Is it too early for me to bet the "over" on a Packers/Saints playoff matchup? If only it could be in the Superdome.
You already knew Patrick Peterson has an NFL-record four punt-return TDs, but that's just part of the story. The Cardinals have just four wins all year, and Peterson has punt-return TDs of 80-plus yards in three of them, including two game-winners (the third was in a three-point win). Not only has Peterson been the Cardinals MVP, you could argue they'd be winless without him (crazy to say for a CB/PR). Devin Hester is the greatest return man of all time (and will hopefully help pave the way for guys like Steve Tasker to make the Hall of Fame), but Peterson belongs on this year's NFC Pro Bowl squad as the return man.
Considering the cost of acquisition and that he barely played the first two games, Victor Cruz has been, by a wide margin, the most valuable fantasy receiver in 2011.
I thought the Texans should have called Brett Favre before their Week 11 bye. Now that Matt Leinart has his arm in a sling, the Texans can't let third-string rookie QB T.J. Yates or a retread like Kellen Clemens, Jeff Garcia, or Trent Edwards handle the reins of what otherwise looks like a Super Bowl team. I realize Favre brings a circus with him, but Barnum and Bailey need to come to town.
There's only one person in America who doesn't realize the Giants can't run the ball. Unfortunately for Giants fans, that person is Tom Coughlin.
Have you ever met anyone who has four DUIs, gets drunk daily, drinks alone, and drinks before noon, yet denies being an alcoholic (even as everyone around him knows the truth)? By saying he was just trying to "get up," Ndamukong Suh proved he suffers from a similar form of denial. It's a shame, too - if his post-game comments had been appropriate, he may have escaped with a one-game suspension. ("I am sorry. I lost my cool, but that's no excuse - there's no place for that sort of immaturity in the game" ... blah, blah, blah). But by denying malicious intent and showing himself to be completely delusional, Suh proved that, like the alcoholic, an extended rehab is necessary. As AA will tell you, the first step to helping someone recover is making them realize they have a problem.
Say what you want about Jerry Jones, but it's pretty damn cool he was willing to eat Kyle Orton's salary for the rest of 2011 to prevent him from going to the Bears (with whom the Cowboys may be competing for a Wild Card spot). All sports fans should want their owners to be so invested financially. Meanwhile, the Chiefs would have been better-served saving their money. If they think Orton is the difference in them winning the division, they're as delusional as Suh.
If the Broncos win the AFC West, Tim Tebow should finish in the top 10 in the MVP race.
How many fantasy owners started Beanie Wells against the 49ers in Week 11, suffered through a dud, and then benched him for his enormous Week 12? Going from a matchup against the 49ers to one against the Rams is like dating Rosie O'Donnell one day and Jessica Biel the next, and it's a terrific reminder how much fantasy stats are matchup-dependent. Keep that in mind with your Week 13 waiver claims, below.
When a story emerges in January, after his termination, that Norv Turner bet against the Chargers in 75 of their past 83 games, it will all make sense. Incredibly, if I were a Chargers fan, that might make me feel better - at least that would provide a cogent explanation.
The Dolphins may be 3-8, but they're thisclose to being a playoff team. They gave away the Broncos game, should have beaten the Browns, could have beaten the Giants and Cowboys, and Matt Moore is at least as good as other QBs who recently got contract extensions (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kevin Kolb). I hope Vegas keeps setting lines like they're a 3-8 team, and if it does, I won't stupidly refuse to take advantage, like I did with Dallas -7 on Thanksgiving.
We started the year wondering who was more valuable for fantasy - Aaron Hernandez or Rob Gronkowski. The question entering next year will be whether Gronk will be worth a first-round pick. That may sound nuts, but when Dalton Del Don said last week in his NFL Notes that Gronk is a top-10 fantasy commodity, I thought about it briefly and realized he's right. Gronkowski's stats would be terrific for a wide receiver, much less a tight end, his floor is really low with Tom Brady at QB, and he'll be 23 and entering his third season next year.
Everything I just said about Gronkowski applies to Jimmy Graham, too.
If there are this many good tight ends, should fantasy leagues begin requiring that every team start two TEs each? For 10 or 12 team leagues, I think so.
I hate DirecTV. I pay some ungodly price for Sunday Ticket every year, even as new subscribers get it for free. I complained recently, and they "reimbursed" me by giving me Showtime for a few months. That sounds okay, I suppose, but now I'm hooked on Homeland and my free months of Showtime are over, so now I have to pay for ShowTime to keep watching Homeland. Bastards.
Before anyone gets too excited about Mark Sanchez's 4-TD performance, bear in mind he completed less than half his passes (17/35) and, against this same Bills defense the prior two weeks, Tony Romo and Matt Moore combined for 6 TDs, zero INTs, and had just nine incompletions total. Trust me, Sanchez's performance was nothing special. Worse yet, as if Jets fans need more cause for concern, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Stevie Johnson torched Darrelle Revis, and that would have been the story of this game if not for the pair just missing the game-winning TD - twice. It was so bad for Revis that it seemed the Bills were targeting him, as if he were a rookie corner just off the bench. I'm not sure if this was merely a matchup thing (Johnson fared pretty well in their earlier matchup as well), but Revis' struggles were so pronounced, particularly by his standards, they're definitely worth noting.
If I ever luck into a good prediction, or I'm arguing with you about something and you don't know how to respond, just remind me I'm 1-10 picking Bills games ATS this year, including 8 losses in a row. Seriously, this is why it's called "gambling."
I can't believe the Bucs weren't given the benefit of a measurement (and clock stoppage) before their final, fourth-down play (where Josh Freeman fumbled the snap, sealing their loss). The third-down play was darn close to a first down, and generally the refs will allow a measurement if it's within a foot or so. In post-game comments, Raheem Morris said "you shouldn't have to ask [for a measurement]," which leads me to believe he didn't ask. Idiot! I realize the play unfolded quickly, but he has to be smart enough to ask for a measurement in that situation. (To illustrate, do you think Bill Belichick would have been doing anything but screaming "MEASUREMENT" the instant his player was tackled near the first-down marker?)
I was criticized in the comments of the last Breakfast Table for opining Jordy Nelson is a product of Aaron Rodgers and is "not special" in his own right. With how Riley Cooper has played the past few weeks, you tell me ... would anyone notice if Cooper switched uniforms with Nelson? Both are listed at 6-3, 215 lbs (and white, not that it matters). Anyway, I agree Nelson is better, obviously, but Cooper's emergence may be enough to justify the Eagles letting DeSean Jackson leave town after the season. I guarantee you this is something the Eagles brass has thought about and will continue to ponder over the next few weeks.
Ordinarily, I love the concept of going for it on fourth and goal from the one, but Leslie Frazier's decision to do so with just over four minutes left, down by ten points, was questionable at best. Kick the field goal, get within one score, and extend the game. You can't win the game in that possession (by scoring a TD) but you can lose it (by getting stopped). ... What? This decision cost me a victory ATS because I picked the Vikings +9.5? I hadn't realized.
Before I give my suggested waiver claims for Week 13, note the persistent theme - picking on bad defenses. As I explained with Beanie Wells, above, so much of NFL performance is matchup-dependent. Hence, if you don't have an established star for your fantasy roster, you might as well take advantage of the bad defenses in the NFL - the Panthers, Bills, Colts, Rams, Bucs, Vikings, etc.
Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Titans: The Bills have allowed at least three passing TDs in each of their past three games. Hasselbeck plays the Bills this week. If you don't have a stud QB, need I say more?
Josh Freeman, QB, Bucs: Freeman has disappointed in real life and fantasy in 2011, but this week he faces a Panthers defense which allows an NFL-worst 8.4 YPA (only two other teams are above 8.0). You might be concerned the Bucs will run all over Carolina, since the Panthers are equally inept against the run, but the Bucs defense is downtrodden in its own right - they're one of the other teams allowing above 8.0 YPA. Hence, Cam Newton should have his way with the Bucs defense as well, which means Freeman will have to keep scoring in what should be a high-scoring, entertaining game.
Matt Moore, QB, Dolphins: If Moore had been a first-round draft pick, NFL analysts would be drooling over him right now. If you're hurting for QB help, take a look at Moore's upcoming schedule: Oakland, Philly, at Buffalo, at New England. With those matchups, I see no reason Moore can't duplicate the four-game stretch he just completed, where he totaled 7 TDs, 1 INT, and nearly 230 yards/game.
Maurice Morris, RB, Lions: Everyone who claimed Kevin Smith last week should be looking to add Morris this week. I don't like Morris at all - he's in the lower third of the league in terms of talent for running backs, but if Smith is out this week, as I expect, Morris' situation is really good. Detroit scores a lot, and their Week 13 opponent, the Saints, score even more, especially in the Superdome, and Morris should get a nice mixture of runs and checkdowns this week. Confirm Smith is out and treat Morris as a solid RB2 or flex for Week 13.
Donald Brown, RB, Colts: I get that Brown plays for the anemic Colts offense and that Joseph Addai is now healthy. But Addai is the nominal starter only and Delone Carter is an afterthought in the offense, receiving no touches last week, whereas Brown has at least 14 carries in each of the past three games. Despite a less than ideal schedule (at Pats, at Ravens, Titans, Texans), Brown's 15% ownership rate in Yahoo! leagues is too low.
Shane Vereen, RB, Patriots: Vereen has received some garbage-time touches each of the past two games, which may not excite you, but the Pats play the Colts this week and are 21 (yes, 21) point favorites. If Vegas is that confident in garbage-time, then perhaps you should be as well. If you're going to take a flyer at running back in a deep league, you might as well take one on a team that's going to score 30(+) points and may be running out the clock the entire second half.
Eric Decker, WR, Broncos: Decker is Tim Tebow's preferred target, and if there was ever a week for the Broncos to win because of Tebow's arm, it's this week against a Vikings team that has allowed an NFL-worst 22 passing TDs. Decker is unowned in 28% of Yahoo! leagues - go get him.
Lance Moore, WR, Saints: Moore has scored in three of his past four games, including twice on Monday night, yet he's unowned in nearly half of Yahoo! leagues. I realize Jimmy Graham is the only consistent target for Brees, but I like Moore, and I like his schedule. He has a nice matchup this week against the Lions (at home, where the Saints are virtually unstoppable), and though the Saints then go on the road for two games, Week 15 is in Minnesota, which cannot stop the pass, and Week 16 is home again for another shootout with the Falcons. For some perspective, Moore is currently 45th on Rotowire's Cheat Sheet - I'd have him about 10 spots higher.
Damian Williams, WR, Titans: Quietly, Williams has scored a touchdown three of the past four games, and the one he didn't, he received 11 targets. Among lower-level WRs, Williams has as good a chance as anyone to score this week against the Bills (21 passing TDs allowed is 31st in the NFL).
Brad Smith, WR, Bills: Most of you know I'm a lawyer. I do foreclosure defense, general civil litigation ... all sorts of cases. I've realized through experience that I do my best work, though, when I'm able to concentrate on one specific type of case. It's not that I can't be a "jack of all trades" - it's just easier to be really good at one thing if I concentrate on it. Anyway, if this principle applies to other jobs, why can't it apply to NFL players? Consider Smith. He's been a "jack of all trades" for the Bills for most of the year - Wildcat, kickoff returns, and receiver - but hasn't excelled at any of them. That stopped in Week 12, when injuries to other receivers forced the Bills to feature Smith at receiver. Finally able to concentrate on one thing, is it really a coincidence that Smith emerged with his best game (4 catches for 77 yards, including an acrobatic TD catch, all while being guarded by Antonio Cromartie)? Maybe, but I'm not so sure. With a starting job and a suddenly decent rapport with Ryan Fitzpatrick, I'd put Smith on par with teammate David Nelson for fantasy purposes for the rest of 2011.
Riley Cooper, WR, Eagles: Keep an eye on Jeremy Maclin's injury and DeSean Jackson's status in the doghouse. If Maclin and Jackson play this week, it's hard to like Cooper. But if either or both are inactive on the short week, Cooper makes a decent play against a Seattle defense which is better against the run than the pass.
Johnny Knox, WR, Bears: Remember in the preseason when everyone was befuddled at how Roy Williams was starting over Knox? Guess who was throwing to Knox in practice when he was playing with the second-stringers? Yep, Caleb Hanie - the same Caleb Hanie who had an obvious chemistry with Knox last week. Everyone who claimed Earl Bennett off waivers in recent weeks after his breakout with Jay Cutler under center should cut Bennett in favor of Knox. It's not that I don't like Bennett, it's just that Bennett isn't talented enough to keep over Knox when Hanie clearly prefers throwing to Knox.
Kellen Winslow, TE, Bucs: Winslow should be starting in most fantasy leagues this week, yet he's unowned in 27% of Yahoo! leagues.
Jared Cook, TE, Titans: If you have to dig deep at tight end this week, try Cook - the Bills just allowed Dustin Keller to score twice.
Among fantasy defenses, there aren't a lot of lower-level matchups that excite me for Week 13. You could try the Falcons (unowned in most leagues) at Houston, on the theory that if Houston gets behind, a bad QB will have to throw a lot, but if the Texans keep the score close, they'll play close to the vest and the Falcons defense won't do much. The Patriots have a good matchup, at home against the Colts, but they're owned in most leagues and don't have a ton of playmakers on defense. In leagues that reward fantasy defenses which don't allow a lot of points, the Broncos may be worth a look. They're on the road, but they're playing a Vikings team that likely won't have Adrian Peterson, and while Christian Ponder has played well, he's still a rookie.