You know how players like Jason Pierre-Paul and Dion Jordan were lauded as DE/OLB hybrids when they left college because they were strong enough to match up against left tackles, but agile enough to drop into coverage? Well, you’re reading the fantasy football analysis equivalent, a Week 12 review/Week 13 preview hybrid, the first of its kind. The Thanksgiving holiday called for some consolidation, and now you’ve got the Barkevious Mingo of blog posts on your screen. Treat it with care.
Commemorating Week 12’s most elite fantasy performances with some phenomenally prestigious honors.
• I Survived Brandon Weeden, a Stranger-Than-Fiction Tale by Josh Gordon: If I were an NFL wide receiver, here’s how I’d react to Brandon Weeden suddenly becoming my quarterback in the middle of a game:
• Politely ask the officials to pause the game
• Cry it out for a good two-to-four hours
• Head to the market to purchase a carton of eggs and an American flag as large as a football field
• Egg Weeden’s house without regard for his artfully arranged holiday decorations
• Return to the playing field and wrap Weeden in the gridiron-size flag. (Don’t worry, that’s Weeden’s natural habitat. Sadly, years of deforestation have forced him onto our football fields.)
THIS PLAN IS FOOLPROOF!
Apparently, Josh Gordon’s pain tolerance is a lot higher than mine. Here’s what he did when Weeden became his quarterback on Sunday: He caught eight balls for 166 yards and one touchdown. Add that to the six receptions for 71 yards Gordon posted with Jason Campbell still under center, and you won’t find a more impressive stat line this season, all things considered.
As a Browns fan, I abhor Weeden’s tendency to stare down receivers and never shift from his primary read. As a Gordon owner, I now realize these powers can be used for good, too. But still, bring on Alex Tanney. I’m serious.
The 4 most chilling words in football: "Here comes Brandon Weeden…"
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) November 24, 2013
• All He Does Is Flynn: Mike McCarthy didn’t bench Scott Tolzien on Sunday. He benched Barry Sanders.
Some may call that rash, but I call it genius. Matt Flynn, who replaced Tolzien, is a different player in green and gold, and he has an epic rematch with the Lions looming on Thanksgiving. America has been yearning for Flynn-Stafford II ever since that 45-41 barn-burner two years ago, which bitterly divided the nation into rival Matt factions. It’s time to settle this thing once and for all.
Of course, the real question here is whether Flynn warrants a pickup in fantasy leagues. I think he does, if only because the Lions’ defense (a) just made a superstar out of Mike Glennon, and (b) has allowed an average of 22.5 fantasy points to quarterbacks in the past five games. Bye weeks are over, so Flynn will probably only be of interest to Aaron Rodgers, or maybe Matt Ryan, owners. But if you fall into one of those categories, it may not be such a bad idea to ride the wave of Flynnsanity.
• Now That’s What I Call Coaching! Volume I:
Ryan Tannehill says Joe Philbin talked to him about the deep throws. Told him to "rip it."
— Armando Salguero (@ArmandoSalguero) November 20, 2013
Well then. Who knew passing could be so simple? Joe Philbin is a sage. A guru. A sorcerer! But why did he hide this information from Ryan Tannehill for so long? If Tannehill had known to “rip it” in September, Mike Wallace might not have so many single-digit fantasy outings to his name.
Alas. It’s a waste of time and mental energy to dwell on what could have been, so let’s focus on the future. Yes, Tannehill connected with Wallace five times for 127 yards on Sunday, including a 53-yard touchdown. But he didn’t exactly “rip it.”
That 57-yard reception should have been a 79-yard touchdown. Even the aforementioned 53-yard score was underthrown and required Wallace to make a major adjustment, so forgive me for not buying into the “rippin’ it” narrative just yet. Wallace has a habit of following up productive performances with complete and utter no-shows, so he remains a high-end WR3 until further notice.
• Enjoy It While It Lasts: Here’s the encouraging part about the 65-yard touchdown run Tavon Austin dashed off Sunday: It confirms that the Rams are finally trying to make use of Austin’s dazzling open-field ability after completely ignoring it for the better part of 10 weeks. Here’s the discouraging part: That one run accounted for almost all of Austin’s 15 fantasy points, and playoff-bound owners can’t depend on that all-or-nothing shit. Jeff Fisher is (wisely) limiting Kellen Clemens’s passing attempts, so targets will always be hard to come by for Austin, who’s still a flex at best. (Which, for the record, makes him better than any other Rams receiver.)
While we’re highlighting unsustainably great performances, let’s pour one out for Tiquan Underwood, a Schiano Man if ever there was one. Underwood managed to reach the end zone twice and clear 100 receiving yards for a whopping 22 fantasy points against Detroit, which is no small feat with Mike Glennon at quarterback. But the fact that Underwood is rocking the same hair as Gerald from Hey Arnold! is what really sets him apart.
• Boy, That Escalated Quickly; I Mean, That Really Got Out of Hand Fast: Andy Reid ate the Chiefs D/ST during Kansas City’s bye week. Any argument to the contrary is patently false, because a defense doesn’t just disappear like that. Of course, you could argue that losing Tamba Hali and Justin Houston in the same week was a devastating blow, or that the Chiefs haven’t beaten anyone with a winning record, or that Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers are playing out of their respective minds, etc., etc., etc. But you’d be wrong. And with another matchup against the Broncos coming up this week, you’d be wise to bench or cut the Chiefs in favor of the widely available Browns, Dolphins, Bills, or Buccaneers.
Week 13 Angel
• WR Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers: Crabtree is all set to play against the Rams this Sunday, yet stunningly remains available in 88 percent of ESPN.com leagues. These leagues are kind of like NASCAR fans: I don’t personally know of any, but they definitely exist.
With a depleted receiving corps, the 49ers won’t waste any time getting Crabtree involved, especially considering Colin Kaepernick’s affinity for him. Remember, Crabtree started averaging five more fantasy points per game last year when Kaepernick took over, and he’s been practicing for three weeks, so there shouldn’t be much of a rust factor here. Moreover, the previously struggling Kaepernick finally had himself a nice outing, tying Tom Brady for the second-most points among quarterbacks in Week 12. While some may discredit this performance on account of Washington’s dreadful pass defense, St. Louis’s isn’t much better. It’s safe to pencil in Crabtree for the seven targets Mario Manningham saw in Washington, and I wouldn’t be shocked if Crabtree cut into Anquan Boldin’s production as well.
Week 13 Demon
• QB Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles: Yes, Foles finally has the starting job all to himself, but please keep your fantasy dreams in check. In general, I’m a staunch proponent of quarterbacks coming off byes; the combination of rest and extra preparation time often does wonders for a QB’s fantasy value. But there are always exceptions, particularly among players who are exceeding expectations. Take Jason Campbell, whose numbers plummeted following the Browns’ Week 10 bye (granted, small sample size, but whatever). During Sunday’s Browns-Steelers telecast, Kevin Harlan noted that Campbell felt the bye had stifled the offense’s chemistry, which is exactly what I think will happen to Foles and the Eagles.
After posting 45, 22, and 21 fantasy points in his last three outings, Foles has to face the Cardinals and their top-ranked defense, which is bound to bring out the Foles we saw against Dallas. I mean, outside of the aberrational Raiders game, it’s not as if Foles is throwing the ball beautifully. If anything, all those yards and touchdowns are more a function of great play-calling and wide receiver play than passing prowess. Start Flynnsanity over Foles this week.
Fantasy Bonanza of the Week: Raiders at Cowboys (Thursday, 4:30 p.m. ET)
I’ve never been a fan of my aunt’s Thanksgiving dessert offerings (she opts for sweet potato pie over pumpkin, which is criminal), but getting to watch the great Matt McGloin play football will be enough of a post-dinner treat for me. For optimal enjoyment, add Rod Streater (available in 94 percent of ESPN.com leagues), who, along with the American viewing public, has benefited greatly from McGloin’s ascent to QB1. Of course, you know by now to start Rashad Jennings, who brings all of Darren McFadden’s burst and none of his injury woes. And even Marcel Reece is flex-worthy in deep PPR leagues.
Meanwhile, expect Dez Bryant to do Dez Bryant things against a defense that just made Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright look like the second coming of Randy Moss and Cris Carter. Jason Witten’s on a bit of a roll, scoring three touchdowns in his past three games, and Tony Romo should easily clear 20 fantasy points for the first time since Week 5. Rob Ryan has become something of a Thanksgiving institution over the past two years, so his presence will be sorely missed, but other than that, this game will have it all.
Prophetic Week 13 MVP Pick
Eli Manning has looked terribly sad this season, but there’s a perfect antidote for his particular brand of despair: the Redskins defense, which is basically a PED for quarterbacks.
Honestly, we might as well rename this section the “Quarterback Facing Washington MVP Pick,” because that’s how much of a godsend the Redskins are to opposing signal callers. They surrender a league-worst 8.6 yards per attempt, and their schedule hasn’t exactly been brimming with elite quarterback talent. Furthermore, history has taught us not to count out the Giants until they’re mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, and the Redskins would be the team to spark another ridiculous postseason run for New York. In Week 12, Eli outscored Peyton for the first time all season, and he’ll do so again in Week 13.
Waiver Wire Priority List
(THE BYE WEEKS ARE OVER. For maximum effect, imagine that being sung by Florence Welch.)
1. RB Benny Cunningham, St. Louis Rams (available in 99.3 percent of ESPN.com leagues): After amassing 15 fantasy points, Zac Stacy left Week 12’s game early with a concussion, at which point Cunningham came in and scored 16 points of his own. Stacy’s status for Week 13 remains unclear, but if he’s sidelined, Cunningham is a must-start due to the Rams’ unwavering commitment to the run game.
2. WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings (96.2 percent): Patterson has shown flashes all season long, but like most rookie wideouts, he’s been too inconsistent to merit a roster spot until now. With nine and 11 targets in back-to-back games, a very favorable matchup looming against the Bears, and an unparalleled kick return game, he’s finally worth a waiver claim. It sucks that Christian Ponder has such a bearing on Patterson’s fantasy value, but such is life.
3. QB Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (94.2 percent):
Say what you will about Glennon, but you can’t deny that the man is consistent. If you’re a Rodgers owner who lost out on Flynnsanity, you could definitely do worse than starting Glennon.
4. RB Dennis Johnson, Houston Texans (99.6 percent): It’s too soon to know whether Johnson has permanently supplanted Ben Tate, so don’t make the mistake of starting Johnson just yet. Nonetheless, it can’t hurt to stash him for potential future use.
Challenge of the Week
For the uninitiated, Challenge of the Week is a feature we created to spice up the fantasy season for owners who have, ahem, struggled this year. Week 12’s challenge was to start McGloin, a virtuous man and perfectly adequate quarterback who ended up tallying 260 yards, one touchdown, and 12 fantasy points against the Titans.
A number of customers left satisfied:
@mattborcas 3-0 this week in leagues started by Matt McGloin!!
— Mike Zimmerman (@butterjc81) November 26, 2013
— Brett Romano (@bromano21) November 26, 2013
— Arun Jayaseelan (@sportsdawg) November 26, 2013
— Andrew Leung (@AdlLeung) November 26, 2013
Shout-out to Andrew on the team name there, and shout-out to @truenorthman for winning every Challenge to date. While not every reader has experienced such success, I can safely say that the Challenge has been an enormously positive influence on most folks’ lives, bringing joy and happiness to owners mired in otherwise awful seasons.
If you’d like to participate in the Week 13 Challenge, start LaDainian Tomlinson (available in 99.6 percent of ESPN.com leagues) at running back. Tweet me a screenshot of your victory — the most impressive winners will be featured in next Tuesday’s post.