Eric Decker's Week 13 explosion was as unsurprising as a 4-TD performance from a receiver can be. Elite quarterbacks like Peyton Manning often bring receivers along for the ride - even mediocre ones. Josh Gordon and Alshon Jeffery, though, are a different animal altogether. Doing what they're doing with below-average quarterbacks, so consistently, is just astounding. It's not just that their quarterbacks aren't Peyton Manning, either - Brandon Weeden and Josh McCown are backups on their own teams!
What's the lesson here for fantasy? Environment is great, but it's unnecessary if you can land a freak. Jeffery and Gordon are 6'3", around 220 lbs, and fast. Youth and draft pedigree help, too - both were second round picks (Gordon in the supplemental draft), and both are in their second season. Yes, that's second year, not third. With second-year guys Michael Floyd (6'3", 225 lbs) and Ladarius Green (6'6", 238 lbs) enjoying less heralded breakouts, and rookie Keenan Allen (6'2", 210 lbs) also emerging, that whole "third year breakout" for receivers seems so ten years ago.
The ending on Sunday night was such a disgrace, I counted four errors by the officials on that one play: 1) calling it first down; 2) switching it to fourth down after the Redskins ran a play; 3) not measuring; 4) no replay. As Chris Liss noted on Twitter, though, the irony is the Redskins were better off not realizing it was third and one, as the downfield throw to Fred Davis was the right call for third and one in that spot. Of course, don't expect Chris Collinsworth or any other analyst to realize it (lamenting how Shanahan couldn't call a fullback dive). Bad call? Yes, atrocious. Prejudicial to the Redskins? No, precisely the opposite.
Robert Griffin III is a right-handed Michael Vick. No, that's not a compliment.
After watching another Seahawks blowout in Seattle, would you take Seattle to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl or the field? I typically like "the field" in any bet like this, but Seattle at home breaks all the rules. (Even if the odds of a playoff win in Seattle is just 75% - arguably too low with what we just saw - those odds for two straight games mean it's better than 50/50 Seattle makes the Super Bowl.)
With Roddy White finally looking like his pre-2013 self, will future opponents use their best corner to shadow Harry Douglas, as the Bills did on Sunday, leaving White to pick on the lesser corners? Seriously, think about that for a minute. That's how far Roddy had fallen - the Bills put their top corner on Harry Douglas. Anyway, with White back, things are looking up for all Falcons. The schedule is cooperative the next two weeks, too (@GB, Wash).
No matter how much we say it, everyone still falls into the trap. We watch a guy like CJ Spiller do well against an awful defense like the Falcons and we convince ourselves it moves the needle for Spiller's fantasy value going forward. Did everyone forget Bobby Rainey scoring three TDs against Atlanta a few weeks ago? How's Rainey done since? Regular readers of this column (all four of you) know I like Spiller. Heck, I started Spiller in a few daily leagues because of that Atlanta matchup. But as jaw-dropping as his long runs may look, he's splitting carries on a bad offense and doesn't get goal line touches. I like him against the Jaguars in two weeks, but I'd be searching for better options against Tampa this week (4.2 YPC, just six rushing TDs allowed). Steven Jackson (@GB) over Spiller this week? Nervous about it, but yes.
Mainstream media seemed to think Michael Crabtree's 60-yard catch and run proved he was back, but I thought just the opposite. Crabtree looked slow, like he has yet to regain a step after Achilles' surgery. With Colin Kaepernick throwing as infrequently as any quarterback in the NFL (and the Niners defense unlikely to force SF to change that approach any time soon), I can't see Crabtree swinging any fantasy titles in 2013. Anyone backing the Niners passing game can only hope Jim Harbaugh realizes Frank Gore has nothing left (under 50 yards rushing the past three games after a similar decline in the second half of 2012) and opens up the offense.
The Jets allow 2.9 yards per carry, while every other team gives up 3.5 or more. You're doing it backwards, Rex. But I can't wait to watch you draft a linebacker with your top-10 pick.
Elite NFL quarterbacks make insane amounts of money compared to you or me, but when you see what the Packers are doing without Aaron Rodgers (0-3-1 against a soft schedule), in the multi-billion dollar industry that is the NFL, the top signal-callers are worth every penny. Think of it this way ... as much as the Broncos are a Super Bowl favorite right now, is there any doubt they'd be 4-12 without Peyton? Or that the Saints would be similarly bad without Brees? Vegas has set lines as if Rodgers was worth 6.5 points to Green Bay, but I'd say it's more like 10-12 points and 7-8 wins. From that perspective, how much would a guy like Rodgers be worth if there was no cap? Cano wants $300 million in baseball, and he has far less impact on the outcome of his games than Rodgers does. So what's the number? 400 million? 500 million?
I like Russell Wilson as much as the next guy, but it's absurd to put him in the MVP conversation unless you preface it by saying "in a world without Peyton." Wilson is having a really good season for the NFC's top seed, but Peyton is having a historic, record-breaking season for the AFC's #1 team. Plus, if you removed both QBs from their respective teams, would anyone try to argue Seattle wouldn't be better off than Denver?
I saw lots of complaints when Le'Veon Bell's touchdown was reversed on replay because his helmet came off before the ball was over the goal line. The rule has to be that way, though, as if the play isn't stopped when the runner's helmet comes off, the defense will have to stop him. Either way, sadly, it's just a matter of time before the NFL has its first on-field fatality.
The Saints are like an NBA team in the playoffs. Their role players are juicy at home, useless on the road. That's what the offense is now except for Brees and Graham - role players. Even Darren Sproles has disappeared - 78 total yards and a DNP the last three weeks.
Understanding Ben Tate's Week 13 breakout (102 yards, 3 TDs after entering the game with 1 TD and zero 100-yard games) may be as simple as looking on the other side of the line of scrimmage. New England is battered in the front seven and gave up 37-224-1 to Knowshon Moreno the week prior. If you're looking to exploit matchups, the Browns and Ravens aren't terribly attractive in Weeks 14 and 16, but maybe Lamar Miller can vault fantasy owners into the finals in Week 15 with Daniel Thomas out for the year.
Something I never thought I'd say: Julian Edelman over a healthy Danny Amendola for the rest of 2013.
I never miss live football, but the Texans and Jaguars will put me to the test on Thursday night. It's crazy how the Jaguars - still the NFL's worst team by a wide sum - are 3-1 in their last four games. Meanwhile, the Texans can move one step closer to the top draft pick with another loss. Gotta love NFL variance.
If you need help at tight end, don't forget about Dennis Pitta. He's supposed to be back this week, and while I'd want him to prove it on the field before starting him, Baltimore should be throwing a lot in Weeks 15 and 16 (@Det, NE). There's upside here.
Two playoff spots in Stopa Law Firm League came down to the final few minutes of the Monday nighter, the result turning on Seattle benching its starters in the end of the blowout. The smallest things are the difference between winning and losing in our fake game. Anyone have any tough-luck stories? Share your frustrations in the comments - this is your safe haven.
Follow me on Twitter, @MarkStopa.