FOX Sports Exclusive
Fantasy Basement: Week 17
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 four. Why “Fantasy Basement” you ask? There is a common misconception that sports writers dwell in their childhood cellars, that the institution promotes an arrested development. However, instead of railing against this claim, I am embracing this subterranean bourgeoisie. After all, who wouldn’t enjoy coming home to fresh-baked cookies and having their laundry done? But I digress…Enjoy.
QB: Philip Rivers, Chargers
Rivers submitted one of the shakiest campaigns of his career in 2012, but has shown signs of life lately, evidenced by six touchdowns versus one interception in the past four weeks. The San Diego signal caller has a chance to end things on a positive note versus an Oakland squad that is surrendering the sixth-highest output for quarterbacks this season. There might be slight concern that the lack of a rushing attack could curb Rivers’ potential, but even when Ryan Mathews was in the backfield this year, the ineffectiveness of the third-year-back rarely diverted the adversarial focus from the passing game. In deeper leagues or two-QB formats, roll with Rivers.
Other starts: Tony Romo, Matt Schaub
RB: Knowshon Moreno, Broncos
Since regaining the reins at running back, Moreno has been lights-out, averaging nearly 78 rushing yards per contest. Look for the former first-round pick to augment that figure taking on the Chiefs this weekend, as Kansas City has given up nearly 2,000 yards on the ground at a 4.6 yards per carry clip, two of the more putrid numbers in rush protection in the conference. While we’re here, a few of you have asked if Moreno is now worthy of keeper status for 2013. There’s certainly no doubting the Broncos back has more than enough fuel in his fire to keep the flames burning, but with Denver drafting Ronnie Hillman last April, and Willis McGahee’s relatively cheap contract, think the running corps will be too crowded to justify such a placement on Moreno. However, if he finds new digs outside of Mile High? Could be worth reopening the case.
Other starts: DeMarco Murray, Montell Owens
WR: Steve Smith, Panthers
A multitude of managers have expressed their discontent with the Carolina wideout, bizarre since Smith has hauled in 70 receptions for 1,101 yards, albeit with just four touchdowns versus last season’s seven. Still, Smith has been one of the best receivers not named Calvin Johnson in December, with 22 catches for 331 yards and three trips to pay dirt. Better yet, Smith has seen a plethora of pass attempts in his direction, with 38 targets in this span. Though the Saints secondary has improved in the second half of the season, New Orleans remains one of the worst air resistances in the league, allowing over 307 receiving yards per outing, and has relinquished the most end-zone excursions with 31 touchdowns. Make sure Smith is sitting in your starting lineup.
Other starts: Brandon Lloyd, T.Y. Hilton
TE: Kyle Rudolph, Vikings
“What to do with Rudolph” has been a recurring motif for fantasy proprietors, as the inconsistent play of Christian Ponder has made the tight end’s performance a feast-or-famine proposition. A glance at the game log will illustrate this sentiment, as Rudolph has visited the Promised Land four times in the past six weeks, but has accumulated 40 receiving yards or less in three of these contests. On paper, a matchup with the Packers points to the famine side of the spectrum, as Green Bay has been stout against the position, holding opponents to the fifth-lowest production in the NFL. Yet, with the Cheeseheads likely to load the box on Adrian Peterson, Rudolph should have room to roam over the middle. Add in the vulnerability of the Vikings receivers and Rudolph gets our endorsement. (Also, anybody else think “What to do with Rudolph” would make a fantastic name for a sitcom?)
Other starts: Greg Olsen, Jermichael Finley
DEF: Buffalo Bills
Offseason acquisitions of Mario Williams and Mark Anderson didn’t quite turn the Bills into a formidable foe on defense like everyone envisioned, and we’re being awfully generous with the utilization of “quite.” Nevertheless, Buffalo has a shot at redemption against the circus that is the New York Jets. Call me crazy, but I don’t see Greg McElroy guiding Gang Green to victory in a possible winter wonderland in Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Other starts: Denver Broncos, San Diego Chargers
QB: Eli Manning, Giants
Pick whatever excuse fits your fancy: tired arm, futile backfield, shaky offensive line, the carrousel at wide receiver. The only veracity applicable to the rotisserie world is Manning’s harvest, or lack thereof, in 2012, as the two-time Super Bowl MVP enters the final week of the regular season ranked 18th among fantasy quarterbacks in standard formats. Manning has been especially appalling the last five weeks, throwing nine passes to the wrong team versus four touchdowns. A date with division rival Philadelphia theoretically should provide a platform to bounce back for Manning, yet if owners couldn’t trust him the previous four months, hard to invest that faith in the concluding contest. Only in deeper formats does Manning merit starting consideration.
Other sits: Colin Kaepernick, Matthew Stafford
RB: Trent Richardson, Browns
The rookie rusher’s ankle injury is not as bad as initially perceived. Unfortunately, Richardson was not a participant in Cleveland practice on Sunday, and with little left to prove, doubt the Alabama product dresses for the season finale. Even if he does suit up, Richardson would be facing a Steelers front seven that just held BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who was averaging nearly 110 yards in his previous five games, to 14 yards on 15 attempts. Even in PPR leagues, Richardson should be off your radar.
Other sits: Steven Jackson, Ahmad Bradshaw
WR: Sidney Rice, Seahawks
Rice has been seeing his fair share of love from the fantasy community thanks to the second-half development of Russell Wilson. Alas, Rice hasn’t lived up to the billing, averaging a middling 54.6 yards per contest in the past five weeks. Worse, Rice has found the end zone only once in this span. Seattle has a lot on the line this week, meaning Rice could be in for a bountiful haul, but the Rams have been one of the more stalwart secondaries in the NFC, with the fifth-lowest output to receivers in the conference. Better options exist over Rice this weekend.
Other sits: Danny Amendola, Michael Crabtree
TE: Owen Daniels, Texans
In his first eight ballgames, Daniels brought in 37 grabs leading to 478 yards (59.8 yards per game) and five touchdowns. Since? Not so good: 22 catches, 211 yards (35.2 yards per game) and a lone score. In his defense, back issues have resurfaced for the tight end, possibly correlating to this decreased showing in the box score. However, opponents have also honed in on Daniels, knowing the 30-year-old is the only viable complement to Andre Johnson. (As an acolyte of the awesomeness of Kevin Walter, that pained to say.) With an excess of serviceable pieces at the position, Daniels is best left on your bench.
Other sits: Brandon Myers, Martellus Bennett
DEF: New York Giants
If they couldn’t stop Joe Flacco, what makes you think they can halt a multi-dimensional quarterback auditioning for 31 teams next season? More on this in a moment.
Other sits: Cleveland Browns, New York Jets
The Sports Movie Head Scratcher of the Week
There’s an inherent petition from most sports films that the patrons must suspend belief regarding some of the picture’s narrative. However, while a grain of salt is usually acquiesced from the audience, there remain storylines from these athletic classics that defy logic and reason that need to be examined with greater scrutiny. These preposterous plot points will be analyzed along with a questionable call from the previous week of football.
I liked The Dark Knight Rises, but more than a few holes made me call shenanigans on the story. (How does Bane eat? Wouldn’t more people suspect fraud on the Bruce Wayne future stocks the day after the stock exchange gets taken hostage? Why does that pit in the middle of nowhere get decent TV reception when my satellite gets knocked out by the slightest amount of wind?) The one that bugs me the most – why is a geriatric Hines Ward the kick returner? Guy could barely run a route over the middle the past three years. How am I supposed to believe he’s the fastest guy on the Gotham team? At least put Mike Wallace in that role. Someone dropped the ball in casting.
Speaking of dropping the ball, kudos to Marvin Lewis and Mike Tomlin for making their respective fan bases believe they could do a better job themselves on the sidelines, as both head coaches made dubious decisions down the stretch in Cincinnati’s 13-10 win. Lewis drew the ire of Cincinnati by going for it on 4th and long in the late period despite shaky showings from Andy Dalton and the offense, as well as a desperate 56-yard field goal attempt in a stadium not conducive to kicking. Luckily for Lewis, Tomlin upped the ante by sending kicker Shaun Suisham out for a 53-yard venture, which wouldn’t have been the worst of calls except for, you know, your kicker is Shaun Suisham, and stayed away from the rushing game even as Ben Roethlisberger struggled . Let’s just say these performances won’t be submitted for Coach of the Year candidacy.
Waiver Wire Watch: Michael Vick, Eagles
Welcome back, old friend. We haven’t seen Vick since Week 10, so make no mistake, taking the Philly field general into battle is dancing with the devil. On the plus side, Vick had a sound presentation in his previous soiree with the G-Men, tossing for 241 yards and a touchdown, adding 49 yards on the terrain. Maybe most importantly, the outing was one of the few where Vick escaped without yielding a turnover. Available in nearly half of FOXSports.com fantasy football leagues, Vick is a high-risk, high-reward entity that will be working with a battered line and depleted receiving unit against an adversary in a must-win situation. Though that forecast may seem ominous, New York has conceded the ninth-highest output to quarterbacks this year, making Vick a must-start in two-QB leagues, and deserves a gander in formats with 12 or more teams.
Email of the Week
This week’s winner comes from Laura, who writes:
“In the championship this week – that’s right, a girl in the championship! – and…”
Sorry, but this needs to be addressed. Every week I receive some variation of this question, such as, “Playing my husband this week – yeah, we play in the same league!” or “I’m the only gal in my league…showing the guys what I’m made of!” And that’s great, as the more people who can participate in this crazy game, the better. But it seems like every girl who sends this type of message believes they’re the only representative of the XX chromosome in fantasy football, which is totally not the case, with some industry watchers speculating nearly nine percent of all fantasy users are women. I guess why this bugs me is most girls who play are trying to be accepted as “one of the guys” but clearly want to make their female independence known. Oh, and the most astute player in The League is a girl, so this concept isn’t totally out of left field.
Anyway, I guess the point I’m making is this: all walks of life are seating up to the rotisserie table. Ladies, we are glad to have you. Just stop acting like you’re some fantasy pioneer, tearing down stereotypes. You’re not. (It’s at this point where I’d like to point out I’m single. Can’t imagine why, can you?)
Fantasy Flyer: Jordan Shipley, Jaguars
This is a deep, deep flyer, but then again, any wavier-wire acquisition at this juncture should be considered as such, no?
After bouncing around with Cincinnati and Tampa, Shipley might have finally found a home with the Jags, seeing 10 balls in his vicinity versus New England and finishing with five receptions for 82 yards. With Cecil Shorts down for the count this week, look for Shipley to be one of the primary Jacksonville receiving targets against a Tennessee defense that just got thumped with a double-nickel on the scoreboard last Sunday at Lambeau Field. Shipley’s game is more advantageous in PPR formats, yet with the sorrowful state of the Jaguars rushing assault, don’t be shocked if Shipley replicates last week’s feats.
The Real Debate
The emergence of Seattle’s Wilson in the past six weeks has enlarged the Rookie of the Year conversation from two to three, as Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Wilson all have substantiated claim to the honor. Yet the discussion should not center on whose merits will ultimately be rewarded; rather, the Real Debate should be this: how bad is last year’s quarterback class starting to look? Cam Newton has shown signs of rejuvenation in the last two months, but the jury is still out if his box-score bonanzas are indicative of his ability to engineer a winning football team. Dalton is at the helm of a playoff-bound crew, yet the Red Rifle seems to do most of his damage versus susceptible opponents and struggles against worthy challengers, earning the dreaded ceiling of “game manager.” Jake Locker is certainly athletic, though that estimation has not translated into the win column. The play of Minnesota’s Ponder has been so repulsive that part of me believes this display is on purpose, in order to showcase the superhuman strength and fortitude of Peterson. Colin Kaepernick has been solid, but has only really played in seven games, and is 4-2-1 in those contests. Ricky Stanzi apparently lacks the aptitude to overcome Brady Quinn. And Blaine Gabbert’s Blaine Gabbertness has Jacksonville mulling the acquirement of Tim Tebow as an upgrade. Let’s just say we won’t be comparing this group to the 1983 class anytime soon.
Rookie Review: Harrison Smith, Vikings
Normally don’t highlight the fellas on the other side of the ball, yet Smith’s exploits in Minnesota’s upset of Houston (seven tackles, one sack, one pass defended, forced fumble) deserve nomination. A first-round choice out of South Bend, Smith has been an integral part in transforming a soft Vikings defense into one of the better units in the conference. Don’t be surprised if Smith’s season-long prosperity translates into a trip to Hawaii.
This Week in Kevin Walter
Confession: the guy has been my favorite receiver the past eight years, but unless he starts showing up in the box scores, this might be our last rodeo with the Pride of Ypsilanti. There are only so many off-the-field endeavors (like Walter saving the entire nation from this fiscal cliff by building some sort of wall on this precipice) before we get back to his gridiron accomplishments, which lately, have been few. In short, we are taking proposals for players worthy of this weekly spotlight in 2013. While it may seem like blasphemy, Mr. Walter, in the words of every Taylor Swift song, “It’s you, not me.”
Walter’s 2012 Stats: 38 receptions, 467 yards, two touchdowns
Walter’s Cornerback Body Count: 13
Personal Foul on: Rex Ryan, Jets
Remember that guy who turned around Denver after a 1-4 start and beat the Steelers in the playoffs last season? Yeah, that wasn’t Greg McElroy.
Gatorade Shower Goes to: Ryan Grant, Packers
Left for dead by Green Bay, as well as every other NFL team this season, Grant came back with the Pack in dramatic fashion, rushing for 80 yards and two touchdowns last week. Keep living big, my man.