Differentiating Yourself in Large Tournaments

I have yet to write about daily fantasy sports, so bear with me as I put down some thoughts to paper here…

When there a fewer games, as is the case in the playoffs, it is harder to create a unique lineup. But to succeed in a large tournament, it’s necessary to separate yourself from the masses. That can be especially difficult if you do not want to entirely fade the chalk plays. For example, in the Wild Card round Antonio Brown was owned by more than half of the field, but given the ugly slate of low scoring games, it was almost impossible not to play Brown. Let’s get into some of the ways you can give your team a different look.

Playing Two Tight Ends
This strategy was incredibly profitable last week. Anyone who rostered Jordan Reed and Travis Kelce had a significant leg up on the competition. Most players flex a running back or wide receiver, so by simply rostering a tight end, you separate yourself. The same type of roster construction could pay dividends this weekend, with both Rob Gronkowski and Greg Olsen available. Both players will probably be highly owned, Olsen more than Gronkowski I would bet, but the ownership of them together will be much smaller.  Continue reading

Fantasy Football: Week 13 Recap

The final week of the fantasy regular season can be a cruel and cold reminder of how little control we really have. You can do all your homework and make informed decisions and still stand no chance. Sometimes, there really is nothing you can do. For some of you, Eddie Lacy’s no-show on Thursday night ended your season. But how were you supposed to know he missed curfew the night before the game? What about Richard Rodgers. He had as many yards, thanks to a Hail Mary, on Thursday, as he had in the previous six games combined. What are you supposed to do if that’s what keeps you from the playoffs?

Some of you went up against the Eagles defense this weekend. Even with the Patriots being decimated by injuries, they are the Patriots: they have Brady and Belichick, and anyone who bets against those guys is insane. The Eagles defense had negative points the past two weeks. But against the Patriots, they had 24 points because they had a punt return for a touchdown, a blocked punt returned for a touchdown, and a pick six. Or you started Jarvis Landry against a bottom five pass defense and he gave you zero standard points… You made the right decision. You just got really unlucky.

I could go on. The point is, there’s only so much you can do. Sometimes you can make every right decision, and it still doesn’t matter.  Continue reading

Fantasy Football: Week 12 Recap

Week 12 is always one of the funnest weeks in the fantasy calendar. The week’s slate begins on Thanksgiving, which is one of the best football days of the year, and it is the second to last week of the regular season (for most leagues), so some games end up being de-facto playoff games.

Lions 45, Eagles 14
The highest scoring game of Turkey Day featured season-best games from Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson, and the entire Lions offense as a whole. Stafford tossed 5 touchdowns, three of which went to Megatron, along with 337 yards. It was a creampuff matchup for Calvin against the Eagles, who came into the game conceding the second most fantasy points to wide receivers. Also, Calvin came into the game with the most receiving touchdowns on Thanksgiving in league history (of course, the Lions play on Thanksgiving every year). The other two scores went to reception magnets Golden Tate and Theo Riddick, who had 7 catches for 50 yards and 5 catches for 62 yards respectively. Rookie running back Ameer Abdullah had a career game, finishing with 16 carries for 63 yards, both career highs. Also out of the backfield, Joique Bell had 82 total yards and a score late in the game.

It was a brutal day all around for the Eagles. There was no bright spot in the game that those who want Chip Kelly gone will point to at the end of the season. Mark Sanchez threw for a yard short of 200 with 2 touchdowns and a fumble. Brent Celek and Jordan Matthews were the recipients of those touchdowns, with Matthews finding the end zone with three minutes to play, as the Eagles trailed 45-7. DeMarco Murray had one of his weakest games of the year, as game flow prevented the Eagles from running the ball much. Murray had 14 carries for 30 yards and no receiving yards.  Continue reading

Fantasy Football: What Are We Thankful For?

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, so it’s time to start considering what us fantasy degenerates are thankful for. Whether you’ve already secured a playoff berth or you’re relegated to playing spoiler, there is plenty to be thankful for. But this is not to simply highlight who’s had a great season and who’s had a horrible season. You don’t need me to tell you to be thankful for Devonta Freeman and DeAndre Hopkins. So the day before the big feast, let’s get right into it, listing what we are thankful for, beginning with the abstract.

Being Patient
There are many instances where being patient is a slow and steady path to the bottom of the standings. Sometimes, being patient is just a euphemism for being risk-averse and overly cautious. That is not the patience we are celebrating here. Rather, let’s take a look at some players whose early, uninspiring play led owners to panic and cut bait too early. Lamar Miller had 37 carries in the first month of the season, and most owners realized it was Joe Philbin who was the problem. As long as Miller’s workload increased, so too would his value. He was efficient – just way underutilized. Sure enough, the Dolphins canned Philbin after an embarrassing string of losses, the interim coach Dan Campbell committed to running the ball, and Miller never looked back. He’s now a top 5 running back for those who were patient with him. Continue reading

Fantasy Football: Week 11 Recap

This was a rough week in fantasy. A list of some of the guys who flopped this week: Gronk, Devonta (injury), Amari Cooper, Allen Hurns, T.Y. Hilton, Chris Ivory, everyone on the Chargers, Lamar Miller (it’s not his fault!), and Charcanderick West (injury). The scores were probably lower in most leagues this week, so let’s see what went wrong.

Jaguars 19, Titans 13
An underwhelming game all around. The Jaguars have been a remarkably consistent fantasy situation this season, but as is often the case, the Thursday night game was sloppy. Blake Bortles had his second straight subpar game, throwing for 242 yards and a touchdown, along with two turnovers. His rest of season schedule is promising enough that he should remain locked in your starting lineup. The Allen Bros – aren’t they great? – curiously saw few targets in the first half. Allen Robinson had 113 yards, but his counterpart Allen Hurns, perhaps limited by his abdomen injury, was held to his worst game of the season with three catches for 19 yards. Hurns only received four targets, which is tied for the least he has gotten all year. The lone score went to Julius Thomas, who could see an uptick in red zone usage, if Hurns’ time on the field is more limited as he plays through injury. Out of the backfield, T.J. Yeldon had 82 total yards. He is nothing if not consistent, and he is reliable to get about 20 touches every game.

Considering the Titans put up a mere 13 points, it’s surprising that there were three usable fantasy performances. Marcus Mariota rushed for a TD and threw for 231 yards. Good for 18 fantasy points. His main target…. Actually his only target, Delanie Walker, had his highest yardage of the year with 109 yards. Because of how weak Tennessee’s receivers are, Walker is one of the more reliable tight ends in fantasy. He is not in the Gronk, Eifert, Olsen, Barnidge tier, but he may be the next best. Yes, better than Kelce. Maybe not more talented than Kelce, but Walker is more consistent. He has seven games over 50 yards this year, and Kelce has just five. The last real contributor to the Titans’ bumbling offense is rookie running back Antonio Andrews, whose high usage keeps him flex-able most weeks.  Continue reading

Power Ranking the NFL QBs

This has been a funky year for quarterbacks. We knew Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers were the class of the league, but what happened to Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson? Luck has dealt with nagging injuries and Wilson’s line is a mess, but still. And Peyton… He looked bad at the end of last year, but did anyone think he’d look this bad? I mean, nine touchdowns and 16 interceptions? What about Andy Dalton and Cam Newton. Did people expect their teams to be undefeated at the season’s midpoint, both firmly entrenched in the MVP race? See! It really has been a mess, so let’s figure out: If you were ranking quarterbacks, according to who you’d want to be leading your team for the rest of the year, how would it go?

44. Jimmy Clausen

43. Zach Mettenberger
42. Ryan Mallett
No matter how you judge a QB, these guys finish last. Winning? The three of them are a combined 3-23 as starters (Clausen is 1-11, Mettenberger, and Mallett would be worse than 2-4 if his alarm clock worked). Stats? Not one of them has thrown for more TDs than INTs in his career. Personality? If anything separates these guys from the rest of the bad QBs in the NFL, it’s that they generally rub you the wrong way. For Clausen and Mettenberger, they just look annoying. Mallett does too, but he takes it a step further with the type of toxic behavior usually sapped out of most perennial clipboard-holders. The only reason to be excited if these guys are on the field is if you’re starting the opposing defense in fantasy.

41. E.J. Manuel
40. Geno Smith
Neither of the first two QBs taken in the 2013 Draft is a legitimate NFL starter. Through 2.5 years in the league, both guys have been benched by their respective teams. In the NFL, once a young QB gets the starting gig, he usually only has two years to prove his worth. After that, if you haven’t shown that you’re definitely a starter in the league, your team will start looking elsewhere. And in both cases, even before that two year window was over, we knew who they were: guys, who cannot be counted on to win games in the NFL. Neither QB has ever had a winning season. Geno is 11-18 as a starter, and Manuel is 6-10. Their starting days in the NFL are over – seriously, can you imagine any starting QB in the NFL getting sucker punched by a teammate? – and it is crystal clear that Manuel and Smith were busts. Continue reading

Fantasy Football: Week 10 Recap

Let’s run down some of the big stories in week 10. Julian Edelman broke his foot. The Packers couldn’t score the ball at home against the Lions. The Bears put up 37 points with no help from Alshon Jeffery or Martellus Bennett. Adrian Peterson rushed for over 200 yards. The Redskins scored 47 points. Kirk Cousins had a perfect passer rating. Peyton Manning had a perfectly horrible passer rating. Literally, a 0.0 passer rating. The Cardinals dropped 39 in Seattle. These are just some of the headlines in week 10…

Bills 22, Jets 17
As expected, Thursday night’s matchup was a slugfest throughout. Both teams mostly traded three-and-outs for the first half, with the lone TD coming off a kickoff fumble recovery. The Bills led 12-3 at half – the missing point coming off a missed PAT by Bills kicker Dan Carpenter. The game picked up in the second half, as Karlos Williams capped off the Bills’ opening drive of the half with a 26-yard TD reception. That means Williams continued his now record-tying streak of six straight games with a TD. Though, it was LeSean McCoy who got the bulk of the work in the backfield. For the second straight week, McCoy put up 112 rushing yards, and he also added 47 receiving yards. Those couple of weeks he sat out to get his health right are paying dividends in the home stretch of the fantasy season. The Bill struggled to get much going in the air, as Tyrod Taylor only threw for 158 yards, with the lone TD that went to Williams. That’s partly due to Darrelle Revis blanketing Sammy Watkins all night, holding Watkins to a meager 3 catches for 14 yards. Charles Clay led the way for the Bills in the air, though he only had 52 yards.

Chris Ivory, who finished with 135 total yards, lost a fumble on the second drive of the second half, resulting in a field goal that put the Bills ahead 22-3 early in the third quarter. After pulling Ryan Fitzpatrick’s beard for good luck, Brandon Marshall punctuated the Jets’ next series with a 14-yard TD, off of a pick play in the red zone. That play wound up salvaging an otherwise disappointing night from Marshall, who only had three catches for 23 yards. Fitzpatrick struggled for much of the night, throwing two picks, but he still managed an okay final line, with 193 passing yards, 30 rushing yards, and two passing TDs. The only thing more inevitable than Karlos Williams scoring a TD is Eric Decker giving his typical solid yardage and a score. As usual, Decker gave reliable WR2 numbers . In eight games, Decker has 7 TDs. His touchdown cut the Bills lead to 22-17, but that proved to be the last score of the night. Continue reading

Fantasy Football: Week 9 Recap

Between all of the injuries last week and the fact that week 9 is the heaviest bye week of the season, lots of owners were put behind the eight ball this weekend. And if you weren’t before, maybe you are now, after Ben Roethlisberger, LeSean Mccoy, Dion Lewis, and Latavius Murray went down with injuries. Whatever the case may be, another week brought even more craziness. Don’t believe me? Blaine Gabbert outplayed Matt Ryan. The Titans scored 35 points. Antonio Brown had 284 yards! Eddie Lacy resorted to eating teams’ fantasy points! OK, OK, just kidding. Let’s get into all of week 9’s madness.

Bengals 31, Browns 10
Anyone still expecting Andy Dalton to revert to last year’s form should accept the fact that he is one of the top QBs this season. Against the Browns, he added 3 TDs (and zero INTs) to his season total. Much of Dalton’s success seems connected to the emergence of TE Tyler Eifert, who caught all 3 of Dalton’s TD tosses. Eifert leads the league with 9 receiving TDs, and according to Adam Schefter, Eifert’s 9 red zone TDs are the most through the first half of a season in the past 15 years. Think of Eifert like Denver Julius Thomas: the yardage is not eye-popping, but he is a TD machine, who specializes inside the 20s. Just one more interesting bit about Eifert: According to Pro Football Focus, Eifert has the highest run blocking grade of any TE – I know that isn’t rewarded in fantasy, but that only makes him harder to guard, as it isn’t always clear when he’ll get the ball, compared to a TE to only comes in for passing plays.

Unfortunately for the rest of the offense, Eifert’s large share of the red zone pie eats into everyone else’s production. Most noticeably, A.J. Green has struggled to find any consistency. He finished the game with 53 yards, and through 8 games, and he now only has two games over 100 yards. It was actually Marvin Jones who led the Bengals in receiving yards with 78 yards, while third WR Mohamed Sanu scored off a 25 yard reverse. Despite not producing noteworthy numbers, it’s worth keeping tabs on Jeremy Hill, who has at least 15 rushes in three straight games now. The Bengals are not giving up on Hill. They have not abandoned Hill, and he could be a sneaky guy to target before the trade deadline. Meanwhile, backfield counterpart Gio Bernard contributed 84 total yards. This is a loaded offense, and the diffusion of productivity can be frustrating at times, but it’s a good idea to have Bengals shares heading into the fantasy playoffs.

I wish there was as much to say about the Browns as there is for the Bengals. But really, there are only a few guys worth highlighting. Travis Benjamin had a tremendous first third of the season, but his regression is well in motion. For three consecutive weeks now, he has failed to tally 50 yards. Star TE Gary Barnidge also had a disappointing week with just 35 yards to account for, and both Barnidge’s and Benjamin’s low totals are at least partly attributable to Johnny Manziel playing, as Josh McCown sat with a rib injury. Manziel looked good on the Browns lone scoring drive, right before halftime, but he finished the game having completed less than half of his passes. The Browns ground game is completely nonexistent, as I’m sure Isaiah Crowell are well aware by now. But, RB Duke Johnson is intriguing in PPR leagues. The only RBs with more receptions than Johnson are Theo Riddick, Devonta Freeman, and Danny Woodhead. In leagues rewarding receptions, Johnson is a good starter. Continue reading

Fantasy Football: Buy or Sell, Blind Resumés, and Some Interesting Numbers

We’re in the heart of the fantasy season. For many, it’s make or break time, as teams are jockeying for playoff position. Between all of the injuries to studs last week and the fact that this is the heaviest bye week of the year, lots of owners will be forced to trot out less-than-optimal lineups this week. But let’s take a look ahead, now that we are officially halfway through the NFL season and try to forecast what will happen in the second half of the year, with a game of buy or sell.

Buy or Sell…

Russell Wilson finishes season as top-15 QB?  –  Sell.
At this point, there is very little to be excited about in Seattle’s offense. People understand that Seattle is staying above water because of its defense, but I don’t know that people realize just how porous the offense has been. To put things in perspective, only the 49ers are averaging fewer offensive TDs per game. Marshawn Lynch was missing for a few of those games, but as we saw last week against the Cowboys (when the Seahawks scored 13 points), the Seahawks have struggled to score the ball regardless of who has played.  Through the first half of the year, Wilson has thrown for over 250 yards only twice – one of those times was week 1, when he threw for 251 yards. He has had only one multi-TD game so far – in week 2, he threw for 2 TDs. Everyone knows it’s not Wilson’s arm that makes him a good fantasy QB though. It’s his rushing ability, of course. But his rushing totals have taken a hit as well. Last season, he rushed for 849 yards and 6 TDs. This year, he’s on pace to finish with just over 600 yards. And he has yet to rush for a TD yet. Lastly, Wilson is on pace to throw for the most interceptions in his career. He has 6 INTs through 8 games. Last year he finished with 7 INTs. QB is deep this year, and depending on how deep your league is, there may be better streaming options some weeks, rather than starting Wilson every week. Continue reading

Fantasy Football: Week 8 Recap

Here we are at the midpoint of the regular season, and what a brutal Sunday it was. We saw superstar Le’Veon Bell go down with a torn MCL that will cost him the rest of the year. We saw tough-as-nails ironman Steve Smith tear his achilles, ending his season, but hopefully not his career. We saw the ultimate model of consistency Matt Forte suffer a knee injury, though he was at least able to walk off the field on his own. We saw Reggie Bush, who was ready to play a bigger role for the 49ers with Carlos Hyde sidelined with a stress fracture in his foot, suffer a season-ending ACL tear. Underrated handcuff RB Khiry Robinson left Sunday’s game against the Giants with what looked like a serious leg injury. In that same game, TE Larry Donnell was carted off the field with a neck injury. Quietly having a very nice season, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick suffered a thumb injury on his non-throwing hand in the first quarter against the Raiders and missed the rest of the game, except for a few plays at the end of the game after replacement QB Geno Smith came out after a hard hit. And, the most violent, frightening injury came in the late afternoon game, when Seahawks WR Ricardo Lockette sustained a concussion off a bone-crushing hit that left him on the ground motionless for several minutes. It initially appeared Lockette might have been paralyzed, but it was  *just* a concussion. Hope he recovers well.

There were other smaller injuries throughout the day. After scoring a TD, Keenan Allen left the game with back spasms. Teammate Ladarius Green left the game as well, with an ankle injury in the first quarter. Calvin Johnson also exited early with an ankle injury, though he may have returned if the game wasn’t a blowout. Kendall Wright suffered a knee injury, and rounding out the injuries, last week’s out-of-nowhere sensation RB Orleans Darkwa left today’s game early with a back injury.

Now that we covered today’s fantasy infirmary, let’s get into what happened today (and Thursday).

Patriots 37, Dolphins 7
This was a “Dion game”… and an Edelman game… and a Gronkowski game… and a Brady game. The Pats picked the Dolphins apart. Tom Brady is in a class by himself right now, and there is arguably no safer fantasy asset than Brady. He was flawless – over 350 yards, 4 TDs, and no turnovers. By extension, Brady’s favorite targets are some of the more reliable fantasy options. Rob Gronkowski surpassed 100 yards for the second straight game and fourth time this season. He scored a TD as well and is on pace to score 14 TDs this season. After a rare quiet game (stuck on Revis Island) last weekend, Julian Edelman scored a couple TDs to go with 81 yards. Almost all of that came in the 4th quarter, but it’s worth noting he had a TD taken away earlier in the game because of a penalty on a teammate. After missing last week with an abdomen injury, Dion Lewis put on a clinic out of the backfield, catching for almost 100 yards and a TD. Meanwhile RB counterpart LeGarrette Blount finished with 72 rushing yards, but no TD. It can still be difficult knowing when to start Blount, but for now, there seem to be two scenarios where he is a must-start: 1) When the opponent has an especially weak running defense, and 2) When there is serious blowout potential. The Pats blew out the Dolphins, so you would expect this to be type of game where Blount would be more productive. But he still ran fine. Danny Amendola faded out of relevance with Lewis and Lafell back and Edelman’s finger not out of whack. Fellow WR Brandon Lafell added a meager 47 yards, but he should only improve with more reps. Continue reading