|What we learned Sunday: Bills, Dolphins blow chance to make up ground on Patriots||11.10.14 at 12:32 am ET|
1. The Bills missed out on a golden opportunity to edge closer to the Patriots
Buffalo was at home and controlled the pace for most of the first three quarters, but 14 fourth-quarter points from Kansas City were enough to upend the Bills and come away with a 17-13 win in Orchard Park. Buffalo had a ton of chances all afternoon and appeared to be on the verge of blowing out the Chiefs at one point, but they ended up settling for a pair of field goals after an early touchdown, and added some ill-timed turnovers to make things even worse. The first came on the opening drive of the second half when running back Bryce Brown — three steps from the end zone and posting a touchdown that would have made it 16-3 in the third quarter — had the ball punched away by a Kansas City defender and out of the back of the end zone for a touchback. The second one came when the usually sure-handed punt returner Leodis McKelvin muffed a return attempt in the fourth quarter that paved the way for what would ultimately be the game-winning touchdown, an 8-yard run from quarterback Alex Smith that put the Chiefs ahead for good. With the win, Kansas City has returned to the thick of the AFC playoff picture. Meanwhile Buffalo, which entered the contest 1 1/2 games behind New England in the division, now falls to 5-4, a full two games back of the Patriots.
2. So did the Dolphins
Miami faced a steeper hill to climb, going into Detroit to try and take down the Lions. And like the Bills, they were in control for most of the game. Despite only finishing with one offensive touchdown, the Dolphins built leads of 13-10 and 16-13 in the second half. But with 29 seconds left, Matthew Stafford delivered an Uncle Rico-esque sidearm sling to Theo Riddick, an 11-yard scoring strike to lift the Lions past the Dolphins for the 20-16 win. Ryan Tannehill finished 27-for-38 for 207 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. Something to keep in mind when the Patriots meet the Lions in a few weeks in Foxboro — Detroit has become quite adept at winning close games. Sunday’s victory against Miami was the fourth straight win for the Lions, with their last three wins coming by a combined six points.
3. With the losses by Buffalo and Miami, the divisional picture became even clearer
The Bills and Dolphins both fell to 5-4, a full two games in back of the first-place Patriots. And while there’s a lot of football still to be played (seven games for all three of the team in the division that still have a pulse, to be exact) and Buffalo and Miami still have yet to visit Foxboro this season, it’s starting to appear less and less likely that either team will be capable of overtaking New England down the stretch. That matters because if the Patriots are able to wrap up the division between now and the final three games of the season, the visits from both the Dolphins (Dec. 14) and the Bills (Dec. 28) could be far less impactful that initially believed, at least from a divisional standpoint. In addition, if either Miami or Buffalo has little to play for at that point in the year, it would make it a lot easier for New England to finish up the season with a flourish if there’s home field on the line, or even a first-round bye. (For what it’s worth, the Bills and Dolphins play Thursday in Miami, and the loser will most likely write off any hopes of making the postseason, at least this year.)
4. The Jets helped the Patriots with a win over the Steelers
The Steelers went into MetLife and were shocked by the Jets, 20-13. In what will undoubtedly go down as the high point of the season for Gang Green, New York held Pittsburgh to just three points through the first three-plus quarters. Meanwhile, the Steelers defense — which had shown plenty of signs of improvement over the previous three weeks — were unable to do much to contain Michael Vick and the Jets. The veteran quarterback threw two touchdown passes and became the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for more than 6,000 yards in the win, which avoided a franchise record for consecutive losses.
|Fantasy Football: Week 9 starts, sits||10.31.14 at 10:56 am ET|
Welcome to the Week 9 starts and sits. The bye weeks are here with a vengeance and I’m ready to help. I’ve got a bunch of recommendations for you, and I’ve also posted my full lineup rankings at Rotobahn, just in case you are looking for information on players not listed in this space.
Don’t forget to tune in Sunday morning for another episode of the Fantasy Football Hour with my buddy Jim Hackett. If you have last-minute lineup concerns, you should check out my Sunday chat. It takes place right here at WEEI.com and it runs from 11 a.m. to noon every Sunday.
If you want to keep track of all my fantasy football content, both here and at Rotobahn, follow me on Twitter. I send out links to all fresh content.
Carson Palmer, Cardinals at Cowboys
He’s locked in now. The nerve in his shoulder is working and so is the Arizona offense. While the Cardinals receivers are a bit frustrating because the ball is to be spread around to the open man, Palmer is the guy doing the spreading, and it’s working just fine for his fantasy owners. He’s a solid play this week in Dallas.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers vs. Ravens
He’s going to slow down off of last week’s pace by a significant percentage. Of course, even a 50 percent reduction leaves you with tasty fantasy production. That’s how hot Big Ben is. His home matchup with the Ravens is nothing to fear. In fact, they are a better matchup than normal because they will be without their top corner, Jimmy Smith.
Is he a lock? No. The Giants offensive line has been hard to figure — at times looking good and at times looking collectively lost. This week — with New York coming off its bye, I expect solid play from that group. I also expect the offense to be forced into an aggressive mindset. That’s because I expect Andrew Luck to put a lot of points on the board. Manning can help you in any league this week if you need an option and you can accept a little volatility. I think he’s worth the risk.
|Fantasy Football: Week 9 waiver wire||10.28.14 at 11:33 am ET|
In last week’s waiver wire, I told you to be aggressive because there was a lot of talent out there and the bye weeks were going to get here real soon. Well, soon is now. There are six teams on their byes in Week 9, and that will lead to a very active waiver process in most leagues. The good news is that there still are plenty of options, it’s just going to be tougher to win bids.
As always, the ownership percentages are listed for each player. These rates of ownership are based on Yahoo! leagues, which tend to be smaller and more representative of the 10-team leagues most of us play in. Obviously, these numbers are mostly for perspective. What really matters is which players are available in your particular league, and you’ll need to do the legwork on that.
If you play in really big leagues, as I tend to do, you should head on over to Rotobahn Tuesday afternoon and check out my expanded waiver wire. The expanded edition gives you about twice as many options. To keep pace with all WEEI and Rotobahn fantasy football content, including Sunday chats and The Fantasy Football Hour with my good buddy Jim Hackett, follow me on Twitter.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers — 74 percent
The most obvious recommendation of the week, but I’m throwing him out there because he is available in more than one out of four leagues. Ride the hot streak if he’s available. The Steelers host the Ravens this week and Baltimore will be without its top cornerback, Jimmy Smith.
Carson Palmer, Cardinals — 50 percent
Palmer is rounding back into shape and can play for you on most weeks. Arizona’s offense is deep and well run by HC Bruce Arians. Add Palmer as a strong QB2 or bye week option. Arizona visits the Cowboys this week.
Manning has been dumped by a lot of owners after a dud in Philadelphia and the season-ending injury to Victor Cruz. While the Cruz injury is significant, it is more than made up for by the addition of Odell Beckham Jr. — a receiver who can pretty much do it all. Manning can help you as a matchup play or bye week option. He has an appealing home matchup with the Colts this week.
Robert Griffin III, Washington — 36 percent
This is not a move for this week, because Griffin may not return until Week 11. Having said that, he could return if he shows his coaches that he’s ready for contact. The reason to go after Griffin is because his upside is so high. The Washington offense is mostly healthy, and with Griffin’s mobility there’s a lot of fantasy potential. If your quarterback spot lacks upside, Griffin is a worthwhile investment.
Blake Bortles, Jaguars — 10 percent
It may not be pretty — in fact, at times Bortles is tough to watch. He’s definitely taking his lumps as he learns on the job — making choices that veterans would never make. On the upside, he adds foot points to the box score with regularity and his team generally is trailing down the stretch of games, so you’ll get volume on most weeks. Consider Bortles as a potential add if you have a Week 9 storm at the position.
Michael Vick, Jets — 3 percent
Vick is the starter now. He can still take chunks of yardage with his feet and that helps. Vick will also have the benefit of having Percy Harvin as he gets more acclimated with the Jets’ offensive system. Vick is definitely worth an add in 12-team leagues. He has more fantasy potential than Geno Smith did. He can help you this week if you are hurting — even in smaller formats.
|Fantasy Football: Week 6 starts, sits||10.10.14 at 1:50 pm ET|
As we near the midpoint of the fantasy football regular season, we’re seeing things come into focus. Whether you’re a seasonal GM or a weekly player, you probably are starting to get a feel for how you want to play things. It’s been a strange year, but that’s the NFL. While Eddie Lacy and Jamaal Charles owners are feeling some much-needed relief, those who rely on Calvin Johnson, LeSean McCoy and Adrian Peterson are on the ledge — staring into the fantasy abyss. I have good news for those who drafted McCoy. He’ll get things going — probably this week. Those with Johnson probably are out of luck on Sunday but have long-term hope. If you drafted Peterson, you have my sympathy as well as my commiseration. He’s a sunk investment — a potential season-wrecker.
As always, I’ve attempted to avoid the obvious stuff. If you are looking for information on players not listed below, follow this link to my full lineup rankings at Rotobahn. If your guy’s not listed there, get on Twitter and give me what for.
For those in need of Sunday lineup advice, feel free to stop by our chat, which kicks off at 11 a.m. and runs through noon every week. And don’t forget to check out the Fantasy Football Hour every Sunday morning.
He’s now rolling, and with a full complement of weapons we like his chances in this game, which looks like a bit of a shootout going in. Manning’s a projected QB1 in all formats this week.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers at Browns
He’s got all the weapons he needs and the Browns have some injuries at cornerback. Big Ben is a good play in Week 6 regardless of your league’s size. He should get you QB1 stats.
Cam Newton, Panthers at Bengals
While Newton is not an elite start this week, as he often is, he is playable. There’s no reason to look to the waiver wire. He may begin to run more with a battered backfield behind him and a need to win games due to the team’s 3-2 start in a very competitive division. He’s my 12th-rated passer this week.
Brian Hoyer, Browns vs. Steelers
If you are hurting in a big format, Hoyer is an option. He’s not even in my top 20 this week, but he’s playable and that’s why I listed him — to illustrate the depth of the Week 6 quarterbacks. If you are in need, just consult the Rotobahn QB rankings for the best available option.
Kyle Orton, Bills vs. Patriots
I feel like the Patriots could take his best weapon away, and that’s a potential problem. Orton’s not loaded with upside as it is, so you hopefully have other options. Beware of Revis Island.
|Fantasy Football: Week 5 starts, sits||10.03.14 at 8:59 am ET|
I’ll get to the starts and sits in a second, but I have to say that if the NFL wants to keep having Thursday night football, could they have both teams agree to play?
It’s now two weeks in a row that one team showed up and mopped the field with what looked like a JV unit. It seems like we keep getting low-quality football on Thursdays and it’s almost certainly related to the short week of preparation. And, in an era where player safety is supposedly of paramount concern, what’s the rationale for the short week? Not to mention that Jim Nantz and Phil Simms are about as compelling as another Derek Jeter retrospective. I never thought I would miss Mike Mayock.
So who do we want in our Week 5 lineups this weekend? Let’s endeavor to find out. As usual, I have avoided the exceedingly obvious choices. The most obvious selection below probably is Reggie Bush, who is included because his Week 5 situation is atypical. If the player or players that you want feedback on are not listed here, consult my full lineup rankings at Rotobahn. If you still have unanswered questions on Sunday, then head over to our chat, which starts at 11 a.m. every Sunday during fantasy football season. And, don’t forget to check out The Fantasy Football Hour. It airs each Sunday morning starting at 6:30 a.m., and you can listen to a tape of the show right here on WEEI.com if you are not an early riser.
To keep track of all our fantasy football content both here and at Rotobahn, follow us on Twitter.
He gets Odell Beckham, Jr. back this week, and they have righted the ship lately even without the highly regarded rookie. It’s a sweet home matchup with the Falcons, who can score the ball and who aid others in doing the same. Fire up all your Giants skill players.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers at Jaguars
He’s playing well, and this matchup is a slam dunk. Big Ben is a solid QB1 option with a cast of healthy targets led by scorching-hot receiver Antonio Brown.
Blake Bortles, Jaguars vs. Vikings
He should be playing from behind for much of the game, and we like the way he stays cool under pressure. This is crucial in Jacksonville, where quarterbacks face constant pressure. The good thing about Bortles is that he’s a rugged dude who gets you points with both his arm and his feet. If you need an option in a deep league, he can help you.
Andy Dalton, Bengals at Patriots
He’s playable in big formats, but I am not loving him on the road against a Patriots defense that projects to be fired up and ready to go. The Bengals are likely to be without Marvin Jones again after the tall receiver rolled his ankle in practice this week. Jones was supposed to return and bolster the Cincinnati receiving corps, but he’ll be limited if he can play. I see this game as a ground battle, so be careful with Dalton in smaller formats. You probably have better options.
|Fantasy Football: Week 3 waiver wire||09.23.14 at 10:19 am ET|
Welcome to the Week 3 waiver wire! Hopefully you are here looking for the talent you need to get to 4-0, but we’ve got your back whether you are fighting for playoff positioning or for your fantasy life. I’ve got teams in both situations right now, thanks to all the injuries and legal tribulations so far in 2014.
The byes hit this week, and we’ve got you covered. There are a lot of hot teams taking a rest this week.
As I said last week, the ownership percentages are listed for each player. The rates of ownership are based on Yahoo! leagues, which tend to be smaller and more representative of the 10-team leagues most of us play in. Obviously, these numbers are mostly for perspective. What really matters is which players are available in your particular league, and you’ll need to do the legwork on that. If you play in really big leagues, as I tend to do, you should head on over to Rotobahn later and check out my expanded wire. The expanded edition gives you about twice as many options. To keep pace with all WEEI and Rotobahn fantasy football content, including Sunday chats and The Fantasy Football Hour with my good buddy Jim Hackett, follow me on Twitter.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers — 76 percent
He’s the most available of the obvious guys. Grab him if he’s there in your league. The Steelers have the offense in about-to-click mode. Things are looking good if they can get and stay healthy.
Kirk Cousins, Washington — 48 percent
He might not be a long-term solution, but then again, maybe he is. Robert Griffin III will be out at least another six weeks and probably a few more. Whether he is handed his job back is potentially debatable depending on how Cousins plays and if the team is winning. We all saw Cousins’ potential last week. He can be your starter in large leagues and he makes a fine QB2 in smaller ones.
He stepped up last week and he could get Odell Beckham, Jr. back soon. I am buying Eli shares right now because they are ungodly cheap and because the Giants‘ schedule gets plenty light in the coming weeks.
Blake Bortles, Jaguars — 5 percent
He plays behind a bad offensive line, so don’t get too excited. He also has too many injuries to his receivers and to TE Marcedes Lewis as well. Bortles’ fantasy intrigue largely is due to his mobility. He can get you foot-points if the coaching staff gives him the green light as it should. If you are not familiar with Bortles, check out my scouting report on the former UCF star.
Teddy Bridgewater, Vikings — 4 percent
I’d say he’s a potential breakout, but he lost two incredibly crucial cogs while he was waiting for his chance to start. Adrian Peterson would have been a huge benefit for a young quarterback, and, to make matters worse, he lost his starting tight end last week for more than a month with an ankle injury. Bridgewater is a guy to add if you need some QB help, but he’s got fringe QB1 upside at best right now with such a limited supporting cast. On the positive front, the Vikings’ schedule lightens up going forward.
Mike Glennon, Buccaneers — 1 percent
He could be the guy for the rest of the year, and that could be worth getting excited about if Vincent Jackson‘s wrist injury proves to be something he can play through. The Bucs have been playing without their offensive coordinator so far this season, but they get him and Doug Martin back this week. That’s very positive news.
|Which QB does best job spreading ball around in passing game?||02.18.14 at 6:00 am ET|
Piggybacking on a column we did last year about Tom Brady‘s ability to work in new receivers and spread the ball around — and with another full season in the books — we figured we should take another look at some of the league wide numbers when it comes to ball distribution in the passing game.
Using the 250-catch barometer as the mark for involvement, three over-30 veterans continue to set the standard when it comes to getting everyone involved in the passing game, as Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees have managed to make stars out a variety of pass catchers on the way to record-setting seasons.
Using numbers culled from Pro Football Reference — which utilizes stats dating back to 1999 — the three are head and shoulders above the rest of the quarterbacking field when it comes to finding equilibrium in the passing game:
– Since 2001, Brady has completed at least 250 passes in the regular season to four different pass catchers over the course of his 13-year career as a starter: Wes Welker (563), Deion Branch (328), Troy Brown (323) and Kevin Faulk (310). Providing they stay healthy — and, in the case of Julian Edelman, return for 2013 — two more receivers could be added to the mix: Rob Gronkowski had 39 catches in an injury-shortened 2013 season, bringing his total of receptions via Brady to 223. And his 105 catches in 2013 boosted Edelman to 166 career receptions from Brady.
For those of you asking about guys who just missed out on the 250-catch mark with Brady, two jump off the page: one, Randy Moss caught 192 passes from Brady while the two were together in New England, including 98 catches in 2007 and 83 in 2009. And two, Aaron Hernandez finished with 166.
– In that same span, Manning has completed at least 250 passes to three different receivers: Reggie Wayne (779), Marvin Harrison (677) and Dallas Clark (387). Depending on how long he plays, Denver’s Demaryius Thomas could also be part of that group as well — he has 185 catches from Manning over the last two seasons, and could reach 250 in 2014 if he and the quarterback can both stay healthy.
To be fair to Manning, that time frame of 2001-2013 does cut off the first three seasons — from 1998 through 2000 — of his career. As a result, some of his early numbers aren’t included, particularly the formative years with Harrison, who had 276 regular-season catches with the Colts in that span. Our cutoff also means the work of an excellent pass-catching back like Edgerrin James goes unrewarded. He caught 230 passes from Manning from 2001-2005 before he departed Indy for the Cardinals. In all, James ended up catching a total of 355 passes from Manning while the two were together from 1999-2005.
– While Brady and Manning have impressive totals, when it comes to finding a variety of targets, they’re nowhere near Brees. When you combine his work in San Diego and New Orleans, the 35-year-old has complied at least 250 passes to six different receivers: Marques Colston (605), Lance Moore (346), Jimmy Graham (298 over the last four seasons), Reggie Bush (294), Pierre Thomas (284) and LaDainian Tomlinson (254). And a seventh — Darren Sproles — can hit 250 receptions from Brees in 2014. He’s already at 235 catches and counting.
When it comes to the next generation, it appears unlikely that anyone will be able to connect with six different pass catchers for at least 250 receptions. Among the quarterbacks who have been in the league for 7-10 seasons, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers has Greg Jennings (324) and Jordy Nelson (252), but just missed out when Donald Driver (241) called it a career. However, his two wild cards are free agents James Jones (216) and Jermichael Finley (214) — if they both return and are healthy, Rodgers is seemingly a lock to get four pass-catchers to 250-plus receptions.
Ben Roethlisberger also has a good chance of getting to four — he’s completed at least 250 passes to three different receivers: Hines Ward (513), Heath Miller (420) and Antonio Brown (250), and could make it four if free agent Emmanuel Sanders (146) ends up sticking around Pittsburgh. Meanwhile Atlanta’s Matt Ryan has three, having connected for 250-plus with Roddy White (520), Tony Gonzalez (383) and Harry Douglas (205). And New York‘s Eli Manning has Hakeem Nicks (306) and Victor Cruz (241) — he appears to have just missed with Plaxico Burress (244) and Steve Smith (213).
As for the quarterbacks who have between two and five full years in the league, Detroit’s Matthew Stafford has found tremendous success with Calvin Johnson (353 catches from Stafford), but Brandon Pettigrew (215) and Nate Burleson (154) are also within hailing distance of the 250-catch mark, providing Burleson somehow makes it back to Detroit. In addition, Indy’s Andrew Luck has Wayne (145), T.Y. Hilton (133) and Coby Fleener (78), while Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton has benefitted from working with AJ Green (256), Jermaine Gresham (165) and Andrew Hawkins (85).