FOX Sports' Joel Beall tells you what you need to know for this weekend's games.
The Fantasy Basement is a weekly piece that provides fantasy advice on lineup calls, sleepers, waiver-wire moves and rookie spotlights, along with the occasional ramble or two. Why “Fantasy Basement” you ask? There is a common misconception that sports writers dwell in their childhood cellars, that the institution promotes arrested development. Um…how does that have negative connotation? After all, who wouldn’t enjoy coming home to fresh-baked cookies and having their laundry done?…Anyway, enjoy!
QB: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
Fresh off a toilsome two-game stretch, Big Ben gets a respite against a Raiders defense giving up the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks in the AFC. Roethlisberger’s 66.5 completion percentage is his second-best mark in his 10-year career, and though the yardage accumulation was down last week, the Pittsburgh signal caller averaged 326 yards in his previous four outings. Plus, did we mention he’s playing Oakland?
Other starts: Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton
RB: Fred Jackson, Bills
Blame a bum ankle, or that Buffalo offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett is a cold-hearted, deceitful S.O.B. No matter where the denunciation lies, C.J. Spiller is no longer viewed as the catalyst for the Bills offense, playing in just 14-of-68 snaps in Week 7. Worse, there’s a chance Spiller might be on the sidelines this weekend in order to give his injury a breather. So much for that “safest first-round pick” nonsense. Enter Jackson, who’s found the end zone five times and is averaging 4.4 yards per carry. Concededly, this comes with a HUGE asterisk, as Jackson admitted to aggravating his left knee against the Dolphins. Nevertheless, he is envisioned to continue playing through the pain, and with only Tashard Choice as a possible siphon, Jackson should be ready to roll against a so-so New Orleans front seven.
Other starts: Stevan Ridley, Reggie Bush
WR: Jarrett Boykin, Packers
Hope you paid attention during last week’s column and picked up Boykin off the waiver wire, because dude is flying off the free-agency list. (In that same tone, fingers-crossed that you ignored that Nick Foles suggestion. My bad.) Boykin was poised to see a steady stream of balls in replacement of Randall Cobb last week. In wake of Joe Haden blanketing Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley’s injury, Boykin turned into the de facto No. 1 target for Aaron Rodgers and didn’t disappoint, hauling in eight receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown. What the 23-year-old lacks in speed is countered with good route running, a physical build and sure-handedness. Taking on a Minnesota defense that is yielding 301 receiving yards per game (fourth-most in the NFL), Boykin has another prime opportunity to shine for his fantasy owners.
Other starts: Rueben Randle, Jeremy Kerley
TE: Jordan Reed, Washington
Reed was listed as the Fantasy Flyer last week against a beat-up Bears defense, but I’d be blowing smoke up your behind if I said such a bountiful harvest (nine receptions, 134 yards, touchdown) was expected. In a related note, I just spent 15 minutes researching the etymology of the “blowing smoke…” idiom, and though scholars (i.e. Wikipedia) are divided on the origin, one of the quoted sources came from a manuscript called The Smoke of the Gods by Eric Burns. Sorry Nick Offerman’s Paddle Your Own Canoe, you’ve lost your “Most Kick-Ass Book Title” belt. Anyway, Reed and Washington face a Denver defense surrendering the seventh-most points to the tight end position this season. Granted, Von Miller’s return strengthens the Broncos presence over the middle, yet the loss of Champ Bailey to a unit already relinquishing the most receiving yards in the league negates this asset. With six teams on bye and Jimmy Graham ailing, Reed warrants a start.
Other starts: Charles Clay, Kyle Rudolph
DEF: Carolina Panthers
Outside of reigning Rookie of the Year Luke Kuechly, this unit is mostly unknown outside of the Charlotte city limits. In spite of this anonymity, Carolina is holding opponents to a paltry 13.8 points per game, second-best in the NFL, and has been equally efficient in stopping the pass (217.7 yards per contest, fifth-lowest in the league) and run (84.5 yards, fourth-lowest). This output has equated to the fourth-most fantasy points amongst resistances this fall. Quite the feat, given the Panthers are owned in a scant 23.4 percent of FOXSports.com fantasy football leagues. With Doug Martin out for the Buccaneers, Tampa will be extremely one dimensional, making Carolina an enticing play.
Other starts: Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers
QB: Tom Brady, Patriots
I believe this is the first time in the three-year span I’ve been writing this column that Brady falls under the “sit” umbrella. Alas, it’s justified. Just short of the halfway mark of the 2013 campaign, Brady is 21st in total quarterback points, extremely disconcerting considering the Patriots’ Bye isn’t until Week 10. Brady’s 55.4 completion percentage is a career-low and he’s on pace for his fewest touchdown passes since 2001 (his first season as starter). Also not helping matters is an upcoming slate littered with formidable defenses in Miami, Pittsburgh, Carolina, Houston and Cleveland. I suppose there’s a silver lining with Rob Gronkowski back in the saddle, although 17 targets in Gronk’s direction in Week 7 illustrates the lack of rapport Brady has with New England’s other receivers. The Dolphins are right in the middle of the pack in terms of fantasy points per opponent, but too many viable arms exist to keep trotting out Brady in hopes of a mid-season revival. It sounds blasphemous, but I won’t blame owners if they jettisoned the two-time MVP to the waiver wire.
Other sits: Alex Smith, Russell Wilson
RB: Chris Ivory, Jets
Following his first conquest with Gang Green, Ivory has become a scorching-hot addition in the roto realm. While I’m generally a proponent of Ivory, going to have to rain on this parade, at least in terms of Week 8 production. The former Tiffin Dragon needed 34 attempts to hit 104 yards, his role in the receiving arena is almost nonexistent and the Jets take on a Bengals resistance containing rushing adversaries to the seventh-lowest fantasy output. I do think Ivory takes the reins as New York’s primary back. Unfortunately, that sentiment doesn’t translate to a start in your lineup this weekend. And while we’re here…what the hell, Jets? I was hoping New York would completely come unglued this fall, leading to the firing of Rex Ryan and subsequent FOX Sports 1 hiring of the ebullient coach as a studio host. Successively, the FS1 brass would realize my wit and baby blues are built for the camera, pairing me up with Ryan on a studio show, and after tapings, Ryan and I would raise havoc on the town. Frankly, there’s still time to make this dream a reality.
Other sits: Roy Helu, Willis McGahee
WR: Cecil Shorts, Jaguars
Shorts did not sustain further injury from Week 7, but the receiver admitted to playing in immense pain. Considering the Jags take on a stout 49ers defense, as well as, you know, they’re the Jags, not big on Shorts’ outlook. Throw in the possible disconcertment of playing in London and I’d stay away from this move.
Other sits: Marques Colston, Dwayne Bowe
TE: Andrew Quarless, Packers
The Green Bay backup has been getting some run on the waiver wire with the possibility of Finley missing the rest of the season, yet Quarless has done little to showcase he’s ready for such responsibility. In replacement of Finley in Week 3, Quarless pulled in only three catches for 21 yards. Perhaps he will receive a handful of red-zone looks, but it would have to be a deep league to warrant consideration.
Other sits: Greg Olsen, Jared Cook
DEF: New York Jets
This defense has been stellar without Darrelle Revis, and don’t mind the Jets in a rest-of-season perspective. Conversely, the New York offense routinely puts its defense in compromising situations, hurting the fantasy value of this group. The Bengals are not considered a high-flying attack, but they’re efficient enough to put points on the board. Not a lot of upside in this pick.
Other sits: New England Patriots, Arizona Cardinals
Waiver Wire Watch: Mike James, Buccaneers
Doug Martin is likely done for the season, bestowing the running back duties to the sixth-round rookie out of Miami. A reader in Tuesday’s chat inquired, “Why should I take James when Martin couldn’t do anything in that offense?” I understand this theory, and by no means am I projecting James as a must-start entity off the bat. However, running backs are like baseball closers, in the sense that having the job is 90 percent of that player’s value. If James is rationed 15-plus carries, that’s enough chances to do some damage in the box scores.
Email of the Week
This week’s winner comes from Josh from Atlanta, who writes:
12 team PPR. I have Ray Rice, Demarco, Jordy, josh Gordon and Blackmon. We can start 1 RB 2 WR and Flex. Guy really wants Jordy. He said He'd take Jordy.
Josh, I’m not sure that’s a question, buddy. Uh…I mean, DeMarco is going to be out awhile, and if “Guy” really wants Jordy, perhaps he’s willing to give up a RB, so…yeah?
Fantasy Flyer: Lavon Brazill, Colts
Nod goes to WhatIfSports.com’s Jake Westrich for this suggestion. Darrius Heyward-Bey is the name popping up as the player likely to receive the injured Reggie Wayne’s touches. Slight problem: dude can’t catch. Given that he’s a receiver, I could see how that could present a quandary for Andrew Luck. Though I like Coby Fleener to see an augmented workload, deeper leagues may want to give Brazill a gander, whose speed and deep-ball dexterity are vital weapons. Plus, he’s a product of Ohio THE University, and Bobcats got to recognize fellow Bobcats.
This Week in BRENT CELEK
Celek was targeted four times against the Cowboys, but managed just one catch. In his defense, let’s see you try to catch a ball underthrown by 15 yards. Stupid Nick Foles and Matt Barkley. Like watching George Clooney act next to Rob Schneider.
2013 stats: 12 catches, 197 yards, two touchdowns.
Linebacker Body Count: Six.
Personal Foul on: Mike McCoy, Chargers
When the Jaguars recovered a fumble from Eddie Royal, the San Diego coach threw the challenge flag to review if the ground had caused the fumble. One problem – since it was a turnover, the play was already under review, and the challenge cost the Chargers a timeout. Thank god that A) the Lightning Bolts were playing Jacksonville and B) no one in San Diego cares about football, or else McCoy would have been raked over the coals.
Gatorade Shower Goes to: Whoever created the Andy Reid Kool-Aid Man GIF
You’re doing the Lord’s work, friend.
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