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: Josh McCown OR Jay Cutler, Bears
Hell, if Cutler can’t go and McCown comes down with the flu, I would endorse third-stringer Jordan Palmer. That’s how fantasy-friendly the Dallas secondary has been to opposing signal callers this season, evidenced in a concession of 294.9 passing yards per game (second-worst in the NFL). Coach Marc Trestman has indicated, despite McCown’s proficiency in relief duty, the job belongs to Cutler when the latter returns to full strength; alas, as of this writing, Cutler has yet to be medically cleared. For those desperate for a QB, carrying both Bears is an astute play.
Other starts: Philip Rivers, Mike Glennon
RB: Steven Jackson, Falcons
Envisioned to light up the sky in an already-explosive Falcons offense, injuries and a defective line have made Jackson a dud in Atlanta in 2013. Although it’s been a disappointing fall for Jackson, value can still be derived from the Dirty Birds back in December. In his last two games, the 30-year-old has hit pay dirt three times, and while his efficiency is modest (3.8 yards per carry) the workload volume has translated to 163 total yards. Green Bay’s defense has not put forth much of a fight on the ground (125.9 yards per game, 26th in the league). He won’t post astonishing numbers, but Jackson warrants a Flex play in your lineup. Speaking of astonishing, how do we not have more Rob Ford stories emitting from Sunday’s Falcons-Bills date in Toronto? A hard-partying mayor plus one of the NFL’s best tailgating contingents should have produced at least six TMZ-esque stories, or at least one Winnebago going up in flames. Instead, all we get is Ford throwing down some wings. If that’s not enough conviction to keep the Bills in Buffalo over relocation up north, I don’t know what is.
Other starts: Ben Tate, Shane Vereen
WR: Jacoby Jones, Ravens
Even with Torrey Smith’s footing as the clear-cut Option A for Baltimore, there’s more than enough love to go around for Jones to merit starting consideration. The Ravens running game is officially running on fumes at a league-worst 2.9 yards per attempt (R.I.P. Fantasy Ray Rice – Some stars shine so bright that they burn out before their time), which should mean an amplified amount of air forays against a credulous Vikings defense. Targeted 13 times in the past two weeks, Jones is a sneaky start in deeper formats.
Other starts: DeSean Jackson, Kendall Wright
TE: Jared Cook, Rams
Considering Cook averaged just 38.8 yards per outing in the subsequent 11 games, it’s fair to label his tour de force in the season opener (seven receptions, 141 yards, two touchdowns) as a one-week wonder. Luckily for Cook, St. Louis travels to the desert to take on Arizona, the club that facilitated his bountiful harvest in Week 1. The Cardinals’ subjection at the hands of Cook was not an anomaly, for Arizona is giving up the most fantasy points to tight ends on the season. Slated to start in only a quarter of FOXSports.com Fantasy Football leagues, make sure Cook is implemented in your TE spot.
Other starts: Coby Fleener, Martellus Bennett
DEF: New England Patriots
Lined up across the Pats will be a coming-back-from-concussion Jason Campbell or trick-shot artist Alex Tanney. That is all. (Actually, it’s not. Is Tanney’s gig strictly a byproduct of said video? WhatIfSports.com Digital Content Coordinator Jake Westrich believes it is: While at Monmouth, Tanney set the NCAA record for passing touchdowns with 157 and the DIII record for passing yards with 14,249, but if you’re like me, you only know that from Googling his college stats five seconds ago. Fact is Tanney’s trick-shot video did more to market him than a prolific college career. Can’t help but wonder if he would have landed multiple mini-camp invites after going undrafted in 2012 if not for the trick-shot heroics.
Other starts: Houston Texans, Arizona Cardinals
QB: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
This might run counter to your intuition, believing Big Ben’s recent exploits (289 yards per game, 13 touchdowns in five November games) versus Miami’s struggles (three victories in the past 10 weeks) would present an advantageous matchup. Digging deeper indicates otherwise: in spite of their woes in the win column, the Fins have been stout versus the pass, ranking ninth in the league at 221.7 yards per game and relinquishing the fourth-fewest fantasy points to QBs. Furthermore, Miami’s vulnerability up front (121.8 rushing yards per contest, 25th in the NFL) means Pittsburgh will keep it on the ground with Le’Veon Bell. Sticking with Roethlisberger, many owners have inquired about the ramifications on dropping the Steelers quarterback. While he’s played well this campaign, his December forecast is worrisome, with trysts against top-10 resistances in Cincinnati and Cleveland. His name recognition makes parting a hard call, but one that should be made.
Other sits: Andrew Luck, Colin Kaepernick
RB: Donald Brown, Colts
The good: the long-awaited demotion of fantasy assassin Trent Richardson correlates to an uptick in opportunities for Brown. The bad: Brown didn’t knock anyone’s socks off with 54 yards on 14 touches last week, and things don’t look much better this Sunday versus a Bengals defense surrendering the third-fewest points to backs. The ugly: following the Cincinnati tilt, Indianapolis faces a Houston squad that ranks third in total defense and a Kansas City defense that’s handing over just 17.8 points per game (fourth-best in the NFL). The uglier: without Reggie Wayne, the Colts passing attack has become stagnate, transferring the adversarial focus to shutting down Brown. Only start in deeper leagues as a flex play.
Other sits: Zac Stacy, Lamar Miller
WR: Michael Crabtree, 49ers
An auspicious 2013 debut for Crabtree last week, at least in terms of yardage production (68 yards). Unfortunately, that’s where the positivity ends. Mindful of suspensions to Walter Thurmond and Brandon Browner, the Seattle secondary does not spur candidacy for wide receivers, holding the position to the third-lowest output in fantasy. Crabtree finished with a scant two receptions last week on four targets, numbers that won’t necessarily inflate thanks to Colin Kaepernick’s inconsistency. Also, I just don’t like the guy. Keep him on the pine. (Kidding about my feelings toward Crabtree, but you would be amazed how many emails/comments accuse me of personal vendettas directed at players, teams and/or cities. All nonsense, there’s no hate in this heart. Well, aside from people who play with their phones behind home plate. They’re the worst, and may a foul ball or spilled beer find its way onto their mobile devices.)
Other sits: Cecil Shorts, Marques Colston
TE: Tim Wright, Buccaneers
Wright is a hot waiver-wire add this week due to his matchup against the Bills, who have labored against tight ends this year. Don’t misconstrue the favorable platform as a thumbs-up for Wright as starter. In three of his last four games, the rookie out of Rutgers has finished with 19 receiving yards or less, and has crossed the goal line only twice on the season. I like his prospects for 2014. This week? Not so much. There are enough viable tight ends available to stay away from this flyer during playoff time.
Other sits: John Carlson, Greg Olsen
Waiver Wire Watch: Oakland Raiders defense
The Silver and Black are playing the Jets this Sunday. The Jets have a man by the name of Geno Smith at quarterback. Geno Smith has 11 touchdowns and 23 turnovers this season. See where we’re going with this? I suppose there’s a tad of reservation starting a Raiders defense that ranks 18th on the year in fantasy points and was smacked for seven touchdowns just a month ago. Also, the “West Coast team traveling East” postulate serves as a monkey wrench to this play. My counter: Geno Smith is the Jets starting quarterback. Available in 91 percent of FOXSports.com Fantasy Football leagues, feel free to start the Oakland D.
Email of the Week
This week’s winner comes from Ellen R. in Independence, who writes:
“In two-week playoff format can I start Nick Foles over Matthew Stafford? Stafford’s INTs scare me and Foles has been so good and has Lions and Vikings on schedule and Stafford puts up yards but INTs scare me. Thank you.”
Ellen, I know we keep things informal around these parts, but a quick proofread and acquaintance with the comma wouldn’t kill ya. However, Ellen’s plight is surprisingly common, with multiple readers inquiring about Stafford vs. Foles. Not often we dissuade owners from starting an entity with 20 scores and only one turnover, and certainly won’t condemn such actions; nevertheless, Philadelphia is allowing a league-high 297 passing yards per game, and although Stafford has been prone to the pick as of late, remains a top-five fantasy arm. And if it’s any solace, I’m in a similar Stafford/Foles predicament in two leagues, so when I say this, I mean it with certitude: go with Stafford. The Philly field general has been good, but Stafford offers the higher ceiling of the two.
Fantasy Flyer: Ladarius Green, Chargers
Owned in scarce 4.3 percent of FOXSports.com leagues, Green is steadily making a name for himself with the Lightning Bolts. The second-year tight end out of Louisiana-Lafayette has become a factor with the venerable Antonio Gates dealing with a hamstring injury, and Green is making the most of the opportunity, snagging nine balls in the last three games for 206 yards and two touchdowns. With Gates far from full strength, Green will be leaned on again this weekend versus a Giants team that ranks 24th against fantasy tight ends, making him a top-15 play.
This Week in BRENT CELEK
Celek found the Promised Land last weekend against the Cardinals, his fourth touchdown on the season. While this alone is cause for celebration, of greater note was Celek’s rebuttal to Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Ariens’ criticism of the Philadelphia offense. “Calling it a college offense? That doesn’t even make sense,” Celek told NFL.com. “Come on, man. People are just afraid of change. We’re in a world where everything around us is [driven by] constant innovation, in every industry. Yet in football, for my first six years, it was the same stuff. To have somebody come along and run some of the same concepts but with different terminology that makes it easier to understand, it's tremendous.”
Brent Celek, the gridiron’s answer to Bob Dylan. Who knew? (Ok, we kind of did. I mean, we did devote an entire section to the man all year.)
2013 stats: 23 receptions, 319 yards, four touchdowns
Linebacker Body Count: 10
Personal Foul on: Denver Broncos backfield
Thanks a lot, Denver. After keeping the reins on him the entire season and subsequently slaughtering thousands of fantasy drafts, you let Montee Ball loose in Week 13. With Knowshon Moreno’s ankle problem still present, owners now are weighing the risks and rewards of rolling with Ball in the playoffs. Damn you, Denver. Damn you!
Gatorade Shower Goes to: Jeff Triplette
Sure, your crew’s blunder at the end of Sunday night’s game cost Washington dearly. On the bright side, the mistake saved us from another week of RG3 nonsense, and in that regard, we are deeply indebted to your ineptitude.
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