Wednesday, December 6, 2017

2017 Week 14 Fantasy Advice: Playoffs? Don't talk about Playoffs

But alas, we have to, vaguely appropriate headline. The fantasy playoffs are now here for most of us which means everything we invested so heavily in time, toil, cash and potentially embarassing wagers is now on the line. It means everything now which means it's time to agonize over all the decisions that can and will decide seasons. It's serious business.

Start of the Week: QB Alex Smith (KC) vs. OAK

The Chiefs are in total free-fall, and Alex Smith was a large part of that in November. But his game against the Jets should inspire confidence, at least for his fantasy owners, that he's coming back around to his performances in September once again. If he can do it against anyone, it's the Raiders. Their secondary is one of the worst in football, so if there's a time for him to look like the Alex Smith of September, it's now.

Who to Start:

QB Philip Rivers (LAC) vs. WSH: Old reliable Philip Rivers is still putting up big numbers in spite of his growing age and the lack of home fans he plays in front of. Against Washington on Sunday, there is bound to be another good performance against what's left of their secondary.

RB Lamar Miller (HOU) vs. SF: Yes, the 49ers shut down what should have been a sure-fire fantasy started in Jordan Howard last week, but even the Texans with Tom Savage have more offensive rhythm than Chicago does right now. The only people watching this game will fantasy owners of Texans (and a few 49ers) as well as gamblers, but the stakes are always high for someone.

WR Josh Gordon (CLE) vs. GB: In his first football game in three years, he was targeted 11 times and caught four passes. Green Bay's secondary isn't great, and if the first game was any guide, Gordon will get plenty of passes thrown his way on Sunday, meaning his numbers should match his targets.

WR Michael Crabtree (OAK) at KC: Motivated player coming off a suspension against a team that can't defend the pass with their best corner suspended? Sign me up. Crabtree might be the best fantasy play the entire week with this confluence of circumstances on top of Kansas City's defense which has completely cratered.

TE Evan Engram (NYG) vs. DAL: In spite of the circus that is the New York Giants, Evan Engram has become of the best in a bad position in fantasy football. With Geno Smith he managed to rack up some impressive numbers, and against a mediocre Dallas defense, the trend should continue.

DEF New England at MIA MON: You were probably starting them anyway considering their mid-season renaissance, and against Miami the matchup is even more favorable. The Dolphins turn the ball over a ton even in their best games, and this doesn't look to be shaping out as one of their best games.

Sit of the Week: QB Cam Newton (CAR) vs. MIN

This is such a hard decision to make because if you drafted him, you probably invested a lot in him. But if you have a better option, say Derek Carr, Josh McCown or maybe even Brett Hundley, it might be worth sitting him against the stingiest of stingy defenses, Minnesota. They lock down everyone, and Cam has never been the best against the league's best defenses.

Who to Sit:

QB Matt Ryan (ATL) vs. NO THU: I personally didn't think Ryan would have as bad a season fantasy wise as he's had, but he's certainly one of the biggest busts in the fantasy season for sure. New Orleans even with injuries has a very solid defense, and in the biggest game of Atlanta's season, relying on Ryan is a mistake.

RB Ameer Abdullah (DET) at TB: I smell a platoon growing in Detroit, not just featuring Abdullah but also Theo Riddick and newcomer Tion Green, who had a good game last week in Baltimore. Tampa's defense is better at home than on the road, but the platoon effect will doom Abdullah this week.

WR Marqise Lee (JAX) vs. SEA: Jaguars fans nicknamed Lee "Albino Tiger" early in his career because of his penchant not only for injuries, but also to disappear in key moments in games. Even though Seattle's secondary is banged up, it's still Seattle, and it's hard to imagine Lee doing as well as he did against the hapless Colts against Seattle.

WR Jordy Nelson (GB) at CLE: Even against the porous Browns, it's hard to trust Jordy Nelson who can't get targets or yards with Brett Hundley at QB. Hold on for one more week with Nelson, because when a certain #12 returns, the trends will get better, but for this week, Nelson is a sit.

TE Jared Cook (OAK) at KC: He's consistently inconsistent, made more frustrating with a bad performance against the Giants who couldn't defend tight ends. Kansas City can at least defend these players with a little effectiveness, so Cook may be too inconsistent to start in these big games.

DEF Baltimore at PIT: Defense like Philly and Carolina have very ugly matchups even though they've been good fantasy units of late, but the matchup to avoid the most is Baltimore. Though their defense is stellar, they lost Jimmy Smith, and will be going up against an incredibly motivated Steelers team at home. The combination here does not bode well for the Ravens.

3 Super Sleepers:

QB Jimmy Garoppolo (SF) at HOU: He wasn't exactly amazing in Chicago last week, but he didn't have to be to win. And watching Houston's defense lose all its steam in recent weeks makes this matchup all the more intriguing. If you need someone because of other matchup issues, Jimmy G may be the guy.

RB Alfred Morris (DAL) at NYG: While he's no Zeke, he's been very serviceable in his absense. Against the Giants, who as documented couldn't stop a high school team right now, he's not a bad option in a RB3/Flex position if you need it.

TE Jack Doyle (IND) at BUF: In a bad position with no depth, you have to go with the guys that got you there, and that means Jack Doyle. He threw up a stinker in Jacksonville last week, but he can't do that in two consecutive weeks, right?

Buyer Beware:

RB Leonard Fournette (JAX) vs. SEA: You're going to start him if you have him, that's obvious. But, his ankle injury is really causing him some issues in the last two weeks. He's rushed for less than 70 yards combined against Arizona and Indy, and take away his TD and he'd have thrown two straight big time duds up. That's been his trend recently, and it's concerning. He's also not faced a defense like Seattle's in over two months, so how he'll perform here, and how his team will perform here, is an open question.

Good luck in Week 14!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Brief thoughts on the World Cup draw

Since I have nowhere else to put these thoughts, and I wanted to write them down, here are some brief mental notes from this morning's World Cup draw and who may end up as favorites, disappointments, or surprises.

Group A: Russia has to be pretty ecstatic with the draw they were handed. They didn't have a full strength squad in the Confederations Cup, but even if they did their life woud have been fairly difficult. With Saudi Arabia and Egypt, they should be able with the home advantage to overcome them, though Egypt with players like Mo Salah and others could be tricky. Uruguay are clear favorites even after underwhelming in their last three major tournaments.

Group B: Spain and Portugal being matched up with each other should provide great fireworks, especially since that game is the third match of the tournament. This game will decide who wins the group and finishes second. Morocco and Iran are great stories in making the tournament, but they don't have much to celebrate with this draw.

Group C: France's assemblage of talent is second to none, in fact, they're the most talented team in the draw. Their group should be of no trouble to them with Peru, Australia and Denmark. The race for second is fascinating as each team has pluses and minuses. Australia has spirit, but no manager, Peru has no World Cup experience and Denmark has Christian Eriksen, but beyond that not much. My Tottenham leanings are biasing me to Denmark, but the race for second here is going to be immensely entertaining.

Group D: The race for second here is also going to be fairly fun. Iceland have the world rooting for them, Croatia have a great collection of talent, especially in midfield, and Nigeria have been able to perform on this stage before. Argentina are obviously favorites, but Croatia are a sneaky team to look out for if they get their act together. Going forward, they are a delightful watch, and that should be enough to get them beyond Iceland and Nigeria.

Group E: Brazil shouldn't have much to fear with their draw, however the race for second here will also be entertaining and between three evenly matched teams. Serbia has more talented than Switzerland and Costa Rica, but both of these teams have the experience and organization required. It's hard to overlook Costa Rica, but something tells me this Serbia team has an ace up their sleeve.

Group F: Germany and Mexico will see each other again, and that doesn't bode well for Mexico at all. Germany are defending champions, and they shouldn't have much to fear here, although Sweden and Mexico could give them a run. Sweden have the organization but no gamebreakers, unless the prodigal Zlatan returns. South Korea are always a difficult team to play against in this tournament setting, but they don't have very much to offer.

Group G: Two great collections of talent with underwhelming managers meet with Belgium and England pitted against each other, and while both should have no issues advancing, their aspirations are set much higher. Tunisia and Panama are wonderful squads to see in the draw, but there presence is as much as they will offer.

Group H: Not much stands out for this group, but top to bottom it is well balanced. Poland have a Lewandowski sized advantage over everyone else, but do not count out quarterfinalists from 2014 Colombia and what they could potentially offer, and Senegal are not a bad side either. In their only other World Cup appearance, they went to the quarterfinals.

If I was forced to make predictions today, the teams that I'd have advancing would be:

Group A: Uruguay, Russia
Group B: Spain, Portugal
Group C: France, Denmark
Group D: Argentina, Croatia
Group E: Brazil, Serbia
Group F: Germany, Mexico
Group G: Belgium, England
Group H: Colombia, Poland