Random thoughts as we enter Week 14:
• There are lots of ways I could contrast the competing teams in the AFC, but how about this ... finesse offenses (Patriots, Colts, Chargers) and power teams (Jets, Ravens, Chiefs, Jaguars, Raiders). That breakdown includes everyone except the Steelers, who don't seem to neatly fit either category. Anyway, two things I find interesting here: (1) who'd have thought the finesse offenses - the Colts and Chargers - would be struggling so much while the power-oriented Chiefs, Jaguars and Raiders would be doing so well? In today's QB-dominated NFL, those teams are throwbacks.
• Do you think the Titans regret claiming Randy Moss off waivers? He has just 5 catches in 4 games and the Titans have fallen on their faces. I could think of better ways to spend three-plus million bucks.
• The Lions point differential is -28, far higher than you'd expect from a 2-10 team. To put that in perspective, check out the point differentials of these teams:
2-10 Bills: -90
2-10 Bengals: -67
3-9 Cardinals: - 138
5-7 Vikings: -26
5-7 Texans: -33
6-6 Rams: -5
6-6 Seahawks: -49
Esssentially, a team with the Lions -28 point differential should probably be 5-7 or so. I don't know what the 2011 over/under on the number of wins for the Lions is going to be, but the "over" will likely be the right bet.
• I keep thinking the Patriots are over-rated, as their component stats aren't as good as their record, but they keep winning anyway. I want to fade them given the component stats, but who is gonna beat them? They have destroyed the Jets and Steelers in the past month, and they beat the Colts as well.
• I'd love to see an MMA event with Ravens versus Steelers. Seven guys from each team; seven consecutive matchups, first team to win four matchups wins. Who wouldn't pay to see that?
• My MVP ballot, right now: Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, Mike Vick. For most of the year, Rivers' stats have looked insane, but now Brady's do, too (27 TDs, 4 INTs). Like Rivers' Chargers, the Patriots skill players aren't anything special, but unlike the Chargers, the Patriots are 10-2.
• Don't bench Chris Johnson this week. You'll be sorry.
Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens: Except when they played the Titans (and a rookie QB making his first start), the Texans have allowed every QB they've faced to light them up like a Christmas tree. Expect a bounce-back performance this week from Joe Flacco.
Sam Bradford, QB, Rams: Bradford will have to throw a lot this week to keep up with the Saints, and playing in a dome, weather won't be a factor for him. At this time of year, weather suddenly becomes a factor in some games, so don't forget to give an upward nudge to the teams playing indoors.
Chris Ivory, RB, Saints: Is this guy really owned in just 38% of ESPN leagues? Geez - I feel like I've profiled him every week. Go make him your top waiver selection, unless one of the stud WRs below is still available.
James Starks, RB, Packers: A relative unknown, Starks got some playing time last week and made the most of it - 18 carries for 73 yards. It looks like a timeshare in Green Bay, but if you're hurting for a starter in Week 14, a matchup with Detroit isn't bad.
Tashard Choice, RB, Cowboys: Many of us at Rotowire have thought Choice is a superior player to Marion Barber. Sunday, he finally got a chance to prove it. Yes, it's still a timeshare with Felix Jones, but Choice is getting the better end of it since he gets the goal line carries. This week's matchup against the Eagles is less than ideal, but if you can survive to Week 15, you're looking at the Redskins and Cardinals.
Michael Bush, RB, Raiders: The Raiders running game has the potential to be absolutely awesome in any given week, as we've seen a few times now this season. Even if Bush isn't worth starting in your fantasy format, he's a Darren McFadden injury away from getting to exploit the run defenses of the Broncos and Colts in Weeks 15 and 16.
Rashad Jennings, RB, Jaguars: Jennings is still backing up Maurice Jones Drew in Jacksonville, but on a run-dominated team, Jennings is getting some scraps, and he's got two TDs the last two weeks to prove it. Jennings probably needs a MJD injury to be relevant in most leagues, but if that were to happen, there's huge potential for him to do some damage in the fantasy playoffs, as he faces the Raiders, Colts, and Redskins.
Donald Driver, WR, Packers: If Driver was dropped in your shallow league, go get him.
Pierre Garcon, WR, Colts: If you're not sold on your receiver options this week, I'm still bullish on Garcon, who caught all eight of his targets last week yet has been dropped in a number of leagues. If Cortland Finnegan matches up with Reggie Wayne, there is serious potential for Garcon to have a nice game.
Sidney Rice, WR, Vikings: Rice is back in Pro Bowl form. I wonder how the Vikings season would have played out if he was healthy all year - he's that good.
Anthony Armstrong, WR, Redskins: Armstrong has 24 targets the past three games, no doubt helped by the Redskins playing catch-up, and he cashed in last week to the tune of 97 yards and a TD. Among receivers likely to be on waivers, he's the name who is jumping out at me.
Jimmy Graham, TE, Saints: Graham posted fantasy-friendly stats last week (72 yards) even with Jeremy Shockey back from injury. At this point, the Saints realize Graham is their best tight end, as well as the future at the position, and they're incorporating him into the offense. He should be starting in most formats, yet he's owned in just 2% of ESPN leagues.
Titans D/ST: The Titans defense should be licking its chops this week, as it faces a QB who's allowed 11 INTs the past three games, including four pick-sixes. Yes, that quarterback is Peyton Manning, but with how the Colts have been turning the ball over, it's time to stop avoiding matchups with the Colts and, at least for deeper leagues, to start exploiting them. If your league emphasizes points against, the Colts are still a bad matchup, but if it's turnover and TD-based, hop on board.
Broncos D/ST: The Cardinals offense is atrocious. I'm not convinced that changing coaches will work for the Broncos like it's worked for the Cowboys and Vikings - the Broncos just don't have the same talent - but with this matchup, it may not matter.
Dead to Me:
Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers: Mathews was healthy last week, but got no touches. Sigh. It's time to concede defeat. If you want to criticize the result, that's fine - but don't criticize the methodology - rookie RBs on good offenses often turn into studs, e.g. Arian Foster in Houston and, to a lesser extent, Chris Ivory in New Orleans.