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East Coast Offense: Go Big or Go Home

Chris Liss

Chris Liss is RotoWire's Managing Editor and Host of RotoWIre Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio.

Go Big or Go Home

Let's take a look at the top-15 Non-PPR WR to date:

Rank Name Team Points
1 A.J. Green CIN 174.5
2 Calvin Johnson DET 172.8
3 Brandon Marshall CHI 166.2
4 Demaryius Thomas DEN 160.2
5 Dez Bryant DAL 147.4
6 Vincent Jackson TBB 144.4
7 Victor Cruz NYG 136.3
8 Reggie Wayne IND 133.6
9 Julio Jones ATL 131
10 Marques Colston NOS 130.8
11 Wes Welker NEP 130.4
12 Andre Johnson HOU 129.4
13 Randall Cobb GBP 128.7
14 Roddy White ATL 126.3
15 Cecil Shorts JAC 124

One thing that immediately jumps out is of the top-six wideouts, the shortest is Dez Bryant at 6-2, and the lightest is the 6-4 A.J. Green at 207 pounds. Every other wideout among the top-six Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Demaryius Thomas and Vincent Jackson ‐ is at least 6-3 and 220 pounds. There are no small wideouts among the fantasy elite this year.

Of the smaller receivers, Reggie Wayne has been a target monster, but in non-PPR, his three TDs are a problem. Victor Cruz has the touchdowns and might creep in to the top-five by season's end, but with the larger Hakeem Nicks back, it's likely Cruz will see fewer looks near the goal line. Wes Welker, too, has only four touchdowns, keeping him out of the top 10.

Throw in Andre Johnson's (6-3, 230) monster run recently, and Julio Jones (6-3, 220) being No. 9 despite battling injuries, and this year has been especially good to the league's big wideouts.

By contrast, last year saw Welker, Cruz, Steve Smith, Percy Harvin, Roddy White (mid-size) and Mike Wallace all finish in the top-10. The only top-10 big wideouts were Calvin Johnson, Jordy Nelson (6-3, 217) and Vincent Jackson.

Cam Newton's Odd Season

Newton's largely been considered a bust this year, given his historically good (at the time) rookie season, his team's poor record this year and his slow fantasy start. But after monster games in Weeks 12 and 13, Newton is now a top-5 quarterback in standard leagues that don't subtract for turnovers, trailing only RGIII, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers. In fact, Newton's ahead of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan in fantasy points per game. Given that Newton's ADP among quarterbacks was fourth, he's essentially lived up to his draft slot at least relative to his peers.

The problem with Newton and every other quarterback selected in the top few rounds is the depth at the position made it far better to take a running back or wide receiver in those spots.

Spread vs. Moneyline

Have you ever noticed NFL point spreads seem to track almost in lock step with NFL money lines? The bigger the spread, the bigger the moneyline. In other words, I can't recall ever seeing a 13-point favorite laying -1000 while a 14-point one was laying -950. On a basic level it makes sense the bigger the disparity in team quality, the bigger the point spread and the greater the chance the favorite will win. But is that always the case?

Let's take the Patriots for example. We know they like to run up the score even when the game is in hand. Most other teams will take their foot off the gas once the win is salted away. So the Patriots should be more likely to cover a big line than other strong teams, but not necessarily more likely to win when the game is in doubt because in that case those other teams are trying too.

More generally, matching the point spreads and moneylines ignores the possibility that different teams have different levels of volatility. (Or maybe just presumes volatility is too hard to predict.) But clearly, when betting the moneyline or playing Survivor volatility is an incredibly important variable. You want steady favorites and volatile underdogs with the moneyline, and you want to avoid going against volatile underdogs in survivor.

Give me the Alex Smith-led Niners over the Colin Kaepernick-led ones any day if I need a win against a weaker team, for example. And if you're the 49ers, Falcons or Packers, you definitely want to see the Bears in the playoffs rather than the Giants.

So if teams differ in their volatility, and it's a quality that can be reliably projected going forward, can't we use that to our advantage if Vegas is ignoring it? Might there not be a profit in identifying the most volatile dogs and taking them with the moneyline while fading them with the points?

The Lord Taketh Away, But He Also Giveth Back

If you had the Eagles +10.5 as I did, you had to be aghast as I was when Bryce Brown fumbled with a few minutes left, and Morris Claiborne returned it for a score. What a joke to see Dallas cover a big spread when for 95 percent of the game, the outcome itself was in doubt. But then Demaris Johnson took a Brian Moorman punt to the house with 38 seconds left, and I was made whole. I'll take a soul-crushing mistake offset by an improbable last-minute TD over the Eagles simply failing to score, and Dallas running out the clock any day. It almost made up for Jim Harbaugh declining the safety against the Seahawks in Week 7.

Things to Take Away from Week 13

I didn't see much of the Thursday Night game due to a holiday function, but the results were enough. Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Julio Jones and Roddy White were huge busts. and it's a nice reminder of how much failure and disaster comprise the NFL and fantasy football experience.

Calvin Johnson had another 171 yards Sunday, and actually Matt Stafford missed him again on a deep ball after Johnson had gotten behind the defense. Johnson now has 1,428 receiving yards, a pace for 1,904. Jerry Rice's all-time record is 1848.

Matthew Stafford attempted 46 more passes, giving him 534 through 12 games, a pace for 712. Drew Bledsoe's all-time record is 691.

Andrew Luck has just 7.1 YPA, 17 TD and 16 picks on the season, and the sabermetric crowd thinks the Colts are a fraud. Maybe so, but just as the Chargers, Eagles and Cowboys constantly underperform their predictive stats, might Indy, Atlanta and Baltimore be the opposite?

Jake Locker had 309 passing yards and 38 rushing yards, but took six sacks, threw three picks and fumbled twice.

Thirty-one of Tom Brady's 40 passing attempts were directed at Wes Welker (18) and Aaron Hernandez (13).

It was one thing when the Bills were criminally underusing C.J. Spiller and telling the truth about it. But despite vowing to get him the bulk of the work, they gave him just 14 carries and one target to Fred Jackson's 25 and three, respectively. As long as Jackson's healthy, this won't be better than a 50/50 timeshare.

Marcedes Lewis has quietly been a useful fantasy tight end since Chad Henne took over with two TDs in Week 11, and eight catches for 124 yards since.

DeAngelo Williams finally had the backfield to himself, and despite getting 5.6 YPC, saw just 12 carries.

Brady Quinn had a QB rating of 132.1, a YPA of 8.7 and two touchdowns without a pick. He took one sack and threw only four incompletions. It was far and away the best game of his career and arguably the team's best game of the year. A good job by Quinn and his coach under bad circumstances.

The Jets-Cardinals game would have been funny except I had the Jets in Survivor. It kind of sucked that Shonn Greene took it upon himself not to cover the spread. Hard to knock the guy for the correct football decision, though.

Too bad my 1,000,000 to 1 ticket on two SF-STL ties didn't cash when Greg Zuerlein made that 54-yard FG.

It's rare you see a guy get 210 rushing yards and still be underused. But why did Adrian Peterson get just 21 carries (10 YPC) and Christian Ponder attempt 25 passes (4.8 YPA, two picks)?

I refuse to believe James Starks scored a touchdown.

Russell Wilson is having one of the better rookie seasons for a quarterback in NFL history, but you wouldn't know it because RGIII is having easily the best one ever, and Andrew Luck has also been good. Getting 7.9 YPA in Chicago with no picks and throwing a game-winning touchdown in overtime is impressive.

The Broncos are arguably the best team in the NFL right now. Only Houston has their balance on both sides of the ball, and Denver has a better quarterback and better offense.

Unbelievably the Chargers outdo themselves every week. They're the Shakespeare, Wayne Gretzky and Babe Ruth of their category. Philip Rivers in particular deserves credit for throwing away a superstar NFL career to play his current role of clueless lummox. And Norv Turner's earnest expression on the sidelines each game is a true joy. It's as if the unfolding disaster hasn't happened 100 times before. There are times I almost believe he's in charge of an NFL team that's trying to win a game. I don't care who they're playing or what the line is, I'm all in on them this week.

I didn't see the entire Steelers-Ravens game, but I did see Emmanuel Sanders fumble a ball for no reason after running untouched behind the entire defense, Charlie Batch miss a wide-open Mike Wallace by a mile in the end zone, Antonio Brown throw a pick on a gadget play and Wallace let a 40-yard bomb slip right through his hands. In spite of this, the Steelers with their third string quarterback starting, and best cornerback, Ike Taylor, in a walking boot for much of the game beat the Ravens on the road.

The Raiders put up some stats in garbage time, but their whole season seems like garbage time. The last few seasons actually.

Trent Richardson always looks good, but never seems to have anywhere to run, even against the Raiders.

The Eagles haven't mailed it in by any means, Bryce Brown needs to be a starting back somewhere and it looks like Nick Foles turned a corner.

Dez Bryant might be the strongest WR in the league. After catching a short ball from Tony Romo, he simply drove Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie with him into the end zone.

Things to Look for in Week 14

Reeling from the Steelers loss, the Ravens travel to Washington to face RGIII

The Saints head to the Meadowlands to take on the Giants

The Cowboys head to Cincinnati in a game with possible playoff implications.

The Texans travel to New England on Monday night in a match-up of AFC elites.

Beating the Book

Falcons -3.5 at Panthers

The Falcons were lucky to beat Carolina at home the first time these teams met, and not a whole lot has changed since then. Atlanta has won unimpressively week after week, while Carolina has lost winnable games just as reliably. Maybe Atlanta has some clutch component Carolina lacks, but that's already priced in and then some. Back the Panthers at home.

Panthers 24 20

Last week we won with the Broncos to put us at 5-8 on the season in this forum and 88-99-5 overall. Last year we went 10-7 in this forum and 124-125 overall. Over the last five years we've gone 50-34 in this space. You can read the full Week 14 column here.

Surviving Week 14

Last week saw a few people go down with the 49ers, Ravens, Bears, Lions and Panthers, but the biggest chunk survived with the Cowboys and Bills. I wound up taking the Jets and had to endure the indignity of sitting through that game, a high price to pay even though they ultimately prevailed. Let's take a look at this week's slate:

Team Opponent %Taken Vegas ML** Vegas Odds
SEAHAWKS Cardinals 54.00% 500 83.33
49ERS Dolphins 12.40% 500 83.33
BUCCANERS Eagles 11.70% 310 75.61
COLTS Titans 7.10% 235 70.15
Broncos RAIDERS 5.30% 590 85.51
BROWNS Chiefs 3.80% 230 69.70
STEELERS Chargers 2.00% OFF OFF
PACKERS Lions 0.80% 285 74.03
Falcons PANTHERS 0.60% 177 63.90
BILLS Rams 0.40% 160 61.54
GIANTS Saints 0.20% 225 69.23
Home Team in CAPS
* according to
** average of the two moneylines

The Seahawks are the overwhelmingly popular choice at 54 percent, and so you'll want to fade them if at all possible this week. My top choices would be the Broncos and 49ers, in that order, but assuming you don't have them available, then we're probably looking at the Bucs, as most people have also used the Packers. It's easy to see why the Bucs (according to Vegas) are the better pick than the Seahawks as Seattle has a 17 percent chance to lose, while the Bucs are at 24 percent. But if the Seahawks went down, you'd have about twice as much equity as you would if you took the Seahawks and the Bucs went down. The payout clearly justifies the risk in that case.

Unfortunately, I happen to think the Bucs are shakier than Vegas does, so I'd probably cast my lot with the Giants at home against the Saints. Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind when the full article comes out Wednesday night.

Follow Chris on Twitter at @Chris_Liss.