game.

WR Antonio Brown (PIT) vs. BUF: Even though the Steelers are a disaster in most respects, Brown has been an amazing PPR league receiver. The Bills secondary has been torched often this season, so Brown could have a nice day.

WR Alshon Jeffrey (CHI) vs. DET: No matter who the QB will be, Jeffrey has put up big numbers of late. It's incredibly impressive, and very good news for the Bears. The Lions secondary has never been a strong suit, so Jeffrey could have another huge game.

TE Jason Witten (DAL) vs. NO: Solid if unspectacular for most of the season, Witten has been dependable but never amazing. That could change on Sunday night at the Superdome with the makings of a shootout in the works.

DEF New York Giants vs. OAK: Even though they've been pretty bad for most of the season, the Raiders offense has really hit the skids recently. Traveling out East and playing early doesn't bode all that well for the Raiders offense, which means the Giants D could be a good start.

Who to Sit:

QB Andy Dalton (CIN) vs. BAL: Debates as to whether he's the answer for the Bengals going forward are not important now. What is is that he's not looked good away from home, and the Ravens D has been far more solid in their barn then away from it. Dalton could be in some trouble.

RB Ben Tate (HOU) vs. ARZ: With a bad matchup and broken ribs, Tate is one to avoid on Sunday even if Arian Foster can't go against the Cardinals.

WR Steve Smith (CAR) vs. SF: He's been falling off in terms of fantasy performances of late, and the matchup on Sunday in San Francisco is not a favorable one. Smith could have a decent day, but probably not an amazing one.

WR Steve Johnson (BUF) vs. PIT: Even though the defense for the Steelers has been really bad away from home, it's been solid at home. With E.J Manuel returning, it does make Johnson a bit more palatable, but not enough to keep him anywhere but the bench.

TE Jared Cook (STL) vs. IND: One good game does not a fantasy season make, especially when it happened in Week 1. The Colts have defended the Tight End very well this season, so that doesn't mean many good things for Cook.

DEF Chicago vs. DET: This defense is a shadow of its former self. It doesn't help that the Lions are coming into town with a very high powered offense.

3 Super Sleepers:

QB Jake Locker (TEN) vs. JAX: I'm not sold on him even as a fantasy QB going forward, but this week he's got a great matchup against Jacksonville's young and inexperienced secondary.

RB Mike James (TB) vs. MIA MON: After his big game in Seattle, it's conceivable that he could have another good game against the Dolphins, who have struggled to defend the run at points this season.

WR Golden Tate (SEA) vs. ATL: Still no Percy Harvin, so that means Tate is the big target for Russell Wilson against the Falcons. So he should have a big game since the Falcons secondary has been quite poor for most of the year.

Buyer Beware:

WR Anquan Boldin (SF) vs. CAR: With Michael Crabtree on the mend and coming back soon, Boldin will see his targets gradually drop. In the meantime, he might struggle against the criminally underrated Panthers secondary.

Good Luck in Week 10!