It's Week 14 of the NFL season and it's time for the vast majority of fantasy leagues to being the playoffs. Are you in good shape or bad heading into the playoffs? Are you hoping that Ben Roethlisberger or LeSean McCoy returns to your lineup? Are you a Bryce Brown owner who hopes that McCoy sits another one out? Are you counting on youngster Colin Kaepernick or Andrew Luck to pass you to victory? Why won't the Ravens give Ray Rice the ball more frequently? Is Mike Thomas worth an add in every league given the news with Ryan Broyles and Titus Young? Is Brandon Myers the top tight end in football right now? These issues and more are discussed in this week's breakdown of the NFL.
Ask around and people will tell you that Drew Brees' Week 13 letdown (341 yards, no scores, five interceptions) cost them a playoff shot (this, of course, totally overlooks the fact that your team wouldn't have been in playoff contention if not for Brees' work this season that includes a pace that would net him the 7th most yards and TD passes in a single season). Even with that no TD effort in his last game, Brees still led the NFL with 11 passing scores in November and his total of 1,364 passing yards was second only to Matt Ryan (1,572) on the month.
Through three starts an average passing game for Colin Kaepernick has led to 227 yards passing, one score, 0.33 INTs an a 66.3 completion percentage. In his nine starts this year Alex Smith is averaging 192 yards passing, 1.44 TDs, 0.44 INTs an a 70.0 percent completion percentage. So, has Colin K. really been an improvement in the real world? Not at all. In the fantasy game, because is his legs, Kapernick has been better averaging 21.1 points in his three starts versus Smith's total of 17.4 points in his eight full games this year, but it's still pretty damn close.
Andrew Luck gets a lot of love for leading the turnaround with the Colts. Kudos to him for that. But in terms of his fantasy value, consider the following data points.
(1) Luck has 17 TD passes. That's one less than Philip Rivers and two less than Russell Wilson.
(2) Luck has 16 interceptions. That's tied with Drew Brees for the most in football. Aaron Rodgers and Joe Flacco have combined for 16 interceptions.
(3) Luck has one more TD pass than interception. The other man who has 16 interceptions, Drew Brees, is a +15.
None of that is great shakes in the fantasy game. Luckily Luck has run for another five scores or his fantasy output wouldn't be that impressive. With those five rushing scores he is the #6 QB in fantasy football. Without them he would drop down to 14th. Shows you just how much those rushing scores can boost a fellas value, don't it?
Russell Wilson, I just can't get enough of you. Think of it. Over his last five games he has thrown at least two touchdown passes in each game (11 total). He's also thrown only one interception for an exquisite 11:1 TD to INT ratio the last five weeks. Not that he has any chance of keeping that up, but if he did for 16 games he would throw for 35 touchdowns and three interceptions in a season. Still, he's only completed 20 passes in a game three times, and has thrown for 240 yards in a game twice (he's been held to less than 190 yards seven times). Are you gutsy enough to trust him as your starter in the fantasy playoffs?
Through Week 13 of the NFL season Ray Rice is the #4 running back in fantasy football in a traditional PPR setup.
250.1 points – Adrian Peterson
243.9 – Arian Foster
240.0 – Doug Martin
225.1 – Ray Rice
208.6 – Trent Richardson
Given that fact, why on earth does Rice have fewer carries than Shone Greene? Am I the only one who is flummoxed as to why Greene would have 12 more carries than Rice (210 to 198), given that Rice is the vastly superior talent, not to mention a more productive player? Here are the top-5 runners in points by rushing attempts.
Foster (283), Martin (236), Peterson (234), Richardson (229) and Rice 198.
Rice is basically averaging about four fewer carries a week than the other four. Yes he is making some of that back up with his AFC leading total of 49 receptions for a running back (Darren Sproles leads the NFC with 51), but he still lags behind in the touch total.
313 touches - Foster
273 touches – Richardson
272 touches - Peterson
268 touches - Martin
248 touches - Rice
I don't know, maybe monitoring Rice's workload will keep him strong until the end of the year, but if you are a Rice owner you have to be at least a bit upset that the Ravens are failing to utilize him as heavily as some of the other stars in the backfield.
Jonathan Dywer will remain the Steelers starter at halfback heading into Week 14 in the matchup with the Chargers. Dywer ran for 49 yards on 16 carries last week, not exactly a strong performance, but the team is really down on Rashard Mendenhall right now. Here's what HC Mike Tomlin said. "Rashard will get an opportunity to redeem himself at some point . . . not now.''
Marcel Reece is dealing with hamstring and quadriceps soreness this week. Being at less than 100 percent likely explains why Jeremy Stewart was used as much as he was in Week 13. With Darren McFadden showing “burst” at practice, it seems like he will finally return to game action Thursday. What all that means is that it's going to be very difficult to get a handle on the usage of the Raiders backfield, and that's a big time concern in the first week of the fantasy playoffs. As of this writing, no one in this backfield should be viewed as anything more than a flex play this week.
The last five weeks there are two players who have recorded at least 15 points per game in a PPR setup at the wide receiver position. Obviously Calvin Johnson is one (19.9 or better each game and most points overall). A.J. Green is the other (1.62 or better and 5th most points overall). That's it folks. Despite there being 17 WRs who are averaging 15 points per game over the past five weeks only two have gotten to that level each week.
Eric Decker averaged 4.6 receptions, seven targets, 72.9 yards and 0.875 scores per game in the first half of the season. The last four games he has performed nothing like that difference making player. Demaryius Thomas continues to pile up points across the field, but Decker has flat out disappeared. Over his last four contests he's averaged 2.5 receptions, 4.75 targets (just over his reception total in the first half), 29.8 yards and 0.25 scores per contest. You can explain/justify those numbers any way you want, but the fact of the matter is this; in the first half he was a must start. In the second half he has been a massive disappointment, so bad in fact that you need to look long and hard at your lineup before just blindly slotting him into your starting lineup in the playoffs.
Percy Harvin may or may not play in Week 14. The Vikings finally officially announced that he did indeed suffer a Grade 3 sprain of his ankle, which in layman's terms mean he tore a ligament in there. Generally that injury takes 4-6 weeks to heal, and we're currently in week five of his comeback attempt. Despite having 5.4 points over the past five weeks he is still the 17th best WR in a PPR setup with more points than a whole slew of weekly performers in the fantasy game. To bad the guy can never stay healthy.
James Jones leads the NFC in receiving scores with nine. Who knew right? Hard for him to be a weekly if/when Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings are both healthy. Luckily, Nelson is nowhere near full strength right now.
Mike Thomas could be a fantasy difference maker. It's rare that this late in the year a player could emerge from nowhere to be a fantasy star. Titus Young purposefully lined up in the wrong spot on the field as he expressed his displeasure with the Lions. As a result of one of the dumbest moves in sports history, he might never see the field again for the Lions (he was placed in injured reserve with a knee injury that may or may not be real since he had been playing for three weeks without much of an issue), and he's severely diminished his ability to make money in this league. Ryan Broyles stepped in and performed better than Young had anyway, but he suffered a torn ACL. That means Mike Thomas is the must add of the week at the wide receiver position despite the fact that he has 16 receptions for 96 yards this season. Obviously as the #2 wideout on the Lions Thomas is in a position to excel. Defenses always roll coverage over to Calvin Johnson, and there isn't a QB in football who has thrown more passes than Mathew Stafford (he's tossed 31 more balls than any other QB). Thomas may not remotely resemble an elite talent, but it sure looks like he's gonna get a chance to perform like one in the fantasy playoffs.
Jared Cook has always shown a nice finishing kick. There really isn't a good explanation to explain that fact, but there it is. Let's look at his per game production over the four main months of the season.
September: 1.7 receptions, 21.8 yards, 0.1 TDs per game (12 games)
October: 2.0 rec, 29.9 yards, 0.2 TDs per game (15 games)
November: 2.46 rec, 21.3 yards, 0.1 TDs per game (13 games)
December: 3.4 rec, 43.1 yards, 0.2 TDs per game (10 games)
He's also kept the good times rolling in two January games with 11 receptions and 121 yards. I bring this up because he just might be at it again. Times are a changing in Tennessee where they fired their offensive coordinator. The new plan seems to be, and rightly so, get the ball into the hands of Kenny Britt and Cook. Over his last two games Cook has 10 receptions for 98 yards as he is finally looking like someone you can trust on a weekly basis. Cook has also seen 20 targets the past two weeks, and that is a big key to rise to relevance. If he's out there on waivers, you would be wise to consider adding him to your club.
Heath Miller is the #6 tight end in fantasy in a PPR this season despite working with three different quarterbacks. He's played in 12 games this season averaging 13.44 points per game. How many times in his 12 games has he recorded 13.5 fantasy points? Five times. Think about that for a moment. Only 42 percent of the time this season has Miller reached his average point total per game this season. Weekly consistency is so hard to find.
Brandon Myers leads all tight ends in football since Week 9 with 95.8 points (in a PPR setup), nearly nine points ahead of Jimmy Graham. That's truly shocking, is it not? Moreover, he has more fantasy points than Owen Daniels (47.2) and Antonio Gates (46.9) - combined. Or how about this. Myers has more points in the last five weeks than Dustin Keller (32.4), Jared Cook (32.0), Vernon Davis (30.8) – combined. Myers is dealing with a bit of a wonky shoulder, but there is no way, none, that you can sit him going going.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Thursday at 7 PM EDT and Friday's at 9p-12a EDT. Ray's analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and on Twitter at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.